§ The House haying resolved, itself into a committee on this subject,
The Chancllor of the Exchequer
said, that he would call to the recollection of the House, As briefly as possible, the principle of the resolutions on this subject already agreed to by the House. The resolutions to which the House had agreed [see p. 264], recognized the military and naval pensions granted during the late war, and also the civil superannuations, granted by: consent of parliament, as Ai charge on the public, and as forming part of the public debt. These pensions were granted for the seryices which brave and meritorious persons had rendered their country. Without attempting to carry the analogy farther, he would say, that the House having recognised the principle that these pensions formed part of the public debt, had also recognized the propriety of this principle—that where a large public debt pressed upon the country, 738 in order to relieve the country as much as possible from the pressure of that debt, it was expedient to throw the weight of a portion of it over a certain number of years, by which means the payment would appear more easy, and less irksome. The number of years, in the case before the House, was limited to 45, because the allowances now made to naval and military officers and other persons, would, before the expiration of that period, be nearly extinguished. After the resolutions had been passed, measures were taken to carry the object of parliament into execution. The wish of government was, to leave time matter, after full and fair notice, open to the competition of all parties; and after certain proceedings had taken place—proceedings which were' marked with the utmost candour on the part of those who took part in them—attempts were made by the Treasury to conclude negotiations with some of the leading capitalists in the city. In point of fact, there had been much communication on this subject with various individuals, and the particulars of those communications were in part before the public. But, as the negotiations had had no effect, it became his duty to submit another mode in which the wishes of parliament could be accomplished, always concluding that the plan would be finally sanctioned by the approbation of the House in forming a contract of the nature which be had proposed with individuals or corporations, there was a possibility, and even a probability that there would be great loss or extreme advantage to the parties contracting, and it seemed that the fear of grievous burthen had operated to prevent contractors from making any offers. On this account it was probably more expedient that the plan which he now proposed should be adopted, which was, to place the annuities which were to be granted in lieu of the decreasing payments in the bands of trustees accountable to parliament. In this case the risk would fall where it was proper it should fall—on the public. If there was a profit, it would go to defray the public charges; mid if there was a loss, it would fall upon the public, as it would have done if no such plan had been adopted. He hoped, therefore, that without any variation of, the principle which had been sanctioned by the House, the plan which he proposed for the execution of it would be found just and beneficial. He should state the nature of the resolu- 739 tions which he should propose to the committee. It was his intention to propose as his first resolution:—
"That, for the purpose of apportioning, conformably to the resolutions of this House of the 3rd of May, 1822, the burthen occasioned by the Military and Naval pensions and Civil Superannuations, it is expedient, that an equal annuity of 2,800,000l. terminable at the end of 45 years, should, from the 5th of April, 1822, be vested in trustees to be named by parliament; and that the said Annuity should be charged upon the Consolidated fond of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland."
This resolution, it would be observed, was the same as the one first proposed; but as the whole of the loss or gain would fall on the public, the object in view would be effected in the most economical manner, as it depended on no calculation of chances, and thus avoided the necessity of giving any pecuniary inducement to the parties who undertook the risk. The sum of 2,800,000l. had been assumed as the amount of the annuities; though it was lower than that which would have been necessary, if the contract had been entered into with any contractors. This sum would make the calculation just, if the interest of money was taken at 3½ per cent which would give the 3 per cents at 82. His noble friend, when he had first opened the plan to the House, had very properly, in the course of his illustrations, taken a sum which could give no clue to the parties intending to contract. But now that the plan was not to be managed by contract, it was immaterial what sum was taken, except as the purpose of making the produce of the annuities sold meet as nearly as possible the actual charge. He had stated that the sum of 2,800,000l. annuities, for 45 years, was taken on the calculation of 3½ per cent for the interest of money, or of the 3 per cents at 82. Taking the 3 per cents at 75, which was equal to 4 per cent interest on money, the amount of annuities necessary would have been 2,862,000l. At 4¼ per cent the sum necessary would be 2,902,000l.; and 4¼ per cent was the rate of interest on which, the 5 per cents had been reduced that would, have been about the rate at which the money could probably be obtained from any contractors. He had, therefore, taken about 100,000l. of annuities less then any contractors could have taken. This was 740 a circumstance which it was material to bear in mind when they came to speak of the reduction of taxes; for though he assumed this as the amount of annuity sufficient, it was necessary that they should bear in mind that it was the very smallest sum which could be adequate to meet the charge.
The remainder of the plan was very simple. Though the time was not yet come for the nomination of the trustees, it would be well that he should mention the sort of persons whom it was his intention to propose in that character. The trustees he should propose would be the great officers of the departments in which the payments would be made—the first lord of the Treasury, the chancellor of the exchequer, the treasurer of the navy, the paymaster of the forces, the master general of the Ordnance, to whom would be added, the governor and deputy governor of the Bank, as the payments would be made through the Bank, and as it would he convenient to keep up a confidential and free communication with that corporation. The next resolution was, that the trustees should be chargeable with the quarterly payments of the annual sums, which had been calculated as sufficient to meet the decreasing charge of the pensions and half pay. The third resolution stated the mode in which the sums necessary to make these payments should be realised, viz. by the successive sales of the annuities placed at their disposal, by the dividends on the unsold annuities, or by the power which would be reserved to the trustees of issuing Exchequer bills, when it was thought that the annuities could not be brought to sale to advantage; and, finally, a power would be given to the departments to apply other sums which might be at their disposal, to be afterwards replaced by the trustees from the produce of the annuities or of the Exchequer bills before mentioned. By thus investing the trustees with the power, at their discretion, of raising the money in more ways than one a considerable economy might be the result. He should take, for instance, the, operation in the first year. The first half year's dividend on the long annuities created would be payable on the 20th October next, and the first quarterly instalment would at the same time be to be paid by the trustees. The dividend which they would have to receive on the annuities would be 1,400,000l. and the payment 741 which they would have to make would be only 1,225,000l. (1ߝ4th of 4,900,000l.) therefore without selling any annuities their first payment would be provided for, and a surplus of 175,000l. would remain in their hands till the ensuing 15th of January. At that time, by the sale of annuities, or by the issue of Exchequer bills, it would be necessary for them to make up the sum of 1,225,000l. The annuities being for 45 years, were for Seven years more than the existing long annuities, and would therefore, at the rate at which the existing long annuities sold, be Worth something more than 21 years purchase. On the 15th of April 1823, another half-yearly dividend would be payable on the annuities, and the trustees would be then able to make their quarterly payment without any further sale. On the 15th of July they would again have to raise money by the issue of Exchequer bills, or by the sale of a further portion of annuities, and so on; in the October and April quarters the payment would be provided for from the dividends, and in the January and July quarters, the trustees would have to sell annuities or issue Exchequer It was easy for the House to understand, that if the Bank was disposed to take Exchequer bills, or if a ready sale was found for them in the market, the inconvenience of any untimely sale of the annuities might be avoided. It was to be observed, that the sums to be paid by the trustees rapidly decreased; for in the first five years it was reduced from 4,900,000l. to 4,100,000l, after which a comparatively small sum would remain to be raised in any mode. The dividends received on the annuities would at last exceed the payments made by the trustees, and they would then be applied to the paying off of the Exchequer bills advanced in the earlier years, or to the repayment with compound interest, of the sums advanced from other quarters.
Among the various points of view in which this transaction might be considered, the most important might be considered, the most important perhaps was that of operation on the sinking fund; that first place, because it was intimately connected with the sinking fund; in the first place because if was intimately connected place, because it was intimately connected with the sinking fund, because it was a discharge of one species of public debt they were bound by the resolutions of this as well as of former parliaments to support an efficient sinking fund of five millions. Now, in the first place, he should say that no sum whatever was 742 taken out of the hands of the commissioners for the reduction of the debt The sums which would pass into the hands of the commissioners would be precisely the same; and the debt which was new created provided for its own extinction without any additional operation of the sinking fund. This plan, it, was to be observed, only provided for the half-pay and pensions with which the country would be charged on the 15th July next. The half-pay and pensions which might hereafter be granted were not provided for; so that, if in. remitting the taxes they did not provide for this charge, the country would be left in a worse situation than it was. It was, therefore, proposed, though the sum of 2,200,000l. would be the present saving, that a sum should be reserved to meet the charge of future half-pay. Various calculations had been made as to the probable amount of this charge; but as it was dependent on innumerable contingencies which could not be foreseen, as, for instance, the reduction of forces, promotions, and retirements, it was impossible to estimate it exactly. It was thought, however, that a reserve of 400,000l. would be sufficient to meet this charge, till the sinking fund reached that point at which its accumulation should stop that point was the time when its annual amount became equal to one per cent on the capital of the debt. Something more than ten years and less than eleven would bring it to that maximum. This 400,000l., till it was necessary to meet the growing. Charges future pensions and half-pay, would be applied, in some way or other, to the reduction of the funded or unfunded debt. To keep in view the principles on which parliament had hitherto acted, bethought it most desirable to place the sum at the disposal of the commissioners of the sinking fund; so that for the next and subsequent years nearly 5,400,000l. per annum would be at their disposal. In the statement of the annual payments, the average stun payable in each year had been taken Thus, as the half-pay and pensions were taken in July next to amount to five millions, and at the end of the year July 15, 1823, at 4,800,000l., he had taken 4,900,000l. as a medium charge. Between the five millions now payable, and the annuity of 2,800,000l., there was a, difference of 2,200,000l. of Which 1,800,000l. would be applied to the remission of taxes, 400,000l. reserved to 743 meet the charge which would be growing up and remaining without other provision.
It might be thought premature in him, before the plan was sanctioned by the House, to state what taxes it was intended to remit; but as it was desirable to bring the whole of the plan at one view under the consideration of the House, and as he knew bow much the feelings of hon. members were interested in this part of the subject, he should now state what be intended to propose in the way of remission of taxes. On the best consideration be could give the subject, with a view of affording that substantial and effectual relief (without which the feelings of the people would be rather trifled with than gratified), he had come to the conclusion as to the taxes which it would be adviseable to reduce. There was hardly a difference of opinion either in the petitions to the House, or among the members themselves, or among those whose judgments were most worthy of regard, that among all the taxes there was none which it was more desirable to reduce, to a very considerable degree, than the salt tax [hear, hear!]. His objection, at an early period of the session, to the motion of the hon. member for Wareham, besides the general objection at that time to the remission of any taxes, was that it would throw the trade into confusion by a partial remission. The remission he had now to propose was to a much greater extent. Of 15s. per bushel, the present tax on salt, be should propose that 13s. be given up, leaving a duty of 2s. equal to the present Irish duty, which would give the convenience of an equal duty in both parts of the United Kingdom. In this operation, consideration was to be had to the persons engaged in the trade; and it was obvious, that unless the measure was taken with due preparation, it would be ruinous to them. Though, therefore, he intended to propose an immediate resolution for the reduction of the tax, he did not propose that it should take effect till the 5th of January next. There night be some inconvenience to the dealers, and there would be a postponement of the advantage to the public; but, considering the nature of the commodity, the consumption of which was generally from hand to mouth, it was thought that by aid of reasonable arrangements with the excise, any considerable inconvenience might be avoided, and the public would, have the satisfaction of the near prospect 744 of a very considerable relief. The Scotch duty which was 6s. he also intended to reduce to 2s. He was aware that there were some local interests that would be affected by this measure; but the benefit of a free trade in salt, was too great to be impeded by any minor consideration. In order to make the fullest freedom of the salt trade practicable, all allowances and drawbacks on salt for particular purposes would cease, with the single exception of the drawback on exportation to foreign parts; because in the case of exportation the duty of 2s. per bushel would be ruinous. Irish salt would not be subject to any other duty than at present but salt imported from England would be subjected to the duty of 2s. The duty in all cases would be levied at the pit's mouth; so that all the charges of management would be saved, and the trade would be left entirely free and unfettered. Though certainly the discontinuance of the allowance of salt duty free to several manufactures might be attended with some inconvenience, yet the great countervailing advantage from the cessation of all penalties and restrictions, would be more than equal to the charge of 2s. per bushel. The same state-went might apply to the fisheries: though there would be an increase of charge, it would be counterbalanced by the unrestricted supply. The foreign salt imported for the fisheries would be chargeable with the 2s. duty, and the additional 3d. per bushel which it was now charged with. It would thus be charged in all with 2s. 3d. per bushel. As he proposed to reduce the fifteenth of the tax, which now amounted to 1,500,000l. the reduction would be about 1,300,000l. As to the foreign salt imported into Ireland, he' should not propose any alteration, at least he did not now entertain a contrary opinion.—The next tax which he should propose to remit was one which it was the more imperative on the House to attend to, as the people of Ireland would derive, no benefit from the repeal of the salt tax. On the contrary, it was rather a disadvantage, as it deprived them of a comparative superiority, though that generous-minded people would never object to the relief of their fellow subjects. With the repeal of the salt tax, however, he felt it his duty to propose a contemporaneous measure for the relief of Ireland, and the House would anticipate him in saying, that nothing could be more grateful than the 745 repeal of the window tax [hear, hear!]. This repeal be proposed should be entire, to take effect from the 5th of July next. This tax amounted to 200,000l., and with it he proposed also to repeal the Hearth Duty, a tax not paid in England, and which indeed had been repealed here in the reign of king William, as unfit to be levied; it amounted only to 50,000l. Both taxes hardly amounted to 250,000l., which, added to the 1,300,000l., made 1,550,000l. The next article was one to which also Me House had frequently had its attention called; he meant the duty on leather. Without due precaution the public would not derive all the benefit of the repeal of this tax. His intention was that the additional duty which had, been imposed in 1812, should be remitted, and that the tax and the trade should be replaced on the footing on which it stood from the reign of queen Anne to 1812. The House, however, should proceed in the same manner in this case as with the brewers, and should not repeal the tax till they had an experimental assurance, that the public would derive a benefit from it. He felt the greater necessity for this precaution, because he had observed that since the peace, the reduction of price had not borne a fair proportion to the reduction of the raw material. If they took care to secure this effect there was no tax from the reduction of which the public would derive more advantage; for the commodity on which, it fell formed a very serious article of expenditure both to farmers and to the working people. The whole of the leather tax produced 600,000l.; he proposed to reduce half or 300,000l. There was another reduction which he meant to propose, and which though not of a large amount, would be felt to be highly desirable. It had been frequently urged, in the course of the discussions on the navigation bills which had been brought forward by his two right hon. friends with so much benefit to the country, that notwithstanding the general advantages which would arise to the commerce of this empire and of the whole world, from the adoption of a different principle—advantages which he hoped to see still further extended from year to year—there was one most important interest which was likely to be effected by these Measures; he alluded to the shipping interest. A reduction, therefore, which was calculated to relieve any difficulties and embarrassments which might fall 746 upon this class of the community from the operation of a general measure, which parliament, in its wisdom, thought fit to adopt, would at least spew the protecting care of parliament for that particular interest. The duty he proposed to repeal was the tonnage duty, which had been granted during the war and continued during peace. The tonnage duty on all ships clearing inwards and outwards, amounted to 150,000l. which in addition to the 1,850,000l. already enumerated, made a total of 2,000,000l. There was an excess, therefore, of 200,000l., beyond the proposed amount of reduction; but he expected that the large reduction of the salt tax would occasion so great an increase of consumption as to cover a considerable portion of this excess. There were some other items which he confidently expected would make up the remainder, so that there would be no ultimate loss to the revenue, beyond the proposed sum of 1,800,000l. He hoped that, without going into minute particulars of calculation, he had succeeded in making himself distinctly intelligible to the House. With regard to the plan for vesting the annuity in trustees to named by parliament, it was certainly expedient, as soon as it was ascertained that the original intention of government could not be conveniently carried into effect, to endeavour to obtain the same benefit by some other arrangement, to which no objection could be made. He felt confident that the House would think the measures proposed were in themselves capable of, producing all the benefit which they, had in view, and that there was no other objection to them than that which was inseparable from any plans of this nature—The right hon. gentleman concluded by moving his first resolution;
"That, for the purpose of apportioning, conformably to the resolutions of this House of the third of May, 1822, burthen occasioned by the Military and Naval pensions, and Civil Superannuations, it is expedient that an equal annual Annuity of 2,800,000l. terminable at the end of 45 years, should, from the fifth of April, 1822, be vested in trustees to be named by parliament; and that the said Annuity should be charged upon the Consolidated Fund of the united kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland."
congratulated the House upon the propositions which they, had just heard. He confessed that he must 747 have totally misunderstood the right hon. gentleman in the beginning of the session when he fancied he heard him say, that a repeal of taxation would not only be no remedy for the distress under which the country laboured, but that it would actually aggravate the evil. It was scarcely possible that such a declaration could ever have been made by the right hon. gentleman, who had this night risen in his place to move a reduction of taxes to the extent of two millions. But whether he were mistaken or not, what had passed that evening was an encouragement to the House to persevere in their opposition to ministers, and to continue that course which their duty to the country demanded. The right hon. gentleman had gone further in his reduction of the salt tax, than he (Mr. C.) had ventured to propose under the circumstances of the present session. This was a measure which was calculated to give universal satisfaction. If it affected the interests of Ireland, he must beg that country to turn her eyes to the advantages she derived from the monopoly she possessed of our corn market. With regard to the duty on foreign salt, which was only used in one particular part of the fisheries, he really thought the right hon. gentleman ought to increase it. As to the other part of the plan, he confessed himself unable to understand the mode of carrying it into execution. When the noble lord first opened his proposition to the House, there was not a person who heard him who could have supposed that a minister would have gone so far without having the means of executing his plan. All this embarrassment would have been avoided by adopting the plan proposed on his (Mr. C's.) side of the House, namely, that of taking the money at once from the sinking fund. The whole thing might be done at one stroke of the pen, by striking out the word "consolidated," in the first resolution, and substituting "sinking" fund. This would be a straight forward, clear, intelligible course. How could the right hon. gentleman, he would ask, go into the market to borrow money every year, without divesting the capital which would otherwise go into the funds? His majesty's ministers had talked so much, however, of their darling sinking fund, that they had become enamoured of their idol, or if not enamoured, they had said so much in its praise that they were unwilling to recede. After all, if he understood the right hon. gentleman, he had himself 748 declared his intention of coming in a few years to the sinking fund, for when it reached a certain amount, it was to bear a proportion of this debt. As far as he (Mr. C.) concerned, he should not press for any further remission in the present session. If he found the reduced tax worked well, he should be satisfied, well, he should be satisfied, bur if the duty of 2s.a bushel appeared to press hard upon the fisheries, he trusted the House would be ready to afford them relief.
The Marquis of Londonderry
said, that after the manner in which the hon. member had expressed himself, it would be unpardonable in him to make a single observation which might interrupt the harmony of the evening. He had not for a long time, passed so satisfactory a moment; nor did he ever remember to have seen the countenances of the gentlemen opposite so creditably lighted up. The hon. gentleman had done such ample justice w the plan of his right hon. friend, and he had spoken of it in such a spirit of candour, and even of kindness, that he (lord L.) should be doing violence to his own feelings if he suffered himself to let fall any expression which might throw a cloud over this happy dawn. There was one maxim of the hon. gentleman, however, from which inconvenient consequences might be drawn, if it were suffered to pass wholly unnoticed. As the hon. gentleman had called upon the House to observe what advantages were derivable from opposing ministers, he (lord L.) would remind the hon. gentleman of the advantages of supporting ministers, Whose great object was, to preserve public credit. He agreed with the hon. member, that if the fisheries should be embarrassed or injured by this duty, it would be incumbent on the House to consider the particular bearing of the tax upon their interests The hon. member had said, that the government had now for the first time discovered that relief for the country Was to be derived from the remission of taxes; but surely ministers had contended; as loudly as the hon. member himself, that the House could not be too eager to repeal taxes, provided they did it upon a sound principle. He would not, however, be a party to so gross a delusion as to hold out, that even this large reduction of two millions, in addition to the reduction of a million and a half in the malt duty, which followed close on the repeal of the agricultural horse tax, would be likely to 749 bear upon the main pressure of the distress which prevailed. The relief was, in fact, afforded to consumers, who were not the class of the community suffering under the greatest degree of distress. The hon. member had said, that if the words "Sinking-fund" were substituted for "Consolidated-fund," all difficulties would be at once removed, and their harmony would be at its climax. When he proposed the principle of a contract, he had good reason to believe, that there were persons disposed to become contractors for the plan. It was not wonderful, how ever, that persons, looking to the probable contingencies which might arise during; so extended a period as 45 years, should entertain doubts, whether, with a view to the interests of the parties for whom they were trustees, it would be prudent to embark in such a transaction. The plan was in consequence changed, and no the public were themselves the contractors. There was, however, no interference with the principle or the sinking fund. Nothing could stand more distinct from the operation of this plan than the sinking-fund did. The fund of five millions for covering the dead charge was not to be confounded with the sinking-fund; for if those two funds were married together, they would make 10 millions. He would not add another word, lest it should disturb the harmony of the evening.
§ Sir J. Newport
rejoiced at the repeal of the window tax, arid was also happy that the hearth tax was given up, not on account of its magnitude, but because it was extremely disagreeable to the feelings of the people, who viewed it as a badge of slavery. The financial plan appeared to him more desirable in its present shape than if it had been effected by means of a body of contractors.
§ General Gascoyne
adverted to the present state of the shipping interest, and said, he experienced, great pleasure at finding that it had not been neglected. The right hon. gentleman deserved the gratitude of the country, for the equal manner in which he had distributed relief to different classes and descriptions of individuals.
§ Mr. Hume
said, that no member of that House could be more pleased with the remission of two millions of taxation than he felt much surprised at the 750 tone assumed by hon. members, who returned their thanks to ministers for what they had proposed, in so extravagant a style, that it might be supposed some personal favour had been done by them. He considered it to be the duty of ministers, if the necessity of the country required the repeal of taxes, to remove them immediately. He could not but regret that so much praise had been bestowed for the mere discharge of their duty, a duty, be it remembered, the House and the country had called on ministers to perform, day after day, and week after week. No part of the community, not even the agricultural classes, required greater relief than the shipping interest. He was, therefore, extremely pleased at the remission of the tonnage duty; and he hoped, at a future period, that something further for their benefit, which he had turned in his mind, such as the remission of 1s. in the pound on wages for Greenwich Hospital, which was now taken from the merchants service, would be conceded to them. As to the leather tax, he believed its partial repeal would meet the wishes of the public, but he had looked for the entire tax being repealed; and with respect to the repeal of the Irish window tax, every one who knew any thing about that country and the hardships it had suffered, must concur in the propriety of its repeal. He did not, however, approve of the manner, in which the salt tax was reduced. When it was remitted, that object should be effected in the most advantageous, way. Why, then, for so small a part of the tax as 2s. of the 15s. should they retain the expense of the whole system of collection and management? He held in his hand a return, from which, it appeared that there were 255 officers employed in managing the salt duties in England; their salaries amounted to 26,500l.: adding other emoluments, the total expense was 32,000l., and if the charger of 5,000l. who superintended these duties in Scotland the amount would exceed, in salaries Wand allowances, 36,000l. per annum If one-half of the present establishment of officers were kept of the consequence would be that the public would pay near 20,000l. year for collecting 200,000l. It would, therefore, be better to take off the whole tax and and relieve the country from the interference of the excise in the use of that most important necessary of 751 life, As to the fisheries, instead of laying a duty on salt, the right hon. gentleman might, perhaps, find a mode of lessening the public expense, by reducing the amount of bounties. Why should they charge—say, 2s. of duty on salt to the fishery, and afterwards give 4s. back in the shape of bounty? Why was not the whole system simplified, and the bounty reduced from 3s. 6d. to 1s. 6d. or 2s., which would enable the right hon. gentleman to exempt the fisheries from the additional duty? He here expressed his anxious hope, that the government would take the system of bounties into its consideration, with the view of abolishing them. He doubted much the policy of keeping up any trade by bounties which after a fair trial could not exist without them. The effect was, to supply herrings &c. cheap to other countries, by taxing the people of England to pay a part of the expense of production—this ought not to be continued. The hon. gentleman then alluded to the financial plan of the chancellor of the exchequer, to raise money by long annuities, and contended, that it would be the simplest and best mode to take the money at once from the sinking-fund. What was it the chancellor of the exchequer proposed to do, but sending one set of commissioners into the market to sell annuities and incur new debts, whilst they employed other commissioners to purchase annuities and to pay off part of the same debt? Although he was certain, that without the walls of the House there would be none weak enough to deny that this was not in effect an interference with the sinking-fund. Though it was affirmed within the walls of that House that this measure did not interfere with the sinking-fund. If it was improper to adhere to the resolution for 5,000,000l. of a sinking-fund, why not revise it? If the wants of the country required relaxation from taxation, why not break through the resolution for the purpose of adopting a course which would be in all respects more economical? and on one consistent principle—instead of employing new commissioners, the commissioners of the sinking-fund ought to be required to advance the necessary sum, and to receive hereafter the profits of the contract, for the benefit of the sinking-fund. In this there would be no expense of management, and no risk; and the proceeding would be intelligible to the world, that the delusion of not interfering 752 with the sinking-fund, when it was manifest to fest to every one that they were interfering, got rid of at the same moment. If the right hon. gentleman was delighted with complexity, if he must have his darling operation of selling and buying, let him adopt this plan; by which the sinking-fund would gain what the public treasury would lose. He would add that if the public money was to be economically applied, this plan of the chancellor of the exchequer must be abandoned, and he trusted that the committee would see the propriety of adopting his amendment, and so dispensing with the cumbrous machinery of the other plan. Gentlemen were naturally delighted with a remission of taxes, but in their delight they ought not to squander the public money. He begged leave to move as an amendment on the first resolution, "That the balance between 2,800,000l. and the several sores set forth in the scale for the first 15 years should be taken from the commissioners of the national debt, and that the balance be paid again to the commissioners on the 16th and subsequent years."
§ Mr. Curwen
could not refrain from expressing his satisfaction at the selection of taxes to be remitted. The effects of the remission of the salt tax would be greater than were calculated upon. He was, however, anxious that the whole duty on rock salt should be remitted; for then agriculture would be greatly relieved, and trade inconceivably increased. What was proposed to be done would, he was persuaded, give general satisfaction to the country.
§ Mr. Davenport
congratulated the House on the great remission of taxes which had been announced. He begged to suggest, as the salt duty was to terminate in January next, that much relief would be afforded to the dairy farmers, who consumed great quantities in cheese and butter, if it were taken off in the present year.
§ Mr. W. Smith
regretted that the whole tax on salt was not remitted, in order to save the expellee of collection, and wished the whole of the leather tax was repealed also. With respect to the amendment, he was surprised that the point should not be given up by ministers; for nothing could be more clear to any rational mind than that there could be no sinking fund but what arose from the surplus of revenue above the expenditure, best course therefore, was, to take from the sinking fund without disguise, and in a manner 753 that would prevent any increase of establishments.
§ Mr. J. Benett
said, he would rather see the whole of the salt tax taken away, and the leather tax left as it was, than both reduced, but still retaining the expense of collection. He rejoiced in the reductions that were made, but hoped they would not have a tendency to relax the endeavours of members to push the principle of economy still further.
§ Mr. Bright
observed, that the fisheries would not feel the benefit of the repeal, if it was merely partial, and would therefore be dissatisfied. Another class of persons who had great interest in the removal of the whole tax, were the linen bleachers of Ireland; and he would submit whether it would not be right to remove the pressure from the staple manufacture of the sister kingdom. He rejoiced that the tonnage duty was also removed, as it would be of great advantage to the commercial interests.
could not withhold the expression of his satisfaction and congratulation for measures so well calculated to give relief. He was most grateful for the remission of the Irish window tax, and also for the relief which in the leather tax would follow. With respect to the salt tax, he wished the whole had been reduced; but he trusted that the operation of the arrangement on the subject of foreign salt would not affect injuriously the provision trade of Ireland.
§ Mr. Ricardo
said, he was most ready to commend the conduct of ministers where he found it prudent and proper; and in the proposed remission of taxes he thought they had acted judiciously in listening to the general prayer of the people. But, when he offered this commendation, he must decline concurring in any terms of excessive gratitude. He confessed, that he owed no gratitude to ministers for giving the people what was, in fact, their own money, If, indeed, the ministers had framed any plan for giving the people any portion of money which did not really belong to them, then would be the time to offer them fervent gratitude. But he thought that ministers, in coming down with all that earnestness to announce the remission of taxes, had not dealt quite fairly with the House. It looked as if they wished to induce the House to assent to those parts of their proposition which were bad, under the cover of those parts which were good. Now, he thought it was the 754 duty of that House to separate the bad from the good, and by its vote to get rid of the former altogether. Under that view, he should support the amendment. He regretted much that any portion of the salt tax was continued, he did not wish that any nucleus should remain, because they well knew with what vigour, under the management of the exchequer, it would spread. [Hear, hear.] As to the present plan for meeting the dead expenditure, it was nothing more or less than an annual loan, in the contracting for which either a profit or a loss, as in all other loans, must follow. To the public, then, at last they must go for that loan; and as there was no ascertained stock in which it was to be funded, it would be of course less marketable, and consequently a greater profit must be held out to the contractor. Why then not keep that advantage to the country? There was another fallacy: for as the period of 45 years approached to a termination, what was to prevent the chancellor of the exchequer of the day, from converting these annuities into a perpetuity? He did expect the vote of the hon. member for London. That hon. member had qualified his support to the former plan, by hoping that the chancellor of the exchequer would take advantage of the present high price of the funds, in making his bargain for the public. Now, by the proposed scheme, the sale of the annuities was to be annual, and of course the purchases. Being thus made from year to, year, such sales and purchases must be subjected to the contingency of war, and the depreciation of the price of stocks. Besides, if the market failed the right hon. gentleman, he must issue Exchequer bills, and add to the unfunded debt. If war subsequently occurred, he would then have to fund at a greater expense.
said, he considered the present proposition as nothing more or less than a loan; indeed it was worse than a loan, as it trenched upon the sinking fund. It went to borrow from year to year, instead of being fixed on a long annuity. He was, however, quite gratified at the remission of taxes, particularly that portion of it, which so peculiarly affected the shipping interest.
disapproved of the financial part of the scheme, which was, in point of fact, creating a loan for the purpose of reducing taxation. This was not a legitimate mode of effecting such an object, whilst there remained another, an 755 easier, and a cheaper way, by reviewing the estimates, in which he was persuaded a saving of 2,000,000l. might be effected, without touching the sinking fund. In March last the right hon. gentleman said that the sinking fund must be kept up at 5,000,000l., and that therefore no taxes could be remitted. Now, his views were entirely reversed. It was idle to talk of a sinking fund in this manner. Indeed, from 1792 downwards, the public credit had been sustained without one. All the machinery of their finance was complicated; and even when the right hon. gentleman paid the debt to the Bank, he raised, the amount by a loan on Exchequer bills. This was, in fact, a system of frauds and tricks; and the House; instead of guarding the public purse against such operations, had been the airier and abettor of the plunder. Mark the right hon. gentleman's course in the present year. As soon as he had accomplished his financial operations for the reduction of the five per cents, during which he had said not a word of reducing taxation, not a word of touching the sinking fund, he turned round and robbed the public creditor of the operation of this sinking fund, to which he had just before pledged his faith. Even in his plan of remitting taxes, he took a clumsy and an expensive course. Instead of reducing altogether an impolitic and injurious tax, he touched it partially, and thereby still retained the expensive machinery for its collection. He cordially approved of the amendment.
§ Mr. Huskisson
denied that the plan was any infringement upon the principle of the sinking fund: on the contrary, it was one which must keep up the public credit, and be of peculiar service in the present situation of the country. He joined, therefore, in the general congratulations of the House, and was surprised to hear the epithet of "frauds and tricks" applied to any part of the arrangement. If any man had an annuitant for life attached to his estate, what fraud would there be in offering him a proportionate equivalent for a term of years? His right hon. friend bath assumed, and he was correct in that assumption, that supposing the present amount of annuities to be in existence for a certain specific time, and supposing the country would have to maintain the ordinary charges for the navy, army, and other expenditure, and even contemplating a few years of ordinary war, still the amount of debt charged would not exceed 756 2,000,000l. He was very ready to admit that would not be a clear surplus in the present year; but they must bear in mind, that they were dealing with a fund which was daily decreasing wish a fund which was daily decreasing in amount, and by which the public must be gainers for the next 16 years. As to the expense of working this plan, he hoped that it would be carried into effect without any expense at all.
§ Mr. H. Gurney
said, he could by no means participate in the cheers and congratulations which he heard all around him; and he was afraid the House, if he might be allowed the expression, would find itself in a fool's paradise. In fact, the propositions of the chancellor of the exchequer were, in his mind, the most alarming symptoms of the times—the adoption ea system marking, and fraught with ruin; an increase of debt, accompanied by a decrease of revenue—the precise proceeding which had been the index and forerunner of the bankruptcy of all nations. As to the total; remission of the window tax to Ireland, he could by no means comprehend why the large house of a great proprietor in that country should be exempted from a burthen, which was borne by what was almost a cottage in England and Scotland; though there might be a very valid reason for their exempting rather a better species of house than was exempt here.
§ Lord John Russell
observed, that as it was on all sides admitted, that there could be no sinking fund unless there was a surplus of revenue over the expenditure; and as they were now, after baying resolved that there should be a sinking fund pf five millions, about to remit two millions of taxes, it was incontrovertible in arithmetic, that the sinking fund could not; exceed three millions. The present plan was to be in operation for fifteen years—that was, the taxes were to be lightened, but the remission was to be met by continual loans for fifteen years. During that time the sinking fund would not, be in operation. If the country should be involved in war, the loans we should be obliged to make must, according to their equal or greater amount, altogether destroy the sinking fund. It was manifest that the sinking fund proposed in the early part of the session, was for the purpose of facilitating a recent financial operation; for the moment it was effected, the very minister who proposed the former resolution, proposed a plan to break down that 757 resolution. This was a mode of supporting public credit very different from what could be acted on in private life. With respect to the statement of the chancellor of the exchequer, he was much amused with the manner in which he produced arguments to show the inutility and expense of the plan which he had proposed a few weeks ago. He now attempted to prove how his present plan had a singular advantage over his former one; but it was evident that the chief ground of resorting to it was, to avoid the shame and humiliation of going directly to the sinking fund. What could be a greater incongruity, than that government should have commissioners to dispose of long annuities, and commissioners to sell long annuities This reminded him of a comic poet, who had brought upon the scene an avaricious father lending money to a prodigal son. But what would have been said of that comic poet had he introduced the prodigal in the scene lending money to himself. Yet this was the case with the present government, for the chancellor of the exchequer and the noble lord were trustees of the pension plan, and commissioners of the sinking fund. He participated in the satisfaction felt by the House on account of the promised reduction of taxation, and could not but wish that the machinery of the sinking fund was done away with.
Mr. Alderman Heygate
did not object to the selection of the taxes to be repealed, but thought a reduction or repeal of the window tax in England would have been most desirable. With regard to the annuity scheme, it was objectionable, because it enabled government to take off taxes without a correspondent reduction of expenditure, and removed the burthen; from our own shoulders to those of posterity; Who were already loaded by our improvident wars with a debt of nearly 800,000,000l. Besides this, it seemed to be an indirect attack upon the sinking fund, which the house and the government had so recently pledged themselves to maintain untouched, and, in censequence of which resolution the nation had lust elected a saving of 1,500,000l.—the greatest financial measure upon record Approving neither of the annuity scheme, nor of the amendment, he felt himself betted to vote against both.
§ Mr. W. Williams
denied, that the sinking fund had been maintained inviolate, and contended that it was now too late to 758 talk of keeping parliament to its pledges. The chancellor of the exchequer had departed from his pledges and destroyed the sinking fund, by reducing it from what it ought to have been, between 20 and 30 millions, to the paltry sum of five millions. He was glad to see a reduction of taxes, but it ill became that House to talk of gratitude to the ministers for that reduction when the distresses of the country demanded it. The sinking fund might be taken away altogether for a few years, with the greatest advantage to the country. Its increased prosperity, growing out of the reduction of the taxes, would then, enable us to establish another sinking fund without distressing the people.
supported the proposition of ministers, and congratulated the country on the reduction of taxation.
said, he had no objection to either of the plans then before the House, but was of opinion that the plan proposed by the hon. member for Montrose was the most effectual and economical.
§ Mr. J. Martin
preferred the amendment, on account of its greater clearness and simplicity. It was a palpable joggle to talk of having a sinking fund at a time that we were borrowing money to defray the expenses of our ordinary establishments.
§ The committee divided: For the amendment 35. Against it. 115.
|List of the Minority.|
|Attwood, M.||Martin, J.|
|Birch, J.||Monck, J. B.|
|Baring, sir T.||Milbank, M.|
|Calcraft, J. H.||Normanby, visc.|
|Coke, W. jun.||O'Callaghan, J.|
|Dundas, hon. T.||Palmer, C. F.|
|Duncannon, vis.||Power, R.|
|Davies, T. H.||Pares, T.|
|Denman, T.||Rumbold, C. E.|
|Gurney, R. H.||Robinson, sir G.|
|Heron, sir R.||Russell, lord J.|
|Hornby, E.||Taylor, M. A|
|Hobhouse, J. C.||Wood, alderman|
|Hume, J.||Wilson, sir R.|
|James, W.||Williams, J.|
|Latouche, R.||Williams, W.|
|Lennard, T. B.||TELLER.|
|Maberly, J.||Ricardo, D.|
|Maberly, W. L.|
§ The several resolutions were then agreed to.