[From 1911 MacDonnell Inquiry]
MEMORANDUM FROM THE EDITOR OF THE "ISLE OF MAN TIMES" ON THE FINANCIAL
RELATIONS OF THE ISLAND AND THE IMPERIAL GOVERNMENT.
FRANK ELLIOTT, Esq., Secretary,
Constitutional Reform Commission.
Douglas, Isle of Man.
DEAR SIR, 22nd May, 1911.
You will remember when giving evidence before
the Commission on Saturday last I referred to certain
claims which I consider the Isle of Man has under the
Act of 1866, and also in connection with the sale
of public lands by the Duke of Atholl.
An Authority.on this question has supplied me with
the enclosed Memorandum, which, speaking generally,
I am happy to adopt as my own views on this important
The person who has drawn up this Memorandum is
Mr. Thomas Grindley, who has been on our staff of
leader writers since the year 1873, and has devoted
considerable time and known ability to the study of the
questions dealt with in the Memorandum.
Might I express the hope that the Commissioners
in considering this question will pay special attention
to the statements contained in the Memorandum.
JOHN A. BROWN, Editor,
Isle of Man Times.
The Commissioners appointed by the Home Secretary
to inquire into the principles and working of the
,Manx Constitution having consented to receive and
consider any memorandum bearing upon the financial
points involved, the following statement is submitted
for the consideration of the Commission.
In the first place, it is respectfully submitted that
it would be grossly unfair to assume that the Manx
people should contribute towards Imperial expenditure
per capita equally with the English. And this for
these among other reasons: They have not the means
to do that and to defray the charges of their own administration as well.
They are a poor community,
without local industries, and they are unable to bear
the same fiscal burdens that their English. fellow-subjects
can. It is, consequently, only right that the
principle that the stronger shoulder should bear the
heavier burden should be applied in their case.
Again, the English taxation is fixed for English
purposes. Manx requirements do not enter into its
consideration. It is settled by the representatives of
the English people, or, at all events, by Parliament.
The funds so raised are administered under the super-
vision of Parliament. The Manx people have no representative
in Parliament, nor have they any voice in the
spending of this money. They are unrepresented,
contrary to the fundamental principle of all Constitutional
government that taxation and representation
should go together.
Further, in asking for a reconsideration of this payment
of 10,000l., the Manx people are not asking for
any special privilege. They are only asking for a little
of the same considerate treatment that Parliament has
given to Ireland for so many years.
The following figures will show plainly the charac-
ter of the Insular revenue and the peculiar difficulties
under which it is raised:-
The main sources of the Manx revenue are the
Customs duties levied on certain articles of ordinary
consumption. These are: British spirits, from which
a sum of 33,990l. was received in the fiscal year ending
31st March, 1911; beer and malt, which produced
7,591l.; wines, 1,698l.; tobacco, 23,693l. ; tea, 8,586l.;
sugar, 4,476l.; and coffee and small miscellaneous
receipts, 333l.; a total Customs revenue of 80,367l.;
or, deducting a drawback of 143l., of 80,224l. In 1910
the corresponding revenue was 75,365l. The receipts
from Customs in 1911, therefore, were 4,859l. in excess
of those of 1910.
It will be seen that the area from which the Insular
revenue is raised is a very limited one. The dutiable
articles are spirits, beer, and wines, on the one hand;
and tobacco, tea, and sugar, with a very small amount
(about 60l.) from coffee, on the other.
It will be evident, therefore, that as long as the
existing fiscal policy of the Imperial Government is
maintained the total revenue from Customs cannot be
much increased. The increase of 4,860l. in the past
year is quite abnormal, and is the result of temporary
conditions which affected equally the Imperial revenues.
Another point of significant interest is the fact
that the Insular duties, for evident reasons, follow and
must continue to follow the fiscal changes in England.
If the duties levied in England on these articles, or on
any one of them, are increased, they must be increased
in the Isle of Man. If they are reduced, they must be
reduced here also. One striking example of this
general fact will be found in the case of the sugar
duty. In 1908 that duty produced 9,737l. In 1909
the receipts from it fell to 4,888l.; and last year they
were 4,476l. This loss of 4,260l. was the result of the
reduction of the sugar duty in England. That is, the
Manx revenue lost half its sugar duties from an act of
the English Government. As things are the Manx
revenues will always be liable to such perturbations
owing to its necessary subordjuation to Imperial fiscal
It is respectfully submitted that this fact furnishes
one strong plea in support of the Manx claim to more
generous treatment from the Imperial Government.
Another argument in the same direction will be
found in the fact that more than half of the entire
Customs revenue (41,499l.) is derived from duties on
spirits and beer; and if to this we add the amounts
received from wines and tobacco (23,693l.), we shall
get from alcoholic liquors and tobacco a total of
66,890l. out of a gross revenue of a little over 80,000l.
When-we take into account the persistent and destructive
attacks upon " the drink traffic" of the supporters
of the Imperial Government, and their openly avowed
intentions towards it, we shall see how uncertain are
these sources of so large a proportion of the entire
Manx revenue, and how easily some act of the Imperial
Government might plunge the Manx finances into
Facts like these, which show how dependent the
Manx financial condition is upon the policy of the
Imperial Government, and how helpless it is to protect
itself from the effects of a policy in which. it has no
voice, and over which it has no influence, give the
Manx Government a peculiar claim to special consideration
from the Imperial Government whose actions
so closely affect it. Possibly it may be a strengthening
of that claim to remember how small is the amount
involved in its satisfaction.
The Claim to the Hereditary Revenues of the Crown.
-Like other nations, like England itself, the Manx
Crown has possessed hereditary estates of the usual
character of such properties, which, from the earliest
times, formed one of the main branches of the main-
tenance fund of the Government. These royalties were
in possession of the reigning Lord, and formed a large
part of the royal revenue down to 1828, when the
Duke of Atholl "sold" them to the English Government.
This " sale " was not a valid transaction, as the
properties " sold " were public and not private pro-
perties. They were, in fact, an integral part of the
national fund, out of which the expenses of the Government
were paid and the dignity of the Crown maintained.
But it will not be necessary, we assume, to
argue the point. The Commissioners will, no doubt,
admit the public nature of these properties. The claim
of the Manx people for their restoration and usage
follows from that admission.
Notwithstanding their undoubted national character,
the English Government took possession of these
royalties in 1828, and has retained them to the present
time. For these proceedings it may be presumed to
have had a shadowy right independently of its plea of
purchase; since it was at the time, and for thirty-eight
years longer, the de facto Government of the Isle of
Man. From the re-vestment in 1765 to 1866, the
English Government directly administered the affairs
of the Island. It appointed the officials, it paid their
salaries and other expenses of the administration, and
it generally controlled the policy and action of the
Executive. As the actual Government of the Island.
it had consequently a right as such to all the sources of
the national revenue-to the Crown revenues as well
as to the Customs. So far as we know, however, it has
never based its possession of the Manx Crown estates
upon this ground, though it is the only sound one
available. Its only known claim to them is the right
In 1866 a new condition of things began. An agree-
ment was come to between the Treasury and the Insular
Government, by %vhich the direct government of the
Island was surrendered to the local authorities; the
appointment of the officials and the general control of
the policy of the Insular Government being still retained.
With this devolution of the executive func-
tions, the surplus of Customs duties levied on Manx
imports, after the payment of the cost of collection and
administration, was placed under the control of the
Tynwald Court for Manx public purposes, subject to
the approval of the Treasury and to the veto of the
In the negotiations which resulted in this agreement
the question of the other branch of the revenue
--the hereditary revenues of the Crown-was inten-
tionally avoided, and left open for after consideration.
The time for that later consideration has now come.
The -responsibilities of government have outgrown the
capacity of the Customs revenue, and the circumstances
of the case will not permit their independent expansion;
and it has become a question of obtaining possession
of fresh sources of revenue or falling behind in the
duties of a modern Government. The only apparent
fund to which the Manx people have any just claim is
that of the other branch of the national revenue, the
hereditary estates of the Crown.
As has been pointed out, these properties came into
the possession of the Treasury by a private arrangement
with the Duke of Atholl. We submit that that
arrangement did not, and indeed could not, make the
Treasury the rightful owner of this fund; and we submit,
farther, that the Treasury's best title to its pos-
session of them was the fact that it was the de facto
Government of the Island, and was, as such, charged
with the payment of its expenses.
In support of this position, the case of the Irish
Crown revenues may be cited. The English Government
is in possession of them as the responsible Government
of Ireland, exactly as it was in possession of
the Manx Crown revenues in the period before 1866.
But when it was proposed to transfer the government
of Ireland to an Irish Parliament and an Irish Executive,
it was also proposed in the same measure to
transfer the Irish Crown revenues to the new Irish
Authority. And not only was it proposed to give up
to the statutory Irish Government the actual Crown
properties, but it was proposed to make good the dilapidations
which had occurred in them during the
English tenure of them. If the same honourable
course had been adopted in 1866 in respect to the
Manx Crown revenues there would have been no claim
for them now, nor would there have been any feeling
of injustice rankling in the heart of a loyal people.
We need not labour the point further. It will be
sufficiently evident. Pressed by their growing financial
difficulties, and believing that they are asking for
what is in common justice their own improperly kept
from them, the Manx people claim the restoration of
these funds on the ground that they are national pro-
perties, that they are an integral part of the national
fund for the maintenance of the government of the
country, and that as the Treasury undertakes no
responsibility on account of the Manx public expenditure
and discharges no liability of the Manx Government,
but, on the contrary, imposes the entire charge
of that Government upon the Manx people, it has no
valid claim to the possession and enjoyment of this
part of the Manx revenue.
In formulating their claim the Manx people care-
fully restrict themselves within Constitutional limits,
and in especial to the precedent laid down in the Irish
Home Rule Bill. They do not claim these funds from
the date of their cession by the Duke of Atholl, but
from the date of the transference of the government
of the Island to the Manx authorities. That is from
1828 to 1866. They claim them from the time when
the Treasury divested itself of all responsibility for
Manx public expenditure, and placed the whole of the
governmental charges upon them. That is, they
claim them from 1866 to the date of their restoration;
with, as in the case of Ireland, the dilapidations
which have taken place in that period made
This is the claim of the Manx people; and they
respectfully place it before you in the earnest expectation
that you will give it your sympathetic consideration.
We believe it to be a just claim, though, owing
to circumstances into which we need not now enter, it
has been long delayed. The amount involved is a
mere trifle to the Treasury, but to the Manx Government
it would be an important addition to its inadequate
and uncertain revenue; whose possession would
render possible the undertaking of much-needed duties,
which circumstances now make impossible.