HC Deb 23 April 1819 vol 39 cc0-1460

On the order of the day for the second reading of this bill,

Mr. Morrit

observed, that the principle of this measure had been approved by the last parliament. It was originally brought under the consideration of the House by numerous petitions from Yorkshire, and the greater part of the mining districts. It being a practice that rents should be reserved in ore, it had been originally supposed that they were liable to be assessed to the poor-rates, as part of the produce of the soil had been so assessed. In 1716 doubts were first raised by some ingenious gentlemen on this subject, and the question had a few years ago been fully argued by the court of King's Bench. It was not his intention to speak disrespectfully of that decision; but he must say, that it had been attended with very serious consequences. It had in fact, atone blow, ex-empted from the payment of poor-rates the whole mining class of the community. From the statements in the petitions it appeared, that in one parish the number of paupers amounted to 1,867, and that of these upwards of 1,400 were miners, or persons belonging to the families of miners. In one parish the rents of mines were 11,800l., while those of houses and lands amounted only to 6,000l.; consequently, in that parish, 6,000l. had, trader the present practice, to bear the rates which had formerly been borne by nearly 18,000l. When the bill should go before the committee, it was his intention to introduce a clause, exempting iron mines from the payment of rates, because he believed their rents had never been re-served in ore; and therefore they could not be taxed.

Colonel Wood

said, that as far as he was able to judge, the hon. gentleman had confined his observations to lead mines alone; but if this bill were carried into a law, all the mines in the kingdom might be equally liable to be taxed. The hon. gentleman was right when he said that iron mines had never been taxed; and he might have affirmed the same of lead mines. He believed the owners of lead mines had first been subjected to a tax, on the supposition that the ore being found on the soil, made them liable for the rates. But, if the hon. gentleman would refer to the 43rd of Elizabeth, he would find that lead mines had never paid rates. He looked on this measure as one which tended to increase the demoralizing influence under which the poor were already placed. If the present system of the poor laws had a demoralizing tendency, until these laws were amended let no more property be dragged under their operation.

Mr. Alderman Wood

objected to the bill as being a partial measure, and only calculated to relieve a few parishes in one county. He thought if iron was to be exempted from its operation, copper ought to be equally so.

Sir James Graham

objected to this bill, as being partial in its operation; if it was general, and went to impose a liability to the poor-rates oh all mines, he would not object to it; but he could not agree to tax one species of mines, and that too which was the least able to pay. The hon. baronet concluded by moving, that the bill be read a second time on this day six months.

Lord Milton

was decidedly of opinion that the bill ought to pass into a law. This measure had been introduced last year, and was not then lost, but defeated by parliament being dissolved; there ought not then to be any prejudice against it, from a supposition of its having been previously negatived. Much had been said about the cheapness with which landed proprietors in the neighbourhood of mines procured labour, but it was to be observed, that the great number of paupers, and consequently of the poor-rates, was caused, not by the landholder, but by the miner; as the work to be obtained at the mines caused an immense increase of population, whereas if there had been no mines the parish would be inhabited by a few farmers, sufficient merely to cultivate the ground.

Mr. Curwen

said, that the 43rd of Elizabeth had been quoted as authority to prove that lead mines were not originally liable to the poor-rates; but it ought to be observed, that that statute referred to the speculator, and not to the lessee. Though such an exemption was made in favour of the former, yet it had been very properly withheld from the latter. The hon. member said, that the bill had his most cordial support.

The House then divided:—For the second reading, 43; Against it, 77.—The bill was consequently lost.