HC Deb 28 February 1871 vol 204 cc1037-110

, in rising to move the following Resolution:— That inasmuch as many of the existing and contemplated charges on the Local Rates are for National purposes, and that it is neither just nor politic that such charges should be levied exclusively from one description of property (viz., houses and land), this House is of opinion that it is the duty of the Government to inquire forthwith into the incidence of Imperial as well as Local Taxation, and take such steps as shall insure that every description of property shall equitably contribute to all National burdens, said, that though this was not the first time he had ventured to call the attention of the House to the subject of local taxation, yet he freely admitted that on each successive occasion on which he had brought that matter under the attention of the House, he had only become more embarrassed with the gravity of the subject and with the difficulty and responsibility that attached to anyone who attempted to grapple with so large and so complicated a question; and he did not feel on the present occasion more confident, inasmuch as he was unable to add much fresh matter or argument to what he had on previous occasions adduced. He felt, also, that the facts and the arguments which he had already adduced had never been impugned either in or out of the House. It was therefore unnecessary for him to defend them; it would be futile for him to waste the time of the House in repeating them. Though he was painfully sensible of his inability to do justice to that important subject, yet he felt very sanguine with regard to the result, and strong with regard to the merits of the case. He rejoiced to think that that question now stood in a very different position from that which it occupied three or four years ago. At that time they had to contend with a vast deal of indifference and ignorance with reference to that question; but now he thought the popular attention had been aroused; the public had begun to investigate the matter and demand inquiry; and that was all he wanted. No Government could afford any longer to dally with that question, or evade it by false issues. It was futile for them to disarm us with petty excuses or vague generalities. The supporters of thai movement contended for a great principle, and they asked the Government to deal with that principle in a comprehensive and statesmanlike manner. He thought he might most forcibly illustrate the magnitude and importance of that subject by comparing the different amounts of wealth levied and expended in one year by the Imperial and the local taxation. He might be allowed to preface that comparison, by reminding the House that the total estimated annual income of England and Wales at the present time amounted, in round numbers, to £700,000,000; that £300,000,000 of that amount was assessed to the income tax; that £100,000,000 was the amount of the rateable value of the real property in this country; and that that £100,000,000 bore the whole of our local taxation. In other words, £6 out of every £7 of the annual aggregate income of the country escaped local burdens, and contributed nothing towards the relief of the poor, and the various other national burdens. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board told the House last Session that the amount raised by local taxation in the United Kingdom was £30,000,000, and so far as he (Sir Massey Lopes) had been able to make an investigation—for the right hon. Gentleman had not given them any figures—he did not believe that that amount was at all exaggerated. But in the observations he was about to make, he would deal only with the local taxation, which was levied in England and Wales; and for this reason—because he was far more conversant with those details. He hoped that other Members who were far more conversant with the local burdens of Scotland and Ireland would endeavour to ventilate their own grievances. Our own local taxation, according to the Return for 1868, amounted to £16,800,000, or, in round numbers, to £17,000,000. But he submitted that those figures did not comprise the whole amount now levied by local taxation. In the first place, he might remind the right hon. Gentleman that the poor rates had very much increased since 1868. In the second place, he did not see in those Returns any figures which represented the amount raised for sanitary and sewerage regulations. He did not see any amount for turnpikes; nor did he see—of course, in the Return for 1868 it could not be—any amount for education. He would remind the right hon. Gentleman that for education alone a threepenny rate on £100,000,000 would amount to £1,250,000; and a sixpenny rate for education—he believed we should not do our education for much less—would amount to £2,500,000. He thought he might say, without exaggeration, that the amount raised by local taxation in England and Wales was, in round figures, £20,000,000. He could vouch for the correctness of that statement. Well, if so, one-seventh of the annual income of England and Wales discharged all the obligations of local taxation—one-third only of that which paid income tax; but 82 per cent of the annual aggregate income value of the country was exempt altogether from local taxation. In other words, one-fifth of the total annual income of real property was paid every year in local burdens — or every five years they paid in local burdens the whole amount of the aggregate income of real property; and exactly one-eighth of its value in poor rate assessment alone. If his statements were correct—and he challenged the right hon. Gentleman to prove they were not—then the exceptional exactions to which the owners of real property were subjected were monstrous, intolerable, and almost incredible. He would now endeavour briefly to compare the amount raised by local taxation with the amount annually raised by Imperial taxation. The estimate of Imperial taxation for 1870–1 was £67,000,000. If you deducted from that £27,000,000, for the interest of the National Debt, you had £40,000,000 for defraying the expenses of the Army and Navy, for the Civil Service, and for all the purposes of modern government. You had that £40,000,000 of Imperial taxation as against £30,000,000 of local taxation. But the comparison did not end there. Imperial taxation was simple, it was intelligible, it was annually decreasing, and was being annually revised. Local taxation, on the contrary, was a chaos—to use the expression of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) a "confusion worse confounded" — a state of things which, as Lord Dundreary said, "no fellow could understand." It was annually increasing, and the basis on which it was levied had not been altered for 300 years. That was not all. The public at large had no reason whatever to complain of Imperial taxation. It was said, and he believed it, that it was equitably imposed, systematically collected, and economically expended. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who held the purse-strings, was generally supposed to be a close-fisted Gentleman, and he was responsible to the House and to the nation for Imperial taxation. But local taxation was unjustly levied—it was the most oppressive part of our public burdens—it was unsystematically collected — and, moreover, the number of rating authorities might almost be called Legion, and there was little or no responsibility among them. Further, one did not know for what purposes local taxation was raised, nor in what proportionate amounts it was expended. The poor, the labouring classes, had no reason to complain of our Imperial taxation; but the dissatisfaction and discontent with regard to local taxation were keenly felt. More than that, in proportion to their means, the poorer classes had to bear a vastly larger share of our local burdens than the more opulent classes. Then, the Imperial taxation, towards which every class of the community and every description of property contributed, was annually decreasing; local taxation—towards which only one class of the community and one description of property contributed—was annually increasing. Moreover, certain privileges that had formerly been conferred on the owners of real property, in consideration of the exceptional burdens they were called on to bear, had been removed, and there had been imposed on them a multitude of new and exceptional burdens, for which they had received no corresponding or compensating advantages. Since 1840 Parliament had annually passed an Exemption Act, and what was its object? To exempt personal property from the payment of what was legally due from it; but they had actually placed the burden thus withdrawn from personal property as an additional load on real property. Since 1846, when the repeal of the Corn Laws was carried, £51,000,000 of Imperial taxation had been remitted, while £31,000,000 had been imposed, leaving a balance of £20,000,000 on the side of remission. Well, what relief had been given to local taxation? Not a single iota. On the contrary, while all other interests had had remission, real property had been actually burdened in reverse proportion to their remissions. He was doubtful whether Sir Robert Peel had not remitted a small portion of their prosecution expenses since that time; but he challenged the right hon. Gentleman opposite to name anything else. Well, then, he complained not only that they had no remissions, but that new charges for new objects—for the benefit of the common weal and not for exclusive benefit of the class from whom you levy them, had been imposed on the owners of real property; that Parliament was victimizing one class for the benefit of the community, and imposing national obligations and responsibilities exclusively on one description of property. That was most unjust. Now, why this palpable injustice, this glowing and glaring anomaly? It had not been a sudden operation, for then it would have met with serious and successful resistance. The operation had been slow, gradual, and insidious; it had begun with permissive legislation, and then, when the owners of real property had inserted the thin end of the wedge, the Government drove it home, and made the legislation compulsory. All Governments, without exception, when they succeeded to office, had courted popularity by trying to reduce taxation, by a cry for retrenchment. That programme had not always been very honest; but it had been very specious and very plausible. It tickled the masses, and was a capital electioneering cry. But the eclat consequent on any reduction of local taxation would be comparatively small, and yet the benefit to the working classes would have been equally great. To effect their object, and gain popularity, all Governments had reduced Imperial taxation by gradually transferring strictly national objects to local purposes, and thus it was that real property (lands and houses) had come to tear the burden of carrying out most of the social and moral reforms and improvements of the 19th century. If we had reduced local taxation in the same degree as Imperial, it was the poorer classes alone, or for the most part, that would have felt the benefit. Now, what was the difference between a rate and a tax to those who paid it? It was a distinction without a difference. The word "rate" was a synonym for the word "tax." Both were arbitrary—both were compulsory. Why, then, salve and gloss them over by calling them rates? Because it tended to divert public attention. Rates were encroaching things; they were adhesive; they stuck; they had a tendency to crystallize and become separate property; they became rent-charges in perpetuity; and if those concerned did not adopt the motto principiis obsta, they might depend upon it these charges would gradually increase. He had compared the amount levied for Imperial taxation with the amount raised for local burdens; he would make but one other comparison. He would take Spain or Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, or Belgium, and he could assure the House that the whole amount raised in any of those second-rate kingdoms for Imperial purposes did not reach £14,000,000, or about half what this country expended in local taxation. He would now analyze and classify this large sum of £20,000,000, and, for the sake of perspicuity, divide it into parts—namely, £11,800,000, or, in round numbers, £12,000,000, raised for Imperial purposes, and £8,000,000 for local purposes. The distinction was essential, because, in the first place, the £12,000,000 were raised for the benefit of the whole community, but the £8,000,000 was raised for the benefit only of those who paid them, and who resided in the locality where they were raised. In the next place, the object of the £12,000,000 was universal; the levy direct and compulsory; and, in the third place, it was made absolute and arbitrary by Parliament. But the purpose of the £8,000,000 was local; the object limited; the levy voluntary; it was indirect, and, what was of more importance, it was controlled by local decision. He did not conceive that the owners of real property had any claim on the Imperial Exchequer for the £8,000,000, and therefore he should not further allude to it; his observations would only refer to the £12,000,000, the amount levied for national purposes; and with respect to this portion of the charge he would show to what extent it had increased. To show the increased and increasing amount of that portion of our local burdens, connected and unconnected with the Poor Law expenditure, he would compare the first year for which we had any reliable statistics, 1776, with the last year. The total amount in 1776 was £1,720,000; in 1870 it was £11,744,000. The item for poor charges being £1,556,000 in 1776, and £7,673,000 in 1870; for other purposes, £164,000 in 1776, and £4,100,000 in 1870. If they took a later date the result was this—In 1839 the total amount was £6,161,000, or an increase of 109 per cent; the amount of poor was £2,550,000, or an increase of 86 per cent; of other charges an increase of £2,616,000, or 174 per cent. Let them take the 10 years since 1859. The increase in the whole amount was £3,666,000, or 45 per cent; on the poor alone the increase was £2,115,000, or 38 per cent; and for other purposes of £1,500,000, or 57 per cent. Within the three last years the increase for the poor alone was £1,233,000. He might remind the House that in 1867–8—when the chief addition took place—there was an increase of more than £1,000,000 for the poor alone. It might indeed be said, perhaps, that in 1869 there occurred a decrease; but it should also be remembered that in that year wheat fell 10s. a quarter. There were 8,500 more paupers on the 1st July this year than there were on the 1st July last year, and they were increasing so rapidly that one in every 20 of our population was a pauper. In the year 1834, when the Poor Law was established, only one-tenth of the amount levied under it was expended for purposes not connected with the poor; last year one-third was so expended. He wished, then, to impress on the House that to call the £12,000,000 to which he was referring money levied for the relief of the poor was a misnomer; it was a misappropriation; it was collecting money under false pretences. Although incorporated in the Poor Law assessment, one-third of that £12,000,000 was expended in purposes which were wholly unconnected with the poor. He had deemed it to be his duty to analyze the expenditure of the £12,000,000, and he would endeavour to particularize it under three heads. There was, in the first place, £7,500,000 of the amount levied under the poor rate assessment expended solely for the use of the poor; secondly, there was £1,000,000 levied under the poor rate assessment, but expended for purposes unconnected with the support of the poor; while there was, lastly, £3,300,000 annually collected by means of the county rate, and which was likewise expended for purposes unconnected with the poor. Now, he would take four or five charges under each of those heads. Taking first the sum of £7,500,000, which was really expended in the relief of the poor, he found that the item for in and out-door maintenance was £5,224,000—and he would beg the House to bear in mind that of that amount only £1,546,000 was spent in in-door, the whole of the remainder being expended on out-door maintenance. Now, he should like to know why in England so large a sum was expended on out-door maintenance; while in Ireland, which was a much poorer country, scarcely anything was laid out under that head? The next charge was a sum of £711,000 for the maintenance of lunatics; after that came a charge of £805,000 for the salaries, rations, and superannuation allowances of Poor Law officers; and then there was a further sum of £718,000, which came under the head of common charges. Now, he did not intend to dwell on the first and largest charge—that for in and outdoor maintenance. What he wished to impress on the House was the enormous increase of new impositions. He agreed in toto with the statement which had been made by that eminent Whig statesman Sir George Lewis—whose loss that House would never cease to regret—to the effect that all income ought to contribute to the maintenance of the poor. Nor must the Report of the Committee of the House of Lords, in 1850, be forgotten, in which it was set forth that— The relief of the poor was a national object, that every description of property ought to contribute towards their relief, and that the Act of Elizabeth contemplated such a contribution according to the ability of every inhabitant of the country. He would only ask in addition to that, whether, after all, a poor rate was not a police rate; whether, if there were not a poor rate, there would be any protection for either person or property? A poor rate, in his opinion, was as essential to internal defence against the dangerous classes as our Army and Navy were for the purpose of external defence; and for both descriptions of defence it was, he contended, equally the duty of the Government to provide. He would, in the next place, advert to the charge of £711,000 for the maintenance of lunatics—a charge against which he strongly protested. Beside the sum which he had just mentioned, £310,000 had last year been raised by means of the county rate for the purpose of building lunatic asylums; while there was a further charge of £49,000 for the cost of casual lunatic paupers; so that the actual amount paid under the head of which he was speaking was £1,070,000. Now, lunacy was a malady which was, unfortunately, increasing, while the cost of treatment was also rapidly becoming greater. In 1851 the number of lunatics was only 21,000, or 23 in every 1,000 paupers, while in 1869 it was 45,000, or 44 in every 1,000 paupers, the increase in the ratio borne by the number of lunatics to the number of paupers being 91 per cent. The cost, he might add, of our lunatics, which in 1862 was £482,000, had advanced in 1869 to £711,000, so that in a period of seven years it had increased by a sum of £229,000, or 47 per cent. The cost of a sane pauper was, it appeared, £9 15s. per annum; that of an insane pauper, £26, exclusive of the charge for buildings. Now, he maintained that lunacy was a national calamity, and that it ought to be made a national charge and responsibility. It was a dispensation of Providence which was not confined to any class, and which was not attributable to any special cause. It was no special creation of land or houses. It was most unjust, therefore, in his opinion, that the charge for the support of lunatics should be levied only on one description of property. He had the highest authority for saying the charge ought to be a national charge. In the discussions on the Irish Church Bill two years ago, the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government laid it down as an axiom that the Church property was national property, and that as national property it ought to be applied to national uses, adding that the surplus ought to be devoted to the relief of irretrievable suffering and calamity, lunatic asylums and hospitals being particularized. He would read the right hon. Gentleman's own words on 15th of July, 1869— What are the obligations in respect of the relief of distress to which land or real property are commonly, by the laws of civilized Christian countries, held to be subject? They are these—You are bound to deal with the destitute and to meet the wants of the destitute, as far as necessity can be said to exist, but not beyond…… There is no law, either in Ireland or in any other country, which declares that persons of unsound mind generally shall have a right to receive that treatment which their peculiar state of mind requires. The Poor Law imposes no such obligation. The Poor Law obliges you to relieve the destitution of a lunatic, but no more. ['Yes, yes!'] Well, the laws in force in this country compel you to relieve lunatics only as you relieve other persons, and to prevent them from doing mischief; but it does not require you to apply to their case the difficult and costly processes to which recourse is had in those most benevolent institutions, the lunatic asylums.…. And for this plain reason—that a legal provision must be raised from classes of society which go down to the verge of destitution themselves, and you would inflict injustice if you trusted to the law solely for the relief of this kind of calamity."—[3 Hansard, cxcvii. 1907.] He desired no better testimony than that which he had just quoted. He with confidence claimed the vote of the Prime Minister, so far at least as lunatic asylums were concerned, and he was sure no one in that House or out of it would, when appealed to, decline or ignore the duty of paying his quota towards the relief of a malady which had no respect for persons. He now came to the next item of charge, that for the salaries, rations, and superannuation allowances of Poor Law officers. There were at least 14,000 Poor Law officers, and their cost was rapidly increasing. The Poor Law Board authorized the superannuations of some of those, without offering to contribute to the cost. They, however, now admitted the principle of contribution. They now paid the whole of the auditors, the salaries of the schoolmasters, and half the salaries of the medical men. Why should they not pay half the salary of the master and matron, of the chaplain and the relieving officer? One good reason why they should do so was that they exercised the most arbitrary power over these officials, appointing and dismissing them, and regulating their salaries and their superannuations; and it was quite out of the power of any Board of Guardians to give a sixpence to any of their officials without the leave and licence of the Poor Law Board. If the salaries of these officials were paid by the State, it would not only be a relief to the ratepayers, but their remuneration would be more uniform, and this would be a great advantage. No officials were so badly paid as Poor Law medical officers, whose salaries were scarcely sufficient to provide the drugs they were obliged to dispense; and the right hon. Gentleman, might fairly be asked to go further than he now did. The fourth item to which he would advert was that of establishment charges, consisting of building, repairs, printing, drugs, and clothing. All these expenses were incurred on the requisition of the Poor Law Inspectors. He was told sometimes that it was necessary to have local control in order to keep down expenditure; but it would also be desirable to have a little more control over the expenditure imposed upon the Poor Law Unions by the Government. Perhaps, to gain a reputation for zeal and energy at Whitehall, the Inspectors were inclined sometimes to recommend improvements and alterations which the local authorities thought unnecessary. However, if the Government paid one-half of these establishment charges, he felt sure the money would not be expended by the locality improperly or unnecessarily. Before last year, since which time there had been a considerable addition to the hospitals and fever infirmaries of the country, £9,000,000 had actually been expended for Union houses alone—all paid for by the ratepayers. He based his claim for additional assistance towards Poor Law expenditure upon these grounds. Of late years we had become more humane and charitable in administering the old law of Elizabeth. We sympathized more with the privations and necessities of our fellow-men, and, rejoicing at this change, he was willing and anxious to pay his fair quota towards it. But what right had the owners and the representatives of personal property in this House to take any credit for this improvement? What sacrifices had they made to obtain it? They had been philanthropic and generous at the expense of the owners of real property. Justice ought to precede generosity. They had not contributed one fraction towards the improvements effected in the administration of the Poor Law. Hon. Gentlemen sheltered themselves under the antiquated Act of Elizabeth, which, as they said, imposed upon real property alone the burden of maintaining the whole of the poor of the country. But when that Act was framed there was little property in this country except realty, which then bore not only all the local, but all the Imperial taxes; so that if the argument were now good for one, it was good for the other class of taxation. Since the time of Elizabeth, capital had been accumulated by the labour of the poor, pauperism had thus been created or fostered, and now those chiefly responsible tried to evade their due responsibility. In those days agriculture employed nearly the whole of the labouring population; now it employed a comparatively small proportion—only 1–14th per cent. Why, then, impose these heavy burdens upon land when the whole conditions of employment were changed? The Imperial Government had given one year's pay to the widows and orphans of the poor men who went down in the Captain. At the year's end these widows and orphans must go to the Union; the owners of real property would alone have to maintain them. The brave sailors sacrificed their lives for the whole country, and not for one class; but the representatives of personal property ignored their responsibility. The same was true of the widows and orphans of soldiers and sailors killed in action, as well as discharged soldiers and sailors who, when no longer of use, were turned over to the Union, the owners of real property alone having to maintain them. In the case of commissioned or non-commissioned officers killed in action, provision was made for their widows and orphans, and to make a distinction between them and the men under them was impolitic and unjust. The Secretary of State for War would have very little difficulty in getting the recruits he wanted, if the men were sure that if anything happened to them the State would take charge of those they left behind them. He now came to the sums levied from the rates for purposes unconnected with the poor. These were the registration of births and marriages, a charge imposed upon real property in 1838, amounting last year to £77,000; the charge for vaccinations, imposed in 1841, and amounting last year to £64,000; and Parliamentary registration, a charge imposed in 1845, and amounting to £71,000. These three objects were certainly national. Everyone was equally interested in taking measures to abate that terrible scourge of small-pox, which was creating a regular panic, and destroying thousands. Neither rank nor wealth conferred any immunity from this malady—it was no respecter of persons. And, lastly, there was the item of £660,000 for Highway Boards created in 1865. That was the amount raised by the Highway Boards, and there was, besides, £920,000 raised by poor rate assessment for the maintenance of parish roads, and £1,000,000 for turnpike tolls. Turnpikes were being gradually absorbed, and upwards of £2,500,000 was raised last year for the maintenance of roads which used to be called the Queen's highways, and should, therefore, be paid for by all the Queen's subjects. He should like to know why capitalists rode over them without paying, whilst the poor man who walked over them was made to contribute to their maintenance? Any and every man could indict a road out of repair, why was not any and every man equally liable for maintenance? Turnpike roads were constructed for national and Imperial purposes. The mails went over them, and they were the means of communication for troops; but now they had, to a great extent, been superseded by railways. But the responsibility of maintaining them had not only been cast upon the land, but the tolls had been taken away. A tax was levied on railways in proportion to the number of first-class and second-class passengers, and he wanted to know why the amount thus levied on railways ought not to be handed over to mitigate the enormous increase of impost inflicted upon the land for the maintenance of highways? He would now advert to the third and last head—the charge of £3,300,000 levied under the county rate assessment, but for purposes totally unconnected with the relief of the poor. These county rate charges were all imposed for national objects. Their name was legion—their objects were universal. They all came under one category—their general and especial object was the protection of life and property, without any distinction of persons or property. The monied millionaire, the wealthy capitalist, required even more protection than the poor peasant, the mechanic, or the shopkeeper, and yet they contributed comparatively nothing out of their superfluity towards these objects. He held in his hand a Return moved for by Lord Henniker in 1867, showing the total amount levied in that year by county rates, giving the proportion that was under the control of the magistrates, and that which was strictly statutory. The total amount levied was £1,744,000. The portion which was statutory, over which the magistrates had no control, was £1,461,000. The portion over which they had undoubted control was only £283,000; so that 82 per cent was statutory, and only 18 per cent was under the discretion of the magistrates. Many Petitions had been presented to that House from magistrates in quarter sessions, asking the House to take this matter into consideration, and to transfer the cost of many of these Imperial objects to the national Exchequer. Now, with respect to the charges on county rates—the charge for the rural police in counties in 1869 was £719,000; for lock-up houses, £35,000; for the conveyance of prisoners, £19,000; making a total of £773,000. The Government allowance was only £147,000; so that instead of one-fourth, which the Government proposed to give, it only contributed one-fifth. They gave nothing towards police stations, and many miscellaneous payments which it was necessary to make, and yet the Home Secretary obliged the magistrates to send up plans of the stations to be submitted to his Inspectors. He was kind enough to authorize the construction of police stations; but he contributed not one iota towards them. The police expenditure had doubled the county expenditure in every county in England and Wales since its establishment. In Devonshire the charge for the police alone exceeded all other county charges by £5,000. The police expenditure was compulsory, the control of the magistrates over it being merely nominal. It was true that they appointed the chief constables; but they had no power to dismiss those officers, who were amenable to the Home Secretary, the magistrates having simply a limited and very small discretion with respect to the salary. The Home Secretary said there was a maximum and a minimum to go by, and gave the magistrates a discretion between the the two. It was ground for complaint, too, that the police, besides being employed in their proper duties, were used by the Government for other and national purposes. Only recently the Home Secretary had ordered the chief constables to employ the police to give notices in connection with the Reserve force, and the War Office used the police as recruiting sergeants, to tell the public what were the conditions of enlistment. Moreover, by the Bill of last year, the Home Secretary imposed on the police the responsibility of giving licences and certificates to pedlars. These were novelties; but he submitted that they might be very bad precedents. At all events, they were additional reasons why the Government should contribute a larger quota towards the police expenditure. He would now remind the House of an order which was sent to the clerks of the peace a short time ago, stating that if they did not follow the recommendations laid down with regard to expenditure, if they did not increase the police, the Government would stop the contribution of one-fourth which was now given. They were, therefore, obliged to comply with whatever demand the Inspectors of the Home Secretary might make. This was considered a great hardship. He maintained that the police would be a more effective force if under one organization and one central authority, and he wished the Government to adopt the same course which they did in Ireland—take upon them the whole responsibility of the police and pay them. He thought that was a fair demand to make, and there was this additional reason for it—there were so many different jurisdictions that many offenders escaped by passing over the margin of a county or borough. Now, with regard to the second matter to which he wished to call the attention of the House—prisons and the administration of justice. Surely the maintenance of order and justice are commonweal purposes. Why should the counties pay for the maintenance of prisoners before conviction? Why should real property alone pay for the erection and maintenance of prisons, reformatories, &c.? There was expended by the counties last year the sum of £664,000 for these purposes, and the allowance received by the Government was £204,000, leaving a balance against the counties of £460,000. In Devonshire the average paid under this head for the last three years, exclusive of any Government allowance, was £3,600, and he asked why should the owners and occupiers of real property be so taxed for the maintenance of prisons and the administration of justice? Surely, the maintenance of order and justice concerned other classes of the community quite as much as those connected with land. There were more offences against personal property than real, and that was a reason why personal property should pay its proportion of the expense. With respect to prisons, under the Prisons Act of 1867, all the rules were made by the Secretary of State. The visiting justices had no control over them. Their duty was laid down, and the only control they had was with regard to salaries and convicts. When Inspectors were sent down they were often very capricious in their requirements; and, if any remonstrance or complaint was made, the answer was—"We will withdraw what we are giving for the maintenance of prisoners after conviction." For the maintenance of prisoners before conviction the county paid the whole of the charge. He would now say a word or two with regard to the Militia, towards which the public attention was now so much directed. The Militia was considered a local and constitutional force. It was a national force. He did not admit the word "local," for during the Crimean War the Militia were allowed to volunteer for foreign service, and many of them were taken out of the country. Therefore, the local character was gone. And what were they doing now? The only link with regard to locality which still existed they were now taking away, by depriving the Lords Lieutenant of the power of granting commissions. He would ask why were the owners of real property to provide barracks for the Militia? They might as well be asked to provide for the fortifications in course of construction at Plymouth and Portsmouth. The county might determine to erect barracks—might determine to borrow a large sum at 4 per cent—but they were not allowed to receive one atom more than they had hitherto received of the public money for the Militia. Another item to which he wished to call the attention of the House was that of £64,000 for coroners. Now, he asked whether coroners ought not to be considered a part of the administration of justice? Of what use were coroners? That in case of untimely or sudden death they should inquire into the matter. That was necessary for the protection of life and property—of life more especially. It was a national charge, and ought to be transferred to the national Exchequer, along with all other charges for the administration of justice. Besides these expenses, the charges for building gaols, lunatic asylums, &c, amounted to £2,500,000, and were becoming heavier and heavier every year. Not only had the old anomalies in taxation been continued, but new ones had been introduced and fresh impositions were continuously being added. We are told that the expenses of Parliamentary Elections and the erection of militia barracks are to be added to the rates. Sanitary and sewage regulations were looming in the distance, as well as the maintenance of all turnpike roads. We complain that there is the same basis of assessable property now as when real property was the only property of the country. It was fair and just three centuries ago, when there was no capital or accumulated wealth, but not adapted to present times and circumstances. The present system of levying local burdens was full of anomalies, incongruities, and inconsistencies. There was no settled, no complete, and no consistent plan. It was the effect and result of conditions which had all been altered. There was no uniformity; deductions varied in every Union according to the caprice of assessment committees. Though the conditions of national wealth had entirely changed, the conditions under which local rates were levied remained unchanged. The incidence of Imperial burdens was periodically revised; he asked that the same might be done by local burdens. He contended that this was a poor man's question, and asked why the owners of exempted wealth were not and should not be made as liable to those local burdens as the owners of real property? The effect and object of these changes was to obtain good government, and that was a commonweal purpose. He wished to know, for instance, why the fundholder did not pay his share? Did not the security of the fundholder depend on the stability of the Government and the various institutions which surrounded it? Was not the mortgagee as morally bound to pay his share of these local burdens as the reputed owner of real property? The mortgagor had to pay his share of the local burdens, and he also paid upon the whole of his net income, without deduction; whilst the mortgagee received his net income from the reputed owner of the property, paid no regular burdens, and received his income without any deduction whatever. Shareholders of railway companies paid local burdens as real property holders; they also paid legacy duty as holders of personal property, and received their dividends, less the income tax; but debenture holders paid no local burdens, and received their income without deduction. This was a great anomaly. Then let them look at the case of the shipping interest, which entailed a vast expenditure, both with regard to our civil and military establishments, because it required protection both at home and abroad. It formerly paid towards our local burdens, and ought to do so. It tended very much to increase pauperism, especially in our large towns. But recently, like many others, it had become a privileged and exempted interest. Contrast, on the other hand, the case of other classes of the community—for instance, the clergy. The clergyman was almost as severely dealt with as any man. He was only a locum tenens. He had no property in his tithes. Some years ago a bargain was made with him, and it was compounded for, and he was paid a regular sum. Whatever the improvement of property might be, his property could not increase in value; but his local burdens were increasing rapidly. Everyone knew what he was to be rated at, and he was rated to the very utmost; and what was harder still was, that although his property could never increase, his population and duty increased; and although he might be obliged to employ a curate at £100 a-year, he was obliged to pay upon the whole of his income; and if he found it necessary to apply to Queen Anne's Bounty for assistance to enable him to re-build his house, that amount was not allowed to be deducted. He would take another class, and had good authority for what he was going to Say about the mercantile and manufacturing class. The case of mercantile communities was ably dealt with by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Rathbone) in 1869. He made a most able and honest speech, but he would quote his words. He said— The principal wealth of our large towns is the commercial, manufacturing, and trading capital, and yet it is exactly this capital which does not contribute, except incidentally, to local taxation. I maintain that the classes who possess this property do not contribute their fair share towards the rates levied to support in sickness, accident, or poverty those without whose labour their wealth would never have been created. They do not contribute upon their capital, because their capital, consisting chiefly of personalty, is, as a rule, exempted from liability. After much inquiry into this subject, I find that, broadly speaking, the percentage of his income that a man pays to the poor rates is often in the inverse ratio to the amount of his income. The wealthier he is the smaller the percentage he pays. Take the case of a man doing a large business with only a moderately large office and warehouse. He only pays on the rent of his office or warehouse, whatever his profits may be. I know the case of merchants who have made the calculation, and find that their rates vary from ½ to 2 per cent on their incomes, while the average percentage of the rates of the porters in their employ amounts to 3¾ per cent on their incomes. In other words the labourers pay from twice to seven times as much in proportion to their incomes, as do their employers."—[See 3 Hansard, cxcvii. 431.] He agreed with the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Rathbone) who advocated contributions in aid from the Exchequer, and would ask why was £100 or £1,000 a-year derived from personal property less valuable to the man who owned it than £1,000 a-year derived from lands and houses? The man whose income was derived from personal property had frequently no deductions to submit to, while the deductions made upon the income derived from real property were often very considerable. Talk of free trade! the present system was a system of protection to personal property. What reason, then, and what excuse was there that all these fresh impositions of late years should have been placed upon real property? He knew the answer he should get was that we must have local control and local administration in order to keep down expenditure; but if that were the object and the only object in view he could only say that it had signally failed. He himself was an advocate for local administration and local control; but he liked the reality and not the shadow, and he maintained that the term self-government, as applied to the control of the magistrates and the Poor Law Guardians with reference to the amounts they had to dispose of, was a delusion and a mockery. He contended that magistrates were merely the instruments of the Legislature and the Home Office. They were called upon to levy and raise large sums of money over which they had little or no control, while the Poor Law Guardians had just as little, for the President of the Poor Law Board had absolute control over them. Those Guardians sacrificed much time and money, and obtained very small results so far as keeping down the expenditure was concerned. Local rates might be locally administered; but they were administered under Imperial supervision, for the Home Office and the Poor Law Board were centralizing everything. Their Inspectors were hard taskmasters, and compelled them to make brick without supplying them with straw. The passing of the Law of Settlement and the Union Chargeability Act had destroyed the interest which had formerly proved such an incentive to good local administration and local control. Before the passing of those measures he had had the honour of presiding over a country Union. There were many unemployed who applied to them for relief, and the Guardians never broke up without providing them with work. No doubt it was their interest to do so; but that sort of thing did not occur now, because the Acts he had mentioned had destroyed local interests. What was everybody's interest was nobody's interest. He did not find fault with those Acts, for they might be very good ones in some respects; but he simply stated what had been the effect of them on this point. He had often heard another reason advanced why these exceptional rates had been imposed, and it was that, though the rates had alarmingly increased, the rateable property had increased in the same proportion. But how had that been the case? Had it not been from the investment of the personal property of the landowners and occupiers? Rent was divisible into two parts—there were the natural rent and the artificial rent. The natural rent was the natural produce of the soil, without the money invested in it for improvements; and the artificial rent was the rent obtained from the soil by the investment of capital. But what right was there to tax the personal property or capital, invested in the soil for improvements, at a higher rate than any other personal property was taxed? It was argued that if property was increased the rates ought to be increased also; but he would not admit that land had increased in value ["Oh, oh!"], or, at least, though land in the immediate neighbourhood of large towns had increased in value, the general value of land throughout England had only increased to a very small extent. What had increased in value was house property, and that was what had brought up the rates. In 1867 the proportion of rates upon land was £55,000,000, and of rates upon houses £75,000,000, and during the last 14 years the increase of rates upon land had been £16,000,000, or 15 per cent, and upon houses £28,000,000, or 58 per cent. In the same time there had been an increase of 77 per cent upon professional incomes and personal property. What had been the result of these exceptional taxes upon capital employed, either in agriculture or in the erection of houses? They had simply been a great bar and a heavy discouragement to the investment of capital in either of those interests. Such exceptional rates and taxes tended to paralyze those industries and to alienate capital from either of them. They were taxes upon energy and enterprize, because the investment of capital in either houses or land increased one's rating liability. It was the smallness of the amount of capital invested in land which prevented the resources of the land from being properly developed. Legislation had made it penal to invest capital in land, because capital avoided heavy exactions and exceptional imposts, and being a most sensitive and delicate thing to deal with, it was easily driven abroad. Capital invested in houses or land was put under certain disabilities and disadvantages, such as an exceptional income tax of 12 per cent, and it was thus sentenced to transportation, so that it might do in other countries what it ought to be encouraged to do in this in the way of developing national resources. If a man could get 5 per cent interest on good investments abroad, it was not to be expected that he would invest his money at 2½ per cent at home. But this was, above all, a poor man's question. What was it which improved or deteriorated the condition of the poor man? The amount of capital which was either withdrawn, or which was used in the building of houses or in improving the cultivation of land. Increase of capital so employed meant to the poor man more home-grown food and at a cheaper rate; a greater demand for labour and better wages; less pauperism, and less rates. But if capital were diminished and withdrawn it had a precisely opposite effect, for it led to less home-grown food, a less demand for labour, less wages, more pauperism, and consequently higher rates. Then as to the discouragement to invest money in building, it was impossible to exaggerate the sad and serious consequences which flowed from large families being herded together, as they were at this moment in this great metropolis and in all the large towns of the country. It was a disgrace to us as a nation to see the alleys, courts, and cellars in some parts of London, in which large families were huddled together promiscuously. Was it a matter for wonder, under the circumstances, that immorality, drunkenness, and every species of vice should flourish? Such circumstances could only tend to demoralize the mind and to debilitate the body. In the men the effect was loss of physical power, disease, and untimely death, and in the women it was almost worse—loss of moral and social character; while the effect on the children, as had been truly said, was that they were bred without decency and brought up without shame. Those were the results of the miserable accommodation for the working classes in the large towns of this country; and 50 per cent of the rural population was still crowding into these towns. And now one word as to the conduct of the Government in reference to this subject. He had no desire to reproach them, for he knew they had much to do; but they had given a promise of which he felt bound to remind them. In 1869 he moved for a Royal Commission upon Taxation—for he always felt, and still maintained, that that was the best and most impartial tribunal for the investigation of this question. He had nothing to say against Parliamentary Committees; but it was impossible to keep party out of them. He regretted very much that Commission was not granted; but the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) objected to it on the ground that the Government admitted the grievance and were prepared to deal with it without loss of time; but if they appointed a Commission legislation would be indefinitely postponed. The right hon. Gentleman, therefore, promised to deal with this matter after the Irish Church question had been settled. But what progress had since been made? The Irish Church had been legislated for, and Irish land also; but this question of taxation, instead of making progress, had retrograded. He would not say that the right hon. Gentleman had added insult to injury; but he had added injury to injustice, for only last Session, instead of relieving the ratepayers from their burdens, he had inflicted upon them another rate—the education rate—and still more rates were now contemplated for Parliamentary election expenses, for turnpikes, and for improved sanitary measures. In the same year—the right hon. Gentleman having previously refused a Commission, it was announced in the Queen's Speech that two Bills on the subject, one of them for revising the incidence of rating, had been prepared; but neither of them had yet seen the light. The right hon. Gentleman gave them a Local Taxation Committee that year; but the Committee was so limited in its scope as not to touch the vital question at all. The only matter which that Committee had to deal with was to consider whether it would not be expedient for owners and occupiers to divide the payment of rates. But what remedy was there in that? What boon would such a division afford? There were to be the same charges upon the same persons as were interested before. The right hon. Gentleman was simply shuffling the same old cards, and he only carried the Report of the Committee by his own casting vote as Chairman. The right hon. Gentleman's proposal did not advance the question one atom—it was specious and plausible, but very insidious, for he knew that the owners and occupiers were united upon this question, and that when united they were very strong; but he thought he might throw a bone of contention among them and so divide them. He tried to set them by the ears—he adopted the motto Divide et impera. It had been said that agriculturists were not very intelligent; but surely they were not such asses as to suppose that such a proposition as that would do them any good. His hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk (Mr. C. S. Read) had illustrated the proposal most admirably by saying that it was putting the same burden upon the same donkey, but dividing it into two different parts on the sapient animal's back, so as to induce the donkey to believe that it was very much relieved. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that, partly for convenience and partly from tradition, the main portion of local burdens had been put upon real property, while personal property had borne the main part of Imperial taxation. That course might be convenient; but, as for tradition, did antiquity save the Irish Church, or church rates, which was the oldest of all rates? It was evident that tradition was not of much avail in these matters. But he (Sir Massey Lopes) protested against the right hon. Gentleman's assertion that the balance was evenly adjusted between the taxes paid by personal property, and those borne by real property. He admitted that real property did not pay either probate or legacy duty, and only a mild succession duty, yet it paid other heavy taxes, one of them being the land tax, which was formerly imposed upon personal property as well, though personal property had since managed to shuffle out of it. He maintained, and was prepared to prove, that real property paid quite as much of Imperial taxation as personal property, or, at all events, there was not 1 per cent of difference between them; while it paid, at least, 8 per cent more of local taxation than personal property paid. In conclusion, he ventured to think that every thoughtful, sensible man would admit that our present system, of local taxation was unsound; that it was wholly opposed to all principles of justice, common sense, and equality; that it was full of anomalous inconsistencies and injustices. The owners of real property asked for no favour and for no exemptions. All they asked for was an investigation, and if it were then found that they were not paying their fair quota of taxation they would be quite ready to do so; but if, on the other hand, they were found to be paying too much, they asked in all fairness to have the excess remitted. This was no party question; both sides of the House were equally interested in it; and it was not a question between town and country, for it concerned both alike. They had realized the truth of the maxim laid down by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) in 1853, that the exemption of one man, of one property, or of one class, meant the undue taxation of another. Income from every source ought to be the measure of a man's ability to pay, and should form the basis of all compulsory contributions towards national taxes. Parliament had admitted this principle in the case of the income tax, and they asked that the principle should be extended for the fulfilment of not only all national, but of all Christian duties. Their guiding principles during the last half-century had been those of justice and equality. The House had abolished exemptions and prescriptions, removed anomalies and abuses, and abolished all class and individual interests. He called upon them to extend those principles impartially to every class of the community and to every description of property. He asked the House and the right hon. Gentleman to extend the area of assessment, and enlarge the basis of assessment for national purposes; to reform, revise, and re-adjust upon more equitable principles the system of local taxation. The hon. Baronet concluded by moving his Resolution.


, in seconding the Motion, said, that if any justification were required for the course his hon. Friend was pursuing, it might be found in the concluding paragraph of the Report of the Local Taxation Committee of last year. It was in the following words:— That your Committee are of opinion that the inquiry on which they have been engaged forms only one branch of the general question of local taxation, and that other considerations, besides those which have been submitted to their investigation, should be previously taken into account in any general measure giving effect to the above recommendations. This was his apology for trespassing on the time of the House. The subject was one of considerable magnitude. As far back as 1846 it began to attract the attention of the officers of the Poor Law Board, and surely it was entitled to their increased attention now. Year after year additions were being made—first on one head and then on another—to the already large amount of local taxation. Although his hon. Friend had well nigh exhausted the subject, there was one point to which he wished briefly to advert—namely, the supposed advantage enjoyed by real property with reference to succession duty. It was, no doubt, true, that the rates of succession duty were low, and, therefore, somewhat in favour of the landowners; but it must not be forgotten that the charges on real property, mortgages, &c, were very considerable, and that, consequently, the amount of real property benefited, so to speak, by the succession duty, was greatly reduced. For example, if a man died possessed of real property worth £40,000, and there were charges on it to the extent of £30,000, only £10,000 of real property would come under these favourable conditions with reference to succession duty, the remaining £30,000 being charged immediately at the rates laid down for legacy duty, and, he believed, probate duty. With regard to house property there was another curious anomaly. Take the case, for instance, of a wealthy man who died possessed of a considerable amount of property in ground rents. As far as the ground rents were concerned he would only have to pay succession duty; but when a leaseholder died owning one of these houses he not only paid succession duty, but for some inconceivable reason probate duty also. Therefore he had not so much advantage in regard to houses as the public were apt to imagine. It was obvious that possessors of visible means could be more easily taxed than others whose property could not be readily localized; and the nation at large could not be satisfied that the former paid all they should do until it had been ascertained whether those who ought to contribute to Imperial taxation did their duty in that respect. A remark made last year by the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. W. M. Torrens) forcibly indicated the attitude assumed by a certain portion of the community with reference to real property. He said that he (Mr. W. M. Torrens) made a remark to a noble Lord that those who had large visible properties should take heed how they moved, adding that the Devil was looking over the walls of large properties. He did not wish to retort; but could not refrain from asking whether the Father of all Evil was always absent from the councils of those who made up their returns under Schedule "D?" From the Report of the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, it appeared that 40 per cent of the persons assessed under "D" had understated their income to the extent of 130 per cent, the loss to the revenue under "D" being in the year 1864–5 no less than £57,250,000. The Commissioners very truly remarked— The exemption of one man means extra taxation of another, so that if Schedule D gave its due quota to the revenue we might be relieved of many an unpleasant impost. They added— It must be borne in mind that on lands and houses, on dividends, and on salaries and pensions of public officers, the tax is levied nearly to the utmost farthing. The class to which he belonged, occupiers of property, was subject to very exceptional conditions in the assessment of their property; and he used the word "exceptional" because different systems prevailed in Scotland and in Ireland. As a Member of the Local Taxation Committee, he elicited that in Scotland a tenant may fearlessly, at the commencement of his lease, raise the annual value of the property by improvements, and, according to the law and the practice, the assessment would not be raised until the rent was raised on the termination of the lease. How much of the improvement of Scotch agriculture was due to this practice? He further ascertained that in Ireland the valuation lasted for 14 years, that recent improvements, except buildings, were not assessed to the tenant, and that there were exemptions in favour of draining, agricultural buildings, and reclamations which were not allowed in England. Here, if a man took a farm at a fixed rent, and, by the application of capital, raised the annual value of the land, as soon as the fact came to the knowledge of the assessment committee, his assessment was raised, so that he was fined for making improvements and the assessment assumed a penal form. In his Political Economy, Ricardo said— It must be acknowledged, however, that in the actual state of the poor rates a much larger amount falls on the farmer than on the manufacturer, in proportion to their respective profits; the farmer being rated according to the actual productions which he obtains, the manufacturer only according to the value of the buildings in which he works, without any regard to the value of the machinery, labour, or stock which he may employ. This was high authority in support of the view he took; and what he had said with reference to the occupation of land and the improvement of the soil applied to a very great extent to money spent in building houses for the poor and to works of that nature. He thought he might fairly ask, now that we had such a strong Government, that the question should be no longer dealt with in detail. The supporters of this Motion ought not to be put off with a Bill which did not contain the principles for which they contended; and if full justice could not be done, at any rate, the Government ought to give some of their time, energy, and ability to the consideration of this important question. Country people felt the pressure of the rates more than townspeople, for in the towns rates were wrapped up in rent; and when a landlord levied a distress for rent, the proceeding was all the more obnoxious because rates were substantially included in the rent for which the seizure was made. In the East of London he had known persons in receipt of charitable relief who stood on the books as owing £1 in rates, and this was the class which suffered from the special imposition of rates upon real property. He hoped the Government would do their best to pass a Bill which would not deal with a small part of the question, as last year's did, but which would redress the inequalities and wrongs complained of. He begged to second the Motion before the House.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, inasmuch as many of the existing and contemplated charges on the Local Rates are for National purposes, and that it is neither just nor politic that such charges should be levied exclusively from one description of property (viz. houses and land), this House is of opinion that it is the duty of the Government to inquire forthwith into the incidence of Imperial as well as Local Taxation, and take such steps as shall ensure that every description of property shall equitably contribute to all National burdens."—(Sir Massey Lopes.)


said, the hon. Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) deserved the thanks of owners of real property, and especially those of the agricultural class, for the clear, able, and fearless manner in which he had brought this most important question under the notice of Parliament; and he was perfectly right in stating that there was great discontent among the agricultural classes at the evasion by the owners of personal property of their duty in respect of the payment of rates for objects which were nominally local, but which in reality were national. At the present day agriculturists did not complain of having to compete with the whole world in agriculture, for they were doing so successfully; but they complained that local rates, which were large many years ago, had not been diminished, but had been enormously increased. Let each county tell its own tale of enormous lunatic asylums costing tens of thousands, of prisons costing as much, and of military storehouses, for which the counties received a miserable modicum in the shape of interest; and let each tell, as it soon would be able to do, of rates for educational purposes, of rates for highways consequent on the abolition of turnpikes, and of rates properly levied for election purposes. He was told that to make personal property contribute to these rates was, in reality, revolution; but we were not afraid of revolutions in this country, for we had had several peaceful revolutions within the last 40 years. He maintained, however, that it was no revolution at all to call in personal property to the aid of real property; indeed, it was nothing new in law; for the liability of stock-in-trade and other property of that character to be rated to the relief of the poor was at one time recognized, and especially by one of the clauses of the 14 Charles II., commonly called the Settlement Act. They could not deny that the old landmarks were fast fading away, and they lived under new and altered circumstances. What was expedient, politic, and just, 260 or 300 years ago, he maintained, was inexpedient, impolitic, and unjust in 1871. The truth was, when these taxes were first imposed on land there was very little money and a great deal of land. Now there was a great deal of money and very little land, and he held it to be both just and politic that personal property should be made to contribute to those rates which at present fell almost entirely on real property.


observed that if he were to follow his hon. Friend (Sir Massey Lopes), who had in a manner identified himself with this Motion, and who had introduced the subject with great ability, through the whole of his observations, there were some points on which he might be unable to agree with him; but he was able entirely to approve of the terms of the Motion he had made. It was now three years since his hon. Friend first brought forward the question, and he then had, as a Member of the Government, taken part in the debate. The subject had made great progress since that time; but he could not say that, taking all circumstances into consideration, he was prepared to go much farther than he then stated. He would rather see some practical proposal for dealing with the question on a certain definite basis, and proceeding on the precedents before them in regard to the taxation of the country than plunge into an inquiry of indefinite extent, which must necessarily consume an enormous amount of time. When they considered the variety of important subjects that must necessarily engage the attention of the Government for some time to come, it seemed to him that probably their children's children's time would arrive before the balance would be fairly struck between local and Imperial taxation. Without going into various smaller matters, there were two flagrant and important instances of inequality as regarded local burdens, from which the landed interest now suffered—the cost of the police and of lunatic asylums. As to the police, the Home Office might as well be nominally, as it was in reality, the controlling power of the police; and even if the control of the police were nominally retained in the counties and the boroughs, he saw no reason why the Treasury should not raise their contribution to the cost from one-fourth to one-half, or even two-thirds of the amount. If the present contributions were doubled, it would be an addition to the Vote by Parliament of £300,000 a-year. A similar contribution would provide for one-half of the lunatics in asylums. The obligations laid on parishes in recent times to maintain the lunatic poor in a most expensive manner did not arise in any way out of the old constitutional liability of the land to support the indigent poor. It was an obligation which the humanity of the age required to be undertaken. It had been felt, long since, that this was a burden too heavy for the parish to bear, and therefore the cost of the lunatic poor had, long before the passing of the Union Chargeability Act, been made a Union charge. There seemed nothing contrary to analogy to what had already been done, or to the justice of the case, and it would be a great relief to ratepayers if one-half, at least, of that burden were borne by the Vote in Parliament. Then there might be an extension of the sum paid through the Poor Law Board in aid of the establishment charges of paupers in workhouses. The present Government could raise no objection to that proposal, considering the gigantic strides made last year in favour of a general charge on the whole metropolis. That was a very serious and important change. He did not object to it, and the principle would carry the Government very far, if they were so minded, to extend the very infinitesimal relief now given in aid of local expenditure, and he should cheerfully accord to them any increased portion of central authority they might desire to have for that contribution. He was not afraid of the tyrannizing power of the Poor Law Board so long as it was paid for by contributions of this description. In saying these few words his object was to guard himself, whilst supporting this Motion, from being supposed to desire that this great question should be ripped up, and should pass through years of inquiry.


said, he had referred at some length to this question a few years ago when he made a Motion in regard to the succession duty, and he must say the terms of the Motion of the hon. Baronet (Sir Massey Lopes) were perfectly fair. He sought for inquiry, but did not seek to prejudge the question by the terms of his Motion. The hon. Baronet said he was not afraid of inquiry, and neither was he (Mr. W. Fowler) afraid of it; he should, therefore, have great pleasure in supporting the Motion. But to show how very differently this matter struck different minds, he would read to the House a few lines spoken by no less a person than Mr. Cobden, in 1845, upon this question, when he said that, great as he considered the grievance of the protecting system; mighty as was the grievance of the Corn Laws, the question of taxation presented a blacker record against the landowner than even the Corn Laws. He therefore warned them against the ripping-up of that question. The hon. Baronet did not take Mr. Cobden's warning, and he accepted the hon. Baronet's challenge. That was not a party question, but an Imperial one; and their desire should be to do justice to all classes of the community. He wished they were oftener engaged upon plans for getting rid of rates than for re-distributing them among different classes; but while the country spent more than £100,000,000 a-year on drinks he did not see much chance of their rates diminishing, but rather of their increasing. They had not to consider whether the landlord paid so much, or the tenant so much—the question was, whether the land itself paid more or less than it ought to pay. The hon. Baronet hardly laid stress enough on the different characters of the various kinds of property he had to deal with. There were many crises in a country in which its real property would retain or even increase its value, while some kinds of personal property might entirely disappear. If we had a war with America vast amounts of personal property would vanish as it were in a moment, while real estate would remain almost unaffected in value. The hon. Baronet said the rates were so heavy that a man was not inclined to lay out his capital on land; but a still greater discouragement to the application of capital to the land arose from the character of our laws as to land. The plan of tying up land in strict settlement operated as a greater discouragement of that kind than any rates in the world. If a man was only tenant for life, and subject to all the charges the hon. Baronet had spoken of, how was he to lay out money on the property? He must have a very large surplus income if, as tenant for life, he was to lay out money on cottages that would not pay; whereas if he was an owner in fee simple he could sell part of the estate to improve the rest, or borrow money upon the property. Again, a tenant from year to year had not the inducement he ought to have to expend capital on land; and the reason why rents were higher in Scotland than in England for the same qualities of land, was because the Scotch farmers had the security of leases for what they laid out. The Chandos clause, he believed, had more influence in checking the flow of capital to land than even the local taxation to which it was liable. But his chief ground for supporting that Motion for inquiry consisted in the enormous anomalies connected with our taxation. He took the succession duty as an illustration. The Act imposing it was very remarkable, and he gave its author credit for it as far as it went; but it charged the tenant-in-fee no more than the life-tenant, although the property of the former, taking one case with another, was worth at least double that of the latter. That was a gigantic anomaly in itself, and one involving great injustice. Again, nothing could be more monstrous than the state of the law in reference to the probate duty. On the vast estate spreading around or near that House there was an immense number of leasehold houses of the greatest possible value. All those leaseholds, though heavily taxed for local purposes, paid probate duty, but the reversion paid no additional taxes whatever. Another great anomaly was the mode of assessment. If they assessed a farm, they assessed it at a rate approaching in amount to the whole of the profit made from it; but if a great factory was assessed, it was not assessed in relation to the profit derived from it, nor in general to an amount approaching that profit. There was a want of any kind of principle in the mode of assessment. The case of the railways, again, was one of the greatest injustice in the whole range of our taxation. They taxed a railway locally, and not merely on the agricultural value of the land, but as a profitable trade; and when the shareholder died they made him pay probate and legacy duty, he having also been subject to the carriage duty. The railway debentureholder was to all intents and purposes in the same position as a shareholder, inasmuch as his property was in law personal estate, but he had not to pay a farthing of local taxation, while the railway shareholder paid in an aggravated form. One railway company paid £80,000 a-year of local taxation—equal to a dividend of one-half per cent per annum on its shares. There were many poor people interested in railway companies, as well as rich, and it was the duty of the Government to look into that whole question. There were many of those charges which the hon. Baronet admitted ought to be paid for locally; but the difficulty remained that a man might be living in a neighbourhood, and might get all the benefit of its administration, and of the money spent out of local taxes, but because his property was mere personalty he did not pay. He thought there ought to be a very marked difference between the taxation of realty and personalty; but our system was so full of anomalies that it was high time to consider the whole matter. The man who lived near a public road paid for its maintenance, although he might not possess a vehicle of any kind; while the man who lived perhaps at a distance, but whose heavy carts rendered frequent repairs necessary, paid nothing towards it. This was one result of the abolition of turnpikes. A man complained of having to unbutton his pocket to pay the tolls when they existed, but when they were being swept away no one appeared to remember that a man who, perhaps, did not use the road would have to unbutton his pocket to pay the rate. It was an easy matter for Parliament to lay expenses of this kind upon the rates, but in doing so an injustice was frequently committed. For his own part he did not shrink from the results of this inquiry, whatever they might be. He believed that the future of the landed proprietors in this country was in their own hands, and that they might prosper if they chose. If they got rid of those antiquated laws and customs which discouraged the application of capital to the land, the increase of wealth to the owners of land would be such that even these heavy local taxes would seem as nothing to them. He hoped the Government would see their way to inquire carefully into this whole question and to ascertain whether or not an injustice existed. If the existence of such an injustice was established, hon. Members on the other side of the House might rely upon him, and those who sat near him, to support them in their efforts for its removal. Having pointed out the serious anomalies that existed in our local taxation he should give the Motion his hearty support.


said, he had heard with satisfaction the views of the hon. Member who had just sat down with reference to the subject of the abolition of turnpikes, to which he had always been opposed. He wished to say one word in regard to some remarks which had been made as to the employment of the police in the protection of game. He had had some experience at quarter sessions as to the employment of the police, and he could say that their employment in the protection of game had been so very exceptional as scarcely to be worthy of notice. He could confidently assert that by far the greater majority of cases in which the police were engaged related to the protection of property of very poor people. The mass of the cases which had come before him had been robberies and breaches of the peace. In regard to the comparison which had been made between personal and real property, and the liability of personal property being destroyed, why, the answer to that was that if such property ceased to exist it would cease to be rated. Nobody contended for rating property except according to its value. He thought it quite time that some Motion of this kind should be brought forward to check that unfortunate custom of paying for everything out of the county rates. The word "rates" seemed to excite a totally different feeling from the word "tax" in the public mind. The Chancellor of the Exchequer would shudder at the possibility of putting on 1d. or 2d. on the income tax, and would think that by doing so the stability of the country would be shaken; but an additional 2d. or 3d. to the county rates was thought nothing of. For instance, last year an education rate, imposing an unascertained burden upon the ratepayers, received the sanction of that House; and during the present year it was proposed to throw the election expenses upon them. In his opinion, it had become far more important to guard the rates than the taxes. He also desired to protest against dealing with this case by merely shifting the burdens from the owners to the occupiers. It was his lot to represent a county, which, particularly in the Welsh part of it, contained a great number of small holders, and it would be no relief to have the rates shifted from the owner to the occupier. Suppose a man was both owner and occupier. To tell such a man that he was to be relieved was like telling a man who had formerly paid five shillings that now he was to pay two half-crowns—one out of the right-hand pocket and one out of the left. He wished to make a remark also as to the very expensive machinery employed in collecting rates. He rejoiced that magistrates had been relieved from the odium that had at one time attached to them, in consequence of its being supposed that it was they who imposed the rates; because it was now ascertained that the magistrates were only responsible for 18 or 20 per cent of the rates, the remainder being imposed by statutes over which they had no control. The rate was collected by a very circuitous process. A class of Commissioners came down; they had no interest in the country, but their position as Inspectors and their feelings as such were all enlisted on the side of increased expenditure. There was no controlling power. It was a saying of Sidney Smith, that every man would be a good Samaritan if he had only the oil and the 2d., and a great many of them would be good Samaritans if it were not for the want of the oil and the 2d. They should remember that there was a very artificial distinction between the poor and the rich. He believed a poorer class of men did not exist than the poorer class of ratepayers. He thought it was a remark of Sir Robert Peel, which he had heard quoted in this House by Sir James Graham, that there was not a more miserable class of persons than where the fustian ended and the broad cloth began. He had had the honour, on two occasions, to call attention to the case of the Board of Commissioners of Lunacy. Now, what was that Board? To whom were they responsible? Were they under the control of the Home Office? They did not seem to be under the control of the Poor Law Commissioners. All their action was in the direction of great expense; and he, for one, was not able to perceive any great benefit derived from them in the matter with which they were connected. Without pledging himself to all the details in the statement of the hon. Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes), he still concurred in his Motion. Whatever might be said in regard to local expenses and local management, responsibility for the expenditure should rest where it ought to rest — on those who had the control over it. It should not rest on those who had no control.


said, the hon. Baronet had discussed a most important question in such an admirable spirit that he disarmed criticism as to that part of his speech with which he (Mr. White) did not concur. The hon. Baronet told the House that he wanted a Select Committee, and that that Committee was to investigate and report, regardless of consequences — that was to say, the hon. Baronet was quite prepared to accept its decision, whether it proved that the owners of real property would be benefitted by the present system being continued, or damaged by any recommended alteration. His (Mr. White's) main object in speaking was to refer to the Imperial taxation. They had had Committees on every imaginable subject, and there had hardly been anything that had not been deemed worthy to engage the attention of a Committee of that House, except that most important subject which involved so many interests, and which it fell peculiarly to a household-suffrage Parliament to consider—namely, the incidence of taxation, and what means should be devised for its being equitably assessed. The hon. Baronet had dealt at very great length with that portion of his subject which related to local taxation; but, seeing that the local taxation of the country amounted only to 16s. per head of the population, and that the Imperial taxation amounted to 49s. 3d. per head of the population, it was evident that the most important part of the subject related to the Imperial taxation. There was much more dissatisfaction prevailing with regard to Imperial than with regard to local taxation. He could not help believing that there was a bitter feeling in the popular mind as to the inequality of our taxation. It was not believed that everyone contributed to the cost of the Government in proportion to the revenue which he enjoyed under its protection, and that furnished an argument for the Committee which had now been moved for. He thought that such a Committee would knock away and get rid of a vast amount of popular delusion and current misconception which obtained as much among the upper as among the lower classes in reference to taxation. There were some who believed that the lower classes, owing to the late remissions of taxation, did not pay their proportion to the general fund; while, on the other hand, it was alleged by those who had looked into the subject carefully, that the working classes still paid a very much larger proportion than they ought to pay. He (Mr. White) had arrived at the same conclusion. Even with the diminished duties they were now paying upon sugar and tea, he found that, for the year ending the 31st of March last, the vast sum of £38,300,000 was derived from the custom and excise duties on the six articles mainly consumed by the working classes—namely, sugar, tea, coffee, malt, spirits, and tobacco; that total of £38,300,000 was £11,500,000 more than the whole amount of the interest on the National Debt; and, from that fact, he considered it obvious that the working classes still paid a greater proportion of the taxation than ought to be their fair share. There were a great many points on which he should like information. If a Select Committee were appointed, he should like to know how it came to pass that the succession duty, which was introduced in 1853, had not yielded the sum that was then expected from it. The right hon. Gentleman the present Prime Minister then told the House of Commons that he quite counted on deriving £2,000,000 per annum from that duty. His estimate was thought ludicrously low, and Lord Cairns, and other great authorities, averred that £4,000,000 would be obtainable from it. But the average sum which had been derived from that tax during the last 16 years was only £620,000 per annum. It was a puzzle to him to know how the Government of the day, with all the information before them, had made such a mis-estimate of the proceeds of the succession duty. It might be that this small average arose from the vast charges and incumbrances with which landed property was generally burdened; and, if this were so, the time must soon come when an Encumbered Estates Court for England would be as beneficial as it had proved in Ireland. Another anomaly requiring explanation was to be found in connection with the house duty. This duty contributed £987,000 in the year 1866, of which sum — according to the detailed Return for that year — the county of Radnor paid £175, Merioneth £329, and Rutland only £473. The house duty paid on farmhouses also presented some curious discrepancies calling for explanation. This particular duty of 6d. in the pound of rental, realized in the year 1866 a total sum of but £13,940 17s. 6d., of which the county of Anglesea contributed 10s., Cardigan rose to the sum of £1, Pembroke gave £2 12s. 6d., Westmoreland £4 12s. 6d., Cornwall £9 8s., and Cumberland £14 2s. With regard to the probate duty the present Prime Minister told the House 17 years ago, that the long-continued and anomalous exemption of landed property from probate duty ought to be considered at a very early day, notwithstanding which declaration, after this lapse of years, that which many people believe to be a very glaring injustice was still in existence.


thought that the present system of local government was a very bad one. We had the evils of centralization without its benefits. Within the last 35 years we had entirely revolutionized our system of parochial taxation. We had abolished every parochial officer, some of those offices having existed since the days of King Alfred. He would begin with the overseer. The overseer was virtually put aside under the new Poor Law, but the new guardian was the guardian of the parish till we got the Union Chargeability Act, and now he was no longer guardian of the parish, but of the Union. We still had in some districts the parochial surveyor, but his death warrant was signed by the Home Secretary, and the new waywarden, if he understood rightly, would not be the waywarden of the parish, but simply the waywarden of the highway district. Then there was the old parish constable, who was always to be found, but was never of any use when he was found. We had in exchange for him the rural policeman, who, though he might be some good when he was found, was never to be found when he was wanted. The only parochial officer who was not abolished was the parson, and he had received notice to quit from the junior Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall), and it only required some "bold" man to endorse this and carry it into effect. He would not say whether all this was for weal or woe, but for what purpose was it? To make local taxation more uniform, and to increase Government responsibility and Government power. He agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for South Devon that we had come to a perfect chaos. We had got a regular system of patchwork. Parliament was constantly creating some new Board, with some great central authority in London; there was no order, no system, and one district was constantly overlapping another. There was one area for the Poor Law, another for highways, another for justices, another for taxes, another for education, and we were going to have another for election expenses. Sometimes we had two Boards pretending to have authority over the same matter; but very generally, when there was any particular nuisance to be abated, each put in a plea that it had no authority. He feared we were gradually drifting into the centralization of France, where, if he was informed rightly, they could not repair a parish pump without a correspondence with the Minister at Paris. In America they managed things differently, and there the system of local administration was better carried out. The House had heard, and no doubt would hear again in the course of the debate, that with larger contributions from the Imperial Exchequer, we should have lavish local expenditure. But the Government had the power to interfere and dictate now, and he, for one, should be very glad, provided they only paid, if they were to increase their authority. But now we had Cabinet Ministers presiding over great central Departments; we had Inspectors without end, Commissioners, Commissions, Government officials, and all sorts of secretaries, and there was the extraordinary mania of bringing everything to London. His hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgowshire was of opinion that the parochial education of Scotland, which was the very best in the world, was about to be interfered with, if not destroyed, in order to bring it into that muddled vortex, the Privy Council in London. Therefore, with all this increase of Government influence we had the loss of local power, and did not get any more pay on that account. The Government contributed last year only 1–26th of the poor and county rate. Taking the poor rate as far as regarded the relief of in-door paupers, the President of the Poor Law Board was omnipotent. He directed the diet, clothing, discipline, and even punishment of the paupers; and although he believed the metropolitan guardians were sometimes a little obstreperous, he did not know an instance in the counties in which the orders of the Poor Law authorities had been disobeyed, except one, when the Inspector told the guardians that they had better paper their boardroom instead of colouring it. With regard to out-door relief, he endorsed everything that had been said by the hon. Member for South Devon. The authority of the guardians was limited to whether an old woman should have 2s. 6d. or 3s., and whether the doctor's salary should be £30 or 30 guineas. As for the quarter sessions, it was a solemn farce. The idea of the ratepayers was that the magistrates there were very big men, who had ample power to do just as they pleased, and inflict upon them all sorts of burdens. But what were they but the humble and obedient servants of the Home Secretary? The Home Secretary told them exactly what to do, and if they did not do it he would not give them the Government allowance. His hon. Friend had mentioned the case of lunatic asylums. The way in which they were managed was incredible and perplexing. First of all, there were the magistrates in quarter sessions, who were not elected by the ratepayers; they appointed a visiting committee which had their own clerk, who sent out orders to the Unions as to the contributions they were to mate. Anyone would imagine that the visiting committee had very large powers; they had no power at all, except to spend what the Commissioners of Lunacy told them, and these gentlemen were constantly coming down, airing their different crotchets, putting the counties to some new expense every year, and though he admitted there were more cures than there used to be, the relapses, also, were very much more numerous than before. The fact was, the paupers were so well off in the asylums, so luxuriously fed and housed, that when they got back to the hard usage and poor fare of their cottages, the malady returned with redoubled, force. It was most pleasant and instructive to see how one Government Department helped another. There was in Prince's Street, Westminster, an offshoot of the Privy Council which caused farmers in the country an immense deal of annoyance and expense. Those gentlemen found that they could not insist upon the counties appointing veterinary surgeons as cattle inspectors, some wishing, wrongly he thought, to employ a rural police. But down came the Home Secretary and said—"You shall not employ the police for such a purpose," and thus if one Department failed another immediately stepped in and carried out the orders. He was going now to make a quotation—a thing which he hoped he should never do again—from the greatest of living philosophers, Mr. John Stuart Mill. He did it with fear and trembling, because other gentlemen who had followed Mr. Mill's recent writings would in all probability say that what seemed to him unanswerable had been entirely disproved by some recent essay. The quotation consisted of two lines taken from his Political EconomyA peculiar tax on the income of any class, not balanced by taxes on other classes, is a violation of justice and amounts to partial confiscation. Apply that doctrine to local rates. First, with regard to real property, there were dockyards, barracks, custom houses, Royal domains, mines, woodlands, &c., forming a long list of exemptions from local taxation. Then there was the immense and greatly increasing mass of personalty, whose proper local burden was cast upon a portion of the realty of the country. His hon. Friend had told the House plainly what real property was rated to. He would not go over the ground again, but would just mention that only last night his noble Friend Lord Kimberley introduced in the House of Lords a most excellent measure for regulating the diet and lodging of vagrants. Now, what in the world had real property to do with vagrants, that it should be saddled with the cost of their diet and lodging? Assuredly, vagrants were not likely to run away with household fixtures, or to take away any portion of the soil. He should fancy that personal property would be much more likely to be pilfered, injured, or destroyed by them. Had hon. Gentlemen contrasted the rates raised from real property with the burden of the income tax? Last year the Revenue raised by property and income tax was 1–60th of the property assessed. The revenue raised, by rates was one-fifth, according to his hon. Friend; he would put it at one-sixth. Local taxation was a second crushing income tax, falling frequently upon persons and properties least able to bear it. The House had been told that the heavy burdens upon land were counterbalanced by its exemption from Imperial taxes, but Mr. Cobden's warning was uttered when the land had special privileges and could bear special burdens. Land, escaped in a measure, legacy and probate duty. But take the case of two men, aged 21, one of whom was left an estate valued at £10,000, from which he derived an income of £300 a-year, and the other, £10,000 in cash. The latter would pay £100 legacy duty and £200 probate, making £300, while the former would, if his estate were clear, pay only 50 guineas for succession duty. That might be said to be a gross case of inequality, leaving £250 to the debit of the man who inherited the cash. But, assuming that the first man paid rates to the moderate amount of 2s. 9d. in the pound, upon his assessment of £300, he would, in 30 years, pay £1,200, so that, instead of paying £250 less, he would have paid £950 more than the other to whom the cash was bequeathed. But, suppose he improved his estate, and borrowed £2,000 to improve it with, he would then have to pay 4 per cent for the money, and 2s. 9d. in the pound on the annual value of these improvements as long as he lived. Take the case of the farmers. In spite of all the promises made when free trade was passed, they had not been relieved from one single burden. Almost all their exemptions had, indeed, been taken away, such as the taxes on shepherds' dogs, and riding horses, and fire insurance. Last year the last rag of protection was swept away in the shape of the 1s. duty on corn, and the farmers were then called upon to pay 10s. a-piece for their crow guns. He had heard it said that the farmers enjoyed an immunity from income tax because they paid under Schedule B on half their rent and tithes. That was done because it was known they hated trouble, and would rather pay a good round sum than keep accounts. He believed that in Scotland, where rents were high, the farmers paid on one-third of their rent; while in Ireland, where the rents were extremely low, they paid, for some Hibernian reason, the same as in Scotland. Take the case of arable land in England. If the farmer paid 35s. an acre for rent and tithes, 10 per cent on £8 10s., supposing that to be his capital, would be 17s. Half his rent would be 17s. 6d., and upon that he would be charged property tax. Notwithstanding Mr. Mechi's agricultural romances, as he might call them, about the profits of farming, he (Mr. Read) had never been able to make 10 per cent for two consecutive years on the money he employed in agriculture, and if he had had to pay income tax on his profits during the last three years, he should have paid considerably less than nothing. One thing was certain, that if this alteration were made the farmers would be obliged to keep better accounts. Agriculturists were at present exempt from the duty on cart-horses. Any such impost, if attempted to be levied, would be a tax on the motive power employed in agriculture, and if cart-horses were taxed it would be impossible to resist the inference that the motive power employed in manufactures ought to be taxed as well. Mr. Cobden said that— It would be impossible, and if it were possible it would be most unjust, to retain the malt tax after the Corn Laws were repealed. His hon. Friend, who came from a cider producing district, had said nothing about the malt tax, but the growers of barley felt the pressure of this tax very heavily. They had sold this year their barley at 32s. a quarter, and it was taxed 22s. by the revenue officer directly it went out of their possession. Some Linconshire gentlemen contended that the malt tax was no great burden; but he only wished the Government would put a tax of 60 per cent on woollen yarn, the produce of the county of Lincoln. He should like to know whether the Lincolnshire sheep-farmers would then be able to get as much money for their wool. Look at the transfer of the hop duty from the hop grower to the manufacturer. The result had been that the grower had pocketed almost all the duty, and had sold his hops at the same rate as if he had had to pay the duty. A fair inquiry would show how the malt duty and local taxation pressed upon the agricultural interest, and he sincerely hoped Her Majesty's Government, after his hon. Friend's Motion had been so generally supported on both sides of the House, would grant the request contained in the Resolution.


said, that having given considerable attention to this subject, he had arrived at an opposite conclusion to the hon. Member (Sir Massey Lopes). Many of his statements would not be borne out upon investigation; but if the hon. Baronet, leaving out the declaratory words of his Motion, had moved for a Committee of Inquiry into the incidence of Imperial and local taxation, and the best means to insure a proper adjustment of the same, he would have been supported by the Members on his (the Ministerial) side of the House, irrespective of their connection with commerce or land. The hon. Gentleman had quoted Mr. Dudley Baxter's paper read before the Statistical Society; but his calculations had by no means been accepted by the members of the society. They were totally unsupported, and he regarded the paper as belonging to the romance of statistics.


said, he did not recollect any former occasion on which a subject had been debated for so long a time with so much unanimity as to the expediency of adopting a particular course. He hoped the Government would grant a Committee of Inquiry in compliance with the evident wish of both sides of the House. He grounded, however, his anticipation that the Government might refuse the inquiry demanded, upon a remark which on Monday night fell from the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, that the Motion might as well be let alone, because, as the right hon. Gentleman hinted, the Government were prepared to bring in a Bill upon the question. With all deference to Her Majesty's Government, whether a Bill was ready or not, that was no reason why an inquiry should not take place. The question was one which, in his opinion, was hardly ripe for legislation. His hon. Friend who made the present Motion (Sir Massey Lopes), and those who thought with him, made allegations which went to the root of the whole principle of our financial policy, and how, he would ask, were these allegations to be disposed of except by careful investigation before a Committee? While supporting the Motion of his hon. Friend, he was aware that there were difficulties to contend with in reaching exempted property arising from the limited terms of the statute of Elizabeth, the only one existing on the subject, and from the limited construction which custom had put upon that statute. The Courts held that, in order to be rateable, property must combine certain qualifications. It must be visible, productive, and situate within the parish. The moment they wanted to rate personalty, even if they succeeded in laying hold of it, they met the greater and insuperable difficulty of allocating the produce. This was the great difficulty that arose in dealing with personal property for the purposes of parochial taxation. But these were questions which they wanted to discuss. They wanted to meet this difficulty, and he could see no means of doing it except by an exhaustive inquiry before a Committee. This was a reason, and a strong reason, in favour of the Motion of his hon. Friend. He would venture also to express an opinion that they must proceed with great caution. For his own part, he was not prepared to go so far, or anything like so far, as his hon. Friend. He was rather, he must confess, alarmed at the possible consequences of carrying this matter to its legitimate issue for rating purposes. One of the first things that met the eye when they came to deal with personal property was stock-in-trade. Farm stock had never, since the early part of the reign of Queen Anne, in 1706, been held by the Courts liable to rating. Stock-in-trade on the other hand was liable under the general law and was only exempted by an Act annually renewed; but if they declared that stock-in-trade was liable to rates, why should they continue the exemption of farm stock? And if farm stock were taxed, there would be an interference with the profits of the farmer which must immediately re-act on rents. These were matters that must not escape notice; and, therefore, he said, let them be very cautious how they proceeded in this matter. Their objects were very deep-rooted, and they went to the whole basis of our financial system. He had heard this question discussed out-of-doors with great ability, and he never heard an answer attempted to be given to the simple question, why real property, houses and land only, should be subjected to the whole weight of local taxation? He hoped it would receive an answer that evening. They went further. There was no mistake so great and so mischievous in finance as to tax one industry at the expense of another, because the inevitable effect would be that they artificially stimulated and encouraged the untaxed industry and proportionately prevented the application of capital to the taxed industry. These were broad accusations against our system of finance, and he wanted to find out how those errors and injustices were allowed to exist. There was another word of caution which he would like to utter. His hon. Friend (Mr. C. S. Read) who spoke earlier in the debate looked with natural dread at the increase of central authority. Now, he was very much afraid that if they set themselves to work to include personalty within the area of rating—in fact, to levy a parochial income tax, because it would be nothing else—the same machine that was employed to collect the Imperial income tax would be employed to collect the other tax, and the Treasury would not be justified in advancing sums of money in aid of rates without exercising a supervision over the expenditure of them. But, then, were they to have a representative of the Poor Law Board sitting in every Union in the kingdom? Because he was very much afraid that their cherished principles of self-government would be assailed, and a vast increase of central authority would ensue. He was quite sure of this—that if they wished to extend rating to all the property in the kingdom, they might do it; but they would lose a large amount of the power to govern themselves. He was very much afraid also that, unless they proceeded with great caution in promoting an exact uniformity and equality, they might do a very great injustice to a class of incomes which they ought to treat very tenderly—the industrial incomes. They had been told that there ought to be a graduated income tax; but the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had always set himself against that principle. But it appeared to him (Mr. Liddell) that unless they were very careful they would be doing injustice in attempting to obtain uniformity and equity. Therefore, let them be cautious in what they did. Let them take care that in seeking to remove one sort of injustice they did not create another; that in trying to remove one evil they did not produce a worse. What he thought they ought to seek, and what was the most easy and practical mode of dealing with the question, was a classification of rates. He hoped that the Government Bill would deal with the question—what portion of the rates was applicable to national purposes as distinguished from the purely local purposes. It appeared to him, upon the best and most careful consideration he could give to this most difficult subject, that this was the direction in which relief might be given in the most unobjectionable manner. If they came to a rate-in-aid the Government would require a supervision; but the principle was already acted upon with regard to the maintenance of the police. So that it was not a new principle; it was a practical principle, the application of which could be fairly and properly controlled by the central authority. There was one other point to which he would like to allude. It struck him as one of the most remarkable features in the debate, that the hon. Baronet had said it was a poor man's question; and the statement was received with something like ironical observations by the Treasury Bench. He (Mr. Liddell) said it was essentially a poor man's question; because, travelling into the large towns of the kingdom, the ratepayer was found in the poor occupier of the poor houses, and the remarkable circumstance was this—that the poorer the parish, and the nearer the inhabitants of the parish were to the verge of pauperism, the higher were the rates and the less the means which they had to meet the demands made upon them. His hon. Friend was then justified in saying that it was a poor man's question, and it was in that light that he (Mr. Liddell) wished to look upon it. He did not venture to advise the Government; but he hoped that they would not attempt to shirk this question. It had been discussed throughout the length and breadth of the land with great ability, with great intelligence, and with clear-sighted views, it had assumed an imposing aspect, not by declamation, not by hustings speeches, but in the calm intelligence of the people of England brought to bear on it, and it would be not only unwise, but it might even be dangerous for Parliament to attempt to trifle with it.


said, the hon. Member who had just spoken had properly pointed out that upon a certain portion of the Motion of the hon. Baronet considerable unanimity prevailed, the feeling on both sides of the House being that the Government should take steps to insure "that every description of property shall equitably contribute to all National burdens." In that portion of the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Government coincided. The second point in the hon. Baronet's Motion was, that it was the duty of the Government to inquire forthwith into the incidence of Imperial as well as Local taxation. The hon. Baronet had not moved for a Committee; he said it was the duty of the Government to inquire. He (Mr. Goschen) would reply that the Government recognized that duty, and if there had been more delay than had been agreeable to the House in communicating to it every statement and every figure that could throw light on the subject, it had been because the inquiry had been most intricate, and that the Government had been most anxious that the results should be perfectly accurate. At this moment, they had statements showing with regard to every tax how it was divided between various sorts of property and various classes of taxpayers. The Government had collected from foreign countries the information to which he alluded last year. The work was not one that could be performed in a day. The Government said that instead of appointing a Royal Commission, they would do the work themselves; and he submitted that the Government had redeemed its pledge, and would lay before the House the whole of the information they had promised to procure. The question before the House was this—Did the country wish the Government to speak or to act? Did the House wish the Government to inquire or to legislate? The Government believed that it was their duty to legislate on the subject; and accordingly hon. Members in the House were aware that in the gracious Speech from the Throne it was announced that the re-adjustment of local burdens was one of the matters with which the Government were willing to deal during the present Session. Did the House wish the Ministerial measure to be deferred till further inquiry should be made? Or did they wish the Government to take the course which, in obedience to the feelings of the country and their own convictions, they felt it their duty to take—namely, to deal at once with the subject of local rating, and see whether they could not, by a comprehensive measure, inaugurate a new era in the country in the history of this vexed question? That was the ambition and the plan of the Government. Liberal Members would judge whether, in their attempts at legislation, the Government had been afraid to legislate in a comprehensive manner. Was it the wish of the House that further inquiries should be prosecuted, and further facts elicited by the appointment of a Committee, which was to consume the Session in inquiry, instead of allowing the Government to remedy at once some of the grievances which they were prepared to acknowledge? He might claim to be not an opponent, but a competitor of the hon. Baronet who had introduced this Motion. Whether the hon. Baronet or he himself, in the first instance, called the attention of the House to this subject he did not remember; but it was one in which he took as deep an interest as the hon. Baronet did. To him, therefore, it would, he confessed, be a disappointment if the House, instead of allowing the Government to produce their Bill on local rating, should relegate the duty to a Committee upstairs. What would be the position of the question before a Committee? Did the House really wish that all matters connected with local and Imperial finance should be decided by a Committee, where the absence of one or two Members might cause the entire difference as to whether the decision was given in one direction or in the other? Select Committees were constituted by choosing 11 Members from one side of the House and 10 from the other; and though the 11 Members might represent the overwhelming opinion of the House, they might be outvoted by the accidental absence of two of their number, and financial doctrines might be laid down at which the Liberal party would stand aghast. There were many arguments against such a composition of Committees and in favour of a larger representation of the majority of the House; but, generally, did hon. Members wish the question of the share of taxation which ought to be borne by land, houses, and other sorts of property to be decided in the first instance by a Committee up-stairs? The Mover of the Resolution had made a most able speech; and he tendered to the hon. Baronet his most hearty congratulations. He wished also to apologize for having indulged in merriment when the hon. Baronet said that the high rating of land had alienated capital from the soil. It was "a penal tax;" and the hon. Baronet was afraid that capitalists might were prevented by it from seeking an investment in land in this country, and that capital was driven abroad. Now, was that the experience of hon. Members with regard to the purchase of land? ["Yes!"] Against such an opinion he would place the experience of anyone who had ever tried to buy a piece of land. [An hon. Member: To farm it.] Well, but did farmers pay the rates, or owners? Was it industry or property which paid them? If the farmer paid the rates, they fell on his personal property, and must be deducted from any estimate of rates borne by owners. This fallacy underlay the whole of the hon. Baronet's arguments. He said it was not politic that local charges should be levied exclusively on one description of property; but he really meant two—houses and land. [Sir MASSEY LOPES: Real property.] But were houses and land one description of property, and would hon. Members opposite contend that the same principles applied to both? Several hon. Gentlemen had quoted Ricardo and Mill. They would find in those authorities that taxes on a house differed entirely from taxes on land. A house involved far more capital than improvements on land; and in proportion as this was so, taxes fell more heavily on houses than on land. He disputed the proposition that the rate on houses and the rate on land were the same; for the land remained, and houses decayed. He could produce an excellent witness in proof of the truth of that assertion—namely, the hon. Baronet himself, who, in bringing forward his Motion last year, admitted that the occupiers paid a considerable portion of the local rates; but did the hon. Baronet make any deduction on that account when he came to speak of the rate on the owners? The hon. Baronet had naturally confined himself principally to the question of land, but the Government must also consider the question of houses, before legislating on the subject. It might be true that the owners of property had to bear more than their fair share of taxation, and it might be true that the occupiers of houses were also paying more than their fair share; and the Government was bound to examine closely what was the position of the various classes of ratepayers, of owners of property, of farmers, of occupiers of houses, of ground landlords, and others; and, looking into their cases, especially to ascertain what their real grievances were, and not to allow themselves to be carried away by the arguments of the hon. Baronet, who argued that the burdens on land were intolerable, and in support of his proposition quoted the vast amount of rates with which land had nothing to do, but which were imposed on the occupiers of houses. He did not wish at that hour of the evening to follow the hon. Baronet through all his interesting details; but while he congratulated him on all that he had said, he congratulated him still more on what he had left unsaid. The hon. Baronet had given certain years as examples; but he had omitted all reference to other years equally in point, and which would have shown a very different result. The hon. Baronet spoke of the local taxation of the country as amounting to £30,000,000, and quoted him (Mr. Goschen) as the authority for that statement; but what he said was that the local expenditure for local purposes was £30,000,000, and of that sum £16,500,000 or £17,000,000 only was raised by rates, the remainder being raised by such as fees, dues, tolls, and from various other sources. He should, therefore, be sorry for the House to be under the impression that as regards rates the sum raised was £30,000,000. That would be a totally delusive notion. The hon. Baronet said that last year the amount of expenditure on poor relief had fallen, in consequence of the decrease in the price of corn. Certainly that was the case, because in the year before it had increased in consequence of the increase in the price of corn. With respect to the poor rates, he rejoiced to say that it seemed that the turning point had arrived, and, unless the House should take the dangerous step of supplementing the poor rates by a grant from the Consolidated Fund, there might be some hope of the poor rates being reduced. But he was quite sure that no step was more certain to increase our expenditure in poor relief than if they were to open the floodgates of the Consolidated Fund, for such a course would damage not only their Poor Laws, but also injuriously affect many other institutions of the country. [A laugh.] He did not know whether the hon. Gentleman was laughing at his argument; if so, he was sorry, because he was certain that greatest possible danger lurked in the administration of our Poor Laws. He had been rejoiced to hear that night from the hon. Baronet, and from two hon. Members opposite connected with agriculture, and most competent to speak on this question, that they were opposed to a large administration of out-door relief. It amounted to £3,500,000 out of the total of £7,500,000 expended in poor relief, and it was fully time that attention was called to the great increase that had taken place in it; but the House must remember that it was administered without any central authority, and that the Poor Law Board continually felt it to be their duty to repress that expenditure as far as lay in their power, though it was often a difficult task in the face of the opposition of Boards of Guardians. If, however, the House would support the Government in opposing the dangerous tendency to give out-door relief, he hoped that a serious reduction might be made in this expenditure. Surely that was a better course than that they should continue to look more and more to the Consolidated Fund, and increase the aggregate which was raised year after year by the tax collectors of the country. Several hon. Members had spoken of the odious character of tax collectors, and he perfectly concurred with those who said it would be infinitely easier to raise money locally than Imperially. He thought that the House would commit a grave political error were it to add to the amount of the sums annually voted by that House. Many countries had been in danger from the condition of their national finances, but none, to his knowledge, from that of their local finances. Before the Assessed Taxes Act passed, the rate-collectors of London used to find it necessary to take out 5,000 or 6,000 summonses against defaulters. That never created any public excitement; but if, instead of being the collectors of local rates, they had been the collectors of Imperial taxes, it might have been a source of political danger. The proper way of dealing with this question was to determine what were local charges, and, if it appeared that the present mode of raising local taxation was unfair then to see that it was remedied. There was, however, no logic in saying that because the present system of raising money might be inequitable, therefore the local expenditure should be made a national charge. Considering that the Government contemplated introducing a Bill upon this subject, he was really fighting the question with his hands tied, for he surely could not be expected to anticipate the introduction of that measure by fully explaining the views of the Government on the subject. But he was happy in being able to state that some of those who had addressed the House had warmly endorsed some of the provisions of the proposed Government measure, which actually embodied the suggestions they had made. The hon. Baronet, in placing an analysis of local taxation before the House, first raised the £16,000,000 to £20,000,000, and having done that he divided it into two parts, one of £12,000,000 for Imperial purposes, and the other of £8,000,000 for local requirements, and he took the years 1776 and 1839, and compared them with the year 1869. But, why did he do so?


said, he took 1776 because it was the only year which afforded trustworthy statistics at that period.


remarked that the hon. Baronet had not stated why he had chosen the year 1839.


said, because he thought it would best elucidate his argument by taking 30 years and then 10 years, showing the increase in 30 years and also the increase in 10 years.


said, no doubt it was a very convenient way of dealing with the subject by decades, because a few years forward or backward would make the results perfectly different. But if the hon. Baronet had taken the year 1829, or, still better, 1819, what a beautiful year it would have been; and if he had taken 50, 40, 30, or 20 years, he would have found many years when the poor rates were as high as now, and when they were borne by property not worth half its present value. And he would further have found that land had, in the progress of time, been gradually relieved from rates which would have staggered the House by their magnitude; and that, in fact, landed property at the earlier period of the century was infinitely more heavily burdened than now; and if he had pursued his inquiry a little further he would have discovered whether it was in the agricultural or in the urban counties that the greatest increase in rates had taken place. The hon. Baronet had referred to Militia storehouses and registration of births and deaths.


said, there were 100 Militia storehouses in his own county (Devonshire).


said, he would come presently to the case of Devonshire, and a very interesting county it was. He was about, when he was interrupted, to refer to these small additions to the county rate, in comparison with the concessions which the landed proprietors in counties received from Sir Robert Peel in 1846, in anticipation of losses which they never sustained; and, as the hon. Baronet had placed those items before the House, he (Mr. Goschen) would place before it other items. It was true, as had been stated by him, that, compared with some years, there had been an increase of £8,000,000 in the rates up to that time. There were years when they were £10,000,000 and even £12,000,000, but he would take them at a time when they were £8,000,000, when the local rates were not so numerous, and to a considerable extent of a different character. There was the old historical poor rate which was a great blot upon the country. There was the sewers rate, dating so far back as Henry VIII., and there was the county rate, of which the hon. Baronet so much complained; but side by side with these there had grown up rates of which no notice had been taken that night, borough rates, local improvement rates, and sanitary rates in towns. The first dated from 1836, but did not come into force to any extent till 1841. Then in 1848 and 1858 the Public Health Act and Local Government Acts were passed, under which various sums were raised in boroughs and towns, and it was a remarkable fact that, of the £8,000,000 increase referred to by the hon. Baronet, £5,000,000 were due to town rates, raised in the small towns as well as in the large and improving cities of the Empire. ["Hear, hear!"] He was delighted to find they were agreed on those points, because he was not opposed to the House dealing with local taxation. In fact, the Government were prepared to deal with it, and there was a Bill ready upon the subject to be introduced directly the business of the House would allow it to be done. It was necessary, however, that the House should thoroughly understand where the shoe pinched. It would not do to lump all the rates together, and exclaim against their increase all over the country. Let the House ascertain what it was that caused an increase of rates, and supply a remedy where the grievance was the greatest. Let all interests be fairly considered; but let them discriminate between them, and see where the greatest grievance lay. The increase of £5,000,000 had occurred in the towns, but when the hon. Baronet spoke of charging some of the expenditure for local purposes upon the Consolidated Fund, he spoke of taxes connected with the county rate which fell upon the owner of land. ["No, no!"] The hon. Baronet continually used the words "owner of land."


said, he used the words "real property" when speaking of land, and he never intended to draw any distinction between houses and land.


said, the hon. Baronet was perfectly right not to draw any distinction between houses and land; if he had done so he would have found his argument soon fail him. If the taxation upon real property were divided into two portions it would be found that the rates had increased infinitely more upon houses than upon land. ["Hear, hear!"] He rejoiced that where he expected difference of opinion he had found unanimity. He was glad to find it admitted that the case of houses was infinitely stronger than the case of land. That was a point which he would beg hon. Members to bear in mind. He had still £3,000,000 more of increased taxation to account for. Was that to be traced to increased burdens on the owners of land? In towns these rates were generally paid by the occupiers, and when the hon. Baronet said the interests of the occupier and the owner were identical, he (Mr. Goschen) should like to know the views of the London ratepayers on that point. In the case of land, it would make comparatively little difference whether the owner or the occupier paid the duty in the long run. He said "in the long run" and not "in the short run," because there was most certainly a time when it would make a great difference to the farmers whether they had to pay in the first instance or not. And the hon. Member had, indeed, been delightfully candid upon the point. He said—"If you separate the farmers from the owners of land we shall not be able to oppose you as we do now." Now, he had to account for £8,000,000. Of this amount, £5,000,000 were due to the borough rates and improvements in towns, £2,000,000 of which were due to the metropolis alone. The next item was an increase of £2,000,000 in the poor rate; but had that rise fallen upon the houses or upon land? Out of that £2,000,000, £1,600,000 was due to 150 urban Unions, and the balance only of £400,000 was due to the 500 rural Unions in the country. The lion's share, therefore, evidently fell upon the unfortunate towns. No doubt these towns had, as regards general rates, their improvements by way of compensation, and the greater portion of these rates had been deliberately incurred; but this circumstance did not affect the fact that they bore the burden. He had thus accounted for £7,000,000 out of the £8,000,000, and had £1,000,000 still left to account for. Of that £1,000,000, £500,000 was due to the rural police. And he would now ask whether hon. Gentlemen opposite agreed with the hon. Baronet who had brought forward this Motion, in believing that it would be better if the direction of the police were taken out of the hands of the local authorities? There might be arguments in favour of such a change; but he believed that, if deliberately proposed, it would not receive the sanction of Parliament. He believed three-fourths of the hon. Gentlemen opposite would vote against relieving the counties and municipalities from the responsibility at present resting upon them. Moreover, did hon. Members think that if this were done the county magistrates would occupy their present position? What, too, would become of the quarter sessions? And though the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. C. S. Read) had spoken in no very handsome terms of quarter sessions, still they were a part of our local administration, and would have to be reviewed when our system of local administration came to be reviewed. Well, there remained now but £500,000 to account for, and this was due to the same class of modern rates to which he had before alluded. He could easily run through the several items that produced it; but he did not wish to weary the House upon that point. He would only adduce, for the sake of example, the Burial Boards as one of the items of urban expenditure accounting for this £500,000. He hoped he had now shown the House that there was nothing vague in this increase of rates, but that it could be traced to certain definite causes chiefly connected with the large towns. Now, according to the Returns moved for by a right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Hunt), it appeared that the average rate in England and Wales was 3s. 4d. If they divided the country into urban and rural districts—if they took the 150 urban Unions, and the 500 rural Unions, they would, find this result—The average rate of the towns was 4s., whereas the average rate of the rural districts was only 2s.d., showing that the former exceeded the latter by no less a sum than 1s.d., or 44 per cent. These were facts that could not be denied. He would state another fact. There was an increase in the number of paupers, which was due, no doubt, to the towns and not to the country, in great measure because the law of settlement had increased the number of paupers in towns as compared with that of the country. The legislation of this class had been fair and just, but still the fact remained. Now, they had been told that evening something about the effect of Imperial taxation upon real property. That was also a matter upon which Government had made inquiry, and the results were remarkable in many ways. The hon. Baronet asked that they should make each class of property contribute equitably towards national burdens, but equitably did not mean equally. He thought that if the hon. Baronet would look to foreign countries, or examine the history of his own, he would find that at no time had it been held that the taxes upon land were the same as upon other kinds of property. Many countries of Europe derived their chief taxation from the land, and it was thereby burdened with a weight of taxation quite unknown in this country. Now, putting land and houses together, what did they contribute towards the Imperial taxation of the country? In England they contributed 10½ per cent; in France, 29 per cent; in Prussia, 15 per cent; Holland, 22 per cent; Belgium, 37 per cent; Austria, 26 per cent; and Hungary, 38 per cent. He did not wish to push this argument beyond its legitimate conclusion, nor did he desire to overstate his case, for what the Government were anxious to do was to inform the House of the incidence of Imperial and local taxation. Neither did he wish to argue in a controversial manner, and if he had been betrayed into doing so he was exceedingly sorry. What he intended to do was simply to show how the land lay; and the general conclusion at which he had arrived was that the land of this country, as regarded Imperial taxation, lay in an exceedingly comfortable state. He wished next to ask the House how much did they think that land, exclusive of houses, paid towards Imperial taxation in the United Kingdom, as regarded both amount and percentage? With respect to amount, land by itself paid only £3,000,000 out of the £65,000,000 of taxation, and the percentage was 5½. [An hon. MEMBER: Land and buildings?] Those figures applied to land as separated from houses, and were taken from the schedules of the income tax. They should be submitted to the House in order that they might receive all the investigation of which they were capable, for the Government had been anxious to exhaust this subject as far as possible, and they had tried to do so in a conscientious manner. He would now state the percentages paid by land only towards the total amount raised by Imperial taxation. The amount paid by land alone in England was 5½ per cent; in Holland land alone paid 9 per cent; in Austria, 17½ per cent; in France, 18½ per cent; in Belgium, 20½ per cent; and in Hungary, 32½ per cent. What did these facts prove? They proved that, as regarded Imperial taxation, land in this country was in an infinitely better position than land in any other European State. In every other country the Imperial burdens upon land were greater than in England, and the figures contained in the Report which he would present to the House would show that, putting together both Imperial and local taxation, the rate in England would not exceed by more than 2 per cent the amount paid in France and other European countries. There was thus a slight increase if land and houses were put together; but taking the case of land alone the advantage was very much in favour of England. He could also give the House the rate in the pound which represented the burden on land for Imperial purposes in this country and elsewhere respectively, and at the same time he would place before the House the rate in the pound of the burdens on land at various dates in the present century. In 1826 the rate on real property for Imperial and local taxation was 4s. 4d. in the pound; in 1843 it was 3s. 7d.; in 1851, 3s. 4d.; in 1862, 3s. 6d.; in 1869, 3s. 3d.; and in 1870, 3s. 2d. The aggregate rate in the pound on real property had been decreasing since 1826. The conclusion which was forced on him by these figures was that great care must be taken to ascertain the actual facts most accurately before legislating. These were doubtless questions which required to be dealt with, and the House ought not to shrink from facing them, for there was much that was amiss and ought to be put right. The House, however, ought not to commit the error of running away with the idea that the sum and substance of this matter was that the burdens placed upon land in the way of taxation were excessive. It was an open question as to what views hon. Members might hold on the subject, whether the land ought to pay an equal proportion to other property or a greater; but, as a matter of fact, comparing land in this country with land in other European States, the case, as regarded England, was not at all desperate, while the price which land would fetch in this country was a proof that the burden was not quite so intolerable as some hon. Members opposite might lead the House to suppose. The hon. Baronet had spoken of Devonshire, and the case might be illustrated by that county, which was a simple agricultural one. The average rate in that county was 4s. 8d. in 1803, in 1815 it was 3s., and in 1826 it was 3s.d., and those sums included the poor rate, the county rate, the church rate, and the highway rate. The figure for Devonshire at the present time for all rates was 3s. 3d.; therefore that county now stood almost exactly in the same position as in 1826. The hon. Baronet had spoken of the sums he paid, and contended that there had been a fictitious rise in the rateable value. But what were the actual amounts expended? In 1815 the expenditure in Devonshire was £285,000; in 1868, including all the rates, it was £332,000, an increase which ought not to frighten the hon. Baronet. He found this remarkable fact in going through the counties of England, that wherever there was a large town in a county the rate in that town was higher than the rate of the county itself. He had not heard either of the hon. Members for Plymouth address the House, but how did the case of that town stand? The average rate of Devonshire was 3s. 3d., while the rate in Plymouth was 8s. 10d., in Stoke Damerel it was 6s.d., and in Stone-house it was 5s. What, then, was the remedy proposed? The hon. Baronet practically suggested that Plymouth should remain almost in her present position, but that to all the rural Unions in which the rates were seriously increased grants should be made out of the Consolidated Fund. His argument as to the many purposes dealt with by means of the county rate practically led him to that. That was surely not the way in which to approach the subject; for it would shake the foundations of the whole local administration of this country. The hon. Baronet would not be supported by his party in the remedies which he proposed. They might vote for an inquiry, or for a Committee; or they might say that the Government ought to pay certain indefinite charges; but he was sure those who sat on the front Opposition Bench would resist, as the Government resisted, any general onslaught on the Consolidated Fund, by which means an injustice would be created in attempting to remedy a grievance. If such charges were to be put on the Consolidated Fund, what was to be the position of Scotland and Ireland? There were no able-bodied poor, to speak of, in Ireland, and relief was not given to able-bodied persons in Scotland; therefore, it would be unjust to those countries to make any such contribution from the Consolidated Fund, and any attempt to meet this grievance, by simply granting a certain proportion of aid as compared with the expenditure, would really do much injustice. There were, however, other considerations that he should like to point out to the House as regarded the poor rate. In many counties pauperism was actually hereditary, and throughout the whole of this century those counties had been amongst the highest rated on account of the administration of the Poor Law. One of these counties was Sussex, in which the rate at one time was 8s.d. in the pound. In many counties wages were low and the poor rates were high, while in others wages were higher and the poor rates were lower. Were those counties in which wages were high to contribute towards the Consolidated Fund, in order that there might be a reduction of the poor rates in those counties where wages were low? He did not wish to place before the House the list of peccant counties in this respect; but, singularly enough, I they were, with only one exception, all situated in the South of England. If a line were drawn across the country from East to West, from Monmouth to the Wash, there would be found below it all but one of those counties in which the rates were above the average, while many northern counties were distinguished by the lightness of their pauperism. Once more he wished to call the attention of the House to the difference between the rates for pauperism and the charges for town improvements. It was rather a disgrace to a county to have the poor rate very high, for that state of things was often due to social causes or to faulty administration; but, on the other hand, high rates for improvements were frequently much to the credit of a borough. The House must distinguish between those rates which were hereditary burdens on account of Poor Law administration and those rates which were adopted to make sanitary or other improvements. As regards the hereditary burdens, the hon. Baronet had said they almost became a rent-charge on the owners of land, but they had been so from the beginning of the century. Most of the great estates in this country had been bequeathed and inherited, or bought and sold, subject to those identical rates which, according to the statistics of Mr. Dudley Baxter, had so greatly increased the burden on property. Was that burden to be transferred from the land on which it had long been a rent-charge and added to the general taxation of the country, which was already high enough? If all the charges which had been mentioned were imposed upon the Consolidated Fund, how was the money to be raised? It might be answered by means of the income tax. Now, what did Mr. John Stuart Mill, one of the greatest political economists of the day, say in reference to taxing the increase of rental?— In most countries of Europe the right to taxation, as exigency might require, an indefinite portion of the rent of land has never been allowed to slumber. In several parts of the Continent the land tax forms a large proportion of the public revenues, and has always been confessedly liable to be raised or lowered without reference to other taxes. In England the land tax has not varied since the early part of the last century. He also said— The same remarks obviously apply to those local taxes of the peculiar pressure of which on landed property so much has been said by the remnant of the Protectionists. As much of these burdens as is of old standing ought to be regarded as a prescriptive deduction or reservation, for public purposes, of a portion of the rent. And any recent additions have either been incurred for the benefit of the owners of landed property, or occasioned by their fault, in neither case giving them any just ground of complaint. Was it, then, to be held that the House should remove what the hon. Baronet called the old burdens? Was it right to decide by a Rule of Three sum how much of these burdens should be transferred from what had been called a rent-charge on the land? He hoped these considerations would guide the House in determining the proper course of legislation on this subject. The Government had been asked for information. Well, he had already attempted to give some information; but the House should have in print, and in a more perfect form than he could present them in the course of a speech, delivered at a late hour of the evening, all the details with regard to the incidence of Imperial and local taxation. The House should not be called upon to vote on the Bill which the Government intended to introduce before it was in full possession of all the facts of the case. Before he sat down he must repeat the question he put to the House at the commencement of his remarks—"What are you desirous of doing?" Was it necessary to go on inquiring, or should the Government lay on the Table a Bill providing what they believed to be the best means of remedying those grievances which were acknowledged to exist? The Government had an immense work to perform, and he trusted they would receive the co-operation of the House. He hoped hon. Members would not vote for the Resolution proposed by the hon. Baronet, as such a vote would amount to the expression of an opinion that the Government ought not to act without further inquiry. If, on the contrary, they voted for the Previous Question they would be supporting the Government in its view that the matter was quite ripe for settlement. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Previous Question.


said, he had waited with some anxiety to learn in what manner Her Majesty's Government intended to meet the Motion which had been brought forward in so comprehensive and able a manner by his hon. Friend the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes). After listening to the long speech of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, he confessed he was in nearly as much difficulty with regard to the intention of the Government as he had been before the right hon. Gentleman spoke. In some respects this had been a really remarkable debate. Many speeches had been delivered, all of them, with a single exception, in support of the Motion. The exception was the brief speech of the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Chadwick), who said one thing only—namely, that he did not like the statistics of Mr. Dudley Baxter. Next came the speech of the President of the Poor Law Board. When the right hon. Gentleman commenced his speech, he thought his hon. Friend the Member for South Devon had achieved a great triumph, that he had gained his object, and that the Government were going to support his views and his proposal. The right hon. Gentleman began by declaring that he was a rival of the hon. Baronet, but, inconsistently enough, concluded by saying that if the proposal were carried out, a severe blow would be struck at the whole local administration of England. The right hon. Gentleman stated that he had already made inquiry into the subject, and that on an early day he intended to bring forward a Bill embodying the results of his inquiries. Now, if the right hon. Gentleman had gone a little further, he (Sir John Pakington) should have felt disposed to counsel his hon. Friend the Member for South Devon to rest content with what seemed to be a great triumph. But the right hon. Gentleman proceeded to speak in a very different strain, dwelling at great length on the Poor Law, which, though doubtless important, formed a part only of this subject. He was very sorry to find that the right hon. Gentleman went on to revive the old bygone differences between town and country, which he (Sir John Pakington) had hoped had been buried for ever. In the whole course of his speech, however, the right hon. Gentleman had given no distinct answer to the one simple proposition involved in the Resolution—namely— That inasmuch as many of the existing and contemplated charges on the Local Rates are for National purposes, and that it is neither just nor politic that such charges should be levied exclusively from one description of property. The Government ought to express a distinct opinion on that point. From the speech just delivered he could not extract any disavowal or disapprobation of this proposition by the right hon. Gentleman. The real question at issue was whether it was just and fair that £17,000,000 or £20,000,000 should be levied exclusively on one class of property. As his hon. Friend the Member for Northumberland (Mr. Liddell) had remarked, this question had taken a fast hold on the public mind. It was not a party question, and he might remind the House that on that very evening he had presented a Petition in favour of the Motion from the quarter sessions of the county of Worcester, the adoption of which Petition had been moved by a Conservative and seconded by a Whig. This question could not be lightly disposed of, for there was in the country a deep sense of injustice based on the feeling that taxation was unfairly and unequally distributed. The statement of the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon was that the income of England was from £650,000,000 to £700,000,000 per annum, and that the greater amount of local taxation fell upon £100,000,000 only. Were the Government disposed to dispute that proposition? The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) shook his head; but why did he not deny the proposition? [Mr. GOSCHEN: I did.] He did not disprove it. He (Sir John Pakington) was now dealing with round sums, and not going into small fractions; but he believed that, if accurately stated, the amount was £118,000,000. He did not know whether that was what the right hon. Gentleman relied upon. But while the income tax was derived from £300,000,000, the immense amount of local taxation was derived from about £100,000,000. [Mr. GOSCHEN explained that he said that a great portion of local taxation was not upon real property at all, but was paid by the occupiers.] He was sure the hon. Baronet would not be diverted from the object he had in view by such an equivocation. He did not mean to use the phrase offensively. Of course, burdens did fall in part upon the owner and in part upon the occupier, but he believed they fell much, more largely upon the owner. There was, however, no real distinction in interest between the owner and the occupier. The ground of complaint was this—that this mass of taxation did fall upon one particular class of property, which was known by the name of real property. The hon. Baronet rather understated his own case than overstated it in regard to the repayments by the Government for the police, and also for the maintenance of prisoners, for the Government did not maintain prisoners who were awaiting trial. What made it urgent that the question should be approached with a view to a settlement was that this local taxation was rapidly increasing, and that additional burdens were being imposed year by year. Lately all over England the maintenance of the turnpike roads had been thrown upon the ratepayers. In the county with which he was connected he did not exaggerate the amount of that tax when he stated that it would add some 5d. or 6d. in the pound to the local burdens already borne. The education measure of the Government of last year, to which he did not object, would be another addition to local burdens. But was the education of the people one of mere local advantage? No; it affected the whole welfare of the country, and was a burden which ought to be borne by the whole of the country. Again, the Secretary of State for War was going to propose that the ratepayers should, in the first instance, bear extra expenses in regard to the Militia; but when the amount would be repaid it was impossible to say. What was the practical result of this state of things? Why, a feeling of great dissatisfaction, which was increasing throughout the country. The point raised by the hon. Baronet was that this system of local taxation constituted a great burden on the poor. The poor were suffering from these burdens. The increasing amount paid from year to year by the landed interest practically exercised a prejudicial effect on improvements in agriculture, and prevented those investments of capital which would otherwise take place. He would remind the House that the increase in the value of land during the last 30 years had not been in proportion to the increase of the burdens thrown upon it, for the county rates had increased from £850,000 to from £2,500,000 to £3,000,000. If the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Poor Law Board could show that real property was bearing less than its fair share of taxation, he for one would be willing to reduce the balance. He should be glad of a decision by the House as to whether they did or did not recognize the principle involved in the Motion—which he trusted the hon. Baronet would press to a Division.


said, he rose to protest against a dangerous fallacy evidently entertained by present, past, and future Chancellors of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) had said that he had known many countries in danger from increasing Imperial taxation, but he had never known any country in danger from increasing local taxation. But could any country have been in greater danger, both physical and pecuniary, than this country was previous to the passing of the new Poor Law? Were we not then in danger of seeing the whole income of the land swallowed up by the increase and mismanagement of local taxation? And was there not, even now, a great danger from the increase and mismanagement of our local taxation? On the other side of the Atlantic the same danger was to be found. Twenty years ago, in New York, the taxation was dangerous, being equal to five-eighths per cent, not of the income, but of the capital of the city; and not only the real property, but every kind of capital subject to income and property tax; and that taxation had now risen to 2⅝ per cent on the capital. It was not necessary that we should have recourse to the Consolidated Fund, in order to meet the inequalities which existed in taxation. It would be possible for any able financier to find a way in which all property in this country might fairly bear its share of the burden. Indeed, he would go further and say that if it were judiciously managed not by taking a certain proportion of every expenditure, however profuse, but by taking definite sums contingent on good management, an arrangement might be made which would relieve the present burdens, and at the same time lessen the wasteful expenditure which was now going on. He hoped, from one part of the speech of his right hon. Friend, that he was about to give them such a measure as would practically remedy the inequalities which had been pointed out in our local taxation. He hoped he was not wrong in interpreting his speech; and he was sure no one would have more reason to rejoice than his hon. Friend the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes), who had done so much to bring about this reform.


I should not trouble the House with any remarks on this question, but having been in direct communication with my own constituents more recently perhaps than any other hon. Member in this House, I feel it my duty not to let the question pass without making one or two observations upon it. There was one remark which fell from the right hon. Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) which bears on the view I take of the question. He deprecated any further allusion to the comparative interests of town and country. Now, I am not surprised at that, and probably his view on that point arose from some slight twinge of conscience called up by a recollection of what passed on that (the Ministerial) Bench at the end of the year 1852. But if he imagines that the proceedings of the Government then in power—and which was more especially supposed to protect the interests of the rural districts, are now forgotten, all I can say is that he is very much mistaken. I have to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board on his very remarkable announcement as to the extraordinary amount of renovated energy exhibited by the Government on this occasion. He has said that the Government prefer to act rather than to speak, and to trust to their own measures rather than to the action of a Committee. I confess that when I heard those words I was astounded. It seems so marvellous a change to be brought about in the minds of so many distinguished men in the short space of 24 hours, that it is one of the most remarkable facts in the history of Parliament. I will not follow my hon. Friend the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) through any of the figures of his most admirable speech; but I may say that during the time I was down in my own county this question was almost the only subject I heard discussed there. The minds of all men seemed to be drawn almost exclusively to this subject; but they always asked one question. They are aware of the existence of the evil; but as sensible men they want to trace out the cause, and they ask—"How comes it that year after year there has been an additional pressure of taxation on the rural districts of the country?" That fact is indisputable, and it is also indisputable that those districts are under-represented in Parliament, and that, I suppose, is an obvious reason for their being over-taxed. But these agricultural gentlemen go still further, and they say—"Not only are we deserted by both Government and Opposition when any measure is brought forward affecting our interests, but we never see the phalanx of Members representing the rural districts banded together to fight our battle. We read that they go out into the Lobbies, as Liberals or Conservatives, if anybody is able to explain the meaning of those terms; but we never read of their advocating the interests of the rural districts." When I heard this my mind reverted to many Friends in this House, for whom I have the greatest possible regard; but I confess with pain that I could not say much in their defence, and I can only express the hope that for the future, instead of following the Whips on either side into the Lobby, without having any intelligible principle or policy to guide them, they will be found advocating the interests of those who sent them to this House. I believe that if the intelligence were to reach the rural districts to-morrow that from some unforeseen cause the present Government had been removed from Office, and by no human possibility could ever return to it again, and that, on the other hand, there was some insuperable objection to their places being taken by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House above the Gangway, I really believe that information would, be received with satisfaction. In this discordant state of things it becomes more incumbent on the representatives of the rural districts to stick together and fight the battle of their constituents. What is the result of those unfortunate combats which take place for the retention or obtaining of that (the Ministerial) Bench? I will not go so far as to say that there is no confidence left in either party; but the result of recent legislation has been to place the real government in the hands of Gentlemen opposite sitting below the Gangway. They are the real Government of the country. I see the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. White) shakes his head in denial; but in spite of his extreme modesty—being one of the most prominent and eminent and able Members in that quarter of the House—I submit to him that he holds a very high position indeed. Now, has any measure been brought forward for many years past emanating from that quarter of the House which has not been carried? And how have they been carried? They have been extracted with some little difficulty, though not a great deal, from the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, and when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) was in Office, they were got from him without any trouble at all. Knowing, then, the seat of power in this House, I was glad to hear that the hon. Member for Brighton agreed with me on one or two points in reference to this question. He said pauperism was increased by improper incidence of taxation. I agree in that, and I believe that a complete revision of our system of taxation would tend to decrease pauperism. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Poor Law Board seems to have had a preconceived idea that we could not deal with this subject without touching the Consolidated Fund. I do not think there is any occasion for that; and when the proper time comes I shall be able to show the right hon. Gentleman many descriptions of property which at present pay no taxes. A comparison of the cost of the transfer of money and of land from one hand to another will suggest an inquiry as to why the percentage is so much higher in the one case than in the other, and will show that we can easily find an immense amount of untaxed property in this country, and a means of reducing the taxation on every other description of property.


I am afraid, Sir, that I am not able to sustain the lofty flight of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down in the very entertaining speech he has just delivered. And after the able argument of my right hon. Friend near me (Mr. Goschen) I do not intend to enter into the subject of the Motion of the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Massey Lopes); but I wish to explain, in a very few words, and as exactly as I can, the reason for the course which the Government has taken with regard to it. My right hon. Friend stated, in one portion of his speech, that he felt himself to be a competitor of the hon. Baronet; and he has been taken to task for that expression, and charged with inconsistency for using such language and yet not acceding to the Motion. But my right hon. Friend is a competitor of the hon. Baronet in respect to the objects which he has in view. He dissents and differs from him in respect to the Motion that he proposes, and the means of attaining them, and there is a perfect consistency between these two propositions. Let us look at the Motion as it is actually framed, for it is very important. It contains the following series of propositions:— That, inasmuch as many of the existing and contemplated charges on the Local Rates are for National purposes, and that it is neither just nor politic that such charges should be levied exclusively from one description of property (viz. houses and land), this House is of opinion that it is the duty of the Government to inquire forthwith into the incidence of Imperial as well as Local Taxation, and take such steps as shall ensure that every description of property shall equitably contribute to all National burdens. The last of those propositions is entirely true. It is our duty to "take such steps as shall ensure that every description of property shall equitably contribute to all National burdens" as far as our human infirmity and incapacity will admit. But although that is true, it is a truism, and does not contain any of the salt or pith of the hon. Baronet's Motion, and. I think the hon. Baronet would be little anxious to procure the acceptance of that truism by the House and to abandon the rest of his Resolution. It is impossible for us to accede to the other propositions it embraces, and for these simple reasons—They are propositions of an abstract nature, which it would be useless and inconvenient for the House to affirm, because they might form the subject of dispute, even although we might be agreed as to the practical mode of dealing with the matter to which they relate. Why are we to be called on to assert that many of the existing charges on the local rates are for national purposes? That raises a very large subject of debate, on which we might employ ourselves very unprofitably for a great length of time. The hon. Baronet, ably as he has argued it, has failed to make out his case; but, at the same time, why is it necessary for us to be entangled in discussions upon such propositions, when it may be that we are agreed on the practical mode of dealing with the question? Then the hon. Baronet says that these rates are levied exclusively from one description of property; and, with very scant courtesy, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) treated as an equivocation the mode of referring to that point adopted by my right hon. Friend—a licence of language, as I think, scarcely within the limits of courtesy. But whether it be equivocation in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman I know not, and—it may be owing to our inferior intelligence on this side of the House—I must own it appears to me that the proposition of my right hon. Friend is a broad and substantive one, and I should be prepared, with my very unequal means, to enter at the proper time into controversy upon it with the right hon Gentleman. I deny that, for the purpose of this argument, houses and land are one description of property. And why? Because of the division of the rate between the owner and the occupier. When you are dealing with land in the rural districts, that division is of very little consequence, because you may say, and truly say, that both the owner and the occupier belong to the same class, and have the same interest, and as a portion of the rate falls on the owner and another on the occupier, both portions are laid on the same description of property. But when you come into the towns, the division of the rate between the owner and the occupier has a very different effect, and the separation between houses and land is most marked. There it is ridiculous to speak of all occupiers, who belong to every class, who have every description of property, and who pay out of every description of property, although they may pay in respect of their houses, as being in the same category as the owners of land in reference to this question. It is not a matter of equivocation, but clear and undoubted fact, that the occupiers in town, so far as the rate falls upon them, as it mainly does, do not pay in respect of land or real property at all, and that circumstance wholly destroys the justice of the proposition that houses and land are to be regarded as one description of property. We cannot, therefore agree to commit ourselves to that assertion. But the hon. Baronet says it is not just that such charges should be so levied. Why commit us to that proposition? It depends upon another complicated investigation. Assuming it to be true, for the moment, that in the rural districts these taxes are levied from one description of property, before you venture to assert that it is not just that they should be so levied, you must investigate the question whether they receive a compensation in many remarkable or important remissions and exemptions in respect of Imperial taxation. I am not now asking the hon. Baronet to concur in our way of looking at these propositions; but why should he ask us to commit ourselves in the mass to these very disputable opinions, which, after all, do not practically determine the case, and must still leave it an open question for us to say in what manner we will approach this subject of local taxation, which we, as well as he, admit to be a question presenting grievances and anomalies requiring legislative remedy. Then he goes on to say that it is the duty of the Government to inquire forthwith, into the incidence of Imperial, as well as local, taxation. I must own it was with some surprise that I found that the hon. Baronet concluded by making a Motion which has this for what I may call its main proposition, in the same speech in which he found fault with the Government for postponing, and by postponement evading practical proceedings in regard to local taxation. What is the position of the Government? We have endeavoured to avoid going to issue with the hon. Baronet, and, therefore, have been content with moving the Previous Question. But still we are at issue with the hon. Baronet, because it appears that he intends to divide the House; and the right hon. Member for Droitwich, rising from the front Bench opposite—as to which the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. G. Bentinck) has given us some interesting information—says he cannot recommend the hon. Baronet to withdraw his Motion. How, then, do we stand? In the Speech from the Throne we announced that we had a measure prepared on the subject of local taxation. The hon. Member for West Norfolk very properly pointed to the measure as one upon which issue might be joined. If we can agree on that measure we can go forward to legislation; if we differ we shall at least know on what we differ; and it is our purpose to submit that measure to the House on the earliest day that the state of Public Business will permit, in conformity with our rule of introducing our measures on the earliest day that we can present them with a fair prospect of carrying them on to their ulterior stage. That is our case. And what is the case of the hon. Baronet? It is that it is our duty to inquire forthwith into the incidence of Imperial and of local taxation. His proposal, therefore, is not a progressive, but a retrograde one. He does not even point to a Committee of this House. He takes us back to the very threshold of the question. He will not allow us even to introduce the measure which we have announced in the Speech from the Throne. I do not say whether or not it is in accordance with Parliamentary usage so to treat the intention of the Government announced in that form; but the hon. Baronet, the friend of the rural interests and the enemy of the abuses of local taxation, thinks that it is the duty of the Government not to act, but to inquire. Under these circumstances we require very little apology for saying that we are more faithful to the spirit of the engagement into which we have entered than the hon. Baronet wishes us to be. We engaged to examine carefully into the question, and, as a Government, to make our proposals when they were ripe for presentation to the House. Those proposals are now ripe, and we desire to lay them before the House, and we cannot accept the great boon which the Baronet has offered us by receding from the position that we have attained, and by again proceeding from the beginning and entering upon an inquiry that would be perfectly vague and undefined—a matter that lies in the future, whereas our inquiries lie in the past, not the future, and we are now prepared to act.

Previous Question put, "That that Question be now put."—(Mr. Goschen.)

The House divided: Ayes 195; Noes 241: Majority 46.