HC Deb 05 May 1873 vol 215 cc1535-41

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Baxter.)


in rising to move, "That the Bill be read a second time that day six months," said, he wished to point out that the Bill was of more importance to everyone connected with the landed interest of Ireland than, perhaps, was generally supposed. He objected to the Bill, as he had stated on a former occasion, because it was intended to entrust the valuation of all the landed property of Ireland to persons who were not competent to carry it on; but were this his only objection he would not now trouble the House, as he had entered into the subject very fully before. He objected to the Bill now because, if he understood it rightly, the principle on which the Bill was based was a most dangerous one. Under the previous Valuation Acts the valuators were required to examine the properties of the soil; they were to go into each townland and examine the soil, and calculate what that soil would produce, and in the Acts there were Schedules of prices for agricultural produce, and they were to estimate the produce by the scale of prices in the Act. But this was not the principle of this Bill. Turning to Clause 10 of the Bill, he found that the valuation was to be made on an estimate of the net annual value of the tenements and hereditaments, and he should like to hear from the Secretary of the Treasury how that net annual value of the land was to be ascertained. There was nothing in this Bill about an examination of the soil, or a calculation of its produce according to any fixed scale, as in previous Acts; but power was given to the valuators to determine what they considered the full annual letting value of the land, in other words what they considered ought to be the rent. This was a proposal of the most important character. Remembering the agitation in Ireland for what were termed valuation rents, he could not help pointing out to hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House that they were sanctioning this principle by this Bill, and for himself he could not help objecting to having what was practically the settlement of the rental of the country placed in the hands of those in whom he had no confidence. He also objected to half the expense being charged on the local rates, for, though the present valuation was low this did not injuriously affect local taxation, and by an increase in the valuation the Imperial Exchequer alone would gain through a larger income tax. He objected also to the proposed cost of the valuation. It was stated before the Committee that the valuation could be made for £50,000 for three Provinces. It was now proposed that the cost should be £70,000. It was also stated before the Committee that the valuation would be completed in three years, but now it was proposed to extend it to seven years. Turning to the details of the measure, he found them to be of the most objectionable character. For instance, the clauses taxing machinery and taxing improvements in land, he considered most objectionable. It was proposed to pay a fixed sum for the revision, and that it should be fixed for seven years. Now, he could not say that he approved of having a fixed sum in the Schedule. He thought it would be much better that each county should pay for the work really done, and he intended to propose in Committee that each county should pay the cost of the revising officers and no more. He would prefer to see a system of valuation for Ireland similar to that which had been adopted in Scotland. He believed the valuation in Scotland had not cost more than £8,000 or £9,000; but the last valuation in Ireland had cost some £325,000, and took an unnecessarily long time to complete. For those reasons he felt it his duty to oppose the second reading of the Bill, and although he did not expect to be successful, he should certainly take the sense of the House on the measure, and intended in Committee to move Amendments in the direction which he had indicated.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(The O' Conor Don.)


said, he supported the second reading of the Bill, because the present valuation was far below what it ought to be, and he thought it should be placed on a fair basis. He hoped, however, that the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland would postpone his Union Rating Bill until his new valuation was completed, believing that if that were done the great argument in favour of Union rating—namely, the inequality of taxation as between town and country—would then have ceased to exist. He objected strongly to Clause 16 as containing a proposal which was unfair, and there were one or two other clauses in the Bill which he also disapproved. He hoped, however, these faults would be got rid of in Committee.


said, he must oppose the Bill, on the ground that no local bodies in Ireland asked for the measure; and, moreover, he objected to it on economical grounds, and that it laid down no fixed principle of valuation whatever, for it would make the valuation much too high in Munster, Leinster, and Connaught, while it would be comparatively low in Ulster. The Bill, moreover, would increase the valuation in Ireland by some £3,000,000, so that that additional amount would be available for Imperial taxation. The Bill was one really for Imperial and not for local purposes; and the Treasury and not the localities ought in equity to pay the cost which it would entail.


objected to the Bill, on the ground that the proposal contained in it would have the effect of putting increased taxation on Ireland. The Bill was part of the financial policy of the Government, and therefore he thought it reasonable to consider it and the Budget together on the present occasion. The reduction of the sugar duties amounted to £1,625,000; and from the calculation which he had made from Government Returns, he had ascertained that the amount of the reduction in Ireland would be £30,000. The income tax reduction was £1,643,000; but the amount which Ireland would gain out of that sum would be only £105,000; Consequently, while the amount remitted by the Budget amounted to £3,238,000 the amount remitted with regard to Ireland would be £137,000, while the amount that would be imposed on Ireland by the increase of valuation would amount to £37,500. He considered that to be most unfair treatment to Ireland, for while the reduction was 2s. 5¾d. per head of the population of Great Britain it was only 6d. per head in Ireland. The effect of this Bill would be, by increasing the rateable value in Ireland, to increase taxation on the owners of real property who gained little by the reductions of the Budget. He was, however, glad to see that the new taxation which would be imposed upon Ireland, if the Bill became law, would affect only real property, and that the professional incomes would have the full benefit of the remission of taxation under the reduced rate of income tax. Under all the circumstances, he should feel bound to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Roscommon.


regarded the Bill as a simple measure for raising a certain further amount of taxation upon property in Ireland. The Irish tenantry would not be at all affected by the measure, but it would fall heavily upon the landlords in that country. However, as the Bill was framed against Ireland, it would, of course, be supported by England and Scotland and would pass. The rating of towns in Ireland since 1852 had been largely increased, whilst there was no such increase in the rating of the lands in Ireland. Why, he asked, did they not bring in a similar Bill as the present for England? The object of the measure was obviously to enable the Chancellor of the Exchequer to augment his revenue by the increased taxation of Ireland. He thought that the Government ought to have instituted an inquiry into this subject before they introduced the Bill.


said, that the Bill was misnamed. It should have been entitled a measure to enable the Government to draw more money from the already heavily-taxed people of Ireland. Nobody in Ireland had ever asked for this Bill, the effect of which would be to confiscate a little more of the property of Ireland entirely for English purposes. "Seething a kid in its mother's milk" was forbidden by the Jewish law; but the Government not only practically increased the income tax in Ireland by 3d. in the pound, but did it also at the expense of Irishmen. The duty of every statesman was to do something to induce the Irish people to remain in their own country; but this Bill, like the Church and the Land Acts, would have a directly contrary effect. It would be most unpopular in Ireland, and would be of no advantage to man, woman, or child.


said, the object of the Bill was to establish a uniform rate for the purpose of taxation, and taken in that view it was impossible to resist the measure. Rent was not to be taken as the exact measure of the value of land, though it was a considerable element in its calculation, but there were other things that went to make up the gross amount. A certain amount of taxation had to be raised, and it was only right there should be an equitable valuation of the whole of the country. The present inequality arose from accidental circumstances, and this was but a fair and just proposal of the Government.


supported the Bill, on the ground that it was desirable that there should be a complete re-valuation of the property of Ireland on fair and equitable principles, and said he should be content if the progress of this Bill were delayed until the House had considered the measure relating to the valuation of England, so that they might secure that the valuation in both countries should be conducted on principles more or less identical.


said, he wished to point out, that if the valuation of Ireland were raised to the extent it would be if this Bill became law, a large number of tenant-farmers would be shut out from the benefit which Parliament, when it passed the Land Act, thought right to confer upon them; compensation for "disturbance" under that Act would be reduced in some eases as much as 50 per cent; and many tenant-farmers would be placed in such a position that their landlords could compel them to contract themselves out of their rights under the Land Act.


said, that not a single word had been uttered in the course of the debate adverse to the principle of the Bill, and as for the details, the Government were ready to listen to any suggestions for their improvement. He frankly admitted that one of the objects of the Government in introducing the Bill was to increase the Imperial taxation of Ireland; but there were other reasons which induced them to bring the measure forward. There were very complicated questions between landlord and tenant under the Land Act, and questions which affected the Franchise, none of which could be settled until the valuation of the country was placed on a satisfactory basis. An objection was urged to the Bill, that half of the expense was to be thrown on the counties, and it was said that if the Treasury wanted the Bill it ought to pay the whole of the cost. But he denied that the Bill was introduced wholly for Imperial purposes, and he would instance the case of the revaluation of Scotland under the Act of 1854, when the whole of the cost was borne without complaint by the counties and boroughs of Scotland. He hoped the Irish Members would give him their assistance in making this Bill as satisfactory as possible, in which case he could assure them the measure would be not only to the advantage of the Imperial Government, but also of the people of Ireland.


said, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury had ignored the fact that Ireland possessed a valuation that was perfectly good for local purposes, and that the improvement was merely desired for Imperial purposes. That valuation cost £325,000, every penny of which was defrayed by Ireland, and the comparison the right hon. Gentleman had sought to draw with Scotland did not exist in fact.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 198; Noes 45: Majority 153.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.