HC Deb 17 February 1868 vol 190 cc795-7

said, he would beg to ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Whether any representations have been made to him as to the hardship and distress which the abolition of the composition of rates under the Reform Act of 1867 is causing to occupiers of small rated houses in a great number of English Parliamentary Boroughs, and whether the Government is prepared to introduce any measure of relief during the present Session? He would also beg to add that when he put the question on the Notice Paper he was not aware that he should have been anticipated as to a portion of it by the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Sandford); but, as he had been, he would not ask the right hon. Gentleman to answer the second part of the Question.


Sir, as to the first part of the Question of the hon. Gentleman, I have to reply that no representations of any kind have been made to me of hardships and distress having been occasioned by the abolition of the composition of rates under the Reform Act of 1867. Of course there was increased trouble when the law came into operation in the collection of rates, and the Poor Law Board, in anticipation of such trouble, issued an Order to the local authorities which facilitated the duties of the collectors. As the hon. Gentleman has gone into this question, comprised under two heads, perhaps I may be permitted to answer it more fully. There is no doubt that in some cases there has been a misapprehension on the part of the overseers, and under that misapprehension some inconvenience and a sense of injustice have been created. Now, in the city which the hon. Gentleman represents, I know that there has been a very great feeling of indignation with respect to the operation of this Act. A public meeting has been held at Salisbury, and a strong resolution has been passed, condemning the hon. Gentleman for having voted for the abolition of the compound-householders [Mr. HAMILTON: No, no!], but on inquiry into the case I find that the overseers of the city of Salisbury made their assessment upon the full rental plus the compound rate which had been paid by those favoured persons before the Act was passed. They naturally felt that if their privileges as compound-householders were abolished, and if they were to be assessed upon the full rental plus the compound rate, a great act of injustice would be done them, which no one can deny. That, however, is not to be attributed to the state of the Law, but to the constituents of the hon. Gentleman who made the blunder in question. I see no reason whatever, when the Act is in full operation, why more inconvenience should be felt in Parliamentary Boroughs where compound-householders did exist than is now experienced in those boroughs, some of them of the highest importance, where the occupiers were always rated as ordinary occupiers, as for example the considerable borough of Sheffield, the borough of Old-ham, Rochdale, and others which the hon. Gentleman will doubtless recollect. With regard to exemption on the ground of poverty, there is nothing in the Act of 1867 to preclude persons claiming such exemption. With reference to the second part of the hon. Gentleman's Question, which he said he would not press, I may state, in addition to the reasons which I have given as influencing the Government in not proposing to introduce a measure during the present Session, that, though the Act has but very recently come into operation, new and very extensive arrangements have been made in contemplation of its action. Such a course, therefore, on the part of the Government would be most precipitate, and, perhaps, very injurious.


said, he was not aware that any meeting had been held in the city which he had the honour to represent, or that any resolution condemnatory of himself had been passed. He should, however, bring forward a Motion on the subject.