HC Deb 17 June 1878 vol 240 cc1624-57

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [14th June], "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair" (for Committee on the Valuation of Property Bill).

And which Amendment was, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "no re-adjustment of the system of assessment will be complete or satisfactory to ratepayers until a representative county board is established, with power of hearing appeals on questions of value, and for securing uniformity of assessment,"—(Mr. Clare Read,) —instead thereof.

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

Debate resumed.


reminded the House, that when the debate on this Bill stood adjourned on Friday last by lapse of time, the Question before the House was that the hon. Member for South Norfolk be permitted to withdraw his Amendment. The Question, therefore, that he had now to put, was—"Is it your pleasure that the Amendment be withdrawn." ["No, no!"]


said, that he could not allow this Bill to pass with silent acquiescence. Its direct effects would not be altogether satisfactory, but its indirect effects would be positively mischievous. The objects of the Bill were incontestably right; for it certainly was much better that there should be only one mode of making the assessment, and that it should be made by one authority, instead of three different authorities upon three different principles. It was equally incontestable that it would be beneficial to have an equality of contribution between one Union and another in a county. But it was upon the means of obtaining these objects that difficulties arose. The introduction of the surveyor of taxes would lead to an undue amount of centralization, and cause the Government to be unpopular in the country. Under the Bill, rents would be taken as the basis of assessment, the result of which would be most unfair and unsatisfactory. The Bill also was defective with regard to the subject of appeals, it giving an appeal from the better-informed to the worse-informed authority. The right hon. Gentleman who had charge of the measure alternated between two opinions. He wished to bring about a permanent assessment, and yet he seemed to have a desire to postpone arrangements for bringing about a lasting settlement until the County Boards Bill had been passed. It seemed to him to be a point open to considerable question whether, if the opportunity were lost this year of establishing County Boards, it would occur again for a very long time. The late Government proposed to deal with this question in a particular way, but they failed—either from want of time or opportunity. When Her Majesty's present Advisers took Office they also proposed to deal with the question, and to commence the process by reforming the existing system of county government. When he saw the County Boards Bill at the front of the Government measures relating to this question, he hoped that the Bill would be passed—with the elimination, perhaps, of the clumsy highway clauses—and thus the way would be cleared for further reforms in the same direction; but now the Government seemed to have shrunk back from the kernel of the business, and to be inclined to content themselves with its shell. If it were necessary that one of this series of Bills should be passed this Session, the County Boards Bill ought to be the first. But the Cattle Plague Bill was a measure of far greater urgency and importance to the agricultural interest, and ought to be dealt with before all the others. The strategy of the Government, in postponing the most important and putting forward the less important Bills, seemed to invite opposition; and the disposition of the Irish Members must have greatly changed within the last few days, if they were not disposed to make the most of the unwieldy bulk of this Bill. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman not to press this Bill further forward this Session, but to allow the House to devote its time to getting through the Cattle Plague Bill, and, if possible, the County Government Bill.


I am quite prepared to give every credit to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board for his desire to reform the local administration of the country, and I appreciate very highly the ability with which the right hon. Gentleman fulfils the duties of his important Office. Still, it is impossible to shut our eyes to the fact, that the group of measures that are now before the House having reference to his Department have by some means or other got into something very like a muddle. I think it is not very difficult to find out how it is that, notwithstanding the great ability of the right hon. Gentleman, these Bills have got into a state which is not fully satisfactory to either side of the House. I think it is simply because Her Majesty's Government have adopted in these measures a timid and feeble policy. They seem to me to have been influenced by several currents of opinion which have been moving in contrary directions. There is no doubt that there is a very powerful current of opinion at the head Office of the Local Government Board, which always moves in favour of centralization and increased authority on the part of the Government Department. There has also been another current which has been brought to bear upon the right hon. Gentleman from the counties and the agricultural societies, who have pressed upon the Government that the Local Government Board should provide greater facilities for the representation of opinion in the localities and greater power for the management of their own affairs by the ratepayers in these counties. This local current which is in favour of local government has been divided into two other subordinate currents. One current has been to obtain representation for the farmers and other ratepaying occupants of property in the counties, and who naturally say—"Let us manage our own affairs either by our own judgment, or, at all events, let us have a voice in the appointment of these who have to manage our various local affairs." The other local current is from the magistrates in the counties, who say—"We have a certain authority which we do not like to part with; we do not like the Government to bring forward any measure which would lessen our authority in the counties, or take it from us and give it to the ratepayers." The Bills before the House are a compromise between these three powerful opinions. The right hon. Gentleman has, no doubt, tried as far as possible to please these different classes of opinion, and the result has been that he has satisfied nobody. The great point in the compromise was, that the County Government Board Bill should be the first to be brought in and passed, and the Valuation and Highway Bills should hang upon the County Government Bill. We find that the circumstances have entirely altered. This compromise has disappeared, and we are told that the County Government Bill is not to be brought on. What lessons are we to learn from the present state of things? Simply, that where you have three powerful currents brought to bear upon the Government, the current which is least powerful will be pushed aside. The farmers have the least power, and, consequently, they have gone to the wall. The other currents of opinion remain to a very large extent embodied in the Bills now before the House. I know the right hon. Gentleman says he is not in favour of centralization, and I am quite prepared to believe it; but he is surrounded by public officials who are all in favour of centralization. [Mr. SCLATER-BOOTH dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but I know very well how these public officials say—"You must take care to keep the power of the Government over the local administration;" and so it is that the surveyor of taxes occupies a very important position in the Bill, for that satisfies the current of opinion among the permanent officials of the Department; and then, on the other hand, the whole question of valuation in reference to appeals is left in the hands of the county justices, and the farmers and ratepaying occupants of the counties are refused any additional voice in the determination of the ultimate decision with regard to valuation. I should like, if it were possible, that the right hon. Gentleman would place himself in this position for a short time, and get rid of official ideas. If he would go down to his county, and look at the question from a point of view of a ratepayer or farmer, he would form a very different judgment. The fact is, it is no use telling the people in counties that you can manage their business for them better than they can do it for themselves. I dare say you can; but they want to have a voice in the management of their own affairs; they do not want to be controlled by any Government officials, or the entire power to be left in the hands of the, no doubt, highly respected body of magistrates who are yet in no sense possessed of a representative character. I believe that the assessment committees have acted remarkably well; and I am strongly of opinion that additional experience would enable them still further to improve the system of valuation over which they preside. But the assessment committees are not trusted by the right hon. Gentleman, and he, therefore, brings in the surveyor of taxes. I observed that the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read) seemed to be astonished at more not being said on this side of the House on that subject. I stand here with the view of protesting against the position the surveyor of taxes occupies under this Bill. I am sorry to say that, in consequence of the change that has taken place in the structure of the Bill, an impression has been produced in the country that a great concession has been made in reference to the position of the surveyor of taxes. Now, I recollect very well, when the Bill was before the House on a former occasion last year, that the surveyor of taxes occupied a very powerful position in that Bill, so powerful that it was clear that if he continued to occupy it, the assessment committees would practically feel themselves placed in the position of nonentities. There is an alteration in the position of the surveyor, certainly; but what is the position now? The assessment committee will, according to the best of their judgment, decide upon the value of property in their locality. That judgment will be differed from by the surveyor of taxes, who will have the power not only of appealing against the assessment committee to the petty sessions and the quarter sessions, but of having a special case taken up to the High Court of Justice. The right hon. Gentleman said that it was necessary to have this power of appeal in order that justice might be done to the poor ratepayer. But the surveyor of taxes would appeal against the assessment committee with the whole power of the Government at his back; and, therefore, he would have appeal after appeal, so as to make the assessment committees hesitate before taking up a position in opposition to him. I am sorry that the surveyor of taxes, although under a different form, is maintained in a position of such power and authority. I do not object to the assessment committee taking advantage of the experience of the surveyor of taxes. I think the committee will necessarily go to the surveyor of taxes and get from him very valuable information. But at present he is only an assistant of theirs; he is not in a position in which he can harass and control the committee. I will oppose any plan for putting the finger of the Government into local administration in such a form as will prevent additional power being given to the local administrators. With regard to the assessment committees, I know something about them. I have never sat upon them; but I know very well the kind of work which is done by them in the district with which I am connected. I say you have upon them magistrates who, from, their knowledge, their experience, and their ability, are eminently suited for the position in which they are placed, and you have associated with them members of Boards of Guardians who also are men of great practical knowledge of the property in the neighbourhood. These assessment committees form a board which, I believe, is really unequalled for the purpose. They have generally great knowledge of the circumstances of the locality, and great knowledge of the value of property, and as they have every reason to deal with the matter in such a way as is likely to be satisfactory to the ratepayers, whom they represent, I think that instead of taking away from the weight and authority of the assessment committees, you should increase it and improve them in every possible way; and, to do this, you should not discourage efficient men sitting upon them. But my fear is that the course Government are taking—not only in this Bill, but in other measures—will have the effect of driving capable men away from Public Business by always thrusting in the control of the Government. I think that there should be no appeal to petty sessions from the decision of the assessment committee. In my opinion, it is altogether absurd that decisions of an assessment committee should be reviewed by magistrates who were not to be compared to the committee for their knowledge of the subject in hand. Therefore, I think the right hon. Gentleman should, without any hesitation, strike out the appeal to the petty sessions. If the Unions only were concerned, I suppose everybody would agree that it mattered comparatively little whether property within the Union was assessed upon a low level, or upon a high level, provided the whole of the property was equally assessed. But we are not dealing with the Unions alone; we have to consider that the property assessed in the Union will have to pay towards the common funds of the county. Therefore, it is of great consequence that the basis of assessment in one Union should be upon the same lines as the basis of assessment in the other Unions. I think that there should be a County Board with power to consider whether the valuations of the Unions in a county were on a basis which would render them fair as between Union and Union. It is, in my opinion, quite right that if there were a valuation list in one Union that was much lower than that of another, or based on a principle that was not fair as regarded the other Unions, there should be some county authority who should have the power of deciding how the respective Unions should deal with the valuation list. This was, in point of fact, the crucial question of the Bill; the real point being how to get a county authority to step in between Union and Union to settle what the basis should be. The hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read), who has done a good deal of service by the part he has taken in the consideration of these matters, has put upon the Paper a Notice of Amendment, by which he challenges the opinion of the House on this crucial point of the Bill. It appears, however, that the hon. Member, having delivered his fire, now wishes to run away from his guns. In my opinion, the hon. Gentleman ought not to do anything of the sort. On the contrary, he ought to stand by his principle, which appears to be a sound one. The Amendment of the hon. Member is— That no re-adjustment of the system of assessment will be complete or satisfactory to the ratepayers until a representative county board is established with the power of hearing appeals on questions of valuation and for securing uniformity of assessment. I will not say that I go with the hon. Member in every word of that; but with regard to the declaration that there should be a County Representative Board for securing uniformity of assessment, that, in my judgment, is the vital principle of the Bill, and the House ought to have an opportunity of voting on the Amendment, in order that these who feel with the hon. Member may have the opportunity of expressing their opinion that the Bill will not be satisfactory unless it contains some clause asserting such a principle. It may be that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board will say it will be somewhat inconsistent on my part to vote for the Amendment I have just read, because it is well known that I do not wish the County Board Bill that has been brought in by the Government to pass this year. But, if that were said, my reply would be that I do not want the County Board Bill to pass, because I consider it unsatisfactory, insomuch as it has been drawn up on lines of compromise to which I object. But I will say that, if the right hon. Gentleman will bring in a Bill that will give to the country a system of County Boards, whose members shall be elected by and fairly represent the ratepayers under certain reasonable and necessary regulations—Boards who will have a due sense of the responsibility of the duties imposed on them, and who, to a large extent, will represent the true principle of local self-government—I will withdraw my objection to the measure. But there does not appear to be any hope of such a measure being brought forward this Session, and, therefore, I feel bound to say I do not want the Government County Board Bill already before the House passed this year; and even if the Government were still proceeding with that measure, the fact that they were taking such a course would not prevent my voting for an Amendment which sets forth that the system of assessment now proposed cannot be satisfactory, unless it is accompanied by the establishment of Representative County Boards for securing uniformity of assessment. Last Friday, on the occasion of the last discussion on the present Bill, I observed that suggestions were made to the effect that the County Committee might be strengthened by the addition of gentlemen having a representative character. And the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board has himself said he should be very willing to associate with that committee of magistrates the chairman of each of the assessment committees. He has added, however, that he did not put any Notice of such a plan on the Paper, because he had felt that by so doing he might have prejudged the question of the future establishment of County Boards. I do not see that this ought to prevent the right hon. Gentleman from making the suggested change in the Bill. But I am bound to say that I think the proposal would, at the present moment, be inconvenient on the ground that it would merely be the establishment of an ad interim arrangement in the counties, whereas I think it would be far better to have the system settled on a durable basis. Some hon. Gentlemen, on the last occasion when this subject was debated, spoke of the proposed committee as a sort of "stopgap," which could never get fairly into work, because it would have the feeling that it was simply appointed for a time, and that its position would soon be occupied by another body. If I had the choice, I should be inclined to say to Her Majesty's Government, in reference to the several Bills connected with county interests that were now before the House—"Take all these Bills back again, at any rate, as far as the present Session is concerned." I trust the right hon. Gentleman will adopt this course, in order that he may thereby have the advantage to be derived from the further discussion of these measures throughout the country, as well as of the arguments that have been used in this House, and that the result will be a considerable modification in regard to the Valuation Bill. There can be no doubt that this discussion will suggest to him and to Her Majesty's Government various points on which the provisions of the Bill may be improved, and I think that the Government, by postponing the Bill, and determining to deal with the question on a broad and popular basis, will be enabled to propound a system which will not only give a thoroughly efficient local administration with regard to highways and other local matters in counties, but which will give the Government the opportunity of establishing the County Boards which they propose to create on a wide and intelligible basis, of conferring on them an enlarged authority, and of opening a new avenue for the exercise of public spirit in the fulfilment of important public duties. If the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Norfolk is pressed to a division, I shall certainly give it my support.


said, that in the country there was a lack of interest in this Bill, and there were other Bills which would be far more acceptable. There had been no opportunity of discussing this Bill at the Chambers of Agriculture this year; but it was discussed last year, when the opinion unanimously expressed was that if they were to have a Valuation Bill, the appeal court must be a County Board. As far as his own county was concerned, there was no real necessity for a Valuation Bill, for there was a county rate committee, the local rates were assessed on the same basis, and there was no unfairness. It was said that the main object of this Bill was to attain uniformity; but uniformity was a bugbear, and even this Bill would not attain it; for, unless the Amendment of the right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Hubbard) were adopted, there would be no more uniformity than before. He quite agreed with the objection which had been raised against the appeal to petty sessions; and, so far as his experience went, there was more information and practical knowledge among members of the assessment committee than among these who sat at petty sessions. If the right hon. Gentleman infused a little representative element into the county appeal court under this Bill, a great many of the objections that he had raised would give way; but as the Bill stood, the bases of the valuation were most unsatisfactory. He hoped the Government would accept the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read). The Bill ought, in fact, to be called a Rent Bill, and not a Valuation Bill, for it would increase not only taxation, but rent. Next to having his rent raised, there was nothing a farmer disliked so much as a re-assessment of his occupation; and it was not surprising, therefore, that the Bill was not acceptable to the general body of the tenant-farmers throughout the county. He regretted the course the Government had taken, and if his hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk divided the House, he should vote against the Bill.


said, he would support the Bill. He thought it most desirable first of all to proceed with the Valuation Bill. That was evidently a proper course; for, without a proper Valuation Bill, how could they have a proper basis for the adjustment of county affairs. He thought the hon. and gallant Member who spoke last was mistaken in his estimate of the effect of the Bill when he said it would increase the rents. The object was to equalize, and so to reduce rates. He thought it wiser, having a practical measure before them, to pass the Valuation Bill, and make it the basis of future action.


expressed a hope that the right hon. Gentleman would withdraw the Bill for the present Session, and re-introduce it with the larger measure for county government next Session. The Bill was based on the supposition that the County Government Bill had already passed. Most important duties were cast upon this mythical County Board, which was not to be established till next Session, and might possibly never be established at all.


said, the Notice Paper would show that he had proposed Amendments dealing with these portions of the Bill.


said, he was dealing with the Bill as it stood, and he had a perfect right to do so. The provisions to which he referred were the vital portions of the Bill, and it was the duty of the Government, before asking the House to go into Committee on the Bill, to have thoroughly settled in their own minds what to do with regard to it. The proposed appeal to petty sessions he must characterize as an absurdity. It was said it would act in favour of the poor man; but he was of opinion that it would operate the other way. The right to appeal was given to the parish authorities as well as to the ratepayer, and a poor man succeeding in his appeal to the petty sessions would be appealed against to the quarter sessions. A man never knew what liability for costs he might incur, nor where it might end. It was further objectionable from the fact that it would be an appeal from a strong to a weak body. Formerly an appeal to the petty sessions was not unreasonable, as it was simply an appeal from the overseer to two or more magistrates. It was therefore an appeal from an inferior to a superior; an appeal from one person to several persons. Now, all this was reversed. The assessment committee was a stronger tribunal than could be found at petty sessions, yet it was to continue the intermediate appeal as if no change had taken place. The machinery of the Bill was so complicated that he trusted the Government would withdraw it. What he would suggest to them was—to leave the assessment committee just as it stood, and to have a County Board such as the House might agree to. There was great difficulty in deciding what the County Board should be; but, until that point was determined, it was useless to pass a Valuation Bill. An appeal, if given, should be from the assessment committee to the County Board. Assuming that no County Board Bill should pass, he did not know of a better court of appeal than the quarter sessions, and an appeal to the High Court on points of law. The question before the House was not a Party question, but one of such importance that it ought to be fairly decided upon its merits before the present Bill was further proceeded with.


said, that as he had been alluded to in this debate, and had always taken a lively interest in all matters connected with local government reform, he wished to reply to a few observations that had been made. No one had been a stronger advocate of representative County Boards than himself, nor had anyone more deeply regretted the withdrawal of the County Government Bill, which was introduced for that purpose. No one rejoiced more than he did when the principle of the Bill was adopted last Session; but the objects of the Government had been opposed somewhat unexpectedly by both sides of the House. Besides, the time of the House had been much taken up by the Eastern Question, and there had been obstruction of an unusual kind on the Estimates; but the Government fully intended to reproduce the Bill in the course of another Session, when he hoped it might be more fortunate. No one could blame the Government; they had done their best to redeem the pledge given to the House last Session; they had not only introduced a County Boards Bill, but intended it to be the first step in the ladder towards the completion of local government reform. He sympathized with the view that it was neither a Party nor a political question, for unless both Parties could agree in the principles of county government, it would be a long time before improvements were made; but he saw no necessary connection between the Valuation Bill and the County Government Bill, for the former was per se necessary, and not subsidiary, to the latter, and its passing would not be inconsistent with the introduction of a County Government Bill another Session. He would remind all his old taxation Friends that they had agitated for a measure of this sort long before they ever thought of County Boards, and for the very best of reasons—namely, that an equitable basis of rating must be the foundation of all local government reform. This Bill, therefore, might be regarded as the keystone and corner-stone of any improvement. That the present system of rating was faulty and needed reform was the evident opinion of everybody, or else how came it that they had had already six Valuation Bills? One was brought in by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Goschen), one by his lamented Friend Mr. Hunt, a third by the right hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), and three by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Sclater-Booth). That looked as if the Government were anxious to do something. The subject of the Bill was of great importance and universal interest, and affected everyone. The principles of these Bills had all been discussed, he might say, ad nauseum. They had been thoroughly ventilated, and, therefore, there was no excuse for saying there had been no sufficient discussion of the principles of this Bill. What were they? First, to secure uniformity of assessment among various local bodies contributing to local purposes; and, secondly, to provide one basis for rates and Imperial taxes, to centralize the machinery of assessment by appointing one authority instead of three for the valuation property; and, if those objects were achieved, this Bill would effect a great reform. No doubt, the former Bills were very different from the one before the House. In them the surveyor of taxes had had far too much power. That power would have been arbitrary and obnoxious. He was absolute, his decision was final, and any conclusion he came to could hardly be disturbed; but the present Bill all but eliminated his authority, or, at least, vastly modified it, and if the House were to adopt actual bonâ fide rent as the basis of valuation, they need not fear the introduction of the surveyor of taxes. The right hon. Gentleman the other night admitted that rent was the best criterion of value, and that he would not object to rent being taken as the general basis. ["Oh!"] Yes, general; because there must always be exceptions in a country like this. Supposing, for instance, a portion of the rent of a property was covered by a fine or other consideration, nobody would say that the rent, taken without reference to the fine or consideration, was a fair basis. Rent had been truly said to be in the great majorty of cases, though there must always be some exceptions, the best criterion of value; and he believed it to be the fairest measure and basis of value, as rent was a fact, while valuation was a matter of opinion. It had been said that the Bill allowed too many appeals, and that its machinery was too complex and cumbrous. That, in his opinion, was a question for the Committee to decide. He would venture to suggest, with reference to appeals, that no alteration should be made in the present Bill—that the work should be done by the old machinery. This would be very feasible; it would be an additional security for the introduction of a County Boards Bill early next Session. If altered, it might possibly tend to postpone that measure. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sandwich (Mr. Knatch bull-Hugessen) had criticized the Bill, and had said that whatever the faults of the late Government were, in dealing with local government reform, the measure they brought forward proposed relief with one hand and reform with the other. He (Sir Massey Lopes) quite recognized the great ability and earnestness which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) displayed with reference to this question; but, without making invidious comparisons between one Government and another with reference to this question, he must remind the House that the relief proposed by the right hon. Gentleman—namely, the transference of the house-tax to the local authorities, would only have relieved householders in the towns. The cardinal distinction between the policy advocated by the two Governments was briefly this. The late Government advocated reform prior to relief; such a policy would have indefinitely postponed any relief. The present Government, though equally recognizing the necessity of improving local government, had been of opinion that the two objects might advance simultaneously pari passu. The present Government had acted on the deliberate decision which the House, by an overwhelming majority, had come to in 1872, and had given material relief to the ratepayers. The Government, might, he thought, take credit for having religiously carried out everything to which they then pledged themselves. All must admit that the reform of local government, whoever might undertake it, was a most difficult problem, and that the President of the Local Government Board had shown great ability and great earnestness in what he had attempted in regard to it. They had had six different Valuation Bills, and when that was the case, it was pretty evident they could not expect to rouse much enthusiasm on that subject. Moreover, the question was encumbered with a great mass of details, and everybody was a critic upon it, and held his own particular views. Again, the subject was not only not a very attractive one, but it suggested the not very pleasant operation of putting one's hand into both pockets—into the one pocket for rates, and into the other for taxes. He asked, therefore, whether it would not be wise for the House to consider whether half a loaf in that case was not better than no bread, more especially when they had a promise of the big loaf in the shape of the County Boards Bill next Session? The present, measure would be a good foundation for the reform of local government, and the proper time for criticizing its details would be when it was in Committee. The reconstruction of local administration must be a gradual process, and it would be hopeless to attempt by any one Bill, or any one scheme, to deal comprehensively and exhaustively with that most difficult and complicated task, It could only be accomplished by a series of well-considered measures, and one of these well-considered measures was the Valuation Bill then before them. He believed that Bill would tend very much to simplify and to facilitate the reform of their system of local government, and on that ground he trusted that it would be passed by the House.


confessed that he was at a loss to know where they were in that discussion. He had seen many Valuation Bills brought into that House and found fault with by everybody, the result being that they never got any one of them passed, although such a measure was urgently required. It was humiliating to think that 655 Gentlemen sitting in that House could not agree upon a fair and just system of assessment. That was the more to be regretted, as the subject of valuation was not a Party question; and it ought, therefore, to be dealt with in a practical and business-like spirit. The present system of assessment was most unjust; and what was wanted was a fair basis of valuation under which all might be equally taxed. This was a subject of the greatest importance to the Metropolis. ["Oh, oh!"] He could tell these Members who said "oh!" that the Metropolis was as big as all Scotland, and paid more taxes than all Ireland. Some streets in the Metropolis now paid almost double the amount which others paid in proportion; and when objection was taken by some county Members to the interference of Government surveyors in those matters, he would remind them that commercial men were a good deal looked after in reference to taxation. In the Metropolis large premiums were very frequently paid to obtain the tenancy of desirable premises; and the rent in such cases, therefore, by no means represented the value. For his part, he thought it much better to have an independent man employed by the Government to say what was the fair value of a thing, and then to let people appeal, if they chose, from his decision, than to leave interested persons to assess themselves, and to be, as it were, judges in their own cause.


approved of the principle of the Valuation Bill. It was most desirable that every hereditament in England and Wales should be valued for all purposes at the actual rent it was let for. He did not think the Bill he held in his hand was necessary for this purpose. The existing valuation for Schedule A of the income tax was all that was wanted. It was a Bill of 110 clauses, 26 schedules, to do that which might be as completely done in a Bill of one clause and two schedules. The one clause would enact that assessment committees should take the present valuation for Schedule A for their gross assessment, and all deductions should be made according to the provisions of Schedules 3 and 4 of this Bill. The manner of assessing for the income tax now was that the authorities in Somerset House sent a number of forms to the different surveyors of taxes, who distributed them among the assessors of the various parishes, according to the number of the hereditaments in them. The only practical variation in this Bill was that the surveyors of taxes were to send the form to the parish overseers, instead of the parish assessors—a distinction almost without a difference. The great change proposed in the Bill was that, instead of the simple mode of appeal now in force, a complicated system was proposed that it would take the country at least five years to understand; and which was, he (Mr. Knight) thought, costly, and no improvement. The present system of valuation for Schedule A of the income tax had worked well for 25 years, during the old French War up to 1815, and again from 1842 up to the present time—in all more than 60 years—without complaint. There had been much complaint of the mode of assessing for Schedule B and for Schedule D; but he (Mr. Knight) had never heard of a complaint against Schedule A. The mode of appeal was very simple. A body of Income Tax Commissioners, with a certain property qualification—much resembling the Commissioners of Supply in Scotland—was formed. The surveyor of taxes might surcharge anyone he thought to be assessed at too small a sum. Certain days were fixed for hearing appeals, at which the Commissioners and the surveyor of taxes attended. The surveyor was not the master, but the servant of the Commissioners. He had to show why he had made his surcharge, and the Commissioners were the judges. He (Mr. Knight) had, in the course of a long life, attended twice before the Commissioners on appeal. He had found himself in the presence of eight or ten or a dozen men—two or three of them being magistrates, the others being taken from among the most respectable of the upper middle class inhabitants of the district. On one occasion the Commissioners allowed that he (Mr. Knight) was right; and on the other they very soon convinced him that they were right, and that he was wrong. There was no expense or costs, and he had never heard that mode of appeal complained of in any way. Now the 109 useless clauses of this Bill—for he would not allow that more than one clause was wanted—had apparently been drawn up for the Local Government Board by someone who thought costs no great evil. Of all classes of legislation, nearly the worst, in his opinion, was that which aimed at making new crimes and misdemeanours by Act of Parliament, and then affixing punishments to them; and a very large number of the clauses were of this description. Fines and costs and other money payments appeared continually in the clauses of this Bill. The surveyor of taxes was named 42 times, and the Local Government Board came in 35 times with orders and decisions where nothing wanted to be ordered or decided if the present assessment of Schedule A were acted upon. If the Bill were to be gone on with, he hoped Government would allow a Select Committee to inquire whether any available reason could be shown for altering the present mode of assessing for Schedule A; and, if not, that they would authorize the use of that assessment, which was based on actual rental, as a gross assessment for all purposes. With regard to the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Norfolk, which was now before the House, it was nearly identical with that which the same hon. Gentleman had moved to the Valuation Bill of last year. That Amendment—or rather Resolution—passed under peculiar circumstances. He (Mr. Knight) was one of these who had worked heartily for the reduction of local taxation, in conjunction with the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Norfolk—he (Mr. Knight) in the Worcestershire, and his hon. Friend in the Norfolk and Central Chambers. He would now say a few words on the County Board movement, and on the antecedents of the hon. Member for South Norfolk an that subject. It was commenced by the late Mr. Hume, who brought in Bills for County Financial Boards in 1836, 1849, and 1850. In the first Bill all the members were to be elected; in the second, to be one-third justices and two-thirds elected; in the third, to be half justices and half elected. In 1852 Mr. Milner-Gibson brought in a Bill for a Board with all the members elected. All those Bills died a natural death. In 1868 Mr. Wylde brought in a Bill for County Boards composed of half justices and half elected members. This was referred to a Select Committee, of which Colonel Wilson-Patten was Chairman, and upon which the hon. Member for South Norfolk sat. The very point they were now debating was brought forward four times in discussing the report of that Committee. The Report recommended that courts of quarter sessions should be formed into County Boards by the addition of elected members. Mr. Clare Read, now Member for South Norfolk, voted on at least three different occasions on that Committee, that "elected representatives should be associated with the magistrates in the expenditure of the rates," and against the proposal of Mr. Wylde for separate County Boards, composed partly of justices and partly of elected members. He voted against the formation of Boards almost similar to these the hon. Member now wished Parliament to adopt. In the ensuing Session a Bill carrying out the Report of the Committee was brought in by the right hon. Member for Sandwich (Mr. Knatch bull-Hugessen). It was the subject of a long debate, and met the approval of every Member who spoke upon it on both sides of the House. Mr. Knatch bull-Hugessen, Colonel Wilson-Patten, Mr. Assheton Cross (now Home Secretary), the late Mr. Hunt, Mr. Bruce (now Lord Aberdare), and others spoke in favour of it. The Bill fell at the "massacre of the innocents," but its principle was a living one, and would, he (Mr. Knight) hoped, eventually become law. This Bill was brought in by a Liberal Cabinet, and on the back of it were the names of Mr. Knatch bull-Hugessen, Mr. Secretary Bruce, and Mr. Arthur Peel. Last year, when the hon. Member for South Norfolk brought forward a Resolution nearly similar to that which they were now discussing, some one of the Gentlemen who managed the Government Business in the House asked him, among other Members, his opinion with regard to that Resolution. Recollecting how the hon. Member had voted on Colonel Wilson-Patten's Committee, and recollecting how strenuously he had fought the battle of the farmers for the decrease of the rates and taxes which pressed on land, he (Mr. Knight) said that he should support the Resolution; and he believed that many other Conservative county Members made the same answer, as the hon. Member for South Norfolk had hitherto always taken the economical side in all questions of rating. The Resolution passed nem. con. He (Mr. Knight) did not hear the hon. Member's speech on that occasion, which he had read in Hansard this year, on being told that the County Bill of this Session was founded upon it, and that it was supposed, from their acquiesence in the Resolution of last year, that it had the concurrence of the county Members. It was not until he read that speech that he discovered that the hon. Member for South Norfolk had utterly deserted the principles of economy in county expenditure that he had formerly so strongly supported. If he (Mr. Knight) had heard that speech, he should certainly have voted against the Resolution. On reading that speech he found, to his surprise, that the hon. Member had changed his colours, and turned his coat, and that his speech of last year was the entire reverse of what might have been expected from his antecedents. He had, in 1869, in seconding or supporting the great Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) for the reduction of local taxation, deplored the increase of local rates, and asked for "further contribution from the Consolidated Fund." "The farm he occupied," he said, "paid 25 per cent more rates than it did a short time before, and if the poor rates went on increasing they would soon become intolerable; but if Government would take upon themselves the cost of the police, the Militia, the gaols, coroners, and weights and measures, there would be no need of County Financial Boards." He (Mr. Knight) was never more surprised than when he found that the hon. Member had gone over to the enemy, and that instead of advocating economy in the rates, he had proposed the very same Boards he had voted against on Colonel Wilson-Patten's Committee; and had done so, not with a view of economy, but with the full knowledge that the rates to be paid by the farmers and other ratepayers would be largely and indefinitely increased by the formation of such Boards. The hon. Member began his speech. last year by fulsome compliments to the magistrates for the admirable manner in which they had managed county affairs; and he then proposed to take all future management of these affairs away from them. A ratepayer's Board was to be formed, not to decrease, but to increase, the rates that pressed on the farmer. The new Boards were to take from the magistrates the supervision of lunatics, bridges, cattle disease, valuation, registration of voters, and the making and levying of county rates. "New duties," the hon. Member for South Norfolk said, "would be sure to crop up. Once get your county authority, and you will soon find plenty of work for it to do. I will mention one or two things." He then said that they ought to be a Main Highway Board; sanitary matters should be referred to them, they should appoint medical officers of health for the county, questions of engineering science and questions of sanitary science should be referred to them, they should appoint county surveyors to advise and supervise the work done under the County Board, they should consider questions as to the extension of the Poor Law from unions to counties, they should convert unnecessary workhouses into reformatories, idiot asylums, industrial schools, refuges for permanent sick and infirm, or into infirmaries; the new County Board was to take up large questions, such as arterial drainage and storage of water, to undertake the supervision of educational endowments; they were to be empowered to raise and spend, in addition to the county rates, a portion of the Imperial taxes, a portion of the assessed taxes, and, finally, a local income tax, for the relief of the poor. All the hon. Member's old ideas of economy had vanished. He did not pretend that all these new and unnecessary heads of expenditure—in addition to those which, he said, would be sure to crop up—could be undertaken without largely increasing county expenditure and county rates—indeed, this certain increase of expenditure was frequently referred to throughout his speech. The hon. Member finally allowed that the movement for County Boards was not popular with a large and highly respectable class of ratepayers, who did not like a scheme for raising the rates. If he should carry his point, he (Mr. Knight) warned him that he would find at least 95 per cent of his own constituents belonging to those who would strongly deprecate the increase of their local rates by 2s., 3s., or 4s. in the pound, which the provisions of this Bill would necessitate.


said, he had long come to the conclusion that it was of little use to hope that any Irish Bill would be discussed when the present Government had a parallel English Bill before the House. He found that the most important questions that could affect Ireland were inextricably mixed up by the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read)—Valuation and County Boards. The Government last year brought in a Bill which would have raised the valuation of Ireland 50 to 60 per cent. This would have been looked upon as an inducement to raise rents, and therefore he gave the measure his hearty opposition. If this Bill passed for England, he was afraid that a modified Bill would be passed for Ireland. With regard to County Boards, they had been told that the English Bill had been abandoned; and, notwithstanding what the Chief Secretary for Ireland had said, that practically meant the abandonment of the Irish Bill. It was a most important question for Ireland whether the Valuation Bill or the County Boards Bill passed first. He did not think this would be a good Bill for England, and he was certain it would be a bad Bill for Ireland. He should vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Norfolk.


said, he did not see what this Bill had to do with the subject of county government, except with reference to the question how far the present court of quarter sessions was a sufficient court of appeal. The object of this Bill was simply to bring about a uniformity of assessment in the gross; but the hon. Member for South Norfolk objected to any new system of assessment unless there were first established a county board to hear appeals. During the whole time he had sat in Parliament, a period extending over some 14 years, Select Committees had been appointed year by year to consider this question; and they had all, in more or less modified forms, recommended that steps should be taken to simplify assessments and to reduce the expense of collecting the rates. That principle was embodied in the present Bill; and, therefore, he supported it as a step in the direction of legislation, which he thought would prove highly advantageous. There were a number of points in detail contained in the Bill which could not be easily disposed of in a Committee of the Whole House; and he, therefore, hoped that the principle of the Bill having been affirmed, it would after being committed pro formâ, be referred to a Select Committee.


was also of opinion that it would be advisable to refer the Bill, which was full of intricate details, to a Select Committee. It proposed to repeal no fewer than 28 Acts of Parliament in whole or in part, and evidence ought to be taken by a Select Committee as to why these Acts ought to be repealed. Without such evidence, the House would be acting wholly in the dark in passing this Bill.


recommended the hon. Member for South Norfolk not to press his Amendment to a division, as the country would not be satisfied to have the advantages of a Valuation Bill taken away by a side-wind. There were many changes in this Bill which would be hailed with satisfaction by the country at large. The Bill would tend very much to curtail the powers of the surveyors of taxes, which were not always exercised in a just manner. He should like to see eliminated from it the appeal to petty sessions, as most of the magistrates before whom the appeal would come would have been ex-officio members of the assessment committee. He hoped, too, that the appeal to quarter sessions, of which he fully approved for the present, would in time be exchanged for appeal to the County Board which they were promised. Rent fluctuated very much from various causes, and the Bill probably furnished the best machinery for securing uniformity of valuation.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 131; Noes 107: Majority 24.—(Div. List, No. 174.)


You, Sir, and the House, I trust, will exonerate me from the charge which my right hon. Friend brought against me on Friday last. On that occasion, my right hon. Friend, in the course of his remarks, used these words. He said, speaking of the Resolution which I was about to move, that— He thought it unfair that a measure, which had for its object the uniform valuation of the country, should be hampered with a proposal relating to the incidence of the income tax with which primâ facie it had nothing to do. Now, Sir, I am not in the habit of doing anything unfair, and I think that, if I read the title of the Bill and one of its clauses, I shall convince the House that there is nothing unfair in my proposition. In the 9th section, the object of the Bill is declared to be the settlement of the valuation list; and, subsequently, in the 31st section, it is stated that— For the purpose of every rate made during the year, for the purpose of every tax—namely, the house tax or the income tax—and for the purpose of determining the qualification of jurors, the valuation list shall be conclusive evidence. And it is further declared, by a part of the same section, that "the said house tax and income tax shall be charged upon the gross value." Now, if I have, in making this Motion, connected the question of the house tax and the income tax with the Valuation Bill, I find my justification in the very terms of the Bill itself; and I think, therefore, that the House will exonerate me from the charge of having done anything unfair in constructing a Resolution such as that which I am about to place before it. But I forgive my right hon. Friend, because I am satisfied he is with me in the matter which I have at heart myself. Indeed, I am satisfied that if he followed out his own instincts, he would accept the proposition which I am now about to make to the House; and I believe that, as I agree with my right hon. Friend heartily in 99 points out of every 100 in the Bill which I hold in my hand, so he cannot greatly differ from me in regard to the one point, when that point is in direct contradiction to the other 99. Looking at the construction of the Bill, I may say that the charge brought against it of being unpopular is, in my estimation, no libel upon the Bill itself. Why is this Bill unpopular? Because it is meant to remedy abuses. All laws are meant to remedy and to restrain abuses; and the Valuation Bill is intended to prevent abuses which have for a long time existed in the assessment of the property of the country. It was not yesterday that measures relating to this subject were first laid upon the Table of the House. Fifteen years ago I had the honour of acting on a Committee on a Valuation Bill, the scheme of which was very nearly the same as that which is now before us; and in the subsequent measures which were submitted from time to time, I find that we were progressing towards an arrangement which, if it be honestly and fairly carried out now, will, I venture to say, effect an enormous improvement in the general assessment of the country for the purposes of taxation. There is, however, one very important consideration which ought to be kept in mind. It is, that the principle which is enunciated in this Bill should be consistently carried out; and here it is that I am, unfortunately, bound to differ most materially from my right hon. Friend. Excellent as the Bill is in every other respect, there is just one passage in it which is execrable, because it is at variance with all those principles which ought to command the respect and allegiance of this House. I refer to the 31st clause; and, if hon. Members will have the kindness to turn to it, they will see the point which I wish to bring under their notice. By that clause the Bill proposes to stereotype what must be considered as an administrative abuse, and, in doing so, it acts independently of the law of Scotland, and in direct contradiction with the law of Ireland. Moreover, it puts itself in conflict with the principles which, in the Home Department, regulate the action of the Secretary of State with regard to the qualification for office. Lastly, it puts itself in conflict with the whole substance of the Bill which I hold in my hand. This is, I think, an impeachment which, if it be proved, does establish either that that clause ought to be removed, or that the Bill ought not to pass. Anxious as I have been to see this Bill pass, I hold that this one attempted enactment is so mischievous in principle and practice, that I would rather the Bill should be postponed than see it passed with this 31st clause unamended. May I be allowed to call the attention of the House very briefly to its wording? Its object is to determine that the valuation list shall be conclusive for certain purposes. Those purposes are—the determination of the amount of the assessment for rates—of the amount of the assessment for Queen's taxes—and the determination of the qualification for office. When you come to observe how these three purposes are carried out, you find that every rate which is to be levied upon the valuation list constructed under this Bill shall be made in respect of the "rateable," that is, the net, value. Again, the clause provides that the qualification of jurors, or of any other office, shall be determined by the "rateable" value. But, then, we come to a provision that the house tax and the income tax—the Queen's taxes—are, under this clause, to be levied upon the "gross." Now, I want to know why that word "gross" comes in there, in conflict and contrast with the word "rateable," which is used in reference to the other taxes? I am quite aware that there is a precedent to be found in the Bill relating to the valuation of property in the Metropolis; but I venture to draw attention to the circumstance that the Metropolis Valuation Bill was passed in the year 1869, when it was considered exceedingly probable that the income tax would vanish very shortly altogether, and when it was also felt that as the Metropolis was only a portion of the whole country, it would be hardly possible to introduce a provision for the levying of the Queen's taxes in the Metropolis different from that which was in force throughout the rest of the country. Upon these considerations, the Metropolis Valuation Bill of 1869 allowed the Queen's taxes to be levied on the gross rental. But we have now arrived at a very different state of things. The Bill before us now is not a temporary measure. It is not a Bill applicable to a portion only of the country; but it will extend to the whole of England and Wales, and it is meant to be a permanent measure, which for future years and ages is to regulate the levying of the Imperial taxation of this country. Consequently, the responsibility of the Government in reference to this Bill is wholly different from that which existed with regard to the Metropolis Valuation Bill of 1869; and this House, if it desires to affirm the sound principle of assessment deliberately adopted for local taxation, will not hesitate to apply it also to Imperial taxation. I have already said that the 31st clause of the Bill as it stands conflicts with the law in Ireland. That law is laid down in the Valuation (Ireland) Act of 1852, and the principle on which it is based is very clearly expounded in the Bill brought in, but not passed, by the Government last year, and of which the 4th clause provided that the valuation list, accepted as the measure of value for all purposes of assessment, whether local or Imperial, shall be the net annual rent or value—"all rates, taxes, and costs of repairs being paid by the tenants." Obviously, under this system, the income tax is charged under Schedule A only upon the rent, which accrues to the landlord; and I, therefore, appeal to hon. Irish Gentlemen in this House, who are always most chivalrous, to help us in our efforts to get rid of this oppressive inequality. I will venture upon an illustration of my argument. Turning to the Department of Customs, I ask—What is the practice there? Instructions are given to the officers to levy customs duties. What upon? Not upon the whole package, cask, or bag. They ascertain the contents of the package, and charge duty upon the net or real quantity of the article taxed. Let us act on the same principle in regard to the taxes on houses, and charge only the portion of the rent which constitutes the net article taxable. Then, with regard to the Home Department; in the very Bill we have before us, it is provided that if a question arises as to the value for the qualification for office, or for the grant of a licence, it is to be determined by reference to the rateable value in the list. Not upon the "gross," bear that in mind, but upon the "rateable." We have, then, this remarkable fact, that while the Board of Customs regard only the net quantities for duty, while the Home Department regard only the net value for its own guidance, and while the Local Government Board constitutes the net or rateable value as the measure for all rating purposes, the Inland Revenue Department would distinguish itself by continuing to levy the income tax and the house duty upon the "gross" value. Now, Sir, no other argument ought to be required in support of my contention than this one which I have advanced. If that principle is right for local taxation, how can it be wrong for Imperial taxation? If this principle is just, if it is scientific for local purposes, it cannot be unjust and unscientific for Imperial purposes. Sir, I hold it to be most unfair and unjust to take the gross value for Imperial purposes, and I think I have shown that there is a glaring and intolerable anomaly between the general principles which pervade this Act, and the exceptional and vicious provision foisted into the 31st section. I have exposed the anomaly, and I will now endeavour to point out the extent to which it operates. In the schedule of the Bill now before the House, we find that deductions have been provided for in the following degrees for various descriptions of property:—For land, 5 per cent; for farms, 10 per cent; for houses, 16⅔ per cent; for cottages, 25 per cent; for works of various kinds, 33⅓ per cent; the consequence being that, while local rates are levied on different properties in these several ratios, 90 per cent on farms, 83⅓ per cent on houses, 75 per cent on cottages, and 66⅔ per cent on perishable works, 100 per cent is taken as the measure of the charge on all by the Queen's tax collector. Where is the justice, equality, or uniformity of such a system as that? I have said that this mode of dealing with taxation is equivalent to using false weights and measures, and the Government have no right to deal with the Queen's subjects with false measures, a practice neither better nor worse than the issuing of false coin. I hope the House will bear this in mind—that, for every 20s. raised under the authority of the Local Government Board, upon the different kinds of property which I have mentioned, at a given ratio, the Inland Revenue Office would—under the system of charging on the gross value—raise, at the same ratio, 22s. upon farms, 27s. upon cottages, and 30s. upon perishable works. I think the Government ought to explain and justify, if it be possible, this contradictory Policy, or have the courage to admit its defects, so that a remedy may be applied. Before I pass to the remedy, let me illustrate the intensity of the grievance. I have said that land would, under this proposed system, pay 10 per cent more than it ought, and that 10 per cent is just equal to a ½d. in a 5d. tax—that is to say, an income tax of 5d. in the pound, levied on the gross value, is practically a tax of 5½d. on the net rent or actual profits of the land. That is the measure of the injury done to land. Landowners, as a class, would be paying 10 per cent more than they ought if their properties were free from burthens; but this is far from being the case. The land of England is heavily burthened. If it is burthened to the extent of half its rent, the tax on the outgoings would add one quarter to the nominal imposts, and the charge on the landlord's share of the rent would be 5d., when the tax was nominally 4d. But, assume the not unfrequent occurrence of an estate of £2,000 gross, and £1,800 rateable value, on which the mortgage interest absorbs £1,600. In that event, the owner, taxed upon £2,000, and, recouping himself to the extent of £1,600, remains liable for the balance of tax upon £400, though he receives only £200. The tax upon his residue of rent is double that which is charged upon the interest paid to the mortgagee. That is a tolerably clear exposition of the way in which this nefarious principle acts. It defrauds the owner of an encumbered property more cruelly than the owner of unencumbered estates. The unencumbered owner is injured only in proportion and in common with everyone else, but the embarrassed owner is surtaxed in proportion to his inability to pay the tax. Well, Sir, there is one simple remedy for all these evils. Erase the word "gross," insert "rateable," and levy Imperial taxes on the same principle as local rates. To that proposition what are the objections? It has been said, if the proposed relief were granted to real property, the grievance of these taxed under Schedules D and E would be aggravated. Sir, I am satisfied that traders and professional men would feel no jealousy or envy at seeing justice done to any class in the community, even if they were excluded from sharing in the remission of the taxation that I ask for. But, Sir, such would not be the consequence of my success. The remission I ask for applies mainly to houses. The house tax is 9d. in the pound, and the income tax 5d. in the pound, and to levy them both on the rateable instead of on the gross value would effect a relief sensible to and shared in by the whole community. Every householder would be benefited sooner or later by the adjustment of taxation through a measure intended to be permanent. Therefore, Sir, I am satisfied that no ignorant or ungenerous feeling of jealousy would be manifested, and no one would take exception to the relief which the Government are asked to give. In asking for this remission, I am influenced by no arrière pensée, nor have I any intention to use success in this reform as a lever for any other attack on the Exchequer. Industrial incomes have their wrongs, but they are quite independent of this proposal, which is made with the view of establishing what I believe to be a right and just principle of taxation with regard to the very important interest of which I am speaking. But now, Sir, let me tell the Chancellor of the Exchequer for his comfort another fact which is not unimportant. It is really very much during the same period in which this movement for the reduction of local taxation has been going on that the officials engaged in collecting taxation have been vigorously at work screwing up the assessments on houses and land; and, to such an extent has that taken place, that, within the last 10 years, the amount of value to the inhabited house duty has been increased from £1,000,000 to £1,500,000. It may be said—"Oh, the population has increased." But to what extent has the population increased? The population has increased at the rate of 1 per cent per annum, or 10 per cent in 10 years; so that, while the increase of the assessment of the tax is 50 per cent, 40 represents the official distension of the assessment—the successful assessment. I say, then, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer—"The amount which you will raise in 1878 by the rateable value will be equal to what you received five years earlier upon the gross." Surely that consideration should dispose my right hon. Friend to a cheerful acceptance of my demand? I do not desire any re-adjustment of taxation that could create new wrongs; but it is inevitable that, in a re-adjustment which removes inequalities, some additional weight must fall on these who have been previously favoured. This is always the case, and there is no reason why it should not be the case in all fiscal reforms. The President of the Local Government Board said, if the Government accepted my proposition, it would deprive the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the assessment upon £10,000,000. Whether the amount rescued from assessment be £10,000,000 or £20,000,000 I care not, for I contend that that amount represents the extent of the area over which fiscal robbery has been carried out. The money raised as taxes over that area is money to which you have no right whatever. It is levied on principles which outrage the first elements of political economy, and are utterly abhorrent to the principles laid down by Adam Smith, that people are to be taxed according to their ability. It is a tax levied on capital while professing to be levied on profits. It is perfectly true that if we do justice to the taxpayer, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will forego a portion of his receipts. But that is no argument against my proposal. The man who uses false weights is not allowed to excuse himself by pleading that his gains will be diminished if he is restricted to the use of the legal standards. If a tradesman has for some years charged me more than he ought and I claim restitution, the law will not uphold him in refusing upon the plea that if he compensates me he will be the poorer. That, however, is the Chancellor's argument; but I must say that is an argument which does not weigh with me at all. This country ought to raise its Revenue only by fair and legitimate means, and what it cannot raise honestly it should not spend, but it should reduce its expenditure; or, if the same amount of Revenue be indispensable, increase the ratio of the tax and levy it equally. Well, Sir, I have now only one other point to refer to, and that is with regard to the inhabited house duty and the point of exemption. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says that if the house tax is disturbed it would disarrange the exemption of £20 a-year or under. Not at all. The limit of exemption may remain just as it is—namely, £20 gross, or £15 net. There it was, and there it remains. It can occasion no possible inconvenience to the Government that my Amendment should be accepted, and for this reason—this Bill does not come into effect until two years hence. Within those two years there is plenty of time to make any subsidiary arrangements that may be required to maintain a Revenue adequate to the Public Expenditure. In the meantime, I have the satisfaction of believing that in urging this measure upon the Government I am urging upon them the acceptance of a Resolution which will save this House from the extreme discredit of passing a law which is at variance with science, truth, and justice. If it is accepted in the way in which I propose it, it will require the alteration of one word only in the Bill. It conflicts with nothing else, and if it is adopted the country will have the satisfaction of believing that when they pay the Queen's taxes they are not more hardly treated, or more unequally treated, than when paying a poor rate, a borough rate, or a highway rate. I began by saying that I trusted the House would exonerate me from, having, in the Motion I have made, introduced considerations unfair to the Government, because it is connected with the matter which they have in hand. I think I have shown that the question of which I have treated is intimately connected with this matter, and that it will not conflict with anything essential to the Bill. I have had no alternative but to bring the matter before the House as a corrective to the unprecedented provision which the Government has thought proper to introduce in the 31st clause. I am afraid, Sir, I cannot put the Motion to a vote as a division has already been taken; but, if so, I must defer until the House is in Committee to taking a vote upon the proposal which I offer, and which will give effect to the principle I have laid down; and I trust the House will concur in that principle.


observed, that the House had decided by a majority to go into Committee on this Bill, and it was not in his right hon. Friend's power to move an Amendment on the Motion now before the House. His right hon. Friend told them that when they were in Committee he would move an Amendment on a certain clause in the Bill; and, no doubt, when they arrived at that clause, his right hon. Friend would move his Amendment and support it by the arguments which he had used to-night. The House would then be able to pronounce on the proposition; but he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) did not think that at present they were in a position to discuss the matter with advantage. He knew that no arguments which he could use would have the smallest effect on the mind of his right hon. Friend. His right hon. Friend had presented the House with a line of argument which he had on several previous occasions placed before it, and which he, no doubt, held with great diligence; but the House must not be led away by the exceedingly strong language which he used about what he called "the injustice," "the robbery," and the other sins of the Finance Minister in this matter. His right hon. Friend put the matter in a very pleasant way, when he said that if his proposal were adopted, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would only be a little poorer. "But," said his right hon. Friend, "I do not care for that. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is a robber, and the sooner he is made to disgorge his ill-gotten gains the better." He would point out to his right hon. Friend that the poor Chancellor of the Exchequer did not individually profit by these gains which he was supposed to make; but that it was the taxpayer of the country who had to provide certain sums which must be made up in some form or other; and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer were unable to raise the same Revenue that he was in the habit of raising by the income tax or the house tax, it would be necessary to find some other means of raising the amount required. He would, in that case, be obliged to come down to the House and say—"As he was obliged to make an alteration in the manner in which the income tax and the house tax were assessed, he was £1,000,000 or £1,500,000 short, and he must propose some other tax to make up that amount." That tax would fall either on the same persons or upon other persons, and then they came to a matter which involved questions of some nicety and delicacy, and it did not do to get rid of them by saying simply—"The Chancellor of the Exchequer is a robber." They must consider what the effect of the alteration of their system of taxation would be. This, however, was not the proper stage at which to enter upon these discussions—first, because the point before them was not this matter of how to raise taxes, but the question was, that they go into Committee on this Bill; and, second, because they must have this discussion at a future period. He earnestly hoped, therefore, that the House would not allow itself to be drawn into a long discussion at that stage of the Bill.


said, that the present system was to be defended only as a rough approximation to justice in the assessment of income tax as regarded permanent and temporary incomes, and he hoped it would be retained until a more comprehensive measure was introduced. He would much rather see a more complete distinction between the two kinds of incomes, but till that was done it was well that there should be a difference between the most permanent kind of incomes—namely, those from real property and other incomes, the former being practically charged at a higher rate, being assessed in full receipts. While the income tax was 5d. on other incomes it was probably really almost 6d. on incomes from rent, and that, he thought, so far fair. He trusted that if the right hon. Member for the City of London moved his Amendment, it would not be carried.

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

Bill considered in Committee; Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.

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