HC Deb 10 March 1823 vol 8 cc532-4

On the order of the day for going into a Committee on this bill,

Mr. Curwen

complained of the tax on houses rated under 5l. as a most unjust, impolitic, and oppressive tax; and moved, "That it be an Instruction to the Committee, that they have power to provide for taking off the duty on windows of houses rated at 5l., and also the house-tax charged on the same."

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

thought, that the case stated by the hon. member was greatly exaggerated. It was true, that all houses rated at 5l. a year rent, were subject to the tax; but, in the first place, all persons who received parish relief were exempted; and, in the second, all who could obtain a certificate, that they were unable to pay the tax. So extensive were the exemptions, that out of 1,100,000 houses liable to the tax, betwen 7 and 800,000 were exempted. The tax could not fall with very great severity. He could not see that the tax pressed with so much severity, as to induce him to agree to the instruction.

Mr. Bright

thought it very advisable to take off the house and window tax from the poorer classes. It was a tax very grievous in its operation on those classes, and felt most in the close and unhealthy quarters of great towns. The tax on windows being repealed, more windows would be opened, and there would be an increase in the duties on glass. He was not satisfied with the mode of repealing taxes now adopted. The tax on carriages took effect in the very last stage of the manufacture, and was only paid once. There were many articles which were taxed in every stage of their progress to the consumer, after a considerable burden laid on the raw material. Leather, a fundamental instrument of manufacture, was peculiarly liable to this objection. Candles were an unfit object for taxation, and but for which, would be an article of domestic manufacture in almost every poor man's house. Besides this, it gave employment to the worst machinery of the excise system.

The House divided: For the Instruction, 34; Against it, 87. The House having gone into the committee.

Mr. Wetherell

said, he had a representation to make on behalf of the learned body whom he had the honour to represent. Some of the members of the colleges kept horses, and, whereas one groom was frequently enough for ten horses, by a sort of financial arithmetic, this solitary groom was multiplied into as many grooms as there were horses. It would be no very rational method of computation, to say, that because one cook or one butler could serve a hundred guests, therefore each guest ought to pay for one cook and one butler. This tax did not, in point of fact, fall upon the graduates, because those persons kept their horses without the college. It was not so much for its amount, as for the principle which it involved, that he wished to see it repealed.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

did not think there was the slightest foundation for the application. His hon. and learned friend had made some facetious allusion to the college cook and butler. Every one knew that there were such officers; but he had never yet heard of a college groom. If there were ten horses, and only one groom, it was clear, that the horses must be very ill groomed; but that was no reason why each of the persons who employed a groom, should not pay the tax, as well as those whose horses were more efficiently attended to.

Mr. Curwen

hoped the chancellor of the exchequer would consent to place English cottagers on the same footing as Scotch cottagers; that was, to exempt those who had three children from the operation of the tax.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

had no objection to accede to the wish of the hon. member, but feared the measure would not be productive of much benefit.

The House then resumed.