§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. CRAWFORD
said, that one way in which the changes would be introduced would be through the definitions of the Bill.
§ MR. BOURKE
said, that some of the proposed alterations deserved discussion. There was no branch of our law that needed alteration more than that which related to stamps. There was one clause in the Bill by which anybody who had got a paper or document in his custody, which he declined to allow a person appointed by the Commissioners to inspect, would be liable to a fine of £50. That was one of the alterations, and would need consideration. He regretted that this Bill contained no repeal of the old Acts; and the result would be that if this Bill became law, all the old Acts would still remain on the Statute Book, which would produce a great deal of litigation.
§ MR. MAGNIAC
said, that the definition of a bill of exchange had been largely extended in the clauses of the Bill; this was probably intended to check evasion of the duty, but it might be a question whether the matter had not been overdone.
§ MR. G. B. GREGORY
said, he hoped that ample time would be allowed for the consideration of a measure which affected so many persons.
§ MR. MUNTZ
said, he regretted that the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer), in bringing forward this consolidation Bill, should have altogether ignored the strong desire of the commercial classes to have adhesive stamps made permissive on bills of exchange. Extreme inconvenience was felt from the present state of the law, from the North to the South of the island. When he brought the subject forward last year the objection was, that if adhesive stamps were used, the cancelling might be removed by chemical agents. But he maintained that it would be ex- 1638 tremely difficult to do so without obliterating the bill itself; and it was not likely that a man would risk the value of his vouchers for the sake of the small sum to be gained by the practice. Adhesive stamps were in use in France, Belgium, the North German Confederation, and various other parts of the commercial world, and he did not see why we should be denied the use of them in England.
§ MR. W. FOWLER
said, he could confirm the remarks of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. Few persons received more bills of exchange than he did, and he could not see why an adhesive stamp was so dangerous on an English bill of exchange, while it was so useful where foreign bills of exchange were concerned.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK
said, he wished to direct the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the inconvenience resulting from the law in dealings with regard to cheques. It appeared rather hard that a banker should be required to put an ad valorem stamp on a cheque which he might not have known would go abroad.
§ MR. ALDERMAN LUSK
said, that it was a mistake altogether to impose a penny stamp on cheques; and the burden fell very heavily on London, while in Liverpool, Glasgow and other great commercial towns they did not employ half so much as they did in the South. Again, for every delivery order they gave, however small, they had to use a penny stamp. That was not just towards those who lived by buying and selling; and he thought that fair play should be given to traders as well as to those engaged in other occupations.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he would be happy to accede to the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Hunt), and endeavour to point out the principle of the proposed arrangement; but he was afraid it would be impossible in a matter of that kind to give in any Paper a complete enumeration of the changes to be made in the effort to consolidate the law. Of course, there would have to be brought in another Bill, which was already drawn, that would repeal the present statutes as soon as this Bill was passed. If this Bill was to become law this Session, or in any Session, they would have to draw largely on the con- 1639 fidence and the indulgence of the House, because the task was most Herculean. The immense quantity of matter to be fused together in order to bring it within the compass of an Act of Parliament had necessitated the re-writing of a great deal; and it was almost impossible to rewrite such a number of clauses without making more or less variation in them. He looked on this Bill not as a settlement but only as a beginning—as only laying the foundation of future labours in that field; and once they had got the old Stamp Law within the compass of a single Act, they would then be able to direct their attention to the great amount of amendment and of simplification of which the subject was capable. If the speech of the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Alderman Lusk) was to be taken as a sample of the manner in which the Bill was to be discussed, it would be absolutely impossible to pass the measure, which ranged over so wide a field. The only way in which the Bill could be carried would be if hon. Gentlemen would refrain from asserting and arguing their individual views as to particular taxes, and would accept the measure as in the main what it was intended to be—namely, a Consolidation Bill, and would remember that, when it had passed, they would have the best opportunity of working out the reforms that were desirable in the Stamp Law—a task with which it was almost hopeless to deal while that law remained the maze it was. He would promise that the House should have ample time to consider the Bill before it was asked to go into Committee upon it. He would respectfully suggest that those hon. Gentlemen who might feel it their duty to move Amendments in the Bill should, as much as possible, limit their Amendments to making the measure that which it professed to be—namely, a faithful reflex of the law as it stood at present, and not attempt on this occasion to raise questions of the substantive amendment of that law. Any Amendments or suggestions which hon. Gentlemen could make tending in the limited direction he had described would be most valuable; and he hoped that those who might wish to propose them would be kind enough to put them on the Notice Paper in good time. They would be most carefully considered, and he should be happy to confer in private with hon. Gentlemen on the subject with 1640 a view to save the valuable time of the House, and also, if possible, to settle questions that were inherently very nice and abstruse.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday 16th June.