Mr. Alderman Wood
presented a Petition from the Dealers of Soap in the neighbourhood of London, signed by upwards of 600 persons complaining of the interruption to their trade by the heavy duties which were placed upon that article, and which rendered it impossible for them to compete with the foreigner in that article. The duty on the soap made use of by the lower 726 and middle classes was 120 per cent., while that consumed by the rich did not pay more than fifty per cent. He therefore hoped it would be repealed.
§ Mr. Cobbett
said, the hon. Alderman had hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be enabled to repeal this tax. Whether that noble Lord would do so he did not know, but this he knew, that the House was able to prevent him having this tax any longer, and to his mind the way to teach the noble Lord how to do without the tax, was not to let him have it. Here was another instance, added to the many he had brought forward the other day, where the poor were taxed in a much greater degree than the rich. Even in the common article of soap, which might be made for twopence-halfpenny a-pound, the poor were made to pay seven-pence or eightpence for it. The poor were made to pay 120 per cent., while the rich only paid fifty. Another article he would mention was paper; why the commonest paper in which the people wrapped their tobacco or sold their sugar paid a duty per lb. equal to the finest gold-edged paper. He should like to know the motive for all this. The noble Lord had ascribed to him on a previous occasion bad motives. For his part he judged of motives by acts; and who could doubt that the partial tax on soap was for the purpose of oppressing the poor, and relieving the rich?
§ Mr. Lamb
stated, that Lord Althorp was at present engaged in a most important Committee, which was the reason why his noble friend was not in the House. In the mean time, however, if it was agreeable to the hon. Member to make short speeches, he hoped the House would not take the assertions for granted, until the person who was most competent had an opportunity of answering them.
Mr. Alderman Wood
said, it was quite clear, when soap was charged with a duty of 28s. per cwt., that the poorer classes, who used the common soap, paid much more duty than the higher classes, who used a more expensive soap. The duty should be repealed altogether or so altered as to make it an ad valorem duty.
§ Petition laid on the Table.