HC Deb 20 June 1898 vol 59 cc891-9

On the second reading of this Bill some of us called attention to the discrepancies in principle between the reduction proposed by this Measure and the speeches of Ministers. We contended that the reduction of taxation appeared to be quite inconsistent with some of those speeches. The proposed reductions seem to say, "Keep your tobacco dry"; whilst in their speeches Ministers tell us to "keep our powder dry." I do not propose to revive on this occasion matters which we discussed on that occasion, except as regards the principal one among them. On the evening of the Second Reading words were used by the First Lord of the Admiralty which went to show that he had already at that time the intention of probably coming to this House with a view to asking for supplementary Estimates in the course of the present Session. The words used by the First Lord of the Admiralty were almost exactly the same words which he used last year when he foreshadowed the supplementary Estimate, which was proposed in July. In dealing with this Bill to-night we stand in a most curious position, because we are to have what everybody understands to be supplementary Estimates of the Navy, which are to be presented to us in the middle of July, without having the least knowledge as to what sources are to be drawn upon for those supplementary sums. It seems to me that this position emphasises the absurdity—for I can call it nothing else—of hurrying through the present Bill before we know—and we do not know even now—what are the full naval and military proposals of the Government. I do not think we ought to part with this Bill to-night without pointing out that it is most unusual that the House should be asked to express its general views by passing the Finance Act, when we do not know the full proposals of the Government with regard to the military and naval proposals which are to be made to the House in the course of the present Session.

* SIR J. LENG (Dundee)

On more than one occasion during the earlier stages of this Bill I have remarked on the fact that upwards of a million sterling is to be given away by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that we have had no clear explanation that that sum will distinctly benefit the consumers of tobacco in this country. Since I adverted to the question before I have received a letter from one of the wholesale dealers in Scotland who supplies a large number of the retail dealers, and I will give a short extract from his letter, which is in confirmation of what I have said in this House— I have been in communication with some of the Scotch makers urging them to give effect to the full reduction of 4d., which we consider the consumer fully entitled to. A large Glasgow firm reply that 'there is no room for, and that there ought to be no reduction in, the retail price.' They decline to reduce their prices to us beyond the penny per pound already advised. They decline to let us have the quality we used to sell at 3d. an ounce at a price which would enable us to sell it at 2¾d., thus confuting the Chancellor of the Exchequer's presumption that the working man would get his tobacco of a better quality and a farthing an ounce less. Another firm took up exactly the same position, and in a conversation I had with the principal, he assured me that a change of duty was, in his opinion, a great mistake. The manufacturers were not asking for it, neither were the public. The new condition as to moisture had completely upset all established methods of production, and the likelihood was that the makers would have a difficulty in conforming to the 30 per cent, limit, and would incur from time to time prosecutions and fines. This confirms the opinion I have already expressed that the reduction in tobacco duty will prove a mere trifling with a large sum of money, which should have been, and could have been, remitted in half a dozen other ways more beneficially to the community. The sacrifice of more than a million sterling of revenue should surely have been made in some way that would have been a direct and lasting advantage to the community, whereas I think the only thing that this will do is that fully half a million of money will be intercepted by the manufacturer and the wholesale dealers, and that the consumer—especially the consumer of the lower priced tobaccos, such as used by the working classes—will derive no benefit whatever.

MR. VESEY RNOX (Londonderry)

I beg leave to inform my honourable Friend that I get my tobacco 1½d. a quarter of a pound cheaper than I used to do. I shall be glad to give my honourable Friend—privately, of course—the name of my merchant, but I may tell him that the tobacco which I smoke is known as "Navy Cut."

MR. GODDARD (Ipswich)

I suppose that when this Bill has passed its Third Reading, we shall no longer have an opportunity of protesting against it. This Bill has introduced into it a principle which should be protested against on every and any occasion that admits of its being done in this House. It has introduced into it the principle of relieving the taxation of real estate, and putting it upon the shoulders of the ordinary tax-payer of the country, and especially of the poor. That is a principle that should be protested against on every occasion. It is no answer to say that the amount involved is only a small one. We know that in the clause which the Chancellor introduced into this Bill relating to the land tax of those who were exempted from income tax, that only a sum of something like £25,000 was involved, and on the Report stage of this Bill another clause was accepted by the Chancellor which exempted those who received an abatement of income tax on incomes up to £400 a year of half of their land tax. That was said to only involve a sum of something like £15,000. The amounts may not be very large ones, but it is not a question of the amount involved, it is the question of principle, and I repeat the principle involved in this Measure is one which is really taking away a burden from the shoulders of those who are better able to afford to pay, and placing those burdens upon the shoulders of those who are earning very small wages, by making them pay for it on ordinary articles of consumption of every-day use. On these grounds I feel obliged to oppose this Bill on every occasion that I can, and I hope that the House will go to a Division on the Third Reading.


Before this Bill is read a third time, I think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer might give us some explanation as to how he is going to raise the additional money which he will certainly need. He promised that the Egyptian Government should receive some help on account of the Khartoum expedition, and that help is not to come out of the taxes. Then there is also the decision of the Court of Appeal in the case of "The Attorney General v. Beach," which will make a very big hole in the revenue which he expected to receive from death duties. In the third place, there is to be this supplementary Estimate which we have been promised by the Government. We do not know how much that is to be. Probably, the noble Lord the Member for York may be able tp indicate to us the amount that the country ought to spend this year, in order to make our Navy perfectly safe. At any rate, there will be these large charges upon the revenue of this country, and before we part with this Bill I think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer might give us some explanation as to how the money is to be raised.

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

We cannot allow this change to be made without some protest. I think this is the third attempt of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to whittle away another portion of the land tax—twice in the Budget and once in a supplementary form. I am glad, that he has attempted to remedy some of the inequalities which existed, and I wish he had the courage to place it upon a thoroughly proper basis. The land tax is probably the most unjust tax that we have got in this country at the present time, and the reason of that is because it is being imposed upon a valuation made 200 years ago, and during that 200 years there have been very great changes on the values. Where you had a flourishing and prosperous place one or two centuries ago, now you have got nothing but miserable depression, and the land tax there bears hardly—relatively it is hard, compared to the tax in districts which have improved, where you have a great increase in values, due to increased commerce. The old agricultural districts are still paying heavy taxes for corn-growing lands, which might have paid some years ago, but which do not pay now, nor anything like it. The first change the Chancellor of the Exchequer made was that the old 4s. was not to be paid—that is, that where 4s. in the £ on the valuation of 200 years ago is more than a shilling in the £ upon the present valuation, then you are only to pay 1s. By that means you reduce the tax from 4s. to Is. upon the present valuation. Now, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had carried that out in every case there would have been a few millions to spare. But he did not, and that is why I think he has acted very unwisely, because while he has placed the burden of this taxation fairly upon those lands which are well able to bear the burden—lands round about towns that have increased a hundredfold in value from what they were 50 or 100 years ago—I know some that have increased a thousand fold in value—he has placed it unfairly upon these lands which cannot bear it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer (who voted for the Amendment) said he would allow the House to decide the issue. The "poor" people who are getting £400 a year from their land, which they do not work for, have only to pay half their land tax; the other class, who have to work, and who are getting twelve or fourteen shillings a week, will not get the advantages. The House, I think, will have much more sympathy with the latter class than with those who are getting £400 a year. We will, however, sooner or later, have the land tax what it ought to be.


I have heard and the House has heard the same speech from the honourable Member several times, and I can only respectfully reply that he is proposing a policy with regard to the land tax which I do not think he will find any House of Commons will carry out. Honourable Members opposite have really answered one another. If the honourable Member for Dundee believes that in some cases Scottish manufacturers of tobacco will decline to lower their prices, they will soon be met by English and Irish manufacturers, and I can mention the names of some willing to do so. Sir, as to the question of the honourable Member for Pembrokeshire, and the right honourable Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, I am not aware that it is customary to make provision in the Budget for Supplementary Estimates. I

hope the House will now deal with the question.

Motion made, and Question put— That the Bill be now read the third time.

The House divided—Ayes 159; Noes 39.—(Division List No. 152.)

Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F. Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir J. E. Milner, Sir Frederick George
Arnold, Alfred Goschen, Rt. Hn. G. J. (St G'rg's) Monckton, Edward Philip
Arnold-Forster, Hugh O. Goschen, George J. (Sussex) More, Robert Jasper
Asquith, Et. Hon. H. H. Goulding, Edward Alfred Morgan, Hon. F. (Monm'thsh.)
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Graham, Henry Robert Morrell, George Herbert
Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzR. Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)
Baillie, J. E. B. (Inverness) Green, W. D. (Wednesbury) Murray, Rt. Hon. A. G. (Bute)
Baird, John George A. Greene, H. D. (Shrewsbury) Murray, C. J. (Coventry)
Balcarres, Lord. Greene, W. Raymond- (Cambs) Myers, William Henry
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manc'r) Greville, Captain Newdigate, Francis A.
Balfour, Rt. Hon. G. W. (Leeds) Grey, Sir Edward (Berwick) Nicholson, William Graham
Banbury, Frederick George Gull, Sir Cameron Nicol, Donald Ninian
Barton, Dunbar Plunket Haldane, Richard Burdon Northcote, Hon. Sir H. S.
Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Brist'l) Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord G. Pearson, Sir Weetman D.
Beresford, Lord Charles Hanbury, Rt. Hon. R. W. Phillpotts, Captain Arthur
Bethell, Commander Hanson, Reginald Pollock, Harry Frederick
Bill, Charles Hardy, Laurence Pryce-Jones, Edward
Blundell, Colonel Henry Helder, Augustus Purvis, Robert
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith- Hoare, Samuel (Norwich) Rankin, James
Brassey, Albert Hobhouse, Henry Rasch, Major Frederic C.
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Houldsworth, Sir W. H. Rentoul, James Alexander
Bucknill, Thomas Townsend Howell, William Tudor Richardson, Sir T. (Hartlep'l)
Bullard, Sir Harry Hozier, Hon. James H. C. Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir M. W.
Carlile, William Walter Hudson, George B. Ritchie, Right Hon. C. T.
Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs) Jebb, Richard Claverhouse Robertson, H. (Hackney)
Cecil, Lord Hugh Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick Round, James
Chaloner, Captain R. G. W. Johnston, William (Belfast) Royds, Clement M.
Chamberlain, Rt Hon J. (Birm.) Johnstone, J. H. (Sussex) Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)
Chamberlain, J. A. (Worc'r) Jolliffe, Hon. H. George Seely, Charles Hilton
Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Kearley, Hudson, E. Seton-Karr, Henry
Chelsea, Viscount Kemp, George Sharpe, William Edward T.
Colomb, Sir John C. R. Kenyon-Slaney, Col. William Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)
Compton, Lord Alwyne Knox, E. Francis Vesey Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew)
Cooke, C. W. R. (Hereford) Lafone, Alfred Sidebotham, J. W. (Cheshire)
Corbett, A. C. (Glasgow) Lambert, George Sidebottom, W. (Derbyshire)
Cotton-Jodrell, Col. E. T. D. Lawrence, Sir E Durning- (Corn.) Sinclair, Louis (Romford)
Cranborne, Viscount Lawson, John Grant (Yorks) Smith, J. P. (Lanarks)
Dane, Richard M. Legh, Hon. T. W. (Lanc.) Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)
Davenport, W. Bromley- Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie Stock, James Henry
Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph Llewellyn, E. H. (Somerset) Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R. Tomlinson, W. E. Murray
Douglas-Pennant, Hon. E. S. Loder, Gerald Walter E. Verney, Hon. Richard G.
Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Fart Long, Col. C. W. (Evesham) Ward, Hon. R. A. (Crewe)
Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton Long, Rt. Hon. W. (Liverp'l) Warr, Augustus Frederick
Evershed, Sydney Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller Webster, Sir R. E. (I. of W.)
Finlay, Sir Robert B. Lorne, Marquess of Welby, Lieut.-Col. A. C. E.
Fisher, William Hayes Lough, Thomas Willox, Sir John Archibald
FitzGerald, Sir R. Penrose- Lowles, John Wilson, J. W. (Worc'sh., N.)
Flannery, Fortescue Macartney, W. G. Ellison Wodehouse, E. R. (Bath)
Folkestone, Viscount Maclure, Sir John William Wylie, Alexander
Forwood, Rt. Hon. Sir A. B. McArthur, C. (Liverpool) Young, Comm. (Berks, E.)
Garfit, William Maple, Sir John Blundell TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther:
Godson, Augustus F. Milbank, Sir Powlett C. J.
Gordon, Hon. John E. Mildmay, Francis Bingham
Abraham, W. (Rhondda) Hazell, Walter Soames, Arthur Wellesley
Allen, Wm. (Newc.-under-L.) Hedderwick, T. C. H. Sullivan, D. (Westmeath)
Baker, Sir John Holburn, J. G. Tanner, Charles Kearns
Billson, Alfred Horniman, Frederick John Thomas, D. A. (Merthyr)
Brigg, John Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'land)
Caldwell, James Leng, Sir John Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)
Cawley, Frederick Lewis, John Herbert Wedderburn, Sir William
Channing, Francis Allston Macaleese, Daniel Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Clough, Walter Owen Morley, C. (Breconshire) Wilson, John (Govan)
Daly, James Nussey, Thomas Willans Woodhouse, Sir J T (H'dd'rsf'ld)
Davitt, Michael Pirie, Duncan V.
Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Randell, David TELLERS FOR THE NOES— Mr. Goddard and Dr. Clark.
Doogan, P. C. Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)
Duckworth, James Shaw, Charles E. (Stafford)
Hayne, Rt. Hon. C. Seale- Smith, Samuel (Flint)

Bill read a third time.

The House then went into Committee, Mr. GRANT LAWSON in the Chair.