HC Deb 01 July 1831 vol 4 cc598-601
Lord Althorp

next proposed a Resolution to the Committee, "that there be levied on the importation of every 100lbs. of raw cotton, the produce of foreign countries, the sum of 5s. 10d., and upon the same weight of cotton, the growth of British possessions, the sum of 4d." His Lordship observed, in proposing this duty, that, from all he could learn, the taking off the duty on printed calicoes had been productive of the greatest advantage to the trade. He did not mean to say, that the duty which he now imposed was that which, at a more advantageous period he should have selected, but it was not so contrary to the principles of commerce, as the duty on printed calicoes, and, being compelled to choose between the two evils, he had chosen that which was the least.

Mr. Edward King

complimented the noble Lord on the good already effected by the removal of the duty on printed calicoes, and expressed a hope that this duty on raw cotton would not be persisted in. He would state, from his own knowledge, that the imposition of this tax had already done a great deal of mischief; the manufacture was at present in a distressed state, and therefore the time was most unfavourable for imposing this duty.

Lord Althorp

repeated what he had before stated, that the tax was but a choice of evils. He should be happy to be able to give it up, but that was out of his power.

Mr. Goulburn, begged to inquire of the noble Lord, what the amount of the drawback on the export of printed cottons paid within the last year. He objected to the proposed tax because it would fall with great severity on the poor, who wore coarse and heavy garments.

Lord Althorp

could not say exactly what the amount of the drawback was, but he could inform the right hon. Member that the whole sum paid in drawback during this year exceeded the sum which was received by the duty on printed cottons by 122,000l.

Mr. Sadler

said, that the rich paid a large portion of the tax on printed cottons, but the instant the tax was imposed, the poor would have to pay for their stockings and their fustian jackets. He objected to the tax on principle. It was imposed on the raw material of an important manufacture.

Mr. Poulett Thomson

defended the tax which would amount only to 300,000l. spread over the whole cotton consumed, while the tax taken off, amounted to 500,000l. levied on one part of the manufacture. He believed, that the greater part of the tax on printed cottons was paid by the poor, and he was sure that they would not suffer so much from the general, as from the partial tax.

Mr. Sadler

must maintain, that as the dresses of the higher classes were made of muslin, that this tax would press most severely on the poorer classes.

Mr. Goulburn

also maintained, that the duty on the raw material would press more severely on the lower classes, than the partial tax on printed cottons. He did not defend this tax, but inasmuch as it was the poor who wore the thick and heavy cotton garments, it would be the poor who would pay the largest portion of this new tax. To all the arguments of Ministers in favour of this tax, he would only say, that one of themselves, he meant the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary-at-War (Sir Henry Parnell), was one of the most powerful advocates, he knew, for the repeal of all taxes on raw material, and this was one.

Lord Althorp

did not deny, that this tax would press on the people, but not so disadvantageously as the tax for which it was a substitute. By repealing the other, Government had been enabled to get rid of 150 Excise Officers, who cost upwards of 15,000l. a-year.

Mr. Alderman Wood

thought, the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, very inconsistent. Last night, and on many former nights, he had been the staunch advocate of much needless taxation— grinding the faces of the poor; now he was objecting to imposing on them a very trifling tax. For his own part, he did not approve of the tax, but he had also opposed other taxes, and he hoped in future to have the support of that right hon. Gentleman in all his efforts to reduce salaries and taxation.

Mr. Herries

thought, the tax ought to be looked at principally as it would affect our export trade. A great struggle was going on to obtain possession of the foreign market, and any tax on the raw material, however trifling, would give the foreigner an advantage to that extent over our manufacturers. The tax was, on all hands, admitted to be bad, it would not yield more than 300,000l., and was it worth while, he asked, to risk the chance of injuring our cotton manufacture for the sake of such a trifling addition to the revenue? He did not believe, that the resources of the country were so drained that such a sum could not be raised by other means: and he earnestly conjured the noble Lord to take the subject again into his consideration. During the first half of 1831, we had exported a less quantity and less value of cotton manufactures than in the corresponding half of 1830, and when there was this evidence of a decline in our manufacture, it would be most unwise to burden it with an additional tax on the raw material.

Resolution agreed to, and the House resumed.