HC Deb 01 March 1822 vol 6 cc863-6
Mr. Bankes

moved for accounts of the capital stock redeemed, of the public debt, with a calculation of the effect that would be produced on the principal of the debt in the course of ten years, by the operation of a Sinking Fund of 5,000,000l. at simple and at compound interest; and other papers connected with the same subjects.

Mr. Grenfell

wished to ask the chancellor of the exchequer, whether it was his intention that the present amount of five millions only should be applied to the liquidation of the debt, or whether that sum was to be allowed to accumulate at compound interest for the same object.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

replied, that it was his intention, as soon as the financial arrangements for the present year were concluded, and the budget opened, to move for the appointment of a committee of enquiry into the means of adopting a plan for the simplification of the public accounts. He should then propose that the sinking fund should be made a particular object of attention. It would be for the House then to consider whether the accumulation by compound interest should be applied to the extinction of the debt, or whether it should be left to the disposal of parliament. The question was one which would require great attention, because, if they decided upon the latter course, it would be necessary to repeal several acts which now regulated the application of the fund.

Mr. Tierney

expressed his conviction, that the noble marquis hail, in stating his general plan to the House, held it out, as the intention of ministers, to reduce a million of taxes next year, and to proceed with reductions in the years following. But now they found that all the relief to be afforded was, the reduction of one shilling a quarter upon malt.

The Marquis of Londonderry

denied that he had, in point of filet, said that there would be any farther repeals of taxes. What he stated was, that the House having pledged itself in 1819, to establish a sinking fund of five millions, and that resolution being now accomplished, it would be left open to parliament in what manner it should make use of any accruing surplus therefrom. He distinctly stated the future reduction of taxes to be dependent on the will of parliament, when it should have these farther sums at its disposal. He left it open to parliament in this manner; and at the same time he observed, that the distress of the country appeared to him to call for the relief. But if the agricultural interest should revive before the period arrived, the House was not pledged to any parti- cular course with regard to the funds that would he placed at its disposal. He hoped, therefore, that it would be borne in mind, that he never did say that any surplus which might arise, should of necessity be applied to the reduction of taxes.

Mr. Tierney

contended, that the interest of the sinking fund could not be at the disposal of parliament, as the noble marquis seemed to consider it. Without the repeal of several acts, parliament could not touch the compound interest, growing; out of the five millions. When the noble lord said that such accumulations were at the disposition of parliament, he announced that the sinking fund, upon the principle of accumulating by compound interest, was at an end.

The Marquis of Londonderry

said, that what he spoke of was, any surplus that might accrue beyond the five millions to be applied to the liquidation of the debt.

Mr. Tierney

expressed his astonishment at hearing the noble lord speak of a surplus of five millions, when in fact there was no such thing. He could understand the present manœuvre of the noble lord very well; it was to destroy the old machinery of the sinking fund, for the purpose of getting it into his own hands. He contended, that the produce of the sinking fund must be laid out at compound interest as the law now stood.

Mr. Ellice

thought the subject should be discussed in all its branches, and hoped that an ample debate would take place upon it at some future opportunity.

Mr. Maberly

said, he had understood from the noble marquis, that an annual reduction of taxes was to ensue. It would be much better for the noble lord not to come down to the House to make statements which were to be contradicted upon another occasion. The finance accounts which he had presented to the House, were also fallacious; or else the annual accounts were fallacious. They were, in fact, both fallacious; some in one thing and some in another. He had been to the Treasury to enquire into some of the contradictions, and to endeavour to get them explained. He saw there a very intelligent gentleman, Mr. Hill; but he was quite unable to reconcile the accounts. As it was his intention to submit a motion to the House upon this subject, at some future period, he should say no more at present.

The Marquis of Londonderry

repeated, that he had distinctly stated that would be left open to parliament as to what they should do with any surplus which might arise hereafter. It was for them to decide whether it should be applied solely to the reduction of taxes, or divided with any other object; whether the whole sun should accumulate at compound interest, or whether the whole surplus should be taken or any part of it.

Lord Althorp

said, he had understood distinctly that these prospective reductions were announced.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

remarked upon what had fallen from an hon. member relative to his applying at the Treasury for information respecting the public accounts. The hon. gentleman had said, that he learnt there that those accounts were erroneous. He would venture to say that, the hon. gentleman had mistaken what he had heard. If the gentleman to whom he had applied, Mr. Hill (than whom a more intelligent and valuable servant of the public did not exist), were at the bar of that House, he would reconcile all the public accounts of which the hon. member complained.

Sir H. Parnell

said, that the simplification of accounts ought to be extended to all the public departments.

Mr. Hume

condemned the incorrectness of the public accounts. There were scarcely two Treasury accounts laid on that table which agreed with each other; and this he pledged himself to prove when they went into the committee upon the subject. He thought ministers ought to effect the simplification of the accounts themselves, without calling upon the House to do it.

The motion was agreed to.