HC Deb 06 April 1818 vol 37 cc1193-207

After numerous petitions against the Leather Tax had been presented to the House, lord Althorp moved, "That the bill be now read a second time."

Mr. C. Grant,

jun. rose, to move an amendment to the noble lord's motion. He hoped he should be understood to be influenced in the remarks which he should feel it his duty to submit to the House on the subject, by no other motive than his conviction of what was required by the general interests of the country. At the same time, with every feeling of respect for those individuals who had petitioned parliament for a repeal of this tax, he must say, that they came forward under very singular circumstances. For what was the peculiar situation in which the leather trade was placed during the last century? Taxation on every other trade had been greatly increased during that period. The wealth and power of the country had greatly increased. Yet since the reign of queen Anne, when the single duty on leather was imposed, no additional duty had been laid on leather until the bill of 1812. All the trades, and all the staple manufacturers of the country, and even many of the necessaries of life had been taxed to a great amount, while this article of feather had enjoyed the sole exemption from contributing to bear the common burthens of the state. And yet, if the House considered the subject, it would be difficult to discover on what possible ground this trade should have been so distinguished. The tax, however, having been doubled in 1812, the petitioners asked the House to place the trade in the situation in which it was a hundred years ago! At the very first view of the subject, the injustice of such a subject, with reference to the other branches of our national industry, was evident. If, indeed, it could be proved that the trade had suffered injury from the tax of 1812—if it could be proved, that the revenue had diminished in consequence of the imposition of that tax—if it could be proved, that the trade in leather had not the power (as was the case in all other trades) of throwing the burthen of the tax on the consumer— if it could be proved, that any depression which the leather trade had suffered, was not entirely attributable to ether and general causes—then a prima facie case would be made out for considering the expediency of repealing the tax. But if the reverse of all this were true; if it could be proved, that the revenue (to which the advocates for the repeal had themselves appealed as the test of the measure), actually rose when the tax was first imposed, and continued to rise for three years—if it could be proved that the trader in leather had the power (like other traders) of throwing the burthen of the tax on the consumer—if it could be proved that any depression which the trade had suffered, evidently proceeded from general and notorious causes, wholly unconnected with the tax—and if, in addition to all this, it could be proved, that the leather trade was recovering from the effects of that depression so occasioned, it would be fair to presume that the supporters of the bill had no just grounds on which to require its adoption by that House.—He would now beg leave to call the attention of the House to some of the papers, with reference to this subject, which had been laid on their table. By those papers it apdeared that the produce of the tax on leather for the year ending the 5th of July, 1812, was 363,891l.; the produce for the year ending the 5th of July, 1813 (after the imposition of the additional duty, which it was the object of the bill to repeal), was 654,356l.; the produce for the year ending the 5th of July, 1814, was 667,211l.; and the produce for the year ending the 5th of July, 1815, was 677,096l. So far there was pretty strong evidence that the tax had not injured the revenue, which, on the contrary, had been doubled by its operation. Was it then to be argued, that it was not in the power of the trader in leather to throw the burthen of the tax on the consumer? What was the fact? The price of the article had been raised more than in proportion to the increase of the duty. In 1812 it was nineteen pence a pound; two years afterwards it was twenty-four and twenty-six pence a pound, and this advance of course took place not only in the home consumption but on the exports.—Then came another part of the question. A depression of the I leather trade did certainly take place in 1815. For the year ending the 5th of July 1815, he had already stated that the revenue derived from the duty on leather was 677,096l.: for the year ending 5th July 1816 it was only 599,958l.; and for the year ending the 5th of July 1817, it was 595,722l. But he would put it to any man who recollected the general state of the country at that period, whether, if he had not seen the returns in which this diminution of the revenue appeared, he would not have said á priori that such a diminution must have existed. The general and notorious commercial depression existed at that time and which bent down every trade in the country, of course operated on the leather trade among the rest. Would any man say, that if the duty on leather had not been imposed, that that trade would have flourished alone in the midst of the general suffering? Such an assertion would be preposterous, and untenable. Those persons argued on a totally mistaken principle, who imagined that any diminution of taxation at that period would have relieved the country from any of those circumstances operating injuriously on our general trade, which were so notorious, that it was not necessary for him to repeat them. Why should the depression of the leather trade be ascribed to the tax, when there were other causes of so much more powerful operation to which it might, with so much more justice be attributed—the general cessation of demand, and the particular cessation of demand from government, in consequence of the termination of the war—a most important cause of the effect which had taken place? And besides the causes to which he had adverted, there was another cause for the diminution of the revenue proceeding from the duty on leather, arising out of the provisions of the act of 1812. Prior to that act, tanners were not allowed to perform any operation on hides while they were in progress of tanning. There were superfluous portion of the hides which they were not permitted to remove, and the consequence was, that they were compelled to pay the duties on those superfluous portions. The hardship of this restriction having been represented it was removed by the act of 1812. In consequence, the tanner performed a part of the office of the currier. He removed those superfluous portions of the hides, of course he paid no duty on them, and the natural consequence was, the reduction of the revenue to a certain extent. This practice had become very general. It It was calculated by some that it diminished the weight of the hides by a half; but if it diminished it by a third, or even by a sixth, it still had a very operative effect on the produce of the duty. Another cause of the depression of the trade was the substitution in many cases of iron for leather. It could in no way be proved that the depression had been occasioned by the tax. He would go farther, and prove that the trade was actually reviving. The augmentation of the revenue, arising from the leather duties for the last quarter was 17,000l. If the House examined the returns of the revenue from January to January of each year, instead of from July to July, they would find a strong confirmation of what he had asserted. [The hon. gentleman here read the re-returns of each year from January to January, that for the year ending the5th Jan. 1817, was 596,000l.; that for the year ending the 5th Jan. 1818, was 595,000l. collected, and 611,000l. charged, and in process of collection, all of which would certainly be collected.] The House had been told that evidence of the fact, that the leather trade was not flourishing, was to be found in the increase of the bankruptcies and the diminution of the licences. With respect to the first of those alleged proofs, he put it to the House whether it was not notorious that the general trade of the country, at the close of the war, was not speculative rather than solid? What was there in the tanning trade that was to exempt it from the general malady of the time—the love of over-trading? It was notorious that the tanners, like other traders, did enlarge their speculations, that like other traders they proceeded too rashly—and was it surprising that like other traders they should suffer in consequence. As to the reduction in the number of licences, that reduction had commenced when the trade was very flourishing, and the revenue derived from it at its height; and it arose from the circumstance of larger capitals being employed by some of the traders, by which the smaller capitalists were overwhelmed. One strong proof that the trade was not in the distressed state which had been represented, was to be found in the fact, that during the last ten years, the total amount of the failures in paying the duties levied upon it, did not exceed 2,000l. He repeated, that the diminution of licences had arisen from circumstances wholly uncon. nected with the tax. A similar diminution, and proceeding from similar causes, had taken place in the licences for carrying on the malt trade.—But it had been said, that the tax pressed heavily on agriculture and the necessaries of life. He, for one, was always solicitous to lean as lightly on agriculture as possible. But it was well known, that since the imposition of the lax on leather, agriculture had been relieved from several very great burthens. As to the necessaries of life, he knew that it was popular to inveigh against any measure by which they were immediately affected but the arguments used in support of this declamation, were generally more specious than solid. They were something like those which went to throw the whole weight of taxation on the rich, as if the poor would not be as much affected by such a proceeding as if they originally participated in the burthen, He was not prepared to contend that it was wholly immaterial whence the resources of the state were derived; but if it was found inevitable to lay taxes on all the other necessaries of life, he felt justified in requiring to know on what ground exemption was claimed for this? It was a question that ought to be determined on general and national, and not on particular and local considerations. It was a question peculiarly interesting as connected with that of our finances. On all hands it was allowed, that it was the duty of parliament to maintain public credit by supporting the revenue, and yet here was a proposition for reducing the revenue, by those who had so recently maintained that the revenue was inadequate to the demands upon it. The welfare of the country depended on the maintenance of the public faith. If, one by one, the securities of the public creditor were to be withdrawn, there would soon be an end put in peace to that high character which England had supported during all the dangers and difficulties of the most arduous war. On all these grounds he would move as an amendment, "That the bill be read a second time on this day six months."

Lord Althorp

perfectly agreed with the hon. gentleman, that the prosperity of the country depended on supporting the revenue; but he thought it a very material duty for that House to support the manufactures from which that revenue was derived. He had not heard any thing to convince him of the policy of continuing this tax; but, on the other hand, he was fully persuaded that it was very injurious to the manufacturers, and to the consumers. The noble lord then went briefly through some of the arguments which he had urged on introducing the subject to the House, and contended that the diminution in the number of hides purchased by tanners, was a convincing proof of the depression of their trade. The hon. gentleman had said that it was occasioned by the cessation of war; but that had not been the case in other wars. A review of all the details manifestly showed, that a repeal of the additional duty was indispensably necessary.

Lord Deerhurst

did not intend to trespass above a moment on the attention of the House, in treading afresh the track so beaten already, by a recapitulation of the arguments which had been, he hoped, successfully used by the noble lord who had originally moved the question, and by other honourable members who intended to vote as he did, for the repeal of the additional duties on leather. It was not his inclination to oppose, upon trifling grounds, the taxation considered necessary by his majesty's ministers; but representing, as he did, a great commercial city, deeply interested in the present debate, he could not give a silent vote without stating, that the repeal of the additional duties on leather was of great import to many highly-respectable persons connected with that trade in Worcester, who prayed to be relieved from the burden of it, that they might, at least upon equal terms, meet the foreign manufacturer in the market, which they were unable to do with the additional duties in force, as they at present stood. He should therefore vote for the repeal of the bill.

Mr. Hart Davis,

amidst loud calls of question! said, he merely rose to explain the vote he should give that evening against the repeal, having formerly voted for the repeal of the tax [Hear, hear!]. During the holidays he had taken great pains to inquire into the state of the leather trade, and the result of his inquiries among the most intelligent men was, that the repeal called for was unnecessary. He held in his hand a letter from a very eminent tanner in Bristol, who had as thorough knowledge of his own interest as any other man in the trade.—Here the hon. gentleman read an extract from the letter, which set forth, that the town and neighbourhood of Bristol had not peti- tioned for any repeal, from a conviction that neither the manufacturer nor the consumer required it, and also because there was at present a visible alteration and improvement in their business: it farther stated, that the reduced amount of the duty paid by tanners for the last year or two, was not occasioned by a falling-off in the trade, but to the large manufactured stock on hands, from the extensive purchases made from South America after 1812, and which being laid in largely under favourable circumstances, answered for the years during which the reduction alluded to had occurred. At present, though the number of tanners had decreased, the trade was in an improving state. The decrease in the number of tanners was to be accounted for from the trade getting into the hands of greater capitalists. In consequence of the opening of new roads, the communication from the places where bark was obtained and the great towns, was greatly facilitated, and the trade had in consequence been getting more and more into great towns, and into the hands of great capitalists.—From having received better information, he did not think that the state of the finances of this country, at the present time, would allow the repeal of this tax; nor did he think, if it were repealed, that ministers could do without some other tax to an equal amount in place of it.

Mr. Methuen

said, he never knew so strong a feeling in the country against any tax, as there was against that which it was now proposed to repeal. He believed, that were they to search all England over, they would not be able to find one tanner in favour of the tax, except the tanner who had corresponded with the hon. gentleman who spoke last.

Lord Compton

contended, that the argument used by an hon. gentleman, that no additional tax had been laid on the leather trade from the reign of queen Anne to the year 1812, was most unfortunate for his side of the question; for it proved the view which the different chancellors of the exchequer, who had succeeded each other during that period, entertained of that subject. Had they thought such a tax justifiable, they certainly would not have been so long without imposing it.

Mr. Marryat

begged to explain his vote, which, instead of being opposed to that he had formerly given, like that of the hon. member for Bristol, would be in perfect consistency with his former opi- nion. Respectable as might be the opinion of the hon. member, and of the tanner whom he had consulted, he could not help thinking that the House had a far better criterion to go by on a subject of this kind, and that was, the opinions of the tanners throughout the country, who, in hundreds of petitions, had laid their grievances before the House. It would have been as well, in viewing the subject, if the hon. gentleman near him (Mr. Grant), instead of dealing in general principles, had confined himself to particular facts. He would have then found, that the export of the unmanufactured article had doubled since the additional duty, while that of the manufactured had decreased to less than one-half what it had previously been. For the five years prior to 1812, the amount of unmanufactured export was 5,603,395 lbs. weight; for the five years since it was double; namely, 10,710,0731bs. During the same periods, the export of the manufactured article was, before 1812, 2,449,720lbs.; since, it was less than one-half that amount; namely, l,142,111 lbs. so that the operation of the act was to double the export of the raw material, and to reduce, in the proportion of one-half, that of the manufactured article. The foreign manufacturer was, therefore, thrown into other countries. Of course, a great home consumption must necessarily continue. But how was it carried on? Was it not obvious that the sum thus raised was drawn from one pocket into another? The poor, therefore, paid their part of it; and the rich were obliged, in the shape of poor-rates, to supply the means thus withdrawn from the lower classes, by an impolitic tax of tin's kind. The wealth of the manufacturer was the great source of the revenue, and by his industry and activity taxation was largely supplied for the interests of the state. This tax vitally affected the reproductive power of the manufacturing interest, and it only wanted three or four such injudicious imposts to cut up by the roots the resources of the state. He should, therefore, vote for the repeal.

Mr. Benson

said, that the hon. member for Bristol had urged as a reason for the new view which he took of the present question, a letter which he had received from a person extensively engaged in the tanning trade. The hon. gentleman had said, that the writer of that letter had a perfect knowledge of his own interest; and he thought he might say, that the hon, gentleman, in voting for the repeal of the tax, and then so suddenly voting against it, had also a perfect knowledge of his own interest [Cry of Order!]. From the inquiries which he had made into this business during the recess, his former opinion was confirmed. Had he had any doubt respecting it, from the evidence of the gentlemen brought forward by government in favour of the tax, he should have drawn the conclusion, that its repeal was essential to the interests of the country.

Mr. Hart Davis

wished to ask the hon. gentleman, upon what grounds he had presumed to impute to him, the being actuated by improper motives in any vote which he should now give, or which he had ever given in that House.

The Speaker

observed, that the language of the hon. gentleman fairly bore the interpretation which had been put upon it. It was a language which, by the rules of the House, the hon. gentleman was not warranted in holding. The words made use of by the hon. gentleman certainly conveyed a personal reflexion against the hon. member for Bristol; and he should be wanting in his duty if he did not now declare his opinion on the subject.

Mr. Benson

said, that if by the language he had used, he had given any offence, it was very much regretted by him. Nothing could be farther from his intention than to convey any personal reflection against the hon. gentleman. All that he had meant to say, with respect to the conduct pursued by the hon. gentleman, was, that as when he gave his former vote, it was supposed we were on the eve of an election, this circumstance had had its influence. He did not mean any thing personal to the hon. gentleman; but that, with the view of standing well in the opinion of his constituents, he had made use of a little manoeuvre which all of them understood very well.

Mr. Lushington

said, that the result of the inquiries he had made were very different from that expressed by some hon. gentlemen opposite. The sense of all the tanners whom he had consulted upon the subject was in favour of the tax. On an average of five years before the imposition of the tax, the drawback on the exportation of leather amounted to 52,000l.; but if the consumption of leather since that period was less, and the exportation something more, was it fair to say that the tax was the cause of it? The con- sumption of leather, like that of every other article, had decreased from what it was in time of war; the diminution in the consumption of that article, ought not, therefore, to be charged as a consequence of the tax. It was generally known, that the leather tax was in a flourishing state at present. The tax was a productive one, and therefore ought not to be repealed upon unsupported statements. He was aware that it was the interest of the leather manufacturers to have the tax repealed, and he was not surprised that they should so earnestly persevere in petitioning for that purpose, as it would in fact be taking 160,000l. from the public and putting it into their own pockets. But could that be advanced as a parliamentary reason for the measure? If the tax was repealed, some other tax must be laid upon the public to replace it, and which would perhaps be more severely felt than the present. The noble lord who introduced the question had used many observations in support of it, but none of them seemed to answer his purpose; at length he said, that the number of persons employed in the leather trade had considerably decreased since the imposition of the leather lax, which, according to the noble lord's statement, was a strong argument in favour of its being repealed. But allowing the number of manufacturers to have decreased, it was by no means calculated to support the proposed measure, if he could show to the House, that though the manufacturing of leather was placed in the hands of a fewer number of capitalists, yet the whole amount of the manufactured article had increased, and was still increasing. If this was found to be the case, it would turn out that the public, instead of being injured, would be benefited by the alteration; as the business, being carried on upon a large scale and by persons of large capital, leather would be sold at a price which smaller manufacturers could not afford to do. To prove that the whole amount of the manufactured article had increased, he would instance the case of Messrs. Brewil and Co. whose business had increased five or six fold within the last few years. If the noble lord on the other side of the House doubted that statement, he would read over the account. Here the hon. member read the account, which stated, that in 1809 the taxes paid by Messrs. Brewil and Co. amounted to 1,973l., in 1817 they amounted to 5,937l and in 1818,6,716l. Thus, though there was a decrease in the number of manufacturers, the business of the smaller number was equal if not greater than the whole was when there were more persons carrying on the leather trade. The noble lord was also aware that leather had lately risen from 15 to 20 per cent, which showed that the trade was increasing. Besides, the tax did not fall on the tanner, but on the public. An excise officer marked the quantity of the manufactured article, after which the manufacturer was not called on for the tax until the leather was disposed of, so that in fact, it was no real inconvenience to the manufacturer. His hon. friend who had opened the debate, had entered so completely into the subject, that he did not think himself justified in going into it much farther. For a century back the leather trade had had no additional burthens, when almost all other trades had been loaded with them; and the trade was now in a very prosperous condition. The drawbacks that had been granted had given so much satisfaction, especially to curriers and shoemakers, that they had declared it to be their desire that the leather laws should undergo no alteration, and that the pretences under which a repeal of the additional duty was sought to be obtained were scandalously false.

Mr. Brougham

said, that there were one or two things which had fallen from the hon. secretary to the treasury, which he could not suffer to pass unnoticed. He had argued, that if this tax was repealed, another to an equal amount must be imposed. This he denied. It was proper to repeal this tax, but it was not necessary to impose another instead of it. How had they proceeded on an occasion precisely similar? The House had been pleased two years ago to repeal a much larger though not a more oppressive tax. Till this tax was repealed, ministers found it impossible to reduce any of their estimates, but immediately after the repeal, they took back all the estimates, and made considerable reductions in many of them. Why might they not now imitate their former conduct? Why might they not now take a leaf out of their own book? Instead of taking an additional tax, let them go to the establishments, and take them down 180,000l. He observed from the countenance of the hon. gentleman at the head of the woods and forests (Mr. Huskisson), that he thought this a very absurd proposal It was true the estimates were given in, but not one estimate had been absolutely voted. If the establishments were to be kept up at their present pitch, it might be necessary to substitute some other tax to the present; but there was a motion of a noble friend of his, which, if carried would have the effect of producing a much greater reduction of expense than 180,000l. namely, a motion for a reduction of 5000 men from our military establishment. He was astonished that the hon. secretary to the treasury should cite the trade of Messrs. Brewil to prove the innoxious nature of the tax, when the tanners of the country, one and all, with the exception of the correspondent of the member for Bristol, said, if the tax was not repealed, their trade would be ruined. He was not a little astonished that this letter should have been given by the hon. gentleman as a reason for his change of opinion. He did not wish to impute any improper motives to the hon. gentleman—to impute such motives to any hon. member was certainly unparliamentary. But he confessed, at the same time, that it did surprise him that this letter should be given as a reason for a change of opinion [No, no! from Mr. Hart Davis]. What! did not the hon. gentleman give the letter of the tanner of Bristol as a reason for his change of opinion [No, no! from Mr. Hart Davis]?—Then, if he did not give that letter as a reason, he had given no reason at all for his change of opinion since his vote of the former night. He had used no argument—except the tanner's letter. But besides the tanners, was there not another class interested, namely, the consumers? "Don't listen to the tanners," said the secretary to the Treasury, "the tax does not fall on the trade, but on the consumer—the tanner has no occasion to complain; he can shift the tax from his shoulders to those of the consumer." But, might it not happen that both consumers and tanners had ground to complain? The consumers might complain, that their ability to consume was diminished—because, by diminishing their ability to consume, the tax abridged their comforts. From the consumers being less able to buy from the tanners, the tanners might also have reason to complain—the consumers were suffering from the diminution of their consumption, and the tanners from the diminution of their manu- facture. But his great objection against the tax was that it fell unequally—that it pressed most severely on those who were least able to bear it. Every tax on the necessaries of life had a direct tendency to increase the price of labour; and the effect of any tax like this, on a necessary of life, was immediately felt in the increased price of labour of all those who used it. While they were raising, therefore, this paltry sum of 180,000l. with one hand, they were obliged to put their other hand in their pocket to pay it. But besides, all the objections applied to it which applied to a poll tax—a poll tax, indeed, it was, except that it was laid on the feet instead of the head [laugh]. Every person paid so much, let his occupation be what it might. The peasants, who wore the heaviest shoes, were the highest taxed by it. As the tax was laid on by weight, they paid twice as much as those who now heard him, who wore lighter shoes; coarse leather paying as much as fine. All the objections against a poll tax, therefore, applied to it. It was a poll tax of the worst kind, falling most burthen some on those who were least able to bear it. These were the grounds on which he had been an humble opponent of the measure in 1812, and these were the reasons on which he should support the present bill.

Mr. Huskisson

wished to explain an error into which he was surprised the hon. and learned gentleman had fallen. He had said, that if this tax were taken off, the House might proceed as they had done before, without substituting any other. If the hon. and learned gentleman alluded to the property tax he was totally mistaken. There was an obvious distinction between a tax only for the duration of the war, and this tax which formed part of the Ways and Means, and was carried to the consolidated fund for the payment of the interest of the debt. This tax, he must inform the hon. and learned gentleman, formed no part of the supply of the year, and whether they were to abate 5,000 or 10,000 men, there would be no difference respecting it, as it was pledged for the payment of the interest of the loans granted on the faith of parliament. The whole amount of the permanent taxes carried to the consolidated fund were not equal to the charge on it; and therefore every body must see that the tax could not be repealed without the substitute of another. If there had been an excess of the consolidated fund above the charge, it might have been another matter; but there being no such excess they were bound in justice to the public creditor, to see that if they repealed this tax, they carried to the consolidated fund an equal amount of revenue. The hon. and learned gentleman was for having all taxes on necessaries of life done away with. The taxes on beer and malt were on necessaries for life—the whole of a large revenue of twenty millions a year, might be said, therefore to be raised on the necessaries of life. Was the hon. and learned gentleman, in pursuance of his fanciful theory, anxious that the whole of this large revenue should be done away? It had been said, that if the excise regulations, by which the trade was impeded, were repealed, the process of manufacturing might be improved, as it formerly was in France. But this argument did not apply; for it was not proposed to repeal all the tax on leather, but the additional tax only. The repeal of the additional tax would cause the same regulations to be continued, with less advantage to the public. He had read all the statements and listened to all the arguments which had been used against this tax, and he confessed that if the House had been in a condition to perform the agreeable duty of repealing taxes, the leather tax was not that of which he should be the first to recommend the repeal. It was obvious, and it had been argued by the hon. and learned gentleman, that the burthen of the tax did not fall on the tanners, but, as in the case of all consumable commodities, on the public, who were the consumers. Yet, if the hon. and learned gentleman read any of the statements which had been put forward on this subject, he would see that those who were most active in demanding this repeal, grounded their enmity to the tax upon this, that the tax could not be thrown from the manufacturers upon the consumers. The only circumstance which gave a show of an argument in favour of this bill, was, that the tax had been laid on almost immediately preceding a time of great pressure. But a much stronger statement might be made out in favour of the repeal of any other part of the excise duties. In the malt trade, for instance, since the additional duty had been repealed, there had been a diminution of the number of licences, an increase of the number of bankruptcies in the trade, and a diminution of the produce of the old duty, from three millions to less than 1,900,000l. The noble member for Northampton had said, that he should vote for the repeal of this tax, as well as the salt tax, in order to compel the ministers to resort to the property tax, or some other direct tax. But he hoped the noble lord, before he consented to repeal this tax, would be confident that his new associates would consent to the imposition of some tax in place of it. In this case, as in the case of all commutations, the consumers would not be beneficed to the whole extent of the tax remitted. In consequence of the additional tax, there was an. additional quantity of capital employed in the leather trade, and till that capital was shifted to some other employments, the dealers would charge their customers with the interest of it. The right hon. gentleman then went over the various arguments that had been urged by the gentlemen opposite, and insisted, that on all the grounds, it was the interest of the tanner alone that was consulted. This was a trade that had suffered in common with all others in consequence of the return of peace, and, like all others, it was gradually reviving. But it was rather at the interest of the public that the House ought to look, than at that of individuals; and for the interest of the former he would say, do not consent to repeal this tax, as they will not have the benefit of it. He would maintain, that a greater injury could not be done to the public than by experiments of commuting taxes on articles of consumption, as they would not diminish the price to the consumer. There was no tax, in fact, that could be repealed with full benefit to the public, except direct taxes, and if any reduction could possibly be made, these should be the first that ought to meet consideration.

Lord Cowpton

said, he had not pledged himself to support the repeal of the salt tax; but in general he preferred direct to indirect taxation.

The question being put, "That the bill be now read a second time," the House divided: Ayes, 130. Noes, 136. The second reading of the bill was consequently put off for six months.