said, that he had placed a Motion on the Paper for a Select Committee to inquire into the operation of the petty charges on commerce imposed in 1860. He had given notice of that Motion, with a view of proposing an inquiry into the whole of the petty and vexatious charges imposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the financial arrangements of 1860. These were six in number:—1. The imposition of 5s. percent on every payment for Customs duties, which had proved to be a most annoying and vexatious tax, yielding an enormous amount of trouble and increased clerical labour for a revenue of £60,000. 2. The charge of 1d. per package on every article imported into the United Kingdom, which had proved fertile in obstruction and annoyance, while it had utterly dis- 1072 appointed the calculations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. 3. The tax on bills of lading and shipping bills of 1s. 66. each, which was also a subject of general complaint. 4. The penny tax on delivery orders. That impost was probably the cause of severer annoyance, uncertainty, and difficulty than either of the preceding; two Acts of Parliament had been passed, and still the incidences of the tax were full of uncertainty, while the amount the revenue gained by it was absolutely insignificant. 5. Tax on dock warrants of 3d. each, which, instead of producing the anticipated revenue of £100,000, had only produced from £8,000 to £10,000 per annum, and was now gradually declining. The tax was applicable wholly to the port of London, and was tending to throw into disuse a very valuable and important document. 6. Tax on brokers' contracts, which, although limited in its operation to Stock Exchange transactions, had proved another failure, both in its general application and in the amount of revenue derived there from. Under these circumstances, and feeling sure that the proposed inquiry would be highly beneficial to the general interests of the trade of the kingdom, it was with extreme regret that he narrowed his Motion to the limits which he now had to propose. Four of the subjects appertained to the home trade; the other two to the imports and exports of the country. It had been intimated to him that the Government would oppose the general inquiry, but were willing to make an inquiry in regard to the import and export trade. That was a serious limitation of the original proposition, to which he assented with extreme reluctance, its main merit being that it dealt with about £180,000 of the revenue which had been raised under those impolitic and ill-advised petty taxes, leaving less than £100,000 from the other four sources to be dealt with at some future period. However, most reluctantly as he adopted the proposition of Her Majesty's Government, he would beg leave to move that a Select Committee be appointed.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the Government were willing to accede to the Motion of his hon. Friend in its altered form. His own opinion was that the charge upon goods entered inwards did not justify the practical burden which, in the shape of labour, it imposed upon persons engaged in trade. Some of the other changes, however, were useful for the purposes of statistical information, and 1073 the question for consideration was whether the statistics collected were worth the trouble involved in the collection. Upon the subject of entries inwards as well as that of bills of lading outwards different classes of persons entertained different views, and he thought the proposed Committee would afford a fair opportunity of hearing and comparing all those views, and of bringing together a mass of information bearing upon the question how far it was right or necessary to impose upon those engaged in trade the very considerable labour which the collection of statistics involved. He should have preferred an inquiry under the authority of the Crown; but being desirous to meet his hon. Friend in a spirit of conciliation, and knowing that the House always liked to have the conduct of such inquiries in its own hands, he cheerfully acceded to the appointment of a Select Committee.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he wished to ask whether the inquiry would embrace the colonial as well as foreign trade?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, it would have no bearing upon any trade except that to and from the ports of the United Kingdom.
§ Motion agreed to.
Select Committee appointed,
To consider the best mode of obtaining statistical information respecting the Foreign Trade of the United Kingdom, and the bearing thereon of the Charges imposed on the entry of Goods inwards, and on Bills of Lading outwards, by the Customs Act of 1860, as well as the operation of the said Charges upon Trade.