HC Deb 04 August 1838 vol 44 cc1001-5
The Chancellor of the Exchequer

moved, that the report on the Duchy of Cornwall tin duties be brought up, it was brought up accordingly. He then moved, that the following resolutions be read a second time:— 1. That the duties of customs payable on the importation of tin and tin ore shall cease, and, in lieu thereof, the following duties shall be paid, that is to say—

£ s. d.
"Tin, the cwt 0 15 0
"Tin ore, for every 100l. of the value 10 0 0
2. That the duties payable on the coinage of tin in the counties of Cornwall and Devon shall be abolished. 3. That in lieu of the coinage duties on tin, in the counties of Cornwall and Devon, the Commissioners of her Majesty's Treasury be authorized to direct the issue to her Majesty, or the personage entitled to the revenues of the duchy of Cornwall, of an annual stun out of the consolidated fund equal to the net average annual amount of the said coinage duties. 4. That the commissioners of her Majesty's Treasury be authorized to make compensations out of the consolidated fund, to all officers and others employed in relation to the said coinage duties, for any loss they may sustain by the abolition thereof.

Mr. Hume

objected to the resolutions, which he characterised as most extraordinary. A resolution had been secretly introduced at midnight to take 22,000l. from the Consolidated Fund, to put into the pockets of the persons who held the income of the Duchy of Cornwall, and to relieve the owners of tin mines of the duty they had hitherto paid. He did not object to her Majesty making an abatement of this duty. Early in the Session he had taken an objection to the Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster being attached to the Civil List. The right hon. Gentleman said he would bring in a bill to regulate them; he had never done so, and it was not until after twelve o'clock on a previous night when resolutions were gone into with respect to the tin duties. The revenues of the Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster from June, 1837, to June, 1838, were 28,466l., the expenses 12,000l., being an expense of upwards of thirty per cent. towards a collection of the revenue. Of those revenues 19,679l. was what was called the tin duties, which were fifteen shillings a ton. It then provided that the duties on the coinage of tin should be abolished, and in lieu of those duties now payable by the proprietors to her Majesty as Duke of Cornwall—that the amount of these duties 19,679l. should be charged upon the Consolidated Fund. But that was not all; the commissioners of her Majesty's Treasury were authorized to pay the officers for any loss sustained by the abolition of these duties. The salaries and annuities amounted to 5,300l. for the last half year. Why the act was as black as the midnight hour at which it was brought in. He never knew of anything so atrocious or so audacious in the annals of the proceedings of that House. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not broken his word to the House, and to him, was there any man living who would not have moved for a committee to inquire into the circumstances? This was an attempt to interfere with the public monies without due notice, and he should move that the report be read this day three months.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that however he might be induced by the conduct and example of the hon. Gentleman to indulge in language as strong as that which he had felt himself justified in using, he knew too well the respect which he owed to the House and to the usages and feelings of gentlemanly society, to pursue the same course as the hon. Gentleman. Even if he were to condescend to follow his example, he doubted whether he should produce any salutary effect. He would, therefore simply confine himself to a true statement of the facts of the case, and he was willing to constitute hon. Members his jury. If they acquitted the hon. Member and condemned him, that acquittal would only arise from their being able to trace to the hon. Member such an absence of all memory and recollection as would protect him from the imputation of falsehood, but would leave him open to the imputation of the most unparalleled and inexcusable ignorance. He wished to call the attention of the House to the principle on which this resolution was founded. The measure was neither unjust to the public, nor one which the House had any right to complain of. A few months ago a public meeting had been held in Cornwall, from which a petition had been sent to that House, complaining of the grievances of the present tin duties in Cornwall, and praying they might be abolished, and compensation granted to the Crown for the net amount they produced. The bill had been introduced in conformity with the prayer of that petition. On the first discussion with regard to the civil list, this proposition had been mentioned, and the Government had secured great advantage to the public by reducing the duties on tin, which were now prohibitory. Was it just to represent the Government as having on this occasion taken the House by surprise, in bringing forward a plan which had been so long promised. He should like to ask the hon. Gentleman whether he conceived the consumer had no interest in the matter, or that the public did not consider these duties as a weight upon them? The hon. Member had stated, that he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had said he was ready to lay the particulars of the revenues of these Duchies before the House. Now, what was it he really did state? Why, he had said, that with respect to the revenues received since the accession of her present Majesty he would give a most accurate statement of the receipts and disbursements of the Duchies; but that he would not, and could not, consistently with his duty, give them before that period, because they were then the private property of his late Majesty. He would refer to all who had better memories than the hon. Member whether what he had stated was not correct. The present account contained the full particulars of all the revenues that had been received from the Duchies since the commencement of her present Majesty's reign. He would put it to the House whether it was right under such circumstances that the hon. Member should charge him in the manner he had done. The hon. Member had dealt with the case as if it were the first of compensation that had taken place, whereas the very principle had been acted upon repeatedly by Parliament. The hon. Gentleman insinuated that her Majesty's Government were taking away the property of one class of the community to meet the defalcation of another, which could be termed nothing but robbery. He denied the accuracy of that as well as of every other statement of the hon. Gentleman. Did he forget that a bill had passed for the improvement of the administration of justice in Cornwall, one-half of the expenses of which were to be defrayed out of the revenues of the Crown? The salaries of the persons connected with the tin duties did not amount to more than 3,900l, a-year, instead of 12,000l. as asserted by the hon. Member. Did the hon. Gentleman think that a public officer should be held up to public odium, so far as his small powers went, for having complied with the prayer of a large and influential community? If so he was much mistaken, and he trusted the House would give him credit for having discharged his duty in a most straightforward manner.

Sir C. Lemon

thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer had defended himself perfectly from the attack of the hon. Member for Kilkenny. The Cornish Members wished for no concealment, and had made none.

Lord Eliot

begged to corroborate, as far as his knowledge went, the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The noble Lord concluded by expressing his regret at the necessarily tardy introduction of this measure.

Sir H. Vivian

was sorry that the hon. Member should have applied the term "disgraceful" to this bill, which he considered was most just and proper. The amount of the present duty on tin was not so much the grievance complained of as the vexatious and inconvenient proceedings which were connected with it.

Lord G. Somerset

said, that although it was his intention to support the resolution in the present stage, he should be sorry to do so on the principle set forth by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was his intention in a future stage to propose the reduction of the duty. He would support the resolution because he felt convinced, that it would never be adopted in any other reign. If he had been the responsible adviser of the Crown he would have given his assent to the proposition. He thought it wrong to take from the Crown and place on the Consolidated Fund the hereditary revenues of the country.

Mr. Poulett Thomson

entirely agreed with the noble Lord that they were justified in making the transfer, solely because they had no hope of reducing the duties on tin without resorting to some arrangement of that sort.

Resolutions agreed to and a bill founded on them, brought in and read a first time.

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