HC Deb 03 June 1891 vol 353 cc1568-90

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1.

(3.25.) MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)

I beg to move, Mr. Courtney, that you do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again. I do so for the reason that there has been no Second Reading Debate on the Bill. The Bill came on for Second Reading most unexpectedly, and was rushed through at 9 o'clock with no Debate whatever. The hon. Member who intended to oppose the Bill, and who had a notice of opposition on the Paper, was unfortunately absent when the Second Reading was reached; and, more than that, it was not altogether his fault, because just two minutes before the Bill was reached the measure standing immediately before it on the Paper was taken off without notice. We are now in this position: that we are asked to go into Committee on a Bill of a most technical character—a Bill which changes the character of the law with regard to the rating of machinery—

MR. WINTERBOTHAM (Gloucester, Cirencester)

No, no.


Yes; we are asked to go into Committee on a Bill which changes this law in favour of rich manufacturers, and throws a heavy burden on the poorer classes of ratepayers, without having had a Second Reading Debate.


I rise to order. I wish to ask, Mr. Courtney, whether the hon. Member is entitled to discuss the principle of the Bill on a Motion to report Progress?


The hon. Member is not entitled to discuss the Bill, but he is allowed to give reasons of a general kind in support of his Motion.


My object is to show the importance of this Bill, and to try and induce the Committee not to proceed with it without having a Second Reading Debate. The Bill would place very large charges on the poorer class of the community. It would alter the law, and there is at the present moment an appeal pending in the House of Lords on the very question to be decided by the measure. The Bill would have the very largest consequences in regard to all ratepayers, and is promoted in the interests of certain rich manufacturers.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Stanley Leighton)


I think, when the hon. Member understands the number of misstatements into which he has no doubt unintentionally fallen, he will not feel inclined to persist in his Motion. There is no appeal on this question before the House of Lords, the case having been compromised because the manufacturers concerned could not carry expensive litigation further, and prefer to rely on this House for justice. The question has been for a long time before Parliament. The Second Reading of the Bill was carried last year by 237 votes against 89. The hon. Gentleman complained that there was no Debate on the Second Reading. That was not our fault. Some 70 Members came down to support the Second Reading, but there were no opponents. The Bill is supported on both sides of the House, and is much required both by traders and manufacturers. It does not alter the law, but only interprets it as it has always been understood in Scotland and Ireland, and in the manufacturing districts of England up to a recent decision in the Chard case.

(3.30.) SIR E. BIRKBECK (Norfolk, E.)

I shall certainly support the Motion to report Progress. This matter was debated yesterday at the Central Chamber of Agriculture, and a Resolution in opposition to the Bill was carried, with only one dissentient. That dissentient was a retired manufacturer, an interested party, although an agriculturalist. So far as the agricultural community are concerned, they are unanimous in condemning this proposal, and I hope that, although the agricultural party are taken by surprise, this Bill coming on unexpectedly at this hour, I hope that every means will be taken to delay the passing of the measure this afternoon. It is a very serious matter to the agricultural interest. The Local Taxation Committee have had the matter before them, and it has been condemned on every occasion when it has been considered. I will only ask my hon. Friend in charge of the Bill, as he was present at the Central Chamber of Agriculture yesterday, to confirm me when I say that there was a very strong feeling expressed by Members present in condemnation of this proposal. An hon. Member has just said that if opponents of the Bill were not present when the Second Reading was taken that was their own fault. But on that day—the 7th of April I believe it was—it was well-known that a Motion was down for discussion at the Evening Sitting, and this being unexpectedly withdrawn, the Bill was called and the Second Reading disposed of in a few minutes without Debate. The opponents of the Bill were not aware of any intention to withdraw the Motion standing first, and I must say that it appeared to me to be a case of jockeying. However that may be, it is an absolute fact that the Motion was unexpectedly withdrawn, and none of the opponents of the Bill were present to raise a Debate on the Second Reading of the Bill.

(3.33.) SIR H. JAMBS (Bury, Lancashire)

The hon. Baronet says he hopes that every step will be taken to delay the Bill, but I presume he means every fair step in accordance with the usual practice and Rules of the House. The objection made to proceeding with Committee now, by the hon. Gentleman who has made this Motion, is that there was no Second Reading Debate; but suppose we do now report Progress, when are we to have a Second Reading Debate?


Next Session.


Then the intention is to prevent the Bill proceeding at all this Session?


Quite so.


Then because the opponents did not attend when the Bill was called for Second Reading they claim all the advantage of a victory on a Division, though they did not even raise a Debate on that evening. It is an extraordinary demand that a Bill should be thrown out because no opposition was raised to the Second Reading. The Bill has been read a second time, and its object is not to alter the law, but simply to declare it. An hon. Member opposite has notice of an Amendment to retain the law in the condition it was always believed to be until within the last 12 months, and if, instead of taking this course, the hon. Gentleman supports that Amendment, he will assist the Committee towards arriving at a decision in accordance with his view of what the law is. If we agree to this Motion, we show that we are not in a position to assist those whose duty it is to administer the law, and who ask us to declare what the law is.

(3.35.) SIR W. HOULDSWORTH (Manchester, N.E.)

It has been said that this is a Bill promoted by rich manufacturers, but the fact is, it is a Bill which is heartily supported by Assessment Committees in the North of England, and I believe in many other parts of England. Assessment Committees are in the difficulty of not knowing what their duty is. They feel that day by day they are neglecting their duty; but the law is not so clear as to enable them to perform their functions without exposing themselves to the dangers of litigation. It is a measure urgently required, not by rich manufacturers, but by Assessment Committees, and I trust the Committee may be allowed to proceed.

MR. JOICEY (Durham, Chester-le-Street)

I shall support the Motion for reporting Progress, and I can bear out what has been said as to the means by which the Second Reading of this Bill was obtained. It was well known that a large number of Members were opposed to the principle of the Bill. We expected that the Motion standing as the first business would be moved in the usual course, but the hon. Member in charge of that Motion was induced to withdraw it, and because, I believe, it was found that there were no opponents of this measure present at 9 o'clock. I came down to the House at 10 minutes past 9 and met many hon. Members leaving, who recounted with glee how cleverly we who opposed the Bill had been "done" in the matter. I maintain that an unfair advantage was taken of a large proportion of hon. Members who were known to be opposed to the principle of the Bill, and seeing that there has been no Second Reading Debate I object to proceeding now in Committee. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury has stated that the Bill will make no change in the law, and I am not prepared to debate that point with a Gentleman of his legal experience, but as a simple layman I have always understood the law is what the Courts construe it to be. What have the Courts construed the law to be?


Order, order!


I only wished, Sir, to answer a remark made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury, but if you rule that my doing so will not be in order, I will not pursue it. But I confess I cannot see why the hon. Gentleman in charge of this Bill should come to the House to have the law defined, when we have the Courts, whose function it is to do that. I am strongly opposed to the principle of the Bill. The position as I understand it is this: A decision has been given, evidently not to the minds of a certain number of manufacturers in England. Now, I speak as a colliery owner, and I believe I have always been rated on my machinery, and I do not wish for any change.

An hon. MEMBER

Collieries are exempted.


That shows the disadvantage of not having a Second Reading Debate. Upon the principle of the Bill, however, I am tongue-tied now, and I shall support the Motion for reporting Progress.


I support the Motion for reporting Progress. I have no great belief in Amendments moved in Committee, and have faith in the adage, "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." I do not know whether it is competent for me to state the reasons why I support the Motion, but it seems to me that what has been stated by those who have spoken in support of the Bill must be at variance with the fact3. It seems to me self-evident that if manufacturers expect relief from this Bill, then that relief must come from someone else, and that someone is the poor ratepayer, more especially in the agricultural districts precisely that class least able to bear the onus of additional taxation. I was glad to hear the remarks of the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Joicey). It may be taken as an axiom that we must not expect much assistance in democratic measures from large employers and manufacturers.

MR. KELLY (Camberwell, N.)

Though I am opposed to the principle of the Bill I would appeal to the hon. Member to withdraw his Motion. The contention is that there has been no Second Reading Debate, but let me point out that practically the Bill consists of one clause, and upon the discussion of this clause there must be what is tantamount to a Second Reading Debate. Without trenching now on a question of order I may say in reference to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury that I have an Amendment, the object of which is to declare what the law was believed to be 12 months ago, and if the desire of those who advocate the Bill is to declare the law and lay it down in' express terms I think they may accept this Amendment, and the discussion in Committee need not occupy much time. Meantime, I appeal to the hon. Member for Oswestry not to proceed with his Motion.

(3.43.) MR. G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)

I am not going to enter into the merits of the Bill except to state my opinion that it does but declare the law. But whatever opinion there may be upon this, it is certainly a poor excuse to attempt to throw out the Bill now, by a side wind of this kind, merely because the opponents of the Bill did not think it worth while to attend in their places when the Bill was down for Second Reading. If that is to be a ground for throwing out a Bill on the Committee stage it will be impossible to carry on Parliamentary business at all. Another answer to the hon. Gentleman who has made this Motion has just been given. The hon. and learned Member opposite has said with perfect truth that the Bill consists of one clause practically, and so, to all intents and purposes the discussion of that clause will afford ground for a Second Reading Debate.


I sincerely hope we may be allowed to proceed with the Bill in Committee, but at the same time I cannot concur in the view of my right hon. Friend that no alteration of the law is made by the Bill. The opinion I have expressed on several occasions is that the law has been unequally administered, and it is most desirable that the law should be declared. In that I am at one with my right hon. Friend, but I cannot allow the dictum that there is no alteration in the law to pass unchallenged—


As generally understood.


I know that in many counties the law has been ad- ministered in the way it is now proposed to declare it, but I do not want to enter into debate now. My position is that it is an alteration in the law, but it is desirable that the law should be declared, and so I hope the Bill will be proceeded with.

(3.45.) MR. GOURLEY (Sunderland)

My view is that the Bill certainly does alter the law, creating certain exemptions from the payment of rates, and that it is promoted by manufacturers for the protection of manufacturers and against the interest of ratepayers generally. I shall support the Motion for reporting Progress

(3.48.) The Committee divided:— Ayes 27; Noes 166.—(Div. List, No. 261.)

(3.58.) MR. KELLY

In the absence of the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. W. James) I beg to move the Amendment standing in his name. It will be seen that in view of the great change in the law the Bill proposes it should not come into operation the moment it passes. I therefore suggest that the operation of the Bill should date from January the 1st next. Practically it would come into force with the new assessments in April.

Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 10, after "from and after," to leave out "passing of this Act," and insert "first January one thousand eight hundred and ninety-two."—(Mr. Kelly.)


There is no fixed date for a new assessment, the assessors can make up the valuation list when and as they please. The poor rates are made at unequal periods, and I do not think the date in the Bill makes any difference.

Amendment negatived.

(4.0.) MR. KELLY

I have now to move the Amendment to Clause 1 which stands first in my name. Its object is to make the Bill really declaratory of the law. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury said that the object of those who were responsible for the Bill was to make the law certain, and secure that it was uniformly administered. Those who have any knowledge of the rating of machinery must admit that there is anything but uniformity in the matter. In London, for instance, there are two Unions adjoining: In one the machinery is rated, and in the other it is not. Then, again, the methods of assessing it vary considerably. One Union assesses it at so much per horse power. One might just as well assess on the basis of the height of a stack of chimneys. It is exceedingly unfortunate that this Bill should have been introduced by a private Member. Considering the importance of the question it ought to have been introduced by a Member of the Government.


Order, order! The hon. Member cannot go into that. The Committee is now discussing a specific Amendment.


So far as I can see, the Amendment will do nothing but declare the law as it exists. Different constructions have been placed upon the law, the real meaning of which consequently depends on a series of judgments delivered in the Courts upon the rating of machinery. Now, the object of the clause is to exclude manufacturing machinery from rating. I would alter it in such a way as to make all machinery attached to a hereditament rateable as enhancing its value, so long as the premises are devoted and applied to any trade, business, or manufacturing purposes. The advocates of the Bill, as far as I understand, represent only wealthy manufacturers, and I fail to see how, if the Bill passes in its present shape, anyone except the owners of expensive machinery for textile manufactures will get any advantage from it. The small owners of machinery will get no advantage. This Bill, instead of being a Rating of Machinery Bill, is really a Bill for the exemption of machinery from rating. There are few trades outside the textile trade in which machinery is merely fixed to the ground for the purpose of steadiness, and, therefore, we are justified in saying that this Bill is almost exclusively promoted in the interests of the large manufacturers of Yorkshire and Lancashire. If the Amendment is passed, unquestionably a good deal of machinery will be rated which is not now liable to be so. I know of no good reason why it should not be so rated. Do those who are in favour of the exemption of machinery from rating propose that all personal property of every class shall also be exempted? It seems to me desirable that every species of property should contribute its fair quota towards the relief of local burdens. If hon. Members hold that all classes of the community should contribute to local burdens, surely it is very unfair to exempt the most valuable description of property. One argument in favour of the clause as it stands is that some such amendment of the law is necessary in the interest of trade, otherwise trade will be driven from the country. But trade has not been driven away from Gateshead, where machinery is rated. Why, then, should it be driven from Lancashire if machinery is rated there? I ask hon. Members to show where trade has suffered from the taxing of machinery, to quote a single example of the terrible effect they anticipate from the rating of machinery, to name any district where trade has suffered vital injury from it. There is an argument which might well be advanced by the hon. Member for North-West Lanark in support of the Amendment. Machinery unquestionably takes the place of labour, and is used by manufacturers for that purpose, and for cheapening the production of goods and increasing the manufacturers' profits. Those who think it is not desirable to drive away the strongest and best of our artisans may have a good deal to say against exempting from its proper and natural burden the most labour-destroying and most valuable of all classes of machinery. There is an alteration proposed in the Bill with regard to the rating of motive power, and I see no need for it. Probably we shall hear a good deal of the Chard case, but the number of factories affected by the decision in that case is not very large. I invite the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury to point out anything in my Amendment which does more than declare the law. No doubt the advocates of this Bill are perfectly sincere when they say it is a declaratory Bill; but if we are to declare what the law is we ought to see that the law is uniformly administered, Why is the burden to be taken off the shoulders of the wealthy manufacturers of Lancashire and Yorkshire and allowed to remain the same so far as the small manufacturers are concerned? I ask the right hon. and learned Member for Bury to consider well this Amendment, the object of which is to carry out the law as laid down in the Higher Courts.

Amendment proposed, In page 1, line 13, to leave out from the word "purposes," to the end of the Clause, in order to insert the words "all machinery which is placed thereon for the purpose of making such hereditament complete and fit for the particular purpose for which it is used, shall be taken into consideration as enhancing such gross estimated rental or rateable value,"—(Mr. Kelly,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words 'any increased value arising from machinery' stand part of the Clause."

(4.15.) MR. H. S. WRIGHT (Nottingham, S.)

The effect of this Amendment would be to quadruple the rating on movable machinery. Let the Committee bear in mind that this machinery may be in one place one week and in another the next week: that one week it may be worth £500, and the next week owing to the change of fashion, or some new invention, worth scarcely £100. We cannot possibly accept the Amendment, which would destroy the object of the Bill. We do not wish to relieve any of the wealthy manufacturers, who are pretty well relieved by foreign competition already, and who have more than enough to do to pay the week wages and keep their factories going. The promoters of the Bill appeal to the Committee on behalf of the wage-earning population not to allow machinery to be assessed in the way proposed by the Amendment, which would have the effect of driving away a large proportion of our trade.


Hon. Members opposite have delivered themselves of generalities. I want to have a clearer understanding of what it is that is contemplated by the Bill. If the non-rating of machinery is to be a relief to manufacturers, what is not paid by them must be paid by somebody else. By ceasing to rate machinery there will be a loss of Revenue. How is that to be made up? If relief is to be afforded, where is the burden to fall?


The Bill proposes to put the law in England on precisely the same footing as in Scotland, and it will better enable us to compete with foreigners.


I desire to recall the Committee to the Amendment, which, if carried, will unsettle everything that is now settled. If the Assessment Committees attempt to carry out the Amendment they will relieve from rating many things which ought to be rated. The Amendment is really unworkable; but possibly something might be done to meet the views of the Mover by amendments of the clause.

(4.20.) MR. C. GRAHAM

In reply to the hon. Member for Preston, I may say that time after time I have had brought before me the objections of working-men to the law as it is settled in Scotland, because it operates with great injustice to the working classes and the poorer ratepayers. I wish emphatically to place on record my protest that those pseudo professions of a sympathy with and desire to do something for the working classes have become absolutely sickening.


I feel bound to support the Amendment. Unless it is carried there will be no limit to the exemptions, and manufacturers after placing a boiler on a bedding of brick will claim exemption from the Assessment Committee.


This Amendment goes to the root of the whole Bill. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury has only dealt in generalities, and has not descended to details such as those on which the Amendment rests. There may be two smiths' shops of equal rateable value to begin with—say £50. Now, suppose machinery to the value of £10,000 is put into the one, while the other is worked by manual labour alone. The output of the former would be as 20 to 1 as compared with the latter. Yet, according to this Bill, the engine only of the shop in which the machinery was placed would be rateable. That is to say, about £50 rateable value would be added. So that although the output of the one would be 20 times greater than the other, the rateable value would be only twice as much. The difference, of course, will have to be made up by mechanics and other persons who are rated in the neighbourhood, while £9,000 worth of machinery, which is earning the owner a large sum, will go scot-free. The Bill is a Bill for the protection of manufacturers, to exempt them from paying what they ought to pay; and I therefore support the Amendment, which will put the question of rating on a proper basis. I am astonished that hon. Members who represent popular constituencies should venture to propose to relieve rich persons from rates which by law they are now called upon to pay, and to throw the burden on the poorer classes.

(4.26.) MR. KELLY

The hon. Member for South Nottingham spoke of the value of machinery falling in a week from £500 to £100. Does he wish us to infer that that was the common fate of valuable machinery?


I said it might occur through a change of fashion, or through the introduction of a new pattern.


I know there have been cases in which the value of machinery has suddenly fallen; but the life of ordinary machinery is from 20 to 25 years. A Nasmyth hammer cannot lose its value by any change in patterns, and certainly lives more than four or five years. I know some machinery which has been working for a quarter of a century, and is still being employed. It is unfortunate that the form of the Bill has not encouraged any Member to put down an Amendment fixing a rate at which machinery shall be valued. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury will allow me to read a few extracts from two important Judgments delivered on this question. In the case of "Laing v. The Overseers of Bishopwearmouth," the late Lord Chief Justice Cockburn laid it down that it was only reasonable that where a freehold was rendered more valuable by the introduction of machinery the owner should pay upon the increased value. Perhaps I had better quote a passage from the Judgment. Lord Chief Justice Cockburn said— It appears to us, after having carefully considered the character of the machinery in question, that the whole of it, though some of it may he capable of being removed without injury to itself or to the freehold, is essentially necessary to the shipbuilding business to which the appellant's premises are devoted, and must be taken to be intended to remain permanently attached to them so long as those premises are applied to their present purpose. That is the opinion of a Judge who was noted for his learning, and to whose opinion, I am sure, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury will attach some weight. Then Lord Esher, the Master of the Rolls, in the case of "The Tyne Boiler Works Co.v. The Overseers of Longbenton," said— I believe the rule really to be that things, which are on the premises to be rated, and which are there for the purpose of making, and which make the premises fit as premises for the particular purpose for which they are used, are to be taken into account in ascertaining the rateable value of such premises. Of course, it is not all things on the premises, or that are used on the premises, which are to be taken into account; but things which are there for the purpose of making and which do make them fit as premises for the particular purposes for which they are used. Lord Justice Lindley and Lord Justice Lopes agreed in that Judgment. Lord Justice Lopes said— It is clear that personal property such as machinery is per se not rateable, but, if attached so as to be either a landlord's fixture or a tenant's fixture, it is equally clear that it is rateable as increasing the value of the premises, and the rent which a tenant from year to year would give for them. But then there are things which, though they may not be- physically attached, or may be removable without damage to themselves or the freehold, are so placed on the premises, and so essential to their use for the purpose for which they are used, and so much intended to be used with them for that purpose, that they have practically become, for the time being, part of the premises. -The question is whether such things are to be taken into account in estimating the rateable value of the premises. I am of opinion that they must be so taken into account. Only one word as to the effect that this Bill will have where machinery is rated. There are towns—I will mention one in particular, Gateshead—in which, if this Bill passes and machinery is relieved from the liability to rating, the rates will go up 4d. in the £1 at once. When hon. Gentlemen laugh at the idea of the artisans paying the rates, I remind them that there are other people besides artisans who deserve to be protected against unnecessary burdens in the shape of local taxation—there are small tradespeople and others who will suffer.


I want to make clear to the Committee the fallacy two or three Members seem to cherish, and that is that the Bill is brought forward in the interest of rich manufacturers. If thathad been so I, for one, would have had nothing to do with it. It is no exaggeration to say that in nine-tenths of the manufacturing districts of the United Kingdom, machinery, under the existing law, is not rated, and never has been rated; therefore it is not at all a question of taking the rates off rich manufacturers and putting them on others. Those who speak for the working classes surely must remember that the wages which are earned by the use of machinery are divided between the capitalist and the labourer (I admit sometimes to an unequal extent) and anything which takes away from the earnings of machinery, or prevents its use, must affect the earnings of labour. No less than 25,000 working men have petitioned in favour of the Bill. Where is a single working men's Petition against it? The words of the decision in a certain well-known case refer just as well to the furniture of an hotel as to the fittings of a mill, as much to the harrows and ploughs of the farmer as to the tools of the manufacturer, and if we are going to refuse the act of justice that is now asked for we cannot stop here — we must rate all personalty and all chattels of every kind.

(4.37.) MR. JOICEY

The hon.Gentleman says this is not a Bill in the interest of rich manufacturers. I did not hear in his speech any proof that that is a correct statement. I cannot see how if machinery is left untaxed in a locality in which it formerly was subject to taxation—["No"]—I am speaking of what I know, and in the district I refer to machinery was always taxed. What my hon. Friend alludes to is that light machinery which is used in large mills in Lancashire and Gloucestershire. That has been exempt from taxation. I cannot see why machinery with immense productive power if small instead of large should be exempt when those whose trade requires them to use large machinery are taxed. I knew a case on the Tyne in which an application was made to some Corporation to support the Bill. They said they would not, for it would mean that increased taxes would have to be put on the ordinary householder to the extent of 6d. or 7d. in the £1. It is no use saying it is not a question of taxing the rich manufacturer, because I contend that every penny that is taken off the rich manufacturer in the way of taxation must be placed on the ordinary householders. They are the workmen of the manufacturer, and the taxes must necessarily fall on their shoulders if taken from the shoulders of their employers. If, as the hon. Member says, nine-tenths of the machinery of the United Kingdom is not taxed, that does not say much for the assessors. Instead of being thankful that they have been exempt so long, the manufacturers are now trying to get exemption altogether. I support the Amendment, because it defines the matter and brings the arrangements more into harmony with the existing law.

(4.40.) MR. MORTON (Peterborough)

I desire to support the Amendment, which I understand will make the law very much as the custom is at present, that is to say, that fixed machinery is assessable. ["No!"] I know that in London all machinery is not taxed. We are told by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gloucestershire (Mr. Winter-botham) that there are no Petitions against the Bill. Last year my constituents petitioned against 'the Bill, and my constituency is very largely composed of working men. The only argument in favour of the Bill is that it will enable the manufacturers to compete better with other countries. That cannot be an argument in favour of relieving them of the rates. It might bean argument in favour of relieving them of charges and taxes of all sorts, but it is no argument in favour of asking other ratepayers to pay the rates that these manufacturers now pay, or that they ought to pay. Machinery is exactly in the same position as regards rating as a counter or other fittings of a shop which are assessable. I think manufacturers already get as much relief from taxation as they ought. They now get on allowance of one-third, whereas other property only gets one-sixth off the gross value. Thus these rates are already reduced by one - fifth. We should only be doing the proper thing in the interest of the general ratepayers if we insist, upon this Amendment.

THE EARL OF CAVAN (Somerset, S.)

As Chard happens to be in my constituency, I hope I need not apologise to the Committee for saying one or two words in regard to this Bill. I have myself presented several Petitions from hundreds of working men in favour of the Bill. It was well known in my constituency that the Petitions were being signed, and I made several speeches in which I referred to the Bill, so that any who were opposed to it could have taken action. I have not presented a single Petition against the measure.

(4.45.) MR. T. H. BOLTON (St. Paneras, N.)

It is clear that in some parts of the country machinery is almost directly rated, while in other parts it is not rated at all, and in some parts the Rating Authorities have taken into consideration the value it has added to the premises. It may be desirable that the law should be defined clearly. But the Bill does not do that in any comprehensive or satisfactory way. It proposes that machinery shall be exempted from rating, and that the rating authority shall not take machinery into account in assessing any increased value given by that machinery to the rateable premises. It is, therefore, a measure to exempt certain property which is now rateable, or which has to be taken into account for the purpose of rating. We have heard a good deal from Representatives of Lancashire and Yorkshire constituencies as to the necessity of this Bill in the interest of the working classes. I am sorry that they should use that sort of clap - trap argument. To suppose for a moment that a manufacturer will give any more wages to his workmen because he gets some of his property relieved from rates is sheer nonsense. In truth, he will give his workmen neither more nor less than he can get their labour for. But the matter assumes an entirely different complexion, and must certainly be considered in a different light when workmen come to understand that the relief the manufacturer asks for is at their expense, that the rates he saves by the exemption of his machinery from rating will fall directly upon their shoulders, that the rating authorities will be compelled to levy a higher rate upon ratepayers generally. The rates are levied for necessary purposes, and the rates must be paid by somebody. They have to be apportioned, and if, in the course of the apportionment one class is relieved then, to that extent, another class must have its burden increased; and to suppose that workmen who in some towns will have to pay Id. or 2d. in the £1 more for rates will get compensation by increased wages, because their employer will be better enabled to carry on his business with a reduced burden of rates, is complete nonsense. If workmen have any idea that they are going to get any benefit they are vastly mistaken. The relief will go directly into the manufacturer's pocket at the expense of the general ratepaying community. I am not prepared to vote for a Bill of this kind. We have heard a great deal about landlords putting their hands into the public pocket to be relieved from their share of rates, but if a landlord were to come here and ask to have a portion of his rateable property relieved from liability to, rates, why, language would be inadequate to enable some hon. Members to sufficiently denounce such a proposition. But here the law has declared that certain rateable manufacturing premises ought to bear an increased rate, because they have an increased value attached to them, and the occupier asks to be relieved from this increase. Sir, the proper designation of this Bill is a "Manufacturer's Relief Bill," and if this is thoroughly understood in the country, I believe there will be no lack of Petitions from the working classes against the Bill. I am quite sure that rating authorities throughout England generally would be opposed to any such exemp- tions as the promoters of this Bill desire to attain. I except such rating authorities as happen to be controlled by manufacturers who are influential ratepayers. I can quite understand such exceptional cases, and I am only surprised that more Petitions have not come in in favour of this Bill originating in such influences. The truth is rating authorities have not fully realised the practical effect of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir H. James) referring to the Amendment, has said it would be mischievous inasmuch as it would lead to the exemption of considerable property now rateable, and he mentioned vats in brewhouses. Now I must confess, although I have the greatest possible respect for the right hon. and learned Gentleman's opinion, and pay the greatest deference to anything he says, that I fail to see how the Amendment would relieve vats in breweries from liability to rating if they were fixed to the premises, and were considered to be rateable. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has referred to some Amendment that might be made in the Bill, but I do not see any further Amendments on the Paper which would make the Bill more satisfactory. No man is more competent than the right hon. Gentleman to put the Bill into an improved shape, and certainly it needs a good deal of improvement. If he would put some Amendments on the Paper for the purpose, I am sure we should all be deeply indebted to him. I am obliged to you, Sir, for allowing me to travel slightly beyond the immediate scope of the Amendment, but inasmuch as there has been no Second Reading Debate on the Bill this Session a little discussion of this general kind is very desirable. I shall vote for the Amendment because it declares the law substantially as it is, instead of giving, as the clause now does, a large measure of relief to a class of persons who, I think, are least entitled to relief from taxation.

(4.58.) MR. HEATH (Lincoln, Louth)

I support the Amendment, because I wish to see the law declared; but if it is carried in its present form, the Bill will inflict the greatest injustice upon constituencies such as that I have the honour to represent, constituencies chiefly agricultural. I fail to see why small freeholders, small householders and shopkeepers, should have to pay still further local taxation than they now do, in order to relieve the large manufacturers in the counties. I hope my hon. Friend will go to a Division on the Amendment.

(5.0.) SIR J. DORINGTON (Gloucester, Tewkesbury)

I have listened to the Debate on the Amendment, and I do not think my agricultural friends, who oppose this Bill, duly appreciate the gravity of the position created by recent judicial decisions. It is urged that the effect of the Bill will be to increase the burden of rates in agricultural districts, but that is not the fact. I represent a purely agricultural constituency, and I am quite ready to say that justice requires that some such measure as this should be passed. What are the actual circumstances of the case? It is said the law has not been altered from what it has been for many years, and, technically, that is so. No doubt the law can only be changed by Act of Parliament, but it can be differently interpreted. Looms, for instance, by a decision of 20 years ago in the Halstead case, were declared to be non-rateable; by a more recent decision, in the Chard case, they were declared to be rateable. Now, these are totally different interpretations, and result in an upsetting of the principles of rating throughout the country, and the gravest inequality and injustice. Assessors will have to follow the law as laid down in the Chard case, and the result will be an enormous increase in the rates imposed upon manufacturers. Such an increase in the rating of mills and other manufactories may in certain cases lead to the closing of some of them, and thus seriously injure the interests of the working people. As connected with these rating questions in the position of Chairman of an Assessment Committee I hope the Bill will pass, and that the law will be thus distinctly declared. This Amendment would stereotype this last decision, which really involves a change, if not in the law, certainly in the practice as to rating and the incidence of taxation.

(5.3.) The Committee divided:— Ayes 149; Noes 91.—(Div. List. No. 262.)

(5.15.) MR. RANKIN (Herefordshire, Leominster)

The Committee having decided not to accept the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend, I now propose an Amendment which will make the law work more evenly than it can as the clause now stands. As the words of the clause run, they exempt from rates machinery used for manufacturing processes; but machinery used in agriculture should equally be exempted; and to secure this, I propose to strike out the words "for any manufacturing process," so that machinery set up in farm buildings may be exempted. As I understand the promoters of the Bill accept this, I need not argue the case, and I simply move the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, in page 1, lines 14 and 15, to leave out "machinery for any manufacturing process."—(Mr. Rankin.)


This Amendment shows the danger of the whole Bill. Originally intended to exempt manufacturing machinery, of course in fairness you must include farming machinery in the exemption; and I really cannot see the limit of the exemptions. Many other persons may make out claims for exemption; all sorts of persons, all sorts of classes, will complain of being rated; and with this Amendment you will have to carry many others. I do hope the Committee will carefully consider the course upon which they are embarking.

MR. POWELL J. WILLIAMS (Birmingham, S.)

Before we accept this Amendment, I should be glad if the Attorney General will tell us what effect this will have upon the law as it is. I do not venture to express my own opinion, but it is possible this may have a more extended effect than is supposed.


With merely a difference in phraseology, the effect of the Amendment will be similar to that which stands on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Manchester, to extend the clause to all machinery used in any "trade business" or manufacturing process. I have already expressed my opinion that there is no objection to the words; and the present Amendment is only another way of arriving at the same object; it is simply a question of drafting.


It seems to me our choice should be in favour of the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for Manchester. If we are going to exempt all kinds of machinery let us do so. If we are going to pass an Act on this vexed question let it be in as simple a form as possible. We know how litigation has sprung out of the wording of the old Act, and this may lead to further litigation. Would it not be wiser to go the length expressed in the form proposed by the hon. Member for Manchester instead of accepting this Amendment?

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name. I believe the object I have in view is already accomplished by the Bill, but I desire to make the clause perfectly plain. I propose to insert at the end of the clause a proviso that steam engines, boilers, and all machines used for producing motive power shall continue to be rated as they have hitherto been.

Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 15, after "is," to insert "not fixed or is."—(Sir W. Houldsworth.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."

MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)

It is very difficult to deal with this Bill at all, as it proceeds on almost entirely different lines from that of last year, and we have no assistance from the Government. If I recollect aright, the whole contention before the Select Committee was whether heavy machinery in beds which were not bolted down was rateable, and it appears to me that these words raise the whole of that question again. I wish to see the machinery that is rated defined, but defined fairly; and I do not want to see put on the Statute Book a Bill which is even more complex than those now in force. I should like the Attorney General to tell us what difference will be made by the insertion of these words.


The insertion of the words would not exclude machinery of a heavy character which is not fixed, provided that it cannot be removed without injury to itself, and I shall subsequently propose to provide also that there is a special foundation for it. On the other hand, they would exclude sewing machines, and so on, which stand by their own weight.


Would the words provide for the rating of a gas engine?


I think the hon. Baronet said he had put down an express proviso that any machinery producing motive power should be rateable.

Question put, and agreed to.

(5.25.) Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 15, to leave out "the hereditament," and insert "or sunk in the tenement or premises." —? (Mr. Kelly.)

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


It seems to me that "sunk in the tenement" is a somewhat ambiguous expression. Perhaps my hon. and learned Friend can suggest some better form of words.


I will move them on Report.


You have struck out the words in the clause, and something must be inserted in place of them.

Question put, and agreed to.

It being half-past Five of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Wednesday next.