§ Order for Second Reading read.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
Sir, in moving the second reading of this Bill I shall trouble the House for a few minutes only, inasmuch as I stated when asking leave to introduce the Bill the general purport and character of the measure. The House is doubtless aware that duties are now levied upon all coal imported into the City of London, and within a radius of twenty miles from St. Paul's, or some other central part of the Metropolis. The amount which is thus raised consists of three portions—namely, of 4d. a ton which is levied for the benefit of the Corporation of London, and of two other sums of 8d. and 1d. which are levied under the authority of several Acts of Parliament, and the proceeds of which have been exclusively appropriated to certain works of public utility. During the last Session a Committee was appointed to consider the question of the embankment of the Thames. That Committee was composed of various Members 294 well qualified to form an opinion on the subject, and the unanimous Resolution which it reported to the House was to the effect that, as in 1861 the 8d. and 1d. duties upon coal and the ½d. duty upon wine which were imposed and continued by Parliament to defray the cost of public improvements would cease, those duties should be renewed for a limited period, and the whole or part of the expense of the Thames embankment should be made a first charge upon them. The present measure is based, in substance, on that recommendation. I need hardly say that the present Bill is not one in which the Government have any peculiar interest. It is only because it affects to some extent the general interests of the Metropolis and of the country at large that they have thought it their duty to take charge of it, and to see that the recommendation of the Committee of last Session is carried into effect, if the House should think fit to agree to it. The main object of the Bill is to continue for ten years the 8d. and 1d. duties which are described in the Resolution that I have just read. The Committee of last Session recommended that the great and, I believe, useful work of the Thames embankment should be executed. Since that time the Government have issued a Commission to persons who either have professional knowledge on the subject or are locally interested in the execution of the work, with the view of selecting the best of the different plans which have been proposed for that object. The decision of the Commission will be of an engineering character. The Report will be laid before the House as soon as made, and it will then be in the power of the House, if it thinks fit, to legislate on the subject, with the best advice which is in the power of the Government to procure for that purpose. If the House should be disposed to agree to the plan selected by the Commissioners it will then be enabled to appropriate to the execution of such plan the proceeds of the 8d. and 1d. coal duties, which will be preserved under the operation of this Bill. What, therefore, this Bill proposes to do is to keep alive the 8d. and 1d. duties for ten years, preserving them for such purposes as Parliament may hereafter determine. But, in addition to the 8d. and 1d. duties, the Bill will likewise continue the 4d. duty now levied by the City. I understand that tax has been levied for a long period by the City either in the form of a duty of 4d. per ton, as at 295 present, or at the nearly equivalent rate of 4d. per chaldron, which was the case before 1831. I am informed by the officers of the Corporation that their books show that the tax has been levied uninterruptedly since about the time of the great fire of London, at which period the City records were destroyed. How many years it was levied before that time I am unable to inform the House; but at all events it has been levied continuously since the year 1666; and it is hardly necessary, I think, to go further back. Well, with regard to this 4d. duty on coal levied by the City, I am aware that a great deal of discussion may be raised. It may be said that the Corporation ought not to levy for their own purposes a duty of 4d. per ton on all the consumers of coal in London and within twenty miles of London. The Corporation, however, maintain that they have what they consider as a right of property in that impost. I am unwilling to enter into a controversy which I know from experience may not be very easily determined in this House with regard to what may be the rights of property of a Corporation in dues of that nature. That subject gave rise to great differences of opinion in former years; and the plan I would propose may, I think, tend to abridge that controversy. I should wish, when the Bill reaches the Committee, to insert a clause appropriating the whole of the 4d. City duty to the extinction of the debt which has been created by the City for purposes of public utility, under the authority of Acts of Parliament. If that were done there would be no discretion on the part of the City to apply the 4d. duty to any purposes which had not been expressly sanctioned by Parliament. I will state to the House the nature of the debt which is now actually charged under authority of Acts of Parliament upon the 4d. coal duty. The City has been empowered by Acts of Parliament to raise money for the execution of the improvements in Cannon Street. They have raised £540,000 for that purpose, and having power by Acts of Parliament to charge that sum upon any of their revenues by the authority of the Common Council, they have charged it on the 4d. coal duty. If the plan I propose meet with the approbation of the House I should hope the City Corporation would agree without any serious objection that the whole produce of the City 4d. duty for the next ten years should be approriated to the payment of the interest on this £540,000, and the redemp- 296 tion of the principal. The estimate I make of the annual produce of the City coal duty under this Bill—somewhat diminished, inasmuch as the radius will be less—amounts to £60,000. The interest on the sum borrowed will, I believe, be about £21,000 a year; that would leave about £40,000 a year to be applied to the redemption of the debt. That would make in ten years £400,000; but, allowing for the gradual diminution of the sum by the operation of an annual sinking fund, I believe the entire £540,000 would be extinguished at the end of ten years. If the House would agree to that course, I would, when the Bill reaches Committee, insert a clause appropriating the produce of the 4d. City duty to the purposes I have described. There would then be the 9d. duty, if the House should see fit, to be appropriated to the Thames embankment. In regards to the 4d. duty, it is at present levied within a radius of twenty miles from the Metropolis. It is rather a difficult thing to say what the Metropolis is, inasmuch as it has no legal boundaries; different limitations of it exist for different purposes. I believe the original state of things was this:—Going back to the time when railways did not exist, the whole of London was supplied by sea-borne coals, and in general terms upon the whole of these sea-borne coals a duty was paid to the City, and no part of it was drawn back. The consequence was that as far as the neighbourhood was supplied from London the City duty was levied on the coal. The City, some years ago, consented to limit the radius within which the duty should be payable and allow a drawback to all places lying beyond the twenty miles. That measure was represented as a grasping and rapacious act on the part of the City, but it was really a concession to the consumer, inasmuch as it said, that whereas formerly places in Hertfordshire and Kent which got their coals from London—Brighton might have been so supplied—were subject to the City duty, all places beyond the radius of twenty miles are now entitled to a drawback. I say, therefore, some injustice was done to the City in reference to that measure by the descriptions and complaints I have occasionally heard in this House. There is certainly an objection to take an arbitrary limit and say every place without shall be free from this tax and every place within shall pay. What I propose to do, therefore, is to take a district recognized for some other existing 297 purposes. I propose to adopt the district of the metropolitan police, and say, every place within the metropolitan police district shall be subject to the duty, but it shall go no further; and I shall be prepared in Committee, if any doubt should exist on the construction of the Bill as it stands, to insert words expressly giving the drawback to places lying without the metropolitan police district. I hope that explanation will save the House a great deal of antiquarian and legal discussion, and possibly some very irrelevant matter, on this question. I trust the House will consider it not as a question of law, but of expediency. The question is simply this:—We have already by the Metropolitan Board of Works carried direct taxation within the Metropolis to the extent to which the ratepayers are willing to go. The last measure for the execution of great drainage works has added to their burdens, and I do not think that any Gentleman who should come forward and propose to raise a large sum for works of public utility by taxation on the Metropolis would have a very easy task to perform. That being the case, is it, or is it not desirable that a certain sum should be levied for public purposes within the Metropolis? It is a question which every hon. Gentleman can answer for himself. I can only say I have no personal interest in pressing this matter on the consideration of the House. The Government are perfectly willing to abide by the decision to which the House may come. But I rely on the recommendation of the Committee, and my belief is that unless this tax which now exists, and which is not felt a heavy burden by any class of consumers in the Metropolis, be continued, there is no feasible method by which either the Thames embankment or any similar work can be executed. With respect to the principle of putting a port duty on coals, I wish to suggest to hon. Gentlemen who as connected with the ownership of coal may feel some difficulty on that point that I believe there is not a single one of the large ports in the north from which coals are exported where an export duty on coal is not collected for municipal purposes. I make this statement on the authority of a return made to this House in 1831. In Newcastle, Stockton, and Sunderland, and I believe all the large towns in the north of England, in Scotland, and Wales the municipal corporations levy similar export duties. I, therefore, submit that it is not open to Gentle- 298 men from the coal districts to object to the principle of a municipal duty being levied on coal. With these explanations—and I am sorry to have troubled the House so much at length—I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would consent to postpone the second reading of the Bill until the inhabitants of the Metropolis had had an opportunity of expressing their opinions upon the tax. He had not received the Bill until his return to town after the recess, and therefore had not time to consult his constituents upon the matter.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, he had not seen his copy until the present day. The tax was most objectionable, as it was levied upon an article of consumption, which was nearly as much one of the necessaries of life as bread. The principle, too, of placing so much money at the control of the Metropolitan Board of Works was most objectionable. If levied at all it ought to be placed in the Treasury. It was proposed that a portion of it should be employed in the embankment of the Thames, but that was a work which could not be carried out under existing drainage arrangements. As the tax pressed so severely on the labouring classes he was opposed to its continuance, and the only purpose for which it ought to be continued would be for the embankment of the Thames, and which should be carried out upon both sides of the river. The debt of £700,000, which the Court of Aldermen advanced Charles II. out of the orphan fund had been entirely paid off eighty years ago by the Tax on Coals, so that they might calculate that 4d. duty had long since paid the debt incurred for the improvement of Cannon Street.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, the City had, in deference to public opinion, relinquished the toll charged upon carts carrying goods to market which amounted to £7,000 a year, and ought now to forego this impost. He had no objection to the second reading of the Bill, but hoped the right 299 hon. Gentleman would postpone it for a fortnight.
§ MR. ROUPELL
said, he rose to move the adjournment of the debate. He was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary should have totally ignored the existence of the Select Committee of which he was a member, and which was appointed to inquire into the whole question of metropolitan taxation and local self government. It would he irregular for him to refer to the proceedings before that Committee, but he should be quite in order in referring to the proceedings of that civic Parliament, the Common Council, and he might mention it had been stated that the Committee in question had demanded from the authorities of the City corporation certain information which was at first refused, but which he believed would now be supplied. Allusion had been made to the Committee of last year on the embankment of the Thames. As a member of that Committee he had himself endeavoured to obtain the very information which the present Committee had applied for and hoped to obtain, and he had met with the same difficulties as beset the members of every Committee which had to deal with that question. It had been said that the City dues had been mortgaged for the payment of certain debts, and that a charge had been created on that source of revenue. But the fact was, that no sort of mortgage had been effected by the corporation other than the issue of the ordinary bonds of the City of London. No specific charge had been created on any particular source of their revenue, their whole property being pledged as security for the money they borrowed. Other Committees had, no doubt, sat upon that subject, but none of them had dealt with it as a whole. He had no wish to obstruct the Government nor to offer any hostility to the City of London; but as a Committee had been appointed to investigate the entire question, and was still sitting, they had a perfect right to demand that that Bill should be postponed until they had a fair chance of having before them a clear and compendious statement of the facts relating to that important subject. The House was now dealing with a matter affecting several millions of persons and involving very large sums of money, and it was bound to avoid undue haste. There would be ample time to consider the question after the Committee had reported, and he, therefore, trusted the House would support the Mo- 300 tion which he now begged to make—namely, that that debate be now adjourned for six weeks.
§ VISCOUNT HOLMESDALE
remarked that he had understood from the right hon. Gentleman that the object of the measure was not to extend but to contract the area of the tax; but he should be glad to learn if he were correct in the supposition that Gravesend, Northfleet, and Dartford would become liable to it for the first time if the Bill passed.
§ MR. ALDERMAN SIDNEY
said, that the subject under dicussion was by no means new to the House of Commons. During the last seven years there had been no less than four inquiries with regard to it; and a Committee, of which the right hon. Baronet who represented Westminster was chairman, had reported favourably of the claims of the City of London to the expenditure of the coal duties. [Sir J. SHELLEY: No, no!] He did not believe that those claims could be legally disputed; nor had he ever heard that the Corporation of London had been charged with misappropriating the funds. In a large city like London great and expensive improvements were required from time to time, and those improvements affected not the locality alone, but the nation. If these funds were swept away how were improvements to be continued? How was London to keep pace with the other cities of Europe? The hon. Member for Lambeth had compared the tax on coals to the tax on corn. He said we might as well tax the people's food as tax their fuel. [Mr. WILLIAMS: Hear, hear !] But the tax on food affected the poor man daily, while that on coal amounted, in the case of the poor man, to not more than 6d. or 1s. a year. Many a poor man did not consume more than a ton of coals in the year. That then, was not a poor man's tax; on the contrary, the poor man was greatly benefited by the outlay of the tax, which was spent in public improvements, for it gave him work. He believed that the embankment of the Thames and other improvements were imperatively required in the Metropolis. He did not mean to contend that the present area of taxation was a wise or just one, but he contended that if any tax at all was to be levied for metropolitan improvements there was none that would fall less oppressively upon the community than the coal-tax. The opposition of metropolitan Members 301 seemed to be dictated by a spirit of jealousy, because other districts did not possess those local institutions which were the pride and boast of the City of London. No charge had ever been sustained against the Corporation that it had not properly applied the funds at its disposal, and he thought it would be better for other metropolitan districts to seek to obtain mayors and municipalities for themselves rather than to attempt to destroy the ancient privileges of the City. He should support the second reading of the Bill.
§ SIR JOHN SHELLEY
said, he did not think they were called upon to discuss whether the coal tax was the best way of raising a fund for metropolitan improvement. The hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Roupell) very recently said that as the Committee were inquiring into the subject, the better course would be to post-pone the second reading of the Bill. Being a Member of the Committee he was precluded from saying a word as to what they were doing. The Committee had not yet reported, and it was an extraordinary proceeding for the right hon. Gentleman to bring forward the Bill, and to propose a continuance for ten years of a tax which was still under the consideration of the Committee. He should vote for the post-ponement of the second reading.
MR. ALDERMAN CUBITT
(the said, he objected to the assertion that the Committee appointed on the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets was intended to inquire into the right which the Corporation of the City of London had enjoyed for centuries of levying a tax on coals imported into the metropolitan district. He doubted whether the House would have so readily consented to the appointment of that Committee if the hon. and learned Gentleman had avowed that it was his intention to inquire into that right. He objected to the proposed delay, and contended that it was highly necessary to proceed with the Bill. He might argue that, inasmuch as the Corporation of London had enjoyed from time immemorial the right to impose this tax, it had a right to dispose of the money as it pleased. No doubt it had such rights, but the City took higher ground than that of mere legal right; it had appropriated a much larger amount than this tax out of its revenues for the public benefit. All who were acquainted with the City would admit that there was a growing necessity for public improvements; and that there 302 was an urgent demand for an outlay of money. The money necessary for that purpose could only be raised by taxation of some kind; and the question was whether, with that demand for improvements, they should sacrifice a tax to which the public was accustomed, and which fell very lightly on the community. If they did some other means of raising money must be found; and he could not conceive the possibility of raising it by any tax that would fall more lightly. During the whole time the City of London had received the tax it had expended it for the public benefit. The improvement in Cannon Street was a great improvement, and had cost £500,000; but that was not all that had been done in the last few years. The City had laid out nearly the same sum in removing Smith-field Market, a work forced upon them by public clamour and a vote of that House. It had also spent £100,000 in building a new prison. That was not for the City of London alone; it would not have required it for its own population. The City was continually called upon to lay out money for improvements beyond the City boundaries. The centre of a great kingdom was liable to demands to which no country town could be subject. The City of London, therefore, did not belong to that category of towns which should bear their own bur-dens. The City was placed on the banks of a broad river, with two bridges that cost £1,000,000 each. Was it reasonable to expect that the 130,000 inhabitants of the City should raise the money for such enormous public works out of their own means? Though the City of London had claims and rights that would satisfy the mind of a lawyer, he would not go into that question at all He took higher ground, and contended that the funds it received it applied to public purposes. The question, then, was narrowed to this—could they go on in the great Metropolis without expending large sums of money, and could they raise the funds by any better means than a tax to which the public had been accustomed for a great number of years, and that was raised with the smallest possible cost and inconvenience? The tax on coal was collected by a clerk from every vessel that came into the river. The money was paid, and the cargo liberated at once. But what was the case in the great cities of the continent, such as Paris? He should not recommend a wall to be built round the Metropolis with a hundred gates, at seventy of which an octroi duty would be levied; 303 while through the other thirty nothing would be allowed to pass in. But it was absolutely necessary that money should be raised by indirect taxation, for of direct taxation they had reached the extreme limit, for the purpose of constructing the great sewers for the drainage. If they threw away this tax they would get into difficulties it would be impossible to surmount.
§ MR. THOMSON HANKEY
said, he regretted that the Amendment for postponing the second reading should have been moved, for he could not imagine a more convenient period for discussing the measure. If the improvements in question were confined to the City it would be a different thing; but why there should be a feeling on the part of the metropolitan Members merely because the tax was collected and expended by the Corporation of the City of London, when the improvements were extended over the whole Metropolis, be was at a loss to understand. The City was the nucleus of the whole Metropolis; and, although he had himself given evidence in favour of the establishment of other minor metropolitan corporations, still the City of London was now the only Corporation, and would, in any case, have the prestige of antiquity, besides which it had, confessedly, carried out public works in a far preferable mode to that which had been adopted by the Metropolitan Board of Works. Every visitor to London was struck at the crowding and block which took place in the streets, and those who, wishing to remedy this evil, yet objected to continue the coal duties, ought to be prepared to point out some better tax. He did not mean to say that if the tax were now to be imposed for the first time the existing form was the best in which it could be raised, but he believed there were few taxes that could be imposed which pressed so lightly on the poor. The only disputable question was as to the area of the taxation. It was not creditable to the City that at present they had three different areas of taxation—the coal tax, the police tax, and the Metropolitan Board of Works. The present area of the coal tax was to be given up and the police area substituted; and though he had at first been in favour of the Board of Works area as the most limited, be soon saw that it would give rise to much evasion without the establishment of something like an octroi. It being evident that a tax of some sort was necessary, the House should 304 next consider that this was a tax to which the inhabitants of the Metropolis were accustomed; and speaking with impartiality, be repeated that no one could point out a better body to distribute these funds than the Corporation of the City of London.
§ MR. CRAWFORD
said, he would recommend those hon. Members who were in favour of the Bill to vote against the adjournment, which was made for a covert purpose. The coal tax expired in the month of July next, and the adjournment of a month or six weeks, therefore, would effectually lose the tax.
§ MR. TITE
said, that op the part of the Metropolitan Board of Works, he rose to disclaim any desire to take out of the hands of the London Corporation the distribution of this fund. It would be impossible to accomplish that which every man anxious for the improvement of the Metropolis desired to see effected—namely, the embankment of the Thames—unless a tax of this sort were resorted to. He fully concurred in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman that direct taxation within the metropolitan district had reached its limit. In 1858 a return was made to the Metropolitan Board showing that the amount paid in direct taxation within the metropolitan area was £2,000,000 per annum, and since then the main drainage rate had caused a large addition at least £150,000 per annum to the direct taxation levied. The calculation for the product of a rate was simple enough, for a penny rate in the Metropolis produced £50,000 a year, but it would be impossible, he thought, to raise any further sums by direct taxation. Where were the £2,000,000 to be found for the Thames embankment if the coal tax were refused? As regarded the main drainage, the House should remember that that might be carried out without the embankment. There was no mechanical or engineering difficulty; but then the sewer must be carried up Parliament Street and along the Strand, interfering with the traffic of all these thoroughfares in the most inconvenient and offensive manner. Now, they wanted to combine with the scheme of drainage a great line of road, and perhaps a line of railroad, which would relieve the over-crowded thoroughfares and be an ornament to the river. Somewhere about £15,000,000 was wanted for metropolitan improvements of one sort or another, and if the House would not consent to the continuance of this impost, or provide other means, they must be con- 305 tent to leave London as it was, with all its inconveniences. He had no particular objection to the postponement of the Bill for another month except this—that postponements very often led to a Bill being lost altogether.
§ MR. PULLER
said, he thought every body would agree that the Thames embankment would be an excellent thing, but the question was, how was it to be paid for? He had not seen any disposition in the debate to prejudice the very ancient right of the City, if they could show that it existed, to the tax of 4d. a chaldron on sea borne coal. If they had that right let them enjoy it, and welcome; but they would find it very difficult to make out any right to levy a tax on coals brought to London by railway and canal. The questions for the House to decide were whether this tax on coal was the best mode of raising the money required for Metropolitan improvements, and, if it were the best mode, whether the area fixed by the Bill was a just one. It had been said that the direct taxation of London had reached its limits, but he thought that if a certain amount of taxation was to be borne it made very little difference to those who had to bear it whether it came in the shape of a coal tax or of a direct rate upon their houses. As far as he could make out, an additional rate of 3d. on houses would raise pretty much the same sum as this coal tax. In a Report from the Metropolitan Board of Works, which had been laid before the House, he found it stated that the imposition of a coal tax would be 50s. a year on persons who lived in large houses at the west-end of the town, and 50d. on the poorer class at the other end. Now people who would have to pay 50s. a year to the coal tax would probably live in houses of about £300 a year, so that the 3d. additional house tax would be but 75s. to them or only 25s. more than the coal tax, while on the £10 householder at the other end of the town the 3d. additional house tax would be but 2s. 6d. instead of the 50d. coal tax. So that the advantage was certainly, as far as the poorer occupiers of houses went, not on the side of the coal tax. The great disadvantage of the coal tax seemed to be that it would throw the burden of the metropolitan improvements on the great consumers of coal, the large manufacturers and employers of labour in the Metropolis, who would be placed at a disadvantage as compared with similar employers of workmen 306 who lived outside the area of taxation. He was very much disappointed at finding that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary persisted in extending the area of the tax beyond the districts which would share the benefits of it, and which elected the representatives who were to administer it. The right hon. Gentleman was not correct in saying that the police district was defined by Act of Parliament. The Act simply gave power to the Queen in Council to fix the district within certain limits, and it was only by a strained construction of the Act that many places were brought in. There was no reason whatever why a parish which was included in the police district should also be subjected to the coal tax. The words defining that district were extremely ambiguous, so that the boundary was very irregular. When any part of a parish came within fifteen miles of the General Post Office the whole was taken to be included, although another part of the same parish might be twenty miles from the same point. One parish—Harefield—which would be subject to the coal tax if the present Bill became law was twenty-one miles and a half from Charing Cross. No doubt before there were rural police it was desirable to extend the metropolitan police as far as possible; but now people in the rural districts considered it a hardship to be under the metropolitan police, because they were rated at 6d. in the pound for what other people only paid 2¾d., who were quite as well served. Parishes in Hertfordshire considered the metropolitan police rate a great burden and a grievance, and now it was proposed to add to their misery by making them liable to the coal tax, for no other reason than because they had been already rated at 6d. in the pound to the metropolitan police It was adding one injustice to another, for which he saw no shadow of excuse, and unless the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave notice of his intention to alter the area of taxation he should vote against the Bill.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, he could not understand how the Lord Mayor could charge him with having moved for the Committee without allowing it to be known what its objects were, or how the Corporation could be surprised at being asked by what right they levied this tax. When the Home Secretary's Bill was introduced last year he moved to refer it to a Select Committee, which Committee was also to inquire into the local taxation, and in making the 307 Motion he explained fully what it was that he wished to be investigated. He particularly stated that there was no satisfactory evidence of the right of the City to this tax, and that be wished that to be inquired into. That Bill was withdrawn, and his Motion consequently came to nothing; but this year he put the same Motion on the paper, omitting that part, of course, which referred to the Bill; and in moving it he referred to his speech last year, and the explanations as to his object which he had then given. The very first subject which the Committee had undertaken to examine was this very question of taxation by the Corporation in the Metropolis.
MR. ALDERMAN CUBITT
said, he rose to order. He submitted that the hon. Member was not justified in stating to the House what a Committee was doing.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, he wanted to know what was to be thought of the conduct of a Minister of the Crown who brought forward a Bill with the knowledge that by the appointment of a Committee the mouths of the metropolitan Members were closed upon the subject, because, if he had no right to refer to what the Committee were doing, still less had he the right to state what was said before that Committee. He supposed he should be out of order if he referred to what was made patent by the proceedings of other Committees—namely, that the Corporation of London did not claim as a right the taxes which the Government proposed to give them by this Bill. He undertook to say that before no Committee had the Corporation claimed as a right the taxes which the right hon. Gentleman was going to give them by law. He thought the House would stultify itself if it proceeded with the discussion that night while the whole subject was under consideration, and they were not in possession of essential information. The City of London was bound by law to pay into the same fund as that into which the coal tax was paid a sum of £12,000 a year. It was a condition for receiving the 4d., and it was an open question whether it was not merely a condition, but a permanent obligation. He had privately made a proposition which was so reasonable that he would publicly repeat it. The sum and substance of the whole matter was that the Corporation could receive the 4d. and do what they pleased with it; but that the 9d. and the £12,000 a year were to be applied to metropolitan improvements. The Acts of Parliament under which the tax was levied would ex- 308 pire on the 31st July, 1862, but a question of construction had arisen. In two or three months there would be no object recognized by Parliament to which the money raised by this tax could be applied, and, therefore, the question had arisen whether the tax would not expire in that time—two or three months—instead of in July, 1862. Now, his proposition was that the right hon. Gentleman should introduce a short Bill to continue the existing state of things until July, 1862, and if in the mean time there should be no object to which the present tax could be legally applied it could remain in deposit as proposed by this Bill. That would enable Parliament to give this Session to consideration and the next Session to legislation. His hon. Friend behind him had been charged with a covert purpose in moving an adjournment, so that the coal tax might be allowed to expire. His hon. Friend had no such covert object. What he desired was that the House should be in possession of information on the subject. In matters of taxation they wisely voted Estimates first, and then provided Ways and Means. The present, he assented, was the first instance in the annals of Parliament in which a Minister of the Crown had proposed to impose taxation, amounting to £250,000 a year for ten years, without having given a thought as to what should be done with the money so raised. There was no necessity for such precipitation, and he should therefore support the Motion for adjournment.
§ MR. NORRIS
said, that his hon. Friend was quite out in his calculation as to the produce of the coal tax. Even if the area of taxation remained, it would not produce in the ten years, as he had said, £2,500,000. But with the area reduced at it was in the Bill, and the 4d. tax being applied to the liquidation of an existing debt, the 9d. would not produce more than £1,500,000 or £1,700,000 in the ten years. He believed the embankment of the Thames alone would cost over £2,000,000, and as the necessity of that work was universally admitted, it would be unwise to delay, for a month or even a week the passing of this measure. It was said that the tax was oppressive to the poor; but, considering the small consumption of coal by the poor, and the large consumption of it by the wealthy, he did not think there was any tax the incidence of which would bear more lightly on the poorer classes. Moreover, there was no tax that was more easily or more cheaply collected. It cost from 5 to 7 per cent to 309 collect other taxes, whilst the coal duty was collected at 1 ¼ or 1 ½ per cent. A large portion of the fourpenny tax was spent in improvements of the Metropolis outside the City, or in improving and widening the great thoroughfares of the City, which must be considered metropolitan improvements, for the inhabitants of the whole Metropolis benefited thereby. Unless the Bill passed, those great and important works which all desired should be carried out must be suspended for an indefinite period.
said, he had not the slightest objection to the City of London taxing itself for the purpose of promoting public works, but that objecting as he did to the area proposed by the Bill, he should vote against it.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
said, that in answer to the noble Lord the Member for Kent (Lord Holmesdale) he had to state that it was not intended to retain the town of Gravesend in the second section of the Bill, and would probably propose to limit the area in that direction by the boundaries of the metropolitan police district. The question of area was one which would properly be considered in Committee. The Motion for delay struck at the merits of the whole question, because it would be equivalent to a Resolution to read the Bill a second time that day six months. A new Member might, perhaps, believe that it was nothing to wait for the report of a Committee, but those who were experienced in the proceedings of the House must know that there was no prospect of any legislation on this question during the present Session if they waited for the report of a Committee which had hardly begun its inquiries. He had certainly understood that the Committee of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) had been appointed to inquire into the general taxation, actual and possible, of the entire Metropolis, and was not to be narrowed to the consideration of the 4d. duty. Even if the Committee were to decide on the legal right of the City to levy the duty, they would not substantially assist the House in determining whether it was expedient to continue it. He could not admit that the appointment of the Committee ought to influence the decision of the House on this subject. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets was mistaken in supposing that his mouth was shut because he was a member of the Committee. There was a wholesome rule that a member of a Com- 310 mittee was not allowed to quote evidence adduced before the Committee until it had been reported to the House; but he was not precluded from citing information from any other source, or from expressing his own views on the question. There was plenty of evidence furnished by other Committees to enable the House to come to a decision at once. He differed from the view of his hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire (Mr. Puller), that it was immaterial to the taxpayer in what manner a tax was levied as long as the amount was the same. If his hon. Friend happened to be Chancellor of the Exchequer and attempted to enforce that doctrine, he would meet with the strenuous resistance of the House. It was unquestionably a recommendation of this tax that it already existed; and he trusted that, as the proposal now made was only to continue it for a limited number of years, leaving its appropriation for the subsequent decision of Parliament, the House would come to an immediate vote and read this Bill a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 20; Noes 135: Majority 115.
§ Question again proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. AYRTON
said, he would then move as an Amendment to the Motion for the second reading, "That, in the opinion of this House, the Coal Tax and the London Bridge Approaches Fund should be continued until the 31st of July, 1862." The operation of this Bill being confined to the coal and wine duties, it would put an end to the other funds available for purposes of improvement, which had been contributed: for a period of 150 years. The arrangement, as proposed by this measure, was to give up taxes levied upon the City of London, from which was derived an income of £12,000 a year, and to continue taxes which weighed upon the inhabitants of the Metropolis generally. The object of his Amendment was to provide, in accordance with the spirit of previous legislation, that as long as the coal and wine duties were levied the City of London should continue the contribution which was the consideration for their imposition. In this case justice was set at defiance, and the matter was made a mere question of political power. He entreated the House, before deciding upon the measure, to consider the position in which they were placed, and to bear in 311 mind that there were two of the Ministers of the Crown who were deeply interested in the question—the one representing the City of London and the other the borough of Hertford, which was to be exempted from the tax. He wanted the whole question thoroughly investigated, and therefore he proposed that the question should be left as at present for another year, which would meet the immediate object of the Bill, and Parliament would then have an opportunity of coming to a satisfactory decision upon it.
To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'in the opinion of this House the Coal Tax and the London Bridge Approaches Fund should be continued until the 31st July, 1862,'"—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
said, that the hon. Member (Mr. Ayrton) contended that the Government had taken a reckless course in respect to this Bill; but the measure was founded on the recommendation of a Committee which sat last Session. The Metropolis was represented on that Committee by his hon. Friend the Member for Westminster and the hon. Member for Lambeth, and they appeared to have been consenting parties to the Resolution which the Bill was intended to carry out. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Tower Hamlets proposed to continue the coal dues for one year only; but that would be too short a period to afford funds for the Thames embankment. If hon. Gentlemen thought that a period of ten years was too long it would be competent for them to reduce it in Committee. The £11,500 which formed a part of the London Bridge Approaches Fund was part of a composite fund, made up of various items, and the question of dealing with it was a different one from that which was now before the House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, he did not see anything in the Bill about the London Bridge Approaches Fund, and, therefore, the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets was not in order.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, he wished to explain that the Bill for levying this duty directed that it should be levied and applied under a statute relating to the London 312 Bridge Approaches Fund, and, therefore he thought it was competent to refer to the fund in the Amendment.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
observed, that the Hon. and learned Member must be alluding to the preamble. There were no words in the Bill itself referring to the Act under which the London Bridge Approaches Fund was raised.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, he would then omit the words referring to that fund, which would obviate the objection raised. His Amendment would, therefore, stand to insert after the word "that" the words "in the opinion of this House the coal-tax and wine dues should be continued till the 31st of July, 1862."
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
said, he considered that the hon. and learned Member had knocked the brains out of his own Resolution. It would be competent to any hon. Member to move in Committee to reduce the period from ten years to one. If the first Amendment was out of order, the one now before the House was nugatory.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the consent of the House must first, as a matter of form, be given to the alteration of the Amendment as proposed by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ayrton).
§ Amendment by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question again proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
Another Amendment proposed,
To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'in the opinion of this House the Coal Tax and the Duties on Wine should be continued until the 31st July, 1862,'"—instead thereof.
§ MR. JACKSON
said, that reference having been made to the recommendations of the Committee upon the Thames Embankment, he would draw attention to the recommendations of another Committee which sat in 1854, of which he was chairman. It was recommended by that Committee that the Metropolitan Board of Works should take into consideration the question of purchasing the various bridges upon which tolls were now payable, and he suggested that that was a fair subject for the House to entertain, when they were considering the means of providing for the embankment of the Thames. The present system of levying tolls on certain bridges between Surrey and Middlesex was a disgrace to the Metropolis.
§ SIR JOHN SHELLEY
said, the Bill did not carry out the recommendations of the 313 Thames Embankment Committee. The Committee had not recommended any specific fund for the expenses of the Thames embankment. They could not have done so, because they did not know the amount of the expenses. They had merely pointed to the coal duties as one of the sources to which application might be made for these expenses, but that should, he thought, be done only in a limited manner.
§ SIR MORTON PETO
said, he felt it his duty to say that his constituents approved the Bill proposed by the Government. The proposition of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets would only put off the question for another year The Committee had recommended the coal duties should be applied to the Thames embankment, and the Government were merely carrying out that recommendation. The Government had appointed a Commission of eminent men to consider the best plan for carrying out the embankment, and when they reported there Would be no more legislation required in that House; and he trusted the Government would at once carry out the recommendation. He thought the Metropolis would be in a better position if they paid more attention to carrying out great works of improvement instead of wasting the time of the House.
§ MR. LOCKE
said, he could not support the Bill. He should have liked to see the Thames Embankment Bill brought in in the first instance. The proceedings in the matter had hitherto been of an unsatisfactory nature. They had the most splendid plans and most attractive pictures—castles hanging in the air, majestic esplanades, and other picturesque features—and yet, after two months' contemplation of this picture gallery, the Committee could come to no conclusion except that the embankment would be a very good thing if they could get the money. The Chief Commissioner for Works had begun at the wrong end for the City of London, but the right for the interests of Hertford. Under any circumstances, he (Mr. Locke) submitted to the House that the plan of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets should be adopted. The House should not throw away the revenues of the City of London up to 1862 merely for the purpose of obliging the town of Hertford by contracting the area of collection.
said, that every hon. Member who spoke seemed anxious the House should understand that he was not 314 opposed to the embankment of the Thames, yet it unfortunately happened that some hon. Members objected to the Bill as much as if they were opposed to the embankment. Delay was often just as effective a method of defeating a Bill as any other, and was sometimes more plausible. He thought that the Committee had been wise in not entering into the details of the plan. The right thing in such matters was to find Where the funds were to come from, and how much, and then decide on the plan, which would depend upon the sum disposable for the purpose. Hon. Members representing the south side of the Thames seemed to assume—he knew not why—that the south side was not be embanked. The instructions to the Commissioners were to consider the embankment of the south as well as the north side of the river. The discussion which had arisen was, he thought, one more appropriate to Committee upon the Bill than its actual stage.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 119; Noes 10: Majority 109.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read 2o, and committed for To-morrow.