§ The various Financial Papers on the Table, having, on the Motion of Lord Althorp, been referred to the Committee of Supply, the House resolved itself into the said Committee.
§ Lord Althorp
then said, in rising to address the Committee on the present occasion, he did so with the greatest feeling of embarrassment. The task which he had undertaken to perform was not light, even to those to whom it had been familiar; but to him, who was wholly unaccustomed to the statement of long financial details, it was necessarily one of peculiar difficulty. He was certain, therefore, that the Committee would give him credit when he said that he was not inclined to detain them longer than the occasion absolutely required; at the same time, he feared that he should be compelled to trespass more upon their patience than, under other circumstances, he might be obliged to do. It was his intention to state to the Committee the financial plans which his Majesty's Government had resolved to submit to the consideration of the House of Commons. He took that early opportunity of doing so, because he knew the anxiety of the House and the country to be informed of the nature of those plans. He 404 took that early opportunity of making a statement of the Supplies and Expenditure, for the reason which he had already mentioned; notwithstanding the whole of the estimates for the present year were not yet on the Table of the House. He trusted, however, that the rough estimate which he had made of the sum total of the expenditure of the year, would enable him to make his statement sufficiently clear and intelligible to the Committee. Before, however, he went into that statement, and into any description of the alterations in our financial system, which he meant to suggest for the consideration of the Committee, he should take the liberty of stating what his Majesty's Government had done with reference to the reduction of offices. The Ministers had not been in Office long enough to propose all the reductions which it might be advisable to make; but they had already determined upon the reduction of many places; some of which might be carried into effect immediately, although the greater part would certainly require time before they could be fully adopted. He would then proceed to state the names of the offices which his Majesty's Government were of opinion might be reduced without any detriment to the public service; and in making that statement, he wished the Committee to understand, that he did not describe the reduction as any great immediate saving of the public money; because, although it would certainly be productive of immediate saving, it would not be so to the extent which might be expected, because it was necessary to provide for many of the persons whose offices were to be reduced, by retired allowances. The names of the offices which it appeared to his Majesty's Government might be advantageously reduced were— The Vice-Treasurer of Ireland, the Lieutenant-General, and Clerk of the Delivery of the Ordnance; the Auditor of the Civil List; the Treasurer of the Military College; the Treasurer of the Military Asylum; the Postmaster-General in Ireland; the Resident Surveyor-General, Surgeon, and other Officers, sixty in number, connected with the Post-Office in Ireland; the King's Stationer, and four Clerks in Ireland; two Commissioners of the Navy Board; two Commissioners of the Victualling Board; the Superintendant of Transports; the Paymaster of Marines, and seven Clerks; seventy-one Officers of 405 the Dock-yards, with salaries from sixty to six hundred pounds; one Inspector of Stamps appointed to Manchester; one Distributor of Stamps in Cumberland; the Receiver-General of Taxes in Scotland; forty-six Receivers of Taxes in England; the Husband of the Four and a Half per cent Duties; the Commissioners of Sequestration in the West Indies; making, in the whole, 210 places which, in the opinion of his Majesty's Government, might, with the assistance of the House of Commons, be advantageously reduced. Besides the reductions he had described, his noble friend at. the head of the Colonial Department, entertained hopes that he should be able to carry into effect the recommendations of the Commission appointed by his Majesty's late Government, to inquire into the abuses of the Colonies; and if his noble and learned friend, the Lord Chancellor, should be enabled to carry his intentions into effect, a great reduction would also take place in his department. He had already stated, that he did not mention these reductions as any great economy in point of money, but as a great diminution of patronage; and as a confirmation of his declaration on a former occasion, that the Government of this country would no longer be carried on by patronage. He would then proceed to make the financial statement for the year. The mode which he should adopt was the usual one of comparing the Supplies which he should have the honour of proposing for the present, with the actual Revenue of the last year. The amount of the proposed Supplies for the present year was 46,850,000l., including, of course, the interest of the Debt and Exchequer Bills, and all the other annual charges. The Income of the year 1830 was 50,060,000l.; but from that sum must be deducted the duties on beer, leather, cider, and a portion of the duties on sugar, amounting altogether to 2,910,000l. This would reduce the income to 47,150,000l. If from that be subtracted the estimated expenditure of 46,850,000l., it would leave a surplus of 300,000l. Now, although he was never an advocate for a large Sinking Fund, or a large surplus revenue, he certainly thought that a surplus of only 300,000l. was coming too near the margin. He did not consider that a time when distress prevailed very generally, and when doubt and danger was affecting the commercial 406 and manufacturing interests, was a fitting time to effect an alteration in the system of taxation; but he did think that the present juncture was a favourable one, our manufactures being in a prosperous condition, to make those changes and reductions which might give a stimulus to industry, and relieve the poorer classes. This was the great object he had in view, as he trusted would, before he sat down, appear manifest to the Committee. The question then was, how was this to be done? How did he propose to effect such a reduction? And here another question of no little moment suggested itself. Was it possible to take off the taxes altogether which it was supposed pressed most particularly and directly on the poorer classes, and thus effect the relief they contemplated? He maintained that it was not; and for this reason,— that the poorer classes consumed but few taxable commodities. Then how did he propose to effect this relief? His answer was, that he believed the best mode of relieving the burthens of the labouring classes was, giving them employment, and that this could be ensured only by reducing the taxes which pressed most immediately on the productive industry of the country,— for, by relieving our trade from its fiscal embarrassments, we should add to the means of employing industry. It was with this view that he approached the investigation of the finances of the country. It was hardly necessary to inform the House, that the state of our finances, considered with a view to affording relief by a reduction of | taxes, at present did not admit of a large direct reduction of the revenue necessary i to meet the expenditure of the country. Still, however, he thought that considerable relief might be indirectly afforded to our productive industry, by a change in the mode of our taxation. Bearing this in mind, he had endeavoured to make such a classification of our taxes as would afford this indirect general relief without detriment to the public service. He had divided the taxes thus into three great classes:— the first, consisting of those on commodities from which a larger revenue might be fairly expected than was at present contributed, if the duty were lessened; — that is, in other words, that the high duty at present levied, by narrowing the consumption contracted the revenue; and that the increased consumption consequent upon a lower rate of duty, would 407 more than make good the difference between the sum at present collected and the reduced rate of duty. It should be always the care of the Government to endeavour to obtain the largest amount of revenue that could be obtained from an increased consumption, for the very increase, besides being a source of fruitfulness, so far as it went, showed that the rate of duty was not oppressive. The first head, then, of taxes which he proposed to reduce, were those on commodities of which there would be an increased consumption; and, by that means, an increased revenue, in consequence of the reduction. The second class of taxes consisted of those which, instead of being equally and impartially distributed amongst all classes, were levied but on one part of the community. And the third class consisted of those taxes which, besides interfering with our commerce, took more out of the pockets of the people than was furnished to the revenue. These were the three heads of taxes to which he thought it the duty of the Government to direct its attention, with a view to improving the situation of the country. By a modification of all and each of them —by a reduction, or, as it might be, a repeal here, and a more equal distribution there — the general system of our taxes would be much improved, without detriment to the revenue, and to the great relief of the country. It was but justice to his right hon. friend opposite (Sir H. Parnell) to declare, that the general views of finance which Ministers had adopted, and meant to act upon, were those laid down in his admirable work on Financial Reform,— a work of which it was almost impossible not to speak in the, language of eulogy, and which explained more clearly and more accurately our financial relations than any other with which he was acquainted. The noble Lord then proceeded to say, that the first tax of the first of his three classes,— that from which an increase of revenue might be derived from the increase of consumption consequent upon a reduction of duty —to which he would invite the attention of the Committee, was that on Tobacco. They had several tables, throwing light on the variations of the amount of revenue derived from the duty on tobacco, leading to the inference, that as the tax was high, the revenue was low; and, vice versa, as the duty was low, the consumption was so much increased that the revenue 408 was augmented. It was in this spirit that he proposed to reduce the duty both on raw and manufactured tobacco, and expected no loss ultimately to the revenue, while the reduction would be felt as a great relief by the poorer classes; and, what was a matter of paramount importance, it would destroy the smuggling trade in tobacco in Ireland. He therefore proposed to reduce the duty on raw tobacco from 3s. per pound, the present rate, to 1s. 6d.; and that on manufactured, from 9s. to 4s. 6d. Before he proceeded further, with reference to this tax, he begged leave to call the attention of the Committee to a notice of Motion with respect to the Growth of Tobacco in Ireland, which stood for that evening. It was not the object of his bill actually to prohibit the growth of tobacco in that country; but he saw no reason why a lower amount of duty should be levied on the tobacco grown in Ireland than on that imported. There was nothing in a financial point of view to warrant such a difference, and tobacco was not a species of agricultural produce that called for such a protection. It might be that some day or other some such protection might be necessary, but as matters then were, it would be disadvantageous to this country to unduly encourage the growth of a commodity which could not be cultivated on our soil without a great protecting duty. As a general principle, he repeated, it was wrong to endeavour by high protecting duties to encourage the growth of a commodity for which we possessed no natural advantages, and the article of tobacco presented no feature to warrant its being made an exception. He therefore would propose, as an equivalent to the 1s. 6d. duty on raw foreign tobacco, a tax of a certain — he could not then precisely say what — rate per acre on the land devoted to the growth of tobacco in Ireland, to be levied after the seed had been put into the ground. By this tax, he considered he was consulting the general interests of the country in a broad national point of view —that which alone should influence the Finance Minister of this great empire. Having made these observations with respect to his bill to regulate the growth of tobacco in Ireland, he would proceed with his statement. The next tax to which he would call the attention of the Committee, with a view to reduction,— on the principle, he again begged them to bear in mind, of an in- 409 crease of revenue from the increased consumption which would follow a reduction of duty —was of a sort which, he admitted, did not apparently seem to bear so immediately upon the comforts of the people; but which he, nevertheless, maintained, was felt as a burthen, and as such the reduction would be hailed as a general benefit —he meant the duty on Newspapers Stamps, and Advertisements. The stamp on newspapers was at present 4d. each number, with a discount of twenty per cent for ready money; and that on advertisements 3s. 6d. each. He proposed to reduce the newspaper duty to 2d. (no discount to be allowed), and the duty on advertisements to 1s. on all advertisements under ten lines, and to 2s. 6d. on all advertisements above ten lines. This reduction, he was confident, would be felt as a great relief to the public at large, while the revenue would be ultimately a gainer. He would next beg leave to call the attention of the Committee to the second class of taxes in which he proposed a modification; namely, that class which, as he had described, pressed partially on a part of the community, contrary to that wholesome principle of taxation which would distribute taxes equally among all classes. The first of this class which called for immediate modification was, as he was sure the Committee anticipated, that on Sea-borne coals. If there was any one tax which pressed more immediately than another on the labouring and less wealthy classes, it was this tax; therefore, if there was one more than another the reduction of which would be felt as a relief by these classes, important as coals were as a matter of fuel, a prime necessary of life, this was it. But it was not only as a fuel consumed by the labouring classes themselves, that the reduction of the duty on coals borne sea-wise would be hailed as a great benefit. As a fuel it was of essential importance in our manufactures —so that by lessening its cost we should remove an impediment to industry, and thus increase the demand for labour. The reduction would therefore operate as a double benefit to the labouring classes. And here he would say, that he hoped that after this evening it would not be said that Ministers were not mindful, or were lukewarm to the interests of Ireland; for by that country, still more than by this, was the Sea-tax on coals felt as a grievance; and, as a consequence, by that country 410 more than this would the removal of that grievance be felt as a benefit. The extent of that benefit might be estimated when he informed the Committee, that he proposed to repeal the Sea-tax on coals altogether, and by so doing he must in a peculiar manner benefit Ireland. He would next call the attention of the Committee to the taxes coming under his third division —those which interfered with the interests of commerce, and took more money from the pockets of the people than the revenue was benefitted. The tax on Tallow Candles came under this head, and therefore was one of those which he proposed to reduce. Many benefits to the less wealthy classes of society would, he expected, accrue from this reduction. If the farmer, for example, made use of the raw material which came into his possession in his domestic arrangements, and made himself his own candles, without the Excise duty and the manufacturer's profits, it was evident he would be a considerable gainer. And so with respect to other persons engaged in industry, from whom, as he had stated, a greater amount of duty was taken, under the present arrangement, than the benefit derived by the Exchequer counterbalanced. Another tax of this kind,— pressing, if possible, still more exclusively on the poorer classes —which he proposed to reduce, was that on Printed Calicoes. This tax not only operated as an impediment to our manufactures, but was partial in its pressure, and most expensive in its collection; thus uniting the greatest objections that could be offered to the imposition of any tax. The amount levied on the people was actually 2,000,000l. per annum, while not more than 500,000l. went into the Exchequer. And then, as he had stated, it fell almost exclusively on the poorer classes of consumers, and as such, he need not say, was one which it was most desirable to have repealed. Another tax of this kind was that on a commodity which, under a better system of finance, ought to be one of the staple manufactures of this country,— he meant the duty on Glass. Possessing, as we did so eminently, every advantage which machinery, and material, and fuel could afford with respect to the manufacture of glass, and aided as these advantages would be by the intended repeal; of the coast-duty on coals, and by a reduction of the present rate of duty on the commodity itself, it was not too much to ex- 411 pect with confidence that ere long our glass manufactures would be in a state of great prosperity, with an annually increasing export trade. There were several other smaller miscellaneous taxes, which came under the third division of his subject, which he also intended to repeal altogether, or reduce considerably. The value of some of them might be estimated from the fact, that 163 different taxes produced hut 200,000l. per annum to the revenue. Of these the chief was the auction-duty on the sale of land, which he meant to repeal altogether, as the revenue derived very little from it, while it operated very inconveniently in cases of sale of landed property. These were the taxes the reduction of which he conceived would be felt generally beneficial without being detrimental to the revenue. The next point, then, for the consideration of the Committee was, first, the loss which the revenue would experience from his proposed reductions, and in the next place, how he intended to make that loss good. He would first state the apparent loss, and then the actual loss. For the sake of clearness he would state the amount in round numbers. The revenue at present derived from tobacco was 2,800,000l., which, reduced one-half, would leave 1,400,000l. apparent loss on that article. That derived from newspaper stamps was 389,000l.; that from advertisement duties, 150,000l. He calculated the loss from his proposed arrangement, supposing that no change took place in the number of either newspaper stamps or advertisements, would be 190,000l., though it was evident that the number of both would largely increase, and the defalcation of the revenue by so much be lessened. The apparent loss, then, on the taxes to be reduced would be as follows.
Now this sum, he would presently show, would not he so much a loss to the revenue as an actual relief to the people, particularly the less wealthy classes. The next point was, as he said, to make good this 412 loss without imposing an equal burthen on the people. His plan was, to impose such new taxes, or to modify those in existence, so as not to interfere with the productive industry, nor press on the less wealthy classes. The first article of this kind, the tax on which he proposed to modify, was that on Foreign Wines. The duty at present on French wines was 7s. 3d. per gallon; on other foreign wines, 4s. 10d., and on Cape, 2s. 3d. He proposed to equalise them, at one standing duty of 5s. 6d. per gallon. To this scheme of equalization he did not anticipate any serious objection, unless perhaps with respect to the increase of duty on the Cape wine which the new average would impose. But when the Committee took into account that but little trade, comparatively, was carried on in real Cape wine,— what was sold under that name wholesale, and what was usually bought in retail, being very different articles,— it would see that that objection had little weight, as compared with the advantages of which the proposed change would be productive. He did not anticipate any diminution of the general consumption of foreign wines from his proposed average; on the contrary, he had strong grounds for presuming a great increase; but he would take the average consumption at its present amount, and from that we should have an increased revenue. The average annual consumption of foreign wines in this country was 6,700,000 gallons, which, at 5s. 6d. per gallon, would yield a revenue of 1,840,000l. The revenue at present derived was, 1,585,000l.; for convenience sake, he would take it at round numbers, and call it, 1,590,000l., which, if deducted from the calculation of the sum which he supposed would be yielded by the general duty of 5s. 6d., would leave a surplus of revenue of 250,000l. The noble Lord here said, he had to correct the estimate which he had a few minutes before given to the Committee, of the loss which the revenue was likely to experience from his proposed reductions. The sums he had stated were merely proportions of the present revenue, but he did not. think the actual loss would equal that. The correct estimated loss would be as follows:—
From the reduction of the duty on £ Tobacco 1,400,000 Newspapers and Advertisements 190,000 Coals and Slate 830,000 Candles 420,000 Cottons, printed 500,000 Glass 600,000 Auctions, Sale of land 60,000 Miscellaneous 80,000 Making a total apparent loss to the revenue of 4,080,000
On Tobacco £800,000 Newspapers and Advertisements 100,000 Coals and Slate 830,000 (as stated before). Candles 200,000 Cottons, printed 500,000 (as before).
With respect to candles, he thought it right to explain that the loss could not be as great as he had stated in his first estimate, because it was not intended that the reduced duty should come into force till the 10th of October next. The reason of this delay was owing to several official communications —of the nature of which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goulburn) must be fully aware —which he had had with several gentlemen interested in the tallow and candle trade, who represented to him, that owing to the quantity of stock on hand, very serious losses would ensue to them if the reduction took place sooner. He felt himself bound to attend to their representations, and thus the period for reducing this tax had been postponed, making that difference in the estimate he had explained. Having thus made this correct statement of the loss which the revenue would experience from his proposed reductions, he would proceed with the plan by which he proposed to make good the defalcation. He had already stated the grounds on which he expected an increase of revenue from the wine duty to the amount of 240,000l. The next tax which he proposed to modify was, in principle, like to that on wine. It was one which had been frequently discussed in that House, and one in which he had himself, as a member of the Foreign Trade Committee, taken an active part. The tax he alluded to was that on Timber, one which imperatively called for re-modification. A simple statement of the regulations at present in force with respect to this trade would place this in a clear light before the Committee. The duty on foreign European timber in the rough whole state was 55s. per load; that on Canada timber, 10s.; while the duty on the same timber, cut up in deals, was on the European, 45s. per load, and that on the Canada but 5s. 9d. The tax evidently, as it stood, was not only unequal, but it was higher on the raw than on the manufactured article. There were other considerations connected with this subject, which he might take advantage of a more convenient opportunity to enter upon; at present he would confine himself to it as a matter of finance. In this light, then, he pro- 414 posed not to actually equalize the duties, but to place them nearer such a level as would conduce to the general interests of the country, without injury to any particular class or individuals, while the revenue derived from the tax would be considerably increased. Timber was an article not easily smuggled, so that an equalizing duly was not so necessary as it would be with a less bulky commodity. He proposed, therefore, to lower the duty on European timber to 50s. per load, and raise that on the Canada timber to 20s., — rates which would bring them nearer to an equality in the market than those unacquainted with the timber-trade could readily imagine, while the preference which we bestowed on the produce of our own colony would be maintained. The advantage of duty in favour of the Canada timber would still be 30s. the load. He was warranted from existing data to calculate the increase of revenue from this change of duty at 750,000l.; but to prevent disappointment and needless controversy, he would take it at only 600,000l. The next tax he was about to propose was one to which, in limine, he anticipated objections, which, however, the advantages would, he hoped, counter-balance. It would be objected, he expected, that it went to impose a new tax on one of our staple manufactures, and would besides be attended by the inconveniences consequent upon a drawback duty. He admitted, he repeated, that these were objections; but though he was unwilling to tamper with a staple commodity, by imposing a new tax upon it, the sum would be small, and only intended to meet the loss which the reduction of the duty on the same article in another form would occasion. The Committee was aware, that by reducing the tax on printed cottons, those consumed by the poorer classes, there would be a loss to the annual revenue of 500,000l.; and they were also aware that one principal ground for making that reduction was, that the tax fell more particularly on the less wealthy classes. Now, he proposed to throw the tax over all the consumers of cotton, instead of chiefly on one part, as the duty at present pressed, and thus save the revenue, and relieve the poorer classes who consumed the article. This would be accomplished by a duty of 1d. per pound on all Raw Cotton imported, with a drawback duty to the same amount on all manufactured cotton exported. He admitted that there were 415 objections to this drawback duty, and to a tax on the raw material of industry, but he put it to the Committee, whether the advantages, on the other hand, did not more than counterbalance the objections. He would take the revenue to be thus derived at 500,000l., judging by the average import of cotton for the last few years. The import the last year of all was 179,200,0001b.; of which there remained for home consumption, about 119,500,0001b., which, at 1d. per lb., would produce nearly 498,000l.; he would take it at 500,000l. in round numbers. The next tax to which he invited the notice of the House was that on the export of Coals. At present, the duty amounted to an actual prohibition, it being 17s. 6d. on the large coals, and 4s. 6d. on the smaller. He proposed to have but one duty of 10s. on both; and by thus encouraging the trade, he counted on an annual revenue of at least 100,000l. The next tax was not a modification of an existing one, like those which he had submitted to the consideration of the Committee, but one which he meant to propose as a new source of revenue. He proposed to impose a tax per head on Steam-boat Passengers, to which he anticipated no serious objection. The rate he proposed was 1s. per passenger, where the distance is not more than twenty miles; 2s. from twenty to thirty miles; and 2s. 6d. for all distances above thirty miles. He could not then venture to calculate the precise revenue which this tax would furnish, but he expected it to be considerable; and he had the authority of Mr. Dean, of the Customs, as to the comparative ease with which it might be levied. He would, in round numbers, take this tax at 100,000l. The next new sources of revenue to which he looked were connected with principles of finance of no ordinary importance, and therefore called for the best consideration of the Committee. Me had already stated his intention of relieving the landed interest from the burthen of the duty on the Sale of Landed Property. The amount of the relief was, he admitted, not much, when spread over a wide surface; but still it was, as far as it went, a relief, particularly to the sellers of smaller portions of landed property; for by one of those strange anomalies in our existing system of taxation, the duty on a sale of a small amount of landed property was higher than on the sale of a large amount. To remedy that defect, and at the same 416 time assist as much as possible in equalizing the weight of the public burthens, he proposed to lay a duty of½ (10s.) per cent on the bonâ fide sale or transfer of landed property; the duty not to be levied on such transfers as are made for the purpose of mere security. This would be a new tax of ½ per cent on the landed interest only. Now, it was contrary to every sound principle of finance, as well as justice, that any one interest or species of property should be taxed more than another; and he therefore proposed to levy a duty of½ per cent also on every bonâ fide Transfer of Funded Property; with the like exemption as in the case of a mere security transfer of landed property. He could not anticipate any objection in fairness to this new transfer duty. He admitted that there was a delicacy sometimes attendant upon those transfers of property; but none which equaled the occasional inconveniences of exposure occasioned by the Income-tax. It might, perhaps, be objected, that funded property was expressly protected from taxes of this kind by Acts of Parliament. He admitted that the words of one of the Acts, with respect to this species of property, admitted of that interpretation, that it (funded property) should be exempt from all "other (than those expressed) charges and impositions whatever;" but Mr. Pitt himself contended, since that Act was passed, that it could not be construed into a breach of the public faith that the holder of funded property should be compelled to contribute his just share towards the exigencies of the country. He (Lord Althorp) entirely coincided with Mr. Pitt, in his view of the tenure under which funded property was held. Why should it be exempted from burthens which the landed and every other property of the State were subjected to? He admitted, that his proposed tax on the transfer of funded property would be but a beginning, but then it was a beginning that could not be cited as a mischievous precedent; for all it went to accomplish was, to place it and landed property on a fair and equal footing with respect to the public burthens. Had he proposed to levy a duty on funded property alone, or on landed property alone, there would be ground of just complaint; but as his object was to prevent either enjoying an exemption or privilege in contributing to the exigencies of the State 417 over the other, he could not anticipate any valid objection. It would be a great convenience to the commercial world to have the power to do this. The distinction between the two classes was easily made, and therefore there would be no difficulty in adopting the proposition which he now submitted to the House. The amount of revenue which would accrue from this source would be 1,200,000l. That was to say, he expected to receive 800,000l. from the transfers in the funds, and 400,000l. from the transfers of land. He would now proceed to recapitulate the statement which he had already made as to the amount of revenue which he expected to derive from his new taxes. It stood thus: —Increase on
Glass 600,000 (as before). Auctions 60,000 (as before). Miscellaneous 80,000 (as before). Making a total loss to the revenue of 3,170,000
Such being the amount of revenue which he expected to derive from the new taxes, he would now proceed to recapitulate the whole amount of revenue for the ensuing year. The income for the year 1830 was 50,060,000l. If from this sum were deducted the loss by the taxes taken off in 1830, which amounted to 2,910,000l. the income left for the present year would be 47,150,000l. Now he found that, owing to the increased consumption which had been created of several articles, by the reduction of the taxes upon them, there was an arrear due to the Excise of 580,000l. at the beginning of this year more than there was at the commencement of the last. He might, therefore, reckon upon that sum as part of the increased revenue for the year, and then it would be 47,730,000l. Deducting the taxes which he had taken off, and which he estimated at 3,170,000l.; there would remain 44,560,000l. for the revenue of the year. He added to this sum 2,740,000l. for the amount of the new taxes which were to be imposed; and that raised the income to 47,300,000l. Deducting from this sum the estimated expenditure for the year, which he had before shown would be 46,850,000l., it would leave a clear surplus of 450,000l. These were the propositions which he intended to submit to the consideration of the House. It happened that he had shown them that 418 very morning to a gentleman who was well skilled in matters of finance, and had asked him, what he believed would be the result of them upon the country. His friend told him that the monied interest of the country would not like them, but that the manufacturing interest would. He thought that this was the greatest praise which his system could receive. If either of these interests were not to like it, his object was, that the manufacturing interest should like it. He hoped that the House, when it took into its consideration the effect which would be produced upon the country by taking off the taxes on tobacco, coals, candles, cotton, glass, &c., and when it reflected on the great compensation which the revenue would receive for its apparent loss, in the increased consumption of those articles, and in the greater employment of the people, would not withhold its approbation from the experiment,— and he admitted it to be a bold experiment,—which he now recommended it to make for the public benefit. It was an experiment which he believed in his conscience would succeed; and if it did succeed, it would increase the prosperity of the country to a great amount. He concluded by moving, that a sum not exceeding 2,000,000l. be granted to his Majesty for the Transfer of Aids in the present year.
Wine £240,000 Timber 600,000 Cotton 500,000 Coals 100,000 Steam-boats 100,000 Transfers 1,200,000 Total £2,740,000
§ Mr. Goulburn
said, that on the present occasion he rose to address the House under circumstances of no less difficulty than those which the noble Lord described himself to have felt in opening the statement which he had just made to the House. He felt the difficulty of entering at present into a detailed discussion on a subject which branched out into so many heads, which embraced so many details connected with the revenue, and which, in one part at least, embraced a departure from principle, which he did not expect to have heard proposed by any Minister to the House. He could assure the House, that on the present occasion he rose under feelings of the deepest regret — he could not but lament to hear the noble Lord, holding the official situation which ho. held, endeavouring to draw a distinction between the monied and the manufacturing interests of the country. He had hoped, that the Minister, whoever he might be, to whom the financial interests of the country were intrusted, would be anxious to unite all its various 419 interests into one common concern. But when he heard the noble Lord declaring that he liked his plan because it would give pleasure to the monied and pain to the manufacturing; interest—[Cries of "No, no," in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer joined.] He repeated, that he had heard that sentiment expressed in the noble Lord's speech. He had heard that sentiment, if not those words, and he had heard it with regret, as it was the, first time that it had ever been expressed within the walls of Parliament. The feeling which he had upon this subject was so paramount to all the other feelings which had been excited in his mind whilst attending to the speech of the noble Lord, that he considered it to be his duty to advert first of all to the proposition which was last made by the noble Lord, and which was intended to accomplish an increase of revenue by imposing a duty on the transfer of Stock. it had hitherto been the glory of the House, and the pride of those to whom the control of the national finances was intrusted, to keep inviolate the contracts which Parliament had made, and which time had sanctioned, between the individuals who had lent, and the country which had borrowed, their money. In times of danger and of difficulty, when we were contending with formidable enemies for our very existence, and when a deviation from the strict rule of right might at least have been pardonable as a venial error, there was a sense of honour in the country which deterred its Ministers from proceeding to a violation of its engagements. It had been reserved for the present Ministers—when no man who knew the elasticity of the industry of the country, and its power of contending against any temporary difficulties, could doubt of its capability of surmounting its present distress, whatever that distress might be,—it was reserved, he said, for the present Ministers to violate, in time of peace, an engagement made, over and over again, with the proprietors of a peculiar species of properly, as the price at which they lent their money to the State in times of extreme difficulty. He could almost suppose from the speech which the noble Lord had just delivered, that he had never looked at the contracts which had been made on this subject between the Public who lent, and the Government which borrowed, its money; for he knew 420 the high character of the noble Lord too well to doubt, that if he had read the terms of those contracts he would have stated them to the House, and would not have referred hon. Members to a part of the Acts which had no reference to the subject under discussion.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that he had read the terms of the contracts—that he had then before him on a piece of paper, which he produced, the very passage in the Act of Parliament to which the right hon. Gentleman was alluding, — and that he had intended to have read it to the House, though he had forgotten to do so, in order to show that there would be no breach of faith in imposing this transfer duty upon funded property.
§ Mr. Goulburn
thought, that under all the circumstances of the case, the House ought not to be called upon to come to an opinion upon this point, even in the first instance, without understanding distinctly the nature of the engagement under which the public creditor had lent his money to the State. He had at that moment one of the Acts before him under which money had been lent to the Government. The provisions in that Act were the same with those contained in every subsequent Act under which a loan had been raised by the Government; for the clauses in the first Act were regularly repeated in all the Acts which sanctioned subsequent loans. There was a clause in that Statute which exempted funded property from any tax or imposition whatever; but, said the noble Lord, "that clause cannot be a restriction upon you here, because you have already rendered that property liable to the property-tax." He wished, however, to call the attention of the House to a subsequent clause in one of the Statutes, referring directly to the subject now under consideration. In that clause, after describing the mode in which property of this kind should be assigned and transferred, it was stated, as a condition, that no charge whatever should be made on such property. The words were, "And that no other mode of assignment or transfer of such property shall be good and available, and no stamp-duties whatever shall be charged on such transfers or any of them, any Act of Parliament to the contrary notwithstanding." Could there be a more specific engagement on the part of any Government? Could there be a more binding contract than 421 that which he had just read in the words of this Act of Parliament? Did it not seem that the lender of money to the Government, foreseeing that his money might at some time or other be made the subject of a tax, had thought it necessary to stipulate for this particular condition in his favour, and to prevent the imposition of a duty that would diminish the value of his property, thus advanced for the purposes of the Government? In his opinion, the fundholder had foreseen that attempt, and had tried to prevent it; and as long as he had a voice to raise in the fundholder's behalf, he would raise it to declare, that the fundholder was entitled to the benefit of this exemption, and he would enter his protest against any imposition of duty on property of this nature. In his opinion, this measure was a violation of public faith — it was an act of injustice; and, like all measures of that kind, it would prove as impolitic as it was unjust, and would be productive of nothing but injurious consequences to the Government. Had the noble Lord considered the extent to which these transfers would go?—It was likely that he had, because, by the estimate he had formed of the probable amount of the tax, he had proved his knowledge of the rapidity of the transfer of such property. What, (he could not refrain from asking) what was it that gave a value to funded property in this country over the funds of other countries, but the readiness of transfer? Was it not the facility with which individuals who held that property could, without loss, bring their property into the market and dispose of it? It was that which gave to the funded property of this country a sort of character of a circulating medium, and made it a source of internal prosperity. When the noble Lord recollected that, did he think that that tax would not interfere with the present condition of funded property, and of the arrangements made with respect to it?—that it would not have the effect of placing our Stocks in the same position as the Stocks of other countries? and finally, that it would not interfere, not. only with the value of funded securities, but of every species of mercantile security in the country? He called on the noble Lord to look how this change would operate on those institutions which that House had often thought it a duty to encourage. The Parliament had thought fit too, by the 422 provisions of a Statute, to hold out protection to certain institutions formed for the benefit of the poorer orders of the community. They had directed that the collections of Savings Banks should be invested in the Funds, and that from time to time they might be bought in or sold out as the necessities of the case and the advantages of the institutions required. The noble Lord must be aware that the whole proceeding consisted of buying in when the depositors in Savings Banks were abounding in money, and selling out when they were in need and difficulty. The noble Lord should remember, that at present these purchases and sales might be made for the benefit of the poor man five or six times a year; and then he should consider whether these sales would continue, and what inducement, beyond the mere pleasure of buying and selling, could now remain, when every other advantage was to be sacrificed for the supposed benefit of the Government. He thought, indeed, that the amount of benefit the Government would receive would be but small, while he was convinced that, not only with reference to those institutions to which he had referred, but to others, the tax would be a serious evil. That evil, too, would affect all private persons, who, possessing capital, did, under the present system, invest it from time to time, and dispose of it again as their particular exigencies required. The tax would operate not only as a check to the great monied interest, but it would repress those very interests which the noble Lord, by the remission of some parts of taxation, had stated, and he (Mr. Goulburn) believed, had stated truly, he wished to relieve. He was convinced that the operation of these measures would repress the industry and welfare of the classes the noble Lord intended to relieve, more than the reduction of taxes would give them assistance and benefit. He should therefore implore the noble Lord to re-consider that part of the arrangement which he had submitted to the House—to pause before he adopted a departure from the strict adherence to contracts made by the Government with the public creditor—an adherence always the characteristic of this country, and which had made the funds of this country, not only with those who resided here, but with those who were natives or residents in other countries, 423 to be considered the safest and the best public funds in Europe. What he had said upon this subject had not been well connected and digested, because he had had no opportunity of considering the subject, and preparing himself; but objections appeared to him to arise in every direction. The noble Lord must see, that one of the effects of this tax was, that it would give an advantage to the dealer in foreign securities. Let the noble Lord inquire how an interest in foreign funds was transferred, and how, in making these transfers, they avoided that taxation which the noble Lord was about to impose upon ours; and he would then probably see, that his measure must inevitably banish capital from the country. In this latter point of view he was naturally drawn to another branch of the subject, to which it was impossible he should not call the attention of the House. The noble Lord proposed that we should commence the present financial year with the prospect of only possessing at its termination a surplus of 450,000l.—a surplus to be obtained, not by taking known sums of revenue, and showing their amount to exceed the known expenditure of the country, but by estimating what would be the produce of the new taxes, and of those which had not been abolished or reduced. He must say, that he thought this was a very dangerous course. About this time last year, the hon. member for Callington had thought that he (Mr. Goulburn) acted in a most hazardous manner when he withdrew a certain amount of taxation. That hon. Member told him, that he was making a hazardous experiment with the resources of the country in leaving so small a surplus; and that, in so doing, he was departing from the precedent afforded by all former Chancellors of the Exchequer. He had answered that accusation by showing, that, from the sources of revenue on which his calculation was founded, the surplus would be, not 450,000l., as now stated by the noble Lord, but 1,600,000l.; and that, if he was not much deceived, the surplus would be found to be still higher than the estimate, from the augmented gross amount of those duties on which reductions had taken place. He must, however, remind the noble Lord, that he then admitted, that if he did not receive the augmentation he expected, it would be the duty of Parliament to look-to the state of taxation; for he acknow- 424 ledged that they were bound to lake care that there was at least a probability of the Government having a surplus of three millions or upwards at the close of the year. It would certainly be difficult and hazardous to say that the noble Lord was able to calculate, for the first time, what would be the result of the revenue for the. present year; but he must say, that if the House should sanction the project of the noble Lord, he believed, at the end of 1831, it would be found that we were without a surplus at all, and that we should be under the necessity of raising money on Exchequer Bills to meet the demands on the Government. He feared that the Government would be obliged to have recourse to that, which of all others was the worst system of finance of the country. The mode adopted by the noble Lord would be gratifying to the classes of people in the country whom it appeared to relieve, but who would afterwards find, that fresh burthens must of necessity be imposed upon them, in order to remove too close a competition between the revenue and the expenditure. He felt sure that the hon. member for Callington, to whose opinions he had before adverted, would not hesitate on this occasion to lend the sanction of his authority in support of the objections which he (Mr. Goulburn) had just stated, and would join with him in urging the noble Lord to adopt a course that would be likely at the end of the year to place before them a picture more consistent with the public interest. When two topics of such preeminent importance arose out of the speech of the noble Lord, it was scarcely possible to enter into a minute examination of the particular taxes which he proposed to remove, or of those which he now recommended them to impose. These details must come separately under the consideration of the House at a future period, and he should reserve himself till that time before he attempted to go into any examination of the separate measures of reduction. But with respect to some of the matters in the noble Lord's speech, he must say, that he thought there was, in the arguments of the noble Lord, some degree of inconsistency, when he explained his removal and his imposition of taxes. The noble Lord said, he removed the taxes on printed cottons, as those taxes pressed heavily on the lower classes; but, at the same time, the noble Lord stated 425 his intention to impose a duty on raw cotton. The noble Lord took off the one duty because it was burthensome, though it was evident that it could only affect one garment of the poorer classes, and imposed a duty on all the plain cottons of the country; and he did not think that the poor would receive half the benefit from the one that they would receive injury from the other. Nor was the argument of the noble Lord, as to the inconvenience of keeping up a large establishment for the collection of a small duty, that hardly paid the expense of collection, quite consistent with that by which he defended the imposition of a duty on raw cotton. When he proposed a reduction of taxation as a relief to those articles which were the produce of the industry of the people, his arguments could scarcely be reconciled to what he did with respect to the timber duties; for, by increasing the duties on timber, he must diminish the employment and the comfort of the people, for these duties would add to the expense of erections, and would prevent building. With respect to the repeal of the taxes on glass, he should say nothing more than that he took it, that whatever was gained by the people in glass would be lost in timber. His object when he rose was, to call, without loss of time, the attention of the House to that particular duty which he had first brought under its notice. He entreated the noble Lord to read the Statute which contained the contract between the Government and the fundholder, and, before he conclusively determined on imposing this duty, to see whether he could satisfy himself, or satisfy that House, or, what was more difficult still, whether he could satisfy the country, that it was possible, with a due regard for the public faith, and for the commercial and monied interest of the country, to impose this duty on the transfer of property in the public securities.
§ Mr. Ward
said, he was taken by surprise by the propositions of the noble Lord, so that he was unable to collect his ideas in such a manner as to express his feelings fully on this subject; but he was able to assert, and he did assert, that it was not possible for any one to oppose a measure with more decided hostility than he should oppose this tax on the transfer of funded property. He took that opportunity of stating, that of all the bold 426 measures he had ever heard proposed within the walls of Parliament, that tax was the boldest. In the present convulsed state of Europe, that the Government should content themselves with a surplus income of 3 or 400,000l., was a matter of the greatest astonishment; but even if he were assured of the continuance of peace, he should say, that it was part of a peace policy to have a surplus of a more decided kind. Such had been the principle on which Pitt, Fox, and Tierney, had always proceeded. Besides, there was a Resolution on their Journals, yet unrescinded, to this effect. It was resolved, on the 3rd of June, 1819, "that to provide for the exigencies of the public service, to make such progressive reduction of the National Debt as may adequately support public credit, and to afford to the country a prospect of future relief from a part of its present burthens, it is absolutely necessary that there should be a clear surplus of the income of the country, beyond the expenditure, of not less than 5,000,000l.; and that, with a view to the attainment of this important object, it is expedient, now, to increase the income of the country by the imposition of taxes to the amount of three millions per annum."✶ The last Committee which had considered this subject had taken the amount of necessary surplus at three millions, and that opinion had been realised up to the present time. The object of a Sinking Fund was not only for the benefit of the public creditor, but for the advantage of the country at large, by means of having a surplus income, that at those periods when the low rate of interest permitted, Ministers should be able to save the country a considerable annual expenditure, by effecting a change in the public funds, as they had done in July last year, when they effected a saving of three-quarters of a million, and as they had done in other instances, when the saving amounted to one million and a half. He repeated his strong objection to the tax on the transfer of funded property, and declared, that he would oppose the proposition of the noble Lord on every occasion.
Mr. Alderman Waithman
said, that the statement of the noble Lord opposite had been distinguished by great candour; and for the reductions which the noble Lord had effected, he felt most grateful. From the✶ Hansard's Debates, vol. xl. p. 865.427 measure, however, proposed in the latter part of the speech of the noble Lord, he thought that many difficulties would arise. With respect to the tax on timber, he differed from some of the hon. Gentlemen near him; for he did not think that we ought to throw away our colonies, or treat them lightly. He was of opinion that they ought to be well treated, and have their interests considered and protected; and then we could derive advantage from them. If they were governed properly, we must benefit by them, and even at present they afforded us the best part of our foreign trade. There was some of the Canada timber, for instance, that was equal to any that came from the Baltic. The House had recently been occupied in considering a grant on account of improvements in Canada. The question was, whether the country should throw away more money on that colony. He thought that the former votes on that subject had been wrong, but he thought it would be very absurd, after spending so much money on the colony, to throw it away altogether. Then, as to the duty on wine—except the trade we carried on with our colonies, the best part of our foreign trade was with Portugal. Yet now we were called on to sacrifice it to France, by equalizing the duties on wine. We had already made many sacrifices to France in our commercial policy; we had sacrificed our manufactures by allowing the competition of theirs, and now we were going to sacrifice the trade with Portugal, and give a further advantage to France, from which we had received none at all. Adam Smith, who was considered as the founder of the science of Political Economy, under which this principle of giving up advantages to foreign countries, had been adopted, never recommended such a course as this. With respect to the noble Lord's proposition as to the duty on printed cottons, he highly approved of it. He always considered it a folly to impose such a duty, when there was at the same time such a considerable drawback. He saw no objection to the penny duty on raw cottons, especially with the advantage of the reduction of the other. He thought the taxes on the transfer of landed property wrong; but that on the transfer of funded property was impracticable and unjust. He did not know how the law stood in that respect; but when he considered how many of these transfers there were in one 428 day, and how necessary it was, that such transfers should be rapidly and easily made, he could not but think that the tax would be a tax upon distress, as that now imposed on insurances against fire was a tax upon prudence. It happened very often in business, that a man had a bill returned, or some other sudden call for money, and was obliged, to meet it, to sell stock, or perhaps get a friend to sell stock to oblige him. Now, to tax the transfer of such stock was, in fact, to tax misfortune, and he should resist it. Why did not the Government impose a Property-tax at once? Men of large landed property, who were in good circumstances, and who were not required to sell their property, would escape the tax, while those who were obliged to sell their property, in order to make a settlement on their children, on the marriage of a son or a daughter, would have to pay this tax. There was one other class of property that would altogether escape the tax—he meant ground-rents, and property secured by mortgages. Ground-rents, especially in the neighbourhood of London, had of late years doubled, while every other species of property was depreciated; and yet they would remain untouched. Why, too, were the absentees to escape? Why were they not to be taxed? A late Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was now in the other House, Mr. Vansittart, had stated, that there were 2½ millions of money annually expended by absentees on the Continent. He believed that the amount was double that which he had just stated; but taking that to be the true amount, he wished to know why they were to escape? He wished the noble Lord had put a tax on these persons, and had repealed the House and Window-tax, for it was a tax of the most partial and grievous kind. He had presented many petitions against the Assessed Taxes; and from the unequal manner of their imposition, and other circumstances, he did believe them to be the most vexatious kind of taxes. When Mr. Pitt was about to propose the Property-tax, it was petitioned against, and after a good deal of contention—for he was an obstinate man—he was at last convinced that the part of houses occupied in trade constituted two-thirds of their real value, ought not to, be taxed. He should have liked to see the Assessed Taxes repealed, and he wished the noble Lord still to turn the matter in his mind. With regard 429 to the noble Lord's proposition respecting the Stamp-duties, he cordially approved of that, and had himself given notice of a motion for the reduction of them. He must say, however, at the same time, that he was convinced there never would be such a repeal of taxes as to be beneficial to the people while the present corrupt system of representation continued. While the Ministers were encumbered as they were at present, he was sure they could not do all that the people required, or all that they wished. He called on them, therefore, to propose a plan of sound Reform, and to throw themselves on the people for support.
Mr. J. Smith
said, he felt a great deal of anxiety respecting this question. There was no man in that House who had seen the formation of the present Government with more satisfaction than he had because Ministers had pledged themselves to certain measures, which, if carried on with determination and prudence, would be of the greatest advantage to the country; but he was under the necessity of saying, that one of the measures now introduced was ill-advised, was dangerous, and ought not to pass that Committee. In stating this, he must take the liberty of requesting the attention of the House to a few observations upon matters connected with that measure, and not alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Goulburn). He concurred mainly with what the right hon. Gentleman had said; but there was one particular point of considerable importance which he had not touched, and which his (Mr. Smith's) situation in the world enabled him to speak of as one, within his own experience, highly deserving the attention of the House. The subject to which he alluded was connected with the proposed tax on the transfer of funded property. In referring to that matter, he should say nothing whatever about the Act of Parliament; others could do that better than he could. There was no man who was more anxious than he that the public faith should be kept with the public creditor. Rather than violate it in the slightest possible degree, there was hardly anything he would not do. And before they violated the public faith, there was one measure to which they could have recourse, and which he should recommend to the Government; namely, a tax on the rich—a tax on those who had property. Rather let them im- 430 pose 20 per cent on incomes above a certain amount, leaving the poor alone, than see one item of the honour of the country impeached. One great objection he had to the tax on the transfer of funded property was, that putting money in the funds was a convenient mode of investment for the monied interest of which they now made use; for though the money could remain untouched, it was easily and readily convertible. But if the Government imposed a tax on that sort of property, so that no man could tranfer 100,000l. without paying 500l. for it, he ('Mr. Smith) would undertake to say that the transfer would not be made. The immediate operation of such a restriction could hardly be unknown to any one; at least, it was not unknown to commercial men. Bankers often made large advances, of the highest importance, at particular periods, in the commercial world, and they made these advances upon the security of stock. He would give an instance of the kind he referred to. In the dreadful crisis which took place in the years 1825 and 1826, what would have been the situation of the City of London, if individuals possessed of stock had not sold it to assist their friends? He could take upon himself to say, that had it not been for the great exertions of many individuals, and especially for the kind and liberal conduct of the gentleman who then filled the Chair of the Bank, the consequences would have been dreadful. He did not know exactly what might have been the consequences, but he was one of those who feared that universal panic and ruin would have been spread through England. But | even under such circumstances, would he have sold 100,000l. Consols, if he had! had to pay 500l. for the sale? The noble Lord had talked of bonâ fide transfers of funded property. He should like to know how the noble Lord could distinguish between those transfers that were bona fide and those that were not? He was certain, and in saying this he spoke as a banker, that if he was not able to get money when his occasions required it, he should be exceedingly cautious how he lent others money. He had always thought, that the greatest boon the right hon. Baronet opposite had ever conferred upon the country was the settlement of the currency; but now when the trade of the country was extending in every direction, when, to his knowledge, there was an order in London for a million stand of arms, and a million yards 431 of cloth for foreigners, he must say, that the settlement of the currency would be an injury rather than a benefit, if the transfer of stock was now to be encumbered with difficulties and duties, for no prudent man would think of contracting for such orders as he had mentioned if he did not. rely on some assistance from the transfer of stock in their execution. He had heard of this intention of the Ministers; and in the course of the morning he mentioned to the hon. member for Callington the report he had heard, on which that hon. Member exclaimed, "Oh, it can't be true—you have been imposed upon." He told the hon. Member that he had not been imposed upon—that he had received the information from an individual who had never yet misinformed him, and who appeared to have means of his own by which he obtained a knowledge of the financial operations of the Government. He was now confirmed in what he had heard, and he regretted it, because he thought the proposition in every way objectionable. With respect to the smallness of the surplus kept by the Government, he would now only observe, that he was not fond of war—other nations were less able to meet the difficulties of it than ourselves—yet, though it would be extremely burthen some to us, he was sure, that in the event of any necessity arising to protect our honour, or to avenge an attempted injury, the spirit of the country would be exhibited, and the people would rise as one man again to display that courage and perseverance which had before conferred victory upon the nation. Short of self-defence and self-preservation, he knew of nothing that should induce him to vote for any measure that might lead to hostilities. In his opinion, the funding system, by supporting credit, and by the facilities it presented of raising supplies, was a security against war, because it gave promise of the means of carrying on war; and regarding war, as he did regard it, as the greatest of all human evils, he could not help considering this as one of the most beneficial results of the system. He was convinced that that part of the noble Lord's proposition that related to a tax on funded and landed property would be attended with the humiliation and embarrassment of the monied interest, and he should oppose it to the utmost of his power. The Funds might be kept low by manœuvres of this kind, but they would cast a stigma on 432 the honour of Great Britain, which had been preserved unsullied during a war without parallel in the history of mankind. This portion of the statement of the noble Lord was highly objectionable on all accounts, and not least because a particular class was selected to suffer, and the suffering of one great interest was ultimately the injury of the rest. He would earnestly recommend the noble Lord to consult with those who understood this subject, and who had no interest in it. He was very sorry to oppose any measure of the present Government, but this measure he must and would oppose in every stage, because he looked upon it as injurious to the best interests of the country.
§ Mr. Maberly
adverted to the opposition he had always afforded to the Sinking Fund, because he did not think it the best way of supporting the public credit. Public credit was either maintained or injured by the extent of taxation and the capability of the people to pay it: if they were unable to pay, public credit must suffer. Abstractedly, he had no objection to the redemption of debt; but, in the present condition of the country, it was much more important to repeal taxes, for there was no more effectual way to injure public credit than to persevere in imposts, the weight of which the people could not sustain. Most of the modifications proposed by the noble Lord who had looked at the subject fairly, and he would add, gallantly, ought to have been adopted long ago. It might be said on the other side, that the experiment was hazardous; and there might be some danger in it, but it was by no means so great as many would represent it. The noble Lord saw the necessity of the repeal of some taxes and of the modification of others, and incurred the risk, the peril, such as it was, for the sake of the great advantage that it promised. Nobody would dispute, that the duty on tobacco ought to be lowered; and the reduction of the duty would not only increase the revenue, but lessen the inducement for smuggling. The change with regard to Newspapers was highly laudable, inasmuch as it offered such increased means for the diffusion of knowledge. The total relinquishment of the duty on Coals would of itself be highly beneficial, and several other arrangements were, in his opinion, liable to no material objection. He could not, however, extend his approbation to the additional duty 433 upon raw cotton; that was wrong in principle. He objected also to a tax upon the transfer of anything; property ought to be allowed to pass as freely as possible from hand to hand, without obstruction; but as regarded the funds, such an impost was a violation of an Act of Parliament; a Property-tax, or an Income-tax, would be no such violation. However, it was quite clear that the noble Lord did not at all mean to commit himself, or to pledge the Government upon this point; he only threw out the plan for the consideration of the House, that it might be dealt with as circumstances seemed to require. If the object were to make up for a deficiency occasioned by the repeal of taxes, the noble Lord might have accomplished it by correcting the error of last Session — in reducing the duty on Spirits. The restoration of this duty, and the imposition of a small duty on coals at the pit's mouth, would have abundantly supplied the deficiency. He only threw out these suggestions, because he hoped they would be useful. He was satisfied that the noble Lord and his colleagues had proceeded with a sincere and laudable desire to make every effort for the relief of the country, and he was a little surprised that he had not turned his attention to the abolition of the office of Auditor of the Exchequer. That step might be taken hereafter, and he had little doubt that ere long such a proposition would be submitted to Parliament. With such reservations as he had stated, he highly approved of all that the noble Lord had said and done; and if the question were—which it certainly was not— whether all these changes should be made, or the present Ministers displaced, he should have no hesitation in supporting-even the tax upon the transfer of funded and real property.
Mr. K. Douglas
thought the proposition of the noble Lord for laying a tax on the transfer of property was founded in injustice—he would say, in dishonesty. He had no hesitation in saying that, whatever determination the Government should be driven to hereafter on the subject, the proposition would leave behind it a moral reflection which would fix itself permanently on the Government to which the noble Lord belonged. The noble Lord proposed to make a distinction between the different species of property which, in a great commercial country like this, must, 434 in his (Mr. K. D's) opinion, be destructive to its best interests. Either the noble Lord had not considered, or he did not think proper distinctly to state, the application of the principle on particular descriptions of property. He did not state how the proposition would apply to money lodged in the Savings Banks, or whether it was intended to affect transfers of Bank Stock, of property vested in canals, and other property of a like character. He was satisfied that, when the proposition of the noble Lord went forth, as doubtless it would to-morrow, it would spread consternation and dissatisfaction throughout the whole of the country. The principle on which the noble Lord proceeded with respect to the equalization of the duty on wines, went to do away with that distinction by which a bounty was given to the produce of our colonies over the productions of foreign countries. If he understood the noble Lord rightly, the noble Lord had taken a new view of the policy of this country as regarded its colonies. It was the first step to a radical change of policy, and the adoption of a principle j which it would be very convenient to have well developed and fully digested before it was sanctioned by that House. The noble Lord had, as he conceived, in the strangest manner, omitted all mention of or reference to the distressed state of the West-India colonies. The effect of the depression of West-India property was; not confined to the proprietors of that species of property, but involved a great portion of the manufacturing and commercial interests. He regretted the noble Lord had not noticed the subject, even i by an allusion. In refering to the equalisation of duties, the noble Lord might have seen, had he inquired into the subject, that rum was subject to three different amounts of duties in different parts of the United Kingdom. So far from proposing an alteration in this system of inequality, however, the noble Lord had never once alluded to it. He could not sit down without expressing the strong impression which he felt, that the proposition of the noble Lord for laying a tax on the transfer of property was wrong in principle, and that there was a bad moral contained in the proposal. He had only to add, that if ever the proposition came to maturity, and became the subject of a vote in that House, it should have his decided opposition.
Mr. Alderman Thompson
did not feel that he should do justice to his constituents in the City of London if he hesitated to express his decided dissent to the proposition of the noble Lord for taxing the transfer of property. He was sure that the proposition would he received by the country with alarm and dismay, for it was upon the faith of Parliament, and of the Government, that the public creditor submitted to receive four per cent instead of five, and three and a half per cent, instead of four, as interest, for the loan of his money. It was now proposed, however, to lay a tax of a half per cent upon the transfer of the public creditor's property— it was said, for the sake of relieving the labouring classes. [Hear, hear, from the Ministerial benches.] Though this was the object of the present proposition, he must be permitted to say, that it did not alter the principle of that proposition. The same principle might apply, if it should ever be proposed to lay on a tax of two and a half per cent, or of five per cent. He was sure that the adoption of such a principle would be the means of producing large transfers of the capital of this country to foreign countries, the Governments of which had never attempted, directly, or indirectly, to impose any tax upon the transfer of funded property. With respect to the reduction of the duties on coals, candles, and British calicoes, he heard the propositions of the noble Lord with great satisfaction; but if these reductions were to be accompanied by a tax on the transfer of funded property, he felt, and he was sure the public would feel, better satisfied that the taxes on those articles should continue. As to the equalisation of the duty on timber, he found it would operate disadvantageously on the shipping interest. The ships employed in the American timber trade were of a large size, and generally old ships, expressly calculated for that trade, and such as would not be employed in the Baltic trade. Those vessels would become useless, therefore, and of no other service than to be broken up for fire-wood. With respect to wines, he saw no reason why a reduction to the amount of 1s. 9d. should be made on the duty on French wine, and an addition of 8d. made on the wines of Portugal. Portugal made a distinction in favour of the woollens of this country. Our manufactures he believed, were admitted into Portugal at one-third less duty than 436 the manufactures of other countries; but if the noble Lord's proposition were carried into effect, and this country made no difference between the wines of Portugal and those of France, it was quite clear that Portugal could no longer afford that advantage to the manufactures of this country which she now granted to them. Respecting the equalisation of the duty on Cape wines, he happened to know that large capitals had been laid out in endeavouring to improve the quality of Cape wines, to render them more suitable for our market; but it was impossible that the Cape wines should continue to be imported if they were subject to the same duly as the wines of Portugal and France. With respect to the duty on raw cotton, he did not think it would give satisfaction; or that the taking off the duty on stamped cottons would prove a sufficient compensation to the manufacturer. Generally speaking, a tax on the raw material of a manufacture was impolitic, and in this case the raw material was already taxed. In fact the ad valorem duty on East-India cotton was already too high. With respect to the surplus revenue, he thought it ought to amount to 3,000,000l.; instead of which, it would not exceed 400,000l., even if the noble Lord's calculations on those various subjects should all turn out correct.
Sir John Wrotlesley
said, it was not his intention to enter into the details of the statement made by the noble Lord, on which he was necessarily unprepared. So many subjects of great importance had been touched on by the noble Lord, as well as by those who followed him, that he should abstain from adverting to any of the details. He rose chiefly for the purpose of replying to the observations which had been made as to the proposal for laying a tax of one-half per cent on the transfer of funded property, and to state the grounds on which he came to the conclusion, that there was no want of good faith in carrying such a proposition into effect. If he thought that such a proposition was a breach of good faith with the public creditor, he should not support it, however anxious he might be to lend his aid to the Government. It was not the first time, however, that the principle of laying a tax on funded property was contended for in that House. The principle was argued and adopted at the time the Income-tax was imposed, and 437 therefore the proposition had not that novel character which afforded grounds for those doubts which some hon. Gentlemen thought proper to throw out. The Act of Parliament imposing the Income-tax recognized the principle, that the fund-holder was not to be exempted, and any other tax of the same character was no more a violation of that principle than the property-tax. That tax was imposed on funded property, in common with every other species of property; and if the proposition now was to lay a tax on funded property only, he should regard it with suspicion; but it was proposed to tax the landed interest of the country likewise—[hear, hear, from the Opposition side]. lie was fluttered to observe the attention with which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goulburn) listened to what fell from him. The right hon. Gentleman had stated his sentiments in opposition to the proposed measures, and if his able speech had convinced him (Sir J. Wrottesley) he would not stand up to advocate the proposition of his noble friend. Although the right hon. Gentleman had delivered his sentiments, he would be glad to hear from him any distinction, in point of principle, between the property-tax and that now proposed. The hon. Alderman (Thompson) had adverted to the necessity of keeping up a Sinking Fund. His noble friend (Lord Althorp), no doubt, had good reason to suppose that the income would equal the expenses as he had stated, and leave even a tolerably large surplus to meet unexpected emergencies. After the discussions that had taken place in that House, however, he believed there were few persons who would deny that keeping up what was called a Sinking Fund was a most impolitic system. That accomplished statesman, Lord Grenville, had stated his opinions on the subject very fully; and those minds that were not convinced by his arguments, as to the impolicy of keeping up a Sinking Fund, must be composed of materials different from other men. The proposed plan, he contended, if looked at fairly, should be considered with reference to the state of the country. It was, in his opinion, a matter of real policy, if not of necessity, to take off some of the taxes which pressed on the poor. He was ready to go further now than he would have gone three months ago. He was one of those who thought the Government should never allow itself to be awed by force or 438 insurrection. By the vigorous administration of the laws, however, insurrection had been suppressed, and he believed he might now state, that the country had returned to a state of tranquillity. For his own part, he had never looked to the vigorous administration of the law, as a means of restoring tranquillity, without also feeling the necessity of looking into the distresses of the lower classes, and endeavouring to alleviate their condition. In his opinion, the measures of his noble friend were well calculated to effect that object. When it was proposed to repeal the duties on coals, candles, and on what some might consider a noxious weed, but which was, nevertheless, a great comfort and consolation to the working classes—he meant tobacco—it was impossible to contend, that the proposed reductions would not afford great relief to the labouring classes. The getting rid of those taxes which returned little to the Exchequer, but pressed severely on individuals, would also be felt as a great relief. In conclusion, he expressed his opinion, that his Majesty's Ministers had amply redeemed their pledge to the country. He did not feel it necessary to trespass further on the House on this occasion, as all the proposed measures would be brought forward hereafter in detail.
§ Sir Robert Peel
and several other Members rose at the same moment. The call for the right hon. Baronet being general, he proceeded to observe, that he perfectly concurred with most of those Gentlemen who had addressed the House on this subject in thinking that it was infinitely better to refrain from entering into any details at present as to the taxes that were proposed to be taken off or reduced. Until a full and ample opportunity was given for mature deliberation on those important propositions, relative to the reduction of taxation, he thought it was impossible for the House to come to any satisfactory opinion. With respect to the commutation of taxes, it should be carefully borne in mind, that there was a great danger that the Legislature did not confer the benefit on those that it was intended to benefit. He knew from experience, and it was easily proved with respect to several articles, the duties of which had been reduced, that the benefit of the reduction was enjoyed by the dealers, and that the price of the commodities did not decrease in proportion to the remission of duty. When the duty was removed, it 439 was found that the benefit, somehow or other, went into the pocket, not of the consumer, but of the retail dealer, who laid on the amount remitted in duty, in some shape or other, on the price of the commodity. Now, if the public was subject to a new charge in lieu of that which was removed, and did not gain a corresponding advantage by the reduction of taxes, pro tanto, the benefit derived by the remission of taxes would be diminished. He was afraid, after the experience they had had of the results following from the repeal of the duty on leather, and various other articles, that the repeal of some of the proposed taxes would not be attended with that advantage to the consumer which ought reasonably to be expected, and which was intended. At all events, the doubts which must be felt on that point, after what had already occurred, imposed upon the Government the necessity of maturely considering the articles on which they intended to propose that the duty should be removed. With respect to the particular taxes which the noble Lord purposed to reduce, there were some which, if the revenue was in a state to admit of any reduction of taxation, the Committee should justly and properly be most anxious to take off. If it was clearly established that there was a surplus revenue, and that a remission of taxation could properly be made, he knew of no duty which he should be more forward to repeal than the tax on sea-borne coals. He knew of no one circumstance which would produce greater benefit, physical and moral, to the poorer classes, than whatever facilitated their obtaining a sufficient supply of coals at a moderate price. He was of opinion, that the relative difference, in regard to the amount of physical comforts, enjoyed by the poorer and wealthier classes in this country was more felt in the increased ability of the latter to purchase a sufficiency of fuel than in any other circumstance—much more than in the circumstances of lodging, board, or clothes. As to lodging, as regarded comfort only, the poorer and the richer classes were placed very much upon an equality. As to food, there was no material difference; and with respect to comfortable clothing, the price of the article used for that purpose was so very small, that there was no material difference in that respect between the upper and the lower classes. When he stated this, of course he did not mean to 440 refer to those who were sunk in abject poverty, but to the great mass of the labouring population. With regard to those, as compared with the higher classes, he thought the great difference was, the facility which the one class had over the other in obtaining fuel. From the nature of the duty, these facilities were much greater in some parts of the country than in others. To subject the poorer classes to such difficulties in obtaining so necessary an article as fuel, did seem contrary to all principles of justice and good policy. He contended, also, that the difficulty of procuring sufficient fuel affected the moral condition of the poorer classes. At all seasons it was necessary, more or less; and in winter, fuel the poor must have, in order to enable them to go on with the labour by which many of them gained their subsistence. If they had not the means of purchasing; it, they naturally betook themselves to pilfering from the woods and demesnes of their richer neighbours; and this, besides confounding right and wrong in their minds, necessarily created a degree of ill-will between those whose property was stolen, and those who were of necessity, as it were, compelled to turn pilferers. A state of animosity, therefore, was engendered by the difficulty which the poor found in obtaining a supply of fuel. Assuming, therefore, that the finances of the country would permit a reduction of taxation to the amount of 800,000l., he thought no tax could be selected with more propriety and more advantage than the reduction of the duty on sea-borne coals. Not to enter into the details of matters of comparative minor importance, he would just beg to observe, that he was afraid the proposed tax on passengers by steam-boats would have the practical effect of preventing the intercourse between this country and Ireland. He believed it would have the effect, in a great degree, of producing a suspension of the intercourse between the two countries. The noble Lord had not stated his views on that part of the subject, but it was well he should consider the poverty of many of the persons passed in every ship that came from Ireland to England. The proposed tax (as he understood it) was 2s. 6d. for any distance exceeding twenty miles. [Lord Althorp said, thirty.] And for a less distance than that, the tax was to be 1s. 6d. and 1s. The sum, therefore, which a person coming from Ireland would 441 have to pay, would be nearly double the amount of the passage-money, and would amount to a prohibition of the passage of the Irish labourers. Perhaps it was the intention of the noble Lord to modify the proposition so as to except the intercourse with Ireland from the operation of the tax; but unless he did, the practical effect would be nothing less than what he had stated. If the noble Lord had not considered this circumstance, it was well he should be made aware of it. The noble Lord had omitted to mention the amount of the estimates for the present year. He stated, in round numbers, that the sum required for the service of the year, including the interest and expenses of the Debt, would be 46,000,000l.; and he further added, that the estimates were drawn up; but he had given no information to the Committee as to the total amount of the estimates, independent of the Debt, and still less as to the amount of the respective estimates for the expenses of the different public departments. He had supposed that it was the noble Lord's intention to have stated the amount that would be required for each particular branch of the public service, and could only suppose that the omission had taken place from inadvertence. He now came to another part of the noble Lord's speech, and he said it not in party spirit, that all those matters to which he had alluded, and all the matters that had been discussed since the commencement of the Session, were trifling and of minor importance, when compared with the proposition which the noble Lord had made for the imposition of a tax on the transfer of funded property. He trusted, that the noble Lord would consider the objections urged by every one who had spoken on the subject, with the single exception of his honorable friend, the member for Staffordshire (Sir John Wrottesley), to that part of his proposition, and would not, therefore, persevere in his plan. The objections had come from all sides of the House, and were made without political predilection or party feeling. He trusted that his Majesty's Government would not persevere in a measure which, in his view, would tarnish the fair fame of this country, which had remained hitherto unimpeached. He asked the noble Lord, whether he had read the words of the contracts that had been made with the public creditor? He would refer to one, 442 for instance, to show the condition on which the public creditor had advanced his money to the Government, perhaps at a time of great public emergency. All the Acts for raising public loans were nearly in the same words; and he would ask the Committee, could any words be more distinct and binding, or admit of less doubt? He would refer, in corroboration of this opinion, to an Act intitled "an Act for raising the sum of 27,000,000l. by way of Annuity," which would shew the House the obligations imposed on it. This loan had been raised in 1813, and he referred to it as stating the terms of the contract in the language of all Acts of this description. This Act contained a guarantee to the public creditor against the very tax now about to be imposed upon him. The language of the Act was, that "no stamp-duty whatever shall be charged upon any transfer of this property." This was the condition upon which money had been borrowed. Now, how was it possible to "rail this seal from off the bond?'' It was upon this express condition that the public creditor had advanced his money; and, if this condition were forgotten, they would violate good faith, and depart from that proud position which this country had always occupied, in contradistinction to every other country, in its dealings with its creditors. No ingenuity could get rid of the force of such an objection. His hon. friend, the member for Staffordshire said, that, as Parliament had imposed a property-tax—as it had violated the con- tract with the public before, there was no reason why it should not be violated again. That was the very thing which he (Sir Robert Peel) feared. He dreaded that an inference would be drawn from the proposed violation of law and good faith, that a further violation was not improper. If, in these times "of productive industry and of steady and progressive improvement," for so they were de-scribed by the noble Lord, and he took the admission—if, in such times, in a period of general peace, and when there was no pressure on the energies and industry of the country—if, under such circumstances, the Government contemplated the violation of an Act of Parliament, and an express contract entered into with the public creditor, by the imposition of a duty of one-half per cent, what security could the public creditor 443 have, if the times of 1797 or 1798 returned? In those times, unappalled by danger, the Parliament of this country clung to the maintenance of public faith as its best security; but if similar circumstances were again to arise—if the difficulties which then environed the country should again exist—if a small duty was to be imposed at a time like the present, contrary to the principle and the express condition of the contract, what could the public creditor expect, but that, under the pressure of foreign war, or of adverse circumstances, his property would be seized on? It would be little consolation to him to quote the proposed invasion of his rights as a reason for their violation again. In his (Sir R. Peel's) opinion, this was not so much a question of policy or of prudence; it was a question of morals. If the State was not prepared to meet its engagements, still there was justice due to the public; and let not individuals be called upon to sanction a course, as if it were just, which their feelings must tell them was contrary to every principle of justice and fair dealing. He had heard of a public writer who claimed a right to violate his engagements, and contended that he ought to be allowed to hold himself discharged of a debt he had contracted, upon the ground that some change had taken place in the policy of the country, which rendered him not so well able to meet the demands upon him. This was the doctrine of a public writer, and he (Sir R. Peel) had never heard that doctrine; mentioned, in public or private, without its being received with a burst of indignation; but if the State was without difficulties (and he could conceive no difficulty which could justify such a departure from honour and good faith in a nation)—but if the State, in a period of steady and progressive improvement, was guilty of such violation of good faith, let them not upbraid an individual if he followed the example, and claimed for himself, under similar circumstances, that license which the House was now called upon to take, with respect to the contract between the State and the public creditor. If the question was not to be tried by the sense of justice which every man had in his own mind, and which must load him to the conclusion that public faith ought to be maintained inviolate—if they were to try the question, not upon such principles, but merely as a 444 question of policy and prudence, he was content that it should rest upon such considerations. By adhering to public faith, he would ask, what had been the remission of public burthens which had taken place within the last six years? By adhering to public faith they had been enabled to reduce the interest on the five per cents, and subsequently on the four per cents; and by these operations, a sum amounting to about 2,600,000l. per annum was saved to the public. That was the legitimate, the honourable, the honest way of dealing with the public creditor. The public creditor had no right to expect the public to remain his debtor longer than it was necessary. The public were enabled to repay his loan, and this was done in effect. By maintaining the principle of keeping faith with the creditor, therefore, the public had been enabled to discharge its engagements, and to get rid of burthens to the amount of 2,600,000l per annum. This was effective, because they had adhered steadily to their engagements as to the sheet-anchor. If, seven years ago, they had set the example they were now called upon to set, he put it to the Committee, what would now have been the state of public credit, and whether such reductions could ever have been made? But then, said the noble Lord, "this tax cannot be considered as particularly severe on the fund holder, for I impose, at the same time, the same amount of taxation on the transfer of landed property." And then, said the hon. Baronet, the member for Staffordshire, "there is no distinction between the proposed tax and the Property-tax, because the Property-tax was on landed property as well as funded. You would be justified, therefore, in contending there was a distinction, if this tax was to apply to funded and not to landed property; but as it is to extend to landed property, there is no distinction, and, therefore, no objection." He for one was sorry for the extension of the proposed tax to landed property. He believed, of the two, he should have preferred a distinct confiscation. As to the argument, however, that there was no distinction between the proposed imposition and the Property-tax, it was to be observed, in the first place, that the Property-tax was a tax on the whole income of the country—offices and professions were equally subject to the tax, as well as funded and landed property. But how 445 totally different was a tax on the income of land from a tax on the transfer of land. By the policy of our law, many estates could not be alienated. He could show estates without end in which transfers had never taken place. On all occasions; transfers of land were comparatively few; they did not amount to a hundredth part of the number of transfers of funded property. Landed and funded property were two things most distinct in their nature; and though he was sorry that land should have been included in the noble Lord's plan, yet it was quite clear the proposed imposition could not affect the landholder as it would the fund holder. The tax on land, however, would pass over the prosperous holders of lands. Lands were generally sold in this country, either upon the demise of the head of a family, and for the purpose of raising fortunes for young children, or, he feared, more frequently to meet the increased pressure of the times. Now, the tax would not press upon prosperous land, but on land under adverse circumstances; and for this reason, if there was no other, the tax would be objectionable. He would call upon the House to recollect what was the state of the country in 1813. Parliament had then decided to make one tremendous exertion, with a view to bringing the long and exhausting war in which it was engaged to a close. The annual revenue was incapable of bearing the expense; so that there remained no alternative but to call upon the monied interest to contribute towards the great national effort about to be made. He would say nothing of the danger to be apprehended from a protracted contest, but he would ask, upon the general ground of policy, whether it was not wise to adopt a course calculated to bring to an issue that most tremendous of all evils, a general war, by some great, overpowering, irresistible effort, and to make terms with the enemy according to the advantages derived from such an effort, without any injury to the public creditor, or shock to the public faith? He would enter no further at present into this important subject. He had heard some vague rumours that morning that it was the intention of his Majesty's Ministers to make such an attempt; but when he heard the noble Lord, in the early part of the evening, say—and say truly— that the poor could derive but little advantage from the repeal of direct taxation; 446 that it was chiefly by the employment of capital, and the removal of all impediments to that employment, that they could hope to be benefited; when he heard this, he felt confident that, the report could not have been well founded, and he did not expect to hear the noble Lord, at the conclusion of his speech come forward with a proposal which was a direct attack on the national credit, which was calculated to shake all faith in the professions of the Government, and give a blow to industry, by weakening and destroying the confidence of the capitalist. He objected to the measure, from a regard for the public credit, the public industry, the public morals, and the public property; and as a breach of those solemn engagements to which that House was itself a party.
§ Sir J. Wrottesley
repeated, that the proposed tax did not infringe upon the faith of Parliament any more than the income-tax.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, that the Act of 1813 recognised the imposition of the property-tax, but provided that no other tax should be imposed on the fund holder.
§ Lord Althorp
observed, that the Act of Parliament was as strong against the imposition of any property-tax on the Funds, as against the imposition of a stamp-duty on the transfer. Mr. Pitt had felt this objection on moving the introduction of the income-tax; and he met the argument by stating, that he did not propose it as a tax on the funds in particular, but as a part of the general property of the country. If Mr. Pitt could use that argument with effect, he (Lord Althorp), felt that he had as much right to appeal to it on the present occasion, He had brought forward a tax upon the whole property of the country, and had a right to include this with the rest. The right hon. Baronet, who had spoken that night with his usual, nay, with more than his usual eloquence, had laid great stress on the injury to public credit, and allusions had been made to the reduction of the five per cents. But Gentlemen should recollect, that the Income-tax and the Bank Restriction Act, had both operated greatly towards the diminution of funded property, and that the measure now proposed did not interfere with such property more directly than those two Acts. But was it just that they should lay on that tax? for 447 if it was not just, he would allow that it would be unworthy to look about for palliations. He had introduced it under the conviction that it was just; for when funded property received the same protection from the State as all other descriptions of property, he maintained that it should contribute like other property to the maintenance of the State. There was not a single argument made use of, to prove the proposed tax a breach of faith, which did not bear quite as strongly against the imposition of the income-tax, which never had been described in such terms. He was aware of the advantage to commerce from the facility of raising money on the transfer of stock; but in such cases, the transfer was only nominal, and, therefore, would not be affected by the new measure, which had reference only to the real and bona fide transfer. The hon. member for Chichester (Mr. John Smith) said, that it would be impossible to distinguish between bona fide and fictitious sales; but he maintained, that the distinction could be made, and he would take care to relieve mere loan transactions from the pressure of the tax. He admitted at once that the relief of the lower orders was not so likely to be accomplished by the removal of taxation, and the cheapness of the articles of life, as by the encouragement of industry, and the consequent increase of employment. But the Government, so far from losing sight of that object in the present measure, looked forward to it as one of the consequences that must result from its adoption. He would admit also, that the West-India interest was suffering under great distress; but he feared that it could not be relieved by the reduction of taxes. If he were to reduce the duty on sugar, it would rather be in the hope of obtaining some concession relative to the treatment of the slaves, than in the belief that it could have any considerable influence on the prosperity of the West-India colonies. He had not given any details of expenditure, as the estimates had not been completed. He did not profess to have followed the right hon. Baronet through his able speech, but he hoped he had said enough to show, that the contract with the public creditor was as little affected by the proposition he had made, as by the other Acts to which Parliament had given its sanction.
§ Mr. Freshfield, having risen at the same 448 time with several other Members, and being interrupted in his attempts to address the Chairman by cries of "Order," said, that he was fortunately endowed with tolerably good ears; he had heard the Chairman say, that he was in order. However, he would not trespass long upon the House, as he should be unwilling to take from the effect of the masterly speech of the right hon. Baronet below him, who had completely proved, that it would be a gross breach of faith with the public creditor if the House should sanction the proposition of the noble Lord opposite. Yet he would beg leave to make one or two observations, by way of appendix to that excellent speech. The income-tax had been referred to, in the hope that something could be gathered from that tax to support the measure of the noble Lord. But no two things could be more opposite. Although he had been taken by surprise, he had hastily collected the Acts of Parliament on the subject of the income-tax. In the debates upon that tax, Mr. Pitt said, that the property-tax was a tax, not on the funds, but on the profits of capital. It was not a partial tax, affecting the funds alone, but laid upon every man's general property. It was clearly never intended to be a tax upon funds, for there was an express provision in the Act of Parliament, that the property of foreigners in our funds should be exempted from the tax. Having endeavoured with confidence, though with little ability, to show that the measure under the consideration of the Committee had no analogy to the income-tax, he would not trouble the House with more than that one observation.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
expressed his disappointment that the Ministers had not fulfilled the promise with which they commenced the Session. He had expected that they would have come forward with a long list of reductions; but, after all, there were only some 260 reductions —who, or what they were, or to what amount, he knew not. But he had expected some considerable reductions in those taxes which pressed upon the country more than anything else—he meant the Assessed Taxes, against which petitions had been crowded upon the Table, year after year, without effect. The Ministers said, that their reduction would not save money, but patronage. But the people of England could not live upon the patron- 449 age of the Crown—they had need of more substantial food. An hon. Gentleman opposite had said, that the present was a time of peace. There might be peace in one way, but he was sure that there was yet but little cessation to the war upon the pockets of the people. At the same time, he admitted that the reductions which had taken place would give great satisfaction to the people. He should be glad that there were more duty on wine, and less on malt. The repeal of the malt- tax would be one of the greatest benefits that could be conferred upon the country— a far greater benefit than the remission of the beer duties of last Session, which had done inconceivable mischief to the morals of the lower orders. He did not think that he should do his duty to his constituents if he did not declare his dissatisfaction that the noble Lord had not brought forward the details of his project.
§ General Gascoyne
said, that whatever might be said upon the wisdom or justice of the Ministers' measure?, it was not to be denied that their intentions were good. He had one or two questions to ask of the noble Lord, his answers to which would, he was sure, be heard with great interest. One was respecting the penny which was to be imposed on raw cotton. Was that to be an additional impost? If so, it would make the whole duty on the raw material, as imported, no less than thirty per cent upon the original cost. His right hon. friend, the Vice-president of the Board of Trade, had said, that the best way to encourage manufactures was to make the raw material as cheap as possible. But if they laid a tax upon that raw article, which would raise the price considerably, they would destroy the manufacture. He also wished for an explanation respecting the duty of 10s. upon coals exported to foreign countries. Did the noble Lord include the Colonies within his description of foreign countries? was he also prepared to levy that tax on the coals which steam-vessels carried when they went abroad? And with respect to the duty on transfers, he was desirous to know whether it was intended that the duty should extend to all transfers of landed property? As every part of the whole of the funded property of the kingdom, to the amount of eight hundred millions, would, in the course of a few years, be liable to such a duty, would the duty fall upon property left to a man's children. 450 He was always unwilling to trespass upon the time of the House; but when he considered how many throughout the kingdom looked with anxiety to the proceedings of the House that day, he could not forbear expressing his hope that the noble Lord would examine well the consequences of those measures.
§ Lord Althorp
replied, that the duty of a penny per pound on the raw cotton was an additional duty, but there was a duty taken off the manufactured article, which compensated for the addition: and the tax would now be spread over the whole trade, which before pressed heavily upon a part. As to the duty upon coals, although he had explained his intention to impose a tax of 10s. per chaldron, that was, in fact, a reduction of the existing tax, and not a now impost.
Mr. C. Grant
said, it was not his intention to trespass on the indulgence of the House for more than a few minutes, nor did he think it necessary upon that occasion to enter minutely into the various topics connected with the plan of his noble friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The details would come more properly under their consideration at a future time. But he could not touch the subject, however slightly, without giving credit to his noble friend, for attempting to carry into effect the great principle of lightening the burthen which pressed upon the springs of productive industry, and distributing it upon other quarters where it could be more advantageously borne. He would appeal to the House, whether, after the discussions of last year, a Minister must not have felt it an imperative duty to bring down a budget, the great object of which should be, to realise that important principle. He concurred most cordially in the proposed reductions, though he would not enter into the discussion of them now, feeling, as he did, that all other questions had merged in the superior importance of the preservation of the national faith. The present was not a mixed question of faith and expediency And after the violent declamations he had heard—after the indiscriminate attacks with which his noble friend had been assailed—he should be ashamed, were he to turn his attention to any other part of the subject than that which involved the great principles they were unjustly charged with having violated. Every Gentleman who had vet spoken on the subject pro- 451 fessed to have been taken by surprise. One or two of them had even declared that they were incapable of giving utterance to their feelings, so sudden was the shock which their sensibilities received. But somehow or other, it so turned out, that either yesterday or this morning, they were most of them acquainted with the plan—so that the anticipation of unexpected tidings formed a singular feature in the Debate of that evening. The hon. Member under the gallery had adverted to the income-tax, and a great deal had been said upon that subject, but it seemed to him (Mr. C. Grant) as if no Gentleman could escape from the dilemma in which the income-tax placed them. No one could fairly grapple with that tax, and say, that there was a distinction between it and the proposed measure. The hon. Member (Mr. Freshfield) represented Mr. Pitt to have stated, that the income-tax was not a tax on the property of the fund-holder, but upon his profits. Now he (Mr. Grant) had read the debates of the period referred to. and was unable to find anything of this kind attributed to Mr. Pitt. He wished to rescue the reputation of that statesman from the imputation of having said any thing so absurd. A sentiment of the kind, erroneously attributed to Mr. Pitt, might have been thrown out by some one else in the course of the debates upon the income-tax, but certainly not by Mr. Pitt himself; at least, not in the sense in which the expression was used by the hon. Member. He (Mr. Grant) could find nothing of the sort as coming from Mr. Pitt. The Act relating to annuities (which had been referred to) contained words as precise and strong as it was possible to conceive. Yet on the face of that Act did Mr. Pitt, who was the avowed champion of public credit, (a superstructure which he had done much to raise and sustain), give that construction to the passage that he contended justified him in his proposition of an income-tax affecting fund holders as well as others. This was the construction which Mr. Pitt ascribed to the words of the Act. Mr. Pitt said "that when a general assessment upon income is to take place, no distinction ought to be made as to the sources from which that income may arise. There can be no fair objection taken by the stockholder upon the occasion; there can be no question of a breach of good faith with the public creditor, by thus 452 imposing upon him what every other subject of the realm is to incur." "The public creditor," continued Mr. Pitt, "enjoys his security under the most sacred obligations of the State, and whenever an idea has been started in debate, of imposing upon the stockholders, separately and distinctly, any sort of tax, I have reprobated the attempt as utterly inconsistent with good faith. They were to be secured against any imposts distinctly levelled at them as annuitants of the public."✶ Nevertheless, Mr. Pitt argued, that as members of the community, stockholders were liable to be taxed upon their incomes derived from the public funds, when a tax was to be levied upon the income of every description of persons in the realm; and when it was no longer in the power of the fund holders to say they could avoid this tax by removing their property from the funds to landed security, &c, every argument against including them in the assessment was withdrawn. In like manner, his noble friend (Lord Althorp) said, the stockholder should not be able to say, "I will escape the tax, by investing my funds in some other species of property," because he would find other descriptions of property alike subject to taxation. That was in accordance with the view taken by Mr. Pitt of the income-tax—a view in which the Parliament of the day coincided. Such, then, was the construction and interpretation affixed by the Legislature to the claims of the stockholders, and Parliament had acted upon that construction. On no one occasion, as far as he recollected, had the income-tax been questioned as a breach of public faith, or a violation of our engagements to the public creditor. It was a case exactly parallel to the present. He could not see any difference between the two cases in point of principle, and was, therefore, surprised to hear his noble friend's proposition censured as a breach of the national faith towards the public creditor. His right hon. friend opposite had expressed his opinion of the importance of strictly observing and maintaining the public faith, and adhering to our engagements with the national creditor; and in this he fully agreed with his right hon. friend, but denied that the present proposition went to compromise that important principle. His noble friend's proposal✶ Hansard's Parl. Hist. vol xxxiv. p. 14.453 rested upon the same authority as Mr. Pitt's income-tax, and was fully borne out and justified by that measure. When his right hon. friend opposite spoke of the prospective consequences and expected results of this measure, in deterring individuals from contributing loans to the State, he must say, he was decidedly of opinion, that in the event of the provision passing into a law, no hesitation would be felt by capitalists in becoming public creditors; the measure would not shake our credit, nor produce any unfavourable influence on transactions such as had been referred to; and he believed (notwithstanding what he had heard that evening), that the general opinion of the country would be friendly to the proposition brought forward by his noble friend.
§ Sir E. Sugden
almost feared to express the surprise which he could not avoid feeling at the proposition of the noble Lord, with respect to transfers of funded property, lest he should subject himself to the animadversion of the right hon. member for Inverness. Whatever that hon. Member might say, he could assure him, that he had not heard the slightest whisper of the noble Lord's intention till he developed his plan, and that had certainly occasioned him to feel completely astonished, and though he might be subject to the right hon. Gentleman's animadversions, he could not allow the discussion to pass by without saying a few words upon a point so important as that to which he had referred. He did feel some surprise at observing that the noble Lord had ransacked the records of Parliament for the purpose of discovering the authority of Mr. Pitt (a singular authority for the noble Lord to rely upon) for an illegal act— for after all, that was the noble Lord's construction of Mr. Pitt's conduct with respect to the fund holders. He maintained, that such was the noble Lord's construction of Mr. Pitt's proposition, which, nevertheless, he referred to in justification of his own. He repeated, he thought Mr. Pitt was the last person whose example the noble Lord could have been expected to follow. Attempt to disguise it as he might, the noble Lord's proposition was neither more nor less than a partial, unjust, oppressive, and impolitic property-tax. If the noble Lord was prepared to follow the precedent established by Mr. Pitt, he must impose a tax on every transfer of every species of property, and then 454 say—" whatever be the provisions of Acts of Parliament with respect to the public creditor, we must break faith with him as a matter of necessity." But the noble Lord did more than this; he proposed a tax upon one species of property, leaving others wholly untouched. Admitting, for the sake of argument, that Mr. Pitt had broken faith with the stockholder, was that any reason why the Parliament should now follow his example? It was specially provided by Act of Parliament that no tax or duty should be imposed upon the dividends of stock: as to a tax upon transfers of stock, that never occurred to any one. When the question of a property-tax, was raised, Mr. Pitt admitted the force and validity of the contract with the public creditor, and declared, that he would not break it; adding, however, that he only pledged himself not to tax the stockholders, quà their annuities and dividends, but expressing his opinion, that if an income-tax were imposed upon the whole property of the State, the fund holders must not be permitted to escape. Now, what he understood the noble Lord to say (at least, such appeared the drift of his argument) was, that as Mr. Pitt had broken the contract with the public creditor in the matter of the income-tax, he (Lord Althorp) might do the same by means of a duty on the transfer of funded property. But let the House see how much stronger was the present contract with the public creditor than that which existed in the time of Mr. Pitt. The dividends on the public funds were specially exonerated from the payment of any duty, and nothing was ever said about transfers, with a view to impose a tax upon them. After the property-tax had been imposed, it was provided, as a bonus to the stock-holders, that the first payment of dividends should be clear of the tax, and no stamp-duty whatever was to be levied on the transfer of stock. The Government of the day said to the stock-holders—"We now tell you, that you are to be subject to a property-tax, but you shall not be subject to any duty on the transfer, should you desire to withdraw your property from the public funds, and invest it in any other manner."Then came the Acts reducing the five per cents to four, and the four per cents to three-and-half, by which it was especially provided, that there should be no stamp-duty whatever charged upon the transfer. The Act to which he particularly referred, as 455 containing this provision, was so late as the fifth of George 4th It effected a great public benefit, and was a boon to the country, perhaps at the expense of much private suffering and annoyance. The present proposition involved as gross a violation (as regarded particular Acts of Parliament) of public faith as had ever been permitted by any revolutionary government. He said to the noble Lord, if you put one 5s. on the transfer of 100l. of stock, you will commit as great a breach of faith as revolutionary France ever did. He called upon the noble Lord, if he imposed this transfer duty, to recite the Acts of Parliament protecting the fund holder, and introduce a clause in his bill repealing them by name. After that, let the noble Lord impose his transfer duty; but he believed that no Minister would dare to do this, and thus openly and deliberately violate the national faith pledged to the public creditor. Where was the House to stop? and what would be the consequences if this measure were carried into effect? Did any body pretend to doubt, that one result of this breach of faith would be to send millions out of the English funds into some foreign and more secure channel of investment? It was only by maintaining public credit that our stocks had been upheld: once violate it, and those who had selected the English funds as a secure refuge-place for their money, would desert them, and the country would be deprived of the benefit of their capital. Let us only mark (said the hon. and learned Gentleman), let us only mark to-morrow the effect of the noble Lord's Resolutions in the City, should they be carried. If it shall go abroad, that the noble Lord can pass his measure, there is no man with money in the funds but will to-morrow morning find himself considerably damnified. The hon. and learned Gentleman, in conclusion, stated, that he should, upon every occasion, oppose the measure in the most decided and pertinacious manner.
had received great pleasure from several of the noble Lord's propositions. As to the reductions on newspaper stamps and tobacco, he approved of them as fiscal regulations, and thought they would be advantageous to the community without occasioning loss to the revenue. Perhaps some hon. Members might regret that the export of coal was to be facilitated: and think that 456 we ought to economise an article which, if once exhausted could not be reproduced; and the prevalent opinion was that the duration of Newcastle coal, at the present rate of consumption, could not exceed 400 or 500 years. The hon. Gentleman expressed his gratification at the proposed removal of the duty or glass, and mentioned the surprise expressed by M. Simond, an intelligent foreigner, at observing an Excise officer in a glass factory at Dumbarton, M. Simond declaring his astonishment that such an interference with manufacturing ingenuity and industry could occur in a free country. He approved of the noble Lord's plan with respect to the timber duties; it would probably affect our shipping interests rather unfavourably, but the time for making a very proper alteration in the timber trade was well chosen, when whatever loss might be thus sustained by the shipping interest would be compensated in a great degree by an increase of the coasting trade, occasioned by the alteration in the coal duty. With respect to cotton, he regretted that such a large amount of duty would be taken from the Treasury in the way of drawbacks, and would have preferred a smaller duty, so imposed upon manufactured and other cottons as to obviate the objection. With respect to steam-boats he expressed his regret that the noble Lord should have imposed a tax upon an infant branch of industry and commerce. As to the great question of a transfer of duty on stock, his deliberate opinion was, that the noble Lord was quite as much justified in imposing it as was Mr. Pitt in levying a tax on funded property. But supposing that even a large minority of the public should look at the duty as involving a breach of faith with the national creditor, he might upon that ground lament that it had been brought forward. Under such circumstances the reconsideration of the subject would reflect no discredit on the noble Lord—on the contrary it would do honour to him. If upon reconsideration, the noble Lord should think the tax inexpedient, he would do well to withdraw the proposition. Transfers of funds must be incomparably greater and more frequent than those of land, and therefore a duty of half per cent upon such operations, bore no proportion as a percentage on the value of the property, to the same rate of duty when imposed on transfers of landed property. And, as had been well observed, the parties 457 who would bear the chief burthen of this tax were not those who possessed a superabundance, but a moderate amount of property, transfers of stock being made much oftener by them than by the more wealthy. He concurred with the late Mr. Ricardo in thinking, that if a property-tax were imposed, it ought to be laid equally on every description of property. Personal property was very unequally taxed at present. It was not his wish to oppose the Government, but he recommended the noble Lord to weigh the objections made against his scheme, which, he could assure him, deserved his best consideration.
§ Mr. G. Robinson
observed, that the noble Lord professed a desire to tax different species of property equally, but at the same time contented himself with taxing funded and landed property, leaving other descriptions of property untouched. He saw no occasion for a further reduction of the duty on French wines, which had been considerably lowered a few years back; he also objected to the increase of duty on Portuguese wines, and deprecated the loss of the market, which would be the consequence in that country for British commodities. He should have been glad to have seen a reduction of the duty on soap. It was unfair towards our North American colonies to alter the duty on Timber at a time when we were about to let the United States into the West-Indian market in competition with Canada. The effect of the alteration would be, to inflict a serious blow upon our shipping interests, as well as upon our colonies, a large portion of the foreign timber being imported in the ships of other nations, while Canadian timber was imported in British vessels. He concurred in the observation, that the transfer duty on funded property appeared a severe blow at public credit, and apprehended that its effect would be, to drive millions of capital to other countries. The noble Lord's propositions had come upon him unexpectedly. He should watch their progress with jealousy, but without pledging himself to oppose the Government.
§ Colonel Tyrell
had listened with very great satisfaction to many of the noble Lord's propositions; but representing, as he did, an agricultural county, he must regret that he had not heard something with regard to repealing the malt-duty. He could have wished that a reduction of 458 the tax on that article had been substituted for a reduction of the tobacco-duty. He regretted, at a time when Ministers were advocating the principles of free trade in other matters, that they appeared to keep wholly out of sight the principle of a free trade in money. In his opinion, the proposed duty on transfers of stock would prove to be a very great clog on the monied interest. It would be received in the City with great dismay, and would be viewed with much disappointment by the country at large.
§ Lord Morpeth
said, that after the clear and explicit statement of his noble friend, which was highly creditable to himself, and the greater part of which would be extremely satisfactory to the community over whose financial concerns his noble friend presided, he had very few observations to make, and none of them of a hostile character. On the contrary, as the Representative of large and considerable bodies of industrious men, he rose to express to the House the satisfaction which he was convinced they, in common with himself, must feel, at the reductions and retrenchments proposed by his noble friend, and the certainty that they would give him their utmost support, if his noble friend followed up, and acted upon, the wise principle with which he had so well commenced. A war-cry was raised on the other side of the House, with reference to one part of his noble friend's plan, which was stigmatized as a spoliation of private properly, and a violation of public faith. Now, he was not sufficiently acquainted with the Act of Parliament which bore upon this subject to argue it at length, but he hoped the observation he was going to make would not be found to be opposed to it. The declamation which he had heard on this particular point, eloquent as it was, would not, in his opinion, answer its purpose, unless a greater and more perceptible difference were shewn between taxing property itself, in or out of the pockets of individuals, and taxing its transfer as was proposed. Those who disapproved of this tax seemed to wish that an exception should be made in this solitary instance, all other property being taxed. With respect to that portion of reduction which appeared the best and the most satisfactory to the House—he meant the removal of the duty on seaborne coals, those whom he represented did not feel so much immediate interest in 459 that measure as many other parts of the kingdom did. His constituents would, however, be well pleased with the abolition of that duty. The tax was partial in its operation, and severe in its nature, weighing most heavily on those who were least able to bear the burthen, and therefore, humanity and justice called loudly for its repeal. He also approved of the alteration in the duty on cotton. Some Gentlemen, while they admitted the propriety of removing the tax from printed cotton, deprecated the imposition of a duty on imported cotton. But the great difference between the two taxes was this, that the general tax on imported cotton affected all, whilst that on printed cotton chiefly affected the humbler classes. With respect to the reduction of the duty on newspaper-stamps, he heartily and entirely concurred in its propriety. It was a subject in which he took very great interest; and he should feel much pride, on Monday next, in presenting to the House the Petition of the Printers of London and Westminster for the repeal of these stamp duties. He should present it, not with the intention of asking Ministers to concede its prayer, but with a confident hope of successfully calling on the House to acquiesce in the proposition which had emanated from Ministers. With respect to the reductions which were intended to be made in different departments, he perfectly approved of them. In making them, as well as in their arrangements respecting the Civil List, Ministers appeared to have proceeded with a nice sense of justice, honour, and delicacy, towards those who were likely to be affected by the alteration. He did not know that what Ministers had done would secure to the Government all the popularity which might, be achieved by other means; but he was certain that it would attract the support and approbation of the wise, and, by pursuing a proper line of conduct, the rest would be added.
approved of much that had been proposed by the noble Lord, but he could not support the whole of his plan. He could not agree in the propriety of the duty on transfers of stock, because it appeared to him to be contrary to the national faith, and would, as a tax, be found extremely grievous. He would, for his own part, prefer to it a well regulated property-tax.
§ Mr. D. W. Harvey
thought, that most of the hon. Members who opposed the 460 propositions of the noble Lord seemed to lose sight of the great advantage of his scheme. Where was the individual forming a part of the late Government who hoped for the repeal of two millions of taxes, after all the reductions that had recently taken place? The noble Lord however, proposed to repeal no less than three millions; imposing in lieu of them only 1,200,000l.; that was, 800,000l. upon the transfer of funded property, and 400,000l. on the transfer of land. If that proposition was to be successfully resisted upon principle, it could not but prove highly consolatory to the fund holders, as affording them conclusive evidence, that since that did not, no other fiscal regulations could affect their property. It had been said, that there was no distinction between the transfer-tax and an income-tax. If any disappointment should arise on the subject, it would consist in this— that instead of a tax on transfers of only 1,200,000l., there had been expected a tax on properly of several millions. He should certainly give the Government his support, for he thought it was factious for any man to oppose any proposition unless he was prepared to suggest a substitute. Many of the landowners had that night stood forward as the advocates of the fund holders. Now if, instead of a tax of 10s. upon the transfer of land, they had proposed 30s., they would have relieved their friends the fundholders, and paid a high compliment to the landed interest.
§ Mr. Holme Sumner
denied that the Government plan would afford a saving of 2,000,000l., as had been stated. the taxes now to be imposed amounted to two millions seven or eight hundred thousand pounds. As to the repeal of the duty on coals, it was a measure that had his most cordial support.
§ Mr. Benett
observed, that it seemed to be generally agreed, that it had at length become necessary to take the taxes off the productive industry of the country, in order that it might be imposed on the higher classes of society, who were better able to bear the burthen. Of such a course as this he most cordially approved; and even had the noble Lord carried it to the extent of proposing a general income-tax, it should have met with his support; but, though no property-tax was proposed, enough had been done to enable the Government to get rid of some most obnoxious taxes (and than those that had been 461 chosen there could not be more obnoxious taxes), and further than this they were not able to go. Perhaps the noble Lord had not proposed a property-tax because he did not believe that the time for it was yet come, but he (Mr. Benett) felt fully satisfied, that, at all events, it was near at hand. With respect to the case of the fund holder, he did not see what right he had to complain; with the change of the currency, his property had been benefitted nearly thirty per cent, and he, therefore, had no right to cry out, now that a tax of one-half per cent was put upon his transfers. The time was come when the fund holder must bear his share of the burthen; they were now the rich men of the country, and they, therefore, ought not to be surprised should they be called on to bear a portion of the weight of the public expenditure. The people had been taxed beyond their means, the fund holders had escaped taxation, and they must now relieve the rest, or all would perish together. So far, therefore, from objecting to this tax of one-half percent, he thought that they would act wisely by holding their tongues, or, perhaps, they ought rather to accept it as an actual boon, for it might be the means of protecting them some short time hence from a much more grievous imposition.
§ Mr. Hunt
said, that there seemed to be three parties to this question—the law, the landed and the monied interest: now he did not come under either of these heads, for he was there as the Representative of the people. But though that was his more particular station, he felt it to be his duty to protect the interests of all parties; As to the measures proposed by the noble Lord, he felt obliged to him, on the part of the people, as far as any taxes were taken off. With respect to the remission of the tax on tobacco, however, he wished that some other more necessary article had been exempted in its place—such as soap. He looked upon the use of tobacco as the use of a disgusting weed, and those who used it, as they did it in the shape of a luxury, ought to be made to pay for it. With respect to the taking off the tax on newspapers and advertisements, he was sure that it would be responded to by all classes in the country; and as to the tax on coals, the great disgrace was, that it had been allowed to remain so long. He trusted, however, now that it was to be 462 removed, the effect would not be destroyed by the little monopolies which existed in the City; the jobbing that took place there was beyond conception; and if the manœuvres that were carried on between the coal-meters, coal-merchants, and other parties, were not done away with, little good would accrue to the community at large. It had been well said, that in removing taxes only in part, the public did not reap much benefit, it being chiefly monopolised by the dealers. The tax on salt was a strong instance of this; when only a portion of that tax had been removed, but little benefit had been derived by the community; but when the whole was taken off, and the paraphernalia of Excise and Collectors was got rid of, it was found to be one of the greatest boons the public had ever received. With respect to the calico prints, the whole country would be rejoiced at that; for the duty on that sort which was worn by the lower orders was eighty per cent, while on that consumed by the rich it was only two and a half. As to the proposed duty on cottons, he thought it wrong that a general duty of 1d. a pound should be imposed, because this immediately made the tax unequal, the rich getting their cottons at as cheap a rate as the poor; it would have been better, therefore, had the finer sorts of cottons paid more, and the coarser sorts less. At the same time, he was bound to say, that he believed the noble Lord had come forward with the best intentions towards the country; and he certainly could not have done better than in laying the whole of his propositions clearly before the public, as he had done. As he understood the case, the present Government had come into Office with three pledges—a great reduction in taxation, a Reform in that House, and non-intervention with the Government of any other country. On the strength of these pledges great expectation was entertained by the people, and they certainly did anticipate that a great deal would be done. All that he feared was, that the people would not be altogether satisfied with the amount of reduction which the noble Lord proposed. The only fault, however, that he had to find with the statement, as far as that was concerned, was, that in his proposal of the half per cent duty on the transfer of funded property, he had acted in the same open manner as on the other points; for, as they had been told by the hon. member 463 for London, they were no more able to relieve the distress of the country, and keep the national faith at the same time, than it was in the noble Lord's power to satisfy the wants of the people to-morrow. He had been accustomed to meet the public out of that House; and he would toll that hon. House what the public thought of the national faith. Instead of national faith, they looked upon it as national robbery and national delusion. He hoped the House would bear with him; there was arrayed in that House all the talent of the country; he was only telling them what was said out of doors, and he did not hesitate to tell them the same in doors. A good deal had been said about this proposed measure being a violation of the national faith; but he begged to ask the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel), what sort of national faith it was to change the Currency, so that the fund holder, who was receiving three per cent, and got one sack of wheat for the money, was enabled by the alteration to get two sacks for the same money? So, in the same way, they had been told that this was a violation of the law; but, if that argument was good, every time a law was repealed there was a violation of the law. In what he said, he endeavoured to make himself understood, and he hoped for the indulgence of the House, for as soon as he should find that he was not able to forward the cause of the people, or that his arguments were not listened to by the House, he should make his bow and take his leave of his constituents. He had been brought up in what was called the Burdett school, and he had often heard the hon. Baronet give descriptions of that hon. House, at the meetings in Palace yard. He trusted that he was not disorderly; but if he was, he should bow to the rules of the House; and he could assure it, that he should have great pleasure in telling his constituents that he had met with fair play there. He had heard the hon. member for Westminster talk of the House that kept late hours and bad company; but for himself he would never say out of the House what it would be disorderly to say in it. With respect to the passage from Mr. Pitt's speech, which had been quoted by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. C. Grant), he thought that, notwithstanding the abilities of that right hon. Gentleman, he had mistaken the point of the quotation, for it appeared to him that the argument contained in 464 that extract was in favour of the opponents of the right hon. Gentleman. In this respect, it reminded him of an hon. and learned Gentleman with whom he had had the fortune of arguing a point in the Court of King's Bench. That learned Gentleman (he must not mention names), the member for some place—he did not know what— had cited a case, and was about to hand it up to Mr. Justice Bayley, when he (Mr. Hunt) whipped across the Court, and begged to be allowed to read it, which, having done, he also handed it up to Mr. Justice Bayley, and said, "I rest my case on that too, my Lord;" and the opinion of that learned Judge was clearly enough expressed, by saying, "Mr. Hunt must have his rule." What was proposed by the noble Lord might make a slight panic in the City, but it would give great satisfaction to the country. For himself, he wished that the Government had been bold enough to take off the Malt-tax, the House and Window-tax, and the Soap-tax, and put on a Property-tax in their place at once. But perhaps the situation in which they had been left by the late Government, had prevented them doing more. However, as far as they would go in taking off taxes, they should have his hearty support. He did not, however, believe that the Government was strong enough for such a measure as that which he had proposed. Let them, however, once effect a Reform in that House; and then, with a Ministry which had the confidence of the people, those measures could be carried. With respect to the tax on wines, he was glad that they were going to be equalised. The tax on steam-boats, however, he objected to, because it would prevent the poor Irish pigs, or, at least, the poor Irish men, from coming over in the steam-boats; and, indeed, cut off all connection between Paddy and John Bull.
thought, that it would have been better if the malt-tax (in whole or in part) had been taken off, instead of the duty on tobacco. If 6d. a bushel of that tax had been reduced, the revenue would, he believed, have gained rather than have lost. The duty on Candles also pressed very heavily on the poorer classes.
§ Mr. Beaumont
expressed his cordial concurrence in the Resolutions of his noble friend; and denied that the tax on transfers would be a violation of national 465 faith. It would be a much greater and a worse violation of that faith, if nothing were done to relieve the sufferings of the people.
§ The three following Resolutions were then put seriatim—
§ That 2,000,000l. be granted to his Majesty, as Transfer of Aids;
§ 25,577,600l. to pay off Exchequer-bills charged on Aids of 1830 and 1831; and 3,800l. to pay off Exchequer-bills issued for Public Works and building Churches, and carried nem. dis.; and the House resumed.