§ Order for Committee read.
§ House in Committee; Mr. BOUVERIE in the Chair.
§ On the first Resolution, increasing the stamp duties on leases,
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, he wished to have some explanation of the objects of the proposed changes in the stamp duties. What was the kind of property that the Government intended to affect, 231 and what was the amount of additional revenue which they expected to gain? At present leases were subject to a low stamp duty, and conveyances in fee to a high duty, and he understood that one object of the proposed changes was to equalise these duties. He thought, however, that this should be done by lowering the duties on conveyances in fee rather than by augmenting those on lease; for the result of the latter plan, which was that embodied in the schedule annexed to this Resolution, would be that a heavy duty would be imposed upon that description of property which was the least fitting subject of taxation—the small plots of land sold on building leases.
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, he objected particularly to the proposed schedules of duties on leases, which would injuriously affect a large community in the manufacturing districts—the members of building societies. The schedules of the present Bill were equally absurd and blundering with those of the Stamp Amendment Act of last year. For instance, the duty on a lease of 100 years was to be 3 per cent, and on a lease of 1,000 years was to be 6 per cent, although the value of each was practically the same. Last year the Stamp Duties Bill was so blundered that it was necessary to bring in a Bill to amend it as to counter-parts of conveyances, and another Amendment Bill as to progressive duties. He pressed it upon the Committee whether it was right, after the Chancellor of the Exchequer had abandoned the excessive duties on this class of conveyances, to reimpose such duties? It was unjust to tax long leases heavily in order to relieve chief rents in fee. He should propose an Amendment in conformity with the determination taken on a former occasion, and should divide the Committee against the Resolution.
Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "if the term shall not exceed 100 years."
§ MR. J. WILSON
said, at present the same stamp was applicable to every lease for whatever period it was granted, so that a lease for three years paid the same amount as a lease for 999 years. The stamp upon a lease was equivalent to ½ per cent upon the rent. Upon a conveyance it was equivalent to ½ per cent upon the value; and, taking the value at twenty-five years' rent, its relation to the stamp upon the lease would be as 25 to 1. It would be 12½ per cent in one case against 232 ½ per cent in the other. There were two kinds of conveyance. One was for money paid down, the other was for a perpetual annuity. These last were very common in the neighbourhood to which the hon. Gentleman behind him (Mr. Hadfield) belonged. They were taken for the purposes of building; a perpetual rent-charge was reserved; but they were as much conveyances in fee as if the whole purchase money had been paid at once. The hon. Gentleman complained that, although he could take a lease for 999 years, and be taxed only at the rate chargeable upon other leases, he could not take a conveyance in fee to be paid for by an annuity at the same rate. His object, therefore, was to reduce the stamp upon conveyances where the consideration was an annuity, but not where it was a sum of money. The Government made this proposal entirely with a view of meeting an apparent discrepancy in that part of the country to which the hon. Gentleman had referred, but without having any wish or disposition to press it on the Committee. It appeared to them, however, that there was a great difference between a mere occupation lease, which was granted for the purpose of business, and a lease for 999 years, which to all intents and purposes might be called a conveyance in fee, since the reversion was worth nothing. They proposed, therefore, that leases for any period not exceeding thirty-five years should pay the same stamp duty as at present; where the term was more than thirty-five, and less than 100 years, it was proposed to charge 3s. per cent, and where it exceeded 100 years 6s. per cent. The hon. Gentleman wished to adopt the lower part of this scale, and to reject the higher; and having done that, he wished to put conveyances in fee for chief rents upon the same term as leases. The tenure, however, was the same as if the money were paid down; there was the same freehold, the same right of property, and what would the purchaser for money say, if the purchaser for an annuity were placed, in relation to taxation, upon so very different a footing? He believed that the effect of the change upon the revenue would be very slight, but there was more likely to be a trifling loss than any gain.
Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Resolution."
The Committee divided:—Ayes 120; Noes 36: Majority 84. 233 Original Question put, and agreed to.
Remaining Resolutions agreed to.