HC Deb 26 February 1819 vol 39 cc709-12
Sir C. Morgan

presented a petition from Monmouthshire against any change in the coal duties.

Mr. Newman

observed, that nothing could be more unjust than the present system, and he hoped ministers would see the subject in the same light.

Sir C. Morgan

said, that the proposition which had been made on the subject of the coal duties, if carried into effect, would cause the greatest distress in those districts in which coals were indispensable to manufactures.

Mr. Edwards

perfectly agreed with the hon. baronet: to tax coals at the mine would be an incalculable injury to the iron works; and when the magnitude of those works was considered, the importance of the question would be evident There was not a man who wore hob nails in his shoes who would not suffer by such an imposition. Being perfectly convinced of the inpolicy of any change, he did hope that parliament would leave the law respecting the duties on coals untouched.

Sir Isaac Coffin

observed, that the poor in the counties which would be most materially affected by any change in the duties on coals were already in such a state that they could scarcely buy shoes to their feet or salt to their porridge. The fat eaters of venison in the metropolis ought to be ashamed of themselves for wishing to benefit by a farther pressure on those who were already enduring so much.

Mr. E. J. Littleton

knew no question that had created a greater ferment through the country, than that of making an alteration in the existing duties upon coals. No time should be lost by ministers in deciding on the subject, as an additional hour of delay only served to heighten that alarm which had been already suffered to have gone too far.

Mr. Bennet

said, he would give every opposition to the meditated equalization of the duties upon coal. The people of Shropshire and Staffordshire were particularly anxious on the subject, a people than whom there did not exist any more grateful or more loyal in the kingdom.

Mr. Calcraft

remarked, that those who supported the equalization of the duties, had no wish that those who worked at the coal mines should be unemployed; on the contrary, they thought that the adoption of the proposed measure would increase the consumption of the article in question. He had no doubt that the people of Shropshire and Staffordshire were adverse to any change, for they were possessed of peculiar advantages at present, and like all persons so situated regarded with jealousy the approach of any thing in the shape of alteration. For his part, he was against any monopoly of benefit, and would therefore support a proposition for a more equal distribution of the duties on coals.

Mr. S. Worthy

said, he would give his determined opposition to any proposition for a change in the present duties, conceiving that the complaints made against them were utterly unfounded and unjust.

Mr. Protheroe

observed, that this was evidently a case in which parties were contending for their separate interests, and it was for the House to decide between them. It had an anomalous appearance, that one half of the country should be exempt from a tax to which the other was subject. The inhabitants of Stafford-shire had no reason for discontent or alarm in their present circumstances; since the iron-trade was now flourishing there with unprecedented success. He should oppose any tax whatever on coals, being satisfied that this was one of those impolitic measures which defeated its own end, and that the impulse which its repeal would give to manufactures would more than compensate a temporary reduction of the revenue.

Mr. Holme Sumner

was not surprised that gentlemen who represented those counties in which coal duties were inoperative should object to any alteration in the nature of them. The sum of 1,020,000l. was annually raised by the duties on coals. Of that sum the counties of Middlesex and Surrey paid 680,000l.; four other counties paid 340,000l.; and the rest of the kingdom was altogether exempt. When it was recollected how heavily this tax, on an article so necessary to common domestic purposes, must bear on the lower orders, the expediency of taking its more general diffusion into consideration must be acknowledged. Whatever might be said on the other side of the question, he was determined that this important subject should be brought forward. It was most unjust that two or three millions of those persons in the kingdom, who were the least able to support it, should have the present exclusive burden pressing on them. It sometimes happened, especially in spring, that adverse winds prevented any arrivals in the pool. To rich men who had their cellars full of coals this was immaterial, but to the poor the difference of price, occasioned by such a circumstance, combined with the duties, was most oppressive. He was convinced that a greater revenue would be derived by a duty of six-pence or a shilling a chaldron, equally diffused over the kingdom, than by a partial tax on any district. In the present state of the finances of the country, it was not to be expected that the chancellor of the exchequer could abandon the tax altogether, but he trusted that the right hon. gentleman would consent to such a modification as would render it less partial. He should feel himself guilty of a dereliction of his duty, if the members for the city of London were appalled by the opposition to the proposed measure, were he not himself, on an early day, to bring it under the consideration of the House.

Lord Granville Somerset

remonstrated against any alteration in the duties.

Mr. N. Calvert

contended that the existing tax was partial and unjust.

Lord Castlereagh

observed, that the present was scarcely a fair opportunity for discussing the subject.

Mr. Littleton

admitted the truth of the noble lord's remark, but added, that whenever the hon. member for Surrey should bring forward the motion of which he had given notice, he would give it his most decided opposition.

Ordered to lie on the table.