§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £1, 194,130, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Inland Revenue Department." [Note.—£850,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Mr. RUPERT GWYNNE
I beg to move "That Sub-head A (Salaries, Wages, and Allowances) be reduced by £100."
The reason I have given notice of this reduction is to call attention to the present unsatisfactory system of clerical assistants in the offices of the surveyors of taxes. This is a matter of great importance, because it affects not only the taxpayer and the revenue of the country, but it also 2212 affects very seriously the surveyors of taxes to whom the collection of revenue is entrusted, and more particularly the clerks who are employed by those surveyors. I think that the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer might be more properly directed to looking after the administration of such an important Department than, as he has announced his intention of doing, giving up a certain amount of his time to hurling javelins at his political opponents. The present staffing of the offices of the surveyors of taxes has not been built up on any system at all. Originally the Income Tax was not looked upon as a permanent tax; it was for many years looked upon as merely a temporary expedient in order to raise money. When it was reimposed in 1842, it was then only on a temporary basis, and naturally the staff which was appointed to collect the Income Tax and administer it was restricted as much as possible. Up to the year 1868 the surveyors of taxes instead of having a regular staff, were allowed a certain sum for clerk hire in each year. I do not think that at the present time anyone will suggest that the Income Tax is only of a temporary nature. Indeed, the present Prime Minister, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, in introducing the Budget in April, 1907, said:—I start with this proposition, and a most important proposition it is that the Income Tax must now be regarded as an integral and permanent part of our financial system.I would remind the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he himself, in his now famous Budget speech of 1909, said:—The Income Tax, imposed originally as a temporary expedient is now in reality the centre and sheet-anchor of our financial system.I do not base my case merely on the fact that the Income Tax is now of a permanent nature as against that of a temporary nature as formerly; I claim that owing to the present Government, whether rightly or wrongly, the Income Tax is of a different and much more complicated character than previously. Owing to the Budgets of 1907 and 1909 a great deal of added responsibility has been cast upon the surveyors of taxes. The differentiation between earned and unearned incomes, the Super-tax, and such measures as those have added enormously to the complication and responsibility of the duties of those who are in charge of the Department under the Inland Revenue. The Prime Minister in 1907 said.—The Income Tax, as it is one of the most productive, so it is one of the most delicate parts of our fiscal' machinery. There is nothing like it to be found anywhere else in the world.2213 And from that time onwards the machinery has been made more complicated and more difficult. Sir Matthew Nathan, giving evidence before the Royal Commission last year, said:—The whole position as regards Income Tax has so enormously changed. Whereas in old clays the Income Tax had all the sweet simplicity of the Three Per Cents., there is no sweet simplicity left about it.Surely if that is admittedly the case—and I do not think it is disputed that it is a complicated and difficult tax to collect— the House cannot be in favour of the present system by which the majority of the men to whom is entrusted this delicate task are not on the establishment, are not Civil Service officials, appointed by open competition, but are temporary employés in most cases on merely a weekly agreement, receiving undoubtedly low wages, if not underpaid. I would like to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he really seriously defends the present condition of affairs, if he thinks that it is going on indefinitely, if he does not admit that a great many duties have been added to the surveyors in recent years, and if he does not also admit that the rate of pay has not increased since 1990, although the duties have increased in volume and complexity? It must be apparent to anyone in this House—all of us have some experience of the Income Tax, although A are treated somewhat generously in regard to £100 out of the £400 we are given—that in the offices of the surveyors of taxes there are annually hundreds of thousands of returns of different peoples' incomes, the total income from all sources, the profit and loss accounts of large and small trading firms, the balance sheets, and, indeed, the most confidential information relating to every man's private income and every business undertaking, matters which are naturally always kept under lock and key in the rooms or offices of business firms. The information is obtained by the surveyors and is at the disposal and use of the clerks who are employed by them on a weekly agreement. This is a matter about which many complaints have been made. A resolution was passed unanimously by the Associated Chambers of Commerce in March last year protesting against this system by which people are bound under the Income Tax laws to disclose their private affairs to people who, at any rate, are not under the restrictions or responsibility as they should be and would be if they were placed on the establishment of the Civil Service. I would ask 2214 the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he does not really think that men who have this information at their disposal, who have got this secret information, should at any rate be as well treated and as carefully guarded as officials in the Post Office—as postmen, telegraphists, or sorters? Surely, if it is necessary in the interests of the public and the Civil Service that postmen and sorters and others should be on the establishment, it is at least as important that these men should be! Possibly we may be told that the matter is under consideration, and that they have been considering it in the Department for some time. I say that this is not a matter for a Departmental Committee to inquire into. It is not a matter of pounds, shillings and pence; it is not a question whether the Treasury can afford it or not. It is a question of principle, and we ought not to tolerate this state of affairs any longer. The time has arrived when this thing should be done without any further delay or any further putting off—that is, front the point of view of the public and of the taxpayer.
But what as to the point of view of the clerks themselves? Under the present system what inducement is there for them to remain, or, indeed, in the first instance, what is there to attract the best class of men to enter this service and to seek appointments in these offices? Naturally the other Departments of the Civil Service, which offer better pay, to be followed by a pension, have the pick of the young men who wished to enter the Civil Service, and an important Department like this should be able to offer inducements greater than any railway company or private concern. It should be the aim of the Inland Revenue Department to draw around it for this important work men of the very best class and of the highest capabilities. Instead of that, the men who are in the first instance attracted there are given no security of tenure, and they are constantly, and very naturally, looking out for something better, something by which they may earn some reward or some provision for their old age. It is not as if the office of a surveyor of taxes can be said to be very popular in a district. It is not a very rosy thing to be a surveyor of taxes or to be employed in his office. It is not the most pleasant occupation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer the other day said that those who went in for politics must not expect to make money. But, at any rate, they have the hope of some other reward. They have the 2215 hope of gratifying their ambitions. But a man does not enter the office of a surveyor of taxes merely for the sake of satisfying his ambition. He does so to get a living, and he naturally wants a decent living. He expects a fair wage and proper security of tenure, and, unless you give those conditions, you will not get the best class of men around the surveyor.
This matter has been before the House for a long time. These complaints have been voiced for years past, and I want the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-day to give us some definite assurance that some steps should be taken in the direction I have indicated. I would remind him, in case his memory requires refreshing, that at the present time there are, roughly, about 400 districts in the United Kingdom from which taxes are collected. There are something like 399 or 400 surveyors; they have, I believe, 227 assistant surveyors, and, under those again, there are at the present time, 727 clerks, in addition to 313 boy clerks. Out of the 727 clerks, only 230 are established as Civil servants. The rest, over 500, are temporary men engaged on weekly terms. The 200 who are established were only placed on the establishment after an agitation lasting some time, in the course of which great pressure was put upon the department. For all these men, whether they are on the establishment or not, the highest salary at the present time attainable is £182 per year, and only about 11 per cent. of the 700 have reached that figure. Does the Chancellor of the Exchequer think that £182 per year is really an adequate living wage for these men—men who have to keep up a certain position, and sometimes have to work almost day and night? Further than that, it is not merely routine work. It is work of extreme complexity, and, certainly, it is anything but pleasant; yet, at the present time, that is the highest wage received by clerks to surveyors.
Just look at the other side of the question. What are these men asked to do? What is that they are called upon to collect? Last year, the total revenue raised by these men in taxes, of which they are entrusted with the collection, exceeded £40,000,000, for Income Tax only, and the gross assessments with which they have to deal are over £1,000,000,000. The repayment claims which were dealt with two years ago—I have not the figures for last year—came to over half a million. The 2216 surveyors themselves are directly responsible for all these duties. Yet they have to look to these clerks—these temporary weekly clerks—to carry out their responsible duties. They have the responsibility for the collection of £40,000,000 a year, and much of it falls upon these poorly paid temporary clerks under them. Let the Chancellor of the Exchequer take any one district he likes. Probably there would be one surveyor and one clerk, not on the establishment, with the addition of a boy clerk. It is only fair and reasonable to expect that the surveyor should, some time during the year, have a holiday. He will have to go away, at any rate, for some twenty or thirty days in the course of a year, to see the assessors and collectors in his district. While he is away he has to put entire trust and confidence in the man under him in his office. He has to entrust his whole correspondence—his private correspondence and the whole of his books and papers—to the clerk whom he leaves in charge. I say that that puts a strain upon the surveyor which is entirely unfair, for if there is a leakage or a mistake he has to bear the brunt of it. He is a Civil servant liable to lose his pension through irregularity or incompetence. Yet he has to go away and leave all these things in charge of a man employed only by the week. I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I ask anyone in this House, if it is fair to place the surveyors in such a position. Again, speaking both from the clerk's point of view, and from the surveyor's point of view, it cannot be denied that the work is of a highly technical character. A man who has to examine into the profits or losses of a trade, to allow depreciation, to make detailed examination of the accounts of perhaps a large company or a small firm, must be a man of considerable ability. I may quote the words of one of the chief officials of the Inland Revenue Department, giving evidence in 1904 in regard to this question. He said:—The man requires to know the income Tax law and practice, and to have some experience as well as some technical knowledge before he can examine a claim.4.0 P.M.
Yet the man who can do that is only given security of office for a week. He is paid at the most £182 a year, and a very small percentage of them reach that figure. It must be remembered, too, that the information he requires is not always given with readiness and eagerness. If a man gets a claim for Income Tax and is asked to prove how much money he makes, the 2217 chances are that he, or even the Chancellor of the Exchequer, faced with such a question, would say, "You must find out for yourself." You do not give information very readily to the first man who comes along, and far less readily to some official who may be gone the next day and be engaged by your rivals, and who will have an opportunity of telling them what takes place in your own business. That is most important from the point of view of the traders. Those men who have no security of office may easily be engaged by rival firms and give the whole of the confidential information they have seen through examining the books, which they have a right to do, if they so desire—I do not say they do it—to another firm. Added to that, there is at the present time a very small desire to let things pass. In the old days, when the Income Tax was not so high, when it was 7d. or 8d., people would often pay, even if they were assessed higher than their income, rather than have the fuss and annoyance of disclosing their books or making an appeal. Now that taxation has reached such a high point people will rather go through all the trouble and have their books examined than submit to taxation which is a great deal higher than they are legally bound to pay; therefore it is not only necessary that the surveyors and those under them should not only be diligent, but they have to give more information and they have more appeals, interviews, and correspondence than formerly. I could go into further details as to the position of the surveyors themselves, but I will not weary the Committee. I could state case after case where surveyors have broken down under the strain which has fallen upon them. The strain now is a growing strain, and the time has now come when no further delay should be brooked, and when the Chancellor of the Exchequer should make up his mind to face this difficulty and treat these men more fairly than is being done at present. The present system casts a strain on the surveyors. It is unfair to the public that they should have their books examined by men who have no inducement, as they should have, to treat as confidential this private information. It is unfair to the clerks themselves to ask men who are treated in this way to behave as if they were being treated well. I should like to bring the matter to a head to-day by putting before the Chancellor of the Exchequer definite proposals 2218 which are the outcome of a careful Report made by the surveyors themselves as to what we should do in this matter. I would suggest, first of all, that a rise in pay be given to the clerks, that the pay should be from £70 to £300 a year, that they should all be put on the establishment and all have an opportunity of sharing in the benefits of superannuation, and that they should all be chosen by open competition and not merely nominated, as at the present time. There should be some provision that those who have served their time as boy clerks should be given some service marks, which should count in the open competition so as to give them some chance of climbing up the ladder once they have started up it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer may say, "That is all very well, but where is the money coming from?" I do not think it is really a question of money when so large a principle is involved. Sir Matthew Nathan, in his evidence before the Royal Commission on the Civil Service, said that he estimated the cost of dealing with this service upon the lines I have indicated would be £147,000 a year, instead of, as at present, £91,000, or an increase of £56,000 a year. It may be a considerable sum, but it is a sum which would not be ill-spent. It would give greater efficiency and greater security and would meet a necessity which must be admitted by all fair-minded men. We should get a better class of men to apply for the posts in the first instance. We should get the pick, instead of the residue, of those who have passed for other Civil Service appointments and perhaps other more lucrative employment.
If this change is made, as I hope it will be made before long, the present clerks should be treated in a generous spirit. They should be placed on the establishment, those of them who are worthy, upon the new terms, and all of them should be treated fairly. I do not wish it to be thought from the remarks I have made that I desire in any way to cast discredit upon the present staff or to suggest that the present surveyors have not carried out their duties to the best of their ability. Considering the circumstances in which they have been placed it is extraordinary that there has not been more leakage and less efficiency than we have seen in the Revenue Department. That is no reason for letting the present state of things go on. I would urge that the time has now come when the Chancellor should not merely put us off by saying that the 2219 matter is being considered by a Royal Commission and is only one small part of a whole which must be dealt with in its tern. This is something which can be dealt with quite by itself and at the present time. The Royal Commission is not considering this matter; it is considering the question of Civil Service appointments, and these men are not in the Civil Service. In addition to which we all know the delay which accompanies the proceedings and eventually the Report of a Royal Commission. This is a matter in which I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will act with promptitude, and that he will give no mere promise to deal with it, but that before the Revenue Estimates come on next year he will remove this grievance, which I believe is a very real one, and is felt to be by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee.
§ Mr. CHARLES DUNCAN
I intend to take a very small part in the present discussion as one interested in the position of the tax surveyors' clerks. I do not wish to make anything like an elaborate statement; that has already been done by the last speaker, but I wish to put the case as definitely as possible before the Committee. Those who care to make the briefest study of the case must agree that these particular men have been in a kind of backwash. The Income Tax began in and these men were then employed in an indirect manner by the payment to the surveyor of an amount for clerk hire. After twenty-six years there was a slight alteration. The clerk hire was abolished, and the clerks were employed and paid direct by the Inland Revenue. That went on for another thirty-two years before any alteration was made in the position of these men. The right of dismissal or engagement was then taken away from the surveyors and put within the discretion of the Board. From 1842 until 1908 none of these clerks were on the establishment. There are now 727 of these men, 230 of whom are on the establishment and 500 are left unestablished. A strong case can be made out for the establishment of these men. There are some people who ask for establishment where it ought not to be given, but in this case one can lay down this rule, that where the employment of a certain set of men in a particular kind of work disqualifies them, if they were displaced from that employment, from fitting themselves into any other kind of employ- 2220 meat, there is a really good claim for establishment. Coupled with that where the work done by these men implies a certain amount of responsibility and secrecy in the details of the work confided to them, that gives added strength to the request of the men for establishment. When one considers the amount of work passing through the hands of these men, that no less than £40,000,000 of revenue is raised and practically passes through the hands of these men, and that in 1911–12 £1,000,000,000 of gross income was assessed for Income Tax, that over £500,000 was repaid, and that over 1,000 assessors and clerks are engaged in this service, it gives one an idea of the size of the problem to be faced.
The men concerned are handling Income Tax, Inhabited House Duty, Mineral Rights Duty, and to some extent the Land Taxes as well. One point put by the last speaker was that there is not a large number of these men, but that they are scattered over 352 districts in the country. We are dealing in this case with slightly under 1,500 persons, so that it must be obvious that there must be a small number of people employed in each office. It is obvious that where you have a large office with a large number of men you can afford to have some variation in the qualifications of the persons employed, but that where you have a large number of offices with a small number of people, it is pretty clear that it is essential that the qualifications of each of the men should be reasonably high. That is the case in regard to these men. From the inquiries which I have made it appears that there have been no improvements made in their rates of pay for thirteen years. That would take a good deal of justification at the hands of anybody in this Committee, and I am sure that neither the Chancellor of the Exchequer nor anybody else will attempt to justify, under existing conditions, the remuneration of any section of men standing still for thirteen years. It is an admitted fact to-day that the cost of living has very considerably increased. When one realises that up to 1908 the highest rate of pay among these men was only £2 a week, and that the highest rate of pay to-day is only £182 per year, or a trifle over £3 a week, it is obvious that the margin between that and the cost of living of these people cannot be very large, therefore the cost of living affects the men in these surveyors offices to a very considerable extent. For what are the men asking? It does not seem to me a very great demand. 2221 It is a demand which has been made and, I think, met in regard to the second-class officers in the Customs and Excise. They ask that the starting salary should be£70 a year, that it should increase by £7 10s. a year to £150, and that after £150 it should increase by annual increments to £300 a year, plus the establishment of those who are qualified and who are judged by the surveyors to be fit for establishment.
There is one point in this matter which is of great importance. Although there can be no doubt that this means an increase in the cost of the service in the first place, there is very little doubt in the mind of anyone who cares to understand the matter at all that if, by the increased salaries paid to these men, you get a better selection of men and a higher quality of clerks for these offices, inasmuch as these clerks and surveyors are handling assessments covering roughly £1,000,000,000 a year, there will have to be a very small improvement in the quality of the work they perform before the whole of the difference in the cost of the advance in salaries they are asking for will not only be made up but made up ten times over, and from that point of view it seems to me that there is indeed a very strong justification for some attention being given to the claims of these men. Of course, they are only a small section of the service, and it is obvious on the face of it, from the details that I have been able to glean, that these men seem to have been in a kind of backwash in the past—that is to say, that very little attention has been given to them. They have been allowed to drift, under an antiquated and out-of-date system, and naturally the movement to-day in all sections of business implies that men in all sections of life must expect to improve their condition of life as the business system of the country improves. Therefore, I think these men are thoroughly well justified in asking the Chancellor of the Exchequer for some little attention to this question, for, after all, to these men it is very largely a question of bread-and-butter. I hope, whatever the difficulties and the activities of the right hon. Gentleman may be—and he cannot have very much time to give to a small item like this—the matter will receive his best attention and the men may look forward with some hope to some betterment being made in their conditions of service.
I rise also to support the Motion, and also to 2222 endorse what the hon. Gentleman opposite has been saying. This question of the position of surveyors and suveyors' clerks has been brought before Parliament before. In 1898 a really exhaustive statement was prepared by the surveyors setting out the then existing position and asking for an inquiry. The inquiry was not ordered, but at the same time considerable improvements in the conditions of their service were then effected and additional surveyors were appointed, and although that was an advantage it was not adequate, and the position was not then fully dealt with. In 1905 another attempt was made by the Association of Tax Surveying Officers by means of a petition to the Board of Inland Revenue, but that petition was without result. Three years afterwards, in 1908, the same association made a representation to Members of Parliament direct, and, as a result of that, some steps were taken for the first time to put some of these temporary clerks upon the establishment, and about 170 clerks were then placed upon the Board, leaving about 500 still unestablished and still on weekly engagements. But even for them some improvment was effected, because those clerks instead, as hitherto, of being appointed by the various surveyors of taxes themselves, were brought into some sort of regularised system and were appointed by the Board of Inland Revenue. In 1910 a further effort was made by representation to the Board as to the conditions which were then prevailing as to overwork, due largely to the alteration in the Finance Acts by the differentiation of Income Tax and so on, but no alteration was then made. Their position has now, I think, almost come to a crisis, for the efficiency of their work is being affected by the want of organisation in their offices, for which they themselves are not responsible and for which the system under which the clerks are appointed clearly seems to be responsible.
Even at the risk of repeating some of the information which has already been given by my hon. Friend, I will ask the Committee to consider who these people are for whom we are now speaking and what their duties are. I knew nothing whatever about the internal organisation of an Income Tax surveyor's office until my attention was called to this particular thing. My only contact with an Income Tax surveyor's office did not lead me to any particularly pleasant recollections, 2223 and I did not seem to think I owed any particular duty to the courteous but very firm gentleman whom one is accustomed to meet on the occasion of one's visits. It appears that there are some 399 surveyors, whose scale of pay is from £200 to £700 a year, and they have 227 assistants. It is not with regard to their position that we are urging this upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but it is necessary to realise who they are and what their work is before you can appreciate what their office organisation is and what work is thrown upon the clerks. There are 750 men clerks and 314 boy clerks. Of the men clerks 230 are established. Of these 230 eighty-two have salaries equivalent to about £3 10s. a week—that is, 11 per cent of all the clerks. The highest position to which these clerks can rise when established is to receive an income of £3 10s. a week. Of the other established clerks 150 have an income up to about £3 a week. Under that group of 230 established clerks there are 520 non-established clerks, who are on weekly agreements, appointed by the Board of Inland Revenue, and their engagement is subject to one week's termination. Their general conditions are nothing like as favourable as the equivalent conditions of the Civil Service. They are entitled to twenty-four days of sick-pay on full remuneration if sick, and twenty-four days only of part remuneration if sick as against the corresponding six months' full pay if they are in the Civil Service and sick, followed by six months' half pay, if the illness lasted so long. It is not only in the actual weekly wage, but it is their whole term of service and the sole conditions of their employment. These 520 are paid from 20s. to 50s. a week, and the boy clerks are paid from 10s. to 20s., and they are obliged to leave unless they are absorbed into the position of man clerks when they have arrived at eighteen to twenty years of age, and as a fact, I believe it is true that relatively few of the really best of the boy clerks are absorbed into the position of men clerks, for the very simple reason that in that branch of the Civil Service they are enabled to get a much better position, and the consequence is that it is not the best but rather the second or third-rate boy clerk who becomes a man clerk in the surveyors' department.
My hon. Friend reminded the Committee of the duties that the surveyors and their clerks have to perform, and, in order to 2224 appreciate what the actual duty of the clerk is, one has to realise what the organisation of the surveyors' office is. The organisation of the surveyors' office is the surveyor himself, if in a large district an assistant surveyor, and perhaps two or three clerks and a boy. But if in a smaller district there may be only a surveyor with one clerk and a boy, and it is obvious that if that clerk is a competent clerk he can assist the surveyor in nearly all his duties, leaving the surveyor much freer to do just exactly the highest branch of the work which can alone be done by the surveyor. If, on the other hand, he is not a very competent clerk, it means that the surveyor, instead of being able to do his own work, has to spend a large portion of his time in doing work which could quite well be done by a clerk if the clerk were at all competent. I hope to show that it is in the interests of the Treasury itself that steps should be taken to improve the position of the clerk, so that the surveyors can be free to do the real directing work—the work which they are really intended to do—rather than have to spend a great deal of their time in doing clerical work. It is very obvious that you do not pay a man £200 to £700 a year to lick stamps on envelopes, but if the office boy was entirely incompetent and the surveyor's postage had to be done, he would have to, lick the stamps on the envelopes himself. That is not the thing that happens, but it illustrates what I mean. There is plenty of work for the surveyor to do, and he can do it so long as his time is not taken up by doing inferior work which ought to be done by the clerk, but for that purpose you have to get clerks who arc competent for that work. See what the clerks have to do. They have to deal first of all, in the aggregate, with half a million repayment claims for Income Tax. I do not know whether any hon. Gentleman has ever tried to make a claim for repayment of Income Tax. I have. It is a most amusing occupation if you have patience. It takes a very long time, and a large number of letters and any number of yellow forms have to be filled up. If you have only to do it in one or two cases it may amuse you, but I want you for a moment to think what goes on in a surveyor's office.
Consider that he himself cannot possibly, if he is going to do his other important work, devote time to consider the detailed claims of very small amounts for return of Income Tax. He ought to be able to leave that to his clerk merely helping him if he 2225 gets into a difficulty which the clerk cannot himself deal with. There are some 500,000 of these claims every year. In addition to that, besides having to analyse for the purpose of Schedules (d) and (e) of the Income Tax the statements of profits on trades and professions, the surveyors and their clerks have to consider large and important amounts of corporations and public bodies. It is quite true that the surveyor is himself responsible, but in the nature of things, he ought to be able to rely very largely upon his clerk, and if he is to have the assistance which would enable him to do that, that clerk must have a considerable knowledge of Income Tax law and of recent decisions, and if anyone has any connection with Income Tax law, he will know that it is not to be found in any one book in any clear fashion, but has to be hunted for in all sorts of directions and all sorts of decisions. In addition, he has to check the collector of Income Tax's accounts, and especially to reconcile the statement of uncollected Income Tax which these collectors are bound to return. Each of these separate offices of surveyors is surrounded by, and has attributed to it, a large number of collectors of Income Tax who have to account to them specially for the uncollected tax, and the surveyor has to check these collections or, rather, check the amount of the uncollected amounts with the collectors.
If there are any objections to the Property Tax or the House Duty Assessment, the clerk to the surveyor has got to deal with these, and for that purpose he has got to be able to understand a lease or agreement, and to have sufficient technical knowledge, at any rate, to consider the various objections that are made to the assessment. The office is a unit, the organisation of which depends not only on the ability of the surveyor, but on the ability of the clerk, and the surveyor's work itself depends upon his being able to rely upon his clerk to do completely the detailed work. The increase of work has been really considerable during the last few years. I will not deal with it in detail. There have been any number of cases of surveyors who have had their clerks breaking down from overwork. I have seen a memorandum which shows some serious cases of early breakdown, and they are attributed to overwork in the various offices. I have seen statements that it is no uncommon thing for a surveyor and his clerk to be working up to 2226 eight or nine o'clock in the evening for long periods at a time. If the Committee will consider the matter, they will realise with respect to Income Tax alone how much the work has increased. In the 1907 Budget there was a large differentiation in the tax, and in the 1909–10 Budget the differentiation was carried still further. There were earned incomes and unearned incomes to be distinguished between; claims for abatement on account of children were introduced, and each of these claims means not merely relief for the tax payer, but an immense amount of detailed work in the offices of the surveyors who have to consider the claims. In addition, the Mineral Rights Duty was imposed, and that amounts to £400,000 a year which has also to be handled by the surveyors and their clerks. The future is not very bright either, because Income Tax is now a permanent tax and on a higher scale. The claims for abatement and for the return of payments which have been made are much more insisted upon now than when the tax was lighter. Since the tax has been made higher, the tendency must be to have nicer adjustments of machinery to fit the burden on the various classes. The machinery has to be adjusted for dealing with claims for abatement, and that means new complications in the accounts, and the detailed work in connection with that is considerable. It is easy enough for us in this House to pass legislation imposing the taxes, but the detailed work which falls on the surveyors' offices in the 320 districts throughout the country involves a great deal of extra work.
There is another point which I wish to mention, namely, that the information which is now in the possession of the surveyors and their clerks is necessarily of a highly confidential nature, and it seems to me that it is of such a nature that it should only be dealt with by those who are employed on Civil Service conditions, and who have the feeling that their whole life depends upon their maintaining the traditions of the service in an atmosphere which prevents them being under any temptation, either for money or advancement in life, to make any misuse of the knowledge they have. I would ask the Committee to remember that a man who is subject to a week's notice is in a very different position from a man who is on the permanent established staff of the Civil Service, and who knows that when he becomes too old to work there is a 2227 pension at the end of his service. A man on the established staff has a feeling of responsibility quite different from that of a man who knows that he is liable to be turned off on a week's notice. There is no comparison between the position of the two men, and it seems to me that such important and confidential work as these men perform does require that it should be carried out by men with the high sense of responsibility which a position of permanency gives. I believe it is an economy from the State point of view to have men permanently employed. The efficiency of the surveyor largely depends on the efficiency of the man he employs. If a surveyor has an efficient man who can do the work without bothering him with the clerical work, it is better for the State, but the conditions of the work must be such as to attract the right sort of man.
The proposals put forward by this association seem to me quite reasonable and moderate. They say that the boy clerks should be given service marks in an open competition for appointments to the men clerkships. That seems to me to be a very good idea, because, without being an apprenticeship for the men clerkships, it does enable a boy who goes into an office to have some better chance of an appointment as a man clerk. If he is given a slight start on the way by an open competition for the position of a man clerkship he has an incentive to do his work well. If you do that, you are lessening the "blind-alley" occupation which exists so long as you turn off a boy at eighteen years of age. By doing that, you are likely to give a boy a permanent object in life, and he, on obtaining a man clerkship, will be able to utilise the experience gained during the few years he was a boy clerk. It is suggested that the men clerks should be on the established staff, and that the appointment should be made by open competition. At present they are appointed without examination at all. Starting at a salary of £70 a year, these clerks should be able to attain, after many years' service, a maximum of £300 a year. Then, in order that there should be no injustice done to those on the staff, the association suggests that the existing clerks should be established; but as they may not all be of the same class and character as those who will be brought into the service after the conditions have been improved, it is also suggested that there should be an efficiency bar at the 2228 £150 a year, which is nearly the maximum rate at present, and that unless a clerk can by examination meet the efficiency test he should stop at £150, while, on the other hand, if he can pass, he should go on as if he were a new clerk appointed under the new conditions. The association also says that past service should count for pensions. That appears to me to be an eminently justifiable claim. In regard to the comparison of the position in the Civil Service now with the proposals made by the association, I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer will see that if the proposals were adopted there would be given to these clerks a position equivalent to that of clerks in other branches of the Civil Service. I notice that Sir Matthew Nathan, referring to these proposals in his evidence before the Civil Service Commission, said:—They [a Departmental Committee] had made a proposal that the establishment should consist partly of clerks with the same scale of pay as the second division clerks, and partly of clerks with the same scale as assistant clerks, and, to a much smaller extent than at present, of boys; the numbers are 200 on the scale of the second division, 820 on the scale of assistant clerks, and 120 boys.That roughly corresponds with what is suggested by the association. Apparently the cost to the Treasury, if these proposals were granted would ultimately amount to £56,000 a year. That is the ultimate but not the present cost, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has often shown his appreciation of the difference between the final cost and the cost that would fall on the present year, will be glad to hear that if these proposals were accepted the cost this year or next year would be only £2,500.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Can the hon. Gentleman state when the ultimate amount of the charge will be reached?
I cannot say whether Sir Matthew Nathan stated how many years it will take to get to the higher figure, but the actual cost now, as I understand, will be about £2,500 a year. The ultimate charge will only come about after, I think, about twenty years, when the salaries have risen from the starting point to midway, or the average figure. It would then come up to the sum I have mentioned.
It is an alarming figure if it is a wasteful figure, 2229 but it is not an alarming figure if it is not wasteful—if it is a figure which will recoup itself by more efficient work. If my hon. Friend considers for a moment what is the work of the surveyors and the clerks, he will see that a very little extra efficiency in collecting £40,000,000 of Income Tax, looking at it from the State point of view, will very soon wipe out the extra cost which the carrying out of these proposals might entail.
I observe that my hon. Friend makes mention of the "screw." It is not the screw that is required with respect to existing taxpayers so much as the ferreting out of those who ought to pay and do not pay at present.
§ Mr. SANDYS
Is the hon. Member referring to the statement at the bottom of the first page of the evidence?
The figure of £147,000 does not represent the increased cost. That is the total figure. The difference is the figure which I gave. It is not a question of putting the screw on present taxpayers. It is a question of covering the wider area which is not now covered, largely because the surveyors' time is taken up doing clerical work which ought to be done by clerks, and not by surveyors at all. If the hon. Member will think for a moment he will see that if the surveyor—if he were merely an accountant or an auditor—he would want a great deal more than that. But in addition to having knowledge of accountancy, the surveyor is a little bit of a detective, and he has got to use, not merely the checking of the figures, but also his common sense and knowledge to see whether a return given to him is primâ facie correct or not. If he has time he can check it. If not he is bound to take it as given. What we want is that he should have further time, so as to discover easily the amount of revenue, it may be necessary to pay the whole cost of this improvement. But I put it rather on the ground of justice to the clerks and a safeguard to the taxpayers. It is not right that clerks should be expected to work under conditions which a private employer would not think of asking clerks in those responsible positions to accept, because a clerk of this kind is at least the equivalent to the cashier of an ordinary firm who has got to handle money, look after accounts, and have 2230 private information relating to his firm's affairs, and is always paid at a higher rate than the clerk doing purely clerical work. These clerks ought not to be compared with people doing purely clerical work. They ought to be compared with those clerks doing confidential work which necessitates their knowing the figures and finance of their employer. I put it, therefore, on the ground of justice to the clerks and also as a safeguard to the taxpayer and the trading firms themselves, so that they may be assured that their figures which are private and confidential, shall only be put before those who are in positions not less responsible than members of the Civil Service. Therefore, I support the Motion of my hon. Friend.
§ Sir FREDERICK LOW
I have listened carefully to the speeches of hon. Members opposite and of the hon. Member below the Gangway, and I feel that a very good case has been made out for a consideration of the position of these public servants. It appears that they perform very responsible duties for very inadequate remuneration, and that is a matter which well deserves the consideration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But there is a far more serious phase of the case, namely, the position of the taxpayers. It is a little startling to find that the most private financial and business affairs of the citizens of this country are at the disposition, if they see fit, of clerks who are employed temporarily upon only one week's notice, and who appear to me to be grievously inadequately paid. It cannot be for the interests of a business community like ours—and I speak in the interests of business people—that the figures and statements which disclose the most private matters, and which have, of course, to be placed at the disposal of Government officials connected with the collection of the Income Tax, should go before persons who have neither the responsibility of establishment nor are remunerated well enough to make it worth their while to resist temptation. I know that in my own Constituency there is a strong feeling that persons in placing their private business figures before the tax officials are running a very undue risk. And it is almost horrifying to think that the young man employed at £1 a week, who can be discharged or discharge himself at a week's notice, is by the nature of his employment able to make himself familiar with the financial position, and business secrets of persons who have to disclose these matters 2231 for the purpose of Income Tax. And I do very seriously urge upon the Treasury that it is time that this matter were put upon a proper footing, and that matters of this sort should not be liable to be disclosed, for instance by a man who has information of this sort before him, say in order to improve his position; suppose that he gets a situation in the town in which he has been employed, in connection with the collection of the Income Tax—then there is nothing—except, of course, that we know that there is an oath of secrecy, but that is hardly sufficient protection—to prevent a competitor in business finding out matters which might be almost vital to him. Therefore, surely, the time has come when these officials should be placed upon the establishment, so as to have some fixity of tender, in order they may not be tempted to leave their office to improve their position; and, of course, accompanying that there should be adequate pay for the duties they perform.
The various matters that have been referred to by the previous speakers with regard to the position of these clerks disclose quite sufficiently what the position is, and it is, of course, unnecessary for me to go into them in detail. But I would suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that in dealing with this matter it is of the highest importance to the payers of Income Tax, that the risks at which I have ventured to hint should not be run, and I cannot help thinking that this provision is appreciated at the Treasury, because, with regard to the Super-tax, I think I am right in saying that precautions have been taken to prevent this very position to which I am referring. None of the details that a man has to furnish in order to ascertain whether he is or is not liable for the payment of Super-tax are disclosed to these local officers at all. They are entirely dealt with from headquarters, and it cannot be right that the protection which is given to the highly prosperous persons who are able—and, I am sure, not only able, but pleased—to pay Income Tax, should be withheld from the comparatively poorer people who carry on business in the country, and who in this matter are or may be at the mercy of a grossly underpaid clerk, who holds his position on the most precarious tenure on which a clerk can hold any position, namely, on a week's agreement; and, what is more serious still, can himself leave the service on the same very 2232 short notice. I think that what I have said is sufficient to show that there is here a matter deserving of the very gravest consideration of the Treasury, and I am sure that in dealing with these clerks they will see that there is a case for some liberality and for some consideration not only of the clerks themselves, but also for some very grave consideration of the position of the persons who have to make these Returns and have to pay these taxes which are controlled in the offices where these clerks are employed. I trust, therefore, that this matter may not be passed over just by the suggestion that it can be dealt with by the Royal Commission that is sitting, but that some steps may be taken at an early date in order to relieve the public mind of the considerable amount of anxiety with regard to this question, and that the matter may be dealt with as promptly as the Treasury can find it convenient to do so.
Mr. EDMUND HARVEY
I desire, in a single sentence, to associate myself with the hon. and learned Member to whom the House has just listened, and with the remarks that have been made by other hon. Members who have spoken. I feel sure that hon. Members on this side of the House, as well as on the other, concur in the hope that the Government will give very favourable consideration to this case.
§ Mr. GEORGE THORNE
I desire also to join in the appeal which has been made from both sides of the House to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that most careful and immediate attention may be given to the matter which has been submitted for his consideration this afternoon. Like my hon. Friend who preceded me I think that there is no necessity to repeat what has already been said and well said. The general proposition is that the terms of service and rates of pay should be fairly commensurate with the responsibilities involved. I think it is manifest to any person in the House that what has been said proves clearly that in regard to clerical assistants to the taxing officers neither condition obtains, and it is vital not only for the individual, but for the community that both conditions should be provided for. Therefore, I urge strenuously and earnestly not by the Royal Commission but by direct consideration on the part of the Treasury that these important matters should immediately be taken into consideration, and I trust sincerely that justice will be speedily done.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. C. E. PRICE
Long before I entered the House I have had my attention called to this matter, and therefore I trust sincerely that the grievance, now that it has been brought before the House, will be removed without delay. I have myself employed a great many clerks and I have no hesitation in saying that in proportion to the responsibilities of the men in this Department the rates of pay are too low. They are lower than the wages which are paid by the best firms, and I cordially trust that a change will be brought about. The facts and figures have been placed before, the House, and they are familiar to every Member, for I presume that each Member has been supplied with the information. But this subject can be approached from two points of view—not only from that of the clerks, but also from that of the public; and so far as the clerks are concerned, I feel certain you would have an infinitely better service if you had a higher-paid service. So far as the public is concerned, I am quite sure that very few persons in the country realise what it is to have their most private business concerns subjected to a body of clerks moved about as those clerks are. I am perfectly certain that most people who make a return for Income Tax do not realise that information most vital to their business, and which a man would do anything rather than reveal, is subjected to a body of men who hold a position of such short tenure. I submit that if the whole standard of the service were raised it would pay the Treasury. In many districts the assessor is employed by the county, and in some cases the change made by employing their own assessor at a considerable higher salary has influenced other county councils to make a change. I am quite sure that if something were done to raise the standard of these clerks' service a vastly greater return would be obtained, and it would pay the Treasury to raise their salaries. I sincerely trust that something will be done.
§ Mr. SANDYS
We have had this afternoon an extremely interesting and useful discussion, which has not been less useful or less interesting because it is one of the occasions when hon. Members opposite have thought lit to give us their views and to contribute to the interest of the Debate. As on so many occasions we find, in fact, that speeches are made exclusively by hon. Members who occupy these benches, it comes as a refreshing sign that hon. Members on this question—which I deem is one 2234 of considerable importance, at any rate to this hard-working body of men, who are very closely concerned in the matter—should take part in this Debate and express their views ably and fully in reference to the requirements of these clerks, who have found advocates not only amongst those who sit on this side of the House, but also among those who occupy the Liberal Benches, and who make, as a rule, such infrequent contributions to our Debates. Personally, I share the view which I know is held by the hon. Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), and which he has so often expressed in the course of Debates in this House, namely, that it is our duty as Members of the House of Commons to see that the expenditure of this country, which is mounting up by leaps and bounds, is kept within limits, so far as possible. Had it not been for the very excellent case which was made out both by the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. R. S. Gwynne) and also by the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Worthington-Evans), and further amplified by speeches of hon. Members on the other side of the House—had it not been for the fact that they made out such an excellent case on behalf of these men, and showed how absolutely essential it is that something should be done to improve their conditions of service and the rate of pay which they receive at the present time, I am bound to say that, for my part, I should at first sight be inclined to oppose this change and this increase of expenditure. I understand that the sum involved will mean an addition of some £56,000 a year—I think that is the actual amount. Sir Matthew Nathan in his evidence estimated that it is the amount which will actually be involved. But I am inclined to think, after hearing the speeches which have been delivered by hon. Members, who have evidently given some attention to the question and studied it, that on the whole this money will be well spent.
After all, these men who are employed in this particular work cannot be regarded as persons engaged in purely clerical work. Had they been engaged purely and simply as ordinary clerks the scale of pay they receive at the present time would perhaps have been generally regarded as adequate. But these men are employed on work of an extremely confidential character. I think that under existing conditions their position is extremely unsatisfactory, and that they are entitled lb approach hon. Members of 2235 this House, as they have approached them on this question, and ask that their position should be improved and that they should have an increase in the scale of salaries which they are to draw. As has been pointed out, these clerks, in the course of their ordinary work, have access to balance sheets, statements of accounts, books, ledgers, and so forth, in connection with various business men and various great companies in this country engaged upon all sorts of work and industry. I think it is highly important that these clerks should be placed upon the establishment—that is what they are anxious to see done—of the Civil Service, so that they may occupy a position not in any way inferior to that which is occupied by the clerks who do very similar work at Somerset House at the present time. I think that the information which they have to obtain in the course of their work with reference to those whose income does not exceed £3,000 a year should be regarded as confidential, and should be kept just as completely secret, and only used for just as strictly proper purposes in connection with the collection of this tax, as is the income of those fortunate individuals who are liable to Super-tax and whose accounts are investigated by officials who occupy a different grade at Somerset House.
These men, whose case we are considering, are placed in a position of even greater responsibility than the clerks at Somerset House themselves. The clerks at Somerset House are always in touch with headquarters. There are in that great establishment, under the direction of the right hon. Gentleman, a large number of highly paid and highly trained officials, whom these clerks engaged in this particular work are always able to consult in exceptional cases, which must always be occurring in this particular work; whereas we find that those men who are employed in provincial districts, in many cases, are actually in charge of the department when the officer responsible has to be away from his work for a great many days during the year. While he is away, in many cases these clerks, who are not established clerks, have practically to be in charge of the office during their superior's absence. Therefore, they are placed in a position, I think, of even greater responsibility than those established officials at Somerset House who have to deal particularly with the Super-tax. I certainly think it is most 2236 unfair and most unjust that persons whose income is under £3,000 a year should not receive exactly the same treatment as those who are liable to these very severe taxes which fall upon persons who are more fortunately placed than those in the enjoyment of under £3,000 a year. I think in the course of his speech the hon. Member for Eastbourne made some allusion to the Report passed in 1912 by the Associated Chambers of Commerce. The resolution of that body, passed in March, 1912, is as follows:—That in the opinion of this association, the present system of employing temporary clerks in the office of the surveyors of taxes is unsatisfactory, and it gives casual employés access to confidential documents which should he available for use only by the permanent Civil Servants, under the pledge of secrecy.That really sums up the situation, and I think it is interesting to know that such a representative body as the Associated Chambers of Commerce, which may be regarded as representative of most of the business interests in the country, have passed that very strong resolution. I hope it will have some influence with the right hon. Gentleman when he comes to give his decision upon this question. I understand that this matter of the position of this particular body of clerks has not been adequately gone into in the past. I believe there was an Income Tax Committee which sat in 1904 and in 1905, but that Committee, I suppose, owing to lack of time, did not consider the question of these particular public servants, though I think it would have been desirable had their attention been called to this grievance, which has existed from far earlier than the year 1904. The origin, as has been stated, but perhaps not sufficiently emphasised, of all this difficulty was when the Income Tax was re-established in 1842. It was regarded then, not as a permanent source of national revenue, but as a temporary expedient to meet a temporary difficulty. That temporary difficulty has become a permanent difficulty, and the Income Tax, instead of being a temporary tax, I am afraid we have unfortunately now to regard as a permanent impost upon the taxpayers of this country. It is most unfortunate that it should be so, but I think that is the origin of the difficulty. The tendency naturally was, when this tax was regarded as a tax of a purely temporary character, to look upon the staff which had the collection of the tax and the investigation of the circumstances attending its collection, as being also of the same temporary character. Consequently the staff was kept small, and the 2237 system of unestablished clerks was unfortunately introduced. I believe that up to the year 1898 the highest salary which it was posible for one of these men to be paid was £104. I think the maximum which can be obtained under existing conditions is £182 a year; but, so far as I can gather from the information which has been supplied to me by this association, as a matter of fact only about 11 per cent of the clerks are actually in possession of an income of £182 a year. I certainly would urge that this matter should be considered and that it is essential now when the Income Tax has become permanent. I think that is generally admitted and it was emphasised by the speech which the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister made on the 18th April, 1907, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer. He said:—The income Tax as it is one of the most productive, so it is one of the most delicate parts of our fiscal machinery.…it has always been palliated on the pound either that the Income Tax was a mere temporary cape bent, or on the ground that it was impossible to make such a distinction without destroying its productivity, and that it was purely a temporary tax put on for the purpose of war.…We now recognise the tax to be a permanent part of our system.Not only did the right hon. Gentleman when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and some of us perhaps wish that he had continued to hold that very responsible position, recognise that it is a permanent tax, but it is generally recognized throughout the whole country. Under those circumstances I do sincerely hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give consideration to the arguments which have been brought forward by hon. Members on both sides, and see if he cannot make the alteration which has been suggested in respect of those clerks who occupy this extremely important confidential position, and put them upon the establishment of the Civil Service with all the advantages which the establishment will give them. I also hope he may see his way to adopt the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Colchester and give them an increase to their salaries, which at the present time are altogether inadequate for the responsible duties which they perform.
§ Sir NORVAL HELME
The subject which is now before the House is one that does not admit of great variety of treatment in that the facts, I think, are generally admitted. I have been familiar with this question for some years and have had the pleasure of knowing several of the surveyors of Income Tax in different parts of the country. I made it my business to 2238 take their opinion as to the real position in which they found themselves in reference to their staffs. Further, I communicated with some of the Income Tax Commissioners, who, I thought, could properly discuss this question confidentially, as it affects an important section of the work with which they are charged. In addition to the salaries that are paid there are other items to be dealt with in considering the working of the offices of the surveyors of Income Tax. In one office I know that there are three clerks, one a married man who gets 30s. per week, and the second one unmarried who gets 20s. per week, and the third unmarried who gets 15s. per week. In respect to the access to information, I think it is highly necessary that a new system should be adopted in regard to the papers connected with Income Tax returns. If you go into sonic offices you may possibly find that papers are placed and stored in, such a position that any designing person, even outside the clerks of whom we are now speaking, could avail himself of the information that was there. I do not know if I am correct, but I should suppose that the Income Tax collectors from the various rural districts go into the offices. I do think in the matter of these appointments and the storage of papers there is room for consideration to be given so that the work of the surveyors now under discussion may be more carefully done.
There is no doubt whatever that to the trader, the returns made under Schedule (d) are of such a confidential character that the greatest anxiety is felt about those returns, be they large or small, and that they should be regarded as confidential and kept within the official secrets of the Government service. I think that this Debate will do good, and that steps will be taken to augment the position so that frequent changes in the staff may be prevented. We cannot expect that the more capable of these clerks would hesitate to take other situations which may be offered to them. Thus, we are justified in asking the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Financial Secretary, to take this matter into their careful consideration and deal with it. I do not think it is necessary to go to the length of supplying a clerk at £300 per year in every surveyor's office. That was the maximum figure that was mentioned in one of the reports, but we ought to have men who would support the surveyor. I have had the opinion expressed by some of the surveyors that the 2239 clerical work of their office lies at the very root of the dissatisfaction they have and the overtime that has to be worked in their Department. Therefore, I think we can with confidence ask that a sufficient sum of money should be spent, and I think it would be well spent. By doing so we should have the satisfaction of knowing that the traders of the country would have less anxiety about the returns that they make under Schedule (d); and the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his permanent advisors will he able to feel that the staffs over whom they are placed shall have the opportunity of rendering good and useful service, being adequately paid by the State which ought never to underpay its servants.
§ Mr. RUPERT GWYNNE
I understand that the Deputy-Chairman did not gather that I moved a reduction on this Vote. I prefaced my remarks by saying that I moved a reduction which was down in my name on the Paper. I now formally move, "That Sub-head A be reduced by £100."
§ Mr. WALTER REA
It scents to me that the discussion has turned on two separate points. In regard to one there seems to be remarkable unanimity of opinion throughout the Committee. I would like to express my agreement with the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Norwich (Sir F. Low) as to the absolute necessity of ensuring secrecy for those who have to submit their accounts to Income Tax officials. Though it should cost a certain small additional amount per annum to the Exchequer, I am satisfied that it will so increase confidence in the Income Tax officials that the money will be very well spent. I think it does follow you cannot feel satisfied with regard to secrecy if yon do not pay a living wage. If men are employed at £1 or £2 per week, and subject to dismissal at a week's notice, or even worse, there is a temptation to leave the public service and give private information away to trade rivals. That, I think, is a point on which the whole Committee will be agreed. I think my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be very willing to meet us on this point, seeing that when I raised a similar point as to the Income Tax Commissioners he then promised to inquire into the scandals, for they are almost scandals, which have occurred in breaches of confidence in that respect. This deals 2240 with an equally serious case, and I am sure my right hon. Friend will take it into consideration at the same time. The actual technical point which we are considering is the question of the amount paid to a certain class of Civil Servants, or, if they are not technically so, they are employés of the State. Here I want to enter a protest against this House having to consider such a matter. I do so with a less reluctance because this seems to be quite obviously a case where the clerks have a grievance and have no other method of getting the grievance remedied than by coming to this House.
It cannot be a satisfactory way of carrying on the public service that Members of Parliament should be liable to be commandeered by public servants to bring pressure to bear, political vote-catching pressure, on individual Members to come and ask for greater salaries and better pay for their constituents. That is bound to have a bad effect on the public service and worse on Parliament. I am quite sure the lion. Baronet opposite (Sir F. Banbury), who is so very anxious lest corruption may creep in with the increase in the number of Civil servants, will agree that it is desirable, if the number is going to increase, that we should have some safeguard that Members of Parliament should not become at the mercy of a very large percentage of their constituents, who may be able to turn an election, and by so doing bring pressure to bear on the candidates to pledge themselves to move for an increase in salaries, possibly even against his better judgment. When the House of Commons comes to consider minor questions, such as this affecting some few hundred individuals, largely as the result of a pressure brought to bear by constituents who have axes to grind of their own, you cannot get a satisfactory decision, and if this grows, as it is tending to grow, and certainly has grown during my short experience in Parliament, I fear that the life of a Member of Parliament will become almost intolerable, and that the public service will become very much less efficient, and that we shall all become mere instruments of log-rollers. I prefaced what I had to say by safeguarding myself in that I had no desire to criticise in the least the demand made by these clerks, who seem to me to be very much underpaid, and who are entitled to better conditions of service and, above all, to longer make from their employers. 2241 But I do think that it is a very grave danger and a growing one that this matter should have to be discussed in Committee.
No amount of pressure from my Constituency would force me to bring pressure to bear on the Government to spend more than what should be usefully spent, but if ever there was a case made out for doing bare justice to a very useful and indispensable class of people, it is this case. It is only on that account that I support it. The Financial Secretary doubtless understands the fact perfectly. We look to him to say that there shall be an inquiry into the matter, that something shall be done to put these clerks on a permanent basis and give them adequate salaries, not in order that they may keep the secrets under their care, but simply as an act of justice, in view of the work they have to do.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Masterman)
This has been an unemotional discussion, in which all sides of the House have joined with complete unanimity, as is customary in discussions of this and a similar nature. I suppose, if I were to offer strenuous opposition to this proposal, which I have no intention of doing, the only Members from whom I should get any sympathy would be the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain). Every proposition of this kind is always accompanied by the statement that if ever there was a case for Treasury expenditure, this is the case. Apart from that, however, I realise that there is a special claim in regard to this particular class of officials. The clerks to the surveyors entered the Civil Service, I think, in some such fashion as that mentioned by the hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. C. Duncan)—by a back door or a blind alley. Before 1908 they were not Civil servants at all; they were employed by the surveyors of taxes, and could have been employed as purely casual labour. When I hear so much of the danger of this most important confidential information leaking out to the detriment of traders, it is a mystery that that information seems never to have leaked out when these men were not. Civil servants, but purely casual clerk labour employed by the surveyors of taxes.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
I am not contesting in any way the fact that much of the information is confidential. I agree also with the hon. Member that times have changed considerably since these clerks were employed in a more or less casual way. In April, 1908, these clerks were taken over as Civil servants in four groups into the direct service of the Board—two of the groups on the establishment and two unestablished. There are, at the present time, 243 established clerks of this kind, with salaries ranging from £78 to £172 per annum.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
I will look into that. There are also 595 non-established Civil Service clerks, with incomes ranging from some £52 to some £130. Adding 303 temporary boy clerks, we have 1,141 of these minor officials under the surveyors of taxes. The hon. Member for Colchester made a good deal of the point that an enormous amount of extra labour has been thrown upon these clerks. That is quite true; but there has also been an enormous increase in the staff. In the last eight years the staff has increased by 97 per cent., that is to say, it has nearly doubled. There are one or two other points of criticism on some of the statements which have been made. For instance, the hon. Member for Colchester said that as a result of the examination and of the very low pay, only the second or third quality of boy clerks were obtained. I do not think there is any evidence of that. I should be sorry to think that they were merely the second or third quality boy clerks. The evidence given before the Civil Service Commission seems to show that at the examination the cream of the boy clerks pass into these offices. The hon. Member opened up the whole question of boy clerks, which I think is the biggest question before the Civil Service Commission, and upon which very strong evidence has been given. As to the question of a week's notice, technically, hon. Members have made their point, but as a matter of fact these people do not go at a week's notice. They are more or less permanent Civil servants, and although they do not get pensions, they get a gratuity at the expiration of their term of service. The precarious nature of their employment sounds very serious when it is stated that they may wander away at the end of a week, and divulge confidential information. But I see no reason why 2243 men on the establishment should not do that. As a matter of fact, however, these men stay permanently. As to the whole question of the position of these men, we have never recognised their position as satisfactory. We have always recognised that some change must take place. In his evidence before the Civil Service Commission, the Chairman of the Board of Inland Revenue stated what was actually taking place before the Commission was appointed. He said:—I think I had better make a short statement with regard to the question of the surveyors' clerks. The surveyors' clerks petitioned some time ago for reconsideration of their position, and the surveyors also complained that they had not the assistance which they thought they ought to have from their clerks, as these clerks were not properly qualified. I considered the matter, and appointed a small Committee to investigate, the Committee consisting of the Deputy-Chairman, the Secretary of Taxes, and the Chief Inspector of Taxes. They recently sent me in a report, which I have under consideration, proposing a considerable alteration in the whole condition of the service of clerks to surveyors—an alteration based on the lines which I more or less suggested, which has, as one of its objects, to stop any blind-alley occupation for boys.It may be asked why that scheme of amelioration was not proceeded with. It was largely owing to the action of the clerks to the surveyors themselves. They petitioned the Civil Service Commission to be heard upon their grievance. I am not quite sure whether they were heard, but certainly a memorial was sent it.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
They petitioned to be heard; the Commission had a memorial from them, and will report on the subject. Here, again, Sir Matthew Nathan, in another part of his evidence, when asked why the scheme for amelioration was not put before the Treasury, said:—The scheme has not yet been put before the Treasury, because it seems futile to do this until we have some indication of what are the views of the Royal Commission. It is no good our recommending a number of boy clerks if the class of boy clerk is no longer to exist.In a later answer he states that the Board has sympathy with a subsidiary claim of the surveyors' clerks, that they should count the whole of their prior service towards pension. The Government recognise that something must be done in connection with these clerks, and had prepared a scheme under which something would have been done. The whole matter is now before the Royal Commission. It is not being delayed by the Commission, because I think they are considering their Report, though we have no information as to when the Report will be presented.
§ Mr. GWYNNE
Will the Government act on the Report of the Royal Commission, which has heard only one side?
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
I am not committing the Government. I say that the matter is sub judice. The Royal Commission may recommend far larger changes than anything suggested this afternoon. One great question is whether boy labour is to be continued or not. Some of us feel very strongly on that point. They may recommend a rearrangement of the whole condition of these surveyors of taxes and their clerks. If the Royal Commission recommends nothing on this subject, I can only inform the House that we will consider it. But it, would be perfectly impossible for us now to make any alteration, when for all we know a recommendation may come forward altering the whole position of Civil servants, and the whole of this particular Department of the Civil Service. The hon. Member for Eastbourne asked whether we did not think we should have something in the revenue statement of this year. That means that by March or by July of next year some definite scheme should be passed. I think by that time, if not by March, certainly by July, the Royal Commission will have reported, and I think I can promise him—and I trust it will satisfy him—that before another year has gone there will be some definite Government proposals for the amelioration of the condition of this class.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The right hon. Gentleman opened his observations by saying that my hon. Friends and myself were the only people upon whom he could count to resist claims of the kind put forward to-day.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
What I meant was the general sort of claim put forward by all parties against the Treasury. I was not referring to this particular claim.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
In regard to that matter I only want to say, in respect of the speech delivered a moment before by the hon. Gentleman sitting just behind the right hon. Gentleman, that I agree with him that any attempt to bring political pressure to bear in order to improve or to enhance the salary or wages of employés of the State should be very carefully scrutinised. I confess I think the House has sometimes been unduly influenced by such pressure. I think the danger is greater when you, are dealing with classes which are very 2245 numerous. I have more than once pressed upon the House the desirability of trying to find some way which would remove these questions from the immediate purview of the House of Commons. The means that we have hitherto adopted have been to refer the Post Office and similar questions relating to Post Office employés to a Committee upstairs. I have always felt that that was highly unsatisfactory. I do not think it is a good tribunal to try the issues involved; that it was bound to produce in the minds of smaller sections of Civil servants, owning a much more limited number of votes, the feeling that the House only took action when the votes were sufficiently numerous—in fact, to encourage the view which the hon. Member opposite wishes to discourage. If we wish to discourage that view it is necessary for Governments to be alert and ready to listen to real grievances of the employés of the State, however small in number they may be. As to the class of men whom we have been considering today, as the right hon. Gentleman said, they originally entered the service by a back-door. They were the personal assistants of their immediate superiors. I think in this and in some other cases there has been a not unnatural desire on the part of the Treasury to keep them in that position as long as possible in order that the great army of Civil servants might not be further increased.
When men are engaged in employment which is obviously valuable and confidential it is not in the interests of the State that they should come in and go out casually. It is to the interests of the State, as much as to the interest of the class concerned, that they should make the work their career, and should be encouraged to do so. I confess that I regret that in this matter the right hon. Gentleman has not acted at once without waiting for the Royal Commission. I can quite understand the case of boy labour, which, owing to the nature of the service, may require to be held over till the Report of that Commission appears; but I do not see where that applies to the question of the surveyors' clerks. I do think those men ought to be put upon the establishment. I certainly would not like to commit myself, and, indeed, I do not think I ever would commit myself, on any, ex parte statement, apart from such inquiry as I could make, to a statement as to the right amount of wages or salary that a particular class of employés of the State should be given. Therefore I do not 2246 commit myself to the acceptance of the particular terms which have been suggested as being proper remuneration for this class. I do think we might have now from the Government the recognition of the fact that it is in the public interest, and it is really due to these men, that they should he placed upon the establishment. I am rather sorry that the right hon. Gentleman did not give us that assurance this afternoon. Feeling the way I did, I did not like to pass over the sentences with which the right hon. Gentleman began, and in which he seemed to link me ex officio, as a past Chancellor, with necessary opposition to every demand raised by Civil servants, and to this demand in particular.
§ Captain SPENDER CLAY
I consider the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary extremely unsatisfactory. It was not a speech which I should have thought would satisfy hon. Gentlemen on his own side of the House who have spoken strongly in favour of the claims of this unfortunate class, nor of those of our side of the House who have endorsed that appeal. He has said that he cannot possibly do anything now; that there is a Royal Commission sitting. I must say I am a little bit sceptical as to the Royal Commission. Royal Commissions sit for a very long time, and their Reports do not come out as speedily as we should like. The Report of this Commission may not, according to the right hon. Gentleman himself, come out until March or July of next year. In the meantime what about those who are paid low wages, and the majority of whom are not on the establishment? According to the right hon. Gentleman, if this Royal Commission does not propose to give them better salaries, he will do something. I leave it to the Committee to say whether or not this is not a most unsatisfactory statement, and if my hon. Friend presses his Amendment to a Division I shall support him in the Lobby. Just think of the amount of salary these men get! I was astounded to hear it. Some of them only get £52 per year. These are men in a responsible position, dealing with forty millions of money annually, and some of them are paid a wage which is certainly not a living wage. Some are more fortunate than others, and have got upon the establishment. In 1908, when the new scheme came into force, it appears that a certain number of these men came on to the permanent staff. What is going to 2247 happen to the rest, large numbers of whom have got no provision made for Old age? I think, if you look at the case fairly, and from all points of view, and consider that you are dealing with Government officials, you must treat them all alike so far as you can. It is either fair or unfair to treat them as you are doing now. If it is unfair it is not a case that ought to wait for the report of the Royal Commission in a year or two's time. The matter should receive the immediate attention of His Majesty's Government.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
I did not say that the Report of the Royal Commission would be out in a year or two's time. I was speaking of what might definitely be done next year.
§ Captain SPENDER CLAY
If I misapprehended the right hon. Gentleman I will willingly withdraw. What was said about 1914?
§ Captain SPENDER CLAY
Then it all depends upon the report of the Royal Commission. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] Do I understand that the right hon. Gentleman is really anxious to assist these most deserving people, but that he is not prepared to do it to-day? What we want him to say definitely is when he is going to do it: To what extent he will meet their demands. Although I should like willingly to accept the right hon. Gentleman's assurance I cannot help thinking that this is a case which has been going on for so many years, and that it perhaps may be forgotten in some of the large questions which arise in the years to come. The matter does involve, I admit, a sum of considerable magnitude—£56,000. I cannot help thinking unless something is done as soon as possible—that there may be a tendency on the part, I am sure not of the right hon. Gentleman himself, but perhaps the permanent officials, to try to save this £56,000. I know there is pressure put on every Member of Parliament in a case like this. I admit I have been approached on the subject, but it is a case that I have gone into with some considerable care, and which, owing to the magnitude of the sums involved, I think really requires the immediate attention of the right hon. Gentleman I cannot feel absolutely satisfied as to the way that this 2248 matter has been dealt with, and with what the right hon. Gentleman has said, and I shall, if necessary, support my hon. Friend in the Lobby.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
I venture to think that the statement of the Financial Secretary is an extremely unsatisfactory one. He admits the case of my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne. He admits that these grievances exist. He admits that this is a deserving class that up till now have not received justice. He admits that something ought to be done. What is his excuse for his inaction? He tells us that a Royal Commission is sitting. Apparently, until he was informed by my hon. Friend, he was not aware of the fact that the Royal Commission had really rendered it impossible that they could deal with this question, because when these men asked to be represented before that Royal Commission, so as to state their case, that request was refused. It is quite true that they got a memorandum or something of the kind handed in, but we all know that that is really worthless for the purpose of sifting a case of this sort. Therefore the Royal Commission have really rendered themselves disqualified to decide upon this case. They have refused to hear the evidence. The right hon. Gentleman attempts to shelter himself for his inaction by saying that the matter is sub judice. The answer to that is that the tribunal is not competent, as I have shown, and indeed the right hon. Gentleman appeared to have some sort of belief that the Royal Commission is not a fit tribunal because he has given us an undertaking that whether or not the Royal Commission deals with the matter, he will himself deal with it next year. What I think the House is entitled to know is why the right hon. Gentleman does not deal with it this year. If he could do it next year without the Royal Commission, surely he could do it this year. This is a mere excuse for more delay, and is a very grave and unpardonable thing.
§ Mr. GWYNNE
I regret that I cannot accept the very vague suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman as to his proposal to deal with this matter. and I therefore cannot withdraw my Amendment. I would remind him that the feeling of urgency in this matter is not confined merely to this side of the House because the hon. Member for Norwich opposite said at the conclusion of his 2249 remarks that the time had come when it is of the highest importance that the risk we are now running should be run no longer. For that reason I cannot accept the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman. I would remind him that we have had this afternoon a far better opportunity of discussing this matter, and considering it in its various aspects than even the Royal Commission.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd George)
It seems to me there is some misunderstanding as to the undertaking given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury, and I should be very sorry if it went out to the clerks. Those who interpreted my right hon. Friend's statement—I am sorry I did not hear it myself, but I know the details—seem to have come to the conclusion that he gave a purely vague promise which is generally associated with official undertakings, that the matter will be considered next year. That certainly is not the case. My right hon. Friend is very anxious and very properly so, to get the Report of the Royal Commission and see what they say about the surveyors.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I understand the surveyors themselves presented a memorial to the Commission. Is the hon. Gentleman quite sure that they would prefer to have the matter adjudicated on by the Treasury before the Royal Commission reported?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I call the hon. Gentleman's attention again to the paragraph in the evidence already referred to in the House, in which Sir Matthew Nathan said that he was considering their position with a view to making some arrangements. They seemed to prefer to have the matter adjudicated on by the Royal Commission. They presented their case, and presented it very fully, to the Royal Commission. It true, I believe, that no individual clerk has appeared to give evidence.
§ Mr. GWYNNE
Have they been heard? I say quite definitely that they applied but were refused by the Royal Commission.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I should like to know whether, under these conditions, they prefer to have the matter adjudicated upon by the Treasury or wait to get the Report of the Royal Commission. I should think that they would be much better advised to hear what the Royal Commission had to say.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
They have considered the memorial presented. We looked into that matter. I assume he has looked into the matter in order to assure himself upon the subject. I listened to the hon. Gentleman and to other speeches delivered in support of his view. I think, certainly, a very good case has been established. I think there is a good deal to be said for it, and that it is very desirable to employ men dealing with matters of an entirely confidential nature which affects the private affairs of hundreds of thousands of men in this country, so that these men should feel that security of tenure necessary to identify them with the public service and to give us the same sort of spirit as prevails in the Civil Service. I do not doubt that for a moment. I think the case the hon. Gentleman has put is irresistible. This is a more or less new policy of the Department to absorb as many as possible and to establish them for public reasons, and I confess I think there is a good deal to be said for carrying that policy further, but I should have thought, upon the view of the surveyors and clerks themselves, that it would be better that the Royal Commission should express an opinion on this and on the case of kindred employés, because they are not the only persons suffering this class of grievance. I think it would be better to hear what the Royal Commission says. I will guarantee, as my right hon. Friend has already done, that we will do justice to their claims, but when the hon. Gentleman said it is prejudice and when he produced a particular case of £50 a year, I do not know what that case is. It may be a boy of eighteen. I should rather like to know something more about the circumstances. If he asks me if that is a fair wage for a man, I say certainly it is not, but I should like to know something about the conditions. There is no worse tribunal in the world for fixing a scale of wages than the House of Commons; they cannot possibly do it.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
I never suggested that for a moment; and with regard to challenging the Royal Commission, what we 2251 said was that by refusing to take evidence, which is the only way any tribunal can judge, they disqualified themselvese from pronouncing upon this matter.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I will consider the question of evidence; I think there is something to be said in that respect. I should like to know whether they had an opportunity of presenting their case fully before the Royal Commission. It seems to me that opportunity should be given. The Royal Commission are probably under the impression that it has been given. I am not judging or criticising the action of the Royal Commission, but I would point out that we cannot, in this House, fix a scale of wages and say that £50 is too little for someone over nineteen years of age, and that a certain figure is not a proper maximum. I agree it is very desirable in the public interest and in the interests of the revenue that we should have as many of these men as possible on the establishment, to give them a sense of security. I agree with what the hon. Member stated about the quality of these men. They give very good service, admirable service. What you ought to do, if you can, is to give them a sense of security which would attract the very best men to the service, especially if there was promotion which would go beyond the maximum indicated. I can assure the hon. Gentleman we are not merely giving a perfunctory promise in this respect. The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but I can assure him I will keep in mind the case he has made out for the surveyors. At the present moment I could not improvise a scheme. I think that every reasonable man here who has got the interests of the clerks at heart will feel we have gone as far as we possibly can at the present moment in dealing with them.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has given us fair words for the last ten minutes. He agrees that a case has been made out and that it ought to be dealt with, but when he comes to the stickling point when he might meet the case put forward, all he says is that the case is made out. He really does not advance upon the position taken up by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury who says that the case is sub judice. The Chancellor says the case is made out, but you cannot expect me to improvise a scheme on the Treasury Bench; if he really means to deal with the 2252 case, he could give a definite undertaking that it should be dealt with on the lines of the proposal well known to the Treasury for years. This matter has not been sprung upon them at the last moment. The Treasury are now taking up exactly the same line as they did all through. In 1908, in 1910, in 1911, it was brought before them, arid from the evidence of Sir Matthew Nathan given before the Royal Commission, the only reason he did not press the scheme upon the Treasury was that the Royal Commission might make some recommendation that boy clerks should no longer exist. The only reason why the Royal Commission was referred to at all was that some change might be made in the position of boy clerks. This is not a question of boy clerks, but of men clerks and also of the public interest.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
Surely the whole position must be affected by the question whether boy clerks should be continued.
It is quite possible, supposing the Royal Commission said that no more boys were to be employed, that 310 boys would have to be replaced by men clerks, but that does not alter the fact that there are 500 men clerks non-established working for wages which the Chancellor of the Exchequer admits are inadequate. Their case has been urgently pressed for the last two or three years. I do not expect the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say we will accept exactly your proposal, but I expect, if he is serious, he will give a definite undertaking that within quite a short time the Treasury will take this matter into its consideration with a view to establishing men clerks and putting their salaries upon a proper basis. For my part I would like the Chancellor of the Exchequer to see what the opinion of the House is on this matter. It is not sufficiently expressed because a, few Members only have joined in this Debate. Let him see the feeling of the House and let him understand that the House has made up its mind that this class of Civil servants, both for their own sake and for the sake of the State, should be put upon an establishment basis and paid a living wage.
§ Sir JOHN JARDINE
I would like to ask if what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said applies to surveyors' clerks in Scotland as well as in England?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Yes, it does. I understood the hon. Member for 2253 Colchester to say that we had not promised anything. If he will refer to the evidence of Sir Matthew Nathan, I think he will find that his statement is inaccurate, for he said:—The surveyors' clerks petitioned some time ago for a reconsideration of their position, and the surveyors complained that they had not the assistance they thought they ought to have, as these clerks were not properly qualified. I considered the matter, and appointed a small Committee to investigate it, consisting of the Deputy-Chairman, the Secretary of Taxes, and the Chief Inspector of Taxes, and they have recently sent me a report which I have under consideration, proposing a considerable alteration in the whole conditions of the service of the clerks to the surveyors based, more or less, on the lines suggested, which will stop any blind alley for boys.That is one of the things which came up for consideration.
I want to correct the Chancellor of the Exchequer on one point. I quite agree with the statement he has just made, but I said the only reason given by Sir Matthew Nathan for not having pressed this matter on the Treasury with reference to the Royal Commission, was that he did not know whether they were going to advise supercession of the boy clerks altogether.
§ Question put, "That Item A (Salaries, Wages, and Allowances) be reduced by £100."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 195; Noes, 267.2257
|Division No. 172.]||AYES||[6.18 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Fell, Arthur||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A..R.|
|Anson, Rt. Hon. Sir William R.||Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert||Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee|
|Anstruther-Gray. Major William||Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)|
|Archer-Shee, Major Martin||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.||Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich)|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Fleming, Valentine||Macmaster, Donald|
|Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.)||Fletcher, John Samuel||M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Forster, Henry William||Malcolm, Ian|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Gardner, Ernest||Mallaby-Deeley, Harry|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Gastreil, Major W. Houghton||Mason, James F. (Windsor)|
|Barnston, Harry||Gilmour, Captain John||Meysey-Thompson, E. C.|
|Barrie, H. T.||Goldsmith, Frank||Mills, Hon. Charlea Thomas|
|Bathurst, Hon. A. B. (GIMIC, E.)||Gordon, Hon1. John Edward (Brighton)||Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Gouldlng, Edward Alfred||Mount, William Arthur|
|Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Grant, James Augustus||Neville, Reginald J. N.|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Greene, Walter Raymond||Newdegate, F. A.|
|Benn, Ian Hamilton (Greenwich)||Gretton, John||Newman, John R. P.|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.)||Nicholson, William G. (Peterstield)|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish||Guinness, Hon. W.E. (Bury S.Edmunds)||Nield, Herbert|
|Blair, Reginald||Haddock, George Bahr||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.|
|Boles, Lieut.-Col. Dennis Fortescue||Hall, D. B. (Isleof Wight)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Hall, Frederick (Dulwich)||Paget, Almeric Hugh|
|Boyle, William (Norfolk, Mid)||Hall, Marshall (E. Toxteth)||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)|
|Boyton, James||Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.)||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Burdett-Coutts, William||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Peel, Lieut.-Colonel R. F.|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Harris, Henry Percy||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Butcher, John George||Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon)||Peto, Basil Edward|
|Campbell, Captain Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)||pretyman, Ernest George|
|Campion, W. R.||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildrad||Hibbcrt, Sir Henry F.||Randies, Sir John S.|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edwird H.||Hickman, Colonel Thomas||Rawson, Colonel Richard H.|
|Cator, John||Hills, John Waller||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Cautley, Henry Strothor||Hill-Wood, Samuel||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesail)|
|Cave. George||Hohler, G. F.||Rolleston, Sir John|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hope, Harry (Bute)||Ronaldshay, Earl of|
|Cecil. Lord Hugh (Oxford University)||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)||Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)||Rutherford, John (Lanes., Darwen)|
|Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.||Home, Edgar (Surrey (Guildford)||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A (Worc'r.)||Hume-Williams, Ellis||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Hunt, Rowland||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Hunter, Sir C. R.||Sandys, G. J.|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Ingleby, Holcombe||Sassoon, Sir Philip|
|Courthope, George Loyd||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Smith, Rt. Hon. F. E. (L'p'i, Walton)|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Jowett, Frederick William||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr||Stanier, Seville|
|Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)||Kerry, Earl of||Stanley, Hon. Arthur (Ormskirk)|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian||Knight, Captain Eric AysMord||Starkey, John Ralph|
|Cripps, Sir Charles Alfred||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Croft, Henry Page||Larmor, Sir J.||Stewart, Gershom|
|Dairymple, Viscount||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)|
|Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)||Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts, Mile End)||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Lee, Arthur Hamilton||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Doughty, Sir George||Lloyd, George Ambrose (Stafford, W.)||Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North)|
|Duncannon, Viscount||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Thynne, Lord Alexander|
|Eyres-Monseil, Bolton M.||Locker-Lamoson, O. (Ramsey)||Touche, George Alexander|
|Tryon, Captain George Clement||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset, W.)||Wright, Henry Fitzherbert|
|Valentia, Viscount||Willoughby. Major Hon. Ciaud||Yate, Colonel Charles Edward|
|Walker, Col. William Hall||Wilson, A. Stanley (Yorks, E.R.)||Yerburgh, Robert A.|
|Walrond, Hon. Lionel||Winterton, Earl||Younger, Sir George|
|Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Weigail, Captain A. G.||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Rupert Gwynne and Mr. Worthington-Evans.|
|Weston. Colonel J. W.||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Wheler, Granvllie C. H.||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. (Stuart-|
|White, Major G. D. (Lanes., Southport)|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Esslemont, George Birnie||Lynch, A. A.|
|Adamson, William||Falconer, James||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles||McGhee, Richard|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Ffrench, Peter||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Field, William||Macpherson, James Ian|
|Arnold, Sydney||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||MacVeagh, Jeremiah|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Fitzgibbon, John||M'Calium, Sir John M.|
|Atherley-Jones, Llewellyn A.||Flavin, Michael Joseph||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald|
|Baker, Harold T. (Accrington)||Furness, Sir Stephen Wilson||M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lines.,Spadling)|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Ginneil, Laurence||M'Micking, Major Gilbert|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Gladstone, W. G. C.||Manfield, Harry|
|Barnes, George N.||Glanville, H. J.||Marshall, Arthur Harold|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick)||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.|
|Barton, William||Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough)||Meagher, Michael|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland)||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Greig, Colonel James William||Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix)|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Griffith, Ellis J.||Menzies, Sir Walter|
|Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George)||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Millar, James Duncan|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Gwynn, Steohen Lucius (Galway)||Molloy, Michael|
|Betheil, Sir John Henry||Hackett, John||Molteno, Percy Alport|
|Birreil, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Hancock, John George||Mooney, John J.|
|Black, Arthur W.||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)||Morrell, Philip|
|Boland, John Plus||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Morison, Hector|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Morton, Alpheus Cieophas|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Muldoon, John|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Munro, Robert|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Murphy, Martin J.|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.|
|Bryce, John Annan||Hayden, John Patrick||Needham, Christopher T.|
|Buckmaster, Stanley O.||Hayward, Evan||Neilson, Francis|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Hazleton, Richard||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Helme, Sir Norval Watson||Nolan, Joseph|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Hemmerde, Edward George||Norman, Sir Henry|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Norton, Captain Cecil William|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard|
|Cawley, Harold T. (Lanes., Heywood)||Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)||Nuttail, Harry|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Higham. John Sharp||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allan||Hinds, John||O'Doherty, Philip|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Hodge, John||O'Donnell, Thomas|
|Clough, William||Hogg, David C.||O'Dowd, John|
|Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Hogge, James Myles||O'Malley, William|
|Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)||Holmes, Daniel Turner||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)|
|Compton-Rickett. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Holt, Richard Durning||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Horne, C. Silvester (Ipswich)||O'Shee, James John|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||O'Sullivan, Timothy|
|Cotton, William Francis||Hudson, Walter||Outhwaite, R. L.|
|Cowan, W. H.||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Palmer, Godfrey Mark|
|Crooks, William||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Crumley, Patrick||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)||Pearce, William (Limehouse)|
|Cullinan, John||John, Edward Thomas||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)|
|Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)||Jones, Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Philips, Col. Ivor (Southampton)|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Philips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Davies, Timothy (Lines., Louth)||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Pointer, Joseph|
|Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardiganshire)||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Pollard, Sir George H.|
|Dawes, James Arthur||Joyce, Michael||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Delany, William||Keating, Matthew||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Kellaway, Frederick George||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Devlin, Joseph||Kelly, Edward||Priestley, Sir Arthur (Grantham)|
|Dewar, Sir J. A.||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Dickinson, W. H.||Kilbride, Denis||Radford, George Heynes|
|Dillon, John||King, Joseph||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon,S.Molton)||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Doris, William||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Reddy, Michael|
|Duffy, William J.||Lardner, James C. R.||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Duncan, J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||Redmond, William (Clare, E.)|
|Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)|
|Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Leach, Charles||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Esmonds, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexlord, N.)||Lundon, Thomas||Robinson, Sidney|
|Essex, Sir Richard Walter||Lyeil, Charles Henry||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Roche, Augustine (Louth)||Sutherland, John E.||Webb. H.|
|Roe, Sir Thomas||Sutton, John E.||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeaton)|
|Rowlands, James||Taylor, T. C. (Radcliffe)||White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E.R.)|
|Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.||Tennant, Harold John||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Samuel, Rt. Hon. K. L. (Cleveland)||Thomas, J. H.||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)||Whyte, Alexander F.|
|Scanlan, Thomas||Toulmin, Sir George||Wiles, Thomas|
|Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips||Williamson, Sir Archibald|
|Scott, A. MacCalium (Glas., Bridgeton)||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Sheehy, David||Verney, Sir Harry||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Sherwell, Arthur James||Walters, Sir John Tudor||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook||Walton, Sir Joseph||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Smith, Albert (Lanes., Clitheroe)||Wardle, G. J.||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)||Waring, Walter||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Snowden, Philip||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Soames, Arthur Wellesley||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Guiland.|
|Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)||Watt, Henry A.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I take this opportunity of asking the Chancellor of the Exchequer a few questions in regard to his intentions on the work of valuation, and also as to some proceedings of the Valuation Department. The first question is: What does he now propose to do in regard to the valuations of agricultural land? We had a Debate which covered a certain amount of that ground, and I would like to remind the Committee that one important point raised was, whether tenant right should be included in the valuation or not. I read to the House several instances from the Valuation Department, in which they refused to state whether tenant right was included in their valuation of agricultural land or was not included. Since then a test case known as the Norton-Malreward case has been heard before a Referee, and in giving evidence before the Referee the Valuation Department finally came down on one side of the fence and stated in so many words that they had not included tenant right in their valuation. The Referee has now given his decision upon that point and he has decided that tenant right is included in the total value and the gross value. My right hon. Friend says "ought to be so," but that is rather a difficult point, because a figure is given which nominally represents the land, but that figure is capable of almost indefinite expansion or contraction, after argument as between one side and the other, and after a hearing before a Referee. The Referee has decided that whatever the figure may be, it roust be taken to include tenant right. When the matter was being debated, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Masterman) said:—The question [of tenant right] iv sub judice, and it would have been quite impossible under those conditions for the Inland Revenue, who have got to present their cage before a judicial tribunal, to allow correspondents to write to them to find out upon what basis they interpret the Act.2258 A more misleading statement than that, or a more uncandid statement than that could hardly be conceived. Surely if the Valuation Department were going to state before the Referee that they had not included tenant right, there could have been no possible objection to their informing their correspondents that they had not included tenant right when they were asked. Why should they not have said so? It passes my comprehension. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury went on to say:—I am told that quite early next mouth we are likely to have an authoritative decision on butt, subjects [that is, the two questions of tenant right), and by that decision, of course, the Inland Revenue will be bound."—[0FFICIAL REPORT. 29th April, 1919. col. 1038, Vol. LII.]That was the decision which has just been given, and therefore, on the definite statement of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, the Government now are bound by the decision which has been given that tenant right is included. During one of the Debates this Session the Chancellor of the Exchequer claimed that some 3,000,000 valuations have been completed, and included in them, no doubt, is a very large number of valuations of agricultural land, We now know that in all those cases tenant right is to be considered as included, but the Valuation Department state that tenant right is not included. Therefore, all those valuations will require to be made again. The valuations which are now being made will, I presume, all be on the new basis that tenant right is included. May I also point out that now tenant right is included it is a very extraordinary proceeding that these valuations are being used as the basis for Death Duty. You are charging the owner Death Duty not only on his own property, but on the property of his tenant as well. Not only wilt all those agricultural valuations apparently have to be remade, but all the Death Duty 2259 claims which have been made on that basis will have to be reopened.
A further definite point of importance which arose on that decision was whether grass land is to be treated as divested' of the grass in arriving at the site value of the land. The Valuation Department have contended that grass is not to be divested and that the site value of grass land is to be the value of the land with the grass upon it. All the agricultural valuations have been made on that basis. The Referee has now decided that the grass is to be divested, and, therefore, the Valuation Department, to arrive at the site value of all the grass land, has got to value it as though there were no grass upon it. Consequently, on that most important item all the valuations will have to be revised and All the new valuations will have to be made upon the basis of the land having no grass upon it. Beyond that a very strong light has been thrown upon the reliability of these valuations. Here we have an important test case taken to decide whether the valuations of agricultural land being made by the Valuation Department are reliable, not only in regard to such items as I have mentioned, but also in regard to the general accuracy of the figures. We have a case in which the Valuation Department fix the gross value of a particular farm at £12.792; after conference with, and after objection by, the owner they altered their valuation to £12,741, reducing it by £50. The Referee has decided that the gross value of that farm is £11,935. In other words, the Valuation Department were £857 out in their valuation of the gross value of that farm. Then the Government valuers fixed the full site value at £9,000. They altered it, on objection, to £7,650, and the Referee has now fixed it at £4,625. In other words, the full site value has been altered by the Referee no less than £4,375, or something like 50 per cent. of the value which had been put upon it by the Valuation Department. I am glad to see the Lord Advocate (Mr. Tire) sitting there, because he and his Friends have been stumping the country telling everybody that the full site value is to be the basis of future taxation.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I have seen it in a document issued by the Committee for the Taxation of Land Values. There is nothing hon. Members opposite are so ready to do as to alter their proposals and to shift their ground as soon as it is shown that their position is untenable. My hon. Friend reminds me that I have very much understated the case. Hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House of the persuasion to which I have referred have actually brought in a Bill which is now before the House to rate the full site value. Is any further proof required than that? Here we have hon. Members suggesting the full site value as the basis of rating, and in a test case as to whether the full site value is reliable or not the Referee has decided that it is something like 50 per cent. out. That is the basis of valuation upon which people are to be taxed! The deductions from the total value allowed by the valuers were increased by the Referee by £3,884, and the assessable site value, being the basis on which the present taxes are collected when they come to affect the land, has been lowered by no less a sum than £4,765. It is quite obvious that in this case, which has been brought definitely to the test of the judgment of a Referee, there is a very large difference of opinion between the Valuation Department and the Referee himself. This is not an isolated case. I am making this case prominent simply because it is a test case brought before the Referee, and the figures are official and recent, and they will carry weight and conviction. There are a great many other figures which I should like to quote. The right hon. Gentleman has frequently said that we do nothing but bring forward the same cases. We have sometimes brought forward the same cases because we have never got an answer: We are told that they are going to be dealt with. They never are dealt with, and, when we bring them forward again, we are told that they are old cases When we bring forward new cases, we are told, "How can we answer cases of which we have had no previous information?"
These figures can be vouched for as reliable. In the case of one property the total value was fixed by the provisional valuation at £15,433. Finally, the valuation was fixed at £12,679. The total value 2261 of another property was fixed at £15,464, and finally, after objection, at £7,730. In another case the total value was raised from £8,597 to £9,961. I have got a whole row of them here, all of a similar character. There is one case where the total value was lowered from £4,960 to £3,882, and another case, a rather-interesting one, where £400 was the price fixed and the price realised by auction was £630. Another property was fixed at £15,850. It was put up to auction with a reserve price of £9,750 put upon it, and no bidder was found. The property was withdrawn unsold. Here is property now standing with a value put upon it by the Valuation Department of £15,850 and nobddy can be found to give the price of £9,750 at public auction. What can be the object of continuing to make valuations upon this basis? We know that these valuations had, up to the end of the last financial year, cost £1,393,000, and that the Land Taxes based upon those valuations had produced £223,000. The only justification for that is the Doomsday Book, and the great uniform valuation which is thus being elaborated. Here we have facts and figures to prove that this valuation is not worth the paper upon which it is being written. The right hon. Gentleman and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury have admitted that these valuations must be brought in accordance with the decisions of the Referee as to the basis upon which they are to be made. Remember the provisions of this extraordinary law. However inaccurate a valuation may prove to be, by the mere lapse of sixty days after it has been served it, becomes statutory and fixed and cannot be altered except by the action of this House, or within certain limitations by the Valuation Department.
Here you have some millions of valuations which are fixed and statutory on a basis which is now shown to be contrary to the Statute. What is the Chancellor of the Exchequer going to do? Is he going to have half the valuations on the one basis, and half on another basis? Is he going to reopen all the valuations which he has already made, and how long is he going on making valuations before the basis has been properly fixed and ascertained? This is only one test case out of many which are under consideration, and until these test cases are decided and have been carried to the High Court, it is perfectly clear you have no definite basis of valua- 2262 tion on which you can proceed at all. You are wasting public money and putting private individuals to endless expense, trouble, and difficulty in carrying out a valuation the whole object of which is merely to fulfil, on paper, an undertaking which has been given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to some of his followers that this valuation, good, bad, or indifferent, is to be completed by some date in 1915. The method which has been followed has had a little light thrown on it by a letter sent to me from one of the Welsh newspapers. It is signed "Valuation Assistant," but it bears every impress of being genuine. I only read it for what it is worth. It is not signed by name, but it has every impress of truth as far as one can judge. It is a letter written by a district valuer to complain of the treatment that district valuers are receiving in the matter of pay.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
The "Western Mail," Cardiff; and it throws a little daylight into the way in which valuations are made. The writer says:—The district to which I am attached has several sub-divisions, each sub-division having a valuer, and each valuer having two valuation assistants. The idea is to finish the valuation by 1915. The heriditaments in each sub-district are worked out so that 2 per cent. of them are done each month. For example, say, 400 heriditaments is the required amount of work for a subdistrict per month. My colleague and myself are required each to make 2011 inspections, enter them up in a field book, then work out the provisional valuation for each hereditament. so that the provisional valuation can be served, the valuer in charge of the sub-district not seeing anything of them. They are, on the last day of the month, sent down to the district valuer who signs them, and, as he may have anything from 1,500 to 2,500 to sign. it is quite impossible for him to be acquainted with the figuresThis gentleman began by saying that he is not a valuer and has never had any training as a valuer. He continues:—Is it any wonder the public conic into the valuation offices and wish the Chancellor in a hot place when valuations are rushed out like this? It is a case of turning them out, no matter how.This is a, description given by a valuation assistant of the methods in which this valuation is being conducted. When that is put together with the figures which I have quoted it throws a very curious light on the value of the figures. There are still more serious matters than that. That is a waste of public money as well as a considerable injury to the individual. But there is another point. There are an immense number of small property owners whose property is mortgaged and it is a 2263 practice apparently of the Valuation Department—I am going to read letters to show what has been done—to value these properties—in many cases to under-value them, and, at any rate, to value them at a figure very much less than they cost the owner, and very much less than he. has been able to borrow on them, and they are actually sending the figures of the valuation to the mortgagee before they are sent to the owner. It is a most serious matter. I will read the letters:—
§ "15, Grey Street. Newcastle-on-Tyne,
§ 2nd July, 1913.
§ Dear Sir,—During the last few months the district valuers have been very active in this district, and on every side we find the mortgagees are being scared by the low valuation. As evidence of this we have sent you herewith copies of two letters which we have this morning received from a mortgagee's solicitors. We consider it a great injustice to owners that mortgagees should obtain knowledge of valuation before the mortgagor lets had an opportunity of having the same amended. In these cases the mortgagor has not yet received the provisional valuation.
§ Yours faithfully,
§ LUNDI, SHORTT, AND FENWICKE"
§ These are the letters which were inclosed and which were received by the owners of the property from the mortgagee:—
§ "Victoria Buildings. Grainger Street,
§ Neweastle-on-Tyne, 1st July 1913.
§ Miss Common to Thompson.
§ Dear Sirs.—I have to-day received provisional valuation of this security, which works out at £425, and the mortgage upon it is £350. Under these circumstances I must request that the mortgage he reduced by £65. If this cannot be done at once I will have notice pre-pared and served upon the property.
§ The property is 1. Jane Street and 110-112, Headlam Street.
§ Yours faithfully,
§ W. R. Guises."
§ The second letter is as follows:—
§ "Common to Gibson.
§ 114–146 and 118–120. Headlam Street.
§ I have got the provisional valuation of 118–120. Headlam Street. which is £1,275. and if the house is put at the same figure it makes the two houses as worth £550 and the mortgage is £500. You ought to know by this whether Miss Common can repay £100. If she cannot then I must, take action.
§ Yours faithfully.
§ W. R. GIBSON."
§ Here you have a Department which is supposed to be benefiting the country. We had the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the National Liberal Club the other afternoon claiming that he is one of those who have done something "to lift the poor out of the mire and the needy off the dunghill." But he is putting a great many of the poor into the mire by the method in which these valuations are being dealt with. I say that a more grievous injury could not be done to the thrifty poor, who have put their savings into house property in this country, and who, in nearly every case, having borrowed money, have 2264 put the savings and borrowed money together, and are living on the rent of the property without having any means of. repaying the money borrowed. You send this so-called valuation to the mortgagee. You send a figure arrived at in the slipshod fashion to which I have referred, a figure which may be very far from the value of the property, winch may probably, after consideration by the Referee, be either doubled or halved, as the case way be, and this figure, therefore, has no, authority whatever. The valuation is frequently made by a person who is not a valuer; it is not even seen by the district valuer himself at all. It is a mere casual figure turned out. at so many peer month and representing a percentage of the whole work which has to be done, in order. that the right hon. Gentleman's supporters may be satisfied that they have seine. kind of Domesday Book in 1915. For that purpose these figures are being' sent to the mortgagees, and these unfortunate thrifty people are being ruined. Their property is being forced into the market and the whole of their savings are lost. Remember the Lindsell case! Yes, and there sits the Secretary to the Treasury smiling. It may be a pleasure to hint to hear about it, but it is not a pleasure to us to know what is going on. Look at what happened in that case. Here was a road sweeper employed by the London County Council at 25s. a week. He put his whole savings of £50 into house property, borrowing the rest of the money. The property was sold for just enough to cover the mortgage. The man lost the whole of his £50 through the depreciation of the property for the reasons I have given, and then, adding insult to injury, the Department made a claim on him for £4 15s. for increment value! That is pulling the poor out of the mire.
§ Let me turn from tragedy to comedy. The Valuation Department have many spheres of interest. It is not very long since that the House was moved to ridicule, and the Valuation Department were induced to alter the whole of their methods when it was discovered that their officials were marching about the country counting the number of trees in the hedgerows. That has been stopped. But now they are counting the bodies in the churchyards, an equally unnecessary proceeding. I hold here in my hand an original document, a document which is being served no doubt on the incumbents of various churches and benefices throughout the 2265 country. Here it is. Here is the form which is sent to the vicar of the parish called Meltham, near Huddersfield, and these are the questions this gentleman is asked to answer. This, be it remembered, is a valuation form. He is asked to state the date when the church was erected and the cost of the same. It was erected in 1651, and so far the cost has not yet been ascertained. Then he is asked the date and description of each subsequent addition with the cost. Next, for how much the buildings are insured against fire. Is the stained glass insured separately, and, if so, for what amount? Next the seating accommodation for the congregation (a) on the floor, and (b) in the galleries. The sixth question is as to the seating accommodation for the choir. The seventh asked the cost of the organ and the name of the maker. The eighth the number, weight, and cost of the bells. Then there are questions as to ground rents, plan showing the boundary, the cost of the erection of Sunday-school premises or any additional class-rooms. The twelfth question had reference to seating accommodation in the Sunday school. The thirteenth asks the amount for which the schools are insured against fire, and the fourteenth asks as to the number of bodies interred in the graveyard after the 30th April, 1909. I do not know whether that is for unearned increment or manurial value. [Interruption.] What, is it for? It is an absurd waste of time. It is an absurd waste of time both of private individuals and of the Valuation Department. It is absurd that their time should be wasted in ascertaining details of that description, and I hope, when the right hon. Gentleman replies, he will tell us with what object these questions were asked and what use is going to be made of them.
§ We have had some very extraordinary instances as to what land includes. I do not know whether it includes church bells or organs or sittings in the church. I need not enlarge upon that. It is perfectly obvious to the House and the country that it must be a ludicrous waste of time. It is not what the House of Commons intended in connection with land valuation. It was not intended that this kind of procedure should be followed. I do not want to 'delay the Committee, but I do want to ask one more question, a question which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir George Younger). He asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the 2266 day before yesterday whether in the minus valuation case, which was recently decided in favour of the Crown in the House of Lords, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was prepared to defray the cost of the applicant?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Will the hon. Gentleman let me have the paper of questions which he has just quoted?
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
As I was saying, my hon. Friend asked whether the Treasury were prepared to pay the costs in the minus valuation case recently heard in the House of Lords, and the right hon. Gentleman gave a negative reply. That raises a rather important issue. I think the Committee are thoroughly aware, whatever their opinions may be of the rights or wrongs of the matter, that the Act is a very difficult one to construe. The Chancellor of the Exchequer himself has admitted that many times, and he has expressed a desire to obtain a settlement of doubtful and difficult points by the Courts which have to decide the matter. The responsibility rests upon the House of Commons, because if the House of Commons passes an Act of Parliament which is so clear that everybody can understand it and anybody chooses to wilfully is understand it and goes in for litigation, he must naturally pay the costs, but if the House of Commons passes legislation imposing taxes upon the subject and the Statute is so worded that it is absolutely impossible to interpret or define it without constant recourse to the Courts, it is the duty of the House of Commons to pay the costs of both sides in genuine test cases which are taken to decide the points of difficulty in the inter- pretation of the Act. That this minus value case is such a case is proved by the fact that the decision of the Scottish Court before whom the case was heard was unanimous in favour of the appellants. The case was then taken to the House of Lords by the Crown; and the decision was reversed. It was a test case, which has been discussed here several times, and one which covered many hundred thousands of valuations, upon which the construction of the Act depended, and it was obviously a case which the Treasury were bound to have settled before they could properly 2267 administer the Act. I do not suggest that every case which involves an interpretation of this Act should necessarily be paid for by the Treasury, but where a case is clearly a test case, involving issues governing thousands of other cases, such as the case deciding how agricultural land was to be valued, which was a case of the utmost general importance, I suggest that the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave not a pledge or an undertaking, but that when the matter was discussed once or twice in previous Debates the Chancellor of the Exchequer certainly led us to understand that he considered it a fair and reasonable request that genuine test cases should be paid for by the Crown. I want to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will now state his views upon that subject and give an undertaking upon it.
The only other point to which I wish to refer is the very serious delay which is now taking place in the decision of some of these cases. For instance, there is the Deptford case, which has been mentioned here two or three times, which was taken to decide whether the land given up for roads is to be a deduction or not when the values are being ascertained. There is the case of Whitbourne v. The Commissioners. That was heard by the Referee in 1912, and he gave his award on 13th May, 1912, in favour of the appellant, and against the Valuation Department. Here we are in July, 1913, and the case has not yet been heard. The Valuation Department, so far from carrying out the pledges which have been given constantly in this House that the valuation shall be carried on in accordance with the law as interpreted by the Courts, are still refusing to make that deduction, and are still making valuations according to their own interpretation of the Act and contrary to the decision of the Referee. We have been waiting for a whole year for this case to be heard before the High Court. Then it has to go to appeal, and then, I presume, to the House of Lords. The endless vista of litigation and expense in interpreting this incomprehensible Act is nothing short of a scandal. I am obliged to repeat this over and over again, because every time it is repeated it gets wider and wider known in the country.
I suggested the other day that when this Act was being advocated in theory it was mentioned on every Liberal platform. Now it is never mentioned. [Hon. MEM- 2268 DERS "Oh!"] Only in very vague terms The "glorious Budget," "the people's. Budget," is still referred to, but is passed away from as quickly as possible. There is no jubilation over the Land Taxes on Liberal platforms to-day. Nothing was. more instructive than the answer of the Liberal candidate at the Leicester election the other day when he was asked by the Land Union his views upon the Land Taxes and the policy of the Land Union. His reply was that he was naturally opposed to all unjust taxation, but that he could not accept the Land Union's own statement of its policy. That was rathera peculiar reply. He found that there were 3,000 small owners of property in Leicester and no duke, and that there were 3,000 small property owners who were suffering from the imposition of these taxes and all the consequences of them. I think they were really a serious factor in that election, and that he had to trim his sails accordingly. Now the boot is entirely on the other leg. Everybody who is a, victim, as these small owners were the victims of this form of taxation, is naturally an opponent of the right hon. Gentleman. It is obvious that this Act has only to be understood to be condemned, and the only refuge the Chancellor of the Exchequer has is obscurity. So long as he can keep these things out of sight, there is a certain number of people who will still believe in his statements which were made at the time this legislation was introduced. Nobody who has come into actual contact with it still believes those statements. I have told the House so many times, and I am afraid I shall have to continue to do so until this matter is settled one way or the other, and until we have either a proper valuation conducted upon a sound basis, in which the country may have confidence, or that the whole structure of the valuation for these taxes shall be repealed.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The hon. Gentleman has, it is true, not for the first time, impugned this valuation. It is a great valuation, which involves millions of hereditaments throughout the whole of the Kingdom. He has been good enough to tell the House of Commons that it is not worth the paper upon which it is written. When a statement of that kind is made, impugning a gigantic valuation, you would expect at least some evidence corresponding to the sweeping character of the allegations made. What is his evidence? First, I think, he gave us five cases. In five cases 2269 he is able to prove that on an appeal the figures did not come out quite as the valuer made them out. What was the second piece of evidence? An anonymous letter, written by a disappointed assistant-valuer wilt was not satisfied with his wages, in a Tory paper in South Wales. Let us take those two things. The valuations up to date cover, I think, about 5,000,000 hereditaments. You cannot have a valuation of that character made, whether it is for local purposes or Imperial purposes, which would not be subject to appeals. You cannot have a valuation, whoever undertakes it, without having cases in which some of the appeals will not succeed. I invited the hon. Gentleman to give us any case in which there has been a great valuation in a Poor Law Union without an appeal. I asked him for one case. The hon. Gentleman interrupted me as if that were beneath contempt. In the case of Poor Law Union aluations the valuers were dealing with valuations upon principles which have been thought out for centuries.
We have had Acts of Parliament after Acts of Parliament, decisions in the Courts and amendments of the law, yet, in spite of all that, if you had a valuation in a Poor Law Union to-morrow you would have no end of cases in which appeals would be made, and some which would be supported by the Courts and some of which would be upset. What does the hon. Gentleman say? Here is a valuation where you have 4,500,000 cases in which provisional valuations have been served. He impugns a new Act of Parliament, when there cannot have been many decisions of the Courts, and the only thing he is able to say to the Committee is that there are five or six cases where it has been proved that the valuations are inaccurate and that there is an anonymous letter in the "Western Mail." He says, "Does not that, prove it is not worth the paper upon which it is written"? Everybody who knows anything about the valuation knows that a more preposterous statement has never been made in the House of Commons, or even on the Land Union's platform. Why does not the hon. Gentleman take the facts in the aggregate, instead of merely saying there are a few cases you cannot substantiate. I have appealed more than once to the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir George Younger), who does know something about valuations and has had great experience of them. He knows perfectly well that a valuation is very difficult to substantiate up to the last 2270 penny; that you can get two extraordinarily able men, thoroughly honest men, who will disagree as to the value of a particular property, and that when it comes to arbitration the referee disagrees with both. I am not sure that that is not always the case. It is very rarely the case that you get a referee who decides that the valuation is absolutely accurate to the last penny. What really happens is that he splits the difference. He leans more to one side than the other, and, as I shall point out, what the referees have done hr these cases has been to lean to the side of the official valuers rather than to the side of those who are appealing. We had 4,600,000 hereditaments valued up to 30th. May. The total appeals in those cases cases covered 6,272 hereditaments.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Those are the provisional valuations made up to, 30th May. I am giving now the number of appeals which have been lodged. Up to 30th May there were 4,000,000 valuations, and only in 6,000 cases were appeals lodged.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am talking of appeals. That is what the hon. Gentleman was talking about. If appeals were good enough for him they are good enough for me. There have been 6,000 appeals out of 4,600,000 valuations. Those are the only cases in which there were appeals. Most of those appeals were settled between the parties. Where the appeals went to a hearing the valuers won most of them. As a matter of fact, there were very few cases. which went to a hearing, but the great majority of them were won by the valuers. Here is a valuation, which is the case not of a small man but of a big man, who had. thousands of hereditaments who could appeal, and who you would think would appeal if the case were as bad as the hon. Gentleman makes it out to be. What has happened? Just this very small infinitesimal proportion, one case out of 743, that is the only appeal which has been lodged, even against this valuation which is not worth the paper upon which it is written. I ask anyone who knows anything about local valuations whether he can point out a single great valuation that has gone through with as few appeals as 2271 you have in this case. The hon. Member gave another case. He said the tenant right case was a very good illustration of how very defective this valuation is, and he pointed out the difference between the award of the Referee and the provisional valuation. The provisional valuation was £12,741. The Referee's award was £11,935. The hon. Member might have also given what the owner stated was the valuation. That was £10,144, and although he said the official valuer was wrong according to the Referee to the extent of £800, I think in fairness to the House of Commons he ought to have stated that the valuation of the owner was wrong to the extent of about £1,800. So that the official Referee when he came to value it, in splitting the difference, leaned heavily to the side of the official valuation against the owner. I should have thought that as the hon. Member was talking about candour and frankness he might have stated that fact, which is not at all an unimportant one. The hon. Member said the full site value on the provisional valuation was £7,650.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
No, that was the amended valuation. The provisional valuation was £9,000, it was amended on the owner's objection to £7,650, and then altered by the Referee to £4,625.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The final valuation which was fought by the Inland Revenue was £7,650. The hon. Member says the Referee's award was £4,625. What he did not say, and what I thought when he got up to interrupt, he was going to tell the House even now, is that the owner's valuation was £1,098. Why did he withhold that fact from the House of Commons? He charges the Inland Revenue officials with a lack of candour and openness. The way he is going to teach them how to do it is by withholding a most essential fact of that kind. Then he goes to the assessable site value. That was £7,000. He rather commented on the fact that my hon. Friend smiled at his speech. He seems very amused with the fact that he has withheld this very important piece of evidence from the House of Commons. I should not have thought it was a case for amusement. He said the Referee only gave £4,000, but what he did not tell the House of Commons was that the assessable site value, according to the 2272 owner, was £916. You never can get any valuation, whether it is for Poor Law purposes or Imperial purposes, or under the Land Clauses Act, where two sets of valuers will agree. I should have said if you had an arbitration of that kind and the official Referee had leaned as heavily to one side as he has done in this case it would prove at any rate that the official valuers were better than the valuers of the Land Union. The hon. Gentleman complained of undervaluation, and some time ago he said orders had been given for undervaluation.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Oh, yes. The hon. Gentleman said he did not complain of the Inland Revenue officials—the Chancellor of the Exchequer is responsible. He is right. In a Parliamentary sense undoubtedly I am responsible, and I accept responsibility. That was a very serious charge. It has gone on for months and months, but no attempt has been made to substantiate it. I have repeatedly stated that I would set up a committee of experts for the purpose of examining the question whether there was an undervaluation or not. If instructions of that kind had been given, every instruction would have been examined, and every case would have been examined by experts, and yet this offer has never been taken up to this moment. That is why I say the Land Union trumps up these cases for Debate, but the moment you begin to examine them they vanish into mist. The hon. Gentleman has talked about Leicester. Leicester was one of the cases where we had charges of undervaluation. What has happened recently there? In some of these very cases the property has been sold, and so far from there being an undervaluation on our part it was discovered that the property was sold rather under the valuation of our surveyor. I have a list of the cases where we have been charged with undervaluation and with giving instructions to undervalue. The moment it comes to the test of the auction room it is found that on the whole we leaned to overvaluation rather than to under. Of course, there has been no withdrawal of the charge brought against the officials. One never expects it, for although these men are doing their duty under very difficult conditions, they are arraigned in this way and suggestions are made that they are deliberately carrying cut what is a fraud. Yet that charge is not substantiated and they just pass on 2273 to another. What really happens in those cases is that very often they pay for the property twice what it is worth. The hon. Gentleman quotes the case of Newcastle. He says the mortgagee, when he discovered the valuation, instantly called up his money. What does he suggest should be done in these cases? If you are going to have a valuation at all it must be an accurate valuation, relentlessly carried out, without any consideration of the effect it will have upon mortgagees or anyone else. You must find out what the real value is. Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that whenever there is a mortgage these valuers should deliberately overvalue the property?
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
Really I must be allowed to protest against that. I said nothing of the kind. You have no right misrepresent what I said.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I listened to the hon. Gentleman without any interruption although I have heard little but misrepresentation from him, and I am demonstrating it. I am asking in a case of that kind what you would do?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Let me finish my sentence. If you are going to say that the mere fact of the value of the property brings the mortgage down, is that a complaint against the valuation? If it is, it means that in a case of that kind, you ought, out of indulgence to the mortgagor, to overvalue the property so that the mortgagee should not call upon him. The valuation should be one which has reference to one thing only, and that is the opinion of the valuer as to what the worth of the property is. I have no doubt at all that there is property in the country on which mortgagees may possibly have advanced more than it is worth. I do not see really what complaint there is against the valuers in that respect. All I say is that here you have got an enormous valuation under a new Act and in spite of the fact that you have had it going on for years, the majority of the cases which have come to Court at present have been decided in favour of the valuer. The hon. Gentleman made a good deal out of the case of the tenant right. He said that case had gone against us, and, therefore, had vitiated all our agricultural valuations. But notice of appeal has been given. Until the decision is reversed, of course, it must be respected in this case, but it is a decision we cannot 2274 accept generally. I cannot argue it for the simple reason that it is subject to appeal. I remember the Minus Value Case. There a decision had been given against it by the Courts of first instance. We could not accept it. We thought the Courts were absolutely wrong, and we went up to the highest Court in the land, which decided unanimously in favour of the view taken by the valuers. Yet we had Debates in the House and ridicule was poured upon the valuation. It was not worth the paper it was written on. I have heard it said that this would involve tearing up hundreds of thousands of valuations and that we should have to begin afresh. They would not wait until the matter had been decided by the Court. The hon. Gentleman had very little to say about that to-day. Up to the present the appeals had gone in favour of the valuers. I am not going of prejudge the case by discussing it. It would not be fair. It is a point of law decided by a gentleman who is not a lawyer and we are entitled to get the interpretation of the Courts of Law upon a decision of that kind and we propose to do it. And then when the Courts of Law give their decision we shall act upon it. The hon. Gentleman spoke about minus valuations, and I think the hon. Baronet (Sir George Younger) wants to say something on that subject. If he likes, I will reply now. I think it would be rather a serious position for the Treasury to be in that whenever the Crown loses a case, it has got to pay the costs, and that whenever the Crown wins it has also to pay the costs. I do not think that the Crown should be put in a worse position than anybody else. In this case, as I understand it, the costs of the Crown were not paid by the defendant, and to that extent I would say that probably the Court took into account that there had been decisions of two Courts below in his favour.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Well, the decision of one Court. I have no doubt the Court took that into account, and, therefore, did not give costs against him. The only thing they said was, "You shall not have your costs." I think it is a very serious matter to ask that the Crown should pay the costs of the loser. The hon. Baronet may say that this is a test case. Well, every case decided in a Court of Law is in a sense a test case. Every case that constitutes a leading case, 2275 and which is quotable in subsequent cases, must necessarily be a test case, and if, in every case which is decided in favour of the Crown, the Treasury had to pay the costs of the losing litigant, that would establish a new precedent. I think that the hon. Baronet in asking that the House should say that these costs should be paid by the Treasury is not fair to the Crown. If we were to pay these costs, we would be giving an incentive to litigation, for a litigant would know that even if he lost in an action against the Crown, his costs would be paid.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that this case, first of all, governs thousands of cases in Scotland in respect of feu rents; and, secondly. I think the Budget of 1909–10 is so difficult to understand that it was possible for some of the judges to go wholly wrong. Surely there are circumstances in this case which differentiate it from others.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
When he gives a decision in favour of a litigant as against the Crown, are you to say that because a judge, who is an able judge, has his decision reversed, the Crown should pay the costs of the litigant? The hon. Baronet seems to argue that if the decision in the first instance is given by an incompetent judge, the litigant must not pay costs when the decision is reversed. That would add something to the work of the Chancellor of the Exchequer which I would not he competent to discharge. I do not think it is possible for us to take that line. The hon. Member for the Chelmsford Division wound up his speech by a statement he has made many times before in regard to the action of officials. I have not seen the official concerned in this case, and I do not want to go into a statement which affects the conduct of an official until I have information on the subject. I think the House will feel that I am justified in taking up that attitude. I see that he has sent out a document. but I cannot say why, and I do not wish to say anything which would appear to reflect on his conduct until I hear further about the matter. There are no instructions from Somerset House which would, in the slightest degree, cover that. The hon. Gentleman made a statement he has made many times before, that the country would settle this valuation and sweep it on one side with all the legislation that has taken place. 2276 He made that statement before the election of 1910, but he did not come off then as he expected. I think he will find that events have not altogether justified his anticipations as, a prophet. I have heard of ships being lured by melody on to the rocks. The hon. Gentleman, by his song, has lured his party on to the rocks. You may be lured on to the rocks by nagging and whining. Even his own party are a little unhappy about it. Why he should have referred to the Leicester election I cannot say. He evidently thought it was a great triumph for the Land Union. I hope they will win many triumphs of that kind in the course of the next few years. I have here an article written by a very able Conservative writer, containing what is rather a complaint about the hon. Gentleman and his Land Duties agitation. He is discussing the prospects of the Conservative party, and in the article he refers to the petulance with which the agitation has been pursued. He says:—The Unionist party wants a rousing shake up. Some of its veterans might well retire and give up their seats to younger men of ability and brains, if such be known at headquarters. The temptation, no doubt, is great to choose the candidate. whatever his ability, who has wealth or territorial influence—and probably there are come seats which no other candidate could hope to retain—hut the temptation must he resisted if the party is to hold its own in the Commons. It is not less important that there should he a shake out from the party of such equivocal organisations as the Land Union.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
If the hon. and learned Gentleman can ever write an article so brilliant as this one—[Interruption].
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Let me finish the quotation:—An organisation like that which masquerades as non-political, though it monopolises all the energies of Mr. Pretyman, is scarcely compatible with the Unionist appeal to the democracy for democratic support.
[Hog. MEMBERS: "Name."]
I am told he is a Conservative candidate at the present moment. [An HON. MENIBER: "Name."] If the hon. Gentleman will only inquire of the editor of the "Fortnightly Review," I have no doubt he will find out the name. What really matters in this case is that the article represents the true feeling of the party opposite, and none know better than those who have suffered on the other side of the House from the pertinacity with which the hon. Gentleman insists, in spite of every warning, in pressing these whimpers to the front as if he spoke for 2277 his party. I can assure him that the more he does it the better we will be pleased. We are proceeding with the valuation, and we shall carry it through. I venture to say that when it has been done it will be in itself an achievement which even the Conservative party will be delighted to use for the purpose of reforming local taxation in this country.
§ Sir ALFRED CRIPPS
It is difficult to follow or to understand what the quotation read by the Chancellor of the Exchequer from the "Fortnightly Review" has to do with the extremely important question we are discussing as regards valution under the Finance Act. I know that in his calmer moments he will admit that the discussion of valuation is not much assisted by the reading of such an article as he quoted. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, instead of answering the powerful attack made by my hon. Friend has not only not dealt with any of the serious statements which were made, but has attempted to turn attention in other directions, suggesting allegations which have never been made at all. It would be impertinent on my part in this House to say that no one would accuse the hon. Member on matters of this kind of merely stating half the truth. Before I come to the question of valuation, let us see what the Chancellor of the Exchequer says of an allegation of that kind. I understand he based his reply on two propositions. First of all, he complained that in the figures given by my hon. Friend contrasted the opinions of experts on the two sides, while the owner's own valuation had been omitted. The right hon. Gentleman referred to me as one who was acquainted with the matter. Suppose you were dealing with any matter of valuation, the contrast you would make would be as between the opinions of experts, and you would not take into consideration the valuation of the owner, who might have no experience at all in the matter. I think the right hon. Gentleman could not have been listening to the hon. Member with regard to mortgages. The hon. Gentleman never suggested for a moment that you had nothing to do with the valuation of the property as such. What he did say was this, and I do not think any answer was given to it: Is it not unfair to communicate the results of these valuations to the mortgagee before you have communicated them to the mortgagor? Why does he say that? He says that the effect of communicating to the mortgages 2278 in the first instance may have the effect of a demand for repayment being made which in the case of a poor man it might be difficult to deal with at short notice.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
They are communicated at the same time to the mortgagor and the mortgagee. It is fair that the mortgagee should get notice at the same time as the mortgagor.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
That was my point, but I added that not only should the owner have an opportunity of seeing the valuation before the mortgagee, but he should have an opportunity of getting the valuation fixed at a proper figure before it is sent to the mortgagee at all.
§ Sir A. CRIPPS
I think I rightly represented what the hon. Gentleman said. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer would put aside the more heated elements of the discussion and conic back to the business side, he would appreciate perfectly well that it is a very hard thing in regard to the small property owner, if a poor man, that you should go to the mortgagee before the mortgagor, because it puts the mortgagor in the position of having immediate notice for the whole amount. You ought, if possible, to avoid putting an owner, particularly a poor owner, in a position of that kind. I hope I may have the assent of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to this, that if that has been done—and instances were given—he will express his disapproval of conduct of that kind. The Chancellor of the Exchequer raised the question of the number of appeals. That is no test whatever of the dissatisfaction entertained with regard to a large number of these valuations. I may give an illustration. I had a provisional valuation sent to me the other day of a small cottage property in Lincolnshire, the whole valuation being £30. I sent it back, because I was not consciously interested in any property in Lincolnshire at all. I found that mine was the first name in an ecclesiastical charity. If I had appealed in any way or attempted to ascertain Whether that £30 was accurate or not, it would have more than taken up the whole value of the charity. It is utterly impossible for poor men, to whom the greater number of these valuations apply, having regard to the value of the property concerned, to appeal without imminent risk of losing the whole corpus of the property which they enjoy at the present time. These test cases, though small in number, may apply to a very large number of properties. 2279 I agree that questions of valuation are difficult. Now you are valuing a very large number of agricultural properties. In the aggregate, I imagine that the number of agricultural properties is probably larger than any other class of property which is being valued under the Valuation Act, because the number of very small owners of agricultural land is very much larger than people generally imagine. This is a principle which goes to the basis of practically all the agricultural valuations in this country, and at the present time, as I understand the Chancellor of the Exchequer, some millions of valuations are being made in the aggregate. He has told us four and a half millions, and I do not think it an exaggeration to say that there must be some millions made as regards agricultural property. The position is that every one of those valuations may be made on a wrong basis. Until this matter is decided we cannot say whether they are made on a wrong basis or not. Suppose that the valuation of the Referee is upheld when it goes up to the. House of Lords—though that is a very expensive matter unless the case is really a test case—what is to happen to these millions of valuation which have been made altogether on a wrong principle? The vice is this. You ought to have pushed on much earlier these test cases and to have had a decision before putting owners and others to the expense of a valuation which may turn out to be wholly inefficient and wholly on a wrong basis. The expense is very large indeed. The first thing which ought to have been done, if this valuation was to be of any permanent use, was to have all these fundamental matters definitely ascertained by the highest Court of Appeal, to have held your hand as regards the expensive valuations until the principles had been laid down, and then have made the valuations on proper principles which might have been, within the limitations I have indicated, of value for subsequent use, either as regards revenue or taxation purposes. But it is exactly the contrary. Not only is it no use, but it is utterly misleading if it is based on a wrong principle, if, instead of including the right elements, you exclude those which ought to be included and include those which ought to be excluded.
As regards the question of expense of test cases, of course the Crown ought not in ordinary cases to be put in a, worse position than any other litigant, but an 2280 ordinary litigant can never be put in the same position as the Crown is in when you have test cases which are not only govering the particular cases involved, but perhaps govern tens of thousands of others in reference to all of which there is an important matter of principle to be decided. In such a case it is fair, where you have an Act of Parliament which is difficult to, interpret, that the expense which the owner has been put to in order to bring a test case and get a proper decision should he borne by the Crown, and that no exceptional expense should be thrown on him. owing to the difficulty of interpreting an Act of this kind. It is to the interest of everyone, the Crown and the public alike, that these test cases should be settled, and. as far as possible they ought to be settled at the public expense. The Chancellor of the Exchequer appealed to me from my knowledge of valuation as to the difficulties of ascertaining an accurate valuation even on what we know as the rating, basis. I entirely agree with him, but I think that that statement undermines the whole value of the valuation which is. purporting to be made at the present time under the Finance Act. In rating cases you have a basis which has been ascertained for I might almost say centuries in this country, namely, the rental basis, and the rental basis is the easiest basis on which you can truly ascertain the value of property. You have very often got a fixed sum to go by and when you have not you have got the market test. You cannot have an easier method of valuation than when you have a rental test or a market test. These valuations are carried. out by skilled valuators, who in most cases give up their time to this business and no other. In the result the right hon. Gentleman said—and I entirely agree—that even taking that. easy method of valuation, and applying principles with which they are fully conversant as their particular business, whenever you have a revaluation for rating probably you have large differences of opinion and you have often difficult litigation before the matters are finally cleared up.
In the valuation under the Finance Act here you do not have an easy method of valuation. You have not a valuation in reference to market value or based on business ideas at all. You have a large number of purely hypothetical valuations invented for the purpose of the Finance Act and not based upon business at all. You cannot, have valuations more difficult. 2281 than such valuations and if, as the right hon. Gentleman says, even on the rating basis where you revalue you have this constant difference of opinion and this costly inquiry, what have you to say of valuations not conducted under the same conditions as regards expert opinion—because there are no experts as regards these Finance Act valuations as there are in reference to rating valuations—and also a valuation which deals with all these hypothetical positions which in ordinary life we do not come across at all? The veal answer is that these valuations are worth little or nothing. Everyone has had experience as regards valuations of their own property or any other valuations which have been brought to their notice, but no one can say that a valuation made under these conditions by the valuation staff, who have not the same knowledge as the experts have in these rating cases, can ever be of effective value if you are to use the basis so ascertained other for general rating or general taxation purposes. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has often referred to this as a Domesday Book, as though he were obtaining a valuation which might be useful for future reference. I am perfectly certain from his own business knowledge, putting the political aspect on one side, that he cannot and does not believe that he can possibly get sufficient accuracy under the valuation system now being carried out in order to establish a firm basis from which to start either for taxation or rating.
If that is so, when we consider how enormous the expense is in reference to the advantages obtained, if that valuation is to be of future use, you cannot find any use for an enormous expenditure of that kind. We must also consider that before the valuation is finished many of these valuations will be years old. What is the good of a valuation years old, either in a town where you have expansion and increment—because in my view you may have increment, I am not discussing that at present—or where you have decadence and you have a considerable decrease? The fact is that if you want to have accurate valuations, they have got to be accurately ascertained on a proper basis, as and when you want to use them. I cannot believe that there is anything important in the mere number of appeals, but I do suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that if you take the test cases and try to see the value of these valuations by rating valuations, you can only come to one con- 2282 clusion, that the valuation of land is a lengthy and difficult matter, that an accurate valuation can never be attained under the Finance Act, and that these valuations will be really of no value for a subsequent taxation or subsequent rating basis.
§ 8.0 P. M.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
The hon. and learned Gentleman has said, dealing with the difficulties of the valuation and the mistakes made under it, that a rental basis was the easiest basis on whirl: to find the value of property. It is an impossible basis in this country on which to fix the value of land, because in the first place, the Land Union tells us that there are within the urban districts of this country 4,000,000 acres of land, and only 500,000 acres of that land are built upon. That is, there are 3,500,000 acres within those urban districts which are not built upon, but which have a building value of, perhaps, thousands of pounds per acre. It may not be rented at all; it may be vacant land, no rent being paid for it. How is the valuer going to fix the value of that land by rent? It is equally impossible to fix the value of a great deal of rural land which is not let for the purpose of production, but which is largely used for sport. There, again, the rent gives no idea of the value. If this system of valuation were in force, and all the land were brought into its most profitable use, then no doubt rent would form a basis for fixing a value in the future. Our present land system makes valuation an undoubtedly difficult proceeding. I have long followed carefully the speeches made by the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman), and I know that throughout the length and breadth of the country he claimed to speak on behalf of the poor working men, of the poor road-sweeper, whose earnings were being swept away. On one occasion I was at a place on the sea coast, and I saw a great tract of country. I asked a friend who owned it, and he told me it belonged to Captain Pretyman, the Land Union disinterested orator, with a high standard of rectitude, under which we are told not to allow private interests to interfere with public interests. I was most surprised——
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
We are dealing with the administration of valuation under the Finance Act, and that is the only question before this Committee. The hon. Member cannot go into the private affairs of the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
It has been said by the hon. Gentleman that some of us on these benches were certainly satisfied with the present aluation, and that we were willing to take full site value as the basis for future rates. That is rather unfair, because he has had a great deal of support from us in urging upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer the rectification of the valuation. I understood from the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that we are going to get a Revenue Bill which will satisfy that demand. Certain improvements are to be included in the valuation and certain defects excluded, and we will then have the true full site value. We are satisfied as regards the urban valuation that the full site value will be satisfactory for the finding of a new basis for our rating system. The valuation in the past has undoubtedly had many criticisms from those who are desirous of seeing a basis established for future rating. We have to acknowledge that at the beginning of a new system like this there must be difficulties, but I think that most of us are fully satisfied that the work is now progressing satisfactorily, and that with the rectification of the valuation we will get what we want, and perhaps what hon. Gentlemen opposite will be sorry to see.
§ Mr. STANIER
The statement has been made that valuations are not worth the paper they are written on, and I only hope that the hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Outhwaite) will get up in his place and acknowledge that sonic considerable time ago he stated that these valuations would not be, of any use for rating purposes. If that be so, I think we are justified in our statement that the valuations, to say nothing of the extraordinary cost, are really not worth the paper they are written upon. But I rose to ask whether it is really the fact, as we have heard this afternoon, that the valuers may send out papers containing a very large number of questions—questions that they evidently put of their own initiative, and without the sanction or knowledge of the authorities at Somerset House. I think it is a very serious state of affairs if that is so. How are those who receive those questions to know whether they have been sent out by a competent valuer or by one of his underlings, without the knowledge or sanction of Somerset House? I think before this Debate closes we ought to know if it is the case that these officials can send out these extraordinary ques- 2284 tions. I do not think that when the Finance Act was passed by this House it was contemplated that the valuers would send out questions of the character to which I refer. They are undoubtedly ridiculous questions, to say the least of it, and I am very desirous to know whether they have been sent out without the knowledge and consent of the higher officials at Somerset House.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I think the course of this Debate must have proved itself very satisfactory to those who are responsible for the administration of the valuation under the Finance Act. If one analyses the speeches which have been made by hon. Gentlemen opposite one is driven to the conclusion that they have no case Whatever in regard to the administration of this valuation. They have had to make up a case for the purpose of this Debate by discussing questions which are altogether irrelevant to the matter immediately before the Committee. There is only one question, according to your ruling, Sir, which we can discuss on this Vote, and that is the administration of the valuation as it is at present being carried on. But in the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir A. Cripps) one found hardly any reference whatever to-the administration of the valuation. His whole speech was concerned with two totally different subjects—first of ally whether the valuation on the principles of the Finance Act was of any use at all, and, secondly, having got the valuation on the principles of the Finance Act, of what future use would it be in other legislation which may be in contemplation? It is quite true that the hon. and learned Gentleman made out a strong case against the valuation on both those grounds, fortified by the wide experience which he has had in these matters. But the mere fact, even if it were a fact, that the valuation which is being made is not on sound principles, and that it will be useless for the purpose of rating, would not of itself in the slightest degree affect the question of the action of the officials making the valuation; and if the case against those officials has to be buttressed up, as it has been buttressed up this afternoon, by the petty and trivial details brought forward by the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Mr. Pretyman), then I think we can say that the Valuation Department stands acquitted of any serious charge.
On former occasions when this subject was under discussion, it is true that the 2285 hon. and gallant Gentleman suggested that the valuation was being carried on by a number of incompetent officials, but practically no attempt was made by him this afternoon to make out any such case. Did he suggest that the officials who were carrying out the valuations are incompetent to discharge the duties laid upon them? Did he take cases of actual inaccuracy? He was unable to cite any. I would point out that there have been only 6,000 appeals in relation to valuation numbering about four and a half millions. When we remember the difficulty of the valuation, as has been conclusively shown by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for South Bucks, surely we are entitled to say that, so far from the officials being incompetent, they have proved themselves by the satisfaction which their valuations have produced, admirably qualified for the difficult and delicate duties which they have been called upon to discharge. But we on this side of the House have no ground of complaint that lion. Gentlemen opposite bring forward this subject year after year. The more often they bring it forward the better it is for us. Indeed, the more irrelevant the speeches they make upon this question the better it is for us, because there is nothing which suits this side of the House better than that hon. Gentlemen opposite should familiarise the minds of the people of this country with the principles upon which the valuation under the Finance Act is based, and that they should familiarise the mind of the people of this country with the weaknesses in the valuation so that we may obtain an improvement of it for the purpose of further reforms in our rating system. We are satisfied that they should keep this subject in the forefront, because we believe that their action so far from doing the Government harm or so far from doing harm to the principles of the Finance Act, has the contrary effect. It is very strange to find the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford telling us that we never hear anything of the Finance Act on Liberal platforms. The fact is that there is no subject which at the present time is more constantly referred to than the Budget of 1909, and if there is one thing which holds a larger place than another in the by-elections in the country, and on Liberal platforms, it is the further reform following on the principles which were for the first time brought into our legislation by the Budget of 1909. We therefore welcome all these discussions on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ It being a Quarter-past Eight of the clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means, under the Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.