§ MP. LAURENCE HARDY (Kent, Ashford) moved to omit all the words in subsection (3) following the words "forty thousand pounds." He said he did so in order to obtain an opinion from the Chan- 876 cellor of the Exchequer as to the bearing which this clause had upon the county councils. He hoped they would be told exactly the reason why these taxes had been handed back after being taken last year by the Exchequer. He thought the right hon. Gentleman must be aware that there was fear amongst the local authorities that this change was not going to be for their benefit, and that the £40,000 which had been allotted to enable them to collect these taxes would not be found sufficient. According to the clause the money was to be expended exactly in proportion to the amount raised by each local authority. He assumed that the change had been made for two reasons; the first being that the raising of the duties by local authorities would be more efficient than by the Government authorities, and that they would in some way also secure economy. If that was so he thought they ought to understand exactly how they stood. As far as he could see, the £40,000 was something under 2 per cent, of the money to be levied, and when they considered the extremely arduous duties in connection with dog licences, game licences, and licences of that character, and the necessity for an efficient staff throughout all the area of the local authority, they must be aware that in the case of the small local authorities the amount obtained by them on the actual amount levied would be extremely small. They understood that the Government's action last year was a preliminary step to dealing with local taxation as a whole, and he thought it was acknowledged by the Government and by all parties in the House that in any case of dealing with local taxation more rather than less would have to be given to the local exchequer. He moved his Amendment in order to secure from the right hon. Gentleman some information which would satisfy the smaller local authorities that they would not lose by the proposals which the Government now made.
In page 5, line 16, to leave oat from the word 'pounds' to end of line 19."—(Mr. Laurence Hardy.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause."877
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE,) Carnarvon Boroughs
said the hon. Member had moved his Amendment rather with a view to getting a statement from the Government as to the general effect of their proposals, but he hardly thought this was the point at which that statement could most appropriately be made. He thought it would be far better for it to come on the Amendment to omit the whole clause. He would suggest to the hon. Member that it would be bettor to have one general debate on the whole question later on, for he had asked for an explanation on one small point, and it would be difficult to give that without explaining the whole position.
§ MR. LAURENCE HARDY
said that when they got to the discussion on the omission of the clause it would be impossible to move any Amendment of any words in the clause itself, and, therefore, they were barred from raising any question, whilst if they got the information he desired now they would be able possibly to obtain some Amendment of the clause. Discussion became purely academic if they reserved it until the Motion for the omission of the whole clause.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said he would point out that there were only two points: first, whether it was desirable to transfer, the collection to the local authorities at all, and secondly, if they decided in favour of that, whether the amount paid by the Exchequer was adequate for the purpose. Neither of those two points could be raised by way of Amendment except by the excision of the whole clause, and therefore he thought it was far better to take the debate on the Motion of the hon. Member for Rye. The effect of the present Amendment would be that no provision at all would be made for the distribution among the county councils, and that this sum would simply accumulate to the Local Taxation Account, which could not be the object of the hon. Member.
§ MR. HARMOOD-BANNER (Liverpool, Everton)
asked how they were to 878 raise any points that might arise after they had got the right hon. Gentleman's answer on the question. There was one very material point with regard to Clause 6, in the first part of which Section 17 of the Finance Act, 1907, ceased to apply to these licences, and that section included a guarantee.
§ MR. HARMOOD-BANNER
said ho only wished to show that they could not discuss this question at all if they were dealing with the omission of the clause alone.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
thought the hon. Member had shown that his suggestion was the best, because ho started criticising on this Amendment something which they had already passed.
§ MR. LAURENCE HARDY
said the right hon. Gentleman had stated that the questions of principle in this clause were the question of the transference, and the question of the amount, and those two subjects could only arise on the Motion for the omission of the clause, but that was why he took this opportunity of bringing forward a particular grievance on the part of the smaller local authorities, who thought that the proposals of the Government were not sufficient to cover the cost. He wished to keep this question apart from the general discussion on the clause.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN (Worcestershire, E.)
said there were two subsidiary questions which they wished to raise apart from the big question which would naturally be raised by the Motion for the rejection of the whole clause. He quite agreed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it was not desirable that they should mix up the big question of whether this change should be made at all with the subsidiary question of whether, if it was done, it should be done in the particular manner proposed, and he suggested, in agreement with what the right hon. Gentleman had said, that they should leave the main question for general discussion on the Motion 879 of the hon. Member for Sussex. Assuming that this change was to be made, was the distribution of the payment fair, not as between the Exchequer on the one hand and all local authorities on the other, but as between one local authority and another? Amongst the smaller authorities the amount collected would be relatively inconsiderable. It seemed to him that the point of his hon. friend still remained that remuneration in proportion to the amount collected was not necessarily in proportion to the expense incurred. He did not quite know what language to use to express the function of the local authorities in this matter, but they were to be a sort of watchman. They had to ascertain who had not paid and then take steps to make them pay. It was true that the Money would be collected by the Post Office, but the work of seeing that those who ought to pay did pay and inquiring who should have paid was not indicated by the amount collected. That seemed to him to be a contention of substance, and he asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to deal with it on this Amendment. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that he was as anxious as he was not to have two discussions and to keep this small point apart from the larger question.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said he was in the hands of the Committee. He was prepared to take the subsidiary question at once if they wished.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
asked whether it would be inconvenient to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to explain the precise functions of the Post Office at that stage.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said he would take the Leader of the Opposition as interpreting the views of the Committee in the matter. Nothing was further from the intention of the Government than that the local authorities should be called upon to set up new machinery for collection. If they had to do that, £40,000 would obviously be very inadequate. First of all, the Revenue authorities would print the necessary notices to persons they believed to be liable. These notices would be distributed by the local 880 authority, but the money would be collected by the local post office. There was no idea of the local authorities appointing Revenue officials for the purpose of going from door to door to collect dog and game licences. The holders of such licences would call at the local post office and pay their licences. A certain number of people would try to evade payment, and that was where the function of the local authority came in. They had much more effective machinery at their disposal for dealing with this matter than had the Revenue officials. The police knew every man who had a dog, gun, or carriage, and evidence was already very largely given by police officers in prosecutions of this kind and at the present moment they were largely dependent upon the police for information of this kind.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
No; but he had had enough of old-age pensions for a while. The police supplied this information now. Whenever the police discovered that a person had a dog or went out shooting they gave information to the Excise officer, the police undertook the prosecution, and the evidence was very often given by the police officer himself. So far from the local authorities losing in regard to this work, he thought they would gain considerably. The functions transferred to the local authorities were not very onerous, and they would not be very costly, so far as administration was concerned. They would send out notices printed by the Revenue authorities, book-keeping and collection being done by the Post Office, and the distribution of the £40,000 carried out by the Local Government Board upon a certificate from the Revenue as to the amount collected. It was said that the amount collected was not always a satisfactory criterion to take. But one must have a rough-and-ready test in cases of this kind, and he did not see what better test could be substituted for that which was now proposed. The local authorities were being liberally treated. The entire cost of collection was now on the Revenue authorities, and amounted to 2½ per cent. In future at least half 881 the burden and labour of distribution would be borne by the Imperial authorities, especially the Post Office, and still the local authorities would be paid exactly what the Government were now paying for collection.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
asked whether the Post Office authorities would transmit the notices free of charge as was done now.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said the position at the present moment was that the notices must be stamped, but communications were taking place on that subject. The matter was a serious one, but he thought there was sufficient margin to cover it. The local authorities, in his opinion, stood to gain under the new arrangement. They would not be put to a cost of more than £40,000. The change, however, must necessarily be an experiment as far as expenditure was concerned, and if necessary the local authorities could make representations to the Treasury when the results became known. The collection would certainly be more thorough than at present, because the local authorities had in a special degree local knowledge and machinery at their service, and besides that he thought the local authorities stood to make a very considerable profit out of it. A deputation waited upon him the other day from the County Councils Association and the municipal corporations, and they discussed matters very fully. The members of the deputation asked most searching questions as to the method of administration. He thought he could say that they went away satisfied that the new arrangement would work well, and that there would be no loss to the local authorities. As a matter of fact, from the purely financial point of view, the local authorities would benefit. There was one case where the cost of collection of their own local revenue was about 10s. per cent. He agreed that that was not altogether a test if they had one man paying on behalf of the whole lot. There were discounts given in some cases in order to facilitate collection. But there was a considerable margin between ½ and 2½ per cent. They recognised that they could not collect these assessed taxes as cheaply as local rates, and they were allowing a considerable margin on that 882 account. He thought it would he found that they were making a fair bargain, and that the view of the Government was on the whole a generous one to the local authorities. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman opposite desired to take this opportunity of raising the general question of principle. If he did, he thought he could anticipate what the right hon. Gentleman would say. If he did not mean to take this opportunity of discussing the general principle, he would be satisfied for the moment with making this explanation of the method of collection and distribution.
§ MR. LAURENCE HARDY
said the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was a very interesting one and raised points which probably had not occurred to many of them. Certainly the question of the division between the revenue and the county councils was one of a somewhat complicated character, and no doubt it would be possible to discuss it on the clause as a whole with greater advantage than on this Amendment. He did not think that the explanation which the right hon. Gentleman had given altogether met the point he desired to raise, because he had not really dealt with the question of how far as between the local authorities themselves it was fair to allocate money. If they merely gave a percentage on the amount levied, it would be an encouragement to those who received the larger amount of money to put pressure on their district as against the smaller local authorities. It should be remembered that these taxes wore in respect of luxuries. They were levied on persons who had establishments in London and in different parts of the country, and it was quite possible that under the percentage arrangement on the amount actually levied there would be great competition between the county councils, and that those which were better organised would be able to get larger sums than the smaller ones which were not in the same fortunate circumstances. It was all very well to say that it was automatically collected, but they knew that a great part of it would have to be collected by inquisition, especially in regard to dog, gun, and game licences. He did not know whether this matter had been discussed by the deputation to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred. He still thought that it would have been 883 better to have given some margin in this matter instead of laying it down so definitely. In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman had evidently made up his mind thoroughly on the question, he asked leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ MR. HICKS BEACH (Gloucestershire, Tewkesbury)
thought there was on the face of things a slight disadvantage to the counties as compared with the towns in this matter of collection, because in the towns it would be more convenient and less expensive to collect these various duties. A borough policeman, for instance, in going his nightly round would be able to see a dog standing on a doorstep, and would not have to spend any extra time, whereas in the country if a policeman had to do this duty he would have to spend a considerable amount of extra time in finding out the various people who possessed dogs, guns, and carriages. It would be the policeman's duty, for instance, to go to shooting parties and make inquiries with regard to game and dog licences. He dared say the policeman would enjoy spending his time in that way; but he did not think it would be a good thing for the local authority. It would surely mean that the Standing Joint Committee would have to pay more to the policemen in their districts for the collection of these duties than would have to be paid by the borough authorities for the collection of the duties in their areas. That meant that there might be the possibility of loss to the counties as compared with the boroughs.
§ Amendment by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. LAURENCE HARDY moved to leave out the proviso "that if the rate of any such duty is altered, that duty shall, unless Parliament makes provision to the contrary, cease to be a duty to which this section applies." He thought it was better that these matters should be left to be dealt with at the time. He thought that it would he rather a hard matter if, by the action of the Government in raising or lowering any one of these licences, it was to be automatically removed from the new arrangement with the local authority. He thought the Government ought to come back to Parliament and explain why they wished 884 the duty to be raised or lowered, so that the local authority would have an opportunity of knowing the reason for the Government's altering the bargain made with them. If a tax was raised or lowered, that would at once remove it from the category of a transferred tax. If the dog licences were taken away in that manner, it would mean the taking away of more than a third of the money which came to the local authority. That would upset the whole arrangement, and if this proviso was passed, the local authority would have no say in the matter. They would he left with their organisation, though there would be a large diminution in the money they now received. It was far better that these changes should not come automatically into effect, but that they should form parts of future Finance Bills.
In page 5, to leave out lines 25 and 27 inclusive—(Mr. Laurence Hardy.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause."
§ MR. HARMOOD-BANNER (Liverpool, Everton)
asked what was to happen in the case of an increase of duties. The proviso would imply that if there was any alteration in the duties they would cease to be duties to which the section applied. Last year when similar clauses wore considered, the Chancellor of the Exchequer took back into his own control the various licences under Section 17 of last year's Act, and he gave a guarantee to the Municipal Corporations Association and the County Councils Association that any action of his in altering the duties should not diminish the net amount receivable by the municipalities and county councils. They were grateful to him for that, and they slept in peace. It seemed to him that under this proviso the guarantee would now be withdrawn. [An HON MEMBER: "No."] He would be glad to have an assurance to the contrary, because as the proviso stood he thought the guarantee would be withdrawn. If duties were reduced the counties and the municipalities would receive less, but if they were increased the whole of the increase would go into the Exchequer. He hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would 885 add words which would make it perfectly clear that the guarantee to which he had referred was not taken away.
§ MR LLOYD-GEORGE
said that the words were inserted purely in order to revive the guarantee and the pledge of last year. The pledge was that the proceeds of the present duties would be made payable to the local authorities. Supposing the duties were doubled the proceeds would enure to the Exchequer, but would be sent down to the county councils and municipalities.
§ MR. HARMOOD-BANNER
said that the guarantee was that the proceeds would enure to the Exchequer, but that the county councils and the municipalities should not receive less under the circumstances than the average of three years.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said that in fact they received more. The same thing happened under this proviso as under the Act of last year. If the duties were doubled the proceeds would go to the Exchequer, but would go down afterwards to the local authorities. The only difference from the old system was in the collection. There was the guarantee still, but whether it was dog, carriage, or motor-car licence, Parliament would have the right to allocate the proceeds to the Exchequer or to make arrangements with the local authorities. It was not assumed that any increase would necessarily go to the local authorities, but when the time came for any real increase of the duties the position of the local authorities would be considered. That would be the case under any tax. The amount at present allocated to the local authorities could not be withdrawn without altering this proviso, and the position of the local authorities was not damaged by the proviso. It was a purely drafting proviso rendered necessary in order to continue the guarantee given last year.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I would say that that was very improbable, having regard to all the circumstances. Before they could lower any of these duties they would have to come to Parliament and to the local authorities. It would be very 886 difficult to carry anything through Parliament which would deprive the local authorities of any sums without giving them some compensatory amount.
§ VISCOUNT HELMSLEY (Yorkshire, N.R., Thirsk)
said he recognised the intention of the Government in this matter, but he could not quite see how the proviso carried out that intention as expressed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The proviso said that if "the rate of any such duty is altered, that duty shall, unless Parliament makes provision to the contrary, cease to be a duty to which the section applies." The section applied to duties to be levied by the local authorities, but there was nothing in the proviso to say that the duties not levied by the local authorities were to be paid to the local authorities, and so far as he could see the proviso did not convey what had been stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said that the proviso only referred to the provisions contained in the Act of last year.
§ MR. LAURENCE HARDY
said that as the right hon. Gentleman was only restoring the position of last year, and as there could be no loss to the local authorities, he begged leave to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question proposed, "That the clause be added to the Bill."
§ MR. COURTHOPE (Sussex, Rye)
said that the explanations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer had cleared up one or two points; but there was good reason why this clause should be deleted from the Finance Bill. He contended that the machinery which would have to be set up by the county councils would be exceedingly costly. Very little could be advanced in favour of the clause. It was a device to maintain machinery for carrying out the old-age pension scheme which the Act itself did not provide. They imposed on the local authorities, instead of leaving them to the Excise officials, the duties of collection. He would not find much fault with the idea if there was any reasonable probability that the work to be done by any county would be more or 887 less constant. There was no assurance of the kind. In certain districts a certain kind of tax preponderated very largely, and the right hon. Gentleman had hinted that he might have to increase the sum of those duties next year. But when the present or any other Government raised those duties the whole thing would be immediately changed, and the work of collection might be taken out of the hands of the local authorities. The proportion paid out of the £40,000 to any particular authority would vary immensely, and whilst some would gain others would lose. Machinery would have to be set up, because the county councils could not carry out these duties with the staffs they had at present, and it was possible that that machinery would be unnecessarily large and costly. At all events, the uncertainty which existed from year to year was sufficient reason for asking the Government to find some other method of carrying out their scheme. Under the clause the Government of the day would find their hands tied. They might want to increase the duties in any particular direction, and they would then find that either they had to set up machinery or else lose the revenue they might derive. He thought it would be far better for the Government rather than the county councils to set up the necessary machinery. They would have to do so in the long run, and they might just as well do so at once. Surely the right hon. Gentleman could do it through the post office just as well. It would be far more desirable than the hybrid scheme at present contemplated. He hoped the clause would he deleted.
§ MR. KETTLE (Tyrone, E.)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why, since this transfer was a good thing, from the point of view of the local authorities of this country, it was not extended to the local authorities of Ireland. They had county councils in Ireland, and in one concrete instance with which he was personally acquainted this was a serious matter. The machinery of local taxation in its relation to the Exchequer and Exchequer Grants to the objects of local authorities was very complicated, and the only thing of which he was sure was that local taxation in Ireland was like the hand of providence—very heavy and 888 hard to avoid. There were certain taxes allocated to the relief of local taxation, and one very important tax in that section which had a place in the inventory of the English Local Government Act had no place in the Irish Local Government Act. That tax was the carriage tax. In this country it went to the local authorities in the cities as well as to the county councils. In the city of Dublin the carriage tax yielded every year between £3,000 and £4,000, but not a penny of that went to the local authority, nor did they get any grant equivalent to it. That tax went directly to the maintenance of the police. It was collected by the police and retained by them. The county councils in Ireland wore obliged to maintain the roads, but they got no carriage tax or equivalent grant. It was that tax to which he wished particularly to call attention. There was also the question of the grant of £40,000. That grant on the right hon. Gentleman's own showing would more than pay for the cost of the collection. It would give a bonus to the local authorities of this country, and what he wished to know was when the right hon. Gentleman was going to extend the advantage of a similar bonus to Ireland. He was well aware that Royal Commissions were not regarded by the House as of much account, but there was a very valuable Report of a Royal Commission which in 1902 investigated the subject of local taxation in the three countries England and Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. The unanimous recommendation of that Report was that substantially the machinery of local government with regard to the relation of the local authorities inn Ireland to the Exchequer was the same as in Great Britain. They recommended, therefore, that no change of this kind should be made in Great Britain without being extended, as far as possible, to Ireland. There was no Amendment on the Paper, and possibly the right hon. Gentleman with the pressure upon him of old-age pensions, had not had much time to consider the question of Irish local taxation, but he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give his attention to the matter, and next year give to the Irish local authorities the same privileges which local authorities in this country enjoyed.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
was not quite certain that the hon. Gentleman who spoke last was right in his belief that any advantages were derived by the local authorities in England from the functions now under discussion. It was quite certain that the Government wore not doing this out of love for the local authorities. The Government had been singularly inconsequential in the matter. Last year, with a flourish of trumpets, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, the present Prime Minister, undertook to make a change in his Budget., by which all receipts from those taxes should be paid directly into the Exchequer, by which means the right hon. Gentleman suggested that a more accurate knowledge of the sum received from such taxation would be obtained, and the accounts synchronised. So far as it went, no doubt that was a good thing. But the Government having done that, and taken credit for it, set to work this year to undo that arrangement, with the result that the accounts instead of being simplified, had been rather elaborated, and a greater expense incurred. Because in order to get the local authorities to collect these taxes and keep them, the Government had to give them something more. It was true that the Post Office had to encash the money, but the local authority was to be the active agent in seeing that the debtors paid, and in order to persuade the local authorities to carry out these functions, they were to be paid rather more than the taxes would cost to collect. Therefore it was not so economical. All this showed that it was not a good change. The Government did not contend that the change was desirable in itself, or one which they would have made for its own sake; it had been made for the purpose of setting free the revenue officers for the pensions scheme. They would never have attempted it if it had not been that they desired to set free these officers. Against the Inland Revenue officer as an Inland Revenue officer, he had not a word to say; he did his work well, but he did not think that the position of an Inland Reveille officer in the town in which he resided qualified him to be an officer to administrate the Old-age Pensions Bill. The Government did not pretend that the Inland Revenue officer had been chosen because he was fitted for that purpose. They chose him because they 890 unable to find anybody else to do the work. The Poor Law Commissioners were soon to report. What the Report would recommend no one knew, but the common expectation was that they would recommend a thorough overhauling of the Poor Law Administration, and the people carrying out that administration would very likely be changed considerably. It might be that if that arose, the very organisation which the Government required to carry out the pension scheme would be found there. That was his objection to this clause. It was a clause to meet a temporary difficulty, and it was not desirable that it should be made permanent. He suggested, therefore, that the clause should be postponed until the Poor Law Commissioners' Report was issued and they knew who would be the new authority. Under the circumstances if the hon. Gentleman went to a division he would follow him into the lobby.
§ MR. LANE-FOX (Yorkshire, W.R., Bankston Ash)
thought none would deny that the Government had kept their secret remarkably well, but if any Member had a doubt as to what was the meaning of this clause the notices which some of them bad received from county councils throughout the country would have enlightened them. He had received one from the West Riding County Council which said many hard things, but he frankly admitted that if they had heard the explanation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer they would not have said such hard things about his proposal as they had done. Everyone would admit that it was difficult on the spur of the moment for them to say what would be the effect of such a proposal and whether it should be approved or not, but one very strong objection to it last year was pointed out. They had a distinct guarantee given that these revenues would be secured to the local authorities, and now, not only did there seem to be some question on the matter, but there appeared to be a considerable burden of work thrown on the county councils to collect these revenues, which work did not exist in the past. He maintained that the county councils had got all and more than they could do, and it was a great mistake that any extra work of this kind should be thrown upon them. The new procedure was at best a very complicated matter. They had 891 circulars printed by the Government, distributed by local authorities, and collected by the Post Office. The right hon. Gentleman had not told them what was going to be the cost of sending out these circulars or who was going to defray it, and the expense was likely to be considerable. Another point was that the police were not the servants of the county councils. They did a certain amount of duty, especially in the rural districts, but there were districts where a certain amount of friction existed between the Standing Joint Committee and the County Council, and that might be a strong reason why duties of this kind should not be thrown upon a county council. It seemed to him far better that the Government should increase the number of Excise officers and continue the existing system, which had worked very satisfactorily in the past, and about which no complaint had been made. He could not see that the right hon. Gentleman had given any sufficient reason for their supporting the clause, and he should certainly vote against it. The proportion which the West Riding would receive from the £40,000 was about £1,500, and he would be very much surprised to find that these licences could be collected in that enormous area with its enormous population, and its many authorities, for the sum of £1,500. He hoped that it might turn out to be so, but the whole case of the county councils in connection with this proposal must rest mainly on the question of cost. If the right hon. Gentleman could prove that the cost would not be in excess of the sum allowed, their opposition to the proposal would disappear; but if the new proposal involved a loss to the county councils then he hoped that loss would be recouped to them.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith Burghs)
said that although this clause did not apply to Scotland, yet the principle which it embodied in regard to levying certain duties would be viewed there with some interest. They had just heard that a third of the motor cars were registered in London, but a very large proportion of those cars before long would be careering along the highways of his native land doing a considerable amount of damage to the roadways. What he was a little concerned about in view of the provision of this clause was that 892 where the local authorities were accustomed to collect this duty and to receive the benefit of it, it would be much more difficult to effect a further redistribution of the taxes levied on motor cars in fair proportion to the damage that they did to the highways throughout the country. He would like to see that subject dealt with before the provisions of the clause were extended to the local authorities. There were two questions to be considered in the matter. One was that these cars paid an amount which seemed very insufficient, and the other was as to the redistribution of the receipts from the tax. He thought that that point was prejudiced by the clause, and unless he could obtain some assurance on the point, he should vote against it. He would again point out that though the greater proportion of the tax on motor cars was levied in England, the larger proportion of the damage was done to the highways of Scotland.
§ MR. YOUNGER (Ayr Burghs)
said that the new scheme to which the clause under discussion related was confined to England alone, and he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it was not applied to Scotland because of any difference which existed in the allocation and distribution of the tax, which was collected by the Excise authorities at present. In regard to the sum now being voted to the English county councils to undertake this work, naturally the Scottish authorities would desire to share in it if any advantage would be gained by it. Was it impossible to apply the clause to Scotland because, as a matter of fact, in this country, the share placed to local taxation was distributed under the Act of 1889 in certain proportions according to rateable value and so forth, and therefore the Chancellor of the Exchequer could not apply the new system which apparently he would apply in England? Was that the reason for not having included Scotland, and under the circumstances was any alteration to be made in the position of Scotland?
§ MR. YOUNGER
The right hon. Gentleman shook his head, and he might assume that there was to be no alteration with regard to Scotland.
§ MR. SUMMERBELL (Sunderland)
said he was not enamoured of the clause; still, he did not take up the hostile attitude towards it that he had done before the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman on the front bench. A week or two ago the municipalities had assumed a strongly hostile position in reference to the proposal, but since the Chancellor of the Exchequer had met a deputation from them, and in his eloquent way had induced them to believe that they were going to make money out of the change, their hostility had not been so great. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would excuse him if he said, as one with some fifteen years experience of borough council work, that he did not entertain any great hope as to what the municipal authorities would gain as a result of the change. To his mind the £40,000 would not cover the increased cost to the ratepayers of the country. He felt quite convinced of that. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, of course, had stated that the municipalities were not going to be compelled to collect the whole of these taxes; but at their meeting in London they were under the impression that they had to do the whole of the collecting work. That impression, however, was now removed. Still they would have to issue the notices, and when all that had been done, they had, through the police, to find out the defaulters. His experience of municipal work was that if they got any additional work whatever they could not get it done without having an official or two extra. It was always used as an excuse for getting an increased staff, and he felt as certain as he stood there that as soon as the Bill was passed every municipality in the land would increase its staff in order to carry out the provisions of the measure. He did not say that it ought to be so; he thought it ought not to be so; he was only stating what followed from an Act of Parliament of this character. He could see the chief constable walking into the meeting room of the watch committee and speaking of the large amount of work devolved upon the force in order to catch delinquents, which the Act said they had to do, and it would be asked that addition should be made to the police force up and down the country. In view of these circumstances be thought £40,000 was not sufficient. The work was being performed now, but he rather 894 gathered from what the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said, and from remarks which had fallen from Members above the gangway, that it was not being performed efficiently. They were going to bring in men who were not accustomed to it, and to his mind that would tend to increase the cost. He could not, however, after having heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer, go to the extreme point of saying that he would go into the division lobby for the deletion of the clause.
§ VISCOUNT HELMSLEY
thought the Committee were entitled to know what was the object of the proposed change. He thought it made a considerable difference whether the object was really to set free the Excise officers for the work of old-age pensions, or whether it was recommended by the Government on its merits, because both propositions required argument. If it was recommended to the Committee because it would set free the Excise officers for the work of old-age pensions it seemed to him to be rather a piece of political trickery, because it would then become part of the old-age pension scheme and would be thrown on the rates. The Excise officers at present were paid out of Imperial funds, but when they were taken over by the local authority for the work of old-age pensions, as a matter of fact the burden of investigating claims would be thrown on the rates. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman would admit that to be an incontestable proposition, though of course it would only apply to the extent by which the local authorities exceeded the £40,000 provided under the section. It seemed to him more than probable that that £40,000 would not be nearly enough, especially in thinly populated and scattered districts, where, as the Committee would be well aware, it would be much more difficult and require much more work to get the provisions properly carried out. Another question which he should like to put to the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the £40,000 was whether in calculating the cost of the work, the expense of issuing the notices had been included. He understood from the remark he made to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Worcestershire that it was not yet decided whether the expense of posting these notices was 895 to be paid by the Imperial Government or by the local authority. It was rather odd that that should be still a matter for negotiation when the £40,000 to be paid to the local authority had been fixed, because it must either have been included in the £40,000, or else, if it had not been thought of and it turned out that that expenditure had to be paid by them the £40,000 obviously could not be an adequate sum. Then the procedure as regarded the post office, about which the right hon. Gentleman satisfied a deputation the other day, seemed rather complicated. As far as he could gather from his answer to the deputation, the money would be paid into the post office and then would be sent from the local post office to the General Post Office and back again to the local authority. He did not quite follow how, if that was going to be done, the local authority was to have any check upon the amount which it received for the General Post Office. They were throwing upon the local authority the responsibility for seeing that the money was properly collected, but giving them no means of checking the amount handed over to them. That was a great draw back to the scheme, and it certainly required explanation. Then there was the question how one local authority was to get information as to licences taken out by persons resident in its area as well as in other areas. It very frequently happened that persons took out their licences in one place and spent a good deal of time in another. There must he some machinery provided by which the local authority, where the licence had not been taken out, could find out whether it bad been taken out or not, and there was nothing of the kind provided by the plan of the Government. Further, he was not at all sure that it was very desirable that the function of making people pay and of finding transgressors who had not paid should be thrown upon the police as part, of their duty. It was all very well now, when in the course of their ordinary duties they came across cases of licences not being taken out, that they should report them to the Excise authority, but he did not know that that was quite the same thing as making it part of their duty to go on purpose to places and see whether the correct number of licences had been taken out. It threw a rather inquisitorial duty upon the police, which was not very 896 desirable. One had always been led to believe that the police were people with whom law-abiding citizens need not come into contact at all. But, under this proposal it would not be so. Everybody, whether he had taken out licences or not, would be liable to visits from police officers at his house, inspecting the number of dogs, carriages, male servants, and so on. It was not a proper function for the police to perform and would make them unpopular. It had been quite effectively performed hitherto by Inland Revenue officers, and he thought it was far better that that duty should remain with them. He understood that notices were to be printed by the Government and issued by the local authority, but the answer to that appeal made by the local authority must be given to a third party, the Post Office. He wondered whether it was contemplated under the Government scheme that when anybody received a notice from the local authority they should be able to make their payment direct to the local authority who issued the notice instead of going to the Post Office, and if they had to pay the Post Office direct how did the local authority know whether the licence bad been paid or not? What means were there of communicating between the Post Office and the local authorities? In default of its being shown that this proposal was brought forward on its own merits, quite apart from anything to do with the old-ago pensions scheme, he should certainly vote against it.
§ MR. SOARES (Devonshire, Barnstaple)
said he could quite understand that boroughs were in favour of the clause, but he was not quite so sure about county councils. The county council of Devonshire had passed a very strongly-worded resolution to the effect that they did not consider that the collection of establishment and other licences by local authorities would tend to economy or efficiency, and that there were strong economic and financial reasons against the course proposed to be taken in the clause. They were certainly under the impression that a new staff would have to lie set up to collect licences over a large and scattered area, which would entail considerable expense. He thought too the allocation of the £40,000 was not at all fair as between thinly and thickly populated districts, because in 897 the former the cost of collection would be larger. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer was satisfied that in thinly populated districts there would be a decrease of the rates, he would be very pleased to vote for the clause, but they ought to have a pledge that if his expectations were not realised, and there was an increase of the rates, it should be altered in next year's Finance Bill.
§ MR. HARMOOD-BANNER
said the counties and municipal associations accepted the clause as perfectly correct. They had seen the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Monday, and under the fascination of his eloquence they gave way at all points. He himself was not present, and whilst he felt in some difficulty in raising any doubts about the clause, yet one could not heap feeling that it was difficult to see bow this would profit the boroughs and the counties. The right hon. Gentleman had mentioned that in the long run it would mean a considerable increase of revenue and that they might even make a profit upon the collection. It was very flattering to municipalities and to counties that they should be able to conduct their business on such excellent principles and in such a way that, whereas the cost was 2½ per cent. to the Treasury, when it came to municipalities they were to do much the same thing and to make a profit on the transaction. It looked as if at any rate one body conducted its business considerably better than the other. It was mentioned that the portion appertaining to Liverpool and Manchester would be about £380. There were about 24,000 dogs in Liverpool, and it would cost £100 in postage alone to apply for licences for these dogs, if everybody paid the moment he got his application. If second or third applications were required the balance of the £385 would become very small. The addition to the police force that would be entailed had been alluded to. As Chairman of the Finance Committee of the City Council, nothing distressed him more than the enormous addition to the police force which was going on every day in consequence of Acts passed by Parliament. He had not the slightest doubt that this Act would require an immediate addition to the force, and the Chief Constable would come and say that these extra dirties needed so many extra police, with so much 898 extra wages and so much extra superannuation. Whatever the 2½ per cent. did it did not provide for extra police. Another objection was that the relations between police and the collectors of these licenses would not altogether be pleasant. At present the licences were imposed from London. Now that they were imposed in the locality and one's own friends and neighbours put police in action to collect them, it would create a bitter feeling between various parties which so far had been avoided. Though the explanation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer had taken away all the sting of the opposition of the representatives of the local authorities, he could not help thinking that the right hon. Gentleman had taken a somewhat sanguine view, and that the clause had not been considered with that close attention to detail which was necessary in a transaction of this sort. He had always felt considerable doubt as to these gifts from the Treasury, for he had never found in all his experience one turn out a profit. They were often told that grants in aid were going to do this, that, and the other, but when they came to make up their accounts at the end of five or six years they invariably found a loss. Although the explanations given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer silenced the objections of the deputation, he was not satisfied that the change would be a profitable one for local authorities. Whilst he should be inclined to vote for this clause after the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman, he was afraid that in the end the local authorities would suffer by the arrangement.
§ *Mir. EVERETT (Suffolk, Woodbridge)
, said he could not help, when listening to the Chancellor's explanation of the clause, thinking of the old saying, "Why not let well alone?" He knew from personal experience and observation spread over a good many years, that the taxes had been hitherto collected very well, very efficiently, and in as convenient a manner for all parties as, he thought, was possible. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had told them that if he handed over the collection to the local bodies and gave them £40,000 to cover the cost, they would be able to make a considerable profit out of it. They all knew that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be very much in want of money next year, and he could not 899 see why he should not continue to have these duties efficiently discharged as now, and take the profits to himself. He did not know about the borough councils, but the county councils did not wish these new duties to be imposed upon them. They were perfectly prepared to let well alone; and, unless the Chancellor of the Exchequer had some better reason to offer than he had already given for the change he thought he would he very wise to withdraw the clause and let the matter remain on the satisfactory basis on which it had been hitherto. He took it that the right hon. Gentleman proposed the change in connection with the old-age pensions which, thank God, had at last been set on foot in this country. He was sure that the credit which would come to the Exchequer, to the Government, and to this Parliament, for granting that enormous boon to the people of the country would be so great that the Exchequer might very well take to itself any additional expense which might be incurred and not seek to impose it in a sort of underhand way upon the county councils. He would conclude as he began with the old motto, "Let well alone."
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said his hon. friend had just explained why the Government made this change. He had given the best answer that could be made to his own speech. The change had been made in order to liberate the Excise officers for the purpose of administering the old-age pensions scheme. His hon. friend had not suggested any alternative, and he would like to know what suggestions he had to make as to the best method of administering the old-age pensions scheme. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire had said that the decision to transfer the collection of these duties was associated with that scheme. That was no secret, for the Prime Minister explained, when he outlined the scheme to the House, that it was proposed to transfer these duties to the local authorities, because the Excise officer could not discharge his present functions and at the same time discharge the duties placed on him under the Old-Age Pensions Bill.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said that the Government did not find it so simple. 900 They had given a good deal of attention to the subject and had acted upon the advice of expert officers. It was easy to appoint officials, but it was not so easy to pay for them. The Committee had treated the matter as if it were a suggestion that had emanated for the first time from the present Government. As a matter of fact, the idea was originated by the Unionist Government of 1886 and was incorporated in their Bill of 1888. It was then contemplated that the collection of these duties should be transferred to the local authorities, and it was to be effected by the simple process of an Order in Council.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
pointed out that the Unionist Government did not carry out the suggestion because the Treasury officials advised them that the thing would not work.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said that that was his information in regard to it. There was no more difficult thing to carry out than any reform which involved a reduction of staff. The Government had come to the conclusion that the time had arrived for putting into force what was proposed in 1886 with hardly any protest, and he hail heard no real reason why it should not be done. His hon. friend behind him had given a very conservative reason—a reason he would have expected to have come from the other side of the House. It was that they should let well alone. The hon. Member for Sunderland had said he was against change——
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said that that was the first time he had noticed suspicion in his hon. friend's atttitude towards changes. There was a very strong reason for making the change at this particular moment. It was in order to secure the entire services of these officers for more important and difficult duties. But that did not mean that there was nothing to be said for the change on its merits. The noble Lord opposite asked whether the proposal was made for the sake of old-age pensions or on its merits. There was nothing inconsistent in the two propositions. Meritorious propositions often took a long time to carry through, and this great reform had been enshrined, 901 in an Act of Parliament for twenty or thirty years.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said he did not see how that was relevant, because they were not dealing in Scotland with local revenue, and he was not aware that the Local Government Act in Scotland contemplated the change. He was dealing with the case on the assumption that these were purely local revenues, and they were following the precedent set by a previous Unionist Government. They were of opinion that these revenues would be collected better by the local authorities. With regard to the objections taken by the hon. Member for Barnstaple, the County Councils Association came to him the other day, and he then explained the whole method of procedure to them. They were under the impression that they would have to set up machinery, and when it was explained that that was not so they were quite satisfied. The hon. Member for the Everton division of Liverpool had admitted that they were satisfied, although he could not see why they were satisfied. The Member for Leith Burghs was rather concerned about motor-cars. He said English motor-cars tore up the roads in Scotland. They left a good deal of money there, too. But what had that to do with this particular matter? They were not altering the principle of distribution. They were making no difference in Scotland oven in the method of collection, and they w ere making no difference here in the method of distribution. Whatever motor-cars paid to the local authorities now they would pay in future. It might be that they did not icy enough. It might be that it was unfair that licences for motor-cars should be paid in London and go to London revenue, whereas the motor-cars tore up the roads in Surrey. That, however, had nothing to do with this section. Concern had been expressed because the printing of the notices was to be done by one party, they were to be issued by a second, and the revenue was to be collected by a third. As far as collection was concerned, it would be carried out very largely as it was now. The Exciseman did not collect one-tenth of the revenue. Probably 85 per cent. of the money was collected by the Post 902 Office at present. The new machinery, instead of being more complicated, would be much simpler than the old. There was at present collection by the Post Office, there was payment to the Inland Revenue, then a transaction with the Local Government Board, and the Local Government Board sent clown a cheque. In future the General Post Office would send a cheque direct to the local authority on the allocation made by the Local Government Board. The local authority would in consequence enjoy the considerable advantage of getting its money sooner. An hon. Member from. Ireland wished certain licences to be issued and the money collected by the local authorities. There was not much to be gained by such a change. The Excise officer in Ireland would be able to discharge both the functions of which it was suggested he should be relieved and the duties entrusted to him under the Old-Age Pensions Act. The choice of the Excise Officer as the officer to act under the pension scheme had been criticised. He did not think that was the proper occasion for discussing that point. It had already been decided by the House. Complaint had been made that the Government were casting part of the burden of old-age pensions on the local authorities. The noble Lord who made that complaint seemed to think the Government might have given a few thousands more money. Let it be assumed that the Government ought to have given £50,000 instead of £40,000. The Government were giving six or seven millions out of the Imperial Exchequer, and, on the ground that by this subterfuge they sought to extract a subvention of £10,000 from the local authority, the noble Lord denounced the Government for political trickery. If the Government wanted to make a great raid on local funds surely they might make a better attempt than that. The idea that the Government were attempting to shift their burden by making too hard a bargain with the local authorities was also untenable. The difference was too small and insignificant to admit of such an explanation. The Government were trying to do what was fair between the State and the local authorities. If the proposed arrangement were found to cast a heavier financial burden than had been contemplated on the local authorities, if, as the result of a couple of years working, it 903 was discovered that a considerable additional expense was involved in the creation of new machinery which was not adequately met by the £40,000, he would be prepared for a reconsideration of the matter. After the Government's explanation the representatives of the local authorities admitted that their fears had been removed. In those circumstances, and seeing that the House had already resolved that the Excise officer should be utilised for old-age pensions, he thought the Committee would come to the conclusion that the Government had acted fairly in the course which they bad taken.
§ MR. GUINNESS (Bury St. Edmunds)
said that the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer clearly showed the convenience of having Excise officers available for the duties to be imposed upon them in connection with the old-age pensions scheme, but it had done little to satisfy those who were interested in the position of the county councils in relation to the new machinery proposed to be set up. In listening to the debate that afternoon he felt that the more one knew of the proposed machinery the more one was convinced that it would be very cumbersome, and that it would cause inconvenience in administration quite out of proportion to any advantage resulting from having Excise officers to look after old-age pensions. The chief argument which the Committee had heard from the Government was that the local authorities would not have to spend any more money because they would be able to do the work with the police. The hon. Member for Barkston Ash had pointed out that there would be a great deal of friction if that were put in force. He would like to point out the difficulties which would ensue in London where the police were not in any way under the control of the London County Council. He did not know what provision the Home Secretary would propose to meet that difficulty. He did not think the police could serve two masters. Whatever might be the case in the country, he thought that in London very large additional expense would have to be faced in providing officers for the detection of those who were trying to evade their liabilities in this matter. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had 904 said that 2½ per cent. in addition would be allocated to the local authorities to meet the expenses of collection; but that percentage was founded on the actual cost to the Exchequer. It was quite obvious that the Exchequer could do that kind of work much more cheaply than a local authority, because they did these things on a much larger scale. It could not be expected that county councils and county boroughs could do it as economically as it was done by the Exchequer. The county councils had no staff to do the work. They had no officials to go from house to house to make inquiries and no officers for collecting rates, that it meant the appointment of an entirely new staff of collectors. The new duties would also require the opening of new offices throughout the country, and that would involve a very large expenditure. Moreover, it would undoubtedly cause great inconvenience to those who had to pay the duties. The hon. Member for Sunderland had raised a laugh by his reference to the way the dog licence was levied, but he had entirely misunderstood the point raised by an hon. Member on that side of the House. The point was that at present people took out their licences in perhaps a different county from that in which their shooting was, and they did not always have their licences in their pockets. Perhaps they might have a motor car licence, a gun licence, a dog licence, and several other licences, and it would be a very great inconvenience always to have to carry them all and fill their pockets with them. He knew that in driving a motor car it was sometimes a great nuisance to carry the licence and a great inconvenience to be asked by the police to show it. At the present time there was a central registry for motor licences; and he knew that every year he got a circular from the Post Office calling attention to the fact that he had taken out a licence the previous year and that he had not done so this year; but if he had taken out a licence somewhere else he need not trouble to answer the letter. In that way a great deal of trouble was saved; but in future the only way the local authority would have of checking whether a licence had been taken out elsewhere would be to plague the licensee to take 905 out the licence. Further, there was no identification to be made. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had made out that the proposed method would be simpler, but he could not see it. Another point was that it was not proposed to take over the whole of the licences. Why should the particular duties mentioned in Clause 6 be singled out to be collected by the local authorities, and the Excise officers he still able to look up liquor licences, auctioneers' licences, pawnbrokers' licences, solicitors' licences, and other licences? If some licences were handed over to the local authorities, why not hand over all? The most objectionable feature, to his mind, was in Clause 4, which provided that this duty of collecting licences might at some future time revert to the central authority. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had referred to some former case in which the local authorities had been willing to take over the duty of collecting certain licences; but at that time there was no proposal that they should take over that duty for a year or two, set up an expensive staff to do it, and that then the duty might be taken away. At the present time, if the staff were set up and the pension right created, the liability for the pension might cease and there would be no work for the staff; or the Chancellor of the Exchequer might alter the system. Again, these proposals must throw an apple of discord into the whole system of local government. At the present time the local authorities were circularising the whole neighbourhood with a view to induce people to take out their licences, and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer's proposals became law, they would cause an indiscriminate scramble for the spoil. If there was to be a continual demand for licence duties there would be a considerable waste of time in calling upon people to take out their licences in one part of the country and not in another. He should vote against the clause.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON
said he had always voted for the licences being collected by officers of the Inland Revenue. It might be well done in England, but in Scotland 906 they had harder work than in England, and it would impose still harder work upon them if they were to collect all the licence ditties. He was obliged: to the right hon. Gentleman for his reply with regard to the allocation of the tax on motor cars. At the same time he held that this new machinery would tend to localise the receipts of that tax and therefore his objection to the clause was removed.
§ LORD R. CECIL (Marylebone, E.)
said that it had been found difficult for some reason to enforce the Act of 1888. He did not think that it mattered much what was done under the Act of 1888; but, at any rate, it was not necessary that it should be done now. As to Scotland and Ireland, he did not understand what the Chancellor of the Exchequer meant. The question was whether, if an Imperial officer in Scotland could discharge the duties of the Pensions Bill as well as his present duties, why could not an Imperial officer do the same in England or Ireland? There were very few licences in Ireland. Had the existing Imperial officers in Ireland not enough to do? If not they were overpaid, and the proper course was to reduce their pay—a thing that should have been done some time ago. He, however, did not think the Chancellor of the Exchequer meant that. The broad point he put was that the Chancellor of the Exchequer said he was going to pay the county councils £40,000 a year in order to do a certain amount of work at present done by the Inland Revenue officers, and, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman thought it cheaper to pay that £40,000 than to appoint new officers to do the work. That was the whole basis of the right hon. Gentleman's scheme. Was it not perfectly plain that if new work was placed on the local authorities sooner or later they would have to appoint new men to do it? It was not worthy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to saw to the local authorities: "You can get this work done by people you already employ," when he knew that the county councils would have to appoint new people. In urban areas fresh work could not be thrown on policemen. 907 They would have to appoint fresh officers or pay the existing officers something extra. It really came to this—that to carry out the work a fresh staff would have to be appointed; and why could a fresh staff appointed for the purpose be a more economical way of doing the duty? Why should rot the existing staff of the Government do the work? They would be merely performing the same kind of duty which they at present discharged. And why should not all the licence duties be collected by the one hand? If it were necessary to have in some way or another a large number of people employed by the Inland Revenue Department in order to discharge the duties under the Old-Age Pensions Scheme, why not appoint them at once? They would not in the end save any money; they would be merely transferring the burden from the central authority to the local authority. In these circumstances, he thought the proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer were very unbusiness-like, and if his hon. friend went to a division he would vote with him.
§ MR. ROGERS (Wiltshire, Devizes)
said he could not admit that his dislike to this clause had been modified by what had been stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman's proposals were not fair to the county councils. The right course to take was to appoint additional Excise officers to do the work. He thought that the suggestion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that policemen should be employed to discharge these duties was unworkable. It had this great draw-back, that the police were not the servants of the county councils, but of the Standing Joint Committee, though they were paid by the county council. The proposed new machinery would, he believed, inevitably be found in practice to be very cumbrous. The county council would receive the produce of the licences, but all the inspectorial work would be carried out by the police, who were not the servants of the body to whom the money went. Some hon. Members had referred to shooting licences. He, in common, he supposed, with many other Members of that House, sometimes found himself 908 well into the shooting season without a licence. Under the present condition he got a reminder from the Inland Revenue and the licence was taken up, but under this Bill who was to know whether he had taken out a licence or not? The only people who could possibly know were the police, who were not the servants of the county council in any way. Further, who was going to pay in future the costs of any prosecution which might be instituted for not taking out a licence? In the past that had been done by the Inland Revenue authorities. He supposed under this Bill it would be done by the county council. He did not refer to the small prosecutions, such as proceeding against a man for keeping two dogs with only one licence or anything of that kind. He referred to those important test cases that arose from time to time. He had in view a case which was brought a few years ago by the Inland Revenue authorities against the owner of a large estate with respect to a number of under gardeners. The Inland Revenue contended that these men were taxable servants. The owner of the estate contended that they were only labourers and that no licence was necessary. That case was fought out, counsel were employed on both sides, and great expense was incurred. He contended that cases of that kind should be undertaken by the Inland Revenue, and that the onus of taking such proceedings should not rest upon the local authorities. He gathered that such expense would not be covered by the 2½ per cent. to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred. On all these grounds he disliked this change exceedingly, and should vote against it.
§ MR. HICKS BEACH
desired to emphasise the objections to this change which had been raised by hon. Members, especially when it was made only to relieve the Excise officers of their present duties in order that they might undertake-the duties of pension officers. Surely the simplest way if these men were required for the purposes of administering the pension fund would be not to relieve them of these duties, but to give them a little clerical assistance. The notices which they had to send out now could 909 easily be sent out by a youth who had just left school, and of that part of their duty these officers could be relieved. That was a much simpler plan of relieving them than to place the duties on the county council who did not desire to undertake them. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the county councils would make a very good thing out of it. That was a singular argument for a Chancellor of the Exchequer to advance, because his primary duty was to look after the interests of the taxpayer and of the Treasury, and the fact that the county councils were going to make a good thing out of the £40,000 showed that the right hon. Gentleman must have given them more money than was necessary for the purpose of collecting the licences. With regard to the distribution of the money between the borough councils and county councils, he pointed out that it would cost the borough authority considerably less to collect the licences than the county authorities who had large and sparsely populated districts to cover. He hoped, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman would give some assurance that the county authorities would receive the same fair proportion of the £40,000 as the borough authorities got for collecting the licences in small densely populated areas. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to the fact that a Unionist Government passed a clause in the Bill of 1886 under which the Government by an Order in Council could give the local authorities the right to collect these taxes, and had said it was clear that the local authorities wished to have that right at that time. If they did, they did not wish for it long, because it had never been carried into effect. It was not carried into effect because the Inland Revenue authorities conclusively showed that if the duties were collected by the local authorities a great deal of inconvenience would be caused. It had also to be remembered that under the Act of 1886 if the duties on the various Excise licences were increased in amount the revenue then gained was to go to the local authorities and not to the Exchequer, and no doubt the county councils at that time, with the hope of getting some relief out of the taxes, would have taken over the collection of 910 the licences. But now that the Government had taken into their own hands any revenue that might be obtained from an increase in the duties the county councils had no desire to undertake their collection.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
thought they had heard for the first time that day that in future the Inland Revenue officer would no longer have anything to do with Inland Revenue, but would be occupied with duties connected with inland expenditure. It was in connection with that new position that he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman one question. The Inland Revenue officer was no longer, as he understood, to have anything to do with the Treasury in the same way as before. He understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that the whole time of the Inland Revenue officers would be applied—he certainly thought they would be required—to duties connected with the Government's scheme of old-age pensions. If that was so, who was to be their official chief? Were they still to be the servants of a board whose whole duty was dealing with public Revenue? Were these gentlemen who were to have nothing to do except to manage this pensions scheme to be under the control of the Chairman of the Excise and Customs Board? The eminent persons who presided over our Customs and Inland Revenue would know nothing about conducting inquiries into qualifications for old-age pensions. He did not understand that any change was going to be made in their duties. He did not understand that the Government were going to ask the Chairman of the Customs Board to qualify himself for that duty, and, therefore, he would not be qualified to judge as to whether these officers were carrying out their new duties properly. The result was that these gentlemen would be engaged in duties of which their superior official would know nothing, and in regard to which they were not expected to know anything. The real chief of the local so-called Inland Revenue officers would not be the Board of Inland Revenue but the President of the Local Government Board, because the head of the Local Government Board would be the only person high up in the official 911 hierarchy who had any opportunity of knowing whether they satisfactorily performed their duties in connection with old-age pensions. Their nominal chiefs would be absolutely divorced from any knowledge of how they did their work in regard to old-age pensions. This seemed to be an arrangement for which there was no justification, which was quite outside any precedents which could be quoted by the Government, and entirely contrary to common sense. Surely the superior officers of these men should have an opportunity of knowing how their duties were carried out, and should be expected to qualify themselves to judge. The Government were going to cut the Inland Revenue service into two and hand over a great part of a popular service to the Local Government Board, who would have no hierarchical authority over them, but yet the President of which was the only person who could say whether they were performing their duties in the manner required of them by Parliament. This was the first opportunity that Parliament had had of hearing how the right lion. Gentleman was going to construct this branch of the Civil Service, and he would be glad to have some further explanation on that point.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said that he certainly did not mean to convey there would be no more Inland Revenue officers. Of course, there would still be Inland Revenue officers who would be charged with the collection of an enormous amount of revenue. Publicans' licences, the licences of tobacco dealers, pawnbrokers' licences, plate-dealers' licences, and other licences, would be collected by the Excise officers. The right hon. Gentleman had reverted to the criticism or complaint at their having chosen these particular revenue officers for the purpose of inquiring into claims for old-age pensions. He thought that was hardly the opportunity for debating that point. It was a matter which the House of Commons had already decided, and it had approved of the plan of the Government. Therefore, he did not think it was a desirable course to resume discussion on that particular question. It had been decided, for better or for worse, so far as the House of Commons was concerned. But there 912 was one criticism made by the right hon. Gentleman in the course of his arguments which was perhaps more germane to this Bill than to the Old-age Pensions Bill. The right hon. Gentleman suggested, now they were separating the functions of the revenue officer, or rather splitting them in two, that for one purpose he would be the revenue officer, and for the second purpose he would be a Local Government Board officer. That was not so. The officer would still be a Treasury official; he was there to watch for the Treasury; he was there primarily as a Treasury official; and they had chosen him because he was a Treasury officer responsible to that Department. That was the scheme. He wanted the Committee to bear that in mind where the whole burden had been cast upon the Imperial Exchequer. In every other scheme that had been brought forward half or at least one-third was to be borne out of local revenues. Therefore, this scheme was essentially different in character. As long as the local revenue bore a portion of the expenditure there was some check upon it; they appointed a local officer for the purpose, who would see to the extent of one-half or one-third that the expenditure did not increase unduly. But here they had made the burden exclusively an Imperial one, and they must, therefore, have an officer representing the Exchequer. There the Excise officer was, still representing the Exchequer, still representing the Treasury, which, after all, was responsible for those officers. The point was as to Parliamentary responsibility. The Excise officer would be responsibile to the Inland Revenue, the Inland Revenue would be responsible to the Treasury, and the Treasury would answer to the House of Commons in respect of anything that happened with regard to these particular officers. To that extent the Excise officer chosen for this work was still a Treasury officer, and was not at all responsible to the Local Government Board. The only function of the Local Government Board in the matter was as a Court of Appeal on disputed points. The officer was not responsible to them at all. They sat in judgment on him in respect of issues arising out of the administration of the 913 Act, but he took his directions not from the Local Government Board but from the Treasury, and, therefore, he was still a Treasury officer.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said it was really an important point, anti he did not think they had yet had it quite defined. The reason he had said that these officers were officials of the Local Government. Board was because it was only that Department which had an opportunity of supervising their work and seeing that it was efficiently carried out. It was true that the Board of Ireland Revenue and the Customs were under the Treasury, but both were technical expert Boards who dealt with very difficult revenue questions connected either with Customs or Excise, the yield of taxes and the collection of taxes. These gentlemen were the superiors and only superiors of these Excise officers, who were now, however, to cleat with old-age pensions. If these superior officers had no knowledge of old-age pensions work, how could it be expected that, as part of their functions, they would know anything about the methods or procedure which should be adopted by those who had charge of the old-age pension work? It was no answer to say that the Treasury were responsible. The Treasury had no means of seeing the persons who carried out these duties in regard to old-age pensions.
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I do not see that the relation between the Local Government Board and these officers as regards old-age pensions has anything whatever to do with this clause. I was out of the Committee a short time recently and do not understand how we have got on to this point.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said he certainly would not pursue the subject. How they had got on to it was in this way. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, almost necessarily, after the way the debate had gone, had to discuss how these Officers would have to deal partly with revenue and partly with old-age pensions, and in discussing the position of these officers in relation to the collection of revenue, it was very difficult to keep their new 914 status outside. But he had already made his point, such as it was, quite clear.
§ MR. COURTHOPE
said there was one important point on which he would like to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer a question. It had reference, to the duty, now performed by Inland Revenue officers, of preparing agricultural statistics. He believed it was a very irksome and very heavy duty. Would it be carried out by these officers?
§ VISCOUNT HELMSLEY
said the right hon. Gentleman had not answered the point as to what arrangement would be made between two local authorities where a person under one of them took out his licence under the other. How were they to know?
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
replied that there would be no difference. If the money was paid in a particular town the money went there. If there was a grievance, they had nothing to do with it. They did not alter the system.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said that the Post Office weekly or monthly informed the local authorities who had taken out licences.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said that at the present moment these licences were collected by the officers of the Central Government, and the service of every office was the same. But when they joined the local authority, how, when a man in Birmingham said he had taken out his licence in London, or, being in London, that he had taken it out in Birmingham, was the local authority to satisfy itself of the truth of the statement?
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said the local authority would communicate with the district where the licence was taken out.
that the local authority was to hunt up a man who had taken out his licence elsewhere, and call upon him to produce it—which meant a house to house visitation for the purpose; or they were to make inquiry of another local authority, thus being forced into a corres
§ pondence which he did not think either practicable or beneficial.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 299; Noes, 86. (Division List No. 193)917
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Davies, M.Vaughan-(Cardigan)||Hutton, Alfred Eddison|
|Agar-Robartes, Hon. T. C. R.||Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Illingworth, Percy H.|
|Agnew, George William||Devlin, Joseph||Isaacs, Rufus Daniel|
|Alden, Percy||Dewar, Sir J. A. (Inverness-sh.)||Jackson, R. S.|
|Allen, Charles P. (Stroud)||Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Jacoby, Sir James Alfred|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Dobson, Thomas W.||Jardine, Sir J.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herbert Henry||Donelan, Captain A.||Jenkins, J.|
|Astbury. John Meir||Duckworth, James||Johnson, John (Gateshead)|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness||Jones, Leif (Appleby)|
|Baker. Sir John (Portsmouth)||Duncan, J. H. (York, Otley)||Jowett, F. W.|
|Balfour. Robert (Lanark)||Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)||Joyce, Michael|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Dunne, Major E. Martin (Walsall||Kavanagh, Walter M.|
|Barker, John||Edwards, Clement (Denbigh)||Kearley, Sir Hudson E.|
|Barlow, Sir John E. (Somerset)||Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||Kekewich, Sir George|
|Barnard, E. B.||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Kelley, George D.|
|Barnes, G. N.||Erskine, David C.||King, Alfred John (Knutsford)|
|Barry, Redmond J.(Tyrone, N.)||Essex, R. W.||Laidlaw, Robert|
|Beale, W. P.||Evan, Sir Samuel T.||Lamont, Norman|
|Beck, A. Cecil||Fenwick, Charles||Lea, Hugh Cecil (St Pancras, E)|
|Bellairs, Carlyon||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace||Lehmann. R. C.|
|Bennett, E. N.||Findlay, Alexander||Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich|
|Berridge. T. H. D.||Flynn, James Christopher||Levy, Sir Maurice|
|Bethell, Sir J. H. (Essex, Romf'rd||Fuller, John Michael F.||Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David|
|Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)||Fullerton, Hugh||London, W.|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Gibb, James (Harrow)||Lupton, Arnold|
|Black, Arthur W.||Gill, A. H.||Luttrell, Hugh Fownes|
|Boulton, A. C. F.||Gladstone, Rt. Hn Herbert John||Lyell, Charles Henry|
|Bowerman, C. W,||Glendinning. R. G.||Lynch, H. B.|
|Branch, James||Glover, Thomas||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)|
|Brigg, John||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk B'ghs|
|Brocklehurst, W. B.||Gooch, George Peabody (Bath)||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift|
|Brodie, H. C.||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius||Macpherson. J. T.|
|Brooke, Stopford||Hall, Frederick||MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.)|
|Brunner, J. F. L.(Lancs., Leigh)||Halpin, J.||MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.)|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Harcourt, Rt. Hn. L.(Rossendale||M'Callum, John M.|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Harcourt, Robert V.(Montrose)||M'Crae, Sir George|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil||M'Kean, John|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Hardy, George A. (Suffolk)||M'Killop, W.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hn. Sydney Charles||Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worc'r.)||M'Laren, Sir C. B. (Leicester)|
|Byles, William Pollard||Harmsworth. R L. (Caithn'ss-sh||M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)|
|Cameron, Robert||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N. E.||M'Micking, Major G.|
|Carr-Gomm. H. W.||Harwood, George||Mallet, Charles E.|
|Causton, Rt. Hn. Richard Knight||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Manfield, Harry (Northants)|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Mansfield, H. Rendall (Lincoln)|
|Channing, Sir Francis Allston||Haworth, Arthur A.||Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston)|
|Cheetham, John Frederick||Hazel, Dr. A. E.||Marnham, F. J.|
|Cleland, J. W.||Hedges, A. Paget||Massie, J.|
|Clynes, J. R.||Hemmerde, Edward George||Masterman, C. F. G.|
|Cobbold, Felix Thornley||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Meagher, Michael|
|Collins, Sir Wm. J. (S. Pancras, W||Henderson, J. M.(Aberdeen, W.)||Meehan, Patrick A. (Queen's Co|
|Corbett, CH (Sussex, E. Grinst'd||Henry, Charles S.||Menzies, Walter|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Higham, John Sharp||Micklem, Nathaniel|
|Cory, Sir Clifford John||Hobhouse, Charles E. H.||Middlebrook, William|
|Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Hodge, John||Molteno, Percy Alport|
|Cox, Harold||Hogan, Michael||Mond, A.|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Holt, Richard Durning||Money, L. G. Chiozza|
|Crean, Eugene||Hope, John Dean (Fife, West)||Montagu, Hon. E. S.|
|Crooks, William||Hope, W. Batemar (Somerset, N||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)|
|Crossley, William J.||Horniman, Emslie John||Morrell, Philip|
|Cullinan, J.||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Morse, L. L.|
|Curran, Peter Francis||Hudson, Walter||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Nannetti, Joseph P.||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradf'rd||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton|
|Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)||Robinson, S.||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Nicholls, George||Robson, Sir William Snowdon||Tillett, Louis John|
|Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncast'r||Roche, John (Galway, East)||Tomkinson, James|
|Nolan, Joseph||Roe, Sir Thomas||Torrance, Sir A. M.|
|Norman, Sir Henry||Rowlands, J.||Toulmin, George|
|Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Nussey, Thomas Willans||Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)||Verney, F. W.|
|Natall, Harry||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)||Vivian, Henry|
|O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary, Mid||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)||Walker, H. De R. (Leicester)|
|O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Scarisbrick, T. T. L.||Walsh, Stephen|
|O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Schwann, C. Duncan (Hyde)||Walton, Joseph|
|O'Donnell, C. J. (Walworth)||Sehwann, Sir C. E.(Manchester)||Wardle, George J.|
|O'Dowd, John||Seaverns, J. H.||Wason, Rt. Hn. E (Clackmannan|
|O'Grady, J.||Seddon, J.||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)||Seely, Calonel||Waterlow, D. S.|
|O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N||Shackleton, David James||Watt, Henry A.|
|O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Parker, James (Halifax)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. T. (Hawick, B.)||Weir, James Galloway|
|Partington, Oswald||Shipman, Dr. John C.||White, Sir George (Norfolk)|
|Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Silcock, Thomas Ball||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)|
|Pearce, William (Limehouse)||Smeaton, Donall Mackenzie||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Snowden, P.||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Pirie, Duncan V.||Spicer, Sir Albert||Whitehead, Rowland|
|Pollard, Dr.||Stanger, H. Y.||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax|
|Pansonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Power, Patrick Joseph||Steadman, W. C.||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Price, C. E.(Edinburgh, Central)||Stewart, Halley (Greenock)||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)|
|Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)|
|Priestley, Arthur (Grantham)||Strachey, Sir Edward||Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)|
|Priestley, W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)||Straus, B. S. (Mile End)||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh. N)|
|Rainy, A. Rolland||Stuart, James (Sunderland)||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Rea, Russell (Gloucester)||Summerbell, T.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Rea, Walter Russell (Searboro')||Sutherland, J. E.||Winfrey, R.|
|Rendall, Athelstan||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)||Wood, T. M'Kinnon|
|Richards, T. F.(Wolverh'mpt'n||Taylor, John W. (Durham)||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Richardson, A.||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Ridsdale. E. A.||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Joseph Pease and Master of Elibank.|
|Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, R)|
|Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)||Thomasson, Franklin|
|Adkins, W. Ryland D.||Forster, Henry William||Rutherford, John (Lancashire)|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Gibbs, G. A. (Bristol, West)||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)|
|Arkwright. John Stanhope||Gretton, John||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Ashley, W. W.||Guinness, Walter Edward||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert|
|Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt Hn. Sir H||Hamilton, Marquess of||Sears, J. E.|
|Balfour, Rt Hn. A. J.(City Lond.)||Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashf'rd,||Sheffield., Sir Berkeley George D.|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Harris, Frederick Leverton||Sloan, Thomas Henry|
|Baring, Capt. Hn. G.(Winchester||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East)|
|Beach, Hn. Michael Hugh Hicks||Heaton, John Henniker||Smith, F. E.(Liverpool, Walton|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Hill, Sir Clement||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Houston, Robert Paterson||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Bowles, G. Stewart||Hunt, Rowland||Stanier, Beville|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Joynion-Hicks, William||Starkey, John R.|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Kerry, Earl of||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Kimber, Sir Henry||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Cecil, Lord John P. Joicey||King, Sir Henry Seymour(Hull)||Thomson, W. Mitchell-(Lanark)|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.)||Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm.||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Chamberlain, Rt Hn J. A. (Worc||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Valentia, Viscount|
|Coates, Major E. F. (Lewisham)||Lonsdale. John Brownlee||Walker, Col. W. H.(Lancashire)|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S)||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Whitbread, Howard|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Cross, Alexander||Magnus, Sir Philip||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Davies, David (Montgomery Co)||Morpeth, Viscount||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fred Dixon||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Younger, George|
|Duncan, Robert (Lanark, Govan||Roberts. S. (Sheilield, Ecelesall)|
|Faber, George Denison (York)||Rogers, F. E. Newman||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Courthope and Viscount Helmsley.|
|Fell, Arthur||Ronaldshay, Earl of|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro||Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert|