HC Deb 10 February 1823 vol 8 cc91-2
Mr. Hume

, in rising to move that a series of financial papers which had been laid on the table of the House, should be printed, was anxious to preface his motion with a few observations. The title of one of these papers was, "An Account of all Sums paid over to the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt, for the year ending the 5th Jan. 1823;" and from that document it appeared, that 15,853,000l. had been so paid over. The system was, however, a complete fillacy. It turned out to be a mere transfer—a paying with one hand, and borrowing with the other, without liquidating any portion of the amount of debt. It was as perfect a farce as was ever played off by any juggler. As the country was about to have a new chancellor of the exchequer, it was to be hoped that, with the old one, this preposterous farce would die. If they must have a sinking fund, let it be a real one, clearly and plainly set forth; and not a mere nominal fund, which could only answer the purposes of delusion.

Mr. Grenfell

concurred with his hon. friend as to the folly of that system which induced government to lay before the House and the country this most idle and unsatisfactory account. He thought, however, that his hon. friend ought, in justice to the late chancellor of the exchequer, to have stated, that that right hon. gentleman had pledged himself, that the whole of that system which his hon. friend reprobated would be re-modelled; and that in future, the account of the sinking-fund should consist only of the surplus of income over expenditure.

Mr. Lushington

said, that one of the earliest objects of government would be to bring the subject of the sinking fund under the consideration of the House, for the purpose of simplifying the system, and rendering it more intelligible.

The Lord Mayor

(Mr. Alderman Heygate) deprecated any interference with the sinking fund system, from which the country had derived so much benefit. The proposition to enable the commissioners of the sinking fund to lend the money paid over to them for the service of the year, originated with one of the greatest ministers this country ever saw. It had been approved of by Mr. Fox, and was supported by Mr. Sheridan, and other eminent men, who usually sat on the opposition side of the House. It was a provision which arose from an act of the legislature at the time to which he had alluded; and he confessed he heard with great regret, that it was intended to depart from that system of financial arrangement which had rendered the credit of this country superior to that of any other state in the world. He would contend, that the sinking fund, by the way in which it had been managed, had enabled Great Britain to cope with the most powerful enemy that had ever been opposed to her. The system had been adopted by America, France, Russia, and Prussia; in short, it had been acted on wherever there was any thing like a representative government. He trusted, however anxious gentlemen might be to reduce the taxes, that still there was a spirit in that House which would, he was going to say, compel government to keep faith with the public creditor.

Mr. Lushington

said, that the intention was merely to bring in a bill to simplify the system, and thereby to render it more intelligible.