HC Deb 15 July 1868 vol 193 cc1220-4

Order for Consideration, as amended, read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill, as amended, be now taken into Consideration."


said, he was not a Cornishman, and had no direct interest in this matter. He accepted the principle laid down by the House, that the law of rating should be applied to all mines. It would be very difficult, however, to apply it to the Cornish mines, unless special provisions were introduced, in consequence of the peculiar circumstances and conditions of that business. It was impossible to determine who was to be looked upon as the owner or occupier of such mines. The subject had been considered by a Select Committee last year, which recommended certain clauses that would have effected the object in view. But, instead of being agreed to, those clauses had been swept clean away at the last Wednesday's sitting. The hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) came to the table, and performed the unprecedented feat of concocting a Bill that was altogether new in five minutes. They had heard of the "Ten Minutes Bill;" but that was nothing to the legislative performance of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets. He felt confident that its provisions would be found not to work. The yield being precarious it would be impossible to ascer- tain the annual value. Then the Bill said the mine was to he rated; but the mine could not be rated; they must determine on some particular person who was to be rated. If the word occupier was taken, and nothing more, then no one could doubt that both the landlord and the lessees would be liable. In cases of limited liability, all the partners would be occupiers. The only effect of the measure would be to puzzle all the overseers in Cornwall, put a large amount of money into the pockets of the lawyers, and cause a vast amount of confusion to everybody. The Bill would be altogether inoperative except for the benefit of the legal profession. It was beyond the ingenuity even of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets to solve in five minutes a question which had puzzled lawyers and the Legislature for two years. He had had various communications from attorneys and others in Cornwall, all agreeing that under the present clauses it could not be determined who was to be rated, or on whom a distress was to be levied. It would be impossible to leave the Bill in its present condition. The Bill must be altogether redrawn and re-considered. He believed it would be necessary to revert substantially to the provisions recommended by the Select Committee, which he thought might be adopted with some modification. As it was manifest that the Bill would not work, he thought it ought not to be proceeded with further during the present Session. Precipitate legislation would not promote the object in view, and he therefore begged to move that the further consideration of the Bill be postponed to that day fortnight.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day fortnight."—(Sir Robert Collier.)


said, he regretted that the clauses framed by the Select Committee were not discussed last Wednesday, but hoped the provision contained in them would be brought forward again and fully considered. He thought the objections to the clauses were quite secondary to the affirmation of the principle of the Bill. Amendments might be introduced to meet the objections of the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth (Sir Robert Collier). As to the clause for dividing the rate between the landlord and the occupier, two distinguished lawyers had stated their opinion to be that it would have that effect. Mines were already rated in many parts of the country, and he did not believe that the Bill would cause the Cornish mines to be rated in an objectionable or oppressive manner.


said, his constituents were so much interested in this matter, that he must be permitted to speak on their behalf. He did not speak in virtue of his office. Unless the greatest care was taken in the mode of rating Cornish mines, that industry must come to an end. The Bill as it now stood, he took to be nothing more than a pointed sarcasm on the part of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton). The hon. Member doubtless judged from the discussion which had already taken place, that there was no likelihood of bringing the question to a practical issue, and in the vein of which he was a master, he suddenly drew up a bald clause, which he offered to the Committee as a solution of the difficulties of the case which had perplexed all parties for years, and this clause the Committee, weary of the discussion, had suddenly adopted. It could not possibly work. To pass the Bill, therefore, as being a measure which dealt with all the difficulties of rating would not, he thought, redound to the credit of the House. The subject required further consideration. He could not help thinking that under these circumstances the House would do well to postpone legislation on this subject till the next Session of Parliament.


said, that this was a question of Cornwall against all England. The Committee had come to the conclusion that mines in Cornwall as well as elsewhere should be rated; and he was sure that if the general law of rating were applied to Cornish mines, the local authorities would carry it out in a fair manner. If, however, difficulties arose, they could come to Parliament and ask for their removal. If the Bill was unworkable there were a sufficient number of Gentlemen of the long robe in the House to suggest such alterations as would make it workable. Some new clauses had been given Notice of, and be trusted the House would proceed to consider them, so that legislation might not be postponed till next Session, there having already been too much delay.


said, he felt bound to inform the House that his constituents viewed with great dissatisfaction the course which had been taken with regard to this Bill, since it did not attempt to redress the anomalies under which coal mines laboured. He, however, thought it due to the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) to state that what was done on a former occasion was to avoid laying down any hard lines of assessment. The House sanctioned the principle that the exemption of mines other than coal mines ought to be removed. Considering that a Law Officer as well as an ex-Law Officer of the Crown had pronounced this measure to be unworkable, he thought that the only course which the House could pursue was to postpone the further consideration of the matter, and to throw on the Executive Government the task of saying how the difficulty was to be got over, and of bringing in a Bill next Session providing for the proper assessment of mines. The coal mine interest would be sorry to see the anomalies under which they suffered extended to all other mines.


said, that though interested in coal mines, he thought that great question had properly been excluded from the present Bill. He wished to ascertain from disinterested parties whether the objections raised by the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth (Sir Robert Collier) were well-founded? It had been said that the Bill would not work. In that case, it should be re-committed.


said, that having carefully examined the clause, he was of opinion that the wording of it was so vague that it would not properly work; and he recommended the hon. Member for "West Cumberland (Mr. Percy Wyndham) to adopt the suggestion which had been thrown out, and to allow time for the further consideration of the matter.


said, that what he understood the House to mean was that all the mines in England should be rated on the same principle as far as possible, and that clauses were to be brought up at the present stage to render the measure workable. But on looking at the clauses on the Paper, he considered the objections of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Sir Robert Collier) perfectly valid. He therefore thought it desirable not to proceed further with the Bill during the present Session. He thought that the hon. Member for West Cumberland (Mr. Percy Wyndham) having obtained a decision from the House in favour of the rating of mines, should rest satisfied with that, and postpone further legislation on the subject till another opportunity. He was himself very anxious that there should be legislation on the subject, and, though it would not come within his Department, he earnestly hoped that the question would be disposed of next Session.


said, he would also join in the appeal to the hon. Member for West Cumberland (Mr. Percy Wyndham) to postpone the further consideration of the Bill. He knew that the hon. Member would feel disappointed at not being able to pass the Bill; but it had been shown that it would cause great doubt and uncertainty, and the hon. Member would be much more disappointed if it were to give rise to dissatisfaction among the mining classes.


said, that the hon. Member had obtained a clear expression of opinion on two points—that all mines at present exempted should in future be rated, and that there should be no special mode of rating. Without assistance from the Government the hon. Member could not hope to pass the Bill, and he would do well to withdraw it for the present.


said, he must oppose the Bill as one that would involve the mining interests in ruinous complications. The mining interests of Cornwall were not opposed to the principle of rating mines; but they insisted that if a measure were passed to assess mines, it should be a well-considered one, which would deal fairly with all parties.


said, after the appeal to him by several hon. Members on both sides of the House, he would withdraw the Bill.

Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," put and negatived.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Consideration, as amended, deferred till Wednesday, 29th July.>