HL Deb 17 August 1835 vol 30 cc568-9
Lord Brougham

held in his hand a petition most respectably and numerously signed by the inhabitants of London, Westminster, and its neighbourhood—a petition agreed to at a public meeting of above 3000 people, including the Members for London, Westminster, and Southwark. He could speak of his own authority and knowledge to the respectability of the meeting, and to the unanimity with which this petition was agreed to, the petition being for the repeal of the tax upon newspapers. He was sorry to say that this was not the only petition he had to present on this subject, on which the petitioners' wishes were so little likely to be attended to, for he had thirty-four other petitions, which, on account of the business now before the House, he should postpone for the present; but he had been requested not to postpone this petition, and that, too, in consequence of the great disappointment which the petitioners had felt on seeing the budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and observing the way in which he had applied what surplus there was of revenue, namely, in giving relief to the flint glass trade, in which he (Lord Brougham) supposed that all the country was interested, and in lowering the duty on spirit-licences, and making it cheaper to keep gin-shops than before. This was the way in which the surplus had been applied, instead of removing this tax, which was a tax upon an article innocent, and useful, and proper, namely, political information—information as to what passed in the two Houses of Parliament, and in courts of justice. As long as this tax was retained, these meetings would be held, and he for one should never cease to urge its repeal. He would here take the opportunity of correcting some gross misrepresentations that had gone abroad on this subject. One or two respectable publications had assumed that which was directly contrary to the fact. It was asserted, that those who had petitioned Parliament on this subject, called for the repeal of taxes to the amount of 1,300,000l. This was utterly and absolutely untrue. The amount of the Newspaper Stamp Duty, for the repeal of which they prayed, was 480,000l., and those persons who misrepresented the matter made up the larger sum by adding the advertisement duty, and the Excise duty on paper, upon the increase of each of which the petitioners reckoned as likely to make up the deficit occasioned by the repeal of the Stamp Duty. The petitioners did not call for any interference either with the advertisement duty or the paper duty. They said, "Take off the Stamp Duty, but do not take one farthing from the advertisement duty and the paper duty; and, in our opinion, the increased number of advertisements, and the increased consumption of paper, will make up the deficit." Those, however, who were now endeavouring to mislead the public, and to suppress the truth, made a very different statement; but they would find themselves wofully deceived if they, or even the Government itself, supposed that the people would be any longer deluded with respect to this question.

Petition to lie on the Table.