Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

consideration, however, I am inclined to think that such an arrancement will veither be advisable nor necessary. All that is deemed necessary to prevent evasion, is a declaration upon oath, that the rate of assessment to which a man is subjected, does exceed a tenth part of his income,

With regard to this declaratiou, it will likewise be necessary to provide that in the statement of income, the sum which a man now pays to the assessed taxes shall not be included, as persons may, in some cases, stand assessed in a much higher proportion than corresponds to their incomes. An innkeeper, for instance, from the pumber of windows for which he pays, might be compelled to pay in a very unequal rate, were he forced to include what he now pays in the amount of bis income. The same thing will apply whenever the average proportion of the tax exceeds the real income of the party, so that it is unnecessary to enter into the detail of the provisions which are intended to remedy this inconvenience.

As to the mode of appointing the commissioners who are to administer the relief to those who conceive themselves entitled to it, the principal object will be, that the persons to whom this task should be confided, should be acquainted with the neighbourhood, and with the parties who come before them for mitigation. There might even be no objection to those who are now employed to fix the rate of the assessed taxes; or if this should be deemed inexpedient, a number of housekeepers might be chosen out of that class which pays the highest proportion, and who would not be likely to sue for relief for themselves. Such a number might be chosen by lot to exercise this jurisdiction, and such divisions assigned as would enable them to act with information and knowledge. In this way a most respectable tribunal will be formed perfectly adequate to perform with fidelity and impartiality that duty which it is proposed to entrust to their care.

These seem to include all the points for which it will be necessary to provide in the way of regulation. In general, however, some regulation will be necessary to provide, that where persons become liable to higher rates of assessment than they now pay, their contributions to the present plan will rise in that proportion.

It now remains to be considered, as far as can be calculated, what, in all the circumstances, may be the produce of the tax. I have stated that 2,700,000l. is the amount of the assessed taxes, exclusive of the new burdens imposed last year. On the súpposition of a treble assessment on the whole, the amount would be 8,160,0001. From the amount at present is deducted 90,0001. as the charge of collection. It cannot be expected that with the additional trouble that will be occasioned an increase of remuneration will not be required by those who collect them, but certainly the same rate of poundage will not be necessary. As charges of management, then, two-thirds will be applicable to the tax. The general amount will thus be 8,400,0001. judging from the observations which have been made from the produce and rates of payment for near four-fifths of the kingdom; and making allowance for the diminution occasioned by the half rates, single rates, and double rates, the whole reduction will not be more than 900,000l. or a million. This would be the whole diminution, without taking into view the balance on the side of produce wbich must arise from the 3 quadruple rates paid, as they are upon extensive sums. From the effect of this balance, then, the whole of the produce will be about eight millions. Still indeed there is another abatement to be taken into view. In the casés where income does not amount to 60l. a year there will be a total exemption, and proportional deductions according as the incomes of contributors fall below the sums corresponding to the classes to which they belong. It is impossible to state any ground upon which these deductions can be calculated. Their amount must be wholly conjectural. So much, however, is certain, that means are thus provided for a very extensive scale of relief in different progressive stages. Thus we are sure that we obtain that essential object of preventing the burthen from pressing with severity upon those classes who ought to be exempted or relieved. The sum for which the whole produce is taken is seven millions. The sum, which upon the scale already stated it will produce, is about eight millions, thus leaving 7 or 800,0001. to make any diminution which may arise from the abatements allowed, and to make allowance for such modifications as circumstances may require. Against any diminution which may be calculated upon the above heads, it may not be improper to consider the improvement which the assessed taxes will receive from the redoubled attention to their collection wbich may be expected to take place. These taxes have in many instances been evaded to a degree beyond all conception. In consequence of the enquiries which some late measures bad occasioned, very important discoveries were made of the evasions practised in this branch of the revepue, which more recent investigations have tended to confirm. Every gentleman who looks at those who pay in the rank with himself must be satisfied, that more than the amount of the sum requisite to give every proper allowance to those who deserve mitigation, by putting an end to that evasion which has been so extensively practised, will be gained; and sure I am there must be but one mind and one exertion to counteract and to defeat such fraudulent attempts. The call upon the possessors of horses, in consequence of the measures lately taken for the defence of the country, led to the discovery of very scandalous evasions of the revenue. I have heard of instances of this kind in cases so aggravated from the persons involved, and the rank of life in which they stood, that it would be impossible for any man to learn the particulars without mingled feelings of shame and indignation. Many of the persons guilty of these frauds are probably deterred from a discovery by a dread of the penalties they have incurred. Perhaps, therefore, it may be politic to hold out sonie encouragemeni to those who shall give a fair account of the duties to which they are liable. This I state merely to shew that there is reason to believe that the accuracy of collection which will now be established, will serve in a very considerable degree to supply the deficiency which the application of relief to those who require it, may occasion.

Nothing more remains but to state one additional modification for which indeed there is no separate resolution, but the propriety of which the committee will perceive. It is a distinction in favour of those whose establishments are increased by numerous families. It might be proper therefore to adopt some regulation for those who have a certain number of children, and those who have no children at all, and to proportion the scale to the largeness of family, when those who have a certain number of children apply for relief. I would propose, therefore, that, if entitled to that mitigation which they claiin, they should be reduced in a rate below that to which by their income they would belong, and that those who have no families should be placed in a rank above that which they would otherwise occupy.

Having now explained the different points of regulation and modification which the scheme I have submitted to the commit. tee will admit, I again desire gentlemen to keep in mind that if I am right in my idea of the necessity of raising within the year at least a certain proportion of the supplies of the year, the first question that occurs is, How is such a thing to be done? We are to inquire whether there can be a call upon income more general, more equitable, and more effectual, and at the same time more safe, than that which the plan before you contains ? If a visible criterion must be selected, can there be any one more comprehensive, more capable of modification, more applicable to the cases which may call for exception or relief, than that which is now submitted to your opinion? Thirdly, can any system of correction be devised that better meets the inconveniencies which might arise from individual applications than the present? Such are the questions for your decision. The effort to be exerted is doubtless a great one.

Seven millions, in whatever mode it is to be raised, is a great sum to be taken out of the pockets of the people. We must determine by some effort or other to provide the sum which the public service requires. Do we think then that to raise seven millions in this manner is an effort that ought not to be made, if by such an effort we shall he enabled to maintain the contest with more success, and to pursue it to a more speedy termination than by any other mode of exertion? If we are satisfied on these points we shall not listen to any general ob jections, such as those that large contributions are always great : grievances to the people. What we should consider is, wbether less ought to be taken to maintain with vigour, and to prosecute to a successful termination, a contest for the preservation of the whole, for the safety of ourselves, and for the interest of posterity? We ought theu to examine the subject carefully, jealously, and accurately, but with a fixed determination not to be deterred by the magnitude of the sacrifice; with a firm determination to follow up the principle of mitigating the burthen where relief ought to be applied, and of acting up to the full extent of the pledge which we have given ; with a firm determination to exert: every effort that may be required by the novelty of the crisis in which we are placed, and the magnitude of the objects for which we contend. Having said so much, I shall detain the committee no longer, but move the first resolution,

The committee divided on the first resolution,

Ayes ... 214
Noes ..

15
The other resolutions were then severally passed.

December 5, 1797.

The report of the Committee of Ways and Means was brought up, and the resolutions in it were read.

MR. Pitt then, (in answer to a question put to him by Mr, Hussey, respecting the application of the sinking fund for the reduction of the national debt), entered into a statement of the different calculations which he laid before the house when he opened the plan of triple assessment, and expatiated upon the advantages of applying the produce of the sinking fund to the reduction of the debt. He recapitulated his former observations upon that head. He said, he wondered that any idea should have gone abroad any where, that any interruption was to be made to the operation of the sinking fund. It had been benefi. cially applied for the reduction of the debt now for eleven years, four of which were years of war. It was to be continued in its

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »