HC Deb 26 February 1867 vol 185 cc1064-6

MR. DENMAN moved for leave to bring in a Bill to reduce the annual Duty upon the Certificates of Attorneys, Solicitors, and others. He said, that having received an assurance that the Bill would not be opposed on the first reading, he would not, on that occasion, go into the reasons for a reduction of the duty. The subject had very often been before the House, and on many occasions the principle had been affirmed that this annual payment ought to be abolished. The Bill he sought to introduce did not propose to abolish the tax entirely, but to reduce it to the nominal sum of 5s. The reason for that was that there were in existence several Acts of Parliament that would have to be repealed or considerably altered, at great inconvenience, if the duty were altogether taken off; but by reducing the amount to 5s. all the existing machinery would re- main, and both the public and profession would be benefited by still having a regular authentic list of attorneys, solicitors, proctors, and notaries published annually. The principle had been affirmed in 1865, and by former Parliaments, and the tax had been retained upon grounds affecting the revenue of particular years and not from any opinion that in itself it was either just or expedient.


said, he thought that licenses on trades and professions ought to be altogether abolished, or to be extended to all. Of all licenses, however, that on common brewers was the worst. It was a hardship to which the license of attorneys and solicitors could afford no parallel. Every brewer was required to pay a license upon the work he did, and not upon the profitable result of his operations. He (Mr. Bass) as a brewer paid as large a sum as 1,100 or 1,200 solicitors did, and he should think it very hard if solicitors were relieved of their eight guineas a year, while he had to pay so large a sum for permission to carry on his business.


I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Derby on the large sum which he pays for his licence, and there can be no doubt that on the same conditions we should all be perfectly willing to contribute such an amount to the national Treasury. I think that licences are a most enlightened scheme for recruiting the national Treasury, and I am not at all inclined to favour the proposition of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite. It is a very difficult thing for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to encounter attorneys and brewers. They are, without exception, the two most influential classes in the community. The late Henry Drummond, whom we all knew in this House—"alas, poor Yorick!"—speaking one night of the Powers then convulsing the world, just before the Crimean War, said, "After all, what is their power to the power of an attorney?" I feel that at the present moment. It is under these circumstances I must consent to the introduction of this Bill. It is because I wish to respect a majority, though not a great one, which sanctioned the principle upon which the Bill is founded. At the same time, I must say I disapprove of the practice of the hon. and learned Gentleman in attacking the Consolidated Fund with a perseverance which may be applauded, but which is not laudable. As to the general principle, I would oppose Motions and measures of this nature made at this moment. The right time to bring forward subjects of this nature is when the Chancellor of the Exchequer has placed before the House and the country the state of the national Finances. That is the legitimate opportunity. If there be any surplus—and I speak with all reserve on a point so problematical—that is the moment when any persons who think they have a fair claim to consideration should come forward. But that an assault on the national resources is to be made as a matter of course appears to me a supposition which ought not to be encouraged. It would be an act of discourtesy were I, under the circumstances, to oppose the introduction of the Bill; but I do not wish the hon. and learned Gentleman to suppose that, in agreeing to its introduction, I at all sanction the principle upon which he has appealed to the House tonight. He represents on the present occasion a very influential, a very affluent, and a very patriotic class; and I am sure we can always appeal to them to bear their fair proportion of the national necessities. The Bill may be introduced tonight; and when the hon. and learned Member has become better acquainted than he can be at this moment with the condition of the Treasury, he can exercise his discretion as to whether he will proceed with or withdraw it.

Motion agreed to. Bill to reduce the annual Duty upon the Certificates of Attorneys and Solicitors and others, ordered to be brought in by Mr. DENMAN, Mr. VANCE, and Sir JOHN OGILVY.

Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 53.]