§ The House in Committee of Ways and Means; Mr. Bouverie in the Chair.
Question again proposed—
That, towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, the Stamp Duties payable by law upon or for or in respect of legacies, shall be granted and made payable 'upon and for every succession to the beneficial enjoyment of any real or personal estate, or to the receipt of any portion or additional portion of the income or profits thereof, that may take place upon or in consequence of the death of any person, under whatever title, whether existing or future, such succession may be derived.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, that he was desirous of taking the earliest opportunity of expressing the views which he entertained upon this subject. He entirely agreed in that part of the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer last night, in which the right hon. Gentleman expressed his sense of the immense importance of the question before the Committee. He (Sir J. Pakington) considered that proposal to be, not only the most important feature in the Budget of the right hon. Gentleman, but he considered it to be one of the most important financial proposals that for a long series of years had been submitted to the Legislature of this country by any Finance Minister. But further than that, he could not agree with the right hon. Gentleman. He entertained the strongest disapprobation of the proposals which the right hon. Gentleman had submitted to the Committee. 326 He had not hitherto intruded on the Committee with any comments on the financial scheme of the Government; and he hoped he might then venture to request their attention while he stated clearly and concisely his reasons for objecting to that particular part of the Budget. He confessed that he had felt somewhat disappointed at finding that the right hon. Gentleman, in his able speech of last night, had not offered any explanation upon points on which great anxiety was felt throughout the country—he meant the machinery or the mode by which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to raise that duty. But the right hon. Gentleman had, perhaps, taken a judicious course in confining himself to the general principle of his proposal, and in inviting the Committee to confine themselves to the discussion of the principle only. He would strictly comply with that suggestion, and would limit himself to stating the objection he entertained to the principle of the tax now sought to be imposed. The right hon. Gentleman, in his speech last night, had stated several distinct grounds on which he was desirous of imposing that tax upon the country. The first of those grounds was, that he would impose it to rectify the inequalities of the income tax. Now he (Sir J. Pakington) could not for a moment recognise that as a ground on which the right hon. Gentleman was justified in taking the course which he had adopted. He was one of those who thought that the income tax already bore hardly and unfairly on rateable property, and he could not, therefore, for one moment acknowledge the right of the right hon. Gentleman to impose any additional burden on rateable property, by way of correcting the inequalities which he considered to exist. The next reason which the right hon. Gentleman had stated in favour of his proposal was, that he thought the imposition of a succession duty would be one means of enabling him to do away with the income tax in the year 1860. Now he (Sir J. Pakington) was one of those who felt extremely incredulous with respect to the abandonment of the income tax in the year 1860 The next reason which the right hon. Gentleman had urged in favour of a succession duty was, that it would enable him to repeal indirect taxation. Now he (Sir J. Pakington) appealed to the Committee, whether that reason was not at variance with the preceding 327 one, and whether the right hon. Gentleman could fairly urge, in favour of his proposal, that it would enable him to abandon in the first place a direct tax, and in the next to abolish more of the indirect taxes. The argument appeared to him to be most inconsistent. He next came to the fourth reason which the right hon. Gentleman had urged in favour of the scheme, which was, in his (Sir J. Pakington's) mind, by far the most important of them all. The right hon. Gentleman had stated, fourthly, that he wished to impose this burden in order to smoothe away what he had called "the galling anomalies" of the present state of the law upon that subject. He (Sir J. Pakington) would endeavour fairly to grapple with that argument in favour of the proposal, for he considered that to be the ground on which the question must be decided. The right hon. Gentleman had said that it would be impossible to go on with the present system—that that system might last for a year or two, but that the legacy duties could not be long continued on their present footing. Now he (Sir J. Pakington) confessed that he did not see why they should not. The present system had, at all events, lasted for seventy years, and the exact regulations at present in force had lasted between fifty and sixty years, and he (Sir. J. Pakington) could not perceive any imperative reason for the change. The right hon. Gentleman had appealed to the authority of Mr. Pitt upon that point; but Mr. Pitt had expressly disclaimed that argument. In the year 1796 the very same argument was used—that if the legacy duty was imposed on personal property, it ought, from reasons of justice, to be imposed on real property; but Mr. Pitt declared, in the course of the debate on his plan, that he would not allow the two questions of a duty on real property and a duty on personal property to be mixed up together, and that the having imposed the legacy duty on personal property was, in his opinion, no reason for imposing it on real property. Mr. Pitt, therefore, had not, at all events, been influenced in the course he had taken upon that subject by the alleged anomaly of imposing the tax on one description of property, and, not on another. But, coming to the real question at issue, to the issue raised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and on which the question must be decided, it was this—was this a just and fair tax, and one to which the country ought to submit? and he would endeavour to show 328 that no anomaly existed in the present system; he would endeavour to show that, although the legacy duties were at present imposed upon personal and not upon real property, there were full equivalents for the apparent inequality, and that they could not fairly impose any burden on rateable property in addition to those which it already bore; and that, far from there being any such galling anomalies as alleged, the real facts were the other way, and against the imposition of this tax upon rateable property. His objection to the Budget of the right hon. Gentleman might be summed up in a very few words, though they were of the gravest character. His objection to it was, that it was deficient in that equal and impartial justice to the various great interests of this country to which every Financial Minister was bound to adhere. A graver objection the right hon. Gentleman himself would, no doubt, feel, could not be taken to his scheme. He did not believe that the right hon. Gentleman felt that it was open to that objection; but he (Sir J. Pakington) thought that he could establish the objection upon two grounds. The first of these grounds was, the unjust operation of the scheme on Ireland; but into that point he would not then enter, for it was not then before the Committee. That which constituted the gravamen of his charge upon the present occasion was, that he thought the scheme partial and unjust in its operation on the landed interest—on the rateable property of the country. He founded that charge on the mode in which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to continue the income tax, and at the same time to levy a duty on successions. He confessed that he had heard with surprise the hon. Baronet the Member for Devonshire (Sir T. D. Acland) speak the other evening of the noble and comprehensive plan of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking of it in terms of the greatest praise, while, in the same breath, he had declared that the mode in which the income tax was levied on land was unfair and unjust—that the proposed mode of levying the tax on successions was also unjust, and would require correction—and that, generally speaking, the Budget bore hardly on the great interests of the country connected with land. He would appeal to his hon. Friend, and ask him how any man could claim credit for the Budget as a noble plan, and worthy of admiration, and at the same time believe 329 it open to the grave objections he had himself urged, of its being partial and unjust in its operation. With reference to the income tax, he did not understand by what right the right hon. Gentleman could, on his own showing, seek to prolong the present income tax on the rateable property of this country, which he himself had admitted contributed to the extent of 9d. in the pound to that tax, while every other description of property contributed to the tax to the extent of only 7d. in the pound. The answer of the right hon. Gentleman to that objection to the continuance of the income tax in its present shape, was, as he (Sir J. Pakington) understood him, they should either have a graduated tax, or else that they leave the tax one of a fixed amount. But now they had neither the one thing nor the other; for the tax of the right hon. Gentleman was neither a graduated nor an equal one; and it unquestionably, and by his own admission, bore most unfairly upon landed property. He (Sir J. Pakington) was one of that persecuted class, the country gentlemen. The right hon. Gentleman smiled at that. It was true that, for many years, very serious and unfounded imputations had been cast upon the landed interest; but, nevertheless, he was one of those who had always counselled the landed interest not to seek for any favours or exemptions, but to bear their fair share of the public burdens; but, upon the other hand, he would also counsel the landed interest not quietly to submit to be made the victims of any prevailing faction or cry, and by all lawful means to resist any plan which would cast upon them burdens which in justice they ought not to be called upon to bear. The question which the Committee had then to consider was, whether or not that proposal would impose such a burden. In discussing that question, he would take the right hon. Gentleman's figures and his own explanation, and would apply—not to the laud exclusively, as the right hon. Gentleman had done, but to the whole of what had been called the rateable property of the country. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of galling anomalies. That was the question, and, although he entertained these serious objections to the succession duty, he admitted it must be mainly raised on the question of justice; and it must be decided upon whether or not there really was a hardship to the country that personal property should bear a burden 330 which rateable property did not pay. He begged to ask the attention of the right hon. Gentleman while he detailed the burdens upon rateable property. Let him call the attention of the Committee to the burdens to which, according to the right hon. Gentleman himself, rateable property was at present subjected. The right hon. Gentleman had taken the annual value of the rateable property of this country at 80,000,000l. Now that property already bore a share of the legacy duty. The legacy and probate duties had last year realised 2,515,000l., and the legacy duty alone had amounted last year to 1,380,000l Mr. Trevor, a most competent authority, had calculated that the portion of legacy duty falling on real property amounted to about five-twelfths of the whole sum; and he (Sir J. Pakington) would therefore take it at 500,000l. He next came to the stamps on deeds. The right hon. Gentleman had stated, and truly stated, the other evening, that there were no means at present of ascertaining correctly what portion of the stamp duties on deeds was paid by real, and what by personal, property; but the total amount of the stamps on deeds last year had been 1,409,000l.; and he believed the right hon. Gentleman himself would admit that the portion of that amount chargeable on real property might be reasonably taken at 1,000,000l. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn) had taken it in the year 1842 at between 1,100,000l. and 1,200,000l.; but since that time a considerable alteration had taken place in the stamp duties, and that estimate consequently could not be taken as a criterion; and he (Sir J. Pakington) believed he might fairly take the amount of the stamps on deeds at present payable by the owners of real property at 1,000,000l., or two-thirds of the whole sum. Then the right hon. Gentleman had admitted that the extra income tax paid by rateable property amounted to 460,000l. a year: he had himself previously made a calculation which made it amount to less. He did not refer to the regular income tax, but to the extra tax which the right hon. Gentleman had admitted to that amount. He then came to an item which he thought would be admitted as fairly chargeable upon the direct payments made by real property—he meant insurances. The total amount raised last year was 1,220,000l. He was 331 quite aware he was open to the answer that a portion of that amount was paid for furniture and other valuable household goods within the buildings, and he therefore would make the allowance for that to the amount of the 220,000l., which would leave the sum paid by real property, in the shape of insurances, at 1,000,000. He would now come to the acknowledged burdens on land—burdens which the right hon. Gentleman himself, in the speech by which he had introduced his Budget, had estimated at between 14,000,000l. and 15,000,000l. a year. In that estimate he believed the right hon. Gentleman included the land tax, redeemed and unredeemed. He (Sir J. Pakington) would take those burdens, according to the estimate of the right hon. Gentleman himself, at 14,500,000l. The result of all those items was, that the 80,000,000l. of annual rateable property in this country paid in direct taxation the yearly sum of 17,460,000l., or in round numbers 17,500,000l. That description of property was, therefore, charged to the extent of 22 per cent in the shape of direct payments. He asked, then, where was the "galling anomaly" of which the right hon. Gentleman had spoken on the preceding evening? Where was the injustice as regarded personal property which, according to his statement, not only justified, but almost compelled him to impose a new and grievous impost on rateable property? But how stood the other side of the account? What were the direct burdens borne by the personal property of this country? He left out the income tax in that case, as he had left out that tax in the case of real property, with the exception of the extra charge of 9d., instead of 7d., which land contributed, on the showing of the right hon. Gentleman, to the income tax. What remained of direct payments from personal property? He then knew of no direct charge, except the balance of the legacy and probate duties, over and above the 500,000l. which he had charged to the land, and which would leave a balance of about 2,000,000l. paid by personal property; of balance of the stamps on deeds, amounting to between 500,000l. and 600,000l.; and the stamp duties on bills of exchange, amounting to less than 1,000,000l., but which he would take at that sum. They had thus 3,000,000l. of direct taxes paid by personal property as compared with 17,000,000l.
332 paid by rateable property. Well, then, his argument was—and he trusted the House and the country would deem it a fair one—that this was not a state of things which justified the Chancellor of the Exchequer in coming down and asking the House to impose upon rateable property the addition of a burden so vexatious and so odious in its character—a burden which nothing but a stern necessity could, to his mind, justify and excuse the Chancellor of the Exchequer for seeking to impose. One of the main objections to the income tax was its inquisitorial character. If he recollected rightly, the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other night urged the inquisitorial character of the income tax as his reason for wanting to put an end to it. The hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) had also alluded to the same subject; and he would ask, then, whether the objection to the inquisitorial character of the income tax did not apply still more strongly to the tax on rateable property? The machinery by which the tax was to be levied was not before them: but would not every person who succeeded to the possession of rateable property have to expose to the authorities all the settlements in favour of younger children, the liabilities to which their estates were subjected, the mortgages and debts which they had incurred? He could not imagine any tax more objectionable on the ground of its inquisitorial character. And what were the authorities for the imposition of the tax? The right hon. Gentleman had referred them to the authority of Mr. Pitt. He (Sir J. Pakington) could not help thinking that this reference was most inauspicious: he had already shown that at all events the argument used by the right hon. Gentleman on the ground of the "anomaly" in the existing system, had not been recognised by Mr. Pitt. And what was the fate of Mr. Pitt's Bill? That Bill was rejected by the House of Commons, and Mr. Pitt was compelled to withdraw his proposal. [Mr. HUME: The country Gentlemen threw it out.] The hon. Gentleman said that the Bill had been thrown out by the country Gentlemen; and if that had been so, be (Sir J. Pakington) should express a hope that the country Gentlemen would again pursue the same course. The most formidable Minister the country had ever possessed, was compelled to abandon his Bill on account of the general opposition. But was 333 it the Tory party or the landed aristocracy that threw out that Bill, and refused to accept the burden it sought to impose upon them? But the truth was, that the great opponents of the Bill were Mr. Fox and Mr. Grey. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, although he at present found himself in new company, might not be disposed to treat with much respect the authority of Mr. Fox and Mr. Grey; but he (Sir J. Pakington) was sure that the noble Lord the leader of the Government in that House (Lord John Russell), whoso absence he regretted—while he still more regretted the reason for that absence—would be prepared to pay the utmost deference to that authority. Those who threw out Mr. Pitt's Bill, and who conducted the debate in opposition to it, were not the Tory leaders, but the two great Whigs, Mr. Fox and Mr. Grey. They were the men who opposed that Bill, and who beat it; and what were their arguments? Were they class arguments? No; their opposition was based on the just and intelligible ground that the tax was objectionable, because it was a tax upon capital, inquisitorial in its nature, and unequal in its operation. What said Adam Smith with regard to the tax? He urged its necessary inequality. The right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer sought to remove that inequality by making the tax on rateable property payable on life interest. The right hon. Gentleman put that forward as a means of obviating the argument with which he had dealt, namely, the undue pressure on rateable property. Now, he (Sir J. Pakington) thought if there were any value in any part of the scheme, it was with regard to any mode of levying the tax, that would meet the objection of inequality. But it would not do any such thing: the inequality was inherent in the principle, and could not be removed by any such modification. With regard to the principle of the tax, he begged to obtrude on the patience of the Committee for a moment, whilst referring to the views of Adam Smith on the subject. That high authority said—All taxes upon the transference of property of every kind, so far as they diminish the capital value of that property, tend to diminish the funds destined for the maintenance of productive labour. They are all more or less unthrifty taxes that increase the revenue of the Sovereign…at the expense of the capital of the people.Now, there was the light in which that 334 high authority viewed the principle of this tax. He would now ask the Committee to attend whilst he referred to some other authorities. He had already referred to Fox and Grey, and was now going to refer to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn), as also to the late right hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel), and the noble Lord the Member for the City of London. The Committee would recollect that in 1842 a then hon. Member (Mr. Elphinstone), raised this question of the legacy duty on land. Was it then regarded as a party question? Not at all. Sir Robert Peel was at that time the First Minister of the Crown, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Goulburn), was Chancellor of the Exchequer. Now, who were the principal opponents of Mr. Elphinstone on that occasion? Sir Robert Peel, the right hon. Gentleman, and the noble Lord. The noble Lord resisted the proposal on broad and extended grounds, amongst others that this succession tax should not be imposed on rateable property, because the House had recently consented to the imposition of an income tax, and he expressed an opinion that it would be unfair, when we had burdened rateable property with an income tax, to lay on that interest the additional impost of a succession tax. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Goulburn) argued the question on the ground of the weight of the stamp duties to which real property was subject, and insisted that it would not be fair to impose this duty on real property when they were subjecting it to the operation of the stamp duty. On that occasion Sir Robert Peel said—The question was a most extensive and complicated one. No just conclusion could be drawn without looking to the whole of the stamp duties and taxes on conveyances. Any modification of the probate or legacy duties, or extension of them to other property, could not take place without a change in other burdens that bear in different ways on different kinds of property.Now, as regarded Fox and Grey, Peel and Goulburn, their arguments were not applicable to any particular period, but were directed broadly at the principle of the measure—and more especially with reference to those of Sir Robert Peel—to a state of taxation which was in existence at this very moment, and they were quite as cogent now as when they were delivered. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had en- 335 deavoured on the preceding evening to show, that, after all, this would amount to a very light impost on the landed interest—to not more than about 400,000l. a year. But he (Sir J. Pakington) did not concur in that; neither did he think that was the way in which the question was to be taken. The fair way to take the question was not in connexion with land merely, but with the entire rateable property of the country. He was ready to suppose that the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself considered his estimate of the amount to be received from this impost as within the mark; but the impression with others, and out of doors generally, was, that the produce would be much greater than the right hon. Gentleman supposed. The principle of his objection, however, applied equally, whether the amount was small or great. He was not going to argue now the question connected with the necessary machinery by which the tax was to be levied; but in that case also he thought the right hon. Gentleman would have to contend with difficulties all but insuperable, at least very serious. The right hon. Gentleman told the House he did not trust to compulsory legislation to raise the tax. If he did not, he (Sir J. Pakington) did not see how he could get over the difficulty without being subjected to vexations of an insuperable nature. He was glad to see the hon. Member for West Surrey (Mr. Drummond) in his place, against whose view, that "it was an eldest son's question," he protested. He (Sir J. Pakington) should be glad to find the hon. Gentleman amusing the House less, and instructing it a little more. He could tell the hon. Gentleman it was a younger son's question, and a daughter's question; it was a question of daughters and younger children sorrowing for the death of a parent; and who having been reared in affluence, were now cut down to a pittance, out of which very pittance they were to be compelled to contribute to this most odious and most unjust impost. ["No, no!"] He was speaking of those cases of settlement which were known to almost every family; and he asserted they would have to pay this cruel impost. He would appeal to Adam Smith's view of this question. In speaking of the laws of Holland on this subject, and adverting to that portion of the laws of that country which did not allow a succession duty to be paid in cases of direct descent of property from parents to children, Adam Smith said—The death of a father to such of his children 336 as live in the same house with him is seldom attended with any increase, and frequently with considerable diminution of revenue by the loss of his industry, of his office, or some life-rent estate of which he may have been in possession. That tax would be cruel and oppressive which aggravated their loss by taking from them any part of his succession.Now, it was this cruelty and oppression which the right hon. Gentleman sought to put in operation as to the land of this country; but he hoped that, as in the case of the precedent of Mr. Pitt, the House and the country would not suffer it to take place. He had adverted to the expression of the hon. Member for West Surrey that this was "an eldest son's question," and upon that expression he would further remark, that the term "eldest son" instantly suggested the idea of large estates and rich inheritance. But who were the landowners of England? Was England parcelled out in great estates? No such thing. The great majority of the estates in this country were held by small owners. There were no means of exactly ascertaining the proportion; but he might, perhaps, represent it by the aid of an analogous statement. Mr. Farr, in the evidence appended to the Report of the Income Tax Commissioners, stated that out of the vast population of Great Britain, there were but 236,000 persons with incomes above 200l. per annum. He certainly had read this statement with great surprise; but, undoubtedly, if it was good with reference to incomes of all sorts, it might be fairly contended, by analogy, that the calculation was equally applicable with regard to estates. He (Sir J. Pakington) had no doubt that a very large portion of the land was held by small owners, and by that independent class so much respected by all, and of whom they were all so proud, the yeomen; men of 100l., 200l., and 300l. a year. If that were the case, he could not imagine a more cruel impost than the present tax would prove to that class of men; because, he believed, that at present their holdings were not free from incumbrances; and just at a time when a new inheritor might be about to take possession, it was sought to extract from his narrow income a tax of an odious and inquisitorial nature. They had heard much about the popularity of the present Budget throughout the country. But he felt sanguine the owners of rateable property, householders and landowners, would be alive in their resistance, and act with perfect unanimity throughout the country. He thought the Budget, instead 337 of being regarded with favour, would be regarded with irritation and annoyance by these classes, when they found themselves called upon to bear their part, and submit to this heavy impost on their property and when they found in the same Budget a proposal to give to one gigantic organ of public opinion, the Times newspaper, a direct pecuniary boon of at least 25,000l. a year. He was anxious to disclaim all intention of attributing sinister motives to the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer in that regard. He believed the right hon. Gentleman considered the advertisement duty could not be satisfactorily adjusted without an arrangement to the effect to which he had alluded; but he thought the right hon. Gentleman was unwise in exposing himself to the suspicion which would certainly attach to this proposal in the public opinion of the country—for he did not imagine that the people, when they found their pockets so seriously and so unjustly assailed, would be very nice in suggesting motives for the course of the right hon. Gentleman in this particular matter. Those who found themselves subjected to more than their fair burden of the taxation, and who, at the same time, found that great organ, not of public opinion merely, but of the opinions of the Government, receiving, at the hands of the Government, a boon which, he had heard from a gentleman connected with the press, would amount to not less than 30,000l. per annum, and which certainly would amount to not less than 25,000l.—these persons, if they did not impute unworthy motives to the Government, would certainly have their feeling of the injustice done them by the measure deeply aggravated by the comparison they would inevitably draw between the burden thrown on them, and the enormous boon conferred on the great organ which he had named. As he had begun his observations, so he would end them, with the proposition, that if the resistance to this impost could not be maintained on the ground of its gross injustice, it could not be maintained at all. He protested against the impost, because he believed it to be most unjust in principle—because he considered that it tended to lay a burden most injurious and most grievous on the most important interest in the country; and he trusted that, whatever might be the feeling as to other portions of the Budget, there would be, both in that House and throughout the country, an 338 energetic resistance to this portion of the Budget.
MR. FRESHFIELD moved, by way of Amendment, the insertion after the words "real estate" in the Resolution, of the following words—"in like manner as personal estate is now liable, so far as the same can be made applicable, preserving, however, the Law of Primogeniture," and to leave out all the remaining words of the Resolution. The effect of this Amendment would be, that the legacy duty, as regards personal property, would be in no way interfered with, and real or landed property would be rendered liable to the same duty. He confessed that, as an abstract proposition, he could not defend the exemption of real property from the legacy duty; but if the legacy duty were to be extended to that description of property, the burdens which affected that particular interest ought assuredly to be considered; and in proposing the Amendment he assumed that in a spirit of justice they would be considered. He would remind the Committee that he confined himself to the question of a legacy duty—a tax not new. He would not admit that it was a just tax considered politically or socially; but the principle which governed its application was well understood: it was essential to the legacy duty that it should be levied on property bequeathed by an individual. The Act of Parliament 36 Geo. 3, cap. 52, imposed the tax—
upon every legacy, specific or pecuniary, or of any other description, given by will or testamentary instrument, of any persons who should die after the passing of the Act, out of the personal estate of the person so dying, and also upon every part of the clear residue of the personal estate of every person who shall so die, whether testate or intestate.
So that to constitute a legacy, as the law now stands, it must be left by will, unless in cases where the person dies intestate, and in all cases the property must be the property of the person dying. The Legislature never intended that duties should be charged upon marriage settlements; it intended that the duty should only be charged upon the legacy bequeathed by a person from his own property—in other words a fortuitous gift—or upon property acquired under that will, made by the law as in case of intestacy. It was never intended to include anything of the nature described in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's proposition; and to show how largely his right hon. Friend's proposed tax would extend the present legacy duty, he
might remind the Committee that, by an Act passed ten years after Mr. Pitt's Legacy Act, a legacy appointed or apportioned under any power given for the purpose by any marriage settlements or deeds were especially exempted. This was entirely a new impost: it required only that a man should succeed to a benefit, and that in some way it should be connected with a death; and it was for the Committee to say whether this new impost should be sanctioned or not. The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated one ground upon which he justified the duty, and that was, that a large amount of property changed hands upon which there was no charge of this kind. This, however, was no argument in favour of an act of injustice. The hon. Member for West Surrey said that this was an ancient impost—in other words, that there had been a time when a man had less right to possess property. But surely this was no recommendation in its favour; on the contrary, it was a proof that it was to be supported, if at all, by resorting to a principle of barbarism which had been unable to outlive the march of civilisation. His right hon. Friend treated dispositions of property under deeds and marriage settlements as new inventions and evasions of the legacy duty. The statement surprised him, because such dispositions had the legislative sanction of the Stamp Acts of 1815 and 1850, in each of which duties were specifically attached to property settled by deeds having reference to the value of the property settled: they were transactions not of evasion, but of necessity, incident to the arrangements between families and individuals upon such occasions; and it was a part of the injustice of his right hon. Friend's proposal, that while parties had been authorised to make such arrangements upon certain fiscal conditions, with which they had complied, those who were to take benefits under these arrangements were to bear a new and inconsistent burden: and as to the evasions assumed by his right hon. Friend, he (Mr. Freshfield), during an experience of forty years, had never known a case in which a marriage settlement had been made to avoid the payment of legacy duty at a future period. All the transactions that he had known were bonâ fide, and necessarily incident to marriage; nay, more, it had been of common occurrence to give to the future wife a power, in failure of issue, to dispose of part of the settled property by will, which at once in-
volved the charge of probate duty; and if the bequest was to any one other than her husband, also a legacy tax. His practical objection, then, to the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman was, that he intended to tax anything that was said to be a"succession"—no matter what kind of a succession. He scarcely knew what right his right hon. Friend had to use the term "succession." In a popular sense, certainly, it did not apply to property of the description included by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; because, in the popular sense, it would be construed to mean "the right or power to come to the inheritance of an ancestor." But his right hon. Friend's plan was respectfully indifferent to all such considerations: no matter how remote the source—no matter what the right to possess the property, if it came through by purchase, literally some one succeeded to it, and that somebody must pay. He would put a case where, under the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a great act of injustice would be done. Suppose a gentleman to settle upon the marriage of his son as a jointure on his intended daughter-in-law, 100,000l. in the public funds—her jointure would then yield 3,000l. per annum, the interest on the 100,000l. But should her husband die, and she become a widow, she would then have to pay succession duty upon 3,000l. a year, although not one shilling of the money had ever belonged to her husband; and having no consanguinity with her father-in-law, she would pay as a stranger in blood. The proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer would also tell with great injustice upon mortgages charged upon reversions; for persons advancing money upon or purchasing annuities or reversions, would have to pay a succession tax, not upon the death of the person of whom they purchased the reversion, but upon the death of another. This, he said, was not an imaginary case, but one of ordinary occurrence: an heir apparent was unable to maintain his station and educate his children, for want of pecuniary means, and he contracted with some public company to grant him an annuity during the life of his father, for which, upon the death of the father, he would engage to pay a sum in gross, or an annuity during his own life. This would be a succession upon which the lender must pay duty, even though, as was sometimes the case, the course of events had defeated the principle of calculation, and rendered
the transaction one of loss to the party lending. Nay, more, if the Government duty took precedence of all other charges, the heir might have to pay upon a very large estate, so as, with the immediate expenditure of the heir for the benefit of his property, to postpone the debt of the mortgagee for years, until out of the rental the heir could raise money sufficient to pay, as well his own liability for duty and his debt; and if he had only a life estate there must be a further charge for the insurance of his life until his debt should be paid. He had but one word to say in explanation of that part of his Amendment which related to the law of primogeniture: he meant only to show that he did not consent so literally to apply the legacy duty to all the incidents of real property, that in the event of a proprietor of landed property dying without a will that it should be divided, as in the case of personal property, under the statute of distribution, but that it should descend according to the law affecting real estates. The whole Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was a war against property. It might be popular in some quarters, but he was sure it would be productive of hardship and injustice. He warned the right hon. Gentleman how he struck a blow upon public confidence, the effects of which might be felt to an extent of which he had no present conception.
Line 4, after the word 'real,' to insert the words 'estate in like manner as personal estate is now liable, so far as the same can be made applicable, preserving, however, the Law of Primogeniture.'
§ MR. DRUMMOND
said, it had been remarked that walls had cars, and therefore he would not object to address the House, although there was scarcely a House to address—a circumstance which certainly was not symptomatic of very great alarm being entertained by the country on the subject of this tax—at any rate there seemed to be very little interest taken in it on this occasion. It was said of Dean Swift, that, finding himself and his clerk the only worshippers in his church, be began, "Dearly beloved Roger, the Scripture moveth you and me in sundry places." So he (Mr. Drummond) thought he might say, "This question moveth you and me, Mr. Chairman." With respect to the alleged hardship which this tax would inflict upon the daughters in great families, it would inflict such hardship no doubt; but they must arise ex necessitate rei, because 342 in the case of these settlements, living as the daughters had been accustomed to do in large establishments, a subsequent change of position could not be felt to be otherwise than painful. But the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Droitwitch (Sir J. Pakington) said, that the great bulk of the land of this country was not held in such large masses as was supposed, but an immense portion of it was owned by the yeomanry, and broken up in smaller quantities. That was very true; but then land of the latter description was very rarely under settlement—that class of persons never did encumber their estates in the way that the large landed proprietors did, and therefore this objection did not apply to their case. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last did not deny that this was a tax which came down from former times; but he said that it was a relic of barbarism, and had become unsuited for our modern civilisation. He did not think the hon. Member was quite correct as to the historical fact. In former times, the Crown was in the habit of rewarding military service by grants of land; but if mercenaries were employed they were requited with money, and thus the practice was gradually introduced of giving soldiers pecuniary payment. His objection to the present Motion and debate was this:—When he was asked to affirm an abstract proposition to impose a legacy duty upon all successions, he did not understand how he could possibly resist it. No one objected to a legacy duty in itself as unfair; but it was now asked that an exception should be made in favour of one description of property only, which, viewing the question abstractly, he could not assent to. He confessed, however, that he entertained great doubts indeed, whether, when they came to the details of the Bill, they would be able to carry them out. It was very easy to suppose cases, though they were it much worth, for he believed that when they came to look closely into them, they would find such great difficulties and such enormous hardships that it would be impossible to carry out the measure in its details. For this reason he was sorry to see so much time wasted in discussing a mere abstract proposition. He thought it would be better to defer the discussion till they got the Bill and went into Committee upon it. His difficulty arose from the different view which he took of land, as compared with that of many lawyers and others in that House. He granted that the subdivision 343 of property was in many respects a great advantage. With respect to the simplification of titles, too, which had been alluded to the other night, that was valuable in order to make land more purchase-able—to raise its marketable price; but he (Mr. Drummond) confessed he looked on land as a much more important matter. He looked on land as the only basis of monarchy. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had described the great political importance of landowners; but the fact was that a landowner, merely as a landowner, had no political power. It was when an estate was associated with a series of great names, and had been long settled in a particular family, that the owner had political influence. As soon as the estate changed hands, or was cut up and parcelled out into smaller estates, the political influence was gone. For the same reason that hereditary monarchy was superior to elective monarchy, so was land which had been long settled, entailed, and continued in the same family of more political importance than land which was continually changing. These two views were often confounded; but he believed that the distinction was of much more importance than was usually imagined. There was another thing to which the right hon. Gentleman had adverted, and that was the increasing of this mode of direct taxation in order to get rid of indirect taxation. He (Mr. Drummond) confessed that they had got rid of indirect taxation too much already; and all persons who saw beyond the present hour saw perfectly well—and indeed some of the advocates for direct taxation did not disguise their reasons—that if we got rid of indirect taxation direct taxation would become so oppressive that the Government would not dare to collect it. They believed that they would then get rid of military and naval estimates; but they were quite mistaken. The first day that the House of Commons refused to grant the supplies, it was not the soldiers and sailors that would be turned adrift; it was the funds first, and the mills next, and they might depend upon it that the man who had got the sword or the bayonet would be the last to go without his dinner that day. He would recommend those Gentlemen to whom he referred not to fancy that it was so easy a matter to force direct taxation to such an extent as to induce the country to resist the payment of taxes altogether. They might depend upon it that the evil would recoil upon their own 344 heads. He would end as he began, regretting that they should be discussing this point now. The details of the Bill would be most important, and would require so much consideration, that he thought it would be much better to affirm the principle of the Resolution at once, and let the measure be brought in.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, the state of the House showed the interest which was taken in a question which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Freshfield) called a war upon property. With the permission of the select party present, he (Mr. Williams) would endeavour to fill up some of the time which must elapse before the division took place at twelve or one o'clock. He was sorry the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Pakington) was not in his place. He should have liked, had the right hon. Gentleman been present, to have observed on the long speech he had made in opposition to the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In one part of that speech he (Mr. Williams) entirely agreed, where it was said that the legacy duty as at present imposed was most partial and unjust. The right hon. Gentleman, after that, went on to argue that there should be no extension of the tax to real property, and gave as a reason that the tax in its present form had existed for nearly sixty years. It was fifty-seven years since the landlords imposed a legacy duty on the savings of the whole mass of the community, and on every one who might receive a legacy of 20l. and upwards; while the large mass of real property was exempt. The landlord Parliament, of 1796, and the Parliaments which succeeded, it being taken from the same class, while they exempted themselves from this tax, had added 500,000,000l to the national debt in order to carry on a war with France, the main object of which was to prevent a reform of that House, in order to enable that class to maintain their power in both Houses of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman said, that Mr. Fox and Mr. Pitt were opposed to the imposition of this tax upon real property; but the very reverse was the case. Mr. Pitt divided the tax into two Bills, one applicable to real and the other to personal property, and on account of the influence brought to bear against him he brought in the Bill relating to personal property first. Mr. Fox said—"He objected to the separation of the two Bills; that there was great force in the objections which had been 345 made to bringing forward a separate Bill for applying the tax to landed property; there was no reason why the two questions should be separated, and many why they should be kept together." Mr. Pitt followed, and said, "He agreed that the principle on which the two Bills was founded, was the same, and if that Bill passed, it was desirable that the principle should be extended to real property." Care was taken to pass the Bill relating to personal property, and the Royal assent was obtained for it before the other Bill was brought in; and Mr. Pitt, in proposing it, said, "The principle of the Bill had been recognised in the passing of the Bill making personal successions liable, and that it was a duty which could never be paid with reluctance, for it was paid out of property which the owners never expected to enjoy." This was directly opposed to what the right hon. Gentleman said was the opinion of Mr. Fox and Mr. Pitt. The right hon. Gentleman had also quoted Adam Smith; and he read an extract which he said was a declaration on the part of Adam Smith that he was opposed to a tax on real property. Now the following was a brief exposition of Adam Smith with regard to taxation. He said, "The subjects of every State ought to contribute to the support of the Government as nearly as possible in proportion to their respective abilities—that is, in proportion to the revenues they respectively enjoy under the protection of the State; and in the observance or neglect of this maxim consists what is called the equality or inequality of taxation"—a maxim more opposed to the deductions of the right hon. Gentleman could not be conceived. Much apprehension had been expressed by many noblemen and by some gentlemen of the middle class with regard to this tax. If they would only take the trouble to calculate the amount of the legacy duty imposed on real property by this Bill, all such apprehensions would disappear. It had been stated by several high authorities, and among them the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), that nine-tenths of the landed property of this country was under settlement; that kind of property was to be liable to a duty of one per cent only. Now what was the proportion of personal property that was liable to a duty of no more than one per cent? Why, in the first instance the probate duty was charged on the gross capital about 2½ 346 per cent, and then came the legacy duty, the lowest rate of which was 1 per cent. He would take an estate producing 100l. a year, and estimating its value at thirty-three years' purchase, it would be worth 3,300l. Now 1 per cent on that would be 33l., or something less than four months' rental of the first year, and that was all the possessor had to pay for the enjoyment of the property for his whole life. The same calculation would apply to large as well as small estates. Take an estate of 600l. a year, and at thirty-three years' purchase it would be worth something near 20,000l., and the payment of a legacy duty of 1 per cent would amount to 200l., being something less than a third of a year's rental. Take an estate of 1,500l. a year, and at thirty-three years' purchase it would be worth 50,000l.; the duty payable would be 500l., or the third of a year's rental. So again, an estate of 3,000l. a year, which was estimated at the value of 100,000l., would pay a duty of 1,000l. But from the manner in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had valued real property, he would never see twenty-five years' purchase as its value or even twenty years'. He (Mr. Williams) would take the value at twenty-five years' purchase, and the duty payable at 1 per cent would only amount to one quarter of a year's rental. That was the case of persons who came into property, for the removal of the impediments to which they had been praying for years; and they had only to remain in their previous position for a quarter of a year, and they would pay off the whole amount of the duty which the landed gentry were afraid to contemplate. He was astonished that the Gentlemen who were connected with the land would subject themselves to such a stigma as that which they now bore—of imposing on others a tax from which they carefully exempted their own class. He, for his part, would not be so shortsighted;—were he a country gentleman, he would say that sooner than incur the stigma of being instrumental, as a Member of the Legislature, in imposing the tax on his servants, tenants, and labourers, if they happened to have 20l. or more, left them, and exempting himself, he would pray the Chancellor of the Exchequer to impose not only the legacy duty upon him, but to add the probate duty as well, which he did not propose to do. From the speech which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had delivered on the previous evening, he (Mr. Williams) 347 was afraid that he would have in some degree to modify the approbation which he had expressed with regard to this portion of the Budget as it had originally stood. He was afraid that the right hon. Gentleman had given way in some measure to that influence which no Chancellor of the Exchequer had ever yet dared completely to defy, and that the great landowners were going to be placed in a better position relatively to other classes paying the legacy duties. Great sympathy was expressed by the "country party" in that House with the tenant farmers; but what sort of farmers' friends were they who imposed on the farmers a tax which they insisted on themselves escaping? Why did the farmers pay a probate duty which was not paid by the owner of the land? According to the amended proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer a person succeeding to a property of 100,000l. would have to pay a legacy duty of 1,000l.; but then he was not required to make any payment during the first year after his succession, and the duty was to be paid by equal half-yearly instalments extending over the subsequent four years. He (Mr. Williams) greatly disapproved of such a concession. In the first place, because this arrangement would lead to the necessity of keeping a great number of accounts, and of maintaining an expensive establishment. He calculated, indeed, that it might be necessary to keep many hundred thousand accounts against estates, and it would also be necessary to employ lawyers or agents throughout the country to collect the duty; and he objected to it, in the next place, because these creditors of the State would, in the end, manage in one way or the other to evade their debt to the State, so that the State would sustain a constant deficit. He was afraid, therefore, that the actual produce of the tax would not realise the calculation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Indeed, he thought it would be far better if the right hon. Gentleman took one-half per cent ready money, instead of one per cent the payment of which was to extend over a period of five years. On what principle of justice was five years' credit to be given to the great landowners, when a tradesman or working man would scarcely get a day's credit for the payment of this tax? He mode every allowance for the influence which was brought to bear upon the right hon. Gentleman, to prevent a fair and equitable assessment of taxation; 348 and under the circumstances he would earnestly recommend the right hon. Gentleman to adopt the compromise, and take a half per cent off for ready money. It was a question, however, for the great Lords, and the retainers of the great Lords in that House, whether it was worth their while to invite the odium of presenting this boon to themselves, and not sharing it with the other and less wealthy classes. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Freshfield) seemed to have a great sympathy for those rich persons who, by means of one evasion or other had generally contrived to escape this class of tax altogether. He (Mr. Williams) would be glad to see some machinery employed to prevent these evasions of the rich. A Parliamentary return showed that of 26,400 wills proved, and letters of administration taken out in 1848, 17,600 possessed property of the value of only from 20l. to 250l.; and Porter, in his Progress of the Nation, observed, that only three-tenths of the personal property of this country paid legacy duty. He was glad to find the right hon. Gentleman expressing a distinct determination to extend the legacy duty to all alike; but he warned the right hon. Gentleman that if he left any loopholes such as this plan of five years' credit to certain classes, he would be awfully deceived in his calculations. He hoped that in time they would see the extension of the probate duty too to real property—that at which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks (Mr. Disraeli) had hinted in the course of his speech on his Budget in December; and for his part he (Mr. Williams) would prefer the extension of the probate duty to that of the legacy duty; for unequal as the legacy duty was, it was less so than the probate duty. He would now appeal to the par excellence "Protestant and religious" body opposite to him, particularly the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), and ask, where was their Christian morality which permitted them to. go on year after year upholding and even aggravating, when they could, the most unjust and unfair system of taxation which the world had ever witnessed? They imposed this tax on their tenants, domestics, and labourers, and called the extension of it to themselves confiscation and robbery.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
observed, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, throughout his address last night, had admitted the inequalities existing between the duties 349 upon real and personal property, and had expressed his desire to remedy those inequalities. Now he (Mr. Aglionby) thought that if such inequalities existed they ought to be adjusted, before the measure proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer was agreed to; but if there were no such inequalities, then he thought real property was as fairly and justly chargeable with the probate duty as it was with the legacy duty. The right hon. Gentleman had gone into various minute points, the bearings of which he (Mr. Aglionby) certainly could not see, and which, he believed, no one but an experienced accountant or actuary could explain. The question, however, was, whether the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer removed the existing inequalities, and placed real and personal property upon a more equal footing. He (Mr. Aglionby) must say, he thought the same essential difference which had hitherto existed, would still prevail; but, taking the Budget as a whole, although there were some points of it to which he objected, he thought the good preponderated so greatly over the bad, that he would give the proposal of the Government his support. He disclaimed the imputation of being a "Protectionist," as had been intimated the other night by an hon. Gentleman; but though he was not so in the ordinary acceptation of the term, yet he conceived it to be his duty to step forward for the protection of the interests of a class which he felt to be aggrieved. He must say, indeed, that he could not lose sight of one consideration, namely, that at this moment he saw no possibility of framing any Government who could replace the present Administration with advantage to the country, and who could carry out those measures of reform progress which he was anxious to see effected. He knew he was not advocating the cause of labourers or of occupying tenants, when he referred to burdens which ultimately fell upon landowners; but he did think they were deserving of the attention of the Government. He passed by church rates and highway rates, as of minor importance; for the grand grievance was the burden of poor-rates, as to which there was nothing like equality between realty and personalty. Suppose a gentleman with 1,000l. a year derived entirely from land, and a neighbour with 100 acres of land and 2,000l. in the funds—the rental of the land in both cases paid the poor-rates, but the money in the funds escaped unburdened. Where, then, was the equal- 350 ity between these two individuals? What he wished to see was, a return to the system as it operated in the days of Elizabeth, when the poor-rates fell upon the wealth of the country. It was not so now, when these burdens were not borne by the vast accumulation of personalty which existed in this country. The remedy might easily be found, he thought; and he should take the opportunity, when the Bill itself was in Committee, of stating his views. What he wanted was, not that undue favour should be shown to any one class, but that all should be placed on an equal footing. Approving, as he did, of the main principle of the scheme, he should give his vote in favour of it.
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, it was the circumstances under which the tax had been brought forward, and recommended to their notice, rather than exemption from the tax, which would influence his vote that evening. He was surprised to hear that a large remission of taxation was to be made to classes other than the proprietary, and that then the deficit so created was to be supplied by an increase of taxation on that burdened class. For his part, he was decidedly opposed to the addition of any new burdens to the already heavily burdened landed interests of the country. He looked upon the retention of the income tax as a great injustice. The tax was originally imposed to enable the country to bear unrestricted foreign competition, and for the benefit of the labouring classes.' Those remissions of indirect taxation, no doubt, had fulfilled the object for which they were proposed; but the landed interest had derived no benefit whatever from them; and it was a great injustice to make still further remissions now, and to call upon the real property of the country to make good the deficit so created. There was a limit to direct taxation, because if, by the imposition of direct taxes, you crippled the employers, whence would come the revenue anticipated from the employed? He had heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer a few nights ago, plead with great pathos the cause of the orphan daughter and the desolate widow with regard to the income tax. That tax would be paid for the long period of seven years upon their usually small fortunes or jointures—in most cases very small; but in addition to that the right hon. Gentleman now proposed to tax them with an additional burden, in the shape of a tax upon their succession. He could not understand how the right hon. 351 Gentleman could plead their cause with so much eloquence, at the same time that he increased their burdens. It was stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the tax on succession would be equivalent for the inequalities of the income tax; but in his opinion it would operate still more unequally than the latter. But it was said this tax was intended to pave the way for the repeal of the income tax. Well, then, he thought it would be time enough to impose it when the income tax was repealed. Besides, with all respect for the right hon. Gentleman's wonderful powers of calculation, he could not understand how he should have estimated the amount of this tax at 400,000l; for although he had stated that it would hardly he levied more than once in a generation, or in thirty years, yet experience had shown that large estates had changed hands three or four times in so short a period as thirteen or fourteen years; and he thought—and he knew many competent judges who concurred with him in the opinion—that, considering the enormous area over which the tax would extend, the amount would be very much larger. It was very frequently the case, too, that the heir-apparent was far advanced in life, and encumbered with numerous and heavy claims upon the succession, so that he was to be taxed by this proposition just at the very moment when he would be least able to pay it. He thought there was something inherently unjust in the whole tax; and in proof of that he asked how was it that so many succeeding Chancellors of the Exchequer, all anxious to obtain national resources, and to strain as it were the life-blood of the country, should yet never have attempted to deal with this tax? Was it not on account of the strong inequality and injustice that pertained to the proposition? In his opinion the act was little short of positive confiscation—the drain upon the capital of the country would be so enormous. The right of hereditary successions was one of the main props of our social system, as much so as a hereditary monarchy, or our Parliamentary institutions. He believed that the passing this Act would be a blow at the constitution. [A laugh.] Hon. Gentlemen might laugh—perhaps they would like to see the blow descend; but he did not state that opinion from any selfish, still less from any factious motive—he stated it as the grave conviction of his mind, and a conviction which was not likely to be changed by any arguments that were brought against it. He thought the paral- 352 lel which had been drawn between the time at which this tax was originally proposed, and the present moment, was by no means justified by the circumstances of the two periods. In the year 1796, when Mr. Pitt proposed the tax, the Government of the country was charged with the large responsibility, and the people were excited by the agitation, of a twenty years' war. But now, in the year 1853, the country was reposing after a thirty years' peace. A great difference, therefore, ought to be made between those two periods. Were they now going to war, or fearing an invasion? Was there any portion of the people starving throughout the British dominions? No; the prosperity of the people was unequalled, and there was a rapidly increasing trade. Neither was the tax laid on for the laudable purpose of Church extension, or for the spread of education, in which case he would have been glad to pay it; but they were called upon to establish an impost that Ministers might be able to court popularity, and pander with the democratic influences of the age. He regretted that men so illustrious by station, talent, and power, were actuated by such motives—men who had yielded to a pressure from without. He intended to oppose the tax mainly upon those grounds, because whatever argument might be urged to the contrary, he could not but consider that, unless such measures were kept in proper check, they might prove very detrimental to our monarchical institutions. He should resist this tax, because he thought it had been brought forward in a spirit with which the First Commissioner of Works (Sir W. Molesworth) confessed he sympathised—against which it would ever be his duty and his pride, as a member of the great party to which he belonged, invariably and strenuously, though he feared unsuccessfully, to contend.
§ VISCOUNT GODERICH
said, the chief ground of objection which had been taken to the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was, that the proposed tax bore with injustice upon the landed interests. He must, however, say that the interests of no hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House could be more entirely bound up with the land than his were, and this being the case, he was anxious to take that opportunity of stating the reasons which induced him to support the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Hon. Gentlemen on the other side had admitted that in 353 theory, there was no objection to the proposition, that it was desirable that every tax should, as far as possible, be levied equally on all classes of the community; and that unless there were special circumstances which might fairly justify exemption, exemption was in itself an evil. That admission, which had been made by every Gentleman who had addressed the House, would save him the necessity of entering into any long or elaborate argument to establish that abstract proposition; and therefore he would address himself at once to the special objections which had been urged to the proposed extension of the legacy duty. Those objections divided themselves, as far as he was aware, into two classes: first, that which asserted that the extension of the tax to landed property was unjust, because that description of property was already subject to special burdens, from which other descriptions were exempt; and the second, that which went upon the ground that the tax was so objectionable that the House ought not to proceed to remedy existing irregularities, but rather to get rid of it altogether. The so-called burdens on land might be divided into three classes. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington) had urged as one argument against the tax, the present mode of assessing the income tax upon landed property, which, he contended, was too high as compared with other hinds. Now, he confessed he was surprised to hear that objection urged by the right hon. Gentleman, because, as far as he understood the course which was taken by hon. Gentlemen opposite in the discussions on the income tax, they did not object to the present mode of assessment, because it was a special burden on land, but because it was full of inequalities, which pressed with like injustice upon all classes of the community. Now, it seemed to him that the ground was cut away from under the argument which the right hon. Gentleman had used, by the course which had been adopted by hon. Gentlemen opposite; for they had no right to say that the present mode of assessing the income tax was an especial burden on land if it fell with equal injustice and equal heaviness upon other classes besides land. To go no further back than the Amendment which was moved by the hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire (Sir E. Bulwer Lytton) the other week, what was it but a protest against the inequalities of the income tax as far as concerned trades 354 and professions? And if that were so—if the tax pressed unfairly upon those classes—and he was not prepared to deny that proposition—then there could be no room for saying that the tax pressed on the owners and occupiers of land more heavily than on other classes. The proposition of the hon. Member for Berkshire (Mr. Robert Palmer) was to assess the income tax on the net, and not on the gross, income of the farmer and landowner. He argued that they ought not to be assessed on what they actually paid for insurance—for the management of their land; but his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester had shown that a similar allowance ought to be made to manufacturers for insurance and other like charges. Then there was another point on which the right hon. Gentleman opposite laid great stress—a point which used to be much discussed in past days, and which, to his mind, savoured much of past discussions—the local burdens that pressed upon the land. Now, the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was, amply to allow for the pressure of those burdens; and if it were not presumptuous in him to criticise any portion of the right hon. Gentleman's scheme, he would say he had made too ample an allowance. But at any rate, as that was so, it became a mere question of dispute between the amount of those local burdens and the amount of the proposed exemption. The right hon. Member for Droitwich alluded also to the pressure of the land tax; but he (Viscount Goderich) ventured to think that that was no special burden upon land in the sense in which that word was used in these discussions. It was a tax that was levied long ago, if not avowedly as a substitute for the old feudal burdens, at all events at a time when those feudal burdens, which dated from the earliest antiquity and were of great weight, had been remitted, and to a certain extent in lien of them, and he did not think that under these circumstances the landowners were entitled to complain of the special burden of the land tax. Besides, he was not sure whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not intend to levy the tax upon the saleable value of the inheritance. If he did, then he would, of course, allow for the land tax, because land was bought subject to the tax, and commanded a less price because the tax was on it. It did not seem to him, then, that these burdens on land entitled the owners to special exemption from this impost. But then it was said—and great authorities were cited 355 in support of the opinion—that this legacy duty was so objectionable as a tax on capital, that it was so iniquitous, that it ought to be altogether abolished. The right hon. Baronet had quoted the authority of Adam Smith on this point; but he (Viscount Goderich) believed the passage cited referred rather to the stamp charges on the conveyance of land than to the legacy duty. The right hon. Baronet might, however, have quoted another high authority—the late Mr. Ricardo—who was undoubtedly opposed to a legacy duty, on the ground of its being a tax on capital. But if it were not too presumptuous on his part, he would venture to differ even from so great an authority on political economy, and to express an opinion that the legacy duty was not a bad tax. For in these days the capital of the country had such a tendency to increase, that it became rapidly too great to find profitable employment, and was from time to time carried off, sometimes by the terrible event of a commercial crisis; at others, finding no outlet at home, by being sent abroad, and employed in other lands. Now, if that were the case, he thought that no injury would accrue if a portion of the capital now so exported or destroyed were intercepted in its way by the Treasury for the wants of the country. But he had other reasons for supporting this proposition. There was a wide-spread feeling among those classes in the country who possessed personal property—be that feeling just or not—that the exemption from this tax which was now enjoyed by the owners of real property, was unjust and unequal, and that that exemption was obtained by the great weight possessed in this House, and especially in the other House of Parliament, by gentlemen of his own class who were connected with the land. He felt it would be a great benefit to the landed class if that impression could be removed from the minds of the people. He believed that it was not safe, as the right hon. Gentleman had said, to continue those inequalities, when they were loudly complained of and deeply felt. The noble Lord the Member for North Northumberland (Lord Lovaine), when speaking on the question, not of the income tax, but of the Budget generally, had warned the House to look to the history of France at the time of her first Revolution, and had said that, by the imposition of taxes of this nature, the French aristocracy had been destroyed. If he read history aright, he must venture to come to a far different 356 conclusion. He believed that the cause of the fall of the French nobility, even more than the vices of the last reigns of the French monarchy, was, that they claimed to be exempted from bearing their equal share in the burdens of the community, and that in the obstinacy of this resistance they baffled even the genius of Turgot, and were deaf to the warnings of the wisest members of their own class. He therefore advised hon. Gentlemen opposite to pause before they gave strength to the feeling that existed in the minds of the people, that they, possessing great advantages, and standing in an important position in the State, were desirous to use that position to save themselves from the taxation that fell upon the people at large. It was perfect equality and perfect justice on which alone could be built the stability of the nation, and the permanence of those institutions of which they were all so justly proud; and he believed that nothing would contribute more to knit together the hearts of all classes in the land than the conviction that, living under equal laws, and sharing equal burdens, the interests of all were the same.
§ MR. CAYLEY
said, he had heard with great satisfaction the speech which had been made by the noble Lord (Viscount Goderich) who had just sat down—a speech full of promise and ability, and doing honour even to the distinguished name of the noble Lord. The noble Lord seemed to imagine that the landed interest was desirous of shielding itself against its fair share of taxation; but if the noble Lord had reflected for a moment he must have seen that the landed interest possessed property of a kind which it was utterly impossible to shield from taxation. That was one of the difficulties which land had to contend with as opposed to personalty, for the latter being evanescent and invisible, often escaped contributing its fair share of taxation. The very case quoted by the right hon. Gentleman in his Budget speech proved this, for he showed instances of shopkeepers who had not paid more than a sixth of what they ought to have done. The right hon. Gentleman had also clearly shown in that celebrated speech that land paid 2d. in the pound more than trades and professions, and that was stated to settle the question as between property and skill and intelligence. But it did not settle the question as between personalty and realty, as he would show. It appeared to him that those who possessed per- 357 sonalty had no cause to complain of any inequality of burdens. The noble Lord had referred to a tax which had been very much alluded to in the debate—namely, the land tax, That was one grievance under which realty suffered as compared with personalty. The land tax was virtually a tax on means and substance; but ever since it had been imposed, personalty had evaded it, although legally liable to land tax as well as poor-rate. The complaint of those connected with land was, that at the time the legacy duty was imposed, land was subjected to two taxes—the land tax and the poor-rate—which legally fall upon personalty, but which it contrives to evade. It was because personalty did not pay those taxes that the peculiar tax of the legacy duty was imposed upon it. Their complaint, therefore, was, that personalty, which had for some hundred years evaded these two peculiar taxes paid by realty, should now come forward and demand that the land should bear a third peculiar tax—namely, the legacy duty. That was not fair dealing, and was one reason why he objected to the system of financial equivalents; for, supposing the Government placed one peculiar tax on land, and one peculiar tax on personalty, they might rely on it that the time would come when the people of the towns would raise a clamour, forgetful of the peculiar tax paid by realty, and demand redress of the grievance of their own peculiar tax. He contended that realty paid, as compared with personalty, three or four taxes equivalent to the legacy duty. He believed that the local burdens amounted to 5s. in the pound, being at least 20 per cent of the gross income. If the land tax and stamp duty were taken together, it would be found that they would give 4,000,000l. paid by realty, compared with 2,000,000l. paid by personalty. If, therefore, the question was to be one of equivalents, he contended that the equivalents must be produced by taking off some of the taxes on realty, or by placing others on personalty. He confessed that he had heard with great admiration the financial statement of the right hon. Gentleman, and also his speech on the legacy duty last night; but he feared that the right hon. Gentleman would find himself surrounded with insuperable difficulties when he went into Committee, and that his expectations of raising an increased revenue from personalty, under settlement, would be disappointed. He believed that the right hon. Gentleman would find 358 that his proposal would create greater embarrassments than he imagined with respect to titles to land, and that, too, at a time when the desire was to simplify titles. He was surprised to find so little allusion had been made to the extent of the exemption under the income tax of personalty. He thought the right hon. Gentleman had understated the amount when he proved that land actually paid 2d. in the pound more than trades and professions. He believed that instead of the deduction of 16 per cent which the right hon. Gentleman had made from the gross income of land, 20 per cent would have been nearer the mark. No allusion had been made in the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman to the amazing amount of personalty paying 7d. in the pound, while land, according to the right hon. Gentleman's own confession paid 9d. That personalty, from the funds, from mortgages, and from various other sources, amounted to at least 60,000,000l. a year, paid to what were called the "lazy recipients" of income from personalty. If land paid 9d. in the pound, why should not personalty pay the same sum? At present it was admitted that personalty was exonerated to the extent of 500,000l. a year, for 2d. in the pound on 60,000,000l. was 500,000l. a year. And yet personalty now appeared in court to complain of inequality! Under these circumstances he maintained that the legacy duty ought not to be imposed on realty till justice was done in that respect. He wished for no undue exemptions. He was not sure that the legacy duty was one which he would choose from which to raise a revenue. He would prefer an income tax and a house tax. A house tax was supposed to be a tax on expenditure; but he doubted if it was not really paid permanently, although often not temporarily, by the owners of real property; it fell on the occupier only in a district where house rent was rising. The law of supply and demand, he suspected, determined the rent, of houses in the long run, and left the tax for the owner to pay. Under these circumstances, he did not see the justice of placing at the present moment the legacy duty on realty. It would have been more to the purpose if the right hon. Gentleman had taken up the question of the peculiar burdens upon land. There was not only a sum of 12,000,000l. of local burdens on land, but there was a similar amount of 12,000,000l. of Excise duties on land exclusively. He was in hopes that 359 the right hon. Gentleman, in his comprehensive scheme, would have taken off the malt tax. He believed it would have been a great relief to the consumer, to the producer, and to morality, if the right hon. Gentleman had exchanged the malt tax for a beer tax. One reason why he had given his unqualified assent to the Budget proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks, was, because it had appeared to him to unite in one comprehensive scheme the various claims of the community on the subject of taxation. The principle of that Budget was founded on financial justice to all parties—to the landed interest, as well as to trades and professions. It was upon that ground that he had supported the Budget of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks. It seemed to him that at the present moment, except on financial questions, there was little or no political difference between the political parties on great principles. For his part, if he could obtain financial justice to the landed interest, he would be disposed, like the hon. Member for Surrey, to give, under existing circumstances, a general but independent support to all Governments. Being determined to assist in obtaining justice for the landed interest, and feeling that it had been hardly dealt with in the late changes, he could not give his assent to a proposal which would lay further burdens upon it. He did not see why the hon. Member for Manchester—whose trade was now unfettered, for there was no excise on calicoes or on printed cottons—should seek to put the agriculturists in a category different from his own. He saw no reason why agricultural produce should be excised, and cottons and yarns allowed to go free. If licences were good for malt, they were equally good for yarn and hardware. He asked for financial justice to the landed interest before he could consent to impose upon them any additional tax. He asked those whose industry was now entirely unrestricted, to free the landed interest from its fetters, and to give it that justice which it had given to them.
said, since he had had the honour of a scat in that House there were certain terms which he had often heard, but had never had the pleasure of hearing explained. He had heard, for example, of "peculiar burdens on land;" but never had he been told what those peculiar burdens were. Again, with regard to the phrase, "financial justice," he had never 360 heard it stated what they were to do in order to carry out financial justice. As to the statement that "land had been hardly dealt by," he must say his own impression was that it had been more considered and protected than any other interest in the country, and that since protection was withdrawn it had prospered more than any other. What should be take as an index of general prosperity? It was generally considered when anything realised an increased price in the market, that that was an indication of prosperity. Now, having looked very carefully at the sales of land in the two counties with which he was more immediately connected—Norfolk and Suffolk—he was prepared to assert that in the last three years land there had realised 5½ years more purchase money than it did at any time within ten years immediately preceding the cessation of protection. As regarded the poor-rate, no one could say that the landed interest had not been largely benefited by the effects of the new commercial system, in diminished poor-rates, a reduction of the number of inmates in the workhouses, and the general prosperity of the working classes. Hon. Gentlemen seemed at a loss to recognise that if the nation prospered generally, the landed interest prospered with it. This was not a case in which they were dealing with individual interests: they had to deal with the interests of the nation as a whole; and believing that the Budget of the right hon. Gentleman approached nearer to complete financial justice than any other which he had met with, he should accord to it all the support that he could give. It had been argued in favour of the exemption of land from the legacy duty, that it was in many instances burdened with incumbrances. But Parliament had nothing to do with that; the land was not the only thing incumbered—the tradesman and the merchant were frequently incumbered also, and the land, if incumbered, did not, to the extent of the incumbrances, belong to the nominal owner. This was something like the arguments which had been brought forward at the time of the repeal of the corn laws about marriage settlements and daughters' portions. Parliament had nothing whatever to do with either; but what Parliament had to look to was, that there was no inequality in the taxation of the country. He could not see why freehold and leasehold property should be differently taxed—the tax upon leasehold any more than the freehold house. It was high time that those anomalies should 361 be swept from the Statute-book, and that they should get rid of those remnants of class legislation. The hon. Member (Mr. Cayley) had referred to the burdens on land; but had he made any calculations as to what the poor man paid? He could tell them that thousands of poor men throughout the country could make those calculations, and did make them, and it was the true wisdom of Parliament not to give encouragement or excuse for making such calculations by protecting the rich man at the expense of the poor man. The general feeling throughout the country was in favour of the Budget. The people did not like the income tax, nor its imposition for seven years; but they were perfectly prepared to bear these evils in consequence of the large amount of good by which it would be accompanied. It was a matter of satisfaction that the taxes proposed to be removed were taxes upon the comforts and necessaries of the poor man. They were dealing with soap and tea—they were, in fact, by increasing the comforts of the humbler class, adding items of insurance for the safety of our own persons and the stability of the institutions of the country.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, it was evident that the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. Peto) had been a very short time in the House, for he had said that he had never heard that land was subject to any peculiar burdens of local or general taxation; that he had never heard this taxation described, or its incidence explained. If so, he could not have been in the House when the right hon. Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington) opened the debate that evening; and although he was anxious to support the Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he could not be aware of the, for him, unfortunate circumstance, that the right hon. Gentleman had admitted that rateable property, including land, was subject to a large amount of peculiar and exclusive taxation. Then the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. Peto) said, that land had risen in value by five years' purchase, subsequent to, and, if he (MR. Newdegate) understood him rightly, in consequence of the repeal of the corn laws; the hon. Member seemed to speak of this with disappointment; he must view the rise in the price of land with the eye of a purchaser. But he (Mr. Newdegate) would ask the hon. Member whether there was no circumstance to account for the recent rise of prices, but the free-trade legislation? That legislation could not raise the prices of articles to which it 362 was not applied—iron, for instance, and yet he (Mr. Newdegate) should think that the hon. Member must he aware that the price of railway iron had risen; that timber had risen in price also; in short, that the prices of all commodities and of labour had risen of late. He (Mr. Newdegate) should have thought that the hon. Member knew that this rise of prices was attributable to the great influx of gold. Why, the hon Member seemed to know no more of that extraordinary and unparalleled circumstance and of its effects, than he did of the existence and incidence of peculiar burdens on rateable property. This was very singular. The hon. Member was largely connected with commercial undertakings. The effect upon prices produced by the influx of gold was known by all the leading commercial men, was recognised in the money market, and understood by the Bank directors. But the hon. Member for Norwich seemed never to have heard of all this; and yet that circumstance must have entered into his calculations for all the works with which he was connected. This was very singular; his commercial knowledge and memory did not seem to assist his political judgment. He must have forgotten this circumstance; before entering the House he must have left his commercial recollections in the cloisters with his great coat. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in introducing the Resolution for extending the legacy duty to real property, which was now before the House, had again quoted the authority of Mr. Pitt in favour of his measure. He might have quoted the same high authority in favour of the property and income tax, for Mr. Pitt was the author of both those measures in the first instance; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer had solemnly warned the House not to tamper with the property and income tax, lest they should impair its efficiency as a great weapon, essential to shield the country in times of emergency. But no emergency existed. Mr. Pitt, the author of those measures had proposed them to meet an emergency. He had carried the former, and proposed the latter as war taxes; but we were at peace. What were the circumstances under which Mr. Pitt proposed to extend the legacy duty to real property? He did so in 1796. In 1795 this country was involved in the vortex of the revolutionary war—was waging it against France, in alliance with the other Continental Powers; but in that year revolutionary France had conquered Holland; Prussia had fallen away from our 363 alliance, and had capitulated to France; Spain, too, had capitulated to France; in the spring of 1796, the French armies, under Napoleon, had subdued Italy, and Mr. Pitt had sent the late Lord Malmesbury to Paris to negotiate terms of peace; but the French Directory had dismissed him at forty-eight hours' notice; and Ireland was threatened by the invasion of a French army under General Hoche. Such was the emergency of 1796. In that year Parliament was compelled to increase the national debt by more than 50,000,0001. The Chancellor of the Exchequer could plead the existence of no such emergency now, and had, therefore, no right to cite the authority of Mr. Pitt to justify his measure. Since he (Mr. Newdegate) had last addressed some few observations on this subject, the financial position of the country was changed. The House had been pleased to sanction the continuance of the property and income tax for seven years in its present unmitigated form, the extension of it to Ireland, and to incomes of 100L. per annum. This removed all chance of a deficiency, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer administered the finances with decent prudence, and left him scope for some financial reforms. The right hon. Gentleman had admitted the existence and pressure of peculiar taxation upon real property; he had frankly stated that real property paid 9d. in the pound to the property and income tax, whereas funded and other property and income paid but 7d. in the pound. He (Mr. Newdegate) had voted that this tax upon real property, including land, be reduced to the same rate as it was levied upon other property and income. He had done so for one reason, and for one reason only—because the measure before the House, the extension of the legacy duty to real property, formed part of the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman. He (Mr. Newdegate) had no wish that land and real property should not be highly taxed, more highly than other property; he thought this right and politic for many reasons, and for one especially, and that was, because real property and land were always visible, and excited the envy of those who did not possess them. He wished that the taxation upon real property should be its full share; but he wished that taxation to be raised in a form as obvious as the property upon which it was levied, and that there should be a reasonable and ascertained limit to the excess of taxation which it should bear. For these reasons 364 he objected to the measure before the House, but had voted for the equalisation of the property tax on real property, because this measure was proposed in addition to the excess of the property tax on rateable property. However unjust it might be, he should, if the alternative were forced upon him, prefer an increase of the property tax on real property to this measure, because he knew that those who paid the legacy duty out of real property would get no credit for it, and because it divided the interest of the possessor from that of those who were to succeed him. It would levy a heavy burden of taxation from the successors to real property at the very time when they were least able to bear it. He had succeeded to a property, at such an age as to enable him to judge what would be the pressure of this tax upon the successors to estates. It often happened that the successor inherited an estate which had been neglected, sometimes because his predecessor was a distant relation, who took no interest in him; sometimes because his father had been struggling to provide for a younger family in his declining years; sometimes because his father's health had been for years declining, and he had been unable to attend to the improvement and repairs of the estate. When the successor entered, he was often met by heavy liabilities, by rents ill-paid, by the difficulties of a change of tenantry, by enormous demands for improvements and repairs, and that was the period at which this measure would mulct him by a heavy tax. Few of these demands and difficulties, comparatively speaking, affected the successor to personal property, but they generally fell with treble force upon the successor to real property, which was already the most heavily taxed. This measure afforded a specimen of the modern system of compensation in taxation. Let the House consider the tendency of modern finance in this respect. The repeal of the corn laws had injured the agriculturists; when they complained, they were told, "You will be compensated by the reduction of the sugar duties." That injured the colonists, and ruined many of them. How were the colonists to be compensated? Why, by the repeal of the navigation laws, and that injured the shipowners. We are pursuing this compensation by injury. The Chancellor of the Exchequer eloquently expatiated on the injustice to which the owners of leasehold property were subjected, because leasehold property was sub- 365 ject to the legacy duties, as well as to local taxation. Does the right hon. Gentleman propose to remedy this injustice by relieving leasehold property from legacy duty? Oh, no! that would be much too old-fashioned, and too reasonable. No, the right hon. Gentleman will compensate the owners of leasehold property by extending the injustice they suffer to all real property, which he proposes shall henceforth bear legacy duty, in addition to 9d. instead of 7d. in the pound property tax, and all local taxation. And for what purpose is this tax to be imposed? Why, to reduce more indirect taxation, which is general in its pressure on the whole community. This is the tendency of your legislation; you are narrowing the basis of your taxation, diminishing the number of those who contribute to it, and increasing their burden, while you relieve the many, to whom you propose next year to extend a larger share of political power—power to levy taxes of which they do not feel the pressure. This is a policy tending directly to confiscation. Now, let the Chancellor of the Exchequer I or some Member of the Government rise, and, if they would attempt to justify this proposal, begin by attempting to reply to the as yet unanswered speech of the right hon. Member for Droitwich.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, that the hon. Member for the North Riding (Mr. Cayley) had made a somewhat pathetic appeal to him on the question of the excise taxes. But the hon. Member ought to bear in mind that the Budget made great remissions of the excise duties, and surely nobody expected that these duties would all be taken off at once. The time might come when there would be surplus sufficient to allow for the remission of the tax in which the hon. Member took so great an interest. But the hon. Member was one whose opinion ought to be taken with a great deal of suspicion on a matter like that before the House, for he had held very heterodox opinions on the subject of land, and what ought to be done for the land by that House. The hon. Member had himself furnished to Mr. Dodd—a gentleman who supplied some very valuable information to Members of that House—a statement which showed the opinions with which he had come to Parliament. He (Mr. Bright) believed that the hon. Member stated himself to have come to that House with opinions of this nature—that he wished so to legislate for agricultural protection, as to keep wheat fluctuating between 56s. and 366 70s. and oats and barley at a proportionably high price. Indeed, the hon. Member had descended so far into the minute details of his scheme, as to provide for a constant and unchanging price in the articles of new milk, cheese, &c. Now, he did not blame the hon. Member for holding such opinions some years ago, because the majority then agreed with him; but as he had never since retracted them, he must be taken as a very partial witness, and one whose views would form a very unsafe base of legislation for the House. But he (Mr. Bright) had risen rather for the purpose of referring to the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the principle upon which it was founded; and he was bound to say that with regard to the main proposition exacting a succession tax on all descriptions of property, his belief was, that it was a wise, just, and beneficent proposition; and, further, he was quite satisfied that what his noble Friend below him (Viscount Goderich) had stated in his very excellent speech that night, was perfectly true, and that there was no question about which the people of this country were so generally anxious. He himself, speaking for the large population of the towns, could say that there was no question of taxation upon which the people had felt so strong an interest as this question of the legacy duty, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had taken a very sagacious mode of carrying an unpalatable income tax through Parliament when he tied up along with it this proposition for a legacy duty. That measure, he believed, would enable the right hon. Gentleman prosperously to float through the Legislature a proposition which otherwise—he would make bold to tell him—would inevitably have been defeated. But, although he agreed to the general proposal to extend this tax, he must say that the right hon. Gentleman had used arguments with respect to the burdens on landed property which he had never expected to hear from that side of the House. The right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), with an ingenuity never surpassed, had Session after Session endeavoured to prove that there were special burdens upon land which entitled it to exemption from taxation. He had said everything he could say in decency, and yet always failed to convince the House that there was anything real in the grievances he tried to substantiate; and the House and the country had regarded his complete abandonment of that 367 idea with great satisfaction. But no sooner had that right hon. Gentleman given up the notion that landed proprietors had any claim to remissions on account of local taxation, than his great antagonist and successor took up the story, and based his mode of extending the legacy duty on that very fallacious and substantial grievance. The proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was, that because real property paid poor-rates, land tax, and other taxes, therefore, in extending the legacy duty to that kind of property, it should be extended to it only in the proportion of one-half; for he computed that a life-interest was about half the value of the fee simple and absolute property. Hence, while money in the funds, property in hanks, machinery, or merchandise, would have to pay from 1 to 10 per cent, according to the degrees of consanguinity, real or rateable property would only have to pay ½to 5 per cent. He (Mr. Bright) protested entirely against that principle, and would not be thought to acquiesce in that which would hereafter be stoutly urged as a reason against making this tax equal on all descriptions of property. In Lancashire the land tax was very small indeed—there being very little property in the county at the time that tax was imposed, the greater portion of the county being a swamp. The case was the same in some other counties: some paid more, because they were richer at the time the tax was fixed; but the property since created had not been made chargeable to the tax; and if Gentlemen opposite wished that tax of 4s. in the pound to be extended to all property that could be rated, and the sum so raised applied to the remission of indirect taxes, he would not object to it. County and highway rates were merely payments of each district for advantages which that district enjoyed, and could not for a moment be pleaded as a reason why land or buildings should be exempted from their fair proportion of a succession tax. The fact was, all these special taxes were rapidly diminishing, by the diminution of pauperism, and the general increase of prosperity and wealth; and at that moment they were less a charge than they had been at any time during the last forty years. The largest portion of the rateable property in the kingdom had changed hands more than once in that period; and the present owners could have no sort of claim for special exemption in regard of taxes, the burden of which on 368 their property was estimated when they became possessors of it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had disappointed him in another respect. Though the right hon. Gentleman was a man of marvellous ingenuity in debate, and also in finance, his ingenuity seemed to run altogether in one direction; and he did not appear to have exercised the powers of his mind on the income tax, to complete such a system of discrimination as the country required, but rather to show objections to that discrimination; but when they came to the legacy duties, all the powers of his mind had been bent towards arranging a scale which, while it appeared to lay this tax equally on all property, did in reality only extend half its pressure to the property hitherto-exempt. At the same time, he had not attempted to touch the probate duty, which was about equal to the whole of the legacy duty. The right hon. Gentleman, however, could not do everything at once; probably, at some distant period, he conceived, the probate duty might either be taken off the property now paying it, or extended to the property now exempt. He could not conceive it just that it should remain chargeable on one description of property, while another, not less important in amount, was entirely exempt. When this question came to be considered again, he hoped the House would not be unanimous in adopting the principle of charging rateable property with only half this tax, because rateable property was rated. He held that principle to be wholly fallacious and unjust, and was therefore anxious to record his protest against it, with liberty to vote in future for any proposition which should equalise and extend the tax over all the property of the country. He had last evening asked a question with respect to railway property, and inquired on which side of the line it was intended to be placed—the rateable or the non-rateable; and from the answer of the right hon. Gentleman he gathered that railway property was to come on that side of the line which paid the whole duty; but that proposition could not be maintained. Land and houses, when valued to the succession tax, were to be valued net, and not with the rates added; the net income of an estate was to be taken, and multiplied by the number of years' purchase, according to the value of the life of the successor, in order to discover the amount to be taxed. Surely that must be equally the case with regard to railway property, which bore a larger pro- 369 portion of local burdens than any other description of property, and it would be most unjust that it should pay a larger sum to the succession tax than rateable property. The right hon. Gentleman had not said anything about property in mines. He believed it was not rated to the poor; and the House would be glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman on which side of the line it was to be placed. A similar question might also be asked with respect to those forests or rather tracts covered with timber, which were not rated to the poor. He mentioned this, that the attention of the right hon. Gentleman might be called to the point, and for the purpose of showing him the line he proposed to draw between rateable and non-rateable property was one that would involve very considerable difficulties; and the justice of the case would have been more consulted, and the tax more easily collected, if this new and ingenious distinction had been avoided, and the tax had been extended equally to all descriptions of property. The mode of taking a life interest under a succession tax was not altogether just. When property, entailed or otherwise, passed by death from one man to another, the State should not regard the age of the successor, but only the amount of property, and a certain equal percentage should be taken from the whole of it. He had stated a case where the same property had paid this tax five times in 16 or 17 years; and it might be the same with regard to personal property hereafter. He would refer to one other point, the property of corporations—a very large property—for instance, the property of the London companies in the north of Ireland. There was the property of the Church, and various other corporations, which paid income tax; they were secured by law, they were rendered permanent and safe by the protection of the State; and unless the monstrous principle was adopted that they ought to pay no tax whatever of any kind, there was not the slightest justification for excluding them from the tax now about to be extended to similar property. It might be said that property of this description did not fall into a new possession by reason of death. This was quite true of corporations aggregate; but the right hon. Gentleman had averaged the period at which this property was in the bands of one possessor or generation at 30 years. If that were true, it would be easy to levy a certain percentage on the property of corpo- 370 rations aggregate, every 25 or 30 years, With regard to corporations sole, bishops, rectors, and so forth, the succession there was by death, though not by will; but the property reverted again into the possession of the State, and the State, through the Lord Chancellor or Prime Minister, placed some bishop or dignitary in possession of it for his life. He believed there was no property in the country that required more the defence of the law—of the statute law—to maintain it in its present position than did this property. Vattel said that there was no reason why property of this nature, which had been devoted to Church purposes, should not, when the emergency arose, be appropriated to the service of the State—because it was, no doubt, highly acceptable to God that property of that nature should be appropriated when the exigencies of the State required it—it being highly acceptable to him that States should be preserved from peril of any kind. He gave the Chancellor of the Exchequer credit for the courage with which he had dared to touch this subject at all. But for that, no doubt, his income tax would have been defeated, and perhaps the present Government would not have survived an attempt to carry the income tax in its present form, unless they had linked it with a proposition which the country approved from one end to the other, namely, that the tax upon successions should be levied upon all the property of the country.
§ MR. DISRAELI
rose, and cries of "Divide, divide!" and recommended his Friends on that side of the House not to offer any opposition to the Resolution in that stage, in order that the Government might introduce their Bill, and that the sense of the House might be taken on the second reading, when they had the details of the plan fully before them.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Resolution," put, and agreed to.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ House resumed.