HL Deb 28 March 1916 vol 21 cc470-506

LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE had the following Question on the Paper

To ask His Majesty's Government whether land valuation imposed by Part I of the Finance (1909–1910) Act, 1910, cannot be postponed till the conclusion of the war without prejudicing the resumption thereof when peace is restored, with a view to effecting economies in the Land Valuation Department, and in order that officials of that, Department may be free to undertake national work of urgent importance at the present time.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I see that the noble Earl who sits in front of me (Lord Meath) has a Question on the Paper dealing with the same subject. I think there must be some mental telepathy between my noble friend and myself, because less than a month ago we both put down simultaneously, to be asked on the same day, Questions with regard to enemy aircraft. Now, without consultation, we find that we both have on the Paper Questions relating to land valuation. But as mine is somewhat different from that of the noble Earl, I should like to read it to the House. [The noble Lord then read his Question on the Paper.] It deals with a most contentious subject, and it is difficult to approach it in that judicial and neutral spirit which is so very desirable at the present time. I have tried to do so in framing my Question, and I shall endeavour also to do so in the few remarks that I have to make, because I realise that it would be most improper for one Party in the State to try to obtain an advantage over the other by a side wind of any kind during the present; political truce with regard to a measure which, whatever we may think of its merits, is recognised by everybody as being part of the law of the land to-day. I shall therefore endeavour to prove three propositions—in the first place, that the putting into abeyance of action with regard to land valuation until the end of the war would not in any way prejudice either the resumption of that work at the conclusion of the war or the taxation which is expected to be derived therefrom; secondly, that in the meantime considerable economy might be effected; and, thirdly, that a large number of men able to do good public service would be freed for more useful objects than those in which they are at present engaged.

It is unnecessary to remind your Lordships of the Finance Act, 1909–10, but I should like to recall to you that it enacts that a valuation shall be made of all the land in the United Kingdom, that a copy of the provisional valuation of each portion of land shall be served on the owner thereof, and that unless within sixty days or such longer period as may be granted to him by the Commissioners he objects to such valuation it shall be adopted as the valuation of the land on April 30, 1909, and shall be utilised as such for the purpose of future taxation. Since the war began this has been altered. A difference has been made with respect to two kinds of land—that which has in it an element of agricultural value, and that in which this element is absent. With regard to the latter, the valuation is made and the notice of provisional valuation is served in the same way; but the latter is accompanied by another notice which states that instead of sixty days being allowed from the date of the serving of the provisional valuation, sixty days will be allowed from such date as the Commissioners may hereafter give notice of, and that is supposed to be some date after the conclusion of the war. This is a concession which was given by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Lloyd George, and I think we all ought to be grateful to him for granting it. Though he thought at the beginning of the war that the land valuation officials might go on with "business as usual." he recognised that this was not the case with regard to landowners. The greater part of them and of those experts whom they would have to consult in this matter were engaged not in their own business but in the business of the war, and therefore it was quite impossible for them to attend to this business.

With regard to land which has in it an element of agricultural value, the case is still stronger. I think I had better read what the Commissioners of Inland Revenue say with regard to that in their last Report. They say— The effect of the decision of the High Court in the case of The Commissioners of Inland Revenue v. Smyth was, as we explained in our previous Report, to prevent the issue of provisional valuations of all land where there was an element of agricultural value present…. As a result, the issue of provsional valuations of land, affected by the decision referred to above, has been totally suspended during the year to March 31, 1915. I believe that in this case valuation still takes place; land is still being valued, though I cannot myself see what the object is of this valuation, because until the point raised in the case mentioned has been settled it seems to me that it would be impossible for the valuers to decide the basis on which the valuation is to be made. Therefore in all cases of land in the United Kingdom it will be impossible, until the close of the war, to declare what the valuation of such land was in 1909, and it will be equally impossible to raise any taxation based on that valuation when it has been arrived at. Consequently I cannot see that if this portion of the Act were to be in abeyance until the close of the war there would be any difficulty in resuming it afterwards, or that either the Chancellor of the Exchequer or anybody else would suffer from its being in abeyance.

The next point is, Would any economy be effected if this were done? I have had a little difficulty in obtaining the figures, but I believe that those which I am about to quote are correct. As far as I can make out, the total cost of valuation to the end of March, 1915, amounted to nearly £3,000,000—the exact figure was £2,928,397 —and the receipts for that period were £689,068, a little more than one-fifth of the cost of the valuation. For the year since that—the year which is now ending—I have had to take an answer which was given by Mr. Lloyd George in another place in June last, in which he stated that the estimated figure of expenditure for land valuation for the year 1915–16 would amount to £676,000; and for the reasons which I have given—the decision in a certain legal case and certain concessions granted by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer—it is quite evident that very small amounts will be received as revenue from these various duties. I am not arguing whether this Act is in itself a good one or a bad one. I know quite well that those who are in favour of it say that it does not very much matter what the initial cost of getting the Act into order may be, because it will be more than recouped later on by the taxes derived from it; but I think I have shown clearly that these taxes cannot be expected to begin to accrue until the end of the war. Therefore to expend in the meantime such a large sum as over £600,000 a year in keeping up the Land Valuation Department is, to my mind, a waste of money.

It may be argued—I do not know whether it will be—that the Act of Parlia- ment exists, that it is the duty of the Executive to enforce it, and that they cannot go into the question of what money it costs to do so without the consent of Parliament to the making of a change. But I think this argument is fallacious, because a dispensing power has already been acted upon. I have given one instance where Mr. Lloyd George agreed to make a concession as to the date at which objection to the provisional valuation might be made. Another case where a coach-and-four has been run through the Act is that of the test case to which I have referred, where the Commissioners of Inland Revenue—who, I think, according to strict law, ought either to have accepted the decisions of the Court as they stand or have carried them to your Lordships' House to have the law finally settled—have agreed to allow the whole matter to rest in abeyance until the conclusion of the war. And these are not the only instances in which the Act is in abeyance. By Section 28 it is enacted that a new valuation of all land liable to Undeveloped Land Duty shall be made in the year 1914. No attempt has been made to enforce this provision. Therefore it seems to me that if in so many cases a dispensing power has been exercised, there is no reason why, with the consent of both Parties in the State, a little further latitude should not be given.

It may be said, It is all very well to argue that these economies can be made, but it is impossible to get rid of a large number of Civil Servants in this way. I should like to ask the noble Lord who is going to answer me how many of these Civil Servants are permanent and how many are temporary. Here, again, I have experienced difficulty in getting the figures I want, but I see that there were at the end of January, 1914, 315 permanent members of the Land Valuation Department who received salaries amounting to £131,000 a year, and 4,326 temporary members who received salaries amounting to £412,000 a year. We know that these numbers have since been very largely reduced. I think that in September last the total staff employed by the Land Valuation Department numbered 2,600; and I imagine that nearly all the reductions were made in the temporary staff, because, in the first place, we know that there are difficulties about removing a permanent staff, and, in the second place, I see that in their salaries there is a rise of £3,000 a year over what the salaries of the permanent staff had been in the previous year. I should also like to ask what these gentlemen are now occupied in doing. I am told—I do not know whether it is true—that they are occupied in collecting statistics with regard to the value of land in the year 1909. This may or may not be very useful after the war, but it is certainly of extraordinarily little value at the present time.

Just think what this large staff of 2,600 men means. There are amongst them land surveyors, accountants, and business men of great capability. Could not they be better employed in doing something for the time being in connection with the war? Let me suggest a few ways in which they might be employed. There are large numbers of maps, I should think, required both for the Army at the Front and for the Army at home. Could not the services of some of these gentlemen be employed in this way? Then there must be many questions arising as to compensation between farmers and owners and the Government with regard to land which has been taken over for making trenches, for military camps, for hospitals, and for munition works. But instead of these gentlemen being employed for these purposes, I believe a large number of outsiders have been engaged. I am told—I do not know whether it is true—that the War Office has a department of land valuers of its own, none of them recruited from the staff of the Land Valuation Department. Another Department went so far as to advertise in the newspapers for somebody to fill the post of land valuer. All these gentlemen of the Land Valuation Department could be more usefully employed if they were scattered amongst the different Offices. What is the reason why this is not done? I am certain that it is not that the officials themselves object to doing other work. I am sure they would be very glad to be of use. And I do not believe for one moment that it is due to an objection raised on the part of the present Minister of Munitions because he does not like to see a small portion of the Act which he obtained after much fighting and with so much difficulty put into abeyance for a short time. He is a much larger-minded man than that. He may have changed his views with regard to some things, as we all have, since the beginning of the war, and I should not be at all surprised if his motto of "Business as Usual," which he originally adopted, has now been altered to one of "Our only business is to win the war." The difficulty, I believe, lies in the unwritten law of the Civil Service that officers belonging to it are not to be moved from one Department to another. But surely this ought to be got over. We have heard a great deal lately about pooling. The newspapers have been full of accounts of how members of the Cabinet have pooled their salaries. I do not know that this interested us very much, except that we sympathised with those who had lost and congratulated those who had won; but as taxpayers it left us unmoved, because the cost to the Exchequer was exactly the same. But the pooling of officials of the different Departments would be a very different matter. There must be some Departments where there is less pressure of work and a large number of men, and other Departments where there is enormous pressure of work and comparatively few men. It would be a most excellent thing if some men could be moved from the less hard-working Departments to those that are more pressed in this way, and I am certain that none could be better spared or would be of more value than the officials of the Land Valuation Department.

I hope that this matter will be considered by the Retrenchment Committee, of which my noble friend Lord Midleton was Chairman. I was very disappointed when I found that no reference was made to it in the Committee's Report. The explanation is perhaps to be found in the second paragraph of their Report, in which it is said— It was impressed upon us at an early stage of our proceedings that even as regards the Civil Departments questions of policy already decided by Parliament should be avoided as far as possible, as it would be impracticable at the present time to introduce controversial legislation. I see by the newspapers that the noble Viscount (Lord Midleton) is going to speak on this question this afternoon. I hope that he may be able to approve of some of the suggestions which I have submitted, for my proposals have been made in no Party spirit, but solely with the object, without injury to the interests or convictions of any Party in the State, of effecting what I believe is much needed economy and of utilising to better purpose the services of a capable body of public servants.

THE EARL OF MEATH had the following Questions on the Paper—

To ask His Majesty's Government—

  1. (1) How many men of fighting age are in the Land Valuation Department.
  2. (2) Could not men over forty-one years of age replace them.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I rise to support the noble Lord in his contention that in the national interest the activities of the Land Valuation Department should be suspended until the conclusion of the war; and I propose, with the permission of the House, as the Questions which I have placed on the Paper are cognate with those asked by the noble Lord, to unite mine with his. I shall also endeavour to imitate the excellent example set by the noble Lord, and I hope to introduce no element of partisanship into any remarks which I may make this afternoon; I want to look at the subject entirely from the national point of view. It is now six years since the Finance Act of 1909–10 imposed the Land Taxes which necessitate this valuation. These taxes were by the Act to be revised every five years. Such action has not been found possible, as the valuation upon which the taxes were to be calculated is even now only half completed. Since these taxes have been in force their collection, as the noble Lord has told you, has cost the country about £3,000,000, and, as far as I can make out, has produced only about £700,000—my figures do not quite agree with those of the noble Lord. That is a loss to the country of over £2,000,000, roughly speaking, or £1,000 for every working day during those six years.

When these facts have been previously publicly stated, the Government have replied that the cost of valuation must be considered a capital charge which will not be repeated, but it is quite apparent that this contention can hardly be supported by facts, for the Act requires that there shall be a revaluation every five years, and as it has taken over six years to complete barely one-half of the first valuation it is not unreasonable to presume that it will take constant work to revise the valuation from one five years to another—in other words, the expenditure on valuations will be a perpetual charge on the country, though possibly not in the future on so costly a scale as at present. When in 1909–10 Mr. Lloyd George introduced his Bill establishing these new Land Taxes, which needed the creation of practically a new Department, Parliament was told that the Undeveloped Land Tax and the Increment Value Duty were aimed at the great landlords, the rich men of this country, with the object of getting the land back into the hands of the people, and of preventing rich men from benefiting by the rise in value of lands through the action of their neighbours or of the community. But as a matter of fact experience has shown that it is not the rich landlord who suffers most, but the comparatively poor, thrifty, and industrious man who has bought with his savings a small plot of ground over £500 in value and by his personal labour and capital has so developed it that its "site value" exceeds its "agricultural value." Upon the difference between these two values this poor man as well as the rich man is heavily taxed. These taxes are not only land taxes but also house taxes and taxes on thrift.

As far as possible my facts and figures shall be given officially, but in regard to those that are not official. I should like the House to know that my authority is Mr. Alton Morgan, who has made this subject his own and has published several pamphlets and small booklets upon it, one of which is called "Blight on the Countryside." In 1912, according to official returns, 184,334 fewer acres were in cultivation than in 1909. A year after the passing of these Land Tax provisions it is officially stated that the number of increases of small houses fell from 87,181 to 10,651, a decrease of 76,530. It is evident, therefore, if these facts and figures are at all near the truth, that these impositions hinder building, hinder improvements, tax thrift, and fall with excessive severity upon small owners, such as market gardeners, nurserymen, fruit growers, and small householders in the neighbourhood of towns and railways. As land the value of which is under £50 an acre is not taxed, sporting land and golf links often escape. Thus much of the land owned by the wealthy and used for purposes of pleasure and luxury escape, whilst the poor man is taxed upon that which he develops through industry and enterprise.

To carry out the complicated system of valuation upon which these taxes are calculated, which becomes more and more difficult as the valuation has to be carried backwards—they have to ascertain what the valuation of the land was in 1909, a thing which it is almost impossible to do—some 4,000 to 5,000 men were at one time employed. As the noble Lord who spoke before me has told your Lordships, that number has been largely decreased, but there are still some 2,600 left to carry on this work. Perhaps we may hear tonight whether that figure is correct, whether there really can be at this moment over 2,000 men engaged upon this valuation. But whatever the number, the fact remains that the valuation for these taxes has for the last six years been costing the country at the rate of over £1,000 for every working day. For twenty months this expenditure has been going on in a time of war, when the strictest economy is being urged by the Government upon us all, and when the service of every able-bodied man is urgently needed. I would most respectfully ask the Government whether such it procedure in the circumstances, seeing that we are absolutely fighting for our existence, is either wise, necessary, or logical.

I dare say a good many of your Lordships may have seen in The Times lately a letter signed "Canonicus," which if it were not so sad would be exceedingly amusing. The writer said— I am a member of a Cathedral Chapter. Last autumn a Government valuer (no doubt adequately remunerated) paid us a visit to 'value the site of the cathedral.' We remarked that it could never come into the market unless the cathedral were cleared away. As this operation might cost anything up to £200,000, the 'prairie' value of the site would be about £195,000 less than nothing. 'Well,' he replied, 'it is true that in my printed valuation form there is a section indicating allowance for such deduction, but many valuers refuse to permit it.' 'Then,' we inquired, 'there are two standards of valuation, one with and one without such deduction, and the choice between them is left to each valuer? This must lead to great inequality and injustice.' We understood him to admit this, and that church sites of the same intrinsic value were often valued in one case at (say) £50 and in another at £10. Hundreds, even thousands, of sites were being officially valued in this violently unjust fashion, but he cheerfully returned to the charge. 'The site might be bought as it is with the cathedral on it.' 'By whom?' we asked. 'Oh, perhaps by the Roman Catholics. They would like this magnificent building, with its priceless monuments and mediæval glass.' 'But that,' said we, would require an Act of Parliament and is so improbable as not to be worth consideration.' I ask your Lordships, Does not this sound like a quotation from "Alice in Wonderland" or some book of that sort rather than a serious report in the leading journal of the country of an actual conversation between a dignitary of the Church and an official of the Land Valuation Department? I would go on to say that if it be the case that any number of men are really engaged in such futile work as this account describes when the country is fighting for its very existence, it is high time that Parliament intervened and either postponed any further valuation until the conclusion of the war or at all events held over until that date the valuation of all properties the owners of which are fighting for us at the Front.

I am informed that the Land Valuation Department has actually discouraged enlistment amongst its employees—whether it is true or not I do not know—and that a circular has been issued by it stating that the Government will not promise reinstatement after the war to those of the valuation staff who join the Army. I am unwilling to believe, after all we have heard from the Government as to our duty as patriotic citizens, that any Department of the Government would be so unpatriotic, so mean, and so shortsighted as to issue such a circular and take the action alleged. But as the statement has been made, I hope I may be assured by the noble Lord who will answer for the Government that there is no truth in it. I beg to ask the Question standing in my name.


My Lords, the noble Marquess the Leader of the House will presently address your Lordships on the question of the propriety of continuing the present land valuation, but perhaps it will be convenient if at this moment I give what figures the Treasury have been able to furnish with regard to the number of men now permanently or temporarily employed by the Land Valuation Department. The figures quoted by my noble friend Lord Oranmore with regard to the total cost of land valuation up to the present time were figures that were mentioned, I believe, in a debate in the House of Commons not so very long ago, and so far as I am aware their general accuracy was not disputed. The noble Lord said that £3,000,000 had been spent on land valuation up to the present moment.


Up to last year.


Yes, I think that was the figure stated in the House of Commons; and something between £600,000 and £700,000 had been received by the State in respect of taxes collected. The Department is employing at the present moment 580 permanent officials with establishment rights, the majority of whom are highly qualified valuers. Lord Oranmore asked on what work these gentlemen were at present engaged. I am informed that the valuation staff is now mainly employed in the work of overtaking arrears of occasion cases, etc., which have accumulated owing to the necessity of pressing on with the work of the original valuation. I am afraid I cannot define what these "occasion" cases are, but I think they refer to cases of duties payable on sales or Death Duties. The number necessary to deal with these arrears and current work has been carefully considered. Everything possible is being done to reduce expenditure in the Department, and the temporary staff has been reduced to the minimum necessary to carry out the work. During the present financial year the number of temporary staff whose employment in the Valuation Department has terminated is 2,688. The number, both permanent and temporary, on the books of the Department at present is 1,941, of whom 976 are in naval or military service. The cost of their salaries is £272,000, which includes £54,000 paid as civil pay to men serving with the Forces. I am afraid I have no information at my disposal either to corroborate or to contradict the figure quoted by Lord Oran-more as to the expenses of the Department at this moment being as high as £600,000. The only figure with regard to that which I can give the House relates to the cost of the salaries, which is £272,000.

With regard to the Questions put by Lord Meath, I can inform him that the 580 permanent officials who are employed in the Land Valuation Department include 349 men of military age; 115 of them are already serving in the fighting forces. This leaves 234 men of military age among the permanent staff. Vacancies thus temporarily arising are being, and will continue to be, filled by temporary substitutes not liable to military service. The Commissioners of Inland Revenue expect to be able to release gradually a further number of permanent men, possibly eighty, and when this has been done the limit of substitution will have been reached if the decision of His Majesty's Government not to suspend the valuation work is to stand. Apart from the above, there are 246 temporary employees of military age; but with regard to them the question of military service is one entirely between them and the military authorities, and the Commissioners of Inland Revenue are in no way concerned. I have no knowledge as regards the circular about which Lord Meath asked a supplementary question at the end of his speech, but if the noble Earl will place a Question On the Paper I shall be very pleased to make inquiries. My own opinion is, of course, of no value to the House, but I can hardly think, and I hope it may not prove to be the case, that any such circular has been sent out. But I may, perhaps, again remind the noble Earl, as regards the officials who are temporarily employed, that it is a matter entirely between themselves and the military authorities whether they serve or not, and the Commissioners of Inland Revenue are in no sense concerned.


My Lords, the speech which the noble Lord has just made, though it will probably be regarded by my noble friend as fairly satisfactory with regard to the number of the men serving with the Forces, has not gone very far to relieve your Lordships from the anxiety which both the previous speeches have suggested as to the point to which possible economy, whether of men or of money, has been carried in the Land Valuation Department. Apart from the appeal made to me by my noble friend, I feel a certain responsibility to your Lordships, who gave me complete support last July as regards the necessity for a careful investigation and the fullest economy in the Civil Departments of the Crown. The Committee which was appointed in consequence of the Resolution arrived at in this House sat for nearly six months. I have never desired, if I could avoid it, to bring the proceedings of that Committee before this House, but as my noble friend has thought fit to put down this Notice, I think I ought to explain to your Lordships this extraordinary anomaly—that, having been appointed to examine the whole of the Civil Departments, the one Civil Department of which no report was made by the Committee was the Land Valuation Department, although the expenditure there is not an inconsiderable item, seeing that the staff of that Department alone represents £500,000 in the present Estimates.

I wish to explain why the results of the Committee were disappointing, as they were in my opinion, and why it was impossible for us to carry out in whole the task which was apparently given to us by Parliament. In the first place, the Cabinet decided that the Committee should so strictly confine itself to the Civil Departments that anything relating to the Army or Navy should be withheld from its purview, not excluding the Munitions Department, in which I have reason to believe the appointments are the most numerous ever made in any Department at any time in the history of this country, and which I venture to say requires overhauling as much as any Department of the State, not only as regards its personnel but as regards the results achieved by it. That took a very large amount away from us. Furthermore, on meeting we were informed that all questions were withheld from our purview which had to do with the policy of the Government or with policy on which Parliament had decided. That is a limitation which can be stretched almost indefinitely, for there is hardly anything on which Parliament has not decided; and having the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the chair on some occasions and his representative on others we were being constantly blocked and headed-off and told that this and that, which seemed to us to be questions not of policy but of administration and of economic administration, were withdrawn from our purview. In fact it came almost to this, that anything which had been effected by the legislation of the last ten years must be regarded, not merely as sacred in itself, but as sacred in carrying with it everybody who had been appointed to administer it. But the most extraordinary point of all was that when we came to examine the question of land valuation, when we had established, as I shall endeavour to show Your Lordships, not by my statements but by figures, the existence of a condition of things for which I hope there is no parallel in any other Department of the State, we were advised that if we should decide to enter upon this Department we should be raising class issues of a very serious description and should therefore be entrenching on the non-contentious limitation which we had been desired by the Cabinet strictly to observe. I wish, if I can, in discussing this question to-night, to preserve that limitation, but to point out what could have been done, what ought to have been done, and what must, in my opinion, be carried out in the way of reform, despite that limitation. For that purpose I will not enter into any of the questions raised by my noble friends. I will not touch on questions whether the Act was right or wrong. I will not trouble to go aside to say whether the Act was faulty, whether the land, valuations have been faulty, or whether the decisions of the Courts have been faulty; but I am quite certain that anyone who studies the figures which can be given will agree that one or two or all three have been, from the point of view of revenue, equally faulty. For the purpose of the present argument I should like to assume that the duties are fair, that they have to be levied, that whether large or small they are all some addition to the revenue of the country. I am not going to stray into those delightful paths of dalliance as to which it has been decided for us that agricultural efforts do not add to the value of the land, but that what adds to its value is a general increase of the population, and therefore that is a fit subject for taxation. Or, again, that the value in 1909, when the purchase price of land had some relation to the Government borrowing at 3½ per cent., is equally valid in 1916, when the Government borrows at 5 per cent. Therefore obviously there is a great change in the value of land. We know it to be untrue, but I will assume 1916 and 1909 to be the same; and I will also assume, as in a great case that was decided, that if a man buys land and builds a house upon it and then sells it, the Government ought to share the result of his ingenuity and energy if by chance he gets a larger price than that which he gave for the land and the building of the house. All those absurdities I am perfectly willing to accept as good arguments if I am allowed to try this case out on the question of what revenue can be or will be obtained from these taxes and what it costs to obtain it.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day expected a huge revenue. I will trouble your Lordships with one quotation. In 1909 Mr. Lloyd George, resisting an Amendment to exempt from Undeveloped Land Duty land occupied by market gardeners, said— What does it matter to the market gardener, who has to pay a sum of money as rent? He would naturally prefer that the State should get some part of the money. At any rate he will get his old-age pension secured, and he will get Dreadnoughts to secure his garden from being trampled upon by the German artillery. All the proceedings of the Government at that time—I could fortify what was said by Mr. Lloyd George by quotations from the Prime Minister and others—were based on the idea that a programme of Dreadnoughts was being laid down, that this programme would need a larger expenditure in future years than was intended in 1909, and that this to a large extent would be provided by these Land Taxes. Now let us look at the reality. These are, I believe, the official figures, and I do not think they can be challenged. I should be glad to stand to them as against any critic. The Budget statements for these Land Value Duties were as follows. In 1909–10 the Government budgeted for £250,000 as the yield of the Land Value Duties; in 1910–11, £390,000; in 1911–12, £300 000; in 1912–13, £255,000—in all, £1,195,000. Now what did they obtain? In 1910–11, instead of £390,000, they got £2,735; in 1911–12, instead of £300,000, they got £57,695; in 1912–13, instead of £255,000, they got £162,807. The next year—for which we have not got the Budget statement—they collected a number of arrears and made a good show, getting up to £389,550, and one began to hope that they were on the point of really doing something towards Dreadnoughts. But then the gold mine, if gold mine it was, began to peter out; and in 1914–15 the revenue collected was £76,281, while last year their estimated revenue was £62,000. So it really comes to this, that while their total estimate for the first four years was £1,195,000, in the first six they got £751,068. And although that is not a very large amount considering the enormous excitement which these duties created, that alone does not tell you a quarter of the story. The value of taxation is not the bitterness of feeling that you can create by it or the amount of sacrifice that you can lay upon a particular class, but the degree of revenue which you obtain.

There are two things which affect the enormous staff which has been got together. The first is that you had to have, according to the wish of the Government, a valuation of the whole of the land of the country. Of that valuation 97 per cent., by Mr. Lloyd George's statement, had been made already by last year; and we were informed on the Retrenchment Committee that the remaining 3 per cent. of the whole of the land of the country might now be said to have been valued. Therefore in respect of the staff which I am going to read out you must allow that the whole of the land if England was revalued. But there is another point on which I would ask that I may go a little more into detail. It is urged by land values supporters, "Oh, it is not merely a question of what you have got under these new duties, but we had to have some means of checking the valuations made by landowners and others for Estate Duties, and for that we required a large staff, and part of that staff is included in the enormous body of men, 5,000 or 6,000, who were got together." In 1909 Mr. Lloyd George told us that he was going to incorporate a staff which had been raised for £5,000 a year and which had done invaluable service in respect of Estate Duties. It had checked the numbers coming forward of estates and had raised the valuation, and Mr. Lloyd George practically admitted that this body of men had been able to do the Exchequer the necessary service in that respect. We pursued that case in the Retrenchment Committee and asked the officials, "What is the largest sum of money out of the total expenditure that you can rightly say has been used in respect of Estate Duties—that is, on officials who take the estates of people who die and see whether any Increment Duty is due on them? "We were told that £30,000 a year out of the whole £500,000, or whatever it was, might be said to have been used in respect of Estate Duties. However, let us leave that £30,000 a year. But before I do so I should like to enter my protest against its being considered that this is all a clear gain to the public.

In 1912 Mr. Lloyd George told us that 403,500 valuations for possible Increment Duty—I presume in connection with estates—had been made. Of these, 798 cases only were found to require additional Increment Duty, and a sum of £20,000 was obtained. And to what cost did you put the State in litigation, what cost did you put private individuals to in regard to their valuations, in order to get this £20,000? I am told that I should be putting it low if I put it at between £300,000 and £400,000. And any of your Lordships who read The Times this morning must have seen the report of a case in which the highest Court of the Realm had denounced the conduct of this Department, and the Government, of course, who set it in motion, in dragging a litigant from Court to Court in a cause in which, as the Judges said, the Crown had no case whatever for the imposition it sought to put upon him. I feel a degree of indignation that eminent counsel should be briefed, that in the middle of a war all this paraphernalia should be gone through, to try and saddle a man with a tax which it is perfectly obvious he is not in the least legally entitled to pay. And when it is discovered that out of 400,000 cases only 800 give an effective result, I think the least I am entitled to ask is that the staff for valuation should be reduced to the narrowest limits, and that whoever was responsible for having dragged these litigants from Court to Court in now three or four instances should be relieved of his functions and some other person a little more careful of the public money and the public good faith should be placed in his position.

I am not, I think, unreasonable in asking your Lordships to consider what the staff of the Land Valuation Department has coat. It cost £372,558 in 1910–11; £401,290 in 1911–12; £553,618 in 1912–13; £677,599 in 1913–14; £720,015 in 1914–15; £543,000 (estimated) in 1915–16—in all, the staff has cost £3,268,080, and it has actually produced a revenue up to now of £751,068. But that is not the whole story. I wish it were. I do not know what the value of debates in Parliament is if the sort of conduct of which I am going to give your Lordships an instance is to follow hard upon the heels of the Resolutions of Parliament that there ought to be economy. There were, as my noble friend has pointed out, at one time last year 377 permanent valuers and 3,335 temporary valuers. As the valuation has been completed about two-thirds of the temporary valuers have been got rid of, but it is inconceivable that while we were debating economy here and at the very time when the Retrenchment Committee was passing a Resolution urging His Majesty's Government not to fill up a single post in the Civil Service which they could avoid filling, out of these temporary valuers no fewer than 203—raising the number from 377 to 580—were made permanent, permanent for all time, with pensions and with all the advantages of permanent Civil Servants. And for that there was not a shadow, as far as I can find, of justification. Every man entering the branch in a temporary capacity had signed the following agreement:— It is distinctly understood by me that my engagement is only an ordinary monthly hiring, subject to a calendar month's notice from any day, and that I shall not be entitled to superannuation, compassionate, or other allowance at the termination thereof. In view of this agreement no man could possibly put forward any claim to a permanent position, and I think the appointment by the head of this Department of 203 men in the middle of a great war and at a time when our finances demand every possible care is one of the most bare—faced evasions of the wishes of Parliament which we could probably find in the history of the last fifty years.

The ultimate result is this. The estimated cost of the Department for next year is £391,000; less £30,000 in respect of Estate Duties, this leaves £361,000. The revenue which they expect to collect is under £100,000. We asked whether the arrears which are hung up by various judicial decisions would make a difference, and we were informed that the arrears in all amounted to less than £200,000. Whether this will be collected in two, three, or four years we know not. But the actual annual amount we collect is under £100,000, and the cost to collect it is £360,000. We heard a good deal in past days of the working man getting "ninepence for fourpence." In this case he is going to pay eighteenpence to get fourpence. I must say I shall be curious to hear how my noble friend opposite can upset either these figures or my argument seeing that the figures are all taken from official documents.

In my contention that there must be a change I base myself on the promise of the Prime Minister. Mr. Asquith said, on August 10, 1909, with regard to these taxes— I defend this tax and all the taxes contained in this Finance Bill as fiscal instruments, and if any one can demonstrate to me that they are not, I shall agree they ought to be excised from the Bill. I do not ask that they should be excised from the Bill. I do not want to go into the policy, but I ask that these taxes should be made into "fiscal instruments." So long as only £100,000 is gained by an expenditure of over £350,000 they cannot be "fiscal instruments."

A great deal has been said at different, times as to the extent to which these taxes should be let alone because they represent class legislation. I am not going to be intimidated by the fact that some people out of doors may think, because we argue for reductions in the cost of the collection of these taxes, that we are trying to evade them. That is not so. If it were necessary I would argue, for the landowners of this country and of your Lordships' House in particular, that there are no sacrifices from which we have shrunk when they have been necessary for the prosecution of the war, either in money, men, time, or anything else; and I would not myself vote at this moment for the repeal of these Land Taxes for fear of its exciting the view amongst certain people that we were trying to evade that which Parliament had deliberately put upon us. But what I will plead before the public and before all those to whom the Government address sermons on economy is that you cannot have private thrift running in harness with public extravagance. And as regards class legislation I think your Lordships will allow me to repeat one sentence from one of the admirable speeches which Mr. Hughes (Prime Minister of Australia) has made since he has been in this country— This is a time to give up all stilted conventions, Party shibboleths, and perished doctrines. The Committee on which I sat tried to do impartial justice as far as they were allowed. It went very much against the grain with us to propose the closing of museums. We did so because there was a considerable sum to be saved, and there was another advantage to be got. We felt that we ought not to leave loopholes for people to say "Why did you touch this, that, or the other?" We thought we ought to do what we could all round. We have been criticised because we did not attack the salaries drawn by members of the Government. I have never said one word on that subject any more than on that of the salaries paid to the members of the House of Commons. I fully recognise, with regard to the salaries of the members of the Government, that there probably never was a time when Ministers were more hardly worked; and of course they are, like others, heavily taxed. It might be said that we ought to have made an inroad there; but that, after all, was one of the subjects Parliament had decided. We did attempt to do something with regard to education, not to check education, but to prevent what might be regarded as a luxury, the turning of the schools into playhouses for children of very tender years; and some considerable saving has been made there. But the one subject which was allowed to escape from our net was the one we are discussing. We have a right, I think, to insist that all these imposts upon land should be looked upon from the point of view of the revenue they produce, and that the minimum of staff to produce that revenue should, so long as there is financial pressure, be employed. Is it not absurd that we should have this staff trying to fill up its time by making allotment holders pay on their improved holdings as if they were building lands, and by valuing churchyards, Increment Duty on which cannot by any possibility be claimed? This is Sheer folly. The expenditure on this war by us, I might almost say the waste on this war, is the wonder of Europe. But if we allow such fooling as this to continue we shall bring upon ourselves something more than wonder; we must ultimately arouse the indignation of the people in whose name it is being done.

At this moment I do not think there is one amongst us who will grudge a single farthing even if it is wastefully expended on the war, provided it is believed to be necessary. But the highest Court of the Realm is against expenditure in this particular form; common sense is against it; public opinion if it understood, patient and apathetic as it is, would I venture to say be against it; and I am afraid I must assure the Government that unless they can undertake that this scandal is to be brought to an end we shall have to return to the subject. In the meantime until they are ready to set their own house in order I really think members of the Government should abstain from emphatic appeals for thrift addressed largely to poor persons, when those persons have not got the backing which they ought to have of the best and most economic public expenditure.


My Lords, the debate has travelled a good deal beyond the scope of the Questions on the Paper—namely, whether there was not an extravagant staff employed for the purpose of carrying out the land valuations laid down by Parliament. The whole policy of the Land Taxes has been challenged; and incidentally the noble Viscount who has just spoken introduced the general question of thrift and economy, even to the question of how far infant schools ought to be countenanced. That is travelling very far from the Questions. I have no doubt that most of us are satisfied that there is a good deal of mistaken policy in the machinery of the Act for taxing increment. The Act was hurried through. Many grave questions were raised and were not fully debated, and the decisions of the Law Courts have shown that there was a good deal that was not properly thought out in that Act.

One of the speakers said that the Retrenchment Committee was warned off this particular topic of land valuation because it would create a burning class debate. I think it would. You had a lot of enthusiastic people in the House of Commons who thought they had a panacea for all social evils, and although they are not so important politically as they were when this Act was passed they still represent a great deal of fervid zeal up and down the constituencies, and I do not think that the middle of this war, when we want the greatest unanimity, is the proper moment for raising these controversial questions. I have very little doubt that when the war is over and we overhaul our taxation this legislation will need very careful examination. But I submit to your Lordships that if legislation is to be overhauled which excites a great deal of enthusiasm as well as a great deal of resentment, it must be overhauled from the point of view of the people who would have the credit of having the most dispassionate and impartial mind and not any class interest against it. I should wish, if the matter is to be raised at all, that it should be raised in another place and not in this House. Your Lordships do not come before the nation with the reputation of being free from class prejudice but with an inability to look at things from the point of view of the common man in the street. Mr. Gladstone once said that this House was "up in a balloon." I am not going to say that, but certainly there is in the country a feeling that the House of Lords is not as much in touch with the popular opinion of the common humble man as is the House of Commons. I should be very glad when the proper time comes if these questions were overhauled by a Royal Commission or other inquiry so that the thing could be sifted out properly. But I feel sure that a debate of the character we have heard to-day is not likely to win acceptance for the views which underlie the speeches which have been made.

No doubt it is true that a great deal of money has been spent on land valuation for apparently very little result. But we have all come in contact with these valuers, and I should say the opinion of people familiar with land valuation is that one of the mistakes has been, not extravagance, but economy—in this sense, that people have been appointed to value land who are not in the highest position as land valuers, who have received very poor salaries, and who have had to learn their job as it went on. If you take the agricultural districts you cannot think of anybody going about valuing land for four or five years without learning something by the end of that time, and no doubt they have learned. My impression is that it is an entire delusion to think that the first valuation is nearly finished. We are told that 97 per cent. of the valuations have been completed. I believe hardly any of the licensed houses have been touched at all. I know myself a good many houses and house property that have not been valued; and Lord Hylton said that the bulk of the staff was being employed in keeping up the occasional valuations. No doubt they value for probate when estates are being wound up, but I know myself that in cases of sale after six or seven years where the land had not been valued in all these years they declined to come in and value for purposes of sale although such a long time had elapsed. Therefore whatever the officials have been doing in other ways they have not been keeping up the occasional valuations. Whether you have the law right or wrong, as long as the law exists any person in making a sale has a right to ask how much of the purchase money is to go into his pocket and how much is to go to the Government, and not have the matter kept hanging over his head as to how much of the purchase money will hereafter be taken. Therefore I think that as long as the law is on the Statute Book the occasional valuations should be kept up and promptly kept up. What I felt called upon to urge was this, that those who contend that there are a great many flaws in this land legislation and many elements of unsound political economy and unsound finance wrapped up in it, would do better not to attack it in the middle of a war, but to leave the criticism to come after the war and from a quarter which will excite less suspicion in the minds of the public.


My Lords, until the noble Lord who has just sat down spoke the speakers had carefully abstained from any question of the policy of the existing Land Acts and from criticism as regards the way in which land is in fact valued, and until Lord Sheffield addressed the House I had no idea that any noble Lord intended at this stage to allude to such matters, which I agree with him raise questions in reference to which there might be much dissension at the present moment.

I only rise in order to ask the noble Marquess who is going to speak on behalf of the Government whether he can give information on one or two questions which have been specifically raised as regards economy, both of men and money. In the first place, is it true, as I understand was said by Lord Hylton, that there are at the present time as many as 710 men engaged in the Valuation Department who are capable of military service? I think it is nothing less than a scandal if that is true—710 men capable of military service engaged in a Department where their work can be of no possible value at the present time. Contrast that with other instances. In agriculture every man may be of essential importance to the most vital industry of this country. Everybody engaged in that industry knows the great difficulty of carrying it on at the present time. Can it be expected that people in this and in other industries will be content with the deprivation of what is essentially necessary labour for national purposes if they find that in a Valuation Department of this character you have 710 men capable of military service but not so employed at the present time?

I should like to say a word on the other aspect of the case. I can quite understand that as regards Death Duties some continuing expenditure is necessary, but the noble Viscount (Lord Midleton) made it quite clear that the amount so involved was about £30,000 a year. From the point of view of expenditure the whole difference between that sum and the larger sum, whatever it may be, is wholly wasted by carrying on land valuation under existing conditions. And for this reason. Everybody who has had experience of land valuation knows that what I may call a stale valuation is of no value at all. The best method of valuation known in this country and which the Royal Commission on Local and Imperial Taxation suggested should be utilised in order to get a generally fair valuation in this country is the quinquennial system adopted in the metropolis. But even there you only have a valuation which is good for five years, and there are very careful regulations under which during that period if the value of property is altered, a corresponding alteration can be made for Imperial or local purposes. Now what can be the good in those circumstances of carrying on a valuation at a time when, as was very fairly put by the noble Viscount, you are borrowing money for State purposes at something like 5 per cent.? It will be wholly useless for any purpose in the future. You will have to revalue every property when war conditions have passed away, and it is ludicrous to suggest that you can possibly accept for any permanent purposes any valuation made during this war period.

I will give an illustration to show what the waste is that is going on at the present moment. I happen to be, as I dare say many of your Lordships are, a trustee for rather a considerable number of ecclesiastical and charitable institutions. Nearly every morning I am getting a valuation sent to me. Most of them are small in amount, ranging, perhaps, from such a sum as £50 to a sum of £2,000 or £3,000. Every one of those valuations made at the present moment is absolutely useless for any permanent purpose. Why should money be spent and men engaged upon valuations of that character? I purposely abstain from entering upon a matter which was referred to by the noble Lord opposite—namely, that when the time comes the valuations already made must be remade because as regards many principles they are acknowledged to be unsound. That, of course, is a matter which will have to be discussed at some future time. But it does emphasise the absardity and the waste of carrying on these valuations under existing conditions. You take a time which is no test, because it is exceptional; you apply principles which have been condemned by everybody with knowledge of these valuation matters; and for that purpose you employ men, as I say, of military age, and expend upon the work a very large sum—it does not matter about the exact sum, but I understand it represents a waste of from £200,000 to £300,000 a year.

There is one other point. What is the good of members of this House or of the House of Commons preaching thrift and economy—doctrines which are of vital importance as regards the staying power of this country in the great crisis in which we are engaged—when the Government will not put their own house in order upon a question of this character? You go to a man and ask him to be more economical in his private life. I believe that to a great extent people are extremely and properly economical at the present moment. You go to that man and ask him to save a pound here and a pound there. What is the best way of appealing to that man for true economy? It is to show that you are practising what you preach, to show that in every direction the Government are saving what they can. I cannot help thinking that the noble Viscount did not use too harsh words when he said that it was a real scandal that this Valuation Department had not been overhauled both in men and money. In reference to both there is obvious waste at the present moment. Of course, we shall hear what the noble Marquess says, but it is not a matter of argument between one side and the other; it is a simple question of pure business. What I hope to hear and what I am sure the House will hope to hear from the noble Marquess when he gives his reply to the criticisms that have been made is an assurance, quite apart from the principle of this Act, that in its administration during the period of the war there shall be every proper economy exercised both in men and money.


My Lords, I did not intend to take any part in this debate, but the speech made by my noble friend Lord Midleton has revealed such a state of things that I think it is incumbent on anybody who has on former occasions pressed the necessity of economy in your Lordships' House to say something on the subject. How does the matter stand? In the first place, as has been pointed out by several speakers, the Government are in every direction pressing private individuals to economise in every possible way, and I believe they are doing so. But what are the Government doing themselves? Certainly not nearly sufficient. In the first place they appoint a Retrenchment Committee, a very capable Committee, but the first order that this Retrenchment Committee receives is that it is not to deal with military expenditure at all. I will not go into that matter at any length now, because it lies outside the scope of this particular debate; but at the same time I wish to say that I think that order was a great mistake. It is based upon the idea that because we are at war we are to be extravagant in military expenditure, whereas I believe that economy and efficiency in war go hand in hand together.

The next question is this matter of the large expenditure and the very small revenue which is derived from these land valuations. My noble friend Lord Oranmore said he thought the real reason why this matter was not taken up was that there was a feeling in the Civil Service that officials should not be transferred from one Department to another. I do not think that has had much to do with it. The real reason has been revealed by my noble friend beside me (Lord Midleton). He was told that if this question was raised by the Retrenchment Committee it would involve a discussion on class interests. What really is meant by "class interests"? The argument about class interests is really a euphemism for saying that in order to stop the mouths of a small and violent section in the House of Commons, a sop must be given to them.

Then the noble Lord opposite (Lord Sheffield) warned us that it was very undesirable to raise a matter of this sort in this House, because this House is suspected of being more or less a House of landowners, and that it had better be left to the House of Commons because that Assembly was more in touch with the poor people of this country. It may be that the House of Commons is more in touch with the poor people of the country, but there is certainly one class of people with whom they are not in touch, and that is those who wish to economise. They are not in touch with them, because the House of Commons recently abrogated its most important function, which is to check public expenditure. I appeal to all the discussions on legislation which have taken place during the last few years in order to show that, so far from checking public expenditure, the House of Commons did all they possibly could to increase it and to press the Chancellor of the Exchequer to spend more than he desired. For these reasons I hope that the noble Marquess will give us some hope that this matter will be taken up, and that the policy of economy will be followed more vigorously than is at present the case.


My Lords, practically all the speeches to which we have listened this evening have made it clear that this is a question which is liable to awaken the sleeping Party dogs. It is assumed by some sanguine persons that at the close of the war those dogs will bark less loudly and bite less hard than was the custom in the past, but at any rate it is clear that there are certain subjects, of which this is one—it was clear from the debate in another place no less than from the debate to-night—by which those dogs may easily be aroused.

I am particularly anxious, as noble Lords have been, to avoid any discussion on the principle of land valuation or on the purposes for which that valuation was instituted. All noble Lords, I believe, have been desirous of avoiding that form of discussion, but I cannot congratulate them on having been entirely successful. My noble friend on the Cross Benches (Lord Meath) entered into an elaborate criticism—founded upon one of the publications, I presume, issued by one of the societies devoted to assailing this legislation—dealing, so far as I could catch it, with the merits of the taxes and the manner of their collection. Nor did the noble Viscount opposite keep altogether clear from a discussion, I will not say so much of the original merits of the legislation as of the action of the Government in carrying it out. I want to refrain from any reply which raises a Party issue. I will therefore merely say, as regards the general question, that I cannot agree that the comparison which the noble Viscount opposite made, and which, I think, had been made by one or two previous speakers—the comparison between the amount expended in setting up the valuation and the revenue produced by it within a given number of years—is in reality fair. It may be true that the valuation cannot be described as having been made once for all and that therefore this large expenditure cannot entirely represent the whole capital to be devoted to this purpose, but a large portion of that original expenditure ought to be regarded as capital expenditure, for the simple reason that the up—keep, so to speak, of the system in years to come is certain to be, and is recognised as certain to be, on a very much lower scale than that which noble Lords expect.




I am not prepared to enter into a long discussion, either of the probable cost of the Department, or of the revenue likely to be produced; but I should have thought it stood to reason that the amendment of an existing valuation is certain to be infinitely less costly than the making of the original valuation. And as regards the amounts to be produced, we all know how freely the prophecies were issued of the enormous and ruinous sums which would result from these taxes in the cases of those who owned valuable urban land.

I think it is important to point out to the House why it is that an attack levelled at this particular institution does in fact arouse a profound feeling in the minds of a great many people. It is not quite accurate, as my noble friend who has just sat down stated, that it is only a few people holding violent views who are affected by an attack levelled at the principle of valuation. It is by no means only those who are known as the Single Tax group in another place and those who differ from them and regard the land of the country as belonging by right to the community—it is not only those two separate groups, but it is also fair to say, both of the Liberal Party and of the Labour Party throughout the country, that they would regard an attack upon the principle of valuation of land for purposes of special taxation as a definite breach in the Party truce. Noble Lords who have spoken to-night take, as they are quite entitled to take, the opposite view. They dislike the whole system of valuation for purposes of taxation, and they consider that at all times the money which is so expended is wasted money; and there being this Valuation Department in existence, they consider that it offers a reservoir of a certain number of men of military age which ought to be emptied, and also by its destruction the means of releasing some older men for employment and saving a considerable sum of public money. The noble Viscount opposite, going perhaps a little off the line of the original Questions, complained that his Committee was neither allowed to deal with war expenditure nor with the expenditure of this particular Department. As regards war expenditure, I think it is fair to point out to the noble Viscount that much of that expenditure is concerned in the actual conduct of the war abroad, and that the Committee over which he was presiding was not a Committee analogous to that presided over by Mr. Roebuck in the Crimean War, but was simply appointed to advise such saving of expenditure as could take place at home.


My complaint was that the Committee that was allowed to go into it was not appointed for months after, when another £100,000,000 or £200,000,000 had been spent.


What I desire to impress on the House is the extent of feeling which is aroused in a great many minds by the attacks levelled at this Department. Those attacks are not believed to be based in the main on a desire for economy or the necessity of obtaining men to serve in the Forces. They are believed by a very large number, perhaps by the greater number, of the population of this country to be based on a dislike of the system of land valuation for the purposes of taxation. That is the simple fact, and whether you consider it to be reasonable or not it is no use ignoring it. However much individuals like my noble friend opposite may be infinitely more influenced—although I have no doubt that he dislikes land valuation as such—by the desire for economy, or, as some other noble Lords and people outside may be, influenced by the idea of getting 200 or 300 men to serve in the Army, the fact remains that a proportion of people in the country who favour land valuation believe that this debate is not inspired by a desire for economy or for recruits, but by a desire to drive a wedge into the principle of valuing land for purposes of taxation. Therefore the noble Viscount cannot be surprised if it is said by a great many that if this kind of economy is based on a dislike of the activities exercised by a particular Department is going to be carried into effect, other groups of persons who dislike other forms of expenditure or forms of public employment will also put their claims forward.


Let them raise them, by all means.


I will suggest one or two. You will find a considerable party who say, "The manu- facture and sale and distribution of alcoholic drink is pure waste. If you would only prohibit the sale of alcohol you would release a large number of persons, some to serve in the Forces, others to do national work, and you would save untold millions of money." That cannot be disputed. It will be thought by many that in carrying out that result you would inflict a vast amount of injustice on individuals, apart from the discomfort which a large number of others might incur, but you would find a temperance group prepared to take that line. I have no doubt you would find a group—I will not say it is a very large one—which considers that all organised Churches and religious bodies generally represent little more than humbug on one side and credulity on the other. They would say, "Here are a number of able-bodied men who, in order to keep the various Churches at work, are prevented from serving their country. And look also at the vast expenditure which is involved in the conduct of religious services which might be spent on public purposes." Again there is a much larger body of people—to name a subject which was touched on by my noble friend opposite—in this country who consider that education at all times is greatly overdone, that boys and girls are taught far too much very often only with the result of producing discontent with their lot in life, and they would be glad to see the places of young men taken for employment by the older boys, and see the children told off to scare rooks from the farms. If you once allow those who are fanatically interested in some particular institution or in some reform, as they believe it, to be, to represent their case in Parliament or out of it without reference to the excitements that they may cause or to the beliefs that they may outrage, then you will find that Your attempt to maintain a truce as between Parties will be hopeless, and great national mischief, as we believe, will be involved.

The noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Parmoor) asked me one or two questions about the figures of men of military age in the Valuation Department. The figures as I have been given them are not the same as those named by the noble and learned Lord. The figures as I have them are these. The permanent staff of the Office includes 349 men, of whom 118 are serving with the fighting forces, which leaves 231.


The noble Lord (Lord Hylton) said the number left was 234. I took it down at the time. However, it is a small matter.


And from those the Department hope to spare 80 more, which will leave 151. Then of the temporary staff there are the 246 of whom my noble friend spoke. I do not know how many of those are married and how many unmarried and thereby automatically grouped, but assuming the whole 246 are married, it would then be of course a question, as my noble friend pointed out, between them and the military authorities whether they should enlist or not.

On one main argument which has been raised I am entirely in accord with what I take to be the feeling of the House generally—namely, that if it can be proved that any special preference has been shown to this Department over and above that which has been shown to any other Department in the Civil Service, then I should fully admit that noble Lords had a good case. It is quite clear that this Department ought to be treated on the same lines as other Departments. Noble Lords opposite, I know, if they had their way, would treat it infinitely worse, in the sense of bringing it down to a much lower scale; but we, the Government, are prepared to say that it ought to be treated on precisely similar principles, and it ought, therefore, to be cut down to the lowest scale compatible with the retention of the Department, because the Government are not prepared to abolish it altogether during the war.

The noble and learned Lord (Lord Parmoor) laid much emphasis upon the difficulty or impossibility of making a valuation in war time. In some cases I can well believe that to be true, but it appears to me to be an over-statement if applied to the greater area of the land of this country. So far as a great deal of agricultural land is concerned, I am not aware that there would be any present difficulty in valuing it at a figure which would be as fair a figure as any valuation could be; all valuations, of course, being subject to possible fluctuations in the future. Nor should I have thought, when you come to the most valuable town land, that this difficulty would arise. I imagine that land in Lombard-street is neither more nor less valuable than it was before the war or than it will be after the war. There may be cases, I do not dispute for a moment, in which the noble and learned Lord's view is perfectly correct, but I do not think it would be fair to lay it down as a general proposition. But the main argument which the Government desire to advance is this, that if it were possible to suspend the operations of the Department altogether, abolish all expenditure in connection with it, stop all valuations during the course of the war, the reinstatement and re-creation, so to speak, of the Department would be both a difficult and a costly operation. It would be believed by a great many, if the Department were altogether to be suspended now, and also hoped by many, that this complete abolition was what was in view; and, that being so, anything approaching a complete suspension of its activities would be regarded as infringing the truce which has been laid down as between Parties, this being regarded as a Patty question. I would therefore beg the House to remember, however little noble Lords may like the retention of this Department on a vastly reduced scale, as it is, during the war, a scale partly automatically reduced but largely reduced specifically, that this is one of the matters in which a certain give and take in present circumstances is necessary and reasonable.

There are only two other points on which I desire to say a word. As my noble friend opposite (Lord Cromer) said, Lord Oranmore was not correct in ascribing the retention of the Department to any rule, written or unwritten, forbidding the transfer of Civil Servants from one Office to another. There is no such rule, and, as a matter of fact, the transfer is not infrequently made. And even if there were such a rule, I can assure the noble Lord that it would be broken with a light heart in present circumstances. The other specific point to which I wish to draw attention was that of a small error in fact made by the noble Viscount opposite in speaking of a case which was dealt with in the first place by a learned Judge, afterwards by the Court of Appeal, and then in your Lordships' House. Lord Midleton spoke of the appellant in that case as having been "dragged from Court to Court" by the Crown. As a matter of fact, in that particular case in the first Court judgment was given for the Crown, and it was the gentleman himself who appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal gave judgment in his favour, and the Crown then appealed to the House of Lords. That is not altogether unimportant, because it destroys the aspect of persecution which the noble Viscount opposite desired to give to the case.


My Lords, might I ask the noble Marquess one question with regard to what he has said? My noble friend Lord Midleton asked whether it was a fact that a large number of officials who were temporarily employed by the Land Valuation Department were transferred last year and became permanent officials. The noble Marquess said he was anxious that this Department should be treated exactly the same as any other Department. Perhaps he can tell us, first of all, whether that is a fact, and also whether any similar changes have been made in any other Departments during the last year.


I am not entirely cognisant of the facts, but I take it that in the particular instance to which the noble Lord alludes certain permanent members of the staff joined the Forces and that their places were taken by those who had up to that time been temporary members. But I am not acquainted with the terms on which those gentlemen were taken in, and therefore I cannot pretend to answer the noble Lord's question. Perhaps he will put it again.


My Lords, I am sure the noble Marquess will not be surprised if he learns from us that we cannot consider his reply to my noble friend's indictment as satisfactory. The noble Marquess talked a great deal about the truce of Parties and Party questions. Does he realise, do the Government realise, that the county does not care the turning of two straws a bout Parties now? Does he realise that that is a state of things which has passed away?


I never supposed for a moment that the country cared about Parties, but it cares very much about attempts to gain a Party advantage.


The noble Marquess talked about the Party truce. I do not know what he means. I do not care twopence about his Party truce. What we want is to do what we can to help our country in her great need. All the noble Marquess's Party innuendos, which belong to the years which have gone by, are, if he will allow me to say so, utterly out of place in the state of things in which the country finds itself at the present moment. What was one of the main arguments of the noble Marquess? He said you must not bring up this question of undue extravagance because if you do there will be retaliation from the other side, and people who do not like the brewers and who do not like the Church will raise questions with regard to the money which is enjoyed by those bodies and will make it very awkward. Does the noble Marquess really think that is going to affect us for a moment? Does he think that we are so mean that in order to save institutions which we care about we are going to abstain in this matter from what we believe to be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? I am sure that when the noble Marquess comes to think of his speech to-morrow he will realise that it was quite unworthy of him and unworthy of the position he occupies in this House. The real point is, Is this money well spent? Is this money being spent in harmony with the great effort which is being made for thrift and economy throughout the country? That is the point. There is no other.

The noble Lord, Lord Oranmore, made an observation just now by way of interjection at the last moment, and he asked the noble Marquess to reply to one particular point which he had omitted — namely, the transfer of certain temporary employees of this Department to the permanent staff. There were 200 of such gentlemen. They were not transferred before the war, but during the war. They were placed upon this special footing which involved extra charges upon the country at the very moment when the Government were urging that all economy should be practised in public and in private. Some people would call it a "job." That is the method, you will observe, in which the noble Marquess generally makes his innuendos. He does not say he calls a particular thing a bad name, but he says some other people might call it a "job." I use the same method. Does the noble Marquess really think that public opinion would be excited because in your Lordships' House we call attention to a transaction of that kind? He speaks of a large body of public opinion which he says is behind the Government, but I should say it is only behind the Radical members of the Government. One must always make that distinction. The noble Marquess forgets that he is a member of a Coalition Government at the moment.


On the contrary. And may I ask who is it that is raising a Party issue now?


I am trying to reply, very imperfectly I know, to the noble Marquess's speech. Does he really think that the democracy will rise in its thousands because we call attention to the fact that 200 gentlemen, at a time when the Government are making a great plea for economy, are transferred from the temporary to the permanent staff, with all the attendant advantages, and that in a Department which, so far from making money for the country, is a perpetual loss? I can assure him that he is under a complete misapprehension. The democracy does not take the least interest in the Party susceptibilities of the noble Marquess and his friends. What the democracy wants is that justice should be done.

Let me for a moment recall to the noble Marquess the kind of contrast which is going to be felt by numbers of the public. I have been brought into contact with them in several directions, both before the Military Service Act and after. There are numbers who joined the Forces, some of them voluntarily, some of them now compulsorily, who will be, practically speaking, absolutely ruined by what they have done. They have a business; that business is abandoned. It is not merely that they lose the money which they would otherwise have earned during the war, but when they come back after the war is over there will be no business. It will have gone. The whole of their clientèle will have disappeared. These officers and men will be in many respects absolutely ruined, and that is happening in numbers of cases. They have given their lives, some of them; that is common enough in these days, I am glad to say; others have risked their lives, but besides that they have absolutely sacrificed their fortunes. They do that, and then they see 200 comfortable gentlemen in the Land Valuation Department of the Government being placed in war billets at the very time when they are making these tremendous sacrifices. And then the noble Marquess who leads the House gets up and makes a Party speech. I do not think that is the way in which to treat the subject.

The question is this. What is the country making out of this Land Valuation Department? It is making a loss of about £500,000 a year. Is this a time to make a loss of £500,000 a year? If it is not, then the Government ought to come forward and say that they are prepared to make an alteration. I do not think the Government need have any shame about it. They can say they have made a miscalculation. I am not going into the old Parliamentary controversy about the Act. The then Government thought that this was going to be a fiscal success. They said so. My noble friend Lord Midleton quoted a passage from the speech of the Prime Minister, who said it was going to be a "fiscal instrument." It has not been. They have been wrong, but they are not the first people who have been wrong. It is not confined to the Radical Party to be wrong; the Unionist Party have continually been wrong. You have made a mistake and should come and say, "We thought we should make money out of this, but we find we have not." The obvious course then is to say, "We will put an end to it."

I think the Government have been very unwise in the way they have treated this question. They appointed a Committee on Economy. That was a good thing to do. Whenever the Government are in a hole they appoint a Committee. There are rows of them; the whole place is littered with them. But first to appoint a Committee and then to burke it was unwise. To appoint a Committee and then not let it discuss all the relevant matter was the act of a very weak Government. The thing they ought to have done was not only to have appointed that Committee but to have done everything they could to make it success. But I suppose because they were afraid of some kind of retaliation, of which the noble Marquess has told us to-day, they prevented the Committee from discussing what it ought to have discussed.

What ought the Government now to do? The noble Marquess told us at the end of his speech what they ought to do. He pointed out that Lord Oranmore had made a mistake when he said that there was a difficulty about the transfer of Civil Servants front one Department to another. The noble Marquess has swept away the only difficulty that remains. All that the Government have to do is to transfer temporarily—that is all they are asked to do—the officials who are working in this Department to the other Departments of the State which really do require in a number of cases a large number of employees. They would thus put an end for the period of the war to this grave expenditure, and they would meet the difficulties which have been so well pointed out by my noble friend (Lord Midleton) in the debate this evening. I suggest that as the proper course which they ought to adopt. I can assure the noble Marquess that my noble friend Lord Midleton cannot let the matter rest. He has brought it forward in this House; but it will have to be referred to in both Houses of Parliament, and it must be settled. I suggest to the noble Marquess that when he comes to think of it he will see the wisdom of adopting the course which I and other speakers have ventured to suggest, and of showing that the Government are really in earnest when they urge the country to economise and when they point out that public and private thrift is almost the most important difficulty the country has to meet in this time of crisis.