HC Deb 22 April 1913 vol 52 cc259-60

I should like to make one or two observations, before I leave last year, upon one or two items of revenue. The Spirit Duties were satisfactory in more senses than one, not merely from the revenue, but also from a social and economic point of view. The effect of the heavy additional duties imposed in 1909 became more manifest last year than it had been in the previous year. If the Committee will take the four years preceding the Budget of 1909, they include one year of great trade depression, 1908, but the consumption of spirits in this country only fell from 39,250,000 to 37,750,000 gals. Since the Budget of 1909, there has been a fall of about 8,000,000 gals, in the consumption of spirits in this country, but whilst there has been this drop in consumption the revenue has benefited to the extent of nearly £2,000,000. So that it is satisfactory in both ways, in the increased revenue and in the lesser consumption of spirits. Taking the whole four years together, the consumption of spirits is down, it is estimated, by 28,750,000 gals., and the revenue has profited by £5,000,000. I think it may be said that in more than one respect this is one of the most successful taxes ever imposed on the community.

I wish to say a word about the Death Duties. These, of course, are liable to fluctuation, and apparently to very wide fluctuation. For instance, in the first half of last year, very large estates came in, and the revenue was up, compared with the corresponding six months of the previous year, by something like £2,000,000. Taking the latter half of the year, very few large estates came in, and the revenue was down. On balance, the Death Duties did not come up to the Estimate by £202,000. Perhaps the Committee would like to know something of how the Death Duties were distributed in the course of last year. Duties were paid upon property which aggregated to £276,000,000. There were about 425,000 adult deaths last year. Of that £276,000,000 of property, one-third belonged to 292 persons, one-half to 1,300 persons, and two-thirds to 4,000 persons; while 335,000 adults died without any property upon which it was worth anybody's while to pay the few shillings to obtain the authority of the Inland Revenue legally to deal with.

I should like to call attention also to the Stamp Duties. They reflect more surely the state of trade than probably anything else. We apprehended at the beginning of the year that they might suffer very considerably from the coal strike, but our fears were not realised. The revenue considerably exceeded the Estimate. Every branch of Stamp Duties arising from trade operations showed a large increase, including duties on the sale of real property. During the last two years the average number of sales registered at the Estate Exchange was up by 50 per cent. above the average number of the preceding three years. The most productive duties of all the Stamp Duties were the penny duties, mainly bankers' cheques. The bankers' cheques stamped at Somerset, House and the three subordinate offices came to a million for every working day. That is a considerable increase on the preceding year, and last year represented a very considerable increase on the year before that.

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