§ Order for Committee read.
* MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lyun Regis)
, rising to a point of Order, said, he desired to take the ruling of the Speaker upon a very simple, but rather serious, point, the importance of which the House would appreciate when he stated it. He charged the Finance Bill with having gone beyond the Resolution upon which it was founded. Standing Order 58 laid down that the House would not proceed upon any Bill for granting money except upon a Resolution passed in Committee of the whole House. Accordingly, Resolutions had been passed, and the Preamble of this Bill set forth that the Commons had "freely and voluntarily resolved to give and grant the several duties hereinafter mentioned." But on examination it would appear that one of the several duties imposed by the Bill had not been resolved upon by the Commons—he alluded to the increased Succession Duty embodied in Clause 15. That clause provided for a very great extra charge on real property by way of Succession Duty, since it provided that the value of the succession should be taken for the purpose of tax, not, as at present, on the value of an annuity of the net annual value, but on the principal value of the property. Taking as an illustration the average age of suc- 1201 cessors at 44, their interest would, under the present law, be represented by 14 years' purchase or thereabouts, and the charge would be on £14,000 odd; but if the same succession were to be taxed, as the Bill proposed, on its "principal value," that would be represented by 24 2–5th years' purchase, or £24,400, an increase of charge on over £10,000, and the duty payable would be, under Clause 15, far heavier than at present. But that was not all. This duty at present was paid by half-yearly instalments, and the successor practically got 4½ years credit. But Clause 15 required that the duty should be paid within 12 months, or else that interest should be paid on the unpaid balance at the rate of 3 per cent. per annum. His position was that the clause did make a great increase in the duty, and that no Resolution had been passed in Committee of Ways and Means upon which the clause could be founded. If objection were made that this point should have been taken before Second Reading, he would point out that the practice was to allow errors which could be cured in Committee to be so remedied. But this was an error which could not be cured in Committee. It was a vice of origin. The defect was that Clause 15 had not the foundation to stand on— a Resolution—which it should have. It might be held that the House could not, under the words of the Standing Order, proceed with this Bill, inasmuch us it did not originate in Committee of the whole House, and that it might be necessary to discharge the Order for going into Committee, and to withdraw the Bill. He hoped, however, that the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair would take a more merciful view of the Standing Order and would rule that the House might proceed with the Bill from Clause 1 to Clause 14. He submitted, however, that when the House reached Clause 15 it would find itself without the necessary Resolution required by the Standing Order, and that before that clause was reached, therefore a further Resolution would be absolutely necessary. He desired to obtain the right hon. Gentleman's ruling upon this important point of Order.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
It is important that the Resolution passed in Committee of Ways and Means should cover exactly 1202 all the provisions of the Bill subsequently introduced, and the hon. Gentleman has done right in referring to the importance of the matter, and also, I think, in drawing attention to that particular clause, Clause 15. In my opinion, the original Resolution in Committee of Ways and Means, upon which this Bill is founded, did not contemplate the extra imposition of duty which may be involved by the operation of Clause 15. Under these circumstances, it will be necessary not to withdraw the whole Bill, as the hon. Member seems to contemplate, but, before we come to the clause, to go into Committee of Ways and Means and adopt a new Resolution which will cover the particular clause. But as the hon. Gentleman has referred to the possibility of withdrawing the whole Bill, I may say that in 1881 in the Customs and Inland Revenue Bill of that year there were two clauses which were not covered by the original Resolution in Committee of Ways and Means—namely, those which related to the Stamp Duties on the transfer of property and to the Stamp Duty on the transfer of Stocks and Shares; and the consequence was that, before considering those two clauses, the House went again into Committee of Ways and Means and passed two sub-sequent Resolutions covering those clauses. Therefore, when Clause 15 is reached, the House will take no cognizance of it, unless a Resolution of the Committee of Ways and Means authorising the additional duties imposed by the clause has been previously agreed to. It will be necessary for the House to go into Committee of Ways and Means and pass a Resolution that will cover the additional duties before the Committee can consider the clause.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir W. HARCOURT)
I thank you, Sir, for the clear explanation you have given to the House upon this point. The hon. Member was perfectly right in calling attention to what was certainly an oversight. The view taken by the Government when this Resolution was drawn up was that, as the Succession and Legacy Duties were not interfered with in the way of raising the rate, it was not necessary to deal more specifically with them in the general Resolution which was passed. But the fact was overlooked that, although the duties were 1203 not raised, the result of the method of assessment would be to raise, in many cases, additional sums. Under these circumstances, it will be necessary to have the general Resolution made more specific, so as to apply to the Succession Duty and covering and providing for the alteration in the method of assessment and the levying of that duty. I will take care that at the proper time that matter shall be brought forward in Committee of Ways and Means, and that the Resolution shall be so drawn as to remove any doubt upon the subject and make the clause regular.
§ MR. GOSCHEN (St. George's,) Hanover Square
Sir, I rise to a point of Order. It is necessary that the matter should be brought forward as soon as possible, and I therefore desire to ask the right hon. Gentleman when he will be able to bring on the Resolution. Until we know whether the Resolution will be carried it will be difficult for us to estimate the full effect of the Succession Duty. That Resolution is necessary to the Government proposal as a whole, and though it may not be necessary to withdraw the Bill, I venture to urge that it is desirable to bring the Resolution forward at the earliest possible moment, in order that we may be in possession of the decision of the House in Committee upon a point which it seems to me is of very considerable importance.
§ SIR J. LUBBOCK (Loudon University)
moved—That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to divide the Bill into two parts, and in the first place to report to the House the portion relating to Customs and Inland Revenue.He said, the course proposed by the Government would establish a bad precedent, and deprive the House of Commons of its just right to have every distinct subject presented separately for debate and decision in a distinct Bill. To find a real precedent they must go back more than 100 years. If hon. Members would look at Clause 37 and compare it with the Preamble of the Bill they would at once see how incongruous it was. The Preamble recited that certain provisions were to be enacted— 1204Towards raising the necessary Supplies to defray the public expenses and making an addition to the Public Revenue;but Clause 37 had nothing to do with raising Supplies or with making an addition to the Public Revenue; it did not grant any Revenue, nor was it covered by any part of the Preamble; it dealt with a totally different subject, and one of great importance. It dealt with the Suez Canal shares and the interest on the loans for Imperial and Naval Defence in a way which had no relation to the Preamble. That was under Sub-section 3. With regard to Sub-section 4 there was nothing to constitute a charge upon the Consolidated Fund. Then the next Subsection 5 was a repealing section. None of those sub-sections had anything whatever to do with the Preamble of the Bill. He did not say that the Bill was actually out of Order, because he presumed it was covered by the ruling of the Speaker that this was not a question exactly of Order, but one of policy which it was desirable for the House to adopt. What were the precedents? In 1787 Mr. Pitt included in one Bill the provisions for raising new duties consequent on the Treaty with France—those to effect the consolidation of the duties of Customs and Excise, and a provision relating to the Debt. As regarded the Treaty there were considerable differences of opinion, and Mr. Bastard moved an Instruction to divide the Bill into two, because it was unconstitutional to combine two separate objects in one Bill, and by that means deprive Members of their undoubted right to discuss and vote on each subject separately. To put the Commercial Treaty under convoy, so to say, of the part relating to the consolidation of duties, was a most pernicious example of coupling distinct considerations which ought to be kept separate. He was supported by a man whose words ought to carry great weight with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary for Scotland. Mr. Fox, in supporting the Motion, said—Not only had their constituents a right to know the reason that governed their votes upon each separate and distinct measures, but they, as Representatives, had a right to insist that their reasons for voting upon every distinct measure should be known; and in the present case it was impossible for their reason to go to their constituents. They might be called one day to vote for the Bill on account of the consolidation of dutes being approved, and the 1205 next day to vote against it on account of the Commercial Treaty being disapproved.Then, quoting from Hansard, Sir Grey Cooper, in the course of the Debate, referred to several precedents of cases from 1680 to 1774, and averred that whenever two distinct matters had been combined in one Bill, an Instruction for separation had never been refused. Those earlier precedents were not available in Hansard, and he had not been able to obtain them, but the statement of Sir Grey Cooper was not challenged as inaccurate. Mr. Pitt, however, he need not say, carried his point. It seemed, however, to have been generally felt that the course taken was unconstitutional, and there was no repetition of the precedent until the year 1861, if, indeed, that could be called a precedent. In the previous year the abolition of the Paper Duties, which had been carried in that House on the Third Reading by a majority of nine only, was thrown out in the House of Lords, and in 1861 the repeal of the Paper Duties was voted in Committee of Ways and Means, instead of being inserted in a separate Pill. On the Second Reading of the Customs and Inland Revenue Bill, Mr. Pope Hennessy raised the point; but the Speaker, without expressing any opinion on the policy, ruled that, though the proposals of the Government went in some respects beyond the service of the year, they were all required for the service of the year. It would, however, be observed that the course now proposed went far beyond the case of 1861, because, after all, the provisions of that year referred to duties, while the present Bill dealt with questions having no relation whatever to duties. The only other case approaching to a precedent which he had been able to find was in 1877, when a provision of minor importance relating to savings banks was introduced into the Customs and Inland Revenue Bill. He was not sure whether in that year any proposal was made to divide the Bill. He would not pretend to say that there might not be some other precedent, but, unless the Chancellor of the Exchequer could cite some, it would seem that the precedent of 1787 was the only one since 1680. Surely the fact that there was only one precedent in 200 years, and that more than a century ago, was a strong reason against the course 1206 which the Government asked the House to adopt. But if there were no precedents for the course taken by the Government, there were plenty the other way. He would refer only to two. In 188o, when Mr. Childers thought it necessary to suspend for a year the Sinking Fund, he introduced his proposal in a separate Bill; and in the following year, 1886, when his right hon. Friend the present Chancellor of the Exchequer held the Office he now held, he also suspended for a time the Sinking Fund, and thought it necessary and right to do so in a separate Bill. If it was right that those matters should be dealt with in a separate Bill when the Budget proposals were simple, it was surely far more important in the case of a Budget which contained matters much more complex, much more doubtful, and much more debateable. Moreover, the present proposal made a permanent change, while that of 1886 affected only the year itself. He maintained, then, that there was only one precedent in 200 years, and that more than a century ago; that the clause dealing with the income of the Suez Canal shares and the two Defence Acts had nothing to do with imposing taxes or levying duties, which was the proper function of the Committee of Ways and Means; and that they could not be fairly described as raising supplies or making an addition to the Public Revenue. In fact, Clause 37, which raised questions of great importance, was entirely out of place in a Ways and Means Bill. If they allowed the Bill to go on as it was, following obsolete precedents, they would be setting a bad example, and for those reasons he begged to move the Instruction which stood in his name.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to divide the Bill into two parts, and in the first place to report to the House the portion relating to Customs and Inland Revenue."—(Sir J. Lubbock.)
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I have some difficulty in understanding the object of the Motion of my right hon. Friend, because, as regards the actual proposal as to the Sinking Fund, there is, as far as I know, no serious opposition in this House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, in his criticisms of the other parts of the Bill, took care to invite 1207 me to adopt the course of treating the moneys under the Naval Defence Act as part of the Debt, and therefore, so far as the substance of that proposal is concerned, it may be taken as agreed upon by all Parties. My right hon. Friend says, "Oh, but it is right and proper that every separate subject in finance should be discussed in separate Bills." I take issue with him on that. As a matter of fact, the rule is exactly the opposite. It is very remarkable that my right hon. Friend should have found it necessary to attack the financial policy of Tory statesmen for the last 100 years. He attacked Mr. Pitt's Budget—the greatest ever known. I will read to the House what the title of that Budget was, and then the House will judge how far we have departed from traditions and established principles of finance in this country. Now, the title of the Budget Bill of Mr. Pitt was this—An Act for repealing several duties of the Customs and Excise, and approving other duties in lieu thereof, for permitting the importation of certain goods, wares, and merchandise into this country, and for applying certain unclaimed moneys remaining in the Exchequer for the payment of annuities on lives in reduction of the National Debt.My right hon. Friend denounced Mr. Pitt. I have not the courage to do that.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
At all events, my right hon. Friend disapproved of Mr. Pitt's proposals. If my right hon. Friend will allow me to say so, I prefer to err with Mr. Pitt rather than be right with my right hon. Friend. There grew up, no doubt, afterwards a practice under which different taxes were placed in different Bills. In 1860 the House of Lords took advantage of that situation to reject the Paper Duties Bill, and to, in fact, destroy in that way the financial proposals of that year. During the Administration of Lord Palmerston a Committee was appointed to consider how to deal with that action of the House of Lords. There were many recommendations made upon the subject, and among them one which specially commended itself to the House of Commons. And here again my right hon. Friend comes into conflict with a Tory statesman. Having disapproved of Mr. Pitt's, he now disapproves of Mr. Disraeli's plan. Mr. Disraeli said, in July, 1860— 1208I come now to the second method of defending our rights,—that is, the rights of the House of Commons, which had been imperilled and injured—the second method suggested by my right hon. Friend, and, I take it. adopted in the Resolution;—that was, a Resolution of the House of Commons in defence of their rights against the House of Lords—that is, by insisting that the whole of our financial scheme shall be embodied in one Bill.—that was condemning the principle for which my right hon. Friend contends—We do not—at least I for one and the Prime Minister for another do not—question the right of the House of Lords to reject such a Bill; but, of course, the responsibility for such a step would under these circumstances be greatly enhanced, and the difficulty of disturbing the financial arrangements of the House of Commons proportionately increased. For my own part. Sir, I have no objection to such a course; I should have liked, for example, that that course should have been pursued this year; I should have liked to have had the whole scheme of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in one Bill.That was the course approved by Mr. Disraeli in 1860, and that was the course adopted in 1861, when the precedents were fully discussed. Lord Russell made a statement then with reference to Mr. Pitt's action in 1787 in the great Budget referred to. This is what Lord Russell said on May 13, 1861—Next year came the memorable Act to which my right hon. Friend has alluded. It was a year in which Mr. Pitt accomplished very great public objects. By means of a Commercial Treaty he settled our relations with France upon a footing likely to tend to the benefit of both countries, and by an elaborate and minute investigation of the Customs and Excise he framed 3,700 Resolutions, by which the various Excise and Customs Duties were reduced under a single and separate head. A Bill was introduced and sent to the House of Lords embracing the Commercial Treaty; and, likewise, a measure of consolidation. He also-imposed a tax by that Bill. When that Bill went to the House of Lords it was argued by Lord Carlisle, 'There are three different objects: We may approve the Commercial Treaty; we may not approve the consolidation; above all, we may object to the tax. Let the Bill be divided, and do not let the House go into Committee.' But he was answered by Lord Sydney, who at that time was Secretary of State, All these matters belong to one arrangement, and tend to one end.' That is, in fact, the question in the present Bill. These different matters all form part of one arrangement, and tend to 1209 one end—namely, the settlement of the finance of the year.From that time to this that has been the accepted doctrine, and it must still be accepted if the House of Commons intends to preserve its rights over the finance of this country. I begin to suspect why it is that the right hon. Gentleman, with the support of hon. Members opposite, wants to go back to the system under which the House of Lords was able to overthrow the finance of the year. Hon. Members opposite want to go back to a system which was condemned by a Committee of this House, by Mr. Disraeli, by Lord Palmerston, and by Lord John Russell—the principle of not putting the whole of the financial proposals for the year into one Bill. The right hon. Baronet said that the case of M. Pitt is the only precedent, but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian quoted cases previous to that where such powers have been given. He quoted the Act of George I., in which the granting of the taxes was based on the Act itself, with full authority to levy Exchequer bills; and there are a number of other instances with which I need not trouble the House, in which measures relating to the Debt have been put into a Bill with the same Preamble as that the right hon. Baronet has referred to as being inconsistent with treating different financial proposals in different Bills. It is a remarkable thing that in 1861 the very Motion that is made now by the right hon. Gentleman was made by Mr. Newdegate, who was not fortunate enough to get the support of the responsible Opposition of the day. He moved—That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to divide the Bill so that each of the taxes to which it relates can be treated separately.That is the view that was taken at that time The right hon. Baronet having the same Motion, I may mention to him that Mr. Newdegate—
§ SIR J. LUBBOCK
That is not the same Motion as mine. I propose that all taxes should be taken together, but that the part of the Bill that has nothing to do with taxes should be taken separately.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
The right hon. Gentleman's arguments were against that. What does the Motion of the 1210 right hon. Gentleman suggest? Why, that whether the matter referred to is a tax or a question like this, dealing with £2,300,000, this House should place in the hands of the House of Lords the power of ruining the, whole of the financial arrangements of the year by rejecting one of the Bills into which it is proposed to divide the proposals contained in the Budget Bill. This, of course, is the object to which the Motion of the right hon. Baronet is directed. I have shown how the right hon. Gentleman has disapproved the conduct of Mr. Pitt and the words of Mr. Disraeli; and, as I have said, Lord John Russell declared:—These different matters all form part of one arrangement, and tend to one end—namely, the settlement of the finance of the year.A little later on there was an Act passed relating to Customs and Inland Revenue, and in this Act Savings Banks were included. Savings Banks cannot be said to have anything to do with taxes, and yet the two came under the same Preamble. The Preamble of that Act. says that Her Majesty's faithful Commons have resolved to give and grant unto Her Majesty the several duties mentioned in the measure, and under that Preamble there is found a whole section dealing with Savings Banks, and therefore affecting the Debt. In this case we have again an instance of a Conservative Minister bringing in a Bill relating to Customs and Inland Revenue, and including proposals relating to Debt in the form of Savings Banks. That is a complete answer to every argument that has been used by the right hon. Gentleman. His argument from the Preamble disappears altogether. Before I framed this Bill I took great care to ascertain that it was founded upon sound precedents, and I have not yet exhausted the list of them. In 1880 (on March 11) Sir S. Northcote introduced a Bill relating to the Probate and Administration Duties which had not formed part of the Budget and which had not formed part of the Financial Statement, and he, having the Budget Bill and this Bill in existence, said—What I would now propose to do would be to read the new Bill a second time concurrently with the Budget Bill, and then to move that there should be an Instruction given to the Committee to amalgamate the Bills into one, so that the practice, the very proper practice, of 1211 this House having all its financial arrangements in one Bill and sending them up to the other House in that form may be preserved.Here, then, you have a Conservative statesman who amalgamates two Bills in order that the financial arrangements of the year might go up to the House of Lords in one measure. But now you are proposing to upset the whole practice and the principle established in 1787 by Mr. Pitt, and maintained in 1880 by Sir S. Northcote, in order, apparently, that you may give the House of Lords control over the finance of the country. You seek to separate the Bill in order that with impunity the House of Lords may reject part of it; yet every precedent, every authority, is in favour not of separating, but of amalgamating all the measures relating to the finance of the year. I have indicated one object which may be aimed at by this Resolution; but there is another, and that is, that it would waste a great deal of time. If you could succeed in having two Bills you would have two separate Statements, two Committees, two Reports, and two Third Readings. You could waste a number of days by this process of separation. I confess that one of the great: objects of the procedure which we have adopted is to economise the time of the House. I think that it is for the public advantage that the House of Commons should keep absolute and entire control of the finances of this country. It was found necessary to establish that principle in 1860 when it had been violated in the case of the Paper Duties. But there are special reasons, in my opinion, in the case of the present Budget why we should not place the Bill and the finance of the country at the mercy of the House of Lords, and there are special reasons also why we should make such arrangements as will prevent any unnecessary waste of the time of the House. My right hon. Friend says that the House ought to be able to deal with each of the items contained in the Bill individually and separately. Well, so we can. Hon. Members who disapprove of the contents of any clause can move its rejection or propose some modification of it. No practical evil can arise from the manner in which this Bill has been put together, and I am glad to-know that the plan which we have followed of combining in one Bill the whole financial arrangements of the 1212 year has the entire approval of my right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian. That being so, I do hope that hon. Members will reject this Motion for an Instruction, which, if adopted, would imperil the financial supremacy of the House of Commons and lead to a great waste of public time.
§ MR. GOSCHEN (St. George's,) Hanover Square
I do not know whether any Member on either side of the House remembered when the right hon. Gentleman was declaiming as to the motive at the bottom of this Instruction and dealing with what he considered to be the precedents, that he himself on a similar occasion, before he was as orthodox as he is with regard to the Sinking Fund, suspended the Sinking Fund and took the course of dealing with the National Debt in a separate Bill instead of combining it with the Budget. That was in 1886. I observe that the right hon. Gentleman spoke in an undertone when he said there were precedents the other way, and he was evidently too modest to speak on the precedent he had himself established. Is it not preposterous on the part of the right hon. Gentleman to say that this Motion is introduced for the purpose of enabling the House of Lords to obtain more power? Does the right hon. Gentleman really think it? If so, did he think it when he took the course I have mentioned—in 1886? It has been invariably the custom, without a single exception, since 1787, that when the Sinking Fund or the National Debt has been dealt with it has been dealt with in a separate Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) approves of bringing the whole finance of the year into one Bill, but the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) sanctioned the principle of the Sinking Fund being dealt with separately in 1885 (in the time of Mr. Childers), and he again sanctioned that course in 1886, when the present Chancellor of the Exchequer set the example of suspending Sinking Funds. I do not believe the right hon. Gentleman "was serious in those passages in which he referred to the House of Lords. In these later years of democratic government, whenever the right hon. Gentleman can find an opportunity of flaunting the red flag of the House of Lords before his 1213 Party he never misses it, and so wrapped up is the right hon. Gentleman in his favourite pursuit that he abandons that function he performs with much greater ability and dignity—namely, that of a Constitutional lawyer. I think that anyone who has studied the Constitutional precedents with regard to the National Debt would, not on account of the House of Lords but on account. of the privileges of the House of Commons, have taken the course taken by the right hon. Member for Midlothian during the whole of his career. The right hon. Gentleman quoted precedents, and how well they must have sounded to his own friends and to anyone not acquainted with the other side ! In the celebrated case of 1787 no allusion was made in the Debates to the comparatively small point of interest on Annuities being devoted to the reduction of the National Debt. I have read carefully much of what has been written on the subject. The point is that Lord Palmerston, Mr. Disraeli, Lord Carlisle, and all the other authorities the right hon. Gentleman has quoted as speaking of bringing the whole finance of the year into one Bill were simply dealing with taxes or the repeal of taxes upon the people, and there was no question whatever of dealing with the National Debt. I think, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman was scarcely candid in endeavouring to induce the House to believe that this was covered by the phrase "the whole financial business of the year." The context shows distinctly that it was a question of taxation or the repeal of taxation or matters connected with Inland Revenue, and that the National Debt was not in the mind of the Chancellor of the Exchequer of those days, and I challenge any colleague of the right hon. Gentleman to find in the Debates any sanction for the course now pursued by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in dealing with the National Debt in a Customs and Inland Revenue Bill. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to produce any precedent since 1787. There is no other precedent. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the case in which Sir Stafford North-cote amalgamated his taxation Bills in one measure. In that case, however, a dissolution had been announced a few days previously, and it was thought desirable to make as much 1214 progress as possible. On hurried action under such circumstances as those the right hon. Gentleman wishes to build a precedent. I must warn the House against being misled by the phrase, "The whole financial arrangements of the year." Is that which he introduces into this Bill—this repeal of the financial parts of the Imperial Defence Act and the Naval Defence Act—part of the finance of the year? Is it part of the financial arrangements of the year? No. In this Bill the right hon. Gentleman repeals the financial arrangements of these two important Bills, and for that he ought to find a precedent. The right hon. Gentleman treats the matter in the lightest possible way and jokes—because he cannot, I am sure, have meant it seriously—about our making this Motion in the interest of the House of Lords. But is there not a serious side to the precedent the right hon. Gentleman is setting? Hitherto dealings with the National Debt have been considered sufficiently important to be dealt with in separate measures. I say that the House of Commons have a right, and hon. Members opposite will in future wish, I am sure, to retain that right, to maintain the whole of their privileges with regard to action relating to the Sinking Fund and the National Debt. I put it to supporters of the Government whether, if they were in Opposition, they would be glad to see such questions hidden away in the very last clauses of a complicated Bill such as that before the House? The right hon. Gentleman says we have got the Second Heading. No, we have not got the Second Reading. But supposing we had, the right hon. Gentleman could not assume that we should have assented to this proposal, and we could only dissent from it by voting against the whole of the Budget, part of which we might have approved. This shows the difficulty that is occasioned by putting the two subjects into one Bill. What I wish to put very seriously to hon. Members is this: Are they going to depart from the precedents which have been followed with regard to the National Debt since 1787—by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, as much as by anyone else? As for the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman about the House of Lords getting their powers increased in consequence of the steps we 1215 are taking, such a notion never entered into the thoughts of the Opposition for a moment. We were bound to take the course we have taken, and I am sure that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been in our place he would have taken the same course. I have had to deal several times with the National Debt, but I never ventured to include it in a Budget Bill. Such a course would have been very convenient, but I am sure that the great constitutional lawyer who now leads the House would have seen in it a departure from constitutional precedent, and would have made quite as strong a speech as he has done this evening, but without introducing the spice of the House of Lords. In the interests of precedent and of preserving to the House of Commons full opportunity of dealing with measures affecting the National Debt and the Sinking Fund, I shall support the Motion of my right hon. Friend.
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had used very strong language about the special merits of having the whole financial arrangements of one year in one Bill. But how had the right hon. Gentleman managed to scrape up his small balance of last year? He had done it by introducing a special Bill by which he was enabled to take a sum of £300,000 out of the Treasury Chest. The right hon. Gentleman allowed that Bill to run the gauntlet of the House of Lords. It came very badly from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to dilate with such virtue on his past history when last year he broke the very rules which he now laid down. There appeared to be something more at the bottom of the matter than the putting of the whole of the financial arrangements of the year into one Bill. He fully agreed that it was desirable to put the whole of the taxation of the year into one Bill. The present Bill, however, did a great deal more than provide for the finance of the year. He was by no means inclined to be entirely bound by precedent, but he thought that when precedent went back as far as it did in the present case it should receive some attention. The clauses concerning the Suez Canal, the Naval Defence Act, and the suspension of the Sinking Fund were in no way a necessary part of the Budget Bill. He himself most emphatically objected to the suspension of the Sinking 1216 Fund. Ever since 1886, when the right hon. Gentleman (Sir W. Harcourt) was in Opposition, there had been no stauncher opponent than he of any attack on the Sinking Fund, and he (Mr. Bartley) had always supported the right hon. Gentleman even in attacking the late Government for interfering with the Sinking Fund. There were a great many Members in the House who protested against any interference with the Sinking Fund. The right hon. Gentleman last year departed from the high principle which he now laid down. If it was necessary last year to have a special Bill to enable the right hon. Gentleman to appropriate £300,000, without which he would have absolutely had a deficiency in the last year's revenue, why should he assert that those Members who were arguing that there should be a separate Bill for touching the Sinking Fund were simply doing so because they wished the House of Lords to throw it out? That was an insinuation that the right hon. Gentleman ought not to have made. It might sound very well on a platform at Derby or elsewhere, but it was not the remark of a statesman in any sense. Of course, it was desirable that all the taxation for the year should be included in one Bill; but this present Bill did a great deal more than provide for the finances of the year. The clause concerning the Suez Canal, the Naval Defence Act, and the Suspension of the Sinking Fund, were in no way taxation, or a necessary part of the Budget Bill. No doubt it would be possible to include anything in it by making reference to the clauses in the title; but the principle was thoroughly unsound. He trusted that, as the question involved was a constitutional one, the Committee would go to a Division on it. They ought to have some explanation from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to why he had changed his position, and why he did this year what last year he declared it would be wickedness to do. They had a right to think that there was something behind this Motion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he and his friends should certainly resist the attempt to override the judgment of the House.
§ MR. JACKSON (Leeds, N.)
I think some answer should be made to the right hon. Gentleman, who, the House 1217 must feel, demolished entirely the only excuse the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer ventured to put forward for the course he has taken this Session. The precedents he cited show clearly enough that the course taken on this occasion is without precedent. The right hon. Gentleman has not only dealt with the taxes for the year, but, as my right hon. Friend has pointed out, he deals also with the National Debt in the same Bill. I venture to say that even the title of the Bill, which isto grant certain duties and customs and inland revenue, and to make other provision for the financial arrangements of the year,shows that it will make financial arrangements which have no reference to this year whatever. They will extend far beyond the present year. Among other things, what does the Bill do? It repeals three separate Acts of Parliament that were passed at three separate times in three separate Bills, and which have no reference whatever to the Customs and Inland Revenue Bill of the year. I remember the indignation of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer against my right hon. Friend when he proposed to deal with the Beer Duties, and I know how my right hon. Friend was forced to commit himself to a statement that the money was to be dealt with within the financial year in the Bill passed that Session. It was ruled against him that he could not hang up a certain sum of money it was proposed to set aside. The right hon. Gentleman will admit it was necessary to bring in a separate Bill to call in aid the balances of the Treasury Chest.
§ MR. JACKSON
Then the right hon. Gentleman took a very unnecessary course. We may at all events conclude that he thought it was desirable to bring in a separate Bill in order to avoid the raising of the question which is now being raised. I think the Government might have attempted to offer some defence for departing from all precedents since 1787. I think they have treated my right hon. Friend with scant courtesy in leaving without any reply whatever the very serious indictment he brought against the Government.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
said, he wished to ask, as a private Mem- 1218 ber, if the Government would not give some explanation? It was obviously necessary that the control of the National Debt should be kept as a separate arrangement from the other Budget proposals of the Government. Strong arguments had been urged why that should be done, and yet no kind of reply had been offered by the Government. This conspiracy of silence could not answer. An explanation would have to be given by the Government either on this or on some other occasion.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
The point that has been raised is not a large or important one. I think everything that could be said has been said on both sides; and that is the only reason why there has been no reply to the speech referred to.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 121; Noes 161.—(Division List, No. 51.)
The following Instructions also stood on the Paper:—
Sir Michael Hicks-Beach,—On Order for Committee on Finance Bill being read, to move, That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to insert provisions in the Bill altering the Composition Duty so that it shall be made to correspond with the Death Duties chargeable under the Bill upon property belonging to individuals.
Mr. Grant Lawson,—On Order for Committee on Finance Bill being read, to move, That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to insert provisions in the Bill to enable existing settlements of property affected by the Bill to be modified.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
There are two more Instructions on the Paper, but they are not in Order, inasmuch as they are not covered by any Resolution adopted by the House in Committee of Ways and Means. The first raises a charge on property, and that can only be done by Resolution sanctioned in Committee of Ways and Means. The second, dealing with settlements, is not, I think, within the purview of the Bill, and it has not been covered by any previous Resolution sanctioned in Committee of Ways and Means.
§ Bill considered in Committee. (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1.
§ SIR J. LUBBOCK
rose to move, in page 1, line 16, after "every," to insert,person who may receive any property real or personal from any.
said, this Amendment was out of Order. It would increase the existing Legacy Duty, and change the nature of it and the persons who paid it, and there had been no preliminary Resolution passed empowering the House to make what would he equivalent to an increase of Legacy Duty.
§ SIR J. LUBBOCK
Whether it would increase the Legacy Duty would surely depend upon a subsequent part of the clause to which we have not come as yet.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
I need hardly say that I do not desire to dispute your ruling, but it throws the whole discussion of the Bill into a form never contemplated by any gentleman on this side of the House, and makes it absolutely imperative that the Government should without further delay bring forward the terms of the Resolution which is required, as the Speaker has ruled, for Clause 15 of the Bill. I think I shall prove what I have to say on this point, and I hope the Government will take into account the special difficulties and circumstances in which we find themselves. Our view has been—and we expressed it upon the Second Reading of the Bill—and is, that the proper and equitable way of dealing with the question of the Death Duties is by making this portion of the charge fall upon the person who receives the money, and not to charge the duty upon the corpus of the person who had the money once, but who, being dead, has it no longer. We have always maintained and still contemplate bringing forward Amendments to carry out that principle. As I understand the ruling of the Chairman, it will be difficult, if not almost impossible, to raise this question by way of Amendment, and our sole resource in dealing with the situation will be to discuss and to divide against every clause in which the corpus of the property is dealt with; but that is not a very convenient way of proceeding, nor is it consistent with the dignity of the Committee. This is a most important point. The Government bring in their Bill without even a sufficient number of Resolutions to cover the Bill itself, and they announce their intention of com- 1220 pleting the work of bringing in the necessary Resolutions at some late and at present undefined date. We want to know whether they will not bring in the Resolution at once, so that we may be able to draft our Amendment to cover this alteration of duty? The right hon. Gentleman will see that if we are precluded by the Rules of the House from converting his duty on the corpus of the property into a duty on the amount of the legacy received by the individual legatee we are practically reduced to a voting machine for one of the main principles involved in the Bill. We may vote against the Government, but we are incapable of amending their proposal. That is not consistent with the dignity of the Committee nor with the carrying on the business of the Committee in a business-like spirit. I quite feel, Sir, that you had no choice but to give the ruling you did upon the point; but how are we to get out of the difficulty we are thereby placed in? The only way is that we should have some opportunity of having a Resolution brought forward by the Government to enable us to raise this point. We can hardly ask them to do that; but at all events let them bring forward their own Resolutions, which they must bring forward, and which will enable us to discuss the Amendments down on the Paper on this very point. The right hon. Gentleman has not told us in what terms he means to move the subsequent Resolution, and I propose we should adjourn the further discussion of this matter until we know the terms of the Resolution of the Government and until we see whether we cannot move an Amendment to the Resolution which would enable us to deal with a subject which everybody in the Committee, whether he agrees with our view or not, must admit to be germane to the Bill, intimately bound up with the whole principle of the Bill, of a character which every Opposition has a right to discuss, and which, so far as we can see, not only have they a right to discuss, but to press on the Government as being the logical conclusion of their own theory of finance. That being so, feeling the position in which we have been placed by the unexpected ruling made from the Chair, and feeling the position is one which makes further discussion almost useless to-night, I beg now to move that you report Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.')
§ MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)
On a question of Order, I wish to ask whether a Motion to report Progress can he made without any Question being before the Chair? In order that a. Debate may be adjourned there must, I submit, be some Question before the Chair.
The right hon. Gentleman has concluded his statement by moving to report Progress, which is the Question now before the Chair.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Sir, any pretext to waste time seems to be sufficient for some hon. Members; but of all pretexts to waste time, in my opinion, the most mischievous is when the Leader of the Opposition, in order to attack the Chairman of Committees' ruling, moves to report Progress because he does not approve of it. The most injurious course to the conduct of the House of Commons is that which the right hon. Gentleman has just set the example of taking. What is the case? Every man acquainted with the Rules of the House must know that the proposal which has been ruled out of Order was obviously out of Order. The plan of the Bill is to charge the duty upon the corpus of the property, and all the Resolutions in Committee were founded upon that principle. Then the right hon. Gentleman comes forward with a totally different plan. It is not an Amendment to the plan of the Bill, but the rejection of that plan, and the substitution in the Bill of a totally different plan, having no relation to it, and being in contradiction to it; and the right hon. Gentleman pretends to be astonished that it was ruled out of Order. The A B C of Order in this House would show such a proposal to be out of Order, but because the ruling does not suit the book of the Leader of the Opposition he moves the adjournment of the House. I hope the country will note the way in which the right hon. Gentleman wishes the business of the House to be conducted. The Opposition have never dared to face this Budget fairly and frankly. They have never dared to oppose its principles or attack it, but they have endeavoured by a side wind and by every subterfuge to escape from it; but of all the methods of wasting the time of the House of Commons and of defying the authority of 1222 the Chair, I venture to denounce this as the worst instance with which I have ever been acquainted.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
If the art of Parliamentary debate consisted in imputing motives to opponents the right hon. Gentleman is one of the most distinguished Parliamentarians of our time. If bluster and misrepresentation are to be the methods adopted by the right hon. Gentleman in the conduct of this Bill through the House, I can only tell him that the task which must under any circumstances have been a difficult one will in his hands be almost impossible. The elementary duty, I will not say of a Member, but of a Leader of the House, is to show some slight courtesy to those who have not done anything of which he has a right to complain; and unless the right hon. Gentleman can approach this subject in a very different temper and spirit he will find himself confronted with a task which it will be difficult even for him to surmount. The right hon. Gentleman was good enough among the imputations which he contrived to compress into the brief space of five minutes to include the suggestion that I intended by the Motion that I made to make a covert attack upon the occupant of the Chair. Nothing was further from my intention. The ruling came upon me as a surprise, hut I saw the great force of the argument by which the ruling was supported, and it never occurred to me to dispute it. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that we dare not meet his Budget by a direct attack. The right hon. Gentleman is extremely hard to please. We voted against the Second Reading, which the right hon. Gentleman carried by a majority of 14, and we mean to vote against a good many of the provisions in the Bill, and to meet him directly, because we think the proposal bad and unjust. All we are asking for is to be allowed that liberty of debate without which Committee of the House will become a farce. I, therefore, earnestly impress upon the House the propriety of letting the Opposition discuss a Resolution which will enable them to bring in Amendments which, after the ruling of the Chairman, we could not propose at the present stage. Otherwise our deliberations will be reduced to a farce, and we shall be turned into a mere voting machine—a machine not for altering or modifying the 1223 Budget, but for saying whether we will take it as a whole or not. That is the function of the House on the Second Reading or the Third Reading; but it is not the function of the House in Committee. It is in order that the House may perform its proper function in Committee that I press the desirability of now adjourning and giving the Government time to do that which they ought to have done three weeks ago— namely, laying on the Table the Resolutions necessary to cover the provisions of their own Budget.
§ SIR J. LUBBOCK
said, that unless the adjournment of the subject was now agreed to, so that the Government should have an opportunity of bringing in the Resolution which they admitted to be necessary, the Opposition would be precluded from discussing this most important part of the Bill The Opposition were placed in a most unfair position by this action on the part of the Government. And when the Chancellor of the Exchequer told him that in putting down this Amendment he must be ignorant of the A B C of Parliamentary procedure, he must tell the right hon. Gentleman that before putting down the Amendment he consulted the recognised authorities on Parliamentary procedure, who gave him to understand that it was in Order. That fact only showed what great difference of opinion there might be as to whether a Resolution was in Order or not. Under present circumstances they really could not discuss the Budget fairly, and he thought, therefore, that the Government were bound to adopt the course suggested by the Leader of the Opposition.
MR. GRANT LARSON (York, N.R., Thirsk)
said, he regretted that any heat should have been introduced into the Debate. The matter in dispute was really for the convenience of the House. At any rate, it was a question whether the convenience which the Government proposed to take to themselves was to be extended to the Opposition. Early in the evening it became apparent that sooner or later the Government would have to adjourn the proceedings on the Bill in order that they might bring in a Resolution. That Resolution the Government was prepared to bring in at a time to suit their own convenience, but when it was suggested that the Resoution should be brought in at a time 1224 to suit the Opposition as well as the Government it was said the proposal was of the most revolutionary character, and should be met only with denunciations. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the London University had said that before ho put his Amendment on the Paper he had consulted a high Parliamentary authority—
Order, order ! That is not the matter before the Committee. The hon. Member must not advance reasons why the Amendment was put down.
MR. GRANT LAWSON
said, he had no desire to oppose the authority of the Chair, but he thought he was entitled to show some reasons why Progress should be reported, for the purpose of making in Order, on some future occasion, the Amendment which by the ruling of the Chairman was now out of Order. He submitted that it would not defeat the whole scheme of the Bill if the Motion were accepted and the matter considered on a subsequent occasion. From the way the measure was introduced it was obvious that the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not intend to shut out Amendments of that nature, and he was sure the right hon. Gentleman would not desire to avail himself of a technicality in order to avoid discussion upon a matter of such great importance. When the right hon. Gentleman introduced the Bill he said its object was to impose taxation according to the ability to bear it. All the Opposition desired was a fair opportunity to show how the burden of taxation might be placed on the right shoulders.
§ * MR. T. H. BOLTON (St. Pancras, N.)
said, he was sure the Chancellor of the Exchequer would admit that the Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for London University was desirous of moving was one for the discussion of which an opportunity should be given. But if the course suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was not taken no opportunity for the discussion of that Amendment would be available. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had complained of obstruction. The right hon. Gentleman could at once remove all obstruction—if there was obstruction—by undertaking that the subject of the Amendment should be discussed at some other time. He could not understand why the right hon. Gentleman should refuse to allow the Amend- 1225 ment to be discussed. It could not be that the proposal was indefensible. The question was whether a rate of duty should be established that would fall with crushing effect on a certain class of poor property owners—
§ MR. BODKIN (Roscommon, N.)
I rise to Order, Mr. Chairman. I wish to know whether a discussion as to a rate of duty falling with crushing effect is in Order on this Motion?
§ * MR. T. H. BOLTON
said, the hon. Gentleman had not allowed him to finish the sentence. He contended that the Leader of the House had a responsibility thrown upon him to provide an opportunity for the discussion of what was admittedly a most important proposal, and it was desirable there should be an adjournment in order that such opportunity should be found. If the object of the Government was to avail themselves of the Forms of the House in order to force this Bill through without adequate discussion he could understand their action, but he could not understand that action if they had a bona fide desire that the principles embodied in the measure should receive a full and fair discussion.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I have no desire to prolong this discussion. I am sorry that some hon. Members opposite should think that I spoke with too much heat, but I confess that I regard this Motion to adjourn the Debate at 9 o'clock on the first night of the discussion as being rather a strong measure for the right hon. Gentleman to have taken. The reason why I am unable to consent to the right hon. Gentleman's Motion is this: Supposing that some hon. Members opposite who object to the imposition of the duty upon spirits moved to report Progress in order to enable the Government to bring forward a Resolution imposing a duty upon tea, the Government would in that case, as we do now, have declined to accept such a Motion. We are asked to consent to the Motion for reporting Progress in order to enable us to introduce a Resolution which will overthrow our whole scheme. I feel that in the position I occupy I am responsible for this Bill, and for—what is of even more importance—the disposal of the time of the House. I am bound by the Rules of the House, as other hon. 1226 Members are, and I cannot allow these Rules to be departed from. The course which is proposed by the right hon. Gentleman is one which I must decline to take, and, therefore, I must oppose this Motion.
§ SIR R. WEBSTER (Isle of Wight)
said, that he also had no desire to introduce any heat into the discussion, but he trusted before this question was decided hon. Members would thoroughly understand the position in which the House was placed by the action of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated that the course taken by the Opposition was equivalent to asking the Government to report Progress in order that the latter should bring in a Resolution to impose a duty upon tea instead of upon spirits. There could not be a greater travesty of the proposal of the Opposition. This Bill proposed to abolish certain duties— namely, the Probate Duty, the Account Duty, and the Succession Duty which, as the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had pointed out, had hitherto been levied upon the capital value of certain property. The right hon. Gentleman now proposed in this Bill to increase the area of the description of property upon which the duty fell, and to bring within it realty as well as personalty. That being so, the right hon. Member for the University of London, who certainly was not given to obstruction, moved an Amendment upon the 1st clause of the Bill which would have raised the whole question whether this new tax should be levied upon the capital value of the property in the hands of the dead man or in those of the persons who received it, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that that could not be done. The question must be discussed at some stage or other of the Bill, and what was desired by the Opposition was that that discussion should not be precluded by decisions of the House on clauses coming before Clause 15. That clause involved a part only, and not the whole, of the question which it was desired to raise, and the consequence would be that when they came to Clause 15, and attempted to raise the question of the Succession Duty, all that they could do would be to raise it with regard to a limited portion only of the subject. What the Opposition desired was that a full and fair opportunity should be given them 1227 for discussing the question not upon the clause relating to Succession Duty, but on some clause which governed the whole principle. They were entitled to ask the Government not that some Resolution should be moved to put into the Bill something that was not in it, but that they should have a fair opportunity of challenging the Government on the question whether the new principle laid down by the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not a gross injustice, and whether it was not right and just that, to adopt his own words, the tax should be borne by the person who had the ability to pay it.
§ MR. BYRNE (Essex, Walthamstow)
said, he desired to say a few words on the present position in order to assist the Committee to come to a conclusion how to vote on the matter. The Bill now under discussion was a measure containing the whole financial scheme of the year. That being so, that whole financial scheme must be considered with reference to all its parts. If he had rightly understood the ruling of the Chair, it was that, as regarded one particular portion of the financial scheme, the Bill proposed that which was not justified by the Resolutions which had been passed. If that were the case—if it were one scheme, and a portion of it were not justified by the Resolutions which had been passed by the House, could they consider the scheme as a whole until another Resolution had been passed? Was it or was it not possible that by passing the first clause of the Bill they might be depriving themselves of the right of moving Amendments to the new Resolution? He was entitled, he thought, to ask for a ruling on this point, as upon the answer received would depend the justification of the Opposition in moving to report Progress.
It is utterly impossible for me to give an answer. How can I answer a question in regard to a Resolution I have never seen, or respecting an Amendment with the terms of which I am wholly unacquainted? When any practical question is raised on the point before the Chair, that will be the time for the Chair to give its decision.
I cannot possibly answer—I must absolutely decline to answer any hypothetical questions.
§ MR. HALDANE (Haddington)
said, he knew how differently things presented themselves to hon. Members, looking at questions from different sides of the House; and he was glad not only to make allowances for difference of view, but to put the case against himself so far as he could; and yet it did seem to him that they had got to a point in this discussion at which difficulties narrowed themselves to a plain issue. How did they stand? The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Wight asked them if it was fair to shut out the discussion of whether the duty should be incident on the estate in the hands of the dead man or whether it should fall on the interest taken by the successor. Of course, it was fair that that should be raised, and no one on that (the Ministerial) side of the House would desire that it should be shut out. They had discussed the question already. ["No, no !"] Yes; the incidence of the new tax on the estate of the dead man was the very principle and essence of the Bill. They were not dealing with the duty which it was proposed should fall on the interest of the successor. That was before the House when the Bill was brought up for Second Reading and had already been discussed and decided, and he apprehended that that would rule out many of the points in connection with Amendments which might be raised. The Government proposed—to cure a technical defect—to bring in a Resolution to deal with an isolated portion of the Bill dealing with the quantum of the estate on which Succession Duty was to fall. That was consistent with what they had done on Second Reading, but it would not be consistent if by way of Amendment to the Resolution they were to branch out into a wholly new field of inquiry which was precluded by what they had done on the Second Reading. They had settled the principle which ruled out certain Amendments, and they would not go backwards. They would deal with real estate and Succession Duty as raised by Clause 15 taken by itself, but that was another and 1229 separate matter to which they had entered upon, and it could not now be raised, especially in the form of an Amendment which they were not at all anxious to accept.
§ SIR J. LUBBOCK
said, he should like to know when the House had come to a definite decision on that question?
§ MR. HALDANE
On the Second Reading of the Bill. [Sir J. LUBBOCK: Oh !] If he was not mistaken the right hon. Gentleman had himself raised the point on the Second Reading. That being the state of affairs—having had the full opportunity for discussion that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Wight desired—it would be unfair to ask the Government to go back.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
said, the refusal of the Chairman to give a decision on the question put by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Byrne) and also the speech they had just heard went to show more than ever the absolute unfairness of the position the Government had taken up in this matter. The whole speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman had gone on the assumption that this matter had been discussed already. But the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had cut away that argument by saying, "All this is due to the ignorance of the Opposition. You ought to have known that it would be impossible for the Committee to discuss that matter at all." That argument as to ignorance came badly from the right hon. Gentleman, because his own ignorance had been so clearly demonstrated by the hon. Gentleman the Member for King's Lynn, who, though only a new Member, had succeeded in tripping up the right hon. Gentleman. If the right hon. Gentleman would deal with the ignorance of the Opposition in the same way that he claimed to have his own dealt with they would be satisfied. The right hon. Gentleman claimed the right to bring in a Resolution to do away with the ill effects of his own ignorance. The Opposition did not ask to have a new Resolution. All they asked was that the Resolution should be brought in at once, and that the ignorance of the Opposition should be remedied at the same time as that of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The course the right hon. Gentleman attributed to them 1230 was not entirely their own fault. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Wight had pointed out certain words in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer which misled him and possibly many other Members on the Opposition side of the House. Undoubtedly they had thought when the right hon. Gentleman had talked about "the burden of the duty falling on the persons interested" that he referred to the legatee as well as to the testator. Their ignorance, therefore, was largely the fault of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
said that, after the ruling of the Chairman, they did not know where they were. He did not wish to question that ruling, but it had materially altered the situation. It was now a question of very great difficulty to know whether any of their Amendments were in Order or not. If there was one principle in the measure more objectionable than another it was that of aggregating together from every portion of the globe the corpus of a dead man's property and then charging an Estate Duty upon it instead of proceeding on the old principle. [Cries of" Order !"] The Chairman would call him to Order when he thought it right to do so. He did not believe that anyone thought that the bringing together of the whole of a dead man's legacies into one corpus and putting them forward for taxation was fair and practicable. If his right hon. Friend's Amendment were ruled out of Order, there were a large number of other Amendments which might also be ruled out of Order, though the Chairman said that he was not in a position to decide on them at once. There was, therefore, every reason in the world for an adjournment of the Debate. The hon. Member for East Lothian said that the question had been decided, but the decision to which he had referred had only been given by a majority of nine, made up of a surplus number of Irish Members. [Cries of "Order!"] The Whips did not cry "Order !" It would, under the circumstances, be absurd to go on further to-night without knowing whether Amendments would be in Order or not. They had been told by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that this was a financial Bill to be taken as a whole—as 1231 the settlement for the financial year. Was it a settlement for the financial year? It was nothing of the sort. Either this Bill was to settle the finances of the country for ever or only for a year, in respect of Income Tax and Sinking Fund, as well as of Death Duties.
§ MR. BODKIN
rose to Order, and asked whether the right hon. Gentleman was justified in pursuing this line of argument?
§ MR. HENEAGE
, who resumed. He said, that he was the last person in the world to be out of Order if he knew it. He had come down to the House without the slightest knowledge of what was about to take place, and he was anxious now to know where they were. He had a number of Amendments on the Paper—
When we come to those Amendments I shall have to give a ruling upon them. But the Question at present before the Committee is simply to report Progress.
§ MR. HENEAGE
said, the object of the Motion to report Progress was to secure time for them to consider where they were and to enable the Government to remedy the bad drafting of their Bill. The Government were to blame for the delay. Having had six months in which to prepare the Budget they still brought in a Bill imperfectly drafted. The Opposition had a right to have an adjournment, because they did not know where they were. [Laughter and interruption.] He cordially supported the Amendment, because the Government were in such a mess that they had better adjourn the Debate and get on with some business which they more perfectly understood.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
My right hon. Friend thinks it desirable that we should know where we are, and I personally am very anxious that we should. I hope the House will come to a decision now, whether we shall go home to bed or proceed with the business of the nation. Reasons have been given on the other side why we should report Progress, and the Government have given reasons on the other hand why we should not, and I trust that we may be now allowed to come to a decision on the point. As to bringing forward a Resolution dealing with the Succession Duties I would point out that the first 14 clauses of the Bill deal 1232 with the Estate Duty alone. The Succession Duty clauses are quite separate, and come in as a matter by themselves. It is quite true that there has been a miscarriage with reference to the Resolution on the Succession Duty, but there has been none with respect to the Estate Duty. Clause 1 refers to the Estate Duty, and nothing in the Resolution on the Succession Duty can give hon. Members any assistance in discussing the Estate Duty. I hope that, under the circumstances, the Committee will do one of two things—adjourn, or go on with the business of the country.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
In an almost empty House an hour and a-half ago the right hon. Gentleman and I had a somewhat vivacious passage of arms, which might have led to a stormy scene had there been more auditors present. Luckily, there were few auditors present. A more peaceful tone has descended since then over our Debate, and I do not mean anything I may say to disturb the more amicable relations that have been established between the two sides. But I cannot allow the Debate to come to a conclusion without laying before hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have not heard the beginning, the case on which the Opposition rest their request or demand for an adjournment of the Debate. The hon. and learned Member for East Lothian, in a speech of great fairness, told us that he quite agreed that a more important or relevant-subject could hardly be raised in this Debate than the one which we desire to raise on the Amendment of the right hon. Member for the London University; but he contended that it is a subject which the House has already discussed and pronounced its decision upon on the Second Reading of the Bill. He said that it was the essence of the Bill that the duty should fall on the corpus of the property of the deceased, and not on the amount of the legacies, and that the Second Reading decided that. But my hon. Friend is a great metaphysician, and knows that metaphysicians quarrel a great deal as to what the essence of a thing consists of. If we are to follow the doctrine that the essence of a Bill is for ever determined by the Second Reading, a great change will come over all the proceedings which have hitherto governed the House. When the Government determine what is the essence of the Bill, does it lie in 1233 their months to say that the essence of the Bill is never to be raised in Committee, to be modified or divided upon? That is a doctrine which I am sure the hon. and learned Gentleman will not support with serious argument. It would create an absolute novelty in procedure to which the House ought never to consent. Let us consider more particularly what that doctrine amounts to. We had three days in which to discuss the Second Reading of a Bill, the most complicated and controversial since the great days of financial reform of Sir Robert Peel. I do not think there has been anything like it since the Budget of the right hon. Member for Midlothian in 1863. We had at the stage of Second Reading three evenings for the discussion of the Beer Duties, the Spirit Duties, the whole question of graduation, the burdens upon land, local taxation, Income Tax exemption, and other subjects, for the discussion of each of which separately three whole days would not be too much. Yet, because on the Second Reading a speaker here and a speaker there used an argument on a certain point, the hon. and learned Member for East Lothian declares that the point has not only been discussed but decided, and that the Committee is to forego the usual privilege of debate.
§ * MR. HALDANE
was understood to say that the question raised by the right hon. Gentleman was hardly a metaphysical question. What he had said was based on the Chairman's ruling, given after the essence of the Bill had been ascertained.
§ ME. A. J. BALFOUR
A Chairman's ruling would be very inconvenient in metaphysics, and the great advantage we have over philosophers is that we have our questions decided by those decisions. The Chairman felt himself bound by the technical Rules of the House to make that ruling. He was precluded by the Standing Orders from looking at the broad merits of the case. It was on the technical issue raised and not on the broad issue, as to what is the essence of the Bill, that the Chairman gave his ruling. The question for consideration now is by what means we can be enabled to discuss the subject, which, according to the Chairman's interpretation of our Rules, we are debarred from discussing at this moment. How is the opportunity to be gained? One way is for the Government to bring in their 1234 Resolution at a stage when Amendments raising the vital and important question which we wish to discuss can be moved.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It is unnecessary to say that the Resolution can be amended. I hope that when the Resolution appears it will be possible to find means of discussing the question. If we had the slightest idea that the question would be excluded from the consideration of the Committee we would have moved an Instruction for the purpose of bringing it forward. It is simply because we omitted to bring it forward as an Instruction, thinking, naturally, that we could debate it in Committee, that we are now precluded from dealing with it. I ask the Government therefore, as the guardians of the privileges of debate in the House, to help us in this matter. If the Government will promise to bring on their Resolution without delay the present controversy may be brought to an amicable conclusion. Not a single word has been heard from the Chair to the effect that it would be contrary to precedent or Order to bring forward the Resolution at once. We are-placed in a position of unexampled embarrassment through no fault of our own, but by a technical conclusion drawn, no doubt correctly, from the Rules of the House, and in the circumstances I trust; that the Government will show a spirit of conciliation.
§ SIR J. LUBBOCK
said, the Government were asked to bring in a Resolution not for the sake of the Opposition, but in order that the Government might carry their own Bill. The Opposition simply asked the Government to bring forward that Resolution as soon as possible, so that they might have an opportunity of putting down Amendments, and not have to wait until they came to Clause 15 to discuss this very important question.
§ * SIR F. S. POWELL
said, the hon. and learned Member for Haddingtonshire suggested that because the House had read the Bill a second time therefore the Committee was bound to endorse every proposal in the Bill. That was quite a novel principle. He had often heard it stated in Debate on Second Reading that though Members did not approve of the whole Bill, though there were clauses in it to which they objected, yet there was 1235 enough in it meeting with their approval to enable them to consent to the Second Reading. It was a new principle, therefore, to say that when a Bill was read a second time Members were bound by every proposition in the Bill. Again, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that the first 14 clauses dealt with the Estate Duty only, and that Clause 15 raised a new and separate question. Clause 15, according to the ruling of the Speaker, was only a hypothetical and possible clause, only a clause which might in the fulness of time appear on the Bill —a clause in the eye of imagination and in the voice of prophecy. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said it was the duty of the Government to make all the arrangements of the year in one Bill. But only part of the arrangements of the year was made in this Bill. Many years ago Mr. Disraeli spoke on the Budget of Sir Charles Wood, and ironically congratulated him with having liberally presented not one Budget but three. He could now compliment the Chancellor of the Exchequer, not on having given the House three Budgets, but on having parsimoniously given it half a Budget. The right hon. Gentleman had said he desired that the conduct of business should be according to the Rules of Parliament. He ventured to say that whether or not the Rules of Parliament enjoined, the spirit of Parliament, at least, did enjoin, that the whole scheme of the Government should be submitted. The Government ought to develop their whole policy, and whether it was submitted in one Bill or in many Bills was a question of detail. He would point out that by adjourning the Debate they would be able to deal at once with other business of an important character—
§ * SIR F. S. POWELL
said, he wished only to point out that by adjourning the Debate they might, for instance, read the Railway and Canal Traffic Bill a second time, and in that way they would spend their time in a far more profitable manner.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."1236
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 221; Noes 176.—(Division List, No. 52.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 195; Noes 239.—(Division List, No. 53.)
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
moved, "That Clause 1 be postponed." He thought that it would have been a perfectly legitimate course for the Opposition, which had been treated with so much unfairness at the hands of the Government, if they had taken the course which an Opposition generally took in such circumstances—namely, to move the adjournment of the House. But they were anxious to proceed with business. The Opposition were giving the best proof of their intentions, because they were anxious, at any rate, to proceed with the first business possible for them to discuss, which would not be affected by the new Resolution which the right hon. Gentleman was going to move. Clause 2 could in no way be affected by the Resolution which the right hon. Gentleman intended to move. Hon. Members did not know the nature of that Resolution, and it seemed doubtful whether the right hon. Gentleman himself knew what it would be, and he maintained they were entitled to have it placed on the Table of the House before proceeding to the discussion of a clause which might be largely affected by it. The right hon. Gentleman had said it would be impossible for the House to discuss that Resolution, but that was not the ruling from the Chair, which he would rather take than the opinion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. When the Resolution came before the House, if the Opposition found it could be framed in such a way as to meet the difficulties arising, they would move Amendments to shift the duty from the corpus to the legacy. As it was desirable to proceed with the discussion of clauses which would not be affected by the Resolution, he moved the postponement of Clause 1 in order to proceed with the Debate on Clause 2.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Clause 1 be postponed."—(Mr. Hanbury.)
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I certainly shall be no party to this waste of public 1237 time. The House of Commons is met to dispose of the financial business of the year, and such an example of treatment of a Budget Bill has never been seen before in this House. Whether gentlemen opposite think they are going to derive any advantage in the country from the conduct they have exhibited to-night is for them to determine. We are quite satisfied, and we will be no parties to assisting proceedings of this description.
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had spoken in his usual style when he found by chance that he had got a majority behind him. This policy of blustering and bullying his opponents when he happened to have a majority— ["Order !""Question !"and "Withdraw!"] Hon. Members had better themselves keep Order, and he would not withdraw. He was going to say exactly what he thought was suited to the situation, and the more hon. Gentlemen interrupted him the more they would make him speak at length. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was not so proud or so inclined to tyrannise over his opponents on the night of the Second Reading of the Budget Bill, when this wonderful Budget could only command a majority of 14. The Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to think that his majority would never dwindle to 14, or even less, in Committee.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, the Question before the House was not the clause, but whether the clause should be postponed.
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL
said, as his hon. Friend had pointed out, the Question was whether the clause should be postponed. He must protest against these ignorant interruptions when hon. Members addressed themselves to the Question. He could not congratulate the hon. Member on his knowledge of Parliamentary Rules or on Parliamentary courtesy, in which he seemed equally deficient. He was alluding to the majority of 14, on which the right hon. Gentleman could not have asserted the power which he had exerted that night. But he proceeded to a far more serious charge against the right hon. Gentleman, which he would adhere to. 1238 There was an understanding, a bonâ fide, genuine understanding, that if the right hon. Gentleman were allowed to get the Second Reading of his Bill in a three nights' Debate, a Bill which ought to have taken at least 15 nights if the Opposition had chosen to discuss it at length—there was an understanding that, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer were allowed to get the Second Reading in three nights without a Division, every clause and every line of the Bill might be discussed when the House got into Committee. That was the broad and unqualified statement upon which the right hon. Gentleman got his Second Reading. He got it in that way. He held that, in so far as that understanding was believed to be genuine by the Opposition, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been guilty of a breach of faith. He said that deliberately, and he challenged the right hon. Gentleman to deny it. He had watched the proceedings on the Budget Bill silently up to now, and he had watched the Chancellor of the Exchequer's actions, and he had listened to his speeches, no matter how inordinately long they might be, no matter how highly prepared they were. He had listened to all the uncomplimentary interruptions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But he also fully understood the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman got his Second Reading—by telling the House that they could discuss every line in every clause of the Bill in Committee, and he told the Chancellor of the Exchequer that if he thought that, against an Opposition which on certain occasions showed that they could when it were necessary muster very strongly, these manœuvres and this sharp practice were likely to assist him in carrying this Bill rapidly through Parliament, he was very much mistaken. It had been shown how little the right hon. Gentleman had been able to do up to now with a comparatively large majority, and the proceedings of the Government that night showed that the time for such tactics had passed. The Opposition knew their strength when they chose to exert it—["Question !"] That was the question—he was arguing on the postponement of the clause, and he said that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer were wise he would not continue proceedings of this kind. They could only lead to most bitter controversy and sow 1239 the seeds of much more opposition to every line of the Bill than would have been offered if he had met the Opposition in a proper manner.
§ MR. AMBROSE (Middlesex, Harrow)
said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had told them that they would waste time if they went on with Clause 2 instead of Clause 1, but he had not told them how this time would be wasted He saw no objection to proceeding with Clause 2. It was a common practice to take clauses in the order in which convenience suggested. The ruling out of the Amendment showed that Members of the Opposition had been under some misapprehension, and the Government had also laboured under a misconception, as was shown by the fact that Clause 15 of the Bill was not authorised by the Resolution. The Opposition only wanted to be put into a fair position, and not to have all their Amendments rejected. By the time that Clause 15 was reached the Government would have got their Resolution, and the Amendments of the Opposition would be fruitless. It was idle to talk about a waste of time by the substitution of one clause for another in order to facilitate discussion. There was no reason why they should not make progress with Clause 2, or even with Clause 3. At all events, the responsibility for the waste of time did not lie with the Opposition, but with the Government.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Let us see what it is that the Committee is being asked to do. We are asked to postpone Clause 1 and to go on with Clause 2. What is Clause 2? It is a definition of the words in Clause 1. I hope the House and the country will understand what is the real meaning of the Motion. It would be absolute nonsense to proceed with the second clause. [Mr. AMBROSE: Take Clause 3.] The House sees the position in which it is placed. I hope we shall take a Division at once, in order that we may ascertain who are the hon. Gentlemen that will support a proposition of this description.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
As I understand the matter, no one is suggesting that it would be a wise course to take Clause 2. What we have to consider is, which is the less convenient course to pursue? What we want to do for the moment is to discuss some clause under which no controversial matter may arise. 1240 The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has pointed out that Clause 2 presupposes Clause 1, and no doubt he is in the right; but inasmuch as he will not give us what we ask for, which is an immediate discussion of his Resolution, we have to propose a plan which, although it may be inconvenient, at all events will have the effect of giving the Government time to reconsider their position, and to see how they can afford to us the opportunity for discussion to which they do not deny we are entitled. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer is always appealing to the country, but I notice also that his appeals to the country are always confined to the speeches which he makes in this House. If the country is competent, as I do not doubt it is, to understand the value of the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman, it is competent to understand also that the Opposition have no other desire than the perfectly legitimate one of discussing in a proper degree an Amendment which is perfectly relevant to this Bill, from which discussion they are precluded because of the obvious disposition of the Government to prevent any discussion taking place upon it. That the country thoroughly understands the issue we shall, I have no doubt, discover when the appeal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is of a more substantial character.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 222; Noes 258.—(Division List, No. 54.)
* MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said, he wished to move to amend the wording of the first part of the clause, which said that—In the case of every person dying after the commencement of this part of the Act, there shall, save as hereinafter expressly provided, be levied and paid upon the principal value of all property, real or personal, settled or unsettled, passing on the death of such person, a duty called the Estate Duty," &c.He proposed to insert, after "every," the words "succession to property arising upon the death of," so as to make it clear that the Bill imposed a "Succession" Duty instead of an "Estate" Duty. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that his object was to place the duty upon the dead man's property; but how could a dead man possess property? The duty was to be levied not upon the 1241 property of the dead man, but upon that which the living successor came into. It was, therefore, a misnomer to call the duty an "Estate" Duty, because, in fact, it was a "Succession," or if the word were preferred, an "Accession" or "Transmission" Duty. When they came to the subsequent clauses it would be found that every method that would hold water embodied in the Bill was a method of exactly the same kind as that for recovery of Succession Duties at present. But when the Government put before the Committee a Budget with two great principles of graduation and aggregation, and embodied them in a new tax, they should give it a proper name. This was a tax on the transmission of property from the dead man to the living man, and it was, therefore, proper that by such words as he had suggested the true nature of the tax should be marked, and that it should be affirmed to be a tax on the succession to property.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 16, after the word "every," to insert the words "succession to property arising upon the death of every."—(Mr. Gibson Bowles)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said, that he stated in his Budget speech the distinction between the two taxes. In the case of Legacy and Succession Duties they looked after the person who took the property, and the duty was taken before the successor took any money at all. The hon. Gentleman said that he had borrowed his idea on this matter from the Treasury. The Treasury had nothing to do with the matter at all. His knowledge had, in fact, been derived from gentlemen who knew more of this matter than the hon. Member for King's Lynn. [Cries of "What person?"] He would tell them what persons—the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, with whose concurrence this Bill had been drawn. Of course, the Government could not accept the Amendment, which would absolutely destroy the clause as it stood, and would substitute for it something entirely new.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I have listened with considerable surprise to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exche- 1242 quer, which naturally divided itself into two unequal parts. In the latter and smaller part the right hon. Gentleman has endeavoured to deal with the merits of the Amendment, while in the early and larger part he attacked the Member for King's Lynn. Into the personal controversy I do not desire to enter. My hon. Friend has already given the Chancellor of the Exchequer one serious fall, and nobody would deprive the right hon. Gentleman of such small revenge as he has been able to take. Unless I misunderstand my hon. Friend's knowledge and experience, and power of debate, there will probably be other occasions on which to test the depth of his knowledge. Leaving that personal matter to be discussed at a later stage, I pass to the few sentences which the Chancellor of the Exchequer thought were sufficient to dismiss this Amendment. It now appears that a properly drawn Amendment like that drawn by my hon. Friend can avoid the difficulties which the Chairman found in the earlier Amendment, and it is clear that we can discuss, and ought to discuss, the very important problems raised by the particular form in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has presented his measures. Those points can-not be set aside by telling the Committee that the Government have drawn their Bill on a different principle. The business of the Opposition is to reform the Government Bill. We do not desire to raise the subject of graduation, but, if graduation is just, it is just because it touches the property of those who enjoy it, and not that of those who have enjoyed it in the past, and are in no position to enjoy it, being, in fact, dead. That is a matter which cannot be put aside by the Chancellor of the Exchequer saying that he approves of one principle and not of the other. We have to discuss the question upon broad principles, and I put it to hon. Gentlemen whether they think that duty should be imposed on the amount of property which was enjoyed by the dead man or the property of his successors in the proportion in which they enjoy it? I cannot conceive a simpler question or a plainer issue, or one on which men who desire to do justice in matters of taxation can hesitate. The right hon. Gentleman will probably tell us that the existing Probate Duty is not levied on an equitable plan. There are two answers 1243 to that. The first is that in the existing system there is no graduation, and the second is that the existing Probate Duty is relatively small in amount. The injustice, therefore, as far as it goes, is relatively insignificant. But when you raise the amount of the duty, and in addition make it a graduated duty, every injustice and small inequality becomes magnified and transformed into immense importance. I hope that the Government will deal with this as a question to be argued seriously. I hope that we shall be able, if this question is not decided to-night, to raise it upon a later Amendment which even more fully carries out the object my hon. Friend has in view. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not prepared to debate the question in a serious spirit and to explain why he prefers the inequitable, unjust, and irrational method of taxation he proposes to an equitable, just, and a rational method, how can he expect us to discuss this Bill? To simply tell us that the Government have framed their Bill on a different plan to that which we support is not to treat this Committee with respect. I can assure the Chancellor of the Exchequer most sincerely that if he will argue the points we raise in a fair spirit he will find no desire whatever on our part unduly to prolong discussion. I appeal, however, to every man who is listening to me whether, in the first place, this is not an important question, and whether, in the second place, it is not a question which has never yet been argued by the Government? I do not recollect that the right hon. Gentleman gave us a single argument on this point in the two elaborate speeches he made on the earlier stages of the Bill, and I am quite certain that he has not yet condescended to give us a single shred of reasoning in Committee. I hope he will feel that something more is necessary. It is rather late for a discussion of the kind tonight; but if the question be not argued to-night it can be argued on some future occasion. I hope he will give us either now or then that full and fair explanation of the views of the Government, and the reason why he has adopted the plan proposed in the Bill, which will justify the Committee in proceeding to questions equally important but of a less far-reaching character which we are prepared to raise upon the first clause.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
I hope that, in view of the altered tone which the Debate has taken since the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir W. Harcourt), I may be allowed to say a few words upon a subject in which in past times I have taken a very great interest. This Amendment, which was introduced as an amicable attempt to improve slightly the phraseology of the Bill, has been transformed by the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer into an Amendment raising the important question of the character of the graduation to be provided by this Bill. I see by the morning papers that I was referred to last night by the most important Member of the Government as having been in past times an advocate of graduated duties, and even of graduated Death Duties, and it was made an accusation against me by the same distinguished personage that I had voted against this Budget Bill. Of course, in voting against the Budget Bill I was not voting necessarily against the principle of graduation, which is only one of about. 30 different principles that are combined in this omnibus measure. The Prime Minister was good enough to recognise this fact, because he said that possibly my opposition to the Budget Bill, as a whole, was due to other causes than any change in my opinions in regard to graduation. But he proceeded to say that he supposed that my views had changed on the subject of graduation, because I had taken no part in the discussion in favour of the proposal. But why should I have taken part in a discussion of that kind when no one, as far as I know, has contested the principle on either side of the House? [Cries of "Oh !"] The Leader of the Opposition has certainly not contested it, and he is good enough for me. It is not necessary for my friends and myself to get up and raise this question unless, unfortunately, we should find ourselves in opposition to those with whom we are in constant alliance. As far as I know, there is no such opposition, and, therefore, there has been no need for me to interfere. If I had interfered, I know what would have been the result—the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have denounced me for talking against time and obstructing the Bill. But I think the time has now come when I may be allowed to explain my 1245 personal position in relation to this subject. I do hold that as a principle the principle of graduation is right, and I am very glad to see it so generally accepted in all parts of the House. On the other hand, the question of the details of any provision for carrying this principle into effect are matters for amicable discussion, and I was very sorry when, at an earlier period of the evening, the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed inclined to prevent any such discussion. I wish, however, to assure the right hon. Gentleman that I recognise in his more recent conduct ample compensation for his earlier course, for whilst for about three hours he endeavoured to prevent this discussion from coming on, he has now, in a speech of five minutes, introduced the whole subject to the consideration of the Committee. But, admitting that the principle of graduation is right, let us see upon what it is based. It is based upon the theory that those who are well-to-do should pay more towards the taxation of the country than those who are less fortunately situated. [Cheers.] That is the principle, but that is not the principle of the proposal in this Bill, for it may happen that under that proposal a man who receives £100, and has no other means whatsoever, will have to pay £18 for the privilege of receiving that legacy, simply because the man who has left it to him happened to be a millionaire. Was ever proposal more absurd than this one, under which the wrong person is being whipped? Hon. Members on this side of the House cheered me when I explained—and perhaps I have some justification for laying down first principles in this matter, since I was the first who advocated them publicly—that the right principle was that those who were rich should pay more than those who were poor. But exactly the opposite may result under the scheme of the Government. You may have a rich man paying less than a poor man simply because the former receives his money from a small estate. You may have a poor man paying £18 out of £100, and a rich man who receives £4,000 paying only 4 per cent. because the £4,000 represents the whole estate. I only accuse the Chancellor of the Exchequer of having failed to see the consequences of his own proposal; but if he and his friends are going to appeal to the country on this subject, let me warn him that he 1246 will have to meet our arguments, and that we shall contend elsewhere, as I do here, that this is unfair to the poor. This is not a legitimate proposal based on the theory which I supported in 1885, and which I do not think the Chancellor of the Exchequer supported then. I hope I am not doing him an injustice, but I do not recollect any speech of his made in favour of what was then, I admit, called the doctrine of ransom, although it now has the sanction of very serious economical authorities. In any event, I say that the principle is not carried out by this Bill, and if the Prime Minister has an opportunity of speaking again—I have no doubt he will speak about me, because it appears that he cannot speak of anything else—I hope he will do me the justice to believe that, while I do not go back one jot or one iota from the principle I laid down in 1885, I think this Bill a most inadequate representation of that principle; and I am prepared to vote for every Amendment which will bring it more clearly into accord with that principle.
MR. J. LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
said, he felt bound to refer to one remark which had fallen from his right hon. Friend (Mr. J. Chamberlain), who had views on this subject with which he (Mr. Lowther) did not entirely agree. The right hon. Gentleman, at any rate, had shown the extreme absurdities to which the Government had been carried in their attempts to give effect to the views which to some extent his right hon. Friend shared. His right hon. Friend had said that the principle of graduated taxation had never been repudiated in the House.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I did not say it had never been repudiated in the House. I said I was not aware that it had been repudiated in the course of these Debates.
MR. J. LOWTHER
said, his right hon. Friend was quite right, but he appeared to be under the impression that the principle of graduated taxation had been unanimously accepted by the present House of Commons. He (Mr. Lowther) could not be a party to any silence upon this subject, and he ventured to say that the great mass of the Conservative Party had always repudiated as utterly and radically unsound the monstrous doctrine of graduated taxation. That was his view, and he should be prepared to repeat it at any 1247 time in that House or on any platform in the country. He could quote in support of that view so high a Liberal authority as Mr. John Stuart Mill, and he could further raise the question whether any financier of eminence had ever supported the principle of graduated taxation. That principle was entirely rare in this country, and, as he had said, it was radically unsound. That being so, he should always protest against it. His right hon. Friend had pointed out that the proposal of the Government did not equitably carry out the principle which it professed to enforce. As he understood the proposal, a person in humble circumstances who received a legacy of a paltry £100 would be mulcted to the extent of 18 per cent.
MR. J. LOWTHER
said, if that were not so he had certainly failed to understand the Bill, and he had not been alone in misunderstanding it. Certainly as he read Sub-section 3 of Clause 7 and Clause 12 that would be the result, because every legatee, be his legacy however infinitesimal, would have to pay his proportion of the Estate Duty. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer was prepared to introduce words to remove this gross anomaly, he (Mr. Lowther) would very cheerfully acquiesce in such a proposal. As it was, the Bill was apparently to be forced upon the House without any adequate explanation, and Members were absolutely in ignorance of what the Bill meant.
§ SIR R. WEBSTER (Isle of Wight)
said, he wished to ask for the Chairman's ruling on a point of Order. He had regarded the Amendment of his hon. Friend (Mr. Gibson Bowles) as very harmless and as merely fixing the time at which the Estate Duty should be levied. Until he heard the two last sentences of the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer it had never occurred to him that the Main Question could not be raised upon it. He had intended in a later portion of the clause to move an Amendment raising the whole question; and he wished to know whether, if the construction he had mentioned was put by the Chairman upon the harmless Amendment of his hon. Friend, his (Sir R. Webster's) Amendment would not be rendered out of Order?
It would be very unfortunate to discuss a question of this 1248 magnitude on an Amendment which is not intended to raise it, and I think we had better dispose of this Amendment as one which is incidental and which does not raise the Main Question. I would suggest that it would be more convenient that the present Amendment should be withdrawn so that the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir R. Webster) could be discussed.
* MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said, he declined to withdraw his Amendment. He had explained why he had introduced it, and he could not conceive any reason why it should be opposed. It raised a different question from that which his hon. and learned Friend (Sir R. Webster) desired to raise. It raised the question of the true name to be given to the new duty. The duty to be imposed by this Bill was a duty on succession to real and personal property, and consequently it was almost necessary that the proper term should be applied to it to show what it was. He should be prepared to argue that the term proposed by the Government was unjustified. They could not make their charge—their Estate Duty did not exist unless the exact condition of circumstances arose that constituted the succession to property, either real or personal. What he was doing by his Amendment was simply to put the dots upon the is that had been left out by the Inland Revenue. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told them he had acted upon the advice of the Commissioners of Inland Revenue. He knew those Commissioners, and he would like to make the Committee know something of them, having been a clerk in their service. On one occasion he met a very nice gentleman at a table d'hÔte, and they made an acquaintance. After dinner this gentleman said, "I am a Commissioner of Inland Revenue; I have lots to get, and nothing to do," and he (Mr. Gibson Bowles) replied, "I am a junior clerk in your department and have lots to do, and nothing to get." He knew those gentlemen; but had the right hon. Gentleman consulted the Controller of Legacy and Succession Duties— did the Controller of Legacy and Succession Duties think this was a sound and remarkable Bill? No, he concluded the Controller did not; and he (Mr. Gibson Bowles) was quite certain that no one who had any experience of the extraor- 1249 dinary complexity of Legacy and Succession Duties who would think so. [Cries of "Divide !"] Of course, he was only replying to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and surely he might be allowed to do that. The right hon. Gentleman had taunted him with want of knowledge of this part of the matter, and he taunted the right hon. Gentleman with most, complete and absolute ignorance of the whole subject. The right hon. Gentleman had confounded two subjects which it was absolutely necessary to keep distinct, and if he wanted money he had taken the right way to get none at all. Having replied to the innuendoes and the invective of the Chancellor of the Exchequer he came back to his Amendment, and he said that his Amendment imported the necessary word "succession" into this matter. He had considered the subject, and he thought it was necessary to have the word "succession" put in, and had it been possible be would have moved the introduction of the word into the title, but that, he understood, had been held to be out of Order. That the word should be introduced into the body of the Bill he was perfectly convinced, and although he would do much to oblige the Chancellor of the Exchequer he was not inclined to withdraw this Amendment, and he would not withdraw it.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I now think, as the hour is late, that we might come to a Division and an agreement that would be satisfactory to all parties. I understand my hon. Friend attaches great importance to the Amendment, though he is clearly of opinion it does not touch the point raised by my hon. and learned Friend the late Attorney General. I understand that if it was not withdrawn but divided upon we should not be precluded from discussing the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend. If you, Mr. Mellor, confirm that view which the author of the Amendment has himself given to us, we should be able to divide at once on the Amendment, and it would be open to us to discuss on Monday the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend, which raises a point which all Parties in the House recognise as important, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has practically endorsed that suggestion. I, therefore, venture to say that we should dispose of this Amendment and get to bed in reasonable time, 1250 which would be a great advantage, and we should then be fresh for the important discussion which my hon. and learned Friend will initiate.
* THE CHAIRMAN
Order, order ! At an early stage of the Bill I called the attention of the Committee to the position in which the Chairman is placed by manuscript Amendments being brought to the Chairman at the last moment. This is one of the most difficult and technical Bills that could be considered, and yet I have brought to me at the last moment an Amendment which I am expected to construe and pass a decision to guide the Committee. I most respectfully protest against that system. In order to properly discharge the duty I owe to the Committee, I ought to have notice of any Amendment to be moved. The hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Gibson Bowles) brought this Amendment to me, and on reading it I came to the conclusion, as he did, that it was not intended to raise this important question. But I had so short a time to consider it that I might easily be wrong, and I think that in taking the view that he did the Chancellor of the Exchequer might be wrong for the same reason that he had no time really to construe it. Giving it the best consideration I can, I think that this Amendment does not raise the question referred to, and I think it may be divided upon at the present time with safety.
* MR, GIBSON BOWLES
said, that in his opinion he would have been precluded from moving the Amendment by the inconvenience of interpolating it either before or after the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the London University (Sir J. Lubbock), and he would point out that it was not always possible to put down Amendments, for this reason—that they might have been forestalled by another Amendment which might subsequently disappear. He need not say that he and all hon. Members on that side of the House would do all they could to render the task of the Chairman less difficult.
§ MR. BARTLEY
I should like to know whether it is an arrangement, after settling this Amendment, that we 1251 adjourn? [Cries of" No, no !"] Then I beg to move that you report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I hope we may be able to finish to-night, for everybody is agreed that we want to go to bed, and if, after the Division on this Amendment, we should adjourn—— [Cries of "No !"] Do you wish to go on? [Cries of "Yes !"] Very well, if you want a row, I cannot help it.
§ MR. BARTLEY
I rise to Order. I wish to know if the right hon. Gentleman is in Order in speaking after he has moved the Closure. Let him withdraw the Closure.
The hon. Gentleman, before the Closure was moved, moved to report Progress, and I was about to put that Question.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Hartley.')
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 186; Noes 217.—(Division List, No. 55.)
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 181; Noes 212.—(Division List, No. 56.)
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he was sure the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill in the House would not misinterpret his motive in rising to make a suggestion. The next Amendment was a very important one, and as a general rule it probably would not be found expedient during the necessarily prolonged discussions in this Bill very much to overpass the usual practice of this House in regard to adjourning at 12 o'clock merely as a matter of general convenience and regard for the health of Members of the House. The next Amendment was not one which could be disposed of very quickly, and he ventured to think that this was a stage at which it might be desirable to stop further discussion so far as the present sitting was concerned.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)1252
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said, that he had every desire to consult the health as well as the temper and time of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, and he had no wish to commence a contest which might exasperate the House. At the same time, he would point out, if the right hon. Gentleman meant that it was not desirable to continue discussion on future stages of the Bill after 12 o'clock, that this must depend on the sort of progress that was made. He wished to call attention to the fact that not one single Amendment standing upon the Paper had yet been disposed of. This was not the sort of progress they had a right to expect, but he would now consent to report Progress.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.