HC Deb 19 July 1861 vol 164 cc1165-78

Order for Committee read.


moved, as an Instruction to the committee, that they should have power to divide the Bill into two or more Bills.


said, he considered the Bill to be a sequel to the Supply Bill; and on a former occasion he objected to the Supply Bill because it embodied in one Bill provisions relating to the income tax, to the Customs, and to the Excise. He then endeavoured to show that the intent with which that Bill was framed was ostensibly to annul the power of the House of Lords to deal with taxation, although their assent to taxation was necessary to give it the form of law. But another consequence arose from that Bill, that the opportunities for an expression of the opinion of the House of Commons, and also for discussion, were greatly curtailed. He also endeavoured to show the House that according to ordinary practice the Bill ought to have been divided into three Bills, and that the fact of its not being so divided rendered it impossible for the House to discuss sufficiently the principle involved in the changes under the several heads of taxation, and, therefore, limited the opportunity for discussion and consideration in Supply. Now, the House would observe why the Bill before them was the sequel to that Bill. One objection to a Consolidated Supply Bill was that if the whole of the propositions relating to extensive changes were included in one Bill, it would run to such an enormous length that the House would have considerable difficulty in dealing with it, besides which it would attract an amount of attention out of doors which he did not think the Chancellor of the Exchequer would find to increase the popularity of the measure. What had the right hon. Gentleman done? In his Consolidated Supply Bill, he pursued a course, equivalent in every respect to the old practice of "taking," in order to conceal the inconvenience thus inflicted upon the House, he forced through the several principles of the changes he proposed in taxation in his Supply Bill, but it was desirable to lighten his craft, and, therefore, he reserved for the Bill under consideration the details which were necessary to give effect to the taxation decided upon in the Supply Bill previously in the Session. Direct taxation was necessarily odious in its character; but the odium did not become so apparent until they began to deal with its incidence and enforce it. It was, therefore, a very prudent and ingenious measure to induce the House hastily to adopt the substance of his proposals, leaving it to the fag-end of the Session, when the House was wearied, and public attention flagged, to require legislative means for the imposition of those taxes, for the decision of their incidence, and for the resort to those means of coercion and inquisitorial interference which were the necessary characteristics of that form of taxation. The old form of Parliamentary proceedings was to treat each alteration of taxation by itself. But the right hon. Gentleman had adopted the mode of leaving to the fag-end of the Session the consideration of the means for enforcing taxation. The Bill was one mass of vexatious detail; and he did not believe that many of those provisions were necessary, for the taxation could be collected as the law now stood. He hoped the House would enter its protest against further proceeding with the Bill. The greater portion of it might be conveniently postponed till another Session, when it might be considered in Committee as a preliminary step. The Bill was the second financial statement of the Session, and its provisions ought to be carefully considered. The Motion before the House was for the division of the Bill. He would be glad to hear what objection could be urged against that proposition. There might be a necessity for some of the clauses. He denied, however, that there was a necessity for all of them; and he objected to going, in the dog-days, into the details of a Bill which were not absolutely necessary, and which could be advantageously considered in another Session. What were the provisions of the Bill? There was, first, a relaxation of duties on the sale of foreign wines, a relaxation far greater than that proposed with regard to the sale of home-brewed beer. Indeed, the provisions with respect to the beer-houses not selling foreign wines were almost wholly restrictive. There was a vexatious clause imposing a penalty in the form of liability on the part of a successor to pay duty on property which had ceased to exist. Then, all the summary powers which existed for the collection of revenue under the Excise Laws, and which had been adopted to prevent smuggling, had been extended to the collection of Inland Revenue. Then there was a proposal to compel joint-stock companies, under a penalty, to make a return of their servants receiving wages rendering them liable to income tax; but there were firms employing a far larger number of hands than public companies, who would be exempted for no valid reason of the principle of rendering the employer liable was justifiable. Taking the Bill from first to last, it was one which, being a sequel to the Supply Bill, contained provisions which ought to have accompanied the change in the imposition of taxation, and to have been then decided upon, if intended at all. He for one wished to hear from the Government which of the provisions of the Bill were in their opinion absolutely necessary, and he hoped to find the House prepared at that period of the Session to reject the rest; and if no part was necessary, then that the House would refuse to proceed with a Bill so objectionable.


said, that at the proper time he was prepared to show that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Newdegate) had misunderstood the Bill, and, therefore, entirely misrepresented it. The proposal of his hon. Friend (Mr. W. Martin) he thought a reasonable one; and he begged to thank the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets for having pointed out the subject by a notice which he had given. They (the Government) had included what might be called a police provision in a revenue Bill. That was according to precedent; but as the matter had been pointed out, he thought it would be advisable to separate the two matters. He, therefore, was willing to assent to the proposal to divide the Bill.


said, he had been urged most strongly by a most excellent society to give every opposition to a clause in the Bill relating to beerhouses, by which the floodgates of vice and immorality would be opened for the purpose of replenishing Her Majesty's Exchequer. He questioned the propriety of introducing a Bill to alter the law with so short a notice, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would withdraw the objectionable clause to which he called his attention. If not, he (Mr. Hadfield) would move that the Bill be committed that day three months.


observed that he fully agreed with the hon. Member for Sheffield in his view of the clause.


said, that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to approve of the proposition of the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. W. Martin); what was the reason, then, that the right hon. Gentleman had not himself made the proposal?


said, that the discussion as to the clause was a mere collaterial issue raised by the hon. Member for Sheffield as to whether a particular clause should be part of the Bill.


said, that the Motion before the House was to dividing the Bill into two Bills or more. He wanted to know whether it was only with regard to one particular clause that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had consented to divide the Bill? He (Mr. Henley) thought that the clauses with regard to the probate and succession duty were so important that they ought to be made the subject of a separate Bill.


said, he would at once accede to the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman, and consent to give up the clauses relating to the Probate and Succession Duties, with the view of forming them into a separate Bill.


said, that he also had objections to offer. The income tax was an exceedingly complicated subject, and it would be unfair to the community to conceal any legislation with respect to it under the title of an Inland Revenue Bill. There was a Committee sitting upon the income tax, and, therefore, he considered it premature to propose to make any changes with respect to it at the present moment.


said, that an appeal had been made to him against the 43rd Clause, which compelled employers to make a return of all persons in their employment who were liable to income tax. That was felt to be very objectionable, and he hoped it would receive the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman.


said, the Bill gave the income-tax screw another and a tighter turn. The 43rd Clause compelled public companies to give returns not only of the salaries their servants had received, but to give notice of salaries that might be advanced in the course of the year for good conduct, thus calling upon them to exercise the gift of prescience.


said, he wished to say that he did not think it right at that period of the Session to introduce novelties in legislation for the discussion of Parliament. The Bill, however, contained chiefly clauses of mitigation and relaxation, and certain administrative regulations for the correction of errors and the prevention of abuses and evasions, and, therefore, he thought the Bill ought to receive the consideration of the House. With regard to the 43rd Clause, to which the hon. Gentleman had just referred, he might state that clause contained no new principle, for it was already in force in regard to large classes of persons; but, as the clause would apply the principle to a new class of individuals, he had no wish to press it upon the House, and would agree to withdraw it. He hoped the hon. Member for King's County (who had a notice on the paper to commit the Bill that day three months) would be content with the discussion that had taken place, and not press his Motion.

Instruction to the Committee on the Inland Revenue Bill, that they have power to divide the Bill into two or more Bills.

Motion made and Question proposed "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


said, he would move that the House do, on that day three months, resolve itself into a Committee. On the 19th July a proposition was made to alter the law in relation to twenty-eight distinct articles of taxation, by an Act which might and ought to have been brought in in the middle of February. Methylated spirits were for the first time to be subjected to duty. There were clauses relating to beerhouses, refreshment-houses, wine licences, beerhouses in Scotland, sale of beer and spirits at fairs and races, racehorses, horses conveying prisoners, game dealers, illicit distillation in Ireland, distillation and rectification of spirits and vinegars, rectifying sugar, stamp duties, adhesive stamp, insurances, bills of sale, succession duties, probate duties, land tax, and summary proceedings for the recovery of penalties. In all there were twenty-eight separate propositions, all of great importance, which might fairly have been introduced into as many Bills. Besides, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was about to modify the Tippling Act, which he thought was operating materially to diminish drunkenness. The second reading was taken without discussion; and the House was now called on to go into all these important subjects at the fag-end of the Session. Why, also, did the right hon. Gentleman wish to make the wine licence cheaper than the beer licence?

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House will, upon this day three months, resolve itself into the said Committee"—instead thereof.


said, he could not help noticing the inconvenient course taken by hon. Gentlemen opposite. That was not the proper time for him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) to refer in detail to the provisions of this Bill. He would, however, rest the Motion of the hon. Gentleman on one single clause—namely, that which allowed a drawback on beer. If the hon. Gentleman would take the trouble to consult any one interested in the beer trade he would find that the clause simply affected a re-adjustment of the whole scale of allowances and drawbacks on beer, rendered necessary by the change that had taken place in the manufacture and the mode of regulating the strength and the price of that article. If the hon. Gentleman succeeded in his injudicious Motion the matter must remain over till next year, and the manufacturers would be devoid of that accommodation which the Bill proposed to give them with the perfect assent of the Crown as representing the interests of the revenue.


said, he hoped his hon. Friend would not press his Amendment. It was a common practice to bring in at the close of the Session what was called an "Omnibus" Bill, in which was inserted a variety of provisions connected with the administration of the Departments of Customs and Inland Revenue, and which were not matters that ought to form the subject of separate Bills. But what was felt with regard to the present Bill was that the licence of an "Omnibus" Bill had been somewhat exceeded by the insertion in the Bill of the succession and probate duties, which very frequently involved legal questions, especially as by adopting the present course the House of Lords would be deprived of any opportunity of expressing any opinion with regard to them. It would have been better that the clauses had been altogether withdrawn.


said, that before going into Committee of Supply the House ought to have some assurance as to the course which it was proposed to take. As the matter stood then they could not fail to view with jealousy the clauses as to the succession duty.


said, if the right hon. Gentleman would confine the Bill to the first thirty-five clauses, he should have no objection to it. But he had the strongest possible objection to the income tax clauses, which, so far from being in the direction of a mitigation of taxation were essentially penal in their effects.


said, he would withdraw his opposition to going into Committee after the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.


said, that the Bill had been likened to a plum-pudding, but it was, in fact, making a pudding of taxation. It was, however, only a sequel to their original mistake, and he hoped before another Session the Government would be impressed with the force of the objection which had always been felt to tacking Supply Bills. He was prepared to vote, and he would vote, if he went alone into the lobby, against going into Committee on the Bill.


pointed out the objecjectionable character of the 44th Clause, and asked the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, as he had agreed to omit the 43rd Clause, he would not also omit the 44th?


remarked that the House ought to be obliged to the hon. Member for Stamford (Sir Stafford Northcote) for the advice he had given to the hon. Member for the King's County (Mr. Hennessy). It was admitted by every one that there were useful clauses in the Bill, and if that so, surely the common sense course was to go into Committee.


said, that although he had a strong objection to one of the clauses in the Bill, and he hoped it would be omitted or considerably modified, he would not object to going into Committee.


said, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had met the proposal to divide the Bill in the fairest manner, and he hoped that they would now go into Committee and discuss the clauses. With regard to the 44th Clause, he doubted whether it was confined to public companies, and did not also apply to individuals.


remarked that the proposal of the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Hubbard) that the Bill should end with the 35th Clause was a very reasonable one, and he hoped it would be acceded to by the right hon. Gentleman. It was, in his opinion, highly objectionable to be asked at the middle of July to discuss the important financial questions contained in the Bill.


said, that if the Bill was to be proceeded with, he hoped that all reference to Ireland would be omitted in the absence of any responsible Member of the Government connected with that country.


said, he would with draw his Motion, provided the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, acceded to the proposal of the hon. Member for Buckingham, but not otherwise.


said, he was very sorry he could not accede to that offer.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 82; Noes 49: Majority 33.


said, that he thought the time was now come when the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, should give an explanation of the manner in which he meant to deal with the Bill. The Bill dealt with the most important subjects of taxation—the wine duties, the succession duty, and the income tax. On these points the right hon. Gentleman had given them the minimum of information. Was the Bill to be divided into four? If they went through the clauses in the order in which they stood in the Bill the House might find itself discussing some of the most important portions of the Bill much nearer the fag-end of the Session than even then.


said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer having already spoken could not reply to the question.


said, that to enable the right hon. Gentleman to answer the question, he would move that the House do adjourn.


said, there had been an attempt to prolong discussion on questions that could be much better debated in Committee. It could hardly be expected that he would go through the several batches of clauses in the Bill and give explanations of each. He denied that the licence usually taken in Omnibus Bills was exceeded. With regard to the division of the Bill, he had at once acceded to the Motion of the hon. Member (Mr. Martin) for that purpose, and he also acquiesced in the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henley), that the clauses relating to the legacy and succession duties should form a separate Bill. Further than that he could not go at that moment.


said, he was glad that the right hon. Gentleman had so far agreed in his view as to divide the Bill into three. It showed the inconvenience of consolidating several Bills, which ought to be kept separate, into one.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

House in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1 (Methylated Spirit may be retailed under Licence for that purpose),


said, that the explanation which he had to give relative to the first six clauses was this:—Methylated spirit was a very useful invention recently made, which involved the solution of a most difficult problem—how to invent a spirit which should be available for purposes of manufacture, and which could not be used as drink.

The present law admitted the sale of that spirit wholesale only under the £10 10s. licence, and as it would be a great benefit to the public that it should be sold also by retail, the clause had it in view to effect that object by empowering dealers to sell it under a £2 2s. licence.

Clause agreed to; as were also Clauses 2 to 8 inclusive.

Clause 9 (Lower rate of Duty on Refreshment-house Licences for Houses under £30 annual value. Allowance of duty paid for Refreshment-house Licence to be made on taking Wine Licence),


said, the first part of the clause altered somewhat the charge for refreshment-houses in favour of the person taking out the licence; the second part of the clause enabled a person who took out a wine licence, and who also had a refreshment-house, to pay only for the wine licence, instead of paying, as now, on both. It would be a relief to the extent of 21s.; but the clause was introduced chiefly to remedy a flaw in the Act of last Session.


said, he had given notice to leave out the latter part of the clause, because, as the law stood, a person would be compelled to take out a licence for refreshment if he sold only such innocent refreshments as tea and coffee, and kept his house open after ten o'clock at night. Besides, in order to encourage the consumption of wine, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was proposing to grant licences for the sale of wine at a lower rate than for the sale of beer, which was contrary to what was understood to be the intention at first. The light French wines were not to the taste of the English people, and why, then, was that concession to be made to the holders of wine licences? In night houses these wines would never be asked for. The strong spirituous wines would always be preferred.


said, that the hon. Gentleman's objection seemed to turn upon the relaxation given under the clause to houses upon at night. He was willing to insert words which would limit the operation of the clause to refreshment-houses that were not open at night. For that purpose he proposed to insert "not being a house open after ten o'clock at night."


said, that the Amendment would remove some of this objections to the clause, though not all of them.


said, he wished to express a hope that he would receive from the right hon. Gentleman an assurance that he would place the beer seller, at least, on an equality with the wine seller.


said, he trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would not accede to the request of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire. He (Mr. Forster) did not think that any advantage should be given to beerhouses under the present state of the Beer Act. There was little or no supervision exercised in regard to beerhouses.


stated, that the advantage in favour of the wine seller was only 5 per cent.


said, he thought it was advisable to revise the whole system of beer-licences, but they were asked to place the seller of beer at a disadvantage with the seller of wine.


said, the sellers of what were called strong wines had eating houses and were also beersellers. He had, however, no objection to introduce words that would place the wine and the beer licences upon the same footing. If it were competent to him, he would bring up words upon the Report. He could not, however, help remarking that the phantom of protection, although long ago buried, was constantly rising just enough to make itself visible.


said, that he at all events, would not be a party to raising the sod which was now to keep down the ghost or protection.


remarked, that the only ghost of protection which had made its appearance in the debate was the ghost of that protection which gave the preference to foreign over home produce.


said, that if the beerhouses and houses licensed for the sale of wine were to be placed on the same footing in respect of licences they ought also to be placed on the same footing with regard to supervision. He would remind the Committee that in the Bill of last year was contained a very strong power of supervision, and a person holding a wine licence might for an infraction of the law have his licence taken from him, and in certain cases it might be taken from the house. That was a supervision much needed with regard to beerhouses.


said, he could not agree that the responsibility in the matter should be shifted from the keeper of the house to the owner. It was a very wide principle to adopt.


said, that the owner of the house was a much more effectual check on the misconduct of the person who held the house than would be any penalty which might be enforced under the Act.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 10 (Persons licensed to retail Beer not precluded from taking out Wine Licences),


said, he should be glad to know the reason for the insertion of the clause.


explained that the clause was intended to remove doubts as to the construction of some words in the Wine Licenses Act so as to make it certain that a person who held a wine licence might hold a beer licence also.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 11 to 14 were agreed to.

Clause 15 postponed.

Clause 16 (Duty on Racehorses to be paid for the year ending on 31st December, in 1862, and in any subsequent year),


explained that it was intended to relieve the owners of racehorses. At present the racehorse duty for the year expired on the 5th of April, and it often happened that owners of such horses brought them out just before the 5th of April, so that they had to pay the duty twice in one year. The clause was intended to remove that difficulty.

Clause agreed to, as was also Clause 17.

Clause 18 (Persons dealing in Game without excise licence to be liable to penalty whether licensed by the justices or not),


explained that it was intended to remove certain anomalies in the imposition of penalties on dealers in game for selling game without an excise licence.

Clauseagreed to, as was also Clause 19.

Clause 20 (20 & 21 Vict. c. 40 s. 6, does not repeal 1&2 W. 4, c. 55, s. 31, with respect to Penalties under the illicit distillation Acts in Ireland),


raised an objection to one justice being empowered to convict in cases of illicit distillation, and to impose so high a penalty as £100. He proposed that the word "one" should be omitted, and the words "two or more" justices inserted.


said, the spirit of the existing law was not changed by the clause; but a doubt having arisen as to the operation of the Act of last year it was thought desirable to restore in the present Bill the old law.


stated that the clause had been introduced at the suggestion of the law officers of the Crown in order to remove a doubt that had arisen. In some parts of Ireland were illicit distillation most prevailed it was sometimes difficult to find two justices.


said, he for one objected to so much power being given to one justice.

Clause agreed to, as were also Clauses 21to 23.

Clause 24 (Power to Officers of Excise to examine Stills or Retorts kept by persons not distillers, rectifiers, or compounder of spirits or vinegar makers),


observed, that by the 24the Clause any gentleman who kept a still or retort for scientific purposes would be subject to the visits of an exciseman.


said, the clause in no way altered the law as it stood.


said, there was hardly a gentleman's house in the country that had not a stillroom for the manufacture of rose water and things of that kind, and it would be very hard that such houses should be open to the examination of the exciseman. He suggested words that would exclude such cases from the operation of the clause.


said, he would accept the words.

Clause, as amended, agreed to, as were also Clauses 25 to 36.

Clauses 37 to 40 inclusive postponed.

Clauses 41 to 44 negatived.

Clauses 45 to 47 agreed to.


said, that the Clauses from 48 to 53 disposed of subjects of some interest, but upon which he anticipated the Committee would agree. They had not so much financial objects in view as the relief of the persons affected, and he would explain them when they met again. Clauses 54 and 55 were given up; Clause 56 was of obvious utility; Clause 57 was of importance, and he wished to have the opinion of the House upon it; but he would not persevere with it, if it were thought that it should not be pressed under the circumstances. On Clauses 58 and 59 he did not think any special discussion would arise. The only point that would then remain for discussion, in addition to the Legacy and Succession Duties, related to the Land Tax Acts. That, he believed, would soon be disposed of; and he proposed to take up the Legacy and Succession Duties on Tuesday next.

House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again on Tuesday next at Twelve of the clock.