HL Deb 16 March 1815 vol 30 cc206-8
Earl Stanhope

rose to bring forward his promised motion on this subject, which he prefaced with a variety of observations. The line of the noble earl's argumentation and detailed reference, were similar to those which he used on moving his resolutions last session proforma, which he now proposed for the adoption of the House. He approved of the principle advanced last night by a noble earl high in office—that it was essentially necessary to encourage the agriculture of the country; in this he cordially agreed with him, and it was one of the principal objects of what he was about to propose to encourage agriculture, by relieving the farmers in the only way they should be relieved, and to enable them to sell bread at a cheap and reasonable rate to the consumer, by relieving him from those parts of taxation that bore the heaviest on his agricultural pursuits. This principle was recognised by many of the petitions with which their lordships table was loaded; but more especially by that of the corn growers of Peterborough and its vicinity, in which his proposed resolutions were adverted to in a way worthy the most serious attention of the House. In illustration of his positions, the noble earl referred to certain parts of the evidence given before their lordships committee; but more particularly to that given by Mr. James Buxton, who, among other very material points, stated, that in 1792, the whole expenses of his farm for labour was 274d. 14s. 4d.; that, in 1812, those expenses came to 816d. 18s. 6d.; and that upon the same quantity of land, and for the same degree or scale of improvement. That the poor's-rates of the same farm were in 1792, 17l. 19s ; that in 1812 they amounted to 166l. That his other farming expenses were increased in proportion. How was it possible, then, that a man so circumstanced could go on in his business, but by increasing the price of his commodity? What was the cause of all this, but the crowding tax upon tax upon the farmer, and consequently upon the labouring poor of the community? After some farther observations in this principle and spirit, the noble earl proposed his resolutions, viz. "That to provide for the public an ample supply of provisions, is at all times a national object of the very first importance:—But this ample supply of provisions, cannot at all times be provided, unless due encouragement be given to the growers of corn in Great Britain and Ireland, so as to enable them to carry on the improved system of agriculture, and to enable them to sell the produce of the same on moderate terms to the consumers—That in order to procure these essential, united objects, it is expedient that those taxes which bear most heavily on agriculture on the one hand, or on the labouring part of the community on the other, be repealed, as far as the return of peace may enable the same to be done, consistently with the keeping due faith to the public creditor, and providing for a sufficient peace establishment."—He submitted these resolutions, after what had passed, with great confidence. He thought the principle laid down should he supported, not only by all those who were inimical to, but by all those who voted for the Corn Bill; and were their lordships to record the principle, he thought it must have its due weight in deterring the Commons from sending op tax bills of the nature contemplated.

The Earl of Liverpool

felt it is duty to object to the adoption of the resolutions, referring to expedients which noble lords must know could not be carried into execution. The impropriety must be plain to all, of deluding persons by holding out hopes of repeal which it was impracticable to realise. Their lordships all knew what the situation of the country was with respect to its revenue and system of taxation, now that the interest of the national debt, including the sinking fund, was little less than 40 millions; and that in the present state of affairs and the world, a certain scale of establishment in respect to the navy, the army, &c. was necessary to be kept up. They might be certain, however, that those establishments would not be kept up on a scale higher than the necessity of the case exacted. But would it be wise or proper, or did it stand to reason, that hopes should be now held out, when they could not be realised? With respect to the weight of taxation so particularly adverted to by the noble earl, he believed the inconveniencies, whatever they might be, resulted more from the extent of the taxes than from the mode of their distribution. With every disposition to relieve all classes of his Majesty's subjects in that way as far as the same could consistently be done, he must say he had never yet seen any plan for the reductions alluded to which could be carried into effect. When such a plan could be produced, then would be the time for considering such propositions. At present the adoption of the proposed resolutions could be attended with no good whatever, but might be of mischievous tendency. He should therefore beg leave to move the previous question.

Earl Grey

had no doubt of the purity of the motive which actuated his noble friend in proposing this motion; but he agreed with the noble earl opposite, that no practical good could result, from adopting it, and that it might be holding out expectations to the public which could not be realised. If his noble friend could practically point out any improvement in the system of taxation, he would go along with him in supporting it, as well as in advocating retrenchment and economy, particularly as they regarded the peace establishment. Whilst upon this topic, he could not omit the opportunity of expressing his hope that no injudicious interference on our part in the affairs of France would have the effect of interrupting that peace which so recently promised to be of long duration.

Earl Stanhope

reprobated the tameness of submitting to all the forms of taxation put on them by the House of Commons, declared he wished sill the House had as much resolution as himself, and called for a division, in which he said he would persevere, if he had but a single vote on his side.

The House then divided. On the previous question. Contents, 30; Non-contents, 1.