HC Deb 28 February 1834 vol 21 cc959-61
Mr. Ruthven

, pursuant to notice, rose to move the following Resolution, "That it is expedient to take into consideration the state of the Currency, and the National Debt; so that such modifications may be made of the public burthens of the Country, as may enable the people to sustain the Charges and Establishments necessary for the Public Service." He thought no subject of greater importance could be brought before the House. The Army Estimates were much greater now than they were in the olden and better times, before the change had taken place in the currency, which had, while it left the nominal burthens the same, nearly doubled their actual weight. The National Debt, too, had attained its present enormous amount under a depreciated currency, and it was paid in full weight. Whenever anything was said respecting the National Debt or the Currency, there was always an attempt to get up an alarm, and to raise an outcry about the national faith. The object of his Motion was to afford an opportunity of answering some of the very unfounded charges and insinuations which had been thrown out against certain persons on this subject. He alluded particularly to some expressions and sentiments which had fallen from the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth. When a proposition with reference to the National Debt was made by his hon. colleague a few nights since, the right hon. Baronet threw himself into a great passion, and expressed himself in terms not of the most temperate description. How great then was his surprise, with the right hon. Baronet's denunciation ringing in his ears, to find the right hon. Baronet thus expressing himself in the debate of last night. He said, 'In his opinion, the agricultural interest would have a much better chance of obtaining relief by maintaining public credit, than by pressing for such a reduction of the revenue as would endanger it. So far as personal motives could weigh with any man, it must be with him a primary object to protect the agricultural interest; but looking at the present price of the funds, considering the chance there was that an early and legitimate reduction of the public burthens would take place by diminishing the interest on those funds, his fixed and deliberate opinion was, that public credit should not be endangered or lessened by any rash and precipitate attempt to obtain the repeal of the tax in question. He had been astonished to hear no reference made by the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) to the state of the four per cents in his financial statement.'* Where was the consistency here? Neither was the reduction of the interest of the National Debt forgotten by the hon. member for Essex, who, speaking of the contingencies of the Stocks, said, "With a moderate support of public credit there would at the present moment be no such thing in existence as a three and a-half per cent stock. It would have been reduced to two and a-half, and then they would have been enabled to reduce the taxes on wine, spirits, tea, and all other articles of consumption." Well then, the proposition for reducing some part of the burthens of this heavy debt was not so peculiar as might have been imagined. The greater part of this enormous Debt of 800,000,000l., too, was contracted in one currency, whilst the interest was paid in another, which was most unjust. Justice to the public and the nation at large, called on them to consider whether they could not come to some equitable arrangement, so as to secure to one party the permanent payment of a proper and fair interest; and to the other, relief from the unjust burthen imposed upon them by the obligation of paying the interest of the Debt in a currency different to that in which it was contracted. At no great distance of time, some financial operation of this kind must inevitably take place, and the sooner they fairly met the difficulty the better. The hon. Member concluded by moving the Resolution.

Lord Althorp

expressed his conviction, that the House did not expect him to enter largely into the subject touched upon by the hon. Gentleman. Never, indeed, had so large a question been introduced by so small a speech. He regretted that the hon. Gentleman had not more fully ex- *Hansard (third series) xxi. p. 897. plained the object he had in view. As it was, it would be troubling the House in vain were he to enter into any lengthened disquisition on the subject.

Mr. O'Connell

hoped his hon. colleague would not press his Motion.

Mr. Hume

observed, that the hon. Mover did not seem to have been well understood. The argument of his hon. friend was, that as there had been a great change in the standard, that change ought to be made applicable to the army expenditure. He hoped, however, that his hon. friend would not press the Motion on the present occasion.

Resolution negatived without a division.