§ Lord Althorp
rose to lay before the Committee not merely the general state of the finances of the country, but also the prospects of improvement which he thought he might fairly anticipate, and the means by which he expected to arrive at that favourable result. He was unwilling to detain them by any general preliminary remarks, and would therefore at once proceed to the question, referring only as he proceeded to such facts and principles as might be necessary to explain and vindicate the financial propositions which he should have to bring under the consideration of the Committee. He would begin by stating what was the amount of the income and comparative expenditure of the year ending the 5th of July.
The Committee would be aware, that this gave a statement of a surplus of income over the expenditure larger than any he had 499 ever before had the satisfaction of announcing. Comparing that with the similar period of last year.
£ The receipt of the year ending 5th of July, 1834, amounted to 46,914,586 And the expenditure to 44,737,556 leaving a surplus of income over expenditure of 2,177,030
So that, if anything, the receipts of the present year had increased beyond the receipts of last year, notwithstanding, as was well known during this period a reduction of taxation had taken place to the amount of 1,500,000l. The other part of the improvement depended on a diminution of the expenditure, which had been effected to the extent of 650,000l. He confessed he regarded this as a most satisfactory statement to make as regarded the finances of the country, because it proved beyond the possibility of doubt that there was an elasticity in the system, which, notwithstanding large reductions in taxation, preserved the revenue of the State undiminished in its amount. Having made this comparative statement of the previous and present condition of the revenue, he would next apply himself to the question,—what they had to provide for during this year? The charge on the Consolidated Fund during the present year ending April, 1835, was estimated at 30,500,000l. The supplies had all been voted, except part of the miscellaneous estimates, and amounted to—
£ The surplus of income over expenditure, in the year ending the 5th of July, 1833, was 1,501,933 And, as he had stated, the surplus up to the 5th of July, 1834, amounted to 2,177,030 The improvement in the surplus during the present year had been 675,000 The receipts of this year were 46,914,586 And the receipts of last year 46,895,007
Now, probably, the Committee would recollect, that when he had made a summary financial statement at the commence- 500 ment of the Session, he had mentioned his expectation that there would be a diminution in the votes of supply, which would amount to 500,000l.; it was necessary, therefore, that he should here enter into some explanation, in order to account for there being now an actual diminution of no more than 149,274l. This was to be accounted for by certain sums having arisen which could not at that time be taken into the account, and a considerable portion of which had not then been even contemplated. The first payment to which he referred was 125,000l. to the East India Company, and which occurred, it would be recollected, in consequence of an arrangement made under an Act passed during the last Session of Parliament. The next item arose in consequence of the expenses of governing the island of St. Helena being taken into the hands of Government. The scale, he regretted to say, this year was necessarily that of the East India Company; it amounted to no less a sum than 99,000l., which he could not but consider a most extravagant charge; but he was ready to pledge himself, from what he knew of his right hon. friend (Mr. Spring Rice), that next year its expense would be reduced to a much more economical scale. The Committee would also recollect, that a sum of 60,000l. had been voted as a gratuity to those who had been engaged in the battle of Navarino, and 20,000l. had beers proposed for the purpose of making an experiment, in order to facilitate steam navigation to China. Besides all this, there was a vote of 100,000l. which had very properly been proposed by his right hon. friend the late First Lord of the Admiralty for pay to the navy immediately, anticipating, instead of deferring the payment for a considerable period. In addition to this, there would be two estimates of a small amount, which would be laid on the table of the House within a very few days—one of 1,300l. for the purchase of some fossil remains for the British Museum, and the other of 7,000l. for the establishment of a prison at Dartmouth, in order to make some experiments in connexion with the important subject of secondary punishments. Those items, in the whole, amounted to 412,310l., which the Committee would perceive more than accounted for the difference in what he had stated would probably be the diminution in supplies for the present, as compared with the last 501 year [An Hon. Member: The grant to Captain Ross.] That was included in the miscellaneous estimates; it was no additional separate charge. ["The Danish claims."] The Danish claims could not be voted this year; they must, first of all, be properly investigated. ["The vote in favour of the Poles."] That was also included in the miscellaneous estimates. He hoped the Committee would take this as a pretty substantial proof that he was rather disposed to understate than to magnify the diminution in expenditure which had actually taken place. He had gone into those details for the purpose of showing that he had not made, on the occasion alluded to, so extravagantly erroneous an estimate, when he mentioned the probable saving of 500,000l.; in point of fact, it would have been, but for the payments he had alluded to, 661,584l. The charge they had to provide for, then, was 41,971,213l. He would state the probable amount of the income as if no alterations had been made. He saw no reason to expect that a diminution of taxation would occasion any falling off in the revenue, and, therefore, he might state the amount to meet the charge, (taking the year ending. April 5), to be 45,914,586l., which would leave a balance, consequently, of 1,943,600l. The charge last year was 44,920,000l., and the expenditure 44,646,620l., so that there was a saving, up to the 5th of April, of 273,380l. on the estimates; and when he compared the income of last year with the estimates and charge, it reduced the surplus to 1,913,600l. But then there would be great alterations this year; for, besides the great reduction there would be in taxation, a large sum must be provided for, as an increase of expenditure during the year. Thus there was the interest of the money to be granted to the West-India proprietors, which might be calculated at 750,000l. It would not require to be paid till next spring; the first portion of it could not be called for before April; but the Committee were probably aware that, as the money was to bear interest from the first of August next, they were bound to provide for it in the expenditure of the year. This would raise the charge to 45,721,000l.; so that, as compared with the income of last year, the amount of the surplus would be only 1,200,000l. To this, however, there would be added 120,000l., to be received from the Bank 502 of England, and 50,000l., which would be the amount saved by the reduction of the Four-per-Cents. There was another item which was also to be taken into consideration. He might be told, that he was calculating on that of which he had no experience, and that, therefore, he was liable to make mistakes. On a former occasion, however, he thought he had considerably overrated the difficulty—he alluded to the increased revenue to be derived from the new duties on tea, which, after the best information he could obtain, and after much reflection on the matter, he calculated would amount to 250,000l. He felt confident that, under the new system, the vast competition which must exist would reduce the price of tea; and he had every reason, at the same time, to believe would increase the consumption of that article. With that view of the case, he certainly did not think that he was much overrating what would be the increase in that particular department, when he rated it at 250,000l. Deducting these sums from the charge, the surplus would be increased to 1,620,000l., as follows:—
£ For the army 6,497,903 Navy 4,578,009 Ordnance 1,166,914 Miscellaneous 2,228,387 £ Making in the whole 14,471,213 What they had therefore to provide for was: — For the Consolidated Fund 30,500,000 And for Supplies 14,471,213 £ Making a total of 44,971,213 The supplies for 1834 were 14,620,487 For 1835 14,471,213 £ exhibiting a diminution in supplies for 1835 of 149,274
It might here be proper for him to state, with reference to the sum to be received from the Bank, that though he had not entirely, he should rather say, formally, concluded any arrangement with the Bank of England for the re-payment of one-fourth of their capital, which must be paid before the 5th October next, yet it was in so forward a state of progress, that he thought the effect of it would be not to reduce the surplus more than 1,200l. a-year. He now wished to call the attention of the House to the consideration of some particular duties. During the course of this Session and the last, great complaints had been made of the increase in the consumption of spirits, and in the number of persons habitually drinking raw spirits, as well as the great increase of shops and establishments splendidly furnished for the purpose of selling spirits. He regretted the evil; but it was not his intention to propose any increase in the duties on spirits. Any Gentleman who had attended to questions of finance, 503 must well know, that increasing the duty on spirits would do no good whatever either in the shape of increasing the revenue or of diminishing their consumption. He was not one of that school who imagined they could produce morality by taxation. But when it was practicable, when a case presented itself to him in which an increase might be made to the revenue without, at the same time, increasing immorality, that was a case on which he might most justifiably act. It was perfectly well known, for the knowledge was the result of many experiments on the subject, that increase of duty on spirits was not always calculated to produce an increase of revenue; as that increase operated powerfully in the encouragement of illicit distillation and smuggling. But with respect to the duty on licenses for the sale of spirits, he believed that the House would agree with him, that those licenses would bear an increase of duty, which increase of duty would not be liable to be attended by the same results as an increase in the duty on spirits themselves. What was the state of the law at present with respect to the duty on these licenses? There were three classes of those duties; the first class was that of wholesale dealers not allowed to sell less than two gallons, or to sell it for consumption on the premises; the second class was that of the retailers depending on Magistrates' licenses, and varying according to value of house from two guineas to ten guineas; the third class, which was peculiar to Ireland, consisted of licenses to persons previously licensed to sell groceries. He did not mean to touch either the first or the last of those classes, as he did not think that either of them could well bear an increase of duty. But on the third class, consisting of retail spirit dealers, an additional duty might, he was persuaded, be levied without disadvantage, if not, indeed, with great benefit to the public. If the effect of such an increase in the duty on spirit licenses of retail dealers were to reduce the number of public-houses, which he scarcely thought would be the case, the diminution of revenue thereby occasioned would be amply compensated by public advantages of another description. After some consideration, it appeared to him that licenses for the retailing of spirits in England would well bear an increase of fifty per cent. The effect of this additional duty would 504 be to increase the revenue by 160,000l.; the amount of revenue derived from the duty on retail spirit licenses being, at present, 335,344l., viz.:—
Original surplus 1,200,000 Bank 120,000 Four-per-Cents 50,000 Tea 250,000 Surplus £1,620,000
It was also his intention to propose another alteration of duty on licenses, in which he hoped, that he should again meet with the concurrence of the House. He meant to propose making a difference in the duty on the licenses to those beer-houses in which the beer was drunk on the premises, and the duty on the licenses to those beer-houses in which the beer was not drunk on the premises. At present the duty on licenses to all beer-houses was two guineas. It was his intention to raise the duty on licenses to those beer-houses in which the beer was drunk on the premises to three guineas, and to reduce the duty on licenses to those beer-houses in which the beer was not drunk on the premises to one guinea. The number of licenses granted to beer-shops was at present 34,976, producing a revenue of 73,450l. From the change which he had stated he meant to propose in the duty on these licenses, he expected that the revenue would derive an increase of 35,000l.; it being highly probable that the reduction of the duty to one guinea on the licenses fur selling beer not to be drunk on the premises, would induce many persons to take out licenses of that description; while, on the other hand, the increase of the guinea in the duty on licenses for selling beer to be drunk on the premises was not likely very much to diminish the number of licenses issued for that purpose. The effect of the propositions which he had stated, namely, the increase of the duty on the licenses for retailing spirits, and the variation of the duty on the licenses for selling beer would be according to his calculation to increase the surplus revenue to 1,815,000l., viz.
No. of Licenses, 38,500 At £2 2 £80,849 No. of Licenses, 26,205 4 4 110,061 No. of Licenses, 3,700 6 6 23,309 No. of Licenses, 2,154 7 7 15,831 No. of Licenses, 3,879 8 8 32,583 No. of Licenses, 2,472 9 9 23,361 No. of Licenses, 4,700 10 10 49,350 81,610 £335,344
505 He next came to speak of the reductions of taxation, which he had already proposed, and of those which he was about to propose. The first, and by much the largest of these, was the reduction which he had already proposed of the House-tax, amounting to 1,200,000l. There was then the measure known by the name of the Customs' Bill, which had been brought in by his right hon. friend, the President of the Board of Trade, and which contained a number of reductions of duty on various imported articles, chiefly used in our manufactures, into the details of which it was unnecessary for him then to enter; but the whole amount of which he might state at about 200,000l. The revenue arising from the duty on starch had fallen off very considerably, for although it was an article in considerable use in our manufactures, yet the duty was subject to very considerable drawbacks, and a quantity of potato starch, which was not subject to duty, was made, and answered all the purposes of the genuine starch. By relinquishing the duty on starch, which it was his intention to propose, the revenue would lose about 75,000l. Another duty which he meant to repeal was, the duty on stone-bottles and sweets, the produce of which was 6,000l. He came next to the assessed-taxes. The duties which he proposed to repeal were as follows, viz.:—
Present surplus £.1,620,000 Spirits 160,000 Beer 35,000 £1,815,000
Rate of Duty Estimated Loss by Repeal. £. s. d. £. On windows in farm-houses, occupied by tenants under 200l. a-year, or by owners under 100l. a-year, and not having an income exceeding 100l. a-year from any other source 35,000 On husbandry horses, used occasionally for riding, or drawing untaxed carriages, by tenants of farms under 500l. a-year, or owners being the occupiers of farms under 250l. a-year, and not having an income exceeding 100l. a-year from any other source. The present exemption only extends to farmers exceeding 200l. a-year, and having no other source of income but their farms 1 8 9 10,000 On husbandry horses, used occasionally for other purposes, or let occasionally to hire. Husbandry horses are exempt, but are liable to a duty of 10s. 6d., if used in drawing coal, gravel, &c.; or if occasionally let for hire 0 10 6 2,000
Another reduction which he intended to propose, was not comprehended in assessed-taxes, but belonged to the Stamp-duties. It was a small duty, but it was one which produced a great deal of irritation and violation of the law. He alluded to the duty on almanacks, which in England was ls. 3d. each, and in Ireland 9d. and 6d. each, producing a revenue of 25,000l. The whole amount of taxation which he proposed to reduce would be 1,581,000l. viz.:—
On horses used by bailiffs, shepherds, or herdsmen 1 8 9 2,000 On shepherds and herdsmen's dogs 0 8 0 3,000 On male servants, under eighteen years of age, provided they have a legal settlement in the parish where hired 1 4 0 20,000 On one riding-horse, kept by clergymen, or Dissenting or Catholic ministers, whose incomes are under 120l. per annum. At present the exemption is confined to clergymen of the Established Church, with an income not exceeding 60l. 1 8 9 3,000 The Bachelors'-duty (additional 20s.) on male servants kept by Roman Catholic clergymen 1 0 0 100 On post-horses used occasionsionally by licensed postmasters in husbandry, and for drawing manure, fuel, &c. An innkeeper is liable to a duty of 10s. 6d. if he use a post-horse occasionally in drawing coals, hay, or corn, for his own use 0 10 6 75,100
He had already stated, that the present surplus, with the addition of the increased revenue from the augmented duty on spirit and beer licenses, was 1,815,000l. Deducting from that sum the whole amount of taxes reduced, viz. 1,581,000l., the effect would be to leave a surplus of 235,000l. He had, however, stated this account in a most unfavourable manner for himself. He had included in the charge 400,000l., which was applicable to the present year only; and, therefore, if he stated, as the result of the permanent balance, that it would leave a surplus of 600,000l., he believed he should under- 507 state its amount. But looking to the present year only, there would be saved nearly half the interest on the West-India grant, say 350,000l., and there would only be to be deducted from the receipts half the House-tax, or 600,000l., making together 950,000l. The balance, therefore, to be calculated upon for the present year amounted to 1,185,000l. With this surplus the country was, he thought, in a state to try the experiment whether, in one important article of revenue, we might not venture on a certain reduction of duty, with a fair expectation, that such reduction, by increasing the quantity produced of the article to which that duty referred, might eventually augment instead of diminish the public income. He had already stated, that however desirable it might be to make spirits an article of taxation, there was great danger that the effect of so doing would be to increase illicit distillation, and to give encouragement to smuggling. This was a fact which the history of the duty on spirits proved in a most instructive manner. He would briefly state to the House the effect which had, at various times, been produced by changes in the duty on spirits in England, in Scotland, and in Ireland, separately, in order that they might be better able to judge whether the proposition, which it was his intention to submit to them on the subject, deserved their approbation. The rate of duty on spirits for home consumption in England, previous to the year 1827, was 11s. 9¼14d. the imperial gallon. The average quantity of spirits brought to charge during the last three years of the old law was 3,959,990 gallons. The duty was then reduced to 7s. 6d. the imperial gallon; and, in the year immediately following, the quantity of spirits brought to charge rose to 7,407,204 gallons. In the subsequent years, the duty remaining at 7s. 6d. the imperial gallon, the quantity of spirits brought to charge was as follows, viz:—
House Tax £.1,200,000 Customs Bill 200,000 Starch 75,000 Stone bottles and sweets 6,000 Assessed Taxes 75,000 Almanacks 25,000 £.1,581,000
It thus appeared, that the effect of lowering the duty in England had been to double the quantity of spirits brought to charge. In Scotland, previously to the year 1825, the rate of duty on spirits for 508 home consumption was 6s. 2d. the imperial gallon. The average quantity of spirits brought to charge in Scotland, in the three last years of the old law, was 2,158,200 imperial gallons. The duty was reduced to 2s. 4¾d. a gallon. The consequence was that, in the year ending 5th January, 1825, the quantity of spirits brought to charge rose to 4,334,222 gallons, and in the year 1826 to 5,980,941 gallons. In the year 1827, the duty was increased from 2s. 4¾d. to 2s. 10d., and the consequence was, that the quantity of spirits brought to charge in that year fell from 5,980,941 gallons to 3,988,788 gallons; thus showing the extraordinary influence of an augmentation of duty. In 1828 the amount brought to charge recovered a little, it being 4,752,136 gallons. In 1829, it was 5,695,743 gallons. In 1830, it was 5,756,951 gallons. In 1831, during the latter part of which year the duty was increased from 2s. 10d., to 3s. 4d, the amount brought to charge was 5,992,421 gallons. The duty remained at 3s. 4d., and the amount of spirits brought to charge in Scotland in the subsequent years was as follows, viz.:—
In 1828 6,671,562 1829 7,759,687 1830 7,700,766 1831 7,732,101 1832 7,434,047 1833 7,281,900 1834 7,717,303
He had stated these details in order to prove that the quantity of spirits brought to charge in Scotland had gradually increased up to the present time, and that there was every indication that it would go on increasing. He now came to Ireland; and here the effect that had been produced by the alterations which had taken place in the rate of duty on spirits was very remarkable. Previous to the year 1825, the rate of duty on spirits in Ireland for home consumption was 5s. 7¼d. the imperial gallon. The average amount of the quantity of spirits brought to charge in Ireland during the last three years of the old Distillery-law was 3,173,948 gallons. When the duty was reduced to 2s. 4¾d.a gallon, the quantity of spirits brought to charge in the year ending 5th January, 1825, rose to 6,690,313 gallons. In 1826 it rose still further, to 9,262,742 gallons. In 1827, the duty was increased to 2s. 10d., and the quantity of spirits brought to charge immediately fell to 6,834,866 gallons. In the year 1828, 509 the quantity was 8,260,663 gallons; in 1829, the quantity was 9,937,633 gallons; and in 1830, the quantity was 9,212,222 gallons. The duty was then raised to 3s. 4d. a gallon, and the consequence was, that the amount of spirits brought to charge in Ireland fell, in 1831, to 8,981,595 gallons; in 1832, to 8,635,081 gallons; in 1833, to 8,594,331 gallons; and, in 1834, to 8,136,281 gallons. From this it appeared that, since the increase of duty to 3s. 4d. a gallon, the quantity of spirits brought to charge in Ireland had been gradually diminishing. But although the quantity of spirits brought to charge in Ireland amounted at present to little more than 8,000,000 of gallons, there was no doubt whatever that the quantity of spirits actually consumed in Ireland amounted to from 12,000,000to14,000,000 annually. Such being the case, his Majesty's Government had felt it their duty to take the subject into their serious consideration, with a view to ascertain whether it might not be advisable, by a diminution of the duty, to prevent illicit distillation, and, at the same time, not to expose the revenue to the danger of much loss. It was clear that, in Ireland, the effect of the duty of 3s. 4d. had been the continual diminution in the quantity of spirits brought to charge; proving, together with the increase of illicit distillation, that the taxation of spirits had considerably passed the limit of productiveness. Under these circumstances it had been thought right, in this year, when there was a large surplus revenue which would allow the experiment to be made, to propose a considerable reduction in the duty on spirits for home consumption in Ireland. He felt confident that, by reducing the duty to the amount of 1s.—that was, by reducing it from 3s. 4d. a gallon to 2s. 4d. a gallon, very advantageous results would be obtained. The effect which he anticipated from the reduction of duty was, that the amount of spirits brought to charge in Ireland would rise at once from 8,000,000 to 10,000,000 of gallons. If so, the loss to the revenue, in the present year, would not exceed 200,000l.; and he was confident, that the increase of spirits brought to charge in Ireland, in future years, in consequence of the reduction of duty, would be such, that the revenue would suffer no diminution whatever. This was what he contemplated in an earlier part of this Session, when he stated to 510 the hon. and learned member for Dublin, that he hoped to be able to bring forward a measure which might diminish the taxation in Ireland, without material injury to our financial condition. He was aware it might be objected to the present proposition that there would be an obvious inconvenience in making so marked a difference between the spirit duties of Scotland and Ireland, and that the consequence might be extensive smuggling. All he had to say in reply to that was this, that if a serious extent of smuggling was found to prevail, Government would have recourse to all the means within its power to prevent practices so injurious to our commerce and to the morals of the country, and if the ordinary means at the disposal of the Executive were not found sufficient for such a purpose, no doubt an assimilation of the duties would be rendered necessary. At the same time, he felt bound to acknowledge that he should have recourse to such an arrangement with the greatest reluctance, for he apprehended that its immediate operation would be to produce a very serious amount of smuggling over the border. On these points he acknowledged it would not be in his power to speak definitively as regarded future years, but for the present he had, after the maturest consideration, resolved to establish a difference between the spirit duties of Scotland and Ireland; and he was the more strengthened in this resolution, when he recollected that it would require him to relinquish 440,000l. per annum before he could bring both duties to a condition of equality. It was evident, also, from the statement which he had already made, that under the present rate of duty, the quantity of spirits brought to charge in Scotland was annually increasing, while, under the present rate of duty, the quantity of spirits brought to charge in Ireland was annually diminishing. He was justified, therefore, in applying to Ireland a measure which he should not be justified in applying to Scotland. Having now laid this statement before the House, it only remained for him to advert again to the small surplus which he permitted to remain—a surplus little more than 200,000l. No man was more ready to acknowledge than himself how extremely small such a surplus was, considering the pressing exigencies to which a great empire like this must occasionally be sub- 511 ject, and he should regard it as wholly inadequate if he did not entertain the greatest confidence in the elasticity of the resources of the country. If he were increasing taxation instead of diminishing it, it might be dangerous to leave so small a sum as that which he had mentioned; but as it was, he did not apprehend any danger whatever. Let the balance-sheet of 1831 be compared with the balance of July, 1834, they were as follows, viz:—
Gals. s. d. 1832 5,691,096 3 4 1833 5,401,651 3 4 1834 5,982,920 3 4 Year ending5th April,1834 6,112,659 3 4 Half-year ending 5th April, 1834 3,257,856 3 4
The present surplus, therefore, was only 740,000l. less than it was in 1831; but the amount of taxes reduced in the interval had been exclusively of those which he now proposed to reduce, upwards of 6,300,000l. The reduction of the income had been only 3,000,000l.; the reduction of the expenditure had been 2,405,387l. When he looked at the official value of the exports from the United Kingdom for the three years 1828, 1829, and 1830, and compared them with those for the three years 1831, 1832, and 1833, he saw no reason to apprehend any danger on the score of diminished commerce. The return was as follows, viz.—
January, 1831.—Receipts £50,056,616 Payments 47,142,943 £2,913,673 July, 1834.—Receipts £46,914,586 Payments 44,737,556 £2,177,030
He felt, therefore, that he had a right to express confidence in the increasing commercial prosperity of the country. At the same time he admitted, that a great com- 512 mercial country was liable to fluctuations, which it was not always possible to anticipate, and that he should be wrong, therefore, if he himself entertained, or if he attempted to inspire the House with too sanguine expectations on the subject. Yet it would be difficult to refer to any very recent period of our history in which favourable anticipations could be more reasonably indulged, although, certainly, he must be considered a bold man who would presume to foretell that the prosperity in trade which now existed must continue long enough to complete the financial changes which he had just been developing to the House. At least, however, he was warranted in affirming that a more favourable opportunity for attempting reductions could scarcely be expected. Having brought his observations nearly to a close, he should just for a moment touch upon a great measure adopted by Parliament in the course of last year, and by which our financial condition would be materially affected both in the present and in future years—he alluded to the loan of 20,000,000l. for the compensation of the West-India proprietors. It certainly must be considered a remarkable feature of the present year that provision would be made for payment of the interest of the money raised for that purpose, notwithstanding a considerable reduction in the amount of taxation, and notwithstanding the relief granted in a great variety of modes to the domestic trade, to the commerce of the country, and to the working classes. He repeated, that it would be all effected, notwithstanding the reduction of taxes. He could not in that place help observing, that the Act of the House by which they made provision for compensating the West-India proprietors must have been regarded throughout Europe with great surprise, and in fact it had excited amongst foreign nations sentiments of the strongest admiration at the justice and the charity which so nobly dictated such a sacrifice. It was an advance which only the greater nations of the continent could make or would think of making, even in circumstances of such extreme emergency as involved the national existence, and it added not a little to the astonishment and admiration which such an act was calculated to inspire, that it had been effected not only without breach of faith towards the parties interested, not only without imposing additional burthens upon the 513 people, but in conjunction with a diminution of those burthens. The fact was calculated not only to excite such sentiments as he had described, but must be highly gratifying to their feelings as Englishmen, especially when they remembered that the object thus accomplished was so great and beneficent. The noble Lord concluded by moving the following Resolution:— "Resolved, That towards raising the Supply granted to his Majesty the sum of 14,384,700l. be raised by Exchequer Bills for the service of the year 1834."
Years. Produce of the United Kingdom. Foreign and Colonial Merchandise. Total Reports. £ £ £ 1828 52,797,000 9,946,000 62,744,000 1829 56,213,000 10,622,000 66,835,000 1830 61,140,000 8,550,000 69,691,000 3)170,150,000 3)29,118,000 3)199,270,000 Average 56,716,000 9,706,000 66,423,000 1831 60,683,000 10,745,000 71,429,000 1832 65,926,000 11,044,000 76,071,000 1833 69,989,000 9,833,000 79,823,000 3)195,698,000 3)31,622,000 3)227,323,000 Average 65,232,000 10,540,000 75,774,000 Increase on the average of the last three years as compared with the former three years 8,516,000 834,000 9,351,000
would not trouble the House with many observations, for there was not much of novelty in the statements of the noble Lord. As to the reductions of duty which the noble Lord had announced his intention of proposing, the only one which was of much importance was the reduction of the duty on spirits in Ireland. With respect to the general principles on which the financial system of the country was at present carried on, which was the most important part of the business, it was well known, that he materially differed from the noble Lord. He would not, however, repeat the opinions which he had expressed on that subject, knowing that they were unpopular in that House; but would merely observe, that it was mighty easy for a Finance Minister, year after year, to propose a reduction of taxation, and to talk of the buoyancy and elasticity of our finance system, and then to leave the country to all the chances of distress which might arise from some sudden and unexpected fluctuation. When the noble Lord said, that his predecessors in office left a large surplus or a larger margin, as it was termed, than he, all that the noble Lord did was to show that he was prepared to purchase popularity at a risk which other Finance Ministers, who, as public men, were more conscientious and scrupulous than the noble Lord, would not venture to incur. The noble Lord said, that he had a surplus of about 400,000l. in the present year; but that the permanent surplus would be about 200,000l. Now, to have only a surplus of 200,000l. in a revenue of about 50,000,000l. was, in fact, to have no surplus at all; for he was quite sure that the noble Lord, and those who advised the noble Lord on financial subjects, must be very clever indeed, if they could predict what would be the result of the financial operations of 514 any given year within the sum of 200,000l. one way or the other. The increase or the decrease of the income of the country must of course depend, in a great measure, on the prosperity or the want of prosperity in the country. When the country was prosperous, consumption increased, and an increase of the revenue naturally followed; when the country was not prosperous, consumption decreased, and a decrease of the revenue as naturally followed. As long as manufactures and commerce went on tolerably well, and as long as the people were comfortable, the revenue would go on increasing. But these were matters subject to great fluctuations; sometimes going up hill, and sometimes going down hill with unexpected velocity; and some time or another the system of finance at present adopted, which not only left no surplus revenue, but actually anticipated an increase of revenue, would give way under those who trusted to it, and would leave the noble Lord, and those whose opinions were in conformity to the opinions of the noble Lord, in a condition which would not be one of exultation and triumph. To the reductions of duty amounting to 200,000l., which it was proposed to effect by the Customs' Bill, he entertained great objections. Forming a part of the general reductions of the year, they ought to have been brought forward by the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and not by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. Let them be proposed by whom they might, however, he must say, that he never knew 200,000l. more deliberately thrown away, or reductions of taxation of so little importance. He was quite at a loss to understand the reason of reducing the duties on the importation of dried fruits, dried currants, &c. They were as much luxuries as any articles of consumption could well be. He could not divine why such articles were selected for a reduction of duty in preference to a thousand other articles on which a reduction might be more advantageously effected. Perhaps the proposition might be intended as a relief to the growers of fruits in the Ionian Islands. Their distress, however, arose from the competition of other parts of Greece. To the reductions on oil and starch he had no objection; but what had the noble Lord done for the substantial relief of agriculture and manufac- 515 tures? There was hardly an article of manufacture which would be relieved. The reduction of the duty on the export of coal was not only in itself a waste of money, but was attended with considerable danger. He doubted whether any one of the appropriations of the surplus was a judicious reduction of taxation, but this was the most injudicious of all; for, in the first place, it was a loss of revenue; and secondly, it was no benefit to the manufacturers, for it gave the foreign manufacturer an advantage against them. Although he (Mr. Baring) did not apprehend, as some did, the exhaustion of coal in the country, yet, when the coal got beyond the sea-coast it would be found to affect the price of the article, to the inconvenience of the community and of the manufacturer. If instead of hiding this proposed reduction in the Customs' Bill, it had been brought forward as an open and distinct proposition, he was persuaded that it would have been warmly opposed by the great body of manufacturers in the country, and among them by the right hon. Gentleman's constituents at Manchester. He (Mr. Baring) considered this reduction to be exceedingly injudicious, not only as getting rid uselessly of a large amount of public income, but as affording considerable encouragement to the manufactures of our continental rivals. To this reduction he entertained insuperable objections, not only as it might affect the poor, but on the ground that it would sooner or later strike a dreadful blow at the manufacturing power of the country. There was in the proposed alteration a positive and serious danger. The other reductions, with the exception he had mentioned, were foolish and unnecessary, and to consider them further, he looked upon as a mere waste of time. Then he must go to the statement just made by the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and tell him that he had kept little of the promise he had made to relieve the landowners from the severe distress under which they were labouring. That distress the noble Lord had himself frequently acknowledged—Ministers proclaimed it in the King's Speech—the noble Lord had given frequent assurances of relief, and it now turned out that the boasted reductions were little paltry taxes on shepherds' dogs, on farmers' boys, and farmers' horses. In the whole list the noble 516 Lord could find no items but these to reduce—none which would effect any substantial relief. Could not the noble Lord have reduced the stamps on leases, and on the insurance of farm buildings and stock? He would have had no difficulty in finding a substitute for any amount of loss which the revenue might incur. He did not wish to raise a discussion on the subject of the Malt-tax—that great burthen upon the agriculturist; but he must observe to the noble Lord, that the sum of 1,500,000l. which, on his own showing, he was able to apply to the relief of the country, would have afforded a reduction of 5s. on the Malt-tax, which by the substitution of other and far less impolitic imposts, might have been increased to 10s. But the noble Lord preferred to yield to clamour, and repeal the House-taxes, for which, he doubted not, now they had got it, the shopkeepers would not thank him, as by this time they had found out that the boon was given to the landlords and not to themselves. He would now call the attention of the House to a transaction of the noble Lord in finance, to which this was the first opportunity he had of adverting. The noble Lord in the measure which he had assumed this year for the conversion of the four-per-cent stock, had entirely failed, or failed at least to the extent of one half; for out of 11,000,000l. of four per cent stock, there were dissentients to the amount of 5,000,000l. In what manner the noble Lord proposed to find means to pay off these dissentients he did not know; but he stated this fact, that the noble Lord might have an opportunity of declaring what those views were. He (Mr. Baring) had moved for certain papers with a view of ascertaining the details of an extraordinary operation on the part of the Government. Knowing what financial business was, he was surprised that a person at all acquainted with that business could have thought of pursuing the course which Government had been following. They had been buying stock and selling it, trafficking and dealing in the funds, day after day, in a manner totally inexplicable to every person accustomed to business. He had doubted the possibility of their having done as had been reported, and he had on a former occasion put a question on the subject to the noble Lord. He (Mr. Baring) supposed, that the noble Lord considered that 517 his question referred to the West-India grant, when he said such a transaction was not going on at all. He (Mr. Baring) had moved for papers, to which motion at first an objection had been made, although he was at a loss to know why papers of a financial character should be refused, nor did he recollect they ever had been refused to the House by any Minister. Having seen the papers, he was still more at a loss to conceive why their production should have been objected to. From the papers, it appeared, though he had had but little opportunity of examining them—that Government had been going into the market, buying and selling, day after day—such a transaction he had never known before. Gentlemen should be aware what the operation of the sinking fund was. The Commissioners of the National Debt, having the application of the money for the reduction of the debt, had the management of this fund. The Commissioners had also the care of the funds belonging to the savings' banks, amounting to 16,000,000l. which were placed in their hands as the safest persons in whom that trust could be lodged, because the public had an assurance that nothing would be done by then but in the regular execution of their duty, and that they would not go out of their way to job and deal in the public funds. The noble Lord would probably say, that the Commissioners had a power to buy and sell. They had so, and an entire power over the funds of the banks. These funds, in November last, amounted to 8,239,000l. in the three-and-a-half per cents, 4,200,000l. in the three per cents and 3,100,000l.in Exchequer bills. All the different acts certainly gave the Commissioners full power to deal with the assets of the savings-banks, "if they thought it expedient," or "advisable," or some phrase of that kind, which was always introduced, implying that the power was to be used for the purpose of the execution of the trust reposed in them, and for no other purpose whatever. What would be thought of these Commissioners when they, under that power, went jobbing in the Stock Exchange? That they should have the power of buying and selling was necessary, in order that they might invest money in, and be able to take money out of, the funds, on account of the banks. But no 518 person who read the Acts, and had common sense, could fail to see that to that extent their duty was confined. In the Bill which had been brought in some years ago for the reduction of the Four per Cents., a power was given to the Commissioners to use the funds of the savings' banks, with the provision already mentioned; but no one ever dreamed that they might job with them in the stocks. The noble Lord seemed, however, so to have interpreted the power which he found in former Acts given to the Commissioners, but it seemed to him (Mr. Baring) that the noble Lord had left out, or overlooked, the words "if expedient." He (Mr. Baring) had used the word "jobbing" as a short word which expressed clearly what had been done; but he was bound to say, that he believed every thing had been done with the purest intention, and he disclaimed imputing any interested motives; but the noble Lord had been badly advised. It seemed as if, under the circumstances of the Government, the noble Lord had been obliged to turn over financial matters to some other person in whom he reposed confidence. Never was confidence more misplaced than in this instance. The amount of the funds which had been sold out was as follows:—775,000l.Three-and-Half per Cents.; 442,000l. Three per Cents Reduced; and 1,131,000l. Consolidated Three per Cents; making 2,348,000l. stock. This had been sold, not for meeting engagements, but for the purpose of working the prices of the stocks, in order to carry into execution the project for the reduction of the Four per Cents. The stock thus sold out had been invested in Exchequer Bills. The noble Lord had not abandoned the hope of deriving benefit from his plan; but what possible object he could have in converting stock into Exchequer Bills he could not say. The noble Lord might allege that he had benefited the funds of the savings' banks by this operation. He was not satisfied upon that head; but still the noble Lord had no right thus to deal with funds sacredly appropriated by the Legislature and lodged in the hands of the Commissioners for security. It was no better excuse than that of a banker's confidential clerk, who, being sent some distance with considerable property, should step into a gambling-house, and tell his employers that he had used it to a profit. This would be as good an excuse as the noble Lord's for this device. The adviser of the noble 519 Lord, too, had set about the operation in a most blundering manner. In June, the Four per Cents were advertised for reduction; and what had been done in the mean time? The success of the operation depended on their being able to carry up the Three and a-half per Cents and other stocks. How had the cunning persons done who had advised the noble Lord? Why, from the 11th of June, every day, in June and July, they had been selling 10,000l. of the Three and a-half per Cents. He had accounts of sales at 95–95, and 96; considerable sales had been made between the prices of 95 and 96. Suppose they invested this stock in Exchequer Bills, having sold at 95, and 96, how would they get it back at par? On the face of the papers a more blundering transaction he had never seen. With regard to the funds of the savings' banks, he found that every year they paid out more than they received. The last return was to November last year, when the sum which had been received by the Commissioners of Savings' Banks, for investment was 5,747,000l., and they had paid interest and capital to depositors to the amount of 6,832,000l.; therefore there was a difference,—a deficiency,—between the amount received, and the amount paid to creditors, to the extent of 1,085,000l. The capital was sufficient to pay the creditors if stocks continued high; but what would be the consequence to the savings' banks if the price of stocks fell? Suppose a war should occur, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had to come down with his fine-spun budget and confess, that he had no surplus, the difference between the prices of 95 and 60 would sink the 15,000,000l. of capital of the savings' banks to 10,000,000l. If they continued to pay any year more than they received, although the capital, from the circumstance of the rise in the price of stock, was sufficient to pay every one his due, the capital might be diminished. He must condemn the secret nature of the transactions by which the amount of stock sold by the Commissioners of the public Debt had been concealed. Under former Governments so jealous was the public of these sales, that the broker who had the management of them used to ascend the rostrum in the Royal Exchange, and announce, three months before, what amount of stock he had to dispose of. If these sales had been effected according to the 520 usual practice, and if public auction had decided who should be the purchasers, they would have turned out better for the public; and he was sure that the hon. member for Middlesex would agree with him that every publicity ought to be given in order to ensure and obtain the advantage of competition. He most fully allowed, that not the slightest shade of imputation would rest even for a moment on the motives of the noble Lord, and he never knew any person who filled that situation whose reputation on that ground was not of the same character; indeed, the public would not suffer any person but one of an unsullied reputation in that office; but though the noble Lord's character was as pure as unsunned snow, still there were many persons who had access to official information, the hangers-on of the Treasury, who availed themselves of their opportunities to make a fortune for themselves. He himself knew of an instance where such an individual's acquaintance with the intended operations of Government when it was about to borrow, and when it wanted to lend—that individual being a clerk of the Treasury which had enabled him to leave his family 10,000l. a-year. Another charge he had to bring forward against the noble Lord was, that he had blundered in all his financial operations: that he had sold stock when he wanted to convert it. The noble Lord was the only Chancellor of the Exchequer that had ever failed in his operations in attempting the reduction of a stock, and he must say, that his measures and mode of working them had excited the ridicule of all those who were usually looked upon as critics in these affairs.
§ Lord Althorp
thought, that the hon. Gentleman himself had made one or two mistakes in his account of these public transactions, and that he had added to those mistakes by what he had just addressed to the House. The hon. Gentleman objected to his (Lord Althorp's) proceedings, on the ground that they were contrary, if not to the letter, at all events to the spirit of the law. Now, in answer to this, he begged to state, that he applied to the Gentleman who had for years and years been employed in these transactions, and who advised him that he could take the course that had been adopted, without doing anything unusual, or in opposition to the Acts of Parliament relating to these matters. As to the operation itself, 521 the hon. Gentleman seemed also to labour under a mistake; for he supposed that his (Lord Althorp's) mode of raising stock was by selling stock. That was a mistake. He certainly had, at an early period, directed a gradual sale of stock, but he was not such a conjuror as to do it with any such intent as that ascribed to him. Then there was a mistake as to dates; the hon. Gentleman argued as if the dissentients to the proposed reduction of the Four per Cents, declared their dissent in June, when, in fact, the last day on which they could do so was the 28th of May. Therefore, there could not have been that effect on the stocks which the hon. Member supposed, and so there was another mistake. With respect to the effect of his measures, he begged leave to say, that instead of no advantage resulting from them, as further stated by the hon. Gentleman, the savings' banks had gained, on the 19th instant, on the stock sold to pay dissentients, a clear sum of 118,877l. But the hon. Gentleman said, that his was the only plan for the reduction of stock that had ever been known to fail. The hon. Gentleman was greatly mistaken. It had not failed. He had carried his plan, and begged to say, that he was prepared without any difficulty whatever, to pay the respective amounts to every individual who dissented. Again, if the hon. Gentleman would look into the Act authorizing this reduction of stock, he would there find a specific power given to the Commissioners of Savings' Banks to do that which he so severely censured them for. Then the hon. Gentleman complained of the manner in which they had carried on their transactions—that they had not given sufficient publicity to them; but he (Lord Althorp) begged to remind the hon. Gentleman that there was a difference in the quality of the duties of these Gentlemen. Their functions as Commissioners for the reduction of the National Debt were wholly distinct from those which attached to them as Commissioners of Savings' Banks. As the latter functionaries, they had to purchase and to sell—they were in the position of bankers, who had to pay interest on deposits; they were, however, in a very different situation in the former instance. By publishing their intentions they might raise the market against them, in which case there certainly might be some ground for the charge of plundering. There was nothing in these transactions of an im- 522 proper or illegal character; nothing which told against the country; but, on the contrary, much that was in its favour. There was no ground for the charges made, or for the character which had been attached to the Government transactions by the hon. Gentleman. The great object he had in view was, that the prices of stock should be affected as little as possible, because it was clear, that if they were affected, the result would be to prevent him carrying his own measure into effect. He never thought of operating on the price of stock, or any such thing. He thought the House would see the futility of the charges that had been made, and that the mistakes were rather on the other than on that side of the House.
said, that from the noble Lord's own statement, it appeared that these Commissioners had sold stock to the extent of 2,500,000l., and he was sure he had only to state to those who knew anything about calculation this fact, to prove the utter hollowness of the scheme. The money thus realized by the sale of stock at 95 or 96 had been invested in Exchequer-bills at par. Now, Exchequer-bills bore interest at the rate of 1½d.a-day for 100l., and this fund was obliged to pay 2¼d. a-day interest on the deposits placed there, so that the noble Lord would be the greatest conjuror that ever existed, if he could prove this transaction to be a gain to the savings' banks.
§ Mr. Herries
said, that there was obviously a mistake between the parties on this subject. The noble Lord had first made a profit, but in this second operation he had lost part of the profit which he had made; for he could not see how, by selling stock at 95 or 96 to reinvest at 100, any profit could accrue to the parties who engaged in such a transaction.
§ Mr. Goulburn
had been long convinced that the resources of the country, if managed with ordinary prudence, would be more than sufficient to meet the demands which could be made on them; and the state of prosperity in the country, unattended by any very extraordinary revulsion, would more than realize the expectations which had been entertained concerning it. Notwithstanding he agreed with the noble Lord in his anticipations of the elasticity of the resources of the country, 523 he differed from him on one important point of principle—namely, whether it was desirable or not in a state of profound peace to make an impression upon the public debt, or to bear in mind that a period would arrive when it would be impossible to make such a provision, and that the resources of the country might be crippled, and cast away for want of common foresight. He had been rather surprised, therefore, to find that the noble Lord had not stated explicitly whether the debt of the country would be increased or diminished at the end of the year; and he was the more concerned on this account when he saw that for the last three years, on account of compensation to the West-India planter, and by other means, there had been an augmentation to the debt of 200,000l. per annum. How this charge had been incurred the papers to which he had before referred partly proved, and he was very much afraid that this particular charge, which had so much increased the debt, would be augmented at the end of the next year. In 1832, the charge of the debt was 28,100,000l., and, in 1834, 28,310,000l.; making altogether a difference of 210,000l. The only effort that had been made by the noble Lord to make any kind of reduction in the permanent debt was a change of some of the stock into terminable annuities, so that instead of 749,000,000l. it was now 736,000,000l. apparently, but no real benefit would accrue till the end of thirty years, and the interest on the difference in the mean time, instead of 640,000l., was 749,000l. He would beg of the noble Lord, that if the weight of this millstone round our necks could not be diminished, at least not unnecessarily to augment it. He perceived, when the interest on the West-India fund was called for, that we should be in a situation far more burthensome than we had yet experienced. With respect to the budget generally, he thought that if the noble Lord felt himself at liberty to make any reduction of taxation, it ought to be to that portion of the community which was, at the present moment, the most oppressed. The noble Lord had told them that the commerce and trade of the country was in a prosperous condition, and he was rejoiced to hear it; but he had not told them that the agricultural interest, either of this country or of the colonies, was in the same fortunate situation. He had 524 therefore to complain, as he did on a former occasion, that the noble Lord had, instead of applying relief to the clauses which most required it, applied it to those who were confessed to be in a prosperous condition. It would be difficult, upon merely hearing the statement of the noble Lord, to go into a detailed argument upon his plan respecting the duty upon spirits; but a few points had struck him which he wished to remark upon. The noble Lord had said, that notwithstanding the high rate of duty on spirits in England, the amount brought to account kept constantly increasing, but that the duty of 3s. 4d. per gallon, which existed both in Scotland and Ireland, had been productive of very different results. That in Scotland the amount brought to charge was increasing under that duty, whilst in Ireland it was decreasing. The conclusion at which the noble Lord had arrived in considering this circumstance was, that the duty on spirits in Ireland should be diminished. Now, he was not quite sure, that upon looking narrowly into this question it would be found that in proportion to the consumption there was a greater extent of illicit distillation in Ireland than in Scotland. He did not know either upon what authority the noble Lord had arrived at the distinction he had described. [Lord Althorp: That of the Commissioners of Excise.] He, of course, had only the ordinary sources of information to judge from; but he should like to ask the noble Lord whether he was aware what proportion of the spirit manufactured in Scotland and Ireland, respectively, was exported to this country? The noble Lord, of course, knew that it had long been a complaint of the distillers, both of England and Ireland, that the Scotch distillers were able, (they themselves said, from superior skill, their opponents said by frauds upon the revenue), to send their spirits with advantage to the Irish and English markets. Before, therefore, he could acquiesce in the proposed reduction of duty on spirits in Ireland alone, he should like to have some more explicit information upon the subject than the noble Lord had given them. The noble Lord might tell him that a different wish already prevailed with regard to England and the other two portions of the United Kingdom. He admitted the fact that it was an evil, and he would not increase the evil by making those distinctions in duty, without a strong ground of 525 necessity being made out. Besides, unjust as the present rate of duty upon colonial spirits was, how much would its injustice be increased by a further reduction of the duty on spirits distilled in Ireland. Rum was admitted into the United Kingdom at a duty which was calculated with reference to the heaviest duty paid in England. The consequence was, that the consumption of rum was hardly known in Scotland or Ireland. Every reduction of duty in either of those countries, unless justified by paramount necessity, was an infliction of direct injury upon that colonial interest which, under any circumstances, it was the duty of Government to uphold and encourage; but if ever that interest had a claim to consideration, it was at the present moment, when its fate hung in the balance as it now did, and when he defied any man to say, with certainty, what would be the result of the great measure Parliament had passed with respect to it. Before he sat down, he wished to ask the noble Lord a question with respect to the period of the payment which the planters were to receive for the liberation of their slaves. The success of the measure for the emancipation of the slaves must depend, in a great degree, upon the means which the planters had of providing for the change of circumstances which would attend their liberation. They would be put to great preliminary expenses, and he was therefore anxious to know, whether the Government had made arrangements for the payment of the parties interested at the earliest possible period. If the payment was delayed, injury might be inflicted both upon the public and the West-India planters, which the twenty millions would be a long way from compensating. The change in the condition of the slaves was to be made on the 1st of August, so that the interval between that time and the meeting of Parliament would be a critical one. He did not put this question in a spirit of hostility to the Government, but from anxiety that nothing should occur to impede the proper and safe working of the measure of negro emancipation.
§ Mr. Poulett Thomson
trusted the Committee would allow him to make a few observations upon the remarks made by the hon. member for Essex on the Bill he had the honour to bring before the House a short time back. He had been peculiarly unfortunate as regarded his hon. friend; 526 for when he introduced that Bill, he gathered from the manner in which it was received that it was generally approved of by the House, and he did not even now despair of his hon. friend doing that which was not very uncommon with him—namely, change his mind. In the course of this evening, indeed, he had expressed an opinion with regard to one article affected by the Customs' Bill different from that which he had expressed on a former occasion, he meant oil.
had stated, that oil was the only article, the reduction of the duty on which he approved of.
§ Mr. Poulett Thomson
said, that he must in common with others who had heard his hon. friend, have misunderstood him, and if so, what became of all his hon. friend's wit about salad oil. The fact, he supposed was, that his hon. friend had found out, since he spoke, that oil was greatly used in the manufactures of this country.
begged to say, that he had stated on the former evening, what he had stated to-night, and which the right hon. Gentleman was pleased to call wit—namely, that the reduction of the duty, as far as regarded oil, employed in manufactures, was beneficial, although he certainly did not wish to see, if the distinction could be made, any reduction of the duty on oil used as an article of luxury.
§ Mr. Poulett Thomson
was glad to have received the approbation of his hon. friend upon any point; but the amount of oil consumed as a luxury was, he could assure him, a mere trifle, compared to that employed in manufactures. With the exception, however, of this article, there was not one of those which had been selected for a reduction of duty which, upon going through the Customs-book, he should not have placed last upon the list to be so selected, and that, in point of fact, it was a waste of the public money to reduce the duty upon such articles. The articles, however, which had particularly excited the wrath of his hon. friend were those which came under the head of dried fruits, and especially currants. The hon. member for Essex treated these as articles of luxury, meaning, he presumed, that they were articles for the consumption of the rich, and not of the poor. Now, as regarded currants, he could assure his hon. friend, that he was completely mistaken in so describing them. It was notorious, that all but the very poorest class were in 527 the habit of consuming currants to a large extent, particularly in the north of England. His hon. friend near him, who was well acquainted with the mining districts of Durham and Northumberland, would support him in the assertion, that it was the constant practice of the miners to consume large quantities of this fruit. But he considered this article as worthy of their attention, not merely because a reduction of the duty upon it would lower its price to a large class of the community, with whom price was a matter of consideration, but because he thought that reduction might be made with scarcely any loss to the revenue. The hon. Member had stated, that the reduction was intended to benefit the Ionian islands, but that they would not be benefited by it, because they were suffering from the competition of their neighbours. But, it would be in the recollection of the House, that the reduction of this duty had been long pressed upon the Government. The answer which had uniformly been given to applications to this effect, and the answer which he had himself given, was, that it could not be done till the Ionian islands removed the export duty imposed upon the article; but last year the Ionian Legislature took off the export duty, and he felt himself bound in justice to meet their expectations by some diminution of the duty levied upon it in this country. Now, what was the duty upon this article, which the hon. Member said was the last he should select for reduction. The duty on currants was now 44s. 2d., which, as their price was only 30s., amounted to 175 per cent. This was a fact the hon. Gentleman could not be aware of; and he asked whether it were not likely, even in his view of the article, as one which was not generally consumed, but which, upon the principle of getting an equal amount of revenue with a less charge to the consumer, was so situated as to make a reduction of the duty upon it to 22s. likely to be advantageous? Then, again, there was the article of prunes, which was one of great consumption among the poorer classes all over the Continent, and there was no reason why it should not also be consumed by the poorer classes of this country, if brought within their reach. The duty on that article was 27s. 6d., which, as the price was only 14s.amounted to 250 per cent. He proposed to reduce the duty to 7s., and he was satisfied that, if 528 anything, the revenue would gain by the reduction. He would not go through the whole list of fruits on which the duty was reduced. It would be sufficient to say, that they were all in about the same situation, viz. subject to a duty of from 150 to 200 per cent; and if they could reduce that duty, without any serious loss of revenue, he said, in spite of what his hon. friend would not allow him to call wit, he had no doubt that the majority, both of the House and of the public, would be with him. The amount of tax upon those articles, which would be abandoned, was about 120,000l. Then came the other article of coals. He knew that this article involved a disputed question, and he did not intend to deny, that he was one of those who agreed in the principle, that if we had the perfect monopoly of an article of this description, it was unwise policy to surrender it to neighbouring countries, But to be able to stand by that principle, it was necessary first to be satisfied that we could maintain the monopoly, and next, that, being able to maintain it, the doing so was not attended with concomitant disadvantages, which weighed against it. Now, with respect to the first point, he was perfectly satisfied, from the experience they had had in the three years which had elapsed since the duty had been reduced, that we could not maintain our monopoly. It was a notorious fact, which any Gentleman who would take the trouble might verify beyond a doubt, that coal-fields were being opened in Holland, Belgium, and France; and that the collieries of those countries could compete with ours, and would, in a short time, be able to furnish themselves with that article. Then, with respect to the disadvantages of attempting to keep a monopoly which really could not be kept. Even at the present reduced duty, great quantities of small coal were burnt on the ground, and absolutely lost to the country, because they would not bear the export duty. Besides this loss, there was the injury we suffered from depriving our labourers of so much additional employment, and our shipping, of an extension of trade. If Gentlemen would take the trouble to look at the statement laid upon the table yesterday, they would perceive how large the amount of tonnage was, now employed in the export of coals; and that British shipping not only maintained a successful competition in the trade against the ship- 529 ping of countries with which we had not reciprocity treaties, and the articles exported in which were, therefore, subject to increased duties, but also against the shipping of countries with respect to which they had no such advantage. Besides, the abolition of the present duty would be a great relief to several important interests in the North of England now in a state of some suffering. In addition, therefore, to the great general public advantages of the proposed change, it would prove exceedingly advantageous to important classes of the community. But the hon. Member for Essex had said, that he should have preferred taking off the glass and the cotton duty. He was certainly not one who would object to the reduction of the duties on those articles; but when the hon. Member spoke of his (Mr. Thomson's) constituents not approving of the reductions made upon fruit and coals, he begged to say, that he believed his constituents were too intelligent and enlightened to object to any reduction which was for the general advantage of the country. They might, with him, be glad to see the duties on glass and cotton abolished; but when his hon. friend recommended its being done, did he recollect the circumstances connected with each? The duty on cotton was diminished more than one-half last year; and other classes might have some right to complain, if Ministers had this year devoted the whole of the sum they had to spare to the reduction of the remainder, which amounted to a larger sum by one-half than the whole loss by this measure, viz., 350,000l. The duty on glass, on the other hand, amounted to 700,000l. He believed, that no duty could be more beneficially taken off; but then it amounted to 700,000l.; and every one knew it would be useless merely to reduce the duty, unless they could abolish it altogether, for they would not thereby get rid of the machinery by which it was collected, and the mischiefs it inflicted upon the manufacturer. He would say a few words upon the statements made by his hon. friend upon the subject of taxation generally. His hon. friend had found great fault with them in the first place for making any reduction, and for not devoting all they could spare to the Sinking Fund; but he went further, and stated one thing which he ought to have known was not correct. His hon. friend stated, that his 530 noble friend had come down to that House with a popularity budget, by giving up the principle of his predecessors of having a surplus. Now, the fact was, that after taking away the reductions made by the right hon. member for the University of Cambridge, his noble friend, when he came into office, found no surplus whatever. If, therefore, his noble friend had proceeded upon this principle, he could only have entered upon it by refusing to reduce any taxes for a considerable length of time, in order to save up a surplus. But the advantage attending the great reductions of taxation made by his noble friend, was, that the revenue sprung under them to a degree that made up half, if not more than half, of the amount reduced. He would state in round sums the amount of the several reductions which had been made in the last four years. In the year 1831, he found that, taking the difference between the taxes repealed and the taxes imposed, there was a balance of reduction amounting to 1,253,000l. In the year 1832, the relief from taxation was 739,000l.; in the year 1833, it was 1,636,000l.; making a total for these three years of 3,628,000l. This, added to the reductions his noble friend had announced that night (after deducting the new duties to be laid on) made a total, during the four years, of 5,329,000l. The reductions made by the right hon. Member opposite, in the year 1830—some of which did not come into operation till 1831, amounted to 3,906,000l., which made a total reduction of taxation in the course of five years, amounting to 9,233,000l. And if the 750,000l. his noble friend had provided for the interest of the grant to the West Indians was taken into the account, it would amount to 9,983,000l. Now, what was the loss of revenue consequent upon this reduction of taxation? Only 4,580,000l. He considered that statement to be an answer to those Gentlemen who objected to taking off taxes, because they preferred having a considerable surplus revenue, as well as an answer to those who objected to following out the plan of endeavouring to select articles for reduction, which either entered into the general consumption of the people, or were largely employed in the manufactures of the country. His hon. friend complained that more had not been done for the agricultural interest; and his hon. friend mentioned two trifles, which came 531 with a bad grace from one who almost ridiculed his noble friend's attempts to relieve that interest of its trifling burthens. The fact was, that there was very little in the way of taxation that was not of a trifling nature that pressed upon the agricultural interest, except the Malt-tax, which, he contended, pressed equally upon all the consumers of malt. But his hon. friend ought not to forget this, that the farmers were as much a part of the public as the inhabitants of towns, and would be just as much benefited by general reduction of taxation. He ought not to forget either, that the reduction of the duties on raw materials was not a benefit conferred on the commercial classes, but was largely, though indirectly, advantageous to every man who had capital to employ or labour to sell, by increasing the employment for capital and labour. In fact, it was utterly impossible for the productive powers of this country to be in any way extended without every class in it being benefited. He therefore thought, that the relief to be experienced from the reduction of the house or any other direct tax, little in comparison to that which would have been derived from the reduction of the taxes on glass, paper, and cotton; but at the same time he admitted that, in considering the expediency of maintaining a tax, they were bound to look to the greater or less pain, for so he must call it, with which it was paid. Now, unquestionably, the House-tax had been a cause of general and loud complaint, and his noble friend was, therefore, right in taking it off. But he trusted that what they had to spare might hereafter be devoted to the relief of productive industry; and if that course were well followed out, he felt satisfied, that they need not fear seeing those years of adversity which his hon. friend appeared to dread. They might, certainly, be subject to the fluctuations which visited all commercial countries; but, upon the whole, he doubted not they should go on in a long career of industrious improvement.
§ Sir Robert Peel
agreed with the right hon. Gentleman, that it would have been infinitely better, upon every ground of policy, to have repealed the duty on glass, rather than to have removed the tax upon houses. But if that were true, why should the House not perform its duty to the country, by acting upon a firm and well-founded conviction of what was most ad- 532 vantageous, rather than yield, what at most, could be considered only as a partial and slight advantage, to any popular clamour which might be raised out-of-doors. The right hon. Gentleman said, that there was more pain in paying the House-tax than in paying the duty upon glass. He was not sure that those who clamoured most suffered most. At all events, they would directly contravene that which was their duty to their constituents, if they suffered any clamour raised by particular classes to overrule their better judgment, and induce them to take steps directly at variance with all the received principles of financial and commercial policy. The Glass-tax was, in every point of consideration, an extremely bad tax. A repeal of the Glass-tax would afford a greater relief to a large portion of the community than the repeal of the House-tax. The removal of the House-tax was merely a bonus to the landlord; the removal of the Glass-tax would be a bonus to every class of the community. If that were their conviction (and he believed it was admitted by every one capable of taking a comprehensive view of the subject of taxation), he did not see why the House should not act upon it, and refuse to yield to any clamour that might have been raised out-of-doors. It was not fitting that the decisions of this House should be governed by popular clamour. The tax upon glass was objectionable in another point of view; it had a great tendency to deteriorate the quality of the article. If they compared the glass made before the imposition of the tax with that which had been made since, it would be found that the latter was of an inferior quality. There was a double objection, therefore, to the continuance of this tax; it not only increased the price of the article, but, at the same time, rendered it of inferior quality. There was one other point to which he would refer. The right hon. Gentleman had not convinced him of the policy of encouraging the export of coals. The right hon. Gentleman said, that his constituents were so enlightened that he was sure they would make no objection to it. He felt that any opinion entertained by the right hon. Gentleman, both on account of his ability and of his situation in the Government, was entitled to great weight. He had, therefore, listened with attention to the whole of his argument upon that point, but the 533 right hon. Gentleman had not relieved his mind of the doubts which he entertained as to the policy of encouraging the export of coals. No doubt it would act as a temporary relief to certain distressed interests in the North; but transitory relief would be dearly purchased by a measure which went to deprive the country of one of its greatest natural advantages—the almost exclusive monopoly of coals. It appeared to him that the arguments in favour of the exportation of machinery, did not apply to the exportation of coals. It was said, that we had as great an interest in securing a monopoly for our domestic manufactures, as in retaining a monopoly in the production of coal, and, therefore, if we permitted the export of that machinery by which we had brought our manufactures to such perfection, upon the same ground we ought to permit the export of coals. The cases were seemingly, but not really, parallel. As regarded the exportation of machinery, the Legislature had no discretion to exercise, because it could not prevent the egress of the artisans by whom that machinery was made. Foreign countries became acquainted with the power and value of our machinery, and desired to purchase it from us. We refused to sell, except upon such terms as, in point of fact, amounted to a prohibition. What followed? Temptations were held out to our artisans and mechanics, to emigrate to those countries for the purpose of instructing the inhabitants in the art of constructing the machinery of which we previously had had the exclusive monopoly. The danger of this was at once perceived. It became obvious that our monopoly of machinery could not be retained, because, if we refused to sell it to foreign countries, foreign countries, through the medium of our own artisans, would make it for themselves. We had, therefore, no discretion. It was better that we should encourage our domestic manufacture of machinery by allowing a free export of it, than that we should continue the prohibition, and thereby encourage the emigration of the manufacturer. But that argument did not apply to coal. He was not at all satisfied as to the proof of the very abundant supply of coal in this country. He knew that the reproduction of coal (and the evidence of reproduction was far from convincing—in fact, he might say, that there was no positive evidence of a reproduction) was 534 not so rapid as the consumption. Then the Legislature was surely not to contemplate merely the present interests of the country—it was bound to look forward—to look forward even for a period of 400 or 500 years. In matters of legislation or of fiscal arrangement, the interests of remote periods ought always to be considered, unless some immense immediate advantage was to be gained. He was not satisfied that the supply of coals in this country—he meant of coals lying so near the surface as to be procured upon cheap and moderate terms, was so abundant as some hon. Gentlemen supposed. That somewhere in the bosom of the earth there was a supply that might last for centuries he did not mean to deny; but if it had to be procured at such a cost as to render the price of coal in this country equal to what it was in foreign countries, there must be an end at once to the great advantage for manufacturing which we now enjoyed. What was the right hon. Gentleman's argument? He said, that we could not maintain our monopoly of coal, because coal fields had been discovered in several parts of the continent. Now that, in his opinion, instead of being an argument in favour of becoming exporters of coal, was directly an argument against it. If there were coal upon the continent, the countries of the continent would encourage the use of it in preference to coal coming from this country. Therefore, the amount of our export was not likely to be great, though, if the countries of the continent have coal of their own, it would induce them to establish manufactures to rival ours. If, therefore, we had any advantage in the production of this important article, it was proper to maintain it to the fullest extent There was one subject connected with the financial operations of the country to which he wished to have the opportunity, before the termination of the Session, to call the attention of the House—he alluded to the present system of banking throughout the country. He was sorry that the attention of Parliament had not yet been called to that subject. A Committee had been appointed to inquire into the system of banking in the metropolis, but that Committee did not enter into any inquiry as to the system of country banking. It instituted no inquiry into the effects of the 7th Geo. 4th, chap. 46, which enabled Joint-Stock Banks to be established 535 making all the members of those banks individually responsible for the debts of the company. He did not wish to give any opinion upon the subject; but it was one deserving the attention of Parliament; indeed he could not conceive one which more imperatively called for their attention, than the whole relation of private banking, considered in connexion with the joint-stock system, and the new law by which the paper of the Bank of England would become a legal tender, and which he feared might be improvidently acted upon, unless some check were given to it. He could not help thinking that the Act of the 7th Geo. 4th—to the introduction of which he was a party—was acted upon very differently from the intentions of those who brought it in. Branch banks had been established in almost every town, by persons roving about and selecting some unoccupied spot, no matter whether they had any local connexion with the town or the surrounding neighbourhood. No sooner did they find a vacant place, than they at once established a Joint-Stock Bank. He found that some of these companies were carrying on district banks with a capital of 500,000l., consisting of 100,000 shares of 5l. each; so that all the security which the public had, was the personal responsibility of these owners of 5l. shares, for the whole amount of the debts of the bank. It appeared to him that this might prove to be a very inadequate security. In his opinion no company should be allowed to issue paper, or, as it were, coin money, without control as to their liability. These persons traded under very different circumstances from all others. They might trade as much as they pleased if they were not connected with money; but the moment they became so connected, the interests of the whole country were liable to be affected by their proceedings; so that the Parliament acquired the right to provide some effectual check against the imprudence of such banks, and was bound to devise a security for those who placed confidence in the solvency of the bank, if the Legislature should see reason to do so. Several of these banking establishments set out with conditions in the formation of them, which appeared seriously deserving consideration. Among these conditions in one of these banks every shareholder was entitled to cash credit to the extent of two-thirds of the amount of stock paid up. It was also a very common provision, 536 that should one-fourth of the paid-up capital be at any time lost, the company was thereby dissolved. That was done for the purpose of preserving a limited responsibility; but was it the law of the land, that when one-fourth of the paid-up capital should be lost, the company should be dissolved, and all liability be at an end? [An Hon. Member: "No."] But it was the practice; and the means by which persons were induced to take these 5l. shares. Was not that a strong reason for calling the attention of Parliament to this subject? Ought not these liabilities to be expressly defined? If this were the law, then the security offered by the bank was a fallacious one; if it were not the law, then these persons had no right to invite individuals to take shares in the bank, by holding out to them the terms of an engagement which could not be realized. The Government placed confidence in that enactment which made each individual responsible for the debts of the company, which, practically, was not so good a security, and, therefore, not entitled to such confidence as is generally imagined. Suppose a joint-stock company to be formed, in which the public confide, believing that every member of it is directly liable for the debts of the company. The public, finding eight or ten rich individuals to be shareholders, would conceive that they had an immediate lien upon the property of those eight or ten individuals in case of the insolvency of the bank; but he apprehended that no such lien would attach, until after judgment had been obtained in a Court of Law. He apprehended that a bank founded under 7th Geo. 4th, was required to certify at the Stamp Office the name of the officer of the company, by whom and against whom, all actions were to be brought. He should not, he apprehended, be entitled to any execution against an individual member of the company, until he had brought his action against this officer, and had obtained judgment against him. That would postpone very considerably the claim which he might have upon the rich individual members of the company. An action was tried in this country against Sir Abraham Bradley King, who was sued as an individual member of a joint-stock company. The Court of King's Bench would not allow process to be issued against him—on account, he presumed, of some informality; but whatever the cause, 537 it had the effect of completely defeating the claim of the parties. But the case under the 7th of Geo. 4th, was much stronger; for in the first place, it was quite clear that no individual member of the company was responsible, until after judgment had been obtained against the officers of the company, and then the claim must, in the first instance, be made upon those who were members of the company at the time when the process issued; and, in failure of the claim being liquidated by those parties, then an action would lie against those who were members of the company at the time the debt was contracted; but if these latter parties had contrived to get out of the company, the claim could not be made against them until after a trial by law had been had against all those who remained. His experience convinced him, that any security which did not take effect until after two successful law-suits, was not worth much. The expense of a law-suit is so enormous in this country, that unless the debt be very considerable, the security which the public would obtain, after two successful law-suits, must practically be none at all. He was afraid, that at this period of the Session, it was too late to do anything effectually upon this subject; but he trusted the noble Lord would devise some means to check the rage for speculative joint-stock companies, and seriously consider what would be the probable effect of the Act which was about to come into operation by which Bank paper would become a legal tender. He hoped the noble Lord would understand the meaning of his observation, that notwithstanding the large remission of taxation, such was the buoyancy of the resources of the country, that the result had been of considerable benefit to the public, without any injury to the revenue of the country. All this the noble Lord should remember had taken place under a metallic currency, which, nevertheless, had been declared to be utterly inconsistent with the expansion of our resources. But if that had been the effect, as he believed, it was only an additional reason for adhering to a metallic standard—and it ought to encourage the Legislature to watch, not with childish suspicion, but with rational jealousy and discrimination, any attempts to involve the country afresh in an indefinite extension of an irredeemable paper currency.
§ Mr. Hume
doubted the propriety of the 538 conduct of Government in meddling, as it had done, in the buying up of public funds with the millions belonging to the savings' banks which happened to be in its hands. There was much danger in these stock-jobbing transactions, in which Government ought never to meddle. He hoped that the accounts relating to the buying up of part of the Four per Cents would be speedily laid before them, and that no more such transactions would take place. He felt convinced that it would turn out that a loss had been already sustained. If they could create a new market by the repeal of the Coal-tax, that repeal would be advantageous to the nation at large. With regard to servants, it was advisable to take the duty off servants of eighteen years of age. But why confine it to those residing in their own parishes? That was injurious by checking free labour. All these checks added to the embarrassment of society. What would they do in case of doubtful parentage? The proposed plan would add to litigation, by instituting various grounds of objection. He approved of the remismission of the Window-tax on houses varying in value from 100l. to 150l. He could not, however, see the policy of the limit proposed. Why confine it to farm houses? Why not extend it to towns? The burthen was as grievously felt in towns, as in the country. The removal of the duty on stamps on almanacks was another great good. There was no branch in which there was greater piracy than that. Then, as to the duty on spirits, in place of taking off a shilling in Ireland it would be better to take off sixpence in England and Scotland, for the great object should be to equalize relief. With respect, then, to the duty on spirits he thought that if whisky were made as cheap as beer people would not drink it. The Legislature brutalized men, and then was surprised that they were brutes. In France, and Holland, and Belgium, where spirits were cheap, were the people there as intemperate as here? He did not know what evidence was laid before the Drunken Committee, or the Committee on Drunkenness, but he would say, that it would be wise to reduce the duty so as to make the commodity cheap, and therefore valueless. He would lay on such a duty as would prevent smuggling—beyond that he would not go. He would also take off the duty on all newspapers, 539 which would in the end increase the circulation of periodicals and add to the revenue, while they increased the stock of knowledge. A great field was open in the colonies for retrenchment; they were throwing large sums away on the colonies without any good. There was another material point. In Scotland property under 100l. was cruelly and most mischievously taxed. If a person died worth only 20l. the officers came in and took an inventory of even an old nightcap, and this at a time when the family were in the greatest affliction. Now the amount of that tax was not more than 60,000l. and its remission would be a great benefit. Next he would recommend the noble Lord to place the Catholic and Dissenting clergy with respect to the taxes on horses on an equality with the clergy of the Established Church, which would be the removal of great discontent and great hardship. The naval and military forces of the country were also kept on at an exorbitant scale, and he hoped by next Session they would be reduced. He hoped the tax on newspapers in Ireland and England would be removed, and that the House and the country would not witness the singular and revolting fact of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Lord Chancellor holding different opinions.
said, he had one word to say for Ireland. He heard of prunes, currants, salad-oil, stockjobbing, foreign newspapers—in a word, of relief to be given in every way, and to every article, but he heard little of Ireland. By the Grand Jury Bill it was recommended to take off the duties on stamps, but by the decision of the Judges the parties, in order to make the stamp binding, should pay ll.; so that they were released from the duty of 3s. 4d., and were saddled with 20s. When the people were fined 1l. for each award in order to make it binding in a country where most of the disputes of the people were decided by award, and the encouragement of which system would tend greatly to check litigation, they were effectively shut out from the facilities of obtaining justice. The noble Lord said, that he took off one half of the spirit license, and this he called a boon to Ireland. But it was in reality an injury; for the effect would be to reduce in the country places the number of licensed houses, and increase the number of illicit 540 stills. Was it a relief to Ireland, to increase the consumption of whisky? The effect, however, would be to increase the consumption in the large towns, where it must be a great evil. It would be no relief to farmers, for the corn would be sold whether the whiskey were lawful or illicit. On the contrary, by introducing facilities for drunkenness it must necessarily check trade and industry. If the noble Lord took off the duty on glass, or abolished the 236,000l. duty on that article, he would grant a boon to the people, and consult their health and comfort. That trade was utterly ruined. There were only two glass factories in Ireland, one in Cork, another in Dublin, and he was told one in Waterford, all in a decaying state. It was well to make a distinction between Scotland and Ireland, for the facility of transmission by the introduction of steam, brought Ireland and England in such close connection, that if some protection were not afforded to Ireland she could have no trade.
Mr. Secretary Rice
said, as far as the country parts of Ireland were concerned, the project of the Chancellor of the Exchequer would prevent illicit distillation, and so far no one could deny that it would be a benefit for Ireland. But the hon. member for Dublin said, that it would increase the consumption in the towns, where it was most desirable that the consumption should be diminished. Now to prevent illicit distillation in the country was going far to prevent the large consumption of whisky in the towns. Illicit distillation in the towns would have the same bad effect as the small stills in the country—so that in proportion as illicit distillation were checked so would most of the evils of drunkenness and its consequences be prevented. It was notorious that illicit distillation grew up under the pressure of high duties. Nothing was attended with more demoralizing and disorganizing consequence than illicit distillation. It arrayed the police and the peasantry, the functionaries of Government and the people, against each other. Even the Magistrates, though they might be called on to crush the system, too often encouraged it, because it enabled the poor tenants to pay a portion of their rents. The great expense of collecting the duty was another great evil. As to the duty on glass in Ireland, the reduction of that duty, if 541 it were made, must be met by a corresponding reduction of the duty in England. At least if that were not the case and the drawback as at present were allowed on exportation it was clear, that the reduction of the duty in Ireland would be of no advantage whatever to that country. If the duty were reduced in Ireland alone and the drawback continued, the glass manufacturers of Ireland would find themselves driven out of the market by the inferior articles exported from England for the sake of the drawback. There were certainly some disadvantages under which the Irish and Scotch laboured with respect to the spirit trade, but as a Committee was appointed to inquire into that subject, and as it was important that justice should be done to both countries, Government would wait until the Committee gave its Report.
§ Captain William Gordon
thought, that Scotland had some reason to complain of the course taken by the noble Lord, who proposed to take ls. a gallon off Irish spirits, without any correspondent reduction of the duty on Scotch spirits, notwithstanding the importance of that branch of trade to the agriculture of that country.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that, in taking off the tax on farmers' servants under eighteen years of age, his object was not so much to relieve the persons who employed them as to render those servants useful, and to prevent them from the temptations that resulted from their living out of the houses of their employers. In confining the taking off of the window-duties to farmhouses, his object was, to do for the country what he had done for the towns by taking off the House-tax. In the circumstances in which he found the country placed, he thought he was doing right when he took off the House-duty, and, if he could find any means to supply the deficiency that would arise from taking off the duty on glass, he certainly would be glad to remove that duty also. If hon. Gentlemen pressed for so many different reductions, it would be impossible for him to make the reductions he thought would be most beneficial to the country generally. His hon. friend had suggested many reductions. He hoped, and even thought, that he should be enabled to make still further reductions, and he assured the House that he would continue to make reductions as long as he could make them consistently 542 with the public service. He had every hope, that the situation of the country would enable him to reduce taxation still more.
§ Mr. Pease
was ready to congratulate the House on the removing of the House-duty; but what he especially rose for was to express his satisfaction at the Budget that had been now introduced. He saw that such reductions had been made as might be expected from a liberal Ministry. The taking off the duty on coals would be a great advantage to trade; but he would say, as far as regarded manufactures, that that, duty came two or three years too late. He did not approve of the protection given to English ships that carried coals to foreign countries, for he did not see the use of a heavier duty on coals exported in foreign bottoms.
§ Mr. Matthias Attwood
considered, that the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would have better consulted the interests of the mercantile world by taking off the Stamp-duties on bills of exchange than by any other reduction he had made.
§ Mr. James
was glad that the House-tax had been taken off. He was glad when any tax was taken off, but he should be more heartily pleased if he saw the tax upon malt removed. With respect to what had fallen from the right hon. member for Tamworth, he wished to say, that Joint-Stock Banks, the members of which were responsible to the extent of their shares, were far more safe than any private banks could be.
§ In answer to a question,
§ Lord Althorp
stated, that with respect to the unfunded debt, properly so called, there was no increase whatever. There might have been issues of Exchequer-bills for private purposes, but for general purposes there had been no increased issues, at least none that could in any way affect the surplus for the year. The cause of the increased charge for interest for the unfunded debt was, that permanent annuities had been changed into terminable ones. Some had been converted into life annuities; indeed a very considerable sum had been so converted; and this also added to the increased charge.
§ Mr. Buckingham
said, that the well-wishers of Ireland would not approve of the reduction that had been made in the duty on Irish whisky.
§ Mr. Robert Wallace
said, that, at that late hour of the night, his observations should be very brief, and confined entirely to what related more particularly to Scotland. He had hoped the time had arrived when a more liberal line of policy would have given place to the existing distinction of duties between the different parts of the empire, but to his surprise and regret he found it to he the intention of the Government still further to widen this distinction, by charging different duties on British spirits made in Ireland and Scotland as well as in England. He would enter his protest against a higher duty being paid in Scotland than in Ireland. It was impossible, with justice to the Scotch agricultural interest, and the immense capital invested in distilleries, to tax the produce of her poorer soil and worse climate, at a higher rate than what is grown in the fertile soil of Ireland. Independent of this, smuggling to an immense extent must be the immediate result. He was intimately acquainted with the facilities existing for this purpose; the shores of the two countries were supplied with innumerable small craft, having harbours and creeks at every turn, which would render it impossible to prevent smuggling the cheaper spirits of Ireland directly into Scotland. He further objected to the raising the price of spirits by an additional charge on licenses only; if additional revenue must be raised upon the sale of spirits, it would be nothing more than just that a portion of it should be paid by the producer of the spirits, as well as by the seller. He would reserve his further remarks until a future time.
§ Mr. O'Reilly
thought it would have been better, if, instead of the duty on spirits being reduced ls. a gallon in Ireland, the duties had been equalized throughout the three kingdoms.
Mr. Mark Philips
hoped, that when the noble Lord should have a surplus on a future opportunity, he would remit the duty on raw cotton.
§ Mr. Thomas Attwood
concurred in what had fallen from the right hon. member for Tamworth with respect to Joint-Stock banks, which were merely propping and 544 bolstering up an unsound system for a time, while they were preparing the materials for another panic. The Scotch banks had not yet been put to the test; but when they were, they would not pay 20d. in the pound. He was convinced, that we were going in the wrong direction, that the country was not prosperous, and that our burthens were too great for our present means. The country was not yet at the extremity of its distress; but when prices were brought down completely to the continental level, then rents and taxes must come down to the same level, or, otherwise, the country could not go on. It was pressed down by its burthens, and either they must be reduced, as well as prices, to the continental level, or the means of the country must be made adequate to bear them.
§ The Resolutions were agreed to.
§ The House resumed; the Report to be received.