HC Deb 02 June 1834 vol 24 cc86-90

On the Motion of Lord Althorp that the House-Tax Repeal Bill be read a third time,

Mr. Hughes Hughes

said, he rose to submit to the House the Motion of which he had given notice for the insertion of a clause in the Bill, enacting, that all and every persons and person, who were or was assessed to the rates and duties on windows or lights, for the year or half year, ending on the 5th day of April last, shall be entitled to make or open, and keep open, free of duty, any additional number of windows or lights, in their, his, or her dwelling-house, warehouse, shop, or other premises so assessed; and that no person or persons not so assessed for his, her, or their dwelling-house, warehouse, shop, or other premises, by reason of the same not containing six windows or lights, shall be brought into assessment, or made liable to rates and duties, because of the opening of any addi- tional number of windows or lights in such dwelling-house, warehouse, shop, or other premises. The noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and his right hon. predecessor in that office, must alike acknowledge that he had not tormented them on questions of finance. It was the first proposition which, during the three Parliaments he had had a seat in that House, he had made on such a subject; and it did not go to diminish, but in point of fact to increase, the revenue. He was not one of those who considered the national faith as a cant term, and he was aware, that that House, having responded to the call of the country for the abolition of Negro slavery, and incurred a charge of twenty millions sterling on that account, it was not in the power of the Government, with a due regard to the maintenance of the national credit, to repeal the duty on windows, which they might otherwise have done in the present year, the amount of that duty and of the interest on the twenty millions being much the same. By his proposition, however, while not one shilling of revenue would be sacrificed, considerable relief would be afforded to the agricultural, in common with the manufacturing and trading interests—to the small farmer as well as the shopkeeper and humble classes of society. By means of it, increased light and air, so necessary to the comfort and health of the community, would be admitted as effectually as, by the repeal of the present duty on windows, by which alone it was obvious, that no additional light or air would he obtained. By his clause, moreover, coupled with a requirement that the officers of every parish should make a half-yearly report to the Commissioners of Taxes of the number of windows in any new house in their parish, opportunity would be afforded for discharging the whole tribe of surveyors, inspectors, assessors, and other officers which must otherwise be kept up, notwithstanding the repeal of the House-tax. But, as he had said, the Revenue, so far from suffering diminution, would be increased by his proposition, inasmuch as it would cause a great addition to the excise, in the duty on glass and other articles used in the construction of windows. He could imagine but one objection, or rather answer, to his proposal—that the parties might obtain the desired relief by compounding for their windows, under the Bill which was about to be brought in for that purpose. That, however, was not the case; an additional five per cent was charged on compounding upon an existing assessment, which equalled the duty on two or three windows, and would not, therefore, be the same thing with the immunity he proposed to grant. In common with many hon. Members, he compounded for his Window-duty in the year 1819, and had since opened what windows he pleased, without fear of its increase, or, what was worse, of a surcharge; the composition which was originally made for three years had been renewed from time to time, and existed at the present period, from which he had a right to argue, that it had been found to work well. Now what he sought by his clause was, to afford to others the privilege he had himself so long enjoyed. He moved, that the clause be brought up.

Mr. Hume

seconded the Motion, the utility and importance of which he enforced.

Lord Althorp

hoped the hon. member for Oxford would consent to withhold his clause, and move it in some stage of the Assessed Taxes' Composition Bill about to be introduced, admitting, at the same time, that it had not received that attention from the Government which it merited, and he promised to give to it, with a sincere desire, if possible, to agree with it.

Mr. Spring Rice

urged upon the hon. member for Oxford to extend the courtesy he had already repeatedly shown, by deferring his Motion, at the request of the Government, and agree to the suggestion of his noble friend.

Mr. Hughes Hughes

reminded the right hon. Gentleman, that not only notice of his Motion, but the very words of his clause had been repeatedly printed in their votes, and the Government could not, therefore, say they were taken by surprise; notwithstanding which, he was disposed, after what had passed, to meet the wishes of the noble Lord. He hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer might shortly feel at liberty to repeal the Window-duty altogether, but the effect of the adoption of his proposition would certainly be, to cause the tax to be more patiently submitted to during the time it was necessarily continued. The most important portion of his clause had been overlooked in the debate; at present, a House not containing six windows or lights paid no duty whatever; and numerous were the instances in which an addition of one or two windows would be made, but that duty would then attach to the whole of the windows in the house. Now, he proposed, being the very case he most desired to meet, that the opening of additional windows or lights in such houses should not cause them to be brought into assessment. He should certainly not only make, but enforce, his proposition, in the Assessed Taxes' Composition Bill.

Bill read a third time, and passed.