§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the House at its rising this day do adjourn till Thursday, 31st May."—(Mr. William Henry Smith.)
§ MR. BUCHANAN (Edinburgh, W.)
said, he was surprised at the answer which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen), who had just left his place, had given a short time ago to the hon. Member for Kirkcudbright (Mr. Mark Stewart) in regard to what grants the Government propose to give to Scotland in aid of local taxation during the coming year. An opinion prevailed in Scotland that it had been unfairly treated in the matter. The right hon. Gentleman had said that it was proposed to allow Scotland one-third of the Probate Duty, which was calculated at £156,000, and also the proceeds of the Horse and Wheel Tax if it was made to apply to Scotland. Whether that tax should be extended to Scotland was, how- 688 ever, the right hon. Gentleman said, a matter for the Scotch taxpayers to decide. The right hon. Gentleman had been asked by the hon. Member for Fife what was to be done with the money allocated to Scotland, and the right hon. Gentleman said he was unable to say. The same answer was given on the 13th of April, but from that day the Scotch Members had heard nothing further as to how the money was to be distributed. There were two perfectly distinct points connected with the subject to which he wished to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The first had reference to the application of the Horse and Wheel Tax to Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman had stated categorically that it was only to extend to Scotland if the Scotch taxpayers desired to have it. The tax, it was admitted by the right hon. Gentleman, was being created for the purpose of relieving the severity of local burdens, but that was a purpose which only had reference to England. The right hon. Gentleman might be inclined to dispute that position, but he would find that the subject was treated by English Members on the ground that there was a different interest in the local taxation of this country from the taxation in Scotland. Large subventions were to be given to the taxpayers in England in addition to the extra grant from the Probate Duty; but it was hardly to be expected that the Scotch taxpayers would care to have a new tax imposed upon them to meet a demand which they had never made.
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
Order, order! I wish to point out to the hon. and learned Member that he is not entitled to discuss upon this Motion the Horse and Wheel Tax, which is dealt with in a Bill before the House. He may ask the intentions of the Government with respect to it.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said, of course he would bow at once to the ruling of the Chair. He did not propose to discuss the merits of the Bill which dealt with the Horse and Wheel Tax; but he was anxious to obtain information, and was calling attention to the answer which had been given by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to a question put to him by the hon. Member for Kirkcudbright. He thought the Scotch people were entitled 689 to know what the sum was that it was proposed to allocate, and how it was to be distributed, so that they might be able to form some judgment as to the nature of the proposals of the Government. He acknowledged that there was every excuse for the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer in having delayed to present his scheme for Scotland for the distribution of the money so long as it was uncertain what the amount of money was to be; but he would urge upon him to come to a decision as to the propriety of extending the Horse and Wheel Tax to Scotland. In regard to the other point, they were anxious to know, and he thought they had a right to know, how the money which was to be given to Scotland, although they had not made any great demand for it, was to be distributed. They had been told by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget speech, and the statement had been repeated that night to his hon. Friend the Member for Kircudbright, that the first charge upon the proceeds of Probate Duty, which it was calculated would amount to £156,000, would be a sum of £70,000 for the relief of the main roads, or nearly one-half to the total sum allocated to Scotland.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
said, that was precisely the sum received in the past year.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
Yes, but it was double the grant of previous years, and it was known that the money would go in the proportion of six or seven to one exclusively to the counties. The Scotch people had a much stronger case than the people of England. If the right hon. Gentleman would look to the Return of the local taxation of Scotland for 1885 and 1886, when the sum only amounted to £35,000, the City of Edinburgh obtained £215 in one year and £182 in another year out of that total, while the County of Mid Lothian received £1,900 in the first year and £1,400 in the latter. Nor was that all, because the City of Edinburgh was obliged to pay £2,000 a-year towards the county roads, and were consequently in a much worse position than the counties. Practically, as far as the Scotch Members knew, in regard to the allocation of the money, the counties exclusively would derive advantage. A sum of £70,000 was to 690 be given to the relief of main roads, and he wished to know what was to be done with the remainder of the sum—about £86,000 more or less. As the part already allocated was to go to the counties, he was of opinion that the boroughs had a prior claim upon the bulk of the remainder. There was one part of Scotland which had very strong claims indeed to relief, on the ground of the excessive character of the local rates, and that was the Highland parishes. There could be no doubt that the local rates in those parishes were excessive, and if a considerable sum of money was to be allocated from the Imperial funds in order to meet local taxation, no part of the country had a greater right to participate in it than the Highland parishes. These were the two points which he wished to urge upon the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer—namely, that when the Local Government Bill was before the House for Scotland, the relief given to local taxation should not be confined to the counties; and, secondly, that some relief from the burdens now imposed upon them should be given to the Highland parishes. It must not be forgotten that the sum already allocated would go almost exclusively to the counties.
§ MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)
said, he wished to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, before he rose to reply to the hon. and learned Member for West Edinburgh (Mr. Buchanan), to two facts. The first was that four out of five of the Scotch Members were prepared to offer every resistance in their power to the Cart and Wheel Tax, which was odious to the people of Scotland. In the second place, he would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the tax on carts and wheels involved the taxation of an important commodity, and would ultimately fall on the general community.
§ MR. HUNTER
said, he had no wish to go further into the matter, but he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would bear in mind that this tax was viewed throughout Scotland as nothing short of an insult to the understanding of the Scotch people.
§ MR. MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbright)
said, he did not think that the 691 view which had been expressed by the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hunter) in regard to the Cart and Wheel Tax was as universal in Scotland as the hon. Member supposed, but he thought it would be well if the proposed tax were fully discussed and looked into. The residents of Scotland differed very materially from those of England, and in the West the burden of local taxation had been enormously increased of late years, owing to the greatly increased Road assessment.
§ MR. MARK STEWART
said, he would not pursue that line of argument, if out of Order, further, but he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would find means of allocating the Probate Duty next year in the manner he had foreshadowed, and that having devoted £70,000 to the relief of the roads, he thought the time had come when the right hon. Gentleman should give some relief in regard to the heavy burden of the poor rate in some other form than at present proposed for England. Of course, they were all pleased to hear that the local taxation of the country was to be relieved to a certain extent, but the country wanted something more than had already been promised, considering that the poor of Scotland were in a very different position from that which they occupied here. He believed that any proposal to allocate a proportion of the proposed rate to the relief of the out-door poor would be met with great favour by a large number of Scotch Members. So far as the Cart and Wheel Tax was concerned, he thought it would be found that it was not so universally condemned as the hon. Member for North Aberdeen supposed.
§ MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)
said, he hoped he might be allowed to say, on behalf of himself and his hon. Colleague the Member for West Aberdeen (Dr. Farquharson), that they represented probably the largest constituency in Scotland, and he believed there was no desire in that county to have this tax. He, therefore, hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would put an end to the discussion by excluding Scotland. The subject would be more properly considered when 692 they came to the question of county government in Scotland. Perhaps he might be allowed to take this opportunity, and then it would not be necessary to trouble the House again, of complaining that, as far as Scotland was concerned, they were very improperly represented by the Executive in that House. At that moment there was no one on the Treasury Bench who represented the interests of Scotland. He knew that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was well acquainted with Scotland, and possibly the interests of that country would not suffer on account of the absence of any Representative of the Scotch Executive. He had had the honour that day to present an important Petition in favour of the Parliamentary Elections Returning Officers' Expenses (Scotland) Bill, in which the people of Scotland took very great interest. They had been told several times that ample opportunity would be afforded for discussing that subject, but as yet they had had no such opportunity. He represented a large fishing constituency, and he had presented numerous Petitions praying that the fishermen on the East Coast of Scotland might have their case considered. A large amount of evidence had been taken upon that coast, from which it appeared that strong complaints existed in regard to the three-mile limit, the fishermen on the East Coast considering that they were suffering very great disadvantage. There had also been Petitions requesting that assistance should be given in the way of emigration, in order to relieve these people who could not see their way to obtain a living in the ordinary manner. He had put Questions to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald), in order to ascertain what was really being done by the Executive on behalf of this great industry, which was at present in a state of such extreme distress. But no satisfactory reply had been given. He (Mr. Esslemont) hoped it would not be long before they had a Secretary of State for Scotland who was a Member of the Cabinet, so that in some way or other Scotch opinion might be represented in that House in a better manner than it had been hitherto. He could assure the Government that great dissatisfaction was growing up in Scotland that the 693 complaints of the people were not listened to, and that they had no opportunity of bringing their grievances before the House of Commons. He warned the Government that the feeling of discontent which was growing up would not be allayed unless some better opportunity was afforded for representing the views of the Scotch people.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
said, he wished to say a few words from an English point of view. He wished to know whether the imposition of a Cart and Wheel Tax, so far as the imposition of the Wheel Tax was concerned in England, was under the reconsideration of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Since the proposal was made scarcely a day had passed without the right hon. Gentleman having whittled away some portion of his scheme by making exemptions from the tax. Probably the right hon. Gentleman anticipated that by this means he would finally be able to pass this tax; but he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that the sense of injustice was felt by those upon whom the tax was imposed, and would only be aggravated by the unjust exemptions he was making.
§ MR. ISAACSON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
said, the concessions which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had made in regard to the Cart and Wheel Tax, had produced a very favourable impression in the City of London.
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
said, the hon. Member was not in Order in entering into that question upon the Motion for Adjournment.
§ MR. W. ABRAHAM (Glamorgan, Rhondda)
said, he wished to know from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether South Wales would be called upon to pay a Cart and Wheel Tax, and would also continue to pay the toll? He certainly thought that the people of South Wales should be relieved from the burden of one or the other.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I need to say that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will call me rigidly to Order if, for a moment, I exceed the limits of a reply to the questions which have been put to me. With regard to the last question, several interrogations have been put to my right 694 hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie), and he has said that he will, of course, accept an Amendment to the Local Government Bill for the purpose of abolishing tolls in Wales, if the Cart and Wheel Tax is to apply to Wales. It is out of the question that in Wales the people should be called upon to pay the Cart and Wheel Tax and pay tolls also. As far as the tax relates to England, I have nothing to add to my previous statements. It is not under my reconsideration whether the tax shall be imposed or not. No doubt, there is a great confilct of opinion in regard to the matter; but I am not prepared to withdraw the tax. With regard to the question put to me by the hon. and learned Member West Edinburgh (Mr. Buchanan), I will first reply to the complaint which has been made that there is no Member on the Treasury Bench representing Scotch affairs. Hon. Members must bear in mind that no one knew that the single wish of the hon. Member for Camborne Division of Cornwall (Mr. Conybeare) would prevail, and that there would be a sitting of the House to-day. A general feeling was expressed to the contrary effect; but the hon. Member for Camborne considered that it was important that we should meet to-day, and therefore the House has met; but the Government could not the telegraph to the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald) to return on the chance of a discussion on Scotch affairs of which no Notice had been given. I have no doubt that my right hon. and learned Friend will regret that he is not present; but hon. Members will say that there was no justification for believing that any Scotch Business would be raised to-day.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Before 12 o'clock the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate had started for Edinburgh, on the understanding that no question in regard to Scotland would be raised. Although I am not a Scotchman, I am thoroughly acquainted with the particular point which has been raised this afternoon. It would only have been right to have let me know that the question was to be raised, in order that I might have provided myself with proper papers and 695 materials. The hon. and learned Member for West Edinburgh has informed me of several important matters connected with the principle of distribution. I am much obliged to the hon. and learned Member; but, unfortunately, they are so familiar to me that I could almost have thought that the hon. and learned Member while he was speaking was looking over my shoulder at the Minutes I had myself placed on record. It must be apparent to everyone acquainted with the subject that the rates in the Highlands are so excessive that any relief I could give them would be inadequate. With regard to the distribution between town and country, it was because of the necessity of being absolutely equitable that the delay has taken place. I have been in constant conference with my Colleagues at the Scotch Office upon the subject, and gentlemen from the Board of Supervision have been constantly in attendance to advise the Government in regard to the scheme for Scotland. The scheme for Scotland, being different and more complicated than that for England, makes it extremely desirable that every effort should be made to ascertain what is equitable and satisfactory in the way of distribution before submitting this scheme to the House. The delay is due to our desire to examine the question thoroughly, and not to bring in a scheme that would not be entirely satisfactory. The hon. and learned Member for West Edinburgh should remember that the counties have always had £35,000, and, therefore, the only addition in their case will be a second sum of £35,000, making £70,000 in all. It was perfectly certain that the boroughs would have to be considered in reference to the portion which they should receive. But whether it should be given on account and in relief of indoor pauperism, which stands in a different position from indoor pauperism in this country, or whether it should be given in connection with relief of lunatic rates or education rates, are questions which the Government have before them; and I hope that hon. Members from Scotland will see that if there has been delay it is not a drifting delay owing to neglect of their interests, but that it has arisen from the keen desire to meet the necessities of the case in the distribution of the fund, and to deal justly with all the interests concerned. 696 I should not be in Order in speaking of the views of the people of Scotland, as far as I have ascertained them, but hon. Members will remember that the Wheel Tax is bound up also with the Horse Tax. The two questions cannot be separated; and the question is, whether the sum of £74,000, or thereabouts, at which I estimate the produce of the Horse and Wheel Tax in Scotland, should go to Scotland or not. I am aware that in this case the towns take a different view of the question from the counties; but several instances have been brought to the notice of the Government of a large increase in the road tax or highway rates, or whatever they are called in Scotland, so that I do not think there will be that amount of difficulty which some hon. Members seem to imagine. I trust at an early moment after the House resumes I shall be able to put upon the Table a scheme for the distribution of the sums with regard to Scotland. We have already agreed upon the distribution of nearly the whole of the sum, but there are still some points that remain in abeyance.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
said, there was an understanding that Supply would be taken when the House resumed after the Whitsuntide Recess. He wished, therefore, to call the attention of the Government to the fact that two Returns ordered a few weeks ago, one relating to assaults by the police and the other to County Courts, had not yet been produced. Those Returns ought to be in the hands of hon. Members before the Estimates were proceeded with, because he intended to call attention to those subjects after the Recess. He trusted that some pressure would be placed upon the officials to produce the Returns, and if they were not produced he should take such means as were in his power to delay the Votes.
§ MR. CAUSTON (Southwark, W.)
said, he was sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had left the House without stating what course the Government intended to pursue in regard to the Cart and Wheel Tax. He wished to know whether the right hon. Gentleman intended in addition to the Wheel Tax, which was a tax upon industry, to persevere with the inquisitorial clauses of his Bill? He 697 should like to ask the Government what was the earliest day upon which they proposed to take the second reading of the Bill. No distinct intimation had yet been made in regard to it. He called certain clauses of the Bill inquisitorial; because it would be found that the measure gave power for the inspection of premises and books, and that made the proposal considerably more objectionable than it was in the original form in which it was presented to the House. He hoped that some Member of Her Majesty's Government sitting on the Front Bench would be able to give an assurance that the Bill would not be proceeded with until full opportunity was afforded for considering its provisions.
§ MR. SWETENHAM (, &c.) Carnarvon
said, he wished to draw attention to a matter which, in the part of the country he had the honour to represent, was of vital importance£namely, the absolute necessity of losing no time in bringing forward as soon as possible after the Recess some measure to remedy the great difficulties which now existed in regard to the recovery of the tithe rent-charge. He had no wish to allude to the matter at length, nor did he think he would be in Order if he did so, nor had he any desire to refer to a Bill which was now passing through "another place." All he desired was to draw attention to the subject, and impress upon the Government the absolute necessity of losing no time in bringing forward some remedial measure. "The gentlemen of England who lived at home at case" had little knowledge of the difficulties which surrounded the subject in the district in which he lived and which he had the honour to represent. He hoped the House would not separate until the Government gave them some idea of what kind of measure they were likely to introduce upon the subject. They had heard nothing at present upon the matter, and he thought he should not be out of Order in imploring them before the House re-assembled to take into their consideration two points of great importance. One was that there should be some equitable scheme for the redemption of the tithe. That would be some panacea for the agitation which was now troubling an important portion of the United Kingdom, and the agita- 698 tion itself would be considerably diminished if a good system for the redemption of the tithe were brought forward. He could not help thinking that such a scheme would meet with support from hon. Members on all sides of the House, and for this reason—that if it should ever be thought right to appropriate the tithe to national purposes, some well-considered scheme of redemption would make the money more easily accessible owing to its being thus ear-marked. The next was, whether it would not be possible to equalize the tithe in a parish, because it was felt to be a great hardship that on one side of the turnpike road, where the land was not worth 10s. an acre, there should be a tithe of 10s. the acre; while, on the other side of the road, land of a much better character, worth 30s. or £2 an acre, was only charged 1s. or 2s. per acre for tithe. This state of things produced an irritating effect upon the farmers of the country, who, under different conditions, would undoubtedly return to their allegiance, and would be found to be a peaceable, orderly, and law-abiding people.
§ MR. ANDERSON (Elgin and Nairn)
said, that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had endeavoured to apologize for the extraordinary absence of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate, who represented Scotland in that House; but he (Mr. Anderson) begged to say that the apology of the right hon. Gentleman had not been founded on fact. [cries of "Order!"] He did not make that statement in any offensive sense. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that no Notice had been given that any discussion with regard to Scotch affairs would come on. That was undoubtedly a misstatement, and he wished to call the attention of the Government to this fact, which, he was sure, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not aware of—namely, that the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate, in the middle of an important discussion on Scotch Business—namely, emigration, last night left the House.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir EDWARD CLARKE) (Plymouth)
said, the discussion was over before the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate left.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, that the discussion was not over, and he repeated that it was in the midst of the discussion on emigration that the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate left the House.
§ MR. ADDISON (Ashton-under-Lyne)
rose to a point of Order. He wished to ask if these personal arguments were relevant?
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, he did not think it right that Scotland only should be loft entirely unrepresented in that House, and that was what his observations were leading to. It was a complaint which the Scotch Members had to make every day. [Cries of "Oh!"] Yes; every day there was the greatest possible difficulty in obtaining information when the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate was present; and in the middle of the debate upon emigration last night the right hon. and learned Gentleman left the House, and did not return, leaving important Questions which were asked by the hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark) and himself unanswered. Not only did the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate not appear, but he believed that the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not even take part in the Division.
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE
said, his right hon. and learned Friend certainly stayed until the close of the debate, and then left, having paired for the Division.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, that might have been the case; but he believed that the right hon. and learned Gentleman took no part in the Division on the Emigration Question. If the hon. and learned Solicitor General (Sir Edward Clarke) would look at the Division List, he did not think he would find the name of the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate upon it, nor did the right hon. and learned Gentleman appear in the House subsequent to a few minutes before 8 o'clock. He did not think it was fair that upon an important question of that kind the only single Representative of the Government should retire from the House and leave nobody to answer Questions or give information. Yet, that morning, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer 700 ventured to apologize, and explained the absence of the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate on the ground that no Notice had been given that it was intended to discuss Scotch questions on that day. Now, he had come down there that day for the purpose of asking several Questions in regard to the Scotch officials. He knew that the opportunity might arise for discussing it, and he wanted to know when the Government were going to introduce their Bill as to the Scotch Fishery Board? There were various other things upon which he desired to obtain information; but it was impossible to do so. He found, on looking over the Division List, that he was quite right in the assertion he had made, for the name of the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate did not appear in it. That justified the complaint he had made that the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate had left the House at an early hour. He (Mr. Anderson) looked upon it as an extraordinary instance of the contemptuous manner in which the Government treated Scotch interests, and he thought he was fully justified in what he had said just now, that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer's apology for the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate was not founded upon fact. If the right hon. Gentleman had known that the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate had gone away to Edinburgh at 8 o'clock in the evening, he would not have attempted to make an apology. The hon. and learned Solicitor General appeared now to be the only Member of the Government who was prepared to deal with Scotch matters. He trusted that the hon. and learned Gentleman would answer the Question when the Bill in regard to the Scotch Fishery Board would be introduced, and whether the Government had decided upon adopting the suggestions which the Scotch Fishery Board made in their Report last year? He also wished to know whether the Government were ready to deal with the question of salmon fishing on the Eastern Coast of Scotland within the three-mile limit? He had put a Question to the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate as to whether fishermen who took salmon one mile from low water mark had a right to land the fish? But the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate 701 had refused to answer the Question, because he said it was one of law. Nevertheless the question was one of great importance, and he thought the Government were trifling with the House when they failed to have any Representative of the Scotch Executive in attendance.
§ MR. ADDISON
said, he could not complain that the hon. and learned Member had displayed more warmth on this question than on any other; but he must complain that the hon. and learned Member had been wanting in courtesy and consideration to the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate, who belonged to the same Profession as himself, and was an eminent member of it. Sitting, as he (Mr. Addison) did, behind the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate, he had had the opportunity of knowing the great attention he paid to Scotch Business, and he was very much astonished at the observations which had fallen from the hon. and learned Member for Elgin and Nairn (Mr. Anderson). The hon. and learned Member had dealt with a number of questions, which, if he might venture to say so, were of extremely trivial importance. Surely it was absurd to ask the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate in the House of Commons how salmon were to be caught, and where they were to be landed? Such a Question was hardly one which could be seriously put. Of this he was sure, that if the hon. and learned Member had really any serious Questions to put to the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate, he ought, in common courtesy, to have given Notice to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that he had such intention. Throughout the remarks he had made he had evaded that point, and made no pretence that he had given Notice to the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate of his desire to obtain information.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question, "That the Question be now put," put, and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, and agreed to.
§ Resolved, That this House, at its rising this day, do adjourn till Thursday 31st May.