HL Deb 03 December 1912 vol 13 cc57-8

LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether they will lay on the Table of the House a Memorandum showing the principles on which Death and Estate Duties are assessed in the case of the estates of deceased holders of licences in Scotland; and whether the figures of actual cases without names or identification can be given illustrating the method adopted.

The noble Lord said: I think I ought to offer an apology to the noble Lord for the shortness of the notice which he has had of this Question. The fact of the matter is that I endeavoured to get it on the Paper last week, but the House rose rather earlier on Thursday than I had expected and I was too late. The noble Lord will notice that I am not expecting, on the short notice that I have given, that he can to-day supply the information for which I ask. It is much better, I think, that we should have it in permanent form. The object of the Question is this. The House will recollect that last week we were discussing the question between one period of years and another for the coming into operation of the Temperance (Scotland) Bill. What I felt at the time of that discussion was that we had really no data upon which to go. We do not know what the fair thing as between the holder of the licence and the public is. We do not know accurately what is estimated to be the value, and I am quite sure that all of your Lordships, whether in favour of public-houses or not, will desire that justice should be done to the existing people who have a certain interest in the present licences. Some people put it higher than others. Some go so far as to deny that there is any asset or any interest to be compensated for. It has always seemed to me that when the Revenue authority put a value upon the actual fact that a man is holding a licence for a period and that it is likely to be continued to one or other members of his family and assess Estate and Legacy Duties in respect of that, it is impossible to deny that there is some interest which it would be arbitrary to take away from the holder and which should be subject to compensation. I do not say that this is a perfect means of assessing value. It may not go far enough, but I venture to think it would give a certain indication; and if the information I ask for can be given it would, I think, once for all put an end to the insinuation that there is no value for which compensation should be sought.


My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord for his preliminary observations. The time has not been very long, as he says, in which to get the information he requires; but I hope it will be possible to furnish him with something of the kind which he has in mind either to-morrow or the next day and to lay a Memorandum such as he asks for on the Table of your Lordships' House. I may point out, however, that it would be difficult to give any very precise information on the subject., because, as the noble Lord will see, the value of the estate of a deceased holder of a licence in Scotland, has to be estimated at the price which, in the opinion of the Commissioners, such property would fetch if sold in the open market at the time of the death of the deceased. Clearly, therefore, no exact principle can be laid down with regard to that. The Memorandum will probably take the form of that issued on the Licensing Bill, 1904, making allowance, of course, for the difference between England and Scotland. I think it will also be possible to give some figures illustrating the method upon which the Commissioners proceed, without, of course, giving names or identification. I hope t hat may go sonic way to giving the noble Lord the information he requires, of course entirely without prejudice to the merits of the question to which he alluded in the observations he addressed to your Lordships' House.