HC Deb 20 July 1854 vol 135 cc487-9

On the Report of this Bill, as amended, being considered,


moved, that the following clause should be added to the Bill— All matriculations, degrees, and certificates of degrees granted by the University of Dublin shall be, and the same are hereby exempted from all Stamp Duty. In doing so, he assured the Chancellor of the Exchequer that, if the clause was not germane to the object of the Bill, or, at least, as germane as many clauses which it already contained, or if its object was to obtain for the University of Dublin any peculiar advantage or exemption, he would hesitate to press the clause on the present occasion; but if he could show, as he hoped to do in a few words, not only that the stamp duties payable on matriculations and degrees in Dublin College were in themselves objectionable, as being a tax on education and knowledge, but that, unless the clause should be admitted in the Bill, students resorting to Dublin would be in a worse situation than students resorting to any other University in the United Kingdom, he thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer would admit that he was only doing his duty in pressing the matter upon the consideration of the House. The history of these stamp duties was this—no stamps were payable in Ireland in respect of admissions or degrees till 1842; they were then introduced by Sir Robert Peel, expressly as one of the equivalents for the exemption of Ireland at that time from income tax. The stamp duties on degrees, therefore, had no lengthened usage to recommend them; and the exemption, for which they were an equivalent, had been since removed. The tax was 1l. on matriculation, and 3l. on the degree of bachelor of arts; and it appeared, from a return he had moved for early in the Session, that in Durham, London, the Queen's University in Ireland, and in the several Scotch Universities, no duty on matriculation, or on the degree of bachelor of arts, is payable. The duty, therefore, was imposed only upon students of Oxford, Cambridge, and Dublin; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer was aware that it was about to be removed in Oxford and Cambridge. Was it, then, to remain as regards students who resorted to Dublin, and who generally were less able to pay such an impost than students of Oxford or Cambridge? There were many objections to it, into which, at that late hour, he would not enter. It was a tax upon education and knowledge; it was payable at a most inconvenient time, just when young men required all their means to embark in any profession; it was unequal. The Commissioners of Oxford, Cambridge, and Dublin Universities concurred in recommending its abolition. The Commissioners for Dublin University thus expressed themselves— The general question of taxing degrees we shall notice in connection with degrees in arts; but in the case of medical degrees, there is a special reason for not imposing any tax upon the degrees in the University of Dublin. Medical students frequently receive part of their education in one medical school, and part in another, and many of them are in such circumstances, that the necessity of paying 32l. would influence their selection of a place of education. The University of Dublin allows part of the course of education for their degrees to be pursued in the Queen's colleges, and the course of education in the Dublin school of physic is in a great part recognised by the Queen's University in Ireland. If a student has studied partly in each University, and proceeds to graduate in the Queen's University, he is exempt from the payment of the 32l. for stamp duty; but if he select the Dublin University to graduate in, he is liable to the tax. Such an inequality of taxation, giving an advantage to one public institution over another, in a matter where they are directly brought into competition, is manifestly unjust; and this injustice ought to be removed by the entire repeal of the duty on degrees in the University of Dublin. Clause brought up, and read 1°.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the said Clause be now read a second time."


said, he could not accede to the proposition of the hon. Gentleman, not because he thought degrees should be taxed, or was unwilling to consider the subject at a proper time, but because to exempt the University of Dublin from the operation of the stamp law would be a piece of irregular and partial legislation.


said, he should support the clause. The tax in question was a duty upon the students, and not upon the University, and nothing could be fairer than the proposed clause, which was not proposed in a spirit of favouritism.


said, he would suggest, that as the Bill was one of those in favour of which the House of Lords had made an exception, it would be better to postpone the discussion. He moved that the debate be adjourned.

Motion agreed to.

Debate adjourned till to-morrow.

The House adjourned at Three o'clock.