HC Deb 05 March 1819 vol 39 cc895-7
Mr. E. Littleton

said, he held in his hands petitions from several parishes in Staffordshire, praying that no alteration might take place on the duty on coal. He would enter into no discussion on the subject, as he was quite satisfied with the declaration of the chancellor of this exchequer last night, that he would oppose any motion for a committee.

Sir C. Burrell

condemned the system of giving one part of the country an exemption at the expense of the rest. Not long ago, for the sake of a few counties interested in rock salt, a great portion of the country was subjected to considerable sacrifices. In like manner, the iron manufacturers now wished to enjoy an im- munity from taxation at the expense of the inhabitants of the coast. He hoped, however, a committee would be appointed to investigate the subject thoroughly.

Mr. Cripps

said, if the measure of an equalization were carried into effect, it would be attended with the most ruinous consequences to the large establishments of Yorkshire and Gloucestershire.

Mr. Barham

said, there were but two questions to be considered; one, whether the petitions should be brought up; the other, whether they should be laid on the table. If gentlemen did not mean to object to either of these stages, he thought it was irregular to enter into discussion on the subject.

Mr. Lambton

said, it was perfectly competent to any member, on an occasion like the present, to discuss any subject in the body of the petition, or any statement made by the member who presented it. This was a question of the greatest importance to many parts of the country, and the constituents of many members were deeply interested in it. These members would not do their duty to their constituents if they did not second their wishes. The hon. member for Staffordshire had done his duty to his constituents —he had raised a cry against the measure of an equalization, by which, according to him, the country would be ruined. His "country" consisted of a few ironmongers, who naturally enough wished to remain exempted from a tax which pressed' heavily on others. But, whatever might be the case with respect to the iron manufacturers, the poor of the county of Stafford, so far from being injured by an equalization, would be greatly benefited by it. They would obtain coals cheaper in consequence of the equalization, as there would then be a free market.

Mr. Philips

said, it would be very unfair to subject those manufacturers which had grown up under the exemption, to a taxation on coal. But the manufacturers, while they opposed the imposition of a tax on themselves, did not wish the continuance of the tax on the districts on which it already operated. If, instead of contending for an equalization of the tax, these districts proposed the repeal of it, they would meet with very general support. There never was a tax imposed more at variance with all the principles of economical science. There were, therefore, the best reasons why the tax should not exist at all. But an equalization would produce a very different effect from what many of the petitioners for it expected. One of the causes of the great superiority of our manufactures was, the abundance and cheapness of coal. In several manufactures, a very slight tax on coal would be attended with ruinous effects.

Mr. Alderman Wood

contended, that the object of the inland manufacturers, judging from their petitions, was, that there should be no alteration in the duty at all. He maintained that a duty of 1s. on the ton of coals at the pit's mouth, would only add 4s. to the price of the ton of iron. The iron manufacturers knew that this could easily be proved in a committee, and therefore they endeavoured by clamour to prevent the appointment of a committee.

Mr. Dickinson

said, he should oppose the measure of going into a committee. What ground was there for going into a committee? The tax was imposed under ancient acts of parliament, and the citizens of London had acquired and rented their properties with the knowledge of this burthen.

Mr. E. Littleton

said the hon. member for Durham had intimated, early in the session, that he intended to bring in a bill on this subject. He wished to know when it was proposed to carry this intention into execution.

Mr. Lambton

said, he had not yet communicated with his constituents on the subject; but the member for Surrey had given notice of his intention to propose a bill.

Ordered to lie on the table.