§ Mr. WATT
asked the Secretary to the Treasury (1) what is the Licence Duty exigible annually from solicitors in Scotland for permission to practice; whether this was orginally imposed as a war tax, and, if so, at what date; whether any solicitors have during the last two years been imprisoned for non-payment; and whether, in any of these cases, they offered the Government to pay the licences but were unable to pay the costs of the prosecutions; and (2) whether the three solicitors who were imprisoned in Scotland for non-payment of costs connected with prosecutions for not taking out licences to pursue their calling pleaded and proved poverty as their excuse: and whether he can give any other cases where debtors have been imprisoned at the instance of the Government during the last two years when inability to pay has been definitely proved?
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
An annual duty on certificates to practice as a solicitor was first introduced by Mr. Pitt in 1785, not apparently as a war tax, but as a permanent part of the fiscal system. The 469W present duties in Scotland are £9 or £8, according to whether the practice is carried on within or outside the city or shire of Edinburgh. If the practice has been carried on for less than three years the duties are £4 10s. and £3, respectively. The three solicitors who have been imprisoned for non-payment of the fine imposed by the Court have each of them pleaded lack of means as an excuse for not taking out a certificate, but have not proved it. In one case an offer was made to pay the duty without the fine or costs and was not accepted. Poverty would not be regarded as purging an infringement of the revenue law, although it is a circumstance which, if proved, would be taken into account in dealing with the case.