HC Deb 14 April 1806 vol 6 cc745-8

The report of the committee respecting the duty of 3s. payable upon certain Dwelling Houses in Ireland being brought up,

Sir John Newport

moved, that the house do agree to the resolutions of the said committee. He said he wished to state shortly to the house the grounds upon which he should propose to take off this tax: up to the year 1793 houses in Ireland having but one hearth paid an annual duty of 2s. but in that year an exemption Was granted by parliament in favour of houses of that description, provided the occupier produced a certificate to shew the value of the house. In the year. 1795, that tax was continued without the exemption, and from that time it was renewed annually without any exemption. In the last session of parliament a duty of 3s. was laid upon all dwelling houses not having more than 4 hearths, but it was provided that this tax should not extend to houses below the annual value of 50s. He felt it to be his duty to adopt every measure in his power for the relief of the lower classes of people, provided it could be clone consistently with the public service; and, therefore, he was induced to propose the repeal of this tax because it was one which pressed upon them severely. It was true that there was, as he had already stated, an exemption in favour of houses below a certain value, but this exemption was the cause of perpetual disputes between the occupier of the house and the hearth-money collector, because it made the latter to certain degree the judge of the value of the house. It was true that the occupier was not bound to submit to the value which the collector might fix upon his house, but then it was necessary that he should apply to his landlord, or to the person who collected his rents, and then he had to go before a magistrate to obtain the proper certificates; so that in fact his loss of time and labour was more than equal to the amount of the tax. It was upon this ground that he should move for the repeal of a tax oppressive in its nature, and not very productive in its amount.

Mr. Foster

said, he felt himself called upon to say a few words upon this subject. He had been under this subject. He had been under the necessity of proposing this tax last year, in order to raise the necessary supplies, but he was ready to admit that there was no tax which ought sooner to be taken off than this one, provided it could be done with propriety. When, however, he looked at the situation of Ireland, and of the finances of that country, he could not be an advocate for taking it off by this short cut as it was true that the annual produce of the revenue of Ireland was not equal to the expenditure, he did not think it prudent to repeal it without due examination; but he begged to repeat again, that if it could be done with proriety he should be most sincerely glad of it. Before the house consented to repeal it, they ought to consider what tax they could substitute in the room of it; but this was not the time to go into this consideration, for he hoped the right hon. baronet did not mean to go on this occasion into a statement of the finances of Ireland when so few gentlemen from that part of the United Kingdom were present. The loan contracted for the service of Ireland for the present year was a very large one, and therefore it would be highly improper to take off taxes until some substitute had been provided, and he therefore wished this proposition had not been made till the right hon. bart. opened the Budget, when the house would have an opportunity of seeing whether the tax proposed as a substitute was or was not more objectionable or more oppressive upon the poor than the one which it was proposed to repeal. Suppose, for instance, the right hon. baronet should propose a tax upon iron as a substitute, he would venture to say that it would press much more heavily upon the lower orders of society than the present tax, and there would be no exemption from it. He begged to observe that the exemptions granted to the poorer classes in Ireland were much more considerable than they were in England or Scotland. He had thrown out these observations not with any intention of opposing the right hon. bart. because he was fully aware of the difficulties of his situation; he would al- ways make his observations freely, but that should he as a friend, not an enemy.

Sir John Newport

said, he could by no means agree with the right hon. gent. with respect to the amount of this tax, but even if the amount were as great as he had stated, he should still propose the repeal, as he did not think it formed a part of the regular financial system of Ireland. It was, as he had already stated, oppressive in its operation, and was calculated to produce perpetual jealousies and discontents. With respect to the tax which he should submit to the house in lieu of the one which he now proposed to repeal, that would be a subject of future consideration. It would be his duty on a future day to state to the house the ways and means for raising the supplies voted for the service of Ireland; and he would then endeavour to propose such a scale of taxation as, while it provided for the exigencies of the state, should press as little as possible upon the lower classes of society. The house would then have an opportunity of judging and deciding upon the whole of the subject. He did not however think, that upon the present occasion his proposition should be met with phantoms and with ideal taxes which he might hereafter propose. He alluded to what had fallen from the right hon. gent. respecting the tax upon iron. This, as he had already stated, would be a subject of discussion on a future day. The right hon. gent. had admitted that this was an eligible tax to take off if it could be done with propriety, and he hoped that he should be enabled to propose taxes in lieu of this, which would be equally productive, and less objectionable. The right hon. gent. had stated that the exemptions were more favourable in Ireland than they were in England, but it should be recollected that in England there was a certain criterion to go by, viz. the parochial rates, which did not exist in Ireland.

Mr. Lee

said he wished the right hon. bart. would state the amount of the tax which he proposed to repeal, as he thought that was a point upon which the house ought to be put in possession. He did not mean to give any opposition to time motion at present, but he thought it would be better if the right hon. bart. had not brought it forward until he opened the budget.

Sir J.Newport

said, he had not the slightest objection to state the amount of this tax, if he could do it with accuracy; but the fact was, that not above one-third of it had been collected, he could therefore only form a rough estimate of its produce. He was willing, for the sake of the argument, to take it at 20,000l. though he did not really think that it would produce above 6 or 7,000l. With respect to the other point, his reason for anticipating the budget, and bringing forward this motion at present was this, that if he had waited until that period, the collection of the tax for the ensuing year would have commenced, and then, if parliament had thought proper to repeal the tax, the consequence would be, that part of Ireland would have paid the tax, while the rest would he exempted from it.—The resolution was then agreed to, and a bill ordered to be brought in thereon.