HC Deb 28 April 1815 vol 30 cc0-959

Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald moved, that the House should resolve itself into a Committee of Ways and Means.

Mr. Whitbread

, before the present motion should be agreed to, wished to know from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether it was his intention to bring on the discussion respecting the Property-tax, before the motion of which he had given notice for that night, as this was one of the nights on which orders preceded notices and whether, out of cour- tesy, he would not give him (Mr. W.) precedence?

Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald

said, be would not press the measure, if this was any object to the hon. gentleman: though he conceived the taxes which he had to propose, would not occupy much of the time of the House.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

signified, that he was not inclined to waive his right of priority. He conceived that it was not very probable that any debate would take place to-night, on the subject of the Property-tax.

Mr. Whitbread

said, that when the right hon. gentleman considered the important nature of the subject of his motion, with which the renewal of the Property-tax was most intimately connected, he was rather astonished at the refusal he had met with, more especially after the bravado of the noble lord, whom he did not then see in his place (lord Castlereagh), a few nights ago, of his (Mr. W.'s) shrinking from his motion, and of the facilities which he would afford. The regulation on which the right hon. gentleman relied, had never obtained his (Mr. W.'s) assent, though he should only be disposed to infringe it on an important occasion like the present. The answer of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for Ireland had been perfectly satisfactory, and therefore he would not oppose the going into committee ways and means. But if the right hon. gentleman should think proper, in direct violation of the promise of Facilities by the noble lord, and to which he himself acceded, to persist in wishing to precede him, he was determined to take the sense of the House; whether they would proceed with the Property-tax at that time or not. He had no objection to its coming on after his own motion should have been discussed.

The House then formed itself into a Committee of Ways and Means. Upon which,

Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald

rose, for the purpose of submitting to the House some addition to the taxes of Ireland. He was aware that in bringing forward such a subject, objections would arise to his not accompanying it by a general statement of the finances of that country. Such a statement it was his intention hereafter to make; but for the present he hoped the House would do him the justice of believing, that nothing but the necessity of the measure could have induced him to bring it forward thus early; and he was the more inclined to anticipate this indulgence, when he recollected that an impression prevailed in the House, that Ireland did not afford a fair contribution towards the general expenses of the state. He had two measures to propose, which were as unobjectionable as any which, in his opinion, the ingenuity of the House could devise. One was the equalization of the assessed taxes now paid in Ireland with those paid in the other parts of Great Britain; and the other was the equalization of the duty on malt in both countries. He also took occasion to remark, that he should, in a few days, submit a proposition to the House for making a concurrent addition to the duties on distilleries, which would prevent any discouragement being given to the breweries. With respect to malt, it was his intention to propose an increased duty of six shillings, which, with the thirteen shillings already paid, would have the effect of producing an addition to the price of beer of rather less than a halfpenny per pot, The duty would also be imposed in such a way as to secure to the revenue the most beneficial result; while the public and the brewer would be placed upon an equal footing, each bearing a proportionate weight of the burthen. The right hon. gentleman concluded by moving as a Resolution, "That the present Rates of Assessment on Houses, Windows, Dogs, Horses, Carriages, &c. in Ireland, should cease and determine; with the view of substituting a scale of rates similar to that adopted in England.

Sir John Newport

said, he Was willing to give the right hon. gentleman every Credit for the motives by which he was actuated on the present occasion, and he was equally willing to allow that the task of imposing new taxes on Ireland was extremely difficult. To any addition to the assessed taxes of Ireland, however, he had at all times objected, from a conviction that such a measure would only tend to augment the evil under which that country already laboured in a most lamentable degree—he meant the absence of those gentry who by their residence in their native land would contribute towards its prosperity and wealth. That was the great and crying evil by which Ireland was afflicted; and which, he was sorry to say, every day accumulated more and more. The right hon. gentleman on the present occasion, in proposing an equalization of the assessed taxes, seemed to have forgotten that the inhabitants of Ireland already bore the burthen of a tax which was unknown in this country; he meant the hearth-tax. If any increase was made to the assessed taxes, he was inclined to think that, instead of an addition to the revenue, a diminution would be produced. Such had been the case with respect to the additional duties on wine; and he trusted that example would be sufficient to induce the right hon. gentleman to abandon his intention. With respect to the malt-tax, it should be recollected, that, if the proposed addition took place, it was not an addition founded upon the permanent malt duty in this country, but upon the war duties; and he feared that, when a deduction took place in the English duties, at the conclusion of the war, those in Ireland would still be maintained, and that that would become permanent in Ireland which in England was but temporary. Independent of this, he considered it was wise and politic, in every point of view, to encourage the breweries in Ireland, with the view of substituting the consumption of a wholesome beverage in preference to ardent spirits, which was alike destructive to the health and morals of the people. Any addition to the duties on distillation, at which the right hon. gentleman had hinted, would, in his estimation, as he had often before declared, be productive of no benefit whatever; but, on the contrary, by affording an additional inducement to illicit distillation, would extend that practice which was already an evil of crying magnitude, still more widely, and thereby lessen, instead of increase, the resources of the revenue.

Mr. Bankes

said, that as his objections to the financial system of Ireland were of a general nature, he should postpone any observations which he had to make upon this subject till the right hon. gentleman brought forward the financial statement to which he had alluded. He could not help repeating what he had said on a former night, however, that the contributions of Ireland, in the way of public revenue, were by no means equal to her proportionate share of the burthens of the United Kingdom.

Sir John Newport

contended, that Ireland had borne her fair proportion of the burthens of the State; and as a proof of this assertion, he referred the hon. gentleman to the documents which had been laid on the table of the House within the last fortnight.

Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald

said, in answer to what had fallen from the right hon. baronet, that the material result of an additional duty on any article was a diminution to a certain extent. The increase, however, was to be set against the probable diminution, and that it was which must decide the application of the tax. With respect to the proposed increase of the assessed taxes, he bad calculated its produce to amount to 250,000l.; but when he came to State the general Ways and Means of the country, he should not take it at more than 200,000l. The Malt Duty he had calculated upon the returns made in the last year, ending in 1815, which amounted to 8,364,000 barrels, and adding an additional duty of 6s. per barrel on each of these, it would produce 264,000l.; but this too he should take only at 200,000l., which would afford full scope for any diminution that might take place from the proposed addition.

Sir John Newport

abstained from offering any further objection to these measures now—reserving himself for those opportunities which the different stages of the bills through the House would afford.

The question was then put and carried; as was a resolution of a similar nature respecting the Malt-tax. The House resumed, and the Report was ordered to be brought up on Monday.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer moved, that the House, at its rising, should adjourn to Monday.

Mr. Whitbread

now repeated his question as to whether, the right hon. gentleman meant to persevere in his intention of moving the committee on the Property-tax, previous to the consideration of the motion of which he had given notice for that night, and which tie could not but consider of paramount importance. It was true, by a resolution of that House, come to so far back as the year. 1810, but to which he had never given his sanction, that on that day orders had precedence of notices. Nevertheless he could not help saying, that this resolution was one likely to be productive of great inconvenience, and one which, in future, might cramp and fetter the freedom of discussion. Previous to this resolution, which had been introduced by Mr. Perceval under peculiar circumstances, that of the public business being retarded by the examination of two subjects, to which it was not necessary to allude, notices always had precedence, inasmuch as, by the rules of the House, a member was entitled to bring forward a motion without any notice whatever. Referring back to these circumstances, he trusted the right hon. gentleman would, in point of courtesy, permit him to enter upon the subject of his notice first. If, however, it was deemed necessary to go into the committee on the Property-tax that night, be had no hesitation in agreeing for one to entertain that subject, after his motion had been disposed of.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, the House would recollect, that the committee on the Property-tax had already been postponed for three days; he was unwilling, therefore, to pass over that day without putting it through another stage. If he was to understand that it would be allowed to pass through that stage without discussion, he had no objection to its coming either before, or after, the hon. gentleman's motion.

Mr. Barham

begged that it might be understood that this was not the only order of the day which had precedence of the hon. gentleman's motion. There was another order in which he was concerned, and which he considered of some importance; but whatever was the feeling of the House; he should be most willing to adopt; yet he still felt he was entitled, under the resolutions which had been adopted by the House, to lay in his claim to precedence.

Mr. Serjeant Best

was also interested in an order of the day—the committee on the Insolvent Debtors Bill—which, however, he would willingly postpone for the convenience of the House.

Mr. M. A. Taylor

likewise laid claim to a priority of attention on the order of the day for the further consideration of the report of the Pillory Abolition Bill; but, like other gentlemen, was not desirous of pertinaciously pressing this subject to the exclusion of business which might be considered of greater importance.

The question for the adjournment of the House was then put, and carried. Mr. Whitbread instantly rose and said, he would maintain possession of the House then, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not consent to postpone the committee on the Property-tax Bill.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that he should certainly accede to the request, under the impatience of the House for the motion of which the honourable gentleman had some time ago give notice.