The stamp duty of ten shillings, under sub-head (6) of the head "letter or power of attorney and commission factory, mandate, or other instrument in the nature thereof," in the First Schedule to The Stamp Act, 1891, shall not be increased by reason of the persons named in such instrument as donors or donees being more than one, or by reason of such instrument being joint and several, or of such instrument containing or relating to several distinct matters.—[Mr. Withers.]
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
This Clause has nothing to do with whisky or anything of that kind. Powers of attorney are deeds drawn up by one or more persons, giving power to other persons to do certain actions on their behalf. These deeds are naturally liable to Stamp Duty, and the Stamp Duty was settled by the Stamp Duty Act, 1891, which provided that certain special powers should be charged at special rates and all other powers of attorney should be charged 10s. From 1891 until recently all powers of attorney have been stamped at 10s., whether they were given by a number of people to one person or by one person to a number of people. The number of donors and donees, and the number of matters dealt with in the powers of attorney have not been taken into account in altering the Stamp Duty. But recently the Inland Revenue Authorities have, in their zeal to get more revenue, made it a practice to charge an extra 10s. for the number of people who have executed powers as donors or the number of people who are appointed as donees. It has also been suggested that they should charge an extra 10s. for the various items dealt with in the power of attorney. I suggest to the Committee that this practice of the Inland Revenue Authorities of extending taxation is not really advisable, and it has been said in this House before now that to extend a mode of taxation in a new way is really imposing new taxation. Therefore, all the various extensions have to be considered closely. For instance, it is provided, I think, that a receipt shall bear a twopenny stamp. Hitherto, any number of people signing a receipt have only paid twopence, and it will be a serious matter if the Inland Revenue authorities say that for every person who signs a receipt there shall be an additional twopence. They might also say that for any particular item or items in an account for which a receipt is given there shall be charged an extra twopence. I have no doubt whatever that this practice will not receive the approval of the Attorney-General, and I have great hopes that he will consider the matter. I am sure I need do no more than draw his attention to it, because he and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when matters have been brought to their attention, have always dealt with these sort of things in a sympathetic and proper way. I have every confidence that they will do so in this ease.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Withers) drew quite an alarming prospect of the operation of the duties with an unintended passion. I do not think the Committee need have their flesh creep over the prospect of a separate twopence for every person who signs a receipt, or even separate cheque stamps for everybody who signs a cheque. I have heard no suggestion that these extensions are contemplated, and I doubt very much whether they would be legal. The particular point to which my hon. Friend's Clause is directed is the question whether, if power of attorney is granted to more than one person, there ought to be 10s. in respect of each donee. Whether or not legally more than one 10s. stamp is exigible is, as far as I have been able to ascertain, a somewhat doubtful problem of law. I agree that it was not intended that there should be an extra 10s. merely because you have two alternative names in a power of Attorney. I am advised, however, that the Government are prepared in principle to accept the new Clause, though we cannot accept it in the form in which it is drafted, as it does not quite work out right. Perhaps my hon. Friend will be content to withdraw the Clause and accept the assurance that on Report we will introduce an Amendment which will meet the point with which he desires us to deal.