§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. DUNLOP
stated that the object of the Bill was to do away the exemption from valuation, for the purposes of assessment, of certain descriptions of lands and heritages under the Valuation Act of 1854. About two centuries ago a general valuation of land and heritages in Scotland had been made, but it had never been renewed, and so it came in time to form an unjust basis for taxation. In consequence, wherever the statute imposing a rate admitted, it had become the practice for the authorities entrusted with the levying of the rate to impose it on the real rent, and make a valuation of their own. This led to several separate valuations, and, in 1854, the late Lord Advocate carried the present Valuation Act for one uniform valuation accord- 653 ing to which all rates and taxes, local and public, according to rental should be imposed. It was an Act for valuation only, not for rating. All rates continued leviable on the property on which the special statute authorising them laid them, and the Valuation Act only provided a roll of rental or value according to which they should be imposed; and it expressly enacted that nothing there in contained should "exempt from, or render liable to, assessment any person or property not previously exempt from, or liable to, assessment." The insertion, therefore, of any property in the valuation roll could not render it liable for any rate not imposed on such property by the statute authorising it; but, on the other hand, the omission of any property from the roll made it impossible lawfully to impose on that property an assessment or tax, to which it might nevertheless be legally subject. Now, the Act directed all lands and heritages in Scotland to be valued; but in the interpretation clause it put a construction on these words, which, either wholly or partially, exempted from valuation, and consequently from taxation, certain classes of lands and heritages which it was the object of the present Bill to include, so that they might be rated for any taxes to which they were subject by law. There were four sorts of property in that position—deer forests, shootings, woodlands, and feu duties. Deer forests were specially enumerated in the interpretation clause, as falling under the general terms lands and heritages, but subject to this qualification adjected, "when actually let." It was not the right of deer shooting which was thus dealt with, but the deer forest itself — the territory. If, therefore, the proprietor of a large extent of grazings in the Highlands, yielding a handsome rateable rental as sheep farms, turned it into a deer forest and was wealthy enough to be able to keep it in his own hands for the enjoyment of himself and his friends, it became practically free from all taxation. It was quite true that in some of the counties in which there were deer forests, the Commissioners of Supply, under whose authority the valuation is made up, and who are the landed proprietors of the county, and themselves liable in rates, looking rather to the rules of justice than the letter of the statute, have included unlet deer forests in the valuation roll, putting on them only the grazing value; but in one county—they have been left out altogether; and now that, by an Act of last year, an appeal lies 654 from the Commissioners, in certain circumstances, whenever the point comes before a court of law effect must be given to the letter of the statute. Nothing, however, can be more monstrously unjust than that a wealthy proprietor, by turning the greater part of a parish, or of more parishes than one, into a forest for his own amusement, driving out the inhabitants and making it a wilderness, should thereby become exempt from all taxation in respect of his property, and throw the burden of the whole rates on the few small proprietors who cultivate their lands, or let them for the ordinary purposes of agriculture. This injustice the Bill would prevent. But its object was also to secure that a deer forest should, whether let or not, be valued, not merely according to the value of the land as grazings, but according to its valne in its existing state as a deer forest; and also that shootings generally should be included in the valuation, though unlet. It might perhaps have been made a question, whether shootings should be rateable at all; but admittedly they were so; and the only question now was, whether they should be exempted from the liability to which such property was legally subject, when the owner was so wealthy as to be able to retain them in his own possession for his own enjoyment, instead of taking the value out of them in the shape of a yearly rent. This distinction of let and unlet was not admitted in regard to any other kind of property. Nor in regard even to shootings was it admitted with reference to other matters than taxation. It was a common provision in Scotch entails that the heir of entail should have power to assign as jointure to his widow a yearly sum not exceeding a certain proportion of the rental, or part of the estate yielding such proportion, and the question had repeatedly arisen, in the courts of Scotland, in deciding if the prescribed proportion had been exceeded, how far shootings were to be included in estimating the yearly rental. It had long been settled that they were to be included, but in the earlier cases it so happened that the shootings had been in use to be let, or had on some occasion been let. In a recent case, however, regarding the Castle Menzies estate, the shootings never had been let, and the opinions of the whole Judges were taken on the question, whether such shootings, never let, were to be included in the estimated rental of certain lands assigned to the widow. The Judges decided that they must be so included, disregarding the distinction between let and unlet. The 655 shootings of that estate though thus held by the Court to be part of the annual value constituting the widow's jointure, would nevertheless be held under the Valuation Act to form no part of its value for the purposes of rating. It is always most unwise, as well as unjust, to make exemptions in taxation in favour of the rich and against the poor. Here the small owner, to whom the rent of his shootings is an object of some importance for his support, is rated, while the great proprietor who, because he can easily dispense with this, takes the value in the shape of sport—or it may be makes money profit by selling his game—is exempted. The contrast, too, is more irritating and offensive when the case of house property is taken into view. The owner of a house, the rent of which forms, it may be, the chief means of his subsistence, in some year cannot get it let; he is obliged to shut it up; it is neither a source of profit nor a subject of enjoyment: but it was decided by the Court the other day that such house must be valued under the Valuation Act, and that the owner must consequently be rated on it, even while unoccupied; while the great landed proprietor in the neighbourhood, who has extensive shootings, worth in the market fifty times the rent of the house, escapes altogether, because he can and does make these the subject of enjoyment to himself, instead of drawing the money-rent which his wealth, and consequent ability to pay rates, enables him to dispense with. The next kind of property dealt with in this Bill is woodlands, and here it only proposes to correct an acknowledged blunder in the Valuation Act. When first brought into this House, it was proposed that woodlands should be valued according to what they yielded in the shape of cut wood, and therefore the valuation was justly to be limited to the period during which profit was actually drawn; because, if the accumulated growth of many years was to be rated in one or two years, it was clearly unjust that the woodlands should also be valued and rated in the years of growth during which they yielded nothing. Accordingly, the interpretation clause, in setting forth woodlands as included under the general term "lands and heritages" used in the body of the statute, added the restrictive qualification, "while actually yielding profit." In Committee, however, it was agreed that, instead of exempting woodlands while growing, and then valuing them at the full return they yielded while being cut, they should be 656 valued during the whole period, whether of growth or cutting, but only at the yearly value of the land in its natural state, which it was assumed would be equivalent to the value of the produce at the end of the period. Accordingly, in the body of the Act it was declared, as the rule of valuing woodlands, that the value should be that of the land in its natural state, and so the returns by cutting cannot now be taken in view. A necessary part of this change was, of course, the omission of the restrictive qualification in the interpretation clause; but by some blunder — though actually moved and agreed to by the Committee— the words were not struck out, and the result is that, while no value can at any period be put on woodlands, except that of the land in its natural state, even that value cannot be put on them, unless when yielding profit; so that though woodlands are exempted during the whole period of growth, and are only to be valued when in course of being cut, the value to be then put on them is not that of the wood cut, but of the land in its natural state. This error ought undoubtedly to be corrected. The only other kind of property to which the Bill applies is that of feu duties, and the attempt to have them included in the Valuation Roll has excited very keen opposition on the part of the owners—individual and corporate—of this valuable description of land rental, extending in some cases to between £20,000 and £30,000 a year in the hands of one person. It is alleged by these parties that the present Bill is an attempt to impose rates on this kind of property to which it is not now liable by law. This is an entire misapprehension of the object of the Bill, which does not propose to lay on feu duties, or any rate to which this property it is not now by law subject, but only to remove an obstacle, arising out of the machinery of the Act of 1854 inconsistent with its avowed purpose and enactments, to the existing legal liability being enforced. It will be kept in view that the valuing of any property, and its insertion on the Valuation Roll, does not make it liable for any rate not imposed on such property by the statute authorising the particular rate. Thus the manse and glebe of the parish minister are not under the Poor Law Acts liable in poors rates, but under the Prison Acts they are liable in prison rates. They are valued and put on the Valuation Roll of the Act 1854, but their legal liability is not thereby affected; 657 they still continue exempt from poors rates, while means are afforded for assessing them for prison rates. If they had been left out of the Valuation Roll their legal liability would not indeed have been done away, but it could not have been enforced, as no assessment can by the terms of the Valuation Act be laid on, except on property entered on the Valuation Roll. In the same way with feu duties. The insertion of these on the roll would not render them liable for any rate to which they are not legally subject under the special Act imposing the particular rate, while the omission of them makes it impossible to levy such rates as they may legally be subject to. In illustration of the real state of matters, he (Mr. Dunlop) would take the case of two petitioners against the Bill whose petition had been presented to-day by his right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Cardwell), and the hon. Baronet the Member for Renfrewshire (Sir W. S. Stewart.) These petitioners were the owners of estates in the county of Renfrew, yielding as part of the yearly rental, a large amount of feu duties. Now, in that county the question of the liability of feu duties for prison rates had been actually tried and decided. On the passing of the Prison Act of 1839, some superiors there resisted the imposition on them in respect of their feu duties of the rates thereby authorized, and brought the case before the sheriff, or county Judge, who pronounced a decision in these terms:—Paisley, 20th October, 1841.Having considered the above petition and hoard parties summarily, in terms of the 2nd and 3rd Vict., c. 42 and 65, repels the objections proposed to the mode of assessment; and further finds that the superiority and feu duties derived from that estate are comprehended under the terms of the Acts of Parliament, and finds accordingly that superiors fall to be rated and assessed respectively in proportion to the amount of their feu duties, and therefore sustains the charge complained of and decerns.In a note setting forth the grounds of his decision, the learned Judge observes:—It seems to me scarcely possible to hold that feu duties do not form part of the real annual value of the lands. In most cases feu duties were originally the full retour or yearly equivalent to a rent, and the granting of feus was thus merely a mode of possession like letting at present. Hence the superior is not divested of the lands by the grant to his vassal. On the contrary, in a feudal sense his right and estate constitute the dominium eminens, and he retains that right unimpaired, except in so far as he communicates the dominium utile to his vassal. He is the real dominus or owner of the lands which he possesses through his vassal. He is infeft in the lands, and, on tinsel of feu by the vassal, he may enter on them by a plotless of law; or in the event of the vassal renounc- 658 ing the feu, the dominium utile would have accrued to him without any conveyance, and the feus would have been cleared off by forty years' subsequent possession.After referring to some authorities he adds:—It thus appears to me, that on general legal principles the superior who receives the feu duties, and not the vassals who pay them, is liable to be taxed for their amount, and that these principles are confirmed or at least not shaken by the decision referred to.The Judge who pronounced this decision was not only an accomplished scholar, but a very able and learned lawyer; and, what may be deemed even more conclusive, his judgment was acquiesced in, though the interests involved were not unimportant; and the superiors in that county, many of them persons of great wealth, continued to pay prison rates on their feu duties down to the passing of the Valuation Act of 1854. He (Mr. Dunlop) had in his hand a list of the amount of feu duties rated for prison rates for the year 1854, in the landward part of that county, according to the several parishes; and the amount so rated is, in the parish in which the lands of one of these petitioners lie, £463 yearly, and in that where the other petitioner's lands lie, £1,118 yearly. These parties and the other superiors in the county are no longer rated on their feu duties for prison rates, which are now levied, in respect of these feu duties, on the vassals by whom the feu duties are paid. Now, how has this exemption of the superiors and the transference of the burden on the vassals been effected? Did the Valuation Act of 1854 change the legal liability? On the contrary, that Act expressly enacted that nothing therein contained should "exempt from, or render liable to, assessment, any persons or property not previously exempt from, or liable to assessment." Was then the question of liability again judicially tried, and the former judgments of the sheriff decided to have been erroneous? Nothing of the kind. How, then, did the present exemption, contrary to the practice from the passing of the Prisons Act till 1854, arise? Simply from this—that the machinery of the Valuation Act, by making insertion on the roll necessary in order to impose a rate, and yet keeping feu duties out of the roll, prevents in this surreptitious way the enforcement of that legal liability which the Act itself declares it did not mean to affect, and so excludes even the trial of the question whether the liability subsists. It may possibly be that! the decision of the sheriff of Renfrewshire is erroneous in law; but if so, the superiors 659 have nothing to fear from their feu duties being valued; while, if it he well founded, it is utterly inconsistent with justice that they should escape by keeping their property out of sight, and so excluding the question of legal liability from the cognizance of a court of law by virtue of the defective machinery of an Act which expressly declares that no exemption from previous liability was thereby intended. Of course, wherever, under any statute, the rate, as regards feu duties, is laid on the superior, the vassal cannot also be rated in respect of the full value of the subject, but only on that minus the feu duties; and it is said that great practical difficulty would be experienced in the imposition of the rate. No such difficulty seems to have been experienced in regard to prison rates prior to the Act of 1854, or to be now felt in the corresponding case of tack duties under building leases; but it could easily be obviated by providing, as he (Mr. Dunlop) would be willing to do in Committee, that where the whole rate on the full rental was paid by the vassal he should be entitled, in regard to any rate for which the superior was legally liable in respect of his feu duties, to deduct from the feu duty the proportion of rate corresponding to it, except in those cases in which the vassal was bound, by his titles, by contract, or otherwise by law, to relieve the superior from such rates or taxes. This would give superiors every protection to their legal rights, while the Bill would not lay on them any liability to which they were not now legally subject; but would only secure that they did not practically escape from burthens to which they were truly liable by law. It was unfortunate for the Bill that it united in opposition so many separate interests — sportsmen, lairds and great feudal superiors; but it sought nothing that was not truly and substantially just.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ VISCOUNT DUNCAN
said, the present was one of a class of Bills which he viewed with great repugnance. He objected to it for three reasons—first, because although if professed to be an amendment of the Act of 1854, it was framed in a spirit directly contrary to that Act; next, because almost every provision in it had already been discussed and rejected by the House; and thirdly, because the existing Act had given general satisfaction to the people of Scotland, and ought not, therefore, to be disturbed. By the interpretation clause of the Act of 1854 660 "lands and heritages" were stated to include all shootings and deer forests which were actually let, and by the 6th section of the same Act those shootings and deer forests which were retained in the hands of the proprietors were to be valued at the amount which they might be expected to bring if let from year to year. There was no need, therefore, for any change of the law in that respect. But the truth was, the present Bill had been brought forward for the sake of the feu duties. That portion of the measure in which the hon. and learned Member for Greenock proposed to deal with the feu duties had justly excited the greatest alarm and indignation in Scotland. He could not bring it more vividly before the minds of English Members than by likening it to an attempt to compel the Marquess of Westminster or any other proprietor of land in the metropolis to pay the assessments leviable upon the occupants of houses within the metropolitan area. He begged to move, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
§ MR. MACKIE
was convinced that, whatever might be the defects of the Act of 1854, the passing of the present Bill would create a large amount of dissatisfaction in Scotland. He had no objection to the Bill as far as deer forests were concerned, for he believed that at present any proprietor of land might convert his sheep-walks into deer-forests, and thus relieve them from local taxation; and in this respect the Bill would remedy a great injustice; but thought that the existing exemption in the case of a shooting retained in the hands of the proprietor, and not let for money, ought to be continued. If grouse shooting were to be taxed in Scotland, why should fox hunting not be taxed in England? He would not oppose the second reading of the Bill, but hoped the hon. and learned Member for Greenock would withdraw the clause relating to shootings.
§ MR. FINLAY
believed that the Bill would introduce into the law greater defects than those it professed to remedy. He would therefore vote in favour of the Amendment.
§ MR. BLACK
thought that those parts of the Bill which related to deer forests and shootings should be carried into effect; but 661 the clause referring to feu duties he believed to be fraught with great injustice. It amounted, in fact, to a proposal to subject feus to two separate assessments, inasmuch as the valuation of a house under the existing system included the value of the ground or feu. The greater part of the revenues of Edinburgh were derived from feu duties, and if the Bill were to pass in its present shape, the city would be plunged into a state of bankruptcy. If the hon. and learned Member for Greenock would withdraw the clause relating to feu duties, he would vote for the second reading; if not, he would vote against it.
§ SIR MICHAEL SHAW STEWART
said, not a single petition had been presented in favour of this measure, and, with the exception of the hon. and learned Member for Greenock, who had brought it in, not another Member had a word to say for the Bill. He congratulated the Scotch Members upon being so unanimous, for he could not conceive a Bill which was more calculated to give occupation to the unemployed writers in Scotland than this. With regard to feu duties, they were assessed already; and the general opinion in Scotland was, that if this Bill passed into a law in its present form, it would be an insertion of the narrow end of the wedge, and that those duties would be assessed twice over, in contravention of the solemn agreement which had been entered into between the superior and those who held the ground under him. He trusted the House would reject the Bill.
§ MR. COWAN
expressed his intention to vote for the second reading of the Bill, thinking that all the various points raised by preceding speakers might be reserved for consideration in Committee. He was anxious to see the Act of 1854 amended; because either through maladministration or neglect it had been attended with great injustice. He would point to a particular grievance under which he himself, with many others, suffered; he alluded to the manner in which the assessors who were appointed by the Commissioners of Supply, assessed mills and factories, compared with the valuation they fixed upon the mansions of the nobility and gentry. The assessors under the Act had powers of taxation not exceeded by those possessed by that House, and he trusted that the Bill would be allowed to go into Committee, in order that any injustice done under the Act of 1854 might be remedied as soon as possible.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, he would enter his protest against this Bill, which would 662 amount, in his opinion, to a confiscation of property. The principles put forward in this Bill were all discussed when the Valuation Act of 1854 was before the House, and were then, after much deliberation, rejected by a large majority. With regard to the feu duties, he observed there was not a single Member who would admit that feu duties ought to be made liable to assessment. But some hon. Gentlemen were of opinion that the Bill ought to go into Committee, because they were of opinion that deer forests were not under the present law liable to assessment. This Bill would make them liable. Now, he was quite willing to admit, that if a gentleman chose to clear a vast tract of ground, either for his own amusement or for that of his friends, and were to convert it into a deer forest, it would be very wrong indeed that such a vast amount of property should be taken out of the area of taxation. But was it the fact that they were exempt? On the contrary, he believed that the practical working of the Valuation Act was to assess that description of property. he wished his hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate would clear up that part of the question.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE
said, he was not entitled, even if he were inclined, to refuse to respond to the appeal that had been made to him from so many quarters to state his opinion; and in doing so, he could only express his regret, in which he was sure his hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Mr. Dunlop) fully shared, that on the first occasion of his taking part in the debates of this House, it should be his misfortune to oppose his hon. and learned Friend. But he must say, that he was compelled, by the force of his own convictions on this subject, to give his support to the Amendment of the noble Lord opposite. It appeared to him that the Bill was objectionable in principle as regarded every one of its provisions; but especially objectionable in that which was the most important of them all, the proposition to include feu duties in the Valuation Act, with a view, of course, to subject them to taxation in regard to all those matters to which the Valuation Act applied. His hon. and learned Friend had argued, that to include feu duties in the Valuation Act would not, in point of immediate and necessary effect, subject that species of property to taxation. That might be very true; but then he went on to state the counterpart of that proposition, that to omit that particular species of 663 property from the Valuation Roll was to exempt it from taxation. Now, assuming that to be sound doctrine—which he (the Lord Advocate) very much doubted—still the existing practical exemption of this species of property threw the burden upon his hon. and learned Friend to show that the exemption of that property from taxation was either unjust or inexpedient. Yet, though he had listened with all his attention, he had listened in vain to hear from his hon. and learned Friend a single; ground suggested to show that this exemption was cither unjust or inexpedient. Let him say, in passing, that he doubted whether his hon. and learned Friend was right in his statement that the mere omission of feu duties from the Valuation Act was sufficient to secure them exemption from taxation if the law had previously rendered them liable to taxation. He doubted it for this reason—that one of the provisions of the Valuation Act was, that nothing contained in that Act — and, of course, no omission from that Act— should render any property liable to taxation, or any property exempt from taxation, other than was already provided by law. He therefore thought that if feu duties were liable to the existing burdens of land in Scotland, the mere circumstance of their omission from the Valuation Act did not prevent them from being-taxed. In fact, feu duties least of all descriptions of property, required to be valued, because they were well known to be of a precise amount. Their value was defined in the very deeds which created the right, and there was no necessity for valuing that which bore its value strongly and sharply defined on its face. But, passing from that, he must say it appeared to him to be a most unjust and inexpedient proposition to make feu duties the subjects of taxation under the Valuation Act, which, as the House knew, was passed in order to make a complete valuation of all those lands and heritages in Scotland which were subjected to what he might roughly describe as county and parish rates. Now, if they had once assessed the entire annual value of the whole land of Scotland for these purposes, he apprehended that the Valuation Act had done all that the Legislature intended it to do. But let the House observe the position in which the party stood who paid feu duties, and who was called in Scottish law the "vassal." The feu duty was paid as the condition of holding the land, and was con- 664 stituted in this way. There was a conveyance of land to a person in order to build a house or mill, or other manufactory upon it; but, instead of the purchaser of the land paying down the whole capital sum as the price, he paid an annual sum, which was the feu duty; or, it might be that the purchaser paid a portion of the sum down at once, and then the remainder was charged upon the land as an annual feu duty. The conveyance and the duty were not for a limited term of years, but were in perpetuity. But, whichever of these cases they took, it was obvious that the feu duty was neither more nor less than the price of the property—a price paid not exactly by instalments, but rather in the form of an annuity. It was nothing else than the conversion into an annuity of that which, in an ordinary case, would be paid in a capital sum. The party who paid the feu duty was, in this respect, in an analogous position to the man who had an estate subject to a rent charge or mortgage. Now, it never was proposed or imagined, that in taxing land they ought to tax rent charges or mortgages. His hon. and learned Friend had stated correctly enough, that the superior, the over lord, who received the feu duty, was still in the eye of the law the owner of the land according to the principles of the feudal law. That was perfectly true as regarded the principles on which the law of Scotland was based; but had that truth the slightest connection with the system of taxation? It was a mere technical distinction in the law. It had no practical effect in taxing the soil. The history of the kind of taxation referred to in the Bill might be very shortly stated. The first Act which introduced this particular species of taxation was the Prison Act of 1839; and under that statute he suspected it was that the decision was given by the Renfrew sheriff, to which his hon. and learned Friend had referred as given in 1841. Now he wished to speak with the greatest respect of all the sheriffs of Renfrewshire, and he was sure he did not remember who was sheriff at that particular period; but when he recollected that the framework of the Prison Act of 1839 was identical with the framework of the Poor Law Act of 1845 as regarded the assessment, and when he knew that it was notorious that under the Poor Law Act it had never entered the head of any human being to suppose that feu duties could be made to pay the assessment 665 for the relief of the poor, he could not but express the strongest doubt as to the soundness of the decision to which his hon. and learned Friend had referred. The Valuation Act was framed upon the principle of the Poor Law Act of 1845. It took the owner of the land—the man who was in the beneficial occupation of it—and it held him responsible for all the amount of taxation that was leviable upon the property. The assessment was made on the entire value of the possession, and if they were to adopt the principle of this Bill and tax feu duties, the consequence would be that they would tax the same property twice over. His hon. and learned Friend saw the difficulty of that, and he apologized for it by saying, that if his principle were adopted, it would probably require some further adjustment of the relations between the vassal and his superior. But his hon. and learned Friend would give him leave to say, that the evil he sought to remove would, by the means he proposed, resolve itself into another and still greater evil. If there were to be a double assessment, the vassal in dealing with the tax collector, with the view of ascertaining the annual value of the property, must be allowed to deduct from his assessment that portion which was represented by the sum he paid to his superior. The practical effect of this would be to divide the tax between the vassal and his superior; and if there were no oilier objection to that course, still it would be well to consider whether it was a more convenient way to levy the tax from two parties or from one. But his hon. and learned Friend had forgotten, that in every feu contract and feu charier, it was either expressly agreed or at least very distinctly implied that the vassal was to bear the entire burdens laid upon the land; so that the effect the plan of his hon. and learned Friend would have was, by Act of Parliament to break through and violate all the contracts now existing between such parties. For these reasons, and for others into which he need not enter, it appeared to him that the proposition of his hon. and learned Friend respecting feu duties, was one that the House ought never to listen to. If it were necessary, the subject might be considered in another point of view, for the House must bear in mind that there might be an almost infinite succession of sub-infeudations. According to the principle of the feudal law, the Crown was the superior over all the laud in Scotland. Generally parties held 666 from the Crown at a very low rate. These again feued a portion of the land to others at a higher rate, and they again feued a portion to another at a rate still higher; so that the inquiry into these matters would be endless. He had dwelt the more upon this part of his hon. and learned Friend's Bill, because he could not help believing, that if it were not for that particular portion of the Bill, it never would have been introduced. But be that as it might, he would now, as shortly as he could, refer to the other alterations proposed in the Bill. With regard to deer forests, he need hardly say that he completely concurred with his noble Friend the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho). If there was the slightest chance of deer forests escaping from bearing their fair share of the taxation of the country, he would be the first to vote for this Bill. It appeared to him, however, that land in the highlands of Scotland appropriated to the purposes of a deer forest did not therefore cease to be land, any more than land ceased to be land if a proprietor, from any whim or caprice, allowed it to run to waste. What was it that the owner of a deer forest did? Nothing more than this—he converted what was a sheep grazing into a doer grazing—a grazing for tame animals into a grazing for wild animals; but it did not cease to be a grazing, nor was it one bit the less of intrinsic value than it was before. It was still a grazing, however in the eyes of some it might be abused for the purposes of grazing; but whether it were a grazing for the one purpose or the other, he had no doubt it was assessable according to its true annual value. There seemed to be some ambiguity in the wording of the Act; but it was only apparent: —when the deer forests were actually let, they fell under a certain portion of the Act; but when the proprietor kept them in his own hand, they were liable to assessment under another. With regard to shootings, he thought they stood in a somewhat different position. When shootings were let, of course they were subject to taxation; because the owner by these means increased his rental, and he was therefore liable to be taxed according to his increased rental. But shootings that were unlet were very difficult to deal with. What was an unlet shooting? Was it a preserve, or was it unpreserved land? Was it grouse shooting, or was it also partridge shooting, or duck shooting, or sparrow shooting? He did not know where the line was to be 667 drawn; and if unlet shootings were to be subject to taxation—that was to say every acre of land in Scotland—for there was no acre of land which was so unfortunately Circumstanced as not to afford some species of sport—the end would be that the land would be taxed twice, first as land, and next as unlet shooting. It was unnecessary, he thought, to say anything with regard to woodland; he thought the Act of 1854 laid down a just principle that woodland should be taxed only when it yielded a return. For these reasons, then, he was sorry to say, that he felt bound entirely to oppose the second reading of the Bill of his hon. and learned Friend.
§ COLONEL SYKES
said, his constituents were considerably interested in this question; but after the singularly able and convincing speech of the learned Lord Advocate, who had exhausted the question, it would be presumptuous in him, as in any one else, to add another word.
§ MR. CRAUFURD
supported the second reading of the Bill, and thought there would be no difficulty in apportioning the rate in the cases referred to by the learned Lord opposite. With respect to feu duties, it appeared to him that the Bill did not propose to assess them, but only to complete the valuation roll, which under the existing law was most complete and unsatisfactory. No doubt deer forests were assessable as land, but they had a value beyond that, and ought to be assessed accordingly. A difference existed in the valuation of woodlands. One clause of the Act directed that they should be valued according to the quality of the land; but the interpretation clause said that they should be valued according to the produce. By passing this Bill an equitable arrangement would be arrived at, and such doubtful points set at rest.
§ MR. BLACKBURN
said, that after the speech of the learned Lord, he did not feel called upon to make any observations on the Bill. On one point only—deer forests— he differed from the hon. and learned Member opposite, and thought they ought not to be assessed except according to their value as real property.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
observed, that the proposed interference with feu duties would affect most injuriously many of the public charities and endowed churches in Scotland by materially diminishing their revenues. It had been said that the maintenance of deer forests was a great misfortune to the inhabitants of Scotland; but, 668 on the contrary, he thought it was for the interests of humanity that these districts should be cleared. In the valleys in the northern districts of that country it was impossible that corn and potatoes could be properly ripened, and the consequence was that typhus and scarlet fever had raged among the people who subsisted upon the stunted and unwholesome produce of the land; yet while the inhabitants of these valleys could get a miserable subsistence from the soil there, they would remain. He believed that the proprietors had conferred a great benefit upon the country by removing the inhabitants of those valleys and converting the land into grazing ground.
§ MR. DUNLOP, in replying, stated that he had not entered on the general question discussed by the learned Lord Advocate as to the justice of imposing rates on feu duties, because his Bill would not effect any change on the law of liability. If such question were raised, however, he could see no ground for exempting feu duties. These were in no respect the price of land, but were truly of the nature of rental, and the superior was an owner in substance as well as in form. If the feu duty was not paid the feu might be forfeited to him, and the superior was always entitled to be enrolled as a voter, as owner of his feu duties. He was substantially in the same position with a proprietor, who, instead of feus, granted building leases, it might be for 1,000 or 10,000 years for tack duties which corresponded with the feu duties. The only distinction between the proprietor who granted feus and the proprietor who granted building leases, was purely technical. The latter, however, was unquestionably liable to be rated on his tack duties, and no one contended that it was unjust so to rate him; and yet, in respect of a merely technical difference it was declared to be unjust to rate the former, whose position and interest in the property was truly and substantially the same with his neighbour who had granted building leases. In the first general valuation made in Scotland feu duties were expressly included—the Commissioners appointed in 1649 to make that valuation being instructed to value the feu duties and tack duties, classing these two kinds of rental together. It might, indeed, be that the party taking the feu was bound by contract, express or implied, to relieve the superior of public 669 burdens, and, if so, such obligation was always enforcible, and the provision which he (Mr. Dunlop) was ready to have proposed in Committee would have secured against any risk of injury to the superior in this respect. As to the woodlands, the learned Lord was under a misapprehension in supposing that these could ever be valued according to the actual returns. The only rule of valuation allowed by the Valuation Act was that of the land in its natural state as grazing land, and yet that valuation could only be made while profit was being actually drawn. This was, beyond question, a mere blunder in the Act, which had accidentally occurred, but which ought not to be allowed to remain. As to deer forests, he could not expect the House to take his (Mr. Dunlop's) view of the legal construction of the Act in opposition to that of the learned Lord, who held that these were liable, though unlet, to be valued at the grazing value. He trusted that his Lordship's construction would be sustained when the question came before a court of law; though till then he must continue to doubt if it were correct; but even on that construction he thought the Valuation Act should be amended to do away with the distinction between shootings, whether deer shootings or others, dependent on whether they were let or were used by the proprietor himself. At the same time, just as he conceived his proposed measure to be, he had not received encouragement warranting him to press the question to a division, and he would not therefore trouble the House to divide.
§ Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," put, and negatived; —Words added: — Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Bill put off for six months.