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MR. J. WILSON said, there could be no doubt that any Resolution passed in Committee preliminary to the introduction of a Bill would be quite open to discussion, both in principle and in detail. This was merely a preliminary Resolution, and the principle might be discussed upon the second reading of the Bill.
MR. VANCE said, he wished to inquire MR. VANCE said, he must complain whether the Resolutions to be moved were that the duty upon a bill of exchange for to be understood as passed simply pro an amount between 7501. and 1,000l. formá, and to be subject to a debate upon should be fixed at 10s., whereas under the the whole question? present law it was only 8s. 6d. Nothing could be more unfair than to place the wholesale trader, who had large transactions, at a disadvantage as compared with the retail trader, whose transactions were more limited, but whose profits were larger in proportion to the business done. Proceeding higher in the scale, he found that a still greater inequality was created; for upon a bill for 1,500l. the duty was to be 15s. And upon a bill for 2,000l., 20s. Whereas in either case at present it was only 12s. 6d. On all the larger amounts, the duty became proportionally higher; and as he considered this an injustice to the large trader, he should move that the duty upon bills between 750l. and 1,000l. remain at 8s. 6d., as at present. Amendment proposed, to leave out "10s.' and insert "8s. 6d." instead thereof.
MR. MITCHELL said, this was no part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's plan for raising funds for the war. It was a substantial alteration of the law, upon certainly different grounds; and as the right hon. Gentleman had agreed to receive a deputation of the merchants of London on the subject, he could see no reason why the Resolutions should be now pressed.
LORD JOHN RUSSELL said, it was necesssary to take the Resolution now, because the progress of public business would be considerably delayed by its postponement. It was, as had been stated, merely preliminary to the introduction of the Bill; and the hon. Gentleman was aware that there were many other stages at which a discussion might be raised. In the meantime, he was quite sure that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be ready to attend to any representation which might be made to him upon the subject.
is to say),
"That from and after the 10th day of August 1854, in lieu of the Stamp Duties now payable on the Bills of Exchange, Drafts or Orders, and Promissory Notes, for the payment of money hereinafter mentioned, or any of them, there shall be granted and paid upon the several Bills, Drafts, or Orders and Promissory Notes hereinafter respectively described, the following Stamp Duties; (that Inland Bill of Exchange, Draft or Order for the payment to the bearer or to order at any time otherwise than on demand, of any sum of £ £ 8. d. 25 0 0 3 Exceeding £25 & not exceeding 50 0 06 75 0 09 100 0 1 200 0 2
MR. J. WILSON said, it was no doubt impossible to introduce an ad valorem duty with respect to stamps, without imposing a higher charge upon the large amounts. When his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Control (Sir C. Wood) had reconsidered the whole subject of the stamp duties, some years since, he had gone upon this principle; and the result had been, that while great reductions had been made upon the smaller stamps, there had been corresponding additions to the larger ones. This was the very object which the Government had in view in proposing the present measure, for it was felt that the stamp duty upon bills of exchange of small amount was unduly high, and pressed so heavily as to amount in many cases to a prohibition. What they wanted was that every transaction should pay a stamp duty as nearly as possible proportioned to the amount of the transaction itself. It was true, as the hon. Gentleman had said, that the stamp upon a bill for an amount between 7501. and 1,000l. was proposed to be fixed at 10s., whereas it was now Ss. 6d,; but the duty of 8s. 6d was upon a bill of two months' date, and if the date were three months it was raised to 12s. 6d.; whereas the Government being anxious not only to introduce an ad valorem duty, but to make the system as simple as possible-proposed to do away with all distinction as to date, and to charge the duty of 10s. upon all bills of this amount with
venue. His special objection, however, was to that part of the scheme which proposed to impose a stamp duty upon foreign bills of exchange.
MR. W. WILLIAMS said, he had always complained of the disproportions between the duties upon small and those on large amounts, and was surprised that any objection should be made to an attempt to get rid of it.
out reference to the time they might have But he wished to call the attention of the Committee to the important relief which this measure would give, in reference to bills of small amount. It was proposed that a bill of exchange for every sum not exceeding 251. should pay a duty of 3d. only, whereas the present duty on a 251. bill was 2s. if it were drawn for any period not exceeding two months, and 2s. 6d. if for any longer date. For a transaction under 50l. they proposed to charge a duty of 6d., instead of 2s. 6d., and 3s. 6d. as at present. If they looked at every step of the scale, they would find that the principle of an ad valorem duty was exactly carried out. It was a duty of 1s. on a bill for 1007., and of 1s. per 100l. afterwards. The whole intention of the measure was to charge large transactions something more than hitherto; and to re-ed that the scheme must be discussed as a lieve small transactions from the very undue amount to which they had hitherto been exposed.
MR. SPOONER said, he would beg to ask whether the hon. Gentleman was of opinion that the alteration would lead to an increase or a diminution of the revenue? MR. J. WILSON said, the object had been not to increase the revenue, but it was desirable not to lose. The most careful calculations had been made by the officers of inland revenue, and the result of these calculations was, that the whole amount of the present revenue would be obtained, with the aid of the duties to be charged on foreign bills. As far as he could judge, the effect of the whole measure, in a financial point of view, would be as nearly as possible a balance.
MR. CROSSLEY said, he should defend the measure as an improvement, and as being, in fact, one of the best features of the budget. The present stamp duties upon bills of small amount pressed very heavily upon the small tradesman, and particularly on the beginner in business, to whom it ought to be their object to afford every possible facility.
MR. MITCHELL said, he must deny that the same pro rata profit was realised upon small transactions as upon large ones, and was not, therefore, prepared to say that a strictly ad valorem scale of duties would be a perfectly just arrangement. He admitted that some alteration ought to be made, but thought the Government would have done better if they had deferred dealing with the subject until they were in a position to make some sacrifice of reMr. J. Wilson
MR. W. BROWN said, he objected to the stamp upon foreign bills; instead of imposing fresh burdens upon foreign bills, they might endeavour to lighten those to which it was now subject.
MR. SPOONER said, he would beg to point out to the hon. Member that the stamp on foreign bills was not the question now before the Committee.
MR. MASTERMAN said, he apprehend
whole; that anticipated revenues from the stamps on foreign bills was relied upon to supply the deficiency which the modification of the duties upon inland bills would occasion; and that that modification, therefore, would not be carried out unless the other portion of the plan received the sanction of the Committee. The two questions, therefore, could not very well be separated, and those who objected, as he did, to the imposition of stamps on foreign bills were perfectly justified in stating their objections now.
MR. SPOONER said, he was quite ready to discuss the question as to foreign bills at once, if he were really to understand that the other portion of the measure depended upon that being assented to by the Committee. He would therefore ask the hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Treasury what was to be done in the event of a bill being drawn by a person resident abroad upon his debtor resident in this country? What was the debtor to do? Was he to send the bill to the Stamp Office for the purpose of being stamped, or was he to refuse payment? This was the difficulty which he confessed had suggested itself to him, and upon which he should be glad if the hon. Gentleman would favour the Committee with an explanation.
MR. J. WILSON said, he must beg to be allowed to postpone giving an answer to the question until the question of the stamp duties upon foreign bills should be regularly before the Committee. He must admit that the several facts of the measure were closely connected with each other, but he would remind the Committee that
And where it shall exceed £1,500 £
the low rates of duty had been passed
MR. SPOONER said, he wished to understand the matter clearly, that it might not be said hereafter that the Committee had precluded itself from discussing the question of the duties upon foreign bills by allowing the duties upon inland bills to pass. Did these inland duties stand upon their own merits, or did they form part of a whole scheme? If they formed part of a whole scheme, they must discuss the foreign duties now.
MR. J. WILSON said, no doubt they formed part of a whole scheme, but he must again remind the Committee that the lower rates of duty had already been accepted without any question being raised. Of course, when the foreign duties came to be considered, it would be open to any gentleman to oppose them, and if they were rejected, the Government might then determine how to deal with the other
tions of the scheme.
and not exceed
And where it shall exceed £3,000
£ s. d. 68
0 10 0
0 13 4
0 15 0
And where it shall exceed £4,000
MR. J. G. PHILLIMORE said, he wished to know how it was proposed to collect the revenue from foreign bills of exchange.
MR. J. WILSON said, the difficulty of collection had hitherto been the only reason why the duty was not imposed. Government had always been unwilling to impose upon coming to the Stamp Office to have their bills stamped. Great as the trouble was, however, it was done in France, Holland, Belgium, and in most of the continental countries of Europe. The invention of por-adhesive stamps gave facilities for the adoption of the system here which did not before exist; and it was now proposed to ne-issue adhesive stamps at rates corresponding to those in the schedules for all foreign bills drawn in this country; so that the person who receives such bills would be the person on whom the duty would devolve of affixing the stamp.
merchants the trouble of
Question, "That Ss. 6d.' stand part of the proposed Resolution," put and gatived. "Exceeding 7501., and not exceeding 1,000l.," 10s. put, and agreed to.
£ s. d.
4,000 & upwards Foreign Bill of Exchange, drawn in, but payable out of, the United Kingdom,
If drawn singly, and not in sets of more than
If drawn in sets of three or more,
the sum payable thereby shall
MR. THOMSON HANKEY said, he wished to know at what stage of the circulation of the bill it would be necessary Was it to be affixed to affix the stamp? before the bill was presented for acceptance, or before the bill was paid?
MR. J. WILSON said, the original proposition was that no bill should be accepted till it was stamped, which would be £ s. d. carrying out the analogy with the inland bills. But it was found, if they rigidly insisted upon that rule, that they would expose merchants who were in the habit of receiving large batches of bills at once to great inconvenience, and prevent them from presenting the bills on the day they received them. It was, therefore, now proposed that the bill might be stamped at any time before it was endorsed or passed from the hand of the first person who received it.
And where it shall exceed £25
and not exceed
And where it shall exceed £50
and not exceed
And where it shall exceed £75
and not exceed.
And where it shall exceed £100
and not exceed.
And where it shall exceed £200
and not exceed
And where it shall exceed £300
and not exceed
And where it shall exceed £400
and not exceed..
And where it shall exceed £500
and not exceed .
MR. GLYN said, he would beg to ask whether it would be possible that bankers in the colonies, who were the great drawers of bills of exchange, might compound for the stamp duties on the same 0 50 principle that bankers in England and
Scotland were allowed to compound for their stamps? He thought this would be a great boon to them, as it would obviate many inconveniences.
MR. J. WILSON said, they had not considered the plan-it was quite a new idea. He could only say that they had every disposition to carry out compounding for stamps, as they were doing it in Ireland and in Scotland in a way which had never been done before. The only difficulty which at present occurred to him was, that they had no data from which to compute the probable amount of the bills drawn by these banks.
MR. THOMSON HANKEY said, the plan of enforcing the stamps, as stated by the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Wilson) obviated one inconvenience, but he objected to the principle altogether. As he understood the plan, it would not be necessary to affix the stamp to the bill till the period of payment, if the person into whose hands it came retained it in his own possession until that time. [Mr. J. WILSON: "Hear!"] Then, in fact, this was only a new form of imposing a stamp receipt, which, having been lowered generally, was to be re-imposed on this particular class; and it would fall not upon the bankers, but upon the manufacturing interest of the country.
MR. GLYN said, it had nothing whatever to do with stamp receipts; but it would have this effect, that before a foreign bill could be put into circulation it must be subject, in the same way as an inland bill, to the stamp duty.
In answer to Mr. W. BROWN, MR. J. WILSON said, that if a person in this country received a bill from abroad, drawn upon himself, and which he did not require to present to others, he was afraid, unless that person was a man of honour, they would have no hold upon him for the receipt.
"Foreign Bill of Exchange, drawn out of the United Kingdom, and payable out of the United Kingdom, but indorsed or negotiated within the United Kingdom, the same Duty as on a Foreign Bill drawn within the United Kingdom, and payable out of the United Kingdom.'
MR. VANCE said, he thought there was no necessity for including bills endorsed as well as bills negotiated within the United Kingdom.
MR. J. WILSON said, that what the hon. Gentleman objected to was the whole pith of the Resolution, because endorsement was the only evidence that could be
obtained of negotiation. The Resolution was intended to apply to bills of exchange drawn upon the Continent, sent here as remittances for goods, negotiated here, and then sent back to the Continent for acceptances.
MR. VANCE said, it would apply to a bill drawn abroad and payable abroad, and sent here merely for endorsement 1 by the firm whose agent had drawn it. MR. J. WILSON said, such cases were extremely rare.
"Promissory Note, for the payment, in any other manner than to the Bearer on demand, of any sum of money, not exceeding," &c. [Same duties as on Inland Bills of Exchange.] Resolution agreed to.
WAYS AND MEANS—BANKERS' CHEQUES. Resolved
2. That it is expedient to amend the Laws relating to the Stamp Duties."
MR. PHINN said, he rose, in the absence of his hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Oliveira), to propose the Resolution of which that hon. Member had given notice-that upon every cheque drawn upon a banker there should be imposed a duty of one penny. He knew it was not a very popular thing to propose a new tax to that House, but, after the resolution which the House came to the other night on the subject of the newspaper stamps, it was, perhaps, desirable that some substitute for that impost should, as speedily as possible, be found. He had spoken to the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon the subject, and he deemed it a proper question to submit to the House, but, in the absence of the right hon. Gentleman, he (Mr. Phinn) would not press it at the present moment. Perhaps the Committee was not aware of the present state of the law with respect to the duty on cheques. As the Stamp Act now stood, all cheques on bankers would be subject to duty, were it not for an exemption made in favour of all cheques drawn within fifteen miles of the bank on which they are drawn. So that, if any one lived above fifteen miles from his bankers, he was liable to a penalty for every cheque that he drew without a stamp. Now, he would appeal to hon. Gentlemen in the House, if they were not in the constant habit of violating this law? ["No, no."] Hon. Gentlemen said " No, no, "but he would appeal to his own experience. If they were in the country, and wanted to draw a cheque upon their banker, he asked them if they were not in the constant habit
did not mean to say that this was an ordinary transaction; but the Committee would see what a tax they would impose upon tradesmen; and when they considered that the same tax was to be imposed upon banks in the country as in the town, he thought they would pause before they adopted it.
SIR JOHN TROLLOPE said, he would suggest that in some of the public departments the introduction of a stamp upon checks would operate inconveniently. In the poor law department, for instance, every sum paid by Boards of Guardians was paid by check; and the greater part of the cheques were for very small sums. The moneys so paid were raised by taxation; and he put it to the Committee whether it would be right that cheques of such small amount should be burdened with a penny stamp. It was obvious that in such cases the effect would be to increase the taxes of the people, for after all the charge would fall upon the public.
of dating their cheques from London, and thereby violating the law? He thought that an anomaly so bad as this exemption ought to be done away with; but there was another reason why a cheque payable to bearer on demand ought to be subject to a tax. Persons who were in the habit of banking were now also in the habit of crossing their cheques, and getting their tradesmen, or the persons to whom they paid debts, to write their names on the back of the cheques, and, by thus using them as receipts, evading the stamp Act. In effect they made their bankers the custodians of their receipts. He thought his proposition would be rather a tempting bait to the Government. Some nights ago the House had agreed to a Resolution to the effect that the duty on newspapers required revision, and the Government then said that in a financial point of view that duty was a trumpery one, not realising more, he believed, than about 250,000l., which was collected with great trouble and MR. WILKINSON said, he hoped the expense. Some sanguine calculators had idea of stamping cheques would not be reckoned that the duty which he proposed entertained by the Committee. No plan to impose on cheques would realise as much ever yet devised so economised the circuas 500,000l., but those who had calculation as the system of drawing cheques, lated the most closely were of opinion that it would produce at least 200,000l. or 250,000l. The tax would fall on those who were in the habit of dealing with bankers, it would prevent the evasion of the Stamp Act, and it would be easily collected; and he therefore hoped the Government would take the subject into their consideration.
Motion made, and Question proposed "That all cheques upon Bankers in future be liable to the Penny Stamp."
and he cautioned the Committee against doing anything to restrict a practice so useful and convenient. In the money market vast amounts changed hands every day, without the intervention of a single bank note, by means of cheques; and it was quite impossible but that the introduction of the stamp would injuriously affect this custom. It would entirely stop payment by means of small cheques.
MR. BRIGHT said, the hon. and learnMember for Bath (Mr. Phinn) did not propose that the Committee should now decide upon the question; he only desired to elicit discussion in order that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the House might hear and consider whatever suggestions might be offered. It was quite true, as the hon. Member for Kendal (Mr. Glyn) had said, that on the daily payments and receipts of a banking-house by means of cheques the amount of the stamps would be very considerable. But if this was a valid objection against stamps on cheques, it was a valid objection against stamps on receipts. Now, he (Mr. Bright) could scarcely conceive a tax of any kind that would be more widely or more equally dif fused than that now suggested; but if his hon. and learned Friend proposed it as an additional tax simply, he should say he was undertaking a duty which ought not
MR. GLYN said, he thought the hon.ed and learned Gentleman laboured under considerable misapprehension with regard to existing practices. Since the Bill passed last year for affixing the penny stamp to all receipts, the practice regarding cheques drawn at more than fifteen miles from London, and with regard to receipts, had entirely altered, and there was now no evasion of the law whatever. Though he himself would greatly benefit by the measure proposed, as it would reduce the labour in banking-houses to a great extent, yet he wished to call the attention of the Committee to the fact that it would impose a very heavy burden upon trade. He did not think that the hon. and learned Mem. ber had any idea of the vast number of cheques that passed through the City daily. He knew one banking-house that paid in one day no fewer than 20,000 checks. He VOL. CXXXIII. [THIRD SERIES.]