HC Deb 05 July 1858 vol 151 cc968-74

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.

Clause 87 (Duty payable on Proceedings. Rate of Duty to be 10s. per cent where the value shall be less than ten thousand pounds; and £1 per cent where the value amounts to ten thousand and upwards).

MR. VANCE moved that after the word "respectively," in line 15, the rest of the clause should be omitted. He thought the rate of duty imposed should be uniform, because it would be extremely unjust to charge large estates with a higher amount of duty than smaller ones, and such a regulation would only induce owners of large estates to divide them into small portions when they were submitted for sale. He moved the Amendment with the view of proposing that the duty should be fixed at an uniform rate of 10s. per cent., which would be amply sufficient to render the Court self-supporting.


regretted that he could not consent to the Amendment. It was the wish of the Government that the Court should be self-supporting, but the effect of the Amendment would be to throw a portion of the expense of maintaining the Court upon the public Exchequer.


said, that originally they had intended to propose a graduated per centage, to be fixed by the Court, but not exceeding 1 per cent. should be deducted from the purchase money. As he could not fall back upon the Resolution which he had formerly given notice of on this point, he was inclined to agree to the Amendment. The trouble and expense of investigating the titles to small estates were often quite as great as in the case of large estates. He did not think that the Court ought to be self-supporting, and he thought that a uniform rate of 10s. would be preferable to the duties provided for in the clause.


said, that in 1856 the purchases under £5,000 were 1,098; over £5,000 and under £10,000, 265; over £10,000 only 23. In 1857, under £5,000, 1171; over 5,000 and under 10,000, 238; over £10,000, 16. In 1858, under £5,000, 1402; over £5,000 and under £10,000, 182; over £10,000, 26. It was estimated that the amount which would be received by sales of estates under £5,000 during the next year would be £2,000,000, and that to be received for sales of estates over £5,000, £1,000,000. This would, by the per centage proposed by the Bill, give £10,000 and £5,000—making £15,000. They expected to squeeze £5,000 more out of the Bank, making in all £20,000; while the expenses of the Court were about £18,500. The revenue anticipated would therefore about cover the expenses. It was stated by the solicitors and others who had had great experience in the Incumbered Estates Court, that the Parliamentary title given by that tribunal raised the value of estates to the amount of four years' purchase. Now, the greater the sale the greater the advantage bestowed by the Court in the particular case, and, therefore it was but fair that a larger amount of per centage should be paid in the case of large sales. Should it hereafter be found that the amount received by the proposed per centage exceeded the expenses of the Court that per centage should be reduced, and he should presently move a proviso enabling the Lords of the Treasury to make the necessary variations.


supported the Amendment. He thought that the per centage should be uniform. The plan of his right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Whiteside) would lead to proprietors dividing their estates into small lots when bringing them to a sale. As to the future reduction of per centage promised by his right hon. and learned friend in case of a surplus, at best that reduction would not take place till after a great number of persons had paid the high rate proposed by the clause.


demurred to the calculations of the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Whiteside) as to the probable amount of property that would pass through the Court. Seeing that the incumbered estates and estates which were not to be sold at all would pass through it, he thought the sum would be much greater than was stated by the Government.


believed that a uniform per centage of 15s. would be better than two scales of 10s. and £1 respectively. The fairest plan was to calculate the duty to be paid in reference to the value of the estates, and it was clear that the largest estates would derive the greatest advantage from the Court.


expressed his intention of supporting the Amendment.


did not see why this Court should not be maintained out of the Consolidated Fund, the same as any other legal tribunal throughout the country. He regretted the absence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as he felt sure that the right hon. Gentleman, if present, would not drive the Irish Members to a division on this question,


said, that as the sale of estates was a matter by which private individuals benefited, he thought that those who resorted to the Court should pay the expenses of it. He therefore thought the proposition of the Attorney General for Ireland perfectly just.


expressed a hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would accede to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Dublin. He believed that 10s. per cent would be sufficient to meet all the expenses of the Court and leave a considerable surplus, so that the right hon. Gentleman need not apprehend any loss upon the public revenue.


said, that when there was uncertainty as to the amount of business which a Court might have to transact, there might be good reason for throwing the expense of it on the Consolidated Fund; but when the business was known, as in the Incumbered Estates Court, he did not think it unreasonable to ask the suitors to pay one-half per cent on the sales effected.


said, that the expenses of the Court must be very uncertain, inas- much as the Bill introduced a new element, which was that estates not intended for sale might pass through the Court. Now, the experience they had had of the late Incumbered Estates Court did not give them the means of calculating what would be the probable expense of the new Court; but his own belief was that the business would be trebled or quadrupled, because people would go into the Court solely for the purpose of obtaining a Parliamentary title. He considered that the proposition contained in the Bill was opposed alike to the maxims of justice and political economy, and was a step in the wrong direction.


said, that it would be a greater burthen on the owners of small estates if they paid the same amount of per centage as the owners of large estates. That consideration should guide his vote.


said, this proposition of the Government was contrary to all the Legislative practice of late years, to all commercial practice, to all the principles of economical science, and to what common sense would point out. It was enough that a small property was to pay a small sum, which it would do if the assessment were the same; but it was unreasonable that the assessment should in itself be smaller than that upon large properties.


said, that the principle on which his right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Whiteside) proceeded was a very simple one, namely that the rate should be 1 per cent for estates of the value of £10,000, and 10s. per cent for estates under that amount. He thought that a fair principle to adopt, and one that was not opposed to the principles of political economy. This was not the case of a duty for the purpose of raising a revenue, but for the purpose of making a Court self-supporting.


also held that if the Court were to be made self-supporting the charge for the sale of small properties ought to be small. If hon. Gentlemen opposite would consent to keep the Courts for the people of Ireland he would then certainly agree to the proposition of having one uniform charge.


was sorry that he should appear in so prominent a position as the objector to any portion of this Bill, which would hand down the name of his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General with honour to posterity. His object was to have a uniform rate, and he wished his right hon. Friend would propose a 15s. rate. If not he must go to a division.

Question put, "That the words 'when such value shall be less than £10,000' stand part of the clause."

Committee divided:—Ayes 117; Noes 104:—Majority 13.

MR. WHITESIDE moved to insert the following proviso:— Provided that it may be lawful for the Lords of the Treasury to lower or raise such rate of duty from time to time within the limit of the rate hereby provided as a maximum, according as such rate or substituted rate shall to them seem sufficient to provide a fund for the support of such Court.

Proviso agreed to.

COLONEL GREVILLE moved in Clause 87, at the end, to insert:— Provided always, that no such duty shall be payable in respect of any property which shall be sold in pursuance of an order of the Commisioners of the Incumbered Estates Court made before the passing of this Act. And asked the Attorney General for Ireland whether he was aware that, in consequence of this Bill, the sale of some 200 estates in the Incumbered Estates Court had been delayed, and which, when sold in a few months, would be liable to the duty under this new Bill, in consequence of the delay that had arisen. He (Colonel Greville) thought these particular estates should be excluded from the Act.


, in consideration of the assistance of the hon. and gallant Member to enable him to pass the Act as speedily as possible, would assent to the proviso.

Proviso added. Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 88 (Power to Commissioners of the Treasury to invest unproductive cash. 4 & 5 Will. IV., c. 78).

MR. ENNIS moved art Amendment to insert the words "public funds" for "public securities," and to add "or in the stock of the Bank of England or the Bank of Ireland respectively."


had no objection to the first part of the Amendment; but with regard to the second, though there could be no doubt of the security of the Bank, it was right that the investments should be confined to the public funds.


wanted to know how any deficiency that might arise in the price of the funds, between the time of the investment and the time of the withdrawal of the money was to be made good?


said, that as the State took upon itself the expenses of the Court, it would also take the interest that might arise from the balances, and this would go in reduction of the expenses.


said, that as the clause stood, the suitor would be at the loss of a fall in the funds, in case the money was required under the provisions of the Act.


explained, that there were two funds—under the titles of "the Suitors' Fund" and "the Suitors' Fee Fund," and the hon. Gentleman had confounded the two. If a suitor paid in cash, he expected to get cash out.


maintained that the suitors were not only entitled to their principal, but the interest upon it.


said, that where suitors came forward and desired that their funds should be invested, this would be done; but the clause was meant to provide for those cases where the suitors did not do so, and the proposal was that the interest of those funds should go towards the expenses of the Court. A similar provision had been made as to the Court of Chancery in Ireland.


objected to the Lords of the Treasury having power to invest the "loose cash." The House ought to be distinctly informed, if there was any loss, on whom it was to fall.


said, that the reason why in this case the investment was to be made by the Treasury, and not by the Court, was because it was the Treasury that was answerable for the expense of the Court, and the Treasury would take care to have the funds so invested as to guard against loss.


said, on the Report he would alter the clause so as to meet the objection of the hon. Member for Cork County.


said, that the House ought to have an answer to a plain question—who was to bear the loss if there was one?

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 89 and 90 agreed to.

MR. SERJEANT DEASY moved the following clause:— Upon Stephen Woulfe Flanagan, Esq., ceasing to hold his present office of Master, it shall and may be lawful for Her Majesty, her heirs, and successors, by any letters patent under the Great Seal of Ireland, to give and grant to him an annuity or yearly sum not exceeding £1,000, to be paid out of such monies as may be provided by Parliament for that purpose, during his life: Provided always, that in case the said Stephen Woulfe Flanagan shall hereafter be appointed to any office under Her Majesty, the amount of the salary he shall receive in respect of his said office shall be deducted from the amount of retiring pension which he is entitled to receive under this Act, or his retiring pension shall be deducted from the amount of his salary, as the case may be; and provided also, that in computing the time on the expiration of which the said Stephen Woulfe Flanagan, Esq., shall be at liberty to retire from any office to which he may hereafter be appointed, or in computing the amount of any retiring pension to which he may become entitled on such retirement, the period during which he shall have held the office of Master shall be counted as if he had served such period in such office to which he may be so hereafter appointed.


said, it was intended on the Report to propose a clause to meet such cases as those alluded to in the clause now moved.

Clause negatived.


urged the necessity of extending the principle of this Bill to estates less than fee simple, and he should propose a clause to that effect on the Report.

House resumed.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered on Thursday, and to be printed.