HC Deb 09 June 1864 vol 175 cc1463-85

Order for Committee read.

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


said, this Bill had been committed and re-committed, amended and re-amended, but it had undergone no discussion in that House; and, so far as he could discover, it had found no favour with the country. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced the Bill he laid considerable stress upon the clause that proposed to exonerate the taxpayers from responsibility in case of defaulting collectors. Nothing was more just in principle than that when once the tax had been paid to an authorized officer, the taxpayer should not be called upon to pay it over again; but it was not necessary to bring in a Bill for that object, and at the same time make the payment of the tax more odious. The object which the Bill professed to have in view might be attained by taking proper security from the collectors. The right hon. Gentleman on one occasion said that the Bill was a reply to the local commissioners; but he remembered that some time ago a project of the same kind was referred to the commissioners with whom he was in the habit of acting. Their opinion was unanimously against the proposal, and he considered they were right in coming to that conclusion. The only way for hon. Members to test the practical effect of a Bill of the kind was to refer to their own districts, and see how it would work there. In a report from the Inland Revenue Office to the Treasury it was alleged that a saving of £50,000 a year might be expected under the Bill; but during the thirty years which he had been connected with one of the largest districts in the county of Bedford, though he had never known a single instance of a defaulting collector appointed by the local commissioners, he could not say the same of officers appointed by the Government. The district contained twenty-nine parishes, which hitherto had been assessed by two persons in each parish, making fifty-eight in all. He had gone narrowly into a calculation of all the charges that, on the lowest estimate, would be entailed under the new system introduced by the Bill, and found that the collection in the twenty-nine parishes would cost £570. In the year 1861, when the income tax stood at 9d. in the pound, the whole expenses of collecting and assesssing the tax in that particular district was £176 5s.; so that the increased charge there would amount to no less than 399 per cent. In his calculation he had taken no account of contingent expenses, or of the known facilities with which all Civil Service Estimates expanded; he had merely taken moderately and fairly those items which were contemplated by the Bill. The Bill was understood to have the warm support of the Revenue department, which might get some pickings, and likewise have its patronage increased; but in the counties adjacent to his own, and in other districts of his own county, having made inquiry, he found that its operation would be attended with much the same effect which he had already shown it would have in his own district. If anywhere, one would expect to find the principal saving effected in large towns; but, strangely enough, the right hon. Gentleman had omitted from the re-committed Bill the whole of the London district. He could not help thinking that the right hon. Gentleman found the Bill so unpopular in London that he was afraid to encounter the opposition of the metropolitan Members. If that were the case, he ought to have some consideration for the country districts, in which the measure was not a whit more popular. He could not conceive that any saving would be effected by the passing of the Bill, and he hoped the House would hesitate before sanctioning a measure that would certainly render the collection and payment of taxes more odious than at present.


said, he had hoped his hon. Friend would have concluded with a Resolution expressing his views on the subject. He had himself given notice of his intention to move an Amendment to the Motion for going into Committee. The fact was, that the House had had no opportunity of expressing an opinion on the Bill. They had, indeed, slid into a very inconvenient kind of legislation in allowing Bills to pass their earlier stages in silence. Those who objected to a measure were hampered by being compelled to state their objections to the principle of a Bill on the Motion for going into Committee. That system had been carried to such an extent during the present Session, that the House had not, up to that time, had an opportunity of passing an opinion upon the principle of the Government Annuities Bill. It was read a first time, and then, after the second reading, was handed over to a Select Committee, which led to much general discussion on Loan and Friendly Societies. The Committee altered the preamble and the title. When the Bill came again it contained seventeen clauses instead of three, and only a few words of the original Bill were left unaltered to save the point of order. He was told that the Committee had heard evidence which had never been reported. The House had since had no opportunity of considering that Bill, and it was in a similar position in regard to the measure before them. Was the House prepared to sanction the principle of a Bill which provided that, in lieu of collectors, who were appointed by the local commissioners, the land tax, the assessed tax, and the income tax should be collected by the officers of the Inland Revenue? The House had not yet gone into Committee on the Bill, although that before them was the third edition. The fact that London was excepted from the measure was striking evidence that there was something faulty in it, because the metropolis was precisely the district in which it would seem to be right and fair to apply the principle of the Bill. When the income tax was proposed by the late Sir Robert Peel he gave two distinct pledges—first, that the tax should be temporary, and next, that its collection, should be local. Was the House prepared lightly to abandon the latter principle, which constituted the only safeguard which the country had with reference to that extremely disagreeable tax. He was not prepared to contend that the law regulating the local collection was what it ought to be. It had been, on the contrary, a disgrace to every Government for the last twenty years that it should have been left in such a state. What was wanted was a consolidation of the law, which was spread over more than twenty confused Acts, having their origin in the Assessed Tax Act of 1803. The law ought to be comprised in a single statute, clear and intelligible to every person, and giving the local commissioners power to appoint, under the sanction of the Inland Revenue Board, a proper number of collectors at fair salaries, taking proper securities for the faithful discharge of their duties. The existing system was unsatisfactory, because it left parishes in this dangerous position—that after they had paid their taxes to the collector legally appointed to receive the same, they might be called upon to pay the same taxes a second time. That system was so unfair and unjust that it was marvellous it should have been tolerated up to that time. Mr. Pressly stated in his evidence that there were 54,000 local collectors, who cost £85,000. Mr. Pressly admitted that if the collectors were abolished it would be necessary to increase the number of Excise officers under the Inland Revenue Board, and he also confessed that any change in the local collection was extremely distasteful to the commissioners, who, he stated, very much reflected the opinion of the country. It was worthy of remark that in the few cases that had occurred in which the local collectors had been superseded by the officers of the Inland Revenue, the expense of collection had been found to be considerably increased. It might, no doubt, be more advantageously carried into effect as a general, and not as a partial measure. He trusted that the House would pause before sanctioning the principle of the Bill. It was the thin end of the wedge, and he would therefore move, That it is not expedient that the land tax, the assessed taxes, and the income tax should be collected by the officers of Inland Revenue.


said, that if there were no other reason for opposing the Bill, he should oppose it on the ground that it would be a great evil to have different modes of collection in various parts of the country. The proposed alteration in the collection of Government taxes was most unpopular in his part of the country. Instead of collection by assessors in the various parishes, the Bill proposed that persons should collect these taxes in the various market towns. Some of the payments under the land tax did not exceed 2d. and 3d., and it would be a great hardship and extremely vexatious to compel persons having such sums to pay to go fourteen or fifteen miles to a market town instead of paying them to the collector of the parish. Moreover, the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed by the Bill to place the collection of taxes in the hands of the most unpopular body in the kingdom—namely, the Excisemen. He had the greatest pleasure in seconding the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is not expedient that the Land Tax, Assessed Taxes, and the Income Tax should be collected by the officers of the Inland Revenue,"—(Sir Henry Willoughby,) —instead thereof.

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


said, he was sorry to find in the Bill a principle which was generally in, favour with weak Governments when they had any doubt about carrying their measures. It was made a permissive measure, and left to the authorities in the country to adopt it or not. An attempt was made on the previous day to carry a Bill with reference to the sale of intoxicating liquors, embodying that principle. A more successful attempt was made two years ago, and the principle was adopted in the case of the Highways Bill. The Government introduced that measure, and left it to the magistrates to say whether they would adopt it or not. In that case a compulsory Bill had passed a second reading the Session before, and there was no occasion therefore to make the new measure permissive. The consequence was, that the Highways Act had been a bone of contention between the ratepayers and the magistrates in half the counties of the kingdom. In his opinion, it was for the representatives of the people in that House to act in an independent manner, and incur any odium that might attach to them in supporting or opposing a measure, and not get rid of it by a kind of compromise. He protested against their delegating to local bodies the task of deciding whether any particular measure should or should not be adopted in their respective localities. The Bill before the House was open to that objection, for the second clause provided that the Bill should not be adopted in any county, riding, city, borough, town, or parish, if one-third of the Board within that jurisdiction expressed their opinion, in a formal manner, that they were unwilling to adopt it. What, then, would be the position of the unfortunate Commissioners of Taxes? It was well known that in the country the persons who had the duties of making the assessments were, generally speaking, appointed collectors, and looked to be repaid for their trouble in assessing the tax by the small profits of its collection. All those persons would lose a portion of their income if the Bill were to be adopted, and, in such a case, it was only human nature that they should importune the Commissioners of Taxes in their districts to put a veto on the Bill. It was unconstitutional that those persons, not being elected by the ratepayers, should be intrusted with such a power. He protested against the Commissioners having such an odious task imposed upon them; and he felt so strongly on that point that, had it been omitted, he should have been prepared to consider the Bill in Committee, but it being part of the measure, he should support the Amendment.


said that some of the objections which had been urged against the Bill would rather induce him to support it. It was perfectly well known that the payment of the collectors varied enormously in different districts. There might be reasons for leaving out places where the pay for collection was large, but there were districts in which collectors could not be induced without compulsion to work for the remuneration which they received. The consequence was that all sorts of illegal proceedings were resorted to in order to repay the collectors for their trouble. In one place the collector was paid out of the highway-rate; in another a voluntary rate which was collected with the poor-rate was made for him. Another grave objection to the present state of the law was the liability of a man who had paid his tax to be again called upon to pay it in consequence of the default of the collector. The Bill might not be the best remedy for existing evils, but, as no better had been proposed, he should support it.


said, that he objected to the Bill as it was a measure for one class of society and not for another. It would involve the necessity of small farmers having very small sums to pay going sometimes a distance of twenty miles to pay their tax twice in every twelve months. That to his mind was a very serious objection, particularly as he knew the difficulty there was in persuading the ordinary class of small farmers of the necessity of their paying their taxes before any legal process was taken. For instance, a man appealed against the tax charged for his horse, and it was shown that he had used it once or twice for the purposes of pleasure, although at other times for the purposes of agriculture only; and he was ordered to pay. That man felt he had suffered a hardship, and he would doggedly refuse to pay the tax; and he did not think the proposal was likely to diminish the difficulty. By the present system a man's neighbour was the collector, and pressed him to pay the tax; his neighbour was the assessor, the commissioners also were his neighbours, and for them he would be likely to have some respect. Under the Bill he would have nothing but a notice by letter, which would not have the same effect as the remonstrances of his neighbours, and he would at once become liable to a very expensive process on the part of Her Majesty's Exchequer. He was unwilling to accept any measure which was likely to put the poorer classes of his constituents in such a position, and render them liable to such expense. The Bill did not apply to the inhabitants of the metropolis, who would have no difficulty in paying. The collection was infinitely more profitable in London than in the country; but, though the country collector was very badly paid, he (Mr. Barrow) knew from a very long experience that there was no difficulty in persuading men to undertake the duty of collection, because they believed it was a kindness to their neighbours to do so. The Bill had had its clauses altered over and over again by the right hon. Gentleman; it had been put through Committee pro formâ, but there had never been any real opportunity of discussing it. He should, therefore, oppose the measure.


said, he thought the Bill was a step in the right direction. They must bear in mind that the ratepayers had felt the present mode of collecting the rates in many instances to be a great grievance. It was calculated that the saving to the revenue would be £50,000; but from the evidence taken before the Committee it appeared that it would be a saving to the public revenue of as much as £80,000 per annum. At present, in case the collector eloped, although the taxpayer had paid his taxes, he was liable to be again called upon. That was because the collectors were appointed by irresponsible parties, and not by Government. But if a Government collector were to fail, no such thing could happen. When the tax was paid once, it was paid for all. As to the supposed difficulty of collecting the tax by letter, they had it in evidence that in Scotland, where collection by letter had been tried, it had been found easier to collect it in that than in any other way. Though very much in favour of the Bill, he thought the Members for London, sixteen in number, had exercised an undue influence on the Government in the matter, and he should be prepared, if the Bill went into Committee, to vote that the exception in favour of London should be struck out.


said, it seemed to him that an important point had been lost sight of in the discussion—namely, that the Bill was a breach of Parliamentary faith. He always understood that Sir Robert Peel imposed the income tax upon the express condition that it should be locally assessed, and it was accepted by the country on that condition. The in- come tax was an obnoxious, but he feared it was a necessary tax; but now that it appeared to be fixed in perpetuity, to alter the conditions of its assessment was to his mind highly objectionable. The proposed mode of collection was a leaf taken out of the Scotch book. The system had been successful there, but it was introduced with the concurrence of the Scotch people. There had been no such concurrence on the part of the English people, and he should therefore vote for the Amendment.


said, he thought if the late Sir Robert Peel had been alive he would have gladly supported the measure, because experience would have taught him that the present mode of collection was a bad one. He only regretted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not introduced a Bill to make not only the collection, but also the assessment by Government officers, as he believed there would be a very large amount thereby added to the income of the country; and those who had honestly paid would be relieved by making those pay who had not acted with equal honesty. He thought, however, that the operation of the Bill should be general and include the Metropolis.


said, he objected to the Bill, as it was most undesirable that that sort of permissive Bills should be brought in. So far as the assessment was concerned, it was practically not altered, as the assessment was in fact made by a Government officer. As to the assessors, although they were very sharp men in their own way, when called upon to make the assessment, they were the dullest people possible; and when they had to discharge duties with which they were utterly unacquainted, they were as stupid and ignorant as could be imagined. If, however, it was right to take the collectorship out of the hands of the Commissioners, the same rule should be applied to the towns as to the country districts. He would therefore vote in favour of the Amendment.


said, that the hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. Liddell), whilst he allowed that there had been a saving in Scotland by the adoption of the system proposed by the Bill, stated that the House would be guilty of a breach of faith if it adopted the measure, as the late Sir Robert Peel made a promise that the collection of the income tax should be a local collection. Puzzled by the conflict in these two statements he endeavoured to escape from the difficulty by saying that the system had been adopted in Scotland by the will of the people; but if the Bill was carried in that House, he apprehended that in England also it would be adopted by the will of the people of England. The indication of the will of the people was to be found, first, in the judgment expressed through the medium of the representative principle in that House; and, secondly, in the various utterances of opinions, which were made known by the usual channels of information. On many occasions during the time in which he had had the honour of holding his present office, the question of the collection of taxes had been raised and discussed in that House; and he was sure all who shared in those discussions would bear him witness that he had always expressed his own opinion that the present system was very faulty, and contained hardships and grievances in different forms; but that while it was easy, in his opinion, to devise an amendment to the system, it would be impossible to carry it out unless with a general concurrence of opinion. Therefore, it must not be supposed that the present was a Bill which there was any endeavour to force by the effort of Government on a reluctant House. If the opinion of the House should be adverse to the measure he would bow to its decision, though he would have to regret the continuance of the evils of the present system. He thought that the course taken by the hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham in not giving notice of opposition to a Bill which had been months before the House was not usual; but, as he courted criticism, he was glad to see an opportunity afforded for bringing out the opinion of the House. He did not think himself in the slightest degree wedded to the Bill, and he also thought that it should pass with a great amount of approval or not at all. After what had been said he must remind the House that there were serious evils in the present system with which they had to deal. There had been constant complaints of the conduct of collectors of taxes—not perhaps very numerous when the vastness of their operations was considered—in respect to their incivility, officiousness, for not calling at a proper time for the taxes, on account of nothing being heard of them until some summons or threat of legal process appeared, and on the ground that demands were made for taxes before they were legally due. Year after year these complaints had been mode subjects of debate in that House, and his answer hail been that those officers were persons over whom the Executive had no control, as they were appointed by independent parties. From the dissatisfaction with which that answer was apparently received, he concluded that hon. Gentlemen felt that the existing state of things was not sound, and if any reasons existed for its continuance they should be very strong ones. It was not desirable that taxpayers should have their taxes collected by persons who were practically irresponsible. Another grievance was that unwilling or reluctant persons were appointed to hold the office of collectors. The hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt) said that a great pressure would be put upon the Commissioners to veto the Bill. Such knowledge as he possessed led him to an opposite conclusion, for he believed that in rural districts very generally the appointment to the office of collector was not valued, and many persons considered it a grievance that the office was imposed on them, and that they were bound by law to take it. There were even cases—exceptional cases—where it had been supposed that personal spleen had been indulged through the medium of the power of compelling parties to take the office. Then there was the great and abominable grievance of re-assessment when the local officer failed in his duty, and the Government said that they would divest localities of that grievance, if the local commissioners divested themselves of the power of appointing the collectors. The hon. and gallant Member for Bedfordshire (Colonel Gilpin) had favoured the House with his calculations as to the expenses of the Act, but with the greatest respect for the opinion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, he could not place so much reliance on his judgment, as on that of the Board of Inland Revenue Department, who would have had to carry the Act out, and knew precisely how they could do it with effect, and who had not deserved the censures the hon. and gallant Gentleman had passed upon them; for whatever might have been the tendency of other departments to become more expensive, thrift and economy had always characterised that; and the consequence was a reduction rather than an increase in the estimates for the collection of the Revenue. He did not think the hon. and gallant Member could, moreover, fairly take his district as a sample of the whole country. In tome districts the expense would be comparatively great, and in the more populous districts the saving would be the greatest but, at the same time, the small districts would receive the greatest share of relief. He fancied that he needed not to speak of the supposed breach of faith with respect to the promise of Sir Robert Peel, for how could Sir Robert Peel promise that under all circumstances Parliament would continue to believe it expedient to leave the collection of taxes under local officers? They must look to the principle contained in Sir Robert Peel's words. No doubt there was an important principle involved in the announcement which Sir Robert Peel made—control over the distribution of taxation by local independent authority—but as far as regarded collection, that was not a matter of principle, but of convenience. Very little had been said to enable him to judge of the objections to the details of the Bill: two had been mentioned, one was that the metropolis was omitted, and the other that the Bill was permissive. Now, with regard to the omission of the metropolis. There was one very important reason, besides subsidiary ones, which had led the Government to except the metropolis from the operation of the Bill, and that was that the stamp distributors about the country, through whose instrumentality it was proposed to work the scheme with economy, did not exist in London, and it was not thought desirable to create a special staff for the purpose. In many cases, too, in the metropolis, the collections were on so large a scale that the officers were of a high class, and had round them a large staff, which it would not be for the interests of the metropolis to displace. However, if it were the opinion of the House that the metropolis should be inserted, it was in the power of any hon. Gentleman to move in Committee that the exception should be left out. But the more important objection was that taken by two hon. Members opposite, that the Bill was permissive and not compulsory. He looked upon its permissive character as essential to the measure. It was true that the permissive clause might be struck out, and thus altogether alter the machinery of the Bill; but considering that it had been months in the House, and had been originally announced as a permissive Bill, he did not think the country would have reason to be dissatisfied if the measure were then made compulsory. If the House should, however, agree with the hon. Members for Northamptonshire and Shropshire that the Bill ought to be compulsory, they had better give expression to that opinion by an adverse vote on the Resolution of the hon. Baronet; but he was bound to express a strong opinion that no other than a permissive Bill would ever pass the House. There was the greatest possible difference in the feelings and circumstances of different districts of the country, which would make it difficult to pass anything but a permissive Bill. It might be said that the Bill was a sort of patchwork measure, and the political virtue of some hon. Members might be shocked and scandalized at the law being operative here and inoperative there. But those hon. Members were neither shocked nor scandalized in the matter of church rates, the law with regard to which was altogether permissive. He perfectly agreed that if they were dealing with matters of high politics it would be absurd to have different systems in operation in different parts of the country, and the choice of those systems dependent upon the will of the people; but that was a question as to whether the man who went about and knocked at their doors to ask for the taxes should be a Queen's officer or a local officer, and he was not aware of any principle or usage of the constitution which made it improper to allow a variation of practice in that respect, always presuming what the Bill evidently involved—namely, that the variation of practice could only arise between county A and county B, because county A wished for the Bill and county B did not. It had been said that the Government had admitted that the commissioners were opposed to the Bill. No such admission was ever made. It was, indeed, untrue. A circular was sent round to all the Boards of Commissioners in the kingdom, and the majority of them, in reply, expressed their desire to see the Bill passed. Large communities had also petitioned in its favour. Birmingham had done so. So had Liverpool, which petitioned for a similar change with regard to the assessment as well as the collection. Considering the imperfections in the law and the total want of any other scheme containing an adequate remedy, he hoped the House would go into Committee on the Bill, with a view of allowing such portions of the country as chose to do so to avail themselves of the provisions of the measure. He had no egotistical feeling with regard to the Bill. He hoped he had stated the case fairly; and his opinion was that, after full consideration, the Bill should be freely accepted and passed or decidedly rejected.


said, the right hon. Gentleman had truly stated that the present state of the law on the subject under discussion was not very satisfactory. There were great difficulties attending it, and he was afraid that, make what changes they might, the tax collector, whether he came in the shape of a Government officer or a local collector, would always be a most unpleasant visitor. People would always say that he came at the wrong time, and asked for the money in the wrong way. The right hon. Gentleman had completely misunderstood, and, misunderstanding, had in a great degree misrepresented the objection of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire and the hon. Baronet on the same bench. Because to what did the right hon. Gentleman liken this measure? He said there could be no objection to the permissive character of the Bill, because the ratepayers had an option whether they would or would not levy church rates. What possible analogy could there be between ratepayers levying a church rate and a dozen or half-dozen commissioners not elected by the ratepayers setting themselves against—what? Against the Queen's Government. Because that was what it would amount to. They were to do nothing unless the Queen, through her Revenue department, expressed an opinion that a particular mode of collecting the taxes was desirable in a particular county. It was not a fair thing to put those gentlemen in a position antagonistic to the Queen's Government in a matter of this kind. The taxpayers had no voice in the matter. The commissioners could in no sense be said to represent the taxpayers. All they had to do was to see that the taxpayers were first assessed and then harried and squeezed for the money. The taxpayers would like to get rid of the whole boiling of the commissioners and the whole kit of the collectors, tax, and all. They would pay no taxes at all if they could help it. The hon. Member for Evesham had remarked that the Bill did not come in in the usual way. It did not come in in the usual way. There had been two or three editions of the measure; and the last edition had in one fell swoop struck out one-sixth part of the whole community. If the measure were good why was it not good for London. The hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Horsfall) had spoken of its beneficial operation in Scotland; but Scotland was to be exempted from the measure. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: The system is already in force there.] The next point was, the saving to be effected by the Bill. He supposed the calculations on that subject included London. The hon. Member for Liverpool spoke of the evidence on the matter taken before the Committee. He supposed that did not exclude London. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said he wag certain that the rural districts were so oppressed by the collection of taxes that they would be only too glad to adopt the new measure. But the unfortunate people who were so oppressed would have no voice. It was the commissioners who would have to decide the question. It was difficult to separate the assessment from the collection. The assessment was a burdensome duty. In the country districts the assessors of one year were generally the collectors of the next, and the poundage of the collection paid them for the work of the assessment. The unfortunate officer would be sadly off if he received no more than his three halfpence a line. In conclusion, the right hon. Gentleman said he should vote for the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham, because he could not see that the Bill was likely to do any good.


said, he felt bound to say that, while there appeared to be a strong feeling against the Bill in the county which his hon. Friend behind him represented, be had heard of no feeling being expressed in his favour. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he might add, had not informed the House what amount of money would be required for the purpose of compensation if the measure were to pass. Now, at the end of the Bill, there was a clause providing compensation to the local collectors who were removed from their present avocations; and as the intention of the Government was to work the measure through the agency of the existing distributors of stamps, it was quite clear that the compensation which would have to be paid, if the Bill should pass, would make a serious inroad upon the saving which the right hon. Gentleman calculated upon. Seeing, therefore, that there was no chance of any saving accruing to the public under the provisions of the Bill, he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would not deem it necessary to press the House to a division on the Bill, but would withdraw it.


was understood to allude to a defalcation in one of the parishes of the borough he represented as one of the reasons why he gave his support to the measure.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 137; Noes 103: Majority 34.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 (Commissioners of Inland Revenue to give Notice to Commissioners of Land Tax of intention to appoint Officers of Inland Revenue to be Collectors of Taxes, unless the Boards of Commissioners of Land Tax respectively express their dissent).


said, he wished to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to explain the reason why the metropolis was to be excluded from the operation of this Bill, while other large towns were included.


said, he should move, as an Amendment to the clause, that all the words should be struck out which exempted the metropolis from its operation.

Amendment proposed, To leave out the Proviso at the end of the Clause—namely, "Provided always, That nothing in this Act contained shall be deemed to extend or apply to the Circuit of Receipt called "The London Receipt,' as settled under the authority of the third section of the Act passed in the first and second years of the reign of King William the Fourth, chapter eighteen, and the sixth section of the Act passed in the fifth and sixth years of the reign of the same King, chapter twenty."—(Mr. Hornfall.)


said, he trusted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not sanction the Amendment, as all the parties in the metropolis concerned had been under the impression that the Bill in its present form did not apply to them; otherwise they would have shown good reasons why the measure should not apply to the metropolis.


said, he was in favour of the Bill, and had voted for going into Committee, but he understood that only the Land Tax Commissioners, who received £40,000 a year, had been consulted on the subject. The Income Tax Commissioners, who received a very much larger sum, had not been consulted at all. He wished to see London included in the Bill. It would be to the advantage of the metropolis to be within the Bill, because, if it was not, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be more strict as to re-assessment in case of default, than he would be in districts of which the Government had taken the management and control.


said, that the law of re-assessment was a severe and harsh one, and the questions of waiving a re-assessment were among the most unsatisfactory and disagreeable duties which a person in his position had to deal with. It was always difficult to arrive at the bottom of the interests so keenly concerned, and the questions raised were so nice that he frankly owned that no Minister could discharge the duty satisfactorily. He would explain why it was that he had assented to the exemption of the metropolis. One important distinction was this, that in the case of almost every very large town it was the centre of a rural district, in which the payment of the taxes from the rural district took place. Consequently, if they exempted those large towns the Government would be obliged to have offices and officers in those towns, and at the same time the officers would have nothing to do with the most profitable part of the receipts. They would, in fact, have no duty to perform except the receiving of taxes collected in the rural districts; and his hon. Friend would see that the Government could not undertake to discharge the duty upon those terms. But when they came to the case of still larger towns, they found a large business done under a very efficient system; and if they disturbed the collectors, compensation would be required, while under this Bill their services might be continued. Again, as he had already explained, the Government in the metropolis had no stamp distributors, who in the country would have to carry out the Bill, and who in doing so would have to make the best arrangement they could for the public interest. If the Act were applied to London, they would have to do one of two things—either they must leave the collection in the hands of the existing collectors, or else displace the collectors and give them compensation, and then they would be obliged to appoint, de novo, a fresh staff of Government officers. If a burden were placed upon the country districts, then he admitted that London ought not to be exempted; but that was not the case. It had been erroneously stated that the Bill was not discussed before; it had been discussed on two occasions in the early part of the Session. Gentlemen had called the attention of their constituents to its provisions. It had now been four months before the country, and not a single petition had been presented against it.


said, he wanted to know why the metropolis was to be the only place having a brand put upon it, distinct from the rest of the country, of working with the existing collectors, the right hon. Gentleman having stated at the same time that it might be expedient to pursue that system in some of the large towns. Some arrangement seemed to have been come to under which the metropolitan Members were to support the Bill, on condition that the metropolis was excluded from its provisions. In the division which had just taken place they enabled the Government to force the measure upon county constituencies, while they themselves were sheltered and shielded by the compact entered into with Government.


said, the noble Lord was mistaken in supposing that the whole of the metropolitan Members went into the lobby with the Government. No arrangement whatever had been come to with the metropolitan Members, but a large deputation of inhabitants of the metropolis had waited on the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and whatever agreement was entered into must have been with them. He had previously voted against the Bill, because he believed it would have the effect of vesting a great deal of patronage in the hands of the Government, and because it exhibited a centralizing tendency; and for the same reason he should vote against the metropolis being included.


said, that if the Committee sanctioned the Amendment they would produce this difficulty—that, as the metropolis was situated in several counties, the commissioners of the respective counties might come to different resolutions with respect to London itself.


said, the country constituencies had a right to complain of the insertion of the exemption. It was the country constituencies, and not the metropolis, who were taken by surprise. In the original Bill there was no exclusion of the metropolitan districts. There was a very strong feeling upon the subject; and his constituents thought that if the Bill was inapplicable to London, it was equally inapplicable to Liverpool.


said, exceptions were always causes of dissatisfaction, and he therefore hoped the Committee would not sanction a different law for London and Manchester.


observed, that the Bill had been before the House for a considerable period, but no notice had been given of the Motion of the hon. Member, and many of the metropolitan Members, in fact, were not present. Special clauses would be necessary to render the Act applicable to the metropolis, the circumstances of which differed entirely from the rest of the country.


said, he would remind hon. Members for the metropolis that the Wine Licences Bill originally introduced did not apply to Ireland, and the Irish Members assisted in passing it. But later in the same Session a Bill, extending the provisions of the former measure to Ireland, was brought in by the Government, when, of course, the English Members, like foxes who had lost their tails, were naturally anxious that others should be placed in the same condition. He assured the right hon. Gentleman that if the measure passed into law with the assistance of the metropolitan Members, his cordial support would be given to a supplementary measure for applying its provisions to the metropolis.


said, the Bill in its original form was intended to apply to every part of England. The metropolitan Members then opposed the Bill, and in common with others went upon deputations to the Government; but now that London had been exempted they threw their colleagues overboard and gave their support to the Government. Their Friends whom they had deserted felt that they were not well treated.


said, he wished to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if there was any reason for excluding the metropolis, which contained between three and four millions of people, that did not apply to Birmingham, which contained between two and three hundred thousand. The constituency which he represented had sent a memorial which expressed very strong feelings on this question, and they thought if the metropolis were excluded they also ought to be excluded. It appeared to him that if the metropolis were excluded, there could be no reason why such towns as Birmingham and Manchester should not be excluded also.


said, that he had had no communication with any metropolitan Member on the subject of the Bill, except that his noble Friend the Member for Middlesex (Lord Enfield) wrote to him to receive a deputation.

Question put, "That the Proviso stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: — Ayes 73; Noes 62: Majority 11.


said, he would then move to add to the end of the clause the words "or to any city or town containing more than 20,000 inhabitants according to the last census."


said, he would suggest to the hon. Member that it would be better for him to move that the Chairman leave the Chair. The adoption of the addition which the hon. Member proposed would be the destruction of the Bill.

Amendment negatived.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 3 to 11 inclusive agreed to.

Clause 12 (Persons refusing to pay the Taxes after demand made to be returned in Schedules of Defaulters).


said, that a personal demand ought in all cases to be made on the taxpayer at his own house before he was distrained upon. Rich men could easily send a check, but men in humbler life did not keep an account with a banker.


said, he should move the omission from the clause of the words "or sent." He thought that the notice for neglect of which a man was liable to be posted as a defaulter ought to be delivered personally. Many persons were careless about letters, and the House ought to take some security that the notice actually reached the defaulter. The letter, for example, might be registered, and the postman instructed to make an endorsement of delivery.


said, that the suggestion of the hon. Member was deserving of consideration. The first step in au Exchequer pro- cess was not execution, but notice to pay, and a defaulter would have a notice personally served upon him before he would be distrained upon. It was proposed to take power to receive taxes in postage-stamps up to a certain amount, and subject to certain regulations. He saw no reason why the amount should be limited to 5s. As objection had been taken to the hardship of making the taxpayer travel many miles, he would state that the greatest distance any man would have to travel to pay his taxes would be four miles.


, as a Commissioner of Taxes, thought the right hon. Gentleman was mistaken. In his district the taxpayers would sometimes have to travel six miles.


said, it was calculated that, with very few exceptions, there was a Money Order Office within four miles of everybody. If the market town where the money was payable was six miles distant, the taxpayer could go to the nearest Money Order Office and send the money thence.


said, he would admit that the arrangements for using money orders and accepting postage stamps had very much obviated his objection to the Bill. He took it that the notice referred to by the right hon. Gentleman would be a proceeding under the Court, but he could not help thinking, however, that some personal notice should be served upon a taxpayer before he was returned as a defaulter to the Court of Exchequer. In the absence of a more satisfactory explanation he must press his Amendment.


said, he could not accede to the principle of the Amendment. To require a public officer to travel several miles to give a personal notice instead of a written one would be most unreasonable. Such a provision would be a premium on carelessness. It was neither the law nor the practice at present. It had happened to him, possibly from the distraction of other occupations, to neglect paying his taxes at the proper time. He had, thereupon, received the usual notice, that if the tax were not paid he would be returned as a defaulter.


said, he did not wish to protect persons whose object it was to avoid paying their taxes, but the present practice was to leave the notice open, while under the Bill the notice would be sent by post in a sealed envelope. He would put the case of sealed applications for taxes coming through the post to a man's house while he was abroad. No one might have authority to open those letters, and the result might be that on coming home a person might find that process had been issued against him.


said, he thought it would be unreasonable to make the Revenue department responsible for the taxpayer going abroad. He would give the subject his attention before the Report.


suggested that the subject of the letters should be marked outside, or that they should be sent open.


said, that proposal was very reasonable, and one of the two suggestions of the hon. Member should be adopted.


asked whether these taxes would be payable at any Money Order Office.


said, they might be paid through any Money Order Office without charge for the order, but the postage would have to be paid.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 13 to 17 agreed to.

Clause 18 (Poundage to Collectors appointed under this Act repealed).

In answer to Mr. SCLATER-BOOTH


said, he had not felt himself justified in altering the system of poundage to collectors, further than was required by the nature of the Bill. With regard to the assessed taxes, there was no reason for maintaining the system of poundage which they had in the income tax. It was much fairer to pay the assessors by the amount of work done.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 19 and 20 agreed to.

Clause 21 (Treasury may award Compensation to Collectors whose Services are discontinued by the operation of this Act).


suggested that it should be made obligatory on the Treasury to award compensation in such cases.


assured the hon. Gentleman that the Bill would be worked in an equitable spirit, and said that, practically, it would be obligatory on the Treasury to give compen- Ration in every case in which there had been no gross dereliction of duty. The collectors as a class, so far as he could ascertain, were satisfied with the provision.

Clause agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported, without Amendment; to be read 3° on Monday next.