HC Deb 31 May 1877 vol 234 cc1175-8

Bill, as amended, considered.


moved the following clause:— (Exemption of farmers from Gun Licence Duty.) Guns used by farmers or persons employed by them exclusively for the protection of their crops shall be exempted from Licence Duty. He was sorry to have troubled the House another year with this question. There was a considerable amount of feeling in the country with regard to this tax, which the farmers considered most unjust, as it prevented many from taking steps to protect their crops from the ravages of wild animals. Of late years, rooks and wood pigeons had greatly increased in number, and every time the farmer's attention was called to the damage caused thereby, it was naturally associated in his mind with this obnoxious gun tax. When the tax was first imposed, it was said to be for the purpose of preventing people going about with guns who ought not to possess them, but there was no reason why farmers should not be exempted. This gun tax was a reversal of the policy which Parliament had adopted many years ago. When there was a considerable agitation in regard to game, Parliament gave a concession in favour of farmers shooting hares upon their own farms. This concession was removed by the gun tax being imposed. The right hon. Member for London University, to whom the country was indebted for the tax, had a great desire for simplicity and uniformity, and consequently it was imposed upon all alike. He would direct attention to the Report of the Inland Revenue Commissioners on this question. They said that many persons used guns for sporting who did not possess game licences. It was evident that the gun licence was collected with more diligence than the game licences; for, while the gun licences had increased by 8,000 during the year, the game licences in the same period had decreased by 1,400. He was afraid this tax was continued as an additional game law, and imposed for the purposes of protecting game. Farmers had long just cause of complaint in respect to injury to their crops; but instead of getting any relief, the grievance was becoming greater every year. The whole amount received from the tax was only £60,000 a-year, and it was not therefore a question of revenue.

New Clause—(Mr. J. W. Barclay,)— brought up, and read the first time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the said Clause be now read a second time."


supported the proposition of the hon. Member for Forfarshire, as he believed that the Government would derive a larger revenue from licences if the gun tax were abolished and the right to carry guns made to depend on the local arrangements of counties by transferring the income now paid into the Exchequer to the localities. This licensing, as well as the licences for dogs, for shooting game, for hawkers, and various other purposes, were purely police arrangements, and consequently the receipts there from ought to go into the local funds and not into the Exchequer.


was sorry he could not support the proposal, because it was one for simply exempting farmers and those employed by them from paying the gun tax, and that would introduce a system of exemptions which would be of a very exceptional character. The tax might be a good or bad one, but while it remained he could not but oppose exemptions.


thought that the objection of the hon. Member who had spoken last hit the real difficulty in the way of such a clause. There would, moreover, be great difficulty in defining who were farmers, and in discovering whether a man carrying a gun and shooting was really a farmer or a poacher. It was quite clear that the Government could not adopt such a proposition as this, as the revenue officers would not know where to levy the tax.


said, that the farmers of Scotland would like to get rid of the gun tax, but not at the expense of the rest of the community of that country.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 20; Noes 92: Majority 72. — (Division List, No. 145.)

Bill to be read the third time To-morrow.