HC Deb 24 May 1809 vol 14 cc677-82

The house having resolved itself into a Committee of Ways and Means,

Mr. Foster

, in the said Committee, stated the annual Ways and Means for Ireland, commonly called the Budget; which were as follow:

Unappropriated Balances 1,739,381
Deduct unfunded Debt £. 29,080
—Arrear to Howth 3,814
—Navigations 191,793
Estimated Revenue 4,500,000
Loan in Great Britain, 3 millions British 3,250,000
Ditto in Ireland 1,250,000
Quota for Ireland, 6,273,966l. British 6,796,796
Interest and Sinking Fund 3,690,404
Excess of Ways and Means 27,494
Money to be borrowed (Irish) £.4,500,000
Int. and Sinking Fun thereon 264,000
(In 1809 £.212,800)
Per Ann. In 1809.
1. Prohibiting Raw Corn in Brewery £.248,000 hf.-yr. £.124,000
2. Increase of Duty on strength of Spirits 130,000 2 months 32,500
3. Increase work on Stills 240,000 2 mouths 60,000
£.618,000 £.216,500
By this statement, continued the right hon. gent., I do not venture to estimate the Revenue of Ireland at more than four millions and a half, and in addition to which, it will be recollected, that a Loan has been already voted for the service of Ireland, to be raised in Great-Britain, to the amount of three millions British, or about three millions and a quarter Irish; together with one million and a quarter to be raised in Ireland, making in all 4½ millions. The sum therefore that is necessary to be provided is that which will be equal to the payment of the interest on that Loan, which, with the Sinking Fund, will amount to 264,000l. or as nearly as can be calculated in a round sum, 212,800l. Towards raising that sum, I shall first state a measure that has been already under the consideration of this house, I mean the prohibition of the use of raw corn in breweries, which I estimate will add to the revenue 248,000l.; but as it will only operate for one half of the present year, I shall only take it at 124,000l. The reason I state it at this particular sum is, that the quantity of malt used has only produced one-fourth of the number of barrels that formerly paid duty, being 504,000 barrels only. We have no certain data to go upon, but we have what will be a good foundation for forming a pretty correct judgment upon it.—Supposing that nothing but hops has been used as an ingredient, I reckon that the whole of the hops in Ireland would produce such a number of barrels as would yield annually 248,000l.; but as it can only operate for six months, I estimate, the sum arising from this prohibition of the use of raw corn in brewing, at 124,000l. The next sum I propose to raise is from an increase of the duty upon the strength of spirits by making an addition in the proportion of one to ten, upon fourteen degrees above the present strength, and this I calculate will produce 130,000l. a year; but as it will only operate for two months, I may state it at 32,500l. The third mode, by which I mean to raise what is necessary for the payment of the interest of this Loan, is by increasing the quantity of work on licensed Stills, which will produce 240,000l. a year. Now, at this last measure, as well as the preceding one, will not operate till about the 5th of November as the present laws enable his majesty then to allow distilleries to commence, I may state the sum likely to be raised in these two months at 60,000l. These three sums will produce 216,500l. which is about 2,000l. above what I will require for the purpose intended. This, I think, can give us no reason to despond. There has been no fall off in the Revenue in regard to stamps, but an increase; no fail off in that arising from the post-office, nor in the assessed taxes, but each have increased.—The only fall off in the Revenue has been in the instance of the Excise Duties, which I attribute to the measure of prohibiting distilleries in Ireland.—That is the cause of the fall, and therefore we are to look to the removal of the prohibition as the only mode to do it away, and make good the defalcation of the revenue, and I hope it will be removed early next harvest—The balances due by Collectors, have, by the documents upon the table, been decreased in the course of last year 150,000l. They were on the 5th of January 1808, 355,000l. on the 5th January 1809, they were only 205,000l. and therefore so far from the revenue not being properly attended to, as has been insinuated, it shews that it is pursued with a degree of strictness and energy surpassing any former period.—With regard to the situation of the country, therefore, I do not consider it in any degree worse than before. The value of the imports and exports is greater than ever it has been; never have there been a greater quantity of yards of linen exported than during last year, with the exception of one year, a considerable while ago, when it was equalled. It is satisfactory to know, that while the trade of Ireland is thus increasing, the amount of the revenue has risen much more. Look to the state of our exchange; it has been such as every one must know that money was coming in instead of going out; having been almost for the whole of last year under par. Therefore, taking that circumstance, and applying it to the situation of the country in other particulars, we have reason to believe that Ireland is more affluent than ever she was heretofore. The increase of the debt has been only owing to the circumstances of the empire, for the last two years; and therefore it was thought more prudent to go on raising our quota by a debt, than to have raised it by additional taxes. The whole amount of the debt of Ireland is certainly stupendous, it being already no less than 76 millions of money; and at the end of the present session it will amount to 81 millions—a sum which in former days many thought that Ireland could not have existed under; and yet there is no reason to think it will injure her in her resources in any degree.—I think it but fair it should be known, that great attention has been paid to ameliorate the situation of Ireland, to extend its trade, and to improve its agriculture. By the bounty allowed, there have been 13,600 additional hogsheads of flax-seed brought into Ireland; the utmost endeavours have been used to render her independent as to flax-seed; and lastly, every means have been adopted to add to the agriculture and tillage of Ireland, by draining and improving the bogs. Large grants have been issued for improving that source of cultivation and growth.—Although it is usual, Sir, to say much more upon such occasions as the present, yet, I trust I have said enough to satisfy gentlemen as to the real situation of Ireland; but if any hon. member wishes for further explanation, I shall be ready to go into it as far as I possibly can. Before concluding, however, I may venture to mention the terms upon which the Irish Loan has been contracted. It has been made in the 3½ per cent. stock of Ireland, there being given for every 100l., 120l. capital of that stock. The bidding was on the Treasury bills, bearing interest at 5 per cent., the bonus being at the rate of 9l. 2s. 6d. upon every hundred. Although the legal interest of Ireland is 6l., yet this loan has been thus contracted at an interest not exceeding in all 4l. 13s.d.; a circumstance which shelved the affluence of that country, and which should not make us despair. The whole charge of interest and sinking fund did not exceed the sum of 5l. 17s.d. per cent. upon the whole of the debt so incurred. The right hon. gent. then concluded with moving, "That the sum of 1,250,000 Irish currency be raised by way of annuities for the service of Ireland."

Sir John Newport

—Although Sir, the right hon. gent. has stated that the balances in the hands of the present collectors have decreased considerably within the last year, yet if the orders issued by the duke of Bedford, when lord-lieutenant of Ireland, in 1807, had been enforced, they would not have remained at one quarter part of the amount at which they now appear to be. The fact is, that from the period when that order was issued, the cash balances in the hands of the collectors were reduced to 33,400l.; but when matters were committed to the right hon. gentleman opposite, the balances in the stamp department, that of the post office, and those of the deceased and dismissed collectors, were considerably augmented. I have to complain that a balance of 26,900l. should have been paid into the hands of the Treasurer of the post-office, as I conceive it to be a direct violation of the orders then issued. By the directions of the duke of Bedford, it was also enjoined, that the gross amount of seizures should be stated in all accounts laid before parliament, for the purpose of ascertaining, not only the amount of those seizures, but the expence of condemnation attending them; but this does not appear to have been complied with. With res- pect to the taxes which the right hon. gent. proposes, in order to raise the expences of the present year, I must say, he is much more sanguine than I am. Why he conceives that the prohibiting of raw corn in breweries will raise the sum he states, I cannot imagine. As to the increase of the duty on strength of spirits, and the increase of work on stills, I think they will only hold out a larger inducement to illicit distilleries. I hope, however, that his taxes will prove more productive than I can conceive they are likely to be. I have one thing to impress upon the minds of the committee; and that is, that it is perfectly immaterial what portion of gross revenue is to be raised upon the people, and paid to the Treasury, if the expences of the different boards be allowed to go on increasing, as they have done hitherto. The incidental expences of the Board of Excise, in 1806, amounted to 13,000l.; in 1807, to 36,400l.; and in 1808, to 104,000l. of which last sum there was no less than 29,000l. paid to one individual for printing and stationary. This is only aggravating the burdens of the people, without raising any additional revenue. The gross product of the stamp duties had increased by 66,000l.; but there was a defalcation of no less than 44,000l. for increased expences. In the Post-Office too, the expences were upon the increase to such a degree, that one would think the nominal addition to the revenue was rather for the sake of adding to the burdens and creating jobs, than tending to the good of the public. It is lamentable to look at the increase of the funded debt of Ireland. On the 5th of January, 18O1, it amounted to 21,300,000l. on the 5th of January last, to 76,000,000l. and now the right hon. gent. states that it will be next January 81,000,000l. The debt has thus increased at the rate of 15 to 4, while the revenue has only increased in the proportion of 15 to 8½. If the debt of Ireland were raised as the debt of England, within the country, I really think that a great part of that debt would be done away.

Mr. Foster

answered, that he had the satisfaction to state, that the regulations of the Duke of Bedford had been actually followed up. There never was a period when there was so little money left in the hands of the Collectors of Excise for contingencies; and the papers on the table would shew it. As to the post-office accounts, they had never been settled since they were established; and as to the expence of the stationary and printing alluded to, it was occasioned by the division of the two boards, by which a completely new collection of books became necessary. It was natural to suppose it should increase as there were 14 commissioners instead of seven. The new arrangement, as to the post-office, must have also occasioned considerable additions to the incidental expences, but the public would soon be able to reap the benefit of them.

Mr. Parnell

observed, that when it was said, that the net addition to the revenue by the post-office, was 68,000l. he found that the postage of one board amounted to 13,000l. and if each board increased their expences hi alike proportion, that expence would amount to 39,000l. leaving 29,000l. to be received by the public. He could not help thinking, that the great principle of the revenue of Ireland was overlooked in the desire of extensive patronage, by the appointment of officers, so as to deprive the Irish Treasury-board of its power, and placing it in the hands of the Secretary of the Lord Lieutenant. He was satisfied that until an alteration in this particular took place, and the Treasury Board of Ireland took an efficient part, or be abolished altogether, and these matters of revenue be put under the Treasury of this country altogether, the abuses would never be remedied.

The Resolutions were then severally put and agreed to.