HC Deb 12 June 1868 vol 192 cc1483-98

said, it is, perhaps, necessary I that should explain in a few words the reason I have in calling the attention of the House to this subject, and the causes from which, as I think, a necessity may seem to exist. It cannot, I think, but be observed by those who have followed up the business of this Session, that of all other questions, those connected with rates have been oftenest brought before the House. First we had the Committee on the Motion of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets, which I hoped might have saved me the necessity of the present appeal by comprehending in the scope of its inquiry the whole bearing of these Acts. Then came the Motion of the right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) on the Metropolitan Rates, in which he disclosed some most significant and valuable facts. The Mines Assessment Bill followed next, and a very little later the discussion upon the burdens of land, so ably introduced by the hon. Member for Wiltshire. In each instance local taxation lay at the root of the question advanced. At present both the Turnpike and Highway Bills, as well as that upon Education, have reference to this. Perhaps it may be thought that under such repeated inquiry, so often renewed, the matter must be fully winnowed out. It may seem strange to say that the contrary is the case, and the frequency of these occasions, as well as their great variety, establishes, I think, a necessity not otherwise so great. I must deprecate such partial treatment as this. If change is required of such a kind, this, I think, will be obvious to most—that, starting from a false point, if we attempt to legislate partially we shall but increase the difficulties which exist, and multiply those obstacles of which we now complain. Hence the necessity of inquiry, beginning from the root. Is this necessity justified by fact? With the scope of my present address I shall not go into detail upon this, for I think that even general considerations will suffice. The office of the Committee for which move will be to investigate facts. Am I entitled to this? Now, if I show that at their very origin the scope and intention of these Rating Acts were imperfectly defined; if I am able to show that that intention has not been clearly laid down since; and that, confused by judgment and complicated by events, it has become a mass of incoherent legislation, incapable of just application or legal interpretation, perhaps it may be thought that there is good ground for this. If I can show that, starting from such a point, other taxes have been successively imposed upon such a base, either simply a matter of convenience, or accident, or custom alone, it may be thought that there is some ground for this. If I can show that by the incidence of such taxation a great injury is done to productive industry, and that it falls with severity upon needy and dependent classes, then, deeming such things of no small importance and not unnecessary to consider, I shall with some confidence appeal to this House. And now to the proof. Upon the terms and provisions of the Act of 43 Elizabeth, I need enter at no length. They are well-known to most. Nevertheless, in starting upon our present inquiry, there are some distinctive features which we may note. What was, or rather were, the leading principles upon which this Act was based? Contributions generally levied within a local area upon property and persons alike. What limitation to this? That the property shall be visible, within the place, and that the ability of the person to pay shall be the subject of this tax. Now, to untechnical and unlearned minds no doubt this was simple enough, and of this, perhaps, we can have no more convincing proof than the fact that fur 200 years it seems to have suffered no material change, and no important Amendment was either required or introduced. It was, no doubt, both in intention and scope a property tax, and this property of no exclusive class. It required the perverse ingenuity of legal minds to make the problem complex. Well, but what took place? The natural desire to escape taxation did not remain asleep. Subsequently much property became invisible, and, not being local, could not he taxed. The machinery was imperfect, and many kinds of property could not be reached. The customary carelessness of owners of property did the rest; and the easy inheritors of settled estates came into them, accustomed to the hereditary burdens and the parochial rate. Why, what proof of it is this, that previous to the Poor Law Bill of 1833, the whole property had become well-nigh submerged beneath the parish rate ! They were in some instances £1 5s. in the pound as levied upon an assumed and fictitious base. One after another subjects of taxation fell out, while nothing was added, but new taxes upon the old base. With the increase of these taxes the desire to escape increased, and the ingenious supply of legal means has never failed to keep pace with the demand in such a case. Soon we have of these exemptions a goodly list. Mines, other than coal mines, woods, stock-in-trade, funded property, and securities, were invisible of course. Personal property, though visible, could not be reached. Ships and merchandize had no local place; and the area of taxation became thus comfortably circumscribed, and fell upon only persons or property which could not be overlooked. It was not until 1840 that stock-in-trade was exempted from the incidence of those taxes. The Act of Elizabeth being thus amicably perverted, what follows? Just as it would seem in the proportion to the diminished liability did the amount and number of their taxes increase, and every day new burdens were added, just as they would now be added in default of vigilance, in a manner most unjust. Let us just glance at the list—namely—

Poor Law Series. Aggregated, Districts. Miscellaneous Taxes.
Poor's Rate County Rate Sewers
Workhouse Buildings Lunatic Asylum Drainage Church
Survey and Valuation Shire Hall Hundred
Gaol Fees Police
Highway Borough
Militia Watch Rate

—Of these, the two first are upon the Poor Law basis, none of them either for taxation or expenditure being more extensive than counties; nor are rent-charges, Easter offerings, or tolls, fees, or dues from navigable rivers, included. Now, one objection may le taken to this—namely, that the county rate rests on a separate base. Well, since the Act passed in the 55 Geo. III., c. 51, it has been assessed separately, and by successive Acts, namely 15 & 16 Vict., a consolidation of various statutes has taken place and that of Sir Edward Kerrison, in 1858 widens the area of this rate; but no less are the all more important features of the old poor rate preserved and the exceptions and exemptions are identical in each. Changes affecting the one, also affect the other; and the collection of the rate is made at the same time. Now, what has been the consequence of this? I shall let the answer come from some high authority upon this point, I quote from the Report of the Commissioners in 1843, Sir George Cornewall Lewis, Sir Edmund Head, and George Nichols—names which will inspire respect. They speak thus— Scarcely anything can be more material than the declaration of the person and properties affected by a tax. Yet there is hardly an instance of any modern rate in which the purpose has been legally or unambiguously effected; not because there is any difficulty in effecting it, but because the draftsman dispensed with looking at the statute 43rd Elizabeth, and Parliament and the public had no ready means of checking the draftsman while the Bill was in progress. Then the highway rate is made a tax on property, without apparently following the person. In the militia rate the error is reversed, 43rd Geo., and the effect is to omit both the chief person and chief property, arid to charge only persons liable to poor's rate in respect of stock-in-trade. The County Rate Act refers to occupiers of estate and property, and omit inhabitants as well as parsons and vicars, 55 Geo. III., c. 51, s. 12, while as regards the property to be rated the confusion is extraordinary, being described for parishes where poor's rates are made by terms inapplicable to the property liable to the poor's rate. The same confusion is extended by adoption to the county rate for shire halls and lunatic asylums. In fact, in the most important provision the confusion is uni- versal. These instances, though a very small part of what the single subject of local taxation affords, and selected only from the most important head, will be more than sufficient to show how entirely fortuitous our legislation has been, and is upon a subject in itself the most intelligible and most capable of accurate definition. But if such is the uncertainly in this respect, the use, or purposes is no less important. Now, these uses and purposes are nearly 200 in number, and often in the same rate most dissimilar. In the Report we find it thus stated, namely— The purposes thus imperfectly denned are the subject of re-iterated enactments, but are often all very rarely made sufficiently comprehensive to include all the occasions for expenditure to which the respective rate may be beneficially applied, and many matters of pressing importance are constantly found unprovided for. In such cases small regard has been shown to the fact whether the law did or did not authorize the application. But the use of a rate for such purposes, once so misapplied, easily becomes a fund out of which provision is made for more irregular and mischievous expenditure. There is no doubt that the intention has been to place all the series before-mentioned as poor and county rates upon one basis. If so, the terms used are entirely discordant with that intention. I have given some instances of this. I may mention the following:— In the constable's rate and militia the property is not defined, and only by inference foils on the poor rate. In the county rate, the property to be made liable is described as the messuages, lands, and tenements, and hereditaments rateable to the relief of the poor, which wholly omits personal property, which when the Act passed was liable to poor rate. This disparity of terms extends to the whole series of rates imposed on aggregated districts. So much, then, for the principle upon which this rating rests. Let us see what is the nature of its incidence, and to what ultimate effect. We have it as an admitted fact that it falls only upon a portion of property very limited in extent—about, let us say, one-fourth or one-fifth of the whole. Upon railroads and canals it is most unsatisfactorily, if not most unfairly, assessed, and the room for litigation is immense. Lord Campbell says— The rule laid down for the Parochial Assessment Act is easily applicable to the property which the Legislature then had in contemplation; but is wholly inapplicable to a railway extending many miles through many parishes, the traffic upon its various sections varying materially, and the expense of working these different sections bearing no certain proportion to the earnings upon them. If we settle all these and similar questions, we may be considered rather as legislators than as judges, rather making than expounding the law. And again— Without some alteration in or declaration of the law by the Legislature, we foresee that, although we should give judgment between these parties, much trouble, litigation, and expense must arise both to parishes and railways throughout England. Sentences which experience has amply confirmed. Upon houses we are told by good authority it falls a house tax, and it is approved as such. Upon land, it falls, in respect of profit, both upon the landlord and the tenant class.

Stock in Trade.—In the first instance let it be one main objection that such litigation should take place, exceeding, probably, in some instances, the capital value of the rate. The second we must not so lightly pass. A house tax may be a fair tax under appropriate condition; but what that condition should be is worth inquiring, at least. Now, in this instance it is paid upon the basis of the rent. What will be the effect? Competition will, therefore, rule this. Apply this rule, and it conducts to this—that the tax will vary just in proportion to the poverty of the class. Large houses do not easily let; small ones are hard to get, and you place this burden which must act as a drawback to their increase. Secondly, there is no limitation to the incidence of this tax. As an income tax the poorest classes would he exempt. Under this tax it falls upon them directly, and in the worst possible form and effect. It lessens the inducement to provide accommodation, and curtails the comforts of the house. It leads directly to contracted accommodation, and indirectly to all those evils of which over-crowding is the prolific parent, and vice and degraded habits the fruit. Have we not evidence enough upon this? What has lately passed during the debates upon artizan dwellings in another place? Let me afford one extract from this quotation— We are told that in one house there were fifty-nine human beings. That typhus speedily scented out its prey. That while one miserable man lay ill, his wife and six children had to partake his bed, and inhale his feverish breath. That the victim sank, while the miserables went to the workhouse or followed him to his grave. Take another such instance as this— In sixty-two instances adult sons and daughters slept in the same room, and in three instances in the same bed. In 152 instances adult daughters slept in the same room, and in fifty-six in the same bed with parents, and so on, down the doleful and unseemly list. Now, for such things there may be many reasons acting with unhappy concurrence upon the social state and which are productive of this. When we deal with such things we must take cognizance of the least. Is not a tax one of such. Few economists will deny this. I call then their attention to the fact. And if the conclusion at which they shall arrive shall point to results such as those I have indicated, they must, at least, materially qualify the opinion expressed as to the intrinsic excellence of this tax. Lastly, let us come to the land. Now, I want one admission on this point, lest our feelings and prejudices lead us astray. I will give ample evidence as to its truth. I want it to be an accepted principle by this House, that, primarily all taxation of industry falls upon the gross produce. It is so much deducted from it. Let us consult authority upon this point. Ricardo tells us— That labour, not land, is the real source of wealth, and that produce—all that is domed from the surface by the united application of labour, machinery, and capital—is divided between three classes, the proprietors, the owners of stock, and the labourer. Taxation falls thus upon the whole, and not upon a reserved part. Under any artificial regulation you can set up, there will be so much deducted from the heap, so much less divisible remainder, so much less to reward labour or replace capital, Now of this what will be the result? That first capital and then labour will desert. Let me give an example of this—Supposing that there existed within the same parish three distinct branches of industry—say, manufactures of a different class—yielding a similar percentage of return, and that upon one of these you placed some burden of an especial class, what would be the result? Profits would be less, capital would fail to be attracted, and the employment of labour would decrease. The thing is so obvious as to admit of no doubt. Supposing land in the farmer's own hands to be one of these, and the one taxed. Well, he would sell his land, if he could, and invest at the larger profit of the industry untaxed. Men would buy it to whom profit was no object no doubt. Is this what you want? You have been dealing with this class of landlords, and to get at their accumulations you have forgotten common principles, and the economic effects have been overlooked. You are taxing the industry nevertheless. The proprietors have a smaller surplus to improve their estates, the farm buildings will be worse kept up, and the inducement to invest in such heavily taxed property will be reduced. What says Mr. Mechi upon this— It is an alarming fact that much of our revenue is derived from the capital we lend to foreign countries, and this, too, while our agriculture to become fairly profitable would require a sum of no less than £300,000,000 invested in the improvement of land. In 1851 there were 285,936 farm holdings in Great Britain. Of these no less than 170,814, or more than half, were under fifty acres. The average of the whole number was only 102 acres, while 91,698 farmers, or one-third of the entire number, employed no labourers. Of these holdings he estimated the capital at £4. per acre, or a total of £200,000,000, and the acreable produce £3 12s. The conclusion is that there must be an immense tract of country unprofitable farmed and inefficiently capitalled. In corroboration of such an opinion, and in further illustration of its cause, a great commercial authority, Mr. Lamport, says— Capital is mobile, and follows as simple a law as water finding its level. The safest and most profitable business always requires and will command the largest share. It is only businesses which do not pay—that are starved and cry out. Once more, the authority of the hon. Member for Westminster— The mere fact that profits have to bear their share of a heavy general taxation, tends in the same manner as peculiar taxes, to drive capital abroad. This is thought to have been the principal cause of the decline of Holland. Under these circumstances it is inevitable that a part of the burden will be thrown by capitalists upon the labourer or the landlord. One or the other of them is always a loser by the diminishing rate of accumulation. If population continues to increase as before the labourer suffers; if not, cultivation is checked in its advance. Surely such evidence should suffice. If taxation is an evil, its unjust or irregular incidence must tend to aggravate this, and as is here shown, may be followed by deplorable and unforeseen results. Surely of these it is at least time that investigation should take place. On this ground, then, let us ask that it shall speedily take place. It has been proposed to substitute an income tax as the just alternative in this case; but it seems to me that to this, simple as it may appear, some objections have been overlooked. It would fall on incomes hitherto absolutely exempt, such as professional incomes and salaries. Funded property also, borrowed at any former time, or other such securities upon which no such charges should be imposed by legislation of an ex post facto class. In these instances it might be sufficient for the future that no stock newly created should be able to claim exemption of such a class, as resting upon a principle neither sound nor just. Against the conversion of the claim upon stock-in-trade or personal property into income tax, no such reason can exist. Now, I think that it will be at once admitted that these are questions of the gravest class, and that in inquiry no further time should be lost. Let the House just consider this, that, during the last twenty years, in Imperial taxation an almost entire revision of burdens has taken place, and this to a most useful and beneficial effect. In local taxation things are not only as they were, but get worse and worse as occasions for the imposition of fresh rates occur upon a false and unequal base, And yet, just consider the amount and importance of taxation of this class, exceeding in amount the entire revenues of many European Powers, not of the first class, for all purposes of general and local taxation, and nearly or quite half of the amount of our own Imperial taxation, if we except the payment of the interest of the Debt. So far, then, I trust that I have made out to the satisfaction of the House a case for inquiry, at least. Of that inquiry, what ought to be the practical effect? Without a word or two upon this my observations would be incomplete. In the first place it seems to me much to be desired that a complete revision of this species of taxation should take place in the following respects, namely, that its proper incidence, both upon property and persons, should be once more declared, with due respect to the application and use of the tax. That as far as possible classification of such tares should be made and levied upon a uniform base. That the applicability of the mode now in use for assessing annual value be determined in cases of difficulty and doubt. And, lastly, that all exemptions should either cease, or be levied in some form applicable to each case. I am not willing any longer to detain the House. I shall not deem it necessary to go into all the ultimate and evil consequences following the existence of such things as those I have pointed out, One thing is clear, I hope, to the House, that until such an inquiry has taken place, no further charges or changes can take place. In the one case injustice, in the other confusion, will be the result. In the reforms we contemplate, or the exemptions we seek, we must proceed from a sure base. Last year the Government introduced a Bill, which, although it did not directly deal with this, still was of a nature to lead to some further inquiry upon these points. I allude to the Valuation Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That Bill had my support. It was the first question in which I took part in the House. Of one thing I felt convinced—that by the establishment of such a Board as that proposed the question would not long be allowed to sleep. When I spoke upon this in nay concluding words I said— One hope I might entertain. It would be this—that this could not be the measure of the Reform which would be introduced by her Majesty's Government upon the question of the rates; that her Majesty's Government having thus bestowed their care upon the question of assessment, as I thought, to excellent effect, would further deem it their duty and worthy of consideration as to the incidents and accidents of the rate. Let there be equalization also in such respects. These words I now beg to repeat.


seconded the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "a Select Committee be appointed to consider the present incidence and principle of Local Rating, and report thereon,"—(Mr. Corrance.) —instead thereof.


admitted the importance of the subject referred to by the hon. Member, but reminded him that it had already occupied the attention of the House during the present Session, and had given rise to an interesting debate. As to the Motion for a Committee, the hon. Member had himself given the best answer to it when he stated the various points which their inquiry should embrace. At this period of the Session such an inquiry would be impossible. In another month or six weeks the Session must close, and it would be impossible to consider one of the points alluded to by the hon. Member during this limited time. The speech of the hon. Member might be divided under two heads—first, how property should be rated; secondly, what kind of property should he subject to rates. Now, a Committee last Session instituted an inquiry of considerable importance into the valuation of property; but the Bill introduced on the subject was not proceeded with, and the question, therefore, was not determined by the House. There had been another question also as to how rates should be collected, whether from the owner or occupier, and a Committee on the subject bad been moved for by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton). Then Bills had been introduced on two or three occasions on the subject of the rating of mines by the hon. Member for Cumberland (Mr. Percy Wyndham), and the hon. Gentleman who had introduced this subject did not appear sanguine that that matter could be success fully dealt with by the House. As to the rating of railways, that was a question which might fully occupy a Committee for more than one whole Session. He had mentioned these things to show the variety of questions which must be considered before the House could come to a conclusion. A debate had been held in the early part of the Session as to the great increase of rates paid by occupiers of land, and the burden? upon house property in the metropolis. That was a great and important question, upon which it would be quite impossible to initiate any satisfactory inquiry during the present Session; but he thought there was a necessity for some alleviation. The county rate, for instance, had considerably increased, a Committee on the question of county finance was at present sitting, and he believed it would be proved before that Committee that the greater part of the increase in the county rates had arisen in consequence of the maintenance of the police, which was contributed to by the Consolidated Fund. Then there was a great demand for increased expenditure in the treatment of the poor, especially of the sick poor. Now, it was a question whether further aid might not be granted by the State in matters of that kind. At present aid was granted towards the payment of salaries; but it might be well to consider whether more of those charges might not be borne by the State. As to the rating of personal property, it might be said that when the Act of Elizabeth was passed there was little or no personal property compared with that which existed at the present time. But there was a difficulty and almost an impossibility in bringing such property under rates. That had been proved by the legislation which had been effected for the exemption of stock-in-trade. He trusted that the hon. Member would not see fit to press the Motion, which he had introduced in a speech of considerable ability. The matter was one of very great importance, and well worthy the attention of the House, but it could not be dealt with at this period of the Session. But if a Committee were to be appointed at an early period of the new Parliament it was quite possible that some satisfactory conclusion might be arrived at.


said, he thought that sufficient grounds had been shown for further inquiry whenever there might be an opportunity. The best tax we had was the house tax, though the hon. Member for East Suffolk (Mr. Corrance) had taken exception to it, and had cited extreme instances in favour of his view. There was no better test of the ability of the tax payer than the house which he occupied. After a careful consideration of the subject, he had arrived at the conclusion that upon an average of classes the expenditure of an occupier in respect of house rent was in the ratio of one-tenth of his whole means of expenditure, and that, whether in the case of the man who paid 2s. a week rent or £2,000 a year, the test was equally good. But at present the house was taxed three times; it was taxed for the house tax. it was taxed again for the income tax, and, thirdly, for the fire insurance duty, and that duty was equal to 4d. in the pound on the rent. These were points which should be taken into consideration by the Committee. It had been asked why stock-in-trade should be exempt, as it was now so important an item even when compared with real property. But the true principle to proceed upon was this—we should never attempt to carry our taxation beyond the means we had of ascertaining property and reaching it. In the case of stock-in-trade, they could never ascertain what it was. Real property was local, they could find it, assess it, and tax it; but personal property was not local, it might be anywhere in the world, and, therefore, it was clearly beyond the power of the local authorities to roach it for purposes of taxation, although it was reached by self assessment through the income tax. The contrast between the two kinds of property indicated that there were many matters the provision for which by local taxation might be fairly assisted out of the general taxation of the country. It should he remembered, too, that some local matters were of general interest. He hoped the hon. Member would be able to renew his Motion in the early part of next Session.


said, he rose to protest against the eulogy pronounced by the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Hubbard) on the house tax, which amounted to 9d. in the pound on private houses, and 6d. in the pound on houses in which goods were displayed in the ground floor windows, It was a tax which was not levied according to the ability to pay vent; for large manufactories which were separate from the residence of the proprietor or manager escaped the tax, whereas the artist who had a studio, the solicitor who had an office, or the medical man who had a surgery attached to his house was taxed to the full value of the premises. The hon. Member was also in error with respect to the ratio between rent and the means of expenditure. In the metropolis the ratio was not one-tenth, but one-sixth; and this held good with the artizan and with those in the receipt of incomes up to £1,000 a year: above that amount the ratio diminished; and persons receiving less than 20s. per week paid one-fifth, and some even one-fourth, of their earnings for rent. The house tax was merely the old window tax under another name, and houses that would formerly have escaped the old duty, having only seven windows, were now brought into charge at the rate of 9d. in the pound, if the houses with their gardens were rated at £20 per annum. The house tax was, in his opinion, by no means so fair or equitable as some hon. Members supposed, and he thought that there was no tax that more required revision. It was levied on the amount of rent at which a house either did or was presumed to let; but many noblemen's seats and large mansions in the country escaped from their proper amount of taxation in consequence of their being so large and so costly to inhabit that they could not possibly be presumed to let at any equivalent rent, and consequently they were rated at a nominal amount. From a Return issued, it appeared that in the county of Northumberland there was only one house assessed at so large a sum as £1,000 a year, and paying 9d. in the pound. This house must necessarily be Alnwick Castle, the seat of the Duke of Northumberland, which is rated at only £1,000 a year, about equal to a house in Belgrave or Grosvenor Squares, or to three houses in many of the squares in London.


said, that while thanking his hon. Friend (Mr. Corrance) for having so ably introduced the subject, he did not think it would be desirable to refer it to a Select Committee at so late a period of the Session. The incidence of local taxation was a subject having so many ramifications that it was not desirable to inquire into it at all unless it could be done thoroughly and carefully. He was, therefore, glad to understand that his hon. Friend did not intend to press his Motion. Without traversing the same ground as that which he went over a short time ago, he might be allowed to notice a few of the objections which had been urged to the arguments which he then advanced. Local taxation had, it was admitted, vastly increased; but the rateable value of property, it was insisted, had proportionately increased. He did not see how the fact of taxation was altered by its being spread over a larger area. That increased value, moreover, had resulted from the investment of capital by both owner and occupier, and if such investment ceased there would be a diminution instead of an increase. The increase, moreover, had only taken place in some of the manufacturing districts, and the extent of it was not so great as was generally supposed. Another cause of that nominal increase had been the Union Assessment Act of 1862; for the uniform valuation which was the object of that Act had been attained by raising the assessments, there being scarcely a parish in the kingdom where the rateable value had not been raised up to the highest standard that could be found in it. Indeed, the Act ought to have been designated an Act for the increased assessment of the income tax on real property; for that had been its effect, though he would not presume to say that such was its object. It had been alleged that owners of real property were very much favoured with regard to the income tax; but the fact was, that the tax was levied upon the gross and not on the net income, no allowance being made for repairs, insurance, agency, or bad debts; find he maintained that the tax was paid on a much larger sum than the owners ever received. He would give an illustration with which he was himself only too familiar. On a farm of £100 a year the buildings were so dilapidated that it could not be relet unless they were rebuilt, and this could not be done for less than £500 or £600; be that for five or six years no rent was received, and yet during that period the landlord continued paying income tax on the £100 rental. The occupier, again, it had been said, was favoured, since he paid on but half the rental; but it must be remembered that he paid in years of loss as well as of profit. Even if he lost the whole of his capital by cattle plague or by bad seasons, the same arbitrary rule was enforced. Now, he knew of no occupation in which the profits were so precarious as the cultivation of the soil, find no business in which the return for capital was so small as that of the agriculturist. An hon. Member (Mr. M'Laren) stated on a former occasion that the commutation of the land tax had been a great advantage to the owners of real property, the valuation upon which the commutation was made being now very inadequate, and he went back to history to show that that tax was levied at 4s. in the pound. Was that tax, however, originally levied on real property alone? Why, on referring to the Act of 1692, which was passed for a year in order to prosecute vigorously a war with Prance, he found that the tax was imposed on personal as well as real property, but there was afterwards a remission in favour of the former, and by an Act of William IV. a certain quota was assigned to every borough and parish. Was it just that the amount formerly levied on personal property should now be thrown on real property? He thought that in 1846 a golden opportunity was lost, for both Sir Robert Peel and Lord John Russell, while affirming that the adoption of Free Trade was a question of policy, stated that in the event of its adoption the question of relief to the agricultural interest was a question of justice. Now, the policy had been adopted, but the justice had not yet been conceded. Owners and occupiers of real property did not come to the House with an appeal ad misericordiam; they did not sue in formâ pauperis; but they urged that they had a grievance, and they asked for a full and impartial inquiry. If, in such an inquiry, they failed to establish their case, they would be content to bear with patience and resignation burdens which they now regarded as anomalous, arbitrary, impolitic and unjust.


said, that, as no practical result would follow the appointment of a Select Committee during the present Session, he hoped that his hon. Friend would withdraw his Motion. At the same time he attached great value to the discussions that had arisen on this subject during the present Session, because the country must now be convinced that the question was not one which affected the rural districts alone. The great force of the argument in favour of a revision of local taxation arose from the fact that the pressure was felt not so much in the country as in the towns, and not even in the favoured districts of the towns. It was not in Belgravia, but in Bethnal Green, that the pressure of local taxation was chiefly felt. He hoped that during the Recess they would obtain extraneous aid to their efforts to secure a careful and impartial examination of the whole question of the incidence of local taxation. No inconsiderable addition to these burdens had been caused by the action of Parliament, and it would therefore be the duty of the House carefully to pass in review all the cases of exempted property, so as to see that one class of the community was not favoured at the expense of another. The whole matter was now divested of its class appearance, and it was seen that the interests of the poorer ratepayers were more concerned than even those of the owners and occupiers of land. He trusted that Parliament would at the earliest opportunity during the coming Session turn its attention to the incidence of local taxation.


said, that great interest was taken in this matter in agricultural districts, but it was too late to appoint a Committee this Session. A Committee of the House of Lords, in 1850, inquired into the matter, and collected a great deal of most valuable evidence. Their Report, however, was now out of print, and he hoped that the Government would allow it to be re-printed. It would very much facilitate an intelligent discussion of the subject out-of-doors.


said, that he would endeavour to comply with the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman.


said, that he should not withdraw his Motion, but would leave it in the hands of the House.

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