HC Deb 15 June 1891 vol 354 cc490-6

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 2.

Amendment proposed, At the end of the Clause, to add the words "Provided always, that for the purposes of the exemptions and allowances in the said Acts contained, the expression charitable purpose" 'shall mean and include any purposes which are purposes of a charity as defined by The Charitable Trusts Act, 1853,' section sixty-six."—(Mr. Roby.)

Question put, "That those words be there added."

(11.55.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 90; Noes 193.—(Div. List, No. 298.)

Clause agreed to.

Clause 3.

(12.6.) DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)

I beg to move that yon, Sir, do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.

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


I hope the Committee will go forward with the Bill. There is very little contested matter.

Question put, and negatived.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 4 agreed to.

New Clause— (1) Sub-section 2 of Section 26 of the Customs and Inland Revenue Act of 1890 is hereby amended by the substitution of the words 'where the annual value of each dwelling shall not amount to £20,' for the words, for persons at rents not exceeding for each dwelling the rate of 7s. 6d. a week, and occupied only by persons paying such rents.' (2) In the case of any house originally built or adapted by additions or alterations, and used, so far as the same is used as a dwelling-house, for the sole purpose of providing separate dwellings at an annual value not exceeding £40 for each dwelling, the Commissioners, acting in the execution of the Acts relating to inhabited house duties, shall, upon production of such a certificate as is mentioned in the said subsection, grant relief by confining the assessment to the annual value of the house, exclusive of every dwelling therein of an annual value below £20, if any, and by reducing the rate of duty to 3d. (3) The provisions in the said sub-section in relation to a certificate shall apply to a certificate to be produced under this section,"—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer,)

—brought up, and read the first time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."

(12.7.) MR. KELLY (Camberwell, N.)

I should like to raise the question whether this new clause fulfils the requirements of the case. The Committee will remember that last year for the first time the Chancellor of the Exchequer fully intended to do that which unquestionably would have been an enormous advantage to the poor of London, and which, as I believe, would have been one earnest step in bringing about in course of time a better system for the housing of our working classes. I pointed out last year that while in country districts a house under £20 valuation was exempted from Inhabited House Duty, practically in London there was no exemption. Up to last year exemption was given to tenement dwellings in the industrial blocks. There can be no doubt that the poor of London as a body have the greatest possible objection to living in the large blocks. There can also be no doubt that for many reasons they are helpless. There are tenements in which no light can ever penetrate, in which there can be no proper circulation of air; and the great majority of the working classes in London unquestionably, and as I believe rightly, prefer to live in what are known as tenement dwellings. I believe the Chancellor of the Exchequer intended that there was to be no sort of benefit to anything in the form of a rookery or slum. He was most anxious that what- ever was done in the way of exemption from Inhabited House Duty no advantage should be given to those who were interested in maintaining dwellings for the poor which were neither sound, nor sanitary, nor right. The interpretation put on the clause of last year's Bill had led to a remarkable result. At the present moment it is held that if on the ground floor there is a shop which lets for more than 7s. 6d. a week, the floors above are thereby deprived of any exemption from Inhabited House Duty. That is owing to the refusal to treat the tenement as a separate dwelling. The authorities have taken away all advantage which we hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would give, and which we believe he intended to give in these cases. There is, of course, an alteration in the section proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, and I am glad to think he does not intend to confine his great; boon to what are known as the industrial buildings, as contradistinguished from what I may call the tenement houses. My difficulty is that in the first part of the new clause all that is done is to take a different basis—that is to say, £20 a year instead of 7s. 6d. a week. In the second part of the clause all that is done is to say that a house not exceeding £40 a year shall be subject to a lower rate. We wish the right hon. Gentleman to put an end to the system under which, because in one case in a building the rent is a little over 7s. 6d., the other tenements suffer. If the right hon. Gentleman has done that, he has conferred an immense benefit on the London poor.

*(12.14.) MR. GOSCHEN

The first part of the clause substitutes £20 a year for 7s. 6d. a week, so that there will be no difference in the exemption from al House Duty between tenement dwellings and ordinary houses. The clause meets the point raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman. The view originally taken of the interpretation of the Act was that, in consequence of the use to the word "solely," if there were some tenements higher than 7s. 6d. a week in a block, say tenements let at between £20 and £40, all the dwellings in that block including those let at 7s. 6d. a week would be subject to House Duty. That was not my intention, and I remedy is by the second sub-section of this clause which confines the assessment to the annual value of a house, exclusive of every dwelling therein of an annual value of less than £20. If there is a block of dwellings which contains a certain number of tenements rated below £20, and a certain number rated below £40, the former will be charged no duty at all, and the latter will be charged 3d. By this clause I wish to meet the whole of the objections which have been raised.

(12.17.) MR. STOREY (Sunderland)

I must say I think the right hon. Gentleman has very fairly met the objections raised. I would, however, take the liberty of drawing his attention to one point. He still maintains the system under which it is necessary for the sanitary officer to report before he grants an exemption. It would ill become me to take objection to that in itself, but I would venture to point out to such a purist as the right hon. Gentleman that the object of laying a tax upon people is to get as much money as can fairly be obtained by means of it. I think there is some little unfairness in the present system. Take three workmen, whom we will call A, B, and C. A lives in a single storey cottage of under £20, and, as a matter of right, gets rid of the tax. Next door to him lives B and C, who are living, not in a cottage, but in tenements, built one over the other. B and C have to go to the sanitary officer and get him to visit the house. They have to take the trouble of getting his certificate, and then they have to go to the Inland Revenue Officer to beg for exemption from the duty. The right hon. Gentleman will no doubt say we ought not to exempt large tenements unless they are of a sanitary character. In the North of England the cases of houses with large numbers of tenants are few, whilst the houses where there are two tenants, one above the other, are numbered by thousands. The right hon. Gentleman got far more money from the Inhabited House Duty last year in Sunderland than he had any righteous claim to, for this reason: that the sum not being very large in each case, the workmen have not taken the trouble, or incurred the loss of time involved in going to the sanitary officer, and the additional trouble of going to the Inland Revenue Commissioner. As the right hon. Gentleman has made such a very substantial concession to the objections which have been taken, I do not intend to be hypercritical; but I put it to him that he has no right to adopt this differential treatment.

(12.21.) SIR W. GUTER HUNTER (Hackney, Central)

I would like to point out that much friction has been caused by the refusal of sanitary officers to grant certificates in many cases and by the lax way in which it has been given in others. The interpretation put on the words "due provision" in the Customs and Inland Revenue Act, Section 26, has caused all the friction that has arisen, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to issue some special instructions to medical officers with reference to the meaning of that term.

*(12.23.) SIR C. RUSSELL (Hackney, S.)

Owing to the absence of any proper definition in the Act of 1890 respecting sanitary requirements, the question is left to the discretion of the particular medical officers in particular districts, and the result is that in some districts the medical officers have declined to give any certificates at all, because certain things they consider would be desirable in the way of sanitary arrangements do not exist. I would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether it would not be possible to restrict the certificates to the requirements of the law to be defined by regulations, instead of leaving it to the varying judgments of particular medical officers.

VISCOUNT LTMINGTON (Devon, South Molton)

I have on the Paper another clause on this subject, but the right hon. Gentleman's proposal entirely meets all my points, and therefore I shall not move my clause. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Sunderland respecting the requirement of a Sanitary Report, because I think that, at all events in London, it is very important that it should be possible to bring some pressure to bear upon companies to induce them to make proper sanitary provision in their buildings.

*(12.26.) MR. GOSCHEN

With reference to the observations of the hon. Member for Sunderland, I wish to tell the House the precise theory on this matter. It is that a house should be charged as a whole where it is not divided into separate tenements structurally severed. The owners are quite as much interested in this matter as, or perhaps even more so than, the tenants, and owners can more cheaply provide tenements which are not properly separated one from another than tenements which have properly constructed separate arrangements for each family. The Committee will, I am sure, be thoroughly at one with the Government in wishing that there shall be as much structural separation as is possible in these cases. We are not prepared to allow exemption in those cases where the tenements are not separately constructed as houses for the working classes. Otherwise the different families would come within the category of lodgers. In regard to the certificates of medical officers, it is difficult to lay down a definition of "due provision;" but it means, at all events, that there shall not be two families dwelling in the same tenement. I will consult with my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board and see whether any further and more distinct instructions can be given to the medical officers. The different blocks of buildings are, of course, very differently constructed, but we will endeavour to secure as much uniformity in practice as possible.

*(12.30.) MR. LAWSON (St. Pancras, W)

I would suggest that to secure uniformity in the administration of sanitary rules it might be well if the medical officer for the County of London drew up a set of regulations to which medical officers in each division might agree to conform.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause added.

(12.35.) MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)

I beg to move a new clause cognate to that which was moved by the hon. Member for Eccles, and summarily disposed of half an hour ago, and I cannot help expressing some surprise that there was no reply from the right hon. Gentleman to that Amendment. My object is to extend the exemption from Corporation duty to certain societies which do not come within the four corners of Section 11 of the Act of 1885, but which are equally deserving of exemption with the societies to which that section applies. Bodies like the Trades Incorporations of Glasgow ought certainly to be exempted. As an example, I take the Tailors' Incorporation of Glasgow. The income of this society is derived from fines paid by persons joining, and from the interst on capital. It is spent almost entirely in aiding aged members and in educating the children of members. The funds cannot be used for any purposes than are not charitable. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has acknowledged to deputations that these societies are hardly dealt with, and I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will now consent to grant them exemption.

New Clause— (Amendment of Customs and Inland Revenue Act, 1885, s. 11 (48 and 49 Vie. c. 51.) The duty granted by The Customs and Inland Revenue Act, 1885," section eleven, shall, in addition to the exemption from such duty in favour of property of the descriptions therein set forth, be also subject to exemption in favour of property of the description following (that is to say):— Property which, or the income or profits whereof, shall be legally appropriated and applied to the maintenance or relief of poor or necessitous persons who are members, or the widows or children of members, of any corporation, fraternity, or society instituted mainly for the relief or maintenance of poor or necessitous persons,"—(Mr. Parker Smith,)

—brought up, and read the first time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."

*(12.38.) MR. GOSCHEN

I can assure the hon. Member and the Committee that no discourtesy was intended towards the hon. Member opposite, but, as I explained the other evening, the matter is one that had better be left for full consideration until we know the actual state of the law on the authoritative declaration of the House of Lords on the case now pending. I fully admit there are cases of hardship, and the matter has engaged my attention. But upon a difficult matter of this kind the utmost care is required lest we in the attempt to remove some ambiguities create others. I hope that the decision of the House of Lords in a case which resembles, though it is not quite analogous to, that which the hon. Member has cited, will be more or less a guide to what charitable institutions are. I hop the hon. Member will be content to leave the matter now to careful examination in which the words he suggests shall have consideration.

Motion and Clause, by leave, with drawn.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow.