HC Deb 05 April 1854 vol 132 cc464-7

Order for Second Reading read.


moved the second reading of this Bill, which he said he had introduced with the view of the question being fully and carefully considered in Committee. The poor-law assessment was the most uncertain of all the assessments in the country, and he desired to remedy the want of uniformity by bringing all other rates and taxes under the same mode of assessment. He was anxious, when the Bill was in Committee, to consider the practicability of rendering it imperative that all assessments should be made after the mode of the Parochial Assessment Act. At present the assessments through the country were made in utter disregard of that Act. It was true that other modes might be adopted. Poor rates, for instance, might be assessed upon the basis of the property tax. He could point to instances in the City and the suburbs where two houses, precisely alike in every respect, were rated, one at 35l. a year, and the other at 95l. And if the House would look at the assessments of various parishes to the poor rates, and compare them with that to the property tax, they would soon find such differences as would convince them that some legislation was assuredly necessary. It might be objected that, if this Bill became law, it would abolish the assessments under various local Acts. He admitted at once that that was his object, because nothing could be more objectionable, for such assessments were made precisely to suit the will and feelings of individuals. In the course of the inquiries he had made on this subject, he had been startled at the number and amount of unequal assessments, and therefore he was very anxious that the House should take the subject into its calm consideration. He was aware that the measure was in some respects imperfect, but it might be amended in Committee. For these reasons he hoped the House would affirm the principle by assenting to the second reading.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."


said, he could not avoid stating, that he was unable to understand the object of the measure of the hon. Member. The hon. Member wished a uniform basis of taxation, but did not state what that basis was to be. The Bill of the hon. Member would be impracticable, and it was impossible to say how it would work. It had been drawn by some one not very conversant with the bearings of the subject. It might be very good to get all property assessed on one uniform basis; but this never could be done. As the Bill would not work, he hoped the hon. Member would not give the House the trouble of requiring it to be amended.


said, he fully concurred in the views of the hon. Gentleman who had brought in this Bill. No doubt, in theory, it was desirable to have a uniform basis of taxation for the whole property of the country; but when they considered the different modes in which taxation was raised, he feared the difficulties of establishing a uniform valuation would be found almost insurmountable. With regard to the poor rates, no doubt considerable progress had been made in Ireland in establishing a uniform rate of valuation; but he doubted whether a measure of this sort would be well received in this country. Every parish in this country had notions of its own; and the scale of value varied in different parishes to a very great degree. Then suppose the income tax was adopted as a basis, in the first place they had the assurance of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it was not to be considered as a permanent tax; consequently, when the happy day arrived when his right hon. Friend or some other person occupying his place should inform that House there was no longer any necessity for that tax—for the prospect was not entirely to be abandoned—it was quite clear that it would be next to impossible to establish a scale uniform and just in its operation. The machinery for the purpose did not exist. A uniform scale might perhaps be constructed, but it would require a great deal of consideration, and be encountered by great difficulties; and he certainly thought the Bill of his hon. Friend was not well adapted to solve the problem which he desired to elucidate. Under these circumstances, he trusted the Bill would not be pressed to a division.


said, there was no difficulty in doing the same thing in other countries, and why then should there be any difficulty in doing the same in England? In America the principle was carried out with great case and satisfaction, and he could not see where the difficulty was as far as this country was concerned. He wanted all these indirect sources of taxation removed and a general tax on property substituted. It was wrong to allow parties or parishes to assess themselves. He thought the hon. Member (Mr. Pete) was doing a great public good by bringing forward this measure. In Belgium the system worked advantageously, and did away with that constant change of taxation which, according to our system, proved so unsatisfactory and annoying. He advocated one system of assessment, and that system to be based on the poor rate. This would do away with inequality, and much of the abuses and objections which at present existed.


said, the system of valuation in England was very different to that of Ireland. By the English system great injustice was inflicted on Ireland, because Ireland was obliged to pay income tax on the full amount of the Government assessment, while in England, in some cases, not more than an income tax on an assessment of half the value of the property was paid. He thought the Bill ought to be rejected, because it was premature, and not calculated to effect its purpose. When a uniform valuation was established for England, as it was established for Ireland and Scotland, be should support the measure, but objecting as he did to the Bill in its present shape, he should move that it be read a second time that day six months.


said, he would second the Amendment, He thought before the present Bill was brought in, there ought to have been one uniform rate of assessment determined upon, and as this had not been done, it was fatal to the success of the measure.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, with the permission of the House, he would withdraw the Bill. He candidly admitted that the Bill was an imperfect Bill, and the reason was, that he felt a difficulty in deciding upon the basis, whether it should be the poor rate or the income tax.

Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn:—Bill withdrawn.