HC Deb 21 February 1839 vol 45 cc720-37
Mr. Gillon

rose, pursuant to notice to call the attention of the House to the taxes on internal communication, with a view to their equalization and reduction. It was at all times an irksome task to him to intrude himself on their notice, but it was his duty on this occasion to bring forward the motion of which he had given notice. A Committee of that House had come to resolutions on the subject, and on those resolutions he should base the motion which he was now about to lay before the House. He proposed to consider the taxation to which the public conveyances by the old mode of communication n this country were peculiarly subjected under the following heads:—lst, the assessed taxes on coachmen and other servants connected with public conveyances; secondly, the duty on the hire of carriages; thirdly, mileage duty on stage coaches; fourthly, the licence duty; and fifthly, the duty on draught horses. He should then call the attention of the House to those modes of conveyance which had recently been established by the introduction of a new motive power, and which were almost wholly exempt from taxation. He alluded to the power of steam, which either by means of railroads or of vessels, conveyed persons from place to place in great numbers; and yet those modes of communication were only taxed at about one- eighth of a penny a mile, while stage-coach communications were taxed at the rate of three halfpence per mile. The consequence of this most partial system of taxation was to give a great pecuniary advantage to railways, and to impose on stage-coach communications, a pecuniary burden which if not soon removed, would bring ruin upon all the postmasters and innkeepers in those parts of the country through which lines of railway had been opened; but its effects were not confined to them, they extended to persons employed by, and dependent on, them, and in the end the revenue of the country would feel it. All the taxes and duties, he had mentioned, bore upon that mode of conveyance in which animal power was employed, while railway travelling was entirely free from them. To show how unequal these taxes were, he would mention one fact: in the year 1836 no fewer than 1,200,000 passengers travelled on the London and Greenwich railway, yet the duty which was paid by that railway company amounted to no more than 400 l,, while the stage-coach proprietors had paid 6,250l. The hon. Member proceeded to read extracts from letters and papers furnished by coach proprietors, post-masters, innkeepers, and others, to show that since the establishment of railways they had suffered a considerable diminution in their business,, and as a consequence the amount of duty on post-horses and carriages paid by them had diminished in proportion—in some cases as much as two-thirds of the sums they had been accustomed to pay formerly. Numerous petitions had been presented to both Houses of Parliament complaining of this state of things, and praying for the adoption of some measures by which the petitioners would be placed on equal ground with railways in respect to taxation, and that thus a chance of fair competition might be afforded them. By the evidence which had been given before the Committee, which had sat to inquire into matters relating to this subject, it appeared that unless some alteration was made, an entire stop would be put to stage coach travelling. Already as many as forty-two coaches, making up and down eighty-four, had been taken off the public roads, and that in a very short time. If the post-horse duty were taken off on the one hand, and the taxes on carriages equalized with those on steam travelling, he was certain that all the cross- roads would be traversed, and men of enterprize would enter into plans for taking up the Government communications and the mail bags at the different termini, and thus great public advantages would be secured. On the other hand, if nothing were done, a great departmect of national industry would be destroyed, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer would find a serious diminution in the revenue. It was true, that in the mean time modes of conveyance were established by means of steam. But he would ask whether it would be proper to suffer the means of travelling and communication by animal power to decay? When the whole country became planted and intersected by railways, the public would be completely at the mercy of the shareholders, because if the present system of taxation remained, it would be impossible for other parties to compete with railroad proprietors. He was of opinion, that the Legislature were not required to treat in any respect very tenderly those Gentlemen. It would be recollected, that when a bill was brought in last Session to compel railways to convey Government communications, leaving the amount of remuneration to be settled by appointed assessors, a great outcry was raised against the injustice of such a proceeding. They wished to have everything settled in their favour. Yet those gentlemen, though they came cap in hand to the House, and very humbly asked leave to carry their plans into execution, alleging, that they were intended to promote public convenience, no sooner succeeded in getting their bills than they proved to be, as he had always found, the most stringent of all monopolists. He much regretted, that a noble Duke in another place had not followed up the very able and just remarks he had made upon the regulations under which railways ought to be placed. He should like to see the Legislature adopt some practical measure on the subject. He contended, that the monopolizing character of the railway companies ought not to be fostered at the expense of the public convenience, and to the injury of persons who had embarked large capitals in other modes of conveyance, and who were subject to heavy duties and restrictive laws by the Legislature. Yet he was sorry to say, that such was the case. So far had the system of favouritism gone that the advertisements announcing the arrival and departure of trains, in the Liverpool Mercury (according to a complaint made by that paper) were exempted from the payment of duty. He should like to see all such imposts abolished; but, while they remained, they should not be exacted from one party, and another party, who had no better claim to such favour, be exempted from them. Great as were the advantages of railways to persons travelling from point to point at great distances, still he contended, that to persons travelling short distances and by cross-roads they were unproductive of benefit; and to do justice to this latter class, the Legislature and the Government must enable them to travel at something like the same rate of taxation as those who travel by railway. He regretted, that the return he had moved for, and which had been made, had not been printed and in the hands of hon. Members; but as he was aware of the contents, he should state some of them to the House—for instance, the amount of mileage paid on railways and on stage-coaches taken together. In the year 1837 the composition for mileage on both amounted to 514,039l., in 1838 to 489,086l., and for the year ending the 6th of January, 1839, to 494,130l.; thus showing a decrease in the amount for the first and last year of above 20,000l. If a comparison were made between the amount of the returns on stage-coaches alone, he believed, it would be found, that the composition had fallen from 583,742l. to which sum it amounted in the year 1835, to 534,496l., the amount returned for the year ending the 6th of January, 1839; thus showing a decrease of 49,246l.; and as the earning of the coach proprietors ought to amount to at least three times the amount of duty, there was a falling off shown in their earnings of 393,968l. Again, he was inclined to think, that the amount of post-horse duties had equally fallen off, and he was borne out in that opinion by the information he had received from an individual post-master in one town, by which it appeared he had paid for the months of October, November, and December last, less duty by 81l. 18s. 9d.½ than he had paid for the corresponding months of the preceding year. Indeed he was convinced, that unless there was a diminution in the rate of post-horse duties that source of revenue would be utterly swept away. He contended, that without a reduction of at least two-thirds of the existing duties, the masters would not be able to contend against their rivals by steam, and that thus the public would be deprived of a large and most beneficial source of convenience. He meant, therefore, to conclude by moving that the House should resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, for the purpose of taking into consideration the whole of those duties. When in Committee it was his intention (and he would now state it for the convenience of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer), to propose the abolition of all assessed taxes on coachmen and other servants, to lower the annual licence on stage-carriages from 5l. to 7s. and 6d.; he should propose to charge the mileage duty on all coaches, whether travelling by common or railroad, at the rate of one eighth of a half-penny per mile he should also propose that the duty on passengers should be charged on railways in the same way as it was on other coaches; that was to say, not upon the number of persons actually conveyed, but on the number of seats provided in or about their coaches, and this duty he should propose to be fixed at the rate the railway proprietors now paid. He should propose to reduce the post-horse duties by two-thirds—namely, from three halfpence to a halfpenny, and he was convinced, that no smaller deduction would enable the postmasters to keep up that mode of travelling. Such were the duties he intended to take off, and he was aware he might be met by the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that these reductions would effect a diminution of the revenue to the amount of upwards of 700,000l.; but he (Mr. Gillon) was confident, that so far from a diminution, the reduction of duties would tend to increase the annual revenues in these respects much above their present amount. These, then, were the duties with which he proposed to interfere; he then had had two new duties to impose. The first was, a small tax on gentlemen's carriages conveyed by railway. At present a gentleman travelling from Birmingham to London put his carriage on the railway, and, instead of paying a tax upon it, only paid a small tax on the conveyance of each person; whereas, if he travelled with a pair of post-horses from Birmingham to London, he would pay a tax of 1l. 8s. to Government; but now, if he with his car- riage, his wife and two servants, in all four individuals, went by railway, he would only pay 4s. 8d., making a difference of 1l. 3s. 4d. in the tax payable to the Government. Therefore it was, that he intended to propose a small tax on gentleman's carriages passing on railways. He had also a second tax to propose, in the shape of a small licence duty on steamboats. He meant on those proprietors of steam-boats who carried on board their vessels the trade of licensed victuallers—who dealt in ale, spirits, wine, and other commodities without a licence. Unless the licence duty was abolished on shore, it ought to be imposed on those who dealt in such commodities on board vessels conveying passengers, and therefore it was, he should propose a licence duty of 10l. per annum on any person carrying on the trade of a victualler on board steam-boats. On the whole, he contended, that the time had arrived when it was actually necessary, in justice to all parties, that some change in the existing unequal system should be made; he asked not abolition, but he required equalization. The object of taxation was not to press on any one class, but to operate equally upon all, and as he trusted he had shown that one party was unfairly dealt with by an unequal scale of taxation, the House, in whose hands he left the matter, would entertain the proposition he had now to make; that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House to take into consideration the whole acts relating to these matters.

Mr. Handley

said, that without pledging himself to the accuracy of the details submitted by the hon. Gentleman to the House, or to the propriety of all the changes he proposed to make, he rose to second the resolution of the hon. Gentleman; and he was the more anxious to do it, and to engage the attention of the House for a short time, because on a former occasion he had been requested by a very large body of postmasters and innkeepers to lay their case before the House and before her Majesty's Government. The Chancellor of the Exchequer on that occasion did, he believed, all that he could do—namely, he relieved the parties from certain vexatious interferences connected with the post horse duty; but the right hon. Gentleman did not afford that relief which the hon. Member for Falkirk sought. The difficulties with which the postmasters and innkeepers had now to contend with were increased fifty-fold since last Session. The circumstances of which they then complained were now brought to a state bordering on inevitable ruin. It was to be lamented, that so great a public benefit as that which railways were calculated to produce, should be accompanied with so much individual suffering. The postmasters were a body of men more highly taxed than any other portion of her Majesty's subjects. Beginning with the duty on carriages, then that on horses, and the assessed taxes on houses, (the window duties on the large establishments which they were obliged to keep up being very great), it was impossible to point out a class more heavily taxed; and at the same time their trade was daily falling off. The only alternative they had was either to close their houses altogether, or to keep them open as hitherto, under all these disadvantageous circumstances. It was owing to no mismanagement of their own, that their business had fallen off. It was impossible, that any one could have anticipated the gigantic strides which steam communication had made over all the world within the last few years. It was well known, that when, in 1817, application was made to the Admiralty to establish steam tugs to convey ships into harbour, the then Secretary of that establishment, Mr. John Wilson Croker, issued a sort of circular in which he declared, that it was a scheme altogether impracticable, and that though steam vessels might possibly succeed upon canals, they never could come into use on the sea. Scarcely twenty years had elapsed, however, and now they beheld ships of the greatest burden traversing the broad Atlantic in the space of thirteen days by means of the mighty power of steam, and the hon. and learned Member for Dublin enabled by the same wonderful agency to come from that city to the British metropolis in less than four-and-twenty hours. But if the sympathies of the House were not excited towards that respectable body of persons for whom he was now feebly pleading, he would call their attention to an evil of the greatest and most vital magnitude to which they were themselves particularly exposed. First, however, he begged to say, that he was a friend to rail-roads; he admired the advance which science and art combined had made in accelerating the communica- tions of men living in the most distant parts of the world, and which had brought even India itself comparatively close to our own shores. He was grateful, therefore, to those who had embarked their money in bringing these great undertakings to such a high state of usefulness. Still he must warn the House against the dangers that might be involved in these very improvements. He would call upon the House and the Government not to let this Session pass by without taking care to protect the public against a monopoly which, in his humble opinion, was fraught with a weight of tyranny, vexation, and extortion, such as no government or legislature was justified in allowing to continue. The proprietors of railways had obtained a power which no other body of men had ever been allowed to exercise over the comforts and enjoyments of the people. He had observed this day a bill brought into the House by the Birmingham Railway Company, asking for power to raise more money. Now, before further power should be given, it would be the duty, he conceived, of that House to ask in what manner the money which had already been raised had been expended, and to ascertain whether it had or had not been expended with a view to create that monopoly of which he complained. He believed that proof could be given that much of that money had been expended otherwise than in purchases necessary for making the railway; and that a sum not less than 3,000l. had been given to one individual coach-proprietor, in order that the whole of his interest might be thrown into the hands of the Railway Company. To such an extent had this system been carried that there was not, he believed, at this moment, more than one coach running in competition with that line. What was the result? Why, in that part of the country with which he was acquainted, he knew many who had travelled by the railway either over a portion of the line, or through the whole of its extent, to the metropolis; but he had not seen any one of those individuals who had not complained either of some gross imposition, or of an outrage of some description. Not long since, the servant of a noble Friend of his and his own servant went to the station to take seats in a second-class carriage, they were told that there was no room in the second-class carriages and they were offered seats in the first class on pay- ing the second-class charge. The statement that there was no room was untrue. When the men arrived at the terminus in Euston-square they were required to pay the difference between the charge for the first and second class. They complained of this; but the answer they received was, "It is of no use to complain now! you must come to-morrow; we cannot attend to it now." The next day the men attended, and the answer they met with was—"Oh! it is no business of ours; you must go to the sessions." Thus it appeared that unless for the sake of a few shillings any person was willing to go to law with this great proprietary, there were no means by which he could obtain redress. If such were the uses to which this great body applied their powers even before their monopoly was complete, what, he asked, would be the extent to which the abuse of those would be carried, when the monopoly should become absolute, unless Parliament powerfully and promptly interposed. He was sorry to hear the President of the Board of Trade state last night that he had no intention to interfere in this matter. He hoped that if her Majesty's Government did not interfere, the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, whose intimate knowledge of the subject so well qualified him to undertake the task, would feel it his duty to make some proposition to the House respecting it. At all events, he begged to assure the House, that unless some other hon. Member brought the subject forward, the present Session should not pass without a motion being made by himself that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into it. With reference to the motion before the House, he believed that great injustice was perpetrated against those who had hitherto been faithful servants of the public, but who were now labouring against a power which they had no means of competing with, unless assisted by that House. He did not mean that even that assistance would make the difference to them between ruin and prosperity; still unless some redress were afforded them, inevitable ruin must befal them quickly; while if the Legislature should neglect to interpose, and check the evil of that growing monopoly which railway companies were assuming, he anticipated the day when railways, instead of being an advantage (as he still hoped to see them) would be a perpetual source of injustice and of tyranny to society.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

by no means regretted, that the attention of the House had been called to this subject. It was undoubtedly a question which deserved the attention of Parliament; and it was his intention, in the course of the present year, to introduce a bill, with a view to correct many of the inconveniences to which his hon. Friend had adverted. There was an inequality in the rate of taxation at present existing, which it was not proper should continue. It was an unjust distinction, and an interference with the fair spirit of commercial competition which it behoved Government and Parliament to put an end to. At the same time, he could not accompany his hon. Friend in many of the statements he had made. His hon. Friend had proposed to take off certain duties; and he then said, that he should propose certain new duties which would supply the deficiency of revenue which the first part of his proposition would occasion. The different manner in which these two very distinct proposals were received might induce his hon. Friend to sympathise with him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) a little on the very difficult and delicate task of proposing a new tax. Whilst, however, he agreed, that the present unequal rates of duty imposed on postmasters and on railways gave an unjust advantage to the latter over the former, still his hon. Friend was entirely in error in supposing that some of the duties to which he had adverted were progressively diminishing. The years which his hon. Friend had selected for instituting his comparison were not altogether fairly taken. Out of a series of years, two years might be selected with sufficient adroitness for the purpose of establishing a comparison that should support almost any side of a proposition. His hon. Friend had taken the year 1837, when the duty on stage carriages amounted to 583,742l., and had compared it with the year 1839, when the duty amounted to 534,496l., and then said, that the difference showed the diminution which had taken place in the amount of duty. But out of the five years to which the return applied, his hon. Friend had selected the year ending the 5th of January, 1837, which was precisely the very highest of the whole five years. If his hon. Friend had selected any other year for making his comparison, the result would have been totally different. His hon. Friend had acted in the same manner as to the mileage duty. If he had compared the first year with the last—that was the year 1835, when it was 487,000l., with the year 1839, when it was 494,000l.—he would have found an increase instead of a diminution. Although the return exhibited a diminution of the duty paid by carriages, it showed an enormous increase in the proportion of duty paid by railroads. At the outset of the establishment of railways under the provisions of an Act of Parliament, compositions were entered into. These compositions had expired, or were expiring, and directions had been given by the Treasury to the Stamp-office that no new composition should be allowed to be made. The increase of duty on the railways was this:—in the year ending in January, 1885, the amount paid was 931,000l.; in the year ending the 5th of January, 1839, that sum had been increased to 970,000l., or actually by no less than 39,507l. There had also been an increase of the amount of the post-horse duty in 1839, beyond that of previous years (except the year 1837), contrary to all expectation. Undoubtedly, when it was considered that railway passengers only paid about the eighth of a penny duty, while coach passengers paid a farthing, and while postmasters paid an amount equal to three farthings, it must be admitted to be perfectly clear, that this system of taxation was not just. As soon, therefore, as the completion of the financial accounts of the year would permit, he should introduce a bill upon this subject. But let not the House be led astray by a notion, that under any possible circumstances, they could now have the same extent of stage-coach accommodation as had existed in former years, before railroads were constructed. The thing was quite impossible. The mere facility which the railways afforded to the public in going from place to place with increased speed would (all other considerations of cheapness and comfort apart) necessarily cause in particular lines a great diminution of coach travelling. He had heard, for the first time, from the hon. Gentleman behind him, that the directors of rail-roads were buying up existing interests in stage coaches; but these attempts would be wholly ineffectual if other parties could, on the same lines, set up coaches which would produce a profit. Such purchases if they had taken place were only an anticipation of a result which competition would not fail to produce: for if it were worth some 1,000l. to the company to put down coaches on a particular line of road, it must be worth while for another party to set them up again. The fact was, however, that the railroads had in some cases created as many carriages as had been put down—they might be called omnibuses instead of coaches, or flies instead of chaises—but there had been a large increase of travelling by carriages, occasioned by the railroads. It was only necessary for hon. Members to pass from the metropolis to Birmingham to see the increase of many kinds of carriage communication. He might also appeal to the experience of hon. Members connected with Ireland upon this point. Upon the first establishment of the Kingstown railroad, there was an important traffic carried on by means of carriages from Dublin to a village called Blackrock; it was thought by the persons interested, that the railway would ruin their trade; but he believed that the very opposite had been the result, and that there was now a larger traffic than before the establishment of the railroad. He had not mentioned this with the view of opposing an alteration of the post-horse duties, which he admitted required revision; but because, he feared that if he had not made such a statement, an unfair impression would have been made on the public mind by ex parte arguments. He was sorry that his hon. Friend behind hint had cast reflections on the conduct of individuals, or of the companies; he knew that there must always be some cases of abuse, especially in the infancy of these undertakings; but he believed; that on the whole, there was every disposition on the part of the railroad proprietors, as it was their direct interest, to provide for the accommodation of the public. Where he had apprehended a monopoly, was with respect to the communication by post; he had then asked the House to interpose; the House had interposed, and he would again ask the House to interfere whenever he saw the possibility of a monopoly which might interfere with the Post-office arrangements. He believed, however, that it was the interest of the proprietors of railroads in general to have the best organised establishments, and to give the greatest satisfaction to the public. He would not then go further into the question; but he thought, that the subject had better be left in the hands of the Government. He admitted the principle that there should be an alteration in the post-horse duties; as his Bill was not at present prepared, he could not hold out the hope that it would be altogether satisfactory to his hon. Friend; but if his hon. Friend were not satisfied, when the measure was before the House, he might propose to mend it. This would be a better course than by going into a Committee of the whole House, and then moving a resolution which hon. Members would not have had an opportunity of fully considering. He hoped the House would permit him to make a remark or two on the form in which these resolutions were brought forward. The object of giving notice was, to enable hon. Members on all sides to be prepared to discuss the subject. They had got into a habit of late years, and the hon. Member for Falkirk, had more than once indulged in the habit, of giving a notice which seemed rather as a blind than as a guide. It was most important, that they should know exactly, what it was they were to discuss; but to place a general notice on the paper, and afterwards move specific resolutions, this was, surely, not the proper mode in which to conduct the business of the House, either with satisfaction to themselves, or with advantage to the public. He felt quite sure, that the House would see the propriety of adhering to their rules as strictly as possible. He would say no more, but he would ask the hon. Gentleman not to press his motion, and he would repeat his determination to proceed with a bill in the present Session of Parliament.

Mr. Warburton

said, that if the right hon. Gentleman's object were only to arrange this system of taxation he would not have said one word; if the hon. Member had proposed to reduce the post-horse duty to a level with the duties on steam vessels and railroads, the proposition would have met with the general concurrence of the House; but when the hon. Member suggested the placing of additional taxes, he hoped that all persons interested in railroads and steam-boats would take the alarm. He remembered a former proposition by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Althorp, which they had happily defeated, of placing the railroads under the blighting influence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was proposed also to appoint an inspector of gas-lights, as it was proposed now to appoint an inspector of steam-vessels; but he believed that it would be a great evil to place either under the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Steam navigation was a progressive art—one year it was a great feat to steam from the Thames to Plymouth—but in the next year the vast Atlantic was traversed in safety: if left alone improvement would go on; but once let the Chancellor of the Exchequer in, and then "good-by to all." He was surprised to find the hon. Member for Falkirk endeavouring to assist the Chancellor of the Exchequer. What had that right hon. Gentleman told them? Why, that so far from the increase of steam communication having lessened the amount of the post-horse duty, the revenue had increased. What did this show? That it was of the greatest benefit to the revenue to provide for the public the cheapest means of communication; and if they placed new taxes on railroads they would interfere with the people taking fresh air, and it would be so far impolitic that if they imposed this duty on railroads, they would cause a decrease of that revenue which was now increasing. So far, therefore, from receiving a benefit from additional taxation, they would see only a diminution in the whole amount. But what was the value of additional taxation compared with the case and convenience of the people; he hoped that they would not place any fetters on internal communication. Country gentlemen, so far from benefiting themselves by imposing taxes on railroad communications, would only diminish the number of travellers, cause a less consumption of oats, and the employment of a smaller number of horses. He trusted that the railroad proprietors would have their attention awakened to the subject, and he hoped that the House would not back the Chancellor of the Exchequer in placing upon these means of conveyance any new taxes.

Mr. Hume

said, that the House ought not to dismiss this question without an express declaration of what was to be done. He had not understood the right hon. Gentleman to have talked of any new duty, and he for one thought that there should be a reduction rather than an increase. He believed, that the cross posts in Ireland which were not taxed were much better than they were in England, and he thought that the taxes upon carriages prevented the approach to less frequented places in England. The great advantage possessed by this country was the great facility of communication, and why did not the Chancellor of the Exchequer repeal the taxes preventing this? Because he had no funds. If the Government had only been just to Canada and to our colonies, they would have had ample funds to enable him to take off these duties. Thus the people of England would see the connection between their interests and this misgovernment, for if the expenditure of the country had not exceeded the income by a million, owing principally to the expenses in Canada, there would have been enough to take off these taxes. Every man experienced the vexatious interference of taxation with communication. He had done all he could to prevent the taxation of steam-vessels and railroads; he still deemed it an injudicious and impolitic tax, and whether they looked at it in a commercial point of view, or as a manufacturing question, or, above all, as it affected the communication of the people, he thought that the Government ought to use every effort to take the duty off railroads and carriages.

Mr. Easthope

owed an apology to the House for addressing it under the disadvantage of not having been in his place when the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke. If he accurately collected the right hon. Gentleman's observations, and the right hon. Gentleman really had any intention of increasing the present very heavy, and he might add very productive, taxation on railway communication, he submitted it to the House whether the right hon. Gentleman ought not, in common fairness, to give an explicit declaration of that intention at this, the earliest, moment that the subject was mooted. The House was doubtless aware of the fact that a heavy tax was laid upon, and had already been paid by, many railroads, whilst no return had been made to the proprietors upon their outlay; and if before the capital invested was capable of producing anything like a fair return, the taxes upon these undertakings were to be increased—if a struggle was to be entered upon with gentlemen who had enlisted themselves in hostility to the railroads—for his hon. Friend the Member fur Falkirk appeared always ready for such hostility—if this were to be the course, he trusted they should at least be immediately told of the intention. He hoped that there would be no such disturbance of the large and important interests engaged in providing railway communication; and if there were any such intention, he trusted that the House would not be a day longer without receiving a specific notice from the Chancellor of the Exchequer of his intentions.

Mr. Hodgson Hinde

was happy to hear that the right hon. Gentleman had consented to take up the subject, and he, for one, was prepared to leave it in the right hon. Gentleman's hands, and give it his best consideration when the right hon. Gentleman brought it forward.

Sir R. Bateson

hoped that the project of subjecting steam vessels conveying passengers to some inspection would also be considered. They must be aware that the proprietors would run boats to the last moment that the machinery would last. He did not speak of individuals, but it was the system, and it must be so while there was so much competition. He thought, therefore, that this being the consequence of the system, a general inspection should be instituted.

Sir R. Peel

had made it a rule, to which he invariably adhered, never to press a Chancellor of the Exchequer for the reduction of any particular tax, until he had an opportunity of observing the state of the national revenue, and of comparing the claim for the reduction in the individual case with other competing claims. He should like to compare, with the subject now under discussion, the policy of reducing a portion, at least of the duty upon raw cotton, and, in fact, of every other item of the national revenue. Whether these were taken individually or abstractedly, there could not be a doubt of the propriety of fairly considering the claims of each. He thought that the only satisfactory way of adjusting this question was, to take off altogether the duty on post-horses. There would then be a fair competition between railway and other modes of travelling. The older description of vehicles must fairly take their chance of suffering by the introduction of other modes provided by the progress of science. What the legislature should say upon the subject should be this: "We give you your chance, without any inequality of taxation. It is impossible for us to interfere with the progress of scientific improvement, but you shall have no unequal portion of taxes to contend against." It would be found extremely difficult in practice to make compensation to the postmasters by any attempt to equalize the taxation; but he hoped that, before they were called on to decide, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would give them the fullest information on the subject; that, for example, they should be made acquainted with those lines of road in which the duty on post-horses had fallen off, and those in which it had increased. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said, that it would be vain to endeavour to make such an arrangement of duties as would enable the post-masters on the great lines of railway to contend against the overpowering competition of the railways. What he was afraid of was, that if, in point of fact, the duty on post-horses were reduced to ½d. per mile, and if the railways were subjected to a duty of ld., it would be of no benefit to the postmasters upon the great lines of road, while it would be productive of great injury to the railways. In subjecting the country to any new fiscal regulations respecting railways, it should be considered how far the facilities afforded by railways tended to increase the amount of taxation in other articles. There might be an additional consumption of taxed articles in consequence of those railways, and that was an important point. They should likewise consider whether or no their new system of taxation would not bear unequally upon the different classes. He understood, for instance, that railways had been of great service to those persons in the lower condition of life whose capital was their labour, and they should consequently consider what great advantage it would be to that class of the community to have a rapid transfer of their capital from one part of the country to another. On the other hand, it was the upper class of society that was chiefly interested about post-horses. Great caution and consideration were therefore necessary before the House proceeded to increase the taxation upon railroads or steam-boats. It was a question whether the increased communication had not upon the whole been beneficial to the revenue, and whether, by forwarding private interests, they would not be injuring the revenue, and the general interests of the country.

Mr. Poulett Thomson,

in reply to the hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Bateson) said that he had the other day answered a similar question which had been put to him by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, stating that two gentlemen were now employed gaining information relative to accidents by steam-boats, and arranging plans which he hoped to be able to lay before Parliament this Session, with the view of preventing future accidents.

Mr. Handley

wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether the increase in the post-horse duty had not taken place since its collection had been in the hands of Government, and had not been farmed out.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

replied that the change in the mode of collection had been a great relief to the parties concerned; it had prevented them from being subject to vexatious prosecutions, and had, no doubt, caused some increase in the amount of the revenue; but he believed, that the revenue had increased not in these years alone, but that the increase had been progressive for five years.

Mr. Gillon,

in reply, said that it had been held out that he was an enemy to railroads, but he must deny that imputation. He had, however, joined with the Chancellor of the Exchequer against the establishment of monopolies: he would always interfere to put down monopolies, and he would rather be under the dominion of the Khan of Tartary than under a committee of railroad shareholders. It was true, as had been stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that there might be an increase in the number of short coaches going only a mile or two, but that the coaches going long stages had decreased in number was proved by the falling-off in the receipts of the first gate out of London, the Kensington gate, the receipts of which had been diminished by 163l. 12s. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer had admitted the whole principle contended for, and as it would be preposterous at that moment to pledge the House to details, he would, with the leave of the House, withdraw his motion.

Motion withdrawn.