HC Deb 23 May 1895 vol 34 cc149-53

"Where foreign securities within the meaning of Sections Eighty-two and Eighty-three of the Stamp Act 1891, are issued in the United Kingdom, and the interest thereon in not payable in the United Kingdom, and such evidence of the amount of the securities as the Commissioners of Inland Revenue require is produced to them, then the Commissioners, if in their discretion they consider it expedient to do so, may accept payment of the amount of Stamp Duty which would be payable if all the said securities were duly stamped, and on such payment may dispense with the necessity of the securities being stamped. The Commissioners shall give notice in The London Gazette of any such dispensation."

*MR. B. L. COHEN (Islington, E.)

in asking the Chancellor of the Exchequer to explain the effect of the change in the law said that, as far as he understood, it was an exceedingly useful and simple alteration. From experience in the City he was aware that considerable trouble and unnecessary obstruction were caused by securities being obliged to be stamped which formed only part of a loan, of which the remaining part was not subject to stamp. If he correctly under stood the arrangements proposed, they would insure that bonds forming part of a loan, although issued in London, would not necessarily bear in perpetuity an English impressed stamp, which they could be relieved of without loss or prejudice to the Exchequer by payment at the time of issue of the integral sum which would otherwise become payable. It was necessary the public should know that the Exchequer did not lose anything by this arrangement, because, although the proportion of the loan in question was only the proportion in respect of which taxes could become payable, no were paid on the creation of stock, no further gain would come to the Exchequer because ex hypothesi the interest on the loan was not payable in this country.


said, he attached considerable value to this clause. London was the great money market of the world, and although the Government raised considerable sums by stamps on many transactions, their object was to make the stamp revenue interfere as little as possible with transactions which we might have to carry on with foreign countries. Everyone who had charge of the finances of the country would always desire to remove any difficulty which prevented foreign business from coming here, which was the natural money market of all the countries of the world. In some markets where a loan was issued, objection was taken to the British stamp being on it. No one had anything to lose by that stamp not being impressed except the Exchequer. The stamp was put on in order that they might secure getting the money. But if they could get the money without, they were as well off as if the stamp were put on, and if they insisted on putting the stamp on, they would not get the money because the bonds would not be issued here but elsewhere.

Clause agreed to and added to the Bill.

On Clause 15, which abolishes the limit of time under the Stamp Act, 1891. Section 15 for mitigating or remitting penalties payable on stamping,


said he understood it gave the Commissioners power to mitigate penalties all over the country. This was a great advantage, and was almost necessitated by the important changes which had been made in the death duties last year.


said, that inasmuch as the Inland Revenue had too constantly before the public mind the burdens imposed, he was glad of an opportunity of bringing into light those they remitted. Under the present law, after three months the full penalty had to be paid if an instrument was improperly stamped. Non-stamping might arise from mere carelessness, and the differences in the Death Duties might postpone stamping for a longer time; the instrument might be put aside and forgotten. Non-stamping might again be due to bonâ fide mistakes, arising sometimes from the accidental disregard of some provision of the instrument. All these might cause the expiration of time, and by law the penalty must be imposed. The limit of time had been found unworkable and to bear hardly, and under Treasury authority the Commissioners had taken the full penalty and repaid the amount they thought it inexpedient to insist upon.


urged that there should be some check on officials in the Courts of Justice, and especially in the County Courts throughout the country, who fraudulently or otherwise did not use stamps of proper value, although they received the full fee or used cancelled stamps. In Scotland a couple of years ago, a fraud of this kind was found to have existed, and in that part of the kingdom a better check upon the officials had been devised. But in Ireland and England the Comptroller General found that practically there was no check against the Exchequer being defrauded. Frauds had been discovered, and he suggested the appointment of an officer connected with the Inland Revenue to watch over these officials. Similar officers should be appointed to perform similar duties in England and Scotland. Although representations had been made to that effect, the Department had not yet appointed such officers. He wished to point out to the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Hibbert) that, in the interest of the revenue of the country, a check should be placed upon the possibility of the fraud he had referred to being perpetrated. He should like to hear from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury that such officers were being appointed, in order to see that where there were opportunities for frauds of this character being perpetrated they should not be taken advantage of. He hoped that he should receive from the right hon. Gentleman an assurance that the Treasury would move in the matter.


said, that he agreed with the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. R. W. Han-bury) that the point to which he referred was a most important one, and he could assure him that the Treasury would consider how to meet cases of the character he had indicated. He was, however, not quite sure that the system that was in force in Scotland could conveniently be adopted in England and Ireland, but doubtless some plan might be devised that would be equally effectual in preventing these frauds from being committed. He could not say more than that on that occasion, and he hoped that his assurance would be satisfactory to the hon. Member.

SIR RICHARD TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)

said, that although the right hon. Gentleman (Sir John Hibbert) had, in his usual courteous manner, explained his views from the point of view of the Treasury, he felt it to be his duty to say a few words on the subject of the Clauses. It was not always that those hon. Members who now sat upon the Opposition side of the House had the pleasure of agreeing with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and, therefore, it was with much gratification that he rose to support this clause. The object of the clause was to extend the time within which the Revenue Authorities might remit penalties in respect of insufficient or improper stamping. He agreed that there ought to be some check upon improper and fraudulent stamping; and he wished to say, in confirmation of what had fallen from the hon. Member for Preston, that a case had come before the Public Accounts Committee which showed the necessity for some such checks being provided. There was a considerable number of voted services in respect of which large sums are realised by the sale of fee-stamps. In 1893–4, the sum thus received amounted to upwards of £800,000. Again he said— During a visit to Ireland in July 1894 it came under notice that the only check as to the correctness in value of the stamps affixed to the documents in the Courts and as to the subsequent cancellation for preventing fraudulent use a second time rested with the officers of the Courts, without independent check Of course, if there were not sufficient checks upon such fraudulent practices, some action should be taken by the Inland Revenue Department in the matter. He understood, from the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, that some such action either had been, or was about to be, taken. As the hon. Member for Preston had said, special officers had been appointed in Scotland who exercised a check upon stamping; and he saw no reason why a similar course should not be adopted in Ireland and in England, seeing that equal risk was run in those countries as in Scotland. Some steps should be taken to prevent stamps which had been once used being used a second time.


wished to ask whether the penalties that were imposed upon the members of the public, in respect to insufficient stamping, were equally imposed upon Government officials?


said that that was a subject upon which he had not much information; but he must point out that this clause merely gave a discretionary power to the Inland Revenue Department to remit penalties—in fact, to extend the days of grace.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 16 agreed to.

On the return of the Chairman after the usual interval,

Clause 17—

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