§ The House went into Committee of Ways and Means.
§ Lord Althorp
I rise. Sir, to lay before the House that financial statement which it is my duty to bring under the consideration of Parliament. I am quite aware, that the circumstances under which I present myself are such, that I cannot come forward with any sanguine views of the future, or gratulatory recapitulation of the past. I am quite aware, that my statement must be one which a Chancellor of the Exchequer has been unaccustomed to make of late years; and, therefore, I have to throw myself on the indulgence of the House. Under these circumstances, I am conscious that there is only one course which I ought to pursue, or which I can pursue, and that is, to detail fairly and plainly what the state of the case is with respect to the revenues of the country, not endeavouring, by either disguise or concealment, to deceive the House or the country on any one item connected with 850 that revenue. This, I am sure, is the best mode for me to adopt—the only justifiable mode for any Chancellor of the Exchequer. Now, Sir, the view which I have to present to the House of our finances must apply, in the first instance, to what is past, before I enter into the question of what I think likely to be the prospect for the present year. In consequence of the change that has taken place in the reckoning of our financial year, it will be necessary, when referring to what is past, to take the year as ending on the 5th of January; but, when I come to the consideration of the prospect for the present year, in order to make a fair comparison, it will be most proper for me to take the year as terminating on the 5th of April. With these preliminary observations, I shall now immediately proceed to the statement which I have to make. Sir, I will begin by stating the circumstances of the revenue during the year of 1830, and then proceed to compare those circumstances with the circumstances of the present year. The national income of the year 1830 (ending 5th of January 1831) was 50,056,616l., and the expenditure was 47,142,943l., leaving a surplus of 2,913,673l. The expenditure of 1831 was, within 19,646l., the same as that of 1830; that is to say, the expenditure of 1831 was 47,123,297l. This similarity of amount does not arise from the equality of the votes of the two years (for the votes of 1831 exceeded those of 1830), but is owing to there being a saving in 1831, from the reduction of the four-and-a-half per cents, to the amount of 777,433l. To account for the increased expenditure, I ought to state, that there is an increase in the Army Estimates of 225,130l.; on the Navy Estimates, of 380,252l.; and on the Miscellaneous Estimates, of 743,490l., from which we have to deduct the Civil List charges, amounting to 322,711l., leaving a balance of 420,779l. These sums together amount to 1,026,161l. In the Ordnance Estimates, however, there is a decrease of 140,964l. From the Unclaimed Dividends a sum of 127,400l. would be derived, and these sums together, deducted from the excess above mentioned, left 757,797l., which makes, as I have already stated, a diminution of expenditure in 1831, as compared to 1830, of 19,646l. It was thus evident, that, had the income of 1831, been equal to that of 1830, there 851 would have been a surplus of 2,933,319l. But great reductions having been made in taxation in 1830 and 1831, the revenue of the latter year necessarily fell off to a considerable amount. Thus the revenue of 1830 was 50,056,616l.; that of 1831 was 46,424,440l., showing a deficiency of 3,632,176l. in the latter year. This decrease has taken place principally in the Customs and Excise, the decrease in the Customs being 1,024,052l.; in the Excise, 2,341,360l.; making together 3,365,412l. There has also been a decrease in the Stamp Duties of 110,292l.; and in the taxes arising from deferred collection, owing to the abolition of Receivers-General, of 149,062l. There is also a deficiency in the miscellaneous revenue, from several large payments having been made into the Exchequer in the previous year, on account of surplus of four-and-a-half per cent duties, and hereditary revenue of Scotland, of 113,030l. These sums together make 372,384l., which, added to the 3,365,412l. make altogether 3,737,796l. From this sum, however, there must be deducted an increase in the Post-office of 64,194l,; and a sum from Unclaimed Dividends 41,426l., making together 105,620l., which, being deducted from the sura I have already stated, will show a decrease of income in 1831, as compared with 1830, of 3,632,176l. These items refer to the year ending the 5th of January. The House is aware, as I have already stated, that the expenditure of 1831 amounted to 47,123,297l., and the income to 46,424,440l.; consequently there was a deficiency of 698,857l. I have already shown, that the diminution of the in-comeof the year was 3,632,176l.; and we now see that the deficiency, as compared with the expenditure was 698,857l. Of course, we must deduct the amount of the surplus, in order to show the deficiency of the year; and it, therefore, appears, that the state of the revenue at the commencement of 1832 was, that instead of having a surplus of 2,913,673l., as in the commencement of 1831, though the expenditure of 1831 was 19,646l. below that of 1830, there was a falling off to the amount I have already shown, of about 700,000l. It is right, however, that I should remark, that this result arose not at all from any falling off in the consumption of taxable articles, but from a diminution in the amount of the taxes. A large reduction was made by the right hon. Gentleman, my predecessor, in 852 1830, a considerable portion of which came into the income of 1831; and I myself also made large reductions—reductions which, together, have turned out larger than the income of the country could afford. The reduction in the Customs on coals and slates has been about 900,000l. on barilla, 90,000l., and on sugar and molasses, 300,000l. besides which, there has been a deficiency in the corn duties of about 200,000l.; making altogether a deficiency of 1,485,000l. which, however, has nothing to do with the consumption of the people. In the Excise, the reductions have been still greater; the reduction in the beer tax amounts to 2,350,000l., on leather to 200,000l.; on cider, to 50,000l.; and on printed calicoes, (including the drawback), to 675,000.; besides which, there has been a diminution in the candle duty to the amount of 20,000l., chiefley arising from an expectation having been formed that some reduction in that duty would take place. Altogether, these reductions amount to 3,295,000l. which, added to the reductions of the Customs, make the reduction as compared with the former year, 1,414,588l., that is to say, the loss on Customs in 1830, was 1,024,052l., and on Excise 2,341,360l.; which, being added together, make 3,365,412l., leaving a balance, as I have already stated, of 1,414,588l. when compared with the same items in 1831. But the deficiency of the revenue as I have already stated, is 3,632,176l.; and, therefore, the statement that I have just made proves that there has been a considerable increase in the consumption of other taxable articles during the year. I think this circumstance must prove satisfactory to the House. For myself, I have, perhaps, been too sanguine, for I certainly did expect a greater increase of consumption; but, at all events, it is gratifying to find that so large an increase has actually taken place; and whatever disappointment I myself may have personally felt at not finding my expectations realized, this increase is still a subject of congratulation which I feel bound to press upon the consideration of the Committee. It is now my duty to state, that the deficiency which existed at the end of the year was in proportion considerably augmented at the end of the April quarter; the reason of this is, that a large portion of the Estimates voted in the preceding year came to be expended during the first quarter 853 of the year 1832, and, consequently, the Estimates that had reference to the first quarter were not diminished in their amount. It is owing to this circumstance that the deficiency on the 5th of April amounted to 1,240,000l. This certainly is a large deficiency of income, and ought, I admit, to be regarded with general regret. The mode in which the Government has endeavoured to meet this deficiency has not been by the proposal of any new taxes; but we have tried to the very utmost to make reductions in the Estimates of the year; these reductions, however, could not take effect previous to the month of April, and, therefore, as yet they have not been brought to bear upon the deficiency I have just stated. We have reduced the Estimates, as the House is aware, to an amount that altogether is not less than 2,000,000l. We have also looked to reduction, as far as we could, in the amount of the expenses of the different public offices. With respect to the late Administration, I must do them the justice to say, that they acted with great vigour in this way. On referring to their labours, I find that in 1828, the first year of the Duke of Wellington's Administration, the reductions effected amounted to 188,911l.; in 1829, they were 42,019l.; in 1830, they were 109,129l.; making together 340,089l. This certainly was a large reduction, and of course rendered it the more difficult for us to continue and extend these diminutions. The reductions, however, which we were able to make during the first year we were in office amounted to 234,353l.; and, during the present year, I think that I am below the mark, when I state that they will amount to 100,000l. I therefore think that we have a fair claim to say, that we have exerted ourselves to some effect as far as we have gone, and I trust that we shall find ourselves able to go on in the same course. This, I apprehend, is the only mode in which the deficiency ought to be made up; but I am prepared to say, that if it appears that we cannot make reductions sufficient to meet the income of the country, it will be absolutely necessary to appeal to Parliament to strengthen the resources of the country for the payment of its expenditure; and I am perfectly satisfied, that, after I shall have proved that the reduction of the expenditure has been carried as far as is consistent with the safety, interests, and 854 honour of the country, I shall not fail to receive the support of the Parliament, even if it should be my misfortune to have to propose such a measure. I now think it desirable that I should explain to the Committee the mode in which this deficiency has accrued. In January, 1831, there was a surplus of 2,913,670l.; in April, that surplus was reduced to 2,818,000l., and in July, to 1,895,275l. In October, the surplus was changed into a deficiency of 20,538l. In January, 1832, this deficiency had increased to 600,000l. The deficiency went on increasing to the end of the April quarter of this year, when it amounted to 1,240,000l. In the last quarter—that is, the July quarter, the progress of the deficiency seems to have been stopped, at least it was only increased by 32,774l. I need not state to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that it is necessary to look to the whole year, in order to see what the deficiency really is; because, in the October quarter, the expenditure always exceeds the revenue, whilst in the other quarters the revenue generally exceeds the expenditure, and the House will observe that it was in the October quarter of last year that the revenue was reduced from a surplus of nearly 2,000,000l. to a deficiency of 20,000l. Having stated, as clearly as I am able, the condition of the revenue up to the present time, I will now proceed to explain the view I take of the revenue of the present year. I will first of all state the expenditure of the year ending the 5th of April, 1832, and then compare it with the expenditure of the year ending the 5th of April, 1833, according to the Estimates already voted.
|The charge for the interest of the Public Debt was, for the year ending the 5th of April, 1832.||27,680,826|
|Interest on Exchequer Bills||662,984|
|Other charges upon the Consolidated|
|Making a total of||47,858,427|
§ The expenditure for the current financial year, ending 5th of April, 1833, will stand thus:—
|Interest on the National Debt||27,680,000|
|Intereston Exchequer Bills||685,000|
|Other charges upon the Conaolidated|
|Making a total of||45,696,376|
§ The expenditure of last year having, as I have already shown, amounted to 47,858,427l., there will be a decrease in the expenditure this year of something better than 2,000,000l. I have now to state the probable produce of taxes and other sources of revenue, and to lay before the House the means generally by which his Majesty's Government proposed to meet the expenses of the current year, and this statement I shall endeavour to make as clearly and as accurately as I can; and in looking to the future, I hope I shall succeed in laying before the House matters as they actually are; and I can sincerly assure them, that I have no wish to do otherwise than to endeavour to render a strict account of the financial condition of the country. I shall begin this part of the subject by stating, that the Customs' duties for the year ending the 5th of April last produced a revenue of 16,275,000l;. I expect that, in the year ending the 5th of April, 1833, the duty on imported cotton will cause an increase amounting to 260,000l.; while the saving from the discontinuance of the linen bounties will amount to 100,000l. I also expect an increase of revenue from the duty on tobacco. The duty on this article has gone on regularly increasing for a long time past. In the year 1830, it was 2,858,000l.; in 1831, it amounted to 2,910,000l., and in the year 1832, it rose to 2,995,000l. I think I am justified in expecting in the present year an increased revenue from tobacco that will yield 35,000l.; and I think the House will agree with me, that I am also warranted in anticipating from the wine duties an equal amount. True it is, that in the last year there was no increase, but that is easily accounted for by the circumstance, that people being aware that a change was about to be effected in the scale of duties, availed themselves of the long notice to lay in large stocks, and therefore I think I have a full right to expect, that in the course of the ensuing year there will be an increase, and I think it will be admitted that I am not going too far in Stating that increase at 35,000l. Taking 856 then 260,000l. for cotton, and 70,000l. for the other two, I may calculate that we shall have in the Customs, a total increase of 430,000l.; let that be added to 16,275,000l. and it gives the whole amount of Customs 16,705,000l. We must, however, deduct from that a sum of 500,000l. being the amount of duties received upon corn, which I hope we shall hear nothing of this year, the prospect from the harvest being so good that I trust we shall this season have no necessity for any importation of foreign corn. For this reason, then, I feel bound to make from this sum a deduction of the 500,00 0l. I have further in this place, to observe, that we must make a reduction of 100,000l. more on account of the diminutions which the new scale of duties contained in the schedule to the Customs Duties' Bill; and there must also be a deduction of 80,000l. on account of sugar duties. We shall then have a total of 830,000l.; which being deducted from the gross sum of 16,705,000l. leaves a remainder of 15,871,000l. as the probable produce of the Customs for the present year. I think, then, as far as I can judge, that no one will say I have exaggerated in any of these cases, and that it will turn out that I have been perfectly justified in the anticipations in which I have indulged. I am perfectly ready to admit, that the income of the country has not, during the last two years, at all come up to what might have been the expectations formed of it two or three years ago; but I have no difficulty in saying, that it will appear that two of the causes which have kept down the amount of the revenue are causes that will no longer continue. The two causes to which I allude are the political excitement which has for some time past prevailed throughout the country; and the other, though one to which I never attached much importance, yet it did materially affect the Customs—I mean the prevalence of Cholera. I am sorry to say that the cause still continues, but we have every reason to hope that its operation will not be of long duration. The third cause to which I attach the most importance, as having tended to depress the revenue, is the state of the currency. It is well known that, during the past year, the currency has been gradually contracting—that throughout the whole of that period, the exchanges have been decidedly against this country, and that has, of course, produced 857 a considerable stagnation of trade; but, fortunately, it is a cause which no longer exists, and is not likely in future to operate. The exchanges are now in favour of this country, and thus that which I considered the principal cause of decline may now be considered at an end. Having said so much about the state of the Customs, I now come to the subject of the Excise. In the year ending the 5th of April last, the Excise amounted to 16,516,633l. I think I may calculate that the increase of the malt duty will this year amount to 220,000l.—that the duty on hops will be 156,000l.—that the drawback upon printed cottons may be estimated at 165,000l., and that several minor matters will, taken together, yield 150,000l. From the total of these items, we must make some deduction, for instead of our having as was calculated, an addition of 600,000l. in the spirit duties, there has been a falling off in these to the extent of 191,000l. Not that I believe the consumption of spirits has materially diminished within the time, but there has been only a small stock kept on hand, and I have no doubt that there will speedily be such an increase as to make good any temporary deficiency that may exist; therefore I think we may assign some portion of the 150,000l. to the increase that may reasonably be anticipated in the spirit duties. Then, if we allow for the improvement that may be expected from the increased income arising from auctions, licenses, paper, soap, starch, and vinegar, we shall obtain a total of 204,600l.; but taking these at only 150,000l. it will not be said that I am sanguine in fixing the increase in the malt and hop duties, and the others that I have mentioned, at 631,000l., which will give for the Excise a total of 17,207,632l. I am aware that from this we must make a deduction of 350,000l. for the repealed duty on candles, which will leave the nett, sum 16,857,632l. As to stamps and assessed taxes, I will take them at the same amount as last year. Then, as I have before stated, we have the Customs 15,807,000l.; Excise, 16,857,632l.; the stamps upwards of 7,000,000l, with the assessed taxes and the miscellaneous sources of revenue the same as before, yielding a total of 46,470,000l. The Estimates for the current year, with the expenses of the Consolidated Fund, amount to 45,695,376l. and the surplus arising from 858 the year ending the 5th of April 1833, to 773,624l. This of course will be set against the deficiency of the year 1832, which will reduce the deficit upon the two years to 466,789l. Hon. Members, I trust, will do me the justice to admit that I have endeavoured to state the prospects of the country as low as I possibly could. For the year now going on, the revenue, as compared with the estimates, ought to yield a surplus of 770,000l. I believe I have now stated—at least as far as my recollection serves me—I have stated all that is necessary in this the first opportunity I have had in the present Session of laying before the House the views of his Majesty's Government respecting the income and expenditure of the country; and I do not think it at all necessary for me to occupy the attention of the House any further, reserving to myself the privilege of giving hereafter any explanation that may be required. I have now to state in conclusion, that after the most deliberate consideration of the subject, his Majesty's Government has arrived at the determination of proposing the renewal of the sugar duties. Filling the situation which I do, I am of course called upon to move such renewal. My intention in rising was certainly to conclude with this Motion; but I thought, and I am sure the House will concur with me, that I ought not to have made any such proposition without entering into a full financial explanation. If there were room for a reduction of those duties, there is no one who would feel greater pleasure than I should in proposing such a reduction. I have not lost sight of the fact that we have been told, that with a failing revenue we ought to endeavour to revive it by encouraging an increased consumption through the means of diminished duties; and it is further urged that with the prospect of a deficiency, it is not of much importance whether that deficiency be a little more or a little less. I confess I cannot understand the force of this reasoning; but with respect to the fact, I may take leave to observe, that we have no ground for anticipating a deficiency in the revenue, and surely, with any prospect of a surplus, we should not be forward to relinquish any source of revenue. In a word, I think the House will agree with me, that the argument to which I am now referring does not apply to the present state of things. I regret to say, that, in 859 the situation in which I stand I find myself called upon to move the renewal of these duties without any reduction whatever; and it only now remains for me to put a resolution with that view into your hands. The noble Lord then moved a resolution, declaring that it was the opinion of that Committee, that the several duties hitherto levied on sugar and molasses, be continued till the 5th of April, 1833.
said, the late period of the Session at which the noble Lord had brought forward his financial statement would prevent him from occupying the time of the House at any length. Even had it been brought forward earlier, there was not much in the speech of the noble Lord that required him to go at any length into financial observations. One fact was abundantly clear from the speech of the noble Lord, that at present there was a deficiency of means to meet the expenditure of the country.
§ Lord Althorp
I have stated that there will be a surplus of 770,000l. this year, but that on the two years, 1832, and 1833, there is a deficiency.
.—There would, according to the noble Lord's statement, be a deficiency at the end of the current year, on account of 1832, although in this year there was a surplus. The noble Lord would recollect that, on the occasion of his making his first financial statement to the House, he had warned the noble Lord against adopting that system of finance which the noble Lord then developed, because he knew perfectly well that the result must be a deficiency of means to meet the expenditure. That now turned out to be the fact.
§ Lord Althorp
.—There is no deficiency with respect to the current expenditure. There is, on the contrary, a surplus which would be absorbed to meet the debts of the last year.
contended that there was, in fact, an actual deficiency. If he had a limited income, and in one year, got so much into debt, that he could not pay off that debt in the ensuing year, would not his means, to that extent, be deficient? It was obvious, notwithstanding this alleged surplus, that, at the end of the second year, a certain portion of debt would still remain. There would evidently be a deficiency in the receipts of the country, up to that time to meet its expenditure. It had been very truly remarked, that no 860 country could be said to go on well, with reference either to its internal or external affairs, if its finances were not so regulated as to meet its expenditure, and to leave a surplus. If this were true with respect to other countries, how much more strongly did it apply to this country, loaded, as it was, with heavy debts, contracted during a long series of wars. The great object of the Government ought to be to get rid of that superincumbent load of debt which pressed so heavily on the country. If, as had been said by a very high authority, it was right that this country should be enabled to hold a high hand amongst the nations of Europe, to excite the confidence of its allies, and to work on the fears of its enemies, if she were likely to be called on to make great exertions, the possibility of which had also been alluded to by the same high authority—then did he, considering these circumstances, view with Still deeper concern the statement of the deficiency of means to meet the expenditure. In such a state of things, could this country take that imposing attitude which they had been told she might find it necessary to assume? Could she, when it appeared on the face of these accounts that her means were limited, take that commanding place in Europe which she ought to hold? The state of the finances of England was to her all important. She could not compete with continental powers so far as military force was concerned; and she had been enabled to cope with them by her unimpaired credit, and by her extraordinary financial resources. He did not mean to assert that those resources were in a dangerous state. No; but it did appear to him as if they were now so situated that they could not, if called upon by any sudden emergency, make a great and efficient exertion. Last year the noble Lord had taken from the Consolidated Fund 14,000,000l. or thereabouts. This was managed by sending forth Exchequer Bills, payable out of that fund in the first quarter of the succeeding year—that was, in the month of April. Such was the ordinary course of that financial operation. But, on the best calculation which he could make, he rather apprehended that the payment of the charge on the Consolidated Fund for 1832, on account of Exchequer-bills issued for the service of 1831, must necessarily be postponed to a much later period than was usual, according to ordinary financial 861 practice. It would seem that the resources of the country had been anticipated to a very considerable extent, but to what extent he, of course, could not undertake to say. Coupling the large amount of unfunded debt with this circumstance, he would ask the noble Lord whether, if any contingency arrived which rendered it necessary to raise a large sum of money, he would not find difficulties in his way, that might prevent this country from taking that lofty attitude which she ought to assume? On these grounds, he expressed his regret at the statement of the noble Lord. He did not mean to cavil at any of the items enumerated by the noble Lord. Indeed, it would be very difficult, after hearing a long statement of figures, to attempt anything like an analysis of the noble Lord's assertion. He would, however, observe, that with reference to some calculations which he had himself made, he differed from the noble Lord. Looking, however, to the receipts of the revenue, from the beginning of the present year, and particularly considering the Excise department during that period, he was led to believe that the calculations of the noble Lord would not, on the whole, be falsified. On former occasions, it had been customary to take the probable expenditure of the year, and to place the probable receipts against it. Now, the noble Lord calculated those estimates, as commencing in the April of one year, and ending in the April of the next; and he stated the gross amount of the Estimates. He thanked the noble Lord for stating what the gross amount of those Estimates was; because, looking at the papers with which these estimates were connected, he found, from the manner in which they were prepared, that it would be exceedingly difficult to arrive at a correct conclusion. Some of those Estimates appeared to be voted for five quarters; others for four quarters. Some were made out with reference to existing balances, and others without any such reference. If, therefore, there were considerable reductions made, as he admitted, yet they ought, to decide on the financial merits of the noble Lord, to be balanced against the surplus in hand, reckoning by the ordinary financial year. He would not, however, dwell on this subject. The noble Lord relied on making further reductions in the revenue departments, besides those he had already made; on looking, however, 862 to the state of those departments in 1824, he could not discover the large reductions for which the noble Lord took credit. He did not believe the reductions of the noble Lord would exceed 60,000l. or 70,000l. which was much below the comparative statement of the noble Lord. The House would recollect that when the noble Lord proposed the alteration of the wine duties on a principle of revenue, he and his friends had stated, that, as a matter of revenue, that alteration would not answer the calculations of the noble Lord. It was not, however, as a matter of revenue that he had objected to that alteration, so much as an infringement on the comfort of the consumer. He had then stated, that a great reduction of the consumption would take place if the duty on that wine which was used by the majority of the middle classes was raised, which would not be compensated by the increased consumption caused by lowering the duty on the higher priced French wines which were used by the rich. The statement of the noble Lord, this evening, had showed that his proposition had not been justified. Much of the increased duty the noble Lord had taken credit for arose from the duty on all the stock in hand; and when that was deducted, it would be proved that the consumption bad not increased. Up to the 14th of the present month, the latest period to which the returns had been made out, the diminution of the consumption of Portuguese and Spanish wines was 274,000 gallons, while the increase of the consumption of French wines was only 15,000 gallons. In the ensuing year, therefore, when there would be no stock in hand to levy the increased duty on, the noble Lord would not find any increase of consumption to warrant that calculation he had made of an increased duty. The noble Lord anticipated that the increase of the revenue from that source would be 180,000l.; but when the wine in bond was taken into consideration, it was not likely to produce more than 35,000l. He, therefore, had no reason whatever to change the opinion he had formerly given. He should like to know what we had gained from France as an equivalent for the indulgence we had shown to her wines, as he remembered that what France was to do in this respect, was held out to the House at the time the change was made, as an argument to induce it to consent to the change. He had not yet 863 seen any similar indulgence granted by France to any of our productions, and not seeing that, he could not say, that the alteration was more recommended by promoting an intercourse between the two countries, than by increasing the revenue, and promoting the consumption of French wine. The noble Lord had adverted to the increase of the malt duty, which he had heard with great satisfaction; because, without arrogating any merit to himself, he might be permitted to remind the House, that when he had proposed the abolition of the duty on beer, he had stated, that he anticipated there would be an increased consumption of beer, and a diminutive consumption of spirits. He had, therefore, heard with satisfaction, as an evidence of the increased consumption of beer, that the consumption of malt had increased nearly one third. He was also happy to understand that there was a considerable decrease of the quantity of spirits consumed. The hopes, therefore, which he had formed of the people abstaining from the consumption of that nefarious compound (gin), and taking to the use of a more wholesome beverage, had not been falsified. As he understood from the noble Lord, that illicit distillation had not increased, he hoped that in the ensuing year the consumption of spirits would decrease still more. He would not further detain the House. He believed that the noble Lord was not too sanguine in the hopes he had formed of the resources of the country; and there was every likelihood that those hopes would be realised under the ordinary circumstances of the country. If there were no necessity for the country to make any new and greater exertions—if there were no new and unforeseen calamity—he should be willing to run the hazard for the four next quarters, though there was a deficient revenue. But when he contemplated the probability of there being a call upon us for greater exertions, and when nothing was done to diminish, but rather to increase, the accumulated pressure upon our finances, he could not look forward with anything like hopes that the deficiency would be supplied. He derived some hopes, indeed, from understanding that the noble Lord had abandoned his ideas of further reducing taxation;—he derived some hope from hearing the noble Lord express regret at the deficiency of the revenue, which made him believe that the noble Lord would return 864 to the old practices, and endeavour to place the finances on a solid footing. At present, certainly, he looked forward with some apprehension to the revenue being insufficient to meet the expenditure. He was satisfied that if some efforts were not made to obtain a surplus, though it might not be a large one, we might be exposed to great difficulties.
§ Lord Althorp
explained, that there was no danger that the deficiency bills would not be paid off as they came due in the current year. He conceived that the apprehensions of the right hon. Gentleman were destitute of foundation. The right hon. Gentleman, too, was mistaken, in saying that the comparative Estimates should be for five quarters. As they were not calculated to include the surplus, but only from April to April, there were only four quarters on which the comparison was founded.
explained, that his allusion was not to the deficiency bills, but to the bills charged on the Consolidated Fund.
Mr. Keith Douglas
did not think it necessary to go into all the details of the statement of the noble Lord; but he must say, that there was not a man in the empire who did not look with great apprehension at the present state of our revenue, as growing out of the paralysed state of our trade and manufactures. The noble Lord admitted, that up to January last year, the deficiency of the revenue was 1,200,000l.; and the noble Lord expected that up to January 1833, the increase would be 800,000l. He should like to know, in the present aversion from speculation and present dulness of trade, when no man entered into any concerns beyond what were indispensable, how the noble Lord had founded his expectation? Numberless inquiries had been made by Parliament, but nothing had been done, and there would be the same uncertainty in trade hereafter as there had lately been. He therefore saw no good grounds for the noble Lord's anticipations, particularly as there was a probability that we might be called on, from the state of the Continent, to make further and expensive exertions. The noble Lord had made a strange admission in saying that he should not propose, in the present state of the finances, to make any reduction in the sugar duties. That was all the noble Lord said of the colonies. Formerly, the noble Lord had 865 held out hopes of an improved fiscal policy being adopted towards the colonies, which was to be made known to the House of Commons. The noble Lord had, however, not said one word on the subject, to which the Government was so strongly committed. The hon. Member quoted the despatch of Lord Goderich, dated December 26, 1831, stating that a measure of financial relief for the colonies would be submitted to Parliament during the present Session. Why did not the noble Lord explain what measure was meant? After this announcement, an explanation was required. He must complain of the noble Lord not having given any explanation why this plan was abandoned, or why it was not brought forward. It was most careless in the Government, after it had propagated an edict, which had created a considerable excitement in the colonies, that it had not, upon this the proper occasion, taken the least notice of its own promises.
§ Lord Althorp
had not entered into any explanations as to the colonies, because the measure of relief was conditional on the adoption of the Orders in Council. In the Crown colonies, which had acted on these orders, it was intended, as the fairest means of relief for them, to remove a part of their local taxation. That, he believed, would give them a great relief, while it would not injure the sale of the produce of any other colonies.
§ Sir Henry Parnell
said, that it did not require any great extent of figures and calculations to explain how the deficiency of the revenue had arisen. The cause of it was simply this—that the present and last Ministers of Finance had repealed a greater amount of taxes than the proper sources of supply for repealing taxes had warranted. In 1830, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer had a fund to enable him with propriety to repeal taxes to the amount of four millions, consisting of the following items:—1st, the surplus of the revenue of 1829, amounting to nearly 2,000,000l; 2nd, the reduction the Duke of Wellington had made in the expenditure, to the amount of 1,000,000l.; and 3rd, the reducing of the interest on the four per cent stock, and on Exchequer Bills, amounting to nearly 1,000,000l. This was the whole of the fund, namely, 4,000,000l., which had existed since 1829, to justify a reduction of taxation. But the late Chancellor of the Exchequer exhausted 866 the whole of this in 1830 by the taxes he repealed, and the further repeal by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, of taxes in 1831, to the amount of 1,500,000l., made it quite evident how a deficiency of 1,200,000l. had taken place. It was but fair, however, to say, that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer did not propose his reduction of taxes on the ground of any existing surplus of revenue, but on a plan by which he intended to make good the sum he might lose by repealing taxes, by laying on others of a less objectionable kind in their stead. In this he had been defeated by the House refusing to agree to the new taxes he proposed; and although, under such a circumstance, the noble Lord would have acted more prudently by not going on with his intention to take off taxes, yet allowance should be made for the difficulty he was placed in of refusing to afford the public relief after having held it out to them. It was not his intention on this occasion to go any further into details of the reductions which were now proposed, but to make some general observations on the state of our finances. What he particularly wished to impress upon the House and the public was, that our object should not be confined to merely making good the existing deficiency of the revenue, but to make a large reduction of the present expenditure. He was willing to give credit to the noble Lord, and place confidence in his promise that he would do what lay in his power to diminish the expenditure; and he must add, that the noble Lord, if he continued to hold the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer, which it was his wish he should do, would be the first Minister of Finance who would really be able to accomplish a great reduction; for he believed that no Chancellor of the Exchequer, up to that moment, however sincerely disposed to make an efficient retrenchment, had the power to make one, controlled as he was by all the adverse influence which governed majorities in that House under the old system of Representation. The noble Lord would be relieved from the pressure of those influences which had existed out of this House as well as in it, and at the same time he would be impelled to be economical by the new influence which would grow out of Reform in Parliament, by a different description of Members being chosen by the new electors of the United Kingdom. 867 In this way he looked forward to seeing that the first great practical benefit the public would derive from the Reform of Parliament would be an efficient financial Reform. With respect to the practicability of making a great reduction in the expenditure, he entertained no kind of doubt. In the collection of the revenue, very little had been done to diminish the charge of it, as already stated by the right hon. Gentleman below him (Mr. Goulburn), This charge amounted to about 4,000,000l. a year. A single circumstance, which he had stated elsewhere, and which had never been contradicted, was sufficient to prove the possibility and necessity of reducing it—namely, that some years ago a much larger amount of annual revenue was collected for a much smaller cost of collection. As to the military expenditure, if the same principle was adopted, namely, consolidation of departments, as that which had been so laudally carried into effect by the First Lord of the Admiralty with regard to the naval departments, a great saving would be the result. The management of the military expenditure was now scattered over a great many departments, which led to a very unnecessary expense, and to the business being less efficiently performed than it would be under a different system. Why, he would ask, was any opposing influence allowed to stand in the way of such a Reform, when no opposition had been made by the Government to the Reform made in the naval department by the First Lord of the Admiralty? He entirely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman opposite (the Secretary at War), that it was not at all understood how little power the Secretary at War had to regulate the finances of the array. His authority was little more than nominal; for, in point of fact, he acted so much under the control of those who had either a caprice for, or an interest in maintaining, a large military expenditure, that he could not make those retrenchments which he might consider necessary to he made. The gallant General below him (Sir George Murray) had said that the Commander-in-chief was under the control of the Secretary at War. To this statement he could not give any contradiction; but it was a statement of only one half of the case. The gallant General omitted to say, that the Secretary at War was, at the same time, very much under the control of the Commander-in-chief. It was quite notorious that for a number of 868 years a contest had been carried on between Secretaries at War and Commanders-in-chief, as to the respective rights and the functions belonging to these offices; and those who knew how that contest had once been brought to something like a settlement were well aware that, by the rules laid down, the Secretary at War was placed in a situation that made his power over the finances of the army in a considerable degree subservient to the control of the Commander-in-chief. It remained so at this time, and he had no hesitation in saying, that some new arrangement must be made with respect to the duties and powers of these offices, to render the Secretary at War that efficient and responsible Minister of the Crown which he ought to be. He quite agreed with every thing the gallant General had said in praise of the present Commander-in-chief; and he was ready to allow, the public were greatly indebted to the Duke of York for the great improvements in our army; but his praise went no further than to the measures regarding the discipline and the command of the army, for he could not bring himself to say, that, in what regarded the finances of it, the interference of Commanders-in-chief had been of advantage to the public interests; although, with respect to the noble Lord who now filled the office, he personally had no reason to complain, he complained only of the system. As to the future amount of the military expenditure, he had no doubt that, when the several items of the Army Estimates came to be scrupulously investigated by a Reformed House of Commons, it would be found that a great many of them, which had been at all times upheld by military men in the House, as indispensably necessary for the efficiency of the military service, would not be agreed to. There was one more branch of the public expenditure to which he would allude, not but that there were many that he could with propriety mention, namely, that incurred upon the colonies. He thought there was much reason to complain that no Colonial Budget had been laid before the House in the course of this Session. It was now two years since the late Government promised that such a Budget should be produced. Without one, it was impossible for the House to know what they were doing in the financial affairs of the Colonies. No Member could tell what expense was 869 right, and what was wrong. Without knowing what was the revenue of each colony, and what its expenditure it was impossible to understand upon what grounds the House was voting away the public money to make good the deficiencies of the several colonial establishments. If a statement were laid before the House, showing the revenue and the expenditure of each colony, the means would be afforded of taking measures to increase the one and diminish the other; and to do what was of all things the most to be desired—namely, make such arrangements in matters of colonial finance and trade, as would place the colonies in a situation to be able to defray the whole of the expense of providing for their military defence. This was a question of the greatest importance to the people of this country, for although it was not possible to state exactly what the sum was which they paid annually on account of the colonies, sufficient information had been produced to show that it must amount to between two and three millions a-year. Here there was an opportunity afforded of reducing the public expenditure to a great extent, and the public ought not to be contented till full advantage was taken of it. The policy of reducing the expenditure it was right to adopt, on the general principle of its being the duty of Parliament to take no more from the pockets of the people than was strictly necessary for defraying the public services; but might be further illustrated in detail, by showing that it was only by reducing it, that the great defects of our financial system could be got rid of. It was only by reducing it, that we could now take off those most injurious taxes which fell directly on some of our manufactures, such as glass, paper, soap, &c., which were taxes of the worst description, and no effort should be spared to get rid of them. There was also that great disgrace to our financial system, the trade in smuggling, which was created by our own acts. The business the House was occupied with only a few evenings since, of framing new penalties, and setting aside all rules of the Constitution, for more easily detecting and punishing smugglers, was one that was quite discreditable. It would certainly produce a considerable diminution of the revenue, to reduce the duties so as to put an end to smuggling, but as the articles were few which were smuggled, no pains should be 870 spared to diminish our expenditure, so as to admit of this reduction of duties being effected. The expense incurred in one way or other in attempting to suppress smuggling was not short of 1,000,000l. a year; yet we quietly submitted to this, as if it was a matter of course, and as if this great evil of smuggling could not be abated With regard to the power of the country to bear its burthens, he felt no doubt that its resources were amply sufficient. He saw no reason for any despondency. The main causes of continued improvement and of new accumulation of wealth were unimpaired; and whatever might be said to the contrary, industry was still advancing, and would still continue to advance. All that was requisite was a wise and honest management of public affairs; and this we could now calculate upon seeing take place, as the regular result of the change which had been made in the constitution of the House of Commons.
Sir Robert Peel
thought the noble Lord had acted perfectly proper in laying before the House, as far as he was able, a fair, unvarnished, and candid estimate of the exact state of our financial prospects; and though these, certainly, were not very prosperous, for the noble Lord admitted a deficiency of 460,000l. on the current year, yet he did not think that deficiency was such as to give any serious cause for alarm. He agreed with the right hon. Baronet, that there was an elasticity in the resources of the country which ought to teach the House and the nation not to despair. At the same time, he did not think it politic to have a deficiency, for the Government might be driven either to incur fresh debt—and when he spoke of incurring fresh debt, he included the issuing of Exchequer Bills, and all those expedients which were resorted to for the purposes of turning off a temporary inconvenience; or it might be compelled as the only other course which would be open to it, to impose fresh taxes. Now, he thought it much better to keep those taxes which were already laid on, and to which trade had adapted itself, than to repeal them, and then to be driven to impose others in their stead. In the present state of public feeling, however, he must say, that he did not think it possible to keep up a great surplus revenue; and when he recommended Ministers to keep up an excess of revenue over expenditure, he did not contemplate such a surplus as might be appropriated 871 to the purpose of paying off any part of the debt, but sufficient to provide against contingencies and save the country under ordinary circumstances, from the necessity of borrowing. It was much better to maintain a tax to which the people were habituated, than run the risk of being compelled to impose a new one. When a new tax was laid on, many ways were found of evading it, but when it had existed for five or six years, the Excise and Revenue Officers had discovered all the abuses which were practised against the revenue, and were consequently enabled to meet them, and therefore the revenue demands could not now be evaded with that facility to which the introduction of a new system would lead. Capital also had become used to its operation. He spoke of the generality of taxes, and without reference to the extreme case of a tax which might have become particularly odious. This was the gloomy part of the subject, and admitting the deficiency, he for one, must join with the noble Lord in opposing the repeal of any of the existing taxes. Even admitting the deficiency, he could not concur in the gloomy view which some persons took of the state of our finances—persons who even ventured to doubt our ability to maintain the public faith, or support the nation's honour abroad, he had no such opinion. Nor could he agree with those who contended that the state of the revenue indicated any increase of privation among the labouring classes. He had just read a paper lately before the House, containing a detailed account of the revenue of Excise; and when he noticed the progress of that revenue, he could not believe that the people were suffering from a diminution of comfort. Looking at that document too, he could not join with those who demanded a great increase of the paper currency of the country. There was a set of men who pretended to be deeply versed in the subject of money, and who had discovered that the currency was not sufficiently extensive to meet the necessities of the country, and that, whereas the Bank issued 17,000,000l. per quarter, they ought to issue 25,000,000l., which they, in their wisdom, had laid down to be the precise amount requisite for the circulation. He might have more confidence in them, if they were less precise, but they founded their calculations on the fact, that our manufactures were all going to decay, and 872 that this amount of circulation was necessary to save them from ruin. Unfortunately for these calculators, the paper he had referred to showed such an increase of consumption in many of those articles which tend much to the comfort of the labouring classes, as to afford matter of congratulation, and give rise to a well-founded belief that trade was not going to decay, and that the distresses of the people had been diminished, and their privations mitigated. There was a deficiency in the revenue, but no proof that the consumption of the people had fallen off, This theory then of the deficiency of the amount of the currency, was not in the least borne out by the documents which had been laid upon the Table, and to which he had already referred. Other individuals had stated, with some pride, that there had been some increase in the auction duties, quite forgetting that such an increase must more or less be founded upon the distresses of the country. But this was an argument upon false premises; for, from the papers before the House, it appeared that in the year 1832, as compared with the returns of the three preceding years, there had been a decrease of 726,225l, in the auction duties. There had also been an increase in the duties on bricks, though there was a decrease of the duties on tiles, which might be attributed to the preference which was given by builders to slates. He also thought that the duty on tiles was deserving of the consideration of the noble Lord opposite, with a view to its reduction. The revenue from glass had decreased, but that arose from the practice of making glass thinner, and consequently a less quantity would cover a larger surface. In the article of British spirits, there had been some falling off in the duty, but in the consumption of malt there had been an increase of 7,600,000 bushels on the average consumption of the last three years. When he heard the Beer Bill discussed, in connexion with the late hours and the dissipation and idleness which its opponents described it as producing, he must say, that he did not think that a fair way of treating the subject; but this he would say, that when he saw the population consuming so much of that which might be considered as one of the necessaries of life, he would appeal to that fact as a proof and test of the increasing comforts of the great mass of the population of this country. In soap, in 1832, as 873 compared with the average of the three preceding years, there was an increased consumption of 5,000,000 lbs. [Mr. Hume: There is a decrease in Scotland.] Yes; but the decrease in the consumption of soap, was confined exclusively to Scotland. Next he found that the increase in the consumption of tea, in 1832, as compared with the average of the three preceding years, was 1,583,000 lbs.; and how then could he admit that the consuming power of this country was diminished, when he found an increase in the consumption of those articles most necessary for the comfort of the industrious classes? He rejoiced to see this state of things; the additional consumption of these articles afforded him, he repeated, the greatest possible gratification, for this, among other reasons, because he saw in it a strong proof that the natural resources of the country were not in the least deteriorated, and that they were capable, if required, of supporting even an increase of taxation, if such a thing should, under any future circumstances, be called for. There was another point in the noble Lord's statement at which he felt disposed to express his satisfaction, namely, the amount of the diminution in the public expenditure. The noble Lord had stated that the reduction made in the public expenditure for the year amounted to upwards of 2,000,000l., and that undoubtedly was a great reduction; but then the question occurred whether the whole of this reduction would be a permanent, or whether it would be a temporary one. He believed that this reduction in the public expenditure for the year chiefly arose from reductions made in the army extraordinaries, and also in the navy. The reductions that had been effected in the navy, he believed were mainly attributable to the abstaining from the building of new ships, and the consequent purchase of stores during the past year. But the time would come when it would be necessary for us to build new ships, and to purchase additional stores; and though, therefore. Ministers were perfectly justified in making such a reduction in the navy estimates this year, it was one that could not be regarded as permanent. The reductions effected in the army estimates he believed were confined to reductions made in the army extraordinaries, and with regard to the militia. The reduction with regard to the latter, arose from the militia not having 874 been called out for training this year, and that, therefore, could not be looked upon as a permanent reduction. The reduction in the army extraordinaries amounted, he believed, to 200,000l., and that alone would be regarded as a permanent reduction. It was necessary, therefore, before they came to consider the 2,000,000l. and upwards, of reduction, which the noble Lord announced, to inquire into the circumstances under which a great portion of that reduction was effected, in order that they might be enabled to judge whether any, or what portion of that reduction would be looked upon as permanent. He did not agree with the right hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Parnell) in his expectations that a Reformed Parliament would still further reduce the public expenditure. He was sure that that right hon. Baronet would give the noble Lord opposite credit for every desire at present to reduce the public expenditure as far as he possibly could, and he would put it to the right hon. Baronet whether he thought that that noble Lord, if he could have proposed any further reductions in the expenditure, would have experienced any difficulty on the part of the present Parliament in carrying such a proposal into effect?
Sir Robert Peel
Why then did the right hon. Baronet, giving, as he did, the noble Lord credit for every disposition to reduce the public expenditure, and conceding, as he did, that the present Parliament was most ready to support that noble Lord in measures of such a description, why, he begged to ask, did that right hon. Baronet assert, that a Reformed Parliament would do more in that way? Partial as he might be to the constitution of the present Parliament, still he would assert, without the fear of contradiction, that, if the noble Lord opposite had felt it his duty to propose to that House such reductions as those alluded to by the right hon. Baronet, in the collection of the revenue, and in the construction of public Boards, he would have met with no opposition from any one single Member in it, from partial or interested motives; and he was sure that, if any such opposition should be offered under such circumstances to the noble Lord, it would not have the slightest chance of success. It was not at all improbable that hereafter still further reductions might be effected in the public expenditure, 875 but he did not think that any new constitution of Parliament would force on the Government greater reductions than a sense of duty would induce the Government to propose, and which the good sense and good feeling of such a Parliament as the present would go with them in carrying into effect. He did not think, therefore, that the self-interested views of any Gentleman in that House, constituted as it at present was, would oppose the slightest impediment to the Government carrying into effect any reductions which it should feel it to be its duty to propose, and he certainly did not anticipate any such diminution of expenditure from a Reformed Parliament as the right hon. Baronet seemed to expect. The noble Lord had attributed the falling off which had taken place in the revenue to three causes, the cholera, the state of public excitement, and the state of the currency. Now, with regard to the first cause, he thought that the noble Lord had under-rated the influence of it, and that it had produced much greater effect in that way than he seemed to suppose. The undue apprehensions which had been entertained by foreign countries on account of the cholera, obviously did much to injure the trade and to diminish the exports of this country during the past year. With respect to the political excitement in the country, the noble Lord thought it was about to abate, and, on that score, reckoned on an increase of the revenue. He hoped that it might be so, but he saw no great diminution of political excitement in the instance of Ireland.
§ Lord Althorp
was understood to say across the Table, that the revenue of Ireland had increased during the past year.
Sir Robert Peel
said, he was surprised at the fact, for he had never known such an effect produced by such a cause before. It might be that the public excitement would subside in England: but he did not think that the changes which had been made in the constitution of that House at all calculated to produce an increase in the revenue. On the contrary, he thought that the result of those changes would be, that apprehensions would prevail for the security of property—apprehensions which were likely to affect considerably the revenue, and the productive powers of the country, and that the political excitement would continue as rife, and the Political Unions as flourishing and as noisy, as ever. The third cause to which the noble Lord 876 attributed the falling off in the revenue was the state of the currency; and the noble Lord had observed, that the changes which had taken place, as well as the uncertainty which prevailed with respect to ultimate proceedings, and the effect produced by the fluctuation in the exchanges, had doubtless contributed much to that state of things in which they at present found themselves. Now, in his (Sir Robert Peel's) opinion, the noble Lord had diminished the consequences of the Cholera, and he had much over-rated the effects of the changes in the currency. Undoubtedly, however, the Bank had contracted its issues, and, as a consequence, the proceedings of the country banks must have been limited, and the capital required for the operations of commerce decreased. But if this were so, how necessary did it become, on the part of the noble Lord and his colleagues, to seize the earliest possible opportunity to place the foundation of the currency on some sure and satisfactory basis. Parliament should not be allowed to separate without some information being given to it by the noble Lord as to the course which the Government intended to pursue with respect to the question now under agitation. He (Sir Robert Peel) remembered well the Bullion Committee, and the difference of opinions which then prevailed, and was therefore convinced that the question could not be too soon settled. Although the Members of the Committee were bound to secrecy, the noble Lord, as a Minister of the Crown, had his own views on the subject, and he was bound, for the sake of the country, to make them public at the present moment. It was possible, perhaps certain, that the Committee would make no Report during the present Session; and unless Parliament assembled for a short sitting in October or November, which he supposed was rather improbable, six months must elapse before the country could receive information on that most interesting subject. He repeated, full six months; for the elections could not, under any circumstances, take place much before December, and as there were snows and storms, particularly in the North at that season, which must be taken into account, it was not at all improbable that the elections might not take place during the present year. With six months of recess, then, before them, he put it to the noble Lord, whether it would not be politic to put an end to that 877 state of uncertainty which the noble Lord admitted to have so strong an effect on the issues and the exchanges, by at once stating what were the views of the Government on the question. No one expected the noble Lord to go into the details which were to form the subject of deliberation hereafter; but the noble Lord and the Government must have already made up their minds on the great leading points of the course they intended to pursue; and if the noble Lord described correctly the prejudicial effects of the existing state of uncertainty, he recommended him to put a termination to it by avowing at once the opinion of the Government. Such a course of proceeding would have an immediately beneficial effect; it would give stability to the operations of commerce, and might have no inconsiderable effect on improving the revenue. Referring again to that, and the principal subject of the night's discussion, he must again say, that he thought it unfortunate, that for two successive years, there should have been a deficiency in the revenue; but he did not thence infer, that there had been any decay in the natural resources of the country. He was quite sure that those resources were fully adequate to meet any emergencies which we might encounter, and to maintain and preserve the national faith. He was certain that this country possessed within itself fully the means of paying its just debt, and that it would repudiate with scorn any scheme for pretending to liquidate that debt by an unjust reduction of that which the public creditor had a right to expect. He was confident that not only the wealth but the spirit of Englishmen would always prevent them from stooping to so dishonest an expedient, and he was perfectly certain, that they would incur any sacrifice to maintain and uphold the national faith. The noble Lord had adverted to the state of the colonies. He (Sir Robert Peel) approached that part of the subject with pain, for he believed no Parliament had ever separated before, leaving the colonies in a state so little satisfactory to the mother country. All they knew with respect to the colonies was, that the Government did not intend to exact obedience from the islands possessing separate Legislatures to those Orders in Council which had been the object of so much contention. He wished, however, to know, whether the Government persisted in its 878 intention to force the obedience of the Crown colonies. Every one knew, that the Orders, although nominally enforced in the Crown colonies, were universally disobeyed; and he put it to the noble Lord whether, under such circumstances, it would not be more consistent with the honour and dignity of the Crown, to withdraw them altogether? While he was on this subject, he wished also to ask, what reward the Government intended to bestow on the colonies that accepted the Orders? The fiscal regulations had been abandoned—the discriminating duties were not to be collected; but, if he understood the noble Lord right, the mother country was to pay a portion of the Civil List of the obedient colonies. Now, he put it to the noble Lord, whether, after all they had heard of the necessity of compelling the colonies to bear the expense of their own government, such an act was not retrograding, and a departure from the avowed determination of those who were placed over that department? He could not sit down without adding a few words on the subject of foreign policy; and, with regard to that, and the state of our foreign relations, they were left in a state of equal ignorance. When there were rumours of naval armaments on the coast of Portugal, and when there were rumours, God knew whether well-founded or not, of naval armaments being about to proceed to the Scheldt, it was but common justice to the House and to the country, that some explanation should be afforded to them, before they separated, on the subject of our foreign relations. He supposed that the expenses of those armaments would come under the ordinary estimates of the year, as otherwise the usual course was, for the Crown to send down a message to Parliament for the extraordinary expenses necessary for such purposes. Now he could not but complain that Parliament was about to separate without any information on this subject. He wished the noble Lord would tell them whether the king of Holland would assent to the final treaty proposed to him by the Conference? Or whether, if such were not the case, that most dreadful alternative, the uniting the forces of England and France, for the purpose of compelling him to do so, was the only course left to this country to pursue? He thought they had every right, also, to complain of the course which had been adopted towards Portugal. A civil war 879 now raged there, and a contest was going on for the throne of that country; and he was persuaded, that neither one nor the other would have ever existed but for the direct encouragement given from this country. A contest for the throne of Portugal, when encouraged by England, was a thing that must always be deprecated as being totally opposed to the true policy and best interests of this country. Indeed civil war could not exist there without damaging the interests of Britain. With respect to Holland, he could only say, that if the king refused to ratify the treaty, then the armaments which must follow would disturb the calculations of the noble Lord, and the surplus he had calculated on would not be realised. Whether, however, the noble Lord's calculations were or were not realised, whatever was done by this country, whatever money was expended to force Holland to sign the twenty-four Articles, would be expended in a manner contrary to the true interests of England—against the independent rights of the smaller powers of Europe—and, if incurred in conjunction with France directed against Holland, would be inconsistent with that course of feeling which the wisest British statesmen had always pursued, and which might be pregnant with consequences to the peace of the world which no man could foresee.
§ Lord Morpeth
said, he would take the liberty of making a remark upon a subject which much concerned a great body of his constituents. It would be remembered that there was a stamp duty of considerable amount upon bills of exchange, which duty was increased a few years ago, and it was found to bear very hard proportionally upon bills for small sums. Formerly, a great part of the transactions in that large manufacturing district, with which he was concerned, was carried on by the circulation of these small inland bills of exchange, and it was a circulation calculated to be of great additional utility since the withdrawal of the small notes. That measure had, undoubtedly, many strong and powerful reasons to recommend it; but it had, unquestionably, been attended with a great decrease of the circulating medium, and a stinting of the means which gave life and activity to commerce. The circulation of bills of exchange drawn on account of country banks upon London bankers at a date not exceeding two or three months, was well 880 adapted to fill up the vacuum without any of the corresponding disadvantages. From terminating at a specific time, they did not run the risk of creating panic like small notes, by being presented all at once; nor an unlimited and excessive circulation, such as was apt to arise out of re-issuable paper which had no limit as to time. It might be further remarked, that they derived fresh security from the extent of their circulation, as every additional hand through which they passed, and every additional name indorsed on their back, furnished additional vouchers for their authenticity, and an additional security for their value. Now this medium of circulation, which would thus appear to be at once both wholesome and useful, had become very rare in the manufacturing district where it formerly prevailed so much, owing, in a great degree, to the high rate of duty which caused the sum of 100l., if drawn in small bills, to be subject to twice the amount of duty that would be required, if drawn for in one bill. It happened hence that the manufacturers were put to considerable expense by having large bills to be broken into small ones; or else the balance of their accounts remained unsettled in the merchant's books, (which was the very worst state of things) from a disinclination to incur the expense of a stamp for a small balance; for though the difference of expense might seem very trifling, it must be remembered, that in concerns of trade, profits were made of very small savings upon a large number of transactions. It was true that the present state of the revenue did not invite his noble friend to consent to the reduction of duties; but it appeared most strikingly in the present instance, that the increase in the scale of duties had been attended with a very great diminution of their gross amount. He hoped that his noble friend would, during the recess, give his best attention to these considerations, with a view of effecting a diminution of the duties upon exchange bills for small sums at a limited date.
§ Mr. Robinson
expressed his satisfaction at the statement of the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because it was much more consolatory than the country, under all circumstances, had reason to expect. For his part, he was bound to say, that he saw no grounds for any thing like despondency with regard to the revenue of the country. According 881 to the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, there was every probability of an increase for the year 1833; and, on the same principle, he should anticipate a similar increase for the year 1834 if, as he hoped, the noble Lord persisted in his present course, and made no attempt to raise a sinking fund. It had been said that the labouring classes were proved, by the condition of the revenue, to be in a state of prosperity. The population of the country was yearly increasing, and consequently there might naturally be expected a proportionate increase of excised articles. He did not wish to draw a discouraging sketch of the state of society; but he feared much, that the returns, which showed an increase in the consumption of tea and sugar, were balanced by a falling off in the demand for beef and the necessaries of life. With respect to the noble Lord's statements on the subject of wines, he could only say, that he had always been adverse to the increase of duty on the wines consumed by the middle classes, and the reduction of the duties paid on the more luxurious beverage of the rich, and the revenue was now suffering under the effect of the change. He was afraid, however, that any change which might be made by the Legislature in particular duties would not in the end be satisfactory, and he would therefore recommend to the attention of the noble Lord some plan for a modified property tax. That, he was convinced, was the only sure way of alleviating the burthens of the lower classes. All interests were at present labouring under difficulties—agriculture, commerce, trade and manufacture, were in a state any thing but prosperous; and, if something were not done to afford them relief, the affairs of the country could not go on successfully. The noble Lord ought not to suppose, unless some means could be devised for relieving those interests, and for stimulating all the branches of industry, that it would be possible to continue the present rate of taxation. He must frankly say, however, that in his opinion the financial statement of the noble Lord was very candid and satisfactory, and that the noble Lord had rather underrated than overrated his resources, and had made ample allowance for any defalcations of revenue that could be apprehended.
§ Mr. Courtenay
should not have taken a part in this debate, if the noble Lord had 882 not alluded to a statement which he had made, a few nights ago, and which the noble Lord had put in a manner rather beyond what the observation warranted. He had certainly said, when a reduction of the duty on coffee was proposed, that he thought the apprehension of a loss to the revenue, accruing from the adoption of that proposition, was not much to be attended to, in what he then considered to be the state of the finances—namely, a state exhibiting such a deficiency as would render it imperatively necessary to take some strong measure, in the course of the next year, with respect to the taxation of the country, and the equalization of Income and Expenditure; but the noble Lord would recollect that that sentiment, was uttered under an erroneous impression of the condition of the revenue. He was extremely happy to find that the noble Lord had made some reductions, which he had taken the liberty of advocating. As the subject had not yet been more particularly alluded to, he would take the opportunity of returning his thanks to the noble Lord on the part of the West-India interests (although he was unconnected with them), for the reduction he had made in their favour—a reduction so important, that even if it had tended to increase the deficiency in the revenue, he should have supported it. Without entering into the general question, he might be permitted to say, that there ought to be some surplus. He knew the noble Lord would not agree with him in his opinion of the propriety of maintaining a sinking fund; but there was one mode of extending the revenue, which he thought would be most beneficial—he meant the conversion into redeemable annuities of certain perpetual annuities. He wished to ask the noble Lord, whether Government had taken steps to prevent that conversion? The arrangement would proceed exactly upon the principle of a sinking fund; but still, for many reasons, it would have a superiority over any other mode of accomplishing the same object. There was one other point to which he wished to address himself. The noble Lord had referred, in a very handsome manner, to the reduction in official salaries, and other heads of public expenditure, that had been effected by the former Government. He wished the noble Lord would only present to the House a statement of all the reductions which had been 883 effected during the last five years. He would say, that, without imposing a single tax, the Duke of Wellington effected reductions in the public expenditure to a greater extent than had been done by any preceding Minister. He could not accuse his Majesty's present Ministers of having neglected to do justice to the late Government on this subject; but really, the misconception which seemed to exist throughout the country upon this point was quite painful, and positively heart-rending. It was only a very short time back, during the prevalence of great political excitement, that a meeting at which he believed the hon. member for Middlesex presided, was called, to address the King on the supposed retirement of his Ministers; and a handbill was circulated on that occasion, in which a comparison was drawn between the merits of Earl Grey and the Duke of Wellington. Under the head of the latter were the words, "increase of taxation;" under the former, "reduction of expenditure;" it being perfectly notorious, as he had already observed, that the Duke of Wellington had reduced the taxation of the country to an extent—all things considered—greater than any Minister who had immediately preceded him; and every tax which he reduced, was one that pressed more immediately upon the lower orders. That led him to notice a remark which fell from the right hon. Baronet, the member for Queen's County (Sir Henry Parnell), with reference to the opposition supposed to have been hitherto given by the Members of this corrupt House of Commons, to all reductions in the expenditure of the country. Under the present constitution of the House, the most eminent of the reductions that had been made by both the late and the present Governments—for there was no difference between them in that respect—had been in the very offices which were generally supposed to be bestowed upon members of Parliament and their connexions. Observations had been made with respect to the reduction of the duty on wine, and the facilitating of the intercourse between this country and France, and the House would permit him to remind it, that, agreeing with the noble Lord on principle, he had taken the liberty of stating, in an early period of the Session, that, in the then state of our connexion with France, it was not the proper time to make that reduction. It certainly was his opinion that reductions of that description should 884 be kept under our command, with a view to our relations with foreign governments, Mr. George Villiers, he believed, had lately been sent to Paris, for the purpose of entering into a negotiation upon this subject. He should wish to know whether there was any probability that, before the rising of the House for the vacation, any such negotiation would be concluded. With reference to the observations of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, on the statement of the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, as to the condition of the Excise, the hon. Member was in error, for it was clear that, on the average of any number of years, the consumption of the people, even of beef and other substantial food, had certainly increased. At the same time, he was by no means disposed to deny that it might be true that the consumption of exciseable articles had increased, because they were substituted for articles which were not exciseable. With reference to the state of our foreign relations, he was not disposed to enter into that question, because he was not without hope that, even at this late period of the Session, some exposé might be made by the noble Lord at the head of the foreign affairs upon this subject. The right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, observed, that Parliament never was in such a state of ignorance, with respect to the foreign relations of this country, as at this moment. This was true. He believed that it had been caused by the circumstance of our having adopted, since the peace, a policy of which he entirely approved—the policy of keeping our army and navy in such a condition that small expeditions and armaments might be, at any time, despatched to any part of the world without increasing the estimates for the current year. If this had not been the case, the present Administration could not have taken the steps which they had adopted without recurring to the House. At the same time he must say, that the present Government had availed themselves, to a greater extent than any other, of the facilities afforded them by this state of things, to avoid communications with the House. In conclusion, he would observe, that he never did hear a Budget in which there appeared to him to be less exaggeration (as far as he could judge) than that which the noble Lord had produced to-night. He had a perfect confidence in the resources of the country, 885 and he trusted that the time would come when the House might be enabled to congratulate the country upon possessing a surplus.
wished for some explananation with regard to the manner in which the administration of affairs in the colonies was to be left. It seemed with regard to the Crown colonies, that they were to be relieved from either a part, or the whole of their internal expenses. He wished to know whether they were to be relieved from the whole, or only from a part of those expenses; and from what period the boon was to date? He wished also to know whether the same boon was to be held out to all the colonies on the condition of their acquiescence in the Orders in Council? Adverting to what had fallen from the hon. member for Worcester on the subject of agriculture, he must say, that he did not think that agriculture was in the depressed state which the hon. Gentleman supposed. The farmers were perfectly satisfied.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
was bound to differ from the noble Lord on the subject of the state of agriculture. He expressed his astonishment at the congratulations which the noble Lord had received on his financial exposé. Recollecting the last Budget, it appeared to him that we had got out of the frying-pan into the fire. As the noble Lord's former promises had not been fulfilled, he believed that the same would be the case with the promises which the noble Lord had that evening made. He saw no grounds for a single hope that there would be any diminution of taxation. He was sure, that the noble Lord opposite applied himself night and day to the duties of his office; but although he had a great respect for the noble Lord, and was always pleased to see him as the president of a cattle show—yet, hating flattery as he hated the devil, he could not compliment the noble Lord on the manner in which he discharged the functions of his high station. He trusted that he should soon see the benches opposite cleared of the present occupants.
§ Mr. Burge
must, on that, as on all other occasions, recommend to his Majesty's Government a course of proceeding with respect to the colonies, which would inspire them with confidence, by giving no countenance to those who would excite and inflame the passions of the negro population; and by impressing on the 886 people of this country that they had the greatest interest in the preservation of the prosperity of those colonies. By such conduct they would reconcile the colonies to the load of taxation under which they at present laboured. He hoped that, in the recess, Ministers would apply their minds to this important subject. It was painful to see, among the pledges required from candidates for return to Parliament, one that they would support certain measures respecting the colonies, without any regard to justice, or to the great interests of the empire. He trusted that the candidates would tell the people how fatal an acquiescence in their wishes would be, not only to the interests of the colonies, but to their own.
§ Lord Althorp
said: The right hon. Baronet, the member for the Queen's County, complains that I have not brought forward a colonial Budget. But, Sir, there are greater difficulties in the way of proposing such a statement than the right hon. Gentleman seems to be aware of. We have been able to prepare Estimates of the charges of some of the colonies, and the Estimates respecting the others are in a forward state; so that I hope that by the next Session of Parliament, we shall be able to produce a Budget for the whole of the colonies. With respect, Sir, to the question which has been put to me by the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, I have to say, that it is impossible that the colonies could be induced to adopt those measures for the improvement of the condition of the slaves, which we all have so much at heart, without this country's adopting some measures for the relief of the colonies from the distresses under which they are at present suffering. But when I was asked before, respecting the intentions of the Government in this matter, I said that I should not propose any measure of direct fiscal relief other than by a reduction of the taxes on colonial produce. But, in consequence of the appointment of a Committee, in each House of Parliament, to inquire into the condition of the slaves, and other matters connected with the Colonies, it has been thought right to withdraw the Orders in Council from those colonies which have Legislative Assemblies; and it was felt, at the same time, that it would be unfair to exact those taxes from such of the Crown colonies as had adopted the Orders in Council. But 887 the right hon. Baronet asks, do we mean to give them this relief, if they resist the adoption? I have only to say, Sir, that it is not the intention of the Government to do so. The measure will not expose this country to any expense, and from what I have heard, I believe that the giving relief, to the colonies in their internal taxation, will be felt to be a great benefit to them, I shall not go further into the subject at present. But when the question comes regularly before the House, I shall, of course, be prepared to give the fullest explanation. The right hon. member for Totness asks whether the Government has taken any measures to prevent the conversion of permanent into redeemable annuities? I think, Sir, that the conversion of perpetual into terminable annuities affords a feasible means of reducing the amount of the debt; and the Government have taken no step to prevent that conversion. But perhaps. Sir, the question of the right hon. Gentleman refers to a determination which has been come to, respecting the purchase of the annuities of persons above eighty years of age. It was found that annuitants above that age took an unfair advantage of the regulation, and that their annuities were made the object of a systematic speculation upon the Stock Exchange; and an alteration was made in consequence, limiting the age of the annuitants who might avail themselves of the conversion to eighty. The right hon. Gentleman has also asked if I have any hope that France will give us commercial advantages, in return for the arrangements which we have made in favour of French trade? Sir, I have sanguine hopes that the government of France will relax some of the restrictions upon our trade. I do not say that anything of the kind has yet been done, but I have strong hopes that it will be done. The right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, entered, as he fairly might, into a variety of topics connected with the finances of the country, respecting some of which I entirely agree with him, although I cannot go so far as he goes respecting them all. I agree with him as to the policy of not always changing a bad tax for one less oppressive. I agree with him as to the propriety of having a large excess of revenue over expenditure; and I could have wished that it was possible for me to calculate upon a larger excess; but I think that in the circumstances 888 of the country, the arrangement which I have adopted will be found equal to the exigencies of the State. The right hon. Baronet says, that I have not made sufficient allowance for the effect, which, it appears to him, the spread of the cholera will have upon our trade. It may be that I have not. But it seems to me that there is every reason to believe that the effect of any apprehensions respecting that pestilence will not occasion, after this, any great interruption to commerce, as there are few countries in Europe un-visited by it, and there has been but little security found against the visitation by restrictions upon trade. The right hon. Baronet says, that I lay too much stress upon the contraction of the currency. Certainly I do think that it has had a great effect upon the trade of the country. But, he says, that if I thought so, I ought to take care that the Committees upon the Bank Charter should terminate its labours before the end of the Session. He says that I ought to state the opinion of the Government. But, Sir, I think that it would be extremely inexpedient for the Government to give its opinion upon a question which the House of Commons had referred to the consideration of a Committee. He says, that the effect of the uncertainty will be to cause a contraction of the currency. But I cannot think so. I believe that, if the affairs of the Bank be properly conducted, the extent of the currency must depend principally upon the state of the foreign exchanges. He says, that Parliament never separated before in so much uncertainty respecting the state of our foreign relations. But surely, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman is aware, that the cause of the uncertainty is, that the negotiations are not concluded; and whilst they are pending, the Government would not be justified in making any disclosure. But this much I am ready to say, that I hope and trust that there is nothing in those negotiations to make us despair of an amicable conclusion. As far as I can see, there is no reason to be apprehensive of war. On the contrary, I think there is every hope that the pending negotiation will come to a favourable conclusion. Those are, I believe, the principal topics on which it is necessary for me to make any observation in reply; and I can only express my satisfaction that the House has generally admitted my statement to be fair, and without exaggeration.
§ Mr. Irving
, was of opinion, that the Government ought to be prepared to bring forward some measure respecting the Bank before the end of the Session. He looked upon the question of the Renewal of the Bank Charter to be one of the most important that was ever under the consideration of Parliament. With respect to the colonial policy of the present Government, he must say, that it was fraught with the greatest perils. The Orders in Council were most impolitic and unjust, and had been enforced by a most scandalous means. It had been said that relief was to be given to such of the colonies as had adopted those Orders. But the fact was, that no colony had done so—no colony could do so—they were wholly impracticable; and if any man strove to act upon them, his ruin would be inevitable. The effect of the policy of the Government was such that there was one colony, St. Lucia, from which not one hogshead of sugar had been this year imported. The conduct of the Government was past endurance. The character of the colonists had been held up to the execration of their fellow-subjects, and their property and means of subsistence had been destroyed.
Mr. Keith Douglas
said, that as the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had made the adoption of the Orders in Council a condition of the fiscal relief, the noble Lord was bound to controvert the assertion that they were impracticable, by laying before the House some documents, to show that they had been adopted and carried into effect in some one of the colonies.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the present was not the fit time for going into the discussion. When the question came regularly before the House, he should be ready to give the fullest information.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ 8,450,000l. were voted out of the Consolidated Fund to make good the Supplies granted to his Majesty for the year 1832, as also 1,471,333l. being the surplus of Ways and Means for former years for the same purpose, and also towards supply for the service of the year, 13,896,600l., to be raised by Exchequer bills.
§ The House resumed.