§ Acts relating thereto read.
MR. ALDERMAN W. LAWRENCE
rose to move in Committee of the Whole House—That the Taxes on Locomotion should be revised, reduced, and equalized, and that the Mileage Duty and Licences on Stage Carriages and Omnibuses, Viz., one farthing per mile and £3 3s. annual Licence Duty to carry more than eight persons, and ten shillings annual Licence Duty to carry not more than eight persons, should be repealed: and that the Post Horses and Carriage Licences Duties be repealed, viz.:—Keeping 1 Horse or Carriage, £5 per annum; not exceeding 3 Horse3 or 2 Carriages, £10 per annum; not exceeding 4 Horses or 3 Carriages, £15 per annum; not exceeding 5 Horses or 4 Carriages, £20 per annum; not exceeding 6 Horses or 5 Carriages, £25 per annum; not exceeding 8 Horses or 6 Carriages, £30 per annum; not exceeding 12 Horses or 9 Carriages, £40 per annum; not exceeding 16 Horses or 12 Carriages, £50 per annum; not exceeding 20 Horses or 15 Carriages, £60 per annum; exceeding 15 Carriages, £70 per annum; exceeding 20 Horses, then for every additional number of 10 Horses, and for every additional number less than 10 over and above 20 or any other multiple of 10 Horses, the further additional Duty of £10 per annum. And that the Metropolitan Hackney Carriage Duty and Licences be repealed, viz.:—7 shillings per week, or 6 shillings per week if not used on Sunday: and a Licence Duty of £1 per annum on each Hackney Carriage: And that there should be substituted in lieu thereof the following annual Licence Duties under the Excise levied in the same manner as the present Licence Duties on Dogs, viz.:—Every person letting Horses or Carriages for hire, and every proprietor of any Stage Coach, Omnibus, or other Public Conveyance, and of every Hackney Carriage or other Vehicle plying for hire in the public streets or roads, the following Duties:—Upon every Horse, £1 per annum; upon every Vehicle drawn by one or more Horses, £1 per annum, unless such Horses or Vehicles are used wholly and solely for the purposes of trade or agriculture.The hon. Gentleman said, he was aware of the difficulty which a private Member must have in proposing a remission of taxation, for if he did so before the 1524 Financial Statement was made he was told that the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not yet know with certainty what taxes could be remitted; and if he did so afterwards he was told that the financial arrangements for the year could not be varied. In the one case he was too soon, in the other case too late, and it was difficult to hit the exact time for making such a proposal. The right hon. Gentleman was the fourth Chancellor of the Exchequer to whom he should have appealed for the remission of these taxes—a result which would be not only for the interests of the trade, but for the advantage of the public generally. In 1866 the First Lord of the Treasury stated that the whole subject of taxes on locomotion required to be reviewed, and the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) in 1867, and the right hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt) in 1868, without denying that the question deserved the attention of Government, merely pleaded their inability to take the matter in hand, as the revenue was declining and the expenditure increasing. With regard to the stage coach duty and the duty on cabs and omnibuses, it might seem, at first sight, that they applied simply to the metropolis, but the fact was that every place throughout the country was affected by them. In 1844 Parliament compelled the railway companies to carry third-class passengers at 1d. a mile, but Parliament never provided the means for those third-class passengers to be carried to and from the railway stations, and the duties on stage coaches and flys remaining unaltered, the conveyance of the poorer classes from the railway stations to their towns and villages often cost as much as the fare for a long distance by the third class in a railway train. In 1864, before the reduction of the duty on stage carriages, the amount of mileage traversed by them increased by only 20,000 miles over that of the preceding year; but in 1865, after the duty had been reduced from 1d. to ½d. a mile, the mileage increased by 690,000 miles over the preceding year; in 1866, by 600,000 miles more; and in 1867, when the duty was further reduced to ¼d. per mile, there was the immense increase of 1,179,000 miles, in addition to all the preceding. It appeared that after the reduction of the mileage duty to ¼d., the sum paid for 1525 licences and mileage duty was still twice as great in proportion to profits as the amount of duty paid by railways. The London General Omnibus Company in 1864 paid £53,300, or 8¾ per cent on their earnings; while the railway companies paid £430,000, or 1 3–10ths on their earnings. The next duty to which he would refer was the post horse duty. All cabs and vehicles throughout Great Britain, excepting London, were charged to that duty. In London there was a graduated scale of duty, the effect of which was that the smaller the trade the greater amount of duty was paid proportionally, because the duty diminished in proportion to the extent the trade and the number of vehicles kept. The hackney carriage duty was confined to the metropolis, and was the most oppressive of the duties levied on locomotion. The House would scarcely credit him when he stated that, while the amount of duty paid by the proprietor of fifty horses and. carriages in Birmingham or any other country town was something like £170, in London it was £962 10s. If a small trader should set up a four-wheeled waggonette and drive it twice a week to a market town, or take four or six passengers to a railway station, he would have to take out a stage carriage licence and pay the mileage and post horse duties, and if he wanted to drive his wife and family a little way into the country he would have to pay on that one-horse carriage not less than £10 18s. He had received numerous letters from various parts of the country where persons keeping a one-horse conveyance for family use and letting it to a neighbouring tradesman had been surcharged and compelled to pay the assessed taxes and also the expenses of the appeal; and the Treasury, when applied to, answered that when the carriage was let out the customer paid the duty, and when it was used to drive the owner's family it was necessary that he should pay it. These taxes must fall most heavily on those who had only one or two carriages, and tended to prevent that locomotion throughout the country; which was essential to the general comfort, health, and happiness of the people. They were not only oppressive in some districts, but perfectly prohibitory in others. He should suggest that there should be an uniform excise duty of 20s.; on each horse, and of 20s. on each car- 1526 riage, and that both the horse and the vehicle might be used in any way the proprietor thought proper. That would be a boon to the whole community. He had entered upon the question how these taxes were levied and collected. They formed five or six items of the account in the public revenue. He proposed to reduce, not only the expense of management, but the collection of these taxes. In 1866 the amount of taxes on these descriptions of vehicles amounted to £427,000; but after they had been reduced, in 1868, the amount was £200,000; and in 1869 it was £276,000; so that these taxes were in a very different position from that in which they stood formerly, and he objected that the system of collection and assessment should remain the same. The hackney carriage trade in London was the only one in which the charges of those engaged in it were fixed by law, and in which there was no competition. They were told on high authority, that if they had open competition dirty and ricketty cabs would soon vanish from our street. That was the testimony of the Commissioners. In 1866 there were 7,160 cabs, but the number was now reduced to 5,300. Persons interested in this business had been crushed by the oppressive tax, and had not been able to turn their attention successfully to any other trade. When the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. G. Hardy) had published regulations, the fulfillment of which involved some little expenditure, which the proprietors of these cabs could not afford, they compelled him to withdraw the obnoxious provision because they could not afford the extra expenditure. He appealed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say whether it was creditable to the metropolis that the public carriages should be in the state in which they were at present? It must be admitted that the metropolis ought to be supplied with better public vehicles than it had at present, and the first thing to be done to secure this object should be to have this enormous charge of £19 5s. per annum for each vehicle reduced, while at the same time the charge was only 6]d. per mile. Why should not London have conveyances equal to those possessed by Paris or Geneva? If they took one of the largest provincial towns, it would be found that in Birmingham a cab paid only £5 per annum to the public re- 1527 venue. He trusted the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not follow in the footsteps of his predecessors and plead for postponement until a more convenient season. No season was as convenient as the present. The eleventh Report of the Inland Revenue Commissioners, that for 1867, stated with reference to this matter—We can scarcely add anything to our statement in the tenth Report on the taxes on locomotion, except that we are disposed to doubt the expediency of any further alteration in the stage carriage and post horse duties short of such a measure as would allow to every man the free use of his horses and carriages unfettered by fiscal regulations.This described the object of his Motion; he wished the owners of horses and carriages to be allowed to use them or let them on hire without being subject to any fiscal regulation whatever. He accordingly moved that the House resolve itself into a Committee to take into consideration the taxes on locomotion.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House will immediately resolve itself into a Committee to consider the said Acts."—(Mr. Alderman W. Lawrence.)
§ MR. M'LAREN
urged the Chancellor of the Exchequer to equalize the rates if he could not reduce them. Simple justice required this, because at present the owners of a few horses and carriages were taxed more heavily than their wealthier competitors. He thought the scale proposed—namely, £1 for each horse, and £1 for each carriage—was a fair one. The owner of a single carriage paid £5, but the owner of nine paid £40; a still larger proprietor of twelve carriages paid the reduced tax of £50, and the owner of fifteen paid only £60, instead of £75, which would be payable at the rate of £5 each. The result was that the proprietor of thirty-five carriages paid only £2 each, and the proprietor of seventy paid but £1. The law, therefore, gave the larger trader an advantage over the small. The rule as regards horses was most extraordinary. Six horses could be kept at £3, and every horse above twenty could be kept for a duty of £1 a head. What would be thought of a law which relieved the owner of twenty ships from paying full dues for lights and docks 1528 while the poor shipowners paid full dues for their one or two ships? He had a constituent who had about 500 horses, and he only paid at the rate of £1 a head for all exceeding twenty, but his poorer neighbours, who had fewer than twenty, paid £3 15s., £4, £4 3s. 4d., for each horse, and so on—for the scale was a sort of a jump one. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, no doubt, might say he wanted £250,000 from those duties; but then let him lay it on honestly. Let there be an equality between the rich and poor. The present scale of duties enabled large proprietors to ruin small ones and obtain a monopoly. He called upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whatever might be the state of the finances, to do justice by equalizing the rates.
§ MR. CHARLEY
took exception to the worthy Alderman's proposal to abolish the existing distinction between six-day and seven-day cabs, urging that the six-day cab movement had been most beneficial to cabmen, and had raised their social, moral, and intellectual condition, and that it had received an impulse from the difference of duty in favour of the six-day cab. It was only fair that the difference should be allowed, and he trusted the Chancellor of the Exchequer would continue it in any changes he might propose.
§ MR. MURPHY
, as representing an important Irish constituency, called attention to the fact that in Cork the tax charged on each vehicle was £2 4s. 1d., but a man could keep thirty or forty vehicles for this one payment. What the car-proprietors in Cork had petitioned for was that each vehicle should be taxed, so that the same amount as now might, in the aggregate, be produced for the Exchequer.
§ MR. ALDERMAN LUSK
said, several of his constituents had requested him to support this Motion. They felt that the law dealt hardly with them in imposing an amount of duty on cabs from which carriages were exempt. The Chancellor of the Exchequer might say he needed the money the present duties produced, but necessity was the tyrant's plea; and why should we punish a useful class so much when the money might be saved in many ways?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I think the worthy Alderman the Member for the City of London (Mr. 1529 Alderman W. Lawrence) has well discharged his duty to his constituents by making himself so thoroughly master of the question, and bringing it before us in so tangible and clear a form. He must have taken great pains with the subject, for he seems to have made himself completely master of it. The hon. Member has been fortunate in his campaign in this matter; for although he has attacked three Chancellors of the Exchequer—he has vanquished them all. He may well exclaim with the poet—Thus far with victory my arms are crowned; For tho' I have not fought, yet have I found No foes to fight withal.He has only appeared in character, and every one of them, has been prostrate before his lance. I am not an exception to the rule. I have not a word to say against his arguments, and therefore he may have me as a fourth captive to his bow and spear. Nor will I do as the worthy Alderman (Mr. Alderman Lusk) fancifully anticipates—trouble the House with any pleas about my miseries and necessities; these will come soon enough when I open my Budget. I frankly admit that these taxes press very heavily, and that they are relics of other times and other manners. The post horse duty seems to have outlived the post horse itself; and there is no doubt, whenever the time shall arrive when the Chancellor of the Exchequer shall again address himself to the delightful task of alleviating the burdens of taxation, no subject can be mentioned that will be better worthy his attention than this. I hope the worthy Alderman the Member for the City of London, and other Gentlemen who have addressed the House, will be satisfied with this general declaration. The subject shall have my most serious attention whenever that attention can be profitably and practically applied to it. I will say one word in reference to what was said by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Murphy); and I am much obliged to him for having mentioned Ireland, for it is a peculiarity of that country that it is exempted from assessed taxes, and amongst others from the tax on carriages; and no doubt when we come to consider the subject—listening to the exhortations of the hon. Members for Edinburgh and Finsbury (Mr. M'Laren and Mr. Lusk) to "Be just and fear not" in this matter—we may take into consideration the pro- 1530 priety of equalizing these taxes in the two parts of the United Kingdom. I hope the worthy Alderman will not persevere with his Motion, which can answer no good purpose; but that he will be satisfied with having thrown a great deal of light on this question, and with having made suggestions as to the way of dealing with it which I do not doubt will be useful to any Chancellor of the Exchequer who may be fortunate enough to constitute himself a pupil of the hon. Member.
MR. ALDERMAN W. LAWRENCE
said, he readily accepted the very frank and candid statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as an earnest that the right hon. Gentleman might at some future period relieve the public from this taxation. The right hon. Gentleman had felt himself unable to meet the arguments in this case; and it was to be hoped that it might be reserved to him to carry out his views upon the subject in the most satisfactory manner.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn,