HC Deb 29 July 1840 vol 55 cc1106-11

On the question that the report of the resolution on the Coal Duties be received,

Mr. Hawes

objected to the introduction of that bill at so late a period of the Session. He objected also to the mode in which the recommendations for the improvements had come before the House. If the coal duties were to be applied as was proposed, the whole question ought to be first inquired into. They ought firs to acertain what the duties were, whether they were necessary, and how they ought to be applied. He also would appeal to the Speaker, whether this was a public or a private bill.

The Speaker

was understood to state, that this was one of that kind of bills, of which several had been introduced in the course of the present Session, and which seemed to partake almost as much of the character of a private as of a public measure. Under these circumstances, if his opinion were asked, he should say, that it ought, perhaps, in strictness, to be referred to the standing committee on private bills.

Mr. E. J. Stanley

submitted that this bill ought to proceed. Its promoters had hitherto acted under the directions of the Speaker, and having been brought in, there was no reason why it should not be carried through before the termination of the present Session. Acting upon this feeling, he should press the motion, even though it were opposed by the hon. Member for Lambeth. The purposes to which the money to be raised under the bill would be productive of great benefit, not only to the rich, but more especially to the poor. The first improvement contemplated by the bill, to be founded upon this resolution, was to continue a broad street from the eastward termination of Oxford-street, through the impoverished and wretched district of St. Giles's to the broader part of Holborn. Another improvement was to open a broad and health-giving causeway through the densely-inhabited districts in the neighbourhood of Whitechapel. A third improvement was to extend a line of communication from Bow-street to the vicinity of Clerkenwell. These three improvements, all of which must be admitted to be of the utmost importance to the poor, had already received the sanction of Parliament, and needed only the means to be provided by this bill to be carried into immediate effect. By another bill which now stood for the second reading, but the execution of which was in some degree dependent upon that which was to be founded upon the resolution now proposed to be brought up, other improvements of a not less important character were proposed to be effected, and which he should have imagined not one of the representatives of the metropolitan districts would have wished to oppose. One of these was, to open a broad line of communication between Piccadilly and Long-acre; another to continue the line from Farringdon-street to Clerkenwell; a third to construct a wide and convenient street between London and Westminster bridges; (this, at least, he should have thought would have met with the approbation and support of the hon. Member for Lambeth); and a fourth, to make a direct and broader communication between Westminster and Pimlico. To achieve these important improvements — all of which he maintained would be accompanied with the utmost advantage to the poorer population of the metropolis—it was only necessary that the duty on coals should be continued for four years longer: that was to say, from 1858 to 1862. That was the object of the present measure, and he claimed for it the support of every Member who had the health of the metropolis at heart.

Mr. Baines

observed, that the hon. Gentleman had omitted to enumerate one of the striking advantages of the bill, which was, that it went to impose a tax which nobody would live to pay. He meant nobody who was now alive.

Mr. Goulburn

, yielding to no one in a desire to improve the healthiness of the metropolis, still thought that there were several very serious points of consideration arising out of this proposition. He, for instance, residing in Surrey, at a distance of twenty-one miles from town, was a contributer to the London coal duties. But he had no greater interest in the improvement of the metropolis than those who lived in other counties, and at a greater distance. Why, then, was he to be taxed for a period of four additional years for a benefit which he could enjoy only in common with all the rest of the kingdom? If these improvements were to be effected at all, he thought it should be at the expense of the country at large, and not at the cost only of the few counties which happened to surround the metropolis. He was also of opinion, that the practice of prolonging duties of this description, in order to work out objects of the kind now proposed, was highly objectionable. At all events, before any final decision were come to, he thought all these points ought to be seriously considered.

Mr. Warburton

, at the commencement of the Session, had understood one of the members of the Government to give a distinct assurance to an hon. Gentleman connected with a northern county, that no prolongation of the coal duties would be proposed for the purpose of carrying into effect the projected improvements in the metropolis. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman who had last spoken, in thinking that the proposition now before the House opened several important points of consideration; and for that reason he was of opinion that all further proceedings upon the subject ought to be deferred till the next Session.

Lord Granville

Somerset expressed his determination of voting with the hon. Member for Lambeth, in opposition to the bill. He would rather that a tax of this kind should be made permanent, and the proceeds of it be devoted to some fixed and definite purpose, than that it should be prolonged from time to time for uncertain periods and for uncertain objects. In his opinion the alterations now contemplated, however much they might tend to beautify the metropolis, and to increase the conveniences of the rich, would confer no benefit upon the poor, and contribute but little to the improvement of the general health.

Mr. Wakley

said, that the opposition to the present bill came too late, for no objection had ever been raised to the recommendations of the committee till now that they were about to be carried into effect. He maintained that the improvements proposed were essential to the public convenience and also to the public health. As to the funds for making these improvements, no hon. Member had told the House whence they might derive them. They must be had from some source, and he thought that the proposed duty on coals was as unobjectionable a source as could well be conceived. It would not do for hon. Gentlemen opposite to object to the tax because the improvements were to be of a local nature. It was only last night that they had voted 5,000l. out of the public funds to some people in Scotland to enable them to build a hall for the meetings of their Assembly. But if the hon. Member for Lambeth, entertained an objection to the tax on coals, he wished to ask that hon. Member whether he would support a lax on tallow—or on soap. Why, then, did he object to the tax on coals, without being prepared to offer any other taxation in its place? Hon. Members were much mistaken if they supposed that all that related to the public health was not fairly discussed by the committee. In the course of one of the proposed new streets, that from Farringdon-street to Clerkenwell, was situated a district in which typhus fever always prevailed to a most alarming extent, and to the manifest danger to the lives of some of the Gentlemen opposite. By the proposed improvement, however, this nuisance would be almost got rid of. In addition to this, he saw in the expenditure of the money on such works a great advantage to the working classes in the metropolis, and, under all the circumstances, he did not think it possible to find a more unobjectionable source from whence to raise the money by taxation. If any hon. Gentleman would point out a source of taxation less objectionable than the present he would give him his support, but in the absence of any such proposal he did not think he could do better than support the measure of the hon. Member for Cheshire, believing that it went to confer a great good on the people of the metropolis.

Mr. Aglionby

said, that a committee of the House of Commons was the worst tribunal which could possibly exist for the distribution of the funds to be raised under a measure such as the present. He thought that a board should be established for this purpose, as it was a most onerous and most invidious duty to be undertaken by Members locally interested in the proposed improvements. He found that the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, had only to see that the improvements were carried into effect; but he thought it would have been much better had they possessed the power of distributing the tax which Parliament was about to levy. At all events, he was of opinion that no hon. Member who had a local interest in the matter ought to take any part in the distribution of the tax, which he considered a most objectionable one, as it pressed most severely on the poor.

Dr. Lushington

said, that his constituents had a deeper interest in this matter than any other party concerned. For himself, he originally objected to the tax on coals, nor would he have consented to the continuance of it, had it not been demonstrated to him that this would be for the advantage of the public. In all the meetings that had been held in the Tower Hamlets, not one dissentient voice had been raised against the continuance of this tax for the improvement of the metropolis. He represented a population of 400,000 persons, who were unanimous in favour of the measure; and surely their opinions were entitled to some consideration. The noble Lord the Member for Liverpool, said that he wished to see improvements having a sanatory tendency. To that he had no objection, but the fact was, that the proposed improvements would tend to the health and happiness of the people of this metropolis. Did any man know the horrors and disease that existed in one of the districts in which the improvements had taken place? If he did, he would know that the removal of these evils was essential to the diminution of crime—of human suffering—and necessary to raise the lower orders to that state which every man of common humanity would wish to see.

The House divided: Ayes 38; Noes 10; Majority 28.

List of the AYES.
Adam, Admiral Muskett, G. A.
Baines, E. Parker, J.
Baring, rt. hn. F. T. Pechell, Captain
Bramston, T. W. Pigot, D. R.
Brotherton, J. Scholefield, J.
Burrell, Sir C. Scrope, G. P.
Campbell, Sir J. Seymour, Lord
Clay, W. Sheil, rt. hn. R. L.
Evans, Sir De L. Smith, J. A.
Gordon, R. Steuart, R.
Greenaway, C. Stuart, Lord J.
Grey, rt. hn. Sir G. Stock, Dr.
Handley, H. Talbot, C. R. M.
Hindley, C. Wakley, T.
Hobhouse, T. B. Wood, B.
Hoskins, K. Wyse, T.
Leader, J. T. Young, J.
Lushington, rt. hn. S
Morpeth, Viscount TELLERS.
Morris, D. Stanley, hon. E. J.
Muntz, G. F. Maule, F.
List of the NOES.
Aglionby, H. A. Sandon, Viscount
Broadley, H. Somerset, Lord
Dalrymple, Sir A. Thornely, T.
Ferguson, Sir R.
Goulburn rt. hn. H. TELLERS.
Irton, S. Hawes, B.
Philips, M. Warburton, H.

The resolution agreed to. Bill ordered to be brought in.