HC Deb 08 April 1889 vol 334 cc1794-5
MR. KIMBER (Wandsworth)

asked the Secretary to the Treasury whether, with reference to the case of "Buckley v. Alexander," tried at the recent Birmingham Assizes, in which the defendant, a jeweller at Southampton, was fined in the mitigated penalty of £60 and costs for selling rings, now decided to be wedding rings, without being hall-marked and without paying the duty of 17s. per ounce, he is aware that several witnesses of high standing swore that the rings in question were not wedding rings, and that the Assay Master of Edinburgh swore not only that, in his judgment, they were not wedding rings, but that under no circumstances would he have marked such rings as wedding rings if presented at the Edinburgh Assay Office for assay; whether he is aware that thousands of similar rings are scattered throughout the stocks of the 15,000 licensed dealers throughout the United Kingdom; whether, under such circumstances and such conflicting evidence, Her Majesty's Government will remit the fine inflicted on Alexander, and also direct that, pending the decision of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the abolition of the Plate Duties, and to the principle of compulsion as applied to the practice of hall-marking of gold and silver plate and plain gold rings, no further prosecutions shall be instituted until further notice is given; and, whether, seeing that, by "The Revenue Act, 1884," certain foreign plate was exempted from the compulsory obligation of assay in the United Kingdom, Her Majesty's Government will concede the same principle to the manufacturers of this country, with a view to encourage the exportation of British wares to foreign countries?


I must remind the hon. Member that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already informed him that the definition of a wedding ring seems to be a question peculiarly fitted for a jury to decide. He sees no reason to dispute their decision or to go into the evidence upon which it was based. He has no information which would show the number of plain gold rings in the United Kingdom. He sees no reason which would justify the interference of the Government in a prosecution which was not instituted by a Government Department at all; and he fears he cannot accede to the demands of the hon. Member.