HC Deb 27 June 1815 vol 31 cc1012-4
The Chancellor of the Exchequer

moved the order of the day for going into a consideration of the Report of the Stamp Duties Bill.

Mr. Bankes

said, that this was a subject of the utmost importance, and he would not suppose his right hon. friend could think of bringing it forward in so very thin a House. He was undoubtedly in their power, but he did not wish to take advantage of there not being a House, in order to impede the business of his Majesty's Government. The public, however, were at the same time so materially interested in many points of this subject, which remained yet unsettled, that he hoped his right hon. friend would name some day for a discussion of the subject, when a fuller attendance might be expected.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that after the candid manner in which his hon. friend had stated his wish for a postponement of the business he would not press it at present; but would take the opinion of the Speaker whether the amendments proposed might not be taken on the Report, as it would tend materially to expedition, if the other parts could be taken into immediate consideration.

Mr. Grenfell

said, he had an amendment of considerable importance to propose relative to the composition which had been made with the Bank respecting the stamps on their notes. As the Act stood, that composition had been made on an average of three years: now he thought that it should be on the average of the last year. By the clause now in the Bill, the Bank would pay 87,500l.; whereas by the effect of the clause he had to propose, the Bank would pay 100,000l. The Bank had received immense advantages. Since 1789, the loss to the public, in consequence of these advantages, had not been less than half a million; and he saw no reason why the public should longer submit to be such losers. If, therefore, he should not stand in a worse situation, but could move his clause with equal effect on the Report, he should have no objection to take the debate on that stage of the Bill; but if he could not have that advantage, he should certainly give it his opposition.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

appealed to the authority of the Chair.

The Speaker

expressed his opinion to be, that such a clause could not be introduced on the Report, because by the clause now standing in the Bill a tax was imposed on the Bank of a certain sum. This had been done by a committee of the whole House; and as the clause intended to be proposed by the hon. gentleman would go to impose a higher tax on an individual (for the Bank in this case must stand in the light of an individual), he was of opinion that according to the forms of the House such a clause could not be admitted, nor properly taken into consideration but by a committee of the whole House.

Mr. Thornton

said, that when the hon. gentleman should make his motion for augmenting the Stamp Duties on the Bank, he, and the gentlemen concerned in conducting its affairs, would be prepared to defend the composition it had made. He should also be ready to affirm, that the exemption from stamp-duty, on payment of the then composition, was considered in the price of the charter. He complained that the hon. gentleman should indulge in reflections on the Bank, and depreciate the high character and credit of that corporation, which had rendered such essential service to the public, when the business was not before the House in a state that admitted his reflections to be answered.

Mr. Forbes and Mr. Majoribanks

also offered some observations respecting the notes of Country Banks, and particularly adverted to the heavy operation which the Act would have on the Banks of Scotland. The latter gentleman expressed his hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would drop the tax altogether, as it was intended to affect the Scotch notes.

Mr. Giddy

hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would abandon the tax upon periodical publications and pamphlets, and upon the advertisements which the publishers of those works attached to their covers, announcing such other works as were in a state of publication. He considered such a course important to the diffusion of knowledge; and as the produce of the tax was but trifling, he hoped the right hon. gentleman would adopt his suggestion.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, the tax had originated with queen Anne, and if it was objectionable, the ministers of the present day were not liable to reprehension as its inventors. It had hitherto been a productive tax, and in the present state of the country, he did not feel that he should be authorized in abandoning it.

General Thornton

suggested the expediency of imposing a tax on pamphlets, similar to that on newspapers, by which they could be sent post-free. This, he thought, would be more productive to the revenue, and would tend materially to the diffusion of knowledge.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that any person might now have their pamphlets stamped in this way, and seat post-free.

After some further conversation, the House went into a Committee.