HC Deb 15 April 1878 vol 239 cc1289-92

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."— (Mr. Raikes.)

MR. HOPWOOD rose to move— That it is inexpedient to employ the police as prosecutors for the recovery of Excise penalties. The proper duties of the police, he contended, were the preservation of peace and the detection of crime. To employ them in prosecuting for Excise penalties would render a large body of the police necessary, and would divert their attention to more attractive and profitable duties, since a part of the penalties were to go to the police superannuation fund. Besides, they would be exposed to great temptation, for it was evident those who ran the risk of being heavily fined could afford to buy off prosecution. He thought it right to protest against the proposed course at its inception, lest it might be drawn into a precedent. With the great body of the well-ordered community the police force should be popular; but he did not think that making them collectors of the Revenue would, in any degree, conduce to that result. On the contrary, he considered that such employment might prove a probable element of unpopularity. On the ground, therefore, that it would be an interference with the Excise, and that it would be adding the possibility of corruption to the many temptations to which the police were already exposed, he begged to submit the Motion of which he had given Notice.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is inexpedient to employ the police as prosecutors for the recovery of Excise penalties,"— (Mr. Hopwood,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, ''That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, one of the grounds on which this Resolution had been proposed was that a local body ought not to be mixed up with Imperial purposes; but the police had been already employed for purposes similar to that referred to by the hon. and learned Member. They had been employed in reference to what were called hawker's licences, and also in reference to chimney-sweeps' licences, gun licences, &c. They had been employed as Inspectors of weights and measures, and for other purposes of that kind. If the collection of the dog tax entirely rested on its application to Imperial purposes, there might be something in what the hon. and learned Member had said; but, for the last year or two, it had been brought to the knowledge of the Government that the localities requested a further and better collection of the tax. In the last Office he had the honour to fill, so many complaints came before him, that the matter was eventually referred to the Inspectors of Constabulary to report on the expediency of employing the local police in the manner proposed, when those Inspectors unanimously assented to the proposal, stating that, after careful inquiry at their annual inspections, they were led to believe the proposed mode of collection would be so beneficial that no objection would be felt. The application of a part of the penalty to the police superannuation fund would not, he believed, induce them to act harshly, because the individual policeman would not be benefited by it. The complaint at present made was, that under the existing system it was impossible to ascertain whether the proper number of licences had been taken out in any district. If the tax were intrusted to the police, however, it would be properly collected, which it could not be now. The House would see that the objections urged by the hon. and learned Member for Stockport had not the weight he claimed for them, and that the alteration in the mode of collection which the Bill proposed would effect an important object.


said, he looked with great suspicion on these dog laws and gun taxes. They appeared to him to be, to a great extent, Game Laws in disguise. He quite admitted that it was very desirable that dogs should be strictly registered, and if the tax were not made too heavy there could be no objection to a greater degree of strictness being exercised in the matter of registration; but, looking to the animus which was entertained against dogs that did a little poaching on their own account, he thought it would be desirable to avoid employing the police to collect the tax.


said, the police were not the proper parties to be called in to collect this tax. Their employment in this duty would tend to their increase. There were too many at present, and they were a very heavy charge on the Civil Service Estimates. He had noticed that since the Government had undertaken part of the charge for the police, magistrates had ceased to be so careful about the number of police employed. He thought the present proposal would tend to make the police generally unpopular.


said, that, having assented to the increase of the dog tax, the Committee could not refrain from assenting to this powerful mode of insuring its collection. If there were considerable evasion when the tax was 5s., it was to be expected it would be greater still when the tax was raised. It was bad policy to impose a tax that they could not collect efficiently; and, therefore, they had no choice but to consent to allow the police to be employed in the way proposed.


said, that although the police did not actually collect the tax in Ireland, yet, no doubt, the body had great control over the matter. Of course, the way in which the tax was collected in Ireland was very different from the method imposed by the Bill before them. He believed that some modification might be effected in the arrangement proposed. The police might be instructed to look more closely after the dog licences, with the view of instituting prosecutions where necessary. In his opinion, the dog tax altogether was a highly objectionable tax, whatever way they might view it. A great deal of odium must be involved in its collection; and it appeared to him very doubtful if the advantage to be derived from its imposition would be at all equivalent to the odium which attached to the collection of it. He thought that the Government might fairly consider whether they could not adopt a suggestion similar to that which he had thrown out.


said, that the police did not collect the tax at all. They would give information to the Inland Revenue that a certain person did keep a dog, and he would have to show that he had a licence from the Inland Revenue. The hon. and learned Member for Stockport (Mr. Hopwood) had fallen into an error on that subject.

Question put, and agreed to.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Preamble postponed.

Clause 1 (Short title) agreed to.

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