HC Deb 29 January 1810 vol 15 cc212-4

On the motion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the House should go into a Committee of Supply,

Lord Mahon

rose to ask a question of the right honourable gentleman. He said that at a time when the weight of the taxes was so severely felt by the people, it was very important that they should he equally distributed over the country. He had been much struck by observing in the finance accounts of last year, the very small proportion which Scotland contributed to the revenues of the country, though that able financier, Mr. Pitt, when he imposed the income tax, had estimated the taxable revenue of Scotland, to be one-eighth of that of England. Instead however, of proving productive to that account, the produce of the permanent and annual taxes in England amounted to more than thirty-nine millions, while the amount of them in Scotland was little more than three millions. In the total amount of the war taxes the disproportion was equally apparent, for, whilst in England they amounted to twenty millions, they did not in Scotland exceed one million. The total amount of taxes was in England above 59 millions, and in Scotland very little more than 4 millions. The property tax in Scotland produced only about 600,000l. while in England it produced eleven millions. If the produce of the property tax were to be taken as a criterion of the income of the country the income of Scotland would appear to be about three millions, which was less than the sum paid by that country in taxes. This was also a ground for supposing that there was some great deficiency in the collection of taxes from that part of the country. Lord Mahon concluded by observing, that he did not mean to throw any blame upon ministers, or to charge the Chancellor of the Exchequer with neglect upon a subject which must naturally have excited his attention, and he hoped that the right hon. gent. would explain the circumstance to which he had adverted, in a satisfactory manner. If, however, that should not be the case, perhaps the House would think it right to appoint a Select Committtee to inquire into the subject; and he might, perhaps, give notice of such a motion on a future day.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

did not think that the circumstance to which the noble lord adverted arose from any neglect in the collection of the taxes in Scotland. The difference between the estimated proportions, he rather thought, arose from the increased prosperity of England, from which the taxes produced much more than was expected. He was sure that in Scotland they did not think themselves favoured in the collection; for he had been called upon to attend to representations of a certain description of persons there, who were of opinion, that the proportionate burthen upon them was heavier than it ought to be.

Lord Mahon

could not conceive how the produce of the Income Tax should be 11 millions in England, and only 600,000l. in Scotland.

Mr. Horner

thought the House was entitled to have the mistake, if any existed, cleared up. He himself had been struck with the circumstances adverted to by his noble friend; and though he had no official information on the subject, he was informed by good authority, that the deficiency in Scotland arose from a tardiness in the collection. There might, however, be a particular description of persons who might have reason to complain.

The House then went into the Committee.

Sir John Newport

said, he conceived the present a fit opportunity to offer a few observations to the House on the subject of Supply. In the speech of the lords commissioners, a strong intimation was given, that it was still intended to carry on the war, in Spain and Portugal. The House had been told, that in voting for the Address in answer to that Speech, it was not pledged upon this subject. He decidedly protested against pledging this country, burthened and borne down as the people were with taxes, to carry on a war in a quarter, and upon a scale which, while it must be ruinous to our resources, was utterly hopeless as to any ulterior object; and, if after all the miseries already brought upon the country, by the endeavour to defend Portugal (Spain having been, as he understood, now abandoned), the same course was still to be persevered in, he could see no other result than the accumulation of dangers that must be fatal to this nation. He warned the House against suffering itself to be drawn by little gradations into the support of such a purpose. They had already the authority of a great military officer, the lamented sir John Moore, that Portugal was not defensible; and if that was the case, under the circumstances from which he formed his judgment, how much more hopeless must such a prospect be now, while the armies of France, disengaged from all other objects, and in possession of Spain, could at any time, march such a force into Portugal, as must overwhelm any army this country could send thither! He protested, therefore, against exposing any longer our brave troops to the risk of being out-numbered, subdued, and perhaps cut off before they should be able to escape by re-embarkation in their own ships. He warned his Majesty's ministers against continuing this hopeless contest, in compliance with the whim or fancy of the noble person whose alliance they had lately obtained, and whose brother filled a kind of vice-royalty in Portugal. He pledged himself to oppose such a purpose on every occasion, and he could not even let this opportunity pass without registering his decided opinion.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

replied, that when any money for that purpose was moved in a committee of supply, the right hon. baronet would have an opportunity, if he thought fit, to move an, Address to his Majesty against its application. There was no pledge whatever given on the part of the House, because the Address was voted, or the present motion carried, to agree to the carrying on the war in Portugal, or for any other purpose.—The motion was then agreed to, and the House resolved itself into a committee of supply, and resolved that a supply be granted to his Majesty.