HC Deb 20 June 1873 vol 216 cc1232-9

(Mr. Stansfeld, Mr. Secretary Bruce, Mr. Goschen, Mr. Hibbert).

COMMITTEE. [Progress 19th June.]

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 13 (Exemption of stock in trade).

Question again proposed, "That the words 'and all machines and machinery other than that by means of which motive power is generated or transmitted, shall be deemed to be stock in trade and included in the provisions of the said Act,"—(Mr. Cawley,) —be added at end of clause."


rose to move, as an addition to the Amendment, the following words:—"In the case of any mill or manufactory or building used for any such purpose." He said the Amendment would bring the law of England into harmony with that of Ireland, and that was a thing which was extremely desirable.

Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, After the word "and," to insert the words "in the case of any mill or manufactory or building erected or used for any such purpose."—(Mr. Francis S. Powell.)


said, he thought it was desirable that the Committee should know exactly their position upon the question immediately at issue. There seemed to be an impression in some minds that the 13th clause altered the law, and in some respects narrowed the exemption of stock in trade. The simple effect of Clause 13, however, was to repeal the 2 & 3 Vict., c. 87, s. 2, which made the exemption of stock in trade temporary, thus leaving it a permanent exemption. The result was, as he contended, that the Bill before the House did not alter the present law of rating machinery, while the Amendment of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Cawley), modified, as it would be, to some extent by that of the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. F. S. Powell), would really alter the law and introduce changes the results of which could not be foreseen at present. He would be very sorry indeed to vote against the Amendment, because he wished to be in no way committed against its object; but it was surrounded at present with difficulties which would require the most careful consideration, and if the Amendment was pressed to a division, he would be compelled on the part of the Government to oppose it, because he could not pledge the Government to the terms suggested, though at another time his mind would be open on the subject. He hoped, therefore, that his hon. Friend would be content for the present to leave the question an open one. He urged that more especially, because the Amendment was really foreign to the immediate object of this Bill.


said, he could not consent to withdraw his Amendment, which he considered to be directly ger- mane to the object of the Bill, and. if the question was to be settled at all that was the proper time to do so. His Amendment was nothing more than an attempt to define what was and what was not stock in trade, and to explain an apparent contradiction of the law. A man was rated in respect of his occupation of an hereditament, and the Courts had held that the hereditament was to include whatever was attached to the freehold. The exigencies of commerce, however, had introduced machines which required attachment in order to give them stability, and hereupon the Courts held that machinery affixed to the hereditament by a large bolt was rateable, while a loom screwed to the floor was not an attachment to the freehold, and was not rateable. He did not wish to throw obstacles in the way of the progress of the Bill, but unless it was distinctly understood that the whole question should be fully considered, and a discussion allowed on the Amendment, or addition to the clause on the bringing up of the Report, he felt bound, in honour to hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, to take a division at the present stage.


believed that the effect of the Amendment, of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Salford (Mr. Cawley) if carried, would be to introduce great confusion in the administration of the law instead of to simplify matters. As the law now stood, it was not the machinery that was rated, but the whole of the property as enhanced in value by the machinery—the fixed machinery. The Amendment proposed to get rid of all that. ["No, no!"] It was proposed by the Amendment to rate "all machines by which motive power was generated or transmitted." It was said that the object of the Amendment was to make clear what machinery or portions of machinery should be rated; but it was difficult, if not impossible, to lay down any distinct rules on the subject. The question was one not so much of law as of fact, which must be decided on its merits in each case.


thought some better rule should be laid down as to what machinery was and what was not rateable. It was not fair towards either the Courts or the ratepayers that matters should be left as they were, for the present state of the law was as bad as it could be. The rule proposed by his hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Mr. Cawley) would be a great improvement. No less machinery would be rated under it than was rated at present.


hoped the question would be deferred till the Report, in order that some better definition might be introduced.


would vote against the Amendment. If the words proposed by the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Cawley) were merely intended to define stock in trade, they were wholly unnecessary; but if it were intended by these words to exclude machinery fixed to the soil, which, although it was not rateable per se, was rateable indirectly, because it enhanced the valuation of the soil, then it was a most objectionable proceeding, seeing that the main object of the Bill was to extend the area of rateability.


hoped the Government would not under any circumstances listen to the suggested Amendment, which, instead of simplifying the Bill, would complicate matters ten times over, and land them in insuperable difficulties. He could not see how the generating or motive and transmitting power was always to be determined with a view to rating as in the case of steam power, waterwheels, windmills, and so forth. If the proposal were unfortunately sanctioned, it could not be worked or carried out by any human being.


suggested that the Bill should be proceeded with with caution, and not hurriedly, for as it was a money Bill, it could not undergo revision in the other House. He hoped the Government would accept the Amendment which was now before them. He was quite prepared to admit that certain kinds of machinery should be rated, but the power to rate machinery ought not to be carried to such an extent as was contemplated, which would include every little thing down to the minutest points of detail.


supported the Amendment of the hon. Member for Salford as being calculated to assist the operations of assessment committees.


said, that having carefully considered the Amendments of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Cawley) and the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. F. S. Powell), and remembering that the object of the Bill was to extend and not to decrease the area of rating, he was opposed to both of those Amendments. Though he had voted for exempting Sunday and ragged schools, he almost regretted having done so, as he thought it would be much better that the Bill should contain no exemption whatever.


said, that, looking largely at the question, the great motive which had impelled the movement for a change in regard to local taxation had been the complaints of the owners of real property with respect to realty being rated as against the vast personal property of the country which was not rated. Undoubtedly it was a most extraordinary application of the doctrine advocated by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Salford (Mr. Cawley) to say that when the complaint was that the range of rateable property was too narrow, they should proceed to narrow it further. They could not narrow the range further consistently with justice to the owners of real property. The strength of the Amendments consisted in this—that there was a great difficulty in the application of the law as it now stood; but would those Amendments answer the purpose of removing that difficulty? In his opinion, the Amendments of the hon. Member for Salford and of the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. F. S. Powell) did not even touch the case, and would create a great deal of confusion and difficulty in the application of the present law. There was no doubt great difficulty in drawing a line of demarcation between fixed machinery which was rateable, and machinery which was not fixed and which was not rateable. The difficulty was one, however, which could not be settled by the present Bill. Moreover, he contended that it was an entire mistake in conjunction with this Bill to endeavour to supply a clearer definition. They had declared that Sunday and ragged schools should be exempted from rating, but they had not attempted to define a ragged school, and he was informed that the question as to what constituted a ragged school had been made the subject of a contest in a Court of Law. The Amendment of the hon. Member for Salford assumed that stock-in-trade was exempted because it was a proper subject for exemption. That was not the ground of its exemption. The Government had exempted stock-in-trade, because it was impossible to catch it; and if the Amendment touched a description of machinery which it was possible to catch—and it had been proved that it was possible to catch it, because it was already rated—in what sense could they contend that it ought now to be exempted? That being so, the Government would give to the Amendment the most decided opposition.


pointed out several anomalies which existed in the present system of rating, and said they must be dealt with by the Government sooner or later, and he thought the sooner they were dealt with the better it would be.


said, he was strongly in favour some days ago of sending the Bill to a Select Committee, and what was now happening convinced him, that that course ought to have been adopted. Points such as those which had been recently raised were not of a nature to be decided by a Committee of the Whole House.


said, it would be a fortunate thing for everybody but the members of the legal profession if the clause and all the Amendments were got rid of together. The Judges had lately been paying Parliament very handsome compliments for the manner in which they carried on the work of legislation, and it seemed to him that that clause would form another blessed example. In his opinion, they could have gone on quite well with an annual Continuance Bill, and then this question would not leave arisen. He certainly should decline to vote for either of the Amendments, because he believed that if they were adopted, they would only make confusion worse confounded.


said, assessment committees appeared to act on the principle that all machinery was rateable, and urged that it would be well if a remedy were provided for the evils of the system.

Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.

Question put, "That the words 'and in the case of any mill or manufactory or building erected or used for any such purpose, all machines and machinery other than that by means of which motive power is generated or transmitted, shall be deemed to be stock in trade and included in the provisions of the said Act,' be added at the end of Clause 13."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 77; Noes 227: Majority 150.


said, that as he understood there was to be no passage through Temple Bar after half-past 8 o'clock, and as his bon. Friend behind him (Mr. Corrance), who had an Amendment on the Paper, had informed him that if he went on, he must speak for an hour, he thought the best thing he could do would be to move that they report Progress.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman report Progress."—(Mr. Pell.)


trusted the hon. Gentleman would not persevere with his Motion, because the Committee had at present a very good and sufficient attendance of hon. Members. If the number should be much reduced, the Government would consent to report Progress.

Question put, and negatived.


moved, as an Amendment, in line 13, after "perpetual," to insert—"in so far as it applies to stock in trade only, but not to any other description of property." Its object was to limit the perpetual exemption from rating to stock in trade, and not extend it to other descriptions of personal property.


said, he had looked carefully into the Acts, and could not accept the Amendment, which would have a different operation from that which the hon. Baronet intended. The House had already decided not to render personalty or the general ability of parishioners liable to rating; and it was not desirable to go back to this already decided question.


said, the Amendment would impose a liability to rating upon every description of personality other than stock in trade. He could not therefore support the Amendment.


did not want the Committee to say affirmatively that any kind of personalty should be subject to rating, but only to say that the rating of personalty other than stock in trade should not be perpetual.


said, the Amendment, if carried, would necessi- tate the passing of an annual Bill for the exemption of all personalty except stock in trade.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


in rising, according to Notice, to leave out the clause altogether, said, he believed it to be vexatious to certain classes and unnecessary. By the Bill, law and custom were strained in order to bring things into taxation that had always been exempted. The question must become a class question at the ensuing Elections, and he urged on the Government to let it stand over until the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to introduce a general measure on the subject.


defended the clause, which was necessary to prevent the absurdity of an annual Bill dealing with exemptions.

Question put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 128; Noes 77: Majority 51.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.

House adjourned at half after Five o'clock till Monday next.