HL Deb 27 February 1807 vol 8 cc1029-31
The Earl of Warwick

entreated the indulgence of the house, whilst he endeavoured to state to their lordships the outline of a plan which he wished to propose, with a view of introducing a more equal and equitable system of taxation. At a period like the present, when the great aggrandizement and insatiable ambition of France called upon this country for every exertion that could be made, in order to carry on the war with vigour and effect, when peace was placed at a distance not to be calculated upon, and when all Europe looked to this country as their great stay and hope, it was of the utmost importance to consider how that amount of revenue which must necessarily be had, could be raised with the least pressure upon the people. He objected to the present complicated system of taxation, as not calculated to attain the desired object, and as proceeding upon erroneous data; at present, whilst taxation pressed heavily upon some classes, others in a great degree escaped. His great object was that it should be borne equally and equitably by all. To effect this, he had formed a plan which was totally novel, and which had never yet either been spoken or written upon. The more he had considered this plan, the more he was convinced of its efficiency, and of the inadequacy of the present system of taxation. He objected to making property the criterion of taxation, because it was difficult to define what property was; he would only consider property by means of its sign, labour. The great,objection to the tax upon property was, that whilst it got at some descriptions of property, persons engaged in commerce, in manufactures, in professions, and in various speculations, made what returns of property they pleased, and paid accordingly. He wished that taxation should be equal and equitable, and at the same time general and compulsory, not partial and .voluntary. He had made several calculations for the purpose of establishing the efficiency of his plan, the result of which had astonished him, and would no doubt surprize their lordships; the basis he took was expenditure. Being doubtful whether his voice would enable him to convey all that he wished to say upon the subject, he had on the preceding day put down his ideas upon paper, and, With their lordships' permission, he would read them. His lordship read to the house Several observations similar in purport to those he had previously made, and afterwards Stated his plan, which proceeded upon the calculation of 12,000,000 of population; then taking 3,000,000; at 6d. per day expenditure,the amount would be, for 3 millions,at 6d per day, 27,375,000l.; for one million, at 1s per day, 18,250;000l.; at 2s. per day, 36,500,000l.; at 2s. per day, 54,750,000l. at 4s. per day, 73,000,000l.; at 5s. per day, 91,250,000l.; at 10s; per day, 182,500,000l.; at 12s. per day, 219;000,000l.; at 15s. per day, 273,750,000l.; at 20s. per day, 365,000,000l.; total, 1,341,375,000l The classes up to 5s. inclusive, his lordship reckoned the employed, and the other classes the employers. Taking the population at 12,500,000, there would remain 500,000 persons, whom he would suppose to spend 1000l. a year each, amounting to 500,000,000l.; but even supposing that to be the case, he would make a present of that amount to their lordships, and rely upon the remainder, a small per centage upon which would produce considerably more than the property tax did at present, whilst it would fall equitably upon every one, and each would at once know what. he was to pay. He thought the best mode of proceeding would be to refer his plan to a committee, and concluded by making a motion to that effect.

Lord Grenville

thought, that in point of form the motion could not be entertained by the house, as there was no paper before their lordships which could, consistently with the forms of the house, be referred to a committee. With respect to the plan proposed by the noble lord, he had considerable doubts of its efficiency. Expenditure was undoubtedly taken as one of the criterions of direct taxation, it being the sign of wealth; but where the exigencies of the country required a large sum to be raised, the more the amount of taxation necessary to be raised was diffused in different channels, it would be found that the less was the pressure upon the people. It was unquestionably an object of the greatest importance where burthens were to be imposed upon the people, to make them fall as lightly as possible, and the great advantage of indirect taxation was, that it fell to a certain extent upon articles, respecting which it was in the power of the consumer to lessen his consumption of those articles, or leave them off altogether; and thus the payment of these taxes was voluntary, as depending upon the consumption of the articles.. He admitted, with respect to the property tax, that it did not reach every, description of income, but au approximation was continually making to its more effectual operation upon those classes whom it was its object to include. The object of the noble ford appeared to be to simplify taxation, but he thought the effect of that simplification, as stated in the noble lord's plan, would be much more oppressive than the system it was proposed to supercede, particularly as, according to the plan of the noble lord, the proposed taxation would fall heavily upon the poorer classes of the people, whilst the surplus property would escape its operation.

The Earl of Warwick

said, his object was not to tax the poorer classes, the employed, but the employers.

The Earl of Selkirk

observed, that in the amount of population stated by the noble lord, a great number-of children must be reckoned,where expenditure of course could not be taken at the proposed rate, but their maintenance must be included in the expenditure of the family.

The Earl of Warwick

said, that that was provided for in his plan, and if the house would allow it to go to a committee, he was convinced that he could prove satisfactorily, by calculations in detail, all that he had stated.—After a short conversation, the motion was withdrawn, as informal, and another substituted by the earl of Warwick for the appointment of a committee to consider of the best mode of raising the revenue; which was put and negatived.