Imatges de pÓgina

MR. CROSSLEY said, he thought that every one must be pleased with the tone and temper in which the law officers of the Crown had treated this question. He had no faith, however, in their being able to come to any arrangement that would be satisfactory to the country. Although he was disposed to be as liberal as most Mem

hand, and which the House was in possession of on this subject, and which certainly went to prove the very opposite of what the hon. and learned Gentleman had asserted. He had moved a short time since for certain returns connected with the newspapers and with the stamp duties, which had been refused to him on the grounds that there were no means of giv-bers with respect to these questions, nevering the information that he required; but theless he could not agree with the doctrines he found now, from the evidence of Mr. which he had heard propounded with reNovello, that from the stamped and un- spect to their general effects upon educastamped copies of the newspaper which tion. He was one of those who had voted were necessarily deposited, there could against the late scheme of the Government have been little or no difficulty to put him relative to education, and he should always into possession of the data that he required continue to vote against such educational from the production of such returns. Un- system, from the conviction that it was der these circumstances, he should renew radically wrong. His notion in these mathis application in a different form, by the ters was, "Hands off, and let the people adoption of which he had little doubt of educate themselves. He was quite cerbeing more successful. With respect to tain that they would do much better withthe question immediately before the House, out any interference of that House than he felt that his right hon. Friend (Mr. M. with it. He could not agree with the hon. Gibson) had so well argued it that there and learned Attorney General that when was no necessity for him to go over the there was a time of war all lightening of same ground; but, at the same time, he taxation should necessarily be put a stop must say that he felt very much pleased at to; and in considering such an emergency, the pledge which the Motion of the right he thought that the advice given to him by officers of the Crown. He wished to say an old friend when he first commenced a few words with regard to the postage of business might be usefully followed, such newspapers, the management and regula- advice being that "when difficulties intions of which he considered to be very in- creased our energies should increase also." hon. Gentleman had extracted from the law He had followed and acted upon that adadequate and annoying; and he was of vice, and could testify to the advantage of opinion that if, in the estimation of Mr. having done so. He would propose to GoRowland Hill, 1d. on each paper was am-vernment that, in place of forcing restric ple payment for the postage of the same, such penny ought to be paid. In the district in which he resided there were only two newspapers, and those journals could not be seen-he did not say by the agricultural labourers of the district, but even by the tenant farmers-unless they went to a public-house. Surely it was a bad position for a country to be in when its newspapers were so expensive that they could not be read by large masses of the people unless they went to the public-house, where they would necessarily be obliged to spend their money in drink and tobacco. He was one of those who believed that the rise and rapid circulation of cheap publications throughout the country would do much more to educate the people than all the national systems of education that ever were contemplated. He hoped that his right hon. Friend would carry his Motion to a division, as he should like the people of this country really to know who were or who were not honestly their friends in this matter.

Sir J. Shelley

tions which were complained of, it would be better that it should be made compulsory to put a stamp on all bankers' checks.

MR. BRIGHT: I am pleased, Sir, to find that the opinion of the law officers of the Crown on this question of the newspaper stamp is not so confident as on former occasions. They have been complimented by hon. Members on the tone and temper of their observations, and I certainly think that the tone of their observations is much more moderate than it has hitherto been. I am very glad to have the admissions by the hon. and learned Attorney General confirmed as they have been by his Colleague the Solicitor General; still I cannot conceal from myself that there is a very broad line between them and my right hon. Friend and Colleague (Mr. M. Gibson) who sits behind me. I doubt altogether whether their admissions are such that they ought to satisfy any one in this House who questions the

propriety of the maintenance of the news- at all a reason to withdraw a Resolution paper stamp as a tax on newspapers. If like this, to allow this question to remain these hon. and learned Gentlemen do agree without any opinion being expressed upon it so entirely with my right hon. Friend, I to-night, and to be satisfied with the smooth cannot discover why they should have so phrases of the two distinguished Gentlestrong an objection to the Resolution which men who are the law officers of the he proposes to the House. The Resolu- Crown. tion is one of a very innocent character, and I am rather disposed to blame my right hon. Friend for proposing a Resolution not so definite as the occasion required. The Resolution is this

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And, if I do not mistake the language of the Attorney General, he thinks the laws are unequally enforced and the subject does demand the early consideration of Parliament, but that he does not agree that the laws are ill-defined; and that seems to be the difference between the Attorney General and my right hon. Friend (Mr. M. Gibson). With regard to the unequal enforcement of the law, do not let it be posed that my right hon. Friend insinuated in the smallest measure that the Board of Inland Revenue have been unfair and unequal that they have selected a man in one street to put a stamp on his publication, and omitted to compel a man in another street to stamp a publication of a like character. That is not charged against the Board of Inland Revenue, but that the law is unequally enforced has been admitted by the Attorney General, and the admission goes to this—that it has arisen, not from unfairness on the part of the Boardwhich has never been alleged-but from the absolute necessity of the case; and I believe the Attorney General is convinced that no consideration of Parliament, no alteration of the law, no fresh directions to the Board, can by any possibility prevent this law being unequally enforced; because if any attempt were made, such as that which the Attorney General told us he is about to make, or the Board are about to make, that every paper that comes within the law shall be taxed, I will undertake to say the law shall not last one Session of Parliament. That is precisely what we want. But if the Attorney General thinks otherwise, and that the law can be enforced, it does not seem to me

Do not let it be supposed for one moment that my right hon. Friend wishes that the Athenæum, or the Builder, or the Racing Times, or Mr. Novello's musical publications, should be stamped. He does not wish it at all-nothing is further from his thoughts. In fact, he is the resolved and unchangeable enemy of this stamp in every shape. But what he objects to is this, that, having laid on a stamp which is objectionable on every ground connected with the public interest, that you should so work it that it should catch merely one description of intelligence offered to the people, and allow other papers to be untouched by the stamp, contrary to the meaning of the law, in order not to excite public hostility, and in order that the public shall not prevent the continuance of the stamp on that particular class of information which you do not wish the public to possess. That is the real fact. There can be no doubt whatever in all its fiscal aspects, this question of the stamp, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer said on one occasion, is very immaterial and very insignificant. The stamp is retained with this tenacity in this shape, not for the sake of revenue, but because there has been a fear-in my opinion fear arising from ignorance and misconception-that cheap publications on political questions may be troublesome, and because some well-intentioned but misinformed men think that cheap publications may spread immorality and evil among the people. The hon. and learned Attorney General referred to the course of the Board of Inland Revenue with regard to what he calls class papers; and he admitted, very fairly, that the law does not exclude those papers from the operation of the stamp. And, in doing that, he only said what Judge Parke on the Bench had previously said, that, although these papers are devoted, one to architecture, one to literature, and another to horse-racing, that devotion to a particular subject does not exclude them from the operation of the law. Look at what this admission of the Attorney General really is. That a department of the State sitting at Somerset House, with a secretary and

law officers, and all the incidentals of a House it was absurd and impossible to public department-that this Board has retain a tax upon an article like that, in been perpetually and continually allowing shape so light, so little bulky, that it could a large number of newspapers, published be smuggled into the country and the by a variety of persons, to be published import duty evaded, thus destroying the weekly and monthly throughout this king- efficacy of the law, and deluding manudom contrary to the Statute; and that not facturers with the idea that they had a thousands, but hundreds of thousands, of protection which they had not? To bring pounds of taxes, which the Act of Parlia- the case home. This is a tax which you ment intended should be paid, have been cannot enforce. You admit you have not remitted to individuals publishing papers enforced it, and you allow that you have which the Board thought were not objection- lost hundreds of thousands of pounds of able, or perhaps useful. If one man in Man- revenue by not being able to enforce it. chester chooses to publish a paper with a You say you are going to enforce it. summary of the debates of this House, with I cannot tell the Attorney General I do the Queen's Speech at the commencement not believe him. I believe he intends to of the Session, with the Address in answer do the best he can with this law, but I to it, and with the proceedings of Parlia- know it is not so easy to maintain it in ment, he is taxed a penny on every paper every case, and still maintain it on the he issues. This Board says to the man statute-book, and I do not suppose he down at Manchester, "Pay your penny a wants the tax extended any further. week, a penny for every number (thousands of pounds a year it may be) into the Exchequer." But if another man in the Strand publishes a paper with details of all the exciting events of the turf, the Board says to him-"For you the Statutebook was not made." Although the Attorney General says the Statute-book was made for him, he is allowed to escape this tax, and I only mention this for the purpose of bringing before the notice of the Government and of the House this argument against the tax-that if it were a good tax, if it were a wise tax, if it were an equal tax, certainly you would have applied it to all cases; but you are conscious that it is not a tax of that character, and you know, so worked, public opinion would overturn the tax, and in order to save a part of it you allow a considerable portion of the publications issued to escape taxation. Thus everybody knows one of the great arguments of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Halifax (Sir C. Wood), when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and of the late Sir Robert Peel-that their constant argument has been that certain taxes should be repealed or altered, because, from circumstances connected with them, it was impossible to make them equal or collect them without vast cost and vast injustice. I ask Gentlemen now sitting on the Treasury bench, who were sitting there with Sir Robert Peel, do they not remember when Sir Robert Peel exhibited, in the course of a speech, a handful of straw plait, and did he not tell the Mr. Bright

Now, I wish to inquire what will be the operation of this statute on the proceedings of the electric telegraph companies. We go from this House to the Reform Club, to the Carlton Club, or to that club in St. James's Street which a distinguished individual said he never heard of, and you find in all of them information of what is here going on. Only leaving the Reform Club just now, I found in the hall a report of part of the speech of my right hon. colleague, but every such paragraph so published is a violation of the law. It is not at intervals of a week, a day, or an hour, but every five minutes the news from this House is being published all over London. It is sent down into the country and printed there also. I want to know whether the Attorney General intends to put a stop to that wonderful operation of the electric telegraph? Is a vast public company like this, having invested many hundreds of thousands of pounds, and doing that which is marvellous to the most intelligent and scientificbringing the public mind into more intimate connection with the transactions of the Houses of Parliament-is a public company to be insulted, taxed, worried, and destroyed by the Board of Inland Revenue, as it may be if this law is carried out? No, it will not be done. The Attorney General knows it will not be done. If somebody is to be found to do it, the hon. and learned Gentleman is not the man to be the instrument of such doings. The Attorney General knows too well what is the course of things in this

country, and I have no expectation whatever that he, as a law officer of the Crown, will lend himself in any way to lessen the means of instruction to the public, or to diminish the breadth, the depth, and the number of those channels by which public and political information is spread through all parts of the kingdom. One point on which I wish to make an observation is the question of finance. I think I saw that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in answer to a deputation from Edinburgh requiring an advance of money (I am sorry to say these deputations from Edinburgh are not so rare as I could wish them to be), wishing to have some of the public money to support a public institution-a very good one I admit, but which in Manchester we should support ourselves-the Chancellor of the Exchequer, though he did not promise the vote, said he would not have it understood at all that, because we are at war, everything connected with art, science, and public instruction which costs something to the Exchequer, should, therefore, be thrown aside and neglected. He seemed to me to hold out a strong hope that he would consent to the vote.

the correspondence, however, which the hon. Member for Westminster (Sir J. Shelley) has read to the House, we see from every part of the country constant applications whether such and such a paper is liable to the tax or not. That correspondence gives us some idea of the amount of pressure this Board of Inland Revenue brings to bear on the disposition of the people of this country to read-some idea of the number of papers actually strangled by the operation of this tax. Would any one believe that there are no less than seventyfive boroughs returning Members to this House in not one of which is a newspaper published? Such a thing would be totally incredible if related of England in any other country. But for this tax in every one of these boroughs there would be not only one paper, but an opposition paper as well, and half a dozen papers in some of them where there are none now. I do not say this is conclusive, but I put it to Gentlemen on the Treasury bench, who sometimes, perhaps, are amenable to argument. I assume that for every newspaper published in the United Kingdom there would be ten newspapers published if there were Even if the Resolution of my right hon. no newspaper stamp; and every one who Colleague were different, I think after that knows the condition of things in our Colowe should have reason to press it; but he nies, and in the United States, knows I has not asked the Government to abandon am not overstating the case. But if, inthe 400,0001. of revenue raised on news- stead of 100,000,000 of papers published paper stamps. At present it is believed every year, 1,000,000,000 were published, by persons connected with the Post Office of all sizes, and at all periods, of from one that about as many newspapers go through day to a month, is it not fair to assume the Post Office as are published in the that one in ten of those newspapers would kingdom. Assume, for argument's sake, still pass through the Post Office? In all that 100,000,000 of papers are published probability as many would pass through as in a year, and that 100,000,000 of papers now pass through, and if a post duty equal go annually through the Post Office. Some, to the present stamp were paid by each, is however, never go through the Post Office, it not quite clear that the sum the Chanand some pass through several times. It cellor of the Exchequer would receive is supposed, therefore, that the whole num- would be just equal to what he receives ber going through is somewhere about the now? I put this to show-first, that same as the whole number published. If we are not asking you to diminish the the stamp were abolished and 400,000l. of revenue; and secondly, that we, who revenue were given up, and a postage duty have paid more attention, perhaps, than on every paper entering the Post Office any other men in the kingdom to the subwere established as a substitute, the thing ject, see reason to believe that the reveto ascertain is what number of newspapers nue would not be materially diminished. would go through the Post Office as com- Parliament seems to have little else pared with the number now; because if 100,000,000 go through the Post Office then, and no more than 100,000,000 go through now, it is quite clear the Government will have as much money as they do now. I have discussed the question with gentlemen connected with the Post Office, but the point is not easily arrived at. In VOL. CXXXIII. [THIRD SERIES.]

to do this Session. All the measures of the Government are either withdrawn or rejected, and I do not see why we might not make the change with vast advantage to the country, and without any sacrifice of revenue which the Chancellor of the Exchequer would at all discover; for the very instant the stamp duty was abolished,


the postage revenue would begin to increase, the paper duty would of course increase, and at the same time the enormous facilities it would open for communication between all classes would increase trade and consumption, and other sources of revenue. I am very sorry that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not here, because I have that opinion of him-I believe the right hon. Gentleman wishes to have taxes fairly levied, and no fair argument on a matter of this sort, I have observed, is ever lost upon him.

a list of all the persons employed on the staff of that paper, and the House will be perhaps astonished to hear that this paper, which sells for a penny to the artisans of New York, employs a staff not much short of 300 persons. It was also stated, I think, before the Newspaper Stamp Committee, that another paper in New sells only for a halfpenny, the New York Herald, the copyright of which sold for not less than 50,000l. I will undertake to say the copyright of the New York Herald was worth double the copyright of all the newspapers in London, with the exception of the Times. There they have free trade, and the press prospers and grows. Here it is crippled and hampered by the fetters of the Board of Inland Revenue.

Before I conclude, I just want to show hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury bench, not to plait straw, but I want to show them and the House what it is under this law which you tax. [The hon. Member produced a copy of the Times and SuppleLook, for instance, at the Daily ment, divided into single pages, and again News. It is said that 100,000l. have been joined together, so as to form one long spent on that paper. Look at its circulastrip of paper, which extended from the tion-how small-and by the returns, I second row of seats a considerable distance believe it is even diminishing. Take the beyond the feet of hon. Members sitting Morning Chronicle, that writes every day to on the front benches.] That paper is the a still more select audience. Take all the Times with a Supplement, and that pays London papers, almost without exception, a penny stamp with every copy. Now, except the Times, and some of the threethis other is a paper published in the colony penny papers that appeal to a totally dif of Victoria, the Melbourne Argus, about the ferent class of customers, and go to less same size. There is no stamp in the colony expense that the daily papers, and it is of Victoria. The population there is not the same. Look at what also you do. more than half the population of Manches- Here is an unfortunate paper which was ter and Salford, and yet this paper publishes strangled out of its little innocent life in about 11,000 copies every morning, and the most remorseless manner, the Potteries the demand is so great compared with the Free Press, or Weekly Narrative of Curmeans of printing they possess because rent Events, published, as it states, "in they have not the same admirable machi- conformity with the regulations of the nery as the Times-that I saw a notice in Board of Inland Revenue, which permits a recent nnmber that to all future sub- the Athenæum, Builder, Punch, and other scribers the price should be doubled, they newspapers to be published without a should pay threepence instead of three stamp. Believing it was according to halfpence. I ought to state that the price law, this modest little paper obtained a of the Times is fivepence. The price of large circulation in the town of Stokethe Melbourne Argus was three half-upon-Trent. If it had not been for the pence, and was to be doubled to three- Board of Inland Revenue, it would have pence to those who came after the list was sold 10,000 copies every week. Why filled up. Now, here is the New York Tribune, a paper the size of the Times without a Supplement, that sells in New York every morning, to the working men of that city, for one penny. It is just as good a newspaper as the Times. I do not say all the leading articles are written with the ability of the Times, but many of them are. It has private boats coming off to meet every packet from England, miles before they approach the land; it has telegraphic despatches from every part of the Union; it employs correspondents in all the chief cities of Europe; and I have

Mr. Bright

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does it not do it? Why, because of the Act of this House, which is horrified at the ignorance of the people a House which votes 260,000l. every year for education, which appoints public inspectors of schools, and yet this House maintains a law that this little paper shall not prevail among the houses of the industrious artisans of Stoke-upon-Trent, unless it has a stamp of a penny at the corner, which doubles its cost, and, as a matter of course, immensely diminishes, and finally stops, its circulation.

Here is another case even more exas

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