History of the City of London coal duties

The end of the duties

As described in The duties 1861 - 1890, the coal duties had been extended to 1889 by an Act of 1868 and in the late 1880s both the City and the Metropolitan Board of Works (MBW) were attempting to persuade the Government to continue the duties, which it was reluctant to do in the face of growing public opposition to the duties both on their own account and owing to their association with the increasingly unpopular Board of Works.

The City and the Board of Works however arranged for a Bill to be introduced into Parliament in 1887. Its provisions were very similar to those of the Acts which had continued the duties since 1861, but it was not passed. Evidently its rejection convinced the City and the Board that they must try to meet some of the objections to the duties -- for example the objection that the area of collection of the duties was much greater than that which benefited from them. In November 1887 they called a conference of London MPs presumably to produce an agreed formula for the continuation. A Statement for the use of the conference meeting at Guildhall on the coal and wine duties 16th November 1887 is in the files of the Coal and Corn and Finance Committee (COL/CC/CCF/04/006). This argues that it would impossible to reduce the coal duty area to that of the MBW because the latter passed through built-up areas and there would be a thousand possible crossing points. Instead it suggests that "it might be possible" to insert a clause in a renewal Bill "providing that an equitable share of the the duties should be allocated to the surrounding districts". The London Coal Dues map shows the possible amounts that could be allocated to each Parliamentary division outside the MBW area.

The Bill which was introduced into the next session (in February 1888) contained provisions for money to be paid, in proportion to their rateable values, to the MBW and the urban and rural sanitary areas in the "Outer Area" (i.e. the area between the MBW and coal duty boundaries). Both this Bill and an almost identical one introduced the next year failed.

It was, therefore, the unpopularity of the coal duties combined with their association with the Metropolitan Board of Works, which had become unpopular on account of its indirect method of election, which resulted in the London County Council (LCC) declining to renew the coal duties after that body was set up in 1889 following the Local Government Act 1888 -- see Gibbon & Bell History of the London County Council 1889-1939 pp 45ff.

Thereafter the duties lapsed (except for the one-year extension of the 4d. duty mentioned above).

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