HC Deb 07 March 1881 vol 259 cc415-7

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether he is aware that, prior to the Inland Revenue Act of 1880, the licensed victuallers of Oxford took out their licences from the University, and paid that body a tax on each licence, and were not charged for their wine licences by the Inland Revenue; and since the Act of 1880 they have been compelled to pay for their licences taxes to the Inland Revenue and to the University; whether the licensed victuallers of Oxford have addressed a memorial to him on the subject; whether a letter received by them, dated December 16, 1880, signed by J. A. Godley, was a reply to that memorial, written under the authority of the First Lord of the Treasury; and, if so, if he would explain how the opinion then expressed in that letter— That the charter rights of the Universities were reserved by the Inland Revenue Act 1880, upon full and careful consideration by Parliament, can be sustained, seeing that the Clause in question (No. 48) passed through Committee without any expression of opinion by the Government or by any other Member; and, whether, taking into consideration the serious grievances under which the licensed victuallers of Oxford suffer in having to pay heavy licences to the Inland Revenue and the University, he would endeavour, in the financial arrangement for the coming year, to relieve the licensed victuallers of Oxford from the double impost to which they are subject since the Act of 1880, but to which they were not subject prior to that Act?


I am not surprised at the length of the Question the noble Lord asks, because, although it refers to a very small matter, it is a very complex one, and one which is not easy to explain. The recital in the first part of the Question is not absolutely accurate. It never was the practice of the licensed victuallers of Oxford to take out their licences from the University and to pay that body a tax on each licence. [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: Wine licence.] Not on licences generally. The University of Oxford has by charter the right to regulate the wine trade in the city of Oxford, which appears to be a very proper and judicious provision, all circumstances considered. At Cambridge there is a similar provision, I think, and that University uses it simply for police and disciplinary purposes, which were evidently the purposes that were originally had in view. But the University of Oxford levies a tax on the sellers of wine to the amount of £2 10s. This, although it is a source of income, must be a very trifling source of income to the University. It is not true that the wine sellers of Oxford are placed under any necessity of paying the Inland Revenue a tax in order to enable them to exercise the trade of selling wine. What is true is this—If they choose also to sell spirits and malt liquors they must then make a payment to the Inland Revenue, which authorizes those who have made it to sell wine as well as spirits and malt liquors. I do not see that there is any reason for the State to interfere in this matter. I own that if I were a licensed victualler in Oxford I should be inclined to endeavour to induce the University to relinquish this very insignificant source of Revenue. It appears to me to be a question rather between them and the University than between the winesellers and the State. With regard to the letter signed by J. A. Godley, I have never seen that letter; but, referring to the Minutes, I find the matter was carefully considered in Committee, and I have no power to deal with it. On the whole, I think the best course for the winesellers at Oxford to adopt is to deal with the University authorities.