§ The House resolved itself into a Committee on the Acts regulating the Stamp Duties upon Cards and Dice,
§ Mr. G. Dawson
said, that in submitting certain resolutions to the committee, for the repeal of the duty on cards and dice, he was induced to take that course from a conviction that the duties on those articles were too severe, and gave rise to much fraud in the manufacture and sale of the articles in question. His object would be to repeal the existing acts, with a view to a reduction of the duties. His motives were, a desire to take away the existing temptations to fraud, to simplify the duties, and to prevent, by the proposed reduction, the surreptitious importation of foreign cards, and the sale of home-made second-hand cards in the shops. The present acts on the subject were found insufficient to protect the public revenue or the public morals. The result of the duties was a fraudulent evasion of the law. In the reign of queen Anne, the first duty, 6d. a pack, was imposed on cards. In the reign of George 1st it was increased to 1s.; in George 2nd to 1s. 6d.; in 1792 it was raised to 2s.; and in 1802 to 2s. 6d. 1432 a pack: being 1s. 6d. on the ace of spades, 6d. on the wrapper, and 6d, on the label. These duties on the wrapper and label were intended to prevent the sale of second-hand cards. But he could see no reason why persons who paid 2s. 6d. a pack on articles whose manufactured value was only 1s. 6d. should be prevented from selling them again? And his doubts of the justice of these duties were confirmed by the fact, that though they were increased from time to time, the revenue arising from them did not increase in proportion. The revenue was defrauded of the duties by various means: first, by servants selling second-hand cards, which were re-sold as new, without paying duty; then, by a practice among some manufacturers, of getting cards stamped as for exportation, and afterwards selling them in this country duty free, under the cover of that stamp, thus fraudulently obtained. Another way of defrauding the revenue of the duty on cards, was the custom in foreign countries of forging the English stamp, and smuggling them into this country, and selling them at a lower price than the regularly-stamped cards could be sold at. These various frauds lessened the revenue, injured the fair manufacturer of cards, and corrupted the morals of the people. To prevent which, he thought the best plan was to remove the temptations to fraud, by reducing the duty on cards.
§ Sir J. Newport
had no objection to the measure proposed, though he could not help thinking that while the enormous duties on fire insurance existed, the article of cards was an odd one to make the subject of an experiment in the way of a modification of duties; nor could he see how an encouragement to a more general use of cards was calculated to protect the morals of the people.
§ Mr. Hume
hailed the measure as a sign of the approaching prevalence of sound principles. As to the effect of this repeal of duties on the public morals, would it not remove the temptations to smuggling and forging? The measure was an excellent one, and he hoped to see the government extending the principle of it to other articles that were subject to high duties. He had no doubt there were establishments all along the coast opposite England, for the express manufacture of every article that was subject to high duty in this country. But those foreign manufacturers ere not to be blamed, but the govern- 1433 ment which could enforce laws so extravagant, that they seemed as if made for the purpose of being broken.
§ The resolutions were agreed to.