HC Deb 11 February 1876 vol 227 cc239-55

, in moving for leave to introduce a Bill to consolidate and amend the Laws relating to the Valuation of Property for the purposes of Rates and Taxes, said, during the Recess, at many of the meetings which had been held, expectations were held out that, at the commencement of this Session, the Government would be prepared to lay upon the Table what was called a comprehensive measure of reform as regarded local taxation and local government. Without pausing to inquire what was the exact meaning of the somewhat ambiguous phrase "a comprehensive measure," he might take that opportunity to repeat the few ob- servations which he made last year on a similar occasion. He yielded to no man in his sense of the pressing importance and growing interest of questions of this kind, and the hold they had taken on the public mind. He had had the subject under his careful attention the whole time he was in office, and he had lost no opportunity of bringing the questions involved under the notice of the Government. He did not, however, think it was reasonable to expect that anything like what could be called a comprehensive measure on this question could be expected from that or any other Government at present, considering the crowded condition of the Business of the House. It seemed to him much more practical and satisfactory to proceed by degrees to improve and simplify the system to which he was alluding, and he hoped in the course of the present Session to have several opportunities of making substantial progress in that direction. They all knew that important alterations were required in regard to the collection, the assessment, and the administration of local rates, and all admitted the necessity of bringing together the present scattered and sometimes conflicting areas of local administration. But he must point out that at the foundation of all these questions lay the necessity of simplifying the law as regarded the valuation of property for rating and taxing purposes, and he did not stand alone in his opinion that a Valuation Bill was an essential preliminary to all other improvements. When this question was discussed at considerable length in the newspapers, he was struck by a letter which appeared in The Times, written by Sir Edward Kerrison, formerly a Member of that House, and possessing the confidence of, and accepted as a representative man among, landlords and tenants. What did he say? He said— I venture again to call attention, through your columns, to the undoubted fact that no satisfactory solution of this great question can be reached until all rates and taxes are levied on one basis. Even if a subsidy be given by Parliament in relief of local taxation, it cannot be fairly distributed while the rateable value of the same property in different Unions varies from 10 to 40 per cent. Successive Governments during the last 10 years had entertained that view, and there was not a time at which during that period a Valuation Bill might not have been found in the pigeon holes of the public offices. So long ago as 1867 a measure was brought forward by his right hon. Friend the present First Lord of the Admiralty proposing to unite for purposes of valuation the functions of the surveyor of taxes with those of overseers of parishes and assessment committees; but it was afterwards withdrawn for want of time. In 1869 his right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) was successful in carrying through a most excellent measure of reform in this respect, applicable only, however, to the metropolis. That Act had now been in operation for seven years, and two valuations of the metropolis had taken place in accordance with its provisions. The Act was so comprehensive and complete in its character that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), when he proposed a Bill on the subject, stated by way of Preamble the expediency of extending to the whole Kingdom the provisions of that measure. Last year the Bill which he (Mr. Sclater-Booth) now proposed to lay on the Table was in a forward state of preparation, and might have been introduced had an opportunity offered for its consideration. Not only had the public Departments, public officers, and members of various Governments shown their appreciation of the necessity of this measure, but while he had been in office he had received communications from different parts of the country, and various public authorities, as well as private individuals, all illustrating the fact that there was now in the public mind a general conviction of the necessity of proceeding in this matter. He had an elaborate statement from a gentleman in Norfolk, complaining that in 22 Unions of that county no two bodies adopted the same principle of deduction in arriving at the rateable value, and he had also a complaint from a gentleman in Devonshire, who mentioned that there had been no fresh valuation of his parish for 40 years. He had heard from other quarters, too, a general desire expressed that reforms should be made with a view to coming at a more accurate and just valuation. Two days ago he received letters from chairmen of important local boards in Lancashire, expressing an opinion as to the great difficulty of arriv- ing at the real value of property for the purposes of local rates. Again, within the last few days, he had met a deputation of gentlemen, representing ratepayers of Swindon, where the growth of property had been great, and they informed him that, in consequence of the impossibility of exercising any control over the operations of the assessment committee, there was a belief that equal justice was not dealt out to different ratepayers of that town. He need not remind the House that there was in every parish in the Kingdom a rankling sense of injustice on the part of at least one important ratepayer—namely, the clergyman in receipt of the tithe rent-charge. Although he did not see his way to giving all that relief which many hon. Gentlemen would desire, he thought that, if only with the view of doing justice to the clergy, some means should be adopted in order to insure that all the ratepayers were assessed equally and more in accordance with the real value of the property. The clergy had associated themselves together for the purpose of getting some redress on frequent occasions; but he believed that those who were wisely advised did not desire, beyond one small matter, that any special provision should be made for them, merely wishing that fair measure should be dealt out to all classes of the community. When he came to the question of county rating, he must confess there was no uniformity whatever with regard to securing that the payment made should be uniformly assessed. In some counties great expense had been gone to in special valuation which might well have been avoided had this Bill been in existence. In the county to which he had the honour to belong, by constant attention to the subject, the county rate had been well kept up to the mark; but, on the other hand, he had heard a statement recently with regard to Gloucestershire to the effect that in many cases the assessment remained much as it was 10 or 20 years ago. He had not taken the trouble of going into the cases of the other counties, but he was sure that they would show a like state of circumstances. Now, in order to cure those inequalities which were complained of, not only by experts, but also by the public at large, it was proposed now, as it was before, and as was already the law in the metropolis, that a Government officer—namely, the surveyor of taxes—should be a party to the preparation of the valuation lists. The exact mode in which his functions were to be brought into play was rather different from what had been proposed on previous occasions. He was to be associated with the overseers in the necessary preliminaries to the preparations of the lists, and was also to be an authority in fixing the amount at which the gross value was to be returned. This, it might be said, was but a small change to give occasion for a Bill of upwards of 100 clauses; but the real fact was, that there was no need of any great changes, provided only they could insert into the machinery that was provided the influence of the surveyor of taxes. The Union Assessment Committee Act was, and had been, an exceedingly good measure, and might be and was in many parts of the country worked with great assiduity and success. It would be remembered by hon. Gentlemen who had gone into the subject at length that Mr. Poulett Scrope—a high authority on these subjects—originally drew his Bill so as to secure that individual ratepayers in a parish should be rated equally, and the object of the Union Assessment Committee Act was that that principle should apply to Unions. The object of the present measure was not only to secure more uniform action amongst assessment committees for that particular object for which they existed, but to secure that the contribution of Unions to county rates should be also fairly assessed; and it would be of immense advantage that the assessment for the property and income tax and the local assessment should be made at the same time, both as giving additional security to the ratepayer, and conducing to the success of the valuation, and also reducing the number of inquisitorial demands made on the ratepayers as to their property and the value of the hereditaments they possessed. As he had stated, the Union Assessment Act was remarkably well worked in some parts of the country, and there would be no occasion to interfere with it if it were equally well worked in all. As an illustration, he would mention that he had been informed by an authority he could not doubt that one of the largest properties mentioned in the Return upon the Table of the House—one of the largest estates in the Kingdom—was given so accurately, both as to acreage and value, that the gross value taken from the rate-book, between £70,000 and £80,000 a-year, was within a fraction of the sum received by the owner of the estate; and that fact was due to the strict carrying out of the provisions of the Union Assessment Act. It might also be mentioned as evidence in favour of the Act that the deductions made in order to ascertain the annual value averaged 15 per cent over the whole Kingdom. The variations were, however, considerable, as between purely agricultural districts and districts near to great towns, the latter having the advantage of the former. Thus, in Northumberland and Huntingdon the average was 9 per cent; whereas in Surrey and Kent it was 19 per cent. The Bill he asked leave to introduce was in a great degree a consolidation of the Metropolitan Valuation Act of 1869 and the Union Assessment Committee Act. The provisions of the former Act had been slightly varied in some unimportant particulars, and there were some improvements in the mode in which the surveyor of taxes was instructed to proceed. He was to be associated with the overseer from the first, before the preparation of the list; and during the early part of the year that which had proved to be a great difficulty in the assessing of the gross valuation would be got rid of. The appeals under the Bill were, in the first instance, to a special sessions, and ultimately to the quarter sessions. The special sessions would for the most part decide cases in which individual ratepayers were interested; the quarter sessions those in which Union complained against Union or county against Union. There were provisions in the Bill for securing the rights of ratepayers in the event of notices not being properly given to them, so as to secure that they should not be ousted from any redress they might be entitled to. An important alteration was proposed with regard to the periods of valuation by extending them to every seven instead of every five years, as now in the metropolis, and he felt satisfied that any slight loss that might arise to the revenue by delaying the valuation would be more than compensated to the Government by the increased accuracy of the valuations then made, and the increased attention that would be given to the annual supple- mentary and provisional valuation lists, and the result would be that the same term would hereafter apply to the valuation for the property and income tax. It would be a very great change in favour of the taxpayer and ratepayer that a very unpleasant process would require to be gone through only once in seven years. It was proposed that the assessment of tithe rent-charge should also be made once in seven years, and not be varied from year to year as it now was, and a statutory enactment would be placed in the Bill that for the purposes of valuation, where the circumstances of the parish required it, the salary of the curate should be deducted from the income of the rector. Taking into consideration the satisfactory manner in which the Metropolis Valuation Act had worked, he though there would be no objection on the part of the local authorities to be associated with a public officer in this particular work, or that there need be any apprehension that the valuation would thereby be pushed up unduly, and to any unreasonable extent. That was not the intention of the Government, as was shown by the proposal substituting seven for five years. He would go further, and say that as far as he was informed—and he had taken great pains to inform himself—the association of the surveyor with the local authority in the metropolis had been a successful experiment. It was quite true that during the summer of last year the newspapers were full of remonstrances from individual ratepayers who conceived themselves to be surcharged beyond what was reasonable. He had no doubt that in many cases those remonstrances had been well founded; but he had the best reason for thinking that the supervision of the surveyor of taxes in the valuation which had gone on during the last year had been quite as much of a mediatory character as the reverse; and he could quote instances to show that such was the case. The process, therefore, would not, he thought, justify the views of those who might be alarmed at the change proposed. On the contrary, it would, he believed, be found to be rather of a soothing than of an irritating character. The intervention of the Government in matters of valuation in Ireland, he would remind the House, had been the rule for local and Imperial purposes. In Scotland, that was not quite the case, but very nearly, the Government valuation being, to a great degree, the valuation for local purposes in that country. Although he listened with some sympathy to those who objected to a Government officer participating in this local work, yet they should remember that the circumstances had very much changed since the question was last before the House. The Government was now by far the largest ratepayer in the country. Subventions were made by the Government in aid of local rating in every Union and county, and it was the bounden duty of the Government to see that the valuation of properties was effectually and fairly carried out, and it was the duty of Parliament to see that the Government did not pay subventions which were not in aid of charges rightly and strictly levied upon all the ratepayers of the country. He should ask the House to read his Bill for the first time on the following grounds:—firstly, because it was absurd that the same property should be valued three times by three different authorities for the purposes of taxation; secondly, because it was unjust that the basis of the common contributions to the county funds should be based upon widely differing scales of deduction; thirdly, because the principle of the central Government acting in matters of assessment and valuation had already been adopted with satisfactory results in the metropolis as well as in Scotland and Ireland; and lastly, because the Bill embodied an improvement of the law which might pave the way to very important changes in the local administration of the country. He could foresee the time when it might be expedient to do for the counties what had already been done for the metropolis—namely, to spread over wider areas than at present the incidence of some items of local taxation, and so to reduce and mitigate the burden which at present pressed most grievously upon the poorer class of taxpayers. That that could be done without breaking up the integrity and independence of local administration had been shown by the experience of the metropolitan system during the last 10 years. Whether a time would come when his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be able to make use of the means proposed in the Bill for the purpose of assessing the property tax upon rateable value he did not know; but if the rateable value column could be made use of for that purpose there would be much greater satisfaction in the payment of the tax, and the Government would be relieved from much anxiety, trouble, and expense, as well as from the animosity of the taxpayers, arising from a sense of injustice under which they now supposed themselves to suffer in being assessed for the property tax upon their gross receipts. Beyond that, the convenience resulting from having but one Valuation Act for the metropolis and the whole of the country would undoubtedly prove a great advantage in the end. He hoped the House would be so forbearing as not to rip up the provisions of a law which had already worked well, or to occupy time in discussing clauses in the present Bill which really contained no new matter. The proposals of amendment were trifling in point of extent, if not in point of meaning and intention, and he therefore hoped the House would see its way to dealing with the measure in the shortest amount of time consistent with a due consideration of the important points involved. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by formally moving for leave to introduce his Bill.


said, that the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, so far as it went, was very satisfactory. The complaint of last Session was, that it was a blank on these matters, when they were led to suppose that the subject of local taxation would have engaged the attention of Parliament and the Government. He therefore hoped that as there was a very small programme of domestic measures before Parliament, this Bill would receive a full and fair consideration, and, with such modification as might be found necessary, passed into law. The necessity for simplifying the law of assessment lay at the root of the whole question, for it was ridiculous that three different systems should prevail for dealing with the same property, and as the Government proposal was aimed at achieving this object there was the more reason for accepting its proposals. It was satisfactory to know that the Bill passed for the metropolis had worked so well. He doubted if it would be satisfactory in every case; but he was glad to hear there was some reason to believe so. It had been held that the introduction of a Government surveyor of taxes into the provisions of a Bill like the present was objectionable as tending to centralization. He personally had no strong objection to the principle of centralization, and should certainly be inclined to accept it if it was combined with relief of local taxation from Imperial sources. He accepted the statement of the right hon. Gentleman with the more satisfaction because it showed the intention of the Government to redeem one, at least, of the pledges which they made while in Opposition, that this subject would receive their immediate attention. The point to which those who pleaded the cause of the local taxpayer chiefly looked was the additional assistance which was to be obtained from the Imperial Exchequer towards local purposes, but that had been generally treated as the last portion of the subject to be dealt with. He hoped, however, now that the Government had brought in a Bill applicable to one branch of the question, they would not intermit their exertions, but endeavour to deal with the most important part of it during the present Session.


said, he could not agree with the hon. Member who had just sat down in thinking that the House would be willing to abandon the principle of local self-government and independence, simply because some small amount of relief was afforded to local taxation from Imperial funds. He therefore hoped that the Bill would not have the effect of overriding parochial government, though it was capable of improvement; and, further, that before a revolution was commenced, some principle would be laid down in the Bill upon which the new valuations and assessment should be made. At present the greatest possible differences existed in the allowance made for tear and wear and other deductions from the gross value of property in neighbouring parishes where the valuations were made in reference to the original cost; while in many places large and costly houses were let at a merely nominal rental, and were assessed upon the basis of real lettable value. The injustice was so great that he must be allowed to express his surprise that some such measure was not brought forward years ago. Now, however, that it had, he trusted that care would be taken to lay down some rule by which this injustice would be prevented, and that equal uniformity should be enforced. If that were done, he felt sure hon. Members on both sides of the House would do all they could to assist the right hon. Gentleman in carrying such a measure.


, while expressing his satisfaction that the Government had introduced the measure with the view of giving relief to the local ratepayers, said, the modes of valuation to which the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) had referred were contrary to the statute law which had been in existence many years, and, as expounded by the Judges, laid down the only sound principle—namely, that property should be valued according to what it would let for. He therefore thought the right hon. Gentleman had done wisely in avoiding the laying down of any new principle for the valuation of property, but had laid before the House the simple and sound proposal that property should be valued according to the same principle as heretofore. He doubted whether, because a certain system of valuation of property could be carried out without difficulty in the metropolis, such a system of valuation would be equally applicable to the country generally. Nothing could be more different than the nature of property in London and that of property in rural parishes. The overseers who were employed in valuing property in London had a considerable amount of official character, had had a great deal of experience, and were a very different class from the rural overseers. He was afraid, therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman talked about associating the surveyor of taxes with the rural overseer, that the latter would go to the wall whenever any difference arose between them, because it was impossible that he could hold his own as well as the overseer of the London parish, who, with his experience, was more than a match for the surveyor of taxes. It would not be right to ask the right hon. Gentleman to go into minute details in introducing a measure of this kind; but it appeared to him that the practicability of associating the surveyor of taxes with the overseer would depend upon what position was secured to each of those officials in carrying out their duties. If he understood the right hon. Gentleman cor- rectly, he proposed to classify appeals against the valuation with the view of sending one set of appeals before the special petty sessions and the other set before the quarter sessions. He did not understand the right hon. Gentleman to mean that all appeals were to go first to the special petty sessions and from thence to the quarter sessions, but that they were to be classified according to their particular character, only one appeal being allowed. He did not know why one appeal in such cases should not be sufficient, and the only difficulty would be to which of the Courts of Appeal the cases should be sent. He thought that the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman that the salaries of curates should be deducted from the income of rectors and vicars for the purposes of valuation was a mere act of justice, although he did not know exactly the circumstances under which that allowance would be made. The right hon. Gentleman said that that principle of reduction in the assessment of clerical incomes had been adopted in some parts of the country, although from a recent decision of the Courts it seemed not to be justifiable in point of law. He had thus followed the sense of the country as to what was fair and just in this matter. Hon. Members would look forward with interest to a fuller statement from the right hon. Gentleman when the Bill came on for a second reading, because, in a matter of this kind, so much depended upon details. He thought, on the whole, that the House had shown a general disposition to agree with the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman, and that the sketch which the right hon. Gentleman had given of his Bill had been satisfactory. Under these circumstances he should be prepared to give the right hon. Gentleman his best assistance towards carrying this measure.


said, he agreed with the remark that had fallen from the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Floyer), that all discussion upon the measure should be reserved until the second reading, because it was at all times highly inconvenient to attempt to discuss a Bill which they had not seen, and with the provisions of which they were not fully acquainted. In fact, he should not have risen on that occasion at all had it not been that the right hon. Gentleman had, not exactly thrown out a challenge to him, but almost invited discussion upon a somewhat wider issue than that involved in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman had, at the commencement of his speech, given the House to understand that this measure was to be a part fulfilment of the expectations which Her Majesty's Government had raised with reference to the relief that was to be given to local taxation, and he pointed specially to the possibility of a time arriving when taxation would be lightened by being spread over a wider area. He did not think that he should be doing much service to the public or to the House by taking advantage of that observation of the right hon. Gentleman in order to raise a discussion at the present time as to whether Her Majesty's Government had by this measure sufficiently fulfilled the expectations it had raised on this subject. He wished, however, to remove an impression under which the hon. Member for East Gloucestershire (Mr. J. R. Yorke) evidently laboured, and which was, that, as to this measure. Her Majesty's Government did not intend to come before the House, as their predecessors had done, with a proposition that any contributions to the relief of local taxation should be postponed until after a reform of the local government had been effected. He could not accept that statement as an accurate representation of the views of the late Government upon this question. The truth was that in 1873 he had introduced three Bills—one a Eating Bill, the principles of which the present Government had practically accepted and passed into law; the second a Valuation Bill, on the lines of which the present Bill had been drawn; and the third a Bill for the Consolidation of Eating for the convenience of collecting rates. The late Government had, indeed, declared that Session that they were not prepared to vote the money out of the Imperial Exchequer for the relief of local taxation until the work of that Session had been accomplished; but, nevertheless, the Government was undoubtedly pledged to give in one shape or another relief to local taxation. The right hon. Gentleman would recollect that the then President of the Poor Law Board had introduced a very wide measure, one leading feature in which was to give relief to local taxation. Under these circumstances, he felt bound to say that it was no part of the theory of the late Government that relief to local taxation was to be postponed until local administration had been reformed.


congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on the presence at last of the Bill whose advent had been so long expected. In his opinion, it was far easier to carry through a measure of this kind in a comprehensive form than to pass it piecemeal for counties and divisions of counties, and then to endeavour to reconcile the conflicting systems which would grow up under separate administration. He differed from those who thought that a new principle of valuation ought to be introduced. The sound principle had been laid down in the Valuation of Property (Metropolis) Act. With regard to the period at which a new valuation should be made, he would have been bettor pleased to see "five" remaining in the Bill, because it was rather a serious thing to fix upon anybody an erroneous valuation which could not be disturbed for seven years. The right hon. Gentleman spoke truly of the very great advantage of having one basis of valuation and one rating authority instead of three—he (Mr. Hubbard) might say, instead of 13, for in the Metropolis alone there were 13 different rates levied. The consolidation into one uniform system of these conflicting means of levying rates must be very beneficial both as regarded economy of administration and the absence of the recurrence of the demands made upon the taxpayer. He believed the apprehension was quite unfounded that Englishmen would lose their independence if they were not allowed to assess their property. He thought the system of self-assessment had been grossly abused, and that the country would be far better satisfied if men of responsibility appointed by the Crown were made the medium of determining what was the value of property. In carrying out a system of single assessment we should get not only a single basis, but also a single expression of value both for local taxation and for Imperial taxation. Opportunity would be given for further remark when the clauses of the Bill appeared before the Committee, and he would only add the expression of his gratification at the announcement that the country clergy would get some relief. He trusted that this would be an occasion upon which Her Majesty's Government would not allow the demands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be inferior in accuracy to those of local bodies throughout the country, but that they would have one and the same system, thus securing equality and simplicity of action and contentment on the part of the taxpayers.


thanked the right hon. Gentleman for introducing a measure on this subject. Although he was quite ready to give every assistance in his power to make the measure a perfect one, he was not quite so sanguine as some might be. The difficulties were enormous, and he was a little disturbed at the present moment by the appearance of that very extraordinary document which now arrested the attention of half the Kingdom. He alluded to that book which had been somewhat romantically called Domesday Book. An hon. Friend of his in that House had spoken of it as The Money Lenders' Guide, while others called it The Mothers' Manual. All he (Sir John Scourfield) could say was that if either the moneylenders or the other more interesting class of the community trusted to that manual for estimating the wealth of individuals upon whom they had designs, he feared they would be woefully deceived. Many persons would be surprised to see their names attached in it to such an infinitely greater amount of wealth than they believed themselves to be the possessors of. He trusted that whatever valuation was made under this Bill it would be conducted on a more intelligible principle than the valuation in that book. However that might be, he earnestly desired that this measure should lead to a successful determination of this subject.


wished to know whether the alteration of "five "to "seven" with regard to the number of years at which a re-valuation should be made would be extended to the metropolis? It would be scarcely fair that the metropolis should be re-valued every five years, while other places were re-valued every seven years. With regard to the principle of this Bill he had only to express his satisfaction at the handsome language in which the right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the Metropolitan "Valuation Act, which he (Mr. Goschen) had the honour of introducing. Occupants of the Treasury Bench, when they quitted their places, did not always receive compensation for unexhausted improvements. Therefore, he could only express his satisfaction that in this case acknowledgment had been made. The late Government thought they put a good deal of stuff into the ground, and if the result should be a rich crop of legislative measures, they would certainly not complain, but congratulate their successors upon them. At the same time, they hoped the measures would follow each other with reasonable despatch, and that the present Government would not act upon the plan of the Queen in the Arabian Nights, and so extend their legislative story as to make it last for ever. There was a Consolidation and a Rates Bill which was perfectly ready to the hands of the right hon. Gentleman. He hoped the House would not have to wait two years for the appearance of that Bill, as they had to wait two years for the appearance of this Bill; but that the Government would produce that and other measures which were ready to their hands as soon as possible.


, after thanking the House for the kind manner in which his Motion had been received, said, in reply to the question of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) that the metropolis would be spared for, he believed, eight years from a fresh valuation. The number of appeals this year in the metropolis to the special sessions under the right hon. Gentleman's Act was very trifling. They amounted to only 120, although he believed the number of assessments was upwards of 500,000, That spoke a good deal for the operation of the Act. In reply to the observation of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz), that hon. Gentleman would find an important clause in the Bill establishing a relation between actual rents and values which he (Mr. Sclater-Booth) hoped would be satisfactory. In reply to the hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Floyer), it was not the case that special sessions were constituted the final Court of Appeal for the ordinary ratepayer, but, as a matter of fact, he had no doubt that would be generally the result. Appeals of primary importance would go to the special sessions; those of secondary importance to quarter sessions.

Motion agreed to. Bill to consolidate and amend the Laws relating to the Valuation of Property for the purposes of Rates and Taxes, ordered to he brought in by Mr. SCLATER-BOOTH, Mr. SALT, and Mr. WILLIAM HENRY SMITH.

Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 59.]