§ MR. SEARS (Cheltenham)
I beg to ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that, in the case of the estate valued for purposes of probate at £132,300 in 1898, or less than one-third its true value, the sum of £450,000 at which the concern was floated in 1900 was based on the actual value at the time of death, and on the profits for three years prior to death; whether he is aware 1179 that the property in question was an old-established business not liable to violent fluctuations as suggested by the Board of Inland Revenue, and that the profits prior to death showed a steady upward tendency; whether, in view of these facts, and of the statement made by the Board that all the facts were fully disclosed at the time of death, he will say who was responsible for passing the assessment of this property at less than one-third its value, and the consequent loss to the Treasury of over £20,000; will he explain the statement made by the Board that the prospectus of the company is not before them, seeing that it was published in all the leading Dublin newspapers, and should have been well-known to their local officials; and will he say whether the Board requires its officials to acquaint themselves with the contents of prospectuses of new public companies, with a view to a comparison of their statements with the Returns made to the Board for the purpose of income-tax or probate, as the case may be.
§ MR. ASQUITH
I have nothing to add to the replies which I have already given to my hon. friend on the subject of this estate, except that I do not accept his view that it was undervalued for estate duty purposes in 1898. The value of £132,300 was five years purchase of the average annual income, a rather high valuation, regard being had to the nature of the business. The statement that "the prospectus is not before the Board of Inland Revenue" means that it is not upon the Department's files. I have no doubt that at the time of its issue in 1900 it was known to the estate duty officials. Such prospectuses are examined by those officers as part of their ordinary duty.