§ MR. BROTHERTON moved for a Return of the number of Newspaper Stamps, at one penny, issued to Newspapers in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales for 1851 and 1852, specifying each Newspaper by name, and the number of Stamps issued in each of the above years to each Newspaper (in continuation of Parliamentary paper No. 12 of Session 1852). He did not see why the Government should object to grant this return. The newspapers having a small circulation might object to it, but he thought it useful on public grounds.
§ MR. J. WILSON
hoped the hon. Gentleman would not persevere in his Motion. The return bad been granted for a great number of years, but was dropped at the solicitations of a large number of newspaper editors and proprietors, who complained that this was not a revenue return, but a publication of the individual transactions of each newspaper proprietor. The Committee on Newspaper Stamps, sitting two years ago, called for a return of the stamps supplied to each newspaper; but he objected, on the part of the Government, to a continuation of the return.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, he should support the Motion for the production of the Return. In no other form could such satisfactory information of the circulation of the newspaper press be furnished. The Return contained nothing but the plain truth, and advertisers had a sort of claim, before they paid the Government taxes on advertisements, to have an opportunity of judging where they could advertise with the best advantage.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he willingly admitted that this Return was read with great interest, but the House would, he hoped, pause before they called for a Return which had been deliberately abandoned by the House in the year 1837, and never since resumed. The publication of the Return by the Newspaper Stamp Committee took the proprietors of 394 newspapers by surprise. They complained, with some justice, of the exposure of their concerns; and it had never been the practice of the Government to disclose the private affairs of any class of persons engaged in business. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. M. Gibson) said that the Return called for would disclose the truth. So would the Returns of income under Schedules D and E of the property tax. They would show the profits of traders, and gratify a considerable amount of curiosity, and would besides furnish information which might be useful respecting the solvency of various firms. Why were these Returns not. moved for? If there was a stamp in the ease of newspapers, there was a tax paid for incomes. The cases were parallel. His reason for objecting to the Return was, that it subjected a particular class of traders to a hardship which did not apply to traders generally. He could not, however, subscribe to the doctrine that the Return would elicit nothing but the truth. If the law required an annual publication of the affairs of newspapers, it might be possible in a scries of years to arrive at the truth; but the proprietor of a newspaper who happened to have a supply of ready cash might take advantage of a Motion like the present, made upon short notice, to lay in a stock of extra stamps, and thus give a fictitious appearance of prosperity to the undertaking with which he was connected. In conclusion, he expressed a hope that the House would not depart from the rule which it had observed for so many years with reference to this subject.
thought the public was entitled to know which papers were the best for them to advertise in.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ The House adjourned at a quarter before One o'clock.