Mr. Alderman Waithman
presented a Petition from the Inhabitants of the Parish of St. Luke, praying for the Repeal of the House and Window-tax. That Tax, if repealed, he believed, would give much more relief than the Repeal of the Taxes proposed by the 1203 Chancellor of the Exchequer. During the last two years there were no less than 150,000 surcharges made by collectors of the Assessed-taxes. It was impossible to conceive a system more unjust or oppressive. Houses were valued according to their rack rent, and these Taxes being screwed up during a season of distress, had cruelly aggravated its pressure. In the parish of St. Luke's there were 50,000 inhabitants, and about 7,000 houses, and in this parish last year 36,000 casual poor were relieved. Of the 7,000 houses, 1,000 were too small to be rated. The sum raised for the relief of the poor in that parish, last year, was 24,000l. This was a state of things that could not last, and he cordially joined with the petitioners in asking for the Repeal of the Assessed-taxes.
§ Mr. Bright
supported the petition. He believed, from calculations he had made, that there were not less than 170,000 surcharges within the last two years; but even taking the smaller number stated by the hon. Alderman, it was a proof of a most oppressive system. These Taxes ought to be repealed. The composition for them even had been productive of evil effects—it had separated the opulent classes, who compounded for these Taxes, from their poorer neighbours, and deprived them of all interest in procuring the Repeal of them. By the present system, the rich escaped, and the small shop-keepers were ruined. The abolition of the Shop-tax had augmented the rent of houses, and the House-tax being levied on the increased rent, that abolition had given little or no relief to the small shop-keepers. But so it ever was in this country. The aristocracy threw the burthens of taxation off their own shoulders on the shoulders of the humbler classes.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
did not mean, he said, to argue the question of the Assessed-taxes with his hon. friend; he only rose to remark one inconsistency in his statement. His hon. friend impugned the Composition Act, because it gave relief to the rich; but why did not the poor embrace the same opportunity of compounding? The way was open to them as well as to the rich; and if they did not compound it was their own fault. It would be his duty to introduce a bill, after the holidays, to continue the Composition Act.
§ The Petition to be printed.