HC Deb 07 May 1866 vol 183 cc542-55

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


said, that in order to meet the views of the Government and not to delay the passing of the Resolutions, which were of importance to the business of the country, he had agreed to postpone the Resolution of which he had given notice with respect to Fire and Marine Insurances. But having done, so he wished to say a few words on the first Resolution that was to be submitted to the House. The financial scheme of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer consisted of three distinct parts. The first section related to what might be called domestic arrangements, the second had regard to politics and finance, and the third was a prospective view of the future state of the country and the possible collapse of her greatness and prosperity. He (Mr. Hubbard) wished to make a few remarks upon the first portion of the scheme. He might remark, in the first place, that there was not one of the remissions which the right hon. Gentleman proposed that would not he received with hearty good-will. The proposal with regard to wine was a necessary consequence of the Austrian Treaty, and the change would tend to simplify and equalize the levying of the duties. The changes in the duties on locomotion were due to those who provided the humbler classes with those means of locomotion which the rich could provide for themselves; and he could only expresss his hope that the change would not stop with leaving the farthing duty upon those vehicles—he trusted they would be abolished altogether. As to pepper, he had drawn the Chancellor of the Exchequer's attention to the duties on spice, and he rejoiced, therefore, that his right hon. Friend had taken this step in removing them. He hoped the day was not far distant when the poor man would not only have his Irish stew with untaxed pepper, but also his dumplings with untaxed currants and plums. The duties on timber, which produced £300,000 a year, were very properly taken off, for nothing was of more importance to the dwellings of the poor, about which, at present, so much interest was taken, than a cheap and plentiful supply of timber; but he alluded to it now, because at a future stage of the discussion he intended to refer to the magnitude of the tax that was levied on this article in another shape. He might state here that in the Resolution he intended to propose, he did not intend to ask the House entirely to abrogate the duties on fire insurances, but to reduce the duty on marine insurances to 3d. per £100, and to levy a tax of 1d. on all other insurances as a registration fee, which would indicate the growth in the value of fixed property. As he had withdrawn the Motion of which he had given notice, he must ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he would introduce his Bill so as to allow him an opportunity of fairly discussing the remissions he proposed.


said, that every facility ought to be given to enable the Government to proceed at once with the Resolutions to be submitted to the Committee. The Resolution respecting the reduction of the National Debt involved principles of very great novelty and importance. It was, in fact, a question of committing Parliament to a prospective scheme of finance for many years to come, He did not know that it would become him to express an opinion upon the subject at present, as the scheme for the reduction of the Debt was only introduced into the House on Thursday last, and it could not be disposed of without a great deal of consideration on the part of hon. Members, and consultation with financial authorities out of doors. He was sure that nothing would be further from the wish of his right hon. Friend than to press the Committee to a premature decision; and, in the ordinary course of things, that Resolution should stand over. If, however, inconvenience would result from not passing the Resolution that evening, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer would give an assurance that hon. Members would not be precluded from moving any Amendments further consideration might suggest in reference to its principle, he would at the present stage offer no opposition.


said, he concurred with every word that had fallen from his hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Hubbard). He understood that his hon. Friend did not intend to stand in the way of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to his financial arrangements respecting the taxation of the country. But it was very different in regard to the Resolutions on the National Debt, and he fully joined in all that had fallen from the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing) on that subject. It really was the most important subject—scarcely less so than the successive schemes of Reform they had so lately been discussing—that would be brought under the consideration of Parliament. He would venture to suggest that if it would interfere with the convenience of Government in its other measures, to postpone this Resolution, then it would be better to let the Resolution pass, reserving to themselves the right at a future period to consider the principle of being committed for a period of twenty or possibly of forty years to pay a largo sum of money whatever the condition of the country might he, and after all paying off a comparatively small portion of the debt. Before sitting down he must add that he agreed in the proposals of his right hon. Friend with regard to the duties on timber and on wine in bottle, which he thought an excellent measure independently of the treaty with Austria; and with respect to that treaty he would say that he hoped events would not occur in Europe to in- terfere with its operation. But with regard to the remainder of the surplus—exceeding £500,000—he must say it appeared to him a most extraordinary-period to apply it to the extinction of the Debt. It was known that this was the smallest surplus at the command of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for several years past; and when money was at the rate of 7 or 8 per cent in the market it did not appear to him that this was exactly the proper period for the right hon. Gentleman to make his first experiment towards paying off the £800,000,000 of the National Debt. However, he would reserve all that for a future period. But he hoped his right hon. Friend would give some information on one or two points in order to render his scheme intelligible to the House. First, with regard to the sum of £1,005,000 that was to be paid in discharge of the annuities; he wished to know whether it was to be paid yearly, half-yearly, or quarterly. Second, if it was to be paid half-yearly, when would the first payment be made, and when would the last payment be made—in 1885, and again in 1905—because the moment they obtained that information they would know exactly what was the aggregate sum they would have to pay in this series of years, except as varied by the current prices of stock. He also wished to understand whether this annual payment of £1,005,000 would be increased or diminished by the increase or diminution in the payments that might be made from year to year by the trustees of the savings banks.


said, it was obvious that the adoption of Resolutions merely of preliminary character could not bind hon. Members to any details, and that the most convenient time to discuss the provisions of the Bill founded upon them was when that Bill was in their hands. The Resolutions were necessarily couched in vague and general terms, because their scope must he sufficient to cover everything in the Bill. Ample time should be afforded for the discussion of the important subjects which they embraced, and in fixing the time for the second reading he hoped to consult the convenience of hon. Members. In answer to the question of the hon. and learned Member for Suffolk (Sir Fitz Roy Kelly) as to the period at which payments of the annuity would be made, those periods would be fixed to meet the convenience both of the Commissioners of National Debt and the public. It was not desirable that the Commissioners should receive the whole income on quarter days, and the first payment would accordingly be made on the 21st of November next. £1,005,000 was the maximum which could by possibility be applied to the purpose in view; but what proportion of that amount would be applicable depended on the calls of the trustees of the savings banks, who had the first claim upon the fund. Any further information that might be desired he should be happy to give, and, if it was thought desirable, in the shape of Returns.

WAYS and MEANS considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

1. Question again proposed.

That the Duties of Customs chargeable upon the goods hereinafter mentioned, upon their Importation into Great Britain and Ireland, shall cease and determine: viz.

Wood and Timber, Foreign and Colonial, as denominated in the Tariff;

and that power be granted to the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury to remit the duty on all such Wood and Timber as shall have been landed, under Bond for security of Duty, on and after the 26th day of March 1866.

Question put, and agreed to.

2. Resolved, That the Drawback of Customs Duties now paid and allowed on the exportation of Foreign or Colonial Wood and Timber from Great Britain and Ireland shall cease to be paid and allowed on Wood and Timber exported on and after the ninth day of May 1866.

3. Resolved, That the Duty of Customs chargeable upon the goods hereinafter mentioned shall cease and determine: viz.

Ships, with their Tackle, Apparel, and Furniture: viz.

Foreign, built of Wood, and Ships built of Wood in any of Her Majesty's Possessions Abroad, on the Registration thereof as British Ships at any Port or place for the Registry of British Ships in Great Britain and Ireland, for every ton of the gross registered Tonnage, without any deduction in respect of Engine Room or otherwise.

4. Resolved, That, in lieu of the Duties of Customs now charged on Wine, the following Duties of Customs shall be charged thereon, on Importation into Great Britain and Ireland: viz.

Containing less than the following Rates of Proof Spirit, verified by Sykes Hydrometer, viz.
26 Degrees. 42 Degrees.
s. d. s. d.
Red Wine the gal. 1 0 2 6
White Wine the gal 1 0 2 6
Lees of such Wine the gal 1 0 2 6

and for every degree of strength beyond the highest above specified, an additional Duty of 3d. per gallon.

Ten per Cent. of Proof Spirit may be used in the fortifying of any Wine in Bond, provided that the Wine so fortified be not raised to a greater degree of strength than 40 per Cent. of such Proof Spirit, if for Home Consumption.

5. Resolved, That the Duties of Customs charge able upon the goods hereinafter mentioned, upon their importation into Great Britain and Ireland, shall cease and determine: viz.

Pepper, of all sorts.

6, Resolved, That, towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, the Duty of Customs now charged on Tea shall continue to be levied and charged on and after the 1st day of August 1866 until the 1st day of August 1867 on the importation thereof into Great Britain and Ireland:

£ s. d.
Tea the 1b. 0 0 6

Resolution 7.

That, towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, there shall be charged and paid on and after the 2nd day of July 1866, the following reduced Duty on Stage Carriages in Great Britain in lieu of the Mileage Duty now payable thereon (that is to say):

For and in respect of every Mile which any Stage Carriage shall be licensed to travel, the Excise Duty of One Farthing.


expressed his regret that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not considered the whole subject of carriage duties and placed them upon a different footing from that which they now occupied. The mileage duty was excessive, no doubt, and one proper to be considered; but advantage might have been taken of the occasion when it was dealt with to relieve horses and carriages now subject to the payment of Excise duty from that impost, levying whatever taxes were deemed equitable in the uniform shape of assessed taxes. It had been said that this tax was necessary, because where omnibuses ran in competition with railways it would not be right that the latter should be taxed and the former not. But he (Mr. Alderman Lawrence) was sure that the railway interest would be glad to see the mileage duty taken off altogether, because the public carriages were the best feeders of the railways. The omnibuses of the London district were now liable to a mileage duty of 1d. per mile, and on an average each omnibus paid £66 duty per annum. That sum would now be reduced to one farthing a mile, or about £16 10s. The cabs paid 1s. a day duty, and cabs which plied six days a week would still have to pay £15 13s. each cab for duty. So that while the omnibuses, which employed on an average nine horses, would only be charged £16 5s. —a cab, which employed only two horses, would pay £15 13s. If all these carriages were put upon one footing—if every vehicle on four wheels paid a uniform charge of £3 10s., for example—and if every horse paid £1 1s. duty—it would be a great relief to the interests concerned and a great advantage to the country. He saw no reason why the cabs of London should not be placed on the same footing as those of Liverpool, Birmingham, Cheltenham, and other large towns. It was sometimes argued that the metropolis had peculiar advantages in regard to the expenditure of public money upon its parks, &c, and that it ought therefore to pay a larger share of taxation; but why the cabs should pay this burden more than other carriages he could not understand—especially as cabs were not allowed to enter some of the parks. What was the consequence? It appeared from the Report upon the table of the House, that the Chief Commissioner of Police (Sir Richard Mayne) described the public vehicles of the metropolis as very bad, while Sir John Thwaites declared that the public carriages and cabs of London were the worst in Europe. The reason was that the fares were so low and the taxation so high that no public companies would undertake this traffic as they undertook the omnibus traffic. The result was that the cab proprietors let out their cabs to men of a low class, who could scarcely earn a living, and the cabowners were sometimes obliged to give them credit for a day or two, when, if they could not make up the sum they had agreed to pay for the hire, they were summoned before a police magistrate, who committed them to prison for non-payment. The number of cabmen confined in White Cross Street Prison from this cause varied from five to twenty. The result was that the cabmen, having the fear of a prison before their eyes, extorted money from the public, and the master, in consequence of the low fares and heavy taxation, was unable to employ a proper class of drivers. The only remedy was by putting cabs upon the same footing as other carriages, and allowing the public to have the option of employing a superior kind of carriage—by paying an additional fare. The subject was not in the hands of the local authorities, but in those of the Government, and upon them the responsibility rested. The whole subject of horses and public carriages ought to be placed under better regulations, and in regard to the mileage duty it would be better if the whole duty were removed.


said, that the speech of the hon. Member who had just sat down showed clearly that the whole subject of the taxes on locomotion required to be reviewed. Much greater changes ought to be proposed than those he had suggested, and the Resolution before the House was brought forward not as in any degree a settlement, but as a remedy for one salient point of grievance and inconvenience—namely, the state of the omnibus traffic which pressed unjustly upon the middle and working classes residing in the environs of the metropolis, &c, and affected the supply of carriages to the railway stations. He had, however, already explained that he had not the means of dealing with the whole subject on the present occasion. Upon the general question he would not hesitate to express the opinion that so far as popular locomotion was concerned, it could not be too free. The question was, however, one embracing many details. The hon. Member (Mr. Alderman Lawrence) said, with great truth, that even if the State ought to receive some consideration in return for the expenditure upon the metropolis it was by no means clear why it should be paid by a charge on cabs. He agreed with the hon. Member that this tax would deserve re-consideration; but his hon. Friend would no doubt agree with him that in regard to this matter of metropolitan expenditure it would not be wise to legislate until the House had got some better devised substitute in the place of this tax. Such a substitute might be found, but they had not found it now. The more convenient time to enter upon this question would be when the whole subject was opened out, as he trusted it would be, by the Report of the Railway Commissioners. Meanwhile, he trusted that the House would not object to adopt a partial remedy for a grievance specific in its character, and which pressed upon the public more heavily than any other part of the duties on locomotion.


must say that this subject was in a very unsatisfactory state. There were very few towns in England where cabs were allowed, as in London, to charge only 6d. per mile. It was most unfair to make the cabs pay more taxes in London, where the fares were lower than in almost any other town. In the country towns the municipal authorities regulated the public carriages; but in London the public fell between two stools. The Government professed to do this in London, but did not do it, and the local authorities were not allowed to interfere. In Paris the public could get any description of vehicle according to what they were prepared to pay for it, while in London the cabs were so dirty and kept in such bad condition that they were seldom fit for a lady to get into them. The Government, if they undertook to regulate the cabs, ought to see that they were really worthy of this great metropolis. The public really had a right to something better.


said, if his hon. Friend the Member for the City (Mr. Alderman Lawrence) knew how difficult it was to obtain justice in that House when no powerful interest demanded it, he would be satisfied with the instalment of justice now obtained. For six years he had struggled to obtain a recognition of the exorbitant overcharge of taxation upon locomotion. He objected to the theory of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the metropolis owed something to the Government for money laid out upon it, which ought to be repaid by some specific tax. He, for one, was not aware that any such claim existed. He believed that when the House came to balance accounts, not only would it be found that there was a great overcharge in the matter of cabs, but also a still greater overcharge in other branches of revenue. In London several families living in one house had to contribute to the house tax, while in the country families living in separate houses had no such tax to pay. There were many matters in respect of which the metropolis laboured under serious disadvantages. He attributed this to the fact that it had so small an amount of representation in that House. It could not make itself felt. He hoped, however, there was a chance of improvement in that respect. It was remarkable that if a number of small boroughs—which in the aggregate had not, perhaps, a population equal to half that of one of the metropolitan boroughs—felt themselves aggrieved by any particular state of circumstances, they were able to bring such a pressure on the Chancellor of the Exchequer as he was unable to withstand, while the metropolis could not get its just complaints attended to. He never could understand why the public carriages in London should have a different rate of taxation imposed upon them from that which applied to similar vehicles in other parts of the country. The result was that gentlemen found themselves obliged to travel in very indifferent cabs, though it was true they had the satisfaction that here they rode cheaper than they could in any other city of Europe. The House were very fond of free trade when they wanted to buy; but the moment they came to make a law for those who sold they insisted that the article should be disposed of at the lowest rate. The licence required to be taken out by those who let horses out on hire was attended with inconvenience and hardship. Could anything be more absurd than that a man could not lend his horse or carriage without subjecting himself to very heavy penalties if he received any remuneration for the loan. If you found yourself in the country, and asked a farmer to let you ride his horse, you could not offer him remuneration—if you were to make such a request to a man he would look at you with suspicion. He had found this to be the case with a Scotch farmer to whom he applied for the use of a horse; but when he assured the man that he had the greatest contempt for the Excise laws, and that he was not aware they existed in that part of the country, he consented to let him have the horse, If a man driving a conveyance along the road allowed a traveller to get up, and accepted remuneration, a penalty might be enforced if he had not a licence. A turnpike-keeper had once threatened a man for giving him a lift. If a man keeping a horse and cart for the purposes of his business met his wife and gave her a lift home, the tax collector might pounce upon him and make him pay carriage duty, and a tax on the boy who groomed the horse. He hoped the time would shortly come when the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be able to totally abolish all taxes on carriages and horses to the extent that such interfered with industry and necessary locomotion.


desired to express his satisfaction that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had taken up this question, and had announced his intention of carrying the reductions still further. In some small towns these carriage duties made all the difference between commercial progress and the stagnation of trade. The question whether it was worth the while of a commercial traveller to visit a small town sometimes depended on whether there was omnibus communication between that town and the nearest railway station. In the town of Wigan, which he once had the honour of representing, omnibus communication had been discontinued in consequence of the mileage duty. This was an illustration of the evil effects which the duty sometimes brought about.


said, he would like to know whether those duties could not be consolidated into a smaller number of items. He was also desirous of learning what the expense would be of collecting the farthing duty—because he thought it would bear an undue proportion to the total amount of the impost. He did not think that justice to the railway interest would allow of the duty on stage carriages being entirely removed as long as railways were taxed so heavily; because, though omnibuses could not compete with steam in point of speed, in many cases they possessed an advantage over suburban railways, inasmuch as they took up and set down passengers at their own doors.


said, the question was whether the House was to sacrifice certain portions of the mileage duty on the means of locomotion, and at the same time refuse even an inquiry into the turnpike system, which hampered locomotion to a very much greater degree. In his opinion, the question of turnpikes was fairly entitled to the consideration of the House.

Resolution agreed to.

7. Resolved, That, towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, there shall be charged and paid on and after the 2nd day of July 1866, the following reduced Duty on Stage Carriages in Great Britain in lieu of the Mileage Duty now payable thereon (that is to say): For and in respect of every Mile which any Stage Carriage shall be licensed to travel, the Excise Duty of One Farthing.

8. Resolved, That, towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, there shall be granted and paid, on and after the 6th day of July 1666, the following reduced Duties on Licences to be taken out yearly by persons who shall let any Horse or Horses for hire in Great Britain as hereinafter mentioned:

£ s. d.
Where the person taking out such Licence shall keep at one and the same time to let for hire one Horse or one Carriage only. 5 0 0
And where such person shall keep as aforesaid any greater number of Horses or Carriages—
Not exceeding three Horses or two Carriages 10 0 0
Not exceeding four Horses or three Carriages. 15 0 0

Not exceeding five Horses or four Carriages 20 0 0
Not exceeding six Horses or five Carriages 25 0 0

Resolution 9.

That, towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, there shall be charged, collected, and paid for one year, commencing on the 6th day of April 1866, for and in respect of all Property, Profits, and Gains mentioned or described as chargeable in the Act passed in the 16th and 17th years of Her Majesty's reign, chapter 34, for granting to Her Majesty Duties on Profits arising from Property, Professions, Trades, and Offices, the following Rates and Duties (that is to say): For every twenty shillings of the annual value or amount of all such Property, Profits, and Gains (except those chargeable under Schedule (B) of the said Act), the Rate or Duty of Four pence. And for and in respect of the occupation of Lands, Tenements, Hereditaments and Heritages chargeable under Schedule (B) of the said Act, for every Twenty shillings of the annual value thereof, In England, the Rate or Duty of Two pence, and In Scotland and Ireland respectively, the Rate or Duty of One penny halfpenny.

Subject to the provisions contained in Section 3 of the Act 26th Victoria, chapter 22, for the exemption of persons whose Income from every source is under One Hundred pounds a year, and relief to those whose Income is under Two Hundred pounds a year.


regretted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had during the last few years allowed 3d. of the duty, which would have provided for the repeal of two-thirds of the malt tax, or two-thirds of the sugar duty, or for the repeal of the duties upon every article except six—namely, wine, spirits, malt, tea, sugar, and tobacco, to slip through his fingers. Nothing would do so much to stop the mouths of demagogues as to show, by the maintenance of the income tax, that that House was determined to adhere to the policy of abolishing duties which were levied upon articles consumed by the working classes.


said, he must protest against the re-enactment of the Income Tax Act without an attempt having been made on the part of Her Majesty's Government to remove any of its gross inequalities. If those inequalities had been removed, the tax would have been more readily endured. He wished also to call the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the imperfect and clumsy machinery by which the tax was collected. The amount of confusion which it caused was something marvellous. This confusion partly arose from the inaccurate forms under which persons were required to make their assessment. No man could take the forms for assessment under Schedule D and make a just return taken from his own ledger without its being in a state of conflict with the requirements of the Act. In the receipts, too, which were given for income tax a statement was made that a certain sum had been received according to the information and particulars in the margin, but no particulars and no information were given in the margin. He submitted that that was a difficulty which might easily be remedied, and he urged upon the right hon. Gentleman the propriety of making the tax collectors give a proper form of receipt, showing the amount on which, and the rate at which, the tax was levied. There was another point to which he would call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. Under Schedule D every individual was bound to make his own return, but there was no penalty if he failed to do so. The consequence was that a man with a tolerable good business would often refuse to make any return at all. Thereupon the income tax Commissioners made their own assessment, and assessed him, say, at £300 a year. He would pay it, and again refuse to send in a return; whereupon the Commissioners would, perhaps, assess him at £500 which he would pay. This process went on step by step so long as the trader was assessed by the Commissioners at a lower sum than he was really liable to pay. He would suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer the expediency of introducing a clause with the object of compelling people to make returns under Schedule D.


said, the income tax pressed most severely upon persons possessing incomes of £200 or £300 a year, and in his opinion £150 ought to be written off every income up to at least £600 a year. The tax at present pressed too heavily upon persons engaged in professions, such as surgeons, artists, schoolmasters, and clergymen.


said, there was an essential difference between property and income tax, which were now grouped together. The reduction in the tea and sugar duties, and imposts of that kind, were insignificant in their importance as compared with the income tax, which taxed the bone and muscle of the industry of the country. The property tax was a reasonable and legitimate tax to meet the requirements of the country—it was the ancient and proper means of raising revenue; and although vestries had power to impose a tax analogous to the income tax, common sense told them that the proper way was to raise the tax from property, and this was done throughout the length and breadth of the country. The property tax was direct and economical; the income tax was indirect and expensive; and yet the two were mixed together as though there was some analogy between them.


meant no disrespect to hon. Members by declining to discuss questions which had been raised, and which went deep into our fiscal and social systems, because they could not be adequately discussed on a Resolution for the renewal of a tax. They were fair and proper subjects to be discussed thoroughly, and when they were raised as separate questions the House had shown no disinclination to attend to them; but, on the voting of a portion of the Supplies of the year, the House could not enter upon the deeper and larger question of the structure of the taxes.

Resolution agreed to.

House resumed.

Resolutions to be reported To-morrow;

Committee to sit again on Wednesday.