rose, pursuant to notice, to move for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the Income and Expenditure of the country. In moving for the appointment of a committee of finance, though it was that which had so repeatedly been done within the last few years, he was far from considering what he was about to submit to the House as a matter of course. He felt that he owed to them some explanation of the reasons why he recommended it in the present instance, and to afford a view of the general outline of the plan which ministers intended to submit, and to pursue in the course of the session. They would undoubtedly expose themselves to a great deal of just reproach, if the only measure of economy they had in contemplation was that which had been occasioned by the change in the Windsor establishment. The House would, of course, be anxious to have the general estimates laid before it; and as they were embraced in a very narrow compass, it would not be necessary for him to claim their attention for any considerable length: his principal object would be to touch upon those points, the details of which would subsequently come under the notice of the committee. He wished, in the first instance, to protest against the appointment of the finance committee being considered a matter of course in each succeeding session; on the contrary, he held such annual nomination to be an abuse of one of the most important powers of the House, which ought only to be exercised upon particular and special occasions. When, two years ago, he had adopted the same course he was now pursuing, he had stated that the then condition of the country required it; and he added, what the result proved, that the country might be satisfied that there was a gradual improvement in the financial circumstances of the country, and that, ere long, a growing surplus of revenue as compared with the expenditure would be discovered. At that time, his hon. friend the member for Bramber, had expressed some alarm, because he (lord Castlereagh) had admitted, that be was not sanguine enough to hope, that, in the course of that session, the committee would be able to establish so flattering a result, by accomplishing all the objects 361 intrusted to it. In fact, he had thought that two or three years might be required before the nation was able to ascertain, with any degree of precision, the fair bearings of its financial resources, and before an accurate balance could be struck between those resources and the annual expenditure. He now felt great confidence, that at the termination of the labours of the committee he was now about to propose, it would be found that there had been that growing surplus of which he had spoken, and that the balance in favour of the income had been created not merely by reducing the expenditure, but by the progressive advance of the various sources of revenue. His motive for moving for the committee so early was, that it might proceed with its deliberations without delay, and that the House might be in possession of a report that would show the real situation and fair prospects of the country. Most members would probably be aware, that any report relating to the comparative income and expenditure of the April quarter could not be prepared until towards the close of the session. He would much lament if the House were to separate without it; but at least, long before that period, a report applicable to the January quarter might be prepared, and the comparison, he was persuaded, would be more satisfactory: at all events, it would give a more perfect notion of our real situation in point of finances, than could otherwise be obtained. The first important point was the income of the country; and he would simply state the amount of the receipts, comparing the quarter ending on the 5th Jan. 1818, with the quarter ending on the 5th Jan. 1819. The receipts on the former were 51,665,458l.,and on the latter 54,062,000l. showing an increase upon the quarter ending 5th Jan. 1819 of 2,397,000l. It was material, however, to observe, that upon the sum he had first named, there were certain arrears of war duties on malt and property considerably beyond 2,000,000l., which reduced the income up to the 5th Jan. 1818, to 49,334,927l., while the arrears of the same taxes up to January last amounted only to 566,639l.; so that the produce of the permanent taxes for the latter quarter was in truth, in round numbers, 53,497,000l., being an improvement in the whole of 4, 163,000l., deducting from both the amount of the arrears of each. Honourable members 362 were likewise most probably aware, that a considerable amount of sugar duty had been admitted into the receipts for Dec. 1818, which in fact belonged to the revenue of the preceding year, and which ought, therefore, to be added to the produce of the sugar duties of 1819: this would take a considerable sum from the nett produce of 1818, and reduce it to 48,724,000l., while that of 1819 remained at 54,062,000l.; the difference, allowing for some other comparatively trifling deductions, would be 5,328,000l., or not less than an increase of 10 per cent upon the ancient permanent taxes [Hear, hear!]. It was impossible to announce to the House a more encouraging prospect than this state of things afforded: the increase on a revenue on 54,000,000l. was no less than 5,300,000l. Another satisfactory circumstance, well deserving notice was, that the increase was not upon any one article that might be supposed to have taken a sudden start, but upon no less than between thirty and forty of the articles which constituted the excise account; indeed, there were only one or two articles, and those comparatively insignificant, on which there was not a sensible augmentation: on bricks and tiles for instance, the employment of which unequivocally marked the wealth of a country, there was an increase of duty nearly amounting to one half. The last committee subtracted the amount of the sinking fund, and the expenses of the nation from the actual income, thinking it a question between the operation of the sinking fund on one hand, and the increase of debt on the other: and in their last deliberation they took the best prospective view circumstances would allow of the income and expenditure of the year 1819; and they thought that they might safely assume that the income of the country would be 52,500,000l., and the expenditure 51,087,000l., leaving a nett surplus of 1,413,000l. at the end of the year. Comparing this anticipation in May last, with the fact, as it now turned out, it was obvious, that the income, instead of being 52,500,000l. was 54,062,000l. or 1,400,000l. better than had been calculated upon. As to the expenditure, the finance committee had stated it at 51,087,000l.; but the estimates now before the House showed that it was only 50,442,000l., or about 650,000l. less than the sum expected. Adding, therefore, the reduction by economy of 650,000l. 363 to the improved revenue, it appeared that the country was now in a better situation by 2,145,000l. than the former finance committee had ventured to anticipate: and adding also to that sum the 1,413,000l. on which the finance committee had calculated, a total surplus of not less than 3,558,000l. was the result, applicable to the reduction of the debt of the nation. [Hear, hear!] Out of that the amount of interest on the loan was to be provided for. This, of course, must be taken as a charge upon it; for it need not now be stated by him, that his right hon. friend had no intention of proposing any additional taxes. The interest on the loan amounted to 1,000,000l. which still left 2,500,000l. of a surplus revenue. But it was to be taken into consideration, that the revenue promised to be more productive than had been calculated on. Even in the one month of the year which had already elapsed, there was an increase, compared with that which preceded it, of 300,000l. or 350,000l. If, as might be expected, this increase should continue, it would not be too much to reckon it at 1,000,000?. on the whole year, which would bring the surplus revenue again to 3,500,000l., applicable to the reduction of the debt. If the finance committee, on examining minutely all the details, should report that such was the fact, the House would feel ready to allow, that the great objects for which that body had been appointed had been brought to bear. God forbid he should be understood as asserting, that they had been brought to bear to the extent that sound wisdom might at a future period justify, or to the extent that was consistent even with that manly vigour which had always distinguished the policy of this country, in meeting the emergencies of the state; but undoubtedly one great object would have been accomplished, under Providence, in the bright and cheering prospect thus displayed to the nation. If tranquillity were preserved, if the industry of the inhabitants were unabated, if the same manly spirit of perseverance by which they had long been characterised were pursued, the happy augmentation of the revenue to which he had referred, would not only mark the last, but succeeding years, and a growing surplus might terminate in a mitigation of the weight of some of the most severe and oppressive taxes it was yet found necessary to continue. Thus the two ends of income and expenditure 364 would meet, and the surplus would be applied to purposes of general alleviation.
He would now touch those points on which ministers had the satisfaction of feeling that subsequent reductions might be affected in the present condition of the country. He expected to be told, that in this respect the nation was more indebted to the good advice offered on the other side of the House than to the uninfluenced determination of government. He never should be disposed to slight, much less to reject, good advice; on the contrary, he would devote himself most religiously to profit by it, to the utmost of his ability; but the House would not forget that some essential changes had taken place, at home and abroad, which induced ministers to think they might now carry into effect that economy, which would not have been wise or provident, until they could see distinctly the consequences to which it might lead: they could not earlier justify taking upon themselves so heavy a responsibility. The policy of the steps they had now taken might be the subject of future discussion, but at present it was only necessary for him to state a few important facts. The finance-committee had taken the military estimate at 8,967,000l., assuming a decrease of 300,000l. on the return of the British army from the continent; for the House would be aware, that a considerable sum must be devoted to the allowances of half-pay and pensions to the officers and soldiers whose services were no longer required. The committee had taken the expense of the army at 8,967,000l., exclusive of the 300,000l.; but he was happy to state, that ministers felt themselves enabled to take it at 8,700,000l., inclusive of the 300,000l.; so that the difference in favour of a greater saving of the public money was 567,000l., and the whole charge was covered for 267,000l. less than the finance-committee had calculated. On the navy estimate, there was a reduction of 100,000l., and the same saving in the ordnance department. There was, however, an expense to which the attention of the House ought to be called—not of a permanent nature, like that of Chelsea hospital, but temporary; and occasioned by the pay of regiments for broken periods. It was almost always impossible for ministers to reduce the regiments most within their reach. Some were at a considerable distance from home; a 365 change of cantonments was requisite, and this and other circumstances which it was not necessary to detail, occasioned an expense of about 330,000l., 100,000l. being connected with the transport department: this expense of 330,000l. was, however, as he had said, only temporary, and was all that parliament would be called upon to vote, connected with the topic of military reduction.—He would now state the amount of the reduction in point of men, taking the rank and file: the army in France, consisting of 20,126, had been reduced; of the troops voted last year for home service and for the colonies, there had been a reduction of 9,402, and in the artillery of 2,035, making altogether a diminution of 31,563 rank and file, exclusive of officers. There was one circumstance of which the House ought never to lose sight; and it was this—the annual expense was stated to be 16,237,000l.; but the whole of this, nor any thing like the whole of it, was not paid for troops actually on foot; for a large part, 4,358,000l. went to pay debts of gratitude to officers and soldiers, for services they had rendered their country; so that the direct expense of the army could not be stated so high as 12,000,000l. The pensions and other gratuities were constantly falling in, and the amount thus annually saved could not be calculated lower than 130,000l., or 140,000l. These rewards, although a heavy charge, were always paid with the utmost willingness to the defenders of the country, by sea and land; but they ought not, in making a calculation, to be left entirely out of the account.
The noble lord admitted, that if this were a deduction of prosperity merely drawn from the alleviation of the burthens of the nation, the prospect would not be by any means so enlivening; but it was peculiarly satisfactory to trace the growing resources of the country to the industry and every thing that constituted the real and solid wealth of a people; they were an unequivocal indication of the prosperity of the great mass of the population, and of an elasticity and vigour much greater than could have been expected after the struggles the country had had to sustain. A general, but a mistaken, supposition had been entertained some short time ago, that a great deal of commercial distress prevailed; that the exports had been most materially reduced; that the ports of the continent 366 were shut, in consequence of the want of commercial treaties; in short, there was a prevailing notion, that owing to some supineness on the part of ministers, the commerce of the country had sustained a severe and perhaps an irreparable shock. Yet how did the fact stand? Did the returns at all verily the gloomy conclusion? On the contrary, they directly contradicted it, as the House would perceive by a statement of the official value of the exports: he referred to the official value as distinguished from the real value; which, of course, fluctuated from year to year. The official account took the exports at an assumed value, and was rather to be deemed a statement of quantity than of value. He would call the attention of the House to that part only of our exports which was most important, as it regarded the true interests of the country; British produce and manufactures; and the comparison would extend to the four last years. It was with unfeigned satisfaction he had to observe, in the first instance, that the last had been the most splendid year ever known in the history of British commerce [Hear, hear!]. It even exceeded 1815, when the commerce of the country had gone beyond its predecessors to the amount of not less than 10,000,000l.—a rapid advance that was considered by some persons as forced and unnatural, as owing to temporary causes that would not afterwards operate. He was obliged to make the calculation upon the three first quarters of each year only, as the returns from the out-ports up to the 5th of January last had not yet been made out. In 1815, the official value of British produce and manufactures was 35,231,000l.; in 1816, 28,827,000l.; in 1817 (the year when it was asserted that the nation was commercially ruined, and the continent shut against us) 32,000,000l.; and in 1818, 35,325,000l., being nearly 100,000l. beyond the year 1815, the great excess of which was assigned to temporary, fallacious, and unnatural causes [Hear, hear!]. He trusted, therefore, that such a view of the state of the commerce of the kingdom was calculated to dispel the gloom which some had promoted in ignorance of our real condition: of course, he was far from wishing by such a representation to abate exertion in the same beneficial course; his object was, to remove misapprehension, and to show how mistaken those 367 dreary, desponding politicians were, who described the country in a condition, contradicted by the plain statement of facts—to prove, beyond a doubt, that there was neither now, nor at any time, any sound reason for maintaining, that, with a proper management of her finances and resources, Great Britain could not support herself in the pre-eminent situation she had so long filled among the great nations of the world. The prospect of the future was as cheering as the retrospect of the past was glorious. After the finance committee should have inquired into all the details of this important subject, would be the time for the House to decide upon it. But he felt the utmost confidence, that the result of its inquiries would confirm all he had advanced, and would warrant the utmost confidence in the inexhaustible resources of the British empire. When once it had gone through the labours he now intended to impose upon it—when once its report was made, and in the hands of members, it would serve them for constant reference on the vital subjects of which it treated, and would in all probability render unnecessary the re-appointment of the same body, at least for some succeeding sessions. The report would afford a distinct view of the financial arrangements and condition of the nation; and although no man could say that the alteration of circumstances might not disturb the prospect of gradual increase, yet it would be of a nature so permanent and perspicuous, that it would point out all the landmarks of the financial situation of the country (if he might so say), which would not be removed by any events that human foresight could contemplate. At least no slight variations from session to session could probably render a recurrence to a finance committee necessary; and though he did not pledge himself that it would not be expedient, yet it would be a departure from the old and wholesome practice of parliament, and from the sound principles of the constitution. The delegation at such high powers, as he had before remarked, ought not to be resorted to but on important emergencies: most assuredly an annual appointment would be highly impolitic and injurious. With regard to the selection of the members, it was not his intention to make any changes, but such as circumstances rendered absolutely unavoidable. He should suggest the re-appointment of those gen- 368 tlemen who had formed the last finance committee, with the exception of two, of whose services the House was at present deprived. He need offer no other reason for such a re-appointment than the acknowledged information they had acquired, independent of the claim which they derived from the exclusive merits of their previous labours, and which rendered them so peculiarly fit for the important duty about to be assigned to them. The House was aware that sir Thomas Acland and Mr. J. P. Grant were not members of the present parliament: instead of the first, he should therefore propose to insert the name of sir George Hill to represent the interest of the sister island; and instead of the last, that of Mr. Smyth of Cambridge.—The noble lord concluded by moving, "That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and state the Income and Expenditure of the united kingdom for the year ended the 5th of January 1819; and also, to consider and state the probable Income and Expenditure, so far as the same can now be estimated, for the year ending the 5th of January 1820, and to report the same, together with their observations thereupon, to the House; and also, to consider what further measures may be adopted for the relief of the country from any part of the said expenditure, without detriment to the public interests."
§ Mr. Tierney
regretted, that as the noble lord had gone into such detail, he had not given previous notice of his intention to do so, for no man who had heard the notice of motion for the revival of a finance committee, such as had existed in the last parliament, could have supposed at the time that such a motion would be accompanied with the opening of the budget for the year. He, as well as the House, were taken by surprise in this instance. He was not, therefore, prepared to follow the noble lord into a minute examination of all the items, but would give to the House such observations as occurred to him on hearing them. He was rather surprised to hear from the noble lord an insinuation that the present might be the last occasion when the exertions of the committee would be required—he meant such a finance committee as seemed to have been first intended, and; was really necessary; but if the committee which was then about to be appointed was to be-only of such a description as the last—if 369 it was only to receive from the government certain budgets, and send them back to the House as their reports, he thought it was of very little consequence whether they were continued or not. They might as well be got rid of all at once. They were, in fact, little more than the echo of ministers on all the accounts which were sent up to them. They consisted for the most part of ministers and their friends, with a few gentlemen from the opposition side of the House, who seemed to be stuck in, by way of garnish: indeed, that they were more dictated to than dictating, might be easily inferred from the extreme readiness with which they offered their acknowledgments to ministers, on those occasions where any suggestion of theirs was attended to. They were quite a different body as to the object of their association and research, from what had been originally intended. A finance committee should not confine itself to dry reports of what was or what was not the amount of certain branches of our revenue, but it should inquire what was the amount of the reductions which it was possible to make. With this kind of inquiry, however, the committee did not seem to have given itself any trouble for the last two years; and if one might judge from what they had done, it would seem that the whole and sole object of their appointment and continuance, was, to hold out splendid promises of future prospects, without endeavouring to realize any thing advantageous for the present. They were quite different from the finance committee, of which the predecessor of the Speaker, the present lord Colchester, had once sat at the head. They were quite different from another celebrated finance committee, and, in fact, from any finance committee, having for its object an inquiry into the different branches of the public expenditure, in order to ascertain how and where the greatest savings might be made. Their reports were only budgets by anticipation, but the noble lord s speech had anticipated those anticipations. In fact, that speech was made that itself and its accounts might be set down in black and white; and the House would find the whole of them detailed to it, in about a fortnight's time, when the first report of the committee should come down. Instead of any new reductions suggested, they would find only a dry detail of what might be expected on that 370 score, at some future period. The noble lord had talked a great deal, and built most sanguine expectations, upon what he called the present flourishing state of trade. He was not prepared to deny (not being equally well armed with the several accounts and figures as he seemed to be) that the noble lord's statement was well founded. But if the noble lord was right, all the merchants with whom he (Mr. Tierney) had conversed on the subject, and the number was by no means small, were wrong; for every one of them, to a man, had taken quite a different view of the question.—Without going at present into a very minute examination of this alleged prosperity, might not a great part of it be traced to the immense paper issues? The manufactures were likely to flourish; but there were two things to be taken into that account: capital was plenty—he spoke of capital, paper so called—and labour was cheap; put both those circumstances together, and the glowing picture which had been drawn might be accounted for. He would ask whether that could be called a flourishing state of trade which rested upon such bases? He should be told that this was speaking theoretically. He did not mean to rest it upon theory, nor even upon the opinions of the practical gentlemen on his side of the House; but he would have it explained by some of the practical gentlemen opposite. They might settle the matter satisfactorily, at least their experience would bear out his assertion.—He now came to the substantial part of the noble lord's speech—the improvement in the revenue. He agreed that there was a great improvement, and he congratulated the House and the country upon it. It was, however, only what they had been taught to expect by the anticipations of the finance committee, but he would take it as it was stated. The noble lord said the total sum in which the revenue of this year exceeded the preceding was 5,300,000l. The noble lord might be right, and he (Mr. Tierney) wrong. But he wished to see what was the exact sum which would be available for the present year. He looked upon the total sum not as 5,300,000l. but as 8,400,000l., from which there was to be deducted 1,000,000l. There would then remain only 2,300,000l. which could be calculated upon. Admitting this sum, and even a little more, how did it bear out the argument which was founded 371 upon it? The noble lord had said, that the income and expenditure would meet, and that there would remain a surplus. There never was a stouter assertion than this, nor one which was more calculated to give general satisfaction to the House and, the country, if it could be proved. But the noble lord, in building up this argument, and drawing so happy a conclusion, from it, had thrown out of his view altogether the sinking fund—that which he could not but imagine was a burthen to the country. This he conceived was a delusion on the part of the noble lord; and it would be a most complete delusion on that of the House, to imagine that this question of a budget could be fairly discussed without including the sinking fund. In order to put the matter in a way in which it would be more intelligible, he should take it thus:—He took the surplus of the consolidated fund, after considering the income as opposed to the charge upon it, to be 214,000l. But did the noble lord state what was to be done with this? He would explain the matter. There was an old debt upon that fund of 3,300,000l.; upon this the noble lord was also wholly silent. Then he (Mr. T.) should say, that before one farthing of the surplus of that fund could be made available to the expenses of the current year, the whole of the old debt upon it must be wiped off. If, then, this sum or surplus were added to the debt of last year, there would be an improvement in this year of 2,000,000l.; and on the 5th, of January, 1820, all the advance which the country would have made would be to get clear of the old debt. It was, evident then, that this surplus of the consolidated fund could not be taken into the ways and means of the present year; and what was to be taken into those ways and means? There were the land and malt tax, the war and excise taxes, and the lottery; the whole of which would not, after deducting all expenses of collection, exceed more than 7,000,000l.; that was the, very outside of the whole amount of income towards covering the expenses of the army, the navy, the ordnance, and the miscellaneous services. Beyond those 7,000,000l. there was nothing else that any one knew of. He might, perhaps, except the million which was due from France, and which the country were led to expect would be paid upon the evacuation of the French territory, He would ask the right hon. the chancellor of 372 the exchequer whether that sum was likely to be forthcoming this year? He presumed, as the right hon. gentleman did not make a sign, that that sum could not be calculated upon. Well, then, how was the difference between the income and the expenditure to be supplied, or how would the noble lord support the argument that both ends would meet—that the income would be equal to the expenditure, and that there would be a surplus? But then they were told there were to be reductions. The noble lord said he should be glad to take advice where he could with propriety. He (Mr. Tierney) would be much obliged to the noble lord for attending to his advice, and glad if it produced any impression. But he believed he might say with truth on this, as well as on another occasion, that it was the late general election which had produced the impression. He did not suppose for a moment, that his advice, or the advice and wisdom of Seneca, would have produced any impression on the hon. gentlemen opposite, if not supported by the countersign of the public. It was the recent strong and general expression of public opinion, the unanimous calls for economy from one end of the kingdom to the other, which had made an impression on the noble lord and his colleagues, and to which was due any forced effort of theirs to economise. He had not himself called last year for any particular reduction, but those with whom he had the honour to act did. They asked for a reduction of 5,000 men in the army at home and in the colonies. The demand astonished the. noble lord and his colleagues—a reduction of 5,000 men!it was monstrous; nobody ever heard of such a thing under the circumstances; but the voice of the people echoed the demand. The call for reduction was heard in every part of the country; and what was the consequence? What might naturally have been expected—not only the reduction of 5,000 men was agreed to, but ministers themselves came forward to propose that 9,000 should be reduced besides the army in France [Hear!]. It was not, then, to the economical dispositions of ministers, which we owed these measures, but to the effect of that necessity which they could not control. It should be recollected that there was little reduction in the navy; but in the army the navy, and the ordnance, the whole sum expected to be saved would amount 373 to no more than 400,000l. He would admit that the saving really Made would be more; but from the circumstances which the noble lord had mentioned, the full sum of 700,000l. saved in those branches would not be available this year. However, supposing the whole of the reductions to make the expenditure this year less by a million than that of the last, there would still remain an expenditure to be provided for amounting to 20,000,000l. He spoke from recollection only, but he took the expenditure of last year to be not less than 21,000,000l. Then, admitting 1,000,000l. less for the present year, how was it to be met? He had shown, that the chancellor of the exchequer had not ways and means that any person yet knew of, exceeding 7,000,000l. How were thirteen more to be nude up? For after all the reductions, there would still remain that sum to be provided for. How could any man in his senses say, that with an income of only 7,000,000l., and an expenditure of 20,000,000l., both ends would be made to meet, and a surplus left? It was a mere juggle to assert such a thing, and a juggle which he did not suppose there was a man in the House or country who would not treat as such. Where was the sinking fund, or what had been said about it? It would be said that there was a sinking fund of 14,000,000l., at least it would soon be nearly that sum; but to support it, it would be necessary to borrow 13,000,000l. Arguments founded upon the strength of that fund, as applicable to the public service, would be a gross delusion. Yet it was a delusion which had long been practised. It was a delusion which had been and would still be supported by the finance committee. They would say that our expenditure was so much, and our income (putting the sinking fund as it were in a parenthesis) was so much. But how did that apply to the real income with which the expenditure was to be met? The fact, was, there was only a sum of about 260,000l. which could be looked on as a surplus, and of that he had spoken before. He begged to be understood as not meaning to object to the principle of a sinking fund. He had always been one of its most warm supporters. But it was absolute mockery, down-right delusion, to talk of the advantages of a sinking fund, whilst the government was obliged to borrow a sum of 13,000,000l. a-year to 374 support it. Then, what was to be done? He would not say, that faith should be broken with the public creditor; but he did say, that the system which had been and was still pursued by ministers, would lead to that or to some other measure equally dangerous. He should again ask—for in looking at this crippled state of finance, the question naturally arose—how, under such circumstances, could the Bank be expected to pay, while government were confessedly unable to make good their engagements to them? And yet in this very state of things, the right hon. the chancellor of the exchequer was about to call upon them that night to vote 24,000,000l. of exchequer-bills in one line, without coming to the point of whether that would relieve the country from its difficulties. Would the House consent to this? Would they allow ministers still to go on in the same way without looking to the consequences to which it must naturally lead? He trusted not. But he would tell them, that if they did grant the sum now demanded, they would find that next year the same plan would be continued, if, indeed, before that time it did not destroy itself. Would the noble lord say, with these facts staring him in the face, that the country was in a most prosperous state, that we were going on flourishingly, and were the astonishment of the world? He conceived that, instead of being in a prosperous, we were absolutely in a frightful situation; and if the world looked upon us with astonishment, he should only say, well they might, for he believed that never at any period did we present such a melancholy picture of financial derangement—going on borrowing year after year, in time of peace—and flattering ourselves that we had a sinking fund to bring us out of our difficulties, when in fact we were obliged to support that, by still borrowing. He did not mean to deny, that if peace were of long continuance, the country possessed resources which, if properly applied, might bring us out of our difficulties. He was as sanguine on that head as any member of his majesty's government could be; but suppose a war should' arise—what was then to be done? The chancellor of the exchequer might as well think of raising the dead as of raising another large loan. He would then have recourse—for that would be his only remedy—to some measure of excessive taxation, or to that false kind of currency, 375 paper, the mischievous effects of which, bad; already been experienced. He knew that in case of emergency, the people, to a man, would be willing to share their resources, and contribute to the general relief; but they would perhaps be the less inclined to do so, when they recollect that their loud and repeated calls for economy had long been disregarded, at a time when they might have been attended to with effect. They would prove a faithful and powerful resource in time of need; but then they required that government should stand by them, and not deny their calls for economy when they could be answered. Would the House now consent that 12,000,000l. should be borrowed? Would they be satisfied to vote 24,000,000l. of exchequer bills in a breath; to go on in the fourth year of peace in the same manner as in time of war; and if they did, how would they be prepared to meet any sudden difficulties which might arise? They would take the consequences. He was not prepared to take the sense of the House upon the vote which the chancellor of the exchequer would propose in the course of the evening, but he thought it would be doing him a service if he did. He thought that, if the House came to the chancellor of the exchequer's assistance now, they would prevent the consequence which would follow from the present system, He would not have them come to a vote for a large sum at once, for then they might depend that nothing like a reformation in that system would be thought of; or if at all, it would only be at a period of the session too late for inquiry. He would (and he thought the House could not adopt a better plan), only allow him a certain sum weekly for the public expenditure, until the result of the committee should be known. In that case alone, might they expect to derive any real benefit from the committee. Unless some such step were taken, they might as well erect a paper mill in the centre of the House, and send to a committee to inquire how it might be pre-vented from working, as to inquire how the present system was to be checked or reformed. Why should not the right hon. the; chancellor of the exchequer proceed at once to some decisive measure?; Why?—because it would lead to a public inquiry.; And why not go to a public inquiry?.—because it would lower the price of stock. And why not lower 376 the price of stock?—because that would make a certain set of gentlemen angry. [Hear, hear!] These were the reasons which the right hon. gentleman urged, though not in as many words, but in point of fact they were his reasons; and they showed the kind of thraldrom in which he was kept by men whom he had allowed to have an almost unlimited control over him. He did not mean any of these observations to apply to the right hon. gentleman as an individual, for he looked upon him only as the organ, and he was the most faithful organ, which a besotted administration, on the subject of finance, ever possessed; but he applied them collectively to the whole body, of ministers acting together. To their united wisdom, if be might so call it, he would say, that the question then before the House was, and he hoped, the House would bear it in mind, whether we at present wanted 13,000,000l. to make both ends meet? We were not to consider whether we imported a greater quantity of sugar, or of tobacco, or any other article, this year than in the last.; nor whether it was a good apple year, or a bad apple year; but what we were to do to get out of those difficulties in which we had been involved—how the chasm in our finances was to be filled up, and what means were to be resorted to, to lessen our expenditure; for unless that was done, it would be useless to think of applying any remedy. It appeared to him: to be perfectly evident, that ministers must do something with respect to the sinking fund; because, if they did not, the system would not any longer, be endured. But then he was to be told, that this something was to be effected by the committee. It was notoriously the noble lord's organ, and, beyond a doubt, would again support, as it had supported before, the views which he had taken, and the prophecies which he had uttered on the subject. He could not see any reason why the people were to be: taxed 14,000,000l., when 12,000,000l.were to be borrowed; and could only consider it as another insult which: was to be offered them. He then animadverted, on an observation which had fallen from the noble lord, on a previous occasion, and which purported that the chancellor of the exchequer would not want any loan, that, is, any unfunded loan for the present year. He said that he did not know how to believe this assertion; it appeared to him 377 that if it were correct, they would want more for the next year. The system on which ministers were proceeding was one against which he must protest, inasmuch as artful men were making large sums by it, whilst the bulk of the people were consigned by it to ruin.—He had nothing to add to what he had already said, except to thank the House for the indulgence with which they had heard him. He had not intended to have entered into many of the subjects on which he had that evening touched, when he began his speech; but he had been inevitably forced into them in the course of it. In some of his details he might, perhaps, have been incorrect; but if he had been so, he hoped that the House would excuse him, on account of the unexpected manner in which he had been necessitated to venture upon them.
explained, that when he had said, that both ends of the income and expenditure met, he did not mean to cover the sinking fund; he merely alluded to the actual receipt and direct expenditure of the current year, without touching on the sinking fund. If any delusion were practised, it was by the right hon. gentleman who would endeavour to make the country suppose the existence of a state of things which would enable ministers to redeem the public debt at the rate of fourteen millions annually.
§ Mr. Tierney
did not believe that the noble lord meant any such thing. What he contended was, that by leaving all mention of the sinking fund out of this statement, the noble lord had afforded an opportunity for the dissemination of error on the subject.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
began by defending the finance committee from the attacks of the right hon. gentleman. He conceived the country had been very much indebted to the labours of that committee. Many sinecures had been abolished, and muck reduction had taken place in the military and naval expenditure of the country in consequence of their recommendations. Without detracting from the merits of the members of his majesty's government, who adopted, on the recommendation of the committee, such measures as they considered practicable, and of real benefit to the public:—without detracting from them, still it was proper to bear in mind, that the hands of the official government were very much strengthened in many of these measures 378 by the reports of the committee. He certainly did not mean at present to enter largely into the subject of their reports—those reports would furnish matter for future deliberation. But he would recommend them to the perusal of members, and from them the House would be better able to judge whether the committee had really answered those purposes of economy for which they were appointed, and assisted the judgment of the House as to what retrenchment was practicable in our expenditure. It was true, there were some branches of expenditure into which they had not yet entered, and particularly some branches which had been alluded to by the right hon. gentleman. But these branches bad not escaped the committee, though they had yet been occupied on other subjects. With respect, for instance, to economy in the collection of the revenue, and diminishing the present deduction from the gross re-venue of the country, this furnished of itself a very considerable branch of investigation. The committee anticipated that the revenue of the year ending 5th of January last, would exceed the expenditure by two millions and a half. It had so happened, however, that the revenue bad actually exceeded the expenditure by four millions, and the estimate of the committee by one and one half millions. It had exceeded in a still greater degree the revenue of the former year. But the right hon. gentleman finding that that statement exhibited too flourishing a view of our condition, had brought into his view certain particulars which could not enter into a fair comparison. The chancellor of the exchequer then entered into an account of the effects produced on the general finances of the united kingdoms, by the consolidation of the Irish and British exchequers, with the view of meeting some arguments of the right hon. gentleman, but from the low tone of his voice we were unable to collect the particulars of his statement. We understood him to say, that the right hon. gentleman, in his estimate of the consolidated fund, had not made sufficient allowance for the surplus in Ireland, which he believed was mot less than 600,000l. Interest was only charged in the Irish accounts on that part of the Irish debt which was funded in Ireland. The right hon. gentleman had next adverted to the view taken by his noble friend, of the actual receipts and expenditure of the 379 country. His noble friend had followed the course pursued by the finance committee, and confined himself to the actual receipts and expenditure of the country; but the right hon. gentleman had taken the whole charge of the consolidated fund and the sinking fund, and had then shown that our expenditure had considerably exceeded our receipts. It was impossible but the expenditure, in this view, must have considerably exceeded the revenue, as so considerable a part of the war taxes had been abolished. A part of the revenue, amounting to more than fifteen millions, had been at once repealed. Had this amount of taxation not been repealed, the right hon. gentleman would have found that the revenue would have considerably exceeded the whole of the charge. When these taxes were abolished, two courses were open to parliament. It was undoubtedly then competent to parliament to consider whether they would proceed by rapid and energetic measures to effect the reduction of the debt, by continuing the whole of the war taxes, or to proceed in the way which had been adopted, in effecting the reduction of the debt more slowly, by repealing a great amount of taxes. One or either of these courses could have been adopted; but it was impossible for ministers both to repeal a great amount of taxes, and at the same time effect a rapid reduction of the debt—they could not reconcile impossibilities—they could not both effect an immense payment of debt, and relieve the public from heavy taxes. Parliament had thought fit to relieve the country from fifteen millions of taxes, and thus they necessarily and unavoidably, by their own act, prevented the effect which would have been produced in the redemption of debt by these fifteen millions annually. Parliament had chosen to do this—he would not say they had acted unwisely—but they had chosen to do it, contrary to his recommendation [Hear, hear!]. But it would appear from the speech of the right hon. gentleman, that he was an advocate for a more vigorous system of taxation. However, it was thought by parliament that a reduction of such an amount of taxation would more than compensate for the non-redemption of debit by the relief which it would afford to the country in its distressed state. It was evident, however, that this plan of repealing so great an amount of taxes, and trusting to a gradual, and slow reduc- 380 tion of debt, by the subsequent improvement of the revenue, required a long continuance of peace. We had now ascertained that that improvement had commenced which was calculated on, and that we were now making a progress in the reduction of our debt, and his expectation was, that the reduction would be greater, from year to year, from the improvement of our resources [Hear, hear!] Whatever the right hon. gentleman might think, he would ask, if any man could have foretold—not in 1792—but even at the commencement of the war in 1803—that that war would continue so many years, and leave us with a debt of eight hundred millions—that he could possibly have imagined in every year after the peace some part of the debt would be reduced, and that in the third year there even would be a clear surplus of three or four millions a-year beyond the expenditure? This would not only have been beyond the hopes of any man at that period, but would indeed have seemed to be beyond the bounds of possibility. Such, however, was the real state of the case, even after the abolition of seventeen millions of annual taxes. With respect to his plan of operations for the present year, he could only answer the right hon. gentleman, as he had answered an hon. member some nights ago—he would not prematurely tie up his own hands, but would reserve to himself the power of adopting those measures, which the situation of public affairs rendered most expedient. He should certainly endeavour to select such measures as, in the judgment of his own mind and in that of his colleagues, should seem most advisable. He was happy to be able to assure the House, that the revenue continued in the same flourishing state. From the rapid progress it had lately made, the prospect for the country was most: favourable. Last month the revenue had exceeded that of the same month of last year in nearly as great a proportion, as that of the same month of last year had done that of the year preceding. He confidently trusted, therefore, that the revenue of this year would at least keep up to that of last year. He trusted that he had afforded the right hon. gentleman and the House all the explanation which they wished for at present; further details he should be ready to give in the committee.
§ Mr. Ellice
said, he should not now have 381 risen to consume the time of the House,. but for the confident tone in which the noble lord and the chancellor of the exchequer had spoken of the state of the commerce of the country. According to the noble lord, it appeared from our account of exports and imports, that the exports of this year had exceeded those of any former year, excepting 1815. In 1815, the great amount of exports was owing to the particular state of this country and of trade at that time. Our warehouses were then full of all sorts of colonial goods, which had come into this country from the enemies colonies, and which, on the return of peace, necessarily went to the continent; and the markets of the continent were also bare of our manufactured goods. All the goods of the enemies colonies must have found their way to the place of consumption, and that place of consumption was the continent. Since that time, the trade we had derived from the sources alluded to had failed us. We had restored to other powers those colonies; and, at that particular time, too, the continent was making an effort to resume their manufactures, which had, in a great measure, been destroyed, in consequence of the war. Having drawn the attention of the House to the circumstances of 1815, he would now advert to those of 1818. Now, as to the cause of the increase of trade in 1818, the chancellor of the exchequer could best inform the House. He had, in fact, created that trade by his loans from the Bank, and his excessive issues of exchequer bills, which forced the Bank to extend their issues, and enabled every man who wished to extend his dealings, to have any command of money he pleased, at a reduced rate of interest. No man who imagined he saw a chance of profit in any branch of trade, could be at a loss to obtain the funds at a reduced rate of interest. All this had increased the trade of the country. But what had been the consequence? The exportation had been so great, that there was not a market in Europe or America where British manufactures could not be bought cheaper than in this country [Hear, hear!] There had been a fall in all commodities of 20 or 30 per cent. Why had they been reduced in price In consequence of the change of circumstances, produced in our money market, Those who had lent money to the merchant now called for it again. The con-sequence of that was, that he was forced 382 to bring his commodities to market at a time when money was scarce. The price ceased to afford the manufacturer an adequate return, and consequently his stock went down. We were, therefore, not merely to look to the effect of the measures of the right hon. gentleman on the commerce of the country, but also to their effect in the manufactures of the country. We had had money in plenty, and manufactured goods were in great demand, because there was a plentiful supply of money. Then came a scarcity, and then a depression of our manufactures. Look to the present state of the country. There was not a manufacturer in Coventry, who by working fourteen or fifteen hours a day at present could earn more than six shillings a week. The master gave the workman a certificate that he had worked such and such a time, and the man went regularly to the parish for the remainder of his subsistence. When they were discussing a subject of this nature, they ought to look to the causes of all those distressing vicissitudes—and those causes all arose out of the vicious system of finance of the right hon. gentleman. The great exportation of 1815 had had the effect of raising the exchange above par in 1816. But then came the loan from the Bank, and the enormous issues of exchequer bills. He had no doubt but the chancellor of the exchequer conscientiously believed, that by the steps he was pursuing, he should be able so to raise the funds as to reduce the interest on a considerable part of our debt, and thus effect a great saving to the country. Then the French loans began, and then there was a great depression of the exchanges. Persons would not employ their capital at home at low interest, but would send it where they could get better interest. Last year the chancellor of the exchequer had been able to raise the stocks to 83. Those who had advised him to attempt to raise the stocks so high, with the view of paying off the 5 per cents, then left him in the lurch, and sold out. The chancellor of the exchequer had at length found out the error of his power, that he could create as much paper as he pleased. Loan succeeded loan in France, on which heavier interest was paid than the rate in this country. The interest of the Petersburgh stock was from 10 to 15 per cent. America too which was trying cash payments, was paying a large interest. When, all these 383 sources were open to the capitalist it was impossible to think that he would lend it to this government at so very reduced a rate of interest. He was sorry he had troubled the House so long [Hear!] He had only a few words more to say to those gentlemen, who, like himself, were there for the first time. He had the greatest confidence, both in the means and energies of the country, and he thought that with proper management our difficulties might be fairly got over. But if the chancellor of the exchequer continued to borrow one day for the purpose of raising the price of the public funds, and to issue paper merely for the purpose of producing it temporary prosperity, it was impossible that things could proceed. The right hon. gentleman had stated, that he did not consider himself bound by what he had formerly stated in answer to his right hon. friend on the floor. There were twelve millions which required to be met in one way or other. The right hon. gentleman had left it uncertain whether he was to raise these twelve millions by a loan or by exchequer bills. But he protested against the principle of issuing exchequer bills for the purpose of buying stock at 80, to pay off loans borrowed at 52. There was no opposition which could be offered to a measure of this kind which he would not offer.
§ Mr. Protheroe
stated, that he was one of those who, at a time when many were desponding, had expressed a strong opinion that the distresses of the country were of a temporary nature. His view had been confirmed by the turn which things had afterwards taken. He could not help, however, thinking that ministers relied too much on our exports and imports. The fact was, it was notorious that the commercial system of this country had very much altered. Instead of the cautious conduct for which our traders used to be distinguished, there was now a strong tendency to bold and adventurous speculation. This spirit was visible in all our dealings, from the most extensive to the more humble class of traders. How far this had been increased by our paper circulation, he could not pretend to say. Whatever might be the state of our exports and imports, it was Certain that there was now very great distress in the country. He knew that very many of the traders of this country were of opinion that it was impossible to check the paper circulation, without║384 giving rise to the utmost distress. He himself thought it could have been checked last year; but he confessed he was one of those who shuddered to think what the state of the credit of this country might be, if the paper circulation were now checked. He had, however, with the hon. gentleman who preceded him, the strongest confidence in the spirit and energy of the country, which he was persuaded would soon recover, if not injured and checked by perpetual fluctuations in the state of our circulation.
said, he did not rise to go into the general consideration of a subject so important as that which had occupied the attention of the House. Had he been disposed at the commencement of the debate to adopt that course, he should have been precluded from adhering to it by the incomparable speech of his right hon. friend. It appeared, however, to him, that the chancellor of the exchequer had arrived at a somewhat singular conclusion, with respect to the sentiments expressed in that speech. The right hon. gentleman had inferred that his right hon. friend was in favour of a vigorous system of taxation. He would have judged more correctly in arguing that he was in favour of a vigorous system of reduction. Was the right hon. gentleman willing to co-operate in the prosecution of that system? He was desirous of protesting, for one, on this occasion, against the presumption that by assenting to the formation of the proposed committee, he was precluding himself from the right of bringing forward any specific measure of retrenchment which he might think important to the public interest. It was not his wish to disparage the former Committee, or to underrate the value of their labours. It could not be denied, that they had rendered considerable service to the country; but, at the same time, it could not be concealed, that the good which was done might have been much greater. Committees of this description had also this evil connected with them—that they operated as a screen to the administration, and divided that responsibility which ought to rest exclusively on the servants of the crown. He was utterly at a loss to conceive, why the inquiries of the former committee had not been directed to the mode of collecting the revenue. An hon. member (Mr. Maberly) who had, in a late speech, discovered great intelli- 385 gence on this subject, had calculated that an annual saving of two millions might be made. Undoubtedly, a very considerable saving might be carried into effect. Not Laving heard the list of the noble lord, he should now go no further than to observe, that unless the committee in question should be composed of men determined to discharge their duty honestly and impartially, of men who would pay no regard to the patronage of the crown, merely as such, he much feared that its appointment would be detrimental, instead of producing any solid advantage to the country.
§ Mr. Hart Davis
stated, that there was a considerable depression in the country, and that interest, which was last year at so low a rate, was now at 8 or 10 per cent. Any sudden reduction of the circulation must, therefore, operate in a very ruinous way on the manufactures and agriculture of the country. With regard to the issue of exchequer bills, he differed from an hon. gentleman who had spoken last but two. There was always wanted a large sum in this country, which could be commanded at any time—a casual capital. By raising money by issuing exchequer bills to meet this demand, government had saved to the country a large sum in interest every year. The only measure at present to look to was, to see that the Bank did not draw in its issues, but continued to give to manufacturers and agriculturists a regular supply.
§ The motion was then agreed to, and a committee, to consist of the following members, was appointed: viz.—Lord Castlereagh, Mr. Bankes, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, lord Binning, Mr. Bootle Wilbraham, Mr. Peel, Mr. Hart Davis, sir George Clerk, Mr. Frankland Lewis, Mr. Huskisson, Mr. Tremayne, Mr. Nicolson Calvert, Mr. Davies Gilbert, Mr. Cartwright, Mr. Holford, Mr. Littleton, lord Clive, Mr. Gooch, sir George Hill, Mr. Smyth, and Mr. Calcraft.