HC Deb 03 July 1815 vol 31 cc1080-4
Mr. Brogden

brought up the Report of the Stamp Duties Bill. On the motion that it be agreed to,

Mr. Grenfell

said, that he had recently, obtained the knowledge of a fact with respect to that part of the Bill which related to the Bank composition. When he stated on a former evening, that in consequence of the oversight in 1804, and 1808, the public had lost 534,000l. he had been answered, that prior to 1804 the principle which had been acted upon by Mr. Pitt was, not to exact from the Bank the full sum for compensation, which they would otherwise have paid as duty. Having since examined into this matter, so far was this from having been the fact, that he pledged himself to the House to show that in 1799, the sum of 20,000l. fixed as the compensation to be paid by the Bank, exceeded the amount which the Bank would have had to pay at that time for Stamp-duty, with reference to the amount of their paper then in circulation. He repeated, therefore, that since that period the Bank of England had benefited improperly by their contracts with the public; and that unless they could contradict his statements, it was doe to their own honour and to justice that they should make restitution to the country. If in an agreement between two individuals, any fact were withheld from the knowledge of one party, that would entitle him to a subsequent restitution of any benefit so unduly gained; and the same principle ought to operate in engagements of a public nature.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

observed, that as no account had been made out of the amount of Bank-of-England notes in circulation in 1799, he was at a loss to understand how his hon. friend had formed his calculation. With respect to the composition which the Bank were to pay by the Bill now in progress, it amounted very nearly to the sum which they would otherwise have had to pay for stamps.

Mr. Grenfell

, in reply, stated, that his calculation of the composition which the Bank of England would pay, if the average of the three last years were taken, was 90,000l.; that of the governor of the Bank 91,000l. The amount of Bank paper in circulation was 28 or 29 millions; of which 9 millions were in one-pound notes. Calculating the duty of 5d. a pound on that sum of 9 millions, the amount would be 187,500l. Let that be divided by three (the number of years during which Bank notes were allowed to remain in circulation), and the result would be 62,500l. for stamps on one-pound notes only. In order to render the statement still more fair, he would take the amount which he calculated the composition, if on the average of three years, would produce, at 100,000l. It then appeared, that there would remain about 38,000l. as the compensation for all Bank-of-England notes above one pound in value. In the year 1799, the compensation fixed for the whole of the Bank-notes above five pounds in value was 20,000l. Since that period the Stamp-duties had been increased. In 1804 the Stamp-duty on notes of five pounds in value and upwards had been increased 50 per cent. Consequently, the 20,000l. would by that increase be made 30,000l. In 1808 a further increase of the Stamp-duties took place of 33 per cent. That would carry the original sum to 40,000l. But that was more than he wanted to establish his argument; as, in addition to the 62,500l. for notes of one pound in value, it would make above 102,000l. It was evident, therefore, that 20,000l. in 1799 must have been a sum larger in proportion than the sum of 99,000l. or 100,000l. which he contended the Bank ought to pay for its existing circulation.

Mr. Manning

thought that upon the present occasion the Chancellor of the Exchequer had done his duty; he had made an advantageous bargain for the public.

Mr. Tierney

said, all that his hon. friend wished was, that the Bank of England should pay at the same rate with private bankers. It was of the utmost importance to fix the principle, that in all future bargains with the Bank, they should ascertain the amount of their circulation.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

defended the transaction with the Bank.

Mr. A. Baring

said, that if the matter were rightly inquired into, it would be found that compensation was rather due to the Bank.

Mr. Thornton

defended the conduct of the Bank.

Mr. Grenfell

said, that up to 1800 the Bank did pay a full and fair composition, and he could see no reason why this system should have been deviated from.

Mr. Preston

complained of the severity of the Stamp-duty ad valorem on annuities. No person could borrow money at the legal rate of interest, when Government were competitors at a larger rate. Persons possessed of estates of 20,000l. or 30,000l. a year, were obliged to go to the annuity market. Why should they be obliged to pay for their necessities? The probate duty was also very unequal and oppressive.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, the observations of the hon. gentleman respecting annuities were deserving of consideration.

Mr. Forbes

made some obversations on the licences paid by the Scotch Banking Companies.

The Report was then agreed to.