HC Deb 13 May 1830 vol 24 cc696-702
Mr. Spring Rice

presented a Petition from St. Mary's, Dublin, against the Duty on Coals imported into Ireland. The hon. Member then proceeded to say, that in making the proposition which he should submit to the House, he had the satisfaction of knowing that it was a proposition which, though advantageous to Ireland, and meant to be so, would also be a great benefit to England. He considered that the increased consumption of coals which would take place in Ireland if the duties were removed, would be no inconsiderable benefit to the coal districts of England. To Ireland the remission of the duties would be a great relief. He begged leave to remind the House that he had cheerfully voted for those reductions of taxation in England which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had proposed. He rejoiced in those reductions; and he had even voted for the reduction of some taxes, as that on Salt, which it was supposed the interest of Ireland required should be maintained. His proposition, he would also remind hon. Gentlemen, would not deprive the Revenue of any great sum. The amount of revenue raised by the tax on coals in Ireland did not exceed 50,000l. or 60,000l., but that did not express the amount of the inconvenience it imposed. It was the same with that particular tax as with all taxes—it imposed a very great number of inconvenient restrictions, which were felt to be far greater evils than the amount of the tax. If the tax were removed, it was impossible to say to what extent trade might be increased. There was a want of return cargoes from England, and it could not beforehand be known how much manufactures would be augmented in Ireland if there were no tax on Coals. In particular, the increase of distilleries would promote very much the increase of the consumption of Coals, and giving freedom to the coal-trade would very much promote the manufactures of Ireland. He contended, that this tax put a restriction on industry generally. He admitted the repeal of it rested on similar grounds as that in England would; but there were peculiar circumstances connected with the pressure of this tax in Ireland. There it obstructed the play of all the springs of productive industry, and consequently, more injury was inflicted on the country, than could be possibly compensated by the return to the Revenue. Thus he rested his argument on the grounds of general policy. Scotland, he remarked, had Coal of its own, and there was no duty on it. There was no Coal in Ireland, and therefore how much harder was it that the people there should be called upon to pay a tax upon this necessary? There were now 7,000 persons unemployed in Dublin. The repeal of this tax would be of the greatest use in alleviating the pressure of the distress now prevailing there. He knew that there was one woollen manufacturer who would increase his establishment by 1,000 men, if the tax were removed; and if one-seventh of the whole number of men unemployed were thus relieved by a single person concerned in the woollen trade, what might not be expected from the increased activity of all the other trades carried on in that capital? The question was one, too, that affected the interests of England; for the number of Irish paupers who, it was so loudly complained, thronged the shores of Britain, were much increased by the pressure of this tax. He thought, too, he had a right to complain, that while 3,000,000l. of taxation were taken off in England, at least 100,000l. additional taxes should be imposed on Ireland. He contended, also, that the amount of this tax was so trifling, that it might be re- moved without any great loss to the Revenue. It was only 50,000l.; the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, 73,000l., and he proposed an equivalent for it—economy in the Irish establishments. He was convinced that if Gentlemen would apply themselves with care and assiduity to the Irish Estimates, they could reduce more than the amount of this tax. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving for a "Committee to consider the Acts respecting the Coal Duties in Ireland, with a view to their Repeal."

Lord Killeen

seconded the Motion.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

regretted that he was obliged to oppose the Motion. There was no disposition upon his part to create an unequal pressure of taxation in Ireland, but there were peculiar circumstances which compelled him to adopt the course he had proposed; and looking at the general pressure of taxation on the country, he did not see what other he could have pursued. And, taking this tax, as affecting the two portions of the United Kingdom, he found that in Ireland it was only 1s. 10d. a bushel, while in England it amounted to 4s.; consequently, if repeal were applied at all, it would appear but fair to apply it to the greater burthen. He admitted that Scotland had been relieved from the Coal-tax, and he admitted the validity of the argument founded on this; but he asked, how would the repeal of this duty also in Ireland operate on the Coal consumed in England? Would not England then have a fair claim to demand the repeal of the tax, as well as the other two countries? Therefore the House were not to look to the small revenue in Ireland, but to the whole tax on Sea-borne Coal, which exceeded 800,000l. per annum. He accordingly put it to the House, if, after the relief he had already afforded, he could, with any regard to the obligations of this country, grant the repeal of that tax to Ireland, when he considered what consequences it would entail? In answer to the hon. member for Limerick's remarks about economy in the public establishments, he had to observe, that Ministers had already determined upon all practicable economy, and in his financial statement he had taken credit for it. Enough too, had been already done in the way of reduction to make this economy decidedly necessary. He did not think that the tax was any violation of the Union and he should oppose the Motion.

General Gascoyne

supported the Motion. The tax was originally intended only to be a war-tax, and as it was most partial and oppressive it ought to be repealed.

Mr. Warburton

also supported the Motion, and said, that a tax on Canadian timber, which would be just and proper, and would yield 1,500,000l. to the Revenue, might enable the Government to take off the tax on Coals. By the heavy duties now levied on Baltic timber, the community was obliged to consume a bad article at a high price.

Mr. O'Connell

supported the Motion. There was no tax the repeal of which would give so much relief to Ireland. It had been promised at the time of the Union to repeal this tax, and that ought now to be done, if it were wished that the Union should be advantageous to both countries. He called on the House to answer this appeal of the Irish people, and show that those were calumniators, who said that the House had no sympathy with the distresses of the Irish.

Mr. Baring

wished to hear no more of the proportion of taxes to be paid by England and Ireland, than to be paid by Yorkshire and Kent. The only consideration for the House was, to raise the necessary Revenue with the least possible inconvenience. He would support the Motion, because, from the smallness of the amount, the repeal of the tax would not be unfair towards England, and it would confer a great benefit on Ireland. The introduction of steam into manufactures had made Coal indispensable in almost all branches of manufacture, and the condition of Ireland could not be improved by becoming a manufacturing country, unless she had free access to the market for Coals. He presumed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have some difficulty in passing his Beer-bill, and therefore he would recommend him to change it to a Coal-bill, abolishing the whole duty on Sea-borne Coal, which should have his hearty support.

Mr. George Moore

hoped, that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not repeal the tax, he would, at least, exempt from duty all coal used in manufactures.

Mr. E. Wodehouse

regretted that the Government would not accede to the Motion. The tax could not be supported by argument, and he should bring the general subject forward on a future occa- sion. The continuance of the tax on Coals in its present form was equally discreditable to the statesman, and injurious to the interests of the country.

Lord Milton

differed, with the greatest regret, from the hon. member for Callington, and could not but think that, however the price of Coals might be diminished to the consumer, it could never be so much reduced as to enable people to establish manufactories in other parts of the kingdom than those which were at a moderate distance from the place where the Coal was obtained. He could not but view this question differently from some of the hon. Members, for, in his opinion, a tax on Sea-borne-Coals was a tax on an article of commerce; but a tax imposed on Coals at the pit's mouth would be a tax on a necessary of life, and on one which the people in the Coal districts had immemorially enjoyed at a very moderate price. Any person acquainted with the manufacturing districts, must see at once how heavily such a tax would fall on the manufacturers. The tax on Sea-borne-Coals did not amount to more than one-eighth or one-ninth of the price of the article, and the repeal of that tax would not so much benefit the people as would the reduction of some other taxes, which, though they hardly produced more to the Revenue, were more oppressive in their operation upon the people.

Mr. P. Thomson

regretted that he was obliged to oppose the Motion of his hon. friend; but he could not avoid doing so when he observed that it was a Motion j which went to benefit one class or body of the people at the expense of another. If the measure had been more general—if it had been for the repeal of the duty, not in one, but in all parts of the kingdom—it should have had his support; for he considered that policy and expediency, as well as justice, called on them to abolish a duty which the manufacturers along the whole eastern coast of England felt was one that disabled them from a fair competition with the foreigner.

Lord Castlereagh

was aware that the Coal-tax was very unpopular in Ireland, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer entertained certain projects, with regard to Ireland, which were still more unpopular than the Coal-tax. In the hope that by allowing that right hon. Gentleman to retain the Coal-tax, he would not push his equalizing measures of taxation through the House, he should vote against the Motion of the hon. member for Limerick.

Sir T. D. Acland

supported the Motion most cordially. He had presented several petitions in favour of the total repeal of the duty, and he would now support its partial abolition. If it were true that manufactories could not be established in parts of the kingdom distant from those where the Coal was obtained, they at least ought not to add a legislative disadvantage where there were but few natural advantages for their establishment. He must confess his astonishment at what he had heard from the noble Lord, the member for Yorkshire, who seemed to-night to have appeared as the advocate of restrictions on trade, because they were in favour of Yorkshire, though they operated against Devonshire, and all the Southern parts of the country. He should vote with pleasure for the Motion, especially as it went to the relief of Ireland, and as it was, by the confession of his right hon. friend opposite, the commencement of the operation of a principle, which he trusted would soon be extended to the repeal of the whole tax.

Lord Althorp

said, that this was an English question, because it was an Irish question, for the interests of the two countries were the same. The system of agriculture now employed in Ireland was to create large farms, by which the small agriculturists were driven from the country into the town, where they were now suffering severely from want of employment. If this tax were repealed, though possibly no new manufactures could be established, yet the increase of those which had been long in existence would be materially promoted. He believed that as far as the Revenue was concerned, the abolition of the tax might safely take place, and as that would be very much for the benefit of the consumer, he should therefore now vote even for its partial reduction.

Sir C. Cole

supported the Motion to take off what he must call a most inquitous tax upon the poorer classes of the community.

Mr. Spring Rice

, in reply, said, that he disagreed with his hon. friend the member for Dover, as to this being a partial measure for the benefit of one portion of the people; or, if it were so, he could not see that by the people of Ireland being still made to suffer by this tax, the people of Norfolk or Kent would be benefitted. He should be glad to see a general measure for the repeal of this tax introduced; but since he could not obtain all that he wished, he was anxious to get as much as he could.

The House then divided—For the Motion 120; Against it 187—Majority 67.

List of the Minority.
Althorp, Lord Killeen, Lord
Acland, Sir. T. King, Hon. R.
Anson, Hon. G. Knight, R.
Archdall, General Knox, Hon.—
Blandford, Marquis Kekewich, S. T.
Brownlow, C. Kennedy, F. T.
Baring, Alex. Lester, B. L.
Baring, B. Labouchere, H.
Baring, F. Lamb, Hon. G.
Baring, Sir T. Langston, J. H.
Blake, Sir F. Macaulay, T. B.
Bernal, R. Maberly, J.
Buck, L. W. Marjoribanks, S.
Brougham, H. Macdonald, Sir J.
Bastard, J. Moore, G.
Benett, J. Monck, T. B.
Bell, Matthew Marshall, W.
Bentinck, Lord G. Nugent, Lord
Birch, J. O'Hara, J.
Cavendish, W. O'Connell, D.
Chichester, Sir A. Oxmantown, Lord
Clements, Lord Poyntz, S.
Carter, J. B. Protheroe, E.
Cole, Sir C. Pendarvis, E. W.
Cole, Hon. A. H. Palmerston, Lord
Callaghan, H. Portman, E. B.
Clive, E. B. Philips, G. R.
Dick, Q. Palmer, F.
Dundas, Hon. T. Parnell, Sir H.
Dundas, Hon. G. H. L. Pryse, P.
Dundas Sir R. L. Ponsonby, Hon. G.
Denison, W. J. Ponsonby, Hon. F.
Denison, J. E. Ponsonby, Hon. W. F.
Dawson, A. Ramsden, J.
Drake,— Robarts, A.
Euston, Lord Rochfort, G.
Ebrington, Lord Russell, Lord J.
Ewart, W. Robinson, Sir G.
Featherston, Sir G. R. Rumbold, C. E.
French, A. Smith, V.
Fyler, T. B. Somerville, Sir M.
Fitzgibbon, Hon. R. Stanley, Hon. C.
Guise, Sir B. W. Stanley, Lord
Gascoyne, General Stuart, Lord J.
Gordon, Robert Talbot, R. W.
Grant, Right Hon. C. Tomes, J.
Grant, Robert Townsend, Lord C.
Graham, Sir J. Trant, W. H.
Grattan, J. Tuite, H. M.
Hobhouse, J. C. Tennyson, C.
Hume, Joseph Thomson, P.
Handcock, Richard Vaughan, Sir R.
Honywood, W. P. Waithman, Ald.
Hutchinson, J. H. Wyvill, M.
Hill, Lord Arthur Whitbread, S.
Howick, Lord Whitbread, W. H.
Jephson, C. D. O. Western, C. C.
Wood, C. Power, R.
Wood, Alderman TELLERS.
Wood, J. Rice, T. S.
Wodehouse, E. Warburton, H.