HC Deb 20 February 1833 vol 15 cc993-6
Mr. Walter

said, that, in consequence of the recent indisposition of the hon. members for Reading, his Colleagues and himself, who were members for the county, had been instructed to present a Petition, which had been signed by 900 of the inhabitants of that borough. The subject of the petition was a complaint against the nature of the Assessed-taxes, as well as their unequal distribution. He had the greater pleasure in discharging this duty, as he could bear testimony to the truth of the statements contained in the petition. No one, indeed, who had ever sat as a Commissioner for the Assessed-taxes, could be ignorant of the inequality—he would even say the injustice—which prevailed in the manner of assessing houses. The petition alleged that very few of the gentlemen's houses in the county were rated at more than 40l. a-year, while many tradesmen in Reading were rated higher for their premises. The same was known to be true with regard to other towns. The tax on clerks and shopmen was peculiarly harsh, inasmuch as a tradesman could not call upon his own son to assist him in his business, without rendering himself liable to this impost. There were other parts of the Assessed-taxes which created daily vexation, though, at the same time, they were little productive. The hon. Member concluded by declaring that he heartily concurred in the prayer of the petition, and that he should support the views of the petitioners to the utmost of his power.

Mr. Robert Palmer

observed, that he would always be an advocate for the repeal of such of the Assessed-taxes as pressed most heavily on the people, but he did not see clearly that the repeal of the whole of these imposts would be so beneficial to the community at large, as the repeal of a portion of them. There were other taxes, in his opinion, which might be lessened with greater advantage to the necessities of the people. The House of Commons, besides, was not called upon to legislate merely for the benefit of particular classes—its functions were of a more extended nature, and it was bound to look, in the framing of any measure, to what would most conduce to the general interests of the community. He must say, however, that in his opinion the repeal of that portion of the Assessed-taxes more particularly alluded to in the petition just presented, would be a measure generally beneficial; and he should be happy to find that the noble Lord opposite was successful in any endeavour he might make to effect a more equal assessment of the other portion. Before he sat down, he must beg leave to say, that a very general disappointment was expressed throughout the country, that no relief had yet been afforded the people in the way of reduced taxation. The great majority of the people were, however, looking to the Reformed Parliament for relief from the burthen of excessive taxation, and he trusted they would not be disappointed in their expectations much longer.

Mr. Hume

entirely concurred in what had fallen from the hon. Member who had just sat down. He could corroborate the hon. Member's assertion, that a very strong feeling of disappointment pervaded the community, in consequence of no attempt having been made by Government to effect a reduction in the taxation of the country. How, indeed, could any reduction be effected if hon. Members were determined to support measures for carrying civil war into Ireland, and for the consequent maintenance of a large military force in that country? Was coercion the preliminary step to a repeal of taxes? And these measures, it seemed, were to be hurried forward without any evidence being adduced as to their necessity. He (Mr. Hume) could only say, that if they were carried through the House, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to effect any essential reduction of taxation.

Mr. O'Connell

hoped his Majesty's Ministers had received intelligence of the manner in which their projects of coercion had been received in Ireland, not only, he would say, by the agitating party, but also by that party which supported the administration of the Marquess of Anglesey. If they had not, he could assure them that he had received information which induced him to believe that that latter party had expressed even more indignation upon the subject than any other body of men in the kingdom. Indeed, no persons but the blind and duped agents of the Government in Ireland could fail to perceive that the end of those arbitrary measures was, to lay the foundation of civil war in Ireland, and to render her connexion with England a curse instead of a blessing.

Mr. Gilbert Heathcote

deprecated so much discussion about Ireland. He wished the attention of the House was only half as much occupied by a subject of such pressing importance as the repeal of the Assessed-taxes. With regard to the equalization of the House-tax, which had been alluded to by the hon. member for Berkshire, he could only say, that he would support the equalization of a tax which he thought might be considered peculiarly a metropolitan tax, provided it was founded on a Principle of just valuation. He most cordially agreed in the sentiments expressed by the hon. members for Berkshire and Middlesex, that something must be done, and speedily, for the relief of the people. Hon. Members might talk night after night, and entertain themselves by the delivery of lengthened orations, but would the people be satisfied with the flowers of eloquence, when they were expecting immediate and practical benefit by exoneration from a part at least of the burthens imposed on them?

Mr. Fergus O'Connor

agreed with the hon. Member who had just sat down, that long speeches were sometimes not very beneficial; but he deprecated the idea that no allusions to Ireland should be mixed up with debate on other matters. The hon. member for Middlesex had said truly, that it was impossible to reduce our establishments while the grievances of Ireland remained unredressed. Besides, hon. Gentlemen should recollect that to the English the question was only one of taxation, while to the Irish it was a question of life and death. The Representatives of Ireland would not do their duty, unless they endeavoured by every means to defeat the measures in the contemplation of his Majesty's Government.

Petition to lie on the Table.