said, he rose, in pursuance of notice to call the attention of the House to the propriety of repealing the whole of the Assessed Taxes. When he looked round him, and saw the thin state of the House, he should have imagined, that not a single petition had been presented for the repeal of those taxes; whereas, if the country were canvassed from house to house, he believed that nine hundred and ninety-nine householders out of every thousand would be in favour of this motion. However eloquently and forcibly the right hon. the chancellor of the Exchequer had brought forward his financial statement, he might be allowed, without impugning the right hon. gentleman's motives, to differ from him as to the means by which he proposed to alleviate the burthens of the country. Concurring with him in his principles of foreign policy and free trade, he could not help thinking he was at variance with his own principles on other subjects; but, following up those principles, he should endeavour, and he hoped successfully, to contend that the right hon. gentleman had not taken the best mode of relieving the public from their real burthens. He did not contend that the people were now distressed; but he contended that if they were now in a more affluent state than formerly, they were still enti- 902 tled to all the relief that could be afforded to them, and that the governors were to act for the benefit of the governed. He had supposed that the right hon. gentleman would have paid more attention to this particular subject; and he thought the people had a right to have these taxes repealed, when their opinion was so general on the subject. He should endeavour to follow the right hon. gentleman through his statements; and it did appear to him, that, following up his own principles and propositions, the right hon. gentleman, had not taken the best means of alleviating the public burthens. He would therefore state his own views, and show that a reduction of taxation to a larger amount might be effected than that which was proposed. The first article that the right hon. gentleman proposed to reduce the duty on, was hemp, from which he took 50 per cent, consequently leaving a duty of 15 per cent. Now, he always understood that this article was to be put on the same footing as flax, because it was a raw material, and greatly used in manufacture. Cordage was now purchased from foreigners; whereas, it would be wholly manufactured by ourselves, if there were no duty on it. The right hon. gentleman said, "here I have followed the advice you gave me; I have reduced the duty on the articles you pointed out;" but, in point of fact, he had not made that reduction on those articles in which it would have a real effect on manufactures. The next article, the duty on which was reduced, was coffee; when petitions were coming from every part of the kingdom, praying for a reduction of duties on other particular articles, without any allusion or reference whatever to coffee. This was a reduction which would only operate in favour of the rich, and, therefore he thought, as it would not give general relief, the right hon. gentleman might have made a better selection. The next article was wine. To be sure, the right hon. gentleman made a sort of attempt to say that wine was an article of necessity for the sick; but he nevertheless could not help thinking, that it was an article of luxury on which a reduction of duty would not affect the poor. He should be told that the motive for this was, to follow up the principle; namely, "we shall pay for these things in articles of our own manufacture; and if we reduce the duties we shall increase the consumption." That might be very true in some 903 respects; but, would any member believe that if a person was in the habit of drinking one bottle of wine at dinner, he would drink two, in consequence of this reduction of duty? Would the consumption be doubled? for that was the real question. In his opinion, it would not; and when the right hon. gentleman proposed to give up 230,000l. on this alone, he thought it might have been given up on some other article, which would afford relief to the community at large. The next article was British spirits, and the argument used by the right hon. gentleman was the same as that which he adopted with respect to wine; but in this reduction he rested mainly on the tendency it had to abolish the commission of that enormous offence, smuggling. He was sorry this offence made so deep an impression on the right hon. gentleman, because his principle was not followed up with justice. Last year he chose to legislate by halves on this very subject, and to reduce the duty in Scotland and Ireland to 2s. 6d. while in England it remained at 10s. 6d. Every body told him then that he would prevent smuggling in Scotland and Ireland. And so he did; but he brought it to the borders of the Tweed; for, in fact, it would not be abolished without reducing the duty equally through all the three countries. If the right hon. member did this, smuggling in the particular article of spirits would be at an end; and the smuggler would be driven to turn his capital and industry to tobacco and other articles. He, therefore, should say, that the duty ought to be reduced on every other article, before those things were touched, which were only calculated to demoralize the people. The next article was rum; and, he would leave that subject to those who were more competent to treat of it. The next article was cyder; and with respect to that, relief was certainly afforded to those who drank cyder as beer. With respect to the repeal of the Assessed Taxes, it would be not only doing away the taxes themselves, but abolishing the vexation which many persons endured from the mode in which they were subjected to penalties, from not knowing how to act. The article to which the reductions of the right hon. gentleman next applied, was iron; and he would ask, why he did not take the same course with respect to hemp? That article was also a raw material, and he saw no reason why one should stand at 15 per cent while 904 the other was at 30s. There should be some equal scale, to follow the principle of the right hon. gentleman correctly. He had nothing more to say with respect to the proposed reductions; but he thought it expedient to show the right hon. gentleman how much more he might have done. Did he not think it would be much better to reduce the duty on tea, than the tax on wine and spirits? We could send out manufactured articles to pay for tea the same as we did to pay for other articles. The benefit proposed by reducing the duty on wine and spirits was, that there would be an additional quantity consumed; but, there was this difference between that reduction and a reduction of the duty on tea—the one commodity tended to demoralise the people, while the other did not. The next article alluded to by the right hon. gentleman was tobacco. It was much more desirable that the duty should be reduced on that, than on spirits, because it was become an article of necessity; and moreover, it was as much smuggled as spirits; therefore the argument with respect to smuggling applied equally strong to it. There were many articles which would come under the same description, such as hides, indigo, tallow, wool, silk, &c and he would say that it was expedient to reduce the duties on these articles, in preference to those articles which demoralised the people. He should not dwell on these articles: all he meant to show was, that if the selection of the right hon. gentleman had been more judicious, there would have been more relief afforded.—He should now proceed to the consideration of that part of the question of which he had given notice; namely the reduction of the Assessed Taxes. He thought after the numerous petitions that had been presented from all parts of the country, the House must be thoroughly convinced, that there was no tax on which a reduction would give so much general satisfaction as the assessed taxes, particularly the house and window taxes. He was not so anxious as to the others, because they fell more on the rich. By the abolition of these taxes, we should get rid of one entire branch of the management of the revenue; because the land tax could be easily put under another class. A saving of upwards of 300,000l. would take place in taxes which not only pressed on the people, but were vexatious and onerous in their nature. The people were as much dissatisfied with 905 the vexatious mode in which these taxes were collected, and the trouble they had in making appeals, as they were with the burthen itself. The hon. member here referred to the speech of the chancellor of the Exchequer, in 1823, in which that right hon. gentleman said, there was a necessity of getting rid of direct taxation then. The assesed taxes were quite as grievous now; and he knew of no class in society that would not be relieved by the repeal of them. The poor man would be relieved; the man in middling circumstances would have his oppression alleviated; and, above all, the shopkeeper, on whom these taxes pressed particularly heavy, would be eased of his burthen. He was aware that the window-tax had been remitted, as far as shop windows were concerned; but yet these taxes operated, in other respects, most grievously on this class of society. He looked upon this tax as a partial tax—as a sort of property tax; and, as such, just as grievous as if it was put directly upon funded or landed property. The reducing a tax in part was, in his opinion, a very improper measure. If a tax was to be reduced, it should be reduced altogether; by which means there would be a great saving to the government in the expense of receiving and gathering it. With respect to the sinking fund, instead of keeping it up, he thought it might be much better applied to the reduction of taxes. In fact it was no sinking fund; for he would shew that the debt was greater at the present time than in the year 1815. The House was told that there was a sinking fund of 5,000,000l. A noble lord had come down and declared, that the safety of the nation depended on it; but in fourteen days afterwards he had stated, that finding it not agreeable to the House, he would, if it pleased, grant an annuity for forty-five years, so that the government should have in its possession a fund for the satisfaction of those demands; and the noble lord was actually allowed, though going in opposition to his own principles, to put a debt of sixty millions on the country; and he also made, what he had no right to make, a voluntary surrender of two millions. Mr. Ricardo had said, that he found, from experience, that a sinking fund was always seized by the minister. Nothing could be more true than this. It was true, that that gentleman had never objected to the principle, though he had in that manner found fault with the application. The 906 argument mainly used by the advocates for the sinking fund, was the advantage that accrued from daily purchases; that is to say, that though the money was obtained on bad terms, yet the system was to be encouraged, as it went to the keeping up of public credit. But, the proof of the fallacy of all this reasoning was the fact, that the country had a funded and unfunded debt of 12,000,000l. more than it had in Jan. 1816; and the way that was adopted, was an underhand and juggling one, in order that the country gentlemen might be deluded into the support of the measure. With respect to the advantages, he contended that they were greater by giving up the taxation, than by increasing the sinking fund. He would not deny that the interest of the debt had been greatly reduced by altering it from five to four per cent, but that advantage did not arise from the sinking fund—a thing that, in fact, never existed—but was rather owing to the prosperity of the country, which gave the people energy and industry. He knew of nothing that came so home to the people as the reduction of direct taxation. He had voted with the government oh all occasions when they had displayed a liberal policy; but he would ask the right hon. gentleman, whether the sinking fund could give such general satisfaction as the reduction of the taxes? He took the same view as the right hon. gentleman had done, with respect to the regulations of trade, and he thought that a better alteration had never taken place. Before, it was nothing but restriction; now, it was all liberty: and he was convinced that there was no measure that could give more general satisfaction, than the repeal of the Assessed Taxes. The amount that he proposed to be repealed was 3,970,000l., as taken off from the nett produce of 1824. He would move his first resolution," That it is the opinon of the House, that all duties on Windows imposed by 48 Geo. 3rd, and subsequent acts, should cease and determine."
§ Mr. Leycester
seconded the motion. He said, he was decidedly in favour of getting rid of the assessed taxes, from the constant vexation to which the collection of them was subject. Let these taxes be taken off, and the revenue would lose nothing, for the country would be richer, and the consumption on all hands would be greater. Gentlemen would keep more horses, more servants, and contribute to 907 the support of the state full as effectually as they did at present. Under the existing system, the land was overshadowed with tax-gatherers, a venal phalanx, always ready to cry "Popery," or "No Popery," at the beck of any minister who thought proper to command them. The whole process attendant upon surcharges was vexatious and unsatisfactory, in the highest degree; and the trouble of appeal was such as to render that remedy entirely unavailable. He agreed entirely with his hon. friend, as to the propriety of the repeal of the assessed taxes; and not less decidedly upon the reduction of the sinking fund. The removal of taxation, by favouring the accumulation of wealth and capital, would do ten times more towards enabling us to get rid of the national debt, than ever the sinking fund would do. There were circumstances in the condition of the country which made such a change of system peculiarly desirable. A general desire prevailed for an alteration in the corn laws. It was most advisable that such an alteration should take place; but quite impossible that it should be made, without are-peal of the sinking fund. The corn laws formed a counterpoise, as regarded the agricultural interest, to the assessed taxes; and it would be impossible for that interest to bear such a burthen, if it was deprived of that support.
§ Mr. Heathcote
supported the motion, because he was persuaded that it was the general wish throughout the country. He was not, however, of the same opinion, with respect to the sinking fund; for he was persuaded it was a fund that, should this nation be again engaged in war, would enable the government to arm the troops, and raise the necessary supplies.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, he certainly felt a little surprise, after having heard the argument of the hon. gentleman, that he should have brought forward his motion to-night, because he grounded the practicability of effecting his object on the extinction of the sinking fund. Now, it so happened, that the hon. member for Aberdeen had that very night given notice of a motion which went to get rid of the sinking fund; and it was a little singular, that the hon. gentleman should bring forward his present motion without attempting to lay the basis on which alone he admitted that it could be founded. However, as the hon. gentleman had not thought proper to take that 908 course, he should state to the House the reasons why he thought it would not be advisable to adopt the hon. gentleman's proposition. He should take the liberty of considering the hon. gentleman's proposition as a whole; for, although he had divided his motion into a number of branches, probably with the view of catching the votes of a few persons who might be disposed to give it a partial support, yet the notice which the hon. gentleman had given, and the general argument on which he had founded his motion, went to the abolition of the whole of the assessed taxes. It was to be recollected, that, at no distant period, the hon. member for Westminster was to move, specifically for the repeal of the House and Window taxes. He should, therefore, consider the hon. gentleman's motion, as a motion for the repeal of the whole of the assessed taxes. The hon. member, while he disapproved of the items of taxation which had been proposed to be remitted, contended, that by getting rid of the sinking fund, three millions and a half of taxes might be reduced, in addition to the 1,500,000l. proposed to be reduced. The hon. member argued, that the reduction of the duty on hemp was not sufficient, inasmuch as it was now 3s. per cent on the value, and it was only proposed to reduce it to 15. It should be recollected, however, that if the demand for hemp became greater, the duty would cease to bear so high a proportion to the price. He had been informed, by persons capable of forming a sound opinion on the subject, that the reduction of the duty on hemp was a boon which would be generally felt, and duly appreciated. The next item was that of coffee. Here the hon. gentleman had found fault with him for having selected an article which, he said, was very little consumed in this country. He did not know upon what ground the hon. gentleman had made his statement. At all events, he was satisfied, that, if it were not for the high duty, it would be much more extensively consumed. It appeared that, since the duty had been increased, the consumption had diminished; and there could not be a surer criterion of a tax being too high, or a stronger motive for reducing it, than the fact that it had impeded the consumption. He had recommended the reduction of this tax; first, because it would tend to bring a nutritious and palatable article within the reach of the poorer 909 classes of the people; secondly, because it formed part of those general principles of commercial expediency, which he had recommended to the adoption of the House; and thirdly., because it tended to give additional facilities to the consumption of West-India produce. With respect to the reduction of the duty on wine, the hon. gentleman had treated with great contempt that part of the statement which he had made on a former night, in which he had endeavoured to shew that wine was not a mere article of luxury. To a vast number of persons in the middle classes of society wine could not be considered as a mere luxury; but, even admitting it to be so, why should they not endeavour to give to those classes a taste of the luxuries which they themselves enjoyed? If he had made the article of wine more accessible to trades people, for instance, than it had hitherto been, he conceived, that the course he had taken was perfectly consistent with justice and sound policy. He believed there was only one objection to the reduction of this duty; and that was, that it came a year or two too late. The hon. gentleman had found great fault with the proposed reduction of the duties on spirits. This was certainly a very important part of the reductions, as it constituted one-half of the duties which he proposed to remit. The hon. member, however, seemed to forget, that the course which he had taken with regard to spirits, was rendered absolutely necessary, with a view to the prevention of smuggling. After the measures which had been taken with this view in Ireland and Scotland, it was perfectly clear, that it would be impossible long to maintain a duty in England, between which, and that in Ireland and Scotland, there was the enormous difference of 10s. 6d. and 2s. He was perfectly aware of this; and he had only maintained the duty so long in this country, with a view of observing the practical effect of the measure in those parts of the empire. The hon. member said, that the reductions did not go far enough; and that he did not execute his own purpose. He admitted that he did not; but it was impossible to do every thing at once. The hon. member wished the duty on tea to be remitted; but, if he dealt in this way with all the great branches of the revenue, what would be the effect of such a sweeping reduction with respect to his own proposition for the reduction of the assessed taxes? He 910 complained also, that the duty on tobacco had not been taken off Now, it would have been useless to diminish the duty on tobacco to a less extent than one half; for any smaller reduction would only have thrown money into the hands of the dealer, without diminishing the amount of smuggling in that commodity. Supposing the reduction of the duty on tobacco to have been one-half, and the loss to the revenue one-fourth, this alone would amount to 1,500,000l. the whole of the disposable surplus. How would such a reduction, therefore, have affected the hon. gentleman's plan for the reduction of the assessed taxes? Then, the hon. gentleman went to the duty on tea. The duty on tea was 100 per cent; heavy enough God knew! and the amount of revenue arising from that commodity was 3,000,000l. The smuggling in this article was not so easy as in some other articles; but, if the smuggler were driven from his illicit trade in tobacco, he would probably have recourse to tea, and in order to prevent smuggling in that commodity effectually, it would be necessary to reduce as much as three-fourths of the duty. This alone, therefore, would produce a loss to the revenue of 2,250,000l. How could such a reduction be consistent with the hon. gentleman's own proposition?
said, he had not proposed to reduce all those articles in that proportion, but only some of them.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, it appeared, then, that he had misunderstood that part of the hon. gentleman's argument. However, he contended, that the assessed taxes ought to be reduced, and that it would be possible to repeal them, as well as to apply 1,500,000l. to the reduction of taxes on articles of consumption, by getting rid of the sinking fund. Now, he begged to call to the recollection of the House, that, since the year 1821, three millions and a half, that was, one-half of the assessed taxes, had been reduced. He had applied himself generally to relieve the country from its burthens. Great relief had been afforded in the malt and salt taxes, and in the duties on articles connected with foreign trade. Out of ten millions which had been applied to the relief of the country in the last four years, three millions and a half had been applied to the reduction of the assessed taxes. This was surely a fair proportion, supposing the other objects of relief to have been worthy of the 911 attention of parliament. The hon. gentleman said, they had nothing to do but to get rid of the sinking fund, and they might then repeal three millions and a half of taxes. But, he had also argued, that, in point of fact, they had not got five millions of surplus; the arrangement about the half-pay and pensions was, as he contended, a mere juggle, and the surplus did not amount to more than three millions. If this was so, the hon. gentleman's proposition would actually go to increase the debt of the country to the amount of 500,000l. The right hon. member for Knaresborough (Mr. Tierney) and the late Mr. Ricardo, though they were opposed to a sinking fund, constantly argued for the necessity of maintaining a surplus; but, the hon. gentleman's proposition would destroy that surplus. The hon. gentleman had said, that though his (the chancellor of the Exchequer's) propositions had been favourably received in that House, they had excited universal dissatisfaction out of doors. Now, as far as he had been able to collect the opinions of persons out of doors, the propositions which he had made to the House, so far from exciting universal disappointment and dissatisfaction, were approved by all classes of the community, and believed to be founded on a fair, just, and enlightened regard to their best interests.
said, he could not go the whole length of his hon. friend's propositions, because he did not think they could be acceded to, consistently with the principle which he had always maintained, of preserving a considerable surplus. In the propositions for repealing the house and window duties, he fully concurred. As he had had no opportunity of making any observation on the night the chancellor of the Exchequer made his financial statement, he must now give that right hon. gentleman his hearty thanks for a Statement, which he had heard with great satisfaction. It was a candid, liberal, and enlightened view of the state of the country; and he congratulated that country upon having a gentleman of such principles in the situation which the right hon. gentleman filled. At the same time, he agreed with his hon. friend, that a larger portion of the surplus ought to have been applied to the reduction of taxation. The first duty of parliament was, to give effect, as far as possible, to the energies of the people; and the most effectual way in which that could be done 912 was to reduce taxation. It had been said, that taxation was to be reduced to the amount of three millions and a half; but it should be recollected, that we were now in the tenth year of peace, and that we had still to make up a revenue of fifty millions in taxes of every kind. Could it be imagined that we were always to continue at peace? And, if we had such an amount to make up in peace, was it not to be expected that our burthens would increase on the breaking out of a war. He did not say that there was any immediate prospect of a commencement of hostilities, but it was not probable that we should continue always at peace. However, while we were so, it was right that every thing should be effected, to render us better able to meet the additional burthen. The best way to do this would be to pay off while we could, as much of the debt as possible. The keeping up a large sum as a sinking fund he condemned; as it held out a temptation to a restless minister to embroil the country in a war. In the proposed reduction on wines he entirely concurred; but, he thought the reduction would not be effectual if the government did not go a step further. By the treaty with Portugal, in 1810, it was agreed, that every encouragement should be given to English companies dealing in the wines of that country; but, the fact was, that since then a Portuguese company was established which, by its dictum, decreed that only so many thousand pipes of wine should be annually imported into England; so that they effected a complete monopoly. It was somewhat similar, with respect to the importation of claret into this country. It was in very few hands; and the price was regulated by the quantity which they pleased to import. He trusted that ministers would interfere to prevent this monopoly; otherwise their proposed reductions would not be of much advantage to the country. He would give his support to the propositions of his hon. friend, for the repeal of the house and window-tax. These would amount to 2,500,000l., which, added to the 1,500,000l. which the right hon. gentleman proposed to reduce, would make 4,000,000l.; but, as some of the right hon. gentleman's items, to the amount of 270,000l., were included in those of his hon. friend, the whole of the reductions would then be 3,730,000l., which would still leave a sinking fund, or 913 a surplus revenue, ample enough to meet any deficiency between our income and the expenditure. As to the bargain with the Bank, for the "dead weight," it was most ridiculous to continue it. The arrangement, he knew, was made before the right hon. gentleman came into office, but it was an arrangement which he trusted he would not sanction.
§ Sir J. Wrottesley
supported the motion. Though he would give the preference to the reduction of the House and Window-taxes, he was an advocate for the repeal of the whole of the assessed taxes. Even after the reduction of those taxes, by getting rid of the sinking fund, there would remain a surplus of two millions.
Mr. Alderman Wood
said, that, in his opinion, the proposed repeal of taxes would not produce relief amongst those classes for whose benefit the reduction was intended; for he had always found, that in cases where the poor had been relieved from the operation of a tax, the landlords increased their rent. He should vote with his hon. friend, because he was desirous that all the assessed taxes should be taken off.
§ Mr. Huskisson
said, he could easily conceive that there were many persons in the country, who would be very desirous that all the assessed taxes should be taken off; and if principles of that nature, which were formerly avowed, had been adopted by parliament in an evil hour, they would have led to the destruction of the British empire, by violating the obligations of national honour, the strict observance of which, under all circumstances, had given England that proud pre-eminence which she now enjoyed over all the nations of the earth. With respect to the proposition of the hon. member, he must say, that as notice had been given of a motion concerning the sinking fund, it would be much more candid and manly to introduce those arguments on that occasion. But, although he could not admit its candour, he could very well understand the tactics upon which the motion of the gentlemen opposite was founded. The hon. member very well knew, that many members might feel disposed to vote for the reduction of the assessed taxes, who would resist any attempt upon the sinking fund. But, the House must see, that to vote for the proposition of the hon. member would be violating the principle to which they were pledged, of maintaining a sinking fund. There was another consideration to which 914 the attention of the House ought to be directed; namely, whether the reduction proposed by the hon. member was that which would give the greatest general relief. He was ready to admit, that there were some taxes which nothing but severe necessity could justify. It had been always held by the gentlemen opposite, that direct taxes operated less mischievously than indirect taxation; and that the Income tax was as free from objection as any other, but for the inquisitorial power which accompanied it. Now, the window-tax was not liable to this objection; and he therefore thought it was not one of the taxes which should be selected for repeal. It had been said, that the reduction of the tax on windows and houses would operate as an inducement for absentees to return and reside at home; but, he was persuaded, that his right hon. friend had, by the reduction of the duties on wine, held out the most effectual temptation for absentees to reside in their own country; and upon this subject he wished to mention to the House a circumstance which had just come to his knowledge. It was proposed by his right hon. friend as part of his plan, to remit to the wine merchants the duty on their stock on hand; and he had learned with considerable indignation, that, within these two days, they had added a price to their wines equal to the duty proposed to be remitted. Now, if this were the case, it would be proper for the House to consider whether those gentlemen should be allowed to pocket this duty; and before they decided this question, it might be just as well for them to determine whether these conscientious wine-merchants should not be first allowed to get rid of their stock on hands, and whether, instead of putting this duty into their own tills, it should not find its way into the public Exchequer. He thought it right to suggest to his right hon. friend, whether it would not be better to let this 300,000l. go into the public purse, and when those gentlemen had got rid of their stock on hand then to let them obtain relief. The first question was, whether the reduction of taxation had been carried as far as it could at this time? And the second, if it had not, then whether it would be right to carry it further by a direct reduction of the assessed taxes? For the reasons which he had already stated, he was disposed to answer in the negative, to both branches of this question. To those reasons, too, he must add the authority of antiquity 915 seeing that the window-tax was one of the most ancient taxes imposed in this country. At the present moment, notwithstanding the immense increase of the population, its produce did not much exceed the amount it yielded before the commencement of the last war; and therefore it could not be presumed to be so burdensome as it had been represented to be. England was that country, indeed, of all Europe, from which the smallest amount of direct taxation was raised, as compared with the amount of its revenue. Under all these circumstances, he should feel it his duty not to lend himself to the support of any further remission of direct taxes, so long as there should be other taxes in force, which bore more directly and more heavily on the industry and the manufactures of the country.
§ Mr. T. Wilson
said, he could not repress his astonishment, at the language which had been held by the right hon. gentleman. From that right hon. gentleman, as the avowed friend of free and unshackled trade, and the advocate of that cause against all monopolies, he had never expected to hear such manifest contradiction and inconsistency, as he had that night been guilty of; particularly in remarking on the recent rise in the cost of wines. The fact was, that it was the severe weight of the tax which pressed on that article, that had kept people back, upon small stocks, from purchasing: but on the first prospect of a reduction of the duties, they very naturally came forward, in order to replenish their cellars. The consequence of which was, that, for the moment, the demand exceeded the supply, and hence the price was so excessive. Were the wine-merchants to be spoken of as if this effect had been an arbitrary one with them? Could they make the right hon. gentleman, for example, buy, if he did not like to do so? Really, the right hon. gentleman had applied a most unsound doctrine to this subject. He should reserve his general opinion, as to the sinking fund, until the discussion of the promised motion; and should only observe, that he could not agree that three millions were as good as five for a sinking fund.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that we had a sinking fund of five millions, or we had not. If we had no such sinking fund, then all the discussions relative to the policy of maintaining such a fund were all put aside; and there could be no reason why the proposition for its reduction should 916 not be adopted. But, if we had such a fund, it then became a very grave question, whether that proposition would be an advisable one to carry into effect. For his own part, he much approved of all the steps which had been taken for bringing back our revenue to a sound and wholesome system. He must at the same time caution ministers not to persevere, against the wishes of the country, in refusing the further reduction of the assessed taxes, for fear of endangering the safety of that system. He had been much surprised to hear the right hon. gentleman expressing so much indignation against tradesmen for making as much as they could of a sudden improvement in their trade. Such an expression of feeling would have astonished him, coming from any member; but, coming from that right hon. gentleman it was most inexplicable. The hon. member for Wareham had asked the right hon. gentleman whether he meant to leave for ever upon the country the immoderate weight of a debt of 800,000,000l. Now, he (lord Althorp), for one, should answer, that he would not be at all afraid of leaving the debt at that amount; so long as the interest and all the annuities charged upon it could be punctually and honestly discharged—although he might be of a very different opinion if the debt itself were of that amount that there was any possibility of buying it up. That, it was evident, was not at present the case. Upon the whole, he should support the two first of the resolutions that night submitted to the House.
§ Mr. Huskisson
begged to supply an omission, of which he had been unintentionally guilty. The treaty under which his right hon. friend was bound to continue, for a certain time, a certain duty on port wine, was not, as some gentlemen appeared to suppose, the treaty of 1810; but the much older treaty, commonly called the Methuen treaty, which stipulated, that the wines of Portugal should be admitted into this country, on the payment of a duty, one-third only of that payable on the wines of France. In return for this arrangement, Portugal consented to receive the productions of our woollen trade on favourable terms. This treaty with our ancient ally bore date in 1703. By it it was agreed also, that either party to the contract, at the expiration of every period of fifteen years, might give notice to the other, of any revision or alteration that it might desire; 917 such revision to be arranged and agreed upon between the two governments. The treaty of 1810 had been executed with a view of this kind: and at the end of 1825, it would be competent for either party to propose the introduction of such changes and modifications as its own interests, might seem to require. It was very true, that honourable gentlemen had with justice complained of the manner in which the wine-trade was carried on in Portugal by a chartered company, created by the crown of Portugal; not, however, recently, but at least sixty years ago. That monopoly, he should have no hesitation in saying, was, as all commercial monopolies, generally speaking, were, injurious even to the welfare of the commerce of Portugal herself. Its establishment arose out of the maladministration of this wine-trade by the English factory, at that time settled at Lisbon: and this treaty proposed to repress any improper encroachments of the company' upon the general trade in wine between the two countries, by this periodical facility of revision. It was, perhaps, difficult to say, in what specific manner the relative interests of two independent nations in a trade could be otherwise adjusted. At the close of the present year, however, he should be glad to receive any suggestions, with a view to the improvement of our wine-trade with Portugal. As to what had been called his monstrous proposition about the wine merchants, he had been misunderstood. What he had said on that point, was in strict conformity to what he had said on an occasion, happening while lord Bexley was chancellor of the Exchequer. A reduction of the duty on malt was proposed by the ministers; and he at the same time intimated, that he should allow a remission of duty upon Stock in hand; whereupon one of the greatest brewers rose in that House, and said, that the public would not benefit by the reduction of duty, for that the brewers would put the difference into their own pockets. He (Mr. Huskisson) then called on the chancellor of the Exchequer not to allow any such remission in the teeth of such a declaration; when the brewers thought fit to retract, and the public had the benefit of the reduced duty. What, therefore, he had done by malt, he would certainly do by wine.
had always understood from the right hon. gentleman, that the 918 demand regulated the supply, and the supply the price of all commodities. But his doctrine of to-night was exactly the reverse of all this. Why, surely no man could say of any article—"I will have this at such a rate." To what purpose, then, were the remarks of the right hon. gentleman on the conduct of the wine-merchants? His own understanding of the Methuen treaty was, that if the wine company of Portugal interfered with the trade subsisting btween England and Portugal, the two states would immediately interfere to remedy the evil. But, what was the fact? This company said one year to the English consumers—you shall have 25,000 pipes: then the next year, you shall have 16,000; the next, 10,000. It was evident then that they regulated the trade at their pleasure.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
observed, that the Methuen treaty was certainly retained as an article in the treaty of 1810; but, there was another article in the treaty of 1810, which went, in terms, to preclude Portugal from creating or sanctioning any monopoly, or exclusive company, that should be prejudicial to the interests of the British trade. At that time, the Oporto wine company was in existence, it did not exert its powers and privileges in any such manner, or to such an extent, as to interfere with the British trade. In course of time, however, it undoubtedly did so; and that fact became the subject of a complaint on the part of the British government, to the government of Portugal. The government of Portugal, thinking, probably, that they derived some advantage from such a company, always denied the construction which England put upon the treaty; and long and unsatisfactory discussions were entered into by both the parties on that question. In 1820, a new minister was sent by Portugal to this country, charged to negociate a revision of the terms of this contract. To say the truth, he seemed to know very little about his business, and was soon after recalled. A notice had been given since, to the Portuguese government of our intention to revise and reconsider the treaty of 1810. With a view to that revision, Portugal had already suspended one article of the treaty. Some of the conditions and articles of that treaty were extremely onerous to Portugal; others to this country; but the revision of the whole was, he was happy to say, open to all the contracting parties.
§ Mr. Marjoribanks
thought that the gentlemen engaged in the wine trade would act, not only unjustly, but inconsistently with their own interests, if they did not reduce the prices of all their wines after a ratio at least equal to the reduction of duties upon them.
§ Mr. Monck
differed from a right hon. gentleman as to his estimate of the great weight of assessed taxes in France. In that country, the amount of direct taxes was, upon property, about 10 per cent, and no more; and for this the payers had value received to a great extent, in paving, lighting, and roads supplied by government, and the very important exception from those turnpike dues, which assailed a man at the end of almost every hundred yards in this country. The heaviest tax which the people of France paid, was a land-tax, amounting to about 4s. in the pound, and producing a revenue of 12,000,000l. sterling, or one third, nearly, of the whole revenue raised by the French government. One thing was certain, that if the right hon. gentleman would not reduce the assessed taxes of England, the excess of smuggling in this country would soon do it for him. By the returns to this House it appeared, that during the last year one million pounds of tobacco had been run; which, had they been regularly imported, would have paid a duty of about 200,000l. The hon. gentleman then contrasted the cost of the preventive service and other establishments for the prevention of smuggling, with the value of goods seized to the Crown; and argued that lighter taxes and lower imposts would produce fewer smugglers and a greater revenue. With respect to the sinking fund, he was friendly to its principle; but, he thought a sinking fund of 3,000,000l. would be sufficient; and that would afford an opportunity of further reducing taxes to the amount of 2,000,000l. As to the assessed taxes, he hoped the right hon, gentleman would always keep in mind the relief of the working classes, and, with that view, he should be most delighted to find the duty on their beer, instead of being 10s. per barrel, only 5s. With this impression he should certainly vote for the two first resolutions.
§ Mr. C. Calvert
felt it necessary to set the House right with respect to what had fallen from the right hon. gentleman with regard to the reduced duty on malt, during the period when a noble lord, now belonging to another House, was chancellor of 920 the Exchequer. The reduction, of which so much had been said, was no more than 8s. a quarter, and on that occasion, he would remind the House, that it was not to be expected the great brewers could lower the price of beer even as much as a halfpenny a pot, and for this reason, that a reduction of a halfpenny per pot would be equal to 21s. a quarter. He then foretold that there could be no reduction; nor was there any. The fact was, the great brewers cared nothing about his interference; it had, and would have, no effect on them, though he went about fretting and giving himself great credit for the wonders he had wrought. As to the reduction which goon after took place, it was by no means attributable to that right hon. gentleman's threats, but to a subsequent lowering of the price of grain.
Mr. Alderman Heygate
feared, from the course adopted by ministers, there was little chance that the country would be relieved from the taxes now sought to be repealed. After adverting to the evils of smuggling, especially as it was much aided by the middling classes of the community, he contended, in reference to the budget of the chancellor of the Exchequer, that the reductions proposed did not relieve the proper persons. Those who wanted aid most were not the rich who drank French wines, nor the poor who drank spirits, but the middle orders, who were obliged to keep up a respectable appearance at an expence which they could ill afford. He gave credit, nevertheless, to ministers, for a sincere desire to benefit the people at large! He firmly believed that the greatest benefit would result to the lower orders if spirituous liquors were made so dear as to be out of their reach; for it was the opinion of the best writers, that nothing tended so much to demoralize a people, as the facility with which they could procure spirits. In voting for the reduction of the house and window tax, he did it under the conviction, that even without it ministers would be able to reduce the expenditure to the limits of the income.
§ Sir R. Wilson
noticed the state of the Netherlands, with regard to taxation. Notwithstanding the cheapness of house-rent and provisions, the fiscal regulations there were so vexatious, that the English had abandoned all the principal towns where they had formerly resided. He objected to the house and window tax. because it was inquisitorial, and interfered with the privacy of life.
Sir W. Ingleby
observed, that, notwithstanding the flattering statement of the chancellor of the Exchequer, he could see no reason to change his opinion of the necessity of a reduction of the house and window duties.
rose to reply. He said, he was not surprised that ministers considered the sinking fund a tender subject, because they knew it was a mere delusion; he should, however, be glad if the chancellor of the Exchequer and his right hon. friend would settle between them what was its real amount. He had the authority of the chancellor of the Exchequer for saying, that next year he expected it to be 5,500,000l. and adding to it the anticipated surplus, there would remain 7,000, 000l. for the relief of the people from taxation. He contended that the relief would have been much more important, if the chancellor of the Exchequer had reduced the duty on tea and tobacco. At all events the selection of the right hon. gentleman had been injudicious. He admitted that direct taxation was just in principle; and on this account, he preferred a property tax; but from its odious inquisitorial character, he hoped never again to see it adopted. Whatever might be the result of the present motion, he was convinced that the House would at last come to the determination, that the House and Window tax ought to be repealed. The feelings of the people were in favour of its abrogation; and, after the sacrifices they had made, those feelings deserved attention. Should the result of a division be contrary to his hopes, he had the consolation of knowing that the hon. member for Westminster had given notice of a motion of a similar kind, which he trusted would meet with better success.
§ The House divided: Ayes 64. Noes 111. Majority against the motion 47.
|List of the Minority.|
|Althorp, visc.||Denman, T.|
|Anson, hon. G.||Duncannon, vis.|
|Benett, J.||East, sir E.|
|Bernal, R.||Gordon, R.|
|Blake, sir F.||Grant, J. P.|
|Bright, H.||Guise, sir B. W.|
|Burdett, sir F.||Gurney, R. H.|
|Byng, G.||Heathcote, sir G.|
|Calvert, C.||Heygate, W.|
|Cavendish, C. C.||Hobhouse, J. C.|
|Cavendish, H. F. C.||Hornby, E.|
|Cradock, S.||Howard, H.|
|Davenport, D.||Hume, J.|
|Denison, W. J.||Hittehinson, hon. C.|
|Ingilby, sir W.||Poyntz, W. S.|
|James, W.||Ridley, sir M. W.|
|Jervoise, G. P.||Robarts, A. W.|
|Johnstone, W. A.||Robinson, sir G.|
|Lambton, J. G.||Rowley, sir W.|
|Leader, W.||Taylor, M. A.|
|Lester, B.||Tierney, right hon. G.|
|Lethbridge, sir T.||Townshend, lord C.|
|Leycester, R.||Webb, E.|
|Lloyd, J. M.||Whitbread, W. H.|
|Lockhart, J. J.||White, S.|
|Maberly, W. L.||Williams, T. P.|
|Macdonald, J.||Wilson, sir R.|
|Marjoribanks, S.||Winnington, sir T.|
|Manning, W.||Wood, M.|
|Milton, visc.||Wrottesley, sir J.|
|Monck, T. B.||TELLERS.|
|Palmer C. F.||Calcraft, J.|
|Powlett, hon. W.||Maberly, J.|