HC Deb 31 July 1899 vol 75 cc956-8

Considered in Committee,

(In the Committee.)

[Mr. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith) in the Chair.]


This measure Ought not to be passed without any discussion whatever, because it is only introduced once in the course of every Parliament, and I think we have a right to discuss it, especially as the system to which the Bill relates is capable of very considerable modification, and certainly ought to be modified to suit the public convenience. The object of the Bill is to enable hon. Members of this House to nominate a certain number of persons to serve in Petty Sessional Divisions as Land Tax Commissioners. Unfortunately the method by which these Commissioners are called together is one which I think could, with very great advantage, be amended. The Land Tax Commissioners never hear of the meetings that are to be held from time to time. They are never summoned and they only have an opportunity of knowing when the meetings are to be held if they are regular readers of the London Gazette, and that is not of such an interesting or fascinating character that the general reader pays much attention to its contents. These names are published in the London Gazette, and that is the only way in which the Land Tax Commissioners know that their services are required for a particular meeting. That is a state of things to which the House ought to give early attention. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that practically the election of the Income Tax Commissioners is left in the hands of a very small clique indeed. There will be absolutely no opposition whatever from this side of the House if the right hon. Gentleman will promise to introduce an Amendment of this character. There is a growing feeling that this important question of the appointment of the Income Tax Commissioners ought to be placed on a fairer, a more business like, and a more constitutional basis than it is at the present time. In regard to the qualification, it is £100 a year in most of the counties, but in five counties in South Wales that qualification for some reason or other has been abolished. The requests I make are that the system of electing Income Tax Commissioners should be changed and put into the hands of a representative body; and secondly, that the Land Tax Commissioners who elect the Income Tax Commissioners should be drawn from all classes of the community, in order that they may be in every respect above suspicion.


This is a Bill which ought to have been passed some three or four years ago. I do not think it is too much to ask that a reply should be made to the questions put by my hon. friend as to the question of nomination. In the interests of the passing of business, I hope the Government will reply. If they do not I am prepared to say that other Members may be inclined to press this point still further.


I beg to move that we report Progress.

Motion made and Question proposed— That the Committee report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)


I do hope the right hon. Gentleman will not take that course, for I am sure it is not the desire of my hon. friend to prevent this Bill passing, and I entirely agree with the points which he has raised. As there is a very strong feeling on this matter I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not adhere to the Motion which he has made.


If this discussion may now be considered to be at an end I have no desire to press the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill reported, without Amendment; read the third time, and passed.