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MR. MILNER GIBSON GIVES THE…

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MR. MILNER GIBSON GIVES THE PAPER DUTY A STAB. The question remains, is the tax on paper of a cha- racter that we should desire to maintain it ? What is its effect on trade ? I admit that its operation in im- peding the diffusion of knowledge is not the only argu- ment in favour of its repeal. The commercial argument is a most important one. In the first place, is the con- sumption of paper in this country at all in accordance with our population, or with what we should naturally suppose to be the demand of a country like England, having regard to the progress of education and trade ? IsJlit Jcommensurate with what we find in other coun- tries under similar circumstances ? The consumption in the United States, with a smaller population, I believe is three times as great as that of England. (Hear, hear.) The population of the United States is about 23,000,000. We have in this country some 29,000,000 of people. The 23,000,000 in the United States produce rags enough, and there is raw material in the country sufficient, with some little importation, to make 1 p a much larger quantity of paper than we manufacture infthis country. Is there any reason why that should be so? WHAT THE AMERICANS DO. Paper is susceptible of a great variety of uses, and in a Icountry with such an enormous trade as ours we should be the first producers and consumers of paper in the world, in proportion to our population. Mr. Raw- lings, a large paper manufacturer at Wrexham, who has seen the way in which paper is made in the United States, states that the processes there are so much im- proved that a man and his children can make paper by themselves, and turn out a much greater quantity than a similar number of persons in this country. Mr. Rawlings produced a brown paper made in the United States of, among other things, old leather, palm leaves, and damaged marsh hay, and sold at a price below the sum charged for duty in England. He also ex- hibited a sheet of paper of remarkable gloss and fine- ness, which was produced by two persons at the rate of 100 reams in eight hours. OUR MECHANICAL ADVANTAGES. Do not tell me we cannot do in this country what is done in the United States; we have peculiar advan- tages in England, both in mechanical skill and com- mand of the raw material, and yet here the produc- tion of paper is limited and crippled and I have a right to assume that the Excise duty and the Excise survey have something to do with this important dif- ference. Again, with regard to our exports, the paper duty acts as an export duty on several kinds of manu- factures. The duty is paid on the paper boxes in which those goods are sent abroad, and forms a considerable per centage on the value of the articles the boxes con- tain. How can you expect our manufacturers to com- pete with foreigners in neutral markets if you place a duty on the boxes in which their goods are packed ? Such a duty must have a pernicious effect in a great exporting country like England. The duty forms an enormous per centage on the value of coarse papers. A paper manufacturer of Birmingham told me that, on an average, he made paper of a coarse kind to the value of 33,0001. in a year. The amount of duty he paid on that quantity was 12,800l. a-year. That is an enormous tax as he graphically stated the case, he was obliged to work 22 weeks out of the 52 to make enough to pay the duty for one year. THE DUTY LIMITS THE POWER OF PRODUCTION. I can prove also that the duty limits the power of producing. England abounds in auxiliary raw material of the manufacture. The statements of the scarcity of rags are no novelty. They were urged in 1836, when the duty was reduced. It was said the manufac- turers would only put the remitted duty in their pockets, because no greater quantities of the raw material were likely to be imported. What are the facts ? Since the reduction the price of the raw material has been 40 per cent. less than before. I believe the quantity of rags now imported is 90,000 tons per annum; previous to the reduction of duty in 1836 it was only 40,000 tons you have thus added 50,000 tons to the production of paper, or nearly trebled it, and yet the price of the raw material has fallen 40 per cent. Is this consistent with the state- ment of a deficiency of the material ? I firmly believe that what happened before will happen again; that if you repeal the duty the production will be greatly increased, and the demand for the raw material will bring it into this country; and we shall probably see a similar reduction of the price to that which followed the reduction of Ithe duty in 1836. It should be re- membered that every country imports rags from time to time. We have heard much of France prohibiting the export of rags; but in 1857 we exported 530 tons to France, the French paper manufacturers giving us the very highest price for them. Belgium and other countries also import rags; we ourselves export 10,000 tons of rags to various countries every year. It is a mistake to suppose there is any deficiency of this article, if you take the whole world as the source of supply instead of two or three particular countries. I believe that the cost of this material will be equalised gradually in different countries, and as foreign paper is to be admitted duty free the argument of the home manufacturer being able to put the amount of the remission into his pocket is entirely fallacious. THE DUTY REALLY A FARMERS' QUESTION. There is one article likely to be extensively used in the manufacture of paper to which I would call the attention of the hon. baronet (Sir W. Miles); it is flax refuse. I have before said that the repeal of the paper duty is really a farmers' question. I believe the agricultural interest did not think me serious in saying so; but I am quite serious. I believe that the manu- facture of paper is the only rural manufacture that in these days can be carried on with advantage. It is a manufacture in the extension of which the agricultural community is greatly interested. I have received a letter from an agriculturist stating that he had always grown flax with a larger profit than wheat, by using the seeds to fatten cattle and converting the straw into flax fibre for the Leeds market; and he adds that flax is not, as commonly supposed, an exhausting crop. Thus, if there are any complaints of the low price of wheat or other'grain, the prospect of a development of the paper manufacture is worth the farmers' considera- tion. I believe that large quantities of straw may be converted into the material of paper; and that other auxiliary raw materials, which are now burnt, such as couch grass, may be made a source of profit to the agriculturists if they will only lend the Government their assistance on this occasion to repeal an obnoxious system of Excise regulations that cripple an important manufacture and prevent its full development. IS IT A "TAX ON KNOWLEDGE?" w:°yd on effect of the paper duty on the diffu- S'i0n °<( knowIedge- Giving this Excise duty the name of a tax on knowledge" has been called something of a claptrap I am not responsible for that title it wasused many years ago I, believe the hon. member for Hertfordshire (Sir B. Lytton), in a speech on the repeal of the duty, was one of the first who gave that definition of the tax. But the term of a tax on knowledge is fairly derived from the act of parlia- m<t? V I f !l ono clauses I find these words that for the encouragement of lea-nii!" the duty shall be remitted on all books printed in the Latin, Greek, Oriental, and Northern languages." If you re- mit the duty on books printed in these5languages "for the encouragement of learning," you certainly admit that the tax on paper is a tax on knowledge." That is a logical deduction, and if in the days" of Queen Anne it was thought advantageous to remit the duty on books in the Latin, Greek, Oriental, and Northern languages, surely in the days of Queen Victoria, when we are educating the people, it is risrht also to remit the duty on books printed in the English language. Under the existing law we are not entitled to levy a tax on books printed in the Northern languages, and I see no reason why the English language should not come within that category. But, be that as it may, the paper duty is a hx on knowledge, because it is a tax upon the means— the principal, perhaps the only means-of diffusing1 knowledge throughout the country or how I should like to know, is information to be distributed through- out the mass of the people? Is it not through the medium of cheap publications, extensively circulated ? Yet you who ai e opposed to the repeal of this duty argue as if it would in no way affect the spread of in- formation whether the tax were 1-1d. or 6d. per lb. Now, I dare say it is very true that an increase of the duty to that extent would not appreciably add to the cost of a book the selling price of which is three guineas, and that a man who is prepared to pay that price would not have any very strong objection to the payment of an additional shilling but then you must bear in mind that this line of argument is applicable to any amount of duty, however high. (Hear, hear.) The real question for us to decide is, how the existing duty acts on publications which are low in price, and diffused113 W knowledSe is extensively CHEAP AND GOOD NEWSPAPERS. But the question is not one altogether ot a cheap press; it involves also moral considerations of no ordi- nary value. It is not only desirable that should have cheap newspapers, but that we should render them as agents in the communication of knowledge as good as they can be made, instead of perpetuating a system of taxation which impoverishes them, and which may, instead of their being productive of benefit, cause them rather to be productive of injury to the community. SUPERIOR AUTHORSHIP WILL BE AVAILABLE. Mr. C. Knight, who was for a considerable time en- gaged in the publication of books, states that for a period of 20 years he paid a sum of 80,000l. to authors for their literary productions, but that in order to circulate the mine of intellectual wealth thus acquired throughout the country, he was obliged to hand over a sum of 50,00(M. to the Government. Do you mean to tell me, then, with these facts before you, that this is not a tax upon knowledge? Is it mere clap-trap to place the paper duty in the list of taxes ? For my own part, I cannot believe that by maintaining it you do not trench materially on the fund out of which literary labour is paid, and greatly add to the cost of literary enterprise. I say the paper duty is not only a tax upon know- ledge, but it is also a grievous and oppressive trammel upon the freedom of authors. I am quite sure it must trench upon the fund by which authors would be paid; for if the large sum I have stated as having been paid by that eminent publisher in the shape of paper duty had remained at his disposal, competition would have forced him to give the public the benefit of it. The money that went to the Exchequer would have gone to provide other, and perhaps superior, authorship, and thus the country at large would have had the advantage.

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