§ General Hart
presented a Petition from the Letter-press Printers of Londonderry, against the proposed increase of the Stamp Duties on Irish Newspapers. The gallant Member supported the prayer of the Petition, which he conceived well worthy of the attention of the House.
§ Sir J. Brydges
also supported the prayer of the Petition. The proposed assimilation of Stamp-duties, he conceived, should be effected, not by raising the duties in Ireland, but by lowering them in England. The petitioners stated, that this proposed increase of duties would destroy the Irish press, and he believed they were correct in that statement. They also stated, that any restrictions on the press were very objectionable, but he (Sir J. Brydges) would confess, that he did not agree with them in that opinion, for he thought that at the present moment the press was a little too licentious. The petitioners, however, he was satisfied, were good and loyal subjects, and he trusted their representations would be attended to by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Mr. G. Moore
gave his cordial support to the prayer of the Petition. His hon. friend, who had just sat down, had objected to the licentiousness of the press, but in his (Mr. Moore's) opinion, if the press were licentious, the press itself was, generally speaking, the best corrector of the licentiousness of the press. Several petitions were on their way for presentation to the House, similar to the present, 449 and they should all have his most strenuous support.
Mr. S. Rice
said, he had a Petition to present this evening, similar to the one just presented, but he would take this opportunity to express his sentiments on the subject. The proposed measure was in every respect most objectionable, and he would tell the English Members in that House, that if they supposed the measure in question would be productive of benefit to the Revenue, they were quite mistaken. So far from an increase, a diminution of revenue would follow the imposition of additional duties upon the Newspaper press of Ireland. Under the existing scale of duties, the revenue arising from the duty upon advertisements in Ireland had diminished latterly from 26,000l. to 14,000l. a year; and if this measure were carried, the press of Ireland would be altogether annihilated. But even if this measure were calculated to add to the Revenue, he should resist it, as he was opposed to all restrictions on the free circulation of opinion. An unanimous opinion prevailed amongst all the Irish Members on the subject; and though the press was the most powerful engine in controlling their actions, they were determined to resist any measure which went to impose any additional shackles upon it.
§ Mr. O'Connell
supported the prayer of the Petition. The measure in question would annihilate the Irish press; and if that were the object which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had in view, he would undoubtedly succeed in accomplishing it; but if his object were an increase of the Revenue, the very contrary effect would follow this measure. An additional duty of 1s. on advertisements had already caused a falling-off in that branch of the Revenue, and an additional 1s. would destroy it altogether.
Mr. Cutlar Fergusson
, though he had not the honour to belong to the country from which this Petition had come, felt warmly interested in the question, and he should certainly protest against the imposition of any additional tax upon Ireland. If assimilation was the object in view, there were two ways of accomplishing that—either by raising the duties in Ireland, or by lowering them in England; and he would certainly oppose the former, while he would support the latter mode of attaining that end.
§ Petition to be printed.450
§ Sir John Newport
presented a similar petition, and stated that if the duties were decreased instead of being increased, there would be an increase of Revenue, and a large increase in the number of publications. In Ireland the latter was particularly wanted, on account of the distance of the people from their Representatives, which required that they should, by the press, be able to control their conduct. He deprecated in the strongest manner the attempt to impose additional Stamp-duties on Ireland.
Mr. George Lamb
said, he was quite confident, whether that were the object in view or not, that the additional duty would ruin the press of Ireland. If, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman should persevere in his plan, which he hoped he would not, he should oppose him to the utmost of his power, which he hoped would be done by every well-wisher to his country.