§ As amended, considered.
§ *LORD ALWYNE COMPTON (Beds, Biggleswade)
I beg to move the following new clause:—The proviso at the end of section four of The Finance Act, 1894, shall be repealed, and the following proviso in-inserted in lien thereof:—Provided that any property so passing in which the deceased never had an interest, or which under a disposition not made by the deceased passes immediately on the death of the deceased to some person other than a person taking an interest in property passing at the death of the deceased of which the deceased was competent to dispose, shall not be aggregated with any other property but shall be an estate by itself, and the estate duty shall be levied at the proper graduated rate on the principal value thereof; but if any benefit under a disposition not made by the deceased is reserved or given to a person taking an interest in property passing at the death of the deceased of which the deceased was competent to dispose, such benefit shall be aggregated with property of the deceased for the purpose of determining the rate of estate duty.This new clause which I propose to add to the Bill seeks to remedy an injustice which, I contend, is contained in Clause 4 of the Finance Act of 1894. It is practically the same as an Amendment which I moved last year, but in it I have endeavoured to meet the criticisms by which I was upon that occasion met, and I hope I have succeeded in doing so. If the House will permit me, I will endeavour to show, as briefly and clearly as possible, what is the injustice of which we complain, and what is the remedy which I seek to apply. It is true that Clause 4 of the Finance Act of 1894 gives exemption in certain cases where property passes on a man's death from its being aggregated with free property in his own possession, but in the proviso which I seek to repeal there is an exception to that exemption in respect of lineal ancestor, lineal descendant, husband, or wife. That sounds rather paradoxical, perhaps, but let us look at it in this way. Take the case of a man who dies, having settled property in which he has merely a life interest. He also has free property of his own—that is, property which he is free to dispose of, say, for instance, to the extent of £100,000. The settled property passes to his eldest son 445 on his death, but as the law stands at present the whole of the property, settled or free, is aggregated. Thus the younger children who succeed to but a small portion of the personal estate, it may be, have to pay the whole rate of duty as upon the settled estate and upon the free property aggregated together. That constitutes, to my mind, a hardship—at least, it is regarded as a hardship by those upon whom the burden has fallen. I do not expect to get very much sympathy in the matter, particularly from hon. Members opposite, for I knew that their view of the matter is that if a man succeeds to anything at all it is fair that he should pay a heavy rate of ditty upon it. But that is not my only point. Take the case of the same man; he also has £100,000, and suppose that he has no sons at all, and that the property passes either to his collaterals or to strangers, under the law as it now stands it is not aggregated at all. That is illogical unfair, and perfectly unsound, and is absolutely opposed to every principled of the succession and legacy duties ever since those duties have been invented, inasmuch as the strangers and the collaterals in succeeding to the same property are paying a less tax than the Meal descendants. Now I am not aware whether the draftsman of this clause knew what would be the effect of the words he used; but of one thing I am quite certain, and that is that the author of the Bill himself, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth, did not dream what the effect would be, for when last year I brought up the subject he said that the exemption for which Section 4 provided was only intended to operate in eases where there was no connection between the deceased and the persons to whom the property passed. May I take the case again of the same man with £100,000. Supposing that he has no children, the estate will not be aggregated to pay the full rate of the high estate duty, and his brother who succeeds to the whole settled property and the free property will escape aggregation. That is the injustice of which I complain. I hope that this new, clause, which stands in my name, will be accepted, because it will remove that injustice, and the younger children and the wife will derive the benefit from the property which the deceased has power to dispose of and which he naturally wishes to give to them. Their 446 property will escape aggregation with the larger settled property which goes to the older son. As there must always be a quid pro quo in these matters, I am prepared to present to the Chancellor of Exchequer brothers and collaterals. Under my clause the brothers and the collaterals or the strangers who obtain, both settled property and free property—there having been no children—will be aggregated, and only the wife or the younger children will escape. Of course, I know that several criticisms have been levelled against the clause as it stands. Certain Members opposite say that the Finance Act of 1891 should not be touched at all. My answer to that is that whatever they may feel in regard to the Act, I am certain that they do not care to see an injustice done, and that if once an injustice is proved they will seek to remedy it. I think I have proved my case that there is an injustice, and I ask their sympathy and assistance in getting this injustice removed. There arises the question of the loss to the Revenue Which this exemption would cause. I have examined the matter most closely, and I cannot see that any great loss would fall on the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The bulk of the property which a man leaves must be either settled property or free property. Suppose man left a million of free property to his children, all that would be aggregated and pay the full rate. In the same way if he left settled property the eldest son would not escape aggregation; the only loss would be in the case of the younger children and the wife, who would succeed to some small portion of the man's free property. Supposing that a millionaire leaves £100,000 of his property free, dividing it amongst his four younger sons, or £25,000 to each, it would be aggregated and pay the 8 per cent. duty. But under my clause they would only pay 1½ per cent. If six millionaires died in the year the loss would only be £21,000, while from the settled property the revenue would receive £480,000. That seems a very small loss to remedy a great injustice. I also ask a little assistance from hon. Members on this side of the House. I beg them to remember that when this Act was introduced Members on this side of the House fought it most desperately, and it was talked about on every platform at the last General Election. And I appeal also to the 447 Chancellor of the Exchequer. I hope that some of my logic has penetrated his armour, and that he will be able to agree to my request. I do not profess to have a legal mind, and it is quite possible that the wording of the clause may not be quite satisfactory, but I trust that he will admit the principle of the clause. I beg to move the new clause standing in my name.
A Clause (Amendment of s. 4 of The Finance Act, 1894, restricting the exemptions thereby given to non-lineals front the principle of aggregation, and extending certain exemptions to persons taking benefits under separate disposition)—(Lord Alwyne Compton)—brought up, and read the first time:—
Motion made and Question proposed—
That the Clause be read a second time.
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir M. HICKS BEACH, Bristol, W.)
One of the main principles of the Act of 1894 was that all property passing on the death of a deceased person should be aggregated for the purposes of estate duty. It was found impossible in practice by the Government which passed that Act to carry out that principle completely, because it was felt that where property passing on the death of a deceased person included property in which he had no interest, or which he was never at any time competent to dispose of, and which passed to complete strangers—that it would be unfair to aggregate that property with property passing to lineals for the purposes of determining estate duty, and thus entail a higher estate duty on wife, husband, son, or daughter as compared with that which they ought to pay on property passing to them. And therefore the Act as it stands departs from the great principle of the estate duty, which is to have no reference to the person to whom the property passes, but to have reference solely to the property which passes at death of the deceased; and it provides that where property in which the deceased never had any interest, or which he was not competent to dispose of, passes to non-lineals or to strangers, then in that case it will not be aggregated with the rest of the estate for the purposes of the estate duty. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dumfries Burghs, when this matter 448 was raised last year by my noble friend, pointed out that no doubt to some extent this was a relief to lineals, for the result was that the rate of estate duty was less from this non-aggregation. But my noble friend very fairly said that that did not remove the grievance of lineals, because inter se they still had to pay the rate of duty on the whole of the property passing to them at death, although the main bulk of the property would pass to the elder son, and a very small portion pass to the younger children, on which the younger children would have to pay a high rate of duty. My noble friend endeavoured last year to remedy this grievance. Well, I think he felt that the proposal he made would not satisfactorily effect his desires, and I know that he has devoted very much consideration to the clause which he has just moved. In fact, I think any one who listened to the speech he has just delivered will recognise that he has gone into the minutiæ of a complicated subject with great ability and energy. But I am bound to say—and my noble friend is aware of the fact—that the clause as it stands, if embodied in the law, would not carry out his wishes, because, although it would remedy some grievances, it would effect other grievances even greater than those which he seeks to remedy. He proposes to take away with one hand a certain amount from the Revenue, and to give a considerable amount with the other hand. Having had this matter investigated during the last three weeks very carefully by the Board of Inland Revenue, I do not think the net loss to the Revenue would be very serious. But there would be grievances effected in certain cases, which my noble friend and the hon. Member for Woodbridge who sits beside hint are aware of, and which I am quite sure neither of them would desire to inflict. Now I have a proposal to make to my noble friend. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth and the hon. and learned Member for the Dumfries Burghs were here to-day, I think they would admit that this question of aggregation is not at present in a satisfactory condition; they would admit that there is ground for the complaint my noble friend has made, and that some endeavour should be made to remedy that complaint, without at the same time causing other sources of complaint and of loss to the 449 Revenue. Now, if my noble friend will not press this clause to-day, what 1 propose is this. The question is most complicated and most difficult. It is one which if the House would be good enough to take my advice they would not attempt to deal with without inquiry. I would propose that in the course of the autumn a Departmental Committee should be appointed to consider this subject, on which I should be extremely glad to have the services of my noble friend and of other hon. Members who are interested in this matter. We must endeavour to thresh the matter out and arrive at some result, which may be embodied in legislation next year, which will remedy this grievance without causing any great loss to the Revenue or creating other grievances.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
I believe that there are in the House a few Members who think that they understand this subject, but are there any Members who really in their conscience could declare that they do understand the question? I am not so sure but that there are two gentlemen sitting next each other on the Opposition bench—the noble Lord and the hon. Member for Woodbridge—who understand it; and the hon. Member for King's Lynn, who knows everything; and there are my hon. and learned friends, the Members for Dumfries and Haddington, the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the right hon. Gentleman who at present holds that office. A good many of these authorities—certainly all on this side of the House—are absent to-day. Far be it from me to intervene in a matter which I cannot say I really understand. But the right hon. Gentleman has made a proposal which appears to me to be exceedingly discreet and wise. There is a danger, in the administration of this most intricate law, of harshness towards individuals, and also a danger of affecting the interests of the State. The right hon. Gentleman, as I understand it, proposes that there shall be a Departmental Committee, or a body of that kind, to inquire into the working of aggregation, and to report what amendment that Committee would recommend on the present practice. I have had an opportunity of knowing to some extent the opinion of the author of the Act, my right hon. friend the Member for West Monmouth, and, although I am not entitled to speak in his name, I under- 450 stand he will have no objection to an inquiry into the matter. Of course the inquiry is to affect not the principle but the working of the provision which carries the principle into effect. That being so, I think I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the opinion on this side of the House, very unworthily represented by me, is in favour of the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman for a Committee.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition for the compliment he has paid me that I know everything. I know perfectly well that under certain circumstances and on some occasions I can be as ignorant as the Leader of the Opposition himself. I have, I admit, taken some trouble in regard to this question of aggregation. As to the particular point referred to by my noble friend, it is one of the grievances called "hard cases." It is not a very large grievance and it exists in a very few limited number of instances. If my noble friend's clause were adopted it would, undoubtedly, not have any great effect on the Revenue. While it would relieve to some extent a hardship, it would bring in further revenue in another direction. But I think it is extremely dangerous to deal with an Act of this sort piecemeal and by way of meeting hard cases as they arise. If you have to deal with it you should deal with principles, and modify them where you can. I will not enlarge upon the Amendment of my noble friend, because I presume, that, after the concession made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he will not press it. What I say, however, is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has bowels of compassion for some of the hard cases under this Act, but for others he seems to have none. The case of aggregation I fully admit is one of the difficulties of the Act. I have made a calculation, and have arrived at the conclusion, and I believe I am right, that instead of there being, as was intended under the Act, one aggregation of all property, there are no less than 19 aggregations and segregations of property, and so, instead of having one rate, you have 19 different rates; therefore no doubt aggregation in itself and by itself is a very proper subject for inquiry, but it is not the only subject for inquiry. If the right hon. Gentleman 451 is going to inquire into one of the hardships which he thinks may be included in this Act, there are others which require attention. There is the assumption that everything a man has in his life is supposed to be a fraud under the Act. There is the assumption under which you give your wife a ring, and die within twelve months, and your wife has to pay duty on all the rest of the property. Then again, if a man gives a reduction of 25 per cent. in the rent to his tenants, duty has to be paid on the 25 per cent. because it is a gift. I could name half a dozen hardships and I therefore trust that if a Departmental Committee is to be appointed it will not be restricted to the question of aggregation.
§ MR. HALDANE (Haddington)
I have listened with attention to the speech of the hon. Member for King's Lynn. The clause of the noble Lord is one which deals with a subject which I agree is a very intricate one. Aggregation under the Finance Act is simple enough where it is a case merely of two estates belonging to the same testator passing at death. There it is a plain enough principle to treat them as one. But when you come to two estates passing upon the testator's death, one of which has riot been his own, you get to a much more difficult question of justice. It may often be very unfair to tax on the aggregate footing. There are other cases in which it may be apparent that such taxation should take place, and the difficulty is to find the true principle. Now, as the law at present stands it is very defective. If an estate not belonging to the testator passes to one son on his death, and another estate to another son, there is aggregation. It may be a very small estate or a very big estate, and that may be a real injustice; because the duty is not, as is generally the ease with the testator's property, taken out of the bulk of the testator's property before it passes to the beneficiary; the whole burden in that case may fall upon one very ill able to bear it. Take another instance. Property passes on a testator's death to his brother, part of it under the testator's own will, and part of it under an outside settlement. There is no aggregation. This case is as wrong as the other is unjust, yet both arise under the law of the existing Act. The amendment of the noble Lord has much to 452 commend it, but in this proposal every reform in so difficult a field wants great consideration. The suggestion of a Committee which has been made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer seems to me to be a very proper one, and a suggestion to which Members on this side of the House should accede. Speaking for myself, I have only one view of what is right with regard to this matter, and that is while being ready to strengthen the Act in order to carry out its principle, to be ready equally to pare off all the minor injustices—sometimes, I admit, galling—arising from the application which has been made of a novel principle in an Act which is without exact precedent.
§ LORD ALWYNE COMPTON
In moving the clause I had no intention of going behind the Act. I am perfectly confident that the more the matter is scrutinised the more clearly will it be established that there is an injustice, and as an inquiry has been promised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer I beg to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
At the present time, as hon. Members are no doubt aware, the principle of the Act is that the first duty shall be charged upon the principal value, but in the case of agricultural property there is a special proviso which provides that the principal value shall not exceed 25 times the annual value as assessed. The animal value is arrived at by a severe process of deduction. There are deductions for tithes, insurance, rates, management, and rents—in fact, for every conceivable charge on land; and the absolutely irreducible minimum which is left, multiplied by 25, is the principal value to be taxed. That proviso was introduced by the First Lord of the Treasury, the intention of the proviso being clearly shown by the following short extract from the right hon. Gentleman's speech:The main object of my Amendment is to secure that the owners of agricultural land, which is practically, or very nearly, unsaleable, shall pay upon the value which such land will fetch in the open market. Of course I admit that 25 years' purchase is probably far too much for a great deal of the agricultural land of the country.There are three ways of dealing with this question. You may either remove 453 the proviso and leave agricultural land to be treated on its real principal value, or you may say—and I think this is the method to which I should give preference—that twenty-five years, instead of being the maximum, should be the minimum. Then there is the third method, which I now propose to the House, and that is, to extend to other land beside agricultural land the advantages given to that particular land. I do not think it right that an estate which brings in net £1,000 a year should only pay on £25,000 value. Would a gentleman who has an estate worth £1,000 a year be prepared to take £25,000 for it? I doubt very much whether he would take £40,000 or £50,000; and if there were special advantages attaching to it he might ask £60,000, £70,000, £80,000, or even £90,000. I therefore think there is a specially favourable estimate given to agricultural land, which I think should be extended to other land. Take an example. Two very interesting Returns have been presented to the House with regard to the purchase of land by the War Office on Salisbury Plain. They are not absolutely correct—neither gross nor net rental is correct. We have heard today from the Under Secretary of State for War that the gross rentals are not correct because the farmers are claiming the deductions which they have had for years, part of which are not included. Therefore any deduction I draw from the Returns would be rather less favourable than they appear. I only propose to draw one moral from the figures, and that is, that the gross rental is admittedly higher than the rental the farmers have paid. The Commissioners of Inland Revenue tell us that the average number of years' purchase on which they have been getting duty on the gross annual value is, in the ease of agricultural property, between 16 and 17; in the case of house property—i.e., leasehold, no doubt—between 15 and 16; and in the case of ground rents about 27, so that there is an enormous difference. The gross rental in the return is £9,129, and if we multiply it by 17 it will give the value of the whole property at about £160,000. The War Office paid £476,000 for it, and therefore it comes to this, that while the selling price in the market is £476,000, estate 454 duty is only paid on £160,000. Then, if the net rental of £6,316 is multiplied by 25, it gives £157,000. There again there is a very vast difference between the sum on which duty is paid and the actual price of the estate. I think it is right that agricultural land should have these advantages, but I hold also that other classes of land should have the same advantages. I have never ceased in my opposition, not to the death duties, for I regard them as an excellent form of taxation, but to the false principle and the exaggerated rates of duty imposed by the Finance Act of 1894. But if the principle of the Act is to remain, if the rates of the duty under it are to be charged, then let us all be tarred with the same brush as regards personal property, agricultural property, and urban landed property. The reason is that I know perfectly well that if I get everybody tarred with the same brush they will be more ready to join with me in securing Amendments. My difficulty always has been to get the assent of the country gentlemen to the improvement of this Act. They will not assist me because they are taxed so lightly under this 25 years' arrangement; but if I can get all the duty put up to the same rate, then I think they will not be able to wrap themselves in their mantle of 25 years and hold themselves disinterested. It is a very great advantage when we wish to have a bad law repealed to put it in force as far as possible, and it is on that principle that I should like to see a bad law made a little more harsh where it presses least. The Amendment which I propose to move would extend to other land the provisions which now apply to agricultural land. I can hardly expect its ready acceptance by my right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In fact, I rather expect his opposition, because he told the House he meant to resist whatever I propose in reference to the death duties.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
Let me quote my right hon. friend's words:I have resisted the insidious proposal of the hon. Member for King's Lynn, and, whatever he says, I shall continue to resist him, because I know that his object is to destroy the Act, not legitimately, but by evasions which will prevent its working.455 I have never suggested evasions, but I have proposed Amendments. My right hon. friend says he will always resist my proposals, but he accepted half a dozen of them in the Act of 1896, although he did not think it necessary to inform the House that they were my suggestions. I do not expect that my present proposal will be accepted, but I put it forward for consideration, and the reasons I have given in support of it are not without a certain amount of cogency.
New Clause (extension of special method of valuation of agricultural property to other landed property)—(Mr. Gibson Bowles)—brought up, and read the first time.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That the Clause be read a second time.
§ *SIR M. HICKS BEACH
The hon. Member's speech is a singular argument in favour of the proposal he has made to the House. He started with the assumption that agricultural land had an unfair advantage in taxation by the proviso in the Finance Act. The hon. Member's original proposal on the Paper was that instead of 25 years being the maximum, it should be the minimum at which agricultural land should be valued. What he really desires is to increase the number of years' purchase at which agricultural land is assessed for the purpose of the death duties, and his argument tended in that direction because he based it on the price given by the War Office for the land recently purchased on Salisbury Plain for manœuvring purposes. When land is purchased under compulsory powers by a Government Department from owners who do not wish to sell, it is not likely that it will be obtained at a low value. It would be absurd to assess for taxation the land generally throughout the country on such a basis. The hon. Member says he thinks the law as it stands is inequitable. What did he say when this very proviso was under discussion? He said it was a concession on the part of the Government, and he went on to point out that the Government had driven rather a hard bargain, as the number of years' purchase of agricultural land was taken at 25 as a maximum, but that so high a figure had never been taken up to the present in regard to agricultural land. Therefore the hon. Member at the time 456 did not think it unfair or inequitable to assess agricultural land more lightly than any other class of land or property, Now he desires, by his proposal, not to increase the rate at which agricultural land may be assessed, but to extend a low rate of assessment to other classes of realty. In the first place, I would say, in regard to house property, that there is absolutely no reason for the proposal. House property must necessarily be subject to very large deductions for repairs in assessing its annual value for the purpose of death duties or anything else. I find that the highest average number of years' purchase at which house property has been valued in the course of the last five years for death duty is a little over eighteen years on the net value, which is lower than the average on agricultural land, so that if the proviso of the hon. Member were applied to house property it would have no practical effect, while it would draw a most invidious distinction between freehold and leasehold house property, and I think he will see that himself. But when we come to another head of realty, viz., ground rents, I must venture to say that this proviso would be entirely inapplicable. Ground rents are not too heavily taxed, in my opinion—I have never thought otherwise—for death duty purposes, for the simple reason that they are not liable to the kind of deductions to which the ordinary ownership of real property, such as houses and agricultural land, is liable. I hope I have said enough to convince the House that the proposal of my hon. friend is unnecessary and impracticable.
MR: JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
My hon. friend the Member for King's Lynn, on questions of this nature, is regarded as a very competent authority, and I could hardly believe my eyes when I read the suggestions in his first clause. I need hardly assure him that I would rather endeavour to forget what is past, and to believe that he placed his clause on the paper simply for the purpose of illustration. My hon. friend talks about an irreducible minimum in connection with the value of agricultural landed property. If my hon. friend had any practical experience he would know differently. We all find that what we thought was an irreducible minimum last year is from various causes still further 457 reduced this year. Then, my hon. friend makes no distinction between the case of an estate determined in accordance with an Act of Parliament depriving owners of their land without their consent and that of land disposed of in the open market. I am sorry my hon. friend has so far fallen away from his sphere of usefulness, and I am sorry also to take exception to another line of argument he employed. He talked of the death duties as a very sound source of Revenue, subject to the restrictions which he himself would place upon them. I think they are a very objectionable means of raising Revenue, and I have always held that view. My hon. friend's authority is high—I say it in no sarcastic spirit—no one knows the system and principles of taxation better than he does, but he has not added to his authority by that statement. I have no objection to relief being given to the taxpayer if it he put forward on a fair and thorough basis, but I do not understand when my hon. friend proposes his clause that that is his intention. I think it will have the effect of weakening the slight concession made to agricultural land, and I hope on this ground that he will not press the matter.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
I understand, from what fell from the hon. Member for King's Lynn, that certain lands have been sold to the War Office on Salisbury Plain, and that this land would amount, roughly speaking, to £150,000. These lands, I understand, have been sold for something like £400,000. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says we must take into consideration the fact that something was paid for disturbance. I believe 10 per cent. was paid for disturbance, and that would be in all £165,000. Consequently the landowners are gaining too great an advantage from the present state of the death ditties. Admitting that they have been sold at a fair price, as a matter of fact, landowners at the present moment only pay between one-third and one-half of what other persons with money have to pay for death duties. If that is so, I can only say that landowners gain an undue advantage as against personal property, and the sooner that state of things is altered the better it will he for the community.
§ Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment proposed, in new Clause 3 (inserted in Committee), line 6, after the word "enumerated," to insert the words "and tested."—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
That those words be there inserted.
§ MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
I desire to point out that we have not seen these clauses before, and we do not know anything about the changes proposed in the Finance Bill which we are considering. The right hon. Gentleman is now proposing an Amendment which we have never seen before. I venture to say that if the right hon. Gentleman will give the matter consideration he will come to the conclusion that we ought to have the Bill printed as it now stands, and let us see it in its new form before he asks us to proceed with it.
§ *SIR M. HICKS BEACH
I omitted in the first instance to move that the Bill should he reprinted, and afterwards I forgot the matter; but this clause which I desire to amend is the clause imposing the duty on bottled spirits. I should be very happy to read it.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
The right hon. Gentleman has, I dare say, explained very fully the meaning of this Amendment. At the same time I must appeal not only to his sense of fairness, but also to his recollection of the ordinary proceedings of the House, whether it is not an extraordinary thing to ask us to discuss this Finance Bill without having had the Bill reprinted with the Amendments inserted in it in Committee. I venture to say that a first-class Bill of this kind should have been reprinted, because the Bill was very substantially amended in Committee. There were great changes made in the rates chargeable on wines and spirits, and there was a long Amendment inserted by the hon. Member for Staffordshire. I notice on the Paper that there is a series of important Amendments by the 459 right hon. Gentleman, and I think he will readily see what sort of position we are in. Surely we ought to have the Bill before us after going through Committee, as it issued from that stage, before we are invited to consider any further Amendments upon it. I do dot think it would be unreasonable to adjourn the consideration of this Bill until Thursday, in order that we might have the Bill reprinted.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Lanark, Mid.)
In order to give effect to the contention put forward I will move "that the consideration of this Bill be postponed." The Chancellor of the Exchequer knows perfectly well that the Bill will pass on Thursday if it is taken up then, and the right hon. Gentleman must admit the reasonableness of the claim for delay.
§ SIR H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
I beg leave to second the adjournment, and I appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to accept it, because otherwise a very dangerous precedent may be set. The House has very strict rules in reference to financial matters, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I am sure, would not like to weaken our control in regard to financial legislation. A great many important changes, and certainly a very important new clause, was introduced, which I did not quite understand, by the hon. Member for West Staffordshire. We have not seen the Bill printed in its amended form, and we have not had an opportunity of putting down any Amendment. As a matter of principle, as well as propriety, I appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to postpone the Bill. The London Government Bill is the next order, and we can get on with that. We will give every facility for the passing of this Bill, but I think we ought to maintain the absolute freedom of the House in dealing with financial matters.
§ *SIR M. HICKS BEACH
I really think that I have some grounds of complaint, for, although I assumed that the Bill would be reprinted, no notice was given me that objection would be taken to proceeding with the Bill because it has not been reprinted. If this matter had been mentioned to me yesterday—
§ *SIR M. HICKS BEACH
There have not been such important changes in the Bill as hon. Members seem to think, although some changes were made in the wine and spirit duties. However, I do not wish to force the matter on the House, and as the Bill has not been printed I will consent to the debate being adjourned.
§ Debate adjourned till Thursday.
§ Bill, as amended, to be printed. [Bill 227.]