§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. CANDLISH
moved that the House go into Committee on the Bill that day six months: firstly, in deference to a sense of duty to his constituents; and secondly, because he regarded the Bill as essentially bad in itself. The Bill did not propose to impose a duty upon coals brought into London; that existed already; but it proposed to hypothecate the coal duties for seven years, from 1882 to 1889, and so withdraw them from the control of Parliament for twenty-one years. The duties were obstructive to trade, and particularly to the coal trade of the Newcastle district. He was surprised that the Bill was not opposed by metropolitan Members; for the coal duties were a tax upon one of the first necessities of human life to the amount of 1s. 7d. per head per annum for each man, woman, and child in the London district. Coal, too, was one of the raw materials entering into nearly all our manufacturing operations, and hence these 197 dues were a tax upon all our manufacturing processes. London ought to provide for its municipal necessities by local taxation, and not by octroi duties.
§ MR. SAMUDA
seconded the Motion. He believed the tax was much more injurious now than when it was first proposed. At first, London was the only district for manufactured goods; but now they met with competition all over the Continent. In France, for instance, all the materials for shipbuilding were free; and coals were actually cheaper in France than in London, though this country supplied coal to all parts of the world. At this moment, the French manufacturers were paying 1s. 1½d. per ton less for coal than the manufacturers of London. The Bill was also objectionable because it proposed to deal with a tax which was not available at the present time; but which had been forestalled for the next twelve or fourteen years. That was a process which could only be likened to an extravagant youth selling a post obit. Among the many resources from which money might be obtained for metropolitan improvement none was so unjust as that proposed in the Bill. He should certainly follow his hon. Friend into the Lobby if the Motion were pressed to a division.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House will, upon this day six months, resolve itself into the said Committee,"—(Mr. Candlish,)
§ MR. PEASE
declared that the tax was opposed to the interests of the coal-producing districts, because the increase of price was a great bar to their industry. The collieries in the North were working four or five days a week, and were they to be exposed to a further detriment by means of this tax? It was a tax of 8 or 9 per cent on the shipbuilding in the River Thames, and when the industry of the Thames was crippled it was a fit time to call the attention of the House to this tax. It was a grievous tax on the poor of the metropolis, and injuriously affected the districts around the metropolis which derived no benefit from the City improvements. He opposed the Bill.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
, while regarding this as an excessively bad mode of raising money, thought it better that the funds should be raised even from this source that that the improvements now in progress 198 should be stopped. The noble Lord (Lord John Manners), he understood, proposed that a portion of the money should be expended out of the metropolitan police area in freeing the bridges over the Thames, and therefore it was not his intention to continue to oppose the Bill, in accordance with the Notice which he had placed upon the Paper. He should, however, move an Amendment when the Bill went into Committee.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
remarked, that the opposition to the measure did not proceed from the representatives of the constituencies who would have to pay the duty; but from Gentlemen who represented constituencies in a remote part of the kingdom. The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Candlish) had clearly explained the object of his opposition, when he stated that he spoke in the interests of his constituents; but in reality the hon. Gentleman was not correct in saying that the interests of his constituents would be in any way prejudiced by the Bill, for the coal duty, as it now existed, did not operate as a bar to the export of coal from Newcastle and Sunderland. The quantity of coal exported thence into the metropolis was annually on the increase. In 1863, the imports into London amounted to 5,127,000 tons; in 1864, to 5,476,000 tons: in 1865, to 5,909,000 tons; and in 1866, to 6,029,000 tons. The hon. Gentleman wondered that the metropolis did not find some local object of taxation in order to carry out local improvements as other towns did; but surely the hon. Gentleman could not be ignorant of the fact that a number of other large towns—such as Dublin and Brighton—had recourse to this very mode of levying funds for local purposes. When the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Pease) objected to the tax as interfering with the consumption of coals, he ought not to overlook the fact that Newcastle itself placed an export duty of 2d. a chaldron on coal sent to the metropolis; and, until the hon. Member induced the municipal authorities of Newcastle to abolish that duty, it was hardly consistent in him to endeavour to withstand the wishes of the inhabitants of the metropolis and to oppose the present measure. The hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Samuda) had suggested that the Government might propose some substitute but surely it was the duty of the opponents of the Bill to make a suggestion on that point. The House would remember that two years ago the Metropolitan Board of 199 Works proposed to make three most necessary improvements in the metropolis, stating at the same time that they had not the requisite funds to carry them out. These three measures were submitted to the Committee over which the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets presided, and the Committee, after taking evidence, came to the determination by a majority of votes that these public improvements should be carried out by a continuation of the Coal and Wine Duties. That determination was sanctioned by the Government, the City of London, who had in hand the Holborn Valley Improvement, and the Metropolitan Board of Works. Last year fifty-nine Petitions were presented from different bodies who would come under this taxation, praying that the Bill might be passed into law. Under these circumstances—without saying that this was the best system of taxation, or that some better system might not in course of time be devised—he was confident that if the House wished the immense public improvements of the Thames Embankment, the widening of Park Lane, and the viaduct over the Holborn Valley to be carried out, it would reject the Amendment which had been moved.
§ MR. WATKIN
trusted the House was not to be considered as a mere vestry meeting in the City of London; for the question affected not merely the metropolis, but the production of minerals all over the country, and also manufactures within the district of the metropolis itself. The tax was not going to expire until 1882. Surely, under the circumstances, this measure might be left for the consideration of a Parliament elected by household suffrage. Had the small consumers who suffered most from the existence of the tax met together to say that this was a desirable form of taxation? In the country the people said that in consequence of this tax, which they called a tax upon production, trade was being abolished. He thought the noble Lord (Lord John Manners) might very well postpone this Bill, as there were several years to consider it. He hoped the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Candlish) would not be intimidated, but go to a division upon his Amendment.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, what the House really had to consider was this—the House having sanctioned certain Bills for certain improvements, how were those improvements to be paid for? He was not going 200 to say that the coal tax was the best tax; but what he asked was, from what source of revenue were the improvements to be carried out? That was a question which might be fairly put before the House. When the Acts sanctioning the improvements had once passed, it seemed to him a somewhat illogical proceeding for hon. Gentlemen to oppose the only mode of carrying them out. The hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Watkin) said that, in the country, people did not like this matter to be looked upon from a metropolitan point of view; but he would remind the hon. Gentleman that what the people of the metropolis had to look to was, whether they preferred an increase in their rates, or the passing of the noble Lord's Bill. If hon. Members would propose some means by which the funds could be got without increasing the taxation of the metropolis, they would perform a considerable service to the metropolis; but he had not heard of any counter proposal. Surely the people of the metropolis were the best judges of what taxes they ought to bear, and he might say that the working classes of the metropolis strongly protested against any increase of taxation. He did not say the measure of the noble Lord was the best measure that could be produced; but, seeing that there was no alternative proposal before the House, he had no option but to vote with the noble Lord. The House had sanctioned all the works for which this tax was to provide—for instance, the Holborn Valley improvements. For these, a 6d. improvement rate had been proposed, but it had been rejected by the efforts of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton), and now no resource was left except the coal tax.
, as a member of the Metropolitan Board of Works, could tell the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Watkin) that, unless this Bill was passed, it would be impossible, from want of funds, to make the approaches to the Thames Embankment. It would also be impossible to complete the improvements in Park Lane, or to finish the Chelsea Embankment; and he might add that the latter work was necessary for the completion of the low level sewer.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, that in the Select Committee which had been referred to, he made a proposal against the continuance of this tax; but the noble Lord the Chief Commissioner of Works proposed an Amendment, and that Amendment was 201 carried, because the hon. Member for South Northumberland, who was appointed on the Committee to protect the interests of the coalowners, voted with the noble Lord. Therefore, if the coal-owners suffered they ought to know whom to blame. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) approved his scheme. The present Government also adopted it, and the noble Lord introduced his Bill continuing the Coal duties while he was requested to bring in his Bill; both were to proceed pari passú. It was found to be impossible to pass his Bill last Session, and the noble Lord withdrew his. In the present Session, his right hon. Friend (Mr. Goschen), the Member for the City of London, brought forward the subject of metropolitan finance, and the Government thought it their duty to consider the question, and accept the responsibility of proposing a scheme to carry out metropolitan improvements. This Bill was accordingly introduced. The responsibility rested entirely with the Government, and the metropolitan Members had no option but to accept it, although they considered it a very bad Bill.
COLONEL, W. STUART
complained of the injustice of taxing rural districts for metropolitan improvements, simply because the coals they consumed passed through London.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 147; Noes 33: Majority 114.
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2 (Coal Duty of Fourpence to be applied by Corporation of London for Improvements).
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
moved, to add words to allow the Corporation of London to give a drawback for the coal duty to certain manufacturers carrying on business within half a mile of the county of Bucks. He explained that it was intended that this power should have reference to certain papermakers, whose places of business were just within the line of taxation, and who had to compete with other papermakers whose places were just on the other side of the line.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, the chief objection to the insertion of the words was that the Mayor and Corporation of London had no power whatever over these duties, which were paid into the Treasury. The last time the House passed this Bill the town of Hertford, which was under the patronage of the then Prime Minister, was exempted from its operation. He did not know whether the county of Bucks was under the patronage of the present Prime Minister. Perhaps it would be better to exempt from the operation of the Act the coal used in all manufactories.
§ MR. COWPER
denied that the town of Hertford was mentioned in any Acts of Parliament relating to this subject.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, it would be very difficult to adopt the proposition of the hon. Member for Middlesex, as it would interfere with the boundaries which had been fixed by competent authority.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, as the Amendment had been withdrawn, he should move the addition to Clause 2 of the following words:—For every ton of Coals consumed for any purpose of manufacture in any factory separate from any dwelling house, there shall be allowed to the consumer of such Coals a drawback of one shilling a ton, provided such consumer shall comply with such regulations and conditions as may be prescribed by the said mayor, aldermen, and commons, and approved by one of Her Majesty's Secretaries of State, to ascertain the amount of such drawback, and to prevent any abuse therein.There were other industries besides those which had been mentioned; he referred especially to the case of the iron shipbuilders, upon whom the tax of 1s. 1d. per ton was peculiarly oppressive.
Amendment proposed, at the end of the Clause, to add the words—
Provided, That for every ton of Coals consumed for any purpose of manufacture in any factory separate from any dwelling house, there shall be allowed to the consumer of such Coals a drawback of one shilling a ton, provided such consumer shall comply with such regulations and conditions
as may be prescribed by the said mayor, aldermen, and commons, and approved by one of Her Majesty's Secretaries of State, to ascertain the amount of such drawback, and to prevent any abuse therein."—(Mr. Ayrton.)
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
regretted that he could not assent to that Amendment. The Committee having sanctioned the continuance of those dues for the limited period of seven years, on the assumption that they would be levied on all classes of consumers within the prescribed radius, it was now impossible to exempt a large class of consumers from their operation. If such an exemption were allowed, it would be necessary to impose those dues for an additional number of years. If there was a class of persons who ought to contribute their fair share of the funds required for cleansing and embanking the Thames, improving the thoroughfares, and all the other great works to which the coal dues were applicable, it was the manufacturers, who by the nature of their business did so much to obstruct those thoroughfares and pollute the river.
§ MR. WATKIN
supported the Amendment, and asked for statistics as to the proportion which the amount of coal tax collected from the manufacturers bore to the total proceeds of the impost.
§ MR. LOCKE
said, that what the manufacturers complained of was that, while they paid as high rates and taxes as the rest of the community as ordinary householders, they were subjected to a heavy extra tax on the trade they carried on. The Thames iron shipbuilders naturally had to pay more for their coals than their rivals on the Clyde, and yet an additional impost of 13d. per ton was extracted from them for the fuel they consumed. He should support the Amendment if it were pressed to a division.
§ MR. SAMUDA
also pointed out the onerous character of the tax as affecting the struggling iron shipbuilders of East London, who had lately been called upon to pay rates, not on their buildings alone, as formerly was the case, but also on their plant. Within the last seventeen years fifteen of the shipbuilding firms of the metropolis had failed in their business, or discontinued building, and these firms had during their existence employed 4,000 persons; which really meant that they had provided the means of support to about 20,000 individuals. It was now vitally important that the trade should not be too heavily loaded with taxation. He 204 thought that some such Amendment as that proposed by the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets should be adopted.
remarked, that as the evidence given before the Committee showed, in spite of the taxation complained of, the profits on the London shipbuilding trade at the time admitted of one of the witnesses making extensions which would cost £100,000—a fact which justly excited comment on the part of the Committee. He opposed the proviso on the ground that the tax was absolutely necessary to meet engagements entered into. The noble Lord had given every possible care and attention to the affairs of the metropolis, and all persons connected with it ought to be grateful to him.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he should be reluctant to throw difficulties in the way of the manufacturers; and, if the case were perfectly free, he should be inclined to vote for the Amendment; but they were in reality discussing what was to happen sixteen years hence. He regretted that their taxation should have reached such a point that they were obliged to begin to pledge the revenues that would only accrue sixteen years hence. For his part he would rather say let them get rid of the matter as soon as they could. He thought it would be better to leave the tax as it was than to begin and establish differences which could not begin until sixteen years from the present day. The difficulty would arise of deciding what was a manufacture at the interval of sixteen years, and he therefore thought it would be best to allow the matter to stand as it is.
§ MR. AYRTON
thought that his right hon. Friend was mistaken in supposing that the proviso would not take effect at once, and, in case he was not mistaken, he would alter his proviso to the extent that it should take effect from and after the day on which the Bill may pass.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 30; Noes 146: Majority 116.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, that it being felt as a grievance by those who lived in the district outside the Metropolitan Board's area, but who were, nevertheless, subject to the Coal and Wine 205 Duties, that they could receive no direct benefit from their imposition, he begged leave to move the addition of the following Clause:—That the several Coal and Wine Duties by this Act continued for the year ending the fifth day of July, one thousand eight hundred and eighty nine, shall be applied in the first instance in freeing from toll the following Bridges on the Thames: viz., Kew, Kingston upon Thames, Hampton Court, Walton upon Thames, and Staines; and next in making free from toll Chingford Bridge and Tottenham Mills Bridge upon the River Lee; and should there be any surplus remaining the same shall be applied as Parliament may hereafter direct.
§ MR. ALDERMAN SALOMONS
proposed, that in the event of any arrangements being proposed for freeing toll-bridges by means of the Coal and Wine Duties, the Creek Bridge at Deptford should be included.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, if the clause was to include bridges within the metropolitan area, the dues would have to be continued for a much longer time.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, the boon was given distinctly as a compensation for those bridges beyond the metropolitan area, the inhabitants of those districts receiving no advantage from the tolls.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, that to include the bridges within the metropolitan area would be a departure from the principle upon which they were asked to agree to the clause. He trusted that the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Alderman Salomons) would withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause added to the Bill.
§ MR. AYRTON
moved a clause providing for the audit of the accounts.
At the suggestion of Mr. SCLATER-BOOTH, the clause was withdrawn, with a view to its introduction upon the Report.
§ MR. WALDEGRAVE-LESLIE
remarked that the Bill had no Preamble. To supply the deficiency, he moved the adoption of the Preamble of the previous Continuance Act.
§ Motion negatived.
§ House resumed.
§ Bill reported; as amended, to be considered upon Thursday.