HC Deb 22 May 1873 vol 216 cc277-318

Order for Second Reading read.

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


rose to move that the Bill be read a second time upon this day six months. It was impossible to discuss this measure without at the same time discussing the Valuation Bill, which immediately followed it in the list of Business for to-night, because the two measures formed part and parcel of the same subject, and if passed would together form the foundation of all our future legislation with regard to local taxation in its relation to imperial taxation. Under these circumstances, it was of the first importance that these Bills should be fully and carefully discussed, otherwise but a short period would elapse before fresh measures would have to be introduced in order to correct the mistakes which it was certain would be made if these Bills were passed hastily and without being sufficiently considered. He was aware that he should be met at the onset by the objection that all the matters to which he was about to refer were only questions of detail, which could be more conveniently considered in Committee; but his experience in that House had shown him that it was impossible for a full and exhaustive discussion of a Bill to take place at any of its stages but that of the second reading. Turning to the Bill now before the House, he found that it endeavoured to deal with the question of liability in a very summary way. He, however, ventured to suggest that not only this measure, but the one that immediately followed it, instead of settling matters, would really unsettle much that had been settled by the onerous labours of the Courts of Law, and would lay the foundation for endless litigation, misunderstanding, and disputes, which would have to be settled hereafter by the Legislature. By the 3rd clause of the Bill it was proposed to extend the liability to three classes of property. In the first place, it proposed to extend the liability to mines of all kinds. But it happened that there was nothing which had a less definite legal meaning than what was included in the term mine, and unless the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board was prepared to state distinctly on the face of the Bill what he intended to include in that term, he would be doing that which must inevitably lead to much future confusion. There was no difficulty Connected with the definition of an ironstone mine when worked from below; but iron ore which could be got from the surface of the ground by throwing off the earth with which it was mixed, would escape taxation as a mine. Take the case of clay—clay had been held to be a mine when worked from below, in the manner of coal, and not a mine when worked from the surface. Every day fresh kinds of earth, shale, &c., were being brought into use. He apprehended that the real object of the Bill was that all these things, which were produced from the earth, should be taxed. If that was its intention, let the Bill contain a distinct declaration to that effect, instead of leaving it to Courts of Law to determine what was rateable under the Bill. At present he was not discussing the question whether this was property that ought to be rated in the same way as other property; he was merely drawing attention to the uncertain phraseology of the Bill. If he was to take this Bill in connection with the other Bill which provided for valuation he utterly failed to find how the annual value of growing timber, as distinguished from underwood, was to be ascertained. Nothing had been introduced to render more definite the mode of ascertaining the value; but the words "from year to year" in the Parochial Assessment Act were to be changed into "one year with another." He, as well as some of his legal friends, was puzzled to know what was the legal interpretation of the phrase "one year with another," literally it meant the average of two years. Did the right hon. Gentleman mean that, or did he mean an average of five years, for which he proposed the valuation list should hold good. He next came to the proposal to repeal the Act passed by the present Parliament which exempted ragged schools and Sunday schools from rating. He regretted exceedingly that the right hon. Gentleman, in his love for abolishing exemptions, should have asked them to abolish the Act which was passed, after considerable discussion, by that very House. The whole country was against the repeal of that Act, and in favour of the exemption of such institutions as those schools which were carried on, not for the benefit of any private individual, but for the benefit of those who needed help, and could not help themselves. If the Government proceeded with the clause for the repeal of the Act he hoped the Committee would strike out that clause. To some extent scientific and literary institutions should also be exempt from rating. He would also draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the difficulty he had created by the introduction of a supposed principle of rating in the other Bill. In that Bill there was a provision which required the rating of places which were almost valueless. The next important point was that which dealt with the rating of property belonging to corporations and municipal governments. When the right hon. Gentleman admitted that the time had come when this description of property should not escape without rating, he expected the Government would have come forward and enunciated a principle on which Government property should be rated; but he failed to discover here anything more than might be set forth in the resolution of the House, to the effect that such rating ought to take place. He could not understand why they should be asked to simply affirm in an Act of Parliament a particular proposition that the Government should prepare a scheme and then ask Parliament to sanction it after it was done. In his opinion, the whole initiation ought to rest entirely with the Government. Then it appeared that if a scheme should be propounded and laid before Parliament, and a Bill founded upon it should be introduced, the very delightful privilege was given to the assessment committees to petition against the measure and fight out the matter, as was done in regard to a Private Bill. He confessed that was a privilege which most persons would be glad to get rid of. He admitted, without hesitation, that there were classes of property belonging to and used by the Imperial Government, which either ought not to be rated at all, or only at very small sums indeed. Take the case of fortifications. If fortifications were at places where they did injury to property around them, the owners of such property would be entitled to compensation. But fortifications stood on a wholly different footing from Government offices. The question, however, came back—on what principle were these structures to be rated? He contended that the House ought not to be asked to sanction a measure of this kind without a principle of rating being laid down which could be carried out by the assessment committees. The Bill also failed to state any definite process for valuing the property of local authorities, and the powers given to the surveyors of taxes by those Bills which far exceeded those given in the metropolitan Act, would raise objections from one end of the country to the other. The valuation list was to be sent in duplicate to the surveyor, and he could put in his own statement as to the value of the property, and on the list being returned to the assessment committee, the latter were bound to accept the surveyor's figures, unless they were proved to be wrong. Such a proposal would give great dissatisfaction to the country, and if adopted, would create much mischief. No hon. Member was so blind as not to detect the object the Government had in view. In reference to Imperial taxation, the object was to raise the value as high as possible. Hon. Gentlemen were perfectly well aware that there had been all along a constant dispute as to where the line of rateability with regard to machinery in some form or other was to be drawn. Without stopping to define it himself, he insisted that no Act should be passed dealing with the subject which did not particularly define what machinery should be rated. In practice the limit did not usually extend beyond the steam-engine when fixed on the masonry and what was known as the first motion and the main shafting. But some machinery was necessarily secured by screws or bolts, and it was held to be thereby attached to the freehold, and became part of the hereditament. It thus became rateable, but an absurd contradiction arose. In some cases a large quantity of machinery was worked from a single engine. The engine and boiler were in that case rated; but if each machine was worked by a small separate engine affixed to it, the boiler and steam pipes only were rateable. Another very common anomaly was that of two machines precisely alike; one would be rated because it was fixed on stone, and the other was not because it was fixed on timber not part of the freehold. If machinery was to be rated at all, the law should clearly state what machinery. Though we had got something approaching to a system as regarded a certain class of rateable property, it was by no means satisfactory; he referred to our great works, such as railways, canals, ironworks, gasworks, docks, and so on. He ventured to say that these were matters which deserved the attention of the Government before dealing with this great question of local and Imperial taxation, and that some method of settling these questions ought to be laid down. The present system was most difficult and unsatisfactory, and neither of the Bills helped them in dealing with property of that class. When they were rating property which did not admit of being let to a tenant they had to take a hypothetical tenant, and make calculations founded on hypotheses which had no relation to fact in order to arrive at some figure or other. It was impossible to say how far, in many cases, they were taxing the profits of trade, and not the hereditament itself. The Bill did nothing to diminish the difficulties; but, on the contrary, by introducing the surveyor of taxes, would increase them. The interpretation of the word hereditament given in the interpretation clause was very large. Take also Clause 55 of the Valuation Bill, which was introduced to meet the case of large mansions. When any building not used for purposes of trade or commerce could not— By reason of its size, character, use, or any exceptional circumstances, be properly valued according to the annual rent which a tenant might reasonably be expected to pay," it was to valued "according to the annual value thereof to the person occupying the same in respect of its actual use and occupation. He could not conceive words more open to objection, and he defied any one to lay down a clear and definite rule for carrying out that clause. There were many cases in which a nobleman or gentleman inherited with a large and valuable estate a moderately sized house which was of little or no value to let to another person, but with which, from family considerations, he would not dream of parting. Who would undertake to say what its annual value was to him for use or occupation? Or take the case of a gentleman coming into an encumbered estate with a house three times the size he needed, having regard to his actual income from the estate. What was the value of it to him in respect of his use or occupation? He would be thankful to get out of it, but could only do so by letting it at a nominal rent. Such property should be dealt with according to its actual letting value; and he doubted whether, under the words of the section, a ragged school, hospital, or other charitable institution could be assessed at all, because no man could say what was its value for use or occupation. Another important point was the deductions which were to be made from the gross value in order to fix the rateable value. He ventured to say that the distinction between gross and rateable value was little more than a myth. In point of fact, the valuers, so long as they got a fair rateable value, did not trouble themselves about gross value; but when the gross value was the measure of the property tax, it became necessary to have the gross value correct, as well as the rateable value. The right hon. Gentleman had proposed that there should be a maximum reduction, applicable all over the country. The deductions were intended to cover the costs of repair, insurance, and other expenses necessary to maintain the hereditament at its annual value, and the deductions proposed by the Government were set out in the schedule. He (Mr. Cawley) controverted absolutely, and without qualification, the doctrine that in order to be equitable, deductions ought to be everywhere at one and the same rate. The rent which a man paid for a house depended upon its situation, and included not only the building, but the value of the land. In large towns a house would let at three times the rent that it would bring in the country; the cost of repairs in each case was pretty much identical, but the proportion which they bore to the rent was a totally different percentage. He demurred, therefore, to the conclusion that because in one case one-fourth was deducted, and in another one-sixth, therefore these deductions were erroneous. If they applied one universal rule to the country at large they were likely to do harm, and more likely to create injustice and inequality than to remedy one. With regard to mills and factories, one-third was proposed to be taken off, with regard to house property one-fifth, and with regard to land with buildings and houses one-tenth. One-third off a factory might be very fair if we were dealing with the machinery itself, but very few would maintain in the case of a good sound mill that one-third must be expended in keeping it in condition. The thing was absurd on the face of it, and therefore we should make a mistake if we laid down a table of maximum deductions, leaving it uncertain how it was to be applied. They had got no fewer than six classes of property to which the note was appended— To be determined in each case according to the circumstances and the general principles of law as amended by this Act. What those general principles of law were he confessed he did not understand. He could only imagine that whoever drew the Bill put in these words because he felt himself utterly at sea, and unable to lay down any principle of law. His objection to these Bills was not so much against the machinery. He objected to them on the ground that they settled nothing; that they laid the foundation for greater disputes and difficulties; and that they inevitably entailed the necessity of dealing with the question in a more clear and distinct form at a future time. Instead of pressing forward these measures, the Government ought to take these points into consideration, and lay upon the Table a complete and comprehensive measure, dealing with the whole question. The Valuation Bill appeared from its size a somewhat important measure; but to a great extent it was taken up merely in changing the machinery of the assessment committee and the appeal to the Quarter Sessions which at present existed. He did not see the great advantage to be derived from this change; but he could well believe that it would create considerable confusion. In saying that he put out of view the introduction of the surveyor of taxes, an alteration which would hardly recommend itself to the country. In conclusion, he must say that the measures before the House were crude and ill-digested, and ought not to be proceeded with in their present state. He ventured to add that though it might be true that most of the questions he had alluded to were matters of detail, nevertheless they were matters so important that they ought not be left to depend on Amendments suggested by private Members in Committee. They were questions which should come before the House with all the weight which the consideration of the Ministry could give them, and until the Ministry had given them that consideration the measures ought not to be proceeded with. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his Amendment.


in seconding the Amendment, said, he was by no means disposed to repudiate this Bill because it provided for the extension of rating to property hitherto exempt. Why, then, was he driven to agree with his hon. Friend (Mr. Cawley) that it should not be allowed to proceed beyond its present stage? When the Bill was introduced he said that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was insufficient to convince him that he had mastered its details. The right hon. Gentleman had avoided giving the House any clear or distinct intimation how his proposal was to be worked out. He, however, expressed a hope that when the Bill was in their hands they might be able to satisfy themselves on many debateable points. Did the Bill do this? It did not. The right hon. Gentleman called the Bill unphilosophical; he also admitted it was illogical; but he said it was a small Bill. He should not quarrel with it as a small Bill if it had laid down any clear and sound principle; but it was vague, shadowy, illusory, and unjust. The right hon. Gentleman was doubtless prudent in limiting its extent, for if he had attempted reform in too many instances there would have been a combination against him. One curious feature of the measure was this, it laid the burden all on the same sort of property—it rated owners to relieve the occupiers. The Bill proposed to rate Government property; but in that matter he thought they should only rate the ground rent, giving to the locality that advantage, but no more. As to the definition of a mine, he hoped the difficulty of obtaining a definition would be overcome, and that mines might take their fair share of the burdens of the country; and as to woods, he must object to leave the matter in the hands of the assessment committee, assuming a basis and rating the property in any way they liked. The right hon. Gentleman was bound to give the assessment committee some general principle on which they might act. With regard to game, the local committee ought to have power to rate the sum derived as rent to its full amount; but he could not go beyond that, because it would be found where much game was kept there would be a deduction made in the rent, and where little game existed the value of it would be included in thee land. He contended that the Bill was not a just one. Its intention was that all property of all descriptions should be subject to a rate; but the 13th clause constituted it a Bill of exemptions of the most serious character. Rating of stock in trade might be said to be obsolete and impracticable in England. But in France, in 1793, the first act of the Convention was to sweep away all those personal taxes which had proved so onerous, because they were confined to the lower classes; and from that time every inhabitant of France had paid, in lieu of any tax upon personal property, a tax upon his rent or rental, which, in 1867–8, was fixed by law at one-twentieth part of the rent paid by each resident upon the portion he resided in. And what was the case in America? There personal property had been taxed to an enormous extent, and no one ever dreamed of exempting stock in trade from a personal tax. He had before him a Return of the proportion of the taxation of real and personal estate in various States, cities, and counties of America; and the ratio of personal to real varied from 1 to 1.20 to 1 to 10.46. Commissioners who had been appointed to inquire into the subject, thus wound up their labours— That to tax one man for one species of property, because, through his honesty, ignorance, or inability to escape, he can be laid hold of, and to fail to tax another man, because he is cunning and unscrupulous, and so cannot be laid hold of, is not taxation, but arbitrary confiscation." And again, "In almost every community, it is not so much the extent as it is the inequality which constitutes the burden of taxation, and the Commissioners have been much impressed with the circumstance that, in conversing with the heaviest taxpayers of the State, it has not been so much the burden which is complained of, as it is that, while the individual in question claims to pay, his neighbours and associates in some way manage to escape. In fact, he could find no instance in any foreign country where some equivalent was not given for the remission of taxation on personal property. Stock in trade had been taxed in this country upon the income annually derived from it; it was a class Parliament which exempted it, and not a ratepayers' Parliament; and it was obvious, with the power which had been gained by the working classes, this exemption was absolutely unsafe. He had no fault to find with the Bill in its details; but as it accepted a principle which was unsafe, he was bound to resist it at this stage.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Cawley.)

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


observed, that if the proposal to throw aside this Bill would give satisfaction to the constituencies of the hon. Gentlemen by whom its rejection had been moved and seconded, it would certainly have the opposite effect on his own constituency, who would regard the throwing out of the measure as a great disaster. He accepted the Bill as a small but important step in the settlement of a great question. He believed that it would bring under rating in the North Riding of Yorkshire something like £100,000 annual value of metallic mines, and also a large number of lead mines in the county he had the honour to represent (South Durham.) According to the Bill personal property was not to be rated, neither was the tradesman's stock. If the trader was rated on his stock-in-trade the farmer must also be rated on his cattle and implements, the rating must come out of profits, and the landlords must reduce their rents. There was but little difficulty in the rating of game or wood lands. Where the game was reserved by the landlord and re-let the tenant paid less rent; and with regard to the planting of trees, the tenant should pay as much as when when the land was arable. The question of rating of personalty was a very large and important one, which it would take a strong Government, indeed, to deal with, but which he trusted the party opposite might be able to grapple with when they came into office. The general question of rating was a question which, in his opinion, the House could only deal with piecemeal and seriatim. Several ineffectual attempts to rate metallic mines had already been made; and on the last occasion, when the mineral mine-owners had agreed to be rated under the Bill of the hon. Member for West Cumberland (Mr. Percy Wyndham), the right hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) proposed the omission from the Bill of every provision except the statement that the mines were to be rated. Against this proceeding the then Attorney General (Sir Robert Collier) protested and the Bill was withdrawn, yet this was what the right hon. Gentleman now proposed. The present Bill was a very bold measure, and in some respects a good one; but when his right hon. Friend (the President of the Local Government Board) came to the really difficult point he evaded it. Surely his right hon. Friend must know very well that the difficulty of rating metallic mines could never be solved without some definition of a mine. It was not merely a hole in the ground and the machinery for drawing materials out of it, but sometimes there was a mile of railway connected with it. In some cases, in Durham and Yorkshire, mines had been sunk at an expense in rent alone of £30,000 or £40,000 before any benefit could be realized. Such a mine was not to be rated. A Return presented to the House, on the Motion of his hon. Friend the late Member for Whitby (Mr. Bagnall), showed that to arrive at the net estimated rental of a coal mine—that at Belper, in Derbyshire—the deduction from the rent taken by the landlord was 25 per cent; at Hayfield, in the same county, 10 per cent; at Bishop-Auckland, 20 per cent; at Durham, 25 per cent; and in Weardale, 50 per cent. Again, to take one or two instances from the district with which his hon. Friend was himself connected: At Oldham, 33 per cent was deducted; at Blackburn, 25 per cent; and other places in Lancashire showed as great a variation. Turning to Wales, he found that at Pontypool every ton of coal was rated at 8d., whereas in another union the rate was only 4d. At Newport, the deduction was 13½ per cent, and at Neath 5 per cent. As his right hon. Friend brought in a large area of mining property, he would be simply perpetuating and extending the existing anomalies unless he laid down a definite rule as to the assessment of mines, instead of vaguely stating that all those differences and difficulties were to be determined according to the circumstances and the general principles of law. Under the present Bill the valuation made by the assessment committee was to be the basis of rating for five years, and to this proviso he offered at present no objection, except that no exception to the rule was made in the case of mines, although it was well known that many a colliery would yield twice as much coal in one year as it would in another, and by rating for five years injustice would be done to the union and to the miner. All these, however, were points of detail which might be fitly discussed in Committee, but which could hardly be debated on the Motion for the second reading. As far as the metallic mines were concerned, a great injustice would be done to the unions if they were not brought this year into the rateable area, and for that reason he should support the second reading of the Bill.


said, he would support the Bill because it accomplished what many private Members had vainly attempted to accomplish. There were a great many difficulties connected with the assessment of mines, the value of which varied considerably in different districts. In one small district in West Cumberland the annual value of the iron mines was £344,000 a year, and yet they contributed nothing to the rates. It had been suggested that a variety of schedules might be drawn up to take effect in different parts of the country, but he doubted whether the House would ever agree to such a scale. He would be able to show in Committee that the royalty of a mine was in no sense its rateable value, and while it was one thing to allow people in Cornwall or Devon, as the Government proposed, to rate mines in that way, it was another thing to force the system on the rest of the country. The Government had approached the subject in the only way in which it could be satisfactorily dealt with. The method of valuation was yearly improving, skilled valuers being increasingly employed, and it was only when the powers of assimilation had been carried further by local action that Parliament would be able to step in and lay down rules for the rating of mines. To attempt this now would simply cause confusion and injustice; but that was no reason why property worth nearly £11,500,000 a-year should remain exempt from rates.


wished distinctly to enter his protest against the repeal of exemptions granted to Sunday schools and ragged schools by the Act of 1869. Some doubt had arisen on the Acts of 3 & 4 Will. IV., and when, in order to confirm the exemptions granted by those Acts, he brought in the Bill of 1869, it was supported by 228 against 71, and its principle was assented to by the Government then and still in power. Now the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, proposed to repeal the later Act. What would happen? He would leave unrepealed the statutes of William IV.; and the consequence would be that half the schools in the country would still remain exempt, while the other half would become liable to this heavy tax. When the Bill of 1869 was introduced there were 1,400 Petitions containing 171,000 signatures. A great amount of popular feeling existed in favour of these schools. They were carried on without a shilling of cost by people who thoroughly possessed the confidence of the country, and whose work, by inculcating virtue, must lead to reduction of rating through diminishing the annual cost of crime. Now it was proposed to levy a tax which would amount in some cases to from 40 to 50 per cent of the present outgoings. At Stockport, for example, an excellent school of the value of £5,000 would probably be closed by the effect of such a provision as this. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would reconsider the question; but if not, he should feel it his duty in Committee to go more fully into the subject. Great care was taken that these schools should be used for no other purpose than teaching, and he thought they were fairly entitled to the consideration of the Government.


said, the conclusion at which he had arrived, after listening to the discussion which had taken place, was that the Government were trifling with the farmers in introducing these measures at the present time, and it was quite clear that the schemes of the Government were not intended to pass during the present Session, if it was intended to pass them at all. With regard to the first two Bills, the Government did not appear to have made up their minds on many important points, and had left them in very vague outline. The machinery proposed by the second Bill with regard to rating was the special and quarter sessions, when the Government had stated their intention of moving for the appointment of a Committee with the view of constituting a new local authority for local administration. Now, if the Government had any such intention, it was somewhat surprising that they should lay on the Table a Bill continuing the old machinery of the quarter sessions. These Bills showed that they had been introduced by the Government, not with the idea of passing them into law, but merely to prevent the hon. Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) from proceeding with his Motion on Local Taxation. There was no clear statement as to how country houses and public buildings were to be dealt with—all that was left as shadowy as possible, and as to the proposal to rate Government property it simply amounted to this—that a scheme was to be framed by the Treasury and laid before Parliament for confirmation. Parliament long ago made up its mind that all exemptions should be abolished, and if the Government had been in earnest on the question they would have had the Treasury scheme already prepared and they would have presented it to the House concurrently with these Bills. Bills which dealt with such intricate and difficult matters as were involved in the question of rating and taxing could not be expected to become law when they were not presented to Parliament until near the end of May. The Bill which dealt with valuation undertook to provide uniformity of valuation, but it really provided nothing of the kind. In the Bill which he introduced in 1867, it was provided that there should be a valuation Board in every county to decide on the valuations and to issue instructions which should be binding on the different assessment committees of the county. But in the present Bill there was no such common authority for framing a scale of reductions. The Bill laid down what was to be the maximum; but there might be a very wide margin below that maximum within which the different assessment committees might act as they thought best, and the result might be, that several different scales for reductions would be in operation in one county. All this pointed to the fact that the Bill was not intended to become law, and that it had been introduced simply to make a show, and to serve the purpose of the moment. It was simply a skeleton Bill which the Government had made no attempt to fill up. If the two Bills were read a second time he presumed they would be sent to a Select Committee; if that was not the intention they had better be withdrawn at once, for it would only be a waste of time to proceed with them in their present shape. He did not think the appellate tribunal provided in the present measure was by any means so satisfactory as the one provided in the Bill which he introduced in 1867. In his Bill it was originally provided that appeals should be referred to a skilled barrister of so many years standing; but the Select Committee to whom that Bill was referred substituted a County Court Judge for the special assessor originally proposed. But in the Bill of the Government two appellate tribunals were proposed—the petty sessions and the assessment committee of the quarter sessions; and in that a very mischievous feature had been introduced into the Bill, which, if it were carried out, would add considerably to the expense of appeals. For his own part, he could see no reason for more than one appeal. He trusted, therefore, that the Government another year when they brought the subject forward again would place before the House a complete and mature scheme, and one which, above all, would work.


said, the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had that evening exhibited a courage which he had never seen equalled by a man occupying the position which he had done, and which he now did. The right hon. Gentleman was not content with disputing the merits of the measure, but had taken upon himself to define and determine the motives of the Government. He had stated that the measure was so inefficient as to be dishonest, and that it was not intended by the Government that the Bill should be passed during the present Session. Statements of that character did not become the right hon. Gentleman. And upon what foundation had the right hon. Gentleman based those statements? Upon a comparison of some small details of the present Bill with the details contained in a Bill formerly introduced by the right hon. Gentleman himself, and on a criticism of the schedule of the Bill. He (Mr. Stansfeld) had no intention, upon the second reading of this Bill, to discuss at length the schedule of deductions. There was only one way in which the question of reductions could be dealt with, and that was by scheduling the maximum reductions, and allowing them to be varied according to the local circumstances of each place. Local conditions varied so much that there might properly be a schedule which would allow variation in the reductions. He maintained that the Government had adopted the right course in providing a maximum, and allowing the local authorities, from local knowledge, to determine how they would deal within that maximum with the cases which arose before them. The right hon. Gentleman, having exhausted his small criticisms, fell back upon the Motion and the speech in support of it of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Cawley). That hon. Gentleman's objections to the Bill were of a very wide character. He said it was vague and indefinite; that it unsettled actual law, promoted litigation, and would be incomplete without further legislation. There was no foundation for these assertions. With respect to the charge of vagueness, the hon. Gentleman asked what was the legal meaning of the word "mine," and whether tracts of land from which clay and ironstone were taken without digging deep into the earth were to be assessed or exempted. But the hon. Gentleman before asking such a question, ought to have ascertained what the Bill did, and what the law on the subject was. Under the law as it existed land was rated from which clay or ironstone was taken, because they added to the annual value of the property and the profits of the soil. The only reason for extending the present law was that the Act of Elizabeth, by expressly exempting coal mines, had been held by the Courts of Law to exclude all other mines. Then, as to plantations, the hon. Gentleman asked how was it possible to value them? There was no necessity for supplying a method of valuation in the Bill, as no difficulty was now found in assessing the value of beech and underwood. The hon. Member thought, too, that the phrase "the value, taking one year with another," was very unsound, and not understanding it, he consulted a legal friend, whose views on the subject must have been somewhat hazy. There could be no difficulty in the matter, as the annual value would be ascertained by taking the average of a number of years. Then, again, the hon. Member attacked the measure because it was, as he said, incomplete—a skeleton—and that argument had been endorsed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northamptonshire. It was incomplete, it was asserted, because it did not enter into all the difficult and complicated questions connected with rating—because it did not go into every detail as to the rating of mines, gasworks, and railways; and the hon. Gentleman charged the Government with having put before the House a Bill which was not worthy of their support. But the hon. Gentleman knew that the Bill was but a part of a larger scheme to which the Government were pledged, and if they had attempted to deal at present with all the complicated questions he had mentioned, they would have been fairly open to the charge of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northamptonshire of having introduced the Bills, not to pass them, but only for the purpose of delay. They had, in part fulfilment of their pledge, brought in Bills of limited dimension, but of much practical value. They proposed to abolish exemptions, but to do so it was not necessary to go into complex questions of value. The second Bill was a considerable measure of reform, but they desired to confine it within limits which would enable them to pass both measures—as he hoped and believed they would do—during the present Session. Tinder the Bill before the House the same basis of valuation was secured for Government taxes and for rates of all kinds, while the litigation which now obtained, owing to a multiplication of appeals, was avoided. Now, any individual ratepayer might appeal against any rate, but, under the Bill, when once the valuation which might be appealed against was finally settled and came into force, no further appeal on the ground of valuation could be brought. He believed that had the Government undertaken a greater task they would thereby have postponed the consideration of the greater questions of local government and the relations of local and Imperial taxation, which must necessarily follow the enactment of the present measures. The hon. Gentleman had contended that the introduction of a surveyor of taxes tended to centralization; but if it were desirable to have the same basis for Imperial taxes, the income tax, the house tax and local rates, the Government had no option but to propose the appointment of an officer representing the Inland Revenue for the purpose of hearing and deciding such questions as might arise. The hon. Gentleman, too, overlooked the fact that there was an appeal from the decisions of that officer to the local tribunals, with an ultimate appeal to the Court of Queen's Bench. He would also remind his hon. Friend that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hunt) provided in his Bill that there should be an appeal from the surveyor of taxes in the same way. The speech of the hon. Member for East Suffolk (Mr. Corrance), who had seconded the Motion for the rejection of this Bill, was to his mind a curiosity; and he had been really at a loss for a very considerable time to know by what ingenious process he would bring himself to second the Motion for the rejection of the Bill. From the speech he had made to-night, as well as on a former occasion, it was evident that there was a great deal in the Government measures, taken as a whole, which met his approval and commanded his support. But the hon. Gentleman had made a discovery as to the Act relating to the exemption of stock in trade from rating. He told the House that the Act was passed in 1844, at a time when the landowners were unavoidably absent from Parliamentary duties; but surely the landlords and sportsmen of the country had not been absent in every Session since 1844 when that annual Act was before the House. The hon. Member seconded the Motion for the rejection of this Bill, because he said he traced in it the "cloven foot"—namely, that the Government did not intend to relieve the realty from any part of the burden of local rates, and that the provision in question was a declaration of that intention. He had much satisfaction in assuring his hon. Friend that it was no declaration of any such intention on the part of the Government; but that the object of the clause was simply to relieve the House from the necessity of passing an annual Bill, to which no objection was ever raised. Another hon. Gentleman (Mr. Pease) would be glad if he would take away all discretion from assessment committees in regard to the rating of mines, and fix a rule by which they were to be uniformly rated in every part of the country. To attempt that, however, would be impossible, and he was disposed to agree with the hon. Member for Cumberland (Mr. Percy Wyndham), that any such attempt would be certain to result in failure. It did not necessarily imply a want of courage or knowledge to decline to import into measures of this kind matters tending to cause an unnecessary difference of opinion; but upon these and other points of detail the Government were prepared to listen with deference to Amendments suggested by the special knowledge of hon. Members. The last question to which he would address himself was that raised by the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Reed) respecting the rating of Sunday and ragged schools. In a great deal that the hon. Member said he cordially agreed. He agreed with him entirely in his estimate in no wise exaggerated, of the benefit which Sunday schools had conferred upon the country, and in the merit claimed for those persons who gratuitously gave their services Sunday after Sunday, and year after year, in teaching the elements of morality and religion to those who might otherwise perhaps be destitute of them. But those considerations were not alone a sufficient basis for such an appeal as that made by the hon. Member. There were other matters that ought to be considered before a conclusion was arrived at. He was not at all forgetful of the Bill brought in by the hon. Member in 1869. It was perfectly correct to say that the Government accepted it as a compromise, and, as a rule, no doubt a compromise once made should be adhered to; but he would draw his hon. Friend's attention to the fact that circumstances were entirely changed since that period. It was not then proposed to make the law one involving the abolition of all exemptions from rating; the principle of the Bill now laid upon the Table was the abolition of exemption from rating, and so far was the principle carried that it was proposed that Government property itself should no longer be absolutely exempt. It would, therefore, be seen that it would have been impossible for the Government to have voluntarily submitted a proposition to make property rateable, and not to have raised the question of abolishing the exemption enjoyed under the Act of 1869. He was perfectly prepared to admit that there were arguments which might be urged in Committee of much greater weight than the beneficial character of ragged and Sunday schools, and those arguments should have all the weight they deserved. For instance, what was the nature of the compromise characterizing the measure brought in by his hon. Friend? It was not a measure for the absolute exemption of the institutions in which he was interested; it was a permissive exemption which depended for its continuance on the common consent of the neighbourhoods. He was not prepared to say that the exemption need be everlasting, because the local authorities might themselves one day withdraw the exemption; but it was a distinction much in favour of permissive as against absolute exemption. If his hon. Friend proposed to leave out in Committee the words of the Act which repealed the exemption of 1869, he should be ready to consider whether that would be the proper course to take, or whether it would not be necessary to deal more generally with the subject-matter. Without absolutely pledging himself or the Government he might, however, say that there was so strong a consensus throughout the country in favour of these exemptions, that it was right to treat the feeling with respect. He could not conceive that his hon. Friend could put his views into a form which would not detract from the logical perfection of the Government Bill; but when his hon. Friend's Amendment was before the House, and when he had stated his objections to the proposal, if it should then be the wish of the House to deal exceptionally with institutions of that character, he was not prepared to say that the Government would offer an obstinate resistance or consider the subject in an unfriendly spirit. He gave no pledge, however, until he had seen the form the proposal of his hon. Friend took, because it was one of some delicacy and danger as regarded the general principle of the Bill; but he should be glad to discuss the matter with the hon. Member for Hackney, whose arguments should have every consideration. As far as the second reading was concerned, he trusted that the House would be of opinion that no reason had been alleged why the Bill should not at once pass through this stage.


said, he was afraid that long before the Bill left the hands of the House the "logical perfection" which the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last claimed for his measure would be destroyed, and the demand for the exemption of ragged schools from rating would show how very soon the House would deviate from strict rules and get into the consideration of practical matters. It appeared to him that only two Gentlemen had as yet expressed a determination to vote for the second reading, and one of them—the hon. Member for South Durham (Mr. Pease)—rather reversed the office of the prophet, and, instead of blessing the Bill, seemed to end by cursing it altogether. He himself regarded the Bill as an illustration of the "something-must-be-done principle"—at which he was always rather alarmed. The 7th clause, referring to the complaints of parishes where there was Government property, was also an excellent exemplification of another great principle—namely, "how not to do it," because it said that— The Treasury shall cause a Bill to be introduced into the House of Commons for confirming every such scheme, and if any Petition is presented to the House of Commons against any such scheme, or any part thereof, the scheme or so much thereof as is referred to in such Petition may, if it is thought fit, be referred to a Select Committee, and the petitioner shall be allowed to appear and oppose as in the ease of a Private Bill, and the Treasury may appear in support of the scheme. He did not envy the local authorities who had to pay the costs of such an opposition. In the name of the ratepayers he protested against the proposals of the Government being anything like a logical carrying out of the decision come to by such a large majority of the House of Commons last year. The position might be put in this way. There were two circles, one containing those who did not pay rates, and the other those who did pay. The people of the last circle wished that those of the other one should contribute something to the rates; but all that this Bill did was to shuffle the cards somewhat in reference to those who already paid, without bringing in those of the other circle to their support. He admitted that there was difficulty in rating many kinds of property; but this difficulty was surely no sufficient answer when there were many modes by which some arrangement to meet the justice of the case might be carried out. As to local administration, he thought that it would be dangerous to give further power of putting hands into other people's pockets without restraint. Besides, many of the acts of the local authorities were forced upon them by the Government itself. For instance, lunatic asylums must be provided by the counties, and that upon a scale which was very much determined by the Government Inspector. Further, the counties being compelled to do a certain thing, had not received from the Legislature sufficient powers properly to carry out the work. They had no compulsory power to acquire land, and in the event of having to enlarge the asylum, they were frequently at the mercy of persons who owned the adjoining land in reference to the price to be paid for it. Persons who did not pay rates were extremely energetic in forcing those who did to spend money, and were always ready to enlarge the expenditure. The non-ratepayers forced upon the ratepayers a scale of expenditure which to the latter did not seem necessary. They also annoyed the ratepayers by constantly lecturing them upon what was supposed to be their duty. They naturally complained, as the nigger did—"Preachee or floggee, Massa; but don't preachee and floggee both." It was said to be desirable to approach this subject piecemeal; but it was rather dangerous to do so by imposing burdens and postponing exemptions, because you were sure to pay but not equally sure to receive. There had been a shadowy reference to some future Board of admirable prudence and virtue; but, whatever the failings of the magistrates, he had never found them err on the side of extravagant expenditure. They were almost over-careful of the public purse, and he did not think more economical administrators could be found. The tendency now-a-days to throw everything on the rates was an alarming symptom, and the prospect of new outlay under the Sanitary Acts and the School Acts was viewed with great anxiety. If you wanted to make people more patient under the pressure of rates, it was necessary to remove the existing inequality; but the Bill did not profess to do so, and merely shuffled the cards without affording relief. The character of this Bill reminded him of the old lines— Too bad for a blessing, too good for a curse—I wish from my soul it were better or worse. The Government were mistaken if they supposed that this measure would satisfy the feeling which gave rise to the great majority in favour of the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) last year.


differed altogether from the view taken by the hon. Member (Mr. Cawley) who had moved the rejection of this Bill, that legislation on this question should be delayed until Her Majesty's Government had devised a better mode of dealing with the subject. If the Bill were not founded in justice it ought never to have been brought into that House by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board; but if it were founded in justice the various Committees were entitled to demand the immediate removal of the existing exemptions on particular classes of property, and every day's delay in legislating on this subject would be but adding to the injustice they had already been made to endure. On this ground, therefore, he hoped that the House would not listen to any suggestions in favour of further delay in dealing with this question. As to the justice of removing the exemptions enjoyed by Government property, he might state with reference to Portsmouth that the nation chose to carry on the trade of shipbuilding and ship repairing in that town because it was the most convenient place they could select for their purpose, and not in order to benefit the town. The profit of the private manufacturer took the form of money and the profit of the Government dockyards took the form of national safety; but in both instances a profit was gained by carrying on the trade, and therefore the premises where such trades were carried on should equally be liable to contribute to the local burdens. This question was rising into greater importance than before; because, in consequence of the intention to establish military centres throughout the kingdom, the Government would shortly become possessed of a large additional quantity of property. He believed that the Government desired to do what was right in this matter, and therefore he wished to bring to their attention that it was desirable that there should be some better mode of assessing Government property. By this Bill the Treasury were to assess themselves, and there was to be no appeal from their decision which was likely to be of any value. The Treasury also were not to be called on to make any re-assessment until the local authority applied to them upon the subject. There was also no sufficient means for rectifying any improper assessment. It was true that a Report was to be laid before the House in the case of complaint; but there was no provision for carrying the matter any further. According to the Government proposal, a man in certain cases would be assessor of his own property, and the party before whom the appeal might be brought. What he thought would be accepted by the House with satisfaction was some such arrangement as this—that in places where Government property was situated the authorities in such places should name one valuer and the Treasury another, and in the event of a disagreement an umpire should be called in to decide the matter in question. That plan would be more just and reasonable when it was considered that in Portsmouth and other towns with large Government establishments there was generally a large amount of pauperism. He had been told that an effort had been made to value the Government property in Plymouth in this way, and that the valuers on both sides having agreed as to the value there was no need of calling in. an umpire, and the matter was satisfactorily settled. He hoped that the Government would consider this proposal, and the strong objections made to the Ministerial plan of assessing property before the Bill went into Committee.


said, the question which suggested itself to his mind was this—whether it was worth while to abolish those exemptions when the great exemption of personal property was not touched by the Bill. He recollected, when presiding at petty sessions in the West Riding of Yorkshire, as many as 70 appeals having formerly been on the list. All those matters were now settled by the assessment committees, and he had heard that during the last three years at the quarter sessions of the West Riding there were only four appeals decided and five appeals re-spited. He was very glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman who had charge of the Bill that he was willing to consider favourably one at least of the exemptions which the Bill proposed to abolish—namely, the exemption of Sunday schools and ragged schools from rating. The feeling in favour of that exemption was very great throughout the country. In reference to the Valuation Bill, he thought the adoption of one general rating for all purposes would be very desirable if it could be carried out. But as to the appointment of a surveyor of taxes, the assessment committees would probably look upon such an officer with much jealousy. He hoped that his duties would be clearly defined, so as to prevent any misunderstanding between the local and. the Government authorities. He highly approved the proposal of the Government—that the quarter sessions should be the final Court for the hearing of appeals. He should be disposed to establish the quarter sessions as the centre from which all arrangements should emanate, and in order to remove all objections as to this tribunal he thought it would be wise to allow certain representatives of the ratepayers to act upon the committee for the purpose of assessment. With respect to the valuations of mansions, he agreed with the remarks of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Cawley). In Clause 54 it was stated that the annual rent should not be estimated at less than the actual rent, except in particular cases. That appeared to him to be an unreasonable impediment in the way of the assessment committee, and would give rise to much trouble and inconvenience. As to the rating of machinery, that was a very important question, and so was the rating of mills. The structures put up in connection with some of our textile fabrics were almost palatial, while in connection with metallic manufacturers they were often little more than sheds. Some different principle of rating seemed to be necessary in these two cases, and he hoped ample time would be given for the consideration of these points before the Bill went into Committee.


said, that every hon. Member must be aware that the question of rating personal property had occupied the attention of some of our greatest statesmen, and that not one of them had ever been able to arrive at a satisfactory solution of the difficulty. He concurred with the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Scourfield) in regarding this Bill as an excuse for the "something-must-be-done" policy. And having said that, he was sorry to add that there was very little else about it with which he could agree. He hoped it would come out of Committee a very different Bill from what it was now. For example, he strongly deprecated the attempt to rate such institutions as ragged schools, and other charitable institutions which were now exempt. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Stansfeld) had shown great moral courage in proposing to repeal this exemption, and he would certainly be defeated if he persisted in it. The question of mines he (Mr. Muntz) left to be dealt with by more competent hands, and then he came to the question of rating fishing and shooting. A cry had been raised that there was great difficulty in rating fishing and shooting, but he saw none at all. They had only to see what people would give for it to arrive at its value. They then came to the question of rating scientific and literary societies. These were sanctioned by a special Act of Parliament, and they had grown up under the protection and sanction of the Legislature. If these clauses should be condemned by the Legislature it would be a breach of faith towards everyone of these societies, and he trusted his right hon. Friend would not put himself in antagonism with those who were his best friends. The question of rating steam power and machinery was one that would require careful consideration, because steam engines and machinery were not always attached to the freehold; but if they intended to rate them there was no reason why locomotives used for agricultural purposes, and thrashing machines, should not also be rated. At present the want of a definite principle of rating machinery produced great difficulty among overseers, great irritation among ratepayers, much litigation, different systems of assessment in different parishes, allowances in some, and in some instances no rate at all. The subject must be well considered in Committee, or the Bill would not pass this House. There should be no mistake about the matter—no shuffling, no quibbling. They must have a Bill that would answer the purpose for which it was required, or no Bill at all. Believing that the Bill, though incomplete, might be made a useful one, he should support the second reading.


contended that these Bills were not a fair response to the Resolution come to by the House last year, and would not allay the impatience—the "ignorant impatience" if you liked—which was pretty generally felt in town and country under the pressure of local taxation. With respect to the first Bill, it was perfectly true that a certain number of tubs were thrown out to the whale, but they were likely to catch merely some few persons, because the propositions did not go to the root of the question. On the contrary, the measure itself tended indirectly to perpetuate the system of inequality which was complained of two years ago. The manner by which they were to be brought into operation would create ten times more ill-feeling than the amount of money to be raised under them. There were no indications of the principle on which mines and timber were to be rated, or whether it was to be timber in hedgerows as well as timber in plantations, the fact being that in many parts of England the timber growing in hedgerows was infinitely greater in value than the timber grown within fences. Again, it was impossible to fix upon a hard-and-fast line for regulating the deductions to be made on account of repairs. The percentage which would maintain a house of £4 per annum would be totally inadequate to maintain a building of £1. Repeated valuations acted as a sort of blister; they aggravated the people beyond anything, and were the cause of far more annoyance than the actual demands. Peace and quietness were worth something, and would not be dearly purchased by a few irregularities which could not be wholly redressed.


Sir, the discussion to-night has travelled over a wide field. I have heard the hon. Member for East Suffolk (Mr. Corrance) express his respect for the members of the Cobden Club, but I am not aware whether this included the principles Mr. Cobden's name is identified with. He also discussed the question of how far the working-classes are represented in the present House. It is not to be wondered at that the discussion has thus extended itself from the Bills immediately before the House, for the question, as a whole, is most important, and I venture to think that when the country reads the debate on these Bills, it will be more particularly interested in the wider branch of the subject—namely, local taxation in general, than these particular rating and valuation Bills. The right hon. Gentleman who has charge of these Bills has told us to-night they are to be regarded simply as "part of a larger scheme," and it is as such I accept them and trust they may be read a second time with a view to alteration in Committee. I think we may infer from what has been said, that in the part relating to Sunday and ragged schools the Government is prepared to yield to the general wish of the country, and continue their exemption from local rates. The hon. Member for Salford who has moved the Amendment to-night, complains of the Bills as unsettling the question. I confess that I fail to see this, but think with the hon. Member for South Durham (Mr. Pease) that so far as they go they remedy an injustice, for they bring under rating certain classes of property which have hitherto escaped. Now, Sir, we have been told in discussions which have gone on during the past few months, that those who have raised this question do not know where they are going. I must leave hon. Members opposite who more particularly represent the agricultural and landed interest, to answer this for themselves; but speak-for the owners and occupiers of town property, and more particularly of houses, I venture to say we are quite prepared for whatever consequences may result from this agitation, and that we are anxious for them too. At all events, if there be any fallacy in our complaint, it is quite certain to be pointed out. We have had some learned disquisitions as to whether the rates on houses fall on the occupier or owner. I venture to say with the hon. Member for Rochester, the rates press on both; and any one who happens to be the owner of property in highly-taxed towns will know that this statement is correct. Houses, moreover, wear out, and have to be made good. The bricks and mortar deteriorate as time goes on, but I do not find the taxes lessen in amount. I hold in my hand the Return of a certain block of houses in my own city with the taxes for the years 1862 and 1872. During those years, the houses have been lessening in real value. They have been—to use the phrase of the First Lord of the Admiralty—"consumed;" but I find the taxation on them remains practically the same—for though the poor rate has diminished, the Board of Health rate has increased to nearly a corresponding amount; and I have no doubt, if hon. Members will enquire into the facts in their towns, they will find this experience confirmed. But apart from the question of how far the taxes fall on the occupier or owner, I want to put the question, why there is this undue taxation at all on real property? Take the following case:—One man has £1,000 which he invests in real property—say in cottages—he pays income tax of course; but beyond this that particular £1,000 is subject to heavy local rates, and I am putting them moderately if I say £15 per annum. Now take another £1,000, put we will suppose into the shares of the London and Westminster Bank. It pays income tax, but as to local taxes practically nothing, or at least only an infinitesimal portion of the rates paid on the building in which the bank carries on its Business. Take again the question of machinery. The hon. Member for Salford spoke very forcibly of the anomalies of our present system, which are very great. One man may have £50,000 or £100,000 worth of buildings and machinery, which in certain trades would be a considerable portion of his capital, for in some trades this item comes to 25 per cent, and in some to 50 per cent of the entire capital. He is subject to local taxes perhaps up to £1,000 per annum; whilst his neighbour who happens to have very little machinery or buildings, but simply stock-in-trade, escapes almost free. We have been told to-night that the time is past for taxing personal property. I am not urging that point now, but I am pointing out that there are anomalies which need some correction. If the Bills before us had been submitted as a settlement of this question, I would not vote for them; but trusting, as the right hon. Gentleman who introduced them has said, that they are only parts of a great scheme, and believing as I do that, so far as they go, they are honest attempts to remedy some amount of injustice, I support their second reading, looking for some modification when we get into Committee.


said, nothing could be stronger than the representations made on this subject to preceding Governments by the very highest authority which had to deal with matters of rating—he meant the Court of Queen's Bench—that they should endeavour in some way or the other to lay down a better principle of rating, which should be a guide for the future, especially in the case of mines and railways. The Court of Queen's Bench recommended that some other better test of value should be provided than what a tenant from year would give for such property, because no tenant from year to year would be likely to take such property at all. Great disappointment would be felt by the public that the matter had not been more fully considered, and some great principle laid down by which the country should be guided. There was one point with respect to the rating of timber which, he believed, had not before been brought to the notice of the House. All matters of rating were connected with a beneficial occupation of the property to be rated. Supposing a man to come into a large estate with a great deal of timber upon it not ripe for cutting, though he should be only tenant for life and would not have any benefit from the timber, he would still have to pay all the rates, while the tenant who came after him would enjoy all the benefit. He thought the Bill ought to provide some way by which such a tenant for life might recoup himself; and if it did not, its authors ought to explain upon what grounds a person was to be rated who could have no beneficial occupation of the property for which he paid rates. With regard to the rating of Sunday and ragged schools, he thought the House was decidedly opposed to any measure of that kind. He must express the greatest disappointment at the way in which the question of rating Government property was dealt with. There was one thing, at all events, which a Bill of this kind ought to do, and that was to lay down principles by which the rating authorities should be guided, otherwise the rating authorities would not only have to make the rate but to find out the principles upon which they should make it. It was quite true that in one part it was said they were to have regard to the circumstances of acquisition, appropriation, or use. Well, if the Government obtained a valuable acquisition for a song, were they to be rated accordingly? The rating authorities were to have regard to the effect of such acquisition, appropriation, or use on the rates of the adjoining district. Did that mean that if the Government erected buildings which raised the value of the adjoining property they were to be rated very low? On the other hand, if they depreciated the value of the adjoining property, were they to be rated very high? Then the Treasury, without any guidance in the Bill, were in their Report to lay down the principles upon which they acted in preparing their scheme. But what the principles should be was to be entirely at the pleasure of the Treasury itself. In that way what they would give with one hand they could take away with the other. It was quite clear that the Government had not probed this matter to the bottom, and the Bill was therefore in a crude and imperfect shape. Another point upon which he wished to make some remark, was the proposed system of appeal against the rules. It was a matter of complaint with reference to these, as well as other Bills, that they did not present a complete code of legislation on the subject with which they dealt. They incorporated a great number of Acts and left a great number of sections unrepealed, but no one except a lawyer could practically get hold of the law. These Bills ought to have started afresh, and presented a complete code on the subject. The present system of appeal had proved perfectly satisfactory to all concerned. It was not very long since the assessment committees were formed; people were beginning to understand their working, and having started them they were now going to unsettle the whole matter and begin afresh. They were by the proposed newfangled system of appeal putting great expense upon the parishes, which in the long run would lead to no practical result. He would urge that the present assessment committee should be continued, and that there should be an appeal to the quarter sessions just as at present. The main sections of this Bill were taken almost in ipsissimis verbis from the Act for the assessment of the metropolis. Under that Act great inconvenience had been felt from conflicting decisions between the justices who had to sit in the county of Surrey, in Middlesex, and the City of London, and to avoid discrepancy of decision in matters of detail it was arranged that all these separate jurisdictions should send representatives to form one assessment sessions. So far as the metropolis was concerned nothing could be better; but when they applied this system to the counties the whole analogy failed, for each county had its own quarter sessions, and there were no conflicting jurisdictions whatever. He hoped the Government would look into this part of the Bill and leave matters as they stood.


said, he wished to enter his protest against the policy which the Government had thought fit to pursue in reference to the question to which these Bills related. He had never desired to deal with this question in any factious or party spirit. He wished calmly and candidly to consider the Government proposals, and to see how far they met the just expectations of the country, how far they fulfilled the pledges of the Government, and how far they carried out the decision of the House of Commons, expressed in the Resolution of last year. This was not a new grievance. It had been cropping up continually for the last 30 years. The sore had been continually growing and festering, but the attention of the country had been specially awakened to it during the last few years by the increase of existing impositions, and the continuous addition of fresh charges for national purposes. In 1868 he first took up the subject, and asked for a Royal Commission. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government refused that request, on the ground that it would lead to delay, and said that the Government would take it up as soon as the Irish Church question was settled. Since that the Irish Land, Elementary Education, University Tests, Army Regulation, Licensing, Ballot, and Public Health Bills had been introduced by Government and passed. In 1871, the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Admiralty introduced Bills on this subject, but he (Sir Massey Lopes) would not further refer to them except to say that they admitted the grievance by professing to give £1,200,000 of Imperial taxation for local purposes. The Resolution which was adopted last year declared that no legislation would be satisfactory which did not remedy the injustice of imposing taxation on one description of property only. How had the Government met the grievance of which they complained? They had systematically and designedly evaded it. What they claimed was a re-adjustment of taxation between realty and personalty with reference to those objects which were national in their character, from which the whole community derived equal benefit, and over which expenditure, ratepayers had little or no control; but the Government had narrowed the question to a readjustment of taxation upon the same description of property. The Government had raised a false, distinct, and separate issue; they had drawn a red herring across the path in order to take them off the scent. These Bills were going to extend the very injustice of which real property now complained—to extend the very principle which was universally condemned. Instead of giving relief these measures were going to impose fresh burdens. They removed exemptions which now existed with respect to small portions of real property, but they did nothing with regard to the great exemption of all—exemption of personal property; on the contrary, they actually inserted a clause in their Bill formally and perpetually to exempt a portion of personal property which by law of Elizabeth and decision of Law Courts was rateable. They thus made comparisons between real and personal property more odious than before, and the anomalies more apparent and conspicuous than before, and instead of meeting the grievance of which they complained they aggravated it in every possible form. He admitted that some of the proposals of the Government contained many valuable reforms and necessary improvements, while others were open to very serious objections; but none of these suggestions were new, nor were they necessary preliminaries to relief. There was one peculiar point in connection with these Bills. They consisted of general enactments, general principles, and abstract and vague propositions; but there was no detail and no prescribed way in which these principles were to be carried out. They simply said that mines were to be rated, that Government property was to be rated, and that sporting was to be rated. But Government property was to be rated by their own officials, while other property was to be rated by the local assessors, with the aid of the surveyors of taxes. He thought that would lead to a vast deal of litigation and contention, and any relief which they would get would be swallowed up by the expenses entailed by the operation of these Bills. What would be the effect of the Valuation Bill? To force up and increase all assessments for local as well as Imperial purposes; to raise the income tax and the house duty. By increasing the assessments you would only nominally lower the rate in the pound. The rate in the pound was no index of increase or decrease of ratal burdens. By raising the assessments you might have a reduced rate in the pound, and yet the expenditure might be very much increased. The Government had shirked the responsibility of adjusting the boundaries of parishes, unions, and counties by referring it to a Committee. After boundaries were adjusted, local self-government was to be re-organized, and, last of all, local taxation was to be investigated with a view to relief. If this was to be the order of things, he was afraid very few would live to see this happy consummation. He would like to illustrate their grievance in this way. Let them suppose that in the time of Elizabeth personal property only was rated, and that real property did not exist, that the relative portions of real and personal property had been reversed, that personal property had then been the only or chief source of wealth, and that real property was comparatively unknown, and that consequently the chief burden of local taxation had been imposed on personal property instead of lands and houses. Would not the owners of personal property have agitated for the re-adjustment of those burdens, so that all property should pay alike? A hard-and-fast-line which existed 300 years ago might have been just then, but would be totally inapplicable now. Would they not under these circumstances have advocated Imperial imposts for Imperial purposes, and protested against their property being exceptionally mulcted for the benefit of the community. The Bill did not in any shape or form refer to the grievances to which the attention of the House was now called. Instead of settling everything the Bill would muddle and unsettle everything. He believed the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stansfeld) to be honest and earnest in his endeavour to solve the difficult problem in which he was engaged; but he had long odds against him on the Government bench. Very serious contingencies might intervene and interfere with any mere promise of relief postponed to an indefinite period. He did not say that these Bills were a pretext for delays, but this he feared would be the result. A bird in the hand was worth two in the bush. He thought the provisions of the Bills were not satisfactory, inasmuch as they did not touch the grievance complained of, they removed no anomaly, they relieved no injustice, on the contrary they aggravated and intensified it by extending the operation of the present unjust system.


said, he was not surprised that the hon. Baronet should be dissatisfied with the Bills which the Government had placed before the House. At the same time, he must remember that it was only the first instalment of the scheme, the remainder of which was to follow. The hon. Baronet had denied that the abolition of exemptions would relieve the ratepayers; but it was clear that wherever, as in Westminster, Government property existed, as also in the parishes containing metalliferous mines, estimated to produce £11,000,000 or £12,000,000 annually, a sensible relief would be afforded. Instead of re- lieving the local ratepayer by letting him put his hand into the Imperial Treasury, he would be relieved first in this way. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) had described the Bill as intended to worry the ratepayers; but the fact was the very reverse, as he would doubtless admit when it came into operation, for instead of three or four assessments there would be but one, and while these were now subject to alteration every year the new valuation list would last five years. It was worthy of consideration whether, as urged by the hon. Member for South-west Lancashire (Mr. Cross), it would be desirable to call the magistrates and the Bar together specially for the hearing of appeals, which might be very few in number. As to the appeal to petty sessions, the Bill simply carried out the present law, merely giving the tribunal greater power as regarded valuation lists. Much had been said on the desirability of providing for the rating of mines, canals, and railways. Coal mines had been rateable since the reign of Elizabeth; and yet up to the present moment no uniform mode of rating them had been adopted. Therefore, the Government ought not to be censured for not at once defining the method of rating metalliferous mines, which varied in character much more than coal mines. The coal mines in Lancashire were at the present moment rated on three different systems. In some cases the profits, in others the coal rent, and in others, again, the coal rent together with the value of the sheds and buildings were taken as the measure. A gentleman of great experience in the rating of mines who had been in communication with the Government since they had taken up this question preferred the latter method. At his (Mr. Hibbert's) request, this gentleman drew up a scheme for rating coal mines, and it was shown to several gentlemen interested in the coal trade, but none of them approved it. No doubt, it would be most desirable to define some principle by the Bill, but the task was an extremely difficult one. This remark was also applicable to the rating of gas works, canals, and railways. In Scotland, the rating of railways was intrusted to a paid Government official, who rated the whole of the line, and apportioned the rates among the parishes through which it passed. That system had worked well, but it could not be introduced into this country, where the general opinion was in favour of leaving such matters to the assessment committees. As to the rating of timber, an Act had been in operation in Scotland since 1854 and in Ireland since 1853. In Scotland wood lands were rated according to the yearly sum at which they might be reasonably expected to let from year to year as pasture lands. Well, when his right hon. Friend (Mr. Stansfeld) introduced this Bill he stated he had not inserted any definition on this point; but at the same time expressed his willingness to listen to any proposals which hon. Members might make. The hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. Colman), in speaking of his own town said, that between 1862 and 1872 the poor rate had decreased there, while the health rate had increased enormously. This, in his (Mr. Hibbert's) judgment, was a most satisfactory state of things, because the poor rate was a mere burden on the ratepayers; whereas the health rate was expended on objects which would benefit the ratepayers in the future. The hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Stanhope) supported the two Bills generally. The hon. Member for East Suffolk (Mr. Corrance), and other hon. Gentlemen had alluded to the rating of personal property. They maintained that the Bill did not go far enough, or it did not widen the basis of taxation. He asserted, on the contrary, that the Bill did widen the basis of taxation, though not in the direction those hon. Gentlemen desired. The rating of machinery had been spoken of; but there was a well-known rule of law that where machinery was attached to land it was rateable, and that where it was not attached to land it was not rateable. No doubt, it would be very pleasant to the owners of real property if they could impose a rate on personal property; but if this was difficult in former times it was difficult now. The late Sir George Cornewall Lewis, when examined before a Committee of the House of Lords in 1850 said, the law with regard to the rating of personal property was very obscure, and that the rating of stock in trade would give very little relief to the agricultural parishes. With respect to the rating of personal property, the system pursued in America had not given satisfaction, and he thought that the experience of America would prevent this country from entering upon such a scheme. In conclusion, he remarked that as all the subjects brought forward to-night had reference to details, they might be considered when the Bill got into Committee.


feared that there would be some difficulty in bringing together magistrates more frequently and from different parts of the country to hear appeals as a committee of quarter sessions. They would also labour under a great disadvantage in not having the assistance of leading members of the Bar. That was a great objection to a committee such as that which had been proposed in the Valuation Bill, and he was glad to hear that that portion of the Bill was likely to be abandoned. With regard to the difficulty of assessing personalty and stock in trade, no doubt the authority of Sir George Lewis on that point would be most valuable if that right hon. Gentleman's evidence had applied to the existing state of things. But the state of things had materially altered since that evidence was given, by the passing of the Union Chargeability Bill. By the present Bill the House was asked to sanction a new principle, for it proposed to assess the privilege or right of shooting and fishing. If the right was let, the rating would assume a tangible form. It would become rent, and would be easily assessable. If the land was let at a lower rate than its value, with the view of a large preservation of game, there was no doubt that the owner of the land ought to be assessed for game purposes. But if, as in ordinary cases, the landlord said to the farmer, "I promise you there shall be no quantity of game to do you the least injury," the case would be very different. In whose interest was it that the rights of shooting were to be assessed? Was it in the interest of the farmer or of the public? He thought the contention had found its solution in the complaints that had been made to the House with regard to the preservation of game, and justly, too, where preservation was carried to excess. But if an assessment was made on game, it would operate with great hardship where very little game was kept, and it would not be for the interest of the farmer that game should be assessed. There was one other matter to which he wished to allude, and that was the very different manner in which the House dealt with taxation when the money came from the public purse and when it came from the local rates. The taxpayer had first the great advantage of the vigilance exercised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, while the money could only be voted with due formalities by a Committee of that House; but when it came from the county rate very little vigilance was exercised, and there was no protection for the local taxpayer. When the question of local taxation was before the House he hoped this point would not escape the attention of the Government. The amount raised by local taxation was a very large sum indeed, and required equal protection to that which the Chancellor of the Exchequer exercised over the public purse. He thought his hon. Friend (Mr Cawley) had shown good reasons for hesitating before proceeding further with these Bills, and if he pressed the matter to a division he should give the Motion his support.


said, the Rating Bill of the Government recognized this principle—that property which had not hitherto contributed to local burdens should contribute to them in future. The hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) complained that personalty was not brought in in aid of local rates; but personalty could never be locally rated, as it had not got "a local habitation and at name." The law originally contemplated the rating of personalty, but owing to inherent difficulties, had been compelled deliberately to exempt it. There were, however, three ways by which personalty could be brought in in aid of local rates—first, by carrying further the legislation of Sir Robert Peel and making contributions from the Exchequer in aid of local charges carefully selected, so as not to destroy thrift and vigilance in local administration; second, in the mode proposed by the Government, by surrendering an Imperial tax in aid of the rates; or, lastly, by a mode which had not been sufficiently considered, and which would, perhaps, be after all the best mode—namely, that the Government should select some special object now carried out by local burdens and should take it into its own hands, defraying the entire expense. All these methods, however, presupposed a surplus, and one still available; whereas the House of Commons had with one consent disposed of the year's surplus, and nobody had suggested that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should impose a match tax or increase the legacy duty in order to enable him to relieve local burdens. Under these circumstances, though he did not understand the Government to flinch from their former proposal—that Imperial funds should in some way or other be applied in aid of local taxation—that question must necessarily stand over for another year; in the meantime the House need not be prevented from passing a Bill which dealt with property capable of being locally rated but which had hitherto escaped through caprice or accident rather than intention of the law. Complaint might perhaps fairly be made that the question as to the incidence of burdens between owners and occupiers was not dealt with, and the expediency of transferring some existing burdens in whole or in part from occupiers to owners must be carefully discussed before the question of local taxation was disposed of. He trusted that the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Cawley) would be satisfied with the discussion which had taken place, and allow the House to go into Committee on the measures without further delay, because it was in Committee alone that Bills of this character could be properly discussed.


said, the present Bill, though it went somewhat in the direction of a remedy, did not deal with the subject in a fair spirit, because its one ruling principle was to seek out every atom of real property upon which you could impose taxation, and to excuse personal property. When the House got into Committee upon the Bill he should move an Amendment that would go to the whole root of the question of taxing personal property. But the main question was—What good would the present Bill do in towns? He had received many communications from towns, and especially one from a large manufacturing town in the county he represented (North Wilts), urging the rating of incomes derived from Government securities and public companies. That was the point on which he would venture to move an Amendment when the Bill went into Committee, as personal wealth was the proper class of property which ought to bear the burden according to the ability of the inhabitants. One reason why he would not oppose the second reading of the Bill was the pledge which he understood the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stansfeld) to have given, that Government was not disinclined at some future time to go into the question of some relief from Imperial sources towards local burdens. He only wished to point out, with reference to the rating of timber, that there was no analogy between plantations in England and in Scotland. The Scotch plantations were generally on a hillside, amid land of little value; while in England, though generally on poor land which would grow nothing else, they were generally surrounded by land worth several pounds an acre annually.


said, he should vote for the second reading, but he would like to see an alteration in the 2nd clause, which said that the Act should not apply to Scotland or Ireland. The effect of these words might not be seen at first sight; but, in his opinion, they would work a great injustice. In the City of Edinburgh there was a good deal of Government property, and the contribution of this Bill extended to Scotland might amount to £2,000 a-year as far as the city alone was concerned. Why, therefore, should the people of Edinburgh have to pay £2,000 a-year, while in England it was admitted that all Government property should contribute to the local burdens? What he would suggest was that the words, "this Act shall not apply to Scotland and Ireland," should be omitted from all clauses except Clauses 7 to 11, which were the clauses which dealt with the poor-rate and its machinery.


sympathized with the criticism which had been lavished on the Bill as a mere skeleton of a Bill, and said, that the parishes in which Government property was situated were looking forward to deriving a great boon from it. Government property was of two separate kinds. When Government stood in the position of an employer of labour or occupier, there could be no question that the property should be rated; but it was quite a different thing to speak of rating the Government establishments, such as those in London and elsewhere. He did not know whether the Houses of Parliament were to be rated; but if so, why was the parish of St. Margaret to receive £8,000 or £10,000 a-year from property which had never been rated, and was never intended to be rated? So with regard to the public buildings in Whitehall, which must be rated at probably not less that £50,000 a-year. If a rate of 4s. was contributed, the contribution would be equal to £10,000 annually to the parish. It had been too hastily assumed that it was a matter for congratulation that Government property was to be rated to the relief of the poor.


satisfied with the result of the debate, and reserving his right to move Amendments in Committee, would not trouble the House to divide.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday 9th June.