§ The House in committee on the Customs' Acts.
proposed, that the duty per ton upon coals, culm, and cinders, in foreign ships, should be 4s.; in British ships, not small, 2s.; and on small coal or screened, 1s.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
stated that the noble Viscount (Viscount Howick) was anxious to know the grounds on which the alterations had been effected, and also why 2s. were now substituted for what had been originally proposed. The ground on which the alteration was made, was stated very fully by his right hon. Friend in his financial statement. When the duty of 4s. a ton was proposed, it was conceived that it could be effected without inconvenience to the trade, and not only without inconvenience to the trade, but with a proportionate degree of advantage to the revenue. It had since appeared that the real state of the coal trade with foreign ports has been this. Foreign nations received coals from this country, partly in order to enable them to carry on certain manufactures in which they were becoming our rivals, and at the same time, they levied on British coals imported into their dominions duties from the payment of which considerable revenue was realised to them; and it appeared to Government that if British coal was essential to foreign countries, and if by abandoning any duties on the exportation of that article, they not only supplied foreign countries with coal, but actually paid a considerable duty upon it to the revenue of these states— under these circumstances, it appeared to Government to be a fair object for consideration, whether they could not themselves derive a revenue from the export of coals, without crippling the trade in that peculiar article. The duty fixed was one of 4s. per ton, and the reason for the proposition of that amount of impost was, that in the original arrangements made in the coal duties in 1834,4s. per ton was the duty then fixed upon the exportation of coal in foreign bottoms. It was known to the House, that the duty on coal had not been raised by that means; because, in consequence of reciprocity treaties, which gave to foreign nations the same advantages for their shipping as those possessed by British ships, coal was carried by these foreign vessels on equally advantageous terms, contrary to the intention of Parliament at the time the arrangement 1546 with respect to coal was made, but arising from treaties concluded with other nations, but which were not then contemplated by the House, and which were not of a permanent character, but liable to he terminated according to the existing state of commercial relations with the different nations with which they were concluded. Since the period of the recent proposition of Government, it was true that a great variety of statements had been made to the Government with respect to the coal trade, and many circumstances had been detailed into which inquiries had been made, with the view of ascertaining how far the duty originally proposed was one which the coal trade could bear. The result had been, that the proposition which his right hon. Friend had this evening submitted to the House was found to be a proposition which those most interested in the coal trade admitted would not prevent the export of coals to foreign countries in British vessels, but would produce a considerable addition to the revenue, not indeed equal to that expected from the original proposition, but falling not so far short of it as to induce a preference in favour of the duty first proposed. Another consideration which had influenced the Government had arisen from the condition of the steam navigation of the country. It had been represented to the Government by the proprietors of steam vessels, who possessed depots of coal in foreign countries, that the imposition of 4s. per ton on coal would be a burden which they would be unable to bear, and that if the proposition should be carried into effect, some means must be devised for exempting them from its operation. On further examination of the subject, it appeared that it was impossible to devise satisfactory modes of exempting coals sent to foreign countries for the use of British steamers from the duty, without entering upon arrangements which would very probably be conducive to fraud. It was stated that a consular certificate, on which reliance must be placed, in order to secure repayment, was not to be trusted; that quantities of coals might thus be exported free of duty, and persons would share in these advantages other than those for whose benefit the arrangements were proposed. It therefore became desirable that such a duty should be imposed on coal as might be borne by companies engaged in foreign steam navigation, and the necessity be thus avoided of having recourse to a system of drawback which had at all 1547 times been found inconvenient and productive of loss from fraud. What he had stated, was another ground on which Government had adopted the proposition before the House. And now, with respect to the estimated produce of the duties to be imposed. His right hon. Friend at the head of the Government had, on a previous occasion, stated, that he believed that the originally proposed duty would produce a revenue of something less than 200,000l. This calculation was made on the supposition that an increase of duty would, on the whole, produce a diminution in the total quantity of coal exported. Now, from information since received, both from foreign ports and from those who were concerned in the trade at home, there was reason to believe that a duty of 2s.per ton, which would do no more than equalise the oversea prices of coal with those in the different ports of this country, would not affect the prices in any European port, so as materially to influence consumption; they might therefore assume that the export of coal in the ensuing year would be much the same as it was during the last; and taking the present rate of duty on coals, an exportation of 45,000 tons would produce 10,000l.; an exportation of 960,000 tons of round coal, at 2s. per ton, would produce 100,000l.; and taking the proportion of small coals as larger than that of last year,—namely, at 475,000 tons, such exportation would produce 30,000l., making the whole amount of revenue expected from this source amount to 140,000l. This was a reduction of upwards of 60,000l. from the gross amount which was expected to have been realised from the duty of 4.s. on coals, making an allowance of course for some loss which might be sustained on account of the operation of drawbacks and the evasions to which that system often led. The result, therefore, of the measure would undoubtedly be to diminish the expectation of revenue to the extent of between 50,000l. and 60,000l. But on the other hand, the House would be relieved from all anxiety as to the effect the proposed duties would have upon the exportation of coal to foreign countries. With reference to the general question, he could not but think that the House would agree with him that, possessed as they were of coal superior in quality to that, the produce of foreign countries, and seeing that, foreign countries made a revenue on coals exported from this country into their dominions, 1548 he could not but believe that the House would agree with him in considering that they were justified in endeavouring to raise a duty from coal which, without affecting the foreign trade in that article, would prove a considerable addition to the revenue of the country.
said, he had entered, and should still enter, his protest—his most decided and unequivocal protest—against the principle of levying any duty whatever on the exportation of coals; but at the same time, after circumstances which had occurred, he was not prepared to offer any opposition to the present proposition of her Majesty's Government. No one was more opposed than he was to anything in the shape of a compromise, where he saw any disposition to take unfair advantages; but with reference to this subject, a negotiation had taken place between the parties most interested, and her Majesty's Government, which negotiation he was happy to say had terminated in her Majesty's Ministers consenting to the present modified proposition, a proposition which he believed had been very generally accepted as satisfactory. On this latter point, he would take the liberty to trouble the House by reading two short resolutions, passed at a meeting held at Newcastle-upon-Tyne on the 4th of June, at which between forty and fifty of the principal representatives of collieries on the Tyne, Wear, and Tees were present. These resolutions set forth—1. That this meeting retain the opinion as to the impolicy and inexpediency of a duty on the export of coals, expressed in their memorial to the Government, and petition to the Legislature, and are convinced that the imposition of any duty must, in proportion to its amount, prejudicially affect the trade, and necessarily prove seriously injurious to the shipping and other interests connected therewith.2. That this meeting, therefore, still trust that the Government may, on further consideration, be induced to abandon the imposition of any duty; but on due consideration of the position which the question has now assumed, respectfully submit that no higher duty than 2s. per ton on round, and Is. on small coals, (passed through a screen, the bars of which are not more than 5-8ths of an inch asunder), should be levied, and this under the conviction that the effect of such duties on the prosperity of the trade will be carefully watched by the Government; and in the hope that if it should be shown by experience that those duties are prejudicial, they will be repealed.For his own part, be must say, that the 1549 great anxiety evinced by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government to protect every branch of the commercial interests of the country, induced him to form a confident hope that if this duty was found to operate injuriously upon our shipping or mining interests, no delay would occur in introducing a measure for its repeal. He also hoped, that it would not be thought necessary to bring the measure into operation until the latest possible period—say next October—as, if the duty were immediately enforced, he feared it would operate prejudicially to certain interests. However, having said this, he must again express his gratitude to her Majesty's Government for having so far given way, and he felt confident, that their acquiescence in the modifications suggested would be properly appreciated.
§ Viscount Howick
had heard with great regret that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down did not think it necessary to persist in the course of which he had given notice. He regretted this, because he thought that the case which the hon. Gentleman had to offer to the House was so strong, that had it been brought forward, supported as it would have been by many hon. Members on his side of the House, the result would have been that Government would be forced to yield. He regretted the course which had been pursued by the hon. Gentleman too, because, at the request of his hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, it now devolved on him to state the grounds on which, with regard to the resolution before them, he deemed it necessary to take the sense of the House in opposition to the duties proposed by Government. He regretted the course taken by the hon. Gentleman still more, because it imposed a duty on him which he felt to be most painful, in expressing to the House the opinion which he entertained of the manner in which the negociations alluded to had been carried on between the coal trade and the Government; in which there were grounds for the grave censure of the House. He would state what it was to which he objected. He was quite aware that it was proper and right in all such cases that there should be a communication between Government and those who, being connected with a particular interest affected by their measures, had it in their power to state reasons for the abandonment or modification of measures of taxation proposed. 1550 Nothing could be more proper than that such communications should take place. Nothing could be more proper than that a Government, in deference to information and reasoning thus imparted, should consent to modify any proposition submitted to the House. But although such a course of proceeding was quite just and proper, he thought, on the other hand, that it was the duty of a Government to make up its mind, after a careful consideration of facts and arguments, as to what the proper amount of taxation on any given article would be; and having so decided, propose to Parliament that duty which under the circumstances of the case they judged to be a right and proper one, without reference to the conduct of the parties interested. But a Government had no right to say to these parties, "If you will abstain from opposition we will recommend to Parliament a modified and reduced rate of taxation; but if you persist in opposing us—if you endeavour to impede our measures—in that case we will penally visit you by adhering to the original proposal, and by imposing an amount of taxation higher than that which we would otherwise have levied." A Government had no right to do that. It was a great abuse of the power and influence of a Government if it adopted such practices; and he said, therefore, that no independent Member of Parliament was entitled, from a desire to assist an Administration to which he was friendly, or from any other reasons, to aid in carrying on negociations founded upon such principles, fur less to make himself the organ of communication intended to bring about such a result, and then to apply this sort of coercion to the interest in question, in order to oblige it to submit. It was contrary to the duty of a Government to adopt such means for the prevention of opposition, and equally contrary for a Member of Parliament to make himself a party towards carrying out any such result. Such were the opinions which he was compelled to express on the subject, and he was sure that those hon. Gentlemen who were acquainted with the manner in which the financial affairs of this country had been administered would agree that the principle which he had laid down was a just one—that to admit the right of Government to use means of the description referred to, in order to avoid opposition, would be a dangerous example—would introduce practices liable to lead to great and most serious abuses—practices against 1551 which it was the duty of the House, and of every Member of the House, most decidedly to set his face. He now came to consider how far the proceedings in the present case had been in accordance with the rule which he had laid down; but, before he did so, he must state that he was bound to acknowledge the courtesy which had been shown by the Government, and especially by the right hon. Baronet opposite, to those 'who waited on them in behalf of the coal trade, and the patience with which the statements had been attended to. But his complaint was of a different nature. He was sorry to trouble the House by reading documents, but, at the same time, on a point of so much importance, he hoped that the House would bear with him if he took the liberty of quoting documents at some length. The first paper with which he would trouble them was a letter from the hon. Gentleman opposite, addressed to the chairman of the committee for the maintenance of the coal trade at Newcastle. He made no apology for reading it, as he did not believe that its contents were meant to be of a private nature. The letter was as follows:—(Copy) "Wimpole-street, May 26, 1842.Dear Sir—I hope the information which this letter contains will not be altogether unacceptable to the coal-owners of the north. I have heard to-day, from very good authority (though at present I am not at liberty to mention names), that the Government have shown a disposition to give up 2s. of the proposed duty on all coals exported in British vessels, provided such concession on their parts shall have the effect of inducing the coalowners to abandon their threatened opposition to the duty as it now stands in the amended tariff, viz., 4s. the ton. on all coals exported in British vessels. I can assure you that it will be satisfactory to me to find that such a proposition is favourably considered by the trade in general, because I have no hesitation in stating to you that the Government is so strong that I despair of carrying the motion of which l have given notice, and I need scarcely tell you that the consequence of my failure will be, that we shall be saddled with the whole duty of 4s., as there is no doubt that, after the Government have defeated us, they will be much less likely to make any concession at all than previous to the question being debated in the House.I have taken most especial care not to commit the trade in any way in regard to the proposition which I have every reason to believe the Government intends to submit to our consideration.I must request that you will lose no time in calling together the representatives of the 1552 collieries, and submitting my letter to them, and have the goodness to inform me, as speedily as possible, of the result of the meeting, for which, as so much depends on it, I shall look most anxiously.It is, I hope, scarcely necessary for me to add, that I am in the hands of my constituents, and that I am still ready to take any course that they may consider most conducive to their interests. Such is my duty, and I trust I shall never consult my own convenience merely, if I can in any way serve them; and I hope, therefore, that, without subjecting myself to the imputation of abandoning my friends, I may venture again to express the hope that the trade will feel disposed to treat concession on the part of a very powerful Government with due consideration, since I do not see the slightest prospect of their being induced to abandon the proposed duty altogether.I beg it may be most distinctly understood, that I have, neither directly nor indirectly, advocated to any Member of the Government, or indeed to any one else, any compromise. The proposition must therefore be considered as emanating from the Government, as far as I am concerned.— Yours, faithfully, always, (Signed) MATTHEW BELL.To the Chairman of the United Committee of the Coal Trade, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.That letter was communicated to the committee of coal trade, and they adopted the following resolutions:—Mr. Bell's letter of the 25th instant having been read and attentively considered, on the motion of Mr. J. Lamb, seconded by Mr. Philipson, it was resolved—That this meeting is grateful for the suggested reduction to 2s. on coals exported in British ships, and desire to express the high sense they entertain of Mr. Bell's exertions with reference to this question, and the sincere desire they feel to act in accordance with his suggestions. They would also gratefully acknowledge the consideration which the Government has given to the question, and the patient attention with which the Members of it have listened to the facts and statements laid before them on behalf of the trade. That, so far as regards the discriminating duty between British and foreign vessels, this meeting feel it to be a matter of national policy, to be dealt with as Parliament may deem fit. That, strongly convinced that a duty of 2s. cannot be imposed without deeply and seriously diminishing the export of coal; and, being confirmed in this opinion by the inquiry and investigation made since the subject first came under discussion, they regret that, consistently with their duty, they are unable to sanction the proposed compromise, feeling convinced that they would only deceive the Government if they held out the expectation that the trade could bear the imposition of a duty of 2s.1553 The Chamber of Commerce at Newcastle adopted a resolution on the 3rd of June, deprecating any duty on the export of coals as being objectionable, not only to the coal trade, but as being prejudicial to the shipping interests at large, and hoping that Government would abandon the proposed duty. Subsequently to this, a meeting was held in London. He might here state that, while the subject was pending, a committee, consisting of Members whose constituents possessed an interest in the coal districts, held meetings in Palace-yard. At a meeting of that committee,Mr. Bell having read the resolution of the coal-trade meeting held at Newcastle on Saturday last, Resolved—That Mr. Bell do write by this day's post to the chairman of the coal-trade committee, requesting that a general meeting of the representatives of the coal-trade be summoned to consider of the proposition suggested to reduce the 4s. duty on coals exported to 2s.This meeting was held on the 30th of May. No intimation had then been given that any further modification of the Government plan was contemplated from that which was already known, but on the following morning a notice was issued summoning another meeting. He himself was not present, but he was informed that at the meeting the hon. Member for South Northumberland stated, that Government would propose to modify the proposal still further. [Mr. Bell: I only stated my opinion. After some explanation the following resolution was adopted:—Resolved—That this meeting concurring with the views of the coal-trade committee, that it is inexpedient to accept a uniform duty of 2s. per ton on all coals exported, are yet of opinion that if the Government will consent to fix the duty of 2s. on round and 1s. on small coals, it is decidedly to the interest of the coal owners to accept this compromise rather than risk the imposition of the duty originally proposed of 4s. per ton.In consequence of that resolution the hon. Member for South Northumberland wrote again to the chairman of the coal committee in Palace-yard, as follows:—Palace-yard, 31st May, 1842.Dear Sir—In consequence of it being necessary to make some alteration in the resolution of yesterday, and which could not be done until a meeting to-day, it was not sent off till this day.It having been suggested by Mr. Wood and some others, that if the Government would 1554 entertain a proposition from the coal-owners to this effect, that there should be a differential duty of 2s. on round, and Is. on small coals, that it would be satisfactory to them, I waited on the gentleman who has hitherto acted between the trade and the Government, when he consented to name the proposition to them. I think it right to add that it is quite impossible I can ask the above gentleman to take any more trouble in this matter; and, therefore, if the meeting of representatives think fit to pass a resolution declining the good offices of the gentleman above referred to, the thing will be at an end, and we must be prepared to fight the battle in the House, where certain defeat awaits us. You will have the goodness to attend to the resolution for convening the meeting of representatives, and will have the goodness likewise to let me know the result, and I can only hope that it will be favourable.—Your obedient servant,(Signed) "MATTHEW BELL.R. W. Brandling, Esq.On the receipt of these said resolutions they were laid before a general meeting of coal owners in Northumberland. He was informed that at this meeting many of the great coal owners were absent. There were not above thirty-seven present out of the one hundred and forty gentlemen who had a right to sit. The following resolutions were adopted:—1. That this meeting retain the opinion as to the impolicy and inexpediency of a duty on the export of coals, expressed in their memorial to the Government and petition to the Legislature; and are convinced that the imposition of any duty must, in proportion to its amount, prejudicially affect the trade, and necessarily prove seriously injurious to the shipping and other interests connected therewith2. That this meeting, therefore, still trust that the Government may, on further consideration, be induced to abandon the imposition of any duty. But, on due consideration of the position which the question has now assumed, they respectfully submit that no higher than 2s. per ton on round, and 1s. on small coals (passed through a screen, the bars of which are not more than 5-8ths of an inch asunder) should be levied; and this, under the conviction that the effect of such duties on the prosperity of the trade will be carefully watched by the Government, and, in the hope, that if it should be shown by experience that those duties are prejudicial, they will be revealed.These were the only papers which he thought it necessary to read to the House, and he asked all who had listened to his statement, coupled with what had fallen from the hon. Member for South Northumberland, whether the evidence did not substantiate his assertion, that the mea- 1555 sures of the coal trade had been abandoned by holding over them the threat, that if they persisted in these measures for organising a resistance to the duty, which it was in their power to adopt,—that if they did not consent to a compromise, the effect would be that Government would propose not a smaller duty of 2s., but the higher and the ruinous one of 4s. per ton. Under this impression it was not wonderful that parties who felt that the higher duty would be attended with most prejudicial consequences should have made themselves parties to a compromise; but he asked the House if this was a mode of proceeding to which the House would give its sanction? If the Government were of opinion that the duty of 2s. on round, and 1s. on small coal per ton was as much as could be with safety imposed on a great trade—if this was their deliberate opinion, then they were bound in duty to signify to the gentlemen interested in the trade, that that was the amount of duty which they intended to propose to Parliament, leaving them at liberty to take what course they thought under the circumstances proper, but assuring them at the same time that, whatever that course might be, they (the Government) would not on that account propose a greater duty or a less amount. This was the line of conduct Government should have adopted, but he asked the House, he asked the country, after the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Northumberland, whether they believed that, were it not for the threats of Government, the coal trade would have abstained from giving their most earnest and serious opposition to a duty which they felt would be so prejudicial to their interests? The inference to be drawn from the speech of the hon. Member for South Northumberland was, that the rate of duty was adopted in a mere haggling spirit, with the view of driving the best bargain with the coal owners, and not on a calm review of all the circumstances attending the change. The Government calculated that on the imposition of the duty there would be no falling off whatever in the trade. If that turned out to be the case, it would furnish a solitary exception to the rule which prevailed in all reductions of taxation. He believed there was no instance of even a moderate duty being imposed which did not more or less limit the consumption, at any rate in the first instance. The right hon. Vice-President of the Board of Trade calculated 1556 that on 45,000 tons there would be a revenue of 10,000l., or 960,000 tons 100,000l., and on 475,000 tons 30,000.l. The whole trade, then, was assumed to be 1,580,000 tons—within a very small fraction of its present amount. Now, he asked was there any rational ground for this supposition? The duty of 2s. on the large coal, and Is. on the small coal might appear to the House a low duty, but taken with reference to the value of the article, it was by no means low. At this moment small coals—and he spoke from information which he had that morning from a gentleman carrying on a large establishment on the Wear—were delivering on the river side of Sunderland at ls.6d. and 2.s. the ton. Therefore, the export duty proposed was 50 per cent, in some cases, and in others 75 per cent, on the value of the article exported. He thought, too, he could show that the present trade was actually created by the reduction of the duty. Up to 1834 the duty was 3s. 4d. on large coals, and 2.s. on small coals. Under that duty the trade had gone on, making a very slight increase indeed. But since that period, from the very date of the repeal of the duty, the trade had received a most extraordinary impetus; springing up largely in the next year, and going on from year to year progressively increasing ever since. The total amount of coals shipped to foreign countries in 1833 was 433,000 tons, and last year it sprung up to 1,500,000 tons. Now, he knew what answer the Government would give to this increase. They would say that it was not attributable so much to the reduction of the duty, as to the great changes which had taken place; to the progress of steam in its application to manufactures and navigation. "True," said Ministers, "the increase on the coal trade was contemporaneous with the reduction of the duty, but there is no evidence that it was caused by that reduction." Now he contended that the increase was directly traceable to the reduction of the duty, and should give the grounds of that opinion. There was exported to France, in 1833, 45,000 tons; but in 1841 that trade had increased to 451,000 tons; that was a tenfold increase in eight years, Now, was it true that that consumption was owing to a generally increased demand for coals, or from the fact that a larger proportion was taken from us, and less from other countries? They had, in an appendix to a report to which [...] already alluded, the official 1557 returns, showing what the importation of France from different countries had been. He found that the average quantity of coals imported from Belgium in 1832,1833, and 1834, was 563,291 tons—the importation in the last of these years being 620,000 tons. What was the importation in 1841? Belgium exported to France 614,000 tons; that was to say, the importation from Belgium showed in eight years a very slight increase over the average of the years 1832, 1833, and 1834, and no increase, but a positive diminution as compared with the year 1834. These facts, then, proved to demonstration that the great increase of our export of coal to France had arisen not from increased demand in that country, but from our being able to meet the competition to which we were exposed in France on more advantageous terms than before. We formerly could not undersell the Belgian coals, but we could at present, and the consequence was the great increase in the consumption which he had mentioned; the necessity of dealing cautiously with this interest was shown by the fact, that in many of our most important markets we were exposed to a severe competition. In Holland there was a neck and neck race between our coals and those of foreign countries. In Rotterdam we could undersell the steam coal of the Rhine; but a little up the river we could not, for our expenses increased as those of our competitors diminished. He could state, on the authority of a person sent last year to take orders in Holland, in the usual way, for our coals, that the competition was extremely close; and this assertion was confirmed by a return which had been laid on the Table of the House, and which showed that the export to Holland had fallen off 32,000 tons in 1841 as compared with 1840. In the Mediterranean a competition was also springing up. In the south of France a powerful company was established, which, when the railroad now in progress was opened, could sell coals at Marseilles at a price with which we could hardly compete. If this duty, however, was imposed, it was very questionable whether we should not be driven out of the market altogether. In Russia there was a trade with Belgium growing up, and our export had been diminished. But it was not only by the imposition of a duty that the trade in coals would be diminished, but by the inconvenience to which those engaged in it would be subjected through the regulations necessary for 1558 the collection of that duty. No gentleman who paid the most moderate attention to the imposition of a tax affecting trade could be ignorant that it caused more mischief by the regulations which it rendered necessary, and by the restrictions and difficulties which it imposed, than by the mere amount of pecuniary imposition. From the frauds practised in bringing the coals to the ship, it was necessary that a Custom-house officer should be always in attendance. The necessary consequence must be, a great increase in the Custom-house establishment, and, therefore, a reduction in the amount of duty estimated. Again, the ships must be loaded at Custom-house hours. The present practice was to do so; at high tide, but this did not occur frequently during the hours of attendance at the Custom-house. He had heard that an order had already been issued, ordering the waggons to be branded which were used in the foreign trade, and directing not only the weight to be carried by them, but the shape in which they should be made. What was the result? That in one large house, employing 1,200 waggons, 800 should be discontinued, at a loss of 22l. per waggon. He only instanced this as a sample of the vexatious peoceedings adopted before the duty was imposed at all. But not only was this duty likely to diminish the export trade, but it would increase the price to the home consumer. Instead of the present amount of consumption, if there was a considerable decrease, and that the public establishments were also considerably increased by reason of this tax, he did not think the right hon. Gentleman could reckon safely on more than half of the 140,000l. on which he calculated. He did not say that there would be a falling-off, in the first instance, to that extent, but he was persuaded that our competitors would gain such an advantage that they would drive us out of the market, and that none but those most favourably situated for making shipments to foreign countries would be able to sustain the combined burden of the duty and the restrictions necessary to collect it. The manufacturers of Newcastle and Sunderland had memorialized the Government, giving it as their deliberate opinion, that the trade of coal in this country must be diminished by the proposed duty. It was more than probable that foreign countries would not consent to pay the amount of this duty into our exchequer, but would give a preference to our rivals. In conclusion, the noble Lord 1559 moved an amendment negativing the proposal of the Government.
§ Mr. Hutt
said, that after the speech of the noble Lord who had just addressed the committee, it would be unnecessary for him to trespass at any length upon their attention. In all that the noble Lord had stated in condemnation of the proposed duty on the export of coal, he entirely concurred. It was not true that the coal exported was, to any considerable amount, used for the purpose of carrying on foreign manufactures; in fact, only a very small quantity was so applied. But if the fact were as represented, it would still be impolitic to check the exportation of coal upon such grounds. He thought he had heard Ministers contend that the manufacturing interest ought not to be propped and shored up by legislative means, but should depend upon their own inherent strength. Now, however, a different argument was used, and we were told that it was necessary to check the export of coal because it was useful to foreign manufacturers, and enabled them to compete the more readily with our own. For the same reason, we ought to prevent the exportation of iron, which foreigners made into railways; and above all, of machinery, by which they came into immediate competition with us. If we were to adopt the course proposed with respect to coal, we should, in consistency, apply it to cotton, woollen, and linen-yarn, and, in short, to almost every article we exported, for there were few of which foreigners did not avail themselves for the purpose of improving their manufactures. He much feared that the Government, in the hope of giving an insignificant advantage to the manufacturers of Lancashire, were about to inflict a deep injury upon the counties of Durham and Northumberland. The removal of the duty upon coal, in 1834, gave a great stimulus to the working of coal mines; the imposition of the duty now proposed would have a precisely contrary effect as regarded all the objects which were contemplated by the removal of the duty.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that the noble Lord, the Member for Sunderland, was entirely misinformed when he supposed that any threats had been held out to the Government. The facts of the case were simply these:—He received a communication from an individual coal owner, stating that he believed the trade Would readily accept a duty of 2s. as a satisfactory rate of duty. In reply he 1560 stated, that before he could act upon the communication, it was absolutely necessary that he should know what was the feeling of the gentlemen connected with the trade generally with respect to it. He could distinctly state, that up to Monday last he was not aware what course the hon. Member for South Northumberland intended to take. During Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, he was in constant communication with the Members of the Government as to the course which ought to be pursued on the subject. There had been no compromise of an improper character, and the Government had done no more with reference to this transaction than they were bound to do in all similar cases—namely, to listen respectfully to the statements made to them, and take time to determine upon them.
§ Viscount Howick
said, that nothing had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman in the slightest degree inconsistent with what he had stated. He said he did not know whether the Government were to blame or not but he stated, and he now repeated it, that Gentlemen connected with the coal trade were led to believe that if they abstained from an organised opposition to the measure of Government, and would concur in a modified duty of 2,?. on round, and Is. on small coal, that would be conceded to them; but that if, on the other hand, they united to resist the imposition of any duty, Government would then carry through Parliament their original proposition of a 4s. duty. In his opinion, it was not right and fair to attempt to influence persons engaged in a trade in that manner. There might have been no threats used, but undoubtedly inducements had been held out to the coal owners to abstain from opposition.
§ Mr. Liddell
regretted, that the Government should have deemed it advisable to augment the revenue by reviving the duty upon coal. He believed, that a great risk, would be incurred of losing the market which we now almost exclusively kept to ourselves, and that the Government, in that event, must be implicated in a most serious responsibility. There were, however, political interests involved as well as mercantile, to all of which it was the bounden duty of a prudent and wise Government to look, and as he had been a party to that arrangement or compromise, in consequence of which the trade had forborne to press its opposition to the proposed duties, he would not support the 1561 motion of the noble Lord, satisfied as he was, that should the imposition of the duties now proposed prove injurious to the coal interests of this country, the Government would not hesitate to retrace its steps, and remove the injurious tax. It was very generally believed in the coal districts, that not less than a million tons of small coal yearly were lost to the owners either in the pit or at the pit's mouth. By the transmission and breakage, the coal was rendered so very small that the proprietors allowed any one to take it away as being nearly valueless, thus conferring a great advantage upon the local poor; and even upon the arrival of the coal in London or other ports, there was so great a proportion of it reduced to small coal, that the smith and artisan could obtain a supply of it at 7s. a ton, or nearly 3s. less than the price of the freight. Considering the importance of the trade in a national point of view, the enormous capital employed in coal mines, the thousands that were supported by their labour in these mines, and the nursery for able seamen which its conveyance to distant ports afforded to the country in a period of danger, he confessed he was still disposed to look with great anxiety to the results of this financial experiment of the Government. Let the right hon. Gentleman recollect, that should this country once lose the coal market in foreign countries, we should be driven out of the field by foreigners, and the market might never be recalled. Under such circumstances, he trusted the Government would pay great attention to the operation of the duties upon the coal-trade of the country, and hasten to its relief from the pressure of those duties if it was proved by experience that the trade could not bear these imposts.
said, the price of English coal at Antwerp had for some time been declining. Indeed, it had fallen already so low, that it was generally feared there that we could not much longer compete with the mines of Belgium, and those of the south of France. The French Government, by an ordonnance, had rendered it nearly impossible that we should ever have it in our power to supply coal for French ships of war. He reminded the right hon. Gentleman, that in re-imposing a tax taken off in 1834, the Government was incurring a serious responsibility, inasmuch as it might prove an 1562 insuperable impediment to the prosecution of a trade in which great capital was embarked; and still higher national and maritime interests involved; since, in the case of war breaking out, any falling-off in the nursery of seamen, through the medium of the coal-trade, would deprive us of that ready supply of hardy sailors which this trade had, in all former wars, contributed to the defence of our seagirt isles.
trusted, that the ruinous consequences would not ensue which Gentlemen connected with the coal districts had predicted from this measure. If the predictions of Gentlemen personally interested were taken as good authority, not one of the changes proposed in the import duties would have been carried. There was hardly a single case in which parties had not stated, and he believed conscientiously, that ruin, desolation, and he knew not what bad consequences would ensue. When direct taxation was proposed, strong objections were made to it, and then, when a proposition for indirect taxation was brought forward, arguments were adduced, that by taxing articles of consumption, trade was diminished, labourers thrown out of employment, and persons connected with the article taxed, ruined. It was, therefore, not to these general objections made in the case of every article, they should apply their consideration. What they should consider was, whether the particular objections raised were sufficiently strong to induce them to reject the measure of his right hon. Friend. He admitted there were disadvantages as well as advantages; but taking it as a question of revenue, his right hon. Friend expected to raise a sum of from 130.000l. to 14O,000l. by the duty. He believed, that the sum could be raised in no less objectionable a way, and that no tax could be more fair. As to the political consequences which seemed to be apprehended from the measure, he would submit, that if thi country, by her superior natural advantages, could afford to supply coal on such terms as to make it for the advantage of foreign countries, to buy it in preference to the coal of other places, these foreign countries had no reason to complain of a duty placed on the exportation of the article, not intended to put a stop to the trade. An analogous case existed in the case of copper, in which this country availed herself of her natural advantages, 1563 and of her facilities for smelting. It was [proposed to avail ourselves of our natural advantages as to coal, and to make the wealth which was given us subserve the interest of the country, not only in the way of trade, but of revenue. He must deny; the assertion of the noble Lord, the Member for Sunderland, that the duty proposed would raise the price of coal. On the contrary, it would tend to lower the price to the consumer in this country. The freight to places over sea was frequently much less than that to London and places on the British coast. If the objections of the noble Lord as to the restrictions upon trade which the measure would produce, were well founded, then these restrictions must have the effect of throwing the article on the home market, and reducing the price to the consumer. But the chief grounds on which the duty was proposed being that of revenue, he would not say, that any great reduction in the price was to be expected, for he did not think, that the measure would cause any perceptible diminution in the foreign trade. The noble Lord argued as if the proposed duty was a tax of 50 to 75 per cent, on the small coal, and 25 to 35 on the larger kind. The fair way, however, to estimate the duty was not by the price in England, but by the price paid by the foreigner; and the duty proposed would be practically one of rather less than more than 10 per cent, on the price paid by the foreign consumer. Coal was sent from this country to twenty-five or thirty places abroad, and was it probable, that so small a duty would check the demand for coal? The only way in which this question could be fairly considered was, by balancing the probability of what would be the best on the whole. A person connected with the coal trade, and of much experience, wrote from Havre to say, that so far as that port was concerned, a duty of 4s. would operate injuriously on the trade; but the same party, without knowing anything of the intention of Government, said, of his own free motion, that a duty of 2s. could, in consequence of the superior quality of British coal, be borne by it without injury in its competition with the Belgian article; for it was in the quality, not in the price, that British coal had the advantage, Belgian being offered at the same price. The 2s. duty was adopted as a medium. In Denmark there was an increased demand for our coal. The export to that country 1564 was 150,000 tons in the last year; and they were told, that with respect to that country, a duty even of 4s. could be borne without fear from foreign competition. There might, he admitted, be some diminution in the export to Holland. That was the most unfavourable case connected with the question, and the duty might certainly have the effect of bringing German coal a little farther on, and keeping British coal a little backward, as respected the markets of that country. But, even in that most unfavourable case, the diminution would not be considerable, while in the case of Denmark a duty of 4s. might be levied without any diminution being caused. The noble Lord said, that the estimate of the revenue he expected from the duty was extravagant. Now, it was possible that some deductions might be made for particular cases; but his right hon. Friend's estimate was most moderate, for his right hon. Friend calculated that the quantity of small coal exported, and which would pay the smaller duty of 1s. per ton, was in the proportion of two-thirds to the larger kind, on which a duty of 2s. would be levied; whereas gentlemen connected with the coal trade gave, in one case, one-6fth, in others, one-sixth, as the proportion which the smaller coal bore. Now, assuming the proportion borne by the smaller description of coal exported to be one-sixth, his right hon. Friend estimated the quantity paying the smaller duty at twice more than would be the amount. Looking, therefore, at the fears and apprehensions expressed with regard to the operation of these duties, he did not see any generic difference between them and the objections made, by some class of persons, to other proposed changes. He would remind hon. Gentlemen, in conclusion, that in no case had the coal-trade stepped in and objected to the tax, on the ground that it would interfere with them in carrying on their trade. Dangers of this kind were not anticipated by those most interested, and he must therefore suppose them to have been suggested by the lively imaginations of some hon. Members. He trusted, therefore, that considering the accounts received from parties in places where difficulty was most apprehended, the House would consider that there was nothing in the circumstances of the case to induce them to refuse the Treasury that aid, arising from a duty on coal, on the exportation of which the pro- 1565 position of the Government was mainly founded.
§ Mr. H. Lambton
did not agree with his noble Friend (Viscount Howick) in the censure he had passed on the Government and the hon. Member for South Northumberland, for what they had done with regard to the compromise. It was very natural and proper that a Government should find out if certain modifications would be attended to by the great parties interested; and he must say, that the hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. Bell) deserved praise for all his exertions. He did not agree with the hon. Member in his conclusions as to not opposing this modified duty; but he gave him full credit for all he had done on this subject. He felt himself called upon to oppose even this modified duty; because he thought it would endanger and injure all those great interests concerned and connected with this trade, and also because he thought the duty calculated to obstruct and injure that commercial policy which this country was seeking to adopt. The great interests concerned were the coal-owners, the shipowners, the manufacturers of Newcastle, and the two great companies—the Steam Navigation Company, and the Continental Gas Company, who, with a combined capital of 2,000,000l. (part of which had been invested on the faith of the repeal of this coal duty) had entered into important contracts upon the same faith. Now, he contended, that in Holland and France, the two greatest important countries of our coal, the prices of our coal and that of other countries competed most closely with each other, and that the prices ran a neck and neck race. Holland did not use our coal for any of those manufactures whose rivalship we had any reason to fear. She used our coal for house and gas purposes, distilleries, and sugar refineries. He called upon the House to observe here the inconsistency of the Government. The right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) had stated this when introducing the first mention of the coal duty:—I think that a tax levied on an article produced in this country—an element of manufactures—necessary to manufactures—contributing, by its export, to increase the competition with our manufactures—I think that such a tax is a legitimate source of revenue."Now, how stood the fact? Why, in none of those manufactures on the continent, whose rivalship we have any reason 1566 to fear, do they use one ton of our coal, except at Roden. But they do use many important articles from this country. Our English mechanics go abroad and are employed in many of them. We send our machinery and mill-work, our iron and steel, wrought and unwrought, our wool, woollen and worsted yarn, and cotton twist and yarn. Now, all these articles, foreign manufacturers, whose rivalship we do fear, use to a great extent. We did not tax these, but we taxed the coal which they do not use. Again, observe another inconsistency, more baneful and injurious in its effects. At this moment, we are endeavouring to form commercial treaties with foreign nations on the principal of reciprocal benefit of free-trade. Our foreign Minister, our Commissioners and Ambassadors, are straining every nerve to attain this object. Our tariff carries with it the great principle of the relaxation of present duties, and buying in the cheapest markets. Now this coal duty was a direct violation of this principle, and was clearly calculated to irritate foreign Governments and strengthen them in any wish they may have to legislate on the protective and prohibitory principle. This, it seems, will be peculiarly the case with regard to France. The right hon. Baronet in his great financial statement said, that the Government was anxious to form a commercial treaty with France, "founded on principles of reciprocal benefit"—that the present was "the opportunity of materially benefitting the trade and industry of both countries by relaxation of present duties: would the prejudices of the French people admit of it, the benefit resulting to one country would react beneficially on the other to an extent not to be estimated. Was this coal duty he asked, "founded on principles of reciprocal benefit?" Was it a specimen of "the relaxation of present duties"—and was it the way to remove the "prejudices of the French people? "He thought not; and to shew how right he was in saying this coal duty would have the effect of irritating the French government and people, and of strengthening them in any wish they had to legislate on the restrictive and prohibitory principle, he would cite the observations made, only a few days ago, in the French Chamber of Peers by M. Ferrier. M. Ferrier taunted England with her want of sincerity on the subject of free-trade, and cited this coal duty as a proof. He 1567 said this coal duty will strike peculiarly at France, and he asked why at the moment we were proposing the coal duty, we said we were favouring foreign competition; and he went on in these words:—Why did Sir Robert Peel, the organ of England, add that in the English tariff there was no article upon which the importation of a tax was more legitimate. I can readily yield to him the principle. It amounts to this, that England would take away, if she could, all means of competition from other nations; but surely it is pushing it very far to apply it to coal, in which she is so rich, and I feel justified in asking what connection there is between the freedom of commerce, the principle of which is to favour competition, and this new tax on coal proclaimed so legitimate, solely because it obstructs? I will ask this question, especially of that Member of the British Parliament, who last week implored the Government to extend more and more those liberal principles which characterise the new commercial policy. Certainly, the moment to utter this would be badly chosen if the orator were to offer it when the coal duty was proposed.This shewed how just his assertion was, that this coal duty was calculated to irritate other powers and strengthen any wish that might exist to legislate on restrictive and prohibitory principles: it distinctly armed foreign governments with an excuse. The hon. Member proceeded to state the prices of Belgian and French coal at Rouen, and cited a letter from the agent of a noble Lord to shew that the prices of the coal of the two countries were at this moment competing so closely that any duty was likely to throw the balance completely in favour of Belgium: he quoted the prices of English and Asturias coal at Bordeaux, and laid great stress on the prices of French and English coal at Marseilles. The English and the St. Etienne coal were exactly the same in the Marseilles market; and there was a large splendid coal field called "The Grande Combe," which was now beginning to be worked by a Company, with Baron Rothschild at its head; and there was no doubt that this coal would undersell the English coal in the Marseilles market without any duty-whatever. He concluded by saying he had proved by facts and figures, that could not be gainsaid, that the prices of English and foreign coal closely competed—ran a neck and neck race—with each other in Holland and France—that in none of those continental manufactures on the continent, whose rivalship we had reason to fear, did they use any of oar coal; and 1568 that this duty was pernicious in its principle, and calculated to obstruct and injure the commercial policy of this country was anxious to adopt.
said, that on every step which he had felt it his duty to take with reference to the coal trade, he had made it a rule to consult the wishes and the feelings of the trade—in everything that related to their interests he had always acted with their full sanction and concurrence. A noble Lord on the other side of the House had insinuated that he had sacrificed the interests of those whose interests he was sent there to protect—that he had sacrificed those interests to the wish which he entertained of giving the fullest support in his power to the present Advisers of the Crown. The insinuation thus conveyed was utterly unfounded—there could not be a more groundless insinuation, and he wished to take the earliest opportunity of repelling it. He was not the man who would ever think of sacrificing the interests of those whom he represented to serve the purposes of any Government that ever existed. But, though incapable of anything of that sort, he still could not refuse to do an act of justice to the Administration, and justice required of him to say that in this matter no blame could attach to the Government; the course which they took throughout the whole of these proceedings was straightforward and candid.
§ Viscount Mahon
said, that in so extensive and important a series of changes as the tariff embraced, it was not to be expected that all cases would be free from doubt and migivings; he did not pretend that his own mind had always been free from them; but if there were one article beyond every other respecting which no shadow of doubt or hesitation had ever crossed his mind, he should say, that that article was the coal duty. In support of the view which he took of this subject, he desired to call the attention of the House to that which formed rather a remarkable circumstance connected with the proposed duty—and, as he conceived, a strong additional argument in its support. It was well worthy of especial notice, that the calculations of the man of science should have gone to support and strengthen the decisions of the statesman without their having held any personal communication on the subject. While his right hon Friend at the head of her Majesty's Government, was maturing the tariff now before the 1569 House, Dr. Buckland, the president of the Geological Society, delivered an anniversary address to the body of which he was the head. That address was read on the 19th of February, and he (Lord Mahon) now held it in his hand. In the course of his remarks the learned president said, that British coals were used for the purpose of working the machinery of foreign manufactories, which in certain cases could scarcely be worked without a supply of Bristish coals. In the year 1839, 1,431,861 tons were exported, and in 1840, 1,592,283 tons, of which nearly one-fourth went to France. Dr. Buckland further observed, that an increased duty on coals exported to any country excepting our own dependencies might be beneficial. Besides the testimony of Dr. Buckland in support of the proposition of her Majesty's Government, some valuable evidence as to the probable supply of coal in the northern districts was given before a committee of the House which sat in 1830. In that evidence were stated the number and extent of all the principal coalbeds. It set forth, that those in Northumberland and Durham are known, and it has been calculated that the coal in these counties will last 360 years. Mr. Bailey, in his Survey of Durham, states that one-third of the coal being already got, the coal districts will be exhausted in 200 years. It is stated as probable, that many beds of inferior coal, which are now neglected, may in future be worked; but the consumption of coal being greatly increased since Mr. Bailey published his Survey of Durham we may admit his calculation to be an approximation to the truth, and that the coal of Northumberland and Durham will be exhausted in a period not greatly exceeding 200 years. This opinion rested on the high authority of Mr. Bakewell. Another eminent geologist was asked this question (May 6, 1830)—What do you think of the policy of permitting the exportation of coals to foreign ports from Newcastle?" and his answer is, "It is permitting foreigners to consume the vitals of our own posterity.[An hon. Member: The supply of coal will last 1,700 years.] That was the statement of Mr. Thompson; but other testimony contradicted his; he was contradicted by Dr. Buckland, Mr. Bailey, and by Mr. Bakewell. The complaint of Dr. Buckland against the waste of coal committed by the owners was well known. That learned person wrote in these terms:— 1570The wanton waste which for more than fifty years has been committed by the coal-owners near Newcastle, by screening and burning annually in never-extinguished fiery heaps at the pit's mouth more than 1,000,000 chaldrons of excellent small coal, being nearly one-third of the entire produce of the best coal mines in England,—this criminal destruction of the elements of our national industry, which is accelerating by one-third the not very distant period when these mines will be exhausted, is perpetrated by the colliers for the purpose of selling the remaining two-thirds at a greater profit than they would derive from the sale of the entire bulk unscreened to the coal merchantSurely, the fact that above 1,000,000 of chaldrons of excellent coal is yearly destroyed, to enhance the price of the rest, was no light matter. It should make the House receive with some distrust and suspicion the statements of the coal-owners, by whom that destruction was wrought. He (Lord Mahon) did not say, that we were to carry our care for our posterity, so far as to prohibit the present export of coal. Nor should we prohibit it, even for the more pressing and immediate consideration that we are thereby affording aliments to foreign industry at the expense of our own. But he (Lord Mahon) was prepared to contend, that as the export of coal was thus proved to be attended both with prospective hazard and present manufacturing loss; it was only fair, that the State should receive some commensurate advantage by the imposition of a moderate duty, and the receipt of an increased revenue. For the reasons, that he had stated, and upon the evidence which he had laid before the House, he would most cordially give his support to the proposition of her Majesty's Government.
§ Mr. F. T. Baring
could not do less than thank the noble Lord for the admission which the House had just heard. The noble Lord admitted, that the effect of the tax would be to check the exportation of coals. Her Majesty's Government maintained, that the export of coals would not be diminished by the duty, while the noble Lord held that to continue the export would be preying upon the vitals of our posterity. There had been some reference made to a compromise between the coalowners and the Government. He understood that there was a proposition to this effect:—If you will take 2s., and withdraw your opposition, you shall have it; if not, you shall have the 4s.And according to the hon. Member for 1571 Durham, the coal-owners had shaped their course under the idea that such a proposition had emanated from the Government; but the right hon. Gentleman had told the committee that it had not. Who the third party was he would not evince the bad taste to inquire; but the right hon. Gentleman was mistaken if he supposed that he had no curiosity to know whether or not the person was a Member of the Government, or connected with it, who not only made the declaration as if it came from the Government, but likewise when the parties concerned made a counter proposition, he, or some one connected with the Government communicated that proceeding to her Majesty's Ministers. In what other way except through that individual the Government got acquainted with the matter he could not say. The right hon. Gentleman, the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, went only on the principle of raising money, and whatever disadvantages might result from his scheme, he considered of trifling consequence compared to the one object of increasing the revenue. But what amount of revenue was expected from this source? Not more, according to the calculations he had made, than 135,000l., and if the 12,000l. now received for coals, which sum the right hon. Gentleman had not taken into consideration, were deducted, there would remain not more, in fact, than 123,000l., supposing that there should be no diminution of the exports. That was the whole grand sum to be derived by the right hon. Gentleman from this depart- | went of financial income. He conceded that the present proposition was infinitely better than the original one, but he disagreed with the right hon. Gentleman in his declaration that it would not affect the export of coal. In some instances, the right hon. Gentleman had told the committee, that an addition of 5 per cent had produced a great diminution of consumption and trade; here they were going to put on 50 per cent, and yet it was said, that no effect of that kind would follow. That was blowing hot and cold. The information derived from coalowners was looked upon with suspicion; it was not to be relied upon, because it came from those parties. But he would ask, what better source of information was open to the Government? There were complaints from all sides; and he must say, that he viewed this proposition with some alarm, even 1572 though by some happy accident, and for some inexplicable reason, some of those who did not approve of the proposition would yet, and that without any compromise of course, vote in support of the right hon. Gentleman. What had been the effect of the last alteration of the tariff upon this subject? The exports of coals had trebled. But not only that, there was another important point to be considered. What would be the effect of this duty upon the shipping interest? From a return which the right hon. Gentleman had moved for in one of his happier moments, he found that in 1833, the number of vessels employed in the coal trade was 1,462, the tonnage being 260,000; and at the present time, there were 5,031 vessels, of 7,32,000 tons. Such was the increase in the number of vessels with their crews which had obtained employment in consequence of the former alteration of the law—an increase of employment which must be most important to the commercial marine and maritime force of the country, an interest with which they were about to trifle for the sake of 123,000l. a year. The coal trade between London and the coal districts had always been considered as one of the best resources for supplying our navy, and would they ruin that nursery for sailors for 100,000l. a year— for he ventured to predict, that they would not get more? He knew that it was said this was a duty of which foreigners had no right to complain; but they would quote that argument against us when we came to deal with them upon articles of importance to us. He should give his strenuous opposition to the proposition.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, the prevailing feeling on my mind in the course of this debate has been one of unmixed satisfaction that 1 have secured the Income-tax; for what would have been the position of the Government, since so great an opposition is made to this duty on coal, if we had proposed to raise three millions by taxes on articles of consumption? That was the alternative which the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) pointed to in his memorable resolution on the Income-tax, in which he tried to gather as many followers as possible under his banner. The noble Lord stated, that up to the year 1836, twenty-three millions of taxes had been repealed, and if he did not directly say, "Levy some of those taxes again," the meaning of the reference was, that it would be much bet- 1573 ter to revive some of them than to have recourse to a direct Income-tax. Suppose I had been credulous on this subject. Suppose I had said I had better give up the Income-tax, and try my hand at the revival of taxes on consumption. Why the tax on coal was one which was repealed, and certainly the opposition which has been shown to my raising 130,000.l. out of four millions by means of it, makes me rejoice that the Income-tax is beyond the grasp of that opposition. When see the right hon. Gentleman warmed to such a degree on this point, what would he have been if I had attempted to raise the amount of revenue indirectly. He says, that the proposition, as it at present stands, is infinitely better than the original one. If so, it cannot be bad. That which is not bad must be on the road to perfection. Here is a proposition supported by the coal trade, not universally, perhaps, but pretty generally. [Viscount Howick. A large body opposed it.] When a public meeting is called, and agrees that a duty of Is, on small coal, and 2s. on other coal, is satisfactory to them, it may be taken as their meaning, that the proposition is not so bad, and they are ready to support it. It being desirable to supply a deficiency, and being in want of revenue, we make this proposition. Compare it with any other indirect taxation. The right hon. Gentleman himself says, that our proposition is infinitely better than the other; and we have the consent of the parties interested. Then, as to the compromise which has been spoken of, and which I really thought the right hon. Gentleman was going to refer to the committee of inquiry—so little was I aware of any compromise, that on Saturday I met my right hon. Friends at the Board of Trade to consider the whole coal trade, to examine the information received from foreign consuls, from gas companies, and steam navigation companies, and I did not then understand that I was a party to any compromise. I thought myself then as free to propose any duty I might think fit as on the first day of the Session. I did not know in what manner the parties to this resolution meant to vote, nor did 1 feel myself bound as to the course I should pursue. I can believe that the coal-owners might ask what progress the Government had made in the tariff—that they would find that it had adhered to and carried all its propositions by large majorities— 1574 that they might ask if it adhered to the 4s. duty on coal, would that not be carried too? And they might state that they thought a 2s. duty might be accepted, as it would not check the export. I can believe that they would not imagine that the Government would abandon the coal duty altogether; but would, on the 19th head of the tariff, adhere to its original proposition in the same manner as it had done in the eighteen others. It would be A great reflection on their under standings had I thought otherwise. I was no party to any compromise; but supposing I had been, we were acting for great interests; and were we to be deprived of the privilege of obtaining information? Has not the right hon. Gentleman himself tried to ascertain what propositions would be palatable to certain parties? In the timber duties I entered into a compromise with the hon. Member for Lambeth. I heard what the custom-officers could state; and 1 did infer, that if his proposition did not cause a loss of revenue, that it would not be met by violent opposition. Is this improper? There is no use in seeing deputations, if we cannot say to the parties making a new proposition, "How many of you agree in this? and if we accede to it, do you withdraw your opposition?" I saw the noble Lord (Lord Howick) and the Member for Southwark on this subject. Suppose they had said we think a 4s. duty too much, and that 2s. 6d. is enough. I should have asked what were the opinions of other parties. And he would have told me the opinion of the trade. These negotiations are essential to settle taxes concerning commerce. What took place last night? The noble Lord, the Member for Liverpool, had given notice that he should move, that the duty on what is called naturalised coffee should be 6d.; we had consultations on the subject, and we did not accede to his proposal, and, without a single minute's notice, he altered his proposition to 7d., only 1d. less than the duty on foreign coffee. It appears, that in the course of the debate, the noble Lord (Lord Howick) went over to my noble Friend, (Viscount Sandon), and said, that he would vote for a duty of 1d., but he could not vote for a duty of 6d. We never heard of this—the noble Lord made a compromise in coffee, but he would have no compromise on coals. When we determined on proposing a different duty on coal, I immediately came down to the 1575 House, and gave notice of it. The Government would be subjected to nightly defeats, if Members gave notice of one motion, and then confederated for the purpose of making another. All the negotiations on the coal duties were published in the Newcastle papers, all persons interested were consulted, and this is the concealment which it is said we have practised. I never made any compromise, Yesterday I was at liberty to make any proposition, and I can prove by written documents, that I did not know how my hon. Friend intended to vote. I now come to the question itself. We must never lose sight of the deficiency of revenue, and we have imposed a duty on an article which we think is fairly subject to it. It is an article not capable of reproduction; one which this country possesses in greater abundance than an; other. I do not say that in order to suppress foreign manufacture, the export should be checked, but that having great natural advantage in the possession of this article, do not let us lose the opportunity of raising some revenue from it. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Baring has referred to the argument I used against his 5 per cent, duties, and he makes confident prediction that this duty will greatly prevent the export of coals, will tell him the reasons why I think will not. The export of coals was, in the year 1836, 916,000 tons; and in 1838, amounted to 1,313,300 tons. This is strong indication that the article would bear a small duty, and I doubt whether 2s. and 1s. duty will have any effect in reducing the exports. Every town on the continent is now or about to be lighted with coal gas, and the English coal peculiarly adapted for that purpose, was Mr. Warburton's opinion (and I suppose his opinion still has some weight in the House) that it was not expedient in export coal too freely; and Dr. Buckland participates in that opinion. This coal peculiarly adapted for foreign manufactures, for lighting with gas and for steam navigation. It is said that foreign countries will be indignant at our levying this duty. our position is a peculiar one we freely furnish foreign countries with our coal, and when they have it they e tract as much revenue as possible from I will read to the House an account the duties they levy on coals.
|THE IMPORT DUTY OK COALS INTO|
|France—Mediterranean ports and to||s.||d.|
|From Oleron to Dunkirk,|
|Hamburgh||1½ per cent,ad valorem|
I do not think then that ours is a very extravagant proposition, when it is considered, that upon all exported coal, foreign countries have the whole advantage, and take all the revenue. Every country feels the advantage to be so great, as not only to take the coal, but to levy a revenue on it. This is not an article of human industry, like silk—the supply is limited, and is it unreasonable that when other countries consider it a subject of revenue that we should partake in it? There may be coal mines in Belgium, but take a geological map of Germany and France, and compare the carboniferous strata of France and England. There is not a single mine in the northern and western districts of France, and in the whole superficial surface only a two-hundredth part contains strata, while in England, one-twentieth does. In the south of France there are small coal mines, and great alarm has been experienced lest they should be worked; but even if they were, I should not think it a misfortune, for, in the greater part of France, the supply must be derived from this country. In Nantes, where there is a very heavy import duty, the whole of the coal which is consumed comes from this country. Supposing that an import duty of 8s. was levied in France, I do not think that country could be jealous of our laying a 2s. duty on the export. I cannot see the injustice or unreasonableness of such a proposition. With respect to there being a difference in the price charged in the small coal, purchased for domestic manufactures and for export, if you go to the coal pits you are asked the purpose for which it is required, and 2s. a ton more is charged for that which is used for domestic purposes. I will now read to the House a letter which I have recently
received on this subject from a person engaged in the coal trade. ["Name, name."] I can assure hon. Gentlemen that this is a bona fide letter; but I hope I shall not be called upon to subject the party to injury by a disclosure of his name. The right hon. Baronet then read a letter to the following effect:—
I this morning received your letter, and I have no objection to these facts being made known. The coal-owners of Newcastle and Durham have refused to sell me small coals, except for exportation, and a short time since certain parties refused to send me 200 tons of small coals unless They were screened before shipping, it being alleged that it was contrary to their custom to do so.
There certainly are mysteries in the coal trade which I cannot pretend to develope, there is something in its regulations which I confess I cannot understand; but, certainly, there is a general impression among the manufacturers in this country that a higher price is demanded for small coals, if intended to be used for domestic manufactures than if intended for exportation, making full allowance for the increased labour in washing and screening them. I speak of coals of the same quality. Now it seems to me that that is a rather unfair disadvantage to which our manufacturers are subject. I cannot speak positively of the effect of this proposed export duty; but I think at all events that any regulations must be defective which would subject our domestic manufacturers to disadvantage as compared with foreign manufacturers. I will not trouble the House with minute calculations at this late hour. No duty can be imposed on any article without subjecting trade to some inconvenience; but I trust that under the peculiar difficulties of the present time, seeing the great financial exertion which the House has been called upon to make, recollecting that this is a duty which is levied by every foreign country, and bearing also in mind that our proposal is supported by a large majority of the coal owners, I hope the House will sanction our amended proposal, and not compel us to forego that financial supply which we hope to derive from a moderate duty on coals—a duty which we trust will not have the effect of injuring either the shipping or the commercial interests of this country.
§ Mr. Hume
was not surprised to find that this duty had been suggested by Dr. 1578 Buckland. He thought the suggestion must have been made by some one entirely unacquainted with trade; for the duty proceeded on a principle which was quite contrary to the true commercial policy of this country. Nay, it was contrary to the very principles which the right hon. Baronet had announced in his financial exposition at the beginning of the Session. It was a proposition to limit the market for a product which we had in great abundance, and which we could not use ourselves, and his objection to the proposition was, that, as the right hon. Baronet had himself admitted, we ought to find as extensive a market for our products as we could, and that it was contrary to every principle which had been laid down by the soundest writers on political economy to lay a duty on exports, except in cases of articles of which we had a complete monopoly. We had coal in common with Belgium, and if we levied a duty of 3s. 4d. a ton on the exportation of coals we could not compete with Belgian coal in supplying France; but the moment the duty was taken off we outstripped the Belgians, and the supply to France from Belgium had been declining ever since. The House was justified, therefore, in anticipating that the moment they laid on this duty the exportation would begin to fall off. He protested against thus reversing the principle on which the right hon. Baronet had commenced his financial career. No measure of the late Whig Government had given so much satisfaction on the continent as their removal of the duty on coals, and all the credit this country then obtained she would now lose by this measure. The French considered that this duty was levelled at them. When, in 1834, we took off our export duty, they immediately reduced their import duty. In 1834, when the duty was taken off, they imported 59,000 tons, and the quantity had gone on gradually increasing until last year it amounted to 451,000 tons. The measure of the right hon. Baronet would have the effect of irritating other nations from whom we expected that commerce which could alone relieve the existing distress. Of course, if the export of coal were lessened, our commercial intercourse with other countries would be lessened also. He should oppose the tax, and he regretted that the coal-owners should have entered into any compromise with the Government on the subject.
Mr. Hodgson Hinde
said, the interest which he represented had accepted the Government proposition as a compromise, pursuant to resolutions adopted at a public meeting of coal owners. Although he should not now oppose the proposition of the right hon. Baronet, he begged at the same time to guard himself and others against being supposed to approve of it. In the first instance he had contemplated a decided opposition, and an hon. Friend of his had put a notice to that effect on the paper; but when they found, that they were not likely to have the support they had calculated upon, they thought it better to agree to the compromise.
Lord J. Russell
was anxious to say a few words before the House went to a division, especially as he could not concur in what the noble Lord the Member for Sunderland, and the hon. Member for Portsmouth, had stated as the reasons for the vote they intended to give on this question. Before he gave his vote, he must allude to the speech of the right hon. Baronet, in which he alluded to the difficulties he would have had, if he had proposed taxes on consumption, instead of the tax he had proposed. The right hon. Gentleman was now proposing a tax of which it was said, that it would tend to the destruction of the trade in the article. The basis of the whole proposition he had formerly made to the House, was founded on an increase of trade in the articles of corn and sugar. Therefore, on the whole foundation of taxation, he entirely differed from the right hon. Gentleman. With respect to the question before the House, if the question were entirely to be decided on principles of trade—if they were now discussing whether it were desirable to prevent the exportation of coal for the sake of remote posterity, or to prevent the manufacturers of foreign countries having the advantage of our coal to work their manufactories, he could not assent to the proposition before the House. But the right hon. Gentleman, the Vice President of the Board of Trade, had stated at once, that the object was to obtain revenue. In the present state of the finances of the country, he must consider, whether this tax was one so objectionable in its nature, that he was bound to vote against it. It was said, that the trade would be destroyed by this tax; if the trade were destroyed, the revenue would not be obtained. The same arguments which would go to show, 1580 that the trade would be destroyed, would prove the measure a failure with respect to revenue. He did not think that case made out. He did not think, that a trade which had been increasing since 1834, was likely to be destroyed by the proposition before the House. It might be, that a duty of 4s. would inflict a serious injury. The statement made was, that this tax was a a tax of 25 per cent, on round coal, and a much higher tax on small coal; but he did not think, that that was a just computation on the amount of the tax. But he took it as the article would be received without any duty at Marseilles and Amsterdam—at Marseilles at 22s. per ton, and at Amsterdam at 23s. per ton; that according to this computation, the addition of 2s. duty would make 9 to 10 per cent, addition on the article; and he did not see, that that increase of duty would be destructive to the trade. At that time of the night he would not enter into the prices of coal, but from 1837, in Denmark, Germany, Prussia, Holland, and France, there had been a great increase in this trade. That being the case, he was of opinion, that the revenue proposed would be obtained, and he thought he should not be justified in depriving the Government of 140,000l. of revenue, if it could be obtained without injury. He regretted, that the coal-owners of the north had been met with the threat, that if they did not take 2s. duty, they should have the 4s. duty imposed. The hon. Member for Montrose had said, that this duty would be an injury to France; but France had an easy mode of redressing herself by taking off the import duties. There were many other countries besides France to take our coal, and use it for the various purposes of steam power in towns. They must consider, likewise, that the seams of coal on the continent were so far removed from any seaport, that although they excluded English coal from the manufactories in their neighbourhood, they could not well compete with us in coal to be sent to places by sea. For these reasons, therefore, he was not prepared to give his vote against the proposition of the Government, and he trusted the trade would not be seriously injured thereby.
§ Mr. C. Buller
wished to express his opinion on the subject, because it differed from some great authorities on his side of the House. He did not at all object to the hon. Member for Newcastle acceding 1581 to the terms of the right hon. Baronet, though the hon. Member said he should vote for the proposition, not at all approving of it. He (Mr. C. Buller) had prided himself during these debates on the tariff in always giving the right hon. Baronet his support so far as the question of free-trade and a reduction of duty on imports was concerned; but this was a matter not of free-trade, but simply of raising a new tax. He objected to that tax on two grounds. In the first place, on the ground which his noble Friend had just mentioned, and which he thought not sufficient to guide his vote, but which he thought sufficient to guide the vote of the House. The noble Lord thought they ran a great risk in interfering with the interests involved in the export of coal. He must say, that so great peril was never run for so miserable a sum as 140.000l. a-year. They might be sure that France would not take off her duty on the import of coal, because we chose to impose a duty on its export; By the present proposition, therefore, they would be giving a premium to Belgian coal in the French market, and consequently diminishing the power of that branch of industry in this country. He should also oppose the proposition, as establishing a mischievous principle, by levying a duty upon the export of an article of raw material, seeing how much the wealth and industry of this country depended on receiving raw materials from other countries. By this step we were holding out to foreign countries the influence of our example to levy similar taxes, and perilling British industry for the paltry sum of 140.000l. a year.
§ The committee divided, on the question that the proposed words and duty stand part of the schedule—Ayes 200; Noes 67: Majority 133.
|List of the AYES.|
|A'Court, Capt.||Beresford, Major|
|Adare, Visct.||Bernard, Visct.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Blackburne, J. I.|
|Arbuthnott, hon. H.||Blackstone, W. S.|
|Arkwright, G.||Botfield, B.|
|Bagge, W||Bramston, T. W.|
|Bailey, J.||Broadley, H.|
|Bailey, J. jun.||Broadwood, H.|
|Baillie, Col.||Brocklehurst, J.|
|Baring, hon. W. B.||Brotherton, J.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Browne, hon. W.|
|Baskerville, T. B. M.||Bruce, Lord E.|
|Bateson, R.||Buckley, E.|
|Beckett, W||Bunbury, T.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Burrell, Sir C. M.|
|Burroughes, H. N.||Herbert, hon. S.|
|Campbell, Sir H.||Heryey, Lord A.|
|Charteris, hon. F.||Hindley, C.|
|Chetwode, Sir J.||Hope, hon. C.|
|Cholmondeley, hn. H.||Hornby, J.|
|Chute, W. L. W.||Howard, P. H.|
|Clayton, R. R.||Hughes, W. B.|
|Clerk, Sir G.||Hussey, T.|
|Cockburn, rt. hn. SirG.||Inglis, Sir R. H.|
|Codrington, C. W.||James, W.|
|Colvile, C. R.||James, Sir W. C.|
|Compton, H. C.||Jermyn, Earl|
|Coote, Sir C. H.||Jocelyn, Visct.|
|Copeland, Ald.||Johnstone, Sir J.|
|Corry, rt. hn. H.||Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.|
|Courtenay, Lord||Kemble, H.|
|Cresswell, B.||Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E.|
|Cripps, W.||Knight, H. G.|
|Currie, R.||Knight, F. W.|
|Darner, hon. Col.||Knightley, Sir C.|
|Darby, G.||Lascelles, hon. W. S.|
|Denison, E. B.||Lawson, A.|
|Dickinson, F. H.||Lefroy, A.|
|Dodd, G.||Legh, G. C.|
|Douglas, Sir H.||Leicester, Earl of|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Lemon, Sir C.|
|Douglas, J. D. S.||Liddell, hon. H. T.|
|Duffield, T.||Lincoln, Earl of|
|Duncombe, hon. A.||Lindsay, H. H.|
|East, J. B.||Litton, E.|
|Eaton, R. J.||Lockhart, W.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Lowther, J. H.|
|Egerton, Sir P.||Lowther, hon. Col.|
|Eliot, Lord||Lyall, G.|
|Escott, B.||Lygon, hon. Gen.|
|Estcourt, T. G. B.||Mackenzie, T.|
|Evans, W.||Mackenzie, W. F.|
|Fellowes, E.||Mackinnon, W. A.|
|Feilden, W.||Maclean, D.|
|Ferrand, W. B.||M'Geachy, F. A.|
|Fleming, J. W.||Mahon, Visct.|
|Follett, Sir W. W.||Mainwaring, T.|
|Ffolliott, J.||Manners, Lord C. S.|
|Forbes, W.||Manners, Lord J.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Martin, C. W.|
|Gaskell, J. Milnes||Masterman, J.|
|Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.||Meynell, Capt.|
|Gladstone, T.||Miles, W.|
|Glynne, Sir S. R.||Milnes, R. M.|
|Gordon, hon. Capt.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Gore, M.||Morgan, O.|
|Gore, W. O.||Mundy, E. M.|
|Gore, W. R O.||Neeld, J.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Newry, Visct.|
|Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.||Nicholl, rt. hon. J.|
|Granby, Marq. of||Norreys, Lord|
|Grant, Sir A. C.||Northland, Visct.|
|Greenaway, C.||Pakington, J. S.|
|Grimsditch, T.||Palmer, R.|
|Grogan, E.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Halford, H.||Patten, J. W.|
|Hamilton, W. J.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Harcourt, G. G.||Peel, J.|
|Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H.||Philips, G. R.|
|Hardy, J.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Hawkes, T.||Pollock, Sir F.|
|Henley, J. W.||Praed, W. T.|
|Pusey, P.||Stuart, H.|
|Reid, Sir J. R.||Strut, H. C.|
|Richards, R.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Rose, rt. hon. Sir G.||Thornhill, G.|
|Round, C. G.||Trench, Sir F. W.|
|Rous, hon. Capt.||Verner, Col.|
|Rushbrooke, Col.||Vernon, G. H.|
|Russell, Lord J.||Vesey, hon. T.|
|Sandon, Visct.||Walker, R.|
|Scott, hon. F.||Whitmore, T. C.|
|Seymour, Sir H. B.||Wilbraham, hn. R B.|
|Shaw, rt. hon. F.||Wood, Col.|
|Sheppard, T.||Wood, G. W.|
|Shirley, E. J.||Wortley, hon. J. S.|
|Smith, A.||Yorke, hon. E. T;|
|Somerset, Lord G.||Young, J.|
|Sotheron, T, H. S.|
|Stanton, W. H.||Fremantle, Sir T.|
|Stewart, J.||Pringle, A.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Aldam, W.||Hume, J.|
|Attwood, M.||Johnston, A.|
|Bannerman, A.||Labouchere, rt. hn. H.|
|Barclay, D.||Leader, J. T.|
|Baring, rt. hon. F. T.||Marshall, W.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Marsland, H.|
|Bernal, R.||Martin, J.|
|Bernal, Capt.||Mitcalfe, H.|
|Blake, M. J.||Morris, D.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Norreys, Sir D. J.|
|Buller, C.||O'Brien, J.|
|Buller, E.||O'Brien, W. S.|
|Busfeild, W.||O'Ferrall, R. M.|
|Childers, J. W.||Ord, W.|
|Christie, W. D.||Parker, J.|
|Cobden, R.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Cochrane, A.||Philips, M.|
|Craig, W. G.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Dashwood, G. H.||Pryse, P.|
|Duncan, G.||Scholefield, J.|
|Dundas, D.||Strutt, E.|
|Ellice, E.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Elphinstone, H.||Thornely, T.|
|Ewart, W.||Tufnell, H.|
|Ferguson, Col.||Vivian, J. H.|
|Forster, M.||Wallace, R.|
|Gibson, T. M.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Granger, T. C.||Wemyss, Capt.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Williams, W.|
|Hall, Sir B.||Wood, B.|
|Hawes, B.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Hill, Lord M.||Wyse, T.|
|Howard, hn. E. G. G.||Hutt, W.|
|Howick, Visct.||Lambton, H.|
§ Proposition carried.
§ Rest of the resolutions agreed to; and the tariff finally passed through the committee.
§ House resumed, resolutions to be re ported.