HC Deb 27 June 1898 vol 60 cc341-3

Order for Second Reading read.

Amendment proposed— That no Bill dealing with the appointment of Land Tax Commissioners will be satisfactory which does not abolish the property qualification which exists in 45 out of the 52 counties of England and Wales."—(Mr. J. H. Lewis.)

MR. J. H. LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)

Mr. Speaker, I beg to move the Amendment, of which I have given notice on the Paper. The Amendment is one which explains itself as of a practical, simple, and intelligible character; it is founded upon reason, and I hope will commend itself to the House. The anomaly to which I have drawn attention upon this Amendment is one of, I think, the most extraordinary anomalies of the British Constitution. In eight counties—not in seven, as I have by mistake stated in the Amendment—of England and Wales the Land Tax Commissioners need have no property qualification whatever. In the 44 remaining counties of England and Wales the qualification of £100 a year in land, in the case of counties, or in the case of boroughs £1,000 in personal property, is required. The object of my Amendment is to ask the Government to abolish that qualification, and to equalise the qualification all over the country. I have made several attempts from time to time to discover why this anomaly exists, and why qualifications should be imposed in some counties when they are not imposed in others. I have utterly failed to find any reason for it. The eight counties which are exempt from any property qualification are the six counties of South Wales and the counties of Merioneth and Montgomery. The only reason I can discover why these counties were exempted from qualification about a century ago was, as I suppose, that a sufficient number of persons could not be found in those counties to perform the functions which fell to the lot of the Land Tax Commissioner. However that might have been the case then, it is not the case now. Take the case of Glamorgan, for instance. That is one of the most wealthy and prosperous counties of Great Britain. Or take the adjoining county of Carmarthen. In these counties Land Tax Commissioners have been appointed, and I am not aware that any objection has been made to them from the method of their appointment. The qualifications which are now necessary in the case of Land Tax Commissioners are not deemed to be necessary in the case of Members of, the House of Commons, for instance. No qualification is needed to obtain entrance to this House—that has been abolished, and I imagine that nobody will propose at this time of day to re-impose a qualification of that character, and yet Members of this House deal with, matters of infinitely greater importance than Land Tax Commissioners. Recently the property qualification was abolished is the case of guardians. Nobody, I suppose, would wish to reimpose the qualification in that case. In fact, the whole tendency of legislation in recent years has been in the direction of the abolition of these property qualifications, and putting persons who seek to fulfil important public offices upon precisely the same footing.

It being Twelve o'clock, the Debate stood adjourned.