HC Deb 09 April 1850 vol 110 cc68-99

after presenting several petitions praying for the repeal of the window tax, said, he did not think it was necessary to make any long apology for having again brought this subject before the House. The first time he brought it forward was in 1845, when the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth was at the head of the Government, when he moved for the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry into the window tax, before which, had it been granted, a great exposure would have taken place. He, however, had no reason to regret having brought forward the subject, as the right hon. Baronet said that he might, perhaps, be prepared to take the matter into consideration at some future time. The second time he brought the subject forward was in 1848, which was a season of great depression. At that time the noble Lord the Member for the city of London was the First Minister of the Crown, and he did not regret having made his Motion on that occasion, as the noble Lord admitted that, so as far as any argument could be adduced, it was all in favour of the Motion, and that he only regretted that the deficiency in the finances of the country would not at that time permit the relief he (Viscount Duncan) was anxious to obtain. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had, previous to his (Viscount Duncan) making his Motion in 1848, brought forward a measure to increase the income tax to five per cent, but that proposition was not carried in that House; if it had been carried, there would evidently now have been a very great surplus in the revenue of the country; and if the repeal of the window tax had then taken place, it appeared that the country might with safety have even at that time been relieved from this burden. At present there was no proposition for a five per cent property tax, nor was there any expectation of a foreign invasion; on the contrary, they were assured in the Speech from the Throne, that Her Majesty continued "in peace and amity with all foreign rowers." But there was another passage in the same Speech to which he wished more immediately to call the attention of the House. He regretted that the task was left to him of calling the attention of the House to those passages, for he had hoped that the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer, bad been prepared to act upon the suggestions contained in the Speech from the Throne. The other paragraph to which be referred was as follows:— Her Majesty has learnt with satisfaction that the measures which have been already passed for the promotion of the public health, are in a course of gradual adoption; and Her Majesty trusts that both in the metropolis, and in various parts of the United Kingdom, you will be enabled to make further progress, in the removal of evils which affect the health and well-being of Her subjects. Encouraged by the gracious promises set forth so prominently in this Speech of Her Majesty, he regretted that it should fall to his lot to bring forward this Motion; but he did so with the full conviction that the repeal of the window tax was one of the most favourable measures that could be adopted for the promotion of sanitary reform. He was further encouraged to bring it forward at the present time, so far as the condition of the finances was concerned, which was most flourishing, more especially considering that there had been a reduction in the estimates to the amount of nearly a million, as compared with those of last year. He was also encouraged to do so by the tone of the discussion on the reduction of the duty on bricks. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to remove the duty on bricks, and to reduce the stamp duties. Now, he did not wish to depreciate the measures of his right hon. Friend; but if the Chancellor of the Exchequer was rich enough to reduce the duties on bricks and stamps, which were taxes on articles of luxury, he was surely rich enough, at least to reduce, if he could not entirely take off, the present tax on air and light which are articles of prime necessity. He believed that there was great prosperity in all the branches of our manufacturing interests, with one ex-ception, and that was the glass trade—in which the depression, he conceived, was mainly attributable to the window duties. He had received on this subject communications from two most respectable persons connected with this trade: one of them, Mr. Swinburne, of South Shields, a gentleman of no small authority on the subject, bad written to say that— The repeal of the window tax would be a very great boon to the window-glass trade, which is at present in a state of severe and unexampled depression. The oldest house in the trade, lately carried on by Sir Matthew White Ridley and his partners, has been closed for two years. And again— It is understood in the trade that no house has escaped a very large loss of capital for two years past. Mr. Hartley, who was also a great authority in the glass trade, was of a similar opinion, and in the glass trade circular of the Window Glass Works, he found the following statement by him:— The supply has greatly exceeded the demand, and consequently largo stocks have accumulated, with the almost impossibility of effecting sales in the usual manner. This increased supply has arisen from very exaggerated notions having gained credence as to the effect of the repeal of the duty; from the speculative joint-stock mania of 1845–6; and, in no small degree, from the 'poetry' of Sir Robert Feel, who sought to persuade the public that, the duty being once repealed, everything would be made of glass. What was the result? Previous to the repeal of the duty there were 13 window-glass (crown and sheet) manufactories in the united kingdom, all working short time. On that measure taking effect, these were placed on full time, and also considerably enlarged; in addition to which, 11 other manufactories were established, making a total of 24—increasing the supply 300 per cent, while the increased demand did not exceed 25 per cent, except for a very limited time, until parties had replaced their stocks. Glass has consequently gone down to the cost price at the most economical manufactories, at which rates 11 have been suspended at an estimated loss of 250,000l. He believed that it would be a great boon to the glass trade to adopt his Motion. But in looking at this subject, they were bound, in the first place, to consider the policy of levying a duty on windows at all; and he trusted, when his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer rose to defend his case, that he would explain to the House the reasons for adhering to the scale under which the window duties were levied. At present, when there were less than eight windows in a house, no duty was paid. Above this number the charge was 18s. 1d., at one jump making a house with eight windows pay for every opening in it made to admit air and light; then the charge mounted gradually up, until it came to the number of thirty-nine, when the charge per annum for a house with that number of windows was about 14s. 16s. 2d., or about 7s. 7d. per window. The scale then gradually began to descend from forty to forty-four, then to forty-nine, and so on, until they came to houses with a very large number of windows, when the charge was only 5s. each, and it continued to fall very rapidly on each increase in the number of windows. He did not think this could be satisfactorily explained. If the window tax of Great Britain was to be retained, it would be better and wiser to levy the same amount fairly and impartially on every window in the kingdom, instead of by the present sliding scale, which pressed most unequally on the occupiers of the lower classes of houses. He held in his hand a list of certain houses in the metropolis on which the various charges were made for this tax under the present scale, and he was sure no one could look at it without being struck with the statements contained in it. In the smaller houses in the metropolis, for instance in Baker-street, the window tax amounted to not less than from 29 to 30 per cent upon the rental. In many other streets which were composed of smaller houses, the window tax was found to press most unequally, to the extent sometimes of 30 or 40, and occasionally even of 50 per cent on the rentals as ascertained by the rate book. When they came to Oxford-street, however, in which there were very large houses, the window tax, instead of being 29 per cent, did not amount, in many instances, to more than 5 per cent on the rental. If this tax on air and light was to be persevered in, steps should be taken to make it press more equally on different classes of houses. In 1708 there were no less than 508,516 houses chargeable to the window tax; in 1784 the number had declined to 495,400; and in 1849 it had further decreased to 473,000. Comparing the present time with 1708, and considering the immense increase which has taken place in the population, he could not help being struck with the small number of houses now chargeable to the window tax. Although the number of houses in Great Britain had increased from 1,000,000 to 3,600,000, the number of houses chargeable to the window tax had actually diminished. How was this to be accounted for? It was partly accounted for by the unfortunate inhabitants of houses being obliged to build up their windows to evade the tax. Another reason to which he wished particularly to call the attention of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was the number of exemptions which were allowed. The list of exemptions to this tax was perfectly frightful, and each succeeding Chancellor of the Exchequer had apparently made a new one. The first exemption to this tax was Ireland. He found that the Irish Members of Parliament in 1823 came down and pressed on the Chancellor of the Exchequer of that day that Ireland was too poor any longer to pay the window tax. The public offices were also exempt. Then they came to farmhouses of less than 200l. a year rent. Why should this be allowed? He could not see any reason why a farmer paying 200l. a year rent should be any more exempt from this tax than the inhabitant of a town paying less than 200l. a year rent for his house. The next exemption was churches and other places of religious worship. Then the windows in factories were exempt from duty. He thought this was most unjust. When a manufactory was carried on on a large scale, the owner of it was exempt from this tax; but a poor man who worked at home, and obtained light in a small room at the top of a house, was obliged to pay the tax. Thus, a poor man working on his own account might have to pay to the extent of upwards of seven shillings for each window, and he could not see why the holders of large property in factories should be exempted. Again, shop windows and counting houses were also exempt; in short, there was no end to the exemptions under the operation of this tax. Surely the reason for exempting one, held good for exempting all; but if his right hon. Friend would persist in keeping up the window tax, he should remove all these exemptions and make all occupiers of houses pay. With regard to the window tax, however, he must remark that it was so vicious in principle, that no modification could possibly make it supportable or even tolerable. The window tax had been condemned by many of those writers on financial reform who justly had the greatest weight and authority in that House. Adam Smith said of it— The principal objection to such taxes is their inequality—an inequality of the worst kind—as they must frequently fall much heavier upon the poor than upon the rich. A house of 10l. rent in the country may have more windows than a house of 500l. rent in London, and though the inhabitant of the former is likely to be much poorer than that of the latter, yet so far as his contribution to the State is regulated by the window tax, he must contribute more than the former. These taxes militate against the great principle, that every man should be made to contribute to the wants of the State as nearly as possible in proportion to his means. Mr. Hume—he did not mean his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose—also condemned this tax. He said— In general all poll taxes, even when they are not arbitrary, which they generally are, may be esteemed dangerous, because it is so easy for the Minister to add a gradual percentage to the sum chargeable, until the taxes become altogether oppressive and intolerable. The window tax, when first laid on, was not intended as a window tax, but as a property tax, as a house was considered a safe criterion of the value of a man's property, and the windows were only assumed as the index of the value of the houses. Iu 1696, when the tax was first imposed, it was laid on in the shape of a house tax—2s. on each house, 4s. additional on houses with 10 windows, and 20s. on houses with 20 windows. Such was the origin of the tax. In 1710 complaints arose from a slight addition having been made to this tax, on which occasion Mr. Henry Reid, a comptroller of the Tax Office, noted for his great diligence and attentive accuracy, reported to the Treasury that "it became an universal practice to stop up lights;" and for some years both the old and the new duties suffered much from that cause, as there was no penalty at that time for stopping up windows. In 1747 the tax was again gradually augmented; Mr. Reid again remonstrated with the Treasury as to the operation of the window tax, owing to the increasing practice of stopping up windows to evade the duty. In consequence, the 20th Geo. II., c. 3, was passed, which recites— That whereas it has been found from experience, that the duties granted by former Acts of Parliament have been greatly lessened by means of persons frequently stopping up windows in their dwelling houses, in order to evade payment. In the 20th Geo. II., c. 3, penalties still in force were inserted regulating the block- ing of windows by Act of Parliament. Shortly afterwards an explanatory Act passed, which for a time made a partial increase in the tax; but other modes of evading the window tax were soon found out, and the duties decreased year after year. In 1784, Mr. Pitt brought forward a measure for the increase of the window tax, and stated that he did so with the view of commuting the tax upon tea. In 1797, and again in 1802, Mr. Pitt augmented the window tax, under the plea of its being necessary to diminish the income tax, They now came to later times. In consequence of the unpopularity of this tax at the close of the war, it was found necessary to reduce it one-half in 1825. In 1834, Lord Althorp being Chancellor of the Exchequer, and having a surplus revenue, was much pressed by parties out of doors to do something with respect to the house and window tax. Lord Althorp acting with precipitation on that occasion made a great financial blunder, for he took the house tax off, and left the duty on windows, totally forgetting, in his haste, that the number of windows in a house was originally only taken as the index of the value of the property. At that time his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose, if he recollected right, pressed Lord Althorp to give some relief to those who paid the tax on windows, which he promised to do. Lord Althorp in the following week brought in a Bill to enable persons to open any number of windows in houses without any additional charge. In the course of its going through Committee, it was suggested by some hon. Member that the words "being duly assessed" should be inserted, which suggestion was in an evil hour agreed to. In the period which immediately followed, persons availed themselves of this supposed privilege, and nothing was heard in the shape of complaint. But in 1841, when the right hon. Baronet the present First Lord of the Admiralty was Chancellor of the Exchequer, he found himself involved in great financial difficulties, and brought forward a measure which, however, did not fulfil the object he had in view, to add ten per cent to the assessed taxes. It was then found out at Somerset House, that those who had availed themselves of Lord Althorp's Bill were not duly assessed, and the result was great activity on the part of the officers in a reassessment, and a great number of persons who had opened additional windows under the promises of Lord Althorp found them- selves in the grasp of the right hon. Member for Portsmouth. Nothing appeared to him to be a greater violation of public faith than the adoption of this reassessment. With regard to cases of individual oppression, hon. Members would find in the library upstairs four folio volumes containing a vast number of cases of the kind; which showed that although parties had been duly assessed, they could not escape oppression when the screw was put on for the purpose of augmenting the amount of this tax. To prove this, he would state that the window tax in 1840 was 1,350,900l., while in 1841 it amounted to 1,613,308l., showing an increase of nearly 300,000l. in one year. On comparing the amount paid for this tax in 1842, with that paid in 1848, he found in the former year the amount was 1,664,053l., while that in the latter was 1,663,824l.; thus showing that this tax had remained nearly stationary, notwithstanding that buildings have been rapidly increasing in London and elsewhere since the former period. The truth was that builders now erected houses in such a way as to evade the operation of the tax. Every hole in a wall was or might be charged as a window, and he challenged the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his reply to inform the public what a window really was. One gentleman was charged with the window duty, who made a hole through which his coals were shot; another who made a hole, for the purpose of ventilation, had in consequence to pay an additional percentage on every window in his house. If a man took a brick out of the wall of his house, he would occasion an increased assessment in every window in his house. If any one compared the state of the houses in Great Britain with those in foreign towns, he must be struck at the great number of windows in them over those to be found in houses in England. Those hon. Members who had visited the Continent must be fully aware of the great value of additional light and air in the habitations of the poorer classes, and he called upon them therefore to support his Motion. It was an old observation that every Englishman's house was his castle. He did not understand how it could be so, for he had no right to prevent the window peepers, as they were called, invading his dwelling at all times and seasons, when they were sent to prevent him from increasing the number of windows in his house. The true cause of comparison, he supposed, was, that the English houses were built like the castles of old, namely, dark habitations, with as few windows as possible. The reassessment ordered in 1841 had not been without its fruits. It was said that it had brought many things to light; and this was certainly true, even to the extent of showing the natural deformity and moral turpitude of the tax. It was a remarkable coincidence that in 1842, the very year after the reassessment, great agitation arose as to sanitary reform. In that year the Marquess of Normanby, now the English Ambassador in Paris, stated in the House of Lords that the number of deaths in London from want of sanitary regulations amounted to from 100 to 125 a day, and he urged the Government to bring in a Bill to remedy the evils of which he complained, and he especially called attention to the evils of defective ventilation. On that occasion he observed— Leave to the air its free and unrestrained course—put no impediment upon its buoyant natural action; but, on the other hand, guide and direct on scientific principles, and by mechanical aid, the course of water. And by such means and in such proportion will you mitigate 'those ills which flesh is heir to.' In another part of his speech the noble Marquess said, the negro huts in the West Indies were superior to many of the houses in the neighbourhood in which they were then assembled. That was the time when sanitary reform began first to make its way in Parliament. Shortly afterwards, a number of parties were sent down as commissioners to the various towns in England to investigate the condition of the habitations of the poorer classes. At that time there were no sanitary proceedings before the Legislature; but all the evidence then taken, including that of Mr. Hickson, Mr. Mills, and Dr. Southwood Smith, tended to establish the fact that the effect of the window tax was to render the abodes of the people dangerous to health, and that the blocking up of numerous windows to avoid the tax had been the primary cause of much sickness and mortality. Now, he should have expected that after these gentlemen had discovered that the effect of bad legislation had been to introduce cholera and fever into many of the towns of England, some recommendation about the window tax would have been found in some of the voluminous reports emanating from Gwydyr House. But the Commissioners for Inquiring into the State of Large Towns and Populous Districts had preserved a most religious silence on that head in the reports appended to the evidence; and the cause of sanitary reform in their hands, owing to their having abstained from making any reference to that important item, had, he feared, become somewhat unpopular. It appeared that, although those commissioners in 1844 were aware that the evils which afflicted the large towns and populous districts were attributable to the legislation of that House, they were anxious to escape from bringing this particular question forward for discussion. However, in 1846 an association was formed by Royal Charter, for improving the dwellings of the working classes in the metropolis. The Marquess of Normanby was not the only one who took up the subject. The noble Lord the Member for Plymouth—who had lately been very much occupied with sewerage reform, in connexion with a body of which it might be said that they had been more active in raising expectation than in anything else—delivered a lecture to his constituents, on the 10th of December, 1845. The noble Lord published his lecture; he (Viscount Duncan) was much indebted to him for having sent him a copy of it, and he had been much pleased to find that the noble Lord took the same view of the subject as he did himself. The noble Lord, on that occasion, spoke as follows:— Before I leave this part of the subject, I will just mention that light, which plays an important part with regard to animal and vegetable life—for plants, we know, die or lose their colour in the dark, and tadpoles remain tadpoles all their lives, without changing into frogs—has also an effect, though not as marked a one, on mankind. Dr. Wylie says that there is a difference of three to one between the sickness among the soldiers on the light and dark sides of the barracks of St. Petersburg; and Mr. Toynbee, Dupuytren, Dr. Edwardes, Mr. Ward, and Dr. Arnott, distinctly assert that living in darkness acts very disadvantageously on health, especially in the case of children. I could multiply medical evidence and statistical proof about the cause predisposing to disease, and favouring its extension, if not generating it, to an indefinite extent. The reports of the Health of Towns Commissioners, the works of the able and benevolent Mr. Chadwick, those of Mr. Combe, Mr. Quetelet, Professor Alison, and the Journal of the Statistical Society, abound with them. And the noble Lord went even further than that, for he recommended to them a remedy adopted by himself. The noble Lord said— I will mention one plan which I have adopted myself in building cottages on the estate which I have the management of—namely, the introduction of some air from the outside, through a pipe taken into an iron box at the back of the kitchen fire, whence it is conducted by another tube, carried up the corner of the chimney, into the bedroom above. In this manner a constant supply of warmed fresh air is furnished to the sleeping-room through a screen of wire gauze, which diffuses it without a draught. And in another place he approves of— the practice of ventilation at all seasons of the year, by opening the doors and windows the first thing in the morning, and thoroughly airing the bedclothes for a short time before retiring to rest—the introduction into the windows of a perforated zinc plate, or other cheap and effectual means of admitting fresh air, without occasioning too much draft—and leaving the chimney open. Such was the advice given by the noble Lord to his constituents in a lecture. But what had this recommendation led to? An unfortunate gentleman of the name of Williams, in an evil hour, was induced to follow the noble Lord's advice. What was the consequence? Mr. Williams shortly after appeared as defendant appealing against the surcharge of 6l. 17s. 2d. which had been made upon him by the assessor of the district, for having opened some extra windows; and it was determined by the Judges of the land that these plates of perforated zinc were windows, and this unfortunate gentleman had to pay for twenty-five windows instead of twenty-one. That had been a lesson to the rest of the inhabitants of the country, and to the constituents of the noble Lord himself, and every prudent man would be cautious in future how he endeavoured to admit extra air into his house, through perforated plates of zinc. There had been a correspondence between the Carpenters' Society of the city of London and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University, who was at the time Chancellor of the Exchequer, in which a proposal had been made, but which had been peremptorily rejected, to exempt from taxation, on sanitary grounds, all unglazed openings in basement stories and closets to admit light and air; and the president of the society was told that if a hole could be made that would admit air without admitting light, that hole would not be chargeable as a window. He must beg leave to trouble the House with an extract from the correspondence between the Commissioners of Stamps and Taxes, and the president of the Master Carpenters' Society:— At an interview with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in May, 1844, relative to a modification of the window duties, it was intimated to the deputation from the Metropolitan Improvement Society, and the Master Carpenters' Society, that 'a frame or frames filled in with perforated zinc panels, although fixed in an external wall, would not be chargeable with the window duties.' The secretary to the Carpenters' Company afterwards addressed a letter to the Chairman of Stamps for the purpose of ascertaining whether such was the case; whereupon he received an answer, stating 'that perforated plates of zinc, or any other material, if so perforated as to afford "light," are chargeable; but not if so perforated as to afford "ventilation only. In reply to this letter from the Chairman of Stamps a further letter was addressed to that hoard by Mr. Biers, requesting to be informed whether, as any perforation in any material —"must let in a portion of light, and if so, will such apertures he chargeable to the window duties; and whether, therefore, lights of whatever construction, glazed or not glazed, placed in privies or water-closets, are free of window duties; and whether apertures, such as lancet light, to ventilate cellars, larders, &c., if protected by perforators, but not glazed, are permitted, without being chargeable to the window duties? Mr. Biers was informed by the secretary, in reply to these queries, first— That windows or lights are not exempt if the privies or water-closets form part of or communicate with the dwelling-house; secondly, respecting apertures giving light to cellars or larders, &c., they are exempt from duty. The secretary stated he was directed to say that the board declined giving any definite answer to so general a statement; but the Commissioners beg to observe the exemption much depends on the merits of each case. This was an instance of the way in which people had been treated, when they had taken any step against this monstrously unjust imposition. He was glad that anything he might have wished to say to the House on this matter, had been so much better and more eloquently expressed by many Gentlemen he now saw in the House, that he had only to read to them their own words, in order to substantiate a claim upon their votes in favour of his Motion that evening. In the heat of the excitement for sanitary reform, a Health of Towns Association was formed, and in consequence of the representations urged upon the noble Lord the Member for Falkirk, who was then Chief Commissioner of Woods and Forests, that noble Lord brought in a Bill. The gentlemen composing the Association when the Bill was introduced, took it into their mature consideration. At the head of that Association was the Marquess of Normandy. One of the most influential members was the noble Earl, now Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancas- ter. There was also the hon. Member for Hertford, now a Lord of the Admiralty; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford. In juxtaposition with these sat the right hon. Gentleman the Master of the Mint, and the hon. Under Secretary for the Colonies, by whom, perhaps, the report had been partially drawn up, and a very able report it was. The Committee of that Association thought, in considering remedial measures for the sanitary condition of the country, they could not better promote the object than by a careful consideration of the Earl of Lincoln's Bill, and the Committee stated— That there was one measure so intimately connected with sanitary improvement that no sanitary measure could be tolerably complete without it, but which formed no part of the measure of the Earl of Lincoln, inasmuch as it omitted any modification in the mode of assessment of window duties, although a principle of assessment had been pointed out by the adoption of which the revenue would lose nothing, while great facilities would be afforded for the better construction of dwelling-houses, and for the freer admission to them of light and air. And in another page of the report the Committee state their opinion that— The window duties are a tax upon light and air—a tax more vicious in principle and more injurious in practical consequences than a tax upon food. Further, the Committee said that it was not for the Legislature to step in between God and the people, and, by laying a tax upon the light of Heaven and the breath of life, to render them absolutely unattainable by large classes of the population. He would only occupy the time of the House for a short period by reading small portions of the report of the Committee of the Health of Towns Association. It was most ably drawn up, and expressed the principles he was now advocating with so much more eloquence than he could command, that he trusted some of the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who had concurred in the drawing up of that report would now gratify the House by reiterating and declaring their adhesion to the sentiments contained in it. The Committee, in one part of their report, said, that— In proportion, then, as the window duties exclude light from human dwellings, they tend to deteriorate the population; they interpose a positive and definite obstacle to the full development of the physical constitution, and consequently of the physical strength and vigour of the people. The Committee went on to show the un- equal pressure of the window tax upon the poor and the rich, and that the effects of it had been to make the poor pay quadruple the amount paid by the rich; and they referred to the case of chambers in the inns of court or in the universities, where the total duty was only 3l. 17s. per annum, or 7s. 8½d. for each set of four rooms, in a building having the same number of windows, which would render a dwelling-house chargeable with a rate of 15l. 15s. 7d., or 1l.11s. 9d. for each family occupying the same number of four rooms in that house. Surely those gentlemen who had so generously interested themselves in the improvement of the dwellings of the working classes had been most cruelly used by the Commissioners of Stamps and Taxes. He could not avoid commenting upon the inconsistency of hon. Gentlemen, who had sanctioned and approved such sentiments as he had quoted from the report of the Committee of the Health of Towns Association, of which they were members, supporting the continuance of the window tax, which was in direct contradiction to their recorded opinions. He trusted that some of those hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who concurred in the drawing up of that report would be induced to reiterate those sentiments to which he had listened with such pleasure when they were seated on the Opposition benches. They then proved to mathematical demonstration that, in proportion as the Legislature excluded light and air in the habitation of the people, they deteriorated the population, and prevented the full development of their physical condition. With the strong facts of the case before him he felt that the sanitary reform movement was a pretence and a delusion if this question of the window tax was kept out of it, and if the tax was to be maintained in its operation. As for the salaries of the Sanitary Commissioners he would hand them over to the mercies of the hon. Member for Montrose. But it did appear most strikingly contradictory that on the one hand money should be raised from the people to pay large salaries to sanitary commissioners, by a taxation upon the health of the very class for whose sanitary benefit the commissioners were to act, and which taxation had the direct effect of impeding sanitary proceedings, and the improvement of the houses in which those unfortunate people dwelt. The sum of 100,000l. would enable the Chancellor of the Exchequer to do away with taxation upon all houses having fewer than ten windows, and even that would be better than paying the salaries of gentlemen who could do comparatively little towards earning them till the window fax was repealed. The other day a report had been published by Mr. Simon upon the sanitary condition of the city of London. Mr. Simon divided his subject under five heads, one of which was devoted to the number of houses in the City which were permanently unfit for human habitation, and he said— I have to report that there are houses and localities within the City which are irremediably had—places which the uninterrupted presence of epidemic disease has stamped as absolutely unfit for human habitation: places where drainage and water-supply, indeed, are defective, but where the perfection of these necessaries might exist, in all probability, without giving healthiness to the inhabitants. The prominent evil in the localities referred to is their thorough impossibility of ventilation. He then went on to say— The inhabitants of open streets can hardly conceive the complicated turnings, the narrow inlets, the close parallels of houses, and the high barriers of light and air, which are the common characteristics of our courts and alleys, and which give an additional noxiousness even to their cesspools and their filth. There are very few who, without personal verification, would credit an account that might be given of the worst of such dwelling places. In another place he observed— And in most of these localities, in addition to other sanitary errors, there predominates that particular one to which I am now inviting your attention—the absence, namely, of sufficient ventilation. And he proceeded to remark— As a palliative measure, applicable in many of the least aggravated instances, I may suggest the removal of unnecessary walls which intercept the current of air from place to place; the formation of counter-openings in various blind courts; and, not least, in regard of many houses thus situated, the admission of light and air by additional windows. I cannot pass this portion of the subject without recording my opinion that the operation of the window tax is in direct opposition to the sanitary interests of the people; and I must venture to express my hope that some different method of assessment may presently be adopted, in place of one which presses on the occupier in proportion to the healthiness of his tenement. Mr. Simon, he believed, had laid that report before the Commissioners of Sewers of the City of London, and had stated his opinion that one great cause which lay at the bottom of the evil was, that tax upon light and air, which he (Viscount Duncan) now asked the House to abolish, and the City commissioners unanimously agreed to a report in which they recorded their opinion in these words:— We cannot pass this subject, however, without recording our opinion that the operation of the window tax is directly opposed to the sanitary interests of the population of the City, and that its continuance must in a great degree neutralise the effect of those exertions which your honourable court is making for the purposes of sanitary improvement. We find that it affords inducements to the construction of houses with defective supply of light and air, that it opposes great obstacles to the improvement of such houses as have already been constructed on a faulty principle, and that these circumstances tend to aggravate the frequency and malignity of epidemic diseases, and to increase the mortality of the population. What, he would ask, was the use of putting a paragraph in the Queen's Speech about sanitary reform if the very tax which stood most in the way of sanitary improvement was to be kept up and maintained? He held in his hand the report of the medical officers of the West London and East London Poor-Law Unions—men who could not be influenced by any political motives, and they called the attention of the honourable Court of Common Council to the subject in a memorial which they presented on hearing that that court was about to discuss the propriety of petitioning Parliament for the abolition of the window tax, and which tax the memorialists pronounced to be most injurious to the health, welfare, property, and industry of the poor, and of the community at large. He would, with the permission of the House, read the following extracts:— We beg most respectfully to call the attention of your honourable court to the following extract from a letter sent by the medical officers of the West London union to their hoard of guardians, November 10, 1848, which letter was afterwards adopted by the whole of us:—'As respects ventilation and light, this curious inquiry cannot come under our hands, but we may be permitted to remark on the strange anomaly that Government should appoint boards of health, and deprive by taxation this first necessary and natural element to its production.' In alluding to the above paragraph, we beg most earnestly to assure your honourable court that in the exercise of our official duties we find daily cause to lament its truth. We can only regard this as a sanitary question, and we believe that we need not occupy much of the valuable time and attention of the court in demonstrating the baneful effects of this tax on the Almighty's first gift for the benefit of his creatures. We find in ancient houses where windows were, and when our ancestors deemed light and ventilation necessary to health, and even existence, bricks supply the place, both to rich and poor; we see also that in the more modern house the proprietor builds with the view to avoid the window tax. In a sanitary point of view, what is, what must be, the result, more especially to the objects of our official duties, in the production of fever, of dysentery, and of diarrhœa, and during the period of cholera, in situations where scanty light and ventilation adds to the already distressing effects of poverty and destitution?…… Experience clearly proves the common truth, that want of light and impurity of air not only produce disease, but aggravate it, and cause death, even where the original mischief had been otherwise produced……The late investigation during the prevalence of cholera into cause and effect needs no word from us in confirmation of the facts above described, for all is resolved by the simple question, 'How can health and longevity be promoted when their natural elements can only be obtained at a cost beyond the power of poverty to discharge?' Prior to the actual appearance of the late epidemic amongst us, the Government sent round to all the workhouses to ascertain that light, air, cleanliness, and comfort were sufficiently secured to the inmates, but it seems to have forgotten the distressing fact that light, air, cleanliness, and comfort are as needful to the health and sanitary condition of all classes on the outside of the workhouse as to the infirm, aged, and destitute within……We, therefore, earnestly memoralise your honourable court that in a sanitary point of view the court will give this question its most grave consideration, and adopt such measures as the court may in its wisdom think fit. He challenged hon. Gentlemen to stand forward now, in their places in Parliament, and state truly whether this subject of the window tax had or had not thwarted the exertions they had been making to better the habitations of the people of this country. It would be strange, when so much philanthropy was expressed in the House with respect to the abodes of the poor, if the report of a debate should go forth out of doors by which it should appear that the finances of this great country were at that pass that we could not get on without levying taxes upon light and air. The only way in which this case could be met by the Government and the upholders of the tax was this: he should be told that he was an impracticable person who persisted in calling upon the House to do that which would endanger the payment of the interest on the national debt—or some old argument of that sort. But he was indifferent to such imputations; and if he referred to the proceedings of Government in former years, he thought he could induce the House to concur with him that the shorter they could keep his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer by the head the better. What had been the effect of the broad hint that was given to that right hon. Gentleman, that they would not agree to a five per cent property tax? The effect had been that this very year they had had the pleasure of seeing him come to that House and declare that he was in possession of a large surplus, but at the same time they heard that so much economy had been introduced into every department of the State that it could be curried no further. This same statement about economy, it would be remembered, was made last year; and yet the House had had the pleasure of seeing the estimates for this year 1,000,000l. below those of last year. The fact was, that so far as words went, they were all in favour of economy; but the moment some really saving measure was proposed it reminded him of the Council of Beasts:— When saving measures were professed, A lamb's head was the wolf's request; The fox submitted, if to touch A gosling would be deemed too much? Each succeeding year down came some Member of each succeeding Government to propose or defend some pet project of extravagance. Only look at the manner in which the taxation was expended. There was the million for the African squadron, for an example; and right hon. Gentlemen had been actually found to tell the House that it was impossible to maintain the national honour without it. But let the House and the country at large thoroughly understand the present expenditure, that if they did not vote that million for that squadron, there would be no necessity for taxing houses having fewer than twenty windows, and that added to the million surplus already in the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer would repeal the whole window tax, and enable the people to enjoy light and air in their houses. When he was told that economy had been practised as far as it possibly could be carried, he remembered that be had been told precisely the same thing in 1848, when he had made a Motion on this very subject. Since then he had had the good fortune, or the misfortune, to be Chairman of the Committee upon the Woods and Forests, an establishment which, instead of paying in its whole surplus revenue into the Exchequer, first deducted its own expenses and the cost of collection, paying in only the balance. He would not go into a discussion upon the Woods and Forests, but he could state, without the possibility of contradiction, that out of their income, about 370,000l. a year, 210,000l. never found its way into the Exchequer at all, but was deducted for collection and all sorts of purposes. If the same system prevailed in other departments similarly circumstanced, he thought that there was room for economy in them instead of resorting to a window tax; and if his hon. Friend Dr. Bowring, who was now consul at Canton, were present, he could show to the Chancellor of the Exchequer good reasons why he was bound to explain how it was that a sum of public money amounting altogether to about five millions a year never found its way into the public Exchequer. Why were the Lords of the Treasury better trustees of the public purse of England than the natural guardians of it—the Commons of England? He held in his hand a report, printed in 1831, to which the highest authority was; attached—that was the report of the Commissioners of Public Accounts, among whom were men of the highest reputation in the House, who, after long consideration of the subject reported that— To accomplish with perfect security and efficiency those objects of safe custody, legal appropriation, and record, it is obviously necessary that all public money whatever, should, in the first instance, be paid into the Exchequer. But it appeal's from the accounts laid before Parliament that the whole amount of public income is not so paid, but that the amounts derived from divers sources of revenue are received and disbursed without the intervention of this institution, or being in any way submitted to its control. It is also certain that considerable sums arising from taxes and other matters are deducted from the gross receipts, and retained and expended by several departments, which only account to the Exchequer for the net amount after such deductions. We think this practice ought to be discontinued, and we recommend the gross receipt of the Crown property under Woods and Forests and other offices should be placed, without deduction, in the Exchequer, and be accounted for to Parliament, whose authority should be necessary for the appropriation of the whole. We feel this principle to be one of paramount importance, a principle which we believe to be a necessary preliminary to all satisfactory financial reform. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would tell the House what steps had been taken to carry out the recommendations of that Committee. On the 31st May, 1848, a resolution was proposed by Dr. Bowring, and carried by a majority of 56 to 51, that— This House cannot be the effectual guardian of the revenues of the State, unless the whole amount of the taxes, and of various other sources of income received for the public account, be either paid in or accounted for to the Exchequer. That no department of revenue ought to be allowed to stop any portion of its gross receipts in their progress to the Exchequer without the previous authority of Parliament. That no department of expenditure should be permitted to appropriate to the public service any other sums than those sanctioned by previous votes of Parliament, and that all receipts from sales of stores, or other sources, should be paid into the Exchequer. That whereas the expenditure of many departments escape Parliamentary control, either wholly or in part, in consequence of paying their expenses out of fees or other resources, and of accounting to the Exchequer only for the balances of such receipts; and in other cases of applying to Parliament for grants to make up the deficiency of such fees or other resources, it is necessary, as a check upon abuse, and a security for the proper appropriation of the public moneys, that such receipts should be paid into the Exchequer, and not be disposed of without the preliminary sanction of Parliament. That the amounts thus removed from the direct authority and previous control of Parliament, and which were not paid into the Exchequer, average nearly 7,000,000l. sterling per annum, and that nearly one-eighth of the gross revenues of the nation are disposed of without the interference of Parliament to sanction their application. That such a state of things is most unsatisfactory, and requires the earliest attention of the House of Commons. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he insisted on the absolute necessity of resorting to window taxes, would be able to explain this matter satisfactorily to the House; he was sure there was no intention to conceal anything from the knowledge of the House. He did not deny, however, that he should be much better satisfied on this subject of economy if he saw his hon. Friends proposing that every shilling of the public money should be paid into the Exchequer, not merely placing the public expenditure under the control of the Treasury, but under that of the House of Commons. He had now to thank the House for the kindness and patience with which they had heard him. He trusted that those hon. Gentlemen who had listened to him, before giving their votes, would consider whether economy had been carried to its fullest extent before they consented to raising a revenue on light and air, those elements which had been granted by Divine Providence to the inhabitants of this earth in unlimited abundance, and which he did not think ought to be the province of any Government to endeavour to limit by human enactment. It was their bounden duty, out of deference to the dispensations of One far wiser than they were, to remove restrictions as far as they could upon light and air. Of this he was satisfied, that neither this House nor any House of Commons would allow the public creditor to suffer. If taxes were necessary, those taxes would be raised and willingly voted by hon. Gentlemen hereafter as they had been heretofore; and therefore, with the permission of the House, he begged leave to lay his Resolution on the table. The noble Lord concluded with moving his Resolution.

Motion made, and Question put— That whereas the present mode of assessing, levying, and collecting Taxes on air and light in England and Scotland interferes most prejudicially with the health and sanitary condition of the inhabitants of Great Britain, therefore it is expedient that the Window Tax should be repealed.


seconded the Motion, and was glad to think that the statement of the noble Lord the Member for Bath had been so comprehensive, so able, and so unanswerable. The noble Lord had pointed out a remarkable circumstance as to this tax, that there had scarcely been any augmentation of the revenue—that several exemptions had been made, but that these exemptions did not by any means increase the revenue. There was no means of solving the circumstance except by the fact that hundreds and thousands of houses had been deprived of a portion of light which they would otherwise have enjoyed, and many houses were subsequently built entirely with a view to evade this tax. It was clear that these houses had been limited and restricted in the light they enjoyed in consequence of this tax. Whenever the allowance for these sanitary Commissioners came before the House, he should vote against it. He would not attempt to restrict the amount of taxation to maintain the credit and establishments of the country. He was willing to agree that a substitute should be found, particularly that which had often been mentioned—the probate duty upon real property. Why not put the probate duty upon real property? There would be two objects accomplished in doing so. It would render the duty upon property more equal and more just. There were three distinct objections to the present tax—its inequality, its partiality, and its detriment to the public health. Its inequality—and, he might add, its partiality—was marked: because all farmers throughout the country paying rent under 200l. a year were totally exempt. If this tax were a property tax, it was an unequal and unfair property tax. In the poorer districts, particularly the districts of this metropolis, it fell in a ratio of 20 and 30 per cent on lodging-houses. There could be no more obnoxious tax, particularly as regarded the metropolis, and he trusted, that in seeking its repeal they should have the assistance of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Harwich, who was an old supporter of the principle, and who twenty years ago resigned his scat in consequence of his op- position to this tax. If a substitute should be found necessary, the public were prepared to submit to it; and if the tax could not be repealed altogether, they expected, at least, a more extended minimum as regarded the number of windows rateable.


said, his noble Friend, as he was always accustomed to do, had made a very able speech in favour of the window taxes being repealed, but he had not advanced any new arguments in favour of the proposition. He would not follow his noble I Friend into the other topics to which he had referred, for, in discussing the question of repealing the window tax, it certainly would not advance the discussion to refer to the management of the Woods and Forests, or to take into consideration the circumstances which interfered with the general revenue in its passage into the Exchequer. His noble Friend had said, that he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had stated two or three years ago that economy in the public service could be carried no further, and yet that since that period considerable reductions had been effected. This statement was founded upon a misapprehension. What he had said on the occasion referred to was, that great reductions could not be effected immediately, and that in order to be executed with due regard to the wants of the service, and to real economy, they must be gradual. He was very far from having alleged that no further reductions could be made; but he repeated that, having due regard to the interests of the country, they must be made gradually. He would, however, say no more upon these extraneous topics. One of the main objections taken to the window tax by his noble Friend appeared to be founded upon the exemptions that were allowed; and he seemed to suppose that the exemptions were actually an aggravation of the burden, because the parties upon whom it pressed unequally had been relieved. But who, he would ask, were the parties relieved? Why, those who carried on the operations of agriculture, manufacture, and trade. Farmhouses, factories, and shops were exempt. It followed, then, that the exemptions were in favour of those who carried on the pursuits of productive industry. His noble Friend, however, complaining of exemptions altogether, had made one proposition which would have the effect of carrying the exemption still further. At present all houses with fewer than eight windows were exempt: his noble Friend suggested that the exemption should extend to all houses with less than twelve windows. This was not removing the exemption of which he complained, but only carrying the principle a little further, without assigning any grounds for the selection of such a number; for if twelve were fixed upon, why should not any other number be equally suitable? Such a proposition would be of no benefit with respect to the description of houses as to which the principal complaint was made, such as the large lodging-houses, many of which had recently been built for the accommodation of the poorer classes. In Scotland, this was the case; also as regarded houses let in parts. His noble Friend was quite wrong in supposing that the amount of loss to the revenue, from an extension to the exemption to houses with less than twelve windows, would amount to only 100,000l. Instead of 100,000l., it would be about 250,000l. His noble Friend was also mistaken in supposing that this was a tax which fell exclusively upon the poor. The houses which were exempt from the tax, belonged wholly to the poorer classes. There were about 3,500,0000l. houses in this country; and of this number 3,000,000 were exempt from the window tax. It was, therefore, rather a strong assertion, when 3,000,000 of houses inhabited by poor people were exempt, and the tax was paid by a half million inhabited by the richer classes, to say that this was a tax imposed upon the poor for the benefit of the rich. His noble Friend referred, in the next place, to the exemption of Ireland from the tax. He wished the House to remember the character of the dwellings in Ireland. Was his noble Friend prepared to assert that, in consequence of the exemption of Ireland from the window tax, the dwellings of the poor there were superior to those in which our own poor lived? If his noble Friend would venture to say that, he would certainly have an argument which it might be found difficult to answer in support of the alleged effects of the window tax in reducing the accommodations of the poor; but he was afraid it would be found not so much the window tax as the general poverty of the poor which interfered with their comforts. In the country, as his noble Friend knew, no window tax was paid upon any houses which, under ordinary circumstances, were the dwellings of poor persons. A cottage, with six windows, was a remarkably good cottage. ["Hear!"] He repeated the statement. A cottage in the country of two rooms down stairs and three up stairs, with six windows, was better than 99 out of 100 cottage houses in England, very few of which had six windows; and even in country towns he found that the general class of houses built for the accommodation of the artisans, did not contain more than six windows. All such dwellings were totally exempt from the window tax; and on this ground he must observe that it was not correct to say the tax bore upon the poor, whilst the rich were exempt. With regard to the metropolis, he was prepared to admit that a reduction of the tax might for a time be of benefit to occupiers; but he believed that in the end it would mainly increase rents, and benefit the owners of house property. At the same time, so far as the case rested upon sanitary considerations, he was willing to believe there was some weight in his noble Friend's argument. But it must be obvious, after the financial statement which he had had the honour of making to the House before the holidays, that it was utterly impossible for the Government to consent to a repeal of this tax without a substitute being found for it. His noble Friend and the hon. and gallant Officer who seconded the Motion, had expressed an opinion that the House would be found ready to vote such a substitute. But he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was bound to say he did not feel quite the same confidence in the alacrity of the House to impose new taxes; and therefore he was unwilling to yield the window duty until he had reason to feel a little more security as to its substitute. His noble Friend had expressed some dissatisfaction with the policy of the late Lord Althorp in having removed the house tax rather than the window duty. But his noble Friend must remember that when the question was under discussion, the House preferred retaining the window tax, on the ground that it pressed more on the richer classes, and because large houses paid a small amount of house tax in comparison with the amount of the window tax, which they paid, large country houses paying four or five times as much in window tax as they paid in house tax. He did not agree with his noble Friend in thinking that house property had a claim for exemption from taxation more than any other property, nor did he know that recent legislation had pressed unduly on that de- scription of property. He would also remind his noble Friend that the Sanitary Commission had reported as much against the brick duty as the window tax, although his noble Friend had, on a former day, expressed a wish that that duty might be retained, in order to make room for the remission of the other. The window tax produced about 1,800,000l. net annually, and after the remission already conceded this year, it was quite impossible that it could be given up, and therefore he must resist the Motion of his noble Friend.


said, that as this question deeply interested that portion of the metropolis which he represented, and as he had presented petitions against the tax signed by 5,000 ratepayers, he was anxious to say a few words before the House went to a division. He believed that there was no tax looked upon with more disfavour by the people of this country than the window tax. It had lasted some years, and its collection had always been attended with clamour and discontent. He thought that his noble Friend who had brought forward this question again and again had done himself infinite honour, and had endeared himself to the people of this country; and, on the other hand, he believed that the Government, in resisting it, would earn their lasting resentment. The last time his noble Friend brought forward the subject was when the noble Lord at the head of the Government introduced his financial statement. The noble Lord entreated the House to accept his budget on account of the then existing distress, promising that if they agreed to raise the income tax to five per cent, distress would be relieved, and in two years or so prosperity would return. It appeared that the noble Lord was perfectly right in his prophecy, for now, at the end of two years there was a considerable surplus, and they wanted to know what taxes were to be removed. The House did not answer to the noble Lord's appeal, they did not vote the budget, but still none of the calamities occurred which the noble Lord had prophesied. The interest on the national debt continued to be paid, and although no increase had been permitted to the income tax, prosperity had returned, and the country now had a surplus. The House was determined not to permit any increase in the income tax, and the result showed that when the House was determined on any point, the Minister contrived to get on without those taxes which he had before deemed so indispensable. In the same way, at the present moment, if the House were determined not to vote this window tax, the Government would Boon find some way of getting on as well or better without it. They had now a surplus of one and a half millions, and he wanted to know what taxes were to be remitted. The Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to remit the duty on bricks, which although a good reduction in itself, would not relieve the country to the same extent as the remission of the window tax. Then there was a proposal about the stamp duties, which he (Lord D. Stuart) believed would be no remission at all; and although the probable loss was fixed at 300,000l., he believed that there would be no loss but an actual increase to the revenue. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had given to their application the common answer of persons in his situation to all applications for reduction of taxation—namely, that want of money prevented his acceding to the proposition. He remembered that on one occasion the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that if it could be shown that this tax interfered with the health of the people, that would be a good reason for its remission, but that for his part he could not think it had any such operation. Let the right hon. Gentleman look at all the reports on the sanitary question—let him consult all those best able to give an opinion on the subject, and they would one and all say that this tax interfered most injuriously with the health of the people by excluding the amount of light and air-necessary for its sustentation. Really to talk of introducing any sanitary measures, to pretend to feel an interest in the health of the people, while a tax of this kind was maintained after it had been proved to be so injurious to the public health, was, in his opinion nothing better than hypocrisy. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer might say that the revenue could not boar it; but he (Lord D. Stuart) wanted to know who was to enforce an impost after it had been found that the people at large had declared against it. He did not think that they ought to be called on to pay it, and he gave his vote to his noble Friend the Member for Bath in the firm persuasion that, although he might be unsuccessful now, the question would be renewed again and again, until Government should be at last obliged to accede to a demand from the great masses of the people.


mentioned, that in 1835 the then Chancellor of the Exchequer had promised his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Westminster, if he would withdraw a Motion which he then brought forward upon the window duties, the subject should be taken into consideration. It was high time the subject was taken into consideration, for a more oppressive burden could not be found in the whole catalogue of taxation. He complained that under the provisions of the law, the power of surcharging was a monstrous evil; whilst, according to returns produced in 1846, a considerable number of persons were imprisoned for non-payment of assessed taxes, of which the window duties formed a considerable proportion. Another evil arose from the requirement that no person should be allowed the privilege of a vote in the election of Members for that House who had not paid assessed taxes. This provision, according to the same return, actually disfranchised no less than 694 persons in the parishes of St. George's, Hanover-square, and St. Martin's-in-the-Fields. In whatever light the window duties were viewed, they were an enormous injustice. No Chancellor of the Exchequer had yet been found bold enough to tell the House what a window was; nor was it possible, for the surveyors and the Judges themselves had given very different decisions upon this very nice question. Under such circumstances no person could tell whether he was safe or not. If he made a hole in the wall, he might, or he might not, be liable to duty. Many persons had relied upon Lord Althorp's Act for protection in this respect; but there was not a single person that had opened a window under this Act who had not been surcharged, He contended that the repeal of the duty would have some effect upon the argument for a reduction in the amount of judicial salaries, inasmuch as the amount of judicial labour would, to some extent, he lessened. Twice a year the Judges held courts, at chambers, to decide appeals upon questions relative to assessed taxes. Take away this labour, and of course they would be less worked. Hon. Gentlemen upon the protectionist benches should look at the evils produced by the assessed taxes. In one case which came before the Judges, a party was charged with window duty who rented a farm under 200l. a year. The occupier had no other income. The farmer's sister resided with him, and paid her share of the household expenses; and it was held that in consequence of the accommodation afforded to his sister, the farmer's house could not be deemed a farm house. The "farmers' friends" had, therefore, good cause to support the noble Lord's Motion. The borough he had the honour to represent paid 18,000l. per annum in window duties. If the tax were removed, the owners of those houses would be able to give their lodgers more light and air; but under existing circumstances they found ths tax a source of great annoyance and vexation, and he could only say that it interfered greatly with sanitary regulations.


did not mean to detain the House long from the division for which Gentlemen opposite were so impatient, but he wished to make a few observations on the question before the House; and he would submit it to hon. Gentlemen opposite, whether the constituencies of the great towns, who were deeply interested in this question, would think it respectful to them that a division should be so impatiently called for when their interests were under discussion. With respect to the question before the House, one of the papers had that morning pointedly described the position of an individual Member who had to propose the remission of a tax in that House. If he brought it forward early in the Session, he was told to wait for the financial statement; and if he waited until that statement had been made, he was flatly told that the subject was not included, and, therefore, could not he considered. That was precisely the case with his noble Friend; but, although not likely to succeed on the present occasion, he trusted his noble Friend would take an early opportunity to bring it forward again. Allusion had been made to the Sanitary Commissioners, and their opinions as to the best means of promoting the health of the metropolis and other large towns; but it was perfectly idle to suppose that any essential benefits could be derived from the appointment of such commissions until all such taxes as the present were abolished. His noble Friend the Member for Bath had said, that it was hard upon the inhabitants of Great Britain that they should be subjected to this tax, from which the people of Ireland were exempt; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had referred to the condition of the houses in Ireland, as showing that the absence of the window tax did not neces- sarily tend to the improvement of the character of the dwellings of the people; but there was no reason why the same rule should not apply to both countries alike, or that the shopkeeper of Sackville-street, Dublin, should be free from the window duty, while the householder of Sackville-street, London, was compelled to pay it. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated, that a very large number of houses inhabited by the poor were not now liable to this duty, the number of windows not being sufficient to bring them within the operations of the Act; but that proved that the effect of the tax was, as had been stated, to render the dwellings of the poor unwholesome—the light and air necessary to health being excluded by the desire to avoid the liability. It was his opinion—an opinion fortified by medical authority—that the late visitation of the cholera would have been much less fatal in its results had the window tax not existed. During the twenty years that he had held a seat in that House, he had, on every occasion on which the question was brought forward, given his vote in favour of the repeal of this impost; and though the present Motion might possibly be defeated, he hoped his noble Friend would not relax in his efforts, but remember that without steady perseverance Ministers never consented to remove or reduce any tax whatsoever.


rose amid impatient calls for a division. He hoped hon. Gentlemen who were so anxious for a division would have a little patience. It appeared to him that some explanation was necessary to put the question on a proper footing before hon. Gentlemen proceeded to vote upon it. The question was, whether, supposing the House determined on maintaining the present amount of expenditure, which he was not, this tax ought not to be abolished nevertheless, and a substitute found from some other source? He, however, was one of those who considered the tax might be removed, and the amount met by economy in the public expenditure. Ten years ago the income of the country was 51,000,000l. or 52,000,000l. a year. It had since been increased by the imposition of the income tax from 57,000,000l. to 58,000,000l. a year, as he believed unnecessarily, for if the House had refused to increase the taxes, the Government would have found the means of bringing the expenditure within the income. The great point which that House ought to enforce on every Government was the reduction of the total amount of taxation, for until they did so, they would never effect a reduction in the expenditure. The only reason why they had had some reduction in the useless expenditure of the country lately—and it was to this extent only that he desired reduction to go—was that the House had refused to give the Government the means of continuing their extravagance. No thanks were due to Ministers for this. They were obliged to economise in order to keep their places. And if the House now resolved to take 1,600,000l. or 1,800,000l., whichever was the correct estimate of the net produce of this tax, from the means of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, depend upon it the right hon. Gentleman would find the way still further to cut down the expenditure so as to make both ends meet. It was clearly, therefore, in the power of the House to benefit the people to that extent. There would be little difficulty in discovering where reduction might be made. The African squadron would have been put down by a vote of the House a few days ago but for the fear of turning out the Government. Let those hon. Gentlemen who were favourable to the abolition of that squadron, as an unwise and useless expenditure, now vote for this Motion, and they would find Ministers coming down in a few days with amended estimates, bringing the expenditure within the revenue. By reducing the African squadron, or putting a stop to those unnecessary works in the Channel Islands, where they were doing little else but throwing gold into the sea, Government would have the means in their hands for affording the relief now asked, and it was the duty of that House to check useless and absurd expenditure by reducing the taxes and keeping the revenue down to the actual requirements of the several public departments. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was in error in saying that there was no new point in this question since it was last discussed, for we had had since then the visitation of the cholera, and the House was called upon to spend the public money for sanitary reform; and was it not a question, under such circumstances, deserving of consideration, whether they ought to continue a tax which went to deprive the people of that light and air which were absolutely necessary to their health, and prevented the accomplishment of any effective system of sanitary improvement? A petition had been laid on the table of that House from a large portion of the medical practitioners of London, showing the deleterious effects of this tax on the health of the people, and stating that its abolition would tend, by keeping the working classes in health, to lessen the burden of the poor-rates, and add materially to the comforts and happiness of the poor. They had also the evidence of the Sanitary Commissioners as to the injurious tendency of the tax. No sufficient reason for continuing this tax had been stated either on the present or previous occasions. If it was absolutely necessary to maintain the same amount of revenue, each house might be charged, as a house tax, the same amount it now paid for window duty, but leaving the proprietor at liberty to open as many windows as he pleased. But seeing that under proper regulations, by abolishing the African squadron, and practising proper economy in the Ordnance and other public departments, the surplus of 700,000l., which the Chancellor of the Exchequer calculated upon, might be increased to 2,000,000l., he contended there would be no risk in abrogating the tax altogether.


said, that as the House was desirous of going at once to a division, he should detain them only with one or two remarks. He could not, however, go to a vote without expressing his determination to support his noble Friend the Member for Bath whenever he brought this proposition for the repeal of the window duty forward. He must say, after the pretensions of sanitary reform under which his right hon. Friends below him came into office, and their appointing a commission in furtherance of that object, which had strongly recommended the abrogation of this tax, as being absolutely necessary to any effective system of sanitary improvement, their present refusal to mitigate or moderate it in any way, must result in a great loss of character to them. He had received communications from several supporters of the Government, expressing their surprise that, after their professions in favour of sanitary improvement, they should still insist on continuing the tax upon light and air without any alteration or mitigation.


, in reply, expressed his regret at the silence of the numerous advocates of sanitary reform, now this question, upon which so much depended in regard to the health of the people, was under discussion. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he said that nothing new had been advanced in favour of the Motion, seemed to forget that he had given no answer to the statement he (Viscount Duncan) had made in bringing forward his Motion last year, and which he should bring forward again and again until he succeeded. He must also remind the right hon. Gentleman that the manufacturers, who he said had been benefited by the change which had taken place, were not the poor who were suffering from impure air and want of light in their dwellings. Ministers might depend upon it that the course they were now taking would create distrust in the public mind as to the sincerity of their professions in favour of sanitary reform, and he warned them that when the question of the salaries for the Sanitary Commissioners came before the House, their vote of that evening would not be forgotten.

Question put,

The House divided:—Ayes 77; Noes 80: Majority 3.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, H. A. Humphery, Ald.
Baillie, H. J. Keating, R.
Baldwin, C. B. Kershaw, J.
Barnard, E. G. Lacy, H. C.
Berkeley, hon. H. F. Langston, J. H.
Berkeley, C. L. G. Lewisham, Visct.
Bouverie, hon. E. P. Loveden, P.
Bremridge, R. Lushington, C.
Bright, J. Meagher, T.
Cabbell, B. B. Moffatt, G.
Chatterton, Col. Morris, D.
Clay, J. Mowatt, F.
Clifford, H. M. Muntz, G. F.
Cobden, R. Pearson, C.
Codrington, Sir W. Pechell, Sir G. B.
Coles, H. B. Perfect, R.
Dashwood, Sir G. H. Pigott, F.
Dick, Q. Plumptre, J. P.
Divett, E. Raphael, A.
Duff, J. Rufford, F.
Duncan, G. Salwey, Col.
Ellis, J. Sandars, G.
Evans, Sir D. L. Scholefield, W.
Evans, J. Sidney, Ald.
Ewart, W. Smith, J. B.
Fergus, J. Stanley, hon. E. H.
Fordyce, A. D. Strickland, Sir G.
Fox, W. J. Stuart, Lord D.
Gibson rt. hon. T. M. Thicknesse, R. A.
Greenall, G. Thompson, Col.
Greene, J. Tollemache, hon. F. J.
Grenfell, C. P. Tyrell, Sir J. T.
Grosvenor, Lord R. Verner, Sir W.
Hall, Sir B. Vyse, R. H. R. H.
Heald, J. Wawn, J. T.
Henry, A. Willcox, B. M.
Hervey, Lord A. Wood, W P.
Heyworth, L. TELLERS.
Hildyard, R. C. Duncan, Visct.
Horsman, E. Hume, J.
List of the NOES.
Armstrong, Sir A. Lindsay, hon. Col.
Baines, rt. hon. M. T. Lockhart, W.
Baring, rt. hon. Sir F. T. Lygon, hon. Gen.
Barrington, Visct. Mackie, J.
Beckett, W. Mackinnon, W. A.
Bellew, R. M. M'Neill, D.
Bowles, Adm. Maule, rt. hon. F.
Boyle, hon. Col. Mitchell, T. A.
Brotherton, J. Morgan, H. K. G.
Brown, W. Napier, J.
Browne, R. D. Norreys, Lord
Busfeild, W. Oswald, A.
Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G. Paget, Lord C.
Clive, H. B. Palmerston, Visct.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Parker, J.
Craig, Sir W. G. Pilkington, J.
Denison, J. E. Power, N.
Dundas, Adm. Richards, R.
Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D. Romilly, Sir J.
Ebrington, Visct. Russell, Lord J.
Elliot, hon. J. E. Seymour, Lord
Emlyn, Visct. Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.
Enfield, Visct. Smith, J. A.
French, F. Somers, J. P.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.
Grace, O. D. J. Thornely, T.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Towneley, J.
Grey, R. W. Tufnell, H.
Halford, Sir H. Turner, G. J.
Harris, R. Vane, Lord H.
Hastie, A. Villiers, hon. F. W. C.
Hawes, B. Wall, C. B.
Hayter, rt. hon. W. G. Walpole, S. H.
Heathcoat, J. Wellesley, Lord C.
Herbert, rt. hon. S. Williamson, Sir H.
Heywood, J. Wilson, J.
Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Hodges, T. L. Wyvill, M.
Howard, Lord E.
Jervis, Sir J. TELLERS.
Lascelles, hon. W. S. Hill, Lord M.
Lewis, G. C. Rich, H.