§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 2 (Extent of Act).
§ MR. STANSFELD,
in moving, as an Amendment, in page 1, line 8, after "Ireland," to insert "save as is in this Act otherwise expressly provided," said, it was intended by it, to extend, as far as possible, the provisions of the Bill with respect to the rating of Government property to Scotland and Ireland.
§ MR. CRAUFURD
thanked the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board for having accepted his (Mr. Craufurd's) suggestion, to extend the operation of the Bill, and and also of the one which followed, to Scotland. He was absent from the House on Wednesday last, when the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government spoke upon the Roads and Bridges (Scotland) Bill and he wished 911 now to correct a misapprehension under which the right hon. Gentleman seemed to labour—namely, that he (Mr. Craufurd) had intended that his Amendment should apply to the Bills now under discussion. He had done nothing of the kind. On the contrary, he had expressly stated that he did not intend it to apply to them, and if he thought it would have such an effect he would not have proposed it.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, he was surprised that such a serious Amendment had been so suddenly produced. With reference to a statement made in a former debate, to the effect that the use of the Crown property in the parish of Canongate was larger than all the rest of the parish, he (Mr. Sclater-Booth) thought it was desirable that the Committee should have some information as to the extent of Government property in England and Ireland. He hoped, therefore, that the Committee would receive from the right hon. Gentleman some statements as to the distribution of Government property in different parts of the country, so that some idea might be formed as to the amount of money that would have to be voted annually for the purpose of paying the rate to be levied on such property.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, that the hon. Member for North Hants (Mr. Sclater-Booth) had misunderstood the remarks of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Craufurd), who spoke only of the area of the parish, and not of its rental. The Crown property referred to was the Queen's Park, let as a grazing farm at about £800 a-year; whereas the rental of the rest of the parish, crowded as it was with houses, must exceed £40,000 he should think, although he had not the figures before him. The effect of the Bill would be to relieve the grazing land of the taxation, while that on the property, to the value of £40,000, would continue to pay the same rates as here to fore.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
wished to know whether the only part of this Bill which the right hon. Gentleman contemplated applying to Ireland was Part 2, which related to Government property?
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, that it was his intention to apply Part 2 only of the Bill to Ireland. He was not prepared to commit himself to a statement of the value of all the Government pro- 912 perty in the different areas of the country; but if the hon. Member for North Hants wished to ascertain exactly the distribution, he had better move for a Return on the subject.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ Abolition of Exemptions.
§ Clause 3 (Extension of Poor Rate Acts to other property.)
§ SIR GEORGE JENKINSON
observed that the recital of the Poor Law Act was incorrect and should be altered, and with that view, he would move as an Amendment, in page 1, line 13, after "taxation of," to insert "every inhabitant and of."
§ MR. HIBBERT
thought there was force in the objection, but that the proposed Amendment would not effect the desired purpose.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ An Amendment made, to insert the words "amongst others," after "taxation of."
§ SIR GEORGE JENKINSON,
with the object of asserting that liability to rating should not be limited to real property, rose to move as an Amendment, the insertion, in line 17, after "said Act," of the words—And further, at the same time, to provide for bringing into contribution, in aid of the various local burdens now levied under the poor rate, income arising from personal property which is now exempt from such contribution.He said, it was not his object to get real property exempted; but what he sought to do was to make all other realized property and the wealth of the country share the liability to rating, and to take from it the special exemption which now belonged to it. He complained that the Bill did not touch this part of the question.
said, that this Bill was the first of several steps which the Government had proposed to take.
§ SIR GEORGE JENKINSON
said, that when the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister spoke of that as the first step, one might hope that it was the first step in the right direction, and that it would be followed by others. As an authority in favour of the principles of his Amendment, he would first refer to a former Bill of the present Govern- 913 ment, which had been described as a Bill of shreds and patches, and which did not get beyond the fringe of the subject, and next to the Resolution recently carried by a majority of 100 on the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) which distinctly recognized the hardship and injustice of the taxation of one description of property. So far, however, from doing anything to give effect to that Motion, the Bill made matters worse; and they were so bad, that the country felt they could not be tolerated much longer. In fact, the Bill would afford no relief to towns, which did not contain Government property, mines, or rights of shooting. A Select Committee of the House of Lords, also consisting of 23 Peers, which sat in 1850, reported strongly in favour of the rating of personal property; but no attention had been paid to their Report. The debate of last Tuesday, which came by surprise on the Opposition, was significant in its result, and the conduct of the hon. Member for South Wilts, who had placed a Notice on the Paper for this Bill to be referred to a Select Committee, and who had abandoned that Notice at the eleventh hour, and was not even present to explain his conduct, reminded him of the sketch which showed the legs of Lord John Russell as he ran round a corner after he had chalked up the words "No Popery." The division, too, on that occasion sufficiently marked the sense of the House; the minority of 30 only showed that the feeling in favour of rating personal property was rapidly growing; and the debate fully effected its object, although the Amendment was defeated. He voted for it chiefly as a protest against the Government Bill not dealing with the question of personal property at all; and the debate with such a division was a more useful result than it would have been to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, and so shelve it for the Session. While the Bill, as it stood, unsettled much, it settled nothing. It raised conflicting interests without doing any corresponding good, and there could be no adjustment of local burdens while personal wealth paid no contribution to them. This Amendment would afford an opportunity to the Government to state what their intentions were; and the announcement of those intentions would be welcomed if they were in the 914 right direction. As it stood, however, the Bill could not give satisfaction, either here or in the country. He did not think there was any difficulty in the rating of personal property; but, if it were once admitted that justice demanded the rating of personal property, there would be a much greater chance of arriving at a practicable mode of giving effect to the principle. It was not for him to devise the mode of doing it; but, of course, the income from personal property furnished the only means of touching it. He did not see why a man having £20,000 in the Funds should not be taxed equally with the owner of £20,000 in land with regard to the local taxation of his neighbourhood. The late Mr. Crawshay, the Welsh ironmaster, died worth £800,000 in the Funds, which would produce an income of from £28,000 to £30,000 a-year, and yet in respect of that income he did not contribute 6d. towards the burdens of local taxation. It was impossible to justify that while a man with an equal amount of property in land paid 3s. or 4s. in the pound in local rates; for, of course, the man whose income was derived from the Funds had as much interest in the maintenance of law and order, and of police and sanitary arrangements, as the owner of house property and of land. It might be said that the original Act for the creation of funded property exempted that kind of property from taxation. He looked into the Act, and found that the words were—And, moreover, no money so lent upon security of this Act shall be rated or assessed by virtue of this Act.'Those words did not, in his opinion, boar the construction which had been put on them by some persons, and referred to the capital and not to the income of funded wealth. The Funds were now made liable to income tax, and if they were further made liable to rates in aid of expenses for local and Imperial purposes, it would be quite consistent with the original Act of William and Mary and with the Act for the imposition of the income tax. If the licences which were locally collected, such as the dog, horse, gun, and carriage licences, were locally allocated, and if the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer could make personal wealth contribute to supply the deficiency thus 915 created in the Imperial Exchequer, it would be a fair way of meeting the difficulty, and would be less liable to objection than taking a lump sum from the Consolidated Fund, part of which was drawn from Ireland and Scotland. He entirely approved the provision in the Bill to exempt stock-in-trade. The class of property which he wished to see taxed was that enormous mass of personal wealth in this country which was free from local burdens, and in conformity with that view, Schedule C and that portion of Schedule D which contributed to Imperial taxation, but not in any degree to local taxation, was the portion which he wished should be made to contribute to the relief of local burdens. He regretted not to see the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister in his place, because he desired to read an extract from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman when Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1853, which bore directly on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman, referring to the exemption of Ireland from income tax, said—Let me remind the Committee what exemption means. It does not mean that we have got a bottomless purse, and that we can dispense exemptions to one man without injuring another; no, Sir, the exemption of one man means the extra taxation of another—and the exemption of one country" (for one country here let them read one class) "means the extra taxation of another."—[3 Hansard, cxxv. 1393.]Those were the words used by the right hon. Gentleman in 1853, and there could not be a stronger corroboration of the argument which he (Sir George Jenkinson) had ventured to advance. He maintained that the exemption of one class was a gross injustice which ought to be amended without delay. When the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) moved his Resolution last year, it was said that those who supported it, came begging to the House. He denied the accuracy of that expression, unless to demand justice was to beg; but if it was so for whom was he begging? He was not begging for his own class, nor for those who were able to come to that House and ask justice for themselves; he was begging for that class of ratepayers in town and country whose lot in life was one of toil and privation, as against those whose life was one of ease, affluence, and luxury. He, therefore, hoped hon. Gen- 916 tlemen opposite would give due consideration to this question, without regarding it as one of party, for it was really a question of the claims of the poorer people of this country upon the enormous mass of wealth which was entirely untouched for the relief of the poor. It was a question which was growing in importance day by day, and if this Parliament would not deal liberally and honourably by it, they would have to answer for their neglect at the general election. The hon. Baronet concluded by moving the Amendment of which he had given Notice.
rose to explain why, having voted in the majority last year, he could not give his support to the Amendment. While, as a rule, in favour of taxing personal property, yet in this case he did not see how it could be effected with regard to justice, seeing that the owner of property in the Funds was already taxed as respected the general taxation of this country by the income tax. His object, however, in voting with the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) last year was to show that the subject was one which needed consideration, and that it had not had fair consideration from the Government; but he thought the House had hardly considered it sufficiently to enable them to vote for so strong an Amendment as that being added to a clause in a Bill which, so far as it went, was a good Bill. Whether the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon was keeping silence because he thought the subject was now receiving due consideration he did not know; but he was opposed to the Amendment because it did not touch the main subject, and because it was sufficiently large and important in itself to be a proper question for a Select Committee another Session. The hon. Member for Liverpool had mentioned that the rates in that town were 6s. in the pound; and the immense importance of the subject was forced upon his attention the other day, when in going through the accounts of the town of Northampton he found that the rates there amounted to 7s. 6d. in the pound. Why, a great outcry was made in that House if an additional 1d. upon the income tax was proposed; but in that case the rate fell upon the ratepayers, not by pence, or even by shillings, but by half-crowns. Here were three 917 half-crowns which fell upon the people of Northampton, with the exception of those who lived in very small tenements. That was an enormous species of taxation which required the grave attention of every statesman. He held that property in towns should pay such rates as enhanced its value—for instance, rates for paving, lighting, and sewerage; but it was not at all fair that rates for the poor, for justice, and police should be borne by the inhabitants without aid from the State. He thought the House ought not in its present position to vote for the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for North Wilts (Sir George Jenkinson). They had not sufficiently considered the subject to enable them to vote for such an Amendment, and for his own part he should vote against it.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
I rejoice that the hon. Member for North Wilts (Sir George Jenkinson) has called the attention of the House to a subject which has not been fairly considered since the year 1850, when the Committee of the House of Lords reported on local taxation. After all, what is the main intention of the Bill before the House? It is a Bill to abolish exemptions from rating. The Government deserve some credit for their intention of considering the abolition of the exemption of Government property from rating. It may also be right that the House should consider the assessment of woods. There will be some difficulty on that subject; for, on counting the rings in the grain of an oak tree, marking its age, I found 230; so that oak tree must have stood for 230 years, at least; and it will need rather an abstruse calculation to ascertain, how the £12 or £15 that tree, when felled, is worth, ought to have been distributed in the rates over so long a period. There are, however, no limits to the power of calculation, and perhaps that difficulty may be overcome. But there are other difficulties, even in the small adventure of this Bill. It has always been considered unjust to require the royalty of a mine to be assessed as rent, seeing that this royalty represents the sale of a certain portion of the property, from which it is taken, whereas rent only represents the annual return from the land generally, and from the application of capital to the improvement of its surface. I am glad that even these small exemptions are to be dealt 918 with by the Committee. But there remains the great exemption altogether untouched—the exemption of the means of those who do not occupy real property, or rather only occupy some insignificant portion of real property, as do lodgers in a house. Now, I hold that the principle of the Act of Elizabeth was just, which enacted, that every man should be rated according to his means, for such national objects as the provision for the relief of the poor and the administration of justice. I quite agree with the noble Lord the Member for Northampton (Lord Henley), that rates levied and expended only for the improvement or lighting of towns, for the immediate convenience of the inhabitants of those towns, ought to be separated from the rates levied for general and national objects, such as the poor rate, the police rate, and the rate for lunatic asylums. It would be unfair, however, to confuse, in dealing with questions of rating, rates which are laid purely for the local convenience of certain towns, for the mere convenience of their inhabitants, with rates levied and expended for national objects; but I cannot consider that the exemption of personal property from contributing towards national objects is in any degree just. I believe the principle of the Act of Elizabeth, that every man should be rated according to his means, to be the true principle of taxation. Well, Sir, it so happens that I have been inquiring in the library of the House whether it contains any account of the taxation and of the local taxation of the United States of America, and I find that the library is destitute of any information on the subject. But the librarian kindly placed in my hand a pamphlet published for private circulation by the Cobden Club, and printed at Manchester, which can only be obtained on application to some member of the Cobden Club. Now, whatever I may think of the conclusion at which the Commissioners of the City of New York have arrived, as shown by that pamphlet—whatever I may think of the opinions of the Cobden Club, they deserve credit for collecting these statistics and this information, and I cannot help feeling that the House of Commons ought to be in possession of the information to which I have alluded with respect to local taxation in the United States. This infor- 919 mation is, it appears, at present confined to the members of the Cobden Club. They only have, since 1871, been in possession of detailed information of the manner and extent in which personal property has always been liable to local taxation in the United States. Now, let the House observe the narrow ground on which the question is treated by this Bill. In the United States, by their constitution, the Federal Government cannot, except in cases of emergency, impose direct taxation on property. The privilege and duty of imposing direct taxation for ordinary purposes has been exclusively discharged by the State Governments. That was the original and constitutional form of taxation in this country, and it remains to a certain degree yet in Scotland. And I believe that to be the sound system of taxation; and yet the financial arrangements of this country have been so conducted during the last 22 years that, while in the Customs duties alone, the House has sanctioned the abandonment of £14,000,000 of revenue, during the whole of the same period they have continued the direct taxation, through the property and income tax, in substitution of the indirect taxation in a great measure levied on luxuries, which has been abandoned. In the United States every species of personal property is taxed for State, that is, for local purposes. They tax mortgages, they tax securities, they tax furniture, they tax every kind of moveable property; and, although the members of the Cobden Club disapprove of that system of taxation, in expressing their disapproval they give us the fact, that in every State of the United States, except Pennsylvania, every kind of property, whether real or personal, is taxed, and even in Pennsylvania, personal property is not altogether exempt from local contribution. Here, in England, we have an income tax locally assessed and locally levied; but instead of its produce being applied to local objects, it goes entirely into the Imperial Exchequer. Common sense sanctions the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for North Wilts. If personal property is locally assessed and locally taxed, why should not some portion of that taxation be locally applied, as it is in the United States, and in several Continental countries? I may be told that this is a difficult and a large 920 subject with which the House ought not at present to deal. But I ask, why, then, have the Government entered upon this large and difficult subject if they are not prepared to deal with it properly? Why do they propose to abolish these paltry exemptions from rating—paltry, I say, when compared with the great exemption of personal property—compared with this gigantic exemption, how paltry are the exemptions of game, of the right of sporting, of timber, and even of Government property? If we are to deal with the exemption of any property, from contributing to those national objects, which are accomplished by local taxation, let us, I say, deal with the whole of it; for, unless you consider the subject of exemptions as a whole, the probability is that you will do injustice. Looking to these circumstances, if the Government will not undertake to deal with the whole subject of exemptions from rating, I shall vote for the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for North Wilts.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, he believed the present proposal to be utterly opposed to public feeling. It was for the interest of the owners of real property in every country that they should take upon themselves the burden of taxation and to relieve personal property, to relieve the muscle and brain of the country. It was for the interest of the country that every kind of personal property should be free from rating, because it was from that that the landlords real property resulted. By the Act of Elizabeth, stock-in-trade was allowed to be taxed; but the common sense of the people admitted that it would be madness to impose such a tax on personal property of that description; and though the municipal councils of the country had had the power of taxing stock-in-trade for more than three centuries, it was a power which had never been enforced.
thought the Committee were indebted to the hon. Baronet who had moved the Amendment (Sir George Jenkinson), although he could not agree in all its details. He wished also to say that he did not think those were correct who supposed that the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) approved the course which the Government were taking in reference to the subject of local taxation. The large majority of the House 921 were, he believed, in favour of having some contributions made from personal property to local taxation; but there were difficulties in doing so, which were not to be met by an octroi or by means of the machinery of the income tax. Various other schemes had been suggested for the purpose, and the subject had been very well treated in a small pamphlet which had been published by Captain Craigie, the substance of which was delivered in the shape of a lecture at the Social Science Congress at Plymouth last year. It referred to a system which prevailed in Scotland with respect to the classification of rates, and by which many of the difficulties connected with the question were seen to be obviated. He looked on the suggestion of the hon. Baronet the Member for North Wilts, that the licences and horse and carriage duty should go to the maintenance of the roads, as a very valuable one; and those who objected to public-houses might also allow the public-house licences to be applied to the relief of the poor, inasmuch as they looked upon those houses as the origin of their misery. Some again, were of opinion that it could be done by utilizing the machinery of the income tax; but he did not agree with this, because the working classes would be allowed to escape altogether. Moreover, he did not himself think it would be desirable to have recourse to the income tax machinery, as that was not at the present time the most popular impost, and it was, moreover, regarded by large numbers of people as temporary in its nature. Many other suggestions had been made; but he considered they could not do better than fall back upon the Resolution carried by a majority of 100 last year. The best possible solution, after all, was that of the hon. Member for South Devon, and if the administration of justice, the expenses of the police and of lunatics were provided for out of Imperial funds, the best solution of the question would probably have been attained. Now, although he did not entirely approve the Amendment, he should vote for it as a protest against the course which the Government had pursued. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, in answer to a Question which had been put to him last year by the hon. Member for Cornwall (Mr. St. Aubyn), stated on the subject of local taxation, that, with- 922 out going into detail, the Government, in dealing with the question, would look very much to the following points:—1st, to the introduction of the representative principle into local institutions, where that principle did not already obtain; 2nd, to equality and justice as between landlords and occupiers of the soil; 3rd, to equality as between the various classes of the community, in respect to the aggregate contributions they made to the public burdens; 4th, to the general revising of public ministration, so that no charges should be imposed or maintained which might be avoided or reduced; and lastly, that nothing should be done to weaken the invaluable principles of local self-government and local self-control which were among the main securities of the institutions of the country. He could not see in the Bills before the House what the right hon. Gentleman had done to give effect to those promises, and he wished by his vote to mark his sense of the manner in which the Government had acted in reference to the subject.
§ SIR HENRY HOARE
felt himself bound in consistency, as he had supported the Resolution of the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes), to vote for the Amendment on the present occasion.
§ COLONEL BARTTELOT
thought the hon. Baronet the Member for North Wilts had done good service in bringing forward the question. He wished, however, before he committed himself by voting upon the Amendment, to understand what was its purport. It declared that personal property which was now exempt from taxation ought to contribute; but if that meant that we were to have an increased income tax, he was not prepared to support it. In the case of burdens imposed by that House for Imperial purposes, and for the general benefit of the country, he thought that the Imperial resources should bear their share; but he was not prepared to vote for an Amendment which might mean something that he did not intend. Under these circumstances, he was unable to support the Amendment of the hon. Baronet.
§ MR. DODSON
thought that if the hon. Baronet the Member for North Wilts went to a division, he would show rather the simplicity of the dove than the wisdom of the serpent, because 923 such a division would have the effect of weakening the Resolution that was arrived at last year. What appearance would a division on the present occasion present to the public outside. What those who supported the Resolution of last year complained of was, that local burdens fell only on two kinds of property, when they should fall upon all kinds; but how could they complain of the present Bill on that ground when, by assenting to the Budget, they had put it out of the power of the Government that year to give any relief from the contributions of personalty? The present Bill would tax wood, game, and great houses in the country; and hon. Members should be careful how they conveyed to the ratepayers the impression that they wished to prevent property of this kind contributing to local burdens.
§ MR. CORRANCE
thought the hon. Baronet the Member for North Wilts had succeeded by his Amendment in introducing a very large issue into a very small Bill; but that he was to be congratulated to this extent, that he had shown many cases amounting to great hardship and injustice with respect to the subject of rating. However, after the admissions which the Government had made, he (Mr. Corrance) should support the Bill, and hoped the Amendment would be withdrawn.
§ MR. HIBBERT
drew attention to this—that the Amendment pointed to no means of carrying out the principle which was embodied in it; and that, if the proposition were carried, it would be necessary that they should have something more—like the transfer of the licence duty, for instance—before effect could be given to it. [Sir GEORGE JENKINSON: Yes.] But the hon. Baronet had shown no method by which they could bring personal property to contribute to local rates. In fact, the line suggested by the hon. Baronet for obtaining relief from local taxation did not seem to be favoured by the House generally, who were rather in favour of the mode of relief indicated in the Resolution of the hon. Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes). That was not the first proposal which had been made to rate personal property; but all such attempts had been found ineffectual, and one evidence of 924 that was afforded, by the Act passed from year to year, exempting stock-in-trade from rating. It had been expressly decided that money lent upon interest, salaries, and many other kinds of personal property were not subject to rates, and, as Sir George Lewis said, the rate ability of personal property in England, though theoretically sanctioned by law, was practically a new question. In Sunderland, under a local Act, there was power to rate personal property, including shipping; but the difficulty of carrying out the Act was so great, that the authorities had almost ceased to put it in operation, and he believed they would be glad to get rid of this power of rating. Parliament would find the same difficulties in enforcing the Amendment. Many years ago stock-in-trade was rated in a part of the West of England, and the result was, that it drove capital away from the cloth district. It might be said that no such result would follow, if the same law were carried out everywhere. But when and how would it be enforced? Take the case of a grocer. Would the assessment be made when his cellars were full or empty? Or in the case of a wealthy fundholder, having seats in the country and a town residence, where would you assess him? Even with the greatest desire on the part of the House to rate personalty, he believed the difficulties of doing so would be found insuperable. The Government had brought before the House their plan. They said this was only one step in the direction they proposed to take. They meant to deal with the question of local taxation, but first wished to pass the Bills now before the House; and those who desired to support the proposals of the hon. Member for South Devon should help to pass these Bills during the present Session.
§ MR. CRAUFURD
begged the hon. Baronet not to press his Motion to a division, because if he did so, he would imperil that which they had at heart. They had obtained very considerable support in the House in the direction of his object; but he was satisfied that if he pressed the Motion to a division on the present occasion, many of his Friends would have to leave the House without voting for it.
§ SIR MASSEY LOPES
said, he concurred in the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Ayr (Mr. Craufurd). 925 His hon. Friend (Sir George Jenkinson) had done good service in raising what had proved a valuable discussion, but he hoped he would be contented with that result. The Government proposals had made the exemption now attached to personal property more invidious; but he confessed he had never been able to see how personal property was to be assessed, and he certainly was no advocate for rating stock-in-trade. He was inclined to think that the mode which he had proposed for obtaining relief from local taxation was the best mode, and would grow in favour with the House and the country.
§ MR. DISRAELI
joined with those who had urged the hon. Member for North Wilts not to divide the Committee. The labours of the hon. Member in impressing upon the House the necessity of determining upon the liability of personal property to local taxation were worthy of all praise, and he entirely agreed that the House must come to some permanent resolution upon the subject; but the mode of enforcing that liability should be left to a responsible Government. An opposition could only suggest the principle they thought best, and illustrate by instances the injustice of not recognizing this principle. The debate had been very advantageous to the general principle which the hon. Member for North Wilts wished to substantiate; and it was only fair to him to remind the Committee that he had distinctly stated he never contemplated the rating of stock-in-trade. He apprehended that the justice of there being some contribution from personal property in some form would soon be recognized by Parliament, and among those who had laboured successfully to accomplish that object the hon. Baronet's right to be considered one would be acknowledged. At the same time, he thought that, for practical purposes, it was inexpedient that the matter should proceed no further on that occasion. A division on the Amendment would be liable to the greatest misconception; and though he agreed that those who favoured the liability of personal property might consistently vote for it without committing themselves to the principle of a formal assessment upon that kind of property, yet he hoped the hon. Baronet would be satisfied with having originated a debate 926 which would contribute largely to the formation of a sound policy upon this question.
§ MR. STANSFELD
joined in the appeal to the hon. Baronet the Member for North Wilts to withdraw the Amendment. The discussion then about to terminate had been very interesting, but, with regard to the Amendment, the Committee was clearly of opinion that it would be impossible to carry it out immediately, and considering it was admitted that something should be done shortly to redress the grievance complained of, whether by contributions from the Imperial Exchequer or by direct allocation of Imperial taxes to local purposes, nothing would be lost by postponing the consideration of the question. He thought, therefore, the Committee had no alternative but to reject it.
thought that the Committee could not feel surprised at the question being raised, when they recollected the Resolution to which the House had come a year back; and it appeared to him that the Government had rather stimulated the desire to bring the question forward by the way they had dealt with the question of exemptions in their Bill. The hon. Baronet the Member for North Wilts, however, proposed that personal property should be rated under the Bill, without indicating the mode by which such an object could be attained. He (Mr. Henley) confessed he was not prepared to follow the hon. Baronet into the wide field into which he had launched, and trusted that he would not divide the Committee upon it.
§ SIR GEORGE JENKINSON,
in reply, said, in consequence of the misconstruction which had boon put upon his proposal, he would ask permission to withdraw it. ["No, no!"]
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
hoped that the Committee would allow the hon. Baronet to withdraw his proposal, the terms of which were wider than they were prepared to accept. ["No, no!"] He (Mr. Newdegate), however, was prepared to accept the principle laid down, because he thought it possible, with the income tax imposed, to render that source of taxation available for local purposes.
§ SIR GEORGE JENKINSON
said, if he were not allowed to withdraw his 927 Amendment, he should take the sense of the Committee upon it; but after having assented to the appeals which had been made to him from both sides, a division now upon it would not indicate the feelings of hon. Members in respect to it. ["Divide, divide!"]
§ COLONEL WILSON-PATTEN
suggested that it was, at least, unusual to refuse an hon. Member leave to withdraw an Amendment in Committee; but if a division were desired, he suggested it should be taken on the Motion for leave to withdraw.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
appealed to hon. Members on both sides of the House who were desirous of the withdrawal of the Amendment, if a division were forced upon them, to vote for the Amendment, not, as it were, agreeing to the substance of it, but as a protest against the hon. Baronet being prevented from withdrawing it. ["Divide, divide!"]
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
expressed a hope that the Committee would allow the hon. Baronet to withdraw his proposal, as it would be very unusual under the circumstances to refuse him liberty to do so. The Rules of the House would not permit such a division as that suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Wilson-Patten).
§ COLONEL STUART KNOX
moved that the Chairman report Progress rather than that the Committee should go to a division on the Amendment.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman report Progress."—(Colonel Stuart Knox.)
§ MR. RYLANDS
expressed surprise that any of his hon. Friends around him should refuse to allow the Amendment to be withdrawn.
§ MR. COLLINS
announced his intention to move that the Chairman leave the Chair if a division were insisted on.
§ Motion and Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD GEORGE CAVENDISH
moved, in page 1, line 22, to leave out "or for growing timber," on the ground that we had not too much of it, and that 928 trees were not delighted in only by the owner.
§ MR. STANSFELD
assented. It had not been the intention of the Government that single trees should be rated, but simply that plantations should not be placed on a better footing than land under tillage.
asked whether hedgerow timber would be assessed; in his part of the country hedge-row timber was richer than plantation timber.
§ MR. CLARE READ
pointed out that hedge-row timber depreciated the value of the land, and the assessment committees therefore rated it lower than if the hedge-row had no timber in it. He submitted that the Amendment of which he had given Notice, after Clause 3, would much better meet the object the noble Lord the Member for North Derbyshire (Lord George Cavendish) had in view than the proposal he had just made. The Amendment he would propose was to provide a mode of assessing woods, plantations, timber, and game. He contended that the value of the land should be taken in its unimproved and natural condition, whether it had or had not timber upon it. If the Amendment of the noble Lord were simply adopted, the assessment committee would be at liberty to place any value they pleased upon it.
§ MR. FLOYER
doubted whether the provision would have the effect expected of it. He therefore thought it desirable that the Committee should know what the Government thought would be the operation of that section of the Bill. Land with timber on it would not let for more, but for less than land without it. If the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board really meant to assess the land at a higher rate because some future owner or occupier would cut down the timber upon it, he must say so, and lay down the principle on which he intended to insist. If he did not, the matter would be governed by the Act now in force; and any Judge or assessment committee would say there was no possibility of charging anything more on the rateable value of the property because there was timber growing on it, but much less. Its value under the Parochial Assessment Act was what a 929 tenant would give for the use of it, whilst the trees were growing on it.
§ MR. STANSFELD,
in answer to the question whether the Bill proposed to place any higher assessment on wood land than on other lands, said, he did not anticipate any such result. On the contrary, it might well be that land occupied by a wood should be of less annual value than land not so occupied. Therefore, the rating and assessment of the wood was not in addition to the rating of the soil. The object of the Bill was to say that the soil should be rated, although it was covered with wood. It had been urged that it was impossible year by year to rate the occupier of a wood which might not be cut for many years to come. That was no objection to his proposal. That objection could be answered by the existing law and practice of this country. There was no difference in point of principle between saleable underwood and other wood—it was not necessarily cut every year, but might be cut every five, seven, 12, 20, or 30 years; and the experience of the assessment committees and the records of the Courts of Justice showed that there had been no legal or practical difficulty in rating it. He found that beech woods in Buckinghamshire were now rated under a Local Act. The Bill prescribed no new principle of rating, and therefore those beech woods would be rated under the ordinary law. In some instances woods were at present rated to the highway rate, and in others, where the owners had consented, to the poor rate. It might be also that land already in an improved state was planted with wood. He thought the Proviso of his noble Friend behind him (Lord George Cavendish), to the effect that wood land should not be assessed at a higher value than if it were not used for plantation or wood, would be better in its phraseology than other Amendments of which Notice had been given on that matter. Saleable underwood was, according to the present law and practice, rated according to an annual average spread over a whole term. That principle was fully recognized in a judgment of Lord Ellenborough. In that case, the wood was cut down every 21 years, and at the time of the rate the trees were about the middle period of their growth. The question submitted was, whether they were liable to be rated 930 every year according to the annual average value, or when they were cut down only. The Judge said it had been urged that the property ought not to be rated until the produce had been severed from the land and supplied the occupier with the means of paying the rate; but the Court was not of opinion that any of the produce must actually be realized, but that the property was at all times rateable according to the improvement in the value or in the rent which might fairly be expected from it. In a more recent case decided in 1867 that principle was not disputed.
§ MR. HUNT
thought the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board did not appreciate the difference between saleable underwood and other woods. Saleable underwood had an annual letting value, because it might be divided into sections, one section being cut down every year, the proceeds of which would meet the outgoing on the whole of the saleable underwood. But when they came to the question of timber apart from saleable underwood, there the difficulty arose, because it must be left to grow till it arrived at a marketable value, and in the meantime there would be no produce from the proceeds of which to pay the rate or other outgoings. He doubted whether the right hon. Gentleman had given that practical consideration to the subject which would enable him to assist the House in that matter. How was the tenant-for-life to be dealt with, because he would perhaps have to pay the rates during the whole of his tenancy, without getting a single shilling benefit out of the sale of the timber, which would all accrue to his remainder-man, who had not paid a farthing of rates. He thought that lands growing timber ought to be brought into assessment, but the question was how it could best be done. He thought the Government ought to take the matter into their consideration, and be prepared to lay down the rules and principles on which these lands should be assessed, and not throw the difficulty upon the local authorities.
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, that the case which he had cited disposed of the objection of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt), because in it, Lord Ellenborough decided that growing timber was to be assessed according to what its value 931 Would be for a term of years, and not according to its annual letting value.
wished to know whether ornamental timber in parks which was of no pecuniary value to the owners was to be rated. He should like the Government to give a definition of ornamental timber.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
pointed out that, if the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board was to be accepted, nobody would give anything at all for growing timber on land on which there was neither underwood nor pasture, and consequently no rate whatever could be levied upon it. He also wished to know whether the right hon. Gentleman proposed to rate land as bearing growing timber, as well as the underwood on it, because in that case the owner would have to pay double rates for the same property. If the right hon. Gentleman intended to exclude underwood, the exclusion should be expressed as "other than underwood."
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, that of course he did not propose that the land should be subject to double rates. The property would be rated according to its average annual value over a term of years, and not according to its letting value for a single year.
corroborated the statement of the right hon. Member for North Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt), with respect to the mode in which under-woods were cropped.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
pointed out that the ease cited by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had nothing to do with the present question, inasmuch as under the Parochial Assessment Act, which had been passed since that judgment of Lord Ellenborough had been pronounced, woodlands were rateable according to their annual letting value, and not according to their average annual value over a term of years. He suggested that the right hon. Gentleman should strike out of the clause the words "growing timber." To take timber from year to year would be simply absurd.
§ MR. STANSFELD
understood the law at present to be founded on the annual value on the hypothesis of a letting simply from year to year.
§ MR. CAWLEY
agreed in the law as stated by his right hon. Friend the Member for North Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt). The correct principle was laid down in the Scotch Act, as quoted by the Secretary to the Local Government Board.
suggested that the debate should be confined to the mode in which the land should be assessed.
§ MR HIBBERT
stated that there was really no difficulty in rating plantations and timber as had been suggested. There had been no difficulty in regard to rating beech woods in Buckinghamshire, which, he believed, were not cut oftener than once in 30 years. A landlord converted a portion of arable into wood land, and thereby turned it out of cultivation. In Northumberland, many landlords consented to the rating of such lands under the denomination of "plantations and woods;" and he did not know that in these cases any great difficulty arose in regard to the rating.
§ MR. LOPES
said, that underwoods were held rateable simply because they were reproductive; and there was not the slightest difficulty in applying to them the principle of the Parochial Assessment Act—namely, that of the hypothetical tenant, inasmuch as they were cut at certain fixed periods; but when they came to deal with woods and plantations, which were not reproductive, great difficulty would arise; and what he was anxious to know was how they proposed for the future to rate them. Was it proposed to treat the land as arable? He did not think the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had correctly laid down the law. Since the passing of the Parochial Assessment Act he had never heard of any other system of rating woodlands than that of assessing their yearly letting value.
said, that considerable practical difficulty would arise in rating the underwood grown for hop-poles in the county of Kent, or land on which timber was also grown, if the Bill passed in its present form. In Kent hop-poles were cut once in 10 years. The ground was divided into ten portions, and one of these was cut every year. But there were trees growing in the plantations, oak and beech, which 933 required the growth of 80 or 100 years; and then the danger arose of a double assessment, one for the timber, the other for the hop-poles.
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, he was quite prepared to accept the Amendment of the noble Lord behind him (Lord George Cavendish).
§ MR. CLARE READ
thought it would be better simply to repeal the Act of Elizabeth under which underwoods were rateable.
§ SIR HENRY HOARE
joined in the suggestion of the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read). He thought that woodlands should be rated at agricultural prices, and would point out that it was for the good of the country that woods were grown to protect cattle and crops.
§ COLONEL EGERTON LEIGH
pointed out that under the Statute of Elizabeth saleable underwoods were rateable as saleable underwoods. If land was to be rated for plantations and for woods, why should not land be also rated for saleable underwood, and the same principle be followed throughout?
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
moved in page 1, line 22, after "wood" to insert "not being land used for the growth of saleable underwood."
§ MR. STANSFELD
assented to the Amendment and expressed a hope that it would be satisfactory to the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read).
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ MR. CLARE READ
said, the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie) would give a premium to the growth of timber with underwood.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.