HC Deb 17 December 1830 vol 1 cc1304-6
Mr. Patten

presented petitions, very numerously signed from Manchester and its vicinity, praying for the Repeal of the duty on Printed Cottons. The hon. Member said, that this tax weighed most heavily and most injuriously upon the lower orders, and declared his intention of bringing the subject before the House, by moving that the duty be repealed, immediately after the recess. The duty on printed calicoes amounted to more than 1,000,000l. and not 400,000l. of that went into the Exchequer, in consequence of the numerous drawbacks, and the expense of collecting. The petitioners stated, that it diminished their profits thirty per cent, as well as being most vexatious. The labouring classes paid a duty of sixty or seventy per cent, while the dresses of the upper classes were not taxed above three per cent.

Mr. Hume

supported the prayer of the petitions. The tax upon printed cottons was most unequal and unjust, and it was fast destroying that branch of manufacture. This tax caused the garments of the poor to pay a duty of sixty per cent, while the garments of the rich did not pay a duty of more than five or six per cent. The extent of cotton-printing was at the rate of 300,000 or 400,000 pieces in the year. There were two millions of money in the gross collected from this duty, of which 500,000l. annually came into the Exchequer, and out of which 100,000l. was paid for the expenses of collection, leaving only 400,000l. to the revenue, which was taken out of the pockets of the great body of the people. Calico printing employed one-tenth of the inhabitants of Lancashire, and in Glasgow it was fast going down, in consequence of this tax, while the rival manufactures of ginghams and cotton-yarn were rising into prosperity. This was a tax that was levied on the industry of the people of England, and it ought to be repealed.

Mr. Greene

also bore testimony to the oppressive nature of this duty. It was extremely expensive to collect, and bore particularly hard upon the poorer classes, and he was anxious to have it repealed.

Mr. D. W. Harvey

said, that this was another instance of the cruel manner in which the poor were taxed. He had no doubt that the industrious classes of the community bore at least four-fifths of the gross taxation of the country; and he should be glad to see a committee appointed, for the purpose of tracing the injurious operation of our fiscal code on the labouring population. The personal property of a man who had accumulated a few thousand pounds by a life of unremitted industry, was subject, at his death, to an enormous impost, while the real estate of the great land-owner did not pay a farthing.

Mr. Alderman Waithman

had personal experience of the oppressive nature of this tax, and he had repeatedly brought the subject under the notice of the House, but no attention had been paid to him.

Mr. Dugdale

concurred in the observations which had been made on this subject, and supported the prayer of the petitions.

Sir John Newport

did not deny that this was a most oppressive tax, but there was also a still more oppressive and unjust tax, which he was of opinion ought, in the first instance, to be repealed—he alluded to the duty on coals. He had no doubt that the tax now under discussion was, like many others, an ill-regulated tax; but the question was, whether it and others could be repealed without any serious defalcation in the revenue. He was of opinion that the coal-duty was a still more oppressive, and far worse tax, and if they were to take away any taxes, they should first commence with one which pressed so very heavily upon the public. If they could not repeal the tax in question along with the coal-tax, consistently with a due attempt to keep up the public revenue of the country, he would certainly be for selecting the coal-tax for repeal; it was a most unjust and oppressive tax, for it bore harder upon the public the further they were removed from the place where the coals were obtained, and thus greatly augmented the difficulty of obtaining a supply of fuel. If there were to be a coal-duty, it ought to be laid on at the mouth of the pit, and thus it would fall equally on all, instead of being, as it was at present, exceedingly partial. There was no tax which should be repealed before the duty on coals. He was of opinion, that one of the evils of the present system of taxation was to be found in the restrictions it imposed on industry, by which employment was limited, both in England and Ireland.

Mr. Maberly

was of opinion, that the best way of arriving at a right decision on subjects of this kind was, to call for a thorough revision of the Revenue laws, instead of taking up the question abstractedly, on particular points.

Mr. Patten

observed, that when the proper time arrived he would show that this tax pressed heavily on the agricultural interest. When a farmer had several daughters, it must of necessity be very onerous to him.

Petition laid on the Table.