HC Deb 21 April 1913 vol 52 cc67-104

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."


I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and to add at the end of the Question the words "upon this day six months."

In view of the feeling of intense dislike at the gradual strengthening of the power of the Executive in the region of finance, and the corresponding weakening of the power of this House, entertained by hon. Members on this side, no other course was open to us but to move the rejection of this Bill on the Third Reading. That course I propose to take. Over 200 years ago this House joined with the other House in promoting that well-known measure the Bill of Rights, a Bill limiting the power of the Crown in the direction of taxation at the instigation of the Crown. Matters have come to such a pass that it may be necessary before long for this House to join with the other House in promoting a second Bill of Rights, not limiting the power of the Crown, but limiting the power of a tyrannical oligarchy to tax the subjects of His Majesty without those subjects having that right of safeguarding themselves which they have had certainly for upwards of two centuries. Bad as this Bill is—and I admit it is not so bad a Bill as it was before it passed through Committee—we might have allowed this Bill to pass its Third Reading if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had frankly acknowledged that it was a temporary Bill to extricate His Majesty's Government from a temporary difficulty—a difficulty, by the way, of their own making—and that he did not regard this Bill in any way as likely to become part of the permanent machinery of Parliament. That course the right hon. Gentleman refused to take. There was an Amendment which gave him the opportunity of saying that this Bill was a temporary Bill. When he spoke on that Amendment, and when he offered a Select Committee to consider the whole position that had arisen in consequence of the action brought by Mr. Bowles against the Bank of England, the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave no indication whatever that he would regard this as a temporary Bill. He predicted that the very action of the Select Committee would be to widen and extend the powers which were give by this Bill. He evidently had at heart the desire to have this Bill in the form in which it was introduced, with powers in a wider and more dangerous form than presented to us now on Third Reading.

The Bill, as it was introduced—as we pointed out at the time—enabled this House by a single Vote to impose any new tax so far it had reference to Income Tax. Customs and Excise, or to vary existing taxation, and that without that taxation being part of a Finance Bill which had passed the House of Lords and had received the Royal Assent. That taxation imposed by a single Vote of the House of Commons was to be statutory for a period of four months and might, be collected from the day after it was imposed. It is true, by the Amendment moved by my Noble Friend the Member for Oxford University, that now any such Vote in Committee of this House would have to be followed within ten days of the sitting of the House and after the Resolution of the Committee by a Resolution of the House itself, and would further have to be followed by a Finance Bill being introduced and read a second time within twenty days of the Resolution being passed by the House of Commons. But still, vast powers are given to the Executive under this Bill. Let us examine what those powers are. Let the House note for a moment the relative positions both of the Government and of the taxpayer as they will exist under this Bill when it becomes an Act of Parliament, and as they did exist before the financial reign of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. Before the present financial reign no man in the United Kingdom could have legally imposed upon him any taxation of any sort or kind, or could have legally collected from him any taxation unless that taxation had been put into a Finance Bill, unless that Bill had passed through its First Reading, Committee stage, Second and Third Readings, had been sent up to the House of Lords, had there been fully debated and passed through all its stages in that House, and further had received the Royal Assent.

Look at the present time, and the taxpayer as he will find himself under this Bill. A very few years have passed. No longer is the consent of the House of Lords necessary to any Money Bill; but even so, at least under the Parliament Act, in the year 1911, this House of Commons itself reserved to the House of Lords the power to delay every Money Bill for a period of one month. The taxpayer had the advantage of some delay, some consideration, and the possibility of arousing any agitation and awakening any public opinion during that period in respect to any taxation imposed upon him. How utterly different the thing is now! By one single Vote in this House taxes may be imposed, provided they are not new taxes, but a variation of old taxes, and from the day after that Vote has been given it is possible now that these taxes may be legally collected from the subjects of the Crown. I described this Bill in a former speech as a revolutionary Bill. I think I did not use language one whit too strong to so describe it. It is revolutionary, inasmuch as it deprives the subject of two protective rights. Up till now the subject has had the right legally to refuse to pay any tax which was in a Bill not passed through the House of Lords and which had not received the Royal Assent. That was a very valuable constitutional right which has been taken away from the subject. I affirm that this Bill is revolutionary because it diminishes the power of this House itself in the matter of taxation; it impairs the few rights left to the House of Lords. It weakens and undermines the position of the Crown itself. Doubtless the answer of the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be: "Oh, it does not go beyond custom and use." That has been the argument of the Attorney-General, and of every Minister who has spoken on this Bill. "It does not after all," they say, "go beyond custom and usage."

I say it travels very far beyond custom and usage. It is surrounded by a different atmosphere altogether. It travels into a different hemisphere altogether of constitutional law and constitutional provision. It may be agreed that certain taxes have been collected from certain people before those taxes have ever found their way into an Act of Parliament; but those have been collected in a voluntary way! There has been perfectly free accord on the part of those from whom they were collected. The system will now be altogether different; these taxes under this Bill will be collected from the subject, whether he likes it or whether he does not, whether he consents or whether he does not. There will be a statutory right to collect them. There was no statutory or legal right to collect them before. They were collected because it was convenient to the Treasury and because the people from whom they knew that these taxes would very likely find their way into an Act of Parliament. People may say "what harm can it possibly do"? I do not say it would do any great harm if the present usage and practice only were put in force, but we all know we have to look at to know what is likely to be the use made of the Bill and the powers contained in it by a particular Chancellor of the Exchequer or by my right hon. Friend who formerly or by my right hon. Friend who formerly occupied that position. We should be slothful Members of the House of Commons in our care for the liberties of the people if we were only to regard the Bill from the convenient point of view that the powers given in the Bill would never be abused. That is quite a false position.

The House of Commons must look to it that there are certain powers in this Bill which may be used to their fullest extent. From that point of view I should like to examine the powers given by this Bill and to see what we are doing by putting those powers into the Bill. We had an instance given as to the possibility of a Chancellor of the Exchequer raising the Income Tax under this Bill from 1s. 2d. to 15s. or even 20s. in the £. That is such a possibility under the Bill. It would be quite possible for a huge Income Tax of 5s. or 10s. or 20s. to be passed by one single Resolution, and the very next day the Bank of England and all the other banks would be called upon to deduct this tax because it was a statutory tax and would remain statutory until, by some operation of this House, the decision of the Committee had been reversed. That is one possibility. I should like to ask the Attorney-General this question—and I will not take an extravagant case of raising the present Income Tax of 1s. 2d. to 10s., but I will take this case: Supposing a Chancellor of the Exchequer found himself in want of money for social reform or for some purposes which we should like to see carried out if we only had the money to do it, such as better education and housing and some increase in old age pensions and many things of that kind—and supposing a Chancellor of the Exchequer wanted money for these social purposes, and that by a Resolution in Committee of Ways and Means he raised the Income Tax from 1s. 2d. to 2s. in the £ Supposing the Chancellor of the Exchequer came to the conclusion that the House would support him in his ideas that every man with more than £400 a year ought to pay at least a tithe of his income towards Income Tax, and that he imposed 2s. Income Tax, which would be collected the very next day by deductions at the Bank of England and other Banks, does the right hon. Gentleman think that that will be going beyond usage? I confess I think, while many Income Tax payers do not now object to have their Income Tax deducted before that Income Tax can be legally deducted, they might object extremely to having a 2s. Income Tax imposed and deducted after a single Debate in the House of Commons, before the matter was ever properly discussed by the House of Commons and before it had gone through the various stages in the House of Commons and all the various stages in the House of Lords up to the time of receiving the Royal Assent. There is an instance that goes far beyond usage.

I will take another point, and I will take another Chancellor of the Exchequer of an entirely different typo to the present Chancellor. There might be a Chancellor of the Exchequer who might hold the view that the present exceptions and abatements should to a large extent be done away with, and that everybody who has an income of more than £100 a year should, as in Germany, contribute something to the Income Tax. It would be perfectly possible for that Chancellor to come down here and by a single Vote in Committee of Ways and Means to do away with all the exemptions and abatements and to impose an Income Tax upon people who had more than £100 a year. It would not be a new tax, it would be a variation of an old tax, and it could be done by a single Resolution of this House. I ask the Attorney-General whether that would not be going far beyond usage and practice? There would be hundreds of thousands of people who for the first time found themselves liable to Income Tax, and that Income Tax would be collected the very next, day, and I do not believe that under the present system they would voluntarily allow that Income Tax to be collected from them until they had used all their influence and all the pressure of public opinion to get the House of Commons to take a very different view with regard to this new imposition of Income Tax, and until they had an opportunity of having the Bill in which these new taxes were imposed submitted to full discussion by the House of Commons and by the House of Lords before it received the Royal Assent.

I will take another instance. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, or some of them, have been very anxious that new taxes should not be included in these provisional regulations. I was very much inclined to support that view at one time, but since that I have come to the conclusion that after all there is not much less danger in the Bill merely because new taxes are excluded, and that, on the other hand, it might be very unfair to embarrass another Chancellor of the Exchequer who, in imposing new taxes, was not taking any measure which perhaps was half as foreign to the general opinion of the people as measures that might be taken by another Chancellor of the Exchequer to increase to a very large amount taxes which had already been instituted. Suppose that some day or another there was a shilling or two-shilling duty upon corn, and that that tax was already in existence. It would then be perfectly possible for a Chancellor of the Exchequer, by a certain Resolution in Committee of Ways and Means, to increase that tax from 2s. to 5s. or 10s. Yet while the country might be quite prepared for a 2s. tax and quite willing to pay it and have it collected at the source before it was ever incorporated in an Act of Parliament, it might take a very different view indeed of a tax of 5s. or 10s. in the £, which would become something in the nature of a protective duty. There would be no elaborate Debate upon a matter of that kind, but simply a day's Debate, and because of one Resolution in Ways and Means practically the whole of the financial system of the country would be altered. A protective system would be established, and it might only last ten days if this House took a different decision after, but it would be the law of the land for ten days, without having had any adequate discussion on so important a matter having large financial bearings. There is an enormous power in this Bill which ought never to be given by this House to any Government that ever existed.

The right hon. Gentleman may say, "After all, it is quite true all that you say might happen; all these taxes might be imposed by a single Resolution in Committee of Ways and Means; but then there is the Amendment of the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil), by which the House would have an opportunity within ten days after the Resolution in Committee of Ways and Means of reviewing and reversing its decision." Yes, but a whole month or five weeks might elapse, because obviously the Whitsuntide holidays might very easily intervene, and the House might not sit for four or five weeks after the Resolution was carried in Committee of Ways and Means; and so for four or five weeks these new taxes, this enormous increase in old taxes, these new Corn Duties, this enormous increase in the old Corn Duties, this Coal Tax, might be in existence. Millions of money might have poured into the Treasury before the House of Commons had any possible opportunity of reviewing or reversing its decision. All this money would have been collected. What real opportunity will the House of Commons have of reconsidering its decision when all that was done? I could imagine what would happen. Possibly there might be some feeling in the country against these taxes. Hon. Members, whatever Government was in power, might come to their Whips and say, "We find this very large increase of taxation is very unpopular with our constituents," and there might be a considerable split in the party on this proposal of very large increase of taxation or to the imposition of this new form of taxation. And what would be the argument of the Whips? They would say to hon. Gentlemen, "After all, you must recollect that millions of money have already been collected; these taxes are now in existence for four or five weeks; the whole trade of the country will be dislocated if we do not keep them on, it is quite impossible to trace the money already paid to its source; you cannot get it back into the right hands. The Budget has been presented, and the whole scheme of the Budget depends upon these taxes to advance our social reform programme, and if you do not vote for these taxes the whole social reform programme will have to lapse, and I tell you candidly and confidently that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is likely to resign if you do not support him." All these arguments would be used, and the House of Commons would not have the same freedom of opportunity of approaching this great subject and of considering this great increase in our taxes, or some practically new form of taxation, as the House has now with its old procedure by which these taxes must be considered before they can be legally imposed or legally embodied in an Act of Parliament. And so I say that this proposed procedure will imperil the rights and control of the House of Commons. After all, the House of Commons ought to exercise its control over finance, and ought to consider itself the representative of the people more in the matter of finance than in anything else. It ought to be their guardian and custodian. The House of Commons is parting with one of its most valuable rights, and, in fact, is handing itself over almost body and soul to the Executive.


What is the alternative?


I know we are told that we must have some procedure of this kind. As one not unconnected with the Treasury in past times, I wish to take this opportunity of discussing this point. I agree that the Treasury finds itself in a very great difficulty, and probably there will be forestalment and loss of revenue unless something is done in the matter. I do not, however, think there is any necessity for this extremely violent and revolutionary measure. If this Bill had been put before us as a temporary measure to get the Government out of a difficulty, we might have been well advised not to oppose it; then the Select Committee would have had the whole situation put before it to survey, and I am confident that Committee would have made many suggestions and devised many expedients by which this possible loss of revenue might be avoided. Suggestions have been made time after time. It has been suggested that the Income Tax year should be altered. I do not believe there are any insuperable objections to that. It might be extended for a period beyond that which it covers at the present time. As regards Customs, they might be made retrospective, but there might be conditions imposed on those who took goods out of bond during the first two or three months. Then the House of Commons might meet earlier, and make finance its first business. We might go back to the period when various taxes were placed in various Bills, and the most pressing and urgent taxes might be placed in a single Bill. By adopting some of these suggestions, under a much more stringent procedure, it would be quite possible to get a Bill very quickly through the House of Commons which might be actually necessary for the services of the country, by which alone could be secured the full revenue from the taxes which the House of Commons had agreed to. These suggestions would form a practical measure, and would be far less dangerous than the one we are asked to adopt to-day.

I am confident that if a Select Committee were to sit with Custom House officers upon it, and all the experts we could gather together, a variety of suggestions would be made by which it would be perfectly possible, without violating any of the fundamental traditions of this House, to devise a procedure which would stop the leakage by forestalment we all desire to stop. No case has been made out for this most revolutionary and dangerous procedure. This Bill must be regarded not only from our own point of view, but from the point of view that it may be copied by other Parliaments. This is the Mother of Parliaments, and our procedure is constantly being copied. Personally, I should regret that these regulations should ever be copied by any other Parliament. The Mother of Parliaments is setting a bad example to her children in passing this measure. Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway are anxious to set up a separate Parliament in Ireland. It has been indicated in the Home Rule Bill that the Irish Parliament shall adopt the procedure of this House. In Clause 12 of the Home, Rule Bill hon. Members will find it provided that the Irish House of Commons and the Irish Senate are to have the powers, privileges, and immunities of the House of Commons as it at present exists, and its members and committees are to have the same power that the Members and Committees of this House possess at the date of the passing of the Act. What an example to set to Ireland!

Within the limits of that taxation it will be possible for the Irish House of Commons, in one night, at one silting, by one Vote, to impose any taxation within their limits, and to impose the immediate collection of that taxation as a statutory right upon Ireland. Hon. Members opposite are always saying that they have safeguarded the liberties of the minority in Ireland, but there will be no safety for that minority if these powers are given to the Irish House of Commons. If a bad example is set here, it will be followed by other Parliaments, and that is another very strong reason why we should pause before we make this extraordinary alteration in our present form of procedure. We are now by this measure entering upon a very perilous path, dangerous to the Constitution and to the people. Little by little the power and protection afforded by the Second Chamber has been withdrawn, and now by some subtle influence the very power of the Crown itself is being withdrawn under this Bill, and the subjects and taxpayers of this country are being left to the mercy of the House of Commons. The House of Commons is rapidly becoming subservient to the Executive, and more docile to Ministerial dictation. The whole position is worsened from the point of view of the subject and the taxpayer, and when this House sees the action that will be taken by future Chancellors of the Exchequer under this procedure it will most certainly regret having in a light-hearted way allowed this Bill to become a part of our permanent Constitution.


I wish to speak for a very few moments upon this Bill. I may say at once that I am absolutely in favour of this measure, which is only an effort to legalise what has been the custom and practice of the House of Commons for seventy-five or eighty years. This practice was introduced, in the first place, by a Gentleman who was not only a Finance Minister, but at the time a Prime Minister, who was likewise the Leader of the Conservative party. As one to whom constitutional matters are a sort of a hobby, I would like to take exception to certain formulas in this Bill. At present the House of Commons is absolutely master of finance, but if the Attorney-General will glance his eye over the first and second Clauses of this Bill he will see that special mention is made of Resolutions of the House of Commons, Resolutions of Committee of Ways and Means, Resolutions of the Whole House, and special provisions are inserted providing that the Second Reading shall take place within ten days. There is also a special arrangement that these Resolutions shall have statutory force. These provisions are, perhaps, all good and proper, but I object to them on principle, because, as far as I know, they have never found a place in any Statute dealing with the procedure of the House of Commons.

The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Rufus Isaacs)

The hon. and learned Member is wrong.


At any rate, the instances are very few and far between. I think it is a cardinal principle of the administration of both Houses of Parliament that they should be absolute masters of their own procedure, but the instant reference is made in a Bill of this kind to First Readings, Second Readings, and Resolutions, then you immemediately transfer to the construction of the Courts the question whether a law was legally enacted or not, and that is what I object to. I think the House of Commons should be master of its own procedure. I do not think what is proposed in this Bill is very objectionable under the circumstances, because the House of Commons is master in finance. I should be very sorry if it were laid down that the House of Commons could not pass a whole Bill by a more Resolution. I am anxious in our procedure that the question as to whether a matter has passed this House or not should alone be determined by this House, and no Court whatever should ever be allowed to take exception to that procedure. I was very much reminded of a dogma that has always been insisted on by Mr. Freeman in all his writings, that the growth of the Constitution has been spontaneous more than by Statutes or by regulations, and undoubtedly reforms of the Constitution have not had any very great aid from professional lawyers, who are inclined to give everything the sanction of a dogmatic definition, and a complete juristical prescription for their use. We owe this Bill to the genius of Mr. Gibson Bowles. I regard him as a man of unquestionable genius, and one of the greatest Parliamentarians of his generation or any generation. I have always said that he has an exquisitely constructed mind, which he does not know how to use. I recollect an observation made by Mr. Ruskin after going through some great exhibition, where he referred to the wonderful ingenuity which has been devoted to the construction of a ridiculous toy. Mr. Bowles has devoted a great deal of time to the reduction into legal form of something which was not at all necessary, namely, an ordinary convention of the House of Commons good for the people and good for society at large. It was not much of a discovery. I certainly spoke of it some twenty-two or twenty-three years ago, and many did so before me, but I said at the same time that no one would do such a thing, because really the spirit of Parliament is not consonant with resort to mere subterfuges, especially useless and mischievous subterfuges such as this. This Bill has made it impossible to resort to such a method again. It may be asked why this practice has remained in its present state for eighty or ninety years. It is owing undoubtedly to the good sense of the English people. They interpreted things in the spirit of the day while they allowed the form to go unaltered. I can only compare Mr. Bowles' procedure in this to the various contrivances, some of great ingenuity, made by men to rake up some obsolete and disused Statute. Everyone saw this blot, and it had only to be mentioned to have it remedied, but it was not necessary to take this course, and it is still more unnecessary at the present time.

Let me see the arguments used against this procedure. There is the argument of the hon. and learned Member for South Bucks (Sir A. Cripps), who says that we are making the House of Commons pass a law without the intervention of the Lords or the Crown, and that we are doing what the servile House of Commons of Henry VIII. did when it passed an Act giving to Royal Proclamations the form of law. When my hon. Friend said that, he caught my eye, and, being an honest man, he was not able to keep his countenance. Then we had the astonishing argument of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Cassel) that this Bill repeals and destroys the Bill of Rights. Let me take all these arguments together, and let me say one thing in reference to them. These Gentlemen invest themselves with a juristical and judicial atmosphere, and they go and look at the principles of Charles I. and apply those principles to the constitutional machinery of the present day. This Bill undoubtedly gives great power to the Executive; and why should it not? The Executive represents the people, and the greater power given to the Executive the greater is the power of the House of Commons, because the Executive is more amenable at present to the House of Commons than ever it was at any time or period. The hon. and learned Member's contention about the Bill of Rights is the most astonishing of all. Of course, it is perfectly right that the ordinary practice of the House of Commons in giving statutory effect to these Resolutions is a legislative anomaly and contrary to the Bill of Rights, which did not permit any taxes to be levied without an Act of Parliament, but the hon. and learned Gentleman said that if we passed this Bill we should be practically repealing the Bill of Rights. We do nothing of the kind; we confirm the Bill of Rights, because the object of the Bill of Rights was that the House of Commons should have real power over taxation, and that taxation should be levied by them to any extent they pleased, and not by any external authority. Our contention is that the more control the House of Commons has over finance the better. I recollect how the Bill of Rights has been used by lawyers. It has been put into operation as a barrier against what I consider a great and proper facility for financial legislation. It was cited in another way at the time of the Reform Bill. You could do anything you liked with the Bill of Rights. A very clever Irish lawyer, who was not at all averse to legal promotion, Mr. Philip Crampton, said that one condition of the Bill of Rights was that election should be free, and he did not see why all the rotten boroughs should not be disfranchised at once. The construction of the Bill of Rights was raised in the House of Commons, and very severe stricture was passed on Mr. Philip Crampton, who afterwards became Solicitor-General. He was known as a lawyer as "Slippery Phil." I do not know whether his example is to be followed by later exponents of the Bill of Rights. I am glad this Bill is to be placed on the Statute Book. I regard it as an accession of strength in the highest degree to the House of Commons, but I would ask the Attorney-General, who knows a great deal more about everything than most of us know about anything, to bear in mind my suggestion with regard to having no reference whatever to the procedure of the House of Commons in any subsequent Statutes. Otherwise, this Bill is an excellent Bill in support of popular liberties, and all the arguments, from Henry VIII. downwards, which have been used against it, are so many arguments in its favour.

5.0 P.M.


The hon. Member seems to me to have made a rather contradictory speech. He said, to begin with, that he welcomes this Bill and approved of it in every way, and then he proceeded to say that he regretted any Bill should be placed on the Statute Book which dealt with the procedure of the House of Commons. How would he deal with this matter by legislation without introducing the procedure of the House of Commons? Then I was surprised to hear the hon. Member refer to the Bill of Rights as an obsolete and disused Statute. It must have been surprising to anyone to hear such words used with regard to that Statute which has always been considered as enunciating the fundamental propositions upon which the liberties of the subject are based. The hon. Member said that this Bill was attributable to the genius of Mr. Gibson Bowles. I do not dispute the genius of Mr. Gibson Bowles, who is a very watchful dog on the actions of the Treasury, more necessary at the present time perhaps than ever before; but the genius of Mr. Gibson Bowles would never have been invoked nor would this Bill have been necessary if it had not been for the neglect by the Government of financial business. That is where you find the genesis of this Bill. When the Finance Act was passed within a reasonable period the subject was content to pay his taxes before they could be legally collected, but the moment the Finance Act was postponed to too late a period of the year that which might have been allowed by the subject willingly and which might have been convenient became extremely inconvenient. I should like to read what the learned judge said, and what the Attorney-General said in his argument. The learned judge said this:— The taxpayer who has confidence that the House of Commons, having assented in Committee of Ways and Means to the taxation proposed on behalf of the Crown, will proceed without unnecessary delay with a Bill for the imposition of the tax, may not unnaturally be prepared to allow the proposed tax to be deducted from the source, but it may, from his, point of view, be an entirely different matter if he suspects or has reason to suppose that the Bill actually imposing the tax will be postponed until after the consideration of other important and it may be contentious measures. The learned judge there puts the real reason of the taxes not having been disputed before. The subject was always certain that before he could come into Court the Finance Act would become an Act of Parliament. The Attorney-General in his argument in the case said:— The practice attacked is a convenient one when the Government is prepared to pass the Bill, but it becomes inconvenient when the Bill is long postponed and there may be a change of Government before the measure becomes a Statute. The necessity for this has undoubtedly arisen from the practice of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. He has been responsible for four Finance Acts. I do not count the Finance Act of 1908, because the present Prime Minister was partly responsible for it. I begin from 1909, and, with regard to 1909, I will not blame him for anything that happened in the House of Lords. His Finance Bill of that year did not leave the House of Commons until 4th November, later than any previous Finance Act had received the Royal Assent in recent times. In 1910 the Finance Act did not receive the Royal Assent until 28th November. Now we come to his third year, which was worse even than the others. The Finance Act did not receive the Royal Assent until 16th December. The Bill actually took three and a half days in getting through the House of Commons, but so utterly reckless of the finances of the country is the present Chancellor of the Exchequer that he did not choose to bring that measure into law until 16th December. There was no new taxation whatever, and there was no reason for not proceeding with it. In 1912 he introduced the Budget and got his Resolution on 2nd April, but he did not take the Report stage until 24th June, and that was only because at that time Mr. Gibson Bowles was threatening him with action. When my hon. Friend attributes it to the genius of Mr. Gibson Bowles, I agree it is partly due to that, because Mr. Bowles showed great skill in arguing the case and in showing how unconstitutional was the action of the Government, but it is still more due to the neglect of the Government of financial business since the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been at the Treasury. Every year he has been Chancellor of the Exchequer he has been so negligent of the finances of the country that that which was previously a convenient practice, according to the learned judge and according to the Attorney-General, has become highly inconvenient. The subject at last rebelled against the course of action which the Government were pursuing. That is the reason why they are driven to this necessity, which all of us must regret, of having to deal with this matter by Statute. That is how the Government have dealt with this matter up till now. When they have got us into the difficulty, how do they try to get us out? In the first place, they knew the difficulty existed on 4th November last, and they did absolutely nothing until the 7th April. They knew that, when the 5th April came, the banks and the people who have to pay incomes or salaries would be in a difficulty. The Bank of England is in a difficulty now in connection with this matter. The Government have caused a situation under which the Bank of England is practically compelled to break the law. The action of the Bank of England in not paying interest in full is illegal, and the Government alone are responsible for it. Although their attention was called to the matter, because they cared more about vote-catching and party measures, such as the Home Rule Bill, the Welsh Disestablishment Bill, and the Franchise Bill, they were not willing to give even a few days to this particular matter, and they therefore created a situation in which the Bank of England is practically placed in a position that it cannot do otherwise than break the law. The same thing applies to other banks. It applies to hundreds of millions of securities which have been falling due since the 5th April. If, when they produced this Bill, they had done something to help tide over the temporary difficulty, I should perhaps have been able to vote for it. But the astounding thing is that the Bill does nothing, and so far as the permanent question is concerned the Government have agreed to appoint a Select Committee which will inquire fully into the matter, while as far as the temporary difficulty is concerned the Bill does nothing to meet it. It does nothing to meet the cases where interest or salaries have been paid with Income Tax deducted since the 5th April.

Again, it will not apply to any Resolutions which may be passed in connection with the Budget this year. I understand the Government are going to take the Budget to-morrow. But this Bill will not be retrospective and will not apply to any Resolution which may follow upon the Budget. This is a Bill which the House of Lords will have a right to discuss, and which they will no doubt take an opportunity of discussing, so that the Government cannot possibly hope to get the Royal Assent to it before to-morrow. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer comes down with his Resolutions the Bill will not apply to them, because it cannot become operative before it gets the Royal Assent. The extraordinary thing is that while there was a temporary difficulty which really required to be dealt with, the Government have so framed their measure as not to meet it. Instead, they propose to put on the Statute Book a whole lot of detailed provisions with regard to the future which they themselves admit are of so doubtful a character that they have agreed to refer them to a Select Committee. They have really dealt fully with that part of the question which they might have left over, and they have not dealt properly or attempted to deal with that portion which was really urgent and required attention. From start to finish the Government have shown a remarkable want of skill in dealing with this question. At the beginning of to-day's proceedings, on a Motion made by the Solicitor-General, the Leader of the Opposition said that the Government could not be congratulated either on the form or substance of their way of dealing with the particular question then under discussion. I venture to say that they are not to be congratulated either upon the way which they have dealt with this measure. To begin with they have entangled us in a constitutional difficulty which necessitates that very effect which even the hon. Member below the Gangway (Mr. Swift MacNeill) objects so strongly to, namely, placing our procedure on the Statute Book, and, while trying to get us out of the difficulty, they have dealt in detail with that which they admit should go to a Select Committee and they have neglected to deal with that which is really urgent and necessary to enable the banks to deal with such interest and dividends as they have to pay immediately.


The hon. Member for Donegal began his speech by saying that he occupied a position of perfect detachment. What would his position be, I wonder, when his detachment is not so perfect? It appeared to me, as I listened to his speech, that the Government could have desired no fuller support than what he gave them in connection with what they propose or any fuller defence than what he put forward for what they had not done in this Bill, than was afforded by the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman—a speech so detached from all party and sublunary interests. I was a little startled by some of the constitutional doctrines which he laid down. I know the hon. Gentleman prides himself upon his knowledge of constitutional law. He announced, for instance, that the greater the power of the Executive the greater was the power of the people. But that has been the doctrine of every Napoleonic tyrant, and of many tyrants long before Napoleon gave his great name to the Napoleonic system.

It was not, however, to discuss abstruse points of constitutional interest that I rose. I propose to speak very briefly, and I suspect the House already knows what I am going to say. I did approach the consideration of this Bill and of the Resolution on which it was founded, I think I may fairly say, in a spirit of detachment from any party consideration. I was perfectly ready to co-operate with the Government in meeting the difficulties which have been raised. I saw nothing to quarrel with in the principle they laid down. That principle was that, subject to such safeguards as it was necessary to introduce, when you turn an elastic and non-legal usage into Statute law, you should make the Bill embody that past usage. If the Bill did that, I do not think it would be necessary for me to speak at all, and certainly my speech would not have been directed towards voting against this Third Reading. But in the course of the discussion the Government, principally on representation from their own side, though they are entitled to say that objection was not taken on their side alone, but principally in answer to representations from their own side, have varied their Bill so that it no longer corresponds with old customs, and, by that variation, they have, to my mind, destroyed the case for the measure. I agreed with the Government when they said there was a case for giving legal sanction to the old customs, but I agree with my hon. Friends behind me when they say that, for the Bill as it is now framed, and as it has emerged from Committee, there is no conceivable case at all. The old practice of collecting taxes, not varied by the passing of the Resolution in Committee, applied only to Income Tax, Customs, and Excise.


I think the collection of stamps was also included in 1889.


I do not think it has been the usual practice to collect stamps, but I will not say that it has not been done in particular cases. In the main, however, the practice applies among direct taxes to Income Tax, and among indirect taxes to Customs and Excise. As long as you did not desire to vary the rate of those taxes, or to vary the taxation, there was no need for a Bill of this kind to enable the collection of Customs Duty, for it already carries you into the month of July. There was, too, no reason whatever why your Income Tax Resolution should not be framed so as to give you a similar latitude in the first quarter of the new financial year. Therefore, if you did not want to vary taxation, there was no reason for the procedure of this Bill. Assuming that the taxes were always to remain what they are, you could arrive at your object, the safeguarding of the revenue, without this Bill, which everybody recognises is, in itself, at best, a regrettable necessity. It is only when you want to vary the taxation that you need this Bill. If you want to vary a duty, it is desirable you should be able to collect the new revenue at the earliest possible moment after your intention has been announced. But it is infinitely more desirable, if you want to vary the Customs or Excise, that you should do the same thing, because the leakage and loss of revenue from delay in the case of Customs and Excise is very much greater than it is in the case of delay with regard to Income Tax.

Furthermore, if you lose a half-year's revenue of Income Tax, you can recover it by a double charge in the succeeding half-year. I do not know whether hon. Members follow what I mean, but in a year—I do not exactly remember which; I am told it was 1884, the Penjdeh year—Mr. Gladstone's Government—I think Mr. Childers was Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time—having to meet an extraordinary expenditure in the latter part of the year, raised the Income Tax 1d. for the whole year with a special provision that there should be a pro rata deduction from those incomes which had already paid partial Income Tax. If a man had not paid any Income Tax, he paid the full year's duty with the additional 1d. If he had made one half-year's payment, he had to pay 2d. additional, and if he had made the three quarterly payments, he paid 4d. extra, and so the tax was graded. I only mention this to show that if revenue is lost from Income Tax in the first six month of the year, it can be recovered in the last six months. But that is not the case with Customs. If by clearing goods from bond, or passing goods through the Customs, they escape the moment at which the tax ought to be raised, you cannot make them subject to the tax, and in that case, if your Resolution does not become effective at once, it does not become effective at all. The goods will have passed into consumption with, perhaps, the amount of the extra duty added to their price, but that amount of duty will never reach the revenue, and the consumption can be forestalled by such large clearances from bond that the benefit to the revenue may be destroyed for twelve months or even longer.

The only case in which the Bill deals with the variation of taxation is a case which cannot be affected, whereas in regard to the variation of Customs and Excise, which may be affected; it does nothing at all. It does not matter from the point of view of public urgency or from the point of view of the liberty of the citizen whether your variation in taxation is by the imposition of new taxes or by doubling the rate of old taxes. The sacrifice of public liberty is just as great if you turn a 5d. duty on tea into a 1s. duty as it is if you put 1d. duty on some article which is not now taxed at all. The liberty of the citizen, if his liberty depends upon no tax being raised from him until there is a Statute giving its authority to the tax—the liberty of the citizen is as much jeopardised by collecting an additional 2d. or 3d. on the Tea Duty as by collecting a similar amount on a new duty. The Government, for reasons best known to themselves, have chosen to make a distinction between new taxes and the variation of old taxes. I say that that destroys the whole merits of their Bill. The Bill had one merit—it purported to put into an Act of Parliament the practice which has been pursued for sixty years and which had been found useful to the public service and a convenience to the public. They have cut and changed altogether a bit of the practice, and have destroyed the principle upon which their Bill is founded. They do something more. They give those of us who were willing to support them, and who proposed in the face of some difficulty to vote for their original Bill, the right to say that they had not considered and are not considering the public interests in this matter, that they have not followed any settled principles of finance, and that they are making the Bill such as will suit their own immediate convenience, careless of the interests of the country at large, careless of the earlier practice of our revenue system, and leaving others to solve the difficulty which they themselves have shirked. In these circumstances, I am, with a clear conscience, going to vote against the Bill, which, when it was first spoken of, I hoped I might be able to support. I would support a restoration of the old practice, but I will not support this selection of particular parts of the old practice for the temporary convenience of a particular Government.


No one in the House is likely to complain of the attitude adopted by the right hon. Gentleman, nor do I think that the Government has any right to make any complaint with regard to the change of attitude he has adopted at the present moment towards this Bill. He has been perfectly consistent in the view he has put forward in the House, and we quite understand, now that new taxes are excluded from the provisions and operations of this provisional collection of taxes, that he does not find himself at liberty to support it. Of course, we regret the loss of his support, but at the same time we think we are right in the view we have taken, more especially having regard to the criticisms which have been directed against this Bill from different parts of the House. It is not uninteresting to observe the different schools of thought which have directed their fire upon the Government in this connection. There are, for example, those like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham (Mr. Hayes Fisher), the hon. and learned Member for South Bucks (Sir A. Cripps), and the hon. and learned Member for West St. Pancras (Mr. Cassel), who have all along apparently taken the view that there ought to be no Bill, that nothing ought to be done by the Government in the nature of the proposals of this Bill, and that in some sort of way, although they quite admit, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham certainly admitted, that something ought to be done, still the proposals of the Government find no favour with them.


I distinctly said that had the Bill met a purely temporary difficulty, and had it been a purely temporary expedient, I should have voted for it or, at all events, not voted against it.


I thought I had caught some such phrase from the right hon. Gentleman, but I thought I was mistaken. If that is the view he takes I think I am entitled to claim his support for this Bill. He knows that as a result of the discussion which has taken place upon this Bill, which has been a very good one and has enabled us to make the Bill better than it was when introduced on First Reading, a Select Committee has been promised. A Select Committee is to inquire into this very matter, and no doubt if the Select Committee comes to the conclusion that better means can be devised—I do not say that they will not come to that conclusion—then, of course, the Government of the day, whichever Government is in power, will have to give effect to it. All that we say in reference to it is, that having considered it very carefully, we have come to the conclusion that this is the best means for meeting the difficulty until at all events the Select Committee has devised a better. If the right hon. Gentleman's only objection is that this is not a temporary measure, I say he has given us the best argument in support of the Bill. In the greater part of his speech he seemed to forget altogether that this Bill is intended to deal only with provisional collection. He spoke as if the Resolution of Committee of Ways and Means imposed a tax or duty, and that it had the force of law. Of course it only has the force of law for a certain time, provided that the House of Commons, when it considers the Resolution in Committee of Ways and Means or the Finance Bill of the year embodying the Resolution of the House, thinks that the original Resolution was a right one, and that the tax or duty thus imposed should be continued. The whole of this Bill deals merely with provisional collection. At this time it is hardly necessary to say to the House, because I am sure everybody in the House is perfectly familiar with it, that we must bear in mind that the whole principle of the Bill is to put into legal form what has been hitherto the prevailing practice for so many years. My hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Swift MacNeill) is such an authority on constitutional matters in this House, that I always dissent from anything he says with great diffidence. On this question he found fault with us, in a very gentle way, because we had introduced the procedure of the House of Commons into the Bill, and as a stern rigid constitutionalist he objected to that. If we are sinners, at any rate we are following precedent. The hon. and learned Member seemed to doubt whether there was any precedent. I do not profess for one moment to be able to give all the precedents, but I will certainly give him three. There was the Customs Consolidation Act, 1876, in which a distinct reference is made in Section 18 to a Resolution of the House of Commons in connection with taxation. I remember that because it formed part of the discussion during the argument in the case of Bowles versus The Bank of England. I was very much surprised, in looking up the various authorities for the purposes of that argument, to find that there was embodied in Section 18 of the Customs Consolidation Act a reference to a Resolution of the House of Commons, which undoubtedly suggests that the practice was recognised by Statute when Parliament passed the Customs Consolidation Act, 1876.


My right hon. and learned Friend will admit that "a Resolution of the House of Commons" is a very wide term.


I agree, although it got somehow or other into the Statute of 1876, that nobody can say it has the effect of making a Resolution of the House of Commons binding. That was the view taken by Mr. Justice Parker. I find another reference to the procedure of this House in the Scottish Procedure Act, 1899, in which there is a distinct reference to the powers of the Chairman of Committee of Ways and Means. In the Finance Act, 1901—it may be in some others, but I do not remember them—there is a distinct reference to a Resolution of Committee of Ways and Means in dealing with duties. There is nothing very novel in what we are doing, although I quite agree that it is the first time the practice which has prevailed has been put into an Act of Parliament.


All those Statutes were passed by Tory Governments.


I do not wish to take a partisan view of this measure, and I do not think the House would do so in devising the best means of getting over the difficulty which is created by the challenge of the practice which has hitherto prevailed. A further school of thought is that led by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain), which was in favour of this Bill. As an old experienced hand in finance, although he knows perfectly well that it is necessary to have some such measure as this once the practice is declared to be no longer legal, he says, "I should support it, but I will not sup- port it, because you have excluded new taxes from the purview of the Bill." I quite appreciate the argument he has put forward as regards new taxes, but we believe that all the arguments against the Bill, if they are to have any weight at all, apply with singular effect against new taxes. I will take the argument used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham, and the hon. and learned Member for South Bucks, who say you must not put into statutory form a practice such as has hitherto prevailed, because, if you do, you will give statutory effect to a Resolution which will not have been sufficiently discussed in the House of Commons. We have met that by saying that we do not want to extend the practice which has hitherto existed, but, on the contrary, so far as we can, we limit the practice. All that we desire to do is to enable the revenue to get the benefit of the prevailing practice as regards Income Tax, Tea Duty, and other duties of a similar character.


Will the terms of reference to the Select Committee include the question of new taxes?


I do not know what the terms of reference are, but I imagine that they would. The Select Committee will have to consider, and will have to be empowered to take into consideration the question whether or not new taxes should be included in any scheme which they may recommend. Our object has been in no way to extend the practice. I do not think we have extended it, but we have limited it very materially. The practice, as embodied in this Bill, is very different indeed from the elastic practice which prevailed until the Gibson Bowles' case. Anyone who has studied the Bill will not doubt that We have limited it, for example, by requiring that there shall be a declaration in the Resolution that it is expedient that the taxes should be collected on the Resolution. We have limited it further by saying there shall be only a certain interval of time elapsing between the passing of the Resolution and its consideration on Report by the House of Commons. We have limited it still further by saying that between the consideration by the House of Commons and the Second Reading of the Finance Bill there shall only elapse twenty sitting days of the House. In every way we have limited it as far as we can. We have gone further and said that although there is no Resolution passed, all that we have done is to say that within one month between the expiration of the old tax and the reimposition or renewal of the tax there shall be power to collect, and that the collection shall be legalised if the House of Commons thinks right.

All these are limitations upon the old existing practice, devised for the purpose of meeting criticism which we thought legitimate criticism, and when we exclude new taxes we are only following the same policy which was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and we have said that although you may by a Resolution impose or reimpose your Income Tax, you may reimpose your various Customs Duties, and you may vary them to some extent, nevertheless we shall not impose an entirely new duty. What we have said is that if you come to the imposition of a new duty, that is a matter which would require some further discussion, and upon which there is some ground for saying at the present moment—whatever this Select Committee may do we shall see hereafter—that we ought not to include new taxes in this Bill. It seems to me that the Government have in the Bill, as now framed and as they are presenting it to the House, met all the criticisms so far as they possibly could. I am quite sure no one in the House will say we have not given consideration to Amendments which have been proposed from the other side of the House, and certainly I will say for the Government, and for myself who have had to consider them, that I am indebted to those Gentlemen who have given their time and attention to the matter, and that many valuable suggestions have come from them. Especially I think the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Cassel) is entitled to our thanks for the very considerable amount of assistance he has given us. Reviewing all that has taken place in the House with reference to the Bill, my submission is that we have done all we can to meet legitimate criticism, that we are passing a Bill which is really very limited in its operation, as compared with the practice which hitherto prevailed, and that over and above all we have promised the appointment of a Select Committee which will be able to take into account all the various arguments which have been put forward here, and further arguments if they occur to anyone when they come to consider the matter, and no doubt in the future there will come a time when the whole subject-matter will have to be revised and reconsidered, assuming that the Select Committee finds some better means than the one we have presented. On the whole my submission is that the House ought to give a Third Reading to the Bill.


I should like to answer the arguments brought forward by the Attorney-General in one or two respects. In the first place, although hon. Members on this side of the House quite admit that in certain respects the Bill has been amended in Committee on both sides, yet in its essence and in the essential conditions to which we object there has been no alteration at all. The Attorney-General talked about putting usage or custom, into statutory form. That has not been done, but let me assume that it has been done. Is there not an essential distinction between the collection of taxes under a system of usage and a collection of taxes under Statute? That is a point of distinction which it appears to me the House has never properly grasped. When you are dealing with a question of constitutional rights in the same way that you are dealing with a question of jurisdiction, usage has nothing to do with it whatever. Of course, usage may confer certain rights as regards common law, but when you are dealing with a constitutional principle you may have usage for centuries, but it makes no difference, if it is once pointed out, that usage, when considered and criticised, is found to be inconsistent with constitutional practice. Usage implies that you only put the power into operation in a reasonable manner. The probabilities are that if you become unreasonable the usage is questioned, as in this case, and is found to be illegal and unjust. That is most important, so important that we can test its operation in this way. For fifty years, whilst the usage was reasonably employed, no one took any objection to it. The objection arose immediately it was unreasonably employed That is a great, safeguard of the subject, and a proper safeguard of the subject, but if it is once put into a Statute no such question can ever come to the front again, and it is in this respect that I want particularly to join issue with what the Attorney-General has said. It is a wholly wrong basis to say we are merely preserving a custom or usage when we are putting it outside being a custom or usage in the future by giving it the full power of statutory effect and statutory authority. The two things are distinct and essentially distinct, and that, of course, is one of the great points why we are so much opposed to the principle of this Bill.

Let me take the next point which was dealt with by the Attorney-General. How did he deal with the argument of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hayes Fisher)? What is the difference between increasing the Income Tax from 1s. to 2s., and putting on a shilling in the first instance. What is the difference so far as the rights of the subject are incurred, and what is the difference so far as the requirements of the Treasury are concerned? If they require this Bill when they are increasing the Income Tax from 1s. to 2s., a fortiori they will require it when they are putting on an Income Tax for the first time. I do not use that as an argument against extending the Bill, but I use it as an argument which is destructive of what has been put forward more than once by the Front Bench, that this Bill is wanted in order to confirm existing usage as regards the collection of our taxes. It is nothing of the sort. If it was to confirm existing usage it would refer to new taxes as well as to old, and therefore there is hopeless inconsistency in the position which the Government have taken up. May I take another illustration given by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hayes Fisher). Supposing you suddenly wanted to double or treble your Land Taxes. Is that a matter which ought to be allowed to be sanctioned, even provisionally, by Resolution as against possibly the imposition of some new duty of a comparatively small amount? Of course, neither the one nor the other ought to be sanctioned, but how can you justify sanctioning the one and not, the other? Or take the other illustration that the right hon. Gentleman gave. Assume that you had a small tax on corn of 1s. or 2s., and that there is a proposal, from either side, to increase it up to 8s. or 10s., is that a matter which ought to be sanctioned, even for a time, by Resolution alone? I cannot imagine in substance a greater innovation in all our ideas of taxation in this country, or a greater invasion of what is primâ facie the right of the, subject than such a proposal. Yet under this Bill that proposal could be carried merely by Resolution, although at the same time some trumpery new tax could not be dealt with however much the Treasury might desire that it should be so dealt with in order to meet forestalling. That is really a hopelessly illogical position, and so far from confirming existing custom and usage, you are destroying it on some of the most critical occasions when it might be necessary, and you are imposing as against the subject taxation by mere Resolution, which, to my mind, is a very revolutionary proposal indeed.

May I say a word or two in answer to what was said by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Swift MacNeill). He said that in his view it would be a very proper thing that we should proceed in this House in an autocratic manner merely by Resolution. I think that is a monstrous suggestion. It means that this House, acting as a single Chamber, could enforce legislation without any discussion and merely by a Resolution passed, we will say, during some evening sitting on a matter of primary importance to every subject in the country. I agree with him in this respect. If we once introduced this principle of legislation by Resolution, how long do you think it would be before his views were adopted, because we are going in every direction down hill as regards the control of the House in matters of taxation and legislation. I am not sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman is not quite logical. He says, "If you are going to tax by Resolution, why should you not do everything by Resolution? What a bore it is that we should work out principles, and think of control of taxation and legislation." He goes in for the period of the French Revolution and the Age of Terrorism. He says, "Let anybody, merely by Resolution, enforce its ukase upon the people of this country, and that will have my support." We are making a step in that direction by this present legislation. But the hon. and learned Gentleman goes further than that. He says, "I like that, because we have an Executive in this House, and I should like every ukase of the Government to be adopted by Resolution as quickly as possible, and have legislative and coercive effect against the subjects of this country." That is my hon. and learned Friend's view, but what a satire and a criticism upon the proposal of this Bill, that it adopts and has in its purview such a principle which, according to the view of the hon. and learned Gentleman, ought, to be pressed in all legislation and all matters of taxation. It is the strongest objection to taxation by Resolution that it is not really the Act of this House, but that it really is a ukase of the Executive Government for the time being. We all know what is done in the matter of the Budget. No one knows what is going to be proposed till the Government come down, and what is the position of the House? It is not a position of discussion and inquiry. You must support the Government, or else the Government will have to go out, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have to resign. What a position to put a great legislative Assembly in on its primary duties as regards taxation! No stronger argument could possibly be urged against the constitutional want of principle in this Bill than that urged by the hon. and learned Gentleman. I want to say one other word. The hon. and learned Gentleman seems to think that the last people who ought to deal with constitutional questions of this kind were lawyers, because we take too technical a position. The lawyer who is really responsible for the great constitutional principle that we now adopt was Pitt. There was no greater statesman as regards constitutional principle in this country than Pitt, who was also a lawyer.


He did not practise much.


He practised on the Western Circuit. Will the hon. and learned Gentleman put anyone in the annals of his country, as regards constitutional principle and ideas of liberty and freedom, higher than the lawyer Grattan? If you look to the history of this country you will find that the lawyers, before all others, stood up for the principles of freedom and liberty as regards the subject, and as regards the rights of the House, and that we shall continue to do quite irrespective of any criticism which we may have from any side of the House. It is quite true that the first part of the Bill incorporates, as I think, the wrong principle of taxation by Resolution, but there are two other parts to which I think attention ought to be called. The second Section of the Bill is wholly unnecessary; it says that every Act of taxation which is passed for temporary purposes shall be extended automatically under the terms of this Bill. You might just as well say that we should not have an expiring Laws Continuance Act at all. Why is that necessary? The constitutional principle is that whenever you have an Act of Parliament passed of a temporary character, it cannot be renewed except by Statute. I do not think any precedent can be found for the principle embodied in the second Section of this Bill, under which there is power to renew an expiring law by a Resolution of this House, and not by Statute passed in the ordinary way, when the law has come to an end or is coming to an end. As regards the last part of the Bill, I agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for West St. Pancras (Mr. Cassel) that no one can understand Subsection (2) of Clause 2. So far as there has been any extension, it is absolutely useless for the purpose for which it is intended, because it cannot come into operation until the Finance Bill becomes an Act, whereas what we want is to protect the time between the passing of the Resolution and the passing of the Finance Act. The Sub-section refers to Section 95 of the Finance Act, 1909–10, and, therefore, it may be used in the Law Courts in order to place the official yoke more firmly on the neck of the subject. That Subsection has never been explained either by the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General. It ought to have no place in this Bill at all.

The suggestion has been made that the difficulty which has arisen can only be met by upsetting all constitutional usage and practice in this matter. That cannot be maintained for a moment, and particularly as you now take new taxes out of the Bill. I agree that as to new taxes the difficulty is greater, but as regards existing taxes there is no difficulty whatever. You have only to enact that the taxes shall be imposed for fifteen months instead of twelve months, as at present. In that way the whole difficulty would be met in a constitutional way, in accordance with the rights of this House, and the liberties of the subject in this country. It is no argument whatever to say that you must have this Bill because something has to be done. I think that is the most illogical statement that could possibly be made. You have to show that what you propose is good in itself. I have not the slightest hesitation in saying, now that new taxes are outside the scope of the Bill, that by imposing existing taxes for fifteen months instead of twelve months, you will have no difficulty whatever in future as regards collection, or any action such as was taken by Mr. Gibson Bowles. Why is it necessary to upset constitutional practice? I am one of those, speaking on behalf of hon. Members on the back benches in this House, who look with the gravest concern on this infringement of the traditions and rights which is brought forward by the Front Bench. There is always some excuse, such as the necessity of the moment, and nearly always it is an illogical excuse. It is said that the present difficulty can be met more easily in the way proposed than by any other method. I protest against that being regarded as any argument in favour of a Bill of this kind when you have a difficulty, as has been pointed out on several occasions, which could be dealt with in another way without interfering with constitutional traditions and practice.

I do not believe that you can have these constant infringements of constitutional traditions and practice without not only imperilling the position of the subject, but also gravely imperilling the prestige and position of this House. It is this House that has built up through centuries those ideas of freedom and liberty. If this House is to be of any value, if it is to maintain its prestige, and if it is to have the affection of the country in the future as in the past, it will not be done by surrendering those great principles. It will be by seeing that reforms, whatever reforms are necessary, must be made subject to those great principles which have prevailed for centuries as regards the constitutional rights of this country. I want, in conclusion, to read a passage from a work written in 1885 by Sir Henry Maine. No one would say that Sir Henry Maine was influenced by other than philosophic and scientific views in reference to those great constitutional subjects. What he says is an admirable illustration of the constitutional danger. He says:— We are drifting towards a period when we shall lose our freedom and liberty. I expect that we shall have a single Assembly armed with full powers over the Constitution which it may exercise at pleasure. What have we now? We have a single Assembly with full powers over the Constitution in this matter, because this is a Money Bill, and we are exercising our powers at pleasure. Instead of thinking what the proper remedy should be, this measure is proposed in order that the Treasury may collect these taxes and duties. We are using our full powers to upset one of the fundamental principles which in the history of the past has guarded the civil liberties of the people of this country. Sir Henry Maine continues: It will be theoretically all powerful combination governed by a practically all powerful secret committee of public safety. It is quite true that we are governed by a secret committee of public safety called the Cabinet, but kept from complete submission to its authority by obstruction for which its rulers—— that is the Cabinet for the time being— are always seeking to find a remedy in some form of guillotine. That exactly expresses what has been going on in regard to this House in every direction. We have been losing our rights and liberties. According to my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Swift MacNeill), we have increased our rights through Single-Chamber government. Practically it has subjected us entirely to what is called the secret committee of public safety, which is really the Cabinet. Now we are going to give up what is an enormous right, namely, that you cannot impose taxation except by Statute. You are going to impose it by Resolution of the House. You are going to impose taxation by Resolution before the passing of the Finance Bill. That is practically no safety at all. I am afraid that this Bill will pass, because the ukase of the Government always succeeds, yet I do urge that the House of Commons should rally itself against a proposal of this kind, insisting that its own liberty should be regarded, and that we should retain the sacred duty and obligation of protecting the subjects of this country against undue and unfair taxation.

Captain JESSEL

I should like to express my surprise at what fell from the, hon. and learned Member for East Donegal (Mr. Swift MacNeill), who has a great reputation, not only in this House but outside, as a constitutionalist and as an earnest student of constitutional law. I do think that anybody who heard him this afternoon must regard him, not as a constitutionalist but as a revolutionary of an extreme and dangerous character. He advocated that this House should proceed by Resolution, not only in matters of finance but in other matters where necessity arises.


As it appears that I have been misunderstood, I think it is better to say that in making these observations I had in my mind's eye measures passed a second or third time by this House and rejected in another place.

Captain JESSEL

I am glad I have given the hon. and learned Gentleman some opportunity of retrieving his reputation, for I am afraid if the bald statement he made earlier had gone out in the Press considerable astonishment would have arisen among his friends across the Channel. We know that if the expectation of the hon. Member is fulfilled, namely, that Ireland will have an Irish Parliament, there is no doubt that he will be looked upon, and very rightly looked upon, as a great authority in that Parliament. I want to express my astonishment at the speech of the Attorney-General. I expected to hear from him something really germane to the position before us. The right hon. and learned Gentleman passed in review the speeches made this afternoon in the course of the Debate. He touched lightly upon the change of opinion in the case of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham (Mr. Hayes Fisher), but where he failed, to my mind, was in not answering my hon. and learned Friend the Member for West St. Pancras (Mr. Cassel). What was the main point of my hon. Friend's objection to this Bill? The Government have admitted that, owing to the action of Mr. Gibson Bowles, something had to be done. What are we doing? Does this Bill apply to this year's procedure? The learned Attorney-General never answered that. Why did he not answer it? Because he knows, as well as I do, that this Bill cannot possibly apply to this year's Budget.


I do not agree with that.

6.0 P.M.

Captain JESSEL

Does it or does it not? I do not think that anyone on this side of the House understood that the provisions of this Bill, if it passes, do apply to this year's Budget. I take it that it does not from the fact that the right hon. and learned Gentleman when challenged by my hon. Friend did not say that it did. If that is the case, what has this House been wasting its time for? Why are we passing this Bill this year? If it does not apply to this year's Budget, there has been a great waste of time. Then we are told that there is going to be a Select Committee. A Select Committee will take time to report. Its proceedings are sometimes somewhat lengthy. At all events, let us hope that it will report in time for legislation next year. If it does not, then we shall be saddled with this Bill, which has all the evils that have been so eloquently described by the hon. Member who has just sat down. What I complain about is that Parliament, which has a great deal to do, has had its time occupied for no practical purpose this Session in dealing with this Bill, which does not apply to existing circumstances, while we have no promise that the Select Committee will report in time for another Session. The result is that we have this most imperfect Bill, which we know is going to pass at the decree of the Government; and I wish to enter my protest against this slipshod method of legislation, and to say how distressful it is to my mind, when we could have been occupied with matters of a great deal more importance, that valuable Parliamentary time should be wasted by a Bill of this kind.


I wish to say a word as to the objection raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire to the exclusion from this Bill of new indirect taxes. That is an exclusion which was made on my Motion. I do not think that there would be any difficulty, so far as I am concerned, in finding an agreement between the right hon. Gentleman and myself on that point if we were united as to the policy that ought to be pursued in regard to indirect taxation as a whole. Unhappily that is not the case. We on this side of the House hold that all indirect taxes ought to be imposed solely for the purpose of raising revenue. The right hon. Gentleman and his friends hold that indirect taxes ought to be imposed, not solely or even primarily for revenue purposes, but mainly for the purposes of protecting home producers. Whatever inconvenience or loss may result from delay in collecting a tax which involves a departure from our present fiscal policy, I hold that it ought not to be weighed for a moment against the far graver consequences that would result from the adoption of the change of policy. I hold that the House and the country ought to have an opportunity of considering the character of that change before the tax involving it is actually imposed, and on that ground I brought forward my Amendment, and on that ground I support the Bill in its present form.


I do not quite follow the hon. Gentleman in his explanation of his Amendment. I understand him to express the opinion that all indirect taxes should be levied for the purpose of revenue. I do not know whether he means to apply that to indirect taxes only and not to direct taxes. The old doctrine of Mr. Gladstone, and other similar experts on financial matters, was that all taxes should be imposed for the purpose of raising revenue. Now the hon. Gentleman deals only with indirect taxes. Has he changed his mind?


The hon. Baronet has not been listening to the Debate. The right hon. Gentleman gave up the case for direct taxation. We are agreed about that, but not as to indirect taxes.


I have been listening to the speech of the hon. Gentleman, and I asked him whether he held the opinion that direct taxes might be levied for purposes not connected with raising revenue. It would be a difficult question to answer, because I believe that he voted for the Land Taxes which certainly do not raise revenue. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman evaded the question by saying that I had not been present at some other Debate and had not listened to something

which my right hon. Friend had said. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the attempt which he made to get out of a difficult position, but he has not been successful, because it is evident now that he holds the view that direct taxation may be levied for purposes not connected with the raising of revenue. I shall have very much pleasure in voting with my right hon. Friend against the Third Reading of the Bill. I always held the opinion that this Bill is quite unnecessary; that it puts great power into the hands of the Government which they ought not to have, and that if they were competent people and devoted their energies to financial questions which ought to be dealt with by the House of Commons the difficulties which arose would not have arisen.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 256; Noes, 109.

Division No. 61.] AYES. [6.9 p.m.
Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour) Davies, Ellis William (Eifion) Henry, Sir Charles
Acland, Francis Dyke Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth) Higham, John Sharp
Adamson, William Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Hinds, John
Addison, Dr. C. Dawes, J. A. Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.
Ainsworth, John Stirling Delany, William Holmes, Daniel Turner
Alden, Percy Devlin, Joseph Holt, Richard Durning
Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire) Dickinson, W. H. Horne, Charles Silvester (Ipswich)
Allen, Rt. Hon Charles P. (Stroud) Donelan, Captain A. Howard, Hon. Geoffrey
Arnold, Sydney Doris, William Hudson, Walter
Atherley-Jones, Llewellyn A. Duffy, William J. Hughes, Spencer Leigh
Baker, H. T. (Accrington) Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) Isaacs, Rt. Hon Sir Rufus
Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark) Duncan, J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley) John, Edward Thomas
Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple) Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor) Jones, Rt. Hon. Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)
Barnes, George N. Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid) Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)
Barran, Rowland Hurst (Leeds, N.) Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.) Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)
Beale, Sir William Phipson Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.) Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)
Beauchamp, Sir Edward Farrell, James Patrick Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)
Beck, Arthur Cecil Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles Jones, W. S. Glyn- (Stepney)
Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George) Ffrench, Peter Jowett, Frederick William
Bethell, Sir J. H. Field, William Joyce, Michael
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward Kellaway, Frederick George
Black, Arthur W. Fitzgibbon, John Kelly, Edward
Boland, John Pius Flavin, Michael Joseph Kennedy, Vincent Paul
Booth, Frederick Handel France, Gerald Ashburner Kilbride, Denis
Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North) Ginnell, Laurence King, J.
Brady, Patrick Joseph Gladstone, W. G. C. Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molton)
Brunner, John F. L. Glanville, H. J. Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)
Bryce, J. Annan Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford Lardner, James C. R.
Buckmaster, Stanley O. Goldstone, Frank Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)
Burke, E. Haviland- Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough) Leach, Charles
Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland) Levy, Sir Maurice
Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North) Greig, Colonel J. W. Lewis, John Herbert
Byles, Sir William Pollard Griffith, Ellis 3. Lundon, Thomas
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke) Lyell, Charles Henry
Cawley, Harold T. (Lancs., Heywood) Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.) Lynch, A. A.
Chancellor, Henry George Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway) Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)
Chapple, Dr. William Allen Hackett, John McGhee, Richard
Clancy, John Joseph Hancock, J. G. Maclean, Donald
Clough, William Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.
Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Hardie, J. Keir MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)
Condon, Thomas Joseph Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire) Macpherson, James Ian
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West) MacVeagh, Jeremiah
Cotton, William Francis Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry M'Callum, Sir John M.
Cowan, W. H. Hayden, John Patrick M'Curdy, C. A.
Crawshay-Williams, Eliot Hayward, Evan M'Kean, John
Crooks, William Hazleton, Richard McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald
Crumley, Patrick Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Manfield, Harry
Cullinan, John Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.) Marks, Sir George Croydon
Marshall, Arthur Harold Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham) Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)
Mason, David M. (Coventry) Phillips, John (Longford, S.) Sutherland, John E.
Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G. Pirie, Duncan V. Taylor, John W. (Durham)
Meagher, Michael Pollard, Sir George H. Taylor, Thomas (Bolton)
Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, H.) Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H. Tennant, Harold John
Millar, James Duncan Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central) Thomas James Henry
Molloy, Michael Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.) Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)
Mond, Sir Alfred M. Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford) Thorne, William (West Ham)
Montagu, Hon. E. S. Pringle, William M. R. Toulmin, Sir George
Mooney, John J. Radford, G. H. Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Morgan, George Hay Raphael, Sir Herbert H. Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander
Morison, Hector Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields) Verney, Sir Harry
Morrell, Philip Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough) Walton, Sir Joseph
Morton, Alpheus Cleophas Reddy, M. Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)
Muldoon, John Redmond, John E. (Waterford) Wardle, George J.
Munro, R. Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.) Waring, Walter
Munro-Ferguson, Rt. Hon. R. C. Rendall, Athelstan Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)
Murphy, Martin J. Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven) Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C. Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln) Webb, H.
Neilson, Francis Roberts, George H. (Norwich) White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)
Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster) Robinson, Sidney White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E.R.)
Norman, Sir Henry Roch, Waiter F. (Pembroke) White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Norton, Captain Cecil W. Roche, Augustine (Louth) Whitehouse, John Howard
Nugent, Sir Walter Richard Rowlands, James Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.
O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W. Whyte, A. F. (Perth)
O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.) Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees) Wiles, Thomas
O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool) Scanlan, Thomas Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)
O'Donnell, Thomas Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E. Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)
O'Dowd, John Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton) Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)
O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.) Sheehy, David Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
O'Malley, William Sherwell, Arthur James Winfrey, Richard
O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.) Shortt, Edward Wing, Thomas
O'Shaughnessy, P. J. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook Wood, Rt Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)
O'Shee, James John Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitherie) Young, W. (Perthshire, East)
O'Sullivan, Timothy Smith, H. B. Lees (Northampton) Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Outhwaite, R. L. Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim)
Palmer, Godfrey Mark Snowden, Philip TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.
Parker, James (Halifax) Soames, Arthur Wellesley
Parry, Thomas N.
Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Gardner, Ernest Newman, John R. P.
Baird, John Lawrence Gastrell, Major W. Houghton Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Gibbs, George Abraham Parkes, Ebenezer
Baring, Maj. Hon. Guy V. (Winchester) Gilmour, Captain John Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)
Barnston, Harry Glazebrook, Captain Philip K. Peel, Lieut.-Colonel R. F.
Barrie, H. T. Goldsmith, Frank Perkins, Walter F
Bathurst, C. (Wilts, Wilton) Goulding, Edward Alfred Pollock, Ernest Murray
Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich) Grant, J. A. Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
Bentinck, Lord. H. Cavendish- Guinness, Hon. W. E. (Bury S. Edmunds) Sanders, Robert Arthur
Bigland, Alfred Haddock, George Bahr Sanderson, Lancelot
Bird, Alfred Hall, Frederick (Dulwich) Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)
Blair, Reginald Hambro, Angus Valdemar Smith, Harold (Warrington)
Boyle, William (Norfolk, Mid) Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.) Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)
Burgoyne, Alan Hughes Harris, Henry Percy Stewart, Gershom
Burn, Colonel C. R. Harrison-Brodley, H. B. Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)
Butcher, John George Henderson, Major H. (Berkshire) Swift, Rigby
Campion, W. R. Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.) Sykes, Mark (Hull, Central)
Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred Hoare, S. J. G. Talbot, Lord E.
Cassel, Felix Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy Terrell, G. (Wilts, N.W.)
Castlereagh, Viscount Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian) Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North)
Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin) Horne, E. (Surrey, Guildford) Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, North)
Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W. Houston, Robert Paterson Touche, George Alexander
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.) Hume-Williams, W. E. Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)
Clay, Captain H. H. Spender Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk. Wheler, Granville, C. H.
Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe) Ingleby, Holcombe White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)
Craig, Captain James (Down, E.) Jessel, Captain Herbert M. Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud
Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet) Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Wills, Sir Gilbert
Craik, Sir Henry Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury) Wilson, A. Stanley (Yorks, E.R.)
Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee Wood, John (Stalybridge)
Dalziel, Davison (Brixton) Low, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston) Worthington-Evans, L.
Du Cros, Arthur Philip Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich) Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Duke, Henry Edward MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
Faber, George Denison (Clapham) Mackinder, Halford J. Yate, Colonel C. E.
Faber, Captain W. V. (Hants, W.) M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's) Younger, Sir George
Falle, Bertram Godfray Malcolm, Ian
Fell, Arthur Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Hayes Fisher and Sir A. Cripps.
Fletcher, John Samuel (Hampstead) Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)
Forster, Henry William

Bill read the third time, and passed.