HC Deb 31 March 1860 vol 157 cc1697-701

Order for Third Reading read.


Sir, it may be convenient that I should mention the order in which I propose to take the remaining financial business before the recess. I propose to-day to read a third time the two Bills on the orders—the Income Tax Bill and the Stamp Duties Bill. On Monday I propose to commence with what are known as the Customs Charges Resolutions; and after those to take the second reading of the Wine Licenses Bill. If not objected to I would also read a second time the Bill for the repeal of Sir John Barnard's Act, if the House shall give me leave to introduce it to- day. It cannot pass this House till after the recess, but inasmuch as there is a charge depending on it, I trust the House will expedite its progress as much as possible. On Tuesday I should report such Resolutions as the Committee on Customs Act may think fit to adopt on Monday, and insert them in the Customs Duties Bill. There has been already inserted in it a clause with respect to drawbacks on wine. It will be advisable that the Bill should then be reprinted, that it may be seen with all its provisions as a whole; and when the House reassembles after the recess I will take a convenient opportunity—not for several days after the meeting, however— of asking the House to put the Bill through the remaining stages. With respect to the Wine Licences Bill I reserve to myself liberty, presuming it be read a second time on Monday, of committing it pro formâ on Tuesday, with a view to certain Amendments which it may be worth while to introduce. Several very good suggestions have been made referring to matters of detail—some to mitigations of charge and some to provisions against the abuse of authority on the part of magistrates in granting licences—which I would introduce; and as it may be convenient for the House and for the public likewise to see the Bill with these suggestions embodied, that Bill must be reprinted also. In Committee of Ways and Means it will be my duty to at k for the charges on licences, which are a necessary supplement of the second reading of the Wine Licences Bill, and with respect to which I should have no change to propose, except perhaps one or two minor adjustments in way of mitigation. These charges, if adopted by the House, would then be inserted in Committee on the Bill on Tuesday, that stage being taken pro formâ, and then hon. Members would have the opportunity of seeing the whole measure in the precise form in which the Government intend to submit it for the final consideration of the House. With this explanation, Sir, I beg to move the third reading of the Income Tax Bill.


Sir, I wish to call the attention of the House to the manner in which this particular Bill has gone on. It is a Bill of very great importance, and on Wednesday, after the hour when, ordinarily, public business is not proceeded with if there be any dispute—because if there be the least question you cannot go on, according to the forms of the House— a clause was introduced which had not been printed, and which nobody, except the Members of the Government, knew anything about. I must enter my protest against that mode of conducting business on an important taxing Bill. I do not mean to say that the clause is an improper one. It may be a very convenient way of granting the sort of appeal given in that clause; but I do protest against clauses which are of consequence, whether for good or evil, being introduced into Government Bills of such importance when nobody knows anything about them. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head; but I would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was the clause to which I referred printed? Did anybody know anything about it? Was it not proposed after a quarter to six o'clock, when every one leaves the House supposing that nothing but routine business will be proceeded with? All I can say is, if it were so, that is not the course which has ordinarily been followed. Before any clauses are introduced into a Bill, the common practice is to print them, that hon. Members may know what they are legislating upon. But that was not done in this case. With regard to the Bill itself, I have nothing to say against its being read a third time; but I have considered it my duty to call attention to this point, because I think that the observance of the ordinary forms of this House is not only a matter of great convenience, but also of the greatest advantage to the conduct of public business. With regard to the order in which the business of the House is to be taken next week, as sketched out by the right hon. Gentleman, I have no objection to offer. Being quarter sessions week, many hon. Members who are connected with country business will not be able to be here on Monday, and therefore I shall hold myself free, if the Wine Licences Bill be read a second time on Monday, to take any course I may think necessary in Committee when that stage arrives. I am not sorry to hear that the right hon. Gentleman proposes to modify some previsions in the Bill; some of them—and I especially refer to that clause with regard to the interference of magistrates—are so objectionable in their present shape that they have been made the subject of much comment. I hope, however, to see them in a different guise when they come before us again. With these observations I do not object to the third reading of this Bill; but I do hope that, in future, if clauses of an important nature are to be introduced into a Government Bill they will be printed and notice given of them, so that this House may know what they are doing.


I beg to corroborate the view taken of this matter by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire. I must say I have seen communications pass between parties who carry on business at the table and those on the Treasury Bench which were entirely inaudible in the House, and which I afterwards found resulted in the insertion of clauses without any knowledge on the part of hon. Members who took an interest in the subject, and which, had they known of them in time, they would have opposed.

Bill read 3°.

On the Question that the Bill do pass,


I think it quite right, Sir, that all matters appertaining to the business of this House should be very strictly watched and criticised, and I am always glad to hear such criticisms made; but the right hon. Gentlemen is not accurate in the statement he has made, as I think I can show. I frankly own I have been indebted to the courtesy of the House on more occasions than one for consenting, at an unusual hour, to pass a particular stage of this Bill, and postpone discussion till a future stage, with a view to the general convenience of this and the other branch of the Legislature. Nobody can reproach the right hon. Gentleman with inattention to his Parliamentary duties. He is so constant in his attendance on the proceedings of this House, as well as so valuable in the assistance he gives in all public matters, that occasional absence on his part is always sure to be excusable. But, Sir, I must state that the Bill was not brought on upon Wednesday after the time when public business ceases, but before that time. It was concluded after the time when public business ceases, but in the presence— I do not recollect of what Members—but of a number who take an interest in the matter, and by whose consent the Bill was carried forward, while it was in the power of any one of them, by a simple objection, to stop it. In fact, to show that full notice was taken of all that took place in regard to the insertion of the clause referred to, I may mention that one hon. Gentleman put the question whether it could then be regularly introduced, which was ruled in the affirmative. With regard to the clause not having been printed, the remark may be technically correct, but substantially it is not so. It relates to a point of relief raised by the hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham (Sir H. Willoughby) who gave a notice, which was printed in the Votes, of a clause for the purpose of giving an appeal, and what we proposed and inserted in the Bill was really an Amendment of his Motion. Technically it was not the hon. Baronet's clause, for it was drawn up differently, but it had the same object in view, and a clause in such cases cannot always be printed in the Votes.


The right hon. Gentlemen says that the hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham gave notice of such a clause; but I do not think that ordinarily speaking, the House would suppose because any hon. Member gave notice of a clause therefore the Government were going to adopt it; or, adopting its spirit and principle, would bring up a clause of the same kind. Hon. Members are not generally so fortunate in getting the consent of Government to amend taxing Bills. All I can say is, that when the Government make up their minds to amend a Bill in any particular it would be well to print the clause or clauses proposed to be inserted in the usual manner, and then there can be no objection.

Bill passed.