HC Deb 05 March 1821 vol 4 cc1078-81

On the order of the day for going into a committee on the Husbandry Horses Duties Acts.

Mr. Curwen

said, that under the present general distress of agriculture, he thought it impossible that the House could continue the duties upon horses solely employed in husbandry. The duties were not so large in themselves, but their operation was vexatious and most unjust. One of their peculiar hardships was, that they fell the heaviest on those who were least able to afford them. The Horse Tax never operated in a just proportion. It fell on the northern parts of the kingdom in the proportion of seven to five. In the southern parts a less number of horses were used for tilling the ground than could possibly serve for that purpose in the north. He would venture to say, that there was no tax so oppressive and vexatious. If the husbandry horse was used occasionally for any other purpose, then the proprietor was subject to the vexation of a surcharge. The tax had also the effect of discouraging the breeding of horses. The farmer was now just as heavily burthened as in his years of prosperity; but if this tax were removed, he would accept it as a boon, and a proof that ministers had some sympathy with his sufferings. Instead of continuing it, why bad not the Chancellor of the exchequer increased the game license tax from three to five guineas? Why had he not raised the tax upon pleasure horses? Why had he not laid a duty of ten guineas per ton, instead of three guineas, upon tallow? for surely we owed no very heavy obligations to Russia for any encouragement she had given to our trade. These measures would produce as much to the Treasury as was obtained from the impost upon horses employed in agriculture. He would move, "That it be an instruction to the committee to make provision for the, repeal of the Duty on Horses solely employed in Husbandry."

Sir C. Burrell

supported the motion, contending that it would be quite as just to tax the farmer's plough, his cart, or even his labourer as his horse. He considered the abolition of the husbandry horse tax as but a small boon; the whole amount of the tax did not exceed 480,000l. and of this but a small part was produced from the horses employed in agriculture, he had on a former occasion suggested, the propriety of laying a tax on transfers of stock at the Bank. He was certain it would produce a greater sum than the amount of the present tax.

Mr. Lockhart

wished to press upon the consideration of the House the different circumstances under which the duties had been originally laid on, and those which existed at the present period. He could not touch upon the subject before the House without looking anxiously for some declaration by which it might be ascertained whether ministers were sufficiently impressed with an idea of the real distress which at present existed in the agricultural interests. His own impression was, that they were not. If they would not open their eyes, and endeavour to afford relief to the general distress, they would be obliged at last to yield by necessity, what they were not now disposed to concede as a boon.

Mr. Grenfell

said, that in every loan act was a clause that no stamp duty, whatever, shall be paid upon the transfer of stock. Now, he would ask the House if, after such a compact, it could be guilty of such a breach of public faith, as to consent to any tax upon this species of property?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that the object in going into the committee was not to propose any new tax, but to continue for a certain time the mitigated duty which had been regulated a few years ago. The repeal of a tax which produced half a million of money was a serious question hi the present state of the country. He would not say that some substitute might not be found for it; but the present was not the time for discussing the question.

Colonel Davies

was of opinion that the tax might be got rid of altogether. He could not but express his surprise that in, the discussion of the present question, no mention had been made of retrenchment; and economy. He should soon have an opportunity of shewing, in the discussion of the army, estimates, that, by an economical arrangement, the amount, of this tax might be saved upon that branch alone.

Mr. Monck.

was convinced; that, ministers would never begin the long promised work of retrenchment, until the House refused them some of the taxes, It was not by placing high duties, upon foreign corn that adequate relief, could be expected; for that would, be only transferring the pressure from the grower to the consumer. The real evil was in the pressure of excessive taxation, added to the improved, state of the currency.

Mr. Huskisson,

before the question went to the vote, wished to call the attention of the House to its real nature. A few years ago the agricultural horse-tax had been mitigated; and it was now intended in the committee to propose the continuance of that mitigated tax for a limited time; but the motion of the hon. member would go to the reduction of the tax upon horses of another description, which had not an equal title. This, on the present occasion, would be an absurdity. The hon. member might afterwards make a distinct motion for the repeal of the tax altogether, if he thought proper.

Mr. Bright

complained, that some hon. members were disposed to take off taxes from themselves and lay them upon their neighbours. He would support any proposition for the reduction of a tax, but never for transferring it from one interest to another. He thought it would be highly desirable that country gentlemen should come to a determination not to vote for any of the estimates until something had been done towards relieving the distress of the country.

Mr. Ellice

wished to follow up the remarks of the hon. gentleman by suggesting, that the sinking fund ought to be made applicable to the public service, and that taxes of an equal amount should be taken off.

The House divided: For the Instruction, 65; Against it, 122. The House then went into the committee.

List of the Minority.
Allen, J. Hamilton, lord A.
Barham, J. F. Harboard, hon.
Barnard, lord Hobhouse, J. C.
Bernal, R. Hotham, lord
Bennet, hon G. Hume, J.
Bennett, J. Hutchinson, hon. C.
Boughey, sir J. Lambton, J. G.
Burrell, sir C. Latouche, J.
Bury, lord Lawley,
Calcraft, J. Lennard, F.
Calvert, C. Lockhart, T. B.
Calvert, N. Lushington, S.
Cawthorne, J. F. Mackintosh, sir J.
Cheere, C. M. Marjoribanks, J.
Claughton, Monck, J. B.
Coffin, sir J. Newport, sir J.
Golborne, R. O'Grady, S.
Crespigny, sir W. Ord, W.
Cripps, J. Pitt, J.
Curteis, E. J. Powlett, hon. W.
Denison, W. J. Ramsay, sir A.
Ellice, E. Rice, R.
Farquharson, A. Rickford, W.
Folkestone, lord Robarts, A. W.
Glenorchy, lord Roberts, col.
Gordon, R. Robinson, sir G.
Grant, M. Shelley, sir J.
Grattan, J. Sykes, D.
Webb, col. Wilson, sir H.
Western, J. C. Wyvill, M.
Whitbread, S. TELLERS.
White, L. Creevey, T.
Wilson, sir R. Curwen, J.