HC Deb 17 March 1880 vol 251 cc1191-5

Bill, as amended, considered.


appealed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make some arrangement in the regulation of the increased charges for probate duty upon small estates. He allowed that by amalgamating the two scales for testate and intestate, and only levying a diminished scale, the estates of the poor who often died without a will had been benefited; but even then the scale of charge was high, and he, therefore, urged a further change by which estates under £2,000 should only be charged 1 per cent. He urged also that probate, as in the case of legacy duty, should not be chargeable upon small estates until after the debts had been ascertained and a settlement of them arrived at. Further, that the probate duty should be levied, only on the estates which were net £500.


thoroughly sympathized with his hon. and gallant Friend's object, but said, he doubted very much whether at this stage of the Session the Government could, in a Bill of this complicated character, so re-cast the measure as to give effect to it. He suggested, however, that it would go far to meet the case if the limit of duty was fixed at £200 instead of £100.

Amendment proposed, In page 6, line 7, to leave out the word "one," in order to insert the word "two,"—(Sir George Campbell,) —instead thereof.

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


begged to call attention to the extent to which the new scale would aggravate the existing difference between freehold and leasehold property. Leasehold property paid probate and legacy duty; freehold paid only succession duty. He took a case in which a property would pay now £192 instead of £140 on the death of the owner of the leasehold, as compared with £27 which it would pay on the death of the freeholder. He could also mention cases in which the duty on leasehold houses would be 40 times as much as that on the ground rents under the new Probate and Stamp Duties Act. The opportunity offered by the Bill ought to have been taken by the Government to undo the extraordinary anomaly which existed; and the best way, in his opinion, would be to relieve the leasehold house property of the charge of probate duty.


said, there were doubtless anomalies in regard to leasehold estates which it would be necessary to remedy at some future time, but which could not now be dealt with. The Bill, however, was a step in the right direction, and would, as far as it went, be in the nature of the redress of an inequality. In reply to the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), be asserted that the scale did not operate adversely to occupiers as compared with owners.


freely admitted that the bon. Member for Reading bad made an interesting statement, which was well worthy of consideration when the succession duties could be dealt with; but it required some courage to deal with them, and would involve some delay, while the House declared last Session that the probate duties called for speedy action. The general effect of the scheme was to diminish the burdens of small properties and increase those of larger ones, as small estates were now very much overburdened in proportion to large estates. An owner would be likely to have a larger personal estate than an occupier; and, therefore, it could not be said that the change was in favour of occupiers as against owners. It would not be possible to do away altogether with the charge on small properties; but be thought that on properties between £100 and £2,000 there ought to be no increase. Taking the proportion of intestate to testate estates, he considered the effect of the change would be to make some increase on the latter, while as to intestate estates the new scale, in his opinion, would practically operate as a reduction. It was true that, on the whole, the new scale would considerably increase the Revenue; but still there would be a considerable reduction in the amount of probate duty to be paid on all estates under £500. He was, however, prepared to alter the rates in the proposed scale as follows:—Eor properties of the value of £500 and under £600, he should substitute £11 for £13; for properties of the value of £600 and under £800, £15 instead of £17; between £1,000 and £1,500, £30 instead of £31; and between £1,500 and £2,000, £40 instead of £44. This would be leaving these properties as they were at present. He hoped, when the proper time came, be should be allowed to make these proposals to the House.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


urged that all properties under £500 should be exempt. The loss in consequence of this change would not be greater than £50,000 a-year. He begged to move an Amendment in the Schedule exempting properties under £500.

Amendment proposed, In page 7, line 4, to leave out from the word "be," to "£9," at the end of line 8.—(Mr. Shaw Lefevre.)

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


opposed the Amendment. He did not see the justice of entirely exempting the small properties. He hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would say that the Government had carefully considered the matter, and would endorse the view he now expressed that the moderate burthen imposed by the Bill on personalty would but partially redress the inequality of taxation which now pressed unfairly on real property.


called attention to the fact that what was equivalent to leasehold property in Scotland came under the same category as real property, and urged that the English law should be assimilated in this particular to the Scotch.


thought £500 net amount of an estate low enough to commence to charge probate duty.


said, it was an injustice to exempt real property from probate duty.


said, he should support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Reading.


insisted that there was no such unfair distinction as alleged between the charges upon personal and real property. On the contrary, owners of landed property suffered far more severely from taxation than the owners of personal property.


said, he could not agree to the Amendment, and protested against the imputation of injustice which had been made against the proposals of the Government. It was, he said, a dangerous principle to admit that small properties should be exempt altogether. With regard to the Income Tax, no doubt, small incomes were exempt; but that was on the ground that enough must be left to a man to maintain him. He pointed out that, under the proposals of the Government, estates under £500 would be so relieved that the Revenue would lose £40,000; and if this proposal was carried out they would lose another £76,000. It had been suggested that the debts on these small properties might be deducted; but he did not think that could be worked.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill to be read the third time Tomorrow.