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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 55

Gambling on the Stock Exchange

Gambling on the Stock Exchange.

Mr Robert Millar moved as follows:—

"That in the opinion of the Chamber every contract or agreement for the sale or purchase of any stock or marketable security should be chargeable with the stamp duty at present exacted upon transfers, and that whether the sale is ever carried to completion by transfer or not."

He said the reason this subject came up before them was this, that in view of the budget it occurred to him that some alteration on the stamp duties might be advisable and arrived at which would at the same time check and deter gambling which was well known to exist on the Stock Exchange. The result of the present arrangement was that many people carried on enormous transactions on the Stock Exchange and paid very little stamp duty, while bona fide transactors who bought stock out and out and took transfers required to pay the full stamp duty. He thought this was an infringement of one of the cardinal points of taxation-namely, that taxes were as far as possible to be equal. That motion would hit at those speculators and make them pay stamp duty, even where a transaction was not completed by transfer. If this Chamber was clear that a serious evil existed in the shape of Stock Exchange gambling, they should not allow the interests of any particular class, or any particular individual, to stand in the way of haying it removed when it was for the public good By his motion he wished to impose no new tax, but simply to extend the present tax to all sales, whether carried to a completion by transfer or not.

Mr Russel, wine merchant, seconded the motion.

The Chairman mentioned that he had been told the other day by a Glasgow banker that there was reason for such a resolution as that proposed. In Glasgow, he understood, they had experience of the inconvenience arising from the facilities when the present arrangement placed in the power of clerks and others, who certainty ought not to have them.

Mr F. Faithfull Begg said that as He was the only stockbroker present, perhaps he should not remain silent. (Hear, hear.) He supposed from the very fact that he was a stockbroker he would be considered as utterly prejudiced, and beyond all hope in this question (A laugh.) He tried, however, to take a fair view of the subject. The point that Mr Millar was aiming at—namely, to check and deter unwarrantable speculation—was certainly a most desirable and highly advisable thing to do. There could be no question about that, and he hoped Mr Millar would always act upon that principle. But to do it in the way which he proposed seemed to him to be singling out a particular industry—or business at all events—to be penalised for the benefit of the general community, because the same species of transaction existed in every other branch of trade or commerce throughout the country. They had it in cotton, in wheat, in pig iron, in hops, and so on—in fact, they could speculate in anything if they desired to do so. He could not see why any special branch should be struck at more than another. The point, however, about speculation which he wished to bring out was this, that speculation was entirely a relative term, which might be perfectly justifiable for him or for another, but for a third or fourth person might be perfectly unwarrantable. He believed that the whole of the enterprise of this country was based upon the idea of speculation, and if they had not in this country a very large number of men willing to speculate in every direction here and abroad the country would never be what it was, and their trade would be crippled. The idea, he added, that a speculator on the Stock Exchange was a different kind of animal from the speculator on every other market was erroneous. (Laughter and applause.)

Mr Harris (of Messrs Fleming & Co.) said that the imposition of any tax was altogether insufficient from the experience they had all over the world to put a stop to any form of gambling.

Mr Charles W. Anderson said he looked at the subject in the light that those who had real transactions were too heavily taxed, and that those who had transactions out of which they expected to make a profit ought to be taxed.

Councillor Pollard remarked that the question was a much wider one than was dealt with by the motion, because the same species of transaction occurred with heritable property, which might be transferred to several different parties without the title-deeds being actually transferred in each case and the duties paid. He suggested that they should remit the subject to the directors for further consideration, and get a report from them at a future meeting.—This was agreed to unanimously.

The meeting then terminated.