§ MR. WATT (Glasgow, Camlachie)
asked Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Whether the Government have been advised by their Law Officers as to their powers to abate the claim of the Crown for the value of all gold and silver found in the United Kingdom in view of existing statutes; and, if not, whether the Government propose to introduce a Bill enabling them to encourage private enterprize?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
The Law Officers advise that mines royal belong to the Crown; but the Crown is, of course, not proposing to claim the value of all gold and silver found in the United Kingdom, but only a royalty upon what is obtained. The royalty charged upon gold and silver, like that charged on coal, lead, and other minerals, will be fixed with reference to the value of minerals and the cost of obtaining them, and, like other royalties, will be susceptible of variation to suit the circumstances of each case when those circumstances become known by experience. No legislation is necessary to enable the Crown officers to give every reasonable and legitimate encouragement to private enterprize; but there are four parties to be considered in the matter. There is the Crown, which means the general public and the taxpayer; the private speculators, who will be anxious to obtain these licences without payment at all; the landowners, who likewise put in a claim; and then there is the neighbourhood, which is, doubtless, interested in the mines being worked. All four have to be considered, and not only those who claim to work the mines, and who are naturally anxious to obtain the licences at as low a rate as possible.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
No; I should say certainly not. The Crown exercises the 1028 right of abatement if necessary; at least, so I am advised.