HC Deb 10 March 1835 vol 26 cc734-7
Mr. Kelly

presented a Petition from the Innkeepers and Licensed Victuallers of Ipswich, praying for the removal of the additional duty which was placed during the last year on spirits. The hon. and learned Gentleman expressed a hope that the subject would speedily undergo the consideration of the Government, and said, that if it did not, he should feel it his duty to submit a Motion on the subject to the House in the course of the present Session.

Sir John Campbell

said, that there was some hardship in the manner in which this additional duty was imposed.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer:

I submit to the good sense of the House whether it is not the duty of every hon. Gentleman who is at all interested in the remission of any of the taxes imposed last year to vote at the present moment against the repeal of the malt-duties? I will not on this occasion express any opinion upon the subject; but surely if the malt-tax be repealed the effect must be to preclude all possibility of remitting any other impost which may in the consideration of many both in and out of this House be considered objectionable.

Sir John Campbell

observed, that whether he should vote or not for the repeal of the malt-tax was not the subject which he had now to consider. His objection in the present instance was not so much to the magnitude of the tax as to the manner in which it was imposed.

Mr. Robinson

said, it had long been his anxious wish to have all questions touching the taxation of the country referred to a Select Committee, in order that it might be ascertained in the only way likely to lead to a satisfactory result what taxes ought to be remitted, and what continued. The necessity for such a course would be rendered the more obvious by the Motion which the noble Marquess opposite intended to bring forward that night. The noble Marquess proposed calling on the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give up the Malt-tax, but he would put it to the House whether a man who stood pledged to a particular line of conduct could be expected to enter upon such a question with anything like impartiality? [The Marquess of Chandos:—Not pledged; I act in accordance with my own conscientious opinions.] He must repeat what he had said, notwithstanding the denial which the noble Marquess had given to it. He felt perfectly justified in the statement which he had made. The noble Marquess was pledged, and so were other hon. Gentlemen, on this question, and lie would ask whether a person who stood in such a situation was not unfit to discharge his public duty in that House? Let them only recur to what took place last year when the pressure from without compelled the late Chancellor of the Exchequer to give up the House-tax. A similar experiment was now about to be tried on the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, and with such evidence before their eyes would not the better way be at once to have the whole subject considered by a Select Committee than to suffer the Finance Minister of the Government to remain longer liable to the embarrassments which such Mo- tions as that of the noble Marquess must inevitably occasion. While the present state of things existed, no Chancellor of the Exchequer could have anything like control over the finances of the countrv, and he was therefore convinced, that not only the wisest but the most prudent course would be—a course which would alike satisfy the Government, and the public—to adopt the suggestion which he had for the last two or three years been pressing on the attention of that House. The burthens which pressed upon the country would never be lightened until some such step was taken, and it appeared to him to be the only means by which an equal and just distribution of taxation among all classes could be safely and permanently effected. But he had no doubt that, sooner or later, the necessity for taking the course which he had pointed out would become manifest to every man in the country who had any knowledge of the subject. He should, however, feel it his duty on the present occasion to vote for the Repeal of the Malt-tax; and the ground upon which he should give his vote was because he considered that the property of the country was most unfairly exempted from bearing anything like its due proportion of the public burthens. There was a growing opinion to this effect rapidly gaining ground out of doors, and, therefore, he hoped, before long, to see a general revision of the present vicious, unjust, and cruel system of taxation, and a more equitable one established in its room. He must, however, candidly say, that he did not think the noble Marquess was dealing fairly by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, in asking him to Repeal so considerable a source of revenue as that produced by the Malt-tax without, at the same time proposing some substitute for it. He was most willing to bear his testimony to the exalted character of the noble Marquess, and to admit that he richly deserved the high opinion which was generally entertained of him; but although he made these admissions, he must assert that such a proposition as that contained in the noble Marquess's Motion, coming as it did from such a man, unaccompanied by any suggestion for supplying the deficiency which must occur in the revenue if the Malt-tax were repealed was nothing more nor less than an attack upon the public credit of the country.

Mr. Cobbett

expressed surprise at the sentiments which the hon. Member for Worcester had delivered, and said, that he entertained a firm conviction that the 400 Members of that House who were pledged to effect a Repeal of the Malt-tax would fulfil their engagements to their constituents. He denied that it was the duty of a party proposing the repeal or remission of a tax to provide a substitute for it. That was the business of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he thought it would be somewhat absurd to contend that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not bound to give up a tax unless he were provided with other means for supplying any deficiency which his doing so might occasion in the revenue. Now his great objection to the Malt-tax did not arise from the magnitude of the sum—the four millions and a half it produced to the revenue—but rather from the mischiefs which it occasioned. No tax that could be invented would, he believed, produce half so much mischief, and hence it was that he wished to see it repealed.

Petition laid upon the Table.

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