HC Deb 10 July 1847 vol 94 cc150-3

The Navigation (No. 2) Bill Reported.


moved the insertion of a clause in the Bill, suspending the stamp duties on policies of insurance effected on grain-laden British ships till the 1st day of March, 1848. This, he said, was merely carrying out the principle on which the measure for suspending the Navigation Laws was founded. He should base his Motion on three considerations: first, the exceedingly objectionable nature of the tax which he proposed to suspend; second, that the suspension was only an act of justice to the English shipowner; and, third, that it was consistent with the ground taken up by the noble Lord at the head of the Government when proposing the suspension of the Navigation Laws to the House. He thought that no Gentleman at all personally conversant with the operation of the tax would deny that it was most objectionable in principle, operating entirely as a tax on prudence and foresight. With respect to his second reason, that of justice to the English shipowner, it was clear that if the protection provided by law against the competition of foreigners were suspended, so ought these imposts, which press upon the English shipowners, but which are not paid by his foreign competitor. He might be told that the tax was small, and he admitted it; still if it constituted a burden from which foreign shipowners were free, the English shipowner was entitled to be relieved from it, small as it might be. It was well known that at New York, Hamburgh, Amsterdam, and he believed in every great commercial country, save England, duties on insurance did not exist, or were merely nominal. In this country the principle which guided the charge was that of a sliding-scale: the charge rose in proportion to the premium which was paid; and this added to the objectionable nature of the tax, by inducing shipowners to run risks which they ought not, as prudent men, to do. It was well known, too, that the tax weighed heaviest on corn-laden ships. His third proposition was, that the suspension of the stamp duty on insurance was in unison with the views of the noble Lord when moving the suspension of the Navigation Laws. On that occasion the noble Lord stated that he was aware that no great practical good would arise out of his proposal; but he thought that under the circumstances Parliament ought to remove every possible difficulty that could operate in any way to the prevention of corn being brought to this country. He (Lord J. Manners) would ask the noble Lord to carry out his own principle. He admitted that the been was small; still it was only just that the English shipowner should have the advantage of it, so long as he was exposed to competition with those who paid no impost of the kind.

Clause brought up and read a first time.

On the question that it be read a second time,


said, that it would be inconvenient for him to go into the question of the policy of this tax at a time when the clauses of a Bill of a very different character were under consideration. It was not so much the amount of duty that stood in the way, as the inconvenience that would arise in making such distinctions. He did not think that the same reasons existed as for removing the duty on corn, or suspending the Navigation Laws; and even if the proposition was adopted, but a very small amount of, if any, good could be done by it. The object of the suspension of the Navigation Laws was to enable foreign ships laden with food to come to this country, although the cargo might not be the produce of the country to which they belonged. He admitted that the Suspension Act had not had an extensive operation, and that but a small number of ships had arrived under it; but still it was advisable to continue, at least for a time, a measure of this kind. There was, however, another objection to the clause on a technical point. It was a positive Order of the House that every resolution relative to trade, religion, or taxation, should originate in a Committee of the whole House.


expressed his concurrence in this view of the case.


thought that it was not too late to go into Committee, and adopt a relution to the effect of the clause proposed by the noble Lord. It was most desirable, on every consideration, that every facility should be given to the importation of corn, so that the public might obtain it as cheaply as possible. This was a tax on prudence, and therefore was of the most objectionable nature, and should be got rid of altogether. It would be much better if the noble Lord had made a general proposition on the subject, instead of confining himself to such a very limited case.


said, that having brought the subject of the duties on marine insurance before the House in a former Session, on a Motion for its repeal, in which he was defeated, he might be expected fully to agree with the noble Lord in the principle of his Motion, because he thought taxation could not exist in a more objectionable form than as a tax on marine insurance; and the same objection applied to the tax on life and fire assurance. But he could not support the noble Lord in the limited interference proposed by his Motion. He thought it would be of little benefit either to the shipowner or the public. It would be better to leave the subject until it could be fully gone into in a future Session, when, upon discussion, he was sure the mischievous nature of this system of taxation would be made manifest to the House and the Government.


concurred in the opinion as to the impolicy of this tax; but if the noble Lord carried his point only to the extent he proposed, it might lead to some practical inconvenience.


regretted the absence of many of those who entertained the same opinion as himself on the subject. No one defended the tax on principle, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had only met his Motion by a mere matter of form.

Motion withdrawn.

Bill to be read a Third Time.

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