§ Sir John Key
said, that although hon. Members were anxiously awaiting the result of the Motion which he should have the honour of submitting for the consideration of the House, he was glad that a short delay had taken place, as Ministers must now see from the numerous petitions presented, that all parts of the country were impatient of these taxes. He should have been well pleased if some Member of greater talent and experience had undertaken a task, which, in his hands, would be, he feared, but feebly executed. Representing, however, one of the largest districts peculiarly aggrieved by the cruelty and injustice of the House and Window-taxes, he trusted, that in moving for their repeal he should not be accused of vanity and presumption, and that hon. Members would grant him more than usual indulgence while he addressed them on the subject, and not allow the strength of the claims of the industrious classes for redress, to be impaired by the inefficiency with which they were advocated. The House-tax at present in force purported to be assessed, as hon. Members were aware, upon the annual value of all inhabited houses above 10l. per annum, upon the following graduated scale:—10l. and under 20l., 1s. 6d. in the pound; 20l. and under 40l., 2s. 3d.; 40l. and upwards, 2s. 10d. It was not necessary for him to enter into an historical account of the rise and progress of this tax, it was sufficient to say, that like most other bad measures, it was, at its first introduction so mild in operation, 759 and so moderate in amount, that it excited but little opposition when first imposed. Together with the Window-tax it amounted to only 2s., and thence to 8s. each House; and it had gradually progressed to the present period, when its enormous amount exercised a most destructive influence upon trade, and absorbed a large portion of the disposable income of the industrious classes, which, if taxation had been fairly and equally imposed, would have been employed in obtaining those necessaries and comforts, to which, as the main prop and support of the State, they were so well entitled. It was true, these taxes had not attained to their present extravagant amount without the people remonstrating against their injustice and inequality; but the majorities of an unreformed Parliament had been always ready to support the Ministers in placing burthens on the middle classes of society, and an apology was offered for the increase of the rate of the tax in the war in which this country was then engaged, and the people were partially reconciled to the measure by the assurance that it was but temporary, and would expire with the necessity which had called for its imposition. The House-tax, as appeared by the Returns of the House of Commons, produced in the year ending January, 1832, the net amount of 1,357,041l. 13s. 11¾d., of which sum considerably more than half was paid by the city of London and the suburban districts within the bills of mortality, and if added to the metropolis, the hives of industry in the three manufacturing and trading counties, Yorkshire, Lancashire, and Somersetshire, it would be found that united they paid more than three-fourths of the whole tax, for the whole of the fifty-two counties of England and Wales; thus clearly proving that it was a direct tax upon trading and manufacturing industry. It was one of the peculiarities of the inhabited-House tax, as at present imposed, that it offended equally against all the rules to regulate taxation which had been laid down by the advocates of the most opposite theories. With the advocates of direct taxation, it was at war in principle for two reasons—first, because it was almost as expensive in collection as the indirect taxes; and, secondly, because it was equally with them a tax upon consumable commodities, seeing that it fell principally upon tradesmen, who sought to repay themselves for 760 the outlay, by charging the excess of taxation, with their other expenses, upon the commodities in which they dealt, and the price of such commodities was, therefore, necessarily enhanced in their progress to the possession of the consumer, precisely the same as if the amount of the tax was so much money levied on the commodities themselves. To those who saw in indirect imposts the only legitimate source of national revenue, this tax must, upon principle, be equally objectionable; for, although the tax when paid was drawn from trade, and, therefore, indirectly refunded by the consumer of the commodities, and so diffused over a larger surface, yet the tax itself was collected as a money-tax, and thus created all the discontent and dissatisfaction at the Government, which it was supposed to be the vicious tendency of direct taxation to inspire. He was aware that Adam Smith, and other disciples of political economy, had contended, that a tax upon houses was a just tax; and they endeavoured to support their doctrine, sometimes by contending that it was in the nature of a Property-tax, and therefore, defensible upon the recognized principle, that all property should equally pay the State for its protection; at other times they sought to justify the tax, upon the plea that the annual value of a man's residence was a fair criterion of the amount of his means of expenditure, and an ad valorem tax upon the surplus disposable income. He humbly contended, that both propositions were equally fallacious, and that the House-tax was not, in principle or in practice, in law or in fact, either a tax upon property, or a tax upon disposable income. That it would be idle to consider this tax in the light of a Property-tax was clear. If it were so it would be calculated upon what Adam Smith denominated "the building rent of the house" that was the interest upon the cost of the materials and labour employed in its construction. If that were the case the present order of things would be completely inverted; the inexpensive dwelling of the humble tradesman would be but lightly taxed; whereas the noble peer and wealthy commoner would have to pay to the State a sum equal to the protection which it afforded to their mansions and castles, the splendid monuments of the surplus wealth of themselves and their progenitors. Adam Smith said, if the House-tax were imposed upon that 761 principle, and applied according to that rule it would ruin half the nobility; for that it was the savings of generations which were expended in the construction of their palaces and mansions. Supposing that would be the consequence of the tax, if equally enforced, let the House reflect how many hundreds of industrious tradesmen had actually been ruined by the extreme severity which was the consequence of its unequal pressure. If noblemen and gentlemen chose to abstract from productive employment the saving of generations, and to invest large masses of wealth, as it were in mortmain, society had no right to complain, for they had a right to do what they would with their own; but society had a right to claim as much in taxes for the protection it afforded to those masses of property, as it demanded for the same quantity of wealth when invested in houses employed for the purposes of trade, or, by its interchanges, contributing to increase the welfare of the whole community. But that it was not intended to treat this tax as one upon property, was manifest from the manner in which it was levied throughout the whole country, unless, indeed, they were to consider all the assessors and Commissioners perjured. For instance, by the oaths of the assessors (as appeared by the returns) there were only four houses in the county of Bedford worth more than 70l, per annum; and the aggregate annual value of those four was sworn to be under 1,200l. Bedfordshire, be it remembered, contained Woburn-Abbey, Wrest-park, Oakly-house, Warden, Ampthill-place, Hannes-house, Cople-house, Bletsoe-park, Melchburn-park, and a great number of other elegant and commodious houses, the seats of nobility and gentry, each of which, with its rateable appurtenances, was worth many thousands of pounds. If the House-tax were intended to bear the slightest resemblance to a tax upon property, why did all these noble dwelling-houses escape with the annual payment of 170l., while the City of London Tavern alone actually paid for taxes, as an inhabited house, 141l. 13s. 4d., although there were not in the whole house apartments in which the proprietors and the family ever slept, the whole being devoted to trade, in which, indeed, its whole value consisted? In Cheapside, the Poultry, and Cornhill, it appeared, by the returns to Parliament, 100 houses, 762 indiscriminately taken, were assessed at the sum of 16,300l., or upwards of 160l. each, upon an average; yet, except in the metropolitan and manufacturing counties, there was not, in the remaining portions of England and Wales, an equal number of houses assessed to the same amount, although, upon a moderate calculation, drawn from the topographical and historical accounts of the counties of England and Wales, and other sources of information, there could not be less than 7,000 or 8,000 mansions and dwelling-houses, which had cost from 2,000l. to 200,000l. in their erection. The average cost of the houses in Cornhill and Cheapside might be 1,500l. to 2,000l.; what then constituted the difference between the cost of the property and the value at which it was assessed, but the trade carried on in them? And it was manifest that a tax which fastened with such relentless severity upon the latter description of houses, was not a tax upon property, but upon trade and industry. The next position he had to combat was the assertion that the amount of house rents was a criterion of the amount of a man's disposable income, or the amount which he had to expend in the consumable commodities. Dr. Smith, in one part of his "Inquiry into the Causes of the Wealth of Nations," seemed to justify the opinion, but then he was alluding to casts where income and rents were drawn from other sources than trade, for he spoke of houses used for the purposes of trade as a sort of instrument of trade, not to be considered in the same light as mere dwelling-houses; but, under the law, as it now existed, the great mass of this species of taxation was derived from that description of house which he truly designated the instrument of trade, and the source of gainful occupation; and, although, the modification proposed by the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) afforded a trifling relief to one class of the persons aggrieved (the shopkeepers), it did not at all remove the objectionable principle of the tax itself. The fact was, the highly-taxed houses were the residences of the producers, and the low-taxed houses the residences of the consumers. It was this which created the fictitious value of houses over and above the building-rent. It was the competition of industry, of which trading towns and cities were the theatre. The tradesman, the mechanic, the merchant, who 763 were all the creators and producers of wealth, must live where they could, the mere consumers might live where they pleased. For the mansions of the rich rich and great there was but small competition. The possessors of incomes equal to their habitation had not only the untaxed counties of England and Wales to select for places of residence, but Paris, Rome, Naples, Florence, Brussels, became the homes of their adoption; while their incomes, spent amongst strangers, continued to be drawn from this country, which its overtaxed tradespeople, labourers, and manufacturers were toiling to produce. It was not to be supposed, as the noble Lord seemed to imagine, that mere shops and warehouses were the only houses which, in the language of Adam Smith, before quoted, were the instruments of trade. No, the numberless houses, of all sorts and sizes, which were adjacent to the shopkeeping part of the community, were equally houses used for the purposes of trade; the proprietors of many, perhaps moat of them, resorted daily to the more crowded parts of London, in the pursuit of their means of subsistence. It was almost impossible for persons, with a due regard to the health of themselves and families, to bear the close confinement of the more densely populated parts of the metropolis—merchants, tradesmen, clerks, shopmen, porters, workmen, warehousemen, all pressed from the scenes of their daily toil to the suburbs of the metropolis, to obtain, in a pure atmosphere, relief by healthful relaxation from the penalties which waited upon laborious and unhealthy employments in close and confined situations. The relief proposed to be granted by the noble Lord to the shop-keeping inhabitants of towns and cities was a mere delusion. The proportion of the number of shop-windows to the remaining number of the windows of the House bore no relation to the difference of the annual value of those Houses, which value was constituted by their trading advantages and local situation. The gross injustice which pressed upon the London Tavern in the manner he had before mentioned, and on houses similarly situated, would be in no way redressed by the noble Lord's modification, and the relief of the shopkeepers would only be as one to ten, while the injustice they suffered from the tax, as compared with the now producing part of the community, was as ten to one. 764 If the shop-keepers were, as the noble Lord seemed to consider, the only producers in towns and cities who ought to be relieved from the burthen, the supposed plan would fail to give even them redress. The windows of the shops were generally on the ground floor, and contributed, perhaps, only one quarter of the whole number, while the value of the shop constituted three-quarters of its annual rent, and yet, the fallacious criterion of shop-windows was to be made the standard of relief. He would ask his Lordship whether merchants and merchants' clerks, ship insurance, and produce brokers, tavern and victualling-house keepers, schoolmasters, professional men, lodging-house keepers, mechanics, artisans, and clerks, who were crowded together in the almost numberless streets of private residences, and in and about the metropolis, were not compelled to pay high rents by the necessity of being, for the purposes of trade and industry, in crowded towns and cities; and whether they were not as much producers of wealth and entitled to relief as the shop-keepers of the kingdom? The noble Lord, perhaps, thought that by holding out the prospect of redress (very partial it was true) he should derive advantage from the old maxim "Divide and conquer," and that the shopkeepers would be satisfied, by the selfish motive of individual gain, to leave their fellow-sufferers in the lurch. The noble Lord would find himself mistaken—the housekeepers throughout the kingdom would unite as one man. They objected to the House and Window-tax as unjust in principle, oppressive in detail, inquisitorial and vexatious in its imposition and collection, and that it was susceptible of no modification which would take away its objectionable character; and they would never cease to complain till it was entirely repealed. Hoping that he bad established, in the opinion of the House, the two propositions, that the House-tax was not an equal Property-tax, and that it was not an equal tax upon disposable income, he might, perhaps, be called upon to say what it was. He denominated it an unfair and unjust tax upon the industry of the country; it was an Income-tax in its most odious form, because it touched not the masses of wealth—it touched not the drones in the hive—it fixed with relentless severity upon the industrious orders. The Income-tax, which was a 765 mere tax upon income, and justly excited so much displeasure, was a heavenly tax, compared with this. If it did tax a man's income derived from trade, it was only in common with incomes derived from other sources, and in the calculations of that income it made an allowance for the expenses of his trade. The House-tax not only taxed income obtained by means of trade in an enormously-disproportionate degree, but it positively taxed the houses—the very instrument, the expensive instrument, by which that income was created, and the means from which it was derived. The tax-gatherer made no allowance for the depression of trade. It was in vain the tradesman spoke of his bad debts, of his reduced rate of profit, of his diminished business; the tax-gatherer replied, that he lived in the house, and whether he was prosperous or unprosperous, whether he thrived or was ruined, the taxes must be paid. Beneath the reckless grasp of the tax-gatherer first fell the profits of the tradesman, then the rewards of his labour and industry, then his capital, then his credit, till bankruptcy closed his career. The goods of his creditors then went to meet the demands of the tax-gatherer; and if they were insufficient, a gaol was his portion, as a bankruptcy which answered all other claims was no protection to the demand of this tax. Of the Window-tax it was not necessary for him to say so much: it was subject (though not in the same degree) to a greater portion of the reasoning he had taken the liberty of applying to the tax upon houses; and, in addition to those arguments, its injurious effects upon the health and the comforts of the people must be manifest to any one who considered the question. The Window-tax was, and ever had been an odious tax, intercepting in their progress to man two of Heaven's greatest blessings—light and air; the free use of which were indispensable to the healthful and comfortable enjoyments of the other blessings of life. The progressive increase of this tax had prevented its ill consequences from forcibly intruding themselves on the public notice. In many parts of the metropolis, in those old houses, which had been converted into separate tenements for the poor, the closing of windows for the purpose of avoiding taxes had been carried on to an extent most injurious to the health and cleanliness of the inmates. This tax had so long con- 766 tinued that it had become, as it were, a chronic evil; but it demanded no less a cure on that account. The people finding they could not extend the laws to meet their comforts, had circumscribed their comforts to meet the law. Builders had, in fact, built houses according to the Window-tax Act, and every contrivance that ingenuity could suggest, had been resorted to in the construction of the houses, to curtail the use of glass, at the expense of the health and convenience of their inmates. There had been, he understood, two objections raised to the repeal of the House and Window-taxes—first, that the collection of the remainder of the Assessed-taxes, which were now under the management of the Tax Board, would be attended with a considerable increase of proportionate expense; and, secondly, that, without the sum these taxes produced, the necessary expenditure of the State could not be maintained. His answer to these statements would be, that the relative expense of collecting the Assessed-taxes was (considered as a direct tax (most exorbitant—it being 5l. 7s. 7d. percent; while the cost of collection, even of the indirect taxes, the Customs, and Excise, the mean is only 6l. 6s. 4½d.; whereas the cost of collecting the Stamp revenue was but 2l. 9s. 10d. per cent. If the House would consent to abolish the House and Window-tax, the Board of Taxes might at once be broken up, and the whole army of Commissioners, Assessors, surchargers, collectors, window-peepers, spies, and informers, might be swept away. The Land-tax, which was a tax imposed on districts, might, like County-rates and Police-tax in the metropolitan districts, be assessed upon parishes, and collected at a trifling expense along with the parochial rates by the proper authorities; and such of the other Assessed-taxes as it might be necessary to retain, might be easily transferred to the Stamp Department, and collected at the lowest rate of charges. There could be no more difficulty or hardship in a gentleman obtaining a license to use a carriage or other taxable article of luxury, than in a tradesman obtaining a license, to act as an auctioneer, or in any other capacity. In reference to the second objection, the inability of Ministers to do without the tax, he could only reply, that he scarcely ever knew a proposition to reduce taxation that was not met by the same argument. 767 The repeal of the House and Window-tax would not, however, permanently deprive the revenue of anything like its nominal amount; in the first place, 280,000l. per annum, the cost of its collection, would be saved to the country; in the next place, as the greater part of the amount of these taxes was taken from the small means of the middle classes, they would have something more to spend in obtaining for themselves the necessaries and comforts of life; of those, the larger portion were taxed commodities, and the increased consumption by the portion of income thus liberated would cause an increase of revenue in its other branches—tea, coffee, sugar, tobacco, beer, and other articles of domestic use. The repeal of these taxes would also give a spur to industry, and lead to an increased consumption of bricks, timber, and particularly of glass, and other materials used in building. He thanked the House for the patient hearing they had granted him, and concluded by again expressing his opinion, in which he trusted the House would coincide with him, that the taxes upon houses and windows were unequal, impolitic, and unjust. They depressed trade, fettered industry—they were subject to every objection which applied to every tax, without possessing the advantages of any, and for that reason he would move, "That such portion of the Assessed-taxes as related to the House and Window-tax be repealed."
Mr. Alderman Wood
rose to second the Motion, He adverted to the large number of persons who were interested in the repeal of these taxes, and to whom (the shopkeepers especially), in consequence of the great distress which prevailed among them it would prove a most seasonable relief. At the deputation which had been before alluded to, the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had been told, that in a very public situation, one shopkeeper out of every three had either become bankrupt or insolvent, or had compounded with his creditors. Indeed the records of the Courts of Bankruptcy and Insolvency would give but a very inadequate idea of the distress which existed amongst tradesmen; for, in consequence of the manner in which these Courts were regulated, large numbers preferred compounding to applying there for relief. It had been said, that this tax would be a relief principally to landlords. That was, 768 in his opinion, a strange doctrine, for the fact was, that most shopkeepers, and many housekeepers, were their own landlords—at least for a limited time—viz., during the period of their leases. The measure respecting shop-windows proposed by the noble Lord was most unsatisfactory; he had letters from vast numbers of tradesmen in London and Westminster, stating, that they regarded it as illusory, and would rather forego it for the repeal of some other tax, hoping, from the strong public expression of feeling against the House and Window-taxes, that the day would shortly arrive when they must be totally repealed. It seemed, however, that they came to the discussion of the question this evening under peculiar circumstances. The vote of the Gentlemen of the landed interest was mixed up with the Malt-tax and the Property-tax; and he had some little alarm that some persons might change their minds. If they did so, he thought it would be a most extraordinary proceeding on the part of the Representatives of the people. How those Gentlemen could appear before their constituents he could not imagine. He knew, for his own part, that his position would not be a little singular if one night he voted for the reduction of a tax, and a few nights afterwards voted for its continuance. [An Hon. Member: But you are pledged]. The hon. member for Yorkshire, who said he was pledged, was certainly mistaken; he was pledged to nothing, but his opinion had always been decidedly against the House and Window-taxes. It had been said, that a reduction of these taxes would prevent the Ministers from carrying on the Government efficiently without some substitute were provided. He admitted it; but he would press upon the attention of the Members of that House, that it was their duty, and the duty of all men of property, to come forward and sacrifice some portion of that property for the protection it received from Government. He saw no objection to taking off the duty on every excisable article, except spirits and tobacco, and to raising every shilling required by means of a Property-tax. Hon. Members might, perhaps, ask him how he would make up 30,000,000l. of taxes? He could do it very easily. He would take only one per cent on the property of the country ["oh! oh!" and a laugh]. This might, perhaps, stagger hon. Gentlemen, but on fair cal- 769 culation, the property of the country, movable, and immovable, amounted to 3,000,000,000l., and a tax of one per cent upon that would produce 30,000,000l. Much was said about the hardship of taxing the fundholder; but it should be remembered that there were many Gentlemen, some of whom were then present, who had purchased into the funds at forty-six, and who now held them at eighty-six. Their property had been increased at the public expense, and he saw no reason why they should not be called upon to give some of it back for the public service. He concluded by seconding the Motion, and entreating the House to persevere in the reduction of the Malt-duty.
§ Lord Althorp
said, the proposition with which I shall have the honour of concluding, is certainly one of a very extraordinary nature—and one which I admit is liable to great objections. I, therefore, feel it necessary, before I enter into the consideration of the substance of the Resolution which I shall move, to explain to the House the circumstances of this case, and to state the reasons on which I feel myself compelled to take the course which I feel it my duty to take on the present occasion. The division which took place on Friday last, I am not going to call a complete surprise upon the House. Notice was certainly on the books that such a proposition would be brought forward; but Gentlemen must recollect, that for the evening in question, there were four notices on the Order Book; and every Gentleman acquainted with the forms of the House, must know, that on the question of going into a Committee of Supply, only two Motions can be made—one on the Order of the Day, and the other on the question, that the Speaker do leave the Chair. Therefore, I myself did not expect the Motion of my hon. friend, the member for Lincolnshire, would have been brought forward that evening. One of the Motions which preceded it, that of the hon. member for Oldham—went off in consequence of his not having given notice in the proper form. The hon. and learned member for Dublin (Mr. O'Connell) withdrew his Motion, and for that reason the Motion of the hon. member for Lincolnshire came on. The number of Members in the House when the question was decided, did not amount to one-half of the whole number. The Motion was supported by several Gentle- 770 men on very different grounds. For these reasons I do not think the division which took place on that question, would justify the Government in taking the new and decisive line of policy indicated by the division on that question. It would not justify the Ministers in changing the whole financial policy of the country, nor if they were disinclined to make such a change, would it justify them in considering the decision of the House against them, and consequently as one which called upon them to make room for others who were inclined to follow the course which would be necessary, if the successful Motion of the hon. member for Lincolnshire were carried into effect. On these grounds I feel that the Government is placed in a situation of great embarrassment, for I admit, as I have already stated, that it is very objectionable to make such a proposition as that which I feel myself bound to submit to the House, and which is one that, in a certain degree, does call upon the House to rescind and alter that vote which it so lately came to. As I have no choice however but between difficulties, I feel it my duty to bring the question anew under the notice of the House, now that hon. Gentlemen are fully aware of the circumstances, in order to leave to them the choice of the alternative. It is necessary that the House should be aware of, and take into due consideration, the alternative presented to it in consequence of the vote the other evening. I stated, in the debate on the former occasion, and I did not state it hastily, that I did not think it of very great consequence whether the proposition of my hon. friend was for a reduction of half the duty, or of the whole. I am certainly prepared to say, that it is absolutely necessary, if either proposition be carried, that a substitution of other taxation should take place, and that it would be a wiser course, under such circumstances, for the House to take off the whole of the Malt-tax. With the same views I look at the question proposed by the hon. Baronet to-night. I think it must be evident to the House that it is utterly impossible, in fair justice to the inhabitants of this country, to give so large a relief to one class of the community, without also giving a large relief to another class. Therefore, I do think, that if the House perseveres in the reduction of the Malt-tax, it will be its duty to take into favourable consideration, and, in 771 point of fact, to adopt the proposition of the hon. Baronet. This must necessarily produce a complete alteration in our financial system. I do not see how it is possible for any Gentleman to adopt this proposition, without being prepared to vote for a Property-tax. The worthy Alderman who spoke last expressed his readiness to adopt this alternative. Now, I think the House ought to have this fairly placed before them. Members ought to consider what the alternative is, and whether it is one which, in their prudence and discretion, they think it advisable to adopt. I do not think it would be prudent to have a very small Property-tax. If the system is to be adopted at all, it ought to be adopted as a system, and on a sufficiently extensive scale to allow of extinguishing several minor taxes. It would be desirable, in the situation in which this country is placed, never to raise less than 10,000,000l. or 12,000,000l. by a Property-tax, to be imposed as a substitute for other taxes. This, it is quite clear, must be a Property-tax applying generally, as stated in my Resolution. Now, I am not prepared to argue this question as to whether it would be politic or not to impose such a tax. At present, I simply say, that it would be inexpedient. But it certainly would be impolitic to propose such a tax unless it were extended to the whole of the united Kingdom. As I said before, I am not arguing on the policy of the measure; but I must say I do not think it would be politic. Now, Sir, what is this tax which at the present moment is so extremely popular? There are many hon. Members in this House who remember the last Property-tax; there are, perhaps, also many who do not recollect the feeling which then existed in the country on this subject. Speaking, however, from my own experience, I do not remember any tax that ever existed so unpopular as the Property-tax in 1816, the repeal of which was received with universal acclamation. Why, therefore, are we to suppose that it would be more popular now than it was then? Gentlemen talk of modifications and changes; but if it be intended to raise by it a large sum of money as a substitute for a large portion of taxation, it is impossible that it should not bear on every class of the community—it is impossible to lay it on one class, and exempt another. I say this would be the grossest injustice. I have 772 heard Gentlemen speak of laying a Property-tax only on capital invested—as rent, interest of money, mortgages, annuities, &c., and leaving productive capital, or capital engaged in manufactures, exempt. But I ask hon. Gentlemen to consider what would be the effect of this? I ask them to consider the number of persons there are of small incomes of this description. Let them figure to themselves a small fundholder living in the neighbourhood of a great manufacturer; what would be his feelings at finding himself taxed by a Property-tax, and yet beholding his wealthy neighbour exempt. It is utterly impossible that this House, or any Legislature, can seriously adopt such a proposition as this, or commit such an act of injustice. It is absolutely necessary that the property of all classes of people in this country should be taxed, or none at all. How far, then, would this differ from the Property-tax of 1816, which every Gentleman who recollects it must remember to have been one of the most unpopular taxes that ever was imposed? If inquisitorial powers are spoken of, where will you find inquisitorial powers greater than those which were then exercised? That tax was most objectionable on account of the injustice and fraud to which it gave rise, and the false returns which were constantly made—and it was consequently detested by the whole country. The hon. member for Bridport, the other evening, stated, that seeing the objections to a Property-tax, he was prepared to adopt an Income-tax, and he argued certainly very ingeniously, and admitting his premises, very conclusively, that an Income-tax might be made an equal tax—for supposing a man to have an annuity of 100l. for ten years, he would, if an Income-tax was imposed, pay it only for ten years, whilst the man, who had a pepetual annuity of 100l. would pay it in perpetuity. But does my hon. friend propose that this tax should be a perpetual tax, or does he suppose that it would be a perpetual one—to say nothing of putting on a tax which for many years, at least, would be an unjust tax, on the ground that length of time would finally make it equal? I am convinced that such a measure as this would be extremely unpopular, and I am perfectly satisfied, that before this tax had been in operation one or two years, the Table of the House would be loaded with petitions for its repeal. What, in such a case as that, would be the situ- 773 ation of this country? You would have repealed a large amount of taxation, and have rested the revenue of the country on a system of taxation which you could not maintain; and then I would ask what would be your situation? I must say, that to rest the financial resources of the country, or so large a portion of them, upon such a tax, would be extremely dangerous. I have stated generally my views of a Property-tax. I do not mean to deny, that there is nothing in theory more equitable, or that in practice would be more just, than that every man should be taxed according to the utmost of his property for the protection afforded him by Government. If any such proposition could be brought forward—if any proposition that would ensure such perfection could be framed—I am ready to admit, that it would be a proposition worthy the attention of this House. But, up to the present moment, no such proposition has been submitted to us, and consequently I see nothing of which I can approve as a substitute for the taxes it is proposed to repeal. Under these circumstances, I certainly do feel, that I should not be justified in making such a proposition to the House, or in supporting it if made by others. Under these views, I have framed the Motion which I now submit to the House. I wish to state what that Motion actually means. It means this—to take the opinion of the House on the question that this large reduction proposed in taxation cannot take place without the substitution of a Property-tax; it also means to call on the House to state, that at present such a substitution would be inexpedient. I do not ask the House to pledge itself, or any Member to pledge himself further than this—that at the present time we are not prepared to enter into this question. At the present time I am prepared to state, that his Majesty's Government, as it at present exists and is constituted, whatever may be the opinion of some individuals, could not and would not come forward with such a proposition. I know it has been held by many Gentlemen, that in consequence of the Reform in Parliament, Ministers, are to follow the directions of the House of Commons as to the course of policy which they are to pursue, more especially in financial affairs. Now, I am perfectly ready to admit this doctrine, that Ministers, taking them in the abstract, are 774 bound to follow the orders of the House; but I do not think, that as an individual Minister, I am under any such obligation. From the manner in which I have worded my Resolution, I am sensible that I have united many parties against me. I admit that I have united against me all those who are in favour of a Property-tax—I have united all who are in favour of a repeal of the Malt-tax—and all who are in favour of the Motion of the hon. Baronet—with some of those who are of opinion, that there might be a larger reduction of taxation without any substitution whatever. Perhaps it may be thought that I have acted improperly in pursuing a plan which had united so many parties against me; but it is clear that all those who will so unite in voting against me must disapprove of the policy which I have adopted with respect to the finances of the country; and if it should appear by the result of this evening's discussion, that a majority of the House agreed in voting against my proposition, that Majority will have expressed its disapprobation of my financial plans; and I should certainly not, in such a case, consider myself fit to remain Chancellor of the Exchequer. My case is hardly susceptible of proof, for it is almost self-evident, that it is impossible to enable the Government to adopt the proposition of the hon. Baronet without some substitution. Now, no suggestion has hitherto been made of any substitute for the tax which the Resolution of Friday night went to repeal, with the exception of a Property-tax; and I am sure that any one who looks at the state of our taxation at the present moment, must agree that no other plan could possibly be adopted. The arguments against the imposition of a Property-tax are therefore arguments against the proposition of the hon. Baronet. I admit that these direct taxes give occasion to great vexations; but the proposition of the hon. Baronet is not to do away with a direct tax, and substitute an indirect tax for it, but to substitute one direct tax for another. I grant that to have the tax-gatherer come round and raise a sum in a direct way, is by no means a popular mode of meeting the exigences of the State, and that such taxes are calculated to produce great dissatisfaction; but I do not think, that the House and Window-tax is quite so bad as has been represented by the hon. Baronet. The hon. Baronet says, that the principle 775 of taxing a house according to the rent which it produces, and not according to the cost of building it, is inconsistent. If you estimate a man's property by what he has formerly spent instead of what he at present has it in his power to spend, the proposition of the hon. Baronet is certainly correct; but, I cannot see what proof it is of the wealth of any individual, that he has already laid out an enormous sum in the building of a house. I admit the difficulty of ascertaining precisely the yearly value of a house; but I think, if it be fairly assessed, that the yearly value affords a tolerably good test of the power of consumption of the person who occupies it. The hon. Baronet has also spoken of the great expense of the collection of these taxes. Now, it so happens, that with the exception of the Stamp Duties, the expense of collecting the Assessed Taxes is the lowest of all the four great divisions into which our taxation may be divided—the Customs, the Excise, Stamps, and the Assessed Taxes. The expense of collecting the last is certainly very considerable; but it is less than that of the Customs and the Excise, and only greater than that of the Stamp Duties. I may now be allowed to make some observations (and indeed it would be wrong if I were not to do so) with regard to the proposition for granting a certain degree of relief to shopkeepers, which I brought forward on a former occasion. Two objections have been made to this course of proceeding. The first is, that the relief will be but trifling; the second is, that it will operate as a relief only to the larger shop-keepers, and will be of no benefit whatever to the smaller. I have considered these objections, and I think that the latter has considerable force. I think that the objections may be obviated, with respect to the windows, by not deducting three or any particular number of windows which the shop may have; but, by enacting, that in all houses having shops attached to them, one half of the duty on all the windows of the House shall be taken off. That is simpler than my original plan, and will be less difficult to carry into effect; and it will relieve the large and the small shopkeepers in equal proportions, without a much greater sacrifice of revenue than I at first estimated. I have now stated the grounds on which I make my present proposition to the House. I confess that 776 I feel great regret in finding myself in a situation in which I am compelled to appeal again to the consideration of the House, on a point respecting which they have already come to a vote, and to propose that it should reconsider the decision which it came to; but, as I said before, it does appear to me that, under the circumstances which accompanied the adoption of that decision, it would not be justifiable in his Majesty's Ministers to consider it as the final expression of the opinion of the House, respecting the course which ought to be pursued; and they did not feel justified in acting upon that decision, I have felt it my duty, therefore, however disagreeable to me—however embarrassing to the House—to give them an opportunity of reconsidering their decision. I will not detain the House further, than to move, in place of the hon. Baronet's Motion—"That the deficiency in the Revenue, which would be occasioned by a reduction of the Tax on Malt to 10s. the quarter, and by the repeal of the Tax on Houses and Windows, could only be supplied by the substitution of a general tax on Property and Income, and an extensive change in our whole financial system, which would at present be inexpedient."
§ Mr. Hume
said, that, differing as he did in opinion from the noble Lord, he hoped the House would allow him to detain them for a very short time, while he endeavoured to show them that the deficiency which would arise from the repeal of the taxes in question could be made up, without adopting the expedient pointed out by the noble Lord. No one was more anxious than he was, to maintain the credit of the country. He hoped, therefore, that it would not be supposed that anything which he should propose was intended to hurt the public creditor; for that anything which could have that effect would inflict a great evil on the country. The noble Lord considered that the deficiency could be made good in no way but by a Property and Income-tax. With respect to the Income-tax, it had been disagreeable and unpopular, more among the higher classes than among the lower. There was great reason to believe that the great outcry which in that House was raised against the tax, proceeded principally from the higher classes. There was no doubt that the measures necessary for enforcing it were rather inquisitorial; but in what direct tax was the case otherwise, 777 and could the tax on windows be considered less inquisitorial? The duty of the House was to decide which of the taxes was least vexatious in its operation. The great fault which had hitherto been committed in the system of taxation in this country, was, that it had been applied to the capital which was employed in manufactures, in occupying the labouring population, while the landed property had been in a great measure exempted from those burthens which fell almost exclusively on the middle classes. If that were the case, which he thought he could prove, the question now was, how to equalize the burthens of all classes—how to bring about an equitable and fair system for the community at large? The noble Lord said, the amount of money which would be required to make up for the reduction, was too great to admit of the repeal of the taxes proposed. The taxes now before the House amounted to 2,500,000l.; those on malt were 2,400,000l. Thus the whole yearly value was 4,900,000l. to be repealed. But, in his opinion, the repeal would not produce nearly so great a deficiency as that; and, in the case of malt, he had no doubt that the increased consumption would diminish the deficiency by at least 1,000,000l., leaving them only a deficiency of 3,900,000l. If any doubt were entertained upon the subject, he thought he could satisfy the House by referring to several instances in which the diminution of a duty had had the effect of increasing the revenue. He held in his hand a statement, collected from papers which had been laid before the House, which showed, that whenever an attempt had been made to reduce taxation, to alter the duties on any article of general consumption, the result had invariably been such an increase of that consumption, that the revenue had in many cases been augmented. They had had the advantage of many years' experience on this point, and almost every reduction of taxation had confirmed the doctrines he had just stated. This had been the case with respect to tea—with respect to spirits—with respect to malt itself. In almost every article it would be found, that the amount of the whole duty collected was increased when the tax was diminished. With respect to wine, it appeared, from the accounts laid before the House, that from the lime the increased duty was laid on that article, both in this country and in Ireland, the 778 consumption and the revenue derived from it had diminished, till it was only one-fourth of the amount which the duty produced; therefore a great portion of the people were deprived of that luxury. In proportion as the tax was increased, in the same proportion had the consumption decreased. He would call the attention of the House also to another point in the paper which he held in his hand, and that was, the effect of the diminution of the duty upon spirits. It appeared that the duty on spirits had been altered at two different periods. In England, during the year 1827, the duty was altered from 12s. to 7s. per gallon. What was the result? The President of the Board of Trade was not right in the observations which he had made, deduced from facts relative to one particular year, which he contended was unfairly chosen, being inferior in consumption to the twenty years preceding. He would not follow the example of the right hon. Gentleman, but would compare the three years previous to the diminution of the duty with the three years following it. In 1824, 1825, and 1826—the three years preceding the diminution of the duty—the amount of the revenue derived from that tax averaged 2,890,000l.; in the three years following the diminution of the duty, it amounted to 3,760,000l.; thus exhibiting an increase of revenue of 870,000l. with the diminished duty. With respect to Ireland, in the three years after the diminution of the tax, the amount of the revenue had exactly doubled. In the case of Scotland, the facts were still more remarkable, because the reduction was on a still larger scale. Instead of being reduced from 12s. to 7s., it was a reduction from 6s. 2d. to 2s. 4d. It was true, that the duty was subsequently raised to 2s. 10d. Still that was a reduction of more than half, it having been reduced at first nearly two thirds. The consequence was, that the number of gallons distilled increased from 2,739,000, in 1821, 1822, 1823; to 7,595,000l., in 1825, 1826, and 1827; the duty amounted to above 1,000,000l. sterling. The duty in the three years preceding the decrease of the tax, produced a revenue of 913,600l. In the next three years, it was 1,294,000l., being an increase of nearly fifty per cent. Smuggling had been almost entirely detroyed. Might they not consider this as a fair example of what was likely to take 779 place in the case of the reduction of the duty on malt? In the three years before 1785, as many bushels of malt paid duty as for the last ten years; and the consequence was, that, while the tax had been increased sixty-five per cent., the whole amount of the revenue obtained from it had only increased fifteen per cent.; thus leaving a decrease of fifty per cent., in consequence of the increase of the duty; and it must be borne in mind, that 20s. 8d. was not the whole amount of the duty during all the period to which he had referred. It had at one time been 31s.; but the result had always proved the accuracy of his reasoning, because an increase of taxation had constantly produced a decrease of consumption, and decrease of taxation had led invariably to an increase of consumption. One great evil arising from the continuation of the Malt-duties was, that the population of the country were drawn to the use of ardent spirits, which could not but be considered exceedingly injurious. He said, then, that it might be expected that instead of a loss of 2,400,000l. from the reduction of the Malt-duty, there would be only 1,200,000l., or rather, if the precedents to which he had referred might be relied upon, there would be only 900,000l. to make up. The Vice-President of the Board of Trade had cited the example of the increased consumption of sugar from 1814 to the present time; but the change in the price of that article had been such that it was scarcely fair to make the comparison. With regard to tobacco he would state only one example. In Ireland, when the duty was 5½d., there were more pounds of tobacco entered forty-five years ago than there were now. It was not that there was less smoking now, but there was more smuggling. Thus, in addition to the loss of the revenue, high duties drove people into violations of the law. The right hon. Gentleman had stated the consumption of tobacco in the United Kingdom as having increased from 15,000,000 in the year 1814, to 30,000,000 in 1832. But the right hon. Gentleman would excuse him if he said, that a more unfair comparison was never made; because in the ten years before and the ten years after 1814, no one year exhibited so small a consumption by 4,000,000 as that year. He thought this was misleading the House; and if the proper papers were in the hands of Members, as he hoped 780 they would soon be, no such attempt as this could again be made to impose upon the House. But he would now come to the article of sugar. It would be found, that as the amount of duty was diminished (provided of course that there was an open market), the consumption of sugar increased. The right hon. Gentleman had stated, that the consumption had increased from 6,000,000 to 22,000,000; but he ought to have told the House, that the 6,000,000 had paid a duty of 1s., while the 22,000,000 paid only 6d. He could cite pepper and other articles, as instances in which similar results were to be found. He felt, therefore, that he was warranted in calculating that the increase of the consumption of malt would give 1,000,000l. This would bring down the deficiency to 3,900,000l, from which he was to deduct half a million, or 600,000l. now on hand, leaving a balance of 3,300,000l. to be provided for; and if a tax were wanted for that, he would place real property upon the same footing as personal property, rather than impose an income tax, which was of so inquisitorial a nature. As personal property paid upon its descent a tax of 1,000,000l., or 1,500,000l., he would put a tax of 2,000,000l., if it were necessary, upon the descent of real property, and that would leave only 1,300,000l. to be provided for. But then it should be considered what could be done in the way of reduction of expenditure. We raised taxes to the amount of 50,000,000l. annually; we paid 28,000,000l. for the interest of the National Debt, and then there were 22,000,000l. to carry on the Government of the country. Now he thought there could be little difficulty in saving 1,300,000l. or twice that sum, out of those 22,000,000l., if proper efforts were made. He would permit the Civil List to remain, but he said, that the pensions which were charged either upon it or upon the consolidated fund were fairly open to revision and examination. The list of pensions and superannuations would admit of very great curtailment. He was satisfied it could be proved, that many persons were receiving pensions for two or three, and some for four situations, and surely, in the present difficulties of the country, these extravagant grants ought to be reduced. He did not consider that, because any Ministers had chosen to give to particular favourites 500l. or 1,000l. a-year, or to make compromises without consulting 781 Parliament, the House of Commons ought to sanction those gilts at the public expense. The time was now come when it was their duty to weigh each case upon its own merits, and if any individuals had improperly received the public money, it was not too late to put a stop to it. There were nearly 4,000,000l. laid out in collecting the revenue, although the whole cost up to 1797, and that under a very bad system, did not exceed 1,100,000l. It was strange, that with all the experience we had acquired, we could not make the collection for less than three millions and a half, or 4,000,000l. It appeared to him that it would be very easy, out of the 22,000,000l., to save twelve per cent., so that almost the whole of the expected deficiency might be made good by reduction of expenditure, without any tax upon real property. But the reductions must be made upon a different principle from that upon which the various Governments of the country had hitherto proceeded. The saving could not be effected while we had colonies to drain us of thousands and tens of thousands every year, or while we went on building forts, which were not necessary for the protection of those colonies. It was most ridiculous to force upon Upper and Lower Canada, and Nova Scotia, against the inclination of the inhabitants, a larger military establishment than was kept up in the whole of the United States, where there were 14,000,000 of people to be protected. Let the House appoint a Committee to go item by item through the public accounts, and he would pledge himself that they would point out the means of saving the whole deficiency of 1,300,000l. It was not to be done by such a plan as that of the hon. member for Birmingham, who had proposed sending 2,000 artillerymen to Constantinople, and, of course, some 30,000 infantry to protect them. This country ought to avoid interference with the Continent altogether; and in this way he thought the reduction could be supplied; but if not, let them put personal and real property on the same looting. They ought to take off the duty on every species of raw material; on all means of conveyance, on railways, roads, and every means of communication; for roads had been aptly compared to the arteries of the human body. These points, however, would be subjects for future consideration. If the noble Lord should be able to carry the House along with him, 782 and if the House should unfortunately affirm the noble Lord's proposition, he (Mr. Hume) should be disposed to take the sense of the House again respecting it, when it should be put as the main question. He hoped the House would act upon the same principle as Ministers had acted at the India House, when the Directors said they could not carry on the government of India without money. Ah! (said the President of the Board of Control), we will cut off the money, and you will then be forced to be economical. He sincerely hoped the House would not think of denying the vote which had been agreed to on Friday night. For his own part, he did not regret the conclusions he had arrived at, or the course he had pursued. That course, under similar circumstances, he should in no wise depart from. He felt satisfied of the necessity of a little gentle pressure on his Majesty's Ministers on these subjects. How was it, that what was good with them when on his side of the House was bad with them on the Ministerial side? He trusted, however, the House would consider it was not the fault of Ministers alone, but that they had to contend against a system, the whole machinery of which was of the most complex and pernicious character. They, however, must determine to cut off every useless branch of the national expenditure. This, he well knew, could be done to the extent of 5,000,000l., by strict economy and good management, without in the slightest degree impairing the efficiency of our necessary national establishments. Under the circumstances, he should support the Motion of the hon. Baronet, the member for London, and at the proper time, if the Amendment of the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer was lost, he should propose a Resolution to the effect, "that any deficiency in the revenue caused by the repeal of 10s. of the Duty on Malt, and the repeal of the Assessed Taxes, ought, if possible, to be made good by a corresponding reduction in the expenditure of the country; and if this could not be effected, by the imposition of new taxes on the property of the country."
Mr. Gilbert Heathcote
said, he wished that on a question of such importance the suggestion of his hon. friend the member for Essex had been adopted, and time given to the Members of the House to consult the wishes of their constituents. 783 At present he had no other light to guide him on the subject than the wishes formerly expressed of the great agricultural community which he represented; and by no part of the country was a more decided opposition offered to a Property-tax when it was a subject of discussion fifteen years ago. Considering that this must be a tax not only upon property, but also upon income—considering it must affect not only the highest classes, but also the whole of the middle classes—and considering, also, that it might be a tax upon property where there was little or no property to tax, because, in order to maintain their credit, people would be very likely to make false returns; on these various grounds he did not think that it would be a desirable expedient. He did not enter into the general question of a Property-tax; that he left for Gentlemen who were better qualified to discuss it than he was. His only object was, to consider this tax with reference to the great agricultural county which he represented, and to take a fair view of its operation upon those who would be affected by it. With regard to the Malt-tax, there were two classes who would be greatly benefited by its repeal. The first consisted of the country gentlemen and the middling classes who inhabited the country districts. He had given this subject much consideration, and he did not think that the labourers were likely to brew very extensively. Although he should vote against any thing which would pledge him to a Property-tax at this time, yet if it could be shown that the Malt-duty might be repealed, and something which would be effectual substituted in its stead, it would surely be very desirable that it should be repealed. But the people ought to consider at what price this advantage was to be gained; and if a Property-tax were put on, how they would be situated. If their bill for malt should be a little less, but if they had to meet the tax-gatherer when he came to demand ten or fifteen per cent upon their property, their income, or their profits in trade, he apprehended they would find that they had purchased the repeal of the Malt-duty a great deal too dear. With regard to the other parties who would be benefited by the reduction of the duty, they were the owners and frequenters of beer-shops and public-houses, and the hon. Baronet, the member for Lincolnshire, had so clearly shown that no great favour or advantage 784 ought to be given to them, that it was unnecessary for him to add a word on that subject. The next subject to which he should address himself was that of the Assessed-taxes, and upon that question he should give his decided opposition to the proposition of the hon. member for the city of London. A great proportion of the farmhouses in the country (106,000) were exempt from the Window-duty, and he saw no reason why the agricultural interest should be desirous to put on a tax which would fall more heavily upon them. A paper which he held in his hand would show the effect of these taxes in the county which he represented. The amount of the House and Window-tax, as assessed at the last assessment for the county of Lincoln, was 25,000l. Deducting the amount paid by towns and boroughs, this left but 17,000l.; and if the amount paid by the higher classes were deducted, the balance paid by the humbler agricultural classes was very small indeed. He would take the parish in which he lived, and compare the amount of taxes paid now to that which would be paid by the Property-tax. The whole annual income he reckoned at 2,000l., and the Assessed-taxes paid by the squire, the clergyman, and the other inhabitants, amounted to 120l. Of that sum he, the squire, paid 85l., the clergyman 25l., and the remaining 10l. was the whole that was paid by the rest of the parish. Now, when he considered that the sum of 120l., was all that was raised in such a parish, whether arising from land, trade, manufactures, &c., and compared that sum with the amount that would be raised by a property tax of 10l. per cent., how could he be justified in agreeing to such a mode of taxation? The great grievances felt by the country arose not from King's taxes, but from the local and parochial rates. These were twenty times the amount of the Government taxes, and consequently were felt more severely by the people. But if, in the long run, it should be found necessary to resort to a Property-tax, he trusted, it would not be confined to Great Britain, but would be equally extended to the whole of the United Kingdom, and that every subject of his Majesty would pay a fair proportion. The question before the House was to be decided only by a choice of two evils, by continuing the Malt-tax, or imposing a tax on income and property. He wished to take off the Malt-tax, but he would, 785 under present circumstances, rather submit to that evil than consent to a Property-tax.
§ Sir John Wrottesley
said, had listened with great attention to the speech of the hon. member for Middlesex, and he could not at all gather from his arguments how the deficiency was to be made up in any other way than by a Property-tax. Recollecting well the period when the first Property-tax was laid on, and the various debates which took place in Parliament and out of it, he would take the liberty of shortly calling the attention of the House to the situation of the country, the Minister, and the effects of the tax, at the time. The hon. member for Middlesex had argued that taxes might be diminished without any injury to the revenue, and had adduced, as a proof of his statement, that when the duty on wine was diminished the revenue increased. But the hon. Member ought to bear in mind that it was quite a different thing to make a reduction such as that which had been made on the wine duties, and substitute an uncertain tax for two most important and certain taxes. The hon. Member proposed a tax of one percent, on real property when descending from one person to another. Now he thought it must be obvious the amount which could be raised by such means would fall far short of the necessities of the State. A great part of the property of the country was entailed, and, in many instances, property was in the hands of trustees, so that the proprietor might die while the property would still remain in the same hands. Such a tax he considered as one surrounded by great difficulties, and not at all likely to come up to the expectations of the hon. Member. Looking at the state of the Revenue—at the reduction of a million and a-half this year, in addition to the reduction of former years, he was quite convinced that if further reduction were to be made without some equivalent, the fundholder would become rather anxious about the payment of his dividends. It ought also to be borne in mind that the Resolution of the noble Lord was not directed against a Property-tax under every circumstance, but applied merely to its inexpediency at the present time. And could any one say that there were not several important questions before the House which must be disposed of this Session—such as the Bank Charter, the 786 East India Charter, and several others, which they could hardly dispose of before they parted, and the necessity of attending to which ought to preclude them from then thinking of changing the whole financial system of the country. The Property-tax owed its origin to the peculiar circumstances of the country during Mr. Pitt's administration. It owed its origin to the low state of credit, and the impossibility of raising sufficient money within the year to meet the expenditure. Mr. Pitt first tried to raise money by imposing heavy duties, by tripling and quadrupling taxes on various articles, but that did not succeed. He next tried an Income-tax; but that was so much disliked that neither the House nor the country would bear it, and he was sure they would not bear it now. Mr. Pitt first had a Property-tax of five per cent—then raised it to six and a half, and in 1806 it was finally raised to ten per cent. Now he would just call the attention of the House (which probably was not aware of the fact) to the number of clauses in that Bill in order to show what time it would require to pass such a Bill. It contained no less than 229 clauses, and were a Bill of the kind to be introduced now he did not see that it could be made more brief or would occupy less of the time of the House than it did during Mr. Pitt's administration. With the other great questions in their hands, therefore, what prospect would there be of such a Bill getting through both Houses this Session? He would now state the amount of the Property-tax at ten percent, comparing, as he went along, the circumstances of the country during the war to what they are now, in order to show that those who expected any thing like the same amount in the present state of the country would be greatly disappointed on making the trial. In April 1813, the total amount of the Property-tax was 14,208,000l., and the expense of the collection was 706,000l., leaving a clear revenue of 13,502,000l That sum was levied on five different species of property under schedules A, B, C, D, E. Schedule A comprehended the assessment of property at the rate of ten percent, that produced 5,600,000l. Schedule B regulated the tax on tenants, there being 1s. 6d. in the pound paid by tenants in England, and 1s. in Scotland, that difference was made because rents were much higher in Scotland, there being no Poor-rates in 787 that country; the revenue arising from this department was somewhat better than 2,000,000l. Schedule C regulated the tax on dividends, which produced 2,649,000l.; Schedule D the tax on profits of trade, which amounted to 2,776,000l.; and schedule E the tax on public offices and salaries, which produced about 1,600,000l. That last tax was the only one fairly regulated, and almost the only one in which the returns were honestly made. Suppose, then, the House were to pass such a tax now, he would ask could any thing like 14,000,000l. be raised? They would never think of imposing a tax of 1s. 6d. on the tenant; the injustice of such a tax was admitted by all, because it made the tenant, who paid the highest rent, and who, of course, had the least profit, pay most to the Government. Schedule B must therefore be struck out of the list, and there would consequently be a diminution of more than 2,000,000l. There must also be a considerable reduction calculated on the amount of revenue to be raised from the dividends; for he was convinced the House would not tax persons who had incomes under 200l. a-year, and when it was recollected what a vast number of fundholders there was under the amount, they would see what a falling off there would be on that head. According to a Return moved for by the hon. member for Essex, it appeared that the total number of persons who received dividends from the Three per Cent Consolidated Annuities amounted to 95,555, and then there were 84,184 persons who received half yearly dividends under 100l. The same proportion held good in nearly all the other stocks, and consequently the House would see that great reductions must be made in the revenue arising from dividends. The same must be said of the profits from trade. Every one knew, that the profits from trade were very different now from what they were during the war; and he would venture to say, that if the tax were to apply to this schedule at all it would not only be very unproductive, but would cause great distress, and great irritation if resisted. The last schedule included all public officers, officers of the army and navy, clerks of the customs and excise, in short every person in the pay of Government, and what with the reduction of the army and navy, the consolidation of boards and other circumstances, it was quite clear that on this head also there must be 788 a considerable decrease. Looking at the deduction, therefore, altogether, it was quite clear, that even if tenants were still to pay 1s. 6d., and all fundholders to pay as formerly, not more than 10,000,000l. could be anticipated from the tax; and supposing that the whole tax was to be taken off schedule B and a part of schedule C, and taking into account also the fall of rents, the decrease might be safely put down at 4,000,000l., which, taken from 10,000,000l., would leave only 6,000,000l. of clear revenue. That was the utmost of the amount that could be raised in England and Scotland. With regard to Ireland he could hardly venture to give an opinion further than this, that he believed few persons on the Stock Exchange would be found to furnish money on the security of a Property-tax to be raised in Ireland. Believing, therefore, that a tax on property would lead to great discontent, and that the evils arising from the Malt-tax were greatly inferior, he should support the Resolution of the noble Lord. He might also add, that when the Property-tax was first raised—it might be called rather a benevolence (the term used when voluntary grants were made to our Kings) than a tax. The army of Bonaparte was then on the opposite coast, threatening an invasion, and the people paid willingly for the defence of the country. Such would not be the feelings of the people in peace. He would conclude by saying, not that the country, under all circumstances, should reject a Property-tax, but that its adoption now would be inexpedient.
§ Mr. Robinson
must say, that he thought the speech of the hon. Baronet was extremely inconsistent, and was rather calculated to support the Motion of the hon. Baronet, the member for London, than to oppose it. He did not blame the noble Lord for the manner in which he had treated this question. Indeed the noble Lord had put the question on a fair, candid, and manly footing, when he called on the House to consider all the consequences of the vote of the other night. But then there were so many things mixed up with that matter. First of all, the House were called on to consider the expediency of rescinding the vote of the other night come to in a full House—at least in a House of not less than 300 Members, which was a greater number than usually sanctioned their proceedings. 789 Then the House were called on to affirm or reject the proposition of the hon. Baronet. Thirdly, the Members were called on to do this with all the horrors of a Property-tax in full prospect; and fourthly, the noble Lord had mixed up with all these other matters an intimation—he would not call it a threat—of resignation. Now, he must say, that he did not like this last part of the proceeding; for the noble Lord knew very well that, in making such an intimation, he made an appeal to the Members likely to influence the judgment of many of them. Still, however, he could not blame the noble Lord for doing it; all he regretted was, that the noble Lord should have thought it necessary. For himself, that he was ready to support a Property-tax was well known. He did not desire it, because he thought it in itself the best tax that could be devised, but because he thought its adoption a less evil than that of the continuance of some of the present taxes. What was the situation in which the country was now placed, when the people at large were unable to pay the present taxes, and men of property were unwilling to have the burthen cast directly upon them. He thought that the vote of the other night might be extended from the partial reduction to the total abolition of the Malt-duty, and that the Hop-duty might go with it, and yet that means might be found to meet the demands of the public service, and to maintain public credit. He did not think that the vote of the other night was good in itself, so much as he thought it good in forcing upon the House to consider the whole taxation of the country. He should not now go into the question of the distress of the country; but he was not sorry that the necessity of considering it, and the best means of meeting it, had been forced upon the House. During the eighteen years of peace, various devices had been adopted with a view to relieve, first one class of the people, and then another; and he wished to know whether, at the expiration of this period, the people were still to be dragged through other years of difficulty and experiment, before a Property-tax was imposed; for it seemed that to that tax we must come at last, since the very words of the noble Lord's Amendment only went to say, that it could not be adopted at present. He did not wish to force the Government or the country into the adoption of such a tax, except so 790 far as it seemed to him most likely to relieve the burthens of the people. As soon as there was any reasonable expectation of the amelioration of the condition of the people, he should be willing to forego the proposition; but, till that was the case, he should certainly support it; and he believed that the causes which affected the prosperity and comfort of the people, were likely rather to continue than to abate. Under these circumstances it became the duty of the House to take off the taxes upon Malt and upon Houses and Windows, and to substitute for them a tax upon Property. He believed there would be no difficulty whatever in raising the money to meet the deficiency; although he must admit, that he did not agree with the hon. member for Middlesex, who, in his peculiar way, proposed to take several millions out of the Exchequer, and to trust to savings to make up the deficiency. He wished now to observe that, if it was necessary, he could show high authority for the opinions he held upon the subject of the Property-tax. He referred to a speech of Mr. Huskisson, delivered in 1830, in favour of a commution of taxes. In that speech the right hon. Gentleman expressed a "doubt whether the country would ever right itself without receiving some greater relief than could possibly be administered by a direct repeal of taxation. The method of levying the revenue was a subject fraught with interest to all who desired to see economy practised in the management of the State, and he could see nothing irregular in proposing such an inquiry, more especially at a time when a general impression was entertained throughout every part of the kingdom, that the agricultural and manufacturing interests could not exist under the pressure of the existing direct taxation upon industry."* He was contented to rest his views, then, on Mr. Huskisson's words, and political opponents, as well as admirers, admitted the vigour of Mr. Huskisson's intellect. He believed, that it was now universally agreed that any tax on a raw material was a material check upon industry, by pressing upon productiveness in its first operations. He knew that on the other hand, the Property-tax was objected to as inquisitorial; but he wished to know whether the taste or delicacy of individuals, in having their* Hansard (new series) xxiii, p. 15.791 property inquired into, was to be put into competition with the mass of suffering' existing throughout the country. He did not speak on this question as the representative of any particular interest, for he considered it to be a great national question, in which the interests of all were alike involved. In his opinion, the time had arrived when they were bound to relieve the country from the present burthen of taxation. He believed that Ministers had done as much as they could—it was for the House to do that which would really afford relief. As to those who voted for the repeal of the malt tax on Friday night, he did not see how it was possible for them now to support the proposition of the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That consideration, however, he should leave to the hon. Members themselves. He did hope, however, that Gentlemen would discharge from their minds an idea which seemed somewhat too prevalent—namely, that they were to represent particular classes. Let not the House evade the question. Let them consider in what situation they would be placed if the Motion of the noble Lord was affirmed, and that of the hon. member for the City of London rejected. The House, he contended, would be placed in a very different situation from that in which it stood before the vote of Friday night. He did not think the noble Lord's Motion put the question fairly before the House, and in his opinion the Government would have acted more wisely, if they had acquiesced in the vote of Friday night, rather than endeavour to get rid of it by any subterfuge. He did not think that any want of confidence as to the resources of the country was felt out of doors. Indeed the very trifling fluctuation of one per cent in the funds indicated no such thing, and was hardly more than was sure to take place on a distant prospect of a change of Ministry. He did not think that the vote of the other night had reduced them to the position which the noble Lord seemed to consider them placed in, nor had it rendered necessary that course of proceeding which the noble Lord had adopted, and against which he (Mr. Robinson) should certainly give his vote.
§ Mr. Benett
said, that he always felt he owed a debt of gratitude to the present Administration for the noble manner in which they had conducted themselves 792 upon the subject of the Reform Bill, and it was therefore his earnest wish never to be called on to oppose them; but he must nevertheless act in such a manner as not to lay himself open to the accusation of his constituents, or of his own conscience. He considered that the vote of Friday night was a triumph of the popular cause; it was the first working of the Reform Bill; it was a proof of the excellence of that change which the Ministers themselves had introduced into that House, that the House were enabled to vote against an administration the most popular that had ever existed. He thought that by that vote of the other night they had done themselves great honour, but they had done greater honour to those Ministers who had carried that Reform Bill which had rendered them the Representatives of the country, and given to that House the control of that Government which had been accustomed to control the House. He regretted the proposition now made by the noble Lord, and his utter inability to vote with the Ministers. He thought that the retirement of the Ministry would be a great evil to the country—perhaps, he might say, the greatest that could now befal the country; but still, let the consequence be what it might, he could not vote with them on the present occasion. It was, perhaps, true, that the time had not yet come for them to have a Property tax, though in his opinion, it was the best that could be adopted for the purpose of assisting the productive industry of the country. He knew, however, that the whole community was not of that opinion, and that consequently the time for having such a tax had not yet come; but he also knew well, that the time was not far distant when a Property-tax must be adopted for the purpose of preserving the public faith. He regretted the manner in which the noble Lord had now placed the question. The consequence of it was, that the noble Lord would drive him either to stultify his own vote, or else to carry with it the reduction of a tax which would go to relieve a class of rich citizens, rather than the people at large. In all the reductions of taxation which, as a humble Member of that House, he had recommended, he had endeavoured in the first instance, to get those reduced which chiefly affected the necessaries of life, and the comforts of the lower orders of the 793 people. In his opinion, the tax on malt was one of this kind. The persons who paid the House and Window tax were in general persons who were well able to bear it. That tax was, in point of fact, paid by the landlords, not by the tenants, and it chiefly fell upon the rich citizens and shopkeepers of London. But it was the labourer who paid the malt tax; it was he who suffered either by being totally deprived of the use of a wholesome beverage, or by being compelled to drink beer of a very inferior kind. He remembered the time when the labourer went forth to the field with a gallon of good beer given him by the farmer, but that excellent custom had been totally put an end to by the effect of a heavy malt tax. To remove that tax would be to relieve the labouring classes of the country. He wished, therefore, most earnestly to see that tax removed, and he was sorry that the noble Lord had mixed it up with another tax of a different description, and resting on different grounds. He regretted the result of the Motion made the other night by the hon. member for Whitehaven, for if it had been adopted, he did not think that the consequences would have been what the noble Lord anticipated, for he was by no means, convinced that the standard of value must necessarily have been lowered, or that public faith must have been broken. In his opinion a Property tax, such as that recommended by Mr. Ricardo, might be adopted, and indeed ought to be adopted; and that the levying of such a tax would fully enable the Ministers to meet the difficulties arising from the abolition of the malt duty, at the same time that it would press with less oppressive weight on the lower classes of the people. Some of the taxes, too, proposed by the noble Lord in opening the Budget to be repealed, might be continued without so serious an injury to the comforts of the lower orders as the continuance of the malt duty. The duty on cotton, that upon tiles, and that upon shop windows, the repeal of the last of which had produced very little satisfaction, might all be altered so as to meet the deficiency occasioned by the repeal of the malt tax. But if none of these would do, if those taxes proposed to be repealed must be repealed, then there was another mode of meeting the deficiency, which was by as tax upon beer—a tax which he did not believe 794 would raise the price of beer one farthing; for the reduction effected by the abolition of the malt tax would be more than sufficient to meet the increase that would be occasioned by the imposition of a tax upon beer. He thought that there were so many ways of meeting the deficiency to be occasioned by the reduction of the malt tax, that he saw no reason for giving up the matter in the way proposed by the noble Lord, and he should therefor vote against the noble Lord's Amendment.
§ Mr. Cobbett
I am sorry to interpose between the House and the speech of the hon. and learned Member; [Mr. Serjeant Spankie who had risen at the same time with Mr. Cobbett] but I hope he will hereafter find a time for making it. It seems to me as if every Gentleman who has addressed the Chair to-night sedulously kept out of view the only important point to be decided, viz. the character of this House. My opinion is, that if the House rescinds the resolution of Friday last, the consequences to the country may be most fatal. Be it observed, too, that the noble Lord says not a word about resigning his Amendment: that he has sedulously kept out of view also; but I shall make a few further remarks upon that before I conclude. Various observations have fallen from hon. Members which it is necessary for me to touch; and I believe I must go backwards with them, as my memory will serve me better that way than any other. First, the hon. member for South Wilts, said a great deal about a Property tax, but nothing distinct as regards a plan—nothing that could be very clearly understood and defined. However, he quoted an authority; and men should be very careful when they quote authorities that they are good for something. What they tender us as the results of their own judgment, that we are bound to respect—and, generally speaking, it is worthy of it; but he told us, that he had Mr. Ricardo's authority in favour of a Property-tax. Do not let us forget, however, that the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) had Mr. Ricardo's authority that his Bill of 1819 only reduced prices three and a half percent, while the hon. member for South Wilts himself must know that it reduced them a vast deal more. Therefore he should pause a little before he relied upon such an authority as the said Mr. Ricardo. It is always dan- 795 gerous to find fault with those who bestow praise, because it generally arises from the kindness and generosity of the applauder, but the hon. member for Worcester (Mr. Robinson), after eulogising the character of Mr. Huskisson as a sagacious politician, and an enlightened statesman, told us that on his authority, we are to proceed to an Income tax. True, Mr. Huskisson did not say so himself; but he is to be understood as meaning it, being, according to the hon. member for Worcester, a great man and a profound statesman. But is the hon. Gentleman aware that he might have quoted Mr. Huskisson's authority as to the operation of the Bill of 1819? He (Mr. Huskisson) in fact, produced the Bill of 1819, which, however goes by the name of the right hon. Baronet; for, in 1811, Mr. Huskisson agreed to a Resolution of a Committee, of which, I believe, he was Chairman—no, Mr. Horner, I remember, was its Chairman—the effect of which was to compel the Bank at once to pay in gold, without restraint and without preparation. Then, too, the whole Whig party urged the necessity of the Bank returning to cash payments within two years after 1811—this, too, in the very middle of the war, while loans were going on, and all the world knows by this time that the plan was little short of downright madness. For this reason, I say, that Members should know the history of the conduct of these great and profound statesmen before they hold them up as authorities. The consequence was, that Mr. Huskisson approved of the Bill of 1819. It is my unhappy lot to be doomed to censure the conduct of the right hon. Baronet in this respect in a very public manner—to censure his wisdom; but this I must say even for the right hon. Baronet, that he was innocence itself compared with Mr. Huskisson. He was spotless innocence; for Mr. Huskisson might be truly called, and not the right hon. Baronet, the Coryphæus of that band of blunderers. But, coming to more sober and enlightened days, Mr. Huskisson was one of the Ministry when the Bill of 1826 passed—he it was that declared in the House of Commons that the country was within forty-eight hours of barter. Now, such a prominent person, though he might be thought at the time wise and profound—the mentor of a Ministry—is not exactly the person in our day to be eulogised. 796 We are liable to be misled by such praises, and I therefore request the hon. member for Worcester not again to commit such an error. I will now touch upon the question before us. I was sorry to hear the hon. member for South Wilts, and one of the hon. members for Lincolnshire, draw a supposed distinction between their constituents and the other inhabitants of the Empire. They may be well assured that this is not the way to promote peace. I have the honour to represent a great manufacturing town—where there is not an inch of land—where no person seems to know what land is. But have I shown any want of sympathy for the agricultural districts? Am I less anxious than others to procure for them the repeal of the Malt-tax?—No; I should be ashamed if I had any such feeling on my mind, for it is my duty to do what I can for the whole people. Such remarks as I have alluded to must have an injurious, perhaps, a fatal tendency—they divide the people among themselves, and prevent the restoration of harmony—they set one class against another, and produce that irritation, which, with the prospect before us, is most to be apprehended. The same hon. Gentleman spoke of the rich shopkeepers of London!—rich shopkeepers of London!—rich shopkeepers! Does he know how often the same leg of mutton bone marches backwards and forwards to the table of these rich shopkeepers? If he had to pursue the same frugal habits—if he had to eat the bread of care—in short, if he had to endure what they endure, he would not call them the rich shopkeepers of London. It is not the landlord who pays any part of the tax upon houses and windows; the tenant pays the whole of it, and the house he occupies would be merely four walls, and worth nothing without the talent, the industry and attention of the tenant. Let me ask how many houses are made valuable merely by the reputation of an industrious tradesman? It receives a character from his character; and in such a case, how can it be said, that the landlord pays the tax? I now come to the speech of the noble Lord, some parts of which I heard with very great pleasure. He told us that the Motion of Friday night took him somewhat by surprise. By surprise! Why, a notice for the repeal of the Malt-tax, was given on the first day of the Session by the hon. member for Surrey. The 797 hon. member for Lincolnshire subsequently gave a notice which seemed to supplant the other, and he altered it from the whole to half of the Malt-tax; but the subject was not brought on until three months after the first notice, and it was talked of from the beginning of the Session to the day on which the discussion occurred. It is impossible, therefore, for the noble Lord fairly to say, upon reflection, that he was taken by surprise. What too was ever more deliberate than that discussion? The noble Lord says, that the Motion was advocated by different Gentlemen on different grounds. I heard no different grounds; the only difference I heard was, that one set of Gentlemen contended that it would be sufficient to take half the tax, while another set insisted that the whole should be repealed. I was among the latter; and I did not hear one word from the other side in the way of answer. The only answer was, that truly Ministers could not spare it. That appeared to my mind not so much the question, as whether the people could spare it. However, that point I will leave, and talk of the part of the noble Lord's speech which pleased me. He said in one place, that the Income-lax formerly imposed was very unpopular, and he said truly. It was very unpopular. The hon. Alderman told us, that if it were but a Property Income-tax, he did not care about the particulars; but let me tell him, that if it were such a tax as was before imposed, it would not be collected for half a year. Although, under no circumstances, would I give my vote for a Property Income-tax, yet it might be made very different from that which existed formerly. What was that? It was the most unfair, the foulest tax, ever laid upon the people, one only excepted, of which I shall speak on another occasion. Here was a surgeon with an income of 1,000l. a-year, depending entirely on his life, his health, his success, perhaps, in setting a bone. All taken together, it would not be worth four years' purchase; and yet, though he might be fifty or sixty years old—thanks to the Whigs, who came in 1806—he was obliged to pay ten per cent upon his 1,000l. a-year, instead of six and a quarter per cent., which was the rule before they entered upon office. What I have said of the surgeon applies to other persons in trade. The surgeon was taxed ten percent, on his income—I was taxed ten per- 798 cent. on my income. If I had broken a finger or two, or gone blind, I should have been able to earn no income, but still I must have paid my ten per cent. The Lord or Gentleman with a landed estate in his own possession in perpetuity paid no more: his widow and children had it at his death, but the widow and children of the surgeon were left totally unprovided for. Was that a fair tax? I trust that the noble Lord would not consent to such a tax. I trust that the members for the City, if they were absent from the division on Friday night by accident, would not be absent when a proposition was made to saddle the country with such a tax as that. But the noble Lord said this, which pleased me so much—that you cannot exempt one class and not another. Mark the justice of this—that it is unfair to exempt one class and to lay the tax upon another. Such a course would render the Government and the Parliament hateful. I agree, too, with every vein in my body, when the noble Lord laid it down that every man ought to pay taxes in proportion to the amount of his property and the protection it required. This position may be disputed by some, and very likely it will be met by my right hon. opponent (Mr. Spring Rice). I am pledged to show, and I will do it on the proper occasion, that millions a-year are collected from persons possessing nothing but personal property, while real property escapes from the payment of a single farthing. I am pledged to show a great deal more than that to be sure. Ministers have always promised a great deal to the people: they have dealt in speeches which remind me of a line of Swift's—Fine words! I wonder where you stole 'em.I am sure they are not to be found in the 55th Geo. 3, nor in the 107th chapter of 3rd Geo. 4, both relating to stamps, and only differing as the one is more profligate than the other. Under those statutes, a man having an estate of 200,000l. value, pays no more for stamps than a man who has a piece of land of only 200l. value. But I will put that matter aside for the present, that I may advert to what was said by some other Members. I think, with the noble Lord, that if any of the Assessed-taxes are to be taken off, the whole ought to be repealed; because that puts an end to all expense at once. The vexation will not be diminished, if you 799 leave any part of them. I do not ascribe that vexation to the wishes or intentions of Government; because I do not ascribe to them a desire to create ill-will, and to make enemies for nothing; but the mode of collection is such, that you must employ persons who ought not to be employed by anybody. The oppression under the head of surcharges is beyond all description. The noble Lord will hardly believe what I am now going to say. I have been charged with the tax for a shopman for two years: now, I have no shopman, but I keep a shopwoman. When the collector has applied for the tax, she has answered that there is no shopman; and the retort was, "Well, then, Mr. Cobbett may appeal." I did appeal; but it was of no use. When I was at Barn-Elms, I was charged with the tax for a bailiff. That, said I, I will not pay, and God knows how many letters I received from a Mr. Bates, I think was his name. A Motion has been made for the Repeal of the House and Window-tax: I am showing the evils and annoyances that arise from the collection of it; and if I am not speaking to the question, I am no judge of what the question is. Gentlemen may be well assured, that if they have a mind to come to the end of my speech quickly, the best thing for them to do is not to interrupt me. To return: I never did, and never would pay that bailiff-tax. What I relate of myself is only an illustration; it is notorious all over the kingdom that people in the middle ranks of life are grievously suffering in the same way. I had a petition to present to-night, which I did not present because it did not exactly belong to this debate; it is from nine farmers, and it contains many very authentic details. They were cited to appear before Commissioners fourteen miles from home, on a market-day, too, and at a distance from the market town, for sporting without a license: when they arrived, not a particle of evidence was adduced against them, and they applied to the Commissioners to know who was to pay them for their loss of time and travelling expenses. I need not add that they obtained nothing; and this is one of the evils that ought not to be permitted to exist. If taxes are not repealed, something ought to be done to remedy this species of annoyance. A noble Lord has talked of a mouvement party, adopting the French term, as if there was a mouvement party here wishing 800 to level all distinctions of rank, and to destroy all rights of property. He asked what was the first cause of this party in France, and hinted, that something of the kind was aimed at in England. But those who talk in this way never go back to the real origin of the French Revolution: they only begin with Danton and Robespierre. If they look into Arthur Young, they will see that the great first cause of the French Revolution was the unequal assessment of the taxes; not the weight of taxation, but the unequal assessment; laying more upon the poor than upon the rich: as classes became lower, the assessment was heavier, particularly upon the sub-delegues, which I believe answered to our surcharges. What was the answer to us, when we adopted the Resolution we are now called upon to rescind? What was the sole answer? We proved the cost of the malt, and the injurious consequences of the tax; that Government only got 15s., while the cost to the people was enhanced 40s., and what was the answer? "We cannot spare the money—we must have the money—we cannot do without it." Now, the thing is to show, that Government can do without it, and for this purpose, what have we more to do, without going into particulars, than to prove that our establishments now cost within a trifle of fourteen millions a-year, while, at the end of the last peace they cost no more than about 4,200,000l. Why should they cost more now than then? Is there any reason for it? Is the late successful war a good reason for it? Is your abundant harvest of glory a good reason for it? Is your having Colonies a good reason for it? Were your Colonies a gain or were they not? "Yes—a gain, to be sure," the noble Lord will say, "we gained dominion." Dominion! did we gain wealth as well as dominion? Strange, that we should grow poor by having gained wealth; but this fact let me state, for the information of the House, that we expend more upon Canada, in English money, every year, than the total amount of goods exported to that colony. Thus, such colonies are no gain. If we have won anything, we have won a loss. But, besides our establishments, what have we? Our Civil List is double the amount in 1792—salaries are double what they were in 1792. The right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir James Graham) knows, that 113 Privy Councillors cost the country no 801 less a sum than 650,000l.—that pensions are far greater than in 1792, and that many of them have been bestowed in defiance of the letter of the law. We pay 51,000l. to the retired clerks of the War-office alone. Last year 41,000l. was expended for Secret Service-money; after eighteen years of peace, that sum was paid for spies and informers. We have an army, a militia, a yeomanry cavalry, a police for the great towns; yet still 41,000l. was wanted for spies and informers. This money was so secretly expended, that no account is to be rendered, and the man who pays it is not permitted to name the items to his colleague. We call ourselves the guardians of the public purse, and we prove ourselves pretty guardians truly, if we allow people to dip their hands into it whenever they like, and to take out whatever they like. If the hon. member for South Wilts be sincere in his wish that the poor man should have his pint of wholesome beer, and not be compelled to drink water, why does he not vote for saving this 41,000l.? After all, the point for us to decide upon is, whether the money cannot be saved? "Oh, no," say some hon. Gentlemen, "we cannot save it without a breach of the national faith." I have often wondered when I have heard country gentlemen—ay, and officers of state—talk in this way of the necessity of preserving national faith, that they did not think of it before. Do they remember, that there was a certain measure in the year 1819, which doubled the amount of the debt? Yet then we were under the guidance of first-rate oracle Ricardo, and second-rate oracle Huskisson.—the Orpheus and Amphion of the day, who, as an hon. Member said, charmed the House by the music of their speech. They felt no scruple in breaking faith with all the rest of the nation. At last it was discovered, that it was impossible to do justice in this respect; and here is what land-owners ought to attend to. Justice ought to be done between them and the people; but you never will prevail upon those who live by the taxes to do justice to those who do not live by the taxes. Those who live by the taxes govern the affairs of the nation: they fatten upon the taxes, and therefore they ruin all those who receive nothing out of the taxes, and first or last ruin themselves too. There is not at this moment a gentleman in England of moderate fortune, 802 and who has a considerable family, who does not look round with sorrow at the number of children for whom he has to provide, in order that they may live in the same style as that to which he has himself been accustomed. Therefore it is, that we go on and on, and in every direction tire eaten up with usury, and this, too, in consequence of a degree of infatuation such as never before afflicted mortal man. But, in conclusion, let me observe that it is upon the character of the House that we are now to decide. We may amuse ourselves with the idea that what we do my be undone; we may fancy that we are unseen; but the truth is, that the eyes of the whole nation are upon us. Last Saturday night the bells in Berkshire and Surrey were set ringing for joy at the repeal of the Malt-tax, Judge how the feelings of the people will be disappointed and depressed when they find that they have been deceived. This too, by whom? By a Reformed House of commons after having sat for three months without making the slightest effort to relieve them. The Minister having produced his Budget, which not only gave no relief, but showed that no relief would be given, on Friday last the House of Commons—the Reformed House of Commons—took off half the Malt-tax, and that determination the people hailed with joy. Are you prepared to say, that to-morrow shall carry to your constituents the news that on Tuesday you rescinded the resolution which on Friday you had without qualification adopted? Talk of nominee Parliaments, what nominee Parliament ever did anything half so bad? What could a nominee Parliament do more than be the lacqueys of the Ministers? A Reformed Parliament takes on Friday the first step towards a removal of the burdens of the people, and on Tuesday the Members of that Reformed Parliament are whipped in to do the behests of a Ministry which proved itself opposed to all reductions. Since your election you have been breathing an atmosphere in which men were accustomed to eat their words, and the successors of the old nominee Parliament evince as strong an appetite for that species of food as any of its predecessors. What confidence can the people have in men who so depart from every pledge given to a body of constituents? Yes, the people will, if you rescind the best vote you ever gave, withdraw from you all con- 803 fidence; and unless Parliament possesses the confidence of the people, I cannot anticipate any but the most fatal results. A Noble Lord, on the other side, has told the House, that unless they agreed to the proposition that he this night moved, he would resign; at which the House falls into a fit of the utmost consternation. Like naughty children whom a mother might lock up in a dark room, they cried out, "Oh! Do not leave us mammy,—mammy, do not leave us." A senator of old quitted the senate house, saying that the same fire which destroyed him would likewise consume those whom he left behind. I do not say, that the noble Lord says any thing of the sort—no, no; God forbid that I should ever insinuate anything of that kind; but, to repeat the question that I put before—how can you ever again look your constituents in the face after rescinding the vote of Friday night—not that much importance lies in the vote itself, but in the degree in which it may affect the character of the House itself, and the degree in which it will diminish the confidence of the people in their Representatives. The annihilation of that confidence will be nothing less than the destruction of that Constitution which has long been the object of our own pride, and the admiration of the world.
§ Mr. Spring Rice
admitted, that if that House were to forfeit its character and dignity, it would greatly injure the Constitution; but the question was, would they do so by the course now proposed by his noble friend? He had heard many fine phrases and illustrations borrowed from Roman and English history, but they were intended to draw them away from the real question before the House, and had no reference whatever to its character and dignity. What was it they were now called upon to do by the resolution of his noble friend—to repeal any law?—No; though there had been instances of the Parliament repealing a law passed in the same session;—to throw out a Bill which had been brought in, or to rescind a motion for leave to bring in a Bill?—Nothing of the kind. What, then, was the fact? Why, that a notice of motion, which stood after two others that were expected to take a long time, but which had been given up, was brought forward, contrary to the general expectation, and had been carried by a very small majority, and this resolution, carried under such 804 circumstances, was to be considered as irrevocable as the laws of the Medes and Persians. But would not hon. Members see, that the dignity and character of the House were already pledged to other Motions? Had not resolutions been passed, and bills brought in founded upon them, to relieve the country from taxation; and were these all to give way to a simple resolution, carried under the circumstances to which he had alluded? What would those parties say, to whom relief was intended to be given? What would the soap-manufacturers and the cotton-manufacturers, and those who were to be partially relieved from the House and Window-tax, say of the character and dignity of Parliament, if the resolution of Friday were to be allowed to nullify the measures intended for their relief? What would become of the dignity of that House if they were to rescind the vote to which the House came on the 26th of March? On that occasion a motion was made for an enquiry into the operation of the Assessed-taxes, particularly the House and Window-taxes, with a view to the substitution of an equitable tax on property. Why, it was absurd to say, that they were not as much bound to maintain the one as the other. If they were bound to adhere to the resolution of Friday, were they not equally bound to maintain the decision of the 26th of March? But why, he would ask, on principle, should they repeal the whole of the Malt-tax for the benefit of the landed interest, and refuse to the population of the towns the repeal of the House and Window-tax? Was it possible to take off both, which amounted to about 6,000,000l.? [Some Members here observed that it was only 5,000,000l. others that it was not more than 4,900,000l.] Be the amount 5,000,000l, or 6,000,000l., what was the substitute for it but a Property-tax? And the resolution in the hands of the Chair said no more than that it was inexpedient to propose such a tax in the midst of a session. It was an easy thing to talk of a Property-tax, but the imposition of that tax so that it should operate equally, and the machinery for carrying it into beneficial effect were matters of the utmost difficulty, even supposing it was open to no objection whatever of any other kind. He confessed it did excite in his mind the utmost surprise to find two hon. Members representing the city of London 805 advocating the imposition of a Property-tax, for their conduct amounted to nothing less. In the year 1816, a Petition was presented from a very worshipful body in that city, in which the petitioners set forth the abhorrence with which they regarded a Property-tax, as well with respect to its principles as to the mode of its operation, as being vexatious and oppressive, and as tending to maintain an odious, arbitrary, and most detestable inquisition into the most private circumstances of individuals—hostile to every sense of freedom which the people of this country entertained, and repugnant to the principles of the British Constitution. So abhorrent to the sentiments of the citizens of London was that tax, that they would not hear of a reduction of it even to the extent of five per cent. He had no doubt the citizens of London were now as averse from taxation as they had ever been. Let those who so strenuously opposed the Malt-duty and the Assessed-taxes beware lest they brought upon themselves something worse. Had they lost all recollection of the fable of King Stork and King Log? Let them beware how they inflicted hastily, inconsiderately, and without deliberation, anything so formidable as a Property-tax. Those who were so anxious for the character and dignity of the House, would do well to look carefully lest they might compromise infinitely more by legislation without inquiry than by adopting the plan of the Government—a Government which, he might be permitted to say, had repealed not less than three millions of taxes in two years. They proposed now to proceed at the same rate, and for his part he had no difficulty in expressing a full conviction that no plan of a practicable kind could be proposed for absolutely getting rid of taxes—all that could be done in the way of further change must be in the nature of commutation. It was, as he thought, perfectly vain to talk of taking off taxes, until they first showed how the necessary reductions were to be effected—let them economise first, and point out the extent of reduced taxation afterwards, but not before. On the subject of the Window-tax, he wished to call the attention of the House to a matter of some importance, having reference to a misapprehension which had gone abroad of what had fallen from his noble friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. What his noble friend proposed was, that shop- 806 keepers claiming exemptions as such from the Window-tax, according to the scale that he laid down, should, in consequence thereof be relieved from one-half of their House-tax. Now, that he conceived to be a great boon to them, and he was the more anxious to advert to the subject from the circumstance of his noble friend's statement on the subject having been misunderstood. There was another topic to which he desired to call the attention of the House before he proceeded further, he alluded to the great outcry which had been raised respecting the operation of the Window-tax, in its effects on the poor as compared with the rich. He would read to the House a document which he had compiled on this subject, which would set it in a clearer light. The right hon. Gentleman accordingly read the following statement:—
Number of Inhabited Houses in Great Britain 1831. England 2,323,141 Wales 153,698 Scotland 369,340 2,846,179 Number charged to the Inhabited House-tax (or little more than 1–7). 430,617 Free from House-tax 2,415,562 Number charged to Window-tax (little more than 1–7) 377,471 Number exempt from Window-tax 2,468,708
Inhabited House Duty. Total number charged to Inhabited House-duty in Great Britain. £ £ Rate. No. From 10 to 20 … 1s. 6d. … 215,233 20 to 40 … 2s. 3d. … 131,676 40 upwards … 2s. 10d. … 83,708 430,617 Number not charged to House duty … 2,415,562
Looking at the number of houses exempt from the Window-tax, he saw it was most 807 untrue to affirm, that that tax pressed with undue severity upon the poor. When it was seen that there were, in Great Britain, 430,000 assessed, and there were as many as 2,415,000 not charged, how could it be said, that that tax pressed on the poor? He would boldly deny, that its removal would be a relief to them. It would be no such thing, but the direct reverse. It was contrary to every principle of justice, that houses should be rated according to what they cost, and not according to what they were worth. Should one man be made to pay for the vanity and folly of another, who, perhaps, by that vanity and folly, deprived him of the means of defraying such unfair tax? No, the obviously equitable mode of proceeding was, to charge upon the actual value in the market. It had been broadly asserted, that the most gross inequality prevailed with regard to the charge made upon some of the houses of those who were called the "Aristocracy" a term which he altogether disclaimed. He would tell them an anecdote which might be considered to bear upon that point. There was Knowle-park, with which most of them were acquainted—that was rated at 100l. a-year; it was thought unjust that the Duke of Dorset should pay so little for such a dwelling, and so thought the taxing officer, but he proceeded cautiously—those officers were cautious in their generation. He raised the valuation to 120l., and that valuation was appealed against, when it was instantly reduced to its original amount of 100l., for it was considered that the expense of keeping such a place in repair, and maintaining it in such a condition as any person residing there must maintain, would so reduce its value, that it could not be worth more than the sum at which it was originally valued; and it was considered, too, that if brought into the market, it would fetch no more—it was even doubtful if it would fetch so much. That which was true of Knowle was equally true of other places. Those who spoke in these strains respecting the country-houses of the wealthier classes overlooked the valuation of town houses. He would trouble the House with a short list.
Numbers of Houses charged to window Tax in Great Britain. Total, including 3,685 chandlers at inns of court and colleges 377,471 3,685 Houses and number of windows 373,786 From 8 to 49 36,918 50 to 99 4,891 100 to 149 687 150 and upwards 290 5,868 Add chambers 3,685 Total houses charged to Window-tax. 377,471 Number of houses not charged 2,468,708 Total number of houses 2,846,179
808 Then, as a proof that the Window-tax did not operate for the exclusive benefit of the rich, and to the manifest disadvantage of the poor, he would just show, from another return, the exact state of the case. The right hon. Gentleman read the following document:—
Devonshire House £2,500 Northumberland do. 1,500 Stafford 3,900 Hertford 1,500 Chesterfield 2,000 Lansdown 1,650 Apsley 1,850 The House of the hon. member for Essex 1,320 Norfolk House 1,000 Burlington 1,300
Amount assessed to the Window Duty on the undermentioned Houses, for the year 1828, ending 1829. — No. of Windows. Duty paid at present scale. Duty which would be payable at the scale chargeable on 10 Windows. £ s. d. £ s. d. Harewood-house 168 42 17 9 17 10 0 Lowther-castle 180 46 11 3 18 15 0 Stowe 261 52 12 9 27 3 9 Chatsworth 280 54 1 3 29 3 4 Petworth 350 59 6 3 36 9 2 Eaton-hall 365 60 8 9 38 0 5 Longleat 453 67 0 9 47 3 9 Wentworth-house 480 69 1 3 50 0 0 Woburn-abbey 511 71 7 9 53 4 9 Blenheim 722 90 19 3 81 8 4 Total 3,820 614 7 0 398 18 6
If the scale chargeable on eight windows were applied to the higher classes of houses, the results would be as follows:—
Present Scale. Windows. Per Window. Total. s. d. £ s. d. 8 … 2 0¾ … 0 16 6 10 … 2 9½ … 1 8 0 20 … 5 7¼ … 5 12 3 30 … 6 6½ … 9 16 3 40 … 7 5½ … 14 18 9 50 … 6 10¾ … 17 5 0 100 … 5 10¼ … 29 8 6 150 … 5 5 1–50 … 40 12 9
For Window-tax therefore, Harewood-house paid 42l. 17s. 9d., whereas, if it were charged at the same rate as the 10l. houses in its nighbourhood, it would pay but 17l. 10s. Again, Lowther-castle paid 46l. 11s. 3d., while, if rated as small places, the sum would be only 18l. 15s. Woburn-abbey had 511 windows, and paid 71l. 7s. 9d., according to the present scale; but, if it was rated according to the 10l. houses, it would not pay more than 53l. 4s. 9d. [Question]. He considered he was strictly speaking to the question, because those calculations went to show that, with respect 809 to the Window-tax, the poor were not treated unjustly, and the wealthy were not favoured. He denied the statements of hon. Members who maintained a contrary opinion. He had one word to say upon the reduction of the Malt-duty, which was pressed upon them. He would admit, that every tax was an evil; but it was an evil, like physic, which was sometimes necessary to restore health—as taxes were necessary for the stability of a nation. With respect to taxes, all that could be done would be to choose between two evils. When the Government was pressed for the reduction of the Malt-duty, those who pressed for it did not show much discernment as to the choice of evils. He would show, that within a very few years that tax had been considerably reduced. In 1804, the tax on malt was 34s. 8d.; in 1820, it was 28s.; in 1822, it was 20s. 8d.; which, together with a tax upon beer, amounted to 52s. 7d. Now, as the tax on malt was at present but 20s. 8d., and the Beer-tax was taken off, there had been consequently a reduction with respect to this tax of 31s. 11d. It was not, therefore, very wise to pitch upon that tax as one that should be further reduced. Hon. Gentlemen had asked, in a menacing manner, how the country would feel if the House rescinded the vote of Friday night last. He had confidence in the good sense of the country, and he was sure, that if the House fearlessly and honestly did its duty, it would be applauded by the country. The hon. Member who had last spoken amused them with allusions to nursery tales, and to ringing' of bells in Berkshire, when the announcement of taking off the Malt-duty was learned. That sign of rejoicing might have been made; but was there no ringing of bells at Manchester and Oldham when it was announced that the Cotton-duty was taken off? The same hon. Gentleman sneered at, and seemed to undervalue, everything like national honour and national faith, for if he loved national faith, he would have taken a proper course to relieve the nation of its burthens without making it violate its faith. Now, he would suppose, that the Resolution of the other night was adopted, and that both the Malt-tax and Assessed Taxes were all re-pealed; was there any hon. Member of that House who could put his hand on his bosom and sincerely declare, that it was his opinion that a Property-tax—the necessary alternative—would be carried [Hear!]? He asked, was it likely that hon. Members would be pleased with seeing ten per cent. 810 levied by way of tax on property? If that House wished to sec public engagements performed, let them first propose a Property-tax to meet those engagements, and then repeal the taxes in question; but, before they had laid on the former, they could not honourably do away with the latter. Public engagements should be kept as well as private ones, and there was no honest man who had a debt to pay, and held in hand a sum wherewith to discharge it, would part with that sum, and depend on contingencies. Every honest man would understand what he was now saying. Again, the hon. member for Oldham said, that the present was a Reformed Parliament, and that it ought not to be swayed by the dictates of a Minister. If ever there was a Minister not likely to dictate to a parliament, his noble friend was the person. Of all the Ministers he ever knew, his noble friend was the most likely to make a mighty bad dictator. But was it dictating to a Parliament—was it in any way swaying or controlling it, to call upon it to exercise calmly its judgment? The persons who were represented in that House did not expect that a Reformed Parliament would submit to the dictation of Ministers; and it would be highly presumptuous in any Ministers to attempt dictating to it; but those persons expected that the Members of a Reformed Parliament would listen to sound argument and exercise their judgment, and not adopt the delusive plans pointed out by those who ought to know better than to propose them. It was for hon. Gentlemen to contrast the arguments and objections of all parties—to weigh them well—and not vote inconsiderately, lest they might be very properly accused of making a scramble for that sort of taxation which would least affect, or more benefit, themselves. The right hon. Gentleman concluded, by calling upon hon. Members to consider the best method of honestly relieving the country from its burthens, and not whilst they were, on one hand, scrambling for a tax beneficial to themselves, scramble also for an out-of-door poularity, and the favour of constituents. Let them act as became them, and they would meet with their reward.
Windows. Under Scale of Excess paid under present Scale. s. d. £ s. d. 40 … 2 1 … 4 3 4 50 … 2 1 … 5 4 2 100 … 2 1 … 10 8 4 150 … 2 1 … 15 12 6
An Hon. Members
said, he was anxious to explain, as early as possible, his vote of the other night, and to declare now that, notwithstanding that vote, he was inclined to support the Amendment of the noble Lord. He would tell hon. Members, that he considered he was doing his duty, as a 811 Member of a deliberative assembly, when he said, that his vote on Friday night last, for a reduction of the Malt-duty, was because he thought that reduction would do good to the country, and that the vote he intended to give that night for the noble Lord's Amendment was because he considered, that if the reduction of that duty was pressed, it would force Ministers to adopt what they thought they ought not to adopt, or to resign, and, consequently, injure the true interests of the country.
said, he would trespass on the attention of the House but for a very few moments. He agreed with the hon. member for Oldham, that it was very impolitic to argue one great question against another; and, at the same time, he admitted, that, as some hon. Members more sent to that House to represent particular interests, they could not well decline representing them. When he was asked to vote for a Property-tax, he distinctly understood that he was asked to vote for an Income-tax [Cries of "No, no!"]. Some hon. Members near him might exclaim no, no; but he defied them to prove, that a Property-tax would not be an Income-tax. To such a tax he had a great objection, which he would state to the House. That objection was, that an Income-tax would subject every man's private transactions to the investigation of Commissioners; that the honest man's dealings would be unnecessarily exposed, whilst the dishonest man would be enabled to evade the tax, and lead the Commissioners astray. With respect to the Malt-tax, he would not hesitate to say, that it was too high, and that he was ready to take off a moiety of it, and supply that moiety by a tax on beer. The revival of the tax of 5s. per barrel on beer would make up that moiety, and he would advise the Beer-tax to be revived before they reduced the tax on malt. He only said what he really believed would be satisfactory to the people, and beneficial to the country, when he advised the revival of the Beer-tax, and a reduction of one-half the Malt-duty. The revival of the former tax, and the reduction of the latter, would not raise the price of beer retailed by the shop-keeper, but would make malt cheaper, and enable the poor man to brew his own beer. Farmers would be benefitted by what he proposed, since they would be able to brew, at a much lower rate, the large quantities of beer they used in harvest time, and there would be also another benefit resulting from the proposition—namely, that it would go 812 a great way in preventing the poor from frequenting beer-shops.
§ Mr. Serjeant Spankie
was understood to say, that the vote of Friday night last had placed the Members of that House in a situation of great difficulty, and he wished to God that Ministers had had, on that occasion, the assistance of the eloquent speech that had been just delivered by the right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench. If Government had been strengthened on that night by the aid of those who ought to assist them, they would not have met with so signal and so melancholy a defeat. He never recollected to have listened to so languid a debate as the one of that night; it seemed to be a match between the Treasury and the Country Gentlemen, of which the other Members of the House were but passive spectators. Though there might be many hon. Members for a repeal of the Malt-duty, there were many who had a horror of a Property or Income-tax, and he confessed himself one of the latter. He knew not what to say of the noble Lord's dexterity in proposing the Amendment before the House, more than that it threatened the country with a curse, and was, as it were, giving them up to the wolf when they were menaced with a Property-tax. Now, with respect to that tax, however plausible it seemed, whatever appearance of equality it seemed to carry with it, it was like all projects of equality, containing within itself the same germs of the disorder of society. Though he was well aware of the evils of an Income-tax, still he would acknowledge, that some relief ought to be given to the burthens of taxation; and, though he was prepared to vote for a repeal of the House and Window taxes, he thought nothing short of insanity could advise, as a substitute for them, an Income-tax. The minds of the people were fixed upon the House and Window taxes, and they were led to believe, that their repeal would be one of the first acts of a Reformed Parliament. There were several heavy taxes which pressed upon the metropolis, and were the cause of making trade retrograde. Those taxes did not press on the 10l. householders alone, but on persons who rented large houses, and were very often extremely distressed to pay them. He contended that, if the present Government was to be accused of anything, it was of its weakness—general weakness pervaded its acts; even the Attorney General did not seem to possess sufficient vigour to carry on the requisite administration of the law, and 813 in fact it was a general complaint that everything was in a state of pulling down. He called upon Government to act with vigour, and repress that agitation which was directed against it. On the matter of the House and Window-tax much excitement prevailed throughout the metropolis. He held in his hand two Petitions on that subject from the inhabitants of the populous borough he had the honour of representing. These Petitions were got up under a state of great excitement, and he had done, and would still continue to do, all he could to discourage that excitement. In the mean time he would advise Government to be prepared to meet with vigour the discouragement that prevailed.
§ Sir John Tyrell
would not give a silent vote on the present occasion, and would state why he voted for the reduction of the duty on malt. He was sorry, however, that he could not learn, from what had fallen from the hon. and learned Serjeant, what was the substitute he proposed for the Assessed Taxes. Why he had voted for a reduction of the Malt-tux was, because he considered Ministers had not given a due consideration to the agricultural interest, and that the petitions of the landholders had not met at their hands the attention they had a right to expect. As that measure, favourable to the landed interests, came on before anything was projected in their favour, he thought it his duty to vote for it. However, in saying this, he would also say, that he went the whole length with those who thought that a Property-tax and an Income-tax were one and the same thing, and would be measures of confiscation. Since his vote for the reduction of the Malt-tax, he had seen his constituents, and their great delight at that reduction could not be mistaken. Those constituents were not Radicals nor Tories—they were ignorant of any party, but they received with pleasure the vote of Friday night, as they considered it beneficial to the country. For himself, he disclaimed the imputation of grasping at, or scrambling for, a system of taxation that would be of service to him. He was actuated by one motive, and only consulted the good of the agricultural interests. It was his intention to vote against the proposition of the hon. Baronet for the repeal of the Assessed Taxes, though, at the same time, he did not like the Amendment of the noble Lord.
§ Sir Robert Peel
rose to state shortly the grounds on which he should give his 814 vote. Although the subject opened up a discussion on the agricultural, commercial, and financial policy of the country he should direct his attention chiefly to financial considerations. When he looked at the present state of our finances, and at the necessity of maintaining public credit—and when he found, after reductions in the expenditure, and after providing for the public service, there only remained an available surplus to meet every possible contingency which might arise of 500,000l; when he found that 500,000l. was calculated on a small increase of the revenue of last year, and that the establishments of the present year were but little lower than those of the last year, the question he had to consider was, how could further reductions of revenue be made consistently with keeping faith with the public creditor? He could not think it either expedient or just, under such circumstances, to repeal 5,000,000l. of additional taxes. It was true, that the repeal of the House and Window-taxes was not necessarily connected with the repeal of the half of the Malt-duty; but there was no Gentleman who heard him who would not admit, that, under the present circumstances, there was practically such a connection, and that if they repealed one half of the Malt-duty, the pressure for the repeal of the House and Window-tax would be so great that it would not be possible to resist it. But many Gentlemen thought the repeal of the half only of the Malt-duty would be unavailing. They argued, that the relief would be partial and incomplete; that an expensive establishment for collecting the remaining half must be kept up; that the inquisition into the manufacturers' processes, which at present was so vexatious, must be preserved, and, therefore, it was said it would be better to repeal the whole. If there were any force in that argument, the whole amount of the taxes to be repealed was not 6,800,000l., as had been stated by the hon. member for Worcester, but 7,300,000l. The total amount of the Malt-tax last year was 4,800,000l; the amount of the House and Window-duty was 2,500,000l; and if they repealed both, therefore, that would entail a reduction of the revenue of not less than 7,300,000l. The hon. member for Middlesex said, that the Government might make reductions in every branch of the public service, and by these 815 means, reduce the expenditure and prevent a deficiency. But let it be remembered, that they had already voted the Army Estimates—they had voted the amount of the Naval force—they had voted part of the Ordnance Estimates, and he considered it impossible, since the House had agreed to those votes, to look for any reduction in expenditure equal to supply the deficiency. The hon. Member said, make reductions; yes, make reductions in the expenditure first, and then reduce taxation. Would the hopes and security of the public creditor, when he saw a large deficit, be satisfied by a vague assurance that the House might ultimately reduce three millions of the expenditure? If they repealed the taxes proposed, they would injure public credit irreparably. With respect to rescinding the vote of the other evening, he thought it far better to rescind that vote than to adhere to it if it were unwise. He saw no dignity in persevering in error. The question was, whether the vote were consistent with the good of the country, and if it were not, how could it be contended, that they were precluded from rescinding it? The argument against rescinding this vote would apply to the rejection of a bill on a third reading which had been read a second time. It was said, that if they rescinded this vote they would have many other questions, upon which the opinion of the House had been once expressed, re-agitated; but the only reason why those questions were not agitated now, was, not from respect for previous decisions, but from apprehensions of a second, and, perhaps, more signal failure. He repeated, that the repeal of the half of the Malt-duty carried with, it the repeal of the whole; and if the whole duty were repealed, and the House and Window-tax were repealed, they would not be able to satisfy the public creditor; for it was a perfect delusion to suppose that the deficiency could be made up by increased consumption and by a reduction of expenditure. The only alternative, then, was a Property-tax, to which he was decidedly opposed. He would not pledge himself beyond the present occasion; but he would say, that in the present circumstances of the country, and at the present period of the Session, either a Property or an Income tax would be a great calamity. He knew that some persons contended for a tax on property who would not tolerate a tax on 816 income. He could not recognize the justice of such a distinction. He considered that it would be establishing a principle of spoliation to tax property, and exempt income from the tax. He would take the case of a man, who, by frugality and industry, had amassed a fortune of 10,000l., which he had vested in the funds; he would suppose that the man had two sons, on whose education he had bestowed much care and great expense; and that these two sons, in consequence of that education and paternal care, were making large professional incomes, were the two sons to escape a contribution to which the father was to be subject? The father had, perhaps, by self-denial, by the application of all that he could spare from a limited pecuniary income, enabled the sons to acquire an income ten-fold greater than his own. Why should the father alone be called upon to contribute to the exigences of the State? If a Property-tax were imposed, there must also be an Income-tax. If either were imposed, there must be a rigorous inquisition into every man's property, as a necessary concomitant. He would not say, that circumstances might not arise, in war, or even in peace, to justify such a tax; but, in the present circumstances of the country, he could not think it politic to levy an Income-tax; the effect of which must be, if it were justly levied, to expose every man's business to a rigorous inquisition. It was a tax which, unaccompanied by severe and unsparing scrutiny into private affairs, would encourage fraud and perjury. Setting aside the circumstance that, generally speaking, it was better to submit to taxes already established than have recourse to others, he must say, that a Property-tax would be most injurious. The tax upon Houses and Windows was not, in his opinion, a bad tax. If unjustly apportioned, let that injustice be redressed. In principle it was not bad; and the inequality complained of was not necessarily incident to it. The amount of income might be concealed; but men could not conceal the value of a house, or the number of windows. In principle, he did not know a tax more free from objection. If any county or district were unfairly taxed, let the other counties bear their fair proportion. The hon. member for Lincolnshire (Mr. Heathcote), had made a very patriotic speech to-night; for he had proved, that the farmers of Lin- 817 colnshire escaped almost entirely the House and Window-tax. Let us profit then by this avowal of the member for Lincolnshire, and take care that his constituents escape the tax no longer. The learned Serjeant (Serjeant Spankie) had spoken in favour of indirect taxation, which certainly was a good species of taxation, because persons incurred it voluntarily, and could apportion their expenses to the tax; but it might be carried too far. It had limits, beyond which it gave rise to smuggling, and defeated the object in view. If he had in his possession the produce of a Property-tax amounting to 7,300,000l., he was by no means sure, that he would select as the first taxes for reduction the Malt-duty, and the House and Window duties. There were other dirties, the removal of which might confer greater benefits on the country, and spread those benefits more equally over the agricultural and commercial interests of the country, and over the different classes of agricultural interests, over the growers of oats and the graziers, as well as over the growers of barley. But his main objection, he repeated, to the repeal of these taxes was, that it could not be done and preserve faith with the public creditor, unless an Income-tax were imposed. He knew that it was a popular notion with many persons, not only that a tax might be laid on Property, but from which income might escape; that the tax on Property might be a graduated tax, and made very productive. Let them be assured, however, if they applied a graduated Property-tax, that the principle would admit of no limitation; that they would discourage industry, and induce capitalists to transfer their capital to other countries. The hope of dishonest gains would defeat itself. A graduated Property-tax would lessen the stimulus to honest exertion in future, and force men to seek other countries for the deposit of their hard-earned accumulations. For these reasons he should oppose the Motion of the hon. Baronet, and vote for the Motion of the noble Lord.
said, that the right hon. Baronet thought only of one class of public creditors—those who had money in the funds—but he forgot that more numerous class of public creditors to whom the House owed freed institutions. The House owed it to the people to relieve them from some of their burthens—to 818 remit a large part of the taxation. With the people faith ought to be kept; and the House might keep faith with them, by reducing the establishments. By that he believed that the House might keep faith with both; but, as it went on at present, it would in the long run keep faith with neither. The right hon. Baronet said, that they could not reduce the taxation, because the Army was voted, and the Navy was voted. But when they were asked to rescind the vote for the reduction of taxation, why not rescind those votes? Was the House to rescind no other votes than those which were favourable to the people? By voting against the Motion of the hon. Baronet, they would pledge themselves to support the noble Lord's Budget, and that had given small satisfaction either in the House or out of the House. They informed the people, too, that they were to have no relief from the burthens of the House and Window-tax. It was most desirable that they should consider what might be the consequence of that. They should remember that tomorrow, when the newspapers informed the public of their decision, what the noble Earl now in the other House said before the Reform Bill was passed—namely, that he would pay no taxes, might find a million of people ready to act upon it. If the people refused to pay the taxes, the fundholder would not be secure; then would they rescind the only favourable vote they had yet come to for the people? For three months they had done nothing for them, and now that they had done something they were to undo it. He did not see the necessity of a Property-tax to supply the place of the taxes it was proposed to reduce. It was their business to begin by reducing taxation, and leave the Gentlemen opposite to find out the means of supplying themselves or reducing the expenditure. He wished to strike down the taxes, and to teach the Ministers to practise economy. It was neither necessary to have a Property-tax, nor keep on the present taxes; but the Ministers seemed to wish to lay on a Property-tax and keep on the present taxes. It was said that if they impose an Income-tax, it must extend to all parts of the country—to Ireland. That was meant to catch the Irish Members; but would they be so unjust as to take off a tax from England, a tax which Ireland did not pay, and impose a general tax, which she did pay? 819 He wished to see an Income-tax in Ireland, but they would never be so unjust as to relieve England of 2,000,000l. and impose a part of that on Ireland. He implored the House to look at the effect their vote was likely to have on the people, and to give them this boon. If they voted against the Repeal of the House and Window-tax, if they told the people they were to have no diminution of their burthens, they would shut the door against hope, and bid them be content with the present miserable budget.
§ Sir Samuel Whalley moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ Lord Althorp
appealed to the hon. Member whether it would be fair or just to press his Amendment, considering the situation in which his Majesty's Ministers would be placed, if the House did not come to a decision on this point. He was well aware that he had given but very short notice of this proposition; but the reason was, the absolute necessity which presented itself, after the majority of Friday night, that a final decision should be come to as soon as possible. He, therefore, trusted that the hon. Member would suffer the House to go to a division.
§ Sir Samuel Whalley
had no desire to embarrass Ministers; but still he must say that this vital question—a question intimately involving the immediate interests of a million and a half of people in one metropolis, ought to have the most mature consideration, and as yet he had by no means heard sufficient discussion on the subject [Uproar—"Go on."] He would proceed, then, to speak to the question, since that appeared to be the wish of the House, and in so doing he would not detain the House long. He had risen for this purpose at least twenty times; and he saw many Gentlemen round him who were equally anxious to declare their sentiments on this all-important subject, and this had been his sole reason for wishing more time to be allowed for discussion. He believed that if he had been present on Friday evening he should have given his support to Ministers, because the Malt-tax not being, in his opinion, one of those taxes which pressed most heavily upon the people in general, it appeared to him that it would be more eligible to do away with some other tax, which did more immediately press upon the nation at large. The real question at issue was, whether the Metropolis was or was not to 820 bear the very large portion of an assessment, from which most other places were, in a great measure, exempt. In putting the question thus, he was far from entertaining any desire that the country gentlemen should be called upon to bear an unequal share of the public burthens. What he desired to see was, equality of taxation throughout all interests. Several hon. Members had asserted that the Metropolis was not more burthened with house and window assessments than other parts of the country. These hon. Members must have been labouring under a very strange misconception, and would acknowledge it when he informed them, on the strength of indisputable parliamentary and other documents, that the Metropolis alone paid a greater amount of these taxes than twenty-four counties put together, although the population was only one-third that of those twenty-four counties. The hon. member for Lincolnshire took the lead in insulting the great constituencies by thus supporting this odious tax, merely because it was only triflingly felt by his own constituency. The House and Window-taxes were, in the worst sense of the word, Property and Income-taxes; for where a man had 100l. a-year they took away 5l. of it. The same objection did not appear to prevail in regard to the Window as to the House-tax; and if the noble Lord had come down prepared to Repeal the latter, the discontent would not have been so great as it was, though the people would by no means have been altogether satisfied. Some of the hon. Members had seemed to argue, that though the metropolis might be called upon to bear the higher portion of assessment it could well afford it, and talked of the rich merchants and wealthy people of all ranks and sorts who lived in it: these hon. Members spoke as if all the inhabitants of London were rich lords and gentlemen; let them make an impartial circuit through London and the environs, and they would find whole streets where the people were even starving, destitute of food or raiment; and they would find, too, that the middle classes were in that extreme state of depression generally which rendered it not possible for them to pay their taxes. He himself had presented several petitions from various bodies of his constituents, which all were to the effect that the people would not, because they could not, any longer pay their taxes. He was not prepared to vote for an Income- 821 tax, but was quite willing to support a tax on land and real property. He by no means concurred with the right hon. member for Tamworth and others, in supposing that a Property-tax must necessarily include an Income-tax. Nor did he at all see that there would be any violation of faith in making the public creditor pay his proportion towards the support of Government. The hon. Members who represented the agricultural counties would not support the Repeal of the House and Window-tax, [cries of "No, no," from some hon. Members.] The hon. member for Cambridge stated the total number of houses assessed with a view to show that the metropolis did not bear an undue portion of the tax. He stated the number of houses assessed at 377,471, but he should recollect that of that number there was 136,194 assessed as farm houses, and, therefore, not subject to this tax. Therefore the number of houses subject to this tax was 242,000 of which number 116,234 were houses assessed in the metropolis. The whole rental of the country was 11,154,000l. of which not less than 5,143,000l. was assessed as the proportion of the metropolis. If any hon. Member could point out any other tax which bore so unequally upon any other portion or interest of the community, he would be one of the first of the Metropolitan Representatives to advocate its Repeal. He denied the assertion which had been made, that London and Liverpool were the only places that made any stir about the House and Window-tax: so far from this being the case, there had been not less than sixty petitions presented from various great towns in the country, Birmingham, Norwich, Coventry, Brighton, Bristol, Bath, Edinburgh, &c. There were no grounds for continuing these abominable taxes. It was quite impossible for him to give a silent vote on this question, which he was compelled to say would be against Ministers: he was in some points sorry for this; but deep as was his gratitude to the Government for the measure which had brought him among others into Parliament, his duty was still greater to his constituents, and, therefore, when the alternative was offered, he could not hesitate. He thanked the Ministry for the alterations they had made in their financial plan; for as to the original propositions with reference to reduction, they were a mere mockery and insult on the 822 people. He himself should wish to have the assessments made at a graduated scale. Let those who have most pay most, and not least.
§ Sir Francis Burdett
would address the House as briefly as he could on this occasion. His hon. colleague having been placed in a situation in which he conceived himself called upon, from a due regard to his own character, and from a due regard to what he considered the public interests, to resign the situation which he held under his Majesty's Government, he had also vacated his seat. His hon. colleague feeling, that he could not give Government, on this occasion, that support which it was important to give it without a sacrifice of public character and consistency, which, he thought, would be a course detrimental to the public service, and that his doing so would render his opinions liable to so much misinterpretation, as to more than counterbalance any benefit to be derived from his remaining in power, had, under those circumstances, considered it his duty to resign his situation under Government, and his seat in that House. He was not placed on this occasion under circumstances of quite so difficult a nature. He held no public situation connected with the Ministry, and, therefore, his course of proceeding, on this occasion, could not possibly be attributed to motives of self-interest. He should have no difficulty in fearlessly stating the course which he intended to pursue. He had, when this matter had been first given notice of by the worthy Alderman, determined to vote for his Motion; but he was determined then to vote for it, because his constituents were anxious for the repeal of this tax, conceiving that it was partial and unjust, and oppressive in its operation upon them; but now the question had assumed a more important shape. The question now was, if they repealed this tax, where could they find a substitute for it so as to supply the deficiency thus created in the revenue? He thought, that it devolved on those who advocated the repeal of the tax to show how the deficiency in the revenue could be made good to the Government, so as to support the public service of the country. The question of the repeal of the House and Window-tax now stood in a very different situation from what it did in the first instance. They had now three questions before them; whether, in the 823 first place, the vote respecting the Malt-tax should be rescinded or not. Now, that that vote should be rescinded, and that it never ought to have been passed under the circumstances that it was, he had no doubt; but as it had passed, and as the carrying of another vote for the repeal of the House and Window-tax would create a great deficiency in the revenue, the noble Lord proposed, as the third question, the alternative of a Property-tax, in case the House should determine to reduce the two former taxes. Without giving any opinion adverse to a Property-tax as a general measure, he must say, that, at this moment, they could not adopt such a change in the taxation of the country consistently with a due regard to the interests of the country, to the revenue, and to the welfare of the people. In his mind, however, though it was impossible that they could adopt such a change at the present moment, though he was bound to say, merely as a theorist, that it appeared to him there could be no tax more proper or more equal than a Property-tax, but so many practical men had started such apparently well-founded difficulties, that he must beg leave to suspend his judgment as to now adopting it. The House was not ripe for coming to a decision at that moment. It was not able to determine at will, on that question, and without full inquiry, how far the tax so proposed as a substitute would supply the deficiency of 6,000,000l. or 7,000,000l. thus created in the revenue. The plain question, therefore, now before the House was this: the Government having said, that it was impossible, in the present stale of the Session and of the House, to give up the amount of the House and Window-tax, the vote they were called upon to give was, whether the Government of the country was to be supported or not. Under such circumstances, feeling not only that gratitude to them which the hon. member for Marylebone had expressed for passing the Reform Bill, but also thinking that, independent of that, they were the honestest Administration that we ever had, unswayed as they were by private motives, and solely desirous to promote the good of the country, it was his opinion, that every honest man was called upon to give them his support. He did not see how their places could be supplied. There had been a great variety of opinions about 824 the currency question; now, he was not going to give any decided opinion himself, though he was one of the "currency doctors;" but he put it to the House whether there must not be some peculiarity in the state of the country, when, after a long peace, when, since the war every Ministry had acted on the principle of reduction—when it was considered, that, at this time, not less than thirty-four millions of taxes had been taken off—when, notwithstanding all this, there clearly appeared to be an almost unexampled, a universal, pressure, he put it to the House, whether it must not strike any plain man that there must be some peculiar reason for all this? The fact was, that the contraction of the income of the country rendered it almost impossible to meet the demands upon it. Everybody was bitterly complaining. People were herding together in poverty and misery; cold and hunger were doing their worst; five or six people were obliged to sleep together on the floor, with no covering, but a single blanket; and he would leave the House to judge, whether there must not be a strong contention among the six which should have the most of the blanket. The country was like the unfortunate people with only half a covering. One was tugging it on this side, and another was tugging to get a share on that. The fortunate thought they had got only their proper share, and felt no gratitude, while the unfortunate were filled with anger and resentment at their sufferings. In reply to what had fallen from the learned member for Dublin, he maintained, that the noblemen and gentlemen of Ireland had an equal right to bear such a burthen as the noblemen and gentry of England. He did not for a moment mean to deny, but that there existed considerable distress in Ireland; but this was among those who would not be subject to the Income-tax. At the same time the House should call to mind that no country had made larger strides towards prosperity than Ireland had in the last thirty or forty years; the only thing was, that the advance of population was more than commensurate. He felt, he said, in this situation on this occasion, that either he must support Ministers, or run the risk of subverting the present Administration. The hon. member for Middlesex was the only Member to suggest a source for supplying the deficiency that would be occasioned by taking off those 825 taxes, but he did not think the hon. Member's project a safe one. It was perfectly unreasonable to demand of the Chancellor of the Exchequer such a sacrifice of revenue without the means being pointed out by which it could be supplied. He trusted, however, that the Government and the Legislature would, without delay, enter upon the question of a general revision of taxation. In the course of such inquiry, if particular taxes were found to press peculiarly upon particular interests, they should be, and would be, no doubt, removed. He repeated his hope, that Ministers would speedily enter upon such inquiry, and, either by the substitution of a Property-tax or some other means, get rid of taxes that peculiarly pressed upon the industrious classes of the community.
§ Lord Sandon
said, a petition had been presented from a respectable body of his constituents, praying for the repeal of the House and Window-tax; but great as was the duty he owed them, he owed a higher duty to the country. He could not, for the sake of relieving them from this burthen, throw into jeopardy the public revenue, and the means of sustaining the credit of the country. The real evil felt at present was not so much the amount of taxation as the want of confidence. It was that species of taxation upon enterprise and productive industry, arising from political and commercial causes, that principally afflicted the country. If the vote of that night went to reduce the revenue to the extent of 7,000,000l. or 8,000,000l., without any obvious source to meet such a deficiency, it would paralyze every branch of industry, by diffusing' a universal want of confidence, and that public credit, without which ail industry flagged, and all commerce ended, and which it should be their great object to maintain, would be irretrievably shaken.
§ Mr. Harvey
said, if the House would extend its indulgence to him, he could assure Gentlemen, that he would detain them but for a very few minutes. 'The right hon. Baronet had stated, that the Government, by these latter proceedings, were placed in a situation of great embarrassment. It was so, he admitted; but it should be observed, that the Government had placed themselves in that unpleasant situation. The three propositions then before the House were unquestionably calculated to throw Ministers 826 into an extraordinary position. He did not blame them for seeking a new decision with respect to the Motion which had recently been carried, because he conceived that no decision was worthy of approbation that would not stand the test of a re-decision. That which was done suddenly, and by surprise, was worth but little, in his opinion, if it would not bear to be re-considered. But he wanted some explanation from the noble Lord as to what he meant by declaring in his Amendment, "that it was not, at present, expedient to adopt a tax on property and income." The right hon. member for Tamworth had taken a definite ground, and argued, that such an impost was not to be resorted to, unless under the extremest and most pressing circumstances. The right hon. Member admitted, however, that circumstances might arise which would call on Parliament to agree to this tax. What, then, he would ask, were the circumstances of the country now? But the right hon. Member had argued, that it would be inexpedient, at this late period of the Session, to resort to this tax. Now, he would say, that, for all practical purposes, they were in the very infancy of the Session. What had Parliament done during the present sitting, so far as the public interest was concerned? The Government, from which they had been taught to expect so much, had, it appeared, gone to the full measure of relief. It was evident that, with respect to the Malt-tax, the House and Window-tax, or any other tax, it was not intended to take such a view of the situation of the people as would lead to any solid and substantial reduction. So far as the views of Government appeared, they went directly to negative the just expectations of the people. It had been made a strong ground of objection, that those who advocated the present Motion had not thrown out any suggestion as to the mode by which the produce of the tax, if repealed, was to be replaced. Now, he never knew, in such cases, any substitute proposed that was not found fault with; and it was rather a new doctrine, that those who called for the removal of any tax should find an equivalent for it. According to that doctrine, they were all to become Chancellors of the Exchequer without any salary. With respect to the propriety of a Property tax, he would quote the opinion of a living authority—not the authority of Mr. Hus- 827 kisson or of Mr. Ricardo—but that of the right hon. Gentleman, the Vice-President of the Board of Trade. In 1830, a few months previous to his accession to the office which he now filled, in speaking of a Property-tax, he used these words, "that, with sufficient security, and under proper limitations, such a change in the mode of taxation would be beneficial in the highest degree."* All the Members who now wished for this tax, were denounced as visionaries; and yet, here they were told by a distinguished individual, a Gentleman connected with the financial department of the Government, that, "with sufficient security and proper limitations," the Property-tax was a desirable one. Were they, then, who, on the present occasion, favoured this tax, to suggest "the proper limitations?" It surely was the duty of the Cabinet, and not of those who were unconnected with the Government, to undertake that task. Still he thought, that there was no great difficulty in it. The deficit might be laid on the Crown lands. They might be made the primary security for 7,000,000l. of money. It was perfectly clear to him, that the Government had gone its full length in its nominal reformation of the expenditure, and that it could go no further. Some Gentlemen said, that if a Property-tax were levied, it would not last six months. Such was the general abhorrence in which it was held, that hon. Members declared, that the payment of the tax would be decidedly refused. But from whom would that refusal come? From those who were to pay it? What! would the landlords of England—would those who had pledged their lives and fortunes to sustain the Constitution of the country—would they be so rebellious—would they be so jacobinical—as to demur against the payment of this impost? It was an insult to the pride of the country to imagine any such refractory feeling. The hon. member for Westminster talked of the blanket which was insufficient to cover all those who were struggling to obtain a share of it. But he forgot, that, under the centre of the blanket, there were some persons lying snugly enough, while all those at the extremities were almost ready to tear each other to pieces for a little warmth and a little covering.
§ Lord John Russell
observed, that the* Hansard (new series) xxiii. p. 876828 hon. and learned Gentleman who had just spoken, wished to know what was the meaning of the terms "it is not 'at present' expedient to adopt a tax on income and property," which were contained in his noble friend's Amendment. He would suppose that this particular tax was recommended by his right hon. friend, the Vice-President of the Board of Trade three years ago; but the question was, what was, the situation of Government at present? He concurred entirely with the hon. member for Liverpool, that Ministers ought, in all their proceedings, to endeavour to establish a feeling of confidence throughout the country. He admitted that the resources of the country might be swelled out by a variety of schemes, but, in the end, he believed, that disappointment and vexation would be the consequence of those schemes. Let the House look at the important subjects which now necessarily occupied the attention of Government. There was the Bank charter—there was the East-India Company's charter—there was the consideration of the state of their subjects in the West Indies. It was at such a time as this that they were called on to alter the whole financial system of the country. Those who called for an Income-tax, by getting rid of various other taxes, ought to pause before they loosened the whole financial system of the country. They ought to consider well before they proposed that which, instead of assisting the revenue and relieving the country, might end in disappointment and discontent. A gentleman who had written a book on the subject of this tax, had enumerated no less than eight different schemes respecting it. The choice between these various plans would surely require the most grave consideration; and, after all, not one of them might be found to answer. He therefore had decided to support the resolution of his noble friend. Looking abstractedly to the benefit likely to be derived from a tax on income and property, he thought that it would not be right, at the present moment, to adopt such an impost. It appeared to him, that such a course of proceeding would be unwise; but if a tax of that nature were to be imposed, it ought not to be to the amount of only a few millions,—no, it ought to be laid on to such an extent as would give an effectual spring to the industry of the country. The hon. and learned member for Dublin had ex- 829 claimed against the injustice of extending this tax to Ireland. Now, feeling every commiseration for Ireland, he must say, that, in future, if it were found necessary to levy this tax, it should apply to Ireland as well as to England.
§ Dr. Lushington
rose, amidst considerable confusion. He begged of the House to recollect the situation in which he and other Gentlemen stood, who represented metropolitan boroughs. He hoped, therefore, that the House would permit him to state the grounds on which he voted on the present occasion. Had the Motion of the hon. and worthy Alderman been made before Friday last, he (Dr. Lushington) should certainly have voted for it; for, in the district which he represented, there was so much suffering and calamity, the inhabitants were so overwhelmed by a diminution of trade, and by other difficulties, that it was his firm conviction, that it would be all but impossible for them to pay the House and Window-tax in the present year. Such was the state of the population of that district, that there were persons earning only eight, nine, or ten shillings a week, who were nevertheless liable to pay the House and Window-tax for the houses they inhabited. But he had only the choice of two evils; and the question which he asked himself was, which was the less evil to inflict on his unfortunate constituents? It was proposed to add the repeal of the House and Window-tax to the repeal of the Malt-duty, and to supply the deficiency in the revenue by a Property-tax. Now, which would be the greater evil? To continue the House and Window-tax, modified, as his noble friend proposed to modify it, and the Malt-duty, which was not very sensibly felt by his constituents, or to impose a Property or Income-tax, without any defined limitations, without ascertaining how it was likely to operate; with no guide as to the manner in which it would be received, other than the melancholy experience of the detestation and horror with which it had formerly been considered by the greater portion of the people as the most inquisitorial imposition that ever existed. He, for one, had voted for the Motion of the hon. member for Worcester. If that Motion had been carried, and a Committee had been appointed, the result would have been a report, showing one of two things—either that a Property-tax was practicable, under certain limitations and 830 restrictions, or that it was impracticable altogether. In voting for his noble friend's Amendment, he was aware that he should lose all his power in the district which he had the honour to represent, and that he was sacrificing himself to a sense of duty. He agreed with the right hon. member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel), that they ought never to forget the celebrated passage of Burke, which the right hon. Baronet had then quoted, and for himself, please God, he never would forget it; and if, at any period, it was the duty of Members of that House to oppose themselves to the will of their constituents, it was ten thousand times more so at a period like the present, when they had, for the greater part, such numerous constituencies at their backs. If they did not obey the dictates of their conscience, and of their sober and deliberate judgment, they would become the mere puppets of their constituents. He was determined that his own judgment should be his guide, and that no earthly power should induce him to act in contradiction to its dictates. He had one motive more for the course which he was pursuing, and which he would honestly avow. He had been, for seven-and-twenty years, attached to his friends who now held the reins of Government; and he should rue it as the greatest mischief that could befal the country, if they, and especially his noble friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, were to retire from office. It would give him the deepest pain if any vote of his should contribute to so melancholy a catastrophe; convinced as he was, without meaning to disparage any other individual, that it would be most difficult to find a substitute for his noble friend of equal honesty and integrity.
§ Mr. William Brougham
would not take up the time of the House for five minutes. He also was placed in a situation of great difficulty. The hon. Gentleman might sneer, but he little knew what it was to see the extraordinary distress which prevailed among the hundred thousand persons in the district which he had the honour to represent,—to know that they believed that distress would be greatly alleviated by the repeal of the House and Window-tax,—to feel that although, under other circumstances, he would support the repeal to the utmost of his ability, and yet to find himself so placed, that, as an honest man, he must vote against the proposition. He had been returned to that House on no pledges. All that he had assured his constituents was, that he would vote honestly. 831 If the proposition were singly for the repeal of the House and Window-tax, he should feel no hesitation in supporting it. But taking the repeal of that tax in connexion with the repeal of the Malt-duty, the question arose if they could do without it. If not. Government would be placed in a situation of great difficulty. Had the Government a surplus to the deficit which would be occasioned by the hon. Alderman's motion? It was clear that they had not. The surplus amounted only to 1,500,000l.; and, by the vote of Friday evening, added to the vote of this evening, if the proposition were agreed to, the deficit would amount to no less than 5,000,000l. Under the existing circumstances, he could not vote for the repeal of any tax until an adequate substitute had been provided. In supporting his noble friend's Amendment, however, he pledged himself no further than to vote for the inexpediency of repealing those taxes, and imposing a Property-tax at the present moment; leaving it perfectly open for the future, to consider whether a Property-tax, under proper limitations, might not be advantageously adopted.
rose, amidst cries of "Question! question!" It had not been his intention to say a single word; but it seemed to be expected that all the Representatives of the Metropolitan districts should explain the reasons of their vote. As the Representative of a large constituency, he felt entitled to express his sentiments; and if hon. Gentlemen persisted in interrupting him, he would move an adjournment. In the vote he should give, he would follow the dictate of his own judgment, for no man was more averse from giving pledges on any subject than he was. He thought that those who voted for a large reduction of taxation without being prepared to support the imposition of a Property-tax, which was allowed to be the only substitute for the taxes to be taken off, were not acting with any regard to consistency. He himself was an advocate for the imposition of a Property-tax. He thought it was calculated to give a spring to the industry of the people. Upon the representation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, many hon. Gentlemen had postponed Motions which were intended to relieve the burthens of the people until the Budget was brought forward, and now, when that event had taken place, what relief was promised? Merely a few paltry items of taxation were 832 proposed to be taken off. It was his intention to vote for the proposition of the hon. Baronet, and he could but express his surprise that a different course should have been adopted by the hon. Baronet, the member for Westminster, (Sir Francis Burdett), who, while he approved of a Property-tax, and was pledged to support the repeal of the Assessed-taxes, voted against the Motion of the hon. Baronet, the member for the City of London.
§ The House divided on the Question that the words proposed by Lord Althorp to be left out stand part of the question—Ayes 157: Noes 355: Majority 198.
§ Sir William Ingilby
complained of the manner in which the question of the repeal of the Malt-duty had been smothered under that of the House and Window-duties. He thought the House ought to decide directly whether it would rescind the Motion of Friday. For that purpose he would move, as an Amendment on Lord Althorp's Motion which was then the main question, that all the words relating to the Malt-duty should be omitted.
§ Mr. Henry Handley
The noble Lord had complained of the embarrassment in which he had been placed; but the Members of that House, also, had been placed in great embarrassment. Thinking he understood the English language, he had believed the noble Lord would have been the last man in the House to say what he did not mean. On Friday night, after the debate, he went down to his constituents, and told them that half the Malt-duty had been repealed. He was in the market the following day—he saw the joyous countenances of the farmers—he saw what had not been seen for some time—smiles upon their countenances—and he came back instructed to ask the noble Lord whether he would take the duty off stock in hand. If the noble Lord proposed thus cavalierly ["no, no!" "yes, yes!"]. He said, thus cavalierly to rescind the Motion to 833 which the House came the other night, he would add fearfully to the despondency and despair which already existed.
said, if the House intended to rescind the Resolution, they should do it with something like decency and propriety. The Question should be settled by a formal Resolution.
Sir Thomas Freemantle
said, that though he had not voted for the Resolution on Friday, yet, considering how much the feeling of the people had been excited by the vote to which they then came, he should support that vote. They were bound to keep the promises which they had made to the people.
§ Sir William Ingilby
declared he would press his Amendment to a division. He had hitherto supported the present Administration, but, from their conduct on this occasion all the confidence which he had hitherto had in them was destroyed.
§ The House divided on the Question that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question—Ayes 285; Noes 131: Majority 154.
§ Main Question agreed to.
Sir William Ingilby moved, that leave be given to bring in a Bill pursuant to the Resolution respecting the Duties on Malt passed on Friday last, upon which the House again divided—Ayes 76; Noes 238: Majority 162.*
* We think it right to subjoin here the official report of these complicated divisions. The following are the entries in the journals.
HOUSE AND WINDOW TAX.—Motion made and question proposed,—"That it is expedient to grant relief to his Majesty's subjects by repealing that portion of the Assessed taxes charged on inhabited houses and windows:"—Amendment proposed to leave out from the word "that" to the end of the question, in order to add the words "the deficiency in the revenue which would be occasioned by a reduction of the tax on Malt to 10s. the quarter, and by the repeal of the tax on houses and windows, could only be supplied by the substitution of a general tax on property and income, and an extensive change in our whole financial system, which would at present be inexpedient: "—Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question.
§ Question put: the House divided; Ayes 157, Noes 355. Question proposed, "That the words 'the deficiency in the revenue which would be occasioned by a reduction of the tax on Malt to 10s. the quarter, and by the repeal
|A List of the AYES on the First Division.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Berkeley, Hon. C. F.|
|Attwood, M.||Bewes, T.|
|Attwood, T.||Bish, T.|
|Baillie, J. E.||Blackstone, W. S.|
|Bainbridge, E. T.||Blamire, W.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Blandford, Marq. of|
|Barnett, C. J.||Bowes, J.|
|Bayntun, S. A.||Brocklehurst, J.|
|Beauclerk, Major||Brodie, Capt.|
|Beaumont, T. W.||Brotherton, J.|
|Bell, M.||Buckingham, J. S.|
§ of the tax on houses and windows, could only be supplied by the substitution of a general tax on property and income, and an extensive change in our whole financial system, which would at present be inexpedient,' be added to the word 'that.'" Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, to leave out all the words after the word "windows," and add the words "ought and can be provided for by every possible reduction in the establishments and expenditure of the country: and if that should prove insufficient to meet the deficiency, the amount to be raised by the substitution of new taxes that should bear less heavily on the industry of the country than the Malt and House and Window taxes have borne." Amendment, by leave, withdrawn. Another Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, to leave out the words "by a reduction of the tax op malt to 10s. the quarter," and—question put, "That those words stand part of the said proposed Amendment:"—The House divided: Ayes 285, Noes 131. Question, "That the words 'the deficiency in the revenue which would be occasioned by a reduction of the tax on malt to 10s. the quarter, and by the repeal of the tax on houses and windows could only be supplied by the substitution of a general tax on property and income, and an extensive change in our whole financial system, which would at present be inexpedient,' be added to the word 'that' in the original question:" put, and agreed to. Main question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Resolved,—That the deficiency in the revenue which would be occasioned by a reduction of the tax on Malt to 10s. the quarter and by the repeal of the lax on houses and windows, could only be supplied by the substitution of a general fax on property and income, and an extensive change in our whole financial system, which would at present be inexpedient.
§ MALT.—Resolution (26th of April) read as follows:—
§ Resolved,—"That it is the opinion of this House that the duty upon malt be reduced to 10s. the quarter."
§ Motion made, and question put, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill pursuant to the said Resolution." The House divided: Ayes 76; Noes 238.
|Bulwer, E. L.||Lowther, C. H.|
|Burrell, Sir C.||Lowther, Viscount|
|Byng, G.||Lyall, G.|
|Chandos, Marquess of||Maxwell, Sir J.|
|Chaplin, Col. J.||Methuen, P.|
|Chetwynd, Capt. W. F.||Miller, W. H.|
|Chichester, J. P. B.||Molesworth, W. H.|
|Clay, W.||O'Brien, C.|
|Clayton, W. R.||O'Connell, D.|
|Collier, J.||O'Connell, M.|
|Cookes, T. H.||O'Connell, C.|
|Crawley, S.||O'Connell, J.|
|Curteis, Capt. E. B.||O'Connell, Morgan|
|Dare, R. W. H.||Oswald, R. A.|
|Dawson, E.||Palmer, Gen.|
|Denison, W. J.||Palmer, C. F.|
|Dundas, Capt. J. W.||Palmer, Robert|
|Ellis, W.||Parker, Sir H.|
|Etwall, R.||Parrott, J.|
|Ewart, W.||Pease, J.|
|Faithfull, G.||Penleaze, T. S.|
|Fancourt, Major||Petre, Hon. E.|
|Fellowes, H. A.||Phillips, M.|
|Fellowes, Hon. N.||Phillpotts, J.|
|Fenton, John||Pigot, R.|
|Ferguson, G. R. N.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Finn, W. F.||Pollock, F.|
|Fitzsimon, C.||Potter, R.|
|Fryer, Rich.||Poulter, J.|
|Gaskell, D.||Ramsbottorn, J.|
|Gillon, W. D.||Richards, J.|
|Godson, R.||Rider, J.|
|Goring, H. D.||Rippon, C.|
|Greene, T. G.||Robinson, G. R.|
|Gronow, Capt. R. H.||Roche, W.|
|Grote, G.||Roe, James|
|Halcomb, J.||Roebuck, J. A.|
|Hall, B.||Russell, C.|
|Handley, B.||Ruthven, E. S.|
|Handley, Henry||Ruthven, E.|
|Hanmer, H.||Scale, Col.|
|Hardy, J.||Sharpe, M.|
|Harvey, D. W.||Shaw, R. N.|
|Henniker, Lord||Sinclair, G.|
|Hill, M. D.||Spankie, Sergeant|
|Hodges, T. L.||Spry, S. T.|
|Hoskins, K.||Stanley, E.|
|Hotham, Lord||Staunton, G. P.|
|Hughes, H.||Stewart, J.|
|Hume, J.||Thompson, Ald.|
|Humphery, J.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Hutt, W.||Tapps, G. W.|
|Irton, S.||Tayleure, W.|
|Ingilby, W. A.||Tennyson, C.|
|Jervis, J.||Tollemache, Hon. A.|
|Jolliffe, Col. H.||Tooke, W.|
|Kemp, T. R.||Torrens, R.|
|Kerrison, Sir E.||Townshend, Lord C.|
|Key, Sir J.||Turner, W.|
|Lalor, P.||Tynte, C. J. K.|
|Langton, Col. G.||Vigors, N. A.|
|Leech, John||Wallace, R.|
|Lennox, Lord A.||Walter, John|
|Lennox, Lord W.||Wason, R.|
|Lister, C.||Watkins, J. L.|
|Lloyd, J. H.||Whalley, Sir S.|
|Locke, W.||Wigney, J. N.|
|Williams, Col. G.||Wood, M.|
|Wilmot, Sir J. E. B.||Wyndham, W.|
|Windham, W. H.||Young, G.|
|List of the NOES on the Second Division.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Herbert, Hon. S.|
|Arbuthnot, Maj.-Gen.||Hodges, T. L.|
|Attwood, M.||Hoskins, K.|
|Attwood, T.||Hughes, H.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Hume, J.|
|Baring, A.||Irton, S.|
|Baring, H.||Jolliffe, H.|
|Bainbridge, E. T.||Kemp, J. R.|
|Bayntun, S. A.||Kerrison, Sir E.|
|Beauclerk, A. W.||Lalor, P.|
|Bell, M.||Langdale, Hon. C.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Langton, Col. Gore|
|Benett, J.||Leech, John|
|Bish, T.||Lennox, Lord W.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Lester, E. C.|
|Blamire, W. E.||Locke, W.|
|Blandford, Marq. of||Lowther, Viscount|
|Bolling, W.||Lowther, Hon. Col.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Maxwell, Sir J.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Maxwell, H.|
|Burrell, Sir C.||Methuen, P.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Norreys, Lord|
|Chandos, Marq. of||O'Bryen, C.|
|Chetwynd, W. F.||O'Connell, Maurice|
|Clayton, Lieut.-Col.||O'Connell, Morgan|
|Cole, Viscount||O'Connell, John|
|Conolly, E. M.||O'Connell, Charles|
|Cookes, T. H.||Ossulston, Lord|
|Cooper, E. J.||Oswald, J.|
|Crawley, S.||Oswald, R. A.|
|Curteis, Capt.||Palmer, R.|
|Dare, R. W. H.||Parker, Sir Hyde|
|Dawson, E.||Parrot, Jasper|
|Denison, W. J.||Pease, Joseph|
|Duncombe, Hon. W.||Perrin, Lewis|
|Dundas, Capt.||Perceval, Col. A.|
|Dillwyn, L. W.||Philips, Mark|
|Etwall, R.||Pigot, R.|
|Fancourt, Major||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Fellowes, H. A. W.||Potter, R.|
|Fellowes, Hon. N.||Poulter, J. S.|
|Ferguson, G.||Roe, J.|
|Finn, W. R.||Ruthven, E.|
|Fitzsimon, C.||Sanderson, R.|
|Fitzsimon, N.||Shawe, R. N.|
|Forester, Hon. G. C. W.||Stanley, E.|
|Fox, S. L.||Stewart, J.|
|Freemantle, Sir T.||Stormont, Viscount|
|Fryer, R.||Talmash, Algernon|
|Gaskell, J. M.||Tapps, G. W.|
|Gaskell, D.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Gore, M.||Tennyson, Rt. Hon. C.|
|Goring, H. D.||Thompson, Ald.|
|Gillon, W. D.||Tooke, Wm.|
|Grimston, Viscount||Torrens, Lieut.-Col.|
|Guise, Sir W.||Trevor, Hon. G. R. B.|
|Hall, B.||Tullamore, Lord|
|Handley, H.||Tynte, C. J. K.|
|Hanmer, Sir J.||Tyrell, C.|
|Hay, Sir J.||Tyrrell, Sir John|
|Hayes, Sir E.||Verner, W.|
|Henniker, Lord||Vigors, N. A.|
|Wallace, R.||Wood, Col. T.|
|Walter, J.||Wyndham, W.|
|Watkins, J. L. V.|
|Wilmot, Sir J. E.||Ingilby, Sir W.|
|Windham, W. H.||O'Connell, D.|