§ On the Motion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the House resolved itself into a Committee of Ways and Means.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
rose and spoke as follows:—I shall endeavour to discharge the duty which has devolved upon me, that of stating to the House the present condition of the finances of the country. I shall perform my task as clearly and distinctly, and at the same time with as much frankness and sincerity as I can. I am aware, however, of the great difficulty of the undertaking, performing it as I now do for the first time, and I have need, therefore, to the utmost extent, of the indulgence of the House: I shall have nothing to offer but a dry detail of figures, which cannot possibly be attractive, except from the important consequences which attach to them. I trust, therefore, that hon. Members, while listening to the accounts I am about to give, will rather consider those consequences than the facts, and extend to the subject that indulgence which even personally I should venture to ask. My difficulties are undoubtedly increased by considering that I am, unfortunately I may say, succeeding, in the exposition of the financial state of the kingdom, one whose personal and public character gave him peculiar claims upon men of all parties, and who merited the approbation of all. I cannot help recollecting that the last financial statement was made by Lord Althorp, in whose sincerity and frankness the whole House was ready to place entire and perfect confidence. I allude to Lord Althorp, not because he needs, or that it is becoming in me to pronounce, an eulogium upon his character and services, but for the purpose of making the House aware of the disadvan- 515 tage and difficulty I labour under, when I state that the course I shall endeavour to pursue on the present occasion is that which he was accustomed to take during the period when he filled the office I have now the honour to hold. In making my statement, I do not mean to conceal anything, I do not mean to keep back anything, and still less shall I think it fitting, for any temporary purpose, in any, the slightest, degree to exaggerate or colour any part of my statement. Before I approach the subject itself, I should wish to call attention to a further source of difficulty which I have to encounter, and which circumstances do not permit me to overcome. It has its origin in a cause of which, however it may affect me, the House and the country have no reason to complain, nor can I expect any sympathy from the Committee with the difficulties which are imposed on by the vast reduction of expenditure, and the vast diminution of taxes which have previously taken place. It must be clear to every hon. Gentleman who hears me, that every reduction heretofore made renders it more and more difficult to carry the principle of reduction farther. On this account, acknowledging as I have always done, with readiness and pleasure, the great reductions made by the Administration of his Grace, the Duke of Wellington, the difficulty of effecting farther reductions being increased, the merit, (if I may venture to say so, and I do not know why I should not speak the truth) of those who carry reductions further is increased in proportion. I shall not, on this occasion, go into any prolonged detail on this point; but it is actually necessary that I should bring before the Committee the amount of reductions already made. This I shall do, not confining the statement to the Administration with which I am connected, but, including reductions made by preceding Governments, I shall direct attention to the enormous reductions which have been carried into effect since the peace. I find that the total amount of taxation reduced since 1814—I mean the gross amount, for that is the fair way of making the calculation for all parties—has been no less than 40,191,000l. approaching actually within about five or six millions to the whole amount of the revenue at present collected. Of that sum nearly seven millions, that is to say, 6,954,000l. was reduced by Lord Grey's Government. Ac- 516 companying this general reduction, a corresponding reduction has been made in the votes in supply. I have taken from the year 1817 to the present time in averages of four years, and from 1817 to 1821 the votes in supply were on the average, 18,872,000l. In the next four years, down to 1825, they were reduced to 16,721,000l. In the four years from 1825 to 1829, there was an increase on the average amounts to 18,023,000l. From 1829 to 1833, the average was reduced again to 16,115,000l. in the year 1834, the annual supply amounted to 14,479,000l. and in 1835, it was 14,136,000l. Thus it appeared, that in that interval the votes in supply had been reduced from 18,872,000l. which was an average of the first four years from 1817, to the sum of 14,136,000l. the amount of supply voted during the present year. After such reductions, how can I hope to carry much further this work of economy? Former reductions, however, do not constitute the only difficulty with which I have had to contend, because there have been cast upon me, not by the estimates for which the hon. Gentlemen opposite are responsible (of which I am so far from having to complain, that I take this opportunity of stating that, generally speaking, they were prepared with great care, and with an earnest desire to observe as moderate a scale as possible); but, there have been, at the same time, cast on me some extraordinary votes, partly upon their estimates and partly upon mine, which have prevented a still greater reduction, which, but for this fortuitous circumstance, might have been made. For instance, the fire which unfortunately destroyed both Houses of Parliament has added 69,700l. to the estimates for the year. The compensation given to one class of the Danish claimants, not connected with the direct expenditure of the year, nor with the responsibility of the present Government, has occasioned an increase of 113,000l. The fire which occurred in the Dublin Docks has added 68,000l. and the vote to the Poles 10,000l. There is another vote not belonging to the service of the current year, but introduced into a supplementary estimate on grounds which, I think, are quite satisfactory to the House—I mean the second vote for revising Barristers. It was thought that these professional gentlemen who had given their time to a public duty ought not to be compelled to wait for their money until the political contingencies of the day 517 enabled Ministers to pay them. Their claims had accordingly been provided for in advance by estimate, and they amount to 22,500l. Then there is a vote, which although it appears in supply, less resembles a vote of supply than a remission of taxation. I allude to the sum of 110,000l. granted on the recommendation of the Committee of last year in reduction of the county-rates. To these votes are to be added 6,000l. granted for the purchase of works of antiquity by the British Museum, and 25,000l., a perfectly novel vote, for education in the West-India Colonies. There is another vote which does not appear in the estimates, though it has been agreed to by a Committee of the whole House, as the foundation of a Bill to which I anticipate no objection—a Bill for the relief of the sufferers by the hurricane at Dominica. That vote amounts to 12,000l. The total of these several sums is 436,000l., which might be looked upon as an extraordinary charge, and interferes with any plan of reduction of taxes which might otherwise have been entertained. I next proceed to state the income and expenditure of the present year. In the first place, I beg to refer the House to a document already on the Table, the balance sheet to the month of April, which shows, in round numbers, an income of 46,087,000l., and an expenditure of 45,185,000l., leaving a surplus of 902,000l., If there has been an inconvenience in the delay of the Budget, on which some observations were heretofore made, but for which delay my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Goulburn) knows well that I am not responsible, because he is aware that I could not have made this statement sooner, it has some corresponding advantage to balance such inconvenience. It has enabled me to have before me the produce of the revenue for another quarter, and the calculations as to the future income and expenditure which otherwise might be made without sufficient data, can now be rendered more certain and more accurate. I have said, that on the April balance sheet there is a surplus of 902,000l., but on the balance sheet of July the income for the year appears to have been 45,539,000l., and the expenditure 44,334,000l., showing a surplus of 1,205,000l., to be compared with the April surplus of 902,000l. As far as the progress of ordinary revenue and ordinary expenditure go, I cannot but hope that the statement I have now made will 518 be satisfactory to the House; hon. Members will have the goodness to recollect that in the one case, as well as in the other, we have to take into account the charge for the compensation so justly granted on account of the abolition of slavery. I make the statement simply in reference to the two balance sheets, to show what would be the state of the case in usual course, as comparing the amount of the ordinary revenue with the amount of ordinary expenditure; we shall afterwards see how this surplus is diminished by reason of the new engagements of the country. In order to enable the House to understand the exact position in which the country is at this moment placed, I shall now proceed to compare the calculations, for the years 1834–5, of my noble Friend, Lord Althorp, made by anticipation in July last, with the actual results of the year which has closed, and I shall then state my anticipations with respect to the year to come. I shall endeavour to simplify the matter as much as possible, because hon. Members who are conversant with the subject will be easily able to fill up my outline, and those who are not will be better satisfied that I should lead them to results rather than give them the details. Lord Althorp anticipated a receipt of income amounting to 45,778,000l., and the balance sheet has shown an income of 45,539,000l., exhibiting a falling-off in income below the calculation to the extent of 239,000l. My noble Friend calculated the expenditure at 44,800,000l.; whereas, in point of fact, the expenditure did not exceed 44,334,000l.; so that there has been a diminution in the expenditure of 466,000l., to set against a diminution in income of 239,000l. My noble Friend calculated upon having a surplus of 978,000l.; but the surplus shown in the balance sheet is 1,205,000l., being a surplus of 227,000l. more than was anticipated by my noble Friend. I have excluded from this statement the charge on account of the West-India Loan. That charge, however, would not vary this comparison in the slightest degree, because it would equally enter into the calculation in both accounts. Up to the present period, no individual could be enabled to state exactly what the charge on account of that loan would be but the calculation made for the purposes of finance, fixed the amount at 750,000l. I shall now proceed to state my estimate 519 for the ensuing year. I had a calculation made for the year ending in April, for the purpose of laying it before the House at an early period of the Session; but I am now enabled to state my calculations for the year ending in July, 1836. I shall first state the general results, and next the grounds upon which they rest. I calculate the income of the country for the year 1835–36, at 45,550,000l.; and the expenditure at 44,715,000l.; leaving a surplus upon estimate of 835,000l., subject to certain charges to which I shall presently call the attention of the Committee. I shall give in detail the elements on which this calculation is founded. The Customs, in the last year, produced 19,182,000l. I calculate the amount for the present year at 20,000,000l. Last year the Excise produced 13,880,000l. I calculate the Excise for the present year at 13,270,000l., thus making the total of the Customs and Excise for the last year ending April 5th, 1835, 33,062,000l.; and for the present year, 33,270,000l. The Stamp-duty produced last year 6,998,000l. I calculate the Stamps this year at 6,980.000l. Taxes in the last year amounted to 4,312,000l.; I calculate them this year at 3,600,000l. The Post-office last year produced 1,506,000l.; I calculate the revenue of that department this year at 1,500,000l. The Miscellaneous receipts produced last year 206,200l.; I calculate them this year at 200,000l. Thus the total amount of the income of the last year was 46,087,000l.; and the total amount calculated for this year is 45,535,000l. These totals as stated to the House are correct, although they may not strictly correspond with the different items I have recapitulated, owing to the omission of the fractional parts. I now proceed to state the estimated expenditure for the present year. I take the expenditure on account of the public debt, funded and unfunded, excluding that portion of the interest on the West-Indian loan which may become chargeable within the period for which my calculation is made, at 28,540,000l.; the other charges upon the consolidated fund amount to 2,040,000l. therefore the total fixed expenditure of the country will be 30,580,000l. If to this be added the annual grants in Committee of Supply for the payment of the Army, the Navy, the Ordnance, and the Miscellaneous Expenditure amounting to 14,135,000l., the total Expenditure 520 will amount to 44,715,000l.; so that upon this Estimate of Income and Expenditure there will be a surplus, as I stated before, of 835,000l. Now, let no hon. Friends who sit behind me, from an anxiety and solicitude in discharging their public duty on account of this supposed surplus, ask for a further remission of taxes, which cannot be conceded without prejudice to the public credit of the country—let them not assume, because I have hitherto stated that there is a surplus of 835,000l., that therefore it would be competent for me, or would fall within the bounds of my duty, to propose a remission of taxation to that extent. Would to God it were, Sir! I can assure hon. Gentlemen that there is no portion of the duties of a Chancellor of the Exchequer that can be so agreeable to his feelings, as proposing the repeal of an unpopular tax; and, if Ministers find themselves bound to resist the applications that are made from time to time, then Gentlemen must do us the justice to believe, that we are led to do so most reluctantly, and that it can only be from a sense of duty that we make a stern and determined stand against the remission or reduction of taxation, and that it is only done when such reduction or remission is likely to be attended with danger to the permanent interests of the country. But I am not in this case confined to this argument in justification of the course we felt it our duty to take; because, I regret to say that the surplus of 835,000l. calculated on the ordinary expenditure of the country, will be found to crumble away before the further statement which it is now my duty to make. We had a discussion on the subject last night, which for a moment was repeated early this evening, not in any tone or temper of which I complain, because I am far from complaining of any hon. Gentleman who, in discharge of his duty, thinks it right to vindicate his opinions, but I am happy to say, that, in this case, the hon. Member who differed from the Minister, differed also from a large majority of this House; we had, Sir, a discussion last night, on the propriety of providing for the payment of interest to the West-Indian proprietors from the period that they suffered a pecuniary loss by reason of the abolition of slavery, and the House came to a determination that it was just so to provide that compensation. It was intended at 521 the time the grant of compensation was made; and if it had not been so intended, it is so clearly an act of justice, that if it depended only on a construction of law, we must have come to the same conclusion that the House adopted upon discussion. This interest has not, up to the present time, been voted. It has appeared as a part of the balance in the Exchequer, by reason of the exercise of that power which the Commissioners for the National Debt possesses, of applying the surplus of the year in payment of deficiency. The Treasury, therefore, has now a fund with which it is competent for us to deal. The interest due to the slave-owners, is to be provided for from the 1st of August, 1834. I shall now state the case with regard to the claims on the surplus of 835,000l., and I shall do so in the strongest manner against myself—not that I think such a case likely to arise, but because I think it is my duty to state the case, with respect to the liabilities of the country, in the strongest way in which it can be put, so as to avoid encouraging any false hopes, or leading to any delusive expectations. I shall afterwards explain the difference between the case which I am now about to state and the case which I think is likely to occur. The House will very readily see the necessity of making the one statement as well as the other, and of explaining to them and to the country how the matter stands. The maximum of the charge to which the country might be liable from the 1st of August, 1834 (assuming the amount awarded to become payable in September), is 730,000l.; then supposing further, that the whole balance of the loan were to be paid up within three months on discount, and that the permanent interest on the whole amount of the stock were at once incurred, this would subject us to a further charge of 250,935l.; making the total charge for the present year, on account of the West-Indian loan, nearly 1,000,000l.; against which we can set off a surplus of 835,000l.; so that if this mode of stating the case should ultimately, prove to be the real condition of the demand upon the country, there would practically be a deficiency of 170,000l., instead of a surplus of 835,000l. But there is no probability—indeed I might almost say, no possibility—that such an amount of charge should occur. I have only stated it as the amount of 522 liability which, under very peculiar circumstances, might exist; but it is an alternative which is not in the slightest degree likely to take place; on the contrary (without, however, having the means of making an estimate, but being left in a certain degree to conjecture) I should say that the amount, in the place of being 1,010,000, would not exceed a sum between 600,000l. and 700,000l. so that the actual surplus which may be expected will be from 150,000l. to 200,000l. While on this branch of the subject, I beg leave to state to the Committee that the amount of charge on account of the West-India loan is greater for the present than it will be in future years. Supposing that the remaining sum of 5,000,000l. which has yet to be raised, should be contracted for at the same rate with the 15,000,000l. already raised—a rate which I shall continue to think, notwithstanding what my hon. Friend, the Member for Middlesex has stated, to be very favourable to the public—not only positively favourable, but more favourable than could have been expected; I say, sup posing the 5,000,000l. should be contracted for at the same rate, the charge in future years, in place of being 1,010,000l., would only be 742,810l. I hope I have made the statement clear and distinct. Perhaps it would be better for me not to enter into the matter any further at present; but if any Gentleman wishes for additional explanation, I shall readily give it hereafter. I have already stated that the grants in Supply amount to 14,135,000l. It may be convenient state the particular items;—
Hitherto I have assumed the calculations I have made of the amount of the revenue to be correct; but I will now endeavour to state the grounds upon which those calculations are founded. In doing so, I entreat the attention of the House, because I believe, that from the statement which I am about to make, two matters of great importance will be distinctly proved: first, that the calculations are in no respect exaggerated, or carried beyond proper limits; and, se- 523 condly, that an analysis of the revenue of this country exhibits symptoms, and not only symptoms, but proofs, of the general well-being and the soundness of this country in all its most important relations, a conclusion which cannot but be gratifying to all who hear me. I will take the first great department of revenue—the Customs. Gentlemen will have the goodness to understand that I am now about to deal with quantity, and not with amount in money: because, in order to estimate consumption, I cannot have reference to any other test than the amount of the quantities of the respective goods which enter into consumption. Now, in order to show that my estimate of 20,000,000l. for the Customs, in the present year, does not exceed a fair estimate, I will take some of the more important articles paying Custom duty, which will best exemplify the principle on which my calculations are made; and which, I hope, may induce the Committee to place confidence in my other calculations. I begin with cotton wool. The consumption of cotton wool, according to the Customs' return, was as follows:—
Army 6,189,000l. Navy 4,245,000l. Ordnance 1,296,000l. Miscellaneous 2,405,000l. Total Supply 14,135,000l.
I believe those who know the present state of the manufacturing districts of this country (of which I shall have a word to say hereafter) will not think that I am over-sanguine in calculating that the quantity of cotton to be consumed next year will be fully as great as what was consumed in the last. Indeed, from the present state of the manufacturing interest, I do not see any other limit to the power of consumption than the means of obtaining supplies of the raw material; for to me the question is, whether the demand will not exceed the power of supply. But in place of calculating on a corresponding increase for the next year, I have taken the average of the three years only which amounts to 3l0,629,000lbs. I now proceed to another article of consumption, small in amount, but important as leading to other financial calculations. My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of the Board of Trade, who introduced a measure last year with respect to Customs' duty, will near with satisfaction the statement I am about to make: I refer to the article of oil. On that article the duty was reduced; and what has been the effect of 524 that reduction upon the consumption of oil?
1833 284,460,000lbs. 1834 297,047,000. 1835 320,210,000.
Such gentlemen as are interested in our manufactures, perfectly well know the extraordinary importance of obtaining oil at a cheap rate. [Mr. Goulburn: Of what oils are you speaking?] I am speaking of vegetable oils, not exclusively of salad oils. Those who remember former debates will understand the allusion to salad oils. I now am speaking of something more essentially important than salad oils. I am showing the great benefit that has accrued to the manufacturing interests by the reduction of the duty on oils. I do not think I shall be wrong in assuming that the consumption of next year will be as great as that of last year; but in order to avoid any possible delusion on the subject, in place of taking the quantity at 2,077,000 gallons, I have taken the average of the three years, being 1,780,000 gallons. The next article is coffee, with respect to which I have again taken the average of the three years, in place of taking the amount consumed last year. The progress of the consumption of coffee stands thus:—
Galls. 1833 1,131,000 1834 1,487,000 1835 2,077,000
My estimate for next year is the average, viz. 23,143,000lbs. I now proceed to the consumption of Sugar.
1833 23,298,000lbs. 1834 22,308,000 1835 23,143,000
But in place of calculating on an increased consumption next year, as I should be well warranted in doing, I have again taken the average of the three years, which is 3,726,000 cwt. I now come to one of the most important articles in the whole of our Customs—one which has been made matter of legislation during the present year—I mean the article of Tea. In 1833, the amount consumed was 30,720,000lbs.; in 1834, 32,480,000lbs.; in 1835, 35,580,000lbs. Not to mislead the public, I decline taking credit for the great increased consumption, which I verily believe will inevitably take place in the course of the present year, I have only calculated on the con- 525 sumption of 36,000,000lbs. I wish rather to understate than overstate the amount. I shall rejoice if next year I should find I have understated it; but I should lament if any one should tell me that I had exaggerated my estimates. I beg the Committee to recollect that in all these cases I am dealing with the financial year from the 5th of April to the 5th of April. I must take the liberty of stating, that though such is my calculation for the purposes of estimate, I yet have good grounds to anticipate a revenue on tea considerably increased beyond what I have stated. I am anxious to explain what those grounds are; I rely not only on the state of the country, but on the alteration in the system of the tea-trade which has recently taken place. The consumption of tea has been gradually increasing in this country for many years, and there is nothing in the habits or condition of the people to forbid us from anticipating increasing consumption, even if there had not taken place in the law an alteration, which will diminish the price, and promote a greater consumption of tea. I am authorized to conclude from the past—that the gradual increase may still continue. The progress of the consumption has been astonishing, and speaking in round numbers, and taking no fraction of a million of pounds, I shall state that progress to the House.
Sugar retained for Home Consumption. 1833 3,687,000cwt. 1834 3,743,000 1835 3,746,000
If, then, no alteration of the law had occurred to change what had been the state of things during the past years, there can be no doubt that we might have anticipated an increased consumption during the present year. But what has, in fact, occurred since the last year? We know perfectly well that, in consequence of the alteration in the tea-trade, purchases of tea have been made to a great extent; we also know that in consequence of the increased competition in the tea-trade, and of the reduction that has taken place in the upset prices of the East-India Company, the amount of tea, 526 which is either in the country, or about to be brought into it, will be greatly augmented, so that it is perfectly inevitable that a much larger consumption will take place in the course of the next year, than has taken place in any preceding year. But as this is an hypothetical increase, I take no credit for it in the amount of my balance sheet, for I have no right to trust to mere hypothesis for any part of my statement. If this augmentation take place in the consumption of tea, so also I may anticipate a proportional augmentation in the consumption of sugar. Then, if these causes of increased revenue actually exist, I think the House will perceive that I have not strained my argument, nor assumed too large a sum as the probable revenue of the next year. There is but one other article liable to Customs' duty, to which I shall allude—I mean the article of Tobacco. This is an increasing item of revenue. My hon. Friend, the Member for Middlesex, says, take off a portion of the duty, and the revenue will further increase. Why, Sir, there is no experiment I should make with more pleasure than the experiment of reducing taxation for the purpose of increasing consumption. But I dare not make such an experiment at the hazard of shaking the credit of the country. When we have a bonâ fide surplus to deal with, then it may be right so to apply it. But we ought not to venture on such reductions, if by making them we place at risk too large a proportion of the public revenue. My hon. Friend, I am aware, thinks that nothing is gained to the public if the amount of taxation actually collected continue the same. But I say that a great deal is gained by a judicious reduction of taxation, which, without diminishing the aggregate amount of revenue raised, gives relief to the consumers and the tax payers. Suppose one million of taxes were raised upon the consumption of goods twenty millions in value; and then suppose we were to diminish the duty by one-half, and that we were still enabled to collect one million of revenue; is it not clear that the consumption must have increased to forty millions in value; and that though the amount of revenue paid was the same, still to the people the advantage would be considerable. I state this in passing, because I know that the fallacious doctrine of my hon. Friend has made some way in the country. Before I pass from the 527 Customs I wish to call the attention of the Committee to one or two other reductions. [Mr. Goulburn: You have not stated the increased consumption of tobacco.]
Consumption of Tea. 1824 23,000,000lbs. 1825 24,000,000 1826, 1827, 1828 26,000,000 1829 29,000,000 1830, 1831 30,000,000 1832, 1833 31,000,000 1834 33,000,000 1835 35,580,000
I calculate the consumption for the present year at 21,983,000lbs. Sir, when the state of our surplus was such as to permit it, we have tried the experiment of the reduction of taxation, and we know that it has been followed by an increase of consumption. I allude to the reductions made last Session by my right hon. Friend, the President of the Board of Trade; and the result, as far as I can at present judge, is such as must be most satisfactory to the Government and the country, and such as fully justifies the measure my right hon. Friend proposed. The reductions to which I allude were made in the duties levied on currants, raisins, olive oil, and palm oil. I know it was stated in 1834, that reductions of duty on these articles would not benefit the labouring classes, because they are luxuries; as if the importation of any article, whether a luxury or not, which was to be paid for in foreign countries, by the exchange of the produce of British labour, was not most advantageous to the working classes of this country. I am inclined to think, however, as long as England continues a nation, the consumption of foreign fruits will not be altogether a matter of indifference, either to the lower or the higher classes of this country. In 1832, the quantity of currants imported was 142,000 cwt.; in 1833, before the duty was reduced, it had fallen to 140,000 cwt.: in 1834, when the duty had been reduced, the consumption had increased lo 163,000 cwt. It is perfectly certain this trade will greatly advance; and I do not despair that my right hon. Friend may show me, before another year, an increased revenue arising from a diminished rate of duty. The case is much the same with regard to the other articles I have just mentioned. Before quitting the subject of the Customs I think it right to state that there is one element which enters into the Customs'-duties, which renders any comparison of the gross receipts of one year with the receipts of another extremely difficult—I mean the 528 introduction of the Corn-duties. But if it be found that there was an increasing revenue from the Customs during a period, when from the operation of the Corn-laws the Corn-duties produced little or nothing in consequence of the low price of corn in this country, then I think that a comparison with former years must be exceedingly gratifying as affording a striking evidence of the general prosperity of our trade. In 1827, the amount received from the Corn-duties was 786,000l., and in 1829, 898,000l., In 1833, it was 35,000l.; and in 1834. 97,000l. I shall next advert to the second great branch of the revenue—the Excise, and the state of that department may be held to exhibit more justly than the Customs, the condition of the country and of the population generally. The revenue received under the different heads of auctions, bricks, glass, licenses, soap, malt, &c., during the last year was 7,742,000l. I estimate the produce for the next year at 7,750,000l. The amount of the Malt-duty last year was, 4,903,000l., and I take the same amount as the probable revenue for the next year. Spirits also is an important article, and one with respect to which, as far as Ireland is concerned, my noble Friend (Lord Althorp) tried a considerable experiment. I shall acquaint the House with the result of that experiment. In 1834, the duty on such spirits amounted to 1,515,000l. An estimate of the loss to be expected from the reduction of duty by 1s. per gallon had been made by the department, and it amounted to 100,000l.; consequently, according to that calculation, the produce of next year would be 1,415,000l. I must, however, state to the House why I am now persuaded that no such loss will be sustained. A reduction of duty from 3s. 4d. to 2s. 4d. per gallon on Irish spirits took place on the 1st of September, 1834. I am, therefore, enabled to compare the period from the 1st of September, 1833, to the 5th of July, 1834, before the reduction of the duty, with the period commencing on the 1st of September, 1834, and ending on the 5th of July, 1835, after the reduction of the duty. The number of gallons brought to charge in the first period was, 7,343,708, and in the second period, 10,280,000. Calculating the consumption from July to the close of the twelve months, to be only one sixth of the last stated amount, namely, 529 1,713,00 gallons, it would seem that the revenue would receive from the duty of 2s. 4d., 40,000l. a-year more than it did from the higher rate of 3s. 4d. My noble Friend, when he proposed the reduction of the duty on spirits consumed in Ireland, calculated that the amount brought to charge would rise from 8,000,000 gallons to 10,000,000 gallons. In fact it has risen from 7,000,000 gallons to 10,000,000 gallons; and I estimate the amount for the next year at 11,903,000 gallons. Should that estimate turn out to be correct, the expectations of my noble Friend will be fully justified. I shall now call the attention of the House generally to the increase of consumption exhibited by the various articles subject to the Excise-duty, though I am well aware, that the term "articles of consumption" is not strictly applicable either to auctions or to bricks. Taking the average consumption of three years, ending on the 5th of April, 1834, and comparing that with the actual consumption of the last year, ending in April, 1835, it appears that an increase has taken place under the respective heads as follows:—
Tobacco. 1833 20,362,000lbs. 1834 20,990,000 1835 21,483,000
In the whole of the Excise there is but one article in which a distinct improvement, marked by the amount of per cent age, has not taken place. That article is soft soap, and I am inclined to attribute the reduction in its consumption to the substitution of cheaper oils in many cases in our manufactures. The diminution in the consumption of soft soap amounts to less than one per cent. Taking into consideration the increase which has taken place in so many articles of consumption, it is obviously impossible to come to any other conclusion than that the general condition of the people must be greatly improved, and must be continually improving. The other branches of taxation 530 are both less in amount and less complicated in detail. With respect to the stamps and taxes now consolidated, there has been, I must observe, a considerable falling-off as compared with last year, in consequence mainly of the reduction of the House-tax. I may here mention, that in consequence of some new arrangements made in the course of last year by the officers of this department, which is as well managed as any in the country, and in consequence of new arrangements in the Exchequer to facilitate payments, a reduction in the expense of collecting the duties to the amount of 22,000l. has been effected. I may also state, that by the Bill which I intend to bring in for more than one purpose, facilities will be given to persons to enter into compositions for Assessed-taxes. With respect to the amount of those duties, I estimate them for the year at 6,928,800l. There has been some falling-off in the Stamp department, but chiefly in the Legacy-office; yet even here there is cause for congratulation. It is a remarkable fact, that in one single quarter there has been paid into the Legacy Department, in the Town Duties-office, duties rated upon property equal to no less a sum than 6,812,941l. This is an exhibition of such enormous wealth as few other countries in the world could boast of. No less than 6,812,941l. was the amount of the property on which Legacy-duty had been paid in one single quarter. The revenue of the Post-office I estimate at its amount last year. At the same time I trust that the revenue will soon be increased by the diminution of the cost of the Department itself; and that my right hon. Friend, the Master of the Mint, and his Colleagues will succeed in their endeavours to put that establishment on a proper footing. The new contract which has been made for the mail-coaches may serve to show the public the advantages which may be gained by perseverance.
Increase per cent. Auctions 12 Bricks 11 Glass 14 Hops 21 Licenses 4 Malt 3 Paper, 1st and 2nd class 7 …. Millboard 7 …. Stained 17 Soap 15 Spirits 7 Tea 18 Vinegar 13
For the purpose of exhibiting the means possessed by the country for meeting all its engagements, I must next call the attention of the House to the state of the public debt at the present moment as compared with its state at former periods. The House very wisely, in my opinion, determined, that it is no longer expedient to keep up an amount of taxation for the purpose of providing a Sinking-Fund. This opinion has been very generally adopted, 531 and, unlike other opinions, it has not been disclaimed by those who once professed it. I know no subject, indeed, on which there is a greater consent of opinion on all sides. Undoubtedly there was one great authority opposed to the abandonment of the Sinking Fund, Lord Ashburton; but the question was, whether it be not better to leave the money in the hands of the people to promote the general well-being of the country, by increasing the amount of capital at their command and the amount of money in circulation, and thereby lowering the rate of interest, than to raise more money than was otherwise wanted, in order to apply it to the reduction of the debt? It is a great mistake to imagine that because there is no Sinking Fund therefore a reduction of the National Debt cannot take place. On the contrary, such reduction has been carried into effect to a much more considerable extent than Gentlemen who reasoned in favour of a Sinking Fund would be inclined to credit. The conversion of permanent into terminable annuities is in principle a Sinking Fund; the best and most legitimate Sinking Fund that can be acted upon. This principle has been acted on to a very considerable extent. The total amount of the interest of the debt, in 1816, was 32,457,000l. of which 1,894,000l. was in terminable annuities. In 1834, the total amount of the interest of the debt was 28,462,000l, of which the interest on the terminable annuities amounted to 4,280,770l.; so that in 1816 the terminable annuities bore a proportion to the whole debt as one to sixteen—while, in 1834, they bore a proportion as one to seven. To all who are anxious for the good of the country, this must be a most gratifying result. On looking at this operation, I can but wish we had during the war, and when the funds were low, contracted our debt in terminable annuities instead of a perpetual charge. Had that been done, the country by this time would have been relieved from a large portion of that debt which it has now to bear, and which is found to be so oppressive. But considerable progress has been made towards converting the debt into terminable annuities; and as long as the system goes on, it will gradually abolish the debt. This is one of the reasons which induced me, in contracting the West-Indian loan, to make a considerable portion of it terminable annuities.
532 I have now followed the course pursued by my noble Friend last year, and compared the income of the present year with that of previous years. I believe that I have stated frankly and unreservedly the real state of our finances, and I also believe that my statement is rather below than above the mark as to the income of the country. There is another point of some importance with respect to the credit of the country, which shows that the national resources are not only unimpaired, but are increasing. Before, however, proceeding to this, there is a circumstance connected with the debt to which I wish to advert, and in which there has been a diminution—that portion of the debt called the dead weight. It is obvious on the reduction of the great civil and military establishments, that there must be an increase of the dead weight to a certain point; but, after a period, there would be a rapid decrease in the amount. I should be extremely sorry to have any observations misinterpreted, but as it is obvious that many mistakes which would occasion great inconvenience might arise from an erroneous impression of what may be said on this subject, it is necessary that I should be extremely cautious. I can state with confidence, that the dead weight has diminished in amount, and that the House may fairly calculate on its progressive reduction. I, for one, protest against any censure being attached to any party in consequence of this charge; it is a debt justly due to our soldiers and sailors, and I am sure that no one in this House will ever complain of the expense. I hope, also, that mistakes will be guarded against out of the House. In the amount of this charge, I include the half-pay, superannuations, pensions, &c., to the officers of the army, navy, and ordnance, as well as the civil departments. I first take the army, navy, and ordnance, and I find the maximum amount of the dead weight for the last four years, in these departments was about 4,900,000l. In several previous years, it had been above that sum considerably.
Showing a gradual diminution in the last three years. There can be no doubt that this charge is in progress of gradual 533 reduction, and will finally be extinguished. I can prove this by reference to another statement.
1823 4,955,289l. 1827 4,971,910 1831 4,907,430 1832 4,811,327 1833 4,673,247
This showed that there was a gradual reduction in this portion of the dead weight, and the same principle extended to all other parts of it. I am happy in being able to inform the House that I have arrived at the last branch of the subject, in comparison with which all other statements I have made are subordinate. I am well aware that objections may be made to the deductions drawn from statistical statements as illustrating the prosperity of the great interests of the country. At the same time, I must say, that the facts on which I rely cannot on any good grounds be objected to. In the first place, with respect to the commerce of the country. I will not go into minute calculations on this point, for the results to which I intend to call the attention of the House will be sufficient to demonstrate the increasing prosperity of England. The total value of all the exports from Great Britain in 1784, of course taking the official value, which is the best mode of estimating them, was about 15,000,000l. sterling. The average official value of the exports for the four years 1827, 1828, 1829, 1830, was 65,330,000l. Coming to the years 1831 to 1834, inclusive, I find, instead of giving 65,330,000l. for the amount, that the return of the average annual value of the exports of the produce of the manufactures of the United Kingdom, together with the foreign and colonial merchandise, is not less than 78,179,000l. showing an actual and positive increase in the last four years in the exports of the country of 12,849,000l. In point of fact, the increase in the exports during the last four years was only one-fifth less than the whole of the exports of the country in 1784. In that year, the exports were 15,000,000l. while the increase from 1830 to 1835 has been upwards of 12,000,000l. The official value of the imports, taking the average annual value for the four years ending 1830, was 45,035,784l. while for the four last years the amount was 47,403,998l. showing an increase, as compared with the four years ending 1830, 534 of 2,368,214l. The very best mode probably of estimating the condition, and showing the improvement of the industrious classes, is by reference to the state of an institution which has often been alluded to on former occasions with this view—I mean that excellent modern institution the Savings' Banks. The return to which I allude is most important, and shews, I am happy to say, a sensible improvement in the condition of the industrious classes. It was made up to the 20th of November, 1834, and since that time nothing has occurred likely to produce any change. If it had shown the number of depositors in the Savings' Banks of the higher classes increased, while there was a diminution in the lower classes, I should at once have been led to the conclusion that there must be something in our social system which induced the former to deposit their money in these banks, while there was a pressure on the lower classes, which diminished their means of accumulation; but the result of the return I have alluded to, and which I hold in my hand proves directly the contrary. It is to this effect:—
Pensions paid on account of Army Pay-office. Average of 4 years ending 1826, 1,485,776l. 1830, 1,448,604 1834, 1,328,857
Here we perceive an increase of 956,861l., the greater portion of which it is clear belongs to the poorer classes, and that I am satisfied is one of the best indications which can be afforded of an improvement in the condition of those classes. There is an increase of seven per cent in the number of depositors, and five per cent in the amount of deposits. I well recollect the exertions of the hon. and learned Member for Bridport on this subject, and I am sure that the result must be as gratifying to him as it is to myself. The right hon. Gentleman went on to state, that this return was a complete answer to those who had charged him with making exaggerated statements as to the prosperity of the country. He admitted that it was almost as bad to make exaggerated statements on the one 535 side as on the other. If, however, he were disposed to be guilty of any degree of exaggeration, it would rather be in looking at the cheerful side of a subject, and regarding with pleasure the prospect of improvement, instead of following the example of some hon. Members, who were evidently repining over the prospects of the country, and saying, notwithstanding appearances, all was hollow wretchedness, and deceit. The return he had just read to the House was one satisfactory proof of the well-being of certain classes; but he would refer to another proof in the local improvements that had been made in various parts of the country. He need not say a word as to the extent to which these might be a source of future welfare, but he wished to advert to the fact, that the Government had stepped in, for the purpose of aiding these local improvements, by means of loans advanced through the Exchequer Bill Loan Commissioners. This Board had made advances, for the purpose of local improvements, such as roads, rail-roads, docks, bridges, &c.; improvements in cities and towns, and also in counties, to the amount of 4,652,000l. This was the whole of the assistance given by the State, and it had not only been unattended with loss, but a positive profit had accrued on the Exchequer Bills so advanced. It was impossible that he should allude to this subject, without referring to the important services rendered to the country by those Gentlemen who had consented to act as Commissioners. The conduct pursued by them was a satisfactory proof of the public spirit which animated all the people of this country. Many of those Gentlemen were connected with the City of London, and they gave their important services, and took upon themselves the trouble and responsibility of performing the duties of their office, without any hope or expectation of emolument. Nothing could be more honourable to these Gentlemen, or more indicative of a high moral feeling on the part of the great body of the people, than the sacrifice for the public good, which those Gentlemen continually made. He might perhaps reasonably be supposed to have been guilty of some exaggeration in the view he had taken of the well-being of the country after the King's speech at the commencement of the Session, and the statements made since that time by certain parties in that House. According 536 to what had been stated, one of the most important interests in the country was in anything but a state of prosperity. He admitted that there existed grounds for the statements which were then made of the distress of the agriculturists, but while he contended that the country generally was in a state of prosperity, he did not deny that distress was felt by some classes of the community. With respect to what the agricultural interest demanded, he would only observe, that if it were not in the power of the Government and the House to yield to them the relief which they required, it did not arise from indifference to their claims, or want of sympathy in their sufferings, but that this Government as well as the late Ministry was controlled by other duties. When they felt it to be their duty to resist the repeal of the great tax imposed on a portion of agricultural produce—he meant the Malt-tax, they did so on grounds which all practical Statesmen, both in and out of office agreed to be substantial and just. They were convinced that if this impost were removed, agriculture on the whole would not be relieved. He was, however, inclined to think that the measure now coming, into operation for the better management of the poor, would give a real and substantial relief to agriculture. He indeed, was now prepared to speak with more confidence than he could at any former period have done, of the advantages that would result from the Act to which he alluded, to the agriculturists of England, and above all to that portion of the agricultural interest which now suffered the most. He felt no hesitation in saying that no reduction in general taxation that could be made would produce anything like that degree of relief to the agriculturists which they would derive from the reform of the Poor-laws. He found from information that he had obtained two months ago, that the improvement that had taken place was highly important, and this had been confirmed from inquiries he had since made, and he had been enabled to verify the statement, which he would, with the permission of the House, read:—
Summary of Depositors, &c, in Savings' Banks in England, Wales, and Ireland, on Nov. 20. 1834. Depositors Increase or Decrease since Nov. 1833. Amount of Investments. 61,293 under £20 each.. 16,718 inc. £1,849,161 145,827 — 50 —.. 11,859 inc. 4,467,885 60,297 — 100 —.. 3,882 inc. 4,129,245 20,109 — 150 —.. 803 inc. 2,413,829 10,422 — 200 —.. 870 inc.. 1,764,909 3,215 above 200 —.. 160 dec. 805,785 501,163 33,972 inc. £15,430,814 Increase in the number of Depositors during the last year of 33,972, and in the sum deposited of £956,861.1. Abingdon Union commenced 1st of January, 1835. The expenditure during the three months ending April, 1834, was 1,230l. and upwards; and during the three months ending April 1835, was 776l., showing a reduction of more than 35 per cent.2. Farringdon Union commenced the 7th 537 February, 1835. Ten weeks afterwards we find that 148 persons had had the offer of the workhouse, of whom only 15 accepted it, and out of these, 11 left it. Inquiries were made as to the remainder of the large number of 148, and it was ascertained positively that a very large proportion of them, three-fourths, had obtained employment.3. Newhaven Union commenced 7th February, 1835. This morning our Assistant Commissioner writes as follows:—'It gratifies me to be enabled to inform your Board, that the Guardians of the Newhaven Union, by representing to the employers of labourers in agriculture, the blind policy of contributing unprofitably towards the Poor-rates those sums which would be spent profitably as wages, have induced them to employ all the idle hands, and there is not at this moment one able-bodied man receiving relief from the Poor-rates throughout the Union.Bradford Union commenced the 28th March, 1835. The guardians began by a close examination of the list of 1,200 paupers, and detected a great many impositions. The Vice-Chairman of the Board considers that the present actual saving in consequence of this examination, and of adopting the system of partial relief in kind, is not less than 2,000l. per annum; and that a further saving to the same amount may be confidently expected.Alton Union commenced the 3rd April, 1835. The accompanying document (B) will show the saving in several parishes of that Union to be more than forty per cent; and the fact that wages have advanced in two of those parishes, in consequence of that saving, is uncommonly satisfactory.South Stoneham Union commenced the 27th March. Here I find that the weekly relief is reduced one-half. With regard to litigation, the Board have as yet no official information before them on the subject; but it is notorious that it is enormously reduced, so much so as to be a source of considerable inconvenience to barristers attending Sessions. I venture to say that I have no doubt of the poor expenditure being reduced nearly 50 per cent. in all those districts which come under our regulations comprehending, eventually, the whole of England and Wales. At the end of the period of five years and a session, for which our Commission is appointed, the expenditure of the poor, instead of being six millions per annum, and upwards, will only be three millions per annum, and upwards. It is more difficult to give an opinion respecting the rate at which this reduction will take place, but I shall be much disappointed if the year ending March, 1838, does not show a diminution of 1,500,000l., as compared with the year ending March, 1834.It appeared, then, that the market for labour, when left to itself, absorbed nearly the whole of the persons who were formerly supported by the parish. He would 538 ask his hon. Friend opposite, who had manifested great anxiety on this subject, whether the benefit which had already arisen from the union of parishes had not been nearly equal in these districts to any that could result from the reduction of taxation? It appeared, also, from the last statement he had read, that the new system of Poor-laws was likely, within a short period, to benefit the agricultural interest to the extent of 1,500,000l. a year. He had no doubt, if this Act continued to be judiciously administered under the superintendence of the Commissioners, that it would not be long before the Poor-rates would be reduced to one-half their present amount. He was not so much gratified that those who paid the Poor-rates would receive benefit, as on another account; his great source of gratification arose from a belief that the new system of Poor-laws was infinitely more beneficial than the old system, to those who received the Poor-rates. If the money were left in the pocket of one class, a consequence of infinitely more importance followed, namely—the creation in the mind of the other, of the independent feeling of relying on their own exertions for the means of support. He must contend, therefore, that the people relieved by the Poor-laws, would be mainly benefited by the new Poor-law Act; while those who contributed to the rates would be much relieved. There was only one test more to which he would refer, to show the improvement that had taken place in the condition of the people. He had referred to the Savings'-Banks and Poor-rates; but there was another test which applied more particularly to the trading classes—he meant the number of bankruptcies and insolvencies, in which as appeared from the Return that he held in his hand, that there had been a gradual diminution during the last three years:—
The number of persons who declared themselves insolvent, was for the like period, viz. 539
The number of persons declared bankrupts in the London Gazette was for the years following, viz. 1830 1,549 1831 1,543 1832 1,396 1833 1,044 1834 1,099 1835, to 1st August 674
1830 157 1831 199 1832 164 1833 124 1834 155 1835, to 1st August 86
There were other tests beside those to which he had alluded which might be referred to which would prove the general well-being of the country, but he thought these from their great importance were almost sufficient. He would not trouble the House with more than one other proof of the prosperity of the great manufacturing interests, namely—a reference to the Reports of the gentlemen who had been appointed superintendants under the Factory Bill. He did not intend to refer merely to opinions stated in these Reports, but to facts and figures. Gentlemen might differ as to a mere expression of opinion, but when figures were stated to show results, there could be but little difference. From these Reports it appeared that there had been a great increase in all the leading branches of manufacture, and more especially in the north of Ireland. A great increase had taken place in the woollen manufacture of the west of England, which had to compete with the manufacture of Yorkshire, and had other difficulties to contend with to prevent its advance. It appeared that in the three counties of Gloucester, Wilts, and Somerset, during the last year, a considerable increase had taken place in the number of the men employed. In Gloucester the increase was 7 per cent., in Wilts 25 per cent., and in Somerset 20 per cent. Taking the average, therefore, the increase was above seventeen per cent. Many new mills had been erected, and are now in full work; and others were in progress. Mr. Horner, the intelligent superintendant of factories in the north of Ireland, stated that a great improvement had taken place in the manufactures in his district, and he observed, that such was the advance in flax machinery, that he had no doubt in the course of a short time, mill-spun yarn would be imported into Flanders from the north of Ireland.
Number of persons discharged as insolvent debtors. 1832 4,644 1833 4,583 1834 4,275
In approaching the end of his task, it 540 was hardly necessary for him to observe, that hon. Gentlemen must be convinced, from the statement he had made as to the amount of the revenue of the country, that he could not be expected to make any great reduction in taxation. However anxious he might be to obtain their good opinion by the reduction of taxes, he was sure that he would not be expected to do so by proposing such a reduction as was inconsistent with the maintenance of public credit. But, without endangering public credit, there were two or three items of taxation which might be reduced. Hon. Gentlemen must be aware, that in the early part of the Session, several petitions were presented to the House on the subject of spirit licences; and his hon. Friend, the Member for Exeter, had given a notice on the subject, but had withdrawn it on his having promised to take the subject into his consideration. Great complaints were made, and he thought with some justice, of the inequality of the tax now imposed on licences for the sale of spirits. He thought that this was a very fair tax, and was introduced on satisfactory principles by his noble Friend, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer. His noble Friend stated, that he wished to put the highest duty on spirits, that was not so great as to hold out an inducement to smuggling: if, therefore, he could not increase the duty on spirits, he was determined to increase the tax on their sale. In this view of the subject, he was supported by the whole House; and his proposition was carried without any division of opinion. From the principles of that proposition he did not intend to depart; but he was anxious to remedy some injustice that appeared in the present system. The Committee should clearly understand that he proposed to deal only with the increased duty on licences established by Lord Althorp, which amounted to fifty per cent. This increased duty operated very oppressively upon those publicans whose consumption of spirits was very small compared with their consumption of malt liquor. It was for the benefit of that class, and that only, that he was about to propose an alteration in the duty. He could not concede to hon. Members that the keepers of great inns ought to participate in the relief about to be afforded to their less opulent brethren. His proposition was, that persons might take out a licence which would authorise them to 541 sell not more than fifty gallons of spirit, and for that licence they would pay a reduced duty. The loss which the revenue would sustain from this alteration he calculated at 40,000l. This was exactly the proposition which he would have urged upon the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, if he had continued in office. It was unnecessary, however, for him then to enter into particulars, as he should have another opportunity of doing so. The next point to which he wished to call the attention of the House, was connected with a manufactured article of great importance, and which was capable of great increase and extension; and he had no doubt that a reduction of the duty would greatly extend to the home as well as the foreign trade in that article. The article alluded to was the manufacture of flint glass. Gentlemen who had considered the subject of this manufacture must be aware of the motives which induced him to propose a reduction of the duty on that article; namely, that the great amount of duty not only checked the progress of the manufacture, but operated as a positive encouragement to the illicit manufacturer of the article. The duty now paid on flint glass was sixpence a-pound, and a drawback was allowed on exportation of sevenpence a pound. He believed that a great portion of the glass sent out of this country paid no kind of duty. Here was a trade to which the peculiarities of the country were particularly well adapted, and yet the profits and advantages which the fair trader should enjoy were carried away by the smuggler. He was satisfied that the present state of the law prevented that consumption of the article which would otherwise take place; and at the same time was very injurious to the fair manufacturer. He thought the charge of sixpence a-pound on flint glass was most objectionable. The tax also operated injuriously by preventing the employment of workmen, because it applied more to the cutting of glass than any other branch of the manufacture, and manufacturers did not like to run the risk of losing their capital. He believed that the duty prevented many beautiful articles from being manufactured and exported. In this case he thought he might make a reduction of the duty without any loss being ultimately sustained by the revenue thereby, though there would be a loss during the next 542 year. He meant to propose the reduction of the duty on flint glass, whether exported or not; and although it would lead to some loss in the revenue next year, still, as he had just observed, he did not think there would be any ultimate reduction. He proposed to reduce the duty on flint glass from sixpence to twopence a-pound. This would be sufficient to put down the illicit manufacture, but would enable the fair manufacturer to extend his trade. He had no doubt that an increased consumption of the article at home, as well as an increase in the quantity exported, would result from the course he proposed. The drawback would be in the same proportion as it was at present, as nearly as possible, allowing for the fraction. The present duty was sixpence a-pound, and the drawback was sevenpence. The amount of duty last year was 233,317l., and the drawback was 85,229l. The nett balance, therefore, was 148,088l. If the duty was reduced, and there was a small increase of consumption, the duty would be nearly 100,000l. He had no kind of doubt that there would be a great increase of consumption. There might be a loss of 60,000l. or 70,000l. in the next year; but this would be made up in future years.
The next article he came to was a stamp duty, which interfered with the administration of justice in Ireland. It was a stamp duty now chargeable on awards, and operated to prevent the lower orders resorting to this mode of terminating their disputes, which, to say the least of it, was extremely objectionable, as it induced the parties to resort to acts of violence. The loss on this point, at the utmost, would not exceed 500l. a-year. Perhaps this reduction might hereafter be extended to England; but the necessity of the case was much stronger in Ireland than it could be in England. The importance of getting rid of it appeared from his local knowledge peculiarly great. He had but a very few words more to say. In keeping up the present amount of revenue, it was not from any disinclination to reduction, or from any falling back in the great work of economy. He trusted that pursuing the course that had hitherto been acted upon by his colleagues, they would be able to go further in the reduction of taxation. He had shewn how much had been done, by comparing the expenditure year after year. In one particular they had gone beyond the expecta- 543 tions of his hon. Friend, the Member for Middlesex, and on a point with reference to which his hon. Friend had made many complaints. Since the year 1820, there had been a reduction in the expense of collecting the revenue to the amount of 620,362l. This was a larger reduction than his hon. Friend contemplated as possible when he first brought the subject under the notice of the House. He did not say, that the reduction on this point might not be carried further, or that it ought not to be carried further; but still he contended, that credit was due for the extent to which reduction had been carried in this particular. His hon. Friend, in his speech in 1817, stated his opinion as to the possible amount to which reduction could be carried in the expense of collecting the revenue; but from the statement which he had just made to the Committee, it would appear that reduction on this point had been carried beyond his hon. Friend's estimate. He was sure his hon. Friend would give him credit for anxiety to carry the reduction still further. He wished to advert to one other point—he meant to some facts that had appeared before the Committee on sinecures. In this branch of expenditure, to which there were so many objections, the time was not distant when there would be left not even a shadow of a sinecure office in Great Britain. He was happy to be able to state to the House that great improvement had taken place with reference to those sinecure offices which had been left unprovided for by abolition in 1810. The amount required for such sinecure offices, in 1810, was 191,000l. a-year, while in 1834, the amount of the sinecure offices similarly unprovided for was not more than 17,000l. a-year. With respect to the pensions chargeable on the consolidated fund, a reduction had been made to the amount of 16,000l. since his noble Friend, Lord Spencer, proposed the arrangement respecting the Civil List. The amount chargeable for those pensions in November, 1833, was 80,262l.; the present charge was 64,347l. shewing an actual saving of 15,915l. He had now done; and he could not help thanking the Committee for the attention they had shewn to him. He hoped that they would be indulgent for any deficiencies that might appear in the statement he had just made. The state of the country could not prove otherwise than highly satisfactory to the Committee.
544 He felt convinced that many of the facts that he had stated must inspire them with the most perfect assurance that the general resources of the country, so far from being diminished, were steadily improving, so as to show that we might set at defiance any foreign aggression; and that, notwithstanding our debt, we were in a state to maintain the national honour, and to uphold the high character of this nation. The loan which had just been effected, he would appeal to as an unanswerable proof that the credit of England now stood higher than it ever did before. If they compared the rate at which it was raised with the rate at which money was borrowed by foreign countries, it would show how much higher the character of this country was than that of any other nation. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by thanking the House for the patience with which they had listened to a statement which he feared, consisting as it did, wholly of financial calcuations, or dry statistical details, had been tedious and uninteresting.
had heard the statement of the right hon. Gentleman with the closest attention, and was happy to admit that the result was quite satisfactory. For his own part he had never for a moment entertained a doubt concerning the resources of the country, but, on the contrary, on every occasion that he had the honour to address the House on that subject he always spoke in the highest tone as to the exertions which she could make. With regard to the surplus which the right hon. Gentleman opposite retained, he would not enter into the question whether or not it were wise to depart from the usual system hitherto adopted by men of admitted talent. The right hon. Gentleman had certainly not put out of view the necessity of retaining some surplus, but it was less than what he should have considered advisable to retain. With regard to the allusion which the hon. Gentleman had made as to loans contracted by former Governments as contrasted with the late loan, and his apparent blame of those Administrations for not contracting their loans on terminable annuities. It should be remembered that those loans were contracted in periods of difficulty, and during a heavy and protracted war. Indeed, in another part of his speech the rt. hon. Gentleman had furnished the best answer when he described the difficulty of contracting the late loan in the present period of peace and prosperity, when affairs looked so promising and capital 545 was redundant. If such difficulty attended the raising of a loan of fifteen millions on terminable annuities under such favourable circumstances, must it not have been tenfold greater during a period of war, and when the country was placed under such different circumstances? With regard to the proposed reductions of his right hon. Friend, he looked upon them rather in the light of trade regulations than reductions of taxation, and indeed believing it impossible at present to reduce the revenues with a due regard to public faith he was ready to share with his right hon. Friend any unpopularity which a refusal to reduce taxes might subject him to. After the statement of the right hon. Gentleman no doubt could remain as to the increased prosperity of the country, and the only question which could arise was as to its extent. This general improvement of the country must, as a matter of course, extend in some degree to the agricultural interest. But when any direct advantage, or any diminution of the burdens, could be afforded for any particular class, he hoped the House would agree with him in thinking that the agricultural interest should be the object of that relief.
§ Mr. Hawkes
could not but congratulate the country upon the prosperous state in which it had been described to be by the right hon. Gentleman. With one portion of that statement he felt particularly pleased. It was the promised remission in the glass duties. The glass trade was one that had been particularly injured by smuggling; and while a profitable branch of trade had been destroyed—the morals of the people had been deteriorated. The consequence of the high duty had been that other countries were now rivalling England in the manufacture of glass. He was certain that for the amount of glass upon which 120,000l. duty had been paid, a quantity had been made upon which the duty evaded was equal to 250,000l. This species of trade had been carried on by the illicit manufacturer, and it was impossible for the excise officers to detect it. At one period this country enjoyed the whole of the foreign trade; while now foreigners were rivalling us in their own Colonies. The evil effects of the high duties were not only felt in this country, but in Ireland—in that country there had been ten manufacturers at one time in a prosperous state—it was now reduced to one manufactory, and it was very doubtful whether that should continue in existence. From the change proposed, however, he had no hesitation in saying that this branch 546 of the manufacture would stand as high as it did upon former occasions.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
could not congratulate the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon an increase in the revenue arising from the consumption of spirits. He thought that the statement of the right hon. Gentleman would prove unsatisfactory, particularly to the agricultural interest. The right hon. Gentleman ought to relieve that class which was most suffering from distress, regardless of the claims of others. He believed, however, that if an Angel came down from Heaven, and sat in the place of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he would not be able to please all parties.
§ Mr. Charles Buller
could not join in the congratulations that had been offered to the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon his budget, nor did he think that the country would in any way join in them. It would not be found that the country would be satisfied with that statement, in which no reason was given why their demands were not satisfied. It certainly would not satisfy the agricultural interests, nor was it very easy to satisfy them. It certainly would not satisfy that large portion of the community, which had called for a reduction of the tax upon newspapers; they had been led to expect from the Government that they would consult the feelings of the lower orders of the people, by the reduction of the tax upon newspapers—[A laugh]. He expected that laugh, because it showed what were the benefits to be derived from the reduction of such a tax, he expected that laugh, because it came from those who were interested in resisting the education of the people. Those who were opposed to the diffusion of political knowledge had some reason for their satisfaction. The people, however, would view with extreme dissatisfaction the statement of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because they would find by it that their demands were treated with utter contempt. He repeated with "utter contempt," because the right hon. Gentleman had not condescended to give any reason why he could not qualify the expectations that had been raised, but thought to put them off with trumpery reductions upon glass, and gin shops, and awards in Ireland. He thought that these taxes ought to be reduced, and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was quite right in reducing them, but then such an important subject as this ought not to have been entirely omitted. There was nothing he considered 547 more wonderful than that a reformed Ministry should give to the people political power, and yet were doing everything they could to deprive them of political knowledge. He should imagine that the working of the monopoly press should have disposed Ministers to act otherwise. It was important for them to have public opinion to aid them, and they should certainly have taken means to have themselves supported by a free Press. The fear of temporary attacks from powerful and interested individuals should not have prevented Ministers, which would be the wiser course, from sweeping away the monopoly, and throwing the Press open to fair competition. For another year Ministers had thrown themselves into the hands of the monopolists, who might treat them, as they had treated them hitherto. He hoped in GOD! that a certain party would not take advantage of the feeling of the country in this respect, and that they might not have to deplore the consequences of the course they had taken.
§ Mr. Divett
said, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had a very small sum to deal with, and therefore it was hardly fair to expect any considerable reduction of taxation from him. He was very glad the right hon. Gentleman had paid attention to the subject of spirit licences, and had consented partially to reduce the burdens which so onerously, and, he thought, unfairly, pressed upon them. With respect to newspaper stamps, to which the hon. and learned Member who last spoke had alluded, he agreed in a great measure with the views of that hon. and learned Member, and he believed that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had tried the experiment of reducing the stamps, say a penny below what they were at present, he would not have found any inconvenience from it.
§ Sir Charles Broke Vere
was sorry to cast any gloom over the happy pictures of commercial prosperity which the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had presented to the House; but really there was one class of people whose condition had long formed an exception to the generally prosperous state of the country; namely, the agricultural inteerest. The occupiers of land had suffered for years and were still suffering grievously, particularly under the operation of local taxation, which pressed with peculiar severity on them. He hoped the Government would take this subject into their consideration, and devise some means of mitigating the severity of their local burthens.
§ Sir Thomas Fremantle
had great pleasure in complimenting the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon the very clear, elaborate and satisfactory manner in which he had explained his financial views to the House. He had listened with great attention to the address of the right hon. Gentleman, and he must confess that he had also listened with the greatest satisfaction. At the same time, however, he must say, that he did not think the revenue was precisely in that buoyant condition which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had contemplated. When Lord Althorp effected the reduction of the house duties, and those upon spirits and other matters, the noble Lord calculated the consequent deficiency for the current year at 736,000l.; upon going through the present Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement, however, it appeared that the actual deficiency was 751,000l. In making this calculation he gave the right hon. Gentleman credit for a full twelvemonth's loss from the repealed duties upon houses, spirits, &c. whereas, in reality, he ought only to have calculated the loss of three quarters in the present year. He was afraid, therefore, that in subsequent years the actual loss would be yet more considerable. Under these circumstances he thought the right hon. Gentleman was quite right in not attempting any great financial reductions at present. This timely prudence on the part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave promise that whenever he might have it in his power to reduce taxation he would do it wisely and effectually.
§ Mr. Hume
was anxious to gay a few words upon the remarks made by the hon. Baronet, because he considered the observations opposed to sound measures, and contrary to the doctrine every Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to adopt. According to the argument of the hon. Baronet, the object of Government should be to keep up a large expense occasioned by the collection of revenue, and diminish taxation upon a small or what was termed a moderate scale. This, in his opinion, was deceiving the public. He would rather have a tax of 300,000l. per annum abolished, than 1,200,000l. taken off whilst all the machinery for the collection of a part of the tax was left. The Excise was most oppressive, because every man should be at liberty to use his capital according to his interest. The Excise entered into almost every branch of industry, so that no man could avoid the inquisitorial power of the 549 Excise-officers. On that ground alone he could not approve of the Chancellor of the Exchequer suffering the regulation of Excise collections to continue. He was not an advocate for half-measures. If a tax was wholly taken off an article there would be a prospect of increase in the consumption of that article; but if they took off part of a tax, leaving the machinery for the collection, little was gained. On that ground he was opposed to the doctrine of the hon. Baronet. He was also adverse to the argument urged by another hon. Baronet who spoke of the agriculturists. That class, in his opinion, made complaints unjustly. If they continued to vote for keeping a standing army, the expense of yeomanry corps, and colonial expense, as well as the navy expense, and collecting the revenue, they deserved the situation in which they stood. All he regretted was that himself and many others should be dragged into the consequences of their misconduct. But the agriculturists had no real ground of complaint, they had been relieved from every tax they could be relieved from,—they had at that moment all the reduction the law could give them,—they had a monopoly in corn, not to any great amount he would admit, but it was a monopoly, and by preserving it, they had ruined themselves. Two or three years had rolled on since he endeavoured to press that upon them, but they did not regard what he said, and their affairs had become gradually worse. Their determination to maintain that monopoly was the cause of all their complaints. The experiment of giving agriculturists high prices was the most monstrous monopoly ever heard of. He should say, on the part of the public at large, that the country gentlement were ruining themselves, An hon. Member, not then in the House, made an assertion in a former debate, that government had given relief to all but the agriculturists. There never was an assertion for which there was less foundation. The Government had given them all the relief they had a right to expect. He advised his right hon. Friend, who it appeared could not give satisfaction to the agriculturists, to turn round and give some of the relief, which the agriculturists did not value to other interests. With regard to the statement of his right hon. Friend, he would say that a clearer statement could not be made. The details which he followed as close as he could, he was bound to state, would be, in his opinion, realized in 550 every degree, but, at the same time, he could not avoid saying he should have preferred a greater reduction of the spirit duties; the consumption would have increased, and smuggling have been prevented. The consumption of tobacco had increased in proportion to the reduction which had taken place in the duty during the last forty years. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer had reduced the duty lower, the loss of the duty would have been more than repaid by the increased consumption. He should also say that the same reasoning would apply to the reduction of duties on all leading exciseable articles. All he wanted was, a reduction of taxation, and the consumption of articles would make up more than the deficiency occasioned by giving up some duties. Alluding to the collection of revenue, he might direct the attention of his right hon. Friend to a motion which he made on the 27th of June, 1831, when he stated that the amount of the sum paid for collection of the revenue was monstrous. That sum amounted to three and a half millions, and he pointed out, that the more it was reduced the more the public would gain. He stated this to prove he was not so bad a prophet as many had described him to be In the year he alluded to he proposed to reduce the expense of the Excise 488,700l., and the reduction which had since taken place upon his suggestion had reduced the expense to 3,355,000l. If the reduction had taken place upon a proper scale the revenue would have been increased much more. He should contend that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had an ample field for the reduction of taxation. He should say much might be reduced, but unfortunately the Tories opposed all relief of taxation. He wished they had all the taxes to pay. He would not allow that they had gone to the utmost extent of reduction of taxation. The reduction on the incomes of country gentlemen had not been more than the reduction in the value of money. If the Reformed Parliament carried on reforms quietly he had no hesitation in saying the prosperity of trade and commerce would increase. He did think his Majesty's Government should on every occasion make a reduction in the Excise taxes. He would turn out the Excise officers in every instance, and thereby relieve the country to a much greater extent. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had improperly stated that the determinable annuities and temporary loans would relieve 551 the country. No Chancellor of the Exchequer could consider any loan temporary at this time. The best way of relieving the country was to reduce taxa-ation. He was obliged to object to a budget in which there was no positive relief to the country. He expected a reduction in the expense occasioned by enormous establishments. He was sure the amount of taxation might be reduced, so as to press much lighter on the people. A relief might be afforded by a change of taxation. The landed interest during the last four years had paid much less in taxation than other classes, and his Majesty's Government should endeavour to equalize taxation. The hardships and pressure of the legacy duty, for example were enormous and it was a scandal to the House to suffer that tax to exist. It would have been better if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had decreased taxation to a greater extent. He did not object to the relief to the licensed victuallers, but his right hon. Friend might have gone a little further. He thought that meritorious class of traders had suffered much more by taxation, in proportion to the general taxes, than other classes. It did appear hard that the licensed victuallers should pay to the revenue more than their fair proportion of the public burthens. He wished to impress on his right hon. Friend the propriety of taking off the whole duty on glass. There was only one more point which he considered a subject of complaint. His right hon. Friend had taken no notice of the thousands and tens of thousands who had prayed to be released from what he should call the shackles on knowledge. Those laws which imposed taxes on the press were the heritage of old times, concocted by bad men. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had been cheered by the Tories, but his right hon. Friend ought to look with jealousy on those cheers. When they cheered he might rely upon being wrong, and in all such cases he advised him to reverse his measures. His right hon. Friend should say whether he could or would not remove a tax which pressed heavily on the people. If the right hon. Gentleman would not remove the tax on the newspapers, would he take it off the small publications? Why should his right hon. Friend stand in the way of public instruction? Why give money to enable the people to read and at the same time insist upon a tax to prevent them from reading? On the whole, no budget would 552 be satisfactory which did not give relief on that point. His right hon. Friend might change the tax:—take it off newspapers, and lay it on some other article—was it the object of the Government to keep the people in ignorance, and perpetuate the Act of Lord Castlereagh? He did hope the light hon. Gentleman would not continue the tax sanctioned by the 6th of George 3rd, but comply with the wishes of the people by removing an impost which was obnoxious in every point of view.
§ Mr. Handley
said, that he did not blame the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer for not having extended a large share of relief to the agricultural interest, for on the two questions which immediately affected that interest the House had decided against it—he alluded to the Motions which had been made for a relaxation of the currency, and the Repeal of the Malt-tax. It had been said, that a day of reckoning would come, when the agricultural interest would be obliged to relinquish what was alleged to be an unjust advantage. If that day should ever arrive, it was the public creditor, and not the agriculturist, who would suffer most. If the hon. Member for Middlesex thought to gain popularity by raising what he had thought to be the exploded cry of "cheap bread," he would only remind him that cheap corn had not at present (as far at least as the metropolis was concerned) the effect of producing cheap bread. The miller and the baker paid to the farmer only the sum of 27s. a quarter, on which they made a profit of s. He felt bound to acknowledge that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had made a most judicious selection in applying the small amount of surplus to relief from taxation. Though he could not but say that the smallest amount of relief had been afforded the agricultural interest, still he took what the right hon. Gentleman had done towards lessening their burthens as an earnest that he would seriously turn his attention to the financial operations of the country, with the view of introducing a measure which would afford somewhat more satisfaction to the agriculturists than the empty expression of sympathy in the King's Speech.
§ Colonel Rushbrooke
was exceedingly pleased to hear that the reduction of the duty on spirits in Ireland had completely answered the expectations of those by whom it had been made. The hon. Gentleman was anxious that some reduction should be 553 made in Scotland, which would have the effect of preventing the smuggling which was now carried on in that country.
§ Mr. Blamire
observed, that there was one point which he was exceedingly desirous to impress on the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It would grant relief to one class of agriculturists, if some alteration were made in the regulations of the Excise with respect to malt, by the continuance of which an unfair advantage was allowed to those who grew barley on rich soils, to the prejudice of those by whom an inferior description only of barley could be cultivated. This alteration might be made with perfect safety to the revenue by a Treasury minute.
§ Mr. Ormsby Gore
protested against the opinion that the agricultural interest enjoyed any exclusive advantages. That interest was not so much pressed against by direct taxation as by the amount which they were compelled to contribute for the support of other classes of the community. For instance, the agriculturists had to bear the largest share of the burthen of the Poor-laws, whilst the manufacturing population contributed the largest proportion of the applicants for relief. For the reduction which had been made to benefit the agricultural interest, he thanked the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, though it must be considered so exceedingly slight; to a class of persons, too, who had borne their distress with the greatest forbearance, and by whom no political unions or overwhelming assemblies were ever resorted to as a means of procuring relief. It could, however, scarcely be considered sufficient as an encouragement to their loyalty.
§ Major Beauclerk
admitted the amount of relief afforded by the right hon. Gentleman was satisfactory to the House, but would not answer the expectations of the country. The amount of relief which had been proposed was certainly all that could be fairly demanded or expected by those who called for the reduction of taxation, and were yet unwilling to reduce the establishments of the country. He was satisfied, that happiness or tranquility would never be restored until the large establishments of the country were reduced, and our expenditure diminished to a standard commensurate with reason and common sense. He regretted exceedingly that no efforts were made to reduce the taxes on knowledge. He could state, from what he had himself lately witnessed in the 554 South of England, that the people were most anxious to receive information; a fact which was clearly proved by the spread of cheap publications, many of which were of a most injurious tendency. They were at all events greatly inferior to those which might be afforded by men of ability and honesty. But no reduction in taxation could be made until our establishments were brought to a more economical scale. It was in vain to look for relief while the standing army was kept in its present state; whilst a vote of 600,000l. was come to last night for what he considered a useless purpose, and whilst the night before a sum of 40,000l. was voted for the Rideau Canal, in Canada. The Colonies ought to be allowed to manage their own affairs. In Malta, he knew himself that situations of 2,000l. a-year, were given to broken down gamblers whilst the inhabitants of the country were excluded from all due management in their local affairs. With respect to the Poor-law Bill, he had heard from a clergyman in Sussex, that it would throw that part of the country into confusion. It had been carried too far. It must be amended, or it would amend itself.
§ Mr. Robinson
had asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the exports which he had spoken of were taken from the account of official or declared value. He had been answered the former. Now the official value merely went to show the increased quantity of exports which had been made from this country, without proving that any corresponding increase in imports had taken place. With respect to the legacy and probate duties, the smallest amount of personal property was taxed, whilst the largest amount of real property passed to the inheritor without being subjected to the payment of a shilling. He thought, that instead of the reduction of 22,000l. in the collection of taxation, the Chancellor of the Exchequer might by judicious arrangement, and on the principles laid down in a work of the hon. Member for Dundee, effect a diminution of 1,000,000l. He was willing to admit, that the right hon. Gentleman had, with his limited surplus, made a most judicious selection of taxes to be reduced, and had supplied strong ground for believing, that next year he would deal out an equal measure of relief to all parties. He would be influenced by no desire of obtaining a fleeting popularity, but would look only to the matured good opinion of all classes as 555 a compensation for the performance of the labouring duties of his office.
§ Mr. Roebuck
said, that while the Government kept up the present expensive establishment, and refused to cut down expenses, it was impossible to expect relief for the people. There was an interest in the country which overwhelmed all other interests: gentlemen called themselves the representatives of the "landed interest," i. e. in other words, they represented themselves—their own interest in their own pockets—and they were complaining that the Government would not put into their pockets the money that belonged to others. What did they want? They said, "You must do something for us—because we have continued so long in peace." Was there anything so monstrous in the world! They complained of peace! The landed interests had prospered during the war, the gentlemen of landed property lived high; and made provision for their younger sons—the peace came; and with that came low prices; and he liked low prices they were beneficial to the country, he hated high prices. But then the landed gentlemen could not provide for their younger children—they would never cut down their expenses—they always lived above their income—and now they came and complained that their interests were not taken care of—why the whole community were taxed for their "interest," they had the benefit, (he wished them joy of it) of the monopoly in corn—and while this House was nothing but their organ and representative? they wanted it to tax the community further for the benefit of the landed interest. What in God's name was this "landed interest?" Why, let the House remember, that the "landed interest" did not mean the farmer—it did not mean the agricultural labourers—why it was acknowledged that they were better off than ever. Corn was lower in Liverpool than in New York, it meant the landlords only, that ought to gratify every man; but they made them believe their interest was diminishing: why was that? It was because of the Corn-laws. They could not maintain an interest of that description against the feeling of the people of England. If to-morrow they were to have high prices—if corn was to be scarce—they would find that the people of England would no longer stand their Corn-laws. So let them prepare their incomes for reduction, or prepare their whole proceeding, for the coming storm. The mo- 556 ment that the Corn-laws produced hgh prices—away would go the Corn-laws, and if they did not take them away—away would they go also. Let it be remembered, that the landlords had got almost the only thing which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had bestowed. Half the county-rates were this year to be paid by the country at large; but that was nothing to them, they wished to raise up rents and prices to that point at which they were during the war—the "glorious" days of the war. But to that point, he (Mr. Roebuck) hoped they never would come, for he did not like to see one portion flourishing, at the expense and to the detriment, of the rest of the community. The landlords had long had the lion's share, but the time was coming when they should have it no longer. Now the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said nothing of that which was nearest and dearest to the great mass of the people, viz., the tax upon knowledge. As the right hon. Gentleman had found his knowledge perhaps very easily, he thought the people could get theirs with as little difficulty, and the right hon. Gentleman would not attempt by all the means in his power, to grant them that which they had so long, so ardently, so warmly, entreated that House to give them. That which the Government ought, of all things, to give them, viz., knowledge—that by which they were to be conducted through life—by which so much of happiness and improvement might be obtained. The Chancellor of the Exchequer (let it go forth to the country!) the Chancellor of the Exchequer had thought the tax on knowledge of so little importance—had considered it of so small value, that he would not even name it in his Budget! The people had asked of him, and implored of him, time out of mind, to take off the tax on knowledge; but the Government had always attempted, by it, to shut out light from them; it was the only means by which the Ministry could maintain them in ignorance—dark, and slavish ignorance. And the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had done his utmost, to retain a tax which his predecessors had so laboured to uphold. It was nothing to say there was so slight a surplus. Why did not the right hon. Gentleman make a surplus. [Laughter.] That laughter showed the character of the persons from whom it issued; but let those Gentlemen know, there were two ways of getting a surplus—first, by increasing supply—next, by dim- 557 nishing expenses; the former had been the most agreeable process, for it only touched the people; but the Government never thought of cutting down. He brought it as a charge against the right hon. Gentleman that he had done all he could to prevent the people from obtaining that which so long and so earnestly they had desired; and which he as a statesman, desiring popularity, should have endeavoured to foster and increase. There was nothing so beneficial to a good Government as a desire for knowledge on the part of the people; there was nothing so characteristic of a bad and incompetent Government, as a desire to withhold it.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
observed, that the taxes to which the hon. Member for Bath had alluded did not form any part of his financial statement, and therefore the hon. and learned Gentleman need not be surprised at his having omitted any mention of them. There was at present on the Orders a notice of motion to bring the subject of the tax on newspapers before the House, and he could only say that when that Question was brought forward he should be quite ready to discuss it, and if any satisfactory arrangement could be made, he for one would not throw any impediment in the way. The House would recollect, however, that when a proposal was made to reduce the duty on newspapers, it was declared, that unless the whole tax was taken off, any partial reduction would be worse than nothing. In short, it was said, that the tax not only upon newspapers, but upon paper and advertisements, must be immediately removed, as nothing short of that concession would give satisfaction to the advocates of cheap knowledge. Now he believed that these taxes put together would amount to about 1,353,000l., and supposing that he had a surplus of 450,000l., could any man suppose that he would be justified in coming down to the House with such a proposal, and if he had, would the House of Commons have sanctioned so large a reduction of taxation with so small a surplus of revenue to meet it? He hoped the House would at some future time be disposed to consider the whole Question of the stamps on newspapers, but until that period should arrive, he could not consider the Question in any other light than as one which was open to the opinion of the House. He begged to inform the hon. Member for Cumberland, who had alluded to a revision of the duty on inferior barley, that the subject had not 558 escaped his observation, but at present he feared it would not be practicable to carry the wish of the hon. Member into effect.
§ Mr. Henry L. Bulwer
said, it was gratifying to notice the reductions which had taken place ever since he had been in the House. He agreed with the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as to the advisable, ness of keeping on the taxes, both on spirit-licences and glass. He agreed, however, with his hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Bath, with respect to the tax on newspapers. He thought something might have been done without materially affecting the revenue. But he must say, that considering all the circumstances of the case—considering the reductions that had lately taken place—considering that they all had their particular tax to take off—and considering, too, the peculiar circumstances under which the Government were in office, he thought all allowances ought to be made, and that they ought not to press on them just now the reduction of a duty to which, nevertheless, he should always be unfavourable.
§ The Resolutions were agreed to, and the House resumed.