HC Deb 14 June 1824 vol 11 cc1320-2
Mr. Maberly,

in moving that the report oh this bill be brought up, took occasion to review the acts relative to the Land-tax from its first imposition, down to the period when it was made perpetual by Mr. Pitt. After condemning the act which fixed the land-tax on the landed interest in perpetuity, and after pointing out the impolicy of fixing the price of its redemption at an exorbitant rate, he proceeded to state, that the present bill was intended to reduce the price of the redemption to such a rate as would be consistent with the existing state of the money-market. It would also provide for the payment of that price in ready money, and not by instalments, and for its application not to the funded but to the unfunded debt. He contended that if his plan were adopted, the chancellor of the Exchequer would, in all probability, be able, in the course of the next two years, to apply 34,000,000l. to the reduction of the unfunded debt; a circumstance which in case of hostilities would be of incalculable benefit. It would also afford the means of diminishing taxes to the amount of five millions.

Mr. Herries

rose, for the purpose of moving that the report be brought up this day six months. He should not enter into any details, but should oppose the bill on the broad principle which had been so ably stated on a former night by the chancellor of the Exchequer. He contended, that the views of the hon. mover were by no means practicable. The idea that they were so could only have arisen in the hon. member's mind from his not having understood the nature of the subject. Originally the scheme for the redemption of the land-tax had operated beneficially, owing to the existing circumstances of the country; latterly, however, it had ceased to be so productive, in consequence of a change in those circumstances. In all schemes for its redemption, a sacrifice must be made either by the public or the individual. Now, it was absurd to suppose that an individual would voluntarily accede to a plan which demanded of him a sacrifice; and it was equally absurd to suppose, that the government could accede on behalf of the public to such a sacrifice as the adoption of the present bill would render necessary on its part. He then went into an examination of the charges on the unfunded debt, for the purpose of proving that the calculations of the hon. member were erroneous. This scheme could not enable government to reduce the whole of the unfunded debt, inasmuch as it would only produce 33,600,000l. under the most favourable circumstances, and the charge on the unfunded debt was at present 44,000,000l. The measure would be fraught with a loss to the public, in the first instance, of 400,000l. a year, and ultimately, looking to the difference of in come and charge, of 20,000,000l.

Mr. Grenfell

could not support the bill, which he considered as very injudicious in many of its details.

Mr. Hume

said, that some measure ought to be devised to relieve the country from the expense of collecting the land-tax. He had shown, on a former occasion, that, by the present mode of collection, a sum of 2,000,000l. sterling was actually lost. He did not, however, think, that the bill would effect that object. Now, if he were right in principle, that the ex-pence of collection might be saved, his advice would be, not to throw out this measure, but to re-commit it. In the committee, the objectionable parts might be amended, and it could be brought be- fore the House at a future period. He would, on the whole, wish his hon. friend not to press the measure at the present' period of the session. It had been shown, clearly, by evidence on their table, that the office of receiver-general might be entirely dispensed with, and the 700l. per annum paid to each of the collectors be saved. Here, then, if ministers were sincere in their desire for economy they might at once effect a saving of 50,000l. a year.

Mr. Monck

thought the House was much obliged to the hon. member for directing their attention to this subject; but was of opinion that the sacrifice proposed by him was too great. It would be giving up an annuity worth 40 years' purchase for 24 years' purchase.

Mr. Maberly

said, that viewing the measure in every possible point of view, he felt that it was wise and beneficial. He, however, would not divide the House on the question.

The amendment was then agreed to, without adivision, and the report of the bill was consequently put off for six months.