HL Deb 11 March 1830 vol 23 cc158-60
The Earl of Malmesbury

wished to obtain returns of the proceeds of two different descriptions of Stamp-duties, in one of which, he, as a land-owner, felt a particular interest; and the other of which included the interests of many classes of the community. As the day was approaching, on which it was intended to submit to the other House of Parliament the usual annual financial statement, he thought he could not do better than advert to the subject at that moment. He alluded to the Stamp-duties upon Conveyances of Life-hold property, and he wished to call their Lordships' attention, for a short time, to the subject. In some of the western counties in which he possessed landed property, it was usual for cottagers to hold their cottages on lives; and the custom was a good one, as it encouraged the breeding up (if he might use the expression) of a respectable class of cottagers. When these individuals had children, they naturally desired to put their children's lives in their leases as well as their own; and the usual fine for adding one life to two others in such case was (according to his own experience, and he believed, it was the same in the case of other parties) 5l. But this was not all; the tenant who paid his landlord 5l. on account of this transaction, had to pay to Government a duty of 1l. 15s. on the conveyance, and 1l. 10s. on the counter-part, thus, making a sum of 3l. 5s. stamp-duty, payable on a transaction of which the amount between landlord and tenant was only 5l. The existence of this duty opposed a great obstacle to such transactions. The landlord might say to his tenant, "pay me the fine by instalments: I know you cannot afford to pay it at once, and I will take it as you can spare it;" but the stamp duty must be paid upon the nail. The consequence of a duty so disproportionate in amount to the value of the transaction, was to prevent conveyances being made in many cases in which they would otherwise be effected. He was desirous of knowing the actual amount of revenue produced to the Exchequer by this tax. He hoped that there would appear reason for reducing this duty? He would have it lowered (if not entirely remitted) to 1s. or 2s. 6d. on each conveyance. Again, if he had five acres, which he wished to dispose of in fee, say for a sum of 149l., the stamp duty was 1l. 10s. He wished to ascertain the produce also of that duty. There were few things from which land suffered more than from law transactions, as at present conducted. The law, or rather taxation, weighed most heavily upon it. He hoped to see these onerous and unjust imposts considerably lowered, or altogether done away with in the forthcoming financial arrangement. There was another point affecting landed property, which was also well deserving attention;—he alluded to the duty on policies of fire insurance. He would take the case of common insurances. He, or any other man, might not be wealthy enough to risk the chance of a fire upon his farm, and was accordingly compelled to insure his dwelling, farm, buildings, stock, &c. In 1815, the expense of a policy of common insurance was 2s. per cent, and the duty was 2s. 6d.. (125 per cent on the insurance); but it was raised between 1815 and 1824 to 3s. (150 per cent on the insurance). Policies were now done at 1s. 6d., the duty still continuing 3s.; so that the amount of the duty was actually double the charge of the offices which undertook to guarantee people's property from loss by fire. What was the consequence? Men of large property, who could afford to run the risk, did not insure at all. They said, "Here are persons willing to insure us for a sum upon which a duty of 200 per cent is added by the Government. We shan't pay it: we will take our chance." He was satisfied that if this tax upon fire-insurances were reduced considerably, the Treasury would be fully repaid, and all deficit prevented by an increase in the number and amount of policies, at the same time that there would be much greater security for property than at present. He might here observe, with reference to the first part of his statement, that the duty on conveyances of cottages was about 75 per cent on the amount generally demanded by landlords for the introduction of anew life into a lease. The duty upon conveyances of property, in fee simple, below the value of 150l. a-year, was also very burthen some. The noble Earl concluded by moving for "A return of the amount of Stamp-duties paid upon Conveyances of Life hold property, under the annual value of 5l.* Also for a return of the amount of Stamp-duties paid on Conveyances of property in Fee, under the value of 150l." —Ordered. * (The cottages in question seldom or never exceeded the value of 40s, but he fixed 5l. in order to save trouble, and facilitate the making out of the account.)