§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. DENMAN
moved the second reading of this Bill. He said, that the question raised had been often before the House, and it had been considered just and expedient to abolish the certificate duty. The tax was first imposed in 1785 to meet the expenses of a war, but it had since been considerably increased in amount. The attorneys and solicitors were members of a learned profession, depending for their incomes on their brains, and their profits were limited by Act of Parliament. They were required to be educated to a high degree, and had to pay a triple or quadruple taxation. They were obliged to pay £80 for stamp duty before entering upon their profession, and £20 when they were admitted. They were also obliged to pay £9 annually if they practised in London, 1061 and £6 if in the country. They were besides subject to the same income tax as others. The tax was an exceptional one, attorneys being the only professional men who were so taxed. The present Lord Chief Justice of England, when he was a Member of that House, said it was one of the most unjust and oppressive taxes which existed. Barristers, physicians, and others were not taxed. He would not state more because he believed that hon. Members had had placed in their hands a statement regarding this tax which showed that it ought to be abolished or reduced to a nominal amount. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated that he approved the mode of raising taxes by licences; but he (Mr. Denman) believed the country disapproved of it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had not always been in office. When in Opposition be had voted against the tax, so had Lord Cairns, the present Lord Chief Baron, the present Lord Chief Justice, and the Lord Chancellor. The tax weighed heavily upon the profession. It was no argument to say that the proposal was made at the wrong time, for the same argument would be used at all times, whether before the Budget or after it. The total amount of the tax in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, was something under £90,000, and it would be hopeless for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to argue that it could not be dispensed with if he had a desire to repeal or reduce it. His hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Bass) opposed the repeal of the tax; but he did so because he would be sorry to lose the attorneys as allies in endeavouring to obtain a reduction of the brewers' tax. If the licences paid by the brewers were unjust let them be abolished. There was nothing in this proposal to prevent the brewers from being relieved next week, if they could show as strong a case; but, at all events, let this tax be repealed if it were just and right to repeal it.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Denman.)
MR. M. T. BASS
said, that if this licence was to be repealed all the other licences, which yielded £2,500,000, must follow the same fate. This of all others was a tax that should not be repealed, because the attorneys having great interest with the constituencies and the profession of which the hon. and 1062 learned Gentleman was so distinguished an ornament had the power of making themselves heard in that House, whilst others, and particularly the brewers, had not. Auctioneers and appraisers paid a much higher tax, and why should they not be relieved as well as attorneys? The brewers' tax was one of the most unjust taxes that was ever imposed, and he regretted it as the nearest approximation to confiscation ever proposed by any Chancellor of the Exchequer, here or elsewhere. It was an additional tax of 1s. 2d. a quarter on malt, and amounted to 3 per cent on the value of the article on which it was levied.
§ MR. AYRTON
moved the adjournment of the debate. He said he did so on the ground that it would be the best answer to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby's statement as to the power of attorneys in that House, and also on the ground that it was better to wait and hear the Financial Statement, which would be made on Thursday, before they proceeded further with the Bill. They would then hear from the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether there was a surplus, and what he proposed to do with it.
§ MR. DENMAN
said, he hoped the House would not agree to the Motion for the adjournment of the debate. It was exceedingly difficult for a private Member to advance Bills a stage, and when five weeks ago he fixed the second reading for that night he had no idea the Financial Statement would be made two days afterwards. He trusted his hon. and learned Friend would not press his Amendment.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The proposal of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) is a very reasonable one. The position laid down by the hon. and learned Member for Tiverton (Mr. Denman) is quite erroneous as to the usual habit of the House as to financial questions. When an hon. Member is proposing a remission of taxation he does so after the Financial Statement, because if it is not included in the Financial Statement the hon. Member has, when after that is made, an opportunity of introducing the subject. I do not want to go into the merits of this tax. If the question of licences is brought under our 1063 consideration we must go into the whole of that question, which is one of considerable importance. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer is on the eve of making his Financial Statement, I think the hon. and learned Gentleman will do well to comply with the Motion of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets, and if he is not satisfied with the statement I make on Thursday it will then be open to him to make objections to it. The House, I have no doubt, will give him a fair hearing and his case due consideration. I should have proposed that the debate be adjourned for a fortnight had not the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets made this Motion ["In the holidays."] Well, say this day month. I trust the hon. and learned Gentleman will consent to the adjournment.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Ayrton.)
§ The House divided:—Ayes 101; Noes 100: Majority 1.
§ Debate adjourned till Thursday.