§ The House having resolved itself into a Committee of Ways and Means, to which the annual Accounts of the Revenue, and the Disposition of Grants were referred,
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
rose. He said, that the House having now discharged its functions by voting the Supplies, which ministers had found it their duty to ask for the service of the present year, and the estimates having been printed, and for some time past in the hands of the members, he now felt it his duty to submit to the committee a statement of the Ways and Means by which he proposed that the expense of those supplies should be met. The House were well aware, that for particular reasons, he could have been happy to defer entering on the subject to a future day. But, as he could not postpone the annual statement which it was customary for the chancellor of the exchequer to make without rendering his conduct liable to a serious misconstruction, he had not thought it right to interpose any delay, as he considered that nothing short of the most imperious necessity would justify him in taking such a course, or in suffering the task of bringing it forward, to devolve upon any of his hon. friends near him, although he was sensible that the duty might be discharged by them in a manner more satisfactory to the committee. Unwilling to intrude upon them, he took upon himself the performance of the duty, and would endeavour as clearly, but at the same time as shortly as possible, to bring the Ways and Means for the present year before the House.
In the first place, he would state the 1074 Supplies which had been voted, and he would then enumerate the Ways and Means by which they were to be met. The House had already sanctioned estimates for the army, amounting to 8,750,000l.: in the last year they were 9,443,000l. The estimates for the navy tin's year were 6,176,700l., and were last year 6,586,695l. It was to be observed, however, that 100,000l. yet remained to be granted for this branch of service, on account of superannuations. The estimates for the Ordnance in the present year were 1,195,100l., and last year they amounted to 1,199,650l. The estimates for Miscellaneous Services had in part been agreed to by the House: the greater number, though not the greater amount, however, yet remained to be discussed; but he would, for his present purpose, assume that they would all be hereafter sanctioned by the committee of supply. For this year, then, they amounted to 1,900,000l., while in the last they had risen to 2,444,100l. The total amount, therefore, for the different services this year was 18,021,800l., and for those of the last had been 19.673,688l. It was therefore obvious that if the House should give its sanction to the full extent of the estimates proposed this year, a reduction; of expenditure would be effected to the amount of 1,651,888l. It would be in the recollection of the House, that when at an early period of the session, he had intimated an expectation that a diminution in the public expenditure would be effected to the amount of a million and a half, there were not wanting those who were not ready to assent to the probability of such a reduction being accomplished. It would therefore appear, that in this instance, his majesty's ministers had gone beyond what the House had expected. To the supplies which he had already enumerated, there was to be added for the interest of Exchequer bills the same sum that had been voted for a similar purpose last year; namely, one million. To this must be added for the sinking fund on Exchequer bills 290,000l. making, with the supplies which he had already gone over, the total amount for the service of the present year, 19,311,800l. The total voted under the same heads for last year was 21,083,688l. It would therefore be seen that the reduction effected in the present year did not fall far short of 1,800,000l., its amount being 1,771,888l.
1075 He would now proceed to lay before the committee the Ways and Means to which he had proposed to direct their attention. In the first place the House had sanctioned the following: Annual taxes:—4,000,000l. The House had sanctioned taxes to this amount instead of that of 3,000,000l. at which they had been taken last year. The reasons for taking them at 4,000,000l. for the present year he would proceed to explain. A certain portion of the excise duties granted during the war, and which were to have expired on the 5th of next July, had been added to the annual taxes, instead of being continued to the consolidated fund. The produce of these having heretofore amounted to a million, he had felt justified in adding that million to the estimated amount of the annual taxes. But it was proper to remark, that for the increase so claimed, a corresponding diminution would be found in another portion of the Ways and Means. This would be seen in the very next article. The committee would find that the temporary excise duties for the present year were taken at 1,500,000l. instead of 2,500,000l. at which they were estimated last year. The reason of this he had already explained, while stating the increase in the annual taxes. The result was this, that under the two heads he had enumerated, the expected produce was precisely the same as last year, the amount being 5,500,000l. The lottery he took in the present year at 200,000l. In the last year it was taken at 240,000l.; but as the actual produce had fallen considerably short of that sum, he did not deem it prudent to take it at more than 200,000l. For the old stores he thought he was entitled to take 163,400l. The next item was in its character somewhat novel and extraordinary, and required explanation. He had just laid before the House, papers by which it would be seen that there was a surplus of the pecuniary indemnity due to this country from France, amounting to 500,000l. which was applicable to the public service of the present year. He regretted that he could not Jay before the House a detailed account of the whole of the payments which had been made by the French government, and their application. It had not been possible to get it made up in time, the payments not being completed; but early in the next session, he expected it would be laid upon their table. At 1076 present he would give the House such information as it was in his power to supply from memory. It would be remembered that the sum to be paid by France as an indemnity to this country, had amounted to 125,000,000 of French livres, or about 5,000,000l. sterling. From this sum the bounty of parliament had taken 1,000,000l. which had been bestowed, in conjunction with our allies, as a donation to the army employed in achieving the last glorious events of the war. The extra expenses of the army of occupation had been provided for by further deductions to a considerable amount. The French government, in addition to the sums paid as indemnities, had advanced other sums to meet the expense of the army of occupation, which it had been thought necessary to maintain in France. But as the allowances for a continental army were not equal to those required for a British army, a considerable expense had fallen upon this country which, though in the first instance met from other sources, had finally been paid out of the indemnity. The sums issued by the paymaster-general, amounting to 1,200,000l. had also been taken from the same source. Other payments had been made for the Hanoverian troops which formed a part of the British army. Various sums had been paid to individuals who had claims on the British government for services performed. The French government, pursuant to the treaty concluded, had made a liberal provision for the relief of those who had suffered from the spoliations of their armies. In some instances, claims of a similar description had been made on the British government. These had been answered, and after providing for the various charges which he had described, and further, after advancing to complete the fortifications in the Netherlands, the sum of 2,000,000l. there remained a surplus of 500,000l. applicable to the service of the present year, and perhaps a small additional sum at the winding up of the accounts might be applied to the Ways and Means of next year. He hoped he had stated the outline of the case intelligibly to the committee. For the particulars, of course, they must wait until the accounts could be produced. The next item to which he had to call their attention, was the sum received in re-payment of Exchequer bills for public works, under an act passed in 1819. The sum realised last year under this head, was 198,000l. 1077 Ins the present year it amounted to 125,000l. While he was upon this subject, he could not but congratulate the Mouse upon the successful operation of the act to which he had alluded. By the issue of Exchequer bills which that act bad authorized, most important assistance had been afforded to the industry of the country, and several public works had been brought to a successful conclusion, which had previously languished from a want of funds to carry them on. Upon this subject, therefore, he sincerely congratulated the House, that without bringing any charge on the country, effectual aid had been given to those engaged in carrying on important, and in many instances necessary public works, which could not but prove highly conducive to the general good. The only remaining item to which he had to call the attention of the committee, was a surplus of the Ways and Means of 1820, amounting to 81,630l. The total amount, therefore, of what was called the ready-money produce of the year, it would be seen was 6,570,030l. In order to make this sum meet the Supply, which he had stated amounted to 18,021,000l. it became necessary to take a loan from the sinking funds of Great Britain and Ireland; he therefore took from the sinking fund of Great Britain, 12,500,000l.; from that of Ireland, 500,000l. The reason for that division had been not only to leave a larger sum in the market, but also because the sum of about 500,000l. was necessary for the payment of the excess in Ireland beyond the amount of her consolidated fund. Perhaps it might be right here to observe, that in consequence of this diminution of the sinking fund of Ireland, which would still, however, leave a considerable sum applicable to the purchase of stock, a necessity was felt of allowing there-transfer of stock, from Ireland to England; so that a stockholder would be enabled to choose in which part of the empire he would receive his dividend. This would also be the means of producing other beneficial effects on the market. To these statements was only to be further added the increase of capital of the Bank of Ireland equal to 500,000l. Irish, or 461,539l. British currency. The total amount of the Ways and Means would thus be, as he had already said, 6,570,030l. from the ready-money produce of the year; and 13,461,539l. from the sinking fund, and the Irish Bank capi- 1078 tal, making in the whole 20,031,569l., or an excess of about 13.000l. beyond what the service of the year would, require. The total amount of the supply, and of the Ways and Means, Was as follows:
SUPPLY. 1820. 1821. 9,443,243 Army £.8,750,000 6,586,695 Navy 6,176,700 1,199,650 Ordnance 1,195,100 2,444,100 Miscellaneous 1,900,000 19,673,688 18,021,800 18,021,800 1,000,000 Interest on Exchequer Bills 1,000,000 410,000 Sinking Fund on do. 290,000 21,083,688 19,311,800 19,311,800 1,771,888 By Reduction of Unfunded Debt, viz. 9,000,000 Irish Treasury Bills 500,000 Bills for Public Works 206,400 706,400 30,083,688 20,018,200
1079 He had stated that a large diminution had been made in the public expenditure for the present year. He did not know that he had a right to hold out the expectation that any farther material reductions would be made. But he could state: that the government had most anxiously turned their attention to this subject, and every saving that could possibly be made, consistently with the honour and security of the country, would be brought under the consideration of parliament in the ensuing session. But while he stated it to be the object of ministers to make every possible reduction in the public expenditure, it was proper lie should mention that there were one or two contingent circumstances which seemed likely to cause an increase, if not in the present year, yet probably within a short period. The first of these was the charge of the out-pensioners of Greenwich Hospital. This had hitherto been met by a fund, to which officers contributed from their prize-money, and which continuing to accumulate in war had hitherto been sufficient to meet the expense thus thrown on it. But the interest of the fund so established, was no longer equal to the burthen, and it was therefore probable that the charge must fall upon the public. It was however expected, that in the course of five or six years, from the diminished expense which might be calculated upon, and from other circumstances, that the fund would again be sufficient, and the public be relieved from the burthen. But a legal doubt had lately arisen whether any thing, except from the interest, could be taken to meet this head of expense, or whether the capital could beat all touched, to provide for any part of that disbursement. It was, in fact, thought that, as the law stood, there was no power of applying to the current service any part of the surplus after defraying the charges of the in-pensioners and of the hospital itself. The question was therefore, whether it might not happen, when the interest was applied in the manner he had mentioned, that the expense of the out-pensioners would fall upon the public. If this occurred, the amount to be provided (that was, supposing the whole expense of the out, pensioners to fall upon the public) would be 300,000l. a-year. He repeated that this legal question had been raised, and might possibly involve the present year a claim upon the country for the 1080 amount which he had mentioned. This was one of the contingent circumstances which might call for some additional expense; the other was that of the claims of the East-India Company, arising out of a mixed and complicated account between that corporation and the government. With respect to this account, he felt it right to say, that government had no other wish but to see it equitably adjusted. Whenever the adjustment took place, and a balance should be struck against government, of course a demand quoad that amount would be made to discharge the debt. That demand might be made within the present session, if the account should be settled in time to show how the balance stood. He begged at the same time to add, that he did hot mean now to call for any further grant in the Ways and Means' on this account; and it was doubtful even whether he ever Should; for he thought that, with a small variation in the time of paying the Exchequer bills, an adequate arrangement might be- made for liquidating the balance. The Company's claim was two millions; one million of which was considered at present doubtful, owing to the nature of the items composing the account; for instance, there were extravagant sums charged by way of interest for payments made by the Company on the part of the government, under several heads on India. This account, he repeated, the government were anxious to have settled upon an equitable basis; and they were determined, in future, to prevent such an accumulation of arrears, by having the accounts between the Company and Government annually audited and settled.
WAYS AND MEANS. Granted for 1820. Estimate for 1821. 3,000,000 Annual Taxes 4,000,000 2,500,000 (Excise Duties) Tea Duties 1,500,000 240,000 200,000 260,000 Old Stores 163,400 Surplus of Pecuniary Indemnity payable by the French Government 500,000 198,000 Exchequer Bills for Public Works repaid 125,000 Surplus of Ways and Means, 1820 81,630 6,570,036 Sinking Fund Loan, viz. 12,000,000 Great Britain 12,500,000 Ireland 500,0001 13,000,000 Bank of Ireland, Increase of Capital 500,000 Irish Currency being in British Currency 461,539 12,000,000 5,000 000 Loan 7,000,000 Funding Exchequer Bills Exchequer Bills 30,198,000 £20,031,569
He had already shown, that the supply for the present year, including 500,000l. for Irish Treasury bills, and 1,000,000l. for the interest of Exchequer bills, with a sinking fund on them of 290,000l. amounted to 20,018,200l. exclusive of the supplies necessary to meet the existing debt, amounting to 30,706,400l. He wished now to show how the sinking fund loan would operate upon the purchase of stock. It would be undoubtedly satisfactory to persons connected with the funds to know, that although a loan of 12,500,000l. was to be taken from the sinking fund in the present year, and though but 12,000,000l. had been taken in the last, the sum for this year's purchase of stock was 60,000l. larger than the sum appropriated to a like purpose in 1081 the year 1820. He then entered into a more detailed comparison of the sums received by the commissioners for the reduction of the national debt in Great Britain and Ireland, in the year ending 5th January, 1821; and an estimate pf the sums which will be received by them in the year ending 5th January, 1822, exclusive of the sums set apart to pay life annuities, which was as follows:—
In another year he hoped there would be no occasion to take a loan from the sinking fund of Ireland, but that its full amount would be left to operate upon the public debt. There was another important view to be taken of this subject. The finance committee of 1817 and 1818, besides unravelling many other intricate accounts, called for statements of the cash payments made in each year by the commissioners for the reduction of the national debt, in order to show how much the debt was diminished, and how much of the sum taken to liquidate it was made good by borrowing. This view of the subject he had called upon the House to take in the last as he did in the present year, and to compare the actual income and expenditure of the years 1820 and 1821. In the year ending January the 5th, 1821, the revenue actually received in the United Kingdom, amounted to 54,022,714l. To this was to be added, for the lottery 156,154l. For old stores 263,820l. Repayment of Exchequer bills 198,000l. Amounting together to the sum of 54,640,688l. And now he came to the Expenditure of the same year:—The actual charge on the consolidated fund was 48,597,157l. Interest upon the Irish sinking fund and unfunded debt 2,300,219l. Making a total of 50,897,376l. This was the amount of the charges borne by the public, exclusive of the supplies for the service of the year, which he had before enumerated. The actual expense for the army, navy, and other services made the total charge amount to 71,199,864l. Then if the actual income were deducted from the 1082 above amount of public expenditure, the latter would be found to exceed the Revenue by 16,559 176l. But the sinking fund were applied to this, amounting to 17,509,773l. in point of fact it would appear that there was a surplus of income over the expenditure amounting 956,597 l.—But this was not a fair way of viewing the subject, because the interest of the unfunded debt was changed 2,300,000l. Now, the actual amount of the interest of the unfunded debt' outstanding, did not exceed l,000,00l. and the amount of the sinking fund 400,000l. But then there had been a large arrear of Exchequer bills unsatisfied, to the amount of 900,000l. which had been met, and this was to be added to the debt liquidated in the last year, making a total of from 1,700,000l. to 1,800,000l. In the course of the year 1820, the situation of the country had improved to that amount clear of every thing.
— Sums applicable to the Total Sums received. Purchase of stock. Sinking Fund Loans. Great Britain. Year ending 5th Jan. 1821 4,101,024 12,400,000 16,501,024 1822 4,160,202 12,000,000 16,160,202 Ireland (B. C.) Year ending 5th Jan. 1821 645,865 645,865 1822 491,294 174,462 665,756 United Kingdom. Year ending 5th Jan. 1821 4,746,889 12,400,000 17,146,889 1822 4,651,496 12,l74,162 16,825,958
He would now proceed to state what he thought would probably be the amount of the revenue of the present year. In the first instance, he would assume the general revenue to be the same as the last, and he would presently state the grounds upon which he made this calculation. He would take it then at 54,022,714l. The lottery at 200,000l. Old stores 163,400l. French indemnity 500,000l. Repayment of Exchequer bills for public works 125,000l. Total 55,011,114l. The amount charged to the consolidated fund would be short of what it was last year by about 100,000l. He would take it in round numbers at 48,500,000l. The interest of the unfunded debt, including Exchequer bills and some arrears due to the Bank of England 1,700,000l, Total 50,200,000l. Without going through the particulars' of the supplies he had before enumerated, it would be sufficient to state, that these added to the sum he had just named, made the total expense of the present year 68,221,000l. being 3,000,000l; all but 100,000l. less than the expenditure of last year. Deducting the amount of the revenue from this, there would remain a sum of 13,209,868l. of expenditure beyond the revenue. But as the sinking fund amounted to 16,800,000l. there would be an actual reduction of debt to the amount of 3,590,000l. As he before remarked, there was 466,000l. for they interest of Exchequer bills in arrear. This sum was to be added id the excess 1083 come in the present year, which would thus be made to amount to about 4,000,000l. It would be recollected that it was the object of the House to obtain a clear sinking fund of 5,000,000l. It was not likely that a sinking fund to that amount would be obtained in the course of the present year, unless the revenue experienced a very considerable increase. But there was every reason to hope that they would so nearly approach the accomplishment of the object the House had in view, as in the proportion of four to five.
He now came to explain the reasons that he had for calculating that the revenue of the present year would not fall short of the revenue of the last. The ground upon which he entertained this expectation was the amount of the actual payments into the Exchequer in the first five months in the year. So far as it was possible to make up the account (the Irish accounts being left one fortnight in arrear), it appeared that the progress of the revenue fully justified the hope he had expressed. The actual payments made in Great Britain, between the 5th of January and the 1st of June, 1820, amounted to 15,556,184l. But that sum included payments for the stock of malt in hand, which formed no part of the regular income of the year. The sum received for the stock in hand amounted to 312,353l. This deducted from the actual payments into the Exchequer for the first five months of the year, reduced the sum he had mentioned to 15,243,831l. The actual payments in Ireland, up to the 20th of May, amounted to 1,339,480l. The total amount for the United Kingdom being 16,583,311l. This was the amount of the revenue up to the period which he had mentioned in 1820. In the present year the actual payments made in Great Britain from the 5th Jan to the 1st of June, amounted to 15,388,322l. The payments for Ireland 1,435,312l. Total, 16,823,634l. It therefore appeared that in the first five months of the present year there was an excess over the same period in the last of 240,000l. If they deducted from the last year's receipts the 312,000l. for the stock of Malt on hand, the revenue had thus cleared in five months 240,000l. of the extra sum raised last year upon that account; and they had only to make good 70,000l. in seven months, to place the revenue of this year upon an equal footing with the last, even with that ad- 1084 ventitious increase of its amount. He thought then, that unless some unexpected misfortune occurred, it must be clear that ministers did not overstate the argument in their own favour, in making the calculation which he had just submitted to the committee. In 1819, parliament had determined on doing that which certainly threw a great burthen on the country, by imposing new taxes, calculated to produce 3,000,000l. for the purpose of obtaining a clear sinking fund to the amount of 5,000,000l. That object had not yet been attained, but he had shown the committee that they already approached a sinking fund of 4,000,000l. It would be well to remember what were the circumstances under which this effort was made. The situation of the country had been extraordinary in every point of view. Large reductions had been made within the period he had alluded to, of certain branches of the national debt. In August 1818, the Bank had held government securities to no less an amount than 28,000,000l. That sum had been reduced under the sanction of parliament, till the securities held by the Bank in exchequer bills were little more than 9,000,000l. beyond the usual current account. Thus the unfunded debt bad not only been greatly reduced, but 19,000,000l. of the sum appropriated to that purpose had been paid to the Bank. In every other case, money paid by the government on one side and received by some party on the other, was immediately thrown into all the various channels of circulation. It was not so with respect to payments made to the Bank. Whatever sums they had received were taken from the general circulation, and this circumstance necessarily tended to cramp the resources of the country. Had not this money been in some degree thrown again; into circulation, he hardly knew how the country could have sustained such an effort. But how had it been put into circulation? The Bank had employed it in purchasing bullion. This was certainly for a most important object—the resumption of cash payments. But the money was expended for that which was useless when it came into the country—which was laid up un-profitably in the coffers of the Bank, and could not be made available for a considerable time. These things considered, he doubted whether any country had ever made so severe an effort—had ever submitted to so great a sacrifice to sustain its credit, and to keep good faith in all its 1085 engagements. The effort had been made, and the country had triumphed over the difficulties connected with it, and refuted the aspersions which had been thrown upon its integrity. He congratulated the House that it had been made, and that they now saw the Bank paying in cash. There was no longer a dread of further restrictions being imposed, but its payments in future would be left to take their natural course, and stimulate all the diversified powers of reproduction. This was already seen; and they beheld a degree of life and animation thrown into the industry of the country which had been little calculated upon a few months ago. The great increase which had taken place in the value of funded property, must increase the value of all other descriptions of property in the country. This must be felt in the mortgage or in the sale of lands, as many, reluctant to purchase stock at its present high price, were naturally led to employ their capital in that direction. In 1816 and 1817 much distress was experienced, similar to that which had recently been the subject of complaint. A general stagnation of trade was alleged to exist, an entire want of demand for different commodities, and a scarcity of the circulating medium. What was the effect of the rise in the funds which followed in the years 1817 and 1818? That rise was not so permanent in its nature, as, he trusted, the present would prove. We had then to undergo that great change in our currency which was now in progress, and to the consequences of which every one was then looking with alarm. They might now hope, from the measures which had been adopted, that if the advance of the country was more tardy than could be wished, that there was all the less danger of our going back to that state of distress from which we were recovering. If we should have no new enemy to encounter, fluctuations might be expected, occasional misfortunes would be experienced, and partial changes would take place in the value of property; but there were no grounds for anticipating a recurrence of calamity on a scale so general as that which seemed to threaten the nation before the great measure to which he had alluded had been adopted by the wisdom of parliament. But, reverting to the effect produced by the rapid rise of the funds in 1817, he could not but remember that on an occasion similar to the present, he had congratulated the 1086 House on the three per cents having risen to 74. The price had now for some days been above 74. Shortly after the period to which he had referred, they rose to above 80, and the consequence was, the most sudden revival of the industry of the country that had ever been witnessed. So that of late they had been accustomed to look back to the year 1818 as to a year of comparative prosperity. It was with pleasure that he directed the attention of the House to the change which had lately taken place, as nothing could more distinctly indicate the immense inherent resources, and the solid means which the country possessed. We had got over the difficulty arising from the state of our currency, certainly not without great inconvenience and suffering; but there were grounds for believing that much of that suffering proceeded from other causes. For it was remarkable, that similar distress had been experienced in most of the countries of Europe, and in a more extraordinary degree in the United States of America, where no such system as ours had been in operation to any considerable extent. It was therefore clear that some great and more general cause produced that wide-spreading distress which had been experienced. The attention of the House would soon be more particularly called to this subject, and he was therefore unwilling to detain them upon it now. He would only say, that a more striking illustration of the great internal resources of this country could hardly be afforded than was supplied by that change to which he had called their attention. He could not but notice with satisfaction the accumulation of capital which might be remarked among the lower classes. The wise measure adopted by parliament for establishing depositories for small savings had been attended with the most gratifying results, and furnished a curious barometer of the internal state of the country. Accounts which had been presented to parliament proved that these savings had progressively increased in every month up to the 5th of last April. The increase had in almost every instance been gradual and progressive. And at the latest period, a greater progressive increase appeared to have taken place than had been previously known. Since the 5th of April, from 19,000l. to 20,000l. per week had regularly been paid into the Bank of England upon account of Saving Banks. When this was considered, from 1087 the view which it gave of the condition of the middling and of the lower classes— from the indications which it presented of the industry and wealth of the country— it might, safely be assumed that there never was a period which furnished a more gratifying display of the safety of the country, and the stability of its resources. He felt the more satisfaction in pointing out these things to the consideration of the House, as individuals who were only in the habit of viewing public affairs through the medium of particular prejudices, were accustomed to describe the country as exhausted, enervated, crippled in its resources, and unable to make those exertions which particular circumstances might call for. Such ideas were erroneous. It was not true that other nations had gained advantages over us. He believed that England, compared with the other nations of Europe, would be found to have its full share of those blessings which peace might be expected to bring. This country had undoubtedly submitted to a greater effort of finance than had been made in any other. But this was the only country that had lessened its debt since the termination of the war, and in which taxes to the amount of many millions had been repealed. These circumstances were most gratifying subjects for reflection. Difficulties were still to be encountered, but greater difficulties had been triumphantly surmounted than any of those with which we had now to contend. What remained would, he doubted not, be vanquished, as those which preceded them had been, by the wisdom of parliament and the firmness of the people.— The right hon. gentleman then moved, "That 13,000,000l. be granted by annuities; 12,500,000l. whereof in Great Britain; and 500,000l. British Currency, in Ireland."
said, that the observations which he should now offer would refer, in a peculiar degree, to the supply for the year, as he could not see that there was any great objection to the general nature of the Ways and Means. In the early part of the session he had stated, that a saving might be made to a very considerable extent, under the head of "Supply," and he was sorry to see that so small a saving appeared to have been made. He would endeavour to point out what the real state of the country was at the present moment, and what he conceived would have been its state if judicious measures had been 1088 adopted. The interest of the debt, together with all sums appropriated in various ways to the payment of interest, amounted to 48,328,780l. He considered this to be a debt for which they were bound to provide, unless they proposed to be at once unjust and ungenerous. They had borrowed the money during the great struggle in which they had been engaged; and they had borrowed it on fixed and specific terms. Amongst others, it was agreed that a certain sum should be appointed as a sinking fund. He thought it was impossible to diminish that debt, except by a reduction of the 5 per cents in a subsequent year, by which a, saving of 1,400,000l. might be effected. No reduction could be made in the 4 per cents, as they were connected with a very distant period. It appeared to him that the debt thus contracted should remain without interference. It had been stated that, to relieve the distresses of the country, particularly as they affected the agricultural interest, a tax should be laid on this species of property. He thought that those who had thus embarked their property, and who had made very considerable sacrifices already, ought not to be treated in this way. Prior to 1792, a large sum was due to them on the existing debt; and, by the act passed in that year, one per cent should have been put by on all sums borrowed after that period. That benefit was taken away from the fund-holder, and large sums were abstracted from the sinking fund. The fund holder had given up his right cheerfully, because by doing so, he conceived that he kept up his own credit. But, if petitions had been presented, stating the facts of the case, and complaining of the proposed innovation, nothing except the utmost exertion of the strong arm of parliament could have accomplished that object. No less than one-sixth of the whole expenditure of the country, a sum of 12,000,000l., was taken from the sinking fund. He did not expect much saving with respect to the large sum collected for taxes; but he was sure that a very considerable saving might be made in the mode of expending between 26 and 27,000,000l. The finance committee reported in 1818 that the expenditure ought not to be more than, 17,350,000l.; but that sum was exceeded in 1819 by 1,900,000l.; in 1820 by 963,000l.; and in 1821 by 671,000l. That committee stated as their reason for suggesting a reduction, the distressed 1089 state of the country. Ministers had, however, increased the expenditure of the country most improperly. The expense of the array might now, he conceived, he reduced to the full extent of 1,000,000l. The hon. member for Aberdeen had, fortunately for the country, examined the various items in detail; and although his exertions had produced no beneficial result this year, he was well satisfied that the stand made in that House, and the support which it had received out of doors, would lead ultimately to effects highly useful to the country. He expected that the right hon. gentleman would have proposed that 10,000 men should be taken from the army' service, and 4,000 from the navy; but, although the right hon. gentleman had not dope' so, certain he was, that a reduction to that extent ought to take place. 'When he had formerly called for an investigation of the public accounts, the previous question was moved; but ministers had since come down themselves, and called for a commission to examine the finances of the country; and what had been the result? Had not the expenditure increased since? Ministers came down with a resolution which set forth "that, in order to accelerate the period when the country should be relieved from part of its bur-thens, it was necessary that a vigilant control should be exercised over the whole expenditure of the country." Yet, in that very year the expenditure exceeded the sum recommended by 1,900,000l. Notwithstanding all that; had been Said by the right hon. gentleman, he believed the sinking fund last year was somewhere about 2,200,000l. He observed, with' surprise, the large sum charged for interest of exchequer bills. It now appeared that a much larger sum was due for, interest of exchequer bills than had before been heard of. There must be a debtor and creditor account of exchequer bills and interest;' and for that document he should move. The House would thus be enabled to learn what amount of interest was actually outstanding. They were told that 4 or 500,000l. was so outstanding; but it was, at present, impossible for them to ascertain the fact. Had economy been resorted to, the right hon. gentleman would have secured that long-sought-for sinking fund of 5,000,000l. It appeared to him that a sinking-fund was necessary for the support of public credit; and it should al- 1090 ways be of such a nature that; circumstances should never' make it doubtful whether the interest of the fund holder would be paid. In 1792. Mr. Pitt took a comprehensive view of the finances of the country, and set apart a certain sum to form a sinking fund. He went farther, and appropriated a sum in order to-lessen taxation. If the same course were now adopted, it would essentially relieve the public. If, hereafter, of every million that was saved, one half was added to the sinking fund, and the other half appropriated to the reduction of taxation, if would produce more happy effects than if the whole were thrown into the sinking fund. And why? Because the people, who were paying such immense taxes, would then become satisfied that every effort would be made to relieve them; and there Would be no necessity for supporting a large standing army to keep them in order. When once they saw such a measure adopted, they would cease to be discontented with the government; and sure he was that they were not discontented with the constitution. He was far from taking a gloomy view of the resources of the country. He could not take such a view of a country which was able to supply 62,000,000l, of revenue. When he considered, that the capital of the public debt' was increased in 26 years by 600,000,000l. which had accumulated from the savings of the people; when during that time it was notorious that a large sum had been expended on the soil; that roads had been formed, bridges built, canals excavated towns almost wholly erected, and cities greatly enlarged; when, in addition to all this, had found that Scotland within the last 28 years had become almost a new kingdom, and that Ireland was much improved, he could not look with gloomy apprehensions to the resources of an empire which had made such mighty exertions. He hoped, that the House Would feel that it was expedient as well as just to keep its faith with the, public creditor, and, above all, that it would check that innovating spirit which would introduce a tax on one species of property, in order to serve another. That was not the way to remedy the distress and inconvenience complained of. The only remedy which could be applied to the existing distress was, he believed, that which a noble lord had stated elsewhere, namely, time. The landed interest had, no doubt, a very heavy account to settle 1091 with their tenants, which could only be settled by a reduction of the price of labour, and by a diminution of taxation.
§ Mr. Astell
did not wish to interrupt the general satisfaction which the statement of the chancellor of the exchequer had produced; but when he talked of certain balances claimed by the East India Company, as being of a doubtful nature he could not allow that which appeared to him to be an evident breach of faith to pass unnoticed. That balances were due to the Company by the government had never been denied till this hour. It was fresh in the recollection of the House that the Company had given up their island of St. Helena to government for the purpose of keeping Buonaparte in safe custody. This was done with an understanding that the detention of that individual should not cost the Company any thing. But what was the fact? It had cost them annually between 2 and 300,000l. It was not the fault of the Company that the money had not been repaid. It had been repeatedly applied for. The Company had the promise of being paid 500,000l. in May, and the remainder in the July following.
did not participate in the general satisfaction which had been alluded to by the last speaker. With such a code of revenue laws as we possessed, it would indeed be matter of surprise if the taxes were not collected. But, after all, the total of the statement of the right hon. gentleman appeared to be, that if we took away a fund appropriated for the payment of the national creditor, we should have, 6,000,000l. left to pay an expenditure of 16 or 17 millions. We borrowed from a fund set apart for the payment of debts, and we so borrowed in order to help on our national expenditure. We collected the revenue it was true, but we did it at the inconvenience, the distress, of the people. The right hon. gentleman had spoken of the advantage which had attended the erection of saving banks; but did he know that in every parish there were people out of employ, that rents were reduced, and that labour was paid out of the poor-rates. He believed the country could not be relieved-without a material removal of taxation. His hon. friend had talked of increased capital; but he must contend that all the instances mentioned by his hon. friend were not proofs of an increased capital. It was merely a change of hands, as regard- 1092 ed capital already in existence. It was a mortgage upon his estate, and upon every mans estate; and we were all so much poorer by the amount of the interest. Hon. members should all put their shoulders to the wheels, and endeavour to relieve the country from its present difficulties.
§ Sir J. Newport
was of opinion that what had occurred with respect to the revenue of Ireland would ultimately happen to the revenue of England. He argued, that taxation, augmented beyond a certain extent, must produce, not an increased, but a diminished revenue; a position which he exemplified by referring to a variety of articles which, having been taxed too high in Ireland, produced much less to the revenue than they had previously done.
§ Mr. Ricardo
said, that the chancellor of the exchequer always gave a most flattering account of the state of the country. Last session he had declared that the funds which would be applicable to the expenditure of the present year would be much greater than what he had now stated them to be. He had stated that the addition to the sinking fund would have been 1,700,000l. instead of 950,000l. had it not been for the additional interest on exchequer bills. Now, he wished to know whether the interest of those exchequer bills had not been provided for in the preceding session? He thought a sum was voted for that purpose, because he took occasion, on the last budget, to remind the right hon. gentleman that he had made no provision whatever for the interest on the exchequer debt; and he stated in answer, that provision had already been made out of former votes. If that were the cage, he must place this payment against certain debts which should be liquidated in the present year, and not against that which fairly belonged to the budget of former years. From the papers which were in the hands of members, it appeared that the account might be correctly stated thus:—By the annual accounts, the amount of the unfunded debt appeared to be 17,292,544l. There were funded, during the last year, 7,000,000l. exchequer bills, which, added to the former amount gave a total d of 24,292,544l. There was a deficiency arising On the consolidated fund, which the right hon. gentleman had entirely; left out of view. That deficiency amounted to 517,232l. during the present year, and this 1093 being added to the enormous deficiency which existed before, might be stated, in fact, at 8,990,000l. And here he could not help remarking, that these accounts, from the way in which they were made up, did not give the committee that correct view of the state of the finances which it was desirable that it should be furnished with. If he wished to consult them for information, he could find no part from which he could clearly discover what the annual deficiency upon the consolidated fund really was. A paper having been moved for some time since, he was enabled to ascertain that on the year ending the 5th Jan. 1821, that deficiency was 8,850,827l. and in the year ending 5th Jan. 1820, 8,321,000l. The difference between the sums was 429,327l. Now, this being the case, what was the reason that in the annual printed accounts which were delivered to the House, the amount of the deficiency upon the consolidated fund for the very same period, was stated at 517,232l. instead of 429,327l? making a difference between those accounts and the return which he spoke of, of 87,905l. He did not mention this difference upon account of the magnitude of the sum, but for the purpose of showing how little reliance could be placed on these public accounts, under their present shape. But, to return to the matter of those accounts. It seemed that, during the last year, we had contracted loans to the amount of 24,292,544l. to which must be added, for the deficiency upon the consolidated fund, 517,232l., making together 24,809,776l. Against this amount they must put that part of the debt which had been paid off. It must be shown how much money had been devoted to that purpose; and then, whatever balance appeared, by so much had our debt increased or decreased. We had a sinking fund last year of 17,510,000l. The amount of treasury bills paid off was 2,000,000l. The difference between the amount of exchequer bills upon the 5th January, 1820, and the 5th January, 1821, was 5,934,928l. So that we had devoted, in truth, to the payment of the national debt, whether funded or unfunded, during the current year, the sum of 25,444,928l., and reckoning, as he did, the amount of the debt contracted to be during the same period, 24,809,776l., the difference would be 635,152l. The actual amount, therefore, of difference, between the debt on the 5th Jan. 1820, and the debt on the 5th Jan. 1821, did 1094 appear to be no more than 635,152l., although the right hon. gentleman, by some other species of calculation, made it amount to 950,000l. The House was told by the right hon. gentleman, that there would be a sinking fund next year, of 4,000,000l. Now, assuming the revenue for the current year to be as stated by the right hon. gentleman, and supposing that there should be such a sinking fund, it was to be remembered that the right hon. gentleman had included in his calculation a sum of 500,000l. which he said he was to receive from France, and which was applicable towards the payment of the national debt during the present year. But if this 500,000l. was so applicable during the present year, it would not be in the next, or any future year. He (Mr. Ricardo) wished to know what funds could be made of general and permanent application in this way; and therefore it was of little avail to bring forward such a sum as this in such a statement. He took it that the sinking fund would really amount to 2,809,000l.; and the sinking fund on exchequer bills, to 290,000l., making the sinking fund 3,099,000l. instead of 4,000,000l. He confessed he was one of those who thought a sinking fund very useless. He did not mean to say that he was not favourable to such a fund in the abstract. Upon the principle of the thing there could be hardly any doubt; but, after the experience which they had had, he did not expect to see that principle acted upon. He did not expect that it would ever be made applicable to the reduction of the national debt. The hon. gentleman then briefly recapitulated the history of this fund from the time of sir Robert Walpole. When Mr. Pitt came into power, he was desirous of establishing a sinking fund upon the safest and most permanent principles, so as to secure it from all intermeddling of ministers. What had become of this sinking fund, and where were all these boasted securities? First of all, the present chancellor of the exchequer came down to the House boasting (as if he were going to confer a great obligation on the country and the fund-holder) of his intention to take about 7,000,000l. of the annual income of this sinking fund; and he then talked of the greatness of the treasure with which we should be incumbered. That right hon. gentleman's alarms ever seemed to arise, not from any prospect of our pover- 1095 but from the great increase of our wealth and accordingly he was always telling the House of the various mischiefs that resulted from excess of capital. Had that right hon. gentleman considered the true principles of capital, he would have seen that there never could be much danger of its excess. Upon the subject of this sinking fund, he would take the liberty of calling the attention of the House to a pamphlet which had been written under the auspices of a right hon. gentleman opposite he believed. [The hon. gentleman here read an extract from a pamphlet.] This was the system of which it had been gravely observed that no departure from the original measure, and no violation of the act of 1792, had taken place in the subsequent appropriation of the fund. Now, the principle of Mr. Pitt's system was professedly this —that thereafter, every war should carry in itself the seeds of its own destruction. In every word of the reasoning of this pamphlet upon this question, he (Mr. R.) did most cordially agree; and hence he inferred, that such appropriation as had been made of the sinking fund, was a violation of the public faith. It was the violation of that fund which had entailed upon us a large increase of debt; and they who expected to see it preserved inviolate hereafter, did, in his Opinion, deceive themselves. The right hon. gentleman had ventured to apply, in payment of the interest of a new debt, almost all the sinking fund that remained to us. Almost all, did he say! The right hon. gentleman had, in effect, applied the whole of it. He had lately increased the taxes by 3,000,000l., a sum which was more than the sinking fund actually amounted to. He (Mr. R.), therefore, was rather disposed now to say, "Let us have no sinking fund; let the money remain in the pockets of the people. When the ministers want supplies, whether for carrying on a war, or for any other purpose, let them come down to the House and ask for them, without having any such fund to resort to." Ministers' were accustomed to tell the House that they must have a sinking fund to meet exigencies, to second the efforts of our armies and generals, and to inspire the enemy with a salutary respect for us. But the legal and the original intention of the sinking fund was, to pay off the national debt; in proof of which he might refer the House to a well known- speech of Mr. Pitt's. 1096 [Here Mr. Ricardo read a passage from it.] After this declaration of Mr. Pitt, and after all which they had seen in late years, could they place any confidence in ministers as to their being likely to act Upon such a principle? Under all circumstances, whenever a motion should be made for the repeal of any tax that was within the actual amount of the Sinking fund, he, for one, would support such repeal. He knew it would be objected that the revenue would sometimes fall short in particular branches, which would make it difficult to supply the deficiency. If so, let government impose new taxes to raise the full sums necessary for the State; but he would never consent to this sort of misapplication of a fund created for the specific purpose of liquidating the debt of the country. But this sum had been appropriated and fresh taxes imposed likewise. The people consented to fresh taxes on that occasion, in the hope that they should the more speedily experience some relief; and but for this reasonable expectation, parliament too would never have been induced to impose them. Unfortunately, the people of England were at this moment much more in debt than they would have been if there had been no sinking fund in existence. He should offer but a word or two relative to saving banks. He highly approved of them; but a plan had been suggested by a gentleman in the country, to which he thought the House would do well to pay some attention. The name of this gentleman, he believed, was Woodrow, and his plan was one by which a life-annuity income might be obtained in these banks. The plan was, that persons at an early age might be willing to make a trifling sacrifice, which, by the operation of compound interest, would in the course, say of thirty or forty years, increase to a considerable sum. At the birth of a child, a father might be disposed to put by a small sum of money, for the purpose of procuring to the child an annuity hereafter: a plan of this kind would be productive of great benefits.
§ Mr. Lockhart
said, that the chancellor, of the exchequer had spoken of the magnanimity with which the people bore their burthens. The agricultural portion of the community had, indeed, exhibited magnanimity; but what magnanimity had been displayed by the stockholder, who was getting double what he gave? The magnanimity and the patience were all 1097 on one side, and the gain all on the other, Although in figures there might be an apparent diminution of the expenditure of the country, yet with reference to the prices of corn and other articles, that expenditure was absolutely equal to what it had been in the heaviest year of the war. The end of all this was obvious. The only just course was, to resort to every species of retrenchment, and to take such measures as would subject every class of property to an equal share of the public burthens.
§ Sir H. Parnell
said, that instead of the new taxes producing 3,000,000l., they had only produced about 700,000l, which proved that the sources of taxation were dried up, and afforded the best reason for retrenchment. They should recollect, that a war might become necessary, and that unless they husbanded their resources, it would be impossible to meet such an event.
§ Mr. Hume
adverted to the report of the Finance Committee of 1817, by which it was recommended that these estimates should never for the future exceed 17,550,000l. In that very year, however, the votes of supply were 18,001,300l. and their present amount was much upon the same scale. The expense of the collection of the revenue, so far from being lessened, had, of late years, gone on increasing. In Scotland, the expense of collecting the revenue, which, in 1805, was between 4 and 4½ per cent, had increased year after year until it now amounted to between eight and nine per cent. In this one item a saving of 1,400,000l. a year might be made to the country. With respect to the debt due to the East India Company, he had told the directors, that if they suffered the government to continue in their debt, it would at last be said that nothing was due to them. To this circumstance it was owing that there were no detailed accounts of the expenses incurred for the detention of Buonaparté at St. Helena, which had already cost the country two millions. He contended that the sinking fund this year would not greatly exceed two millions.
§ Mr. Ellice
thought it was very absurd to go through the farce of borrowing a certain sum from the commissioners for the reduction of the national debt, or, in other words, taking away part of the sinking fund, when the same object might be answered by cancelling so much of the 1098 debt. It was his intention to bring the subject under consideration in the next session.
§ The resolution was agreed to. On the resolution, that 200,000l. be raised by way of Lottery,
said, that if this vice of the people was to be taxed, he saw no reason why the example of the bishop of Winchester should not be followed, and a tax be imposed upon the stews and brothels of the metropolis. He cared not for the money, but he did for the character and morality of the people.
defended the lottery, as a less objectional mode of taxation than many taxes which already existed. If the tax were withdrawn, there could be no doubt that the same or a greater amount of money would be expended by the people in gambling of another description.
§ Mr. W. Smith
said, that any gentleman who had been at Paris and passed through the Palais Royal, might have seen gaming, and other still more immoral practices carried on, from all of which a revenue was derived to the government; and the same arguments for continuing the lottery would be equally applicable to them.
§ The committee divided: Ayes, 123; Noes, 65.