rose, pursuant to notice, for the purpose of calling the attention of the House to a comparative statement of our Revenue and Expenditure. The object which he had in view, was to lay before the House such an exposition of the present financial embarrassments, and of those permanent demands for which the country must provide, as to induce them 1101 to agree with him in voting for a Repeal of the Tax on Houses and Windows. He should have been extremely sorry to trespass on their attention for any length of time unless he was prepared to submit to them some practical remedy, a real and a better substitute for what he was proposing to remove. That substitute might be designated under the general name of economy—an economy which it appeared to him was reducible to effect, by a difference in the present scale of our taxation. The amount of that reduction by the measure which he should recommend was between two and three millions. If he should satisfy the House, from documents printed, under its own authority, that such and such results flowed from these authoritative data, then it would be for ministers to say whether they would form the scale of their financial administration upon them, or cede the direction of affairs to others who would not object to give the benefit of them to the country. His first view of the revenue and expenditure of the nation would be drawn from a reference to the amount of its public funded and unfunded debt, or to the state of national credit, and the amount of the public burthens. These he regarded as of a fixed nature, and which were not to be made a subject of diminution. As the debt had been contracted by open competion, they were bound to preserve the national faith inviolate, and to discharge their bond whatever might be the hardship. Utter bankruptcy and distress could alone justify them in departing from it. But if they would do so, their only resource, the only means of avoiding a disreputable and destructive bankruptcy, lay in economy. Nothing but that could enable us long to maintain our own faith inviolate; because, if the distress increased in urgency, it must ultimately be relieved, and parliament would have to provide for the emergency under heavier difficulties and impaired resources. He fully believed that the agriculturists were now paying taxes out of their capital, but so it was in a greater or less degree with the other classes. The noble lord opposite need not fear that it was his intention to go at present into any inquiry relative to the question, whether our finances had been hitherto managed in the best possible manner: that was not the matter in debate: but that, by practicable economy, our financial circumstances might be greatly improved, was a position which 1102 it would not be easy For any ingenuity to controvert. It was an immediate and certain mode of relieving the distresses of the people. Before they could, however, be properly enabled to take any general view on this part of the subject, it would be important to advert to the actual state of our finances, not only now, but at some former period. It would appear that, in the year 1792, the expense of the war which preceded that period, differed so much from that entailed upon us by the late war, that Mr. Pitt then thought himself justified in fixing our establishments on a scale that had no reference to a war expenditure. He then began actually to relieve the country from a part of the debt contracted during the war.—He would now state the revenue and expenditure of 1792. He would in the first place, however, submit to the House a statement of the Ways and Means, as compared with the supplies for the year 1820, chiefly for the purpose of showing how easy it was, to furnish such an account as should at once convey a clear view of the whole subject. The Supplies were estimated at—
Let them now look at the Income and Charge, and then at the Ways and Means of the same year. The Income from the 5th Jan. 1820, to the 5th Jan. 1821, was 46,120,578l. 1s. 10½d. The Charge was 46,549,905l. 18s. 5¾d. leaving a Deficiency of 429,327l. 16s. 0¾d. To meet these charges the following Ways and Means were provided:—
Army £9,443,000 Navy 6,586,700 Ordnance 1,204,600 Miscellaneous Services 2,100,000 £19,313,300 Sinking Fund on Exchequer Bill 410,000 Interest on Exchequer Bills 1,000,000 £20,723,300
Here, then, was a nett revenue of six millions to meet an expenditure of twenty millions. Now, it was to be observed here, that the nominal amount of the Sinking Fund was 16,864,763l., which, to- 1103 gether with that of Ireland, 646,000l., made up a total of 17,510,763l. Deduct from this the deficiency of revenue, and the only real Sinking Fund would be seen to amount to 2,558,135l. for the year 1820. Now, although the chancellor of the exchequer should dispute the correctness of some of these accounts, the document itself would still show with what ease and simplicity such a statement might be made out.
Annual Malt Duty £5,000,000 Excise Duties 2,500,000 Lottery 240,000 Old Stores 260,000 £6,000,000 Deficiency of Ways and Means to meet Supplies voted £14,723,300
He should now proceed with his second statement, which related immediately to the civil and military government of the country.
|Army, as estimated for 1820.||£9,422,000|
|Ordnance Old Stores, as they are deducted from Estimate improperly, the||£||s.||d.|
|Estimate would he this amount in addition||285,000||0||0|
|*Civil List—Courts of Justice, Mint, Salaries and Allowances, Commissioners Public Accounts, Commissioners West India Accounts, Pensions for 1820, about||1,800,000||0||0|
|Civil List, &c. &c. on Consolidated Fund of Ireland, estimated the same as preceding year, because Accounts for 1820 are not||576,215||13||4|
|Quarantine & other charges, Irish Packet Establishment, estimated as before||114,463||17||7½|
|Collection of Revenue of the United Kingdom, estimated as before, nett revenue||226,735||2||11½|
|Militia, Deserters' Warrants, &c. paid out of gross Revenue, estimated as before||133,911||0||0½|
|Expenses incurred in securing and improving Woods and Forests, paid out of gross Revenue, estimated||96,674||15||10|
|Civil Administration of Scotland, nett Revenue, estimated as before||194,006||7||7½|
|Payments made in Ireland on account of half-pay in Great Britain, estimated as before||97,174||3||9¼|
|Re-payments out of gross Revenue for Discounts, Drawbacks, Bounties, &c &c. estimated as before||3,726,715||16||1¼|
|Bounties for promoting Fisheries, Linen Manufactures, &c, &c.||308,849||15||6½|
|Less in 1820 than in 1819, about|
|*Irish Life Annuities||37,471||0||0|
|Russian Dutch Loan||120,000||0||0||157,471||0||0|
|Total Expense for the Civil and Military Government of Great Britain and Ireland for the year 1820||26,716,826||0||7|
§ He came, then, to refer to the establishment of 1792. In that year Mr. Pitt made an estimate of income and expenditure, including permanent and annual duties upon an average of four years preceding. The income he estimated at 16,212,000l., and took the expenditure in this form:—
|Interest and management of funded debt||9,325,866|
|Civil list and charges on consolidated fund||1,065,134|
|Reduction of dept||1,200,000|
§ Leaving a balance of 493,000l. for the further reduction of the debt. He might here observe, that in estimating the amount of outstanding debt, it always appeared much less than it actually was. When he found it called 31,000,000l. at present, he should say that he considered it rather as 46,000,000l. It might be the one on the 4th of January, and the other on the 5th, when the dividends were paid. This was therefore an omission, as it left unknown the actual amount of the whole interest payable, and of course the whole amount of the charge. An account of the change which this year took place in the Sinking Fund was also omitted. The funded debt of Great Britain was now 801,500,600l.
§ He was now come to the fourth division, namely the expense of the Civil and Military Government in 1792. Ireland was then certainly a separate kingdom from England, but in order to make his analogy hold good, he should be 1105 obliged to treat her as if united to this country in 1792.
|Navy, for 16,000 Seamen||832,000|
|Miscellaneous—For Colonies and Plan||31,000|
|Total of Supplies voted Feb. 1792||4,128,000|
|Civil List, and sundry Charges on the Consolidated Fund||1,065,134|
|Estimate of the whole Expense and Charge of Ireland, it being then a separate Kingdom, viz.|
|The Military and Civil Government, Management of Revenue, &c. &c. not including Interest of National Debt about||1,200,000|
|Collection of Revenue of Great Britain, estimated at Six Guineas per Cent on||1,021,356|
|Estimate of various Sums paid out of the Gross Revenue||300,000|
§ The following is a comparison of the Expense of Governing the Country in the years
|Estimate of the whole Expense and Charge of Ireland, it being then a separate Kingdom||1,200,000||0||0|
|Collection of Revenue of Great Britain, estimated at £16,212,000, at Six Guineas per Cent||1,021,356||0||0|
|Civil List and sundry Charges on the Consolidated Fund||1,065,134||0||0|
|Estimate of various Sums paid out of gross Revenue||300,000||0||0|
|Total Charge of Governing, 1792||£7,714,490||0||0|
|Ordnance Old Stores||285,000||0||0|
|Civil List, &c. &c. on Consolidated Fund of Ireland||576,215||13||4|
|Collection of Revenue of the United Kingdom||4,226,735||2||11½|
|Civil List, Courts of Justice, Salaries, Commissioners, &c. &c, for the year 1820||1,800,000||0||0|
|Quarantine and other Charges, Irish Packet Establishment||114,463||17||7½|
|Militia Deserters' Warrants, &c. &c. paid out of gross Revenue||133,911,||0||0½|
|Civil Administration of Scotland||194,006||7||7½|
|Pensions Administration of Scotland||36,815||19||4¾|
|Expenses of Improving Woods and Forests, paid out of gross Revenue||96,674||15||10|
|Payments made in Ireland, on account of half-pay in Great Britain||97,174||3||9¼|
|Total Charge of Governing, 1820||£26,874,297||0||7|
§ Our whole charge, therefore, was now 26,874,297l., whilst in 1792 it was only 7,714,490l. What he would ask the House, could justify an increased charge of 19,159,807l. Perhaps he should be told that other expenses had grown up—that our establishments had increased—but how was he to account for so enormous a difference in expense between the two periods as 19,159,807l.? He knew that recent circumstances had called for the increase of military establishments; he admitted when they were once in existence, it was hard to bring them down; but was that a reason, when the people were so much distressed, that some reduction should not be made in them? If ministers would keep faith with the 1107 public creditor—if they would preserve tranquillity at home, or put themselves in a condition, if necessary, again to go to war—now was the time to prepare themselves for it. A season of peace was the time to prepare for activity, and the first step towards that was to retrench in every possible way. Had not the per centage on the collection of the Revenue reached a height which was absolutely unreasonable? For what was the fact? In England the collection of the Customs cost 13 per cent; in Ireland 23 per cent averaging 14l. 10s. 9d. in the hundred for the United Kingdom. In the collection of these Customs were many unnecessary expenses, which might be well dispensed with. In 1792, the Customs cost but 4l. 19s. 6d. in England, something more in Ireland, and upon an average about 5l. 11s. for both countries. The rate of per centage in the collection of these duties ought to be reduced, and a great saving would be effected thereby. He was aware that a committee of that House had been appointed to inquire into that subject; but he thought they had not done enough. It was absurd, when the produce of the Customs themselves had been diminished, to employ still the same expense in collecting them. The Customs had greatly decreased, without taking into account the one million which was transferred from them to the Excise. He would rather see the committee appointed by this House than by the Crown. He had no doubt but its operations would be very different.
§ He now came to the sixth view of the question. A committee of finance had been appointed by the House, which made its report in 1817, upon the amount of the charges which they thought would be required for the government of the country in the year 1818. That report stated to the country that the estimates for the civil and military government of the country for the said year amounted to
§ He apprehended that when that report was made, the commissioners had in view all that was necessary for the security and honour of the country. He was aware that the right hon. gentleman 1108 might say, "Oh, but we guarded ourselves by saying, Your committee are aware that there are expenses not included in the estimate for the present year, which must occur, if not in the next, some of them certainly, and others probably, in future years: such as the charge of embodying and training the regular militia in the army estimates, and the grants for augmenting small livings, and for building churches, which have been postponed in the miscellaneous services of the present year." So they did; but they added these words: "they are induced to hope that reductions under other heads of our establishment, equivalent to these expenses will be effected by the vigilant economy of the government; and they therefore make no allowance for them in these statements." After this report was made in 1817, the right hon. gentleman came down in 1820 with other estimates, amounting to 19,313,300l., being a difference over and above the report of the commissioners of 1,963,300l. If the original estimates had been adhered to, the petitioners who had applied to the House for relief, would not have felt so great a portion of distress. The government ought to have kept within those estimates, because the prices of general produce were 25 per cent lower in 1820 than in 1817; and it could not be conceived that the commissioners had made their report without taking the existing prices into view. Under these circumstances, he thought in fairness and in candour, that instead of 17,000,000l., the charges for the government of the country last year ought to have been under 16,000,000l. And if a reduction of two per cent had been effected in the collection of the revenue, a saving of another million would have thence accrued. The House would allow him to put the subject in another way, namely, as to how the taxes bore upon the general income of the country. During the existence of the property tax, the income of the country amounted to about 150,000,000l. He was aware that it was reduced since that period, and he would assume that it was now 120,000,000l. He would take out the bearing of the taxes from that income, speaking in round numbers, at 45½ per cent. Then the bearing of the expenses of the civil and military government was as 22½ per cent, and that of the interest of the national debt as 23 per cent. Now, upon the latter no reduction could be 1109 made; the relief to be afforded must be out of the 22½ per cent upon the expenses of the government. After the debate which was expected to-morrow, no member, however unacquainted with agriculture, would, he was sure, remain doubtful of the unparalleled distress of that interest. It was true that the consumer paid the general taxes, but he admitted that that was not the case in agriculture. He admitted it, because he knew that the price of the bushel of corn was the same in 1790 that it was in 1820. Agriculture was, therefore, placed in the situation of being obliged to sell its corn at a low price, and yet at the same time bear all the great increase of direct and indirect taxation of late years affecting it, with the advance of rent also incurred within the last thirty years; so that agriculture had now to pay the whole accumulation of burthens imposed upon it since 1792 out of its capital. That he thought could not be denied. He knew it to be true in the county in which he chiefly resided; for there the agriculturist could not pay his rates and taxes except out of his capital. If it was in vain to attempt to afford any relief to one class by an advance of price, without repressing another, he could see no relief for the community, except the government were conducted upon principles of the most rigid economy. He was one of those who was ready to support the public credit at all hazards: that was a national bond to which they were bound to adhere, and the faith of which nothing short of a convulsion ought to shake. He had heard with great regret certain opinions now and then dropped in that House, which went to tolerate an interference with the national faith; but he totally dissented from such opinions. He thought it a much better security for the fundholder to have the people satisfied, than to have an additional million added to the Sinking Fund, In delivering these sentiments he was actuated by no private feeling, for he would not in the event of any change in administration seek office; he had, therefore, no personal interest in the result, and was alone induced to take the step he had taken by a sense of public duty. He had beard a rumour that a retrenchment to the amount of one million was likely to be effected. He thought that insufficient, and was of opinion, that if the present administration could not conduct the affairs of the country at a more economical 1110 rate, they ought to resign their places to competent successors, who were ready with every regard to the public security, to do the business of the nation upon more advantageous terms for the people. He saw around him many agricultural gentlemen, whose votes he was entitled to expect, if they were sincere in the wishes they expressed for public relief. He hoped also to have the votes of such members as sincerely desired to conciliate the people. He hoped, alike, to have the support of the advocates for maintaining inviolable the public faith. He concluded by apologizing to the House for the time he had occupied in making his statement, and by assuring them that his sole object was the promotion of the public good. He then moved his first Resolution; viz,
§ "That the finance committee appointed by this House, having stated in its fourth report, dated 5th June 1817, that it had estimated the amount of Supplies:
|For the Army, at||£8,500,000|
|Making a total of||£17,350,000|
§ for the year 1818; and that the supplies voted for the same services in the year 1820, having exceeded that estimate by 1,963,300l., it is expedient, that the supplies for 1821 should not exceed the estimate of the said Committee."
§ It was his intention to follow up the resolution by a motion for a reduction of 50 per cent upon all duties on inhabited houses and windows, from and after the 5th of January next; thus giving a year's intervention before the change could operate.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, it appeared to him extraordinary that the hon. gentleman should have closed his elaborate observations by proposing a reduction in duties upon which he had not in the very ample details he had given of the general taxation of the country—details, many of which might be spared, and to which, indeed, he was not prepared to reply, in the absence of those official documents which were calculated to elucidate such parts of the public accounts. Had he thought the hon. gentleman meant to go into so wide a detail, he certainly would have been prepared with re- 1111 turns explanatory of every part of so comprehensive a subject. The hon. gentleman had grounded his speech upon comparisons between the estimates for the public expenditure at different periods; and he rested his main arguments upon the obvious reduction which he thought ought to take place in the public expenditure, on account of the different circumstances in which the country was placed at the several periods which he assumed for the purposes of establishing his economical principle. He had set out with a comparison of the expenditure between the last year and the year 1792. It would be remembered that the expenditure of the year 1792 was the very lowest which had been estimated since the period of the American war. Indeed, so low had it been framed at the beginning of the year, that before the close of it Mr. Pitt found the estimate insufficient, and a larger sum became necessary; so that, in point of fact, the original estimate of 1792 had been never realized; for an augmentation took place at the close of that year. He admitted, that at the close of the year some increased precautionary measures were deemed desirable, and also some preparations for armaments were considered proper. The hon. member had estimated the total for the year 1792 at 7,714,000l., and those for last year at 19,313,300l.; and he had talked of the enormous difference which was apparent in the expense of collecting the revenue of the country at the two periods he had assumed avoiding, when he adverted to the circumstance, to state, that the great difference between the amount of collecting the revenues at the two periods was necessarily occasioned by the great augmentation of the amount to be collected at one of them over and above that of the other. Besides, the hon. gentleman's comparative calculation was founded upon a fallacy; for he ought to have seen that, before the data on which he made his comparison could be correct, he should have struck out from the last year's estimates that part of the expenditure which was created by the war; for instance, there was an increase on that account of upwards of 5,000,000l. upon the pension list, and 500,000l. more or thereabouts, under similar heads, created in the same manner. When these indispensable deductions were made it was true there would remain an expenditure about 1112 double the amount of that estimated in 1792. He had already explained the impracticable reduction attempted in the estimates of that year. When he had to account for the excess since that period, need he remind the hon. gentleman that there were nineteen addditional colonies to be defended now more than there were in 1792, and of course an increased charge at home, arising out of colonial casualties? It was quite impossible to undertake the management of public affairs at so low an estimate as that attempted to be acted upon in 1792. The hon. gentleman should in point of correctness have withheld his motion for a few days, until the army and other estimates came regularly before the House, and then he could have shown more accurately the details upon which he depended. Indeed, he had begun at the wrong end; for he had assumed an expenditure as fixed where it was uncertain, and that a reduction could be made, without proving in what manner it could be realized consistently with the public service. The hon. gentleman had altogether overlooked the accumulated charge which had become fixed and imperative by the half-pay and pension list, which as well as the increase of the public debt, formed the price which the public had to pay for the glories of Trafalgar and Waterloo, and for having been placed in the high attitude of being the liberator of Europe, and acquiring fresh renown for the national character. With respect to what the hon. member had said about the reduction of prices, the best answer to that would be found in the nature of the public expenditure. The pension-list could not be increased nor diminished according to the price of subsistence; and other allowances equally fixed in their nature must remain at the same rate, independent of accidental fluctuations in prices. The hon. gentleman had adverted to what he termed a rumour, that in the next year a saving of about a million was likely to take place in the general public expenditure of the country. He was happy to have it in his power to verify this rumour, and he had the satisfaction to state, that the House would perceive, when the estimates for 1821 were laid before them, that the reduction in the estimates for the public expenditure of 1821 as compared with that of 1820, would amount to considerably more than 1,000,000l. sterling. That was, that the public expenditure for 1113 1821 would be much more than, 1,000,000l. less than the expenditure of the year 1820; and when these details were before the House, he trusted it would be seen that where the estimates did not accord with those of 1817, satisfactory reasons would be assigned for the alteration. The hon. gentleman had made a material error when he assumed that the produce of between 14,000,000l. and 15,000,000l. property tax had been estimated or collected from a national income of 150 millions. In that he was entirely mistaken, for the returns upon which the amount of that tax had been assessed exceeded an income of 200 millions which must still have fallen considerably short of the whole income of the country; for it would be recollected, that the income tax was a charge which did not comprehend that portion of the national income which arose out of labour—a portion always considerable in every country; and they should also recollect, that the income of Ireland was not charged at all with the property tax. He coincided entirely with the hon. gentleman, that faith with the public creditor ought to be inviolably upheld; and, in his judgment, the measure which would most conduce to the relief of the agricultural and other interests of the country, would be that which should most promote the circulation of capital throughout the country. As to the taxes which the hon. gentleman proposed to reduce, he seemed to be sensible of their importance, when, instead of a total repeal, he proposed merely a reduction of one half. Why was this particular tax selected? He admitted it to be a considerable burthen, and to press on a very large proportion of the community. It was the chief ready money tax upon which the government had to rely. Upon the agricultural interests it was far from pressing in such a degree as could be deemed severe. There was no important tax which bore less upon that portion of the community; few, if any of the practical and lower agriculturalists in fact paid it. It was a tax, however, most important to the revenue, the produce being no less than 3,000,000l. So aware, indeed, was the hon. gentleman himself of its importance, that he proposed to take off only part of it. Undoubtedly, that would afford considerable relief to many persons; but that relief would not be at all in proportion to the public injury. As to the diminution of die expense of collecting, the fact was, 1114 that the collection of half the sum would not cost much less than the collection of the whole. Of all the taxes this was the most economically collected. A larger portion of it came to the public treasury than of any other. It ought likewise to be considered, that a considerable proportion of it was paid by the higher classes, serving as a sort of compensation for the property tax. If it were taken off, there would hardly be any great ready money tax. Many of the observations made by the hon. gentleman on the charge of collecting the revenue were fallacious. At the same time, he did not deny that some reduction might be made in the expense of collection. He could assure the House that the utmost pains were now taking to reduce the expense of collecting the revenue in all its branches. Already, in the management of the Customs, a saving of 130,000l. a year had been effected; and farther reductions were in progress. The hon. gentleman had said, that if the present government were not prepared to conduct the affairs of the country upon a lower scale, they ought to give way to others of more diligence, intelligence, and economy, who would undertake the task upon cheaper terms. For his own part, he could not consent to retain his office upon the estimate of 1792. That others might undertake it on those, or indeed any other terms, he was not prepared to deny. Political charlatans would never be wanting for supplying offices in this country upon any terms, high or low. He had no doubt that when the hon. gentleman put up the seals of office at his Dutch auction, he would get bidders enough to do the duties. Such persons as Hunt and Carlile would be found ready enough to fill them on much cheaper terms than the Whigs. However, there would be future occasions, when the estimates would be before the House, and when the hon. gentleman might, with more advantage, propose any reduction of taxes that he might think advisable. On this subject, however, he thought himself entitled to congratulate the House on the view which the hon. gentleman had taken of the state of our finances. Hitherto, nothing had been talked of, but the deficiencies of our revenue; now, it seemed, that the revenue, with some economy, would so greatly exceed the expenditure, as to allow of a considerable reduction of taxes. He had often been accused of painting, too flattering a picture of the 1115 state of the country. He did not, however, go so far as the hon. gentleman. Fie did not think that, even if the expenditure were reduced in conformity to the hon. gentleman's proposition, such an amount of taxes could be taken off as the hon. gentleman wished for. In our present situation, it would require more than the experience of one year to determine that fact. For his part, he thought that the maintenance of the public credit would be a much more effectual mode of relieving the general distress; and thus thinking, he should move the previous question on the hon. gentleman's proposition.
adverting to the pleasant observations of the right hon. gentleman on a change of administration, observed, that the right hon. gentleman told the House, that whenever he and his colleagues were of opinion that another administration were capable of managing the affairs of the country with more advantage, and with greater public confidence, they would give up their places. If the country were to wait until the gentlemen opposite entertained that opinion, it would wait until the right hon. gentleman grew old indeed in office. The right hon. gentleman also said, that there were political charlatans who would outbid one another, as at a Dutch auction, to manage the affairs of the country. He did not know if the right hon. gentleman meant to include his hon. friend in that assertion; but he concluded it by saying, that there were those who would undertake to manage those affairs cheaper than the Whigs. Now he should like to know how long it was, since the right hon. gentleman had learned to talk so contemptuously of the Whigs. He recollected the day when the right hon. gentleman was a very active and industrious and able secretary under the administration of the Whigs. He had had repeated communications with the right hon. gentleman at that period, and he had never heard him complain of his masters. He had no doubt that at that time the right hon. gentleman would also have said, "whenever we find any persons capable of forming an administration more advantageous to the country, we, the Whigs will resign." As, however, he could not equal the right hon. gentleman in joking, and indeed as he thought the subject too important for laughter, he would commence his observations by returning his thanks to his 1116 hon. friend for the clear and perspicuous manner in which he had brought forward this complicated subject. By the statement of his hon. friend it distinctly appeared, that in 1792, the management of the civil and military affairs of the country cost somewhat above 7 millions, and that in 1820 it cost above 26 millions. That was the point to be considered. To that the House must exclusively address themselves; for he perfectly agreed with his hon. friend, that the other part of the burthens of the country must not be touched: they were sacred; it was impossible to think of meddling with any thing which affected the public creditor. After objecting without reason to the form of the notice of the motion, the right hon. gentleman had complained of the comparison with the year 1792, alleging, that the establishments were then below what the safety of the state required, and that they had been increased by Mr. Pitt. True: but why were they increased? Not because they were inadequate for peace, but because there was every appearance of an approaching war. When subjects of this kind were first started after the peace of 1815, the colleagues of Mr. Pitt had started from this point, that ministers were bound to account for every shilling of expenditure beyond the charge in 1792. He did not mean in any way to dispute the propriety of the pension list, amounting to 4,500,000l., which was an addition since 1792. He held that it ought to be considered as sacred as the rights of the public creditor; and he would admit also, that our new colonies required an increased expenditure. But then, said the chancellor of the exchequer, "when you talk of reductions, you choose the wrong time and the wrong mode: you begin at the wrong end." This was always the answer: the proper time never arrived, the proper mode never was adopted, and the proper end was never discovered. Yet, what were the right hon. gentleman's time and mode? Which was his right end, and which was his wrong end? He was never to be disturbed in his sublime operations of arithmetic; and when any motion was made on the subject of finance, he satisfied himself with coming down and exclaiming "What are you doing? why do you interfere? I am going to save more than a million; only wait till my estimates come down, and you will be gratified and the 1117 nation happy!" This might be true; he might be about to save 1,000,000l.; but let it be remembered that he had added two, and by special grace and favour was about to let 1,000,000l. still continue added to the burthens of the people. The king's Speech had announced a reduction of the army; but when the reduction was talked of, ought the increase to be forgotten? Yet, because 10,000 men, added a short time ago were now to be disbanded, the right hon. gentleman cried "a truce with your constitutional fears. I am going to relieve you from the weight of 10,000 men; do not listen to the political charlatans, who tell you that you ought never to have been required to pay for them at all." It was said that people could now live 20 or 30 per cent cheaper than formerly: if so, why were not the expences of government reduced in the same proportion? The right hon. gentleman had accused the introducer of this motion of under-estimating the income of the country, by not taking into account the income of labour. He would like to know how the chancellor of the exchequer distinguished the income of any man from the income of labour: if he taxed a man's income, he taxed the income of labour, for by labour the income was created. Next, he had accused the people of being unreasonable, reminding them that they were as well off as they were during the war. Was it too much, then, in time of peace to expect a reduction of taxation? It was a most extraordinary source of congratulation, certainly, that people were just as poor, just as heavily taxed, as during the extravagant expenditure of a long war. It had been proved, beyond contradiction, that every man of 1,000l. a-year spent upon himself only 550l., and paid into the Exchequer 450l. Was it not worth inquiry how it happened that every man was obliged to sacrifice nine-twentieths of his property. The chancellor of the exchequer had said, that some taxes might be repealed, but had pointed out none; and when he (Mr. C.) had endeavoured to remove the unjust and grievous imposts upon salt, he was, as usual, told that he had chosen the wrong time and mode, and had begun at the wrong end. The light hon. gentleman had lent him no friendly assistance, though it had been shown that every quantity of salt, the prime cost of which was 100l. paid in taxation no less than 3,000l. Mr. Burke had once con- 1118 gratulated the people of England that their salt was not taxed like that of France; but had he lived to this day, he would have seen that it was taxed in a manner unequalled in the annals, not of France, but of Turkey, or any the most despotic monarchy. The propositions of the hon. mover were many of them self-evident. He (Mr. C.) had been a member of the finance committee, and it was well known that every statement there adopted came from the Treasury; the 17,300,000l. was therefore the sum for which ministers themselves proposed to manage the country; yet, in two years, they had exceeded it by 2,000,000l. This was an indisputable fact; yet so frightened was the chancellor of the exchequer at this monster of his own begetting, that he could not bear to sec it stare him in the face on the Journals in the shape of a resolution. If any man was in earnest, and desired to carry a proposition, he must never mind at what time, in what mode, or at what end he began; he must take all times and modes, and not care about which end he seized, but persevere; and for this reason he was glad to find that the hon. member for Cumberland had given notice of a motion to repeal the agricultural horse tax, for he was satisfied, that if the hon. member persevered, he would sooner or later get his horses out of the trammels of taxation. Whatever might be the event of this proposition, the hon. mover had done a great service by bringing it forward, and making the country understand it. He said, that out of 26,000,000l. there ought to be such a reduction as would relieve the distressed population. The sufferings of the people were very considerable, and it was impossible that they should not feel the recent imposition of 3,000,000l. of taxes. When 1s. 2d. was added to 2s. 4d. on the bushel of malt, it was impossible it should not be felt by the agriculturists. In former times, these matters were seen in something like a statesman-like view; but now hardly such a thing as a statesman was to be found. The chancellor of the exchequer might promise the farmers an unlimited committee to-morrow: he might say, "Gentlemen, walk up stairs, and make the most extensive inquiries;" but unless they walked down again with a strong report, and a unanimous resolution to repeal some of the taxes oppressing the farmer, it would have been much better for them to have gone down to reside in 1119 quiet among their suffering tenantry. To go into a committee, and not to take off the Malt duty, would be a mockery. He was persuaded, that to agree to Ins lion, friend's motion, would be more serviceable to the country than any inquiry proposed by the noble lord and the right hon. gentleman, on whatever footing it might be placed. The right hon. gentleman had, it was true, said nothing against his hon. friend's motion; but then he would have a majority against it. To that majority he must bow; and he really wondered, that he, and those who thought with him, were ridiculous enough to stand up and lose their time and labour, when they knew they could not make any impression. He strongly suspected, however, that before the end of the session, the majority would be compelled to adopt some effectual method of relief in spite of the rhetoric of the right hon. gentleman, and his dread of political charlatans.
§ Mr. Huskisson
did not think that with all the misrepresentations, founded, of course, in mistake of the hon. gentleman who spoke last, he had added much to the stock either of pleasantry or argument. His right hon. friend the chancellor of the exchequer, had fairly enough alluded to a Dutch auction; but it never could be expected that the government should be knocked down to the Whigs on the score of economy, even though the auctioneer might be honest enough to declare, that he himself would not bid for the article. Certainly the hon. mover had displayed great research and perspicuity; but he was not aware that there was any practical utility in referring back to the year 1792, and comparing the establishments then with the establishments now. In 1792, we were in the ninth year of peace, after a war of only seven years' duration; so that the situation of the country was widely different. But, independently of this fact, the hon. mover seemed to have forgotten, that the pay of the army, the navy, and the ordnance had since that date been greatly increased. The difference in the numbers at the two periods was also worthy of consideration. He contended that the hon. gentleman ought to have made the comparison, if at all, not with the last, but with the estimates of the present year, with all their reductions; and the comparison ought not to have been with the year 1792, but with 1817, when the re- 1120 port of the finance committee was made. For whatever sum the expenditure of the present year exceeded the estimates of that, ministers were bound to account; and they were prepared with the fullest and most satisfactory explanations. All other comparisons were only calculated to mislead the public mind. He would not follow the hon. mover through all his details; but he must remark on the subject of the collection of the revenue, that the charge for it included all the perquisites, fees, and emoluments paid by the public in 1792 in a different and less advantageous mode. The same remark would, in fact, apply to all the civil departments of government, for the expense included much more than mere salaries. In the department of the Post-office, the public, as it were, performed the whole by contract: in England the cost amounted to 30 per cent, and in Ireland to 60 or 70 per cent. As to the Woods and Forests, it was true that 96,000l. a year was charged for it; but it was material to know that the revenues of that department were appropriated to the completion of a great pubic work. Next, it was asserted that the consolidated fund, the security of the public creditor, was 400,000l. short according to the accounts of last year: yet, what was the proposal on the other side? To abolish the very taxes belonging to that fund, and by which it was to meet the permanent charges upon it. He gave the hon. member full credit for his admission of the inviolability of the national credit; but still he was surprised, that a man who understood the financial subjects of the country so well as he did, should have advanced such arguments as he had offered upon the present question. The taxes proposed to be taken off belonged to the consolidated fund; and it was as lately as last year that there was a loan of 20 millions. Certainly, if the hon. gentleman meant that we might borrow every year, he could very well understand him; but by so doing, we should only add to our difficulties. He however, contended, that we were not at liberty to take off taxes, unless we preserved the Sinking Fund. He admitted that the report of the committee of 1817, was a good criterion; and if the hon. gentleman had looked at all the reports, he would have found that the disembodied militia made a part of the annual estimate; but no report contemplated the permanent staff of the disembodied 1121 militia, which before had been provided out of the land-tax. He knew not whether it would be satisfactory to the hon. gentleman, but he was sure it would be to the House, when he stated his belief that the military expenditure of the present year would come within that of the year 1817. The next expense to be adverted to was that of the navy; and this was a branch of the expenditure at which the House was inclined to look with less jealousy than at any other. The whole charge was about 6,219,000l., and in this sum was included the expenses of some permanent works at Sheerness, which it was important for the public service to complete with more than ordinary dispatch. There was every reason to believe that the expense in this branch for the next year would be less than six millions.—The next subject was the Ordnance. The sum stated was 1,150,000l. which was exclusive of the credit given for old stores; and he trusted that the expenses of this department would be brought within the estimated sum. So that it would be seen that upon all military subjects, which usually excited the jealousy of parliament, there was likely to be a diminution; and upon all others we had arrived at the maximum of expense, and were likely to see a diminution every year. With respect to the charges under the head Miscellaneous, it was generally found impossible to make any specific estimate. To show the uncertainty upon this subject, he would mention that in the last year a sum of 200,000l. was necessarily paid to Portuguese subjects, for losses sustained by captures in consequence of a misapprehension of our laws relating to the Slave Trade. On this head, however, he believed there would be no reason to apprehend any increase. Having gone through this subject in some little detail, he would only say, that he believed the total of the expense would come very nearly within the estimate of 1817. But the hon. gentleman had somewhat whimsically called for a reduction of taxes; and although the hon. member supported him, he did not agree in the specific tax to be reduced; for while one wanted the window tax to be taken off, the other was equally desirous on the subjects of salt, malt, and agricultural horses. The whole amount of these taxes was seven millions; and if the hon. gentleman opposite could take off those taxes, and carry 1122 on the government, the sooner they Convinced the House of this the better. The members on his side of the House, would in that case most cheerfully resign their situations for the public benefit. He would ask the hon. gentleman whether, with a revenue of 60,000,000l., and a debt of 800,000,000l., a Sinking Fund of 2,500,000l. was one with which the country ought to be satisfied? Some addition ought to be made to it, by economy, if further economy were possible. [Cheers from the Opposition.] He understood those cheers; and he could only say, that when the estimates came to be considered, those with whom he acted would be ready to hear and attend to any suggestions for reducing the establishment; all they required was, that it should first be shown that further economy was practicable. He trusted that honourable gentlemen would apply themselves to this point, and would endeavour to prove in what way reductions could be made upon the estimates of 1817.
§ Mr. Ricardo
reminded the right hon. gentleman, that the proposal of this night was not to reduce the Sinking Fund two millions, but to reduce the taxes to that amount; not by taking from the Sinking Fund, but by increased economy. The object was, to relieve the country from a part of the burdens under which it at present laboured. If, however, the motion had been to reduce the Sinking Fund, it should have met with no opposition from him. He considered it a delusion which was encouraged and made to amount to a certain sum, that ministers might be enabled finally to lay their hands upon it and devote it to purposes of unnecessary expenditure. Though the loan of last year amounted to 24,000,000l. there were 9,000,000l. of exchequer bills and 17,000,000l. of Sinking Fund, so that there was in fact a surplus of 2,000,000l. On the other side, it was asked whether it was intended to diminish the Consolidated Fund, which was the security to the public creditor? Yet ministers had been doing so year after year, until the deficiency amounted to 8,000,000l. Now, however, they were greatly alarmed at such a proposal, when in truth the object of the hon. mover was merely to reduce the expenditure. For the year ending the 5th of January, 1821, the Sinking Fund was estimated at 2,500,000l. He hoped it would turn out so; but his opinion undoubtedly was, that it would be 1123 considerably below that amount. It appeared to him that the diminution of the unfunded debt, between 5th January 1820, and 5th January 1821, amounted to very nearly 8,000,000l. while the Sinking Fund for the present year was 17,000,000l. making together 25,000,000l. This was in diminution of the debt; but, on the other hand, what had been added to it? The chancellor of the exchequer took a loan of 17,000,000l. and funded exchequer bills to the amount of 7,000,000l. so that an amount of stock equal to 24,000,000l. was added to the debt. Besides this there was a deficiency of the Consolidated Fund to the amount of 400,000l. Deducting therefore 24,400,000l debt, incurred from the 25,000,000l. debt reduced, 600,000l. was the only real decrease; and he could call nothing a Sinking Fund, but what operated a reduction of the national debt.
said, that the hon. gentleman had totally mistaken the substance of the propositions before the House, if he imagined that they did not tend to reduce the Sinking Fund. The taxes proposed to be repealed formed part of that income, the surplus of which above the expenditure constituted the Sinking Fund: and therefore the reduction of those taxes must, to that extent, diminish the Sinking Fund; and if the hon. member thought that fund a delusion now, his concurrence in the motions before the House would tend to make it more so. It would, in fact, reduce the four millions which the chancellor of the exchequer anticipated as the Sinking Fund to two millions, that being one half of the duties upon inhabited houses and windows which the hon. mover proposed to repeal. The first part of the hon. member's proposition for reducing the expenditure of 1821, to the amount limited by the finance committee in 1817, was quite unnecessary for the reasons so clearly detailed by his right hon. friends below him; and he should have no difficulty in shewing to the House, that if it were expedient to remit or reduce any of the taxes, the selection made by the hon. mover, was the worst that could have been chosen in the present state of agricultural distress; for the duty on inhabited houses was not paid at all by the farmer occupying as a tenant; and if he occupied as an owner, he was likewise exempt under the acts imposing that duly, unless the annual value and rent of his house exceeded 10l. 1124 As to the window tax, this was also chiefly paid by the great cities and towns, and fell with lighter pressure upon the agricultural classes, who would be much more relieved by the removal of many other taxes. But the real matter for consideration was, whether any taxes whatever could, in the present state of the Sinking Fund, be remitted, without great injury to the public credit. He was of opinion that they could not; and therefore he should oppose that part of the motion. The hon. member had stated, that the charges for collecting the revenue were greater now than they had been in 1792, and that they might be reduced 2 per cent. These were both great errors; for it appeared, upon a comparison of the ordinary revenues of Great Britain, exclusive of the Post-office, and small branches in the year 1820, with those of 1792, that the rate per cent, now was 5l. 19s.; whereas in 1792 it had been 6l. 5s.; a result attained only by constant endeavours to diminish the expenditure. This would, no doubt, be satisfactory to the House and to the country, considering that our system of rewarding the public servants since 1792 had been entirely changed, greatly to the increase of the charges of collection, but certainly to the benefit of the merchant, and the greater security of the revenue. Still, however, he had no hesitation in assuring the hon. mover that if he could really point out any practicable reduction, not dangerous to the security of the revenue, and not otherwise injurious to the public service, it would be most willingly received, and with every desire that it might be found fit to adopt.
§ Mr. Ellice
said, that if he had come into the House with the determination of supporting the resolutions on the table, every thing which had passed in debate, and more particularly the speech of the right hon. the surveyor of Woods and Forests,—who admitted it was possible, and actually intended by government, to reduce the army and navy estimates to the amount recommended by the report of 1817—confirmed him in that opinion;—but when he was told, that in consequence of such intention, these resolutions were unnecessary, he would ask, why the reductions now proposed had not been made before the sixth year of peace?—or whether they could trust to the good faith of ministers to retrench, after the experience they had of their profusion 1125 and extravagance? We are now told in answer to our general propositions—point out the practical and precise mode of retrenchment; he would refer the right hon. gentleman to the order-book, where he would rind a notice on an early day, for abolishing the county receiverships; would they engage to support that reform? It might be said, and possibly with some truth, that all the retrenchments which could be made, looking to the amount of pensions to the army and navy for their services during the late war, would be no very effectual relief to the distresses of the country; but if he admitted this, and that the enormous debt left by the useless and ruinous wars in which we had engaged, was the great evil under which the nation laboured—still that was no reply to the demands of the people that any practicable reduction should be made; and more particularly, looking, as they did, with extreme jealousy to the influence in that House, which the present administration, and indeed all who had preceded them, had been enabled to promote, by extravagant grants of money, and sinecure places, in the different branches of the collection of the revenue. He should vote for the second resolution of his hon. friend, because he thought the next relief to retrenchment in expense was the reduction of taxation—and because he considered, under the present circumstances of the country, it was both unwise and unnecessary to drain the pockets of the people, for the purpose of keeping up a sinking fund, to save the value of funded property. Then, as to this famous Sinking Fund—his hon. friend (the member for Portarlington) had stated it at 600,000l.—the right hon. gentleman the chancellor of the exchequer, at 1½ million. He was so sick of looking into the confused, and intentionally complicated accounts of the revenue, that he could not tell which of these statements was correct; but admitting—which was a wide ad-mission, looking to the general result of, his statements—that the right hon. gentleman was right, we might then calculate if the revenue kept up, also a wide admission, that beyond the excess of last year, if all we heard on the subject of; reduction was true, there was to be a saving of a million, which would make the Sinking Fund be this year 2½ millions. If this was the case, he would then vote for taking off 2 millions of taxes, and if this was not done, he should be glad to hear 1126 what course the right hon. gentleman would pursue? The last time the Sinking* Fund had been brought under the consideration of the House, new taxes had been most unjustly imposed, to raise the amount at which it was to be in future kept—at 5 millions. Notwithstanding these new taxes, it was now acknowledged the surplus was only 1½ million; still the delusion had been practised, of borrowing the difference, so as to apply the whole 5 millions to the redemption of stock; was this practice to continue? Were we, always supposing the calculations of the right hon. gentleman to be correct, with respect to the 2½ millions this year, to renew the other 2½ on exchequer bills; to purchase stock at 74, that we might have the satisfaction hereafter of funding these same exchequer bills at 64 or 65? Why not at once get rid of this useless and extensive machinery, by cancelling the debt which had been redeemed—reducing taxes to the amount proposed—and applying any surplus which might be received in the Exchequer, to the liquidation of what was called the arrears of the Consolidated Fund, a debt of near 9 millions? As the matter now stood, the creditor might, one of these days, be disappointed in the receipt of his dividends, by any caprice of the bank, or any false alarm, which might induce them to hesitate advancing the amount at the end of a quarter: was it right this should continue on the present unsatisfactory footing? The surplus revenue, if there should be any, might with great propriety be applied to this fund till it was relieved, and, by that time, we should have arrived at some more experience of the effects of the alteration in our currency, which had only as yet been partially felt, when a more satisfactory arrangement might be considered—with reference to our means—for the extinction of debt. At present, and more particularly looking to the agricultural petitions on the table, it was quite sufficient to undertake the payment of the dividends. As to the third resolution of his hon. friend, pointing out the house and window tax, as the particular taxes to be repealed, that might not be pressed. He would be perfectly satisfied to leave the selection of such taxes, as it would be most proper to repeal, to the gentlemen opposite, if they would consent to the two first resolutions; but he confessed their opposition to this particular tax, 1127 came but with a bad grace, after that to the agricultural horse tax last night, which it was acknowledged on all sides, would, to its extent at least, be some alleviation to that class of the people whose distresses most loudly called for consideration and relief.
§ Mr. J. Smith
supported the resolution. At the same time, he hesitated not to state his conviction that a reduction of the tax on salt would, of all reductions, be the least injurious to the revenue, and the most beneficial to the community. He believed there were calculations to show that if this tax were done away with altogether, other branches of the revenue would be considerably increased by such a measure.
§ Mr. Wilmot
opposed the resolution. He was decidedly hostile to the plan of appropriating the produce of the Sinking Fund to the service of the year. That fund ought to be preserved as a nucleus, to accumulate for the ultimate liquidation of the national debt.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 83; Noes, 109: Majority against the Resolution, 26.
|List of the Minority.|
|Allen, J. H.||Hutchinson, hon. C.|
|Barratt, S. M.||James, W.|
|Becher, W. W.||Johnson, col.|
|Bennet, hon. H. G.||Lennard, T. B.|
|Benyon, B.||Lambton, J. G.|
|Birch, Joseph||Lloyd, J. M.|
|Bright, H.||Lushington, S.|
|Bury, visct.||Lockhart, J. J.|
|Campbell, hon. J.||Maberly, J.|
|Calvert, C.||Macdonald, J.|
|Coffin, sir Isaac||Martin, John|
|Crespigny, sir W.||Monck, J. B.|
|Crompton, Sam.||Marjoribanks, S.|
|Creevey, Thos.||Neville, hon. R.|
|Cholmeley, sir M.||Newport, sir J.|
|Denison, W. J.||Nugent, lord|
|Duncannon, visc.||Ord, W.|
|Dickinson, W.||Ossulston, lord|
|Ellice, Ed.||Palmer, C. F.|
|Evans, Wm.||Parnell, sir H.|
|Farquharson, A.||Price, R.|
|Fergusson, sir R. C.||Pym, Francis|
|Folkestone, visc.||Rice, T. S.|
|Farrand, Rebt.||Ramsden, J. C.|
|Gordon, R.||Ramsay, sir A.|
|Graham, S.||Ricardo, D.|
|Grant, J. P.||Ridley, sir M. W.|
|Grenfell, P.||Robarts, A.|
|Griffiths, J. W.||Robinson, sir G.|
|Hamilton, lord A.||Rowley, sir W.|
|Harbord, hon. E.||Rumbold, C.|
|Hobhouse, J. C.||Russell, lord W.|
|Honywood, W. P.||Smith, John|
|Smith, hon. R.||Webbe, Ed.|
|Smith, Sam.||Western, C. C.|
|Smith, Abel||Wharton, J.|
|Scarlett, James||Whitbread, S. C.|
|Sefton, earl of||Williams, W.|
|Stanley, lord||Wilson, sir R.|
|Shelley, sir J.||Wyvill, M.|
|Talbot, R. W.||TELLERS.|
|Taylor, M. A.||Calcraft, John|
|Tierney, rt. hon. G.||Maberly, W. L.|
|Warre, J. A.|
§ The second Resolution, viz. "That Taxes to the amount of the said difference of 1,963,300l. should be repealed, from and after the 5th January, 1822," was then put and negatived. After which, Mr. Maberly said, that after the division which had taken place, he did not feel disposed to press the remaining resolutions.