HC Deb 15 November 1830 vol 1 cc510-3

Mr. Bell, in presenting a petition from the coalowners of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, against this duty, observed, 'that as the subject was to be brought before the House by the hon. member for Limerick, he would only trouble the House for very few minutes. The petition came from a body of persons who had embarked nearly one million and a half in the coal-trade of Northumberland, and they complained, with great justice, of the hardships to which they were exposed by the oppressive duty of 6s. per chaldron, charged on all coals carried coastwise. They considered themselves unjustly treated, in being deprived of advantages possessed by those who carried their coals along canals and rail-roads. But though the coal-owners prayed to be relieved from this partial tax, they disclaimed all wish to throw it on the inland coal-owner, or any other branch of the community. He did not plead, however, for the coal-owner alone: he was the advocate of the public — which suffered even more than the coal-owner by the existence of this most odious tax on industry. If the tax were repealed, a considerable fail in price would be the inevitable consequence; and he was borne out by facts in making this assertion, for when the 3s.. 4d., duty, as it was called, was repealed in 1824, the best coals fell in the London markets from 46s. to 36s. 6d., in the course of three years. Since the repeal of that duty, coals had fallen in price in the North also. This fact shewed, that if the 6s. duty were taken off, the coal owner would not pocket, as was said, the whole amount. Such could not be the case— coals were now lower in the North than they were in 1828, and competition would prevent the coal-owner from raising them one penny the chaldron beyond the present price. He would benefit by the increased consumption no doubt; but the consumer and the carrier would derive the greatest advantage from the repeal of the tax. He heard, with regret the declaration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other evening, but he hoped that the sense of the House would be found so strong against the continuance of this oppressive tax, on the motion of the hon. member for Limerick, that the right hon. Gentleman would be compelled at once t6 abandon it entirely. From what had recently occurred in the Netherlands, there could be little doubt but that Holland would, ere long, require a supply of coals from this country, and he hoped, therefore, that every facility would be given to the exportation of coals, by removing the duty on export of 17s., the chaldron, which was a complete prohibition to foreign trade. By encouraging exportation additional employment would be given to the shipping-interest, which required every possible encouragement to keep it from ruin. The petition alluded also to another tax peculiar to the river Tyne, and from which all other places whence coals are shipped are altogether exempt. This tax was commonly called. the Richmond shilling, being a duty of one shilling a chaldron on all coals shipped from the river Tyne. It yielded about 35,000l. per annum, and originated in an arbitrary grant from Charles 2nd to the Richmond family, of whom it was purchased, in 1799, by the Government for 400,000l. From that period to the 5th of January, 1827, Government received 862,000l. from this tax, which, after repaying the purchase money, left a surplus of 462,000l. To show the extreme hardship of this tax, it was only necessary to state, that in a vessel carrying 200 chaldrons of coals, it makes the difference of 60l. in the year, whether she loads at Shields, Sunderland, Stockton, or in the Tyne, all the former places being exempt from this odious and partial tax. He trusted that justice would be done by the partial tax being repealed, and that industry would be promoted by the repeal of the general tax.

Mr. Hodgson

did not wish to take up the time of the House on the present occasion, as an opportunity would soon occur of entering into the subject at length, by an hon. Member on the opposite side of the House having given notice of a motion on the subject. He agreed in the observations of the hon. Member who presented the petition, and would only add a very few words in support of its prayer. He agreed with that hon. Gentleman in thinking that the coal-tax was much more oppressive than any other tax, and affected the comforts of the people to a much greater extent. At the same time, it was a most unjust tax, because it was only paid by persons living in certain districts, and on coals carried coastwise. He believed that it was the only tax on an absolute necessary of life which affected all classes of the people, and fell particularly heavy on the lower orders. No measure could afford so much benefit to the people as the repeal of this tax. This oppressive tax was not only paid by the people of this country, but also by those of Ireland, where it was most severely felt. The hon. member for Waterford would, therefore, he was sure, lend the assistance of his talents to get it abolished. It was a lax of which the collection was attended with a great expense; for he understood that Custom-house establishments were kept up at several of the smaller ports, solely for the purpose of collecting it, If, therefore, it was re- pealed, those establishments might be abolished.

Mr. Cresset Pelham

hoped, that if any alteration were made in this tax, care would be taken that the coal-owners in the internal parts of the country should not be injured. Hon. Gentlemen should remember, that the owners of coal-mines in the North possessed advantages which those in other parts did not. In the county which he had the honour to represent, important interests were involved, and due care ought to be taken before any change was made, so that no injury should be done.

Petition to be printed.

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