HC Deb 16 July 1838 vol 44 cc223-8
Sir M. Wood

moved the third reading of the Royal Exchange Bill.

Mr. Pryme

objected to the bill, that it proposed a tax upon coals; and he had always thought, that improvements in buildings—whether Ramsgate Pier or Royal Exchange—ought not to be carried into effect by a tax levied on one of the necessaries of life. He therefore moved, that this bill be read a third time that day six months.

Mr. Wolverly Attwood

seconded the amendment. It appeared to him, that in passing this bill, the House would, so far as the coal duty which the bill imposed was concerned, be acting in a manner entirely inconsistent with the provisions of another measure which was before the House—the Coal Trade Bill. The Coal Trade Bill was founded on the recommendation of a committee expressly appointed to consider the subject; and that bill, which was a public measure, provided that the duties on coals should be renewed for seven years, and should then be subject to the revision of the House. By the present bill, it was proposed to continue the coal duties for twenty years. Upon principle, too, he objected entirely to the providing by a coal duty for the improvement of the streets in the city of London; for that was the object, and not the re-building of the Royal Exchange, to which the sums to be raised by the tax on coals was to be applied. It was the most objectionable and oppressive tax which could be levied. It had been said, that the amount was so trifling, that the pressure upon the poor was not felt; but even the direct amount paid by the poor man yearly would be equivalent to the cost of his supply of fuel for a week or a fortnight; and indirectly, the cost of every article he consumed, his beer, his bread, his clothes, was augmented. The principle recognised was, that in the case of a city, distant as London was from the coal district, everything should be done to reduce the price of fuel, instead of increasing the cost, by taxes of this nature. The breweries, the distilleries, all the trades which were necessarily carried on in the vicinity of a large town, were obliged to compete at a great disadvantage, with the productions of establishments at a distance. It was to be observed, that this duty was levied, not only on the inhabitants of the city of London, but on all residing within a circle of about twenty miles; and he maintained, that there was no just ground for subjecting them to the burthen of this tax, and all the accompanying disadvantages, for the purpose of improving the city of London.

Mr. Labouchere

felt it his duty to say a few words, because he thought the hon. Gentleman who spoke last, had rather mis-stated the case. The hon. Gentleman had stated, that the bill which he (Mr. Labouchere) had introduced, imposed a duty upon coals for seven years; and that then it contemplated the cessation of those duties after those seven years; whereas the bill before the House, proposed to continue those duties for a much longer period. He had the pleasure of meeting the hon. Gentleman in the committee, upon whose recommendation the bill was introduced; and the hon. Gentleman must be aware, that the Coal Trade Bill, so far from imposing duties for any fixed period, only commuted the duties which already existed, and which must exist for a much longer period. The bill provided, that for the next seven years, a much more simple machinery should be applied to the collection of these duties, and one more conducive to the public advantage. That was the sole and simple object of the bill; and it was optional with Parliament, at the end of those seven years, to consider that commutation, and renew it if it were found to work well. He thought it necessary to say so much, lest the House should be led away by the statements of the hon. Gentleman. He would now address himself to the bill before the house; and he so far agreed with the hon. Member, that he thought it extremely desirable those duties should cease altogether. He should be very glad to see the time when the 8d. duty would cease, and he had strong hopes that that would speedily be effected. The House should recollect the circumstances under which this tax was levied. It was originally contemplated, that this duty of 8d. per ton should be continued for certain purposes until the year 1858, including the payment of certain money borrowed on those duties. In conse- quence, however, of the great increase of trade in the port of London, it was found that the duty might be dispensed with before that period; and that it would be but just, to provide for its ceasing. The House would admit, that it was of great general importance and interest, that the Royal Exchange, which had been destroyed by a late unfortunate accident, should be built upon a scale of splendor worthy of the importance of this great commercial metropolis; and the only question was, how the funds could be most conveniently provided for this purpose. Upon the whole, he was inclined to believe, that the recommendation of the Committee was the best course to adopt, namely, to allow the duty to continue for the full time; and it was upon that ground he should go with the proposition of the hon. Member opposite, if it was thought necessary to divide the House.

Mr. Hume

thought it was quite competent for the House to pass the bill for the purpose of making the improvement alluded to in the city of London, without any additional tax being made upon coals. He objected to the poor man being taxed for any such purpose. And, as a proof of the validity of that objection, he had only to refer to what took place in 1830, when a security was given upon the tax on coals, in order to enable the parties to proceed with the erection of London Bridge. By the bill to enable the erection of that great undertaking, a tax of 8d. was to be levied on coals till the whole amount was paid. Such a tax, he considered, sufficient on the poor man, without increasing it further, as proposed by the present bill. Out of 137,000l., which was the produce of the tax, 84,000l. was applied to the repayment of the borrowed money; if that liquidation went on, it would all be paid up in 1851 or 1852; and then, if the House did not think fit to renew the grant, then, of course, the City would revert to the 4d. per ton granted them by charter. The question for the House to consider was, whether they would continue a tax upon that which was a necessary of life to all the people of England, and the two neighbouring countries. If they passed the bill, they made that tax responsible for another 150,000l., which, at all events, would continue the tax for three years. He protested against a tax being continued for any such purpose upon an absolute necessary of life. Let the rich merchants of London follow the example of their brethren of Liverpool, and raise the money among themselves. He would ask the hon. Member to withdraw his opposition to the third reading of the bill, and to allow the sense of the House to be taken on the amendment, which would take away the power of continuing the 8d. tax on coals. When the bill was read a third time, he would propose that alteration, which would relieve them from the difficulty they were then under.

Mr. Warburton

agreed with his hon. Friend as to the propriety of the merchants of London raising a fund for the building. Those who used it ought to pay for it.

The Speaker

said, the object of the hon. Member for Kilkenny appeared to be to take a burthen from one fund and to lay it upon another; he (the Speaker) doubted if such an object could be effected upon the third reading of the bill.

Sir R. Inglis

said, it had been contended that the object of the bill was the imposition of a tax for the erection of a Royal Exchange. Such was not the case. The Royal Exchange was not to be erected with the funds arising from the coal duty continued by this bill. The object of the bill was, to make approaches to the Royal Exchange. It had been said, that the merchants of the city of London ought to be as willing to contribute to the formation of a building for their accommodation as the merchants of Bristol or of Liverpool. He did not think the London merchants would dissent from that; but he did not suppose they would pay for making new streets. He did not wish to depreciate the importance of lowering the price of coals; but he thought it would be much better to effect that desirable object by doing away with the monopoly which added forty per cent. to the price of the articles, than to stop this useful project.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that he had supported the bill in Committee, and was still prepared to support it. He did so because the bill did not impose the coal duty for the erection of an Exchange, but to make the approaches thereto. If the former had been the case there might have been some ground for the opposition. To the building of the Exchange, the city itself was to contribute. What were the purposes for which this coal tax was appropriated? Were they purposes in which the general trade and convenience of the community were to be consulted? It was in evidence, and was notorious to every one who passed through the city, that there was no greater thoroughfare and no greater embarrassment than between the Bank and the old Exchange. On these general grounds it was but just to assent to the present bill, but he did think, that the existing generation owed a species of debt to those who had been before them which they ought to pay for the benefit of posterity. It was the duty of the public at large to make the calamity which had occurred the source of convenience of the community. Had the great fire of London been turned to account in former days, and the schemes then proposed been carried into effect, conveniences would have been in existence which the public had been deprived of. If the House refused to assent to the present bill it would deprive itself of an opportunity which would never occur again, of seeing the Exchange re-built, not by the burthen of the coal tax nor by burthens on the people at large, but by the efforts of the Mercers' Company. On these grounds he gave his hearty assent to the bill. At the same time he meant to propose some verbal amendments to one of the clauses, to which he thought the introducers of the bill would not object.

Mr. Barnard

, seeing that the city of London had behaved so generously, thought that the sum provided for by the present bill ought to be granted.

Sir E. Codrington

, as one of the committee, would give his support to the bill. At the same time he must say, that if any other tax could be found he should prefer it. Money for similar purposes had been raised in former years by lotteries.

Sir B. Hall

* hoped, that he should never see lotteries instituted in the country again. He could never give his consent to the bill, as he thought that a tax on coals was most objectionable. He thought that the promoters of the bill, who had been so loud for the reduction of taxation, were acting in rather an inconsistent manner.

Mr. A. White

denied, that there was any monopoly in the coal trade: he thought the making a duty on coals for such a purpose unjust in principle, and that it would be far more creditable to the merchants of London it they would follow the example of the merchants of Liverpool, and erect the Royal Exchange and its approaches at their own expense. * Created a Baronet at the Coronation.

Sir M. Wood

did not think it necessary to detain the House for a moment in reply to the unjust attacks which had been made upon the authors of the bill. The attack of the hon. Member for Greenwich was at least ungracious, as the city, in the bill then on the table of the House, had given up 5,000l. which would go into the pockets of the owners of steam-boats. The city were called upon to lay out a vast sum of money to improve the approaches to the Bank of England, which would be a benefit to persons in all parts of London.

The House divided on the original motion. Ayes 102; Noes 38. Majority 64.

List of the AYES.
Alsager, Capt. Hutton, R.
Archbold, R. Inglis, Sir R. H.
Baillie, Col. James, W.
Baines, E. James, Sir W. C.
Barnard, E.G. Kelly, F.
Blair, J. Knight, H. G.
Bradshaw, J. Labouchere, H.
Bramston, T. W. Langdale, hon. C.
Bruges, W. H. L. Lascelles, hon. W. S.
Buller, Sir John Y. Lefroy, rt. hon. T.
Callaghan, D. Lockhart, A. M.
Campbell, Sir H. Lucas, E.
Chapman, A. Mackenzie, T.
Chute, W. L. W. M'Taggart, J.
Clay, W. Miles, P.
Clive, E. B. Morpeth, Viscount
Codrington, Sir E. Murray, J. A.
Copeland, Alderman O'Ferrall, R. M.
Crawford, W. Paget, Lord A.
Darby, George Pakington, J. S.
De Horsey, S. Palmer, G.
Dick, Q. Parker, J.
Divett, E. Parker, R. T.
Douglass, Sir C. Patten, J.
Eastnor, Lord Pattison, J.
Ebrington, Lord Peel, Sir R.
Estcourt, T. Pendarves, E. W. W.
Ferguson, Sir R. Phillpots, J.
Ferguson, R. Praed, W. T.
Freshfield, J. W. Protheroe, E.
Gordon, R. Redington, T. N.
Goulburn, H. Rice, T. S.
Graham, Sir J. Richards, R.
Grant, F. W. Rushbrooke, R.
Grimsditch, T. Russell, Lord J.
Hastie, A. Sanford, E. A.
Hawkes, T. Sinclair, Sir G.
Hawkins, J. H. Stanley, Lord
Hayter, W. G. Stansfield, C.
Heathcote, G. J. Steuart, R.
Hillsborough, Earl Stewart, J.
Hobhouse, Sir J. Sturt, H. C.
Hodges, T. L. Sugden, Sir E.
Hodgson, F. Teignmouth, Lord
Holmes, W. Thornley, T.
Hope, hon. C. Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Howard, P. H. Vivian, J. H.
Hurst, R. H. Westenra, H. R.
Hutt, W. Wilmot, Sir J. E.
Yates, J. A. Wood, Sir M.
Young, J. Grote, G.
List of the NOES.
Aglionby, H. A. O'Brien, W. S.
Attwood, W. O'Connell, D.
Attwood, M. Ord, W.
Bridgeman, H. Packs, C. W.
Bryan, G. Pechell, Captain
Chandos, Marquess of Phillips, M.
Clements, Viscount Praed, W. M.
Collins, W. Pryme, G.
Denison, W. J. Salwey, Colonel
Evans, Sir De L. Somerset, Lord G.
Finch, F. Somerville, Sir W. M.
Fremantle, Sir T. Style, Sir C.
Gibson, T. Warburton, H.
Harvey, D. W. Ward, H. G.
Hawes, B. White, A.
Hodgson, R. Williams, W.
Howick, Lord Visc. Wood, T.
Loch, J.
Morris, D. TELLERS.
Muskett, G. A. Hall, B.
Nicholl, J. Hunie, J.

Bill read a third time and passed.

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