§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, the measure was one of so great importance that he thought their Lordships would require no apology from him if he asked them to bear with him while he brought its various provisions under the consideration of the House, and stated some few of the reasons why the Government had thought it necessary to deal with the question. The subject of this Bill was one which had been frequently before Parliament; and no further back than last Session Her Majesty's late Government introduced a Bill dealing with the question. That Bill did not pass their Lordships' House—partly because their Lordships considered it was only the fringe of a larger measure, and partly because of the late period of the Session at which it was introduced. Their Lordships, therefore, thought the subject should be withdrawn for a time, and brought forward on a future occasion. He hoped that the arguments which he had now to adduce would commend the measure to their Lordships' favourable consideration, and that they would consider it just and expedient to pass it The present Bill was very different from the one which was before their Lordships at the end of last Session—in fact, the complexion of the question had been completely altered since that time. In the present Session the Chancellor of the Exchequer found himself able to contribute largely to the rating of the country—and it was perfectly obvious that if he did so contribute, it would be impossible that property which had not hitherto been brought within the rating-area should continue to be altogether left out. According to a statement made by him in the other House of Parliament, the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to contribute a considerable sum towards the cost of the lunatic poor; and he also 270 proposed to contribute a further sum of £600,000, in addition to the sum of £600,000 now paid by the State towards she expense of the police. His contribution towards the lunatic asylums would be £400,000; so that, in and of these institutions and the maintenance of the police, the sum to be paid by the State would amount to £1,000,000. He was sure noble Lords who took an interest in county matters would appreciate the course adopted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because they knew that in the expenses of a county the charge for the lunatic poor was a very large one, and one that was perpetually increasing. Those who had to assist in building lunatic asylums were aware that structures which were sufficiently capacious 20 years ago had now to be considerably enlarged; and he knew of no expense which caused more trouble at Quarter Sessions than the expenditure connected with the care of the lunatic poor. But the contributions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the local rates did not stop with the two items which he had stated to their Lordships. The right hon. Gentleman proposed that £170,000 more should be contributed, not to the poor rate alone, but to all the rates now levied in the country. The contribution now made to the poor rate alone would, when increased as proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, be made to all the rates. In 1860 there was no contribution by the Government of any sort towards the rates of the country—or only a very small one. In 1859 his right hon. Friend Mr. Sotheron Estcourt brought in a measure to deal with the subject; but it was dropped. There was a change of Government, and the new Government took up the matter. Since they did so, there had been a partial contribution by the Government towards the rates of the country. At first the sum contributed, by the means of Parliamentary grants, amounted in England to only £35,000; but at present it was something over £63,000, divided under several heads—namely, Naval and Military Establishments, £36,400; Commissioner of Works, £17,500; the Revenue Department, £7,400; Convict Prisons and Fortifications, £1,760. There was, however, this difficulty in respect of the contribution of the Government under these various heads—namely, that it was entirely at the will and pleasure of the Government. They acted, as it were, 271 by a sort of rule of thumb, and confined their contributions to parishes in which the State owned one-sixth of the whole property of the parish. Now, though such a system might have been gratifying to those parishes in which the State held large property, it was very distasteful to those parishes in which the State did not hold one-sixth, and the latter felt themselves unable to appreciate a distinction so decidedly to their disadvantage. The practical result had been, that very largo establishments of the Government escaped paying anything towards the taxation of the country. The Chancellor of the Exchequer now proposed to contribute towards the rates of every parish in which the State had property, whether large or small—whether the establishment consisted of a dockyard, or of a post-office, or a coastguard station. It might be right that he should read to their Lordships a copy of "a Minute of the Board of Treasury on Contributions to Local Rates in respect of Property in the Occupation of Her Majesty's Government." It bore date the 25th of June, 1874, and was in these terms—The Chancellor of the Exchequer brings before the Board the engagement given by him to Parliament on the occasion of proposing his Budget for the year 1874–75, that property in the occupation of the Government, including property under the control of Her Majesty's Commissioners of Woods, &c, and not in the occupation of any other occupier, should, throughout the United Kingdom, bear its due share of all local burdens; and he submits that, for this purpose, the valuations of such property as are now acted upon be ordered to be corrected (so far as they require it) up to the present time; that valuations be made in like manner of all such property in respect of which contributions to the local rates are not now paid; and that, as soon as possible, a Return. be completed, and laid before Parliament, setting forth:—1, The name of each parish in which the Government occupies property; 2, the rateable value of such parish, exclusive of the said property; 3, the extent and character of such property; 4, the valuation put upon such property for local rating; 5, special Acts of Parliament (if any) applicable to the case.That Paper being laid before Parliament, anyone thinking that the contributions made in any particular case were not fair and just would be afforded an opportunity of having attention called to the matter. He found that the Government had been in the habit of contributing to the rates in England a sum of £63,060. In future the contribution in England would be £200,000. In Ireland it had hitherto been £1,469; in future it would 272 be £22,000. In Scotland it had hitherto been £486; in future it would be £13,000. The total contributions for the three countries was now £65,015; in future it would be £235,000. Under these circumstances, the Government had thought it necessary to deal with three species of property which hitherto to a great extent had been exempt from rating—plantations or woods, right of sporting, and mines other than coal mines. With regard to plantations they had not been brought within the Act of Elizabeth or within subsequent rating Acts because, perhaps, it had been thought desirable to encourage by that means the growth of timber in times when our ships were made of that material. It had not been so in Scotland. In that country plantations and woods, including underwood, were already rated under the Land Valuation Act the 17 & 18 Vict. c. 91; so that this was not the introduction of a new principle. The 4th clause of the Bill provided for the manner of the valuation of land used as plantation. It provided as follows:—(a.) If the land is used only for a plantation or a wood, the value shall be estimated as if the land instead of being a plantation or a wood were let and occupied in its natural and unimproved state, (b.) If the land is used for the growth of saleable underwood, the value shall be estimated as if the land were let for that purpose, (c.) If the land is used both for a plantation or a wood and for the growth of saleable underwood, the value shall be estimated either as if the land were used only for a plantation or a wood, or as if the land were used only for the growth of the saleable underwood growing thereon, as the assessment committee may determine.Clause 6, which related to the valuation and rating of rights of shooting, was one respecting the bearings of which there was much difference of opinion, and he thought this was owing to the fact that the exact bearing of the existing law was not sufficiently appreciated by some who had discussed the subject. Under the existing law, where the owner or the tenant retained the right of sporting, whatever might be its value, the Assessment Committee was bound to take it into account. Again, where the owner of the land let the right of sporting, it was rated. But there was a case in which the right of sporting would not be rated under the existing law. That was where the owner let the land and reserved to himself the right of sporting; there was no means, under the existing-law, of rating that right of sporting. 273 There might be three farmers in one parish, each of which would come under a different one of the three cases which he had just put to their Lordships. There might be a case in which the occupier was the owner of the farm and retained the right of sporting. Then there might be another in which the tenant was the occupier, and the owner had let the right of sporting. In both those cases the right of sport would be taken into account by the Assessment Committee. But there might be a third case, where the owner of land in occupation of a tenant reserved to himself the right of sporting, and in this case, under the existing law, the Assessment Committee would not be able to take that right into account. But it was certain that the value of the farm would be diminished by the value of the right of sporting reserved by the owner. The object of the 6th clause of this Bill was to put an end to the anomaly illustrated by the three cases he had put to their Lordships. Under its provisions the right of shooting reserved in the third case would be rated as the right in the two other cases now were. It was inaccurate to say that this was the introduction of any new principle. Assessment of the right of sporting existed at the present time. All that was proposed was amendment, as these words of the clause fully showed:—Where any right of fowling or of shooting, or of taking game or rabbits, or of fishing Therein referred to as a right of sporting) is severed from the occupation of the land and is not let, and the owner of such right receives rent for the land, the said right shall not be separately valued or rated, but the gross and rateable value of the land shall be estimated as if the said right were not severed; and in such case if the rateable value is increased by reason of its being so estimated, but not otherwise, the occupier of the land may (unless he has specifically contracted to pay such rate in the event of an increase) deduct from his rent such portion of any poor or other local rate as is paid by him in respect of such increase; and every assessment committee, on the application of the occupier, shall certify in the valuation list or otherwise the fact and amount of such increase.The rating of mines was a question which had occupied the attention of both Houses of Parliament. So far back as 1850 a Select Committee of their Lordships' House made a Report, in which this opinion was expressed:—That it is expedient that all mines should be assessed as coal mines are now assessed, inasmuch as the exemption from rates of mineral 274 mines is founded on no sound principle, and depends upon the form of agreement made between landlord and tenant.And in 1856–57 a Select Committee of the House of Commons reported—That the liability of mines to be rated was full of anomalies. That there was no valid ground for the distinction now existing. That as long as coal mines and quarries are rated there was no reason why all other mines should not be put on the same footing.The exemption of mining properties had given rise, from time to time, to strong expressions of dissatisfaction in different parts of the country. In some agricultural districts the use made of the roads for traffic to and from mines had considerably increased the charges on the rates, to which those mines contributed nothing. In Ireland and Scotland mining property was rated. Again, though royalties, if paid in kind, were rateable, where they were taken in money they were not rateable; so that now it was perfectly competent for the owner of royalties to obtain an exemption. He had only to take his royalties in money instead of in kind. This Bill would extend rating to mines other than coal mines. There was a valuable provision respecting contract contained in this Bill which was not in the Bill of last year. He thought he had now described the various reasons which had induced Her Majesty's Government to propose that measure. He was afraid that the details with which he had troubled their Lordships were somewhat dry and tedious, but it was necessary that he should state them, in consequence of their being so much mixed up with the financial proposals of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Bill would render liable to assessment several descriptions of property not hitherto brought within the area of rateability, and by that means they would relieve the ratepayers of an anomaly and an injustice to which they had been for some time subject, and against which they had a fairground of complaint.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a"—(The Lord President.)
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
said, the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) undoubtedly had one advantage over him in moving the second reading of that Bill—namely, that he moved it on the 20th of July, whereas last year he himself moved the second reading of a similar 275 measure on the 25th of July. He would not follow the noble Duke through this interesting statement with regard to the proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for aiding local rates from the Imperial Exchequer, because he understood it was the intention of the Government to deal on a large scale with the subject of local taxation next year, and he desired to defer giving his opinion until he saw the whole scope of the now system which the Government proposed to lay before the country. As to the particular arrangements proposed in the present Bill, it was not probable that he should raise much objection to them—for the simple reason that in regard to those three subjects of mines, woods, and sporting rights there was really no material difference between the present Bill and the one of last year. It was a great improvement, and a thing much desired in the country, that mining property should be brought under assessment, and the owners of mines themselves approved that proposal. With respect to the rating of woods, he need only remark that those who thought a very considerable amount of property would be brought under assessment by that measure would be much disappointed. As to the assessment of game, he had never been able thoroughly to satisfy himself on the subject. The present proposal was the same as that made last year, which was carefully considered by himself and his right hon. Friend, then at the head of the Local Government Board (Mr. Stansfeld). It appeared therefore that noble Lords opposite had not found that any better arrangement could be made on that matter. He had always been of opinion that land upon which timber was grown should not escape assessment; and as the scheme proposed for its rating was identical with that he had proposed himself it would be superfluous for him to attempt to say anything about it He hoped the Assessment Committees would be able to work all these complicated arrangements successfully. The question of rating Government property was dealt with in the Bill of last year. He was not prepared to say that the arrangement made by the present Government on that point was not somewhat more satisfactory. Last year they proposed that the Bill should simply lay down the liability of all Government property to be rated, and that then the Treasury should sub- 276 mit schemes to Parliament as to the amount at which the different properties should be rated. That, of course, left it much in the power of the Treasury and of Parliament to rate the property as they might deem proper. That was not very different in principle from what the Government now contemplated. They proposed to bring all Government property under contribution, only they would take the initiative at once without a Bill, and the Treasury would deal with the matter by Votes to be laid before the House of Commons for its assent. He would only add that he regretted noble Lords opposite did not allow the Bill of last year to pass, seeing that when they came into office themselves they proposed nothing substantially better.
§ LORD HENNIKER
said, he hoped their Lordships would not think him too presumptuous in making a few remarks on this measure. Their Lordships had given him a hearing on this Question last year, and he did not wish to presume upon their kindness. However, there were many in the House, he believed—and he knew there were many outside it—who agreed with him in the view he took, and he did not think he should be doing what was right towards them, and to some of those with whom he acted last year, were he to allow the Bill to pass by unnoticed. Their Lordships would, he hoped, give him credit for taking a great interest in this difficult question, and if he should speak too strongly upon any point he trusted that they would know that it was quite unintentional on his part. He had last year asked their Lordships to reject the Bill of the Government then in power, because it was unworkable in many of its provisions, because it was so late in the Session that it was impossible to deal with it satisfactorily, and because—and this was the principal reason—it was a mere fragment, the remnant of three measures introduced—of what were acknowledged to be measures which touched only the fringe of a great question. On these grounds he had the support of several of the noble Lords who now occupied the front bench. The present Bill was, he admitted, an improved Bill; it simply omitted one or two important points which were not dealt with satisfactorily in the Bill of last year, and which it was the endeavour of the late Government 277 to deal with. It omitted the rating of Government property; the plan of last year was an impossible one, it was true, and the present Government had increased the sum already given for this purpose to a large extent by a Treasury Minute; but a matter of so much importance in some localities should have been dealt with in a Bill of this kind. A Treasury Minute might be over-ridden by another, and by employing a good valuer in two or three cases a plan could have been arrived at very easily. Here, too, was more of that piecemeal legislation, to which noble Lords greatly objected last year. It was only proposed to vote this larger sum, for a few years at the most, till some permanent arrangement could be arrived at, and surely it would have been much better to wait till such an arrangement could have been hit upon. He was sorry the Bill omitted to deal with the rating of scientific and literary societies. The poor societies paid rates now, while the rich ones went free. In other respects—that was to say, except in omissions—the Bill was pretty much the same, and if the Bill of last year was a fragment, this was not only a fragment, but a mere shadow of the fragment of last year. It was a very puny child of a puny child of the late Government, and he regretted extremely it had been adopted. Of course, something had been done this year to relieve local rates, but the relief was small. It would have been far better to have taken the maintenance of the police entirely off the local rates. Each additional grant gave the central authority greater power; and while the rates were relieved the expenses were often unnecessarily increased under threat of reducing the grant. Only the other day in his own county a reserve of police was recommended—a good thing, but the ratepayers would hardly be repaid for the extra expenditure. This was small, no doubt, but it was one of many and ever-recurring instances of recommendations from head-quarters which, in consideration of the grant, it was difficult not to follow. They were sometimes, however, more grants in name than in any other sense. It was the same with the prisons. The recommendations for altering the cells and for altering the arrangements were so frequent, that he had been told by the Governor of a very well managed gaol, that it would in the long run be far 278 better for the county in which it was situated not to take the grant at all. It would be far bettor to take the whole of the burden off the hands of the local authorities in one or two cases, and leave them to pay for the other matters entirely themselves. A good system of inspection could always be established, and would be welcomed, grant or no grant, by local authorities. Nothing was of more national importance than the police force, nothing required more one central control; for, good as the force was in some places, it was equally bad in others. He thought, if the Bill of last year was a bad one—and it was rejected on the ground of its being a very small measure, which put forward no plan for the future re-adjustment of local taxation—that his argument that, if found necessary, the Bill of last year would be passed in a very short time, but ought not to be passed till a far larger plan was before the House, would doubly apply here; for this was a much smaller Bill, and if it was necessary to pass it, when the proper time arrived, surely it could be passed in a shorter time than the Bill of last year, dealing, as it did, with much fewer subjects. He believed the Bill was a small matter in itself, but it would raise difficulties and bad feeling, and probably lead to litigation. It was to be a boon to a certain class, but it might turn out to be the reverse; in fact, it might lead to a re-valuation in many instances, and more often than not to an increase in rent far greater than any advantage gained. However, it was useless for him to de more than make this protest, for the Bill was a Government measure. He could hardly expect noble Lords opposite to repudiate their own work, and had he moved the rejection of the measure he would only have put their Lordships to the trouble of dividing to no purpose. He would, however, make a few brief remarks on one or two of the provisions of the Bill before he sat down. First came the question of the rating of timber. He ventured to point out last year that the clause would act unfairly, were the tenant of a wood rated for the timber instead of the underwood, where he had no power of cutting timber, underwood being far less valuable where timber was grown with it, and the Assessment Committee being quite certain to take the highest value. He ventured to point out that copyhold tenants would pay the whole 279 rate without power of redress; and this could easily have been avoided. These might be small matters, but a rating Bill should be precise, whether in leaving matters entirely to Assessment Committees, or in laying down rules for their guidance. He should, therefore, have liked to say—no land should be rated for timber, at present liable to be rated for saleable underwood. There would have been no difficulty then; all woods would be rated, no one who had hired a wood, without power of cutting timber, would have anything to complain of and the Bill would be improved. Much was said about not trusting Assessment Committees. It was true it would be far better to pass an Assessment Bill before any alteration was made in the incidence of local taxation, and he felt strongly on this point; but if they were to legislate under existing circumstances he should not be afraid to leave a great deal to the discretion and judgment of the Assessment Committees. The clause, however, stood otherwise, and he should like to ask, what exactly was the natural and improved value of land?—how that expression was to be defined? He had had the curiosity to ask two very good valuers in his own county, how they would interpret the clause? They both said the actual value of the land as it was before it was planted; so that a piece of pasture of the yearly value of £3 an acre would be rated at that value. He believed those words to mean the value of the land in an unimproved condition, without draining, buildings, gates, fences, and so on, and that the mere planting of trees was not intended to mean—and it certainly was not the case as a general rule—an increase in the value of the land. On the other hand, the value of the surrounding land might be taken, whereas very often a bad bit of land was planted because it was not worth cultivating. He had a small wood on his property of about 6 or 7 acres. It was simply a sandhill. An ozier bed at the bottom of the hill let at a fairly high rent, and all the land round it was worth from 34s. to 35s. an acre. In another case, a noble Friend of his had a piece of land which he had planted many years ago. The tenant of the farm asked him to take it off his hands, saying that he would rather be without it, and would as gladly pay the same rent for the farm without 280 it, as with it How was this to be rated? It was almost valueless; but was it to be rated as if it were as good as the surrounding land? He did not say this would often be the case, but it might sometimes, and he believed the difference of opinion among valuers and Assessment Committees would be so wide that the Bill would lead to trouble and litigation. Why should there not be some clear definition of these words? They might be clearly explained in the House, but they ought to be explained in the Bill, for the information of those who would really carry out its provisions. So with regard to game. What was the full lettable value of the land? This was what the Bill intended to lay down: but it ought to have laid it down more distinctly, or have left it entirely to the Assessment Committees. He had no objection to the principle of rating game, but in all cases where a difference of opinion was likely to arise the provisions of a Bill of this kind ought either to lay down unmistakeable rules, or leave it to the local authority to apply the Bill as best they could. He hoped the clauses allowing deduction of rates were sufficiently guarded; but he must remind their Lordships that no agreements could possibly exist at the present time relating to matters dealt with in the Bill, and interference, even in the smallest degree, with freedom of contract was a dangerous precedent. Of course, there were exceptional cases; the mines clauses were agreed to by all concerned, and ample time had been given during the last year for any objection to be made. This case was, therefore, a different one, and he wished the Bill had been confined to those clauses. On the grounds he had stated he wished the Government had not taken up the Bill, except to the limited extent he had mentioned. He believed the Bill, as it was, would not work well; he believed it would cause unnecessary ill feeling, with little or no result; but he especially regretted its introduction, as one of those who wished to see a thorough and complete revision of local taxation, and as one who disliked piecemeal legislation on all occasions, complicating laws which ought and might be consolidated, and particularly on a great question about which there was a very strong feeling in the country.
THE EARL OF STRADBROKE
, who was very indistinctly heard, was under- 281 stood to say that, in his opinion, land ought to he rated for what it was worth as land, independently of what was grown upon it
THE EARL OF AIRLIE
said, he was quite at a loss to see how the Government proposed to ascertain the value of land used as plantation; nor did he see how the tenant was to ascertain how much of the rate he was to deduct from his rent in respect of the increase of the rateable over the gross valuation.
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
explained that where the owner of land let it to a tenant, but reserved the right of sporting, the right of sporting would not be separately valued but the gross and rateable value of the land would be estimated as if the right were not secured, and if the rateable value were increased by the valuation, the tenant would deduct from the rent the amount of rate paid by him in respect of such increase. If the tenant thought he was unfairly rated he could apply to the Assessment Committee, who would adjust the amount of assessment derived from the right of sporting.
§ LORD WALSINGHAM
said, the Bill attempted to effect an object which had long been contended for by a large body of the ratepayers throughout the country—that certain kinds of property having a distinct and undoubted money value should contribute to the poor-rates of the districts in which they were situated, and no longer enjoy immunity from those burdens which, owing to increased and additional charges for national purposes, had of late years weighed so heavily upon other property on which they had fallen. What were the objections that had been urged against the Bill? First, it was objected to because it was, as it were, an adopted child—a nestling plucked by the present Government from the pigeon-holes of their Predecessors, and presented as a new and distinct variety. It was not unusual for both parents to take part in the process of incubation, and he was, therefore, surprised that any jealousy should be felt because of the anxious care with which their Lordships, on both sides of the House, had sat over this Bill. It would, he thought, be acknowledged that the Bill was in many respects a very considerable improvement upon that of last Session. It was not one of a batch of Bills; it did not propose, like the Bill of last Session, to do what was necessary 282 by a method the success of which depended upon the doing of something else, but a Bill that stood upon its own merits, dealing with three specific objects in no way dependent upon such further and future legislation as might be considered necessary to adjust the incidence of local taxation. He knew what the feeling in certain parts of the country was upon this and kindred subjects, and he did not hesitate to say that if the Government had not taken up this subject and dealt with it in a fair and liberal spirit, it would have been said that, in spite of the professions of their party, and the hopes held out of assistance admitted to be only just and reasonable, they were not really anxious to alleviate the burdens which pressed so heavily upon the agricultural community. It was contended very forcibly in the House of Commons last year that a measure of this kind should not be sanctioned without a principle of rating being clearly laid down, which could be carried out by the Assessment Committees according to certain definite rules. He claimed for the present one that it was framed in accordance with many valuable suggestions made during the progress of the debate on the subject in the House of Commons last year. As regarded the right of sporting, it would be clearly understood that it was not the game, but the privilege of pursuing it, which was taken to possess a money value applicable to the purposes of this Bill. Where an owner or occupier let the right of shooting, but retained the occupation of the land, he was liable and ought to be rated under the existing law in respect of the amount for which the shooting was let, and it seemed not unreasonable, since the value of the right was already so acknowledged, that it should be equally liable to assessment when let by the owner to a tenant other than the occupier, or retained in severance from the occupation. There were many considerations which might induce an occupier to offer higher rent for land upon which he could exercise a right of sporting. His farm might be subject to injury and depreciation by the excessive preservation of game, and if he could himself exercise the right of sporting, the depreciation might be considered to be removed, for by killing off the game he would be able to realize the full agricultural value of the land, and that value was what the Assessment Committees 283 under this Bill would be enabled to put upon it Perhaps the portion of the Bill on which less difference of opinion existed than on any other was that which related to the assessment of mines. If coal mines were already rated, why should metallic mines be exempt? And when the royalty of all mines if paid in kind was already rated, why should it not also contribute to the rates if paid in money? There was one objection that was urged against the Bill of last year which, if it were an objection at all, would be equally applicable to this. It had been argued that it contained a dangerous provision by which it was proposed to over-ride existing contracts; but if the lessee of a mine had specifically contracted to pay the rate in the event of such a rate being imposed, this contract was respected by the Bill. It was only in cases where such a burden had not been specially anticipated by agreement that, as a new charge, it was proposed according to numerous precedents to divide it between the owner and the occupier; and upon this point the lessors and lessees of mines were for the most part equally agreed. He trusted the Bill would be accepted by the House as a measure which overcame in the best possible manner the difficulties which existed in determining the basis upon which certain kinds of property were to be assessed. Those difficulties, owing to the varying and uncertain nature of the circumstances which controlled and influenced the value of such property, had not hitherto been successfully dealt with by legislation; but in this Bill he ventured to think they had been fairly overcome.
THE MARQUESS OF BATH
said, he was afraid Her Majesty's Ministers were a little too apt to forget that the change in the political feeling of the country which had so strongly manifested itself at the late General Election was due to the dislike which the people had to the measures of their Predecessors; and that if they were anxious to merit and maintain their present position they must show a little more confidence in themselves, and not think to retain strength and power by searching into the pigeonholes of the various departmental offices for the discarded measures of their Predecessors—of which this Bill was one—and would rather mistrust the recommendations of those permanent officials who had so largely contributed to the 284 downfall of the late Government. The rating question had, no doubt, created great interest throughout the country. It might be divided into two questions. The greater question of the two was the hardship inflicted by the pressure of the rates on the agricultural interest and on that interest alone, and with that question the Government did not propose to deal. The lesser grievance arose out of the fact that, whereas the larger portion of the agricultural interest paid the rates, certain other property, such as woods, mines, and game, escaped untaxed. With this lesser grievance the present Government, like their Predecessors, did propose to deal. But there was this difference—that the country believed that the present Government would also deal with the larger question, while they placed no confidence in the late Government. Though in some of its details with respect to the rights of fishing and sporting it was open to objection, he approved the principles of the Bill now before their Lordships, in the belief that it was only a portion of a larger scheme to be introduced hereafter.
§ LORD KESTEVEN
suggested that there would be great difficulties in the way of rating floating and flying property like fish and game, and believed that unless they were very careful they would give occasion for much perplexity and litigation.
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
pointed out that the Bill proposed not to rate game, but to rate the right of sporting, the value of which could be determined with sufficient accuracy without much difficulty. If the shooting or fishing were of no value, it would not, of course, become rateable. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Bath) had been rather hard upon the permanent officials of the country. They were a most valuable set of men, and what they did was to lay all the views for or against a question before the Ministerial heads of Departments, leaving them to decide. There was no ground for saying that the Government were unduly influenced by the permanent officials. Neither was there any ground for supposing that the present Government intended to bouleverser all the institutions of the country, because their Predecessors might have meditated some further changes on the subject of local and other rating. When the Government were prepared to contribute to the local rates in respect of 285 all Government property, wherever it might be situated, some such Bill as the present became absolutely necessary.
§ Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday next.