Mr. Hesketh Fleet wood
presented a Petition from the master cotton-spinners and manufacturers of Preston and its neighbourhood, complaining of the duty on raw cotton, and praying its immediate repeal. This duty was in a 130 high degree objectionable, on the ground of its exposing the manufacturers of this country to a most disadvantageous competition with their French rivals, who, having no such imposts to endure, were able to meet the British manufacturers, and injure them seriously in all the European markets. He thought, also, that the petitioners had a right to object to this duty, as pressing heavily upon the lower classes, while the silk duties chiefly affected the upper classes, and even in cotton itself the duty weighed the most heavily upon the coarse and cheap goods; finally, the duty was objectionable on the ground of principle, for the worst of all taxes was a tax upon raw material, especially upon a material employing so large a portion of the population. It had been his intention to have brought forward a motion on the subject, but having some reason to hope that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Board of Trade would make such an announcement to the House of his own views on the subject as to afford good ground for expecting its repeal in the course of next Session, he preferred, for the present, merely to say a few words in support of the petition.
§ Mr. Brotherton
conceived nothing could be more impolitic than the imposing a tax on raw cotton. The long hours of labour of those employed in our manufactories, and the low wages in particular which the weavers received, were considered necessary, in order that this country might be able to compete in the foreign market; and yet a tax was continued on the raw material. He trusted that this tax, which pressed so heavily on the industry of the country, would not be suffered much longer to remain.
considered the duty on raw cotton to be every way objectionable. It was a tax which pressed most severely on a class of persons who were the least able to bear it, and he hoped the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would endeavour to remove it as speedily as possible.
§ Mr. Baines
felt great pleasure in supporting the prayer of the petition. Whenever a tax had been imposed upon the raw material, it had been found to operate prejudicially, and its removal had been hailed with satisfaction by the country. There was no boon that could be offered to the manufacturers that would be re- 131 ceived with greater gratitude by them than the repeal of this tax, and he was convinced there was none that would tend more to promote the interests of commerce.
§ Mr. Poulett Thomson
said, it was needless to say he fully concurred in the observations of those hon. Members who had preceded him. He viewed any duty upon the raw material to be at all times a most impolitic tax, but more particularly upon what he might term the staple commodity of the country. He thought the Administration of Earl Grey had uniformly shown that it entertained similar views, and it had also manifested an unceasing endeavour to relieve industry from this species of taxation. In corroboration of what he said, he referred with peculiar satisfaction to what had been effected with regard to the tax upon printed calico. The original tax had not only been repealed, but also the substitute for that tax, and the rated duty reduced below what it was before. Should his noble friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, have a surplus revenue next year, he trusted he would be able to avail himself of the opportunity to satisfy the wishes of those on whom taxes of this description peculiarly pressed. He believed the best mode of relieving the country from the oppression of taxation was, to extend industry, and to find employment for the whole of the people. This could never be better done than by reducing the taxes upon the raw material.
§ Mr. George Wood
had heard the sentiments which had just fallen from the right hon. Gentleman, with very great satisfaction. He sincerely hoped, considering the important station of his right hon. friend, another year would not be suffered to pass without the country witnessing the removal of this most injurious tax.