HC Deb 02 May 1895 vol 33 cc309-10

The amount contributed from Imperial taxes to local revenue in 1894–95 is £7,014,000, as against £7,164,000 in 1893–94, being £150,000 less. There is a decrease on the probate duty grant of £206,000, an increase on licences of £67,000; and a decrease on beer and spirits of £11,000. The decrease in the probate duty grant is due to the fact that a smaller amount of property has been included in the affidavits brought in for probate than in the immediately preceding years. Thus the last year has been less by something over £18,000,000 than the preceding year. The reason of the falling-off last year as compared with the preceding years is three-fold:—(1) Decrease in the value of securities. (2) The year 1894 was one singularly unpropitious to the fortunes of doctors, and undertakers, and Chancellors of the Exchequer. The last three-quarters of the year 1894 (which are the first three quarters of the financial year 1894–5)had a mortality in England and Wales of 350,523 persons, as against 425,667 in the corresponding period of the preceding year—a difference of 75,000. The influenza in the month of February 1895 (which is in the last quarter of the past financial year), increased the mortality in that quarter by 22,000 as compared with the corresponding quarter of 1894, but this increased mortality occurred too late in the last financial year to affect the probate accounts of that year. The results will only become apparent in the current quarter of this year. Stating the facts in a different form: The mortality of 1894 was 16.6 per 1,000, as against 19.2 per 1,000 in 1893 and 20.2 in 1891, the influenza year. At present we only know the number of probate affidavits for estates above £500. It is found, as might be expected, that the number of such estates in England in the year 1894–5 was 9 per cent. less than in 1893–4, due, no doubt, to the decreased mortality not differing very much from the diminution in amount. (3) Delay in the application for probate, owing to the introduction of the new system. We anticipate confidently that the present year will show larger totals, and we have estimated the probate duty grant for 1895–6 at £2,400,000, which is £250,000 over 1894–5 and £40,000 over 1893–4. The estimate for all local taxation revenue for 1895–6 is £7,262,000, as against £7,014,000 in 1894–5, and a higher figure than that received in any previous year, except 1891–2, which was the influenza year of great receipts. The principle of the right hon. Gentleman's settlement was, that the probate duty grant should vary according to the fortunes of the year—with the general rise or fall of the Imperial Revenue. Let me quote his words on his Budget Speech in 1890:— Let me put in this caveat. If the probate duty should not continue to yield the amount expected, the local authorities must take their chance with the Imperial Exchequer as to the amount which the duty may yield. We assigned certain sources of revenue to them, but we did not pledge ourselves as to the amount. This completes the statement of the finance of the past year.

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