Journal of the House of Lords: Volume 62, 1830. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, [n.d.].
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Die Sabbati, 27 Martii 1830.
The Lord President in the Chair.
James Edgcome Esquire is called in, and further examined as follows:
Have you communicated with Mr. Dean, the Chairman of the Board of Customs, since you were examined here last?
Have you had any Conversation with him on the Subject of the taking the Duty by Weight instead of Measure at the Port of Shipment?
I told Mr. Dean the Business which had called me here, and that the Reason of my wishing to wait upon him was, that I thought Etiquette and Courtesy required it of me; and I did not wish to be wanting in Respect to him as Chairman of the Board under which I served; but Mr. Dean did not communicate to me his own Sentiments upon the Subject, or wish to interfere in the smallest degree.
Is there any Part of your former Evidence which you wish to alter?
I wish, with your Lordships Permission, to explain the Opinion I gave in answer to the Question which was put to me relative to the Levy of Duty at the Pit's Mouth, irrespective of the Shipment. I conceive that there is nothing to render the Accomplishment of such a Measure impracticable, provided your Lordships shall deem it expedient; at the same Time the Number of Officers to be employed in taking the Account of the Coals so raised must depend, I conceive, on the Rate of Duty levied, and the Extent of the working of the Mines, and their relative Distance from each other. If, for instance, the Rate of Duty should be reduced so low as a Shilling per Ton, (which, it has been stated in the Evidence before your Lordships, would, if taken throughout the Kingdom, raise as large a Revenue as that at present collected on the Article of Coals,) I cannot but think an intelligent and active Officer (if the Duty were so low) might, without endangering the Revenue, superintend more Mines than One, and if he were a Riding Officer, his District might be more extended. Such Officer might be required to visit daily all the Collieries under his Survey, and to divide his Time between them, as the Magnitude of the Mines, and other Circumstances, might require; and I think such an Officer would, with little Difficulty, soon ascertain the daily Workings of the Mines without greatly erring. I have stated that I understand a Book is already kept at every Mine, in which an Account is entered of the precise Quantity of Coals raised; that from this Account the Pitmen are paid their Wages; and that I consider this to afford presumptive Evidence of the Correctness of such Account; but I think it should be verified on Oath by the managing Owner or the Agent of the Mine; and as the low Rate of Duty, which I am now supposing to be levied on Coals, would remove the Temptation to commit Fraud on the Revenue, and the Interests of the Pitmen and of the Revenue would be identified, I think there would be little Danger of the Revenue being defrauded or injured. The Officer, on his daily Visit to the Mines, might be required to inspect the Account kept there, and, after satisfying himself to the best of his Power of its Truth, might transcribe the Account into a Book to be kept by himself for that Purpose; but I beg to repeat that it is only in the Event of a low Rate of Duty being imposed that I venture to suggest this. If the Duty should be higher, a greater Supervision would be proper; and if the Rate of Duty would afford the Expence of an Officer being stationed at every Mine, it would unquestionably be preferable, and desirable so to station them. I offer this Opinion with much Diffidence on a Question which is confessedly surrounded with Difficulties.
Have the goodness to confine your Remarks at present to Coals shipped at the Port of Newcastle. Have you considered the Mode in which the Duty might be levied on those Coals?
I think that the Duty might be levied from the Account taken of the Shipment of the Coals at the Port of Newcastle, by an Officer being stationed at every Staith or Place of Shipment. There are, I believe, 38 Places of Shipment, and perhaps a greater Number of Officers would be required to provide for Changes; probably Fifty Officers might be sufficient for the Purpose.
At those Staiths there are Shipments made from more Collieries than One, are there not?
I believe there are upwards of Forty Collieries on the Tyne, and there are Thirty-eight Staiths or Places of Shipment.
Are not some of the Staiths close to each other?
I believe they are.
So that an Officer might attend more than One Staith?
I am not competent to say whether he might superintend more Staiths than One, possibly be might; I think the whole of the Officers employed, whether the Duty be taken at the Pit's Mouth or the Place of Shipment, should be under the Supervision of a superior Officer, and he might regulate the Attendance and the Services of the Officers under his Survey. Practice and Experience (only) would teach us the precise Number of Officers required to make this Service effective.
Would there be any Difficulty in having a Weighing Machine erected at each of those Staiths?
I think there would be no Difficulty.
So that as the Coals came on the Staith to be delivered into the Vessels, they might be weighed without Loss of Time?
They might be weighed and shipped immediately, I conceive.
Must those Fifty Officers be in addition to those there are at present?
There are no Officers at present employed in superintending the shipping of Coals Coastwise.
Would the Service require an Addition of Fifty Officers?
I conceive so; but there are certain Officers called Tide Waiters boarded on the Vessels going Foreign with Coals. Perhaps those on the Staiths might supersede the Necessity of employing those Tide Waiters.
How many are there of those?
There is an indefinite Number; they are paid, according to their Employment, 3s. per Day; when not employed they receive no Pay, nor have they any Salary except £5 a Year.
How many are there of them who receive the Salary?
I think at present about Thirty. Their Duty is to superintend the Shipment of all Goods in common with Coals, or the landing of all Goods in which the Revenue is interested.
If the Duty was paid upon the Shipment at Newcastle, the Expence, whatever it may be, of collecting the Duty in the Port of London, and every where else, would be saved?
Yes; and the Necessity for giving Bond for the due Delivery of the Coals would be prevented; so that more Dispatch could be used, provided the Duty were paid instanter at the Port of Shipment at the Time when the Shipment took place.
Have you considered how far it might be possible that Frauds might be committed at the Port of Shipment upon the Revenue, in consequence of wetting the Coals?
No, I have not.
You are not able to give an Opinion how far that might be the Case?
No; my Opinion would be that there would be little Hazard of the Coals being shipped in a wet State; the Interest of the Persons concerned, I should think, would preclude the probability of that.
You imagine it is the Interest of the Coal Owner to ship his Coal in as perfect a State as he can?
You think that otherwise the Reputation of his Colliery would be injured?
I should think so as an Individual; but I am not competent to speak on the Subject from any practical Acquaintance with the Trade. In the Event of the Coals being taxed at the Pit's Mouth, the Number of Officers that might be required in such a Case for the Port of Newcastle or the Tyne, I have been considering since I was here last, and supposing the Principle adopted which I have alluded to, that of allowing a Riding Officer to superintend different Mines, I think that Ten Officers might be sufficient for such a Purpose for the Collieries on the Tyne. I form my Judgment entirely as it regards the Collieries on the Tyne. and not in any other Situation.
You think that if the Duty was taken at the Pit's Mouth, rather than at the Staith, Ten Officers might do the whole Duty?
Yes; and provided the Duty was so low as a Shilling a Ton.
Supposing the Duty to be at the same Rate that it is at present, how many Officers do you conceive it would require to take the Duty at the Pit's Mouth?
Then I think the Revenue would be so much increased, it would be of Importance to have an Officer at every Mine. I understand the Question to refer to the Duty levied at the Pit's Mouth on all Coals, irrespective of Shipment, a Duty on all Coals used.
Supposing a Duty of 4s. 6d. per Ton to be imposed on all Coals, and to be levied at the Pit's Mouth at Newcastle, how many Officers would it require to levy that Duty?
A similar Number to those which I consider it would require if taken at the Staith, because the Revenue would be equally interested, and I think the same Precaution would be required to protect it.
The Witness is directed to withdraw.
George Lowe Esquire, F.G.S. &c. is called in, and examined as follows:
What is your Situation?
I am the Superintendent of Two of the Chartered Gas Company's Establishments in London.
The Chartered Gas Light and Coke Company have been lately in the habit of importing their own Coals, instead of purchasing in the common Way at the Market, have they not?
They have, at my Suggestion, for some Years; I think I may say for the last Four Years we have imported our own Coals from the North, instead of buying them, as had been done for Fifteen Years, at the Market.
To what Amount in Chaldrons?
Our last Year was an Importation of 35,000 Imperial Chaldrons, and this Year I think it will be about 40,000 Chaldrons.
By what Measure do you pay for them at Newcastle?
We pay for them as delivered on board at Newcastle by the Newcastle Chaldron.
Before they are taken into your Stock do you go through the Process of weighing them?
Whereabouts in London?
On their Entrance into the Works by the Waggons, after they have gone through the regular Routine of Meterage in the Pool, they come partly by the River to our Western Establishment at Horseferry Road; from Lighters they are carted to the Works, passing over a Weigh Bridge; and for the Two Eastern Establishments, passing up the Regent's Canal, and passing over a Weigh Bridge into the Brick Lane Station, and into the Curtain Road Station.
You know their Weight by passing over the Machines?
Most minutely we know the Weight of each Cargo; for in order to prevent any Confusion by dividing Cargoes, it is the Order of the Directors that the whole of a Ship's Cargo should go either to the Western or to the Eastern Stations.
What Advantage to the Company is it that the Coals should be measured when they are taken out of the Ship?
None whatever to us on our System.
Notwithstanding that you are obliged to pay so much per Chaldron for Meterage?
Just so; that only refers to the Duty. We pay, on our Mode of importing from the North, for the Coals as delivered on board, and we settle with the Captain as for so many Keels taken on board his Vessel; so that the Meterage in the Pool merely goes as to The King's Duty.
You are of course aware, from having weighed those Coals so often, what is the exact Weight of a London Chaldron of Coals?
What is the exact Weight?
I presume the Question refers to our System of importing, for it makes a considerable Difference; some Portion of our Coals we purchase at Market, (when our Ships disappoint us or are lost at Sea,) and then a manifest Difference arises.
In your Way of importing what is the real Weight of a London Chaldron of Coals?
The Average of Eighty-three Ships Cargoes imported from the North gave the Weight of Twenty-five Cwt. Two Qrs. and Four Pounds per London Chaldron.
Can you state the Weight of a Newcastle Chaldron?
I can state it, being conversant with the Trade in the North, and having visited most of the Collieries; I would give that at about Fifty-three Hundred for the Newcastle Chaldron; that Weight is regularly put on the Waggons; and Half of that ought to be the London Chaldron.
Is there any Loss on the Shipment?
None whatever, if it is done by the Drop System; there may be some Loss from Keels; but our Coals have come chiefly from Lord Durham's Collieries and The Marquis of Londonderry's and various Collieries; the greater Portion of them come by what is called the Drop, on which there is no Loss whatever; it comes in less than a Minute of Time from off the Railway into our Ships.
Have you prepared a Table containing the Names of Ships in which you have imported Coals in 1828 and 1829, specifying the Description of Coal, the Meter's Quantity, and the Weight per Bushel?
The Witness delivers in the same, and it is read, and is as follows:
N.B.—The Letter D. in Column of Weights stands for Dry, meaning more than average dry; and the Letter W. for Wet.
Taking the first Ship that appears in this List, the Cumberland, is the Committee to understand that that Ship was invoiced for 121 Newcastle Chaldrons or 242 London Chaldrons, and that, according to the Meter's Quantity, it contained 267 Chaldrons and Three Quarters?
That is the State of the Case.
Is the Increase in the same Proportion upon most of the Vessels contained in this List?
Pretty nearly so. I have got the whole Results in a more condensed Form as to the peculiar Species of Coal, that it may be seen, from various Quantities, what they have made out.
You have taken the average Weight per Bushel of the Coals contained in those several Cargoes?
I have; and that is about Eighty Pounds per Bushel.
The same is delivered in and read, and is as follows:
What is the extreme Difference in the Weight per Bushel on those different Cargoes of Coals?
The greatest Difference seems to be from 73 Pounds per Bushel to 84 or 85 Pounds.
Will you state what Descriptions of Coals were those which weighed 73 Pounds per Bushel?
They were a Class of Coals known in the North as Hutton's Seam, from the Pelaw Main Colliery.
What Coals were those that weighed the 84 Pounds?
They come also from Pelaw. The Evidence I am now giving is wholly on the Pelaw Colliery; the Average of them is 79 Pounds and a Quarter per Bushel, and the Extremes have been from 73 or 74 to 84 or 85.
Upon the Wade's and Springwell Main, of which there are some Cargoes in the List you have given in, how is the Weight?
Of that we find the Average is 78 and Three Quarters.
Is that a Coal of the same Quality in the Market as the Pelaw Main, or of inferior Quality?
It is a harder Kind.
Does it sell for more or for less in the Market?
It would sell for less.
When you have bought Cargoes in the Market, have you found any greater Difference with respect to the Weight delivered in than you have stated in those Cargoes which have been purchased in the North?
Can you state the Amount of that Difference?
The average Amount of Difference as to the Weight delivered is on 22 Cargoes, some whole Cargoes, and some others only Parts of Cargoes. But upon those 22 Vessels the average Weight per Bushel was 76 Pounds and Three Quarters only, on the same Class of Coals. There is a peculiar Class of Coals that suit our Purpose, and we do not purchase any others, if we can help it.
To what do you attribute the Weight of the Bushel on these Cargoes you bought in the Market being less than the Weight of the Bushel of those you bought by Invoice in the North?
There is no Object on either the Part of the Captain or the Meter on board our Vessels, whose Freight and Cargo had been paid for in the North, as there would have been had we purchased them in the Market, on which the Captain and the Meters are paid according as the Vessel makes out.
If you buy a Cargo in the North, you pay for precisely what you receive on board at the North; but if you buy in the Market, there is a Temptation both to the Captain and the Meter to make the Cargo appear larger than that which was paid for in the North?
There cannot be a Doubt of that; and the Experience of Four Years proves that most decidedly.
When you buy in the North, is not the Meter paid according to the Quantity he measures out?
I believe he is.
Has he not the same Interest to increase the Measure in that Case that he would have in the other?
I am sorry to say not.
Because the chief Source of Interest to the Meter to make the Vessel "hold out" is furnished by the Captain, who receives a very large Benefit, by making that Vessel hold Twenty or Thirty Chaldrons more; he has his Twenty or Thirty Times Twelve Shillings more as Freight; but that ceases with us, his Freight being paid for in the North.
The Interest to increase the Quantity is chiefly with the Captain?
And the Way in which you suppose that affects the Meter is by some Understanding between the Captain and him?
Yes, just so.
For the actual Performance of his Duty he receives the same Payment in both Cases?
Virtually he does not, if he is feed.
He is paid by the Quantity measured out in London?
Therefore it is his Interest to make the Vessel go as far as it can under all Circumstances?
Yes, precisely so.
That is totally independent of any Interest which may arise from any Gratuity on the Part of the Captain?
Have you found any Difference in the Weight of a Bushel of Coals imported by yourself from Newcastle, and that which is bought at Market?
What Amount of Difference?
On Twenty-two Cargoes bought at Market the average Weight of a Bushel was only Seventy-six Pounds and Three Quarters, whilst the average Weight of Coals imported by us was upwards of Eighty Pounds.
To what do you attribute that Difference; is it to the breaking of the Coal, or in what Way do you account for the Difference?
I am sorry to say that I can account for it in no other Way, but only that of the Influence of the Captain with the Meter.
When you have your own imported Coals measured on board the Ship in the Pool, do you take them at Twenty-one for the Score or Twenty for the Score?
The Scorage or Ingrain does not affect us on that System; we call it Twenty-one; that is a Difference which must always be accounted for in our Stock Account, and the whole of this is stated in the Table I have given in as the Meter's Quantity. I consider a Score of Coals to consist of Twenty-one Chaldrons.
Whether bought at the Market or received from the North?
Exactly so; being a calculated Weight per Bushel, presuming that a Chaldron consists of 36 Bushels. It is under that Idea that the Bushel Weight is brought out there; it is drawn out by knowing that a Waggon of Coals of Two Chaldrons and a Half passing over our Weigh-bridge consists of 30 Sacks of Three Bushels each, that we divide that Weight by the Number of Bushels. The weighing single Bushels of Coals is only Matter of Experiment. The Imperial Bushel, with a regular Cone of Six Inches high, weighs from 82 to 83 Pounds; if properly measured with a Six Inch Cone Measure upon it.
When you import this Coal yourself from the North, do you make an Allowance for that which is called the Ingrain?
Ingrain does not affect that Statement, because it is reckoned 21 to the Score, which is with the Ingrain. If we bought Coals at Market we take for our Score of Coals 21 instead of 20, but that does not affect us in importing from the North; but that it may not be confused, all those Ships Cargoes bought at Market are there stated as 21 being a Score. If the Coal Factor will be good enough to give us 21 for the Score, the Directors expect that the Stock shall turn out the same, or so many Twenty-ones, though they have paid only for 20.
With respect to the Price you pay for the Coals when delivered to you in London, do the Coals you buy in the North come to your Warehouse at a greater or a less Price than those you buy in the Market?
Considerably less, if we import them ourselves.
Are there any Charges, independent of the Price in the North, that you save by buying yourself, instead of buying in the Market, and what are they?
The indirect Charges we avoid; such as the Profit the Factor might put upon them. We give the Factor a very slight Commission for passing our Ships through the Market. All Coal coming to this Market must, nominally, under the Act of Parliament, pass through a Sale; and the whole of the Coals of the Chartered Company, though purchased and paid for by them, are bought nominally in my Name. I go to the Market and sign for them: it is a mere Form.
How do you account for the Circumstance of your getting them cheaper when you import them yourselves than when you buy them in the Market?
Greatly on the Difference of Weight.
Not from saving any particular Charges, but from the Difference of Weight?
There are very few Charges we can save.
Do you employ your own Lighters?
No; we get that done by Contract.
Do you employ your own Carts?
No; that is done by Contract. The Lighterage, Landing and Cartage are done by Contract.
What are the Charges you pay for those?
It is a Contract taken by a Person for Three Years. Mr. Cooper, a Coal Merchant of Millbank Street, has taken a Contract to do the Lighterage, Landing and Carting for Three Years.
Is that at a Price per Quantity?
It is at a Price per Chaldron; it differs, according to the Circumstance of the Two Eastern Stations, having to go up the Regent's Canal, where we meet with heavier Charges than if it passes up the River to our Station at Horseferry Road. On the Coals at the Horseferry Road I think we pay about 3s. 6d. per Chaldron, Landing, Lighterage, Cartage and putting into the Stores; and to the Eastern Stations, passing up the Regent's Canal to the City Basin, 4s. 6d. per Chaldron.
How much Cartage is there to either of those Stations?
To the Horseferry Road Station, the Lead, as the Phrase is, is but short; direct to the Establishment is perhaps about a Quarter of a Mile. In the other Instances it would average a Quarter of a Mile to the Brick Lane Station, and fully a Mile on the Curtain Road Station.
You say you are well acquainted with the Collieries in the North, and the Way in which they are worked, and the Coals loaded on board the Vessels?
Have you ever considered how far it might be advantageous to buy, sell, and take the Duty on the Coals in the North by Weight instead of by Measure?
The Result of my Experience would go to make that Point very decisive; I think the taking it by Weight would be far the better Mode, and less liable to Fraud.
Do you conceive there would be any Difficulty in passing the Coals over a Weighing Machine on the Staiths, previous to their being loaded on board the Ships?
I think none; I believe in some Instances it is done; I have seen Weighing Machines on my Lord Durham's Railway, and I think on those of the Ouston Colliery. There can be no Fraud at that Point, for they run directly off the Railway into the Vessels.
Would there be any more Difficulty in passing the Coals that are loaded into the Keels over a Weighing Machine than those which are loaded by the Drop into the Holds of the Vessels?
I conceive not.
It was in consequence of the View of the Question you have detailed to the Committee, that you recommended the Chartered Gas Light and Coke Company to purchase and import their own Coals rather than buy in the Market?
It was; and I would beg leave to say, I have not read One Syllable of the Evidence given, either the last Session or the present one; I am therefore unbiassed by the Evidence; I felt it desirable to show the great Discrepancy existing between the supposed Weight and Measure of Coals, and of that which actually exists in the Market, so great that we cannot at all rely upon it. The British Almanack, which is published by the Society for promoting useful Knowledge, states that the Heap Measure of a Bushel of Coals in London contains 2,815½ Cubic Inches, and that a Chaldron of Coals contains 582/3 Cubic Feet; whereas my own Experience goes to prove that even on Coals imported, that is under the very best of Circumstances to get both good Weight and good Measure, a Chaldron of Coals seldom exceeds Fifty-four Cubic Feet in solid Contents, (i.e. a Measure of a Cube Yard twice filled,) and therefore the Bushel can be only 2,592 Cubic Inches, instead of 2,815½ Cubic Inches. It has been generally understood that the Weight of a Chaldron of Coals was Twentyseven Cwt., whereas it is much nearer only Twenty-four or Twentyfive Cwt., even under good Circumstances; and the poorer Consumers in London, I am satisfied, do not very often get more than Twenty-one Cwt. for their Chaldron. I have seen the Bushel of Coals, as delivered from a small Dealer in London, weighing only from Sixty-six to Seventy Pounds, and that was considered a very good Bushel, whereas it ought to be Eighty-one or Eighty-two Pounds Weight.
Have you had any Opportunity, when you have purchased whole Cargoes in the Market, of knowing the precise Quantity invoiced in the North at Newcastle?
Certainly not, and my tabulated Statements will shew Blanks under that Column; we never saw the Certificate; it might be got by demanding it from the North.
Did you ever happen to weigh a Bushel of Coals which had been exposed for any Time to the Action of the Atmosphere?
I have, and they weigh heavier.
In what Proportion?
Sometimes Four or Five Pounds a Bushel.
Does that depend on the State of the Atmosphere?
I can answer that Question a little more fully on a large Scale. The Ship Lady Durham, containing Harraton Main Coals, delivered to us on August the 9th, 1828, will be seen, in the Statement I have given in, as having made a great Weight per Bushel, Eighty-five Pounds, which is a very high Average, Eighty being the general Average; the whole Cargo came in wet, and one Barge was sunk in the Canal, which explains the Source of this Excess of Weight, and yet we find that it is not to any great Extent, it is Eighty-five Pounds, when on the Average of Weight we find the Coals about Eighty Pounds.
In the Case you have mentioned, of the Cargo of the Lady Durham, the Coals that had been wetted would be easily distinguished from a dry Cargo by the Eye?
Decidedly; we should have refused them had we bought them at Market.
So that, although they weighed heavier, the Consumer would have had an Opportunity of refusing them, on account of the State in which they were?
No doubt; the Wet ran out at the Bottom of the Sacks; it also dripped along the Streets through Waggons.
Are you of Opinion that Coals absorb Wet?
No doubt they do, to a certain Extent.
Have you any Idea to what Extent?
That would vary with the Species of Coal. I have not made Experiments enabling me to give very conclusive Evidence as to that Point; I have not tried the very extreme; I will do it if it is wished.
Which are the Coals that absorb Wet most?
The lower Class of Coals; which contain in their Fracture a good deal of carbonaceous Matter, rather than those which contain a highly bituminous Matter. The resinous fractured Coal would not absorb so much Moisture as the lower Class of Coals, which are dull in their Fractures, and contain Portions or Veins of Charcoal.
Is the Difference arising from the State of Moisture, or otherwise of the Coal, any thing like so great as that which arises from the Difference of weighing on the Part of the different Meters?
Do you use any Culm or Stone Coal in your Gas Works?
No, we do not; the chief of the Coals imported by the Chartered Company are from the Wear and the Tyne, and a very small Portion from the Tees.
There is One Cargo of Silkstone Coals in your Account; was that by way of Experiment?
Yes; but it would not do.
Why would it not do?
It gave us a good Quantity of Gas, but it fell short in the Coke.
Was that Cargo imported, or bought in the Market?
It was bought in the Market, and the Weight of it was 75lbs. and 3 qrs. per Bushel.
You have never imported any Silkstone Coal yourselves?
No, we have not.
Have you ever imported any Etherley?
Yes, we have, a considerable Quantity.
Do you continue to import that?
We imported none last Year.
We did better on the Tyne and Wear, taking Price and Quality together.
The Witness is directed to withdraw.
Mr. William Dickson is called in, and makes the following Statement:
In the Course of my Evidence before the Committee last Year, I was asked, (p. 147,) "Has Government any and what Check on the Meters?" and I said, "None whatever." I wish to explain to the Committee that there are Two Classes of Meters. One Class consists of certain Common Councilmen, nominated by the Corporation to act as a Committee for the Regulation and Government of all Matters concerning the Sea Coal Meterage; the Second Class are the Deputy and the Labouring Meters. The First Class receive a Deputation from the Board of Customs, and are sworn faithfully to perform the Duties entrusted to them, and enter themselves into personal Security, and are, in fact, Officers. Those Gentlemen, therefore, go by the Name of Sworn Meters; and our Warrant for Delivery is directed to the Sworn Meters, appointed to see the Ship delivered; in fact, however, the Metage is performed by the Second Class, or Deputy Meters, of whom I spoke in my Answer, and they make a Return of the Quantity of Coals delivered to the Sea Coal Meters Office, the Clerks of which Office indorse the Quantity on the Warrant, and send it to the Sworn Meter for his Signature.
Have you, since giving your Evidence last Year, further considered the Question of taking the Duty upon Coals by Weight at the Port of Shipment, instead of by Measure at the Port of Delivery?
I then stated that there would be an Objection on account of the different Weights of Coals. I was asked whether any other Experiments had been made as to the Weight of Coals. I have subsequently been informed by Sir Cuthbert Sharp, Collector of the Port of Sunderland, that at his Port some Experiments had been made on The Lady Frances Vane Tempest's South Main; they were made in the Year 1818; and 72 Bushels weighed 54 Cwt. 2 qrs. and 24 lbs.; of the Hutton Seam or Eden Main, 72 Bushels weighed 51 Cwt. and 12 lbs.; Mr. Lambton's Hutton's Seam, or Primrose, the 72 Bushels weighed 52 Cwt. 2 qrs. and 16 lbs.; Mr. Nesham's Hutton's Seam, or Nesham Main, the 72 Bushels weighed 49 Cwt. 3 qrs. and 14 lbs.; the Mandling Seam, or Fawcett Main, the 72 Bushels weighed 52 Cwt. 2 qrs. and 9 lbs.; and Mr. Davison's Beamish South Moor, the 72 Bushels weighed 49 Cwt. 2 qrs. and 15 lbs. It therefore appears that the Difference between the higher and the lower of those Pits are 5 Cwt. and 9lbs., which will make about 10 per Cent.
Are you aware which of those Descriptions of Coals you have mentioned are the superior and which are the inferior?
No; I merely took a Copy as I have read it to your Lordships.
Have you taken the Average of the whole?
No, I have not. I wish to call the Attention of the Committee to the Weight of the Eden Main. I have stated the Weight of the Eden Main in my former Evidence to be 25 Cwt. and a Half per Chaldron; and the Weight taken at Sunderland, it appears, agrees to that within 6 lbs.
With respect to the Revenue, do you conceive that this Difference of the Weight, such as you have stated, would be any Objection, as far as the Revenue is concerned?
It would be impossible to say what the Revenue would be, as there is no known Relation between the Ton and the Chaldron; it may be more or it may be less; it would depend altogether on the Amount of Duty fixed on the Ton.
How would it depend on the Amount of Duty fixed on the Ton?
As there is no known Relation between the Ton and the Chaldron, it would be impossible to say what the Amount of Duty would be. If we could take a general Average, it might be done; but the Coals differ so much, unless I could be certain that the Number of Chaldrons of each Ton would agree, that is, the average Quantities agree in the Quantities sent up for the Duty to be collected on, of course I could not say what the total Amount would be.
Supposing the Duty to be taken at so much per Ton, as shipped on board, how would the Revenue suffer from any Difference?
It would be impossible to say what it would be. I should contend that any Duty taken on the Weight would be a new Tax. It would be impossible, therefore, for any one, unless he knew the Number of Tons to be sent up, to know the Quantity of Money which should be collected.
Supposing 50 Cwt. was a Newcastle Chaldron, that 12s., for instance, was charged upon that Weight of Coals, would not that produce as much as the present Duty?
In the Case of this first Coal, which weighed 54 Cwt. 2 qrs. and 24 lbs., we should there take 12s., as Two Chaldrons. With regard to the 49 Cwt. 2 qrs. 15 lbs., we should still have 12s.; then it is evident that one must pay more and the other less, if the Duty is to be taken by Weight; for the 54 Cwt. would pay on a certain Quantity more than the 49 Cwt.
Suppose 50 Cwt. of each of those Coals was put on board, and that the same Duty was paid on each, how would the Revenue suffer?
There would be a very little Difference. If I am to take it on a certain Quantity, if I take it on the Measure, and the Weight corresponding, they are the same.
If the average Weight of Coals is taken, say 50 or 51 Cwt., as the Amount of Weight upon which the Duty is to be paid, would the Revenue suffer in such Case?
No, certainly not; the Revenue cannot suffer, I apprehend, if we get the same Amount of Money; but if you change from Measure to Weight, it would be impossible to tell what the Amount would be; for no one can tell what the Weight of a Chaldron of Coals is.
Is it not within Five per Cent.?
It is within Ten per Cent. Those are merely Sunderland Coals. I apprehend there are very many Differences between the Sunderland and the Newcastle.
The same Duty would operate unequally upon the different Description of Coals?
Does it not operate unequally at present?
Decidedly so; but the Tax has always been upon the Chaldron.
Therefore the Coal that bears an inferior Price, in fact, pays a greater Per-centage to the Revenue?
Yes; and if we were about to levy a new Tax, I should say, levy it on Weight. But if you are going to make an Alteration, you throw a Weight on others who have not felt it before. Lady Vane Tempest's Coal must pay more, if the Duty is laid by Weight, than it now does.
Will it operate in favour of the good Coal, or the bad Coal?
It not only depends on the specific Gravity of the Coal, but on the Size of the Coal. If it be a large Coal, more of the Coal will go into the Chaldron; and it will weigh heavier, though the Gravity of the Coal may be the same.
Would there be any Difficulty in levying the Duty at the Port of Shipment or at the Pit's Mouth?
It would require some Consideration to tell what the particular Difficulties might be in that Case; I should conceive there would be an Increase of Expence.
An Increase of Expence generally to the Revenue, or only at this particular Port?
I think generally; but I speak with great Deference upon this Subject, for it is not a Subject to which my Attention has been called.
Were not you employed by the Board of Customs to inquire into this Subject?
Did you make Inquiries into the Number of Officers that would be required to take the Duty at the Port of Shipment?
Yes, we took the Account of the Number of Staiths, the Number of Officers who would be required at those Staiths; there would be Seventy-one Officers, requiring only One for each Staith. At Newcastle, Blythe, Sunderland and Stockton, I believe I am not quite correct as to Sunderland, they gave us an Average of from Twenty-five to Thirty, and I have taken the lowest.
How many are employed in that Business now at those Ports?
None; it is put on board without any Supervision; the Coals sent Coastwise are not under any Supervision. On Foreign-bound Vessels they put an Officer on board.
How many of those Officers are there?
I am not aware?
They might be discontinued in case of this new System?
They might; but I apprehend there are very few.
Have you any Idea of the Number of Officers employed in the Port of London, and in other Ports, as Meters?
I see by the Returns there are 993 for England, Ireland and Scotland, and 158 for London.
Are there no other Officers besides Meters employed in the Collection of this Duty in London and the Outports?
None, except those belonging to the Office in which the Duty is collected here; there are Five of us in the Office in the Port of London, in which the Duty is collected.
Are there not Officers in the Outports?
No, I am not aware of any specially for that Duty in the Outports; there is no separate Establishment, but the Duty on Coals comes up with the Duties collected on other Articles.
The Witness is directed to withdraw.
Mr. John Woodhouse is called in, and examined as follows:
What is your Situation in the Custom House in London?
I am Inspector of Colonial Accounts.
Has your Attention been directed to the Question of taking the Duty on the Seaborne Coals by Weight instead of Measure?
It has to a certain Extent.
What is the Result of that Consideration?
The Result of that Consideration is, that with reference to the present Expence to Government, an Alteration of Duty would not be advisable.
You mean by that to say, that if the Duty was taken by Weight at the Port of Shipment, the Expence of collecting that Duty would be increased?
Have you made any Calculations to shew to the Committee that that would be the Result of such an Alteration?
Compared with reference to the Expence now paid by the Public in the Port of London, and at the Outports, the Duty could not be collected for the same Amount of Money to Government.
Can you state the Amount per Cent. at which the Expence would be increased by the Alteration of the Duty?
At present the Expence of collecting the Duty in London is only about 13s. 10½d. per Cent., and at the Outports about £2 16s.
What is the Occasion of that enormous Difference between the Amount of collecting in London and at the Outports?
Because the Government pays only a Halfpenny per Chaldron to the City of London in the Port of London, and at the Outports it pays more.
The Public have also to pay the Meters?
Taking in what they pay to the Meters, and all together, do you conceive that the Duty could be collected at a cheaper Rate than at present?
That Part of the Case was not the Subject of our Inquiry when we went into the North.
Taking the Coal that is sent to the other Ports, do you conceive the Duty on the same Quantity of Coals might be levied by Weight instead of Measure at the Pit's Mouth, at the Rate of £2 16s. per Cent?
I am not aware of the exact Number of Pits taken throughout the Country upon which it would be necessary to make the Collections.
Did you form any Estimate of the Expence which would be incurred in the Ports of Newcastle and Sunderland, and the other Ports you visited in the North, in case the Duty should be levied by Weight?
We were not perfectly aware of the exact Number of Officers that would be necessary to station, or the exact Description of Officers to whom it would be right to entrust the Collection of the Duty.
You made a Report on this Subject, did you not?
Yes; I reported to the Chairman of the Board of Customs, Mr. Dean; and I believe it was transmitted to the Treasury.
The Witness is directed to withdraw.
Ordered, That this Committee be adjourned to Saturday the Third of April, One o'Clock.