§ December Quarter.—Number of unions formed 311, including 6676 parishes. Amount of rates brought under guardians 3,368,879l. The greater part of fifteen counties.
§ In 122 unions, rates on average of three years amounting to 1,258,867l.661
|Expenditure of quarter ending December 30, under old system||£311,717|
|Expenditure under new system||154,888|
|Expenditure of year—old system||1,258,867|
|Estimated expenditure—new system||619,553|
|Reduction of 49 per cent.|
§ To give more particular instances. I may be allowed to state that the reduction in Uckfield, Battle, and Midhurst Unions, have been more than two-thirds. In the Uckfield Union, containing a population of 16,000 persons, a few days back no more than four able-bodied labourers were out of work in the worst district. The execution of railroads does not effect so much in creating a demand for labour as might be anticipated. The London and Birmingham Company employ but 9,000 men. Value of the labour increased, under the new system, 5s. per week.
|March Quarter.—Former statement and results confirmed The reduction in the worst districts fifty-nine per cent., in the best twenty per cent.|
§ In these Returns is to be found the best practical evidence, that the condition of the agricultural classes is not depressed; they afford proofs, on the contrary, that the demand for agricultural labour is augmented—that the system of working by piece-work is more general—and the reward for the industrious labourer increased—and that the falling-off must have arisen from the misapplication of labour, and the misdirection of funds for the relief of the poor to the encouragement of vagrancy, idleness, and imposture. Another indication of prosperity to which I adverted on a former occasion, and to which I beg again to call the attention of the House, is the amount of deposits in the savings' banks. It is sufficient for me now to say, that great as the increase was on the former occasion, the increase exhibited by the present Returns is still greater. The increase of depositors since 1834 has been 35,528, and of deposits 990,791l. And those deposits are now confined to a certain and limited amount; for an Act, wisely introduced by a right hon. Gentleman opposite restricted all sums deposited to a maximum of 200l., One reference more illustrative of the present state of the country—and I close this branch of the subject. The fact to which I allude is one which affords me, and will afford the country, the greatest satisfaction. There is, before me, a Return 662 from the Home Office, of the state of crime;—comparing the results of periods of four years, and ascertaining the number of executions which have taken place in England and Wales from 1820 to 1835. In the first four years the number was 362; in the second, 229; in the third, 230; and in the last four years, only 155; being a reduction of more than one-half. In London and Middlesex, in the years 1827, 1828, and 1829, there were sixty-three persons executed; in 1830, 1831, and 1832, there were sixteen; in 1833 there were but two; in 1834 not one; and in 1835 not one. Certain hon. and sceptical Gentlemen, may, however, exclaim, "All this may be true, but has it not a tendency to increase crime? Look at your commitments!—judge not by the number of executions; your Judges may have been over-lenient. The Crown may have pardoned incautiously—Juries may have been indisposed to convict." No such thing, the Return of commitments proves the very reverse:—in 1834 the total number of persons charged with offences was 22,445; in the present year it was 20,731. In the first of those years, taking into account the increase of population, the proportion was one in 647; in the second, it was one in 710, being a decrease of nine per cent., in the state of crime, comparing those two years. In proportion as capital punishment has diminished, crimes connected with violence have diminished; and in the same proportion as crimes connected with violence have diminished; in the same proportion has crime, generally, diminished also. These results are most assuredly calculated to encourage the House in well doing, and are sufficient to encourage them in persevering in the milder system of legislation they have of late years adopted. Before I recall the attention of the House to the question of the surplus revenue, and the best mode in which it may be dealt with, let me be allowed to mention two facts which are not wholly unimportant. Looking at the burthens of the country, I have a right to consider that many of the burthens which press the most heavily upon the community, cannot be justly considered as permanent, though they are the penalties of the war, and the results of the great military and naval establishments consequent upon it. Amongst these are the half-pay allowances and pensions, and these are now more or less in course of 663 reduction, though they have been among the heaviest of our burthens;—the National Debt itself—by the large conversions which of late have been made of one part of it, as hon. Members well know, into life annuities, and of another part into annuities terminable after a certain specified number of years—the debt itself has been materially lightened. Now the House may
|REDUCTION OF DEAD WEIGHT.|
|Half-pay, Chelsea, Greenwich, Army, Navy, Ordnance, and Civil Pensions, and Superannuation Allowances.|
|Chelsea.—Maximum of numbers||1828||£96,844|
|Number, 31st March||1836||84,960|
|Number, 1st January||1836||19,489|
|Amount of Pensions||1817||£354,648|
|Army Pay-Office Allowances.—Maximum.||1827||£l9,543|
|Army, Navy, and Ordnance Half-pay, and Pensions.—|
|Naval Half-pay and Pensions.—Maximum||1823||£1,675,358|
|Half-pay, Pensions, and Allowances, Naval, Army, and Civil.—Maximum||1827||£5,455,991|
§ I have stated that but for the debt which the House had, as a matter of justice, and a matter of policy, too, contracted with the West-India planters, I should at present be enabled to deal with a surplus, not of 622,000l., but of 2,000,000l. and upwards. Limited, as I am, to the smaller sum, I shall now proceed to state how I propose to deal with this available surplus. I cannot repeal all that is asked—I can neither repeal 6,000,000l. nor 3,000,000l. of taxes, out of a sum of 600,000l.; but I shall endeavour to propose such measures of reduction as may with justice be made, and those reductions shall be made on principles of commercial policy which may enable the House hereafter to go further. If I can at once grant relief, and produce an equal revenue in future years, such an664
§ be interested to know the reduction of dead-weight in regard to half-pay, Chelsea and Greenwich Hospitals, the army, navy, ordnance, and civil pensions, and superannuation allowances; and with this view I have caused a Return to be drawn up, which I shall take the liberty of reading to the House. It is as follows:—
§ operation will afford the means of following up the principle further, and will allow us, very possibly, to give additional relief in following years. It amounts, in fact, to a pledge that a Parliament which acted successfully upon such a principle, was disposed to afford every practicable relief to the suffering interests of the country. I have endeavoured to make a selection upon this principle, and I believe I have made such a selection as, although it may impose upon the public some loss of revenue for the present year, will lead to an increase of our resources at a future time. Upon what principle ought the House to proceed in the remission of taxes? I am bound to look to such descriptions of taxes as have been most raised as war taxes, and which press most severely upon the country in 665 time of peace. If I find two branches of industry, one of which has already obtained relief, while the other is still labouring under a high rate of taxation, I am bound to prefer the removal or reduction of that tax which presses with the greatest weight. If I find a tax which is exposed to evasion and to fraud, and gives rise to smuggling and enables the smuggler to defeat the fair dealer, I am bound to conclude that such a tax is one with which the House ought to deal. If, again, I find a tax so uncertain in its administration, that it leaves the manufacturer doubtful what he ought to pay, and the officer what he ought to exact;—again, I say, that that incident is evidence that the tax is one in which an alteration of system is necessary. Applying these principles, I call the attention of the Committee to a tax which, from the best consideration I can give to the subject, and the best information I have been able to procure in reference to it, unites all these conditions, and is less liable to all these objections. It is to a tax, therefore, of this description that I shall first apply myself. The Committee is aware of the recommendation of the Commissioners of Excise Inquiry for a consolidation of the laws, and a reduction of the Paper Duties. I propose, agreeably to their recommendation, that the duty on paper of the first class should be reduced to one-half its present amount. My noble Friend, the Member for South Lancashire, who presented a petition on this subject, some time since, would, I am sure, if he were present, agree with me in declaring, that there is no other branch of industry, particularly in that part of the country with which he is connected, that has suffered more deeply from the present amount of taxation, and. that there is none that will rise with more elasticity, if adequate relief be given. The tax is now levied in a manner at once uncertain and unequal. The classification which now exists cannot be justified under existing circumstances. It has, in some cases, the effect of fixing a high rate of duty on inferior, and a low rate of duty on superior paper; founded on former times on the relative cost of the materials of each at the time the classification was first established, but this relative price of materials has since become totally reversed, and the law is rendered so uncertain as well as absurd, that no two excisemen can administer it upon the same principles. One manufacturer may find himself obliged to pay 3d. a-pound for paper of the same quality 666 for which his neighbour and competitor at another mill has paid only 1½d. An alteration of this law is essential, not only to the interests of a great and improving branch of the manufactures, but it is also important incidentally to the general interests of literature, upon which the tax presses most severely. The duty forms no inconsiderable part of the price even of a single octavo volume; and this is augmented, because, as the publisher of a book obtains no drawback for unsold copies, the copies which are sold must defray the amount charged on the whole impression. The Committee will, therefore, see that this must be felt as a practical discouragement to the diffusion of knowledge—that the tax is most unjust and unequal is also proved by the fact, that on printing paper the duty is but from fifty to sixty per cent, while on coarser paper it varies from seventy to 200 per cent—that upon the finest writing paper it is twenty-five per cent, and upon the coarsest paper, as I said, it rises to 200 per cent. But it may be said, will not this be the case after the alteration? True; but we have to choose between two evils—a fixed, which must be obviously an unequal duty, and an attempt at a new discriminating duty, subject, as it would be, to all the inconvenience, fraud, and irregularity of the present system. I shall, therefore, adhere to my proposition, of reducing half the present duties. Various persons examined before the Excise Commissioners have calculated the amount of loss the revenue will sustain by the reduction. The income arising from first class paper is 617,000l. Mr. Gausson estimated the probable loss of revenue at 150,000l., and another estimate was 62,000l. I do not take either; I think they are both below the mark. I estimate the loss considerably higher; and, coupling the removal of half the duty on paper with the repeal of the whole duty on stained paper, I estimate it at 250,000l.; but for the present year it will not exceed 125,000l., because I do not propose that it should come into operation till October. The Excise Report shows the injustice of a double tax upon the article of stained paper, imposed first upon its original manufacture as paper, and afterwards in its subsequent stage when stained. This I propose to repeal. I believe not only a home consumption, but a very considerable export trade will be the result. I propose that this reduction should begin from October, 1836, in order to give time for the previous consumption of the 667 stock on hand. There will be no suspension of the manufacture in the interval, because the law relating to paper acts upon the bonding system—charging the duty only on the goods which are brought to market, not upon those in the manufactory. I have stated that there will be a loss arising from the treaty of the Post Office with France, by the reduction of postage on letters; this will, altogether, amount to about 20,000l., of which the commercial correspondence of this country will get the full benefit. If we had not made this concession, France would have had a right to revert to her transit duties, as she paid a greater amount of transit duties than she received from us; but I think it will turn out that we shall sustain no loss of revenue, because we have now steam-boats on the coast, and other unauthorised conveyances carrying on a smuggling traffic, which will be terminated by the Convention. By the Stamp Bill, which is on the Table of the House, an alteration is made in an article of great importance—namely, the probate duty. That alteration enables a party to pay the probate duty, not upon the gross amount of the property of the deceased, which frequently calls upon individuals to make advances upon insolvent estates, and leaves them afterwards to the expense of litigation to recover their advances, but on the net amount, clear of all claim against the property. It is an alteration which will have the effect of with-drawing from the Exchequer a credit to the amount of 100,000l. which it has at present, of which, within the present year, it would lose about 20,000l. But it is an amount we ought never to have gained. We were not entitled to possess this money; it belonged properly to the executors. A small reduction will be proposed in the South Sea duties of great importance to the merchants engaged in the trade, which I will take at 10,000l. a-year, although it will probably fall short of that amount. I now come to another branch of the revenue in which I propose a reduction, and I fear that the moment I mention it I shall be met with a double fire—one from my hon. Friends behind me, and the other from the hon. Gentlemen opposite—I allude to the subject of newspaper stamps. I ask Gentlemen to do me the honour of hearing me for a short time while I explain the alterations which it is my intention to propose. I have neither the right nor the presumption to think that I can offer myself as an arbiter between those Gentlemen to recon- 668 cile their different sentiments, but I will take the liberty of representing to both of them the position in which the question stands at the present moment. I say to those who ask for the total repeal of that duty, "Do you think that any Minister could come down to this House, on such a financial statement as I have just made, and propose that 400,000l., out of the surplus of 662,000l., should be devoted absolutely to the repeal of the stamp-duties on newspapers? Do you think that even if a Minister were so disposed, he could induce the House to accompany him in such a scheme?" I know full well that the House would not accompany me; and even if the House were disposed to do so, I am not disposed to make the proposition, because I have always considered this a fit subject for taxation; and so long as the newspaper proprietors ask the Government to transmit their papers free of postage through the land, it is just, and legitimate, and right, that they should be made a subject of taxation. I am, therefore, not disposed to make a proposal for their total repeal; but I will go further, and say, that in the present state of public opinion, if I were to make such a proposition it would be rejected. Does any hon. Gentleman doubt it? if so let him bring forward his motion, and put it to the vote. Let the House see who those are, who, in the present state of the finances of the country, wish to apply 400,000l. out of 600,000l. to the repeal of stamps on newspapers. But I say, that it is material to deal with this branch of the subject, and that I adhere to the opinions which I expressed last year, on the motion of the hon. Member for Lincoln, that the present stamp-duty on newspapers is one which can neither be continued or defended. The proposition then made—the principle of which I acquiesced in, and promised should be carried into effect on a fitting occasion—gives me a right to ask of the House, if not to support, at least to consider, my proposition.! Are hon. Members, who object to the reduction of the duty to one penny, aware of the state of things going on in society? Do they know the position in which the present rate of duty places those who would maintain the administration of the law, and the security of property? Have they considered the manner in which it affects not the Government, but the just estimation in which the Magistrates ought to be held, and the safety of the revenue itself? Upon these grounds, and for the sake of the 669 good order of society, I call upon the House to repeal a portion of the duty on newspapers;—the repeal, not for the abandonment, but for the preservation, of the revenue. The illicit trade in unstamped papers has been going on for a considerable time. It began in London, where they were circulated in open defiance of the law, and rapidly extended itself through the country. Under these circumstances active measures were resorted to in order to check it. Persons have been prosecuted, convicted, fined, and imprisoned; Exchequer suits have been instituted; indeed the whole powers of the law have been exhausted, but the sale still continues. Gentlemen will do me the favour of believing that this enforcement of the law has been one of the most painful parts of my duty—it is one which has exposed me to abundance of obloquy and reproach both in and out of this House, but more particularly out-of-doors. I have been in communication with the parties interested in the reduction of the stamp-duties—I have seen the newspaper proprietors; and they admit that it is impossible to meet the case as it now stands. And why? The reason is obvious—the temptation to violate the law is too great to be resisted. It has been tried in other duties. In Ireland, in order to put an end to illicit distillation, laws have been enacted which it has been justly remarked are more fit for the meridian of Turkey than that of Great Britain—they even punish the innocent for the guilty, and resort to almost every kind of violence, yet without effect; for it is always impossible, by any legal enactment, to maintain an unreasonably high rate of duty on any article. The only plan is, to fix the duty below the insurance on smuggling—and this is what I propose to do, and what I trust the House will go along with me in doing. What do hon. Gentlemen apprehend from the repeal? Is it loss of revenue? I tell them that it is going, and that it will go, if we do not adopt the principle of reduction. This is proved by the returns now before me of the duty on newspapers. In 1831 the gross revenue was 586,000l.; the net revenue, 483,000l.; in 1832, 574,000l.; net. 473,000l.; in 1833, 541,000/.; net, 446,000l.; in 1834 the gross revenue was 537,000l.;—a continued diminution during the four years. The real question is, will hon. Members countenance a system of violation of the 670 law, which, however bad in itself, is still more mischievous in the way of example. In Ireland, already, agencies have been established for the sale of the unstamped publications; and our experience in England has taught us, that to stop them without reducing the duty is impossible. I believe that some hon. Members in this House are such advocates for the total repeal of these duties, that they would rather I should leave the matter as it now stands than effect a reduction to one penny. They see that it would put an an end to the illicit trade, and that they would lose all chance of a repeal. If hon. Members support me in the reduction I contemplate, in three years I have no doubt the result will be, that we shall have a larger revenue arising from this source than we have now. I do not wish to advert to matters personal to myself, for I am resolved to abide the hazard of what I have proposed, though it produce discontent on this side of the House and resistance on the other, because I believe it to be just and reasonable, and the House will deal with it as it pleases. I shall persevere in it, in order to save the revenue—to defeat the existing combination against the law—to put an end to vexatious prosecutions against the public—to shelter the law and the Government from odium and contempt—and to defend the fair trader from the encroachments of the smuggler. If these are not grounds for repealing a tax, I know not what grounds can be considered sufficient; and, therefore, I propose that the duty on newspapers be reduced from 4d. (minus the discount) to 1d. I have consulted the parties whose property is invested in the trade, and it being their opinion that the reduction should take place as speedily as possible, the time fixed upon is the 5th of July. I calculate, therefore, for the loss of revenue for three-quarters of a year; and as I estimate the loss for a whole year at 200,000l., the loss for this year will be only 150,000l. I have no doubt whatever that there will be an enormous increase in the revenue upon the paper duty as well as by the advertisement duty—by the increased number of newspapers, as well as from the increased advertisements, and that increase, as in other cases, will become the foundation of future reduction. I think it right to add, that I am afraid I must resist the applications which have 671 been made for a reduction of the duty on Irish newspapers to one halfpenny. They now paid 2d. (minus the discount), and are transmitted free of cost through all the post-offices in the empire; and having the same privileges as the English newspaper they are entitled only to the same relief. I do, however, contemplate a small relief to them, and as I should be sorry to be mistaken on this point, I beg to state to the House my grounds for so doing. If they paid 2d. duty it might be reduced to 1d. at once, to put them on the same footing as the English papers, and they might reduce the price of their paper 1d. to the purchasers; but the fact is, that owing to the discount allowed to them they pay less than 1d., and if they reduce the price of the paper, the 1d. which is nominally, but not really taken off, they would give the public more than they gain. Besides this, they are threatened with British competition, which to a certain extent may injure them. To counterbalance this, I propose to afford them a small reduction in the duty on advertisements; in doing which I have also another object. I try it partly as an experiment, which, if it answer my expectations, I may hereafter reduce to practice in England also, but I cannot venture to try it upon a larger scale at once. On a former occasion I proposed the reduction of duty on insurances on farming buildings; Lord Spencer's repeal applied to insurances on farming stock only, but I now propose to extend it to farming buildings. The relief on farming stock amounted to about 30,000l. a year; on the buildings it will amount to about 8,000l.; in the present year the amount of both will be about 15,000l. There are certain other small taxes, by the repeal of which relief to the extent of about 5,000l. will be given, making a total repeal of about 351,000l. in this year, or 563,000l. when they come into operation. I hope that, in proportion as those reductions come into operation, the increased consumption will greatly redeem them in the additional amount of duty. I have been in hopes of being able to make some reduction on the duty on maritime insurances, and I still believe that some alteration may be made without any considerable loss to the revenue. The hon. Member for Worcester, of course, is at liberty, in the mean time, to bring his own substantive case on the subject before the House; 672 but I would remind the House, that the whole surplus is only 662,000l., and that, after the reductions I propose, will leave a surplus of 300,000l.; and therefore I do not feel that I am justified in making a proposition for any greater reduction. These are the grounds on which I ask the House to receive this statement—I do not say to assent to it—they are not called upon to give any absolute vote to-night. All I ask with respect to newspaper stamps is, that hon. Gentlemen opposite who are opposed to the reduction, will consider calmly and attentively, what is the effect of the law in its present state; and I ask hon. Gentlemen on this side, who would wish to go further, whether it is practicable to do so? I think, if they reflect on the subject, and unite in supporting my proposition, it will be the means of effecting great good for the country. I regret the extraordinary length of time I have occupied in making my statement, and the necessary dullness of the relation. I am aware that I have referred to points on which I have touched on a former occasion, but I prefer enabling the House strictly and accurately to compare the income and expenditure of the present with those of preceding years, to seeking novelty or excitement. I cannot sit. down without again stating, that, whilst we have the greatest reason to be grateful for our present state of prosperity, at the same time there are indications at the present moment which call for every hon. Gentleman's close inspection. The House must see, in the great extent of speculation which prevails,—in the number of banks which are rising up in all directions,—grounds for the exercise of vigilance, caution, and prudence. I apprehend that there is nothing in these circumstances calculated to give rise to apprehension. But though there is nothing to excite alarm, there is enough to call for and justify prudence and vigilance. An hon. Friend near me reminds me that the hon. Member for Exeter would never have forgiven me if I had forgotten to state that I am prepared to repeal entirely the additional fifty per cent. on spirit licences. I, however, look for an equivalent to the loss of revenue thus sustained from the operation of a plan, the details of which are not yet quite matured, and which, consequently, I am not now prepared to state to the House. I can, however, inform my hon. Friend and the other hon. Members who are inter- 673 rested on behalf of their constituents in the question, that the main principle will be, to make the additional duty proportional to the quantity of spirits consumed. I am convinced by the arguments which were used on a former occasion, that the duty in question presses unjustly and unequally on particular parties. I trust that those hon. Gentlemen who have been loudest in their advocacy in the repeal of the additional duty on spirit licences, will feel bound in good faith, if they consider my scheme for making the amount of duty proportional to the consumption a good one, to give their best help to carry it into effect. I cannot sit down without thanking the Committee for the indulgence which they have extended to me, for I am aware that I have trespassed largely upon their patience. As a matter of form, I will conclude by proposing a vote for a certain sum. Estimates to the amount of 11,811,000l. have been voted, and I will now propose a vote of 8,000,000l., which, of course, will not cover the amount of supply granted; if, however, any hon. Member object to the vote being taken, on the ground that no notice has been given, I will postpone it, and content myself with moving, that the Chairman do now report progress. However, I suppose no objection will be made to the course I propose to pursue, and therefore I conclude by moving, that a sum of 8,000,000l. be granted for the service of his Majesty.
§ Mr. Hume
thought, that the details into which the right hon. Gentleman had entered must be most gratifying to the House. No part of the statement had been more satisfactory to him (Mr. Hume) than that in which the right hon. Gentleman had pointed out the advantages which had arisen in consequence of the repeal of the duty upon beer. The right hon. Gentleman had stated, that the surplus revenue for the present year would amount to something more than 600,000l. But if there had not been what he (Mr. Hume) must still call a very unnecessary increase in the naval force of 5,000 seamen, there would have been a surplus of at least 1,000,000l., of which 400,000l. might have been applied to the general reduction of taxation. No reason whatever had yet been assigned for the increase of the naval force; and no one, he apprehended, would contend that a reduction of 400,000l. in the amount of taxation would not be hailed by the country as a great boon. It was not his intention 674 at that moment to enter into the question of the tax upon newspapers, seeing that a much better opportunity would be afforded hereafter; but he could not abstain from stating, that he thought there were few other taxes which could be repealed with such great advantage. The right hon. Gentleman had stated many reasons in favour of that subject, but there were several other strong reasons which the right hon. Gentleman had not noticed. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded very properly to the unpopularity and difficulty which his predecessor, Lord Spencer, had to encounter in carrying the law into effect with respect to stamped publications, and it was also true that the steps taken to enforce the law had not been effectual. For two or three years past the prisons had been filled with victims to the tax upon newspapers. Upwards of 150 individuals had been imprisoned for selling unstamped papers; yet, notwithstanding the severity of the law, it was found that the sale of unstamped papers, instead of being diminished, was every day increasing. It was highly necessary, therefore, that a change should be made in the law upon this subject, with as little delay as possible. He must say, however, that he thought the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not made a very fair statement as to the result which would follow the repeal of the duty on newspapers. Would the House, asked the right hon. Gentleman, submit to the reduction of 400,000l on newspapers only, out of a surplus of revenue amounting to only 600,000l. That was not a fair statement, because the reduction of the duty would not, in fact, be 400,000l. The increase in the sale of newspapers arising from the repeal of the tax, would lead to a corresponding increase in the productiveness of the duty upon paper, and this, added to the optional penny-post tax which it was proposed to continue upon newspapers transmitted through the post-office, would, in his opinion, be nearly sufficient to supply the deficiency occasioned by the repeal of the stamp duty. But he would leave the further discussion of this topic until the proposition was brought forward (which it most assuredly would be) for the total repeal of the stamp-duty on newspapers. Quitting that subject, then, he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he did not think that the whole of the duty upon glass ought to be repealed? He wished the right hon. Gentleman to be honest upon that point. He wished the right hon. Gentleman would state what 675 was the cost of collecting the small amount of duty on that article which was still continued. He wished the right hon. Gentleman would state whether the whole amount of the revenue derived from that particular source much exceeded the cost of collecting it. If it did exceed the cost of collection at all, he was quite satisfied that the excess was not so great as to warrant a continuation of the tax With regard to the stamp duties generally, he hoped, when the proper time came, the right hon. Gentleman would he prepared to state that he contemplated a material reduction; because, as he (Mr. Hume) had been informed, a considerable amount would be gained to the revenue by a reduction. If there were a stamp duty that required reduction more than any other, it was undoubtedly the stamp on marine insurances. That tax was not only bad in itself, but it was the cause of driving the profit and advantage of marine insurance from the shores of England, and of transferring it to the maritime countries of the Continent. It had besides an injurious effect upon the general commerce of the country. The impolicy and injustice of this tax had, however, been so well pointed out by the hon. Member for Worcester, that he (Mr. Hume) should not think it necessary to say more upon the subject on that occasion. The right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, seemed to look with dreadful apprehension at the spirit of speculation which now pervaded the country. He (Mr. Hume) confessed that he had no fears upon that score. As long as the Bank of England continued to be conducted on the principles upon which it was now governed there need be no apprehension of a crisis or of a panic. Had that establishment been conducted on the same principle in 1825, there would have been no crisis, perhaps no panic, at that time. He was quite satisfied that the banking system throughout the country was in a sound and healthy state, and as long as banks were compelled to pay their notes in gold, on demand, there could be no just ground for apprehension or alarm. At the same time, he should be sorry to see the people, generally running into such wild schemes, as, unfortunately, there were sometimes instances of. If, at the present moment, any such schemes existed, he believed that in the course of a very few months there would be an end to them. He wished that the right hon. Gentleman had taken the trouble to bring before the House the great 676 increase which had taken place in the import of almost every article on which there had been a decrease of duty. The increase on some of these articles was perfectly enormous. This he thought should hold out an encouragement to the House to reduce all those taxes which had been imposed during the war, and the continuance of which operated in a direct and powerful manner to check and impede the commerce and manufactures of the country.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
begged to say one or two words in reply to some of the observations which had fallen from the hon. Member for Middlesex. That hon. Gentleman had asked why he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) did not repeal the whole of the duty on glass? In reply to that question he could only state, that the general principle upon which he had acted was to reduce the duty to such a rate as not injuriously to press upon any particular manufacture, but at the same time to continue so much of it as, by an increased consumption of the article manufactured, should make up for the deficiency which would otherwise be occasioned in the revenue. There was one other topic to which he wished to refer. The hon. Gentleman seemed to think that the observations which he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had made with respect to the spirit of speculation which at present existed, implied an apprehension on his part of some impending calamity. That was not the case. But if in referring to the general prosperity which now seemed to pervade the country, he had not at the same time stated that which he believed to be true, that there were circumstances connected with the spirit of speculation now generally abroad which ought not to create apprehension or alarm, but to excite the attention and vigilance of Parliament—if he had not done this, he thought he might very fairly be accused of having neglected an important part of the duty which attached to one filling his important and responsible situation.
intended to conform to what appeared to be the general feeling of the House, and to what he considered the best practical mode of dealing with the subject before them, and to abstain from entering into any detail on the various points which the right hon. Gentleman had suggested with respect to the repeal of duties, until each individual subject was brought in a proper shape before them. He knew from experience, that the attention of that House would never be given to 677 any question which was not brought before it in a palpable and tangible shape; and, therefore, if upon that ground alone, he should forbear from entering into the various questions to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred. There was, however, one part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech upon which he thought he might be excused for making one or two observations, because a subsequent opportunity of doing so would not be afforded him. With the views which he entertained upon the Report, he thought it particularly desirable that whenever they had before them the financial statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and when they were called upon to consider how they should deal with the surplus, and what amount of surplus should be allowed to remain—when these matters were brought under their consideration, he always thought it advisable to remind the House, that in addition to the duty which was imposed upon them of giving the utmost relief in their power to the suffering of any particular class, or to the pressure upon any particular class arising from taxation, they had yet a duty more urgent, in his view, and one from which they ought never for a moment to shrink—that of considering the necessity of providing, not only for present means and present convenience, but of regarding what was the state of that great debt which pressed upon the country, lightly now, perhaps, in moments of ease and comparative prosperity, but which, in more difficult and tempestuous times, if not properly attended to now, might press upon the nation with a weight scarcely to be supported. If he found any fault with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, it was that he had passed over all reference to that question in one single sentence, and merely told the House that the National Debt had undergone a reduction by the conversion of it into terminable annuities. He was not opposed to that conversion, but when they looked back, as they ought to do, at this mode of dealing with the debt, they must bear in mind how small a proportion the terminable annuities bore to the mass of the debt with which they had to deal; and they must also take into view, that whilst they considered the reduction of the funded debt, they must not forget the annual increase of the unfunded debt. Having before him the finance accounts for the last five years, he had taken the trouble to draw out a statement of the progress which, during that period, had 678 been made in the reduction of the debt. He found from those papers, that in 1831 the total charge of all the debt, including the interest on the funded debt, what was paid of terminable annuities, and what paid for unfunded debt, amounted in round numbers to 28,350,000l. In 1836, taking the account which had that day been printed, and placed in their hands, and which, perhaps, did not present an exact analogy, being made up to the quarter ending in January instead of that ending in April, but which he was obliged to resort to, having no other—by that account, he observed, that the total amount of the charge of the debt last year was 28,784,000l., being an increase in the charge of the debt since the year 1831, of upwards of 400,000l.; and this increased sum did not include the annual interest on the West-Indian loan. This increase in the charge of the debt, too, it must be observed, had taken place, notwithstanding the advantages which the Government had enjoyed since the year 1831, of relieving the country of an annual burden of 50,000l., by a reduction of the Four per Cents.; and also by another obtained from the altered bargain with the Bank of England of 100,000l. With all these advantages they were now about 450,000l. worse than they were in the year 1831. This was a point to which he thought the attention of the House ought always to be directed. They had been constantly, and were still constantly, in the habit of issuing annually an augmentation of exchequer bills, and thence, in a great degree, arose the increased charge, which he was anxious to point out, in order that steps might he taken for its reduction. He wished the House not to be led away by a notion that the receipts were so much above the expenditure. It might be said, which he admitted, that part of the increase arose from the conversion of interminable into terminable annuities. But there was little consolation to be derived from that. In 1831 the unfunded debt amounted to 25,600,000l. In the present year it amounted to about 29,000,000l., being an increase, since the year 1831, of 3,400,000l. He begged the House to understand, that he did not wish to interfere with the course which the Government adopted in issuing exchequer bills; but what he contended for was this, that as the re-payments came back, the House ought to see that they were applied to the reduction of the debt. Then, with respect 679 to the terminable annuities. In the year 1831 the quantity of terminable annuities amounted to 3,300,000l. At the present period it appeared that they amounted to 4,070,000l., being an increase of very nearly 700,000l. He (Mr. Goulburn) thought, that in that statement of facts, which, as far as the papers upon the table of the House could hear him out, he would undertake to say, was a fair and correct one; there were circumstances which called upon the House to exercise the greatest caution in dealing with any surplus which the Chancellor of the Exchequer might contemplate. He thought the present the proper moment to make a statement of this description, in order that before they came to the discussion of the various repeals of taxation which were to be proposed to them, they might bear in mind how those repeals would operate with regard to the views which he had taken of the subject. He hoped, also, that if some hon. Gentlemen were disposed individually to press for the reduction of particular taxes, they would not forget the increase of the debt, which he had endeavoured to bring under their consideration. With respect to any other part of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, he had only to join in what appeared to be the general feeling, that there was an existing state of prosperity in the country which called for mutual congratulation, but which he thought, with the right hon. Gentleman, was not such as would warrant any exuberant liberality in dealing with the finances of the country. He thought with the right hon. Gentleman, that they would be dealing much more prudently if for the next year they calculated upon a less prosperous state than that which had sprung up between the last and the present year. Having adverted to these, which were the main points pressing on his mind, he had now only to refer for a moment to a matter which partook somewhat more of a personal character, and which arose out of a conversation which took place between the right hon. Gentleman and himself on a former occasion, when he (Mr. Goulburn) presented a petition to the House on the subject of the proposed reduction of the newspaper stamp. He (Mr. Goulburn) did not then propose to enter into the question of whether the reduction of that duty would be proper or improper—he would not even advert to the point which he was anxious to bring under the consideration of the House when he presented the peti- 680 tion—all that he wished to do was, to reply to an observation then made by the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman was understood to accuse the petitioners with unfairness in coming before the House with such a complaint as that stated in their petition, having had a communication with him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) on the subject of the proposed limitation of the size of newspapers, and he having reason to believe that they were satisfied with the limitation he proposed. Since the statement of the right hon. Gentleman had gone abroad, he (Mr. Goulburn) had received letters upon the subject from several of the petitioners. He had one from the editor and printer of the Times, in which they stated that they neither directly nor indirectly had agreed to any proposition for restricting the size of any newspapers, or authorised or deputed any one to communicate with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the subject. He had also a letter from the editor and printer of The Morning Post, couched in similar terms. Neither directly nor indirectly had they been concerned in the proposed measure for limiting the size of newspapers. He (Mr. Goulburn) thought it but just that the right hon. Gentleman should know the declaration of those gentlemen on the subject of their having been parties to any propositions for altering the size of newspapers; and he therefore took the earliest opportunity of communicating to him the contents of the letters he had received. But before he quitted this subject, he must be permitted to make a few observations on the personalities in which the right hon. Gentleman indulged the other night with respect to himself. The right hon. Gentleman taxed him, with considerable warmth, for having presented a petition on the subject of limiting the size of newspapers, in utter oblivion of his own recorded sentiments upon the subject; and the right hon. Gentleman quoted a paragraph from a Bill which had been in the Stamp-office, and which was left by him (Mr. Goulburn) in the Treasury, in which, undoubtedly, there did stand a clause for reducing the size of newspapers to within certain limits. At the time that the right hon. Gentleman read that paragraph, he (Mr. Goulburn) was so little aware of ever having intended to adopt such a limitation, that the first impulse of his mind was to give a direct and positive contradiction to the statement. But supposing that the right hon. Gentleman had thoroughly in- 681 vestigated the subject, and that his (Mr. Goulburn's) own memory must have totally failed him upon the subject, he allowed it for the moment to pass by. But when he referred to the schedule of duties placed by him on the table of the House in 1830, he found that, so far from a limitation of the size of newspapers, he adopted in that schedule the provisions of the Act of Parliament introduced by Mr. Huskisson, making no limitation whatever, but giving relief to those who published separate papers as supplements, and giving further relief to those whose papers consisted entirely of advertisements. The schedule thus laid on the table contained that record of opinion upon the subject by which he was bound to stand. The Bill from which the right hon. Gentleman had quoted was not, in fact, before the House—it was in draft; and he certainly did not expect—indeed, he did not think it either right or courteous, that a public officer, filling the same situation which he (Mr. Goulburn) had once the honour to hold, should avail himself of such means to lead the House to suppose that his opinions were different at one moment to what they were at another. [The Chancellor of the Exchequer: The Bill was in print.] He knew that. It was printed, but printed how? Not by order of the House; but printed in draft. When it was brought to him in manuscript, it was so long and so painful to read that he begged to have it printed draft-wise, and in that state it was that it must have fallen into the hands of the right hon. Gentleman. The Bill was never brought forward; and he begged to state now, once for all, that there were propositions in it, as it was originally drawn and submitted to him, in which he could not concur. If the right hon. Gentleman meant to make the quotation from the Bill a charge against him, it was really one of a more serious nature than he seemed to think. The right hon. Gentleman charged him with an intention of imposing a duty on newspapers according to their size. If that were really his intention, how fraudulently must he have dealt with the House, having presented to the House a schedule upon the subject, and in that schedule having said nothing whatever about the intended restriction. But he would not dwell longer upon the subject. He thought, however, that the House would agree with him, that whatever argument the right hon. Gentleman had derived from reference to a Bill printed in 682 draft, was worth nothing. At all events, he appealed from the Bill to the schedule which he had laid upon the table of the House. The opinion expressed in the schedule upon the subject he should be prepared, when the proper time arrived, to maintain, and to show that the mode in which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to deviate from what took place in 1830 with respect to newspapers, was not advisable for the press, nor desirable for the country. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by again directing the attention of the House to the necessity of providing for the reduction of the national debt, before it sought for the application of any great amount of surplus to the reduction of taxation.
§ Mr. Robinson
concurred generally in the views taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and was happy to find that, notwithstanding the reduction of 8,000,000l. of taxation within the last few years, there would still, but for the amount of interest payable on the money voted for the emancipation of the negroes, have been a clear surplus for the present year, of not less than 1,000,000l. The right hon. Gentleman had, in the course of his observations on the excellent working of the principle of free trade alluded to the importation of French wines; but it did not appear to him that a greater failure, as a financial measure, than that of the equalisation of the duties on French wines, either in the way of producing an increased consumption, or of inducing a disposition on the part of the French Government to adopt reciprocal measures, had ever taken place. As a commercial man he thanked the right hon. Gentleman for the very salutary remarks he had made as to the necessity of caution on the part of those engaged in trade. He did not take any desponding views of the present state of the country; nor did he anticipate any reaction; at the same time it was the duty of a financial Minister to remind the country that by possibility some check might be given to the present prosperity, which arose in part, he was afraid, from over speculation. The right hon. Gentleman estimated that the stamp duties would produce next year 7,000,000l. whereas this year they only produced 6,900,000l.; and yet he proposed a reduction in that duty of upwards of 200,000l. How could the right hon. Gentleman entertain this expectation, unless he anticipated to make up the difference by his 683 arrangements in the new Stamp Act? There was hardly one clause in that Bill which did not call for the serious consideration of the House before they consented to it. The right hon. Gentleman had said, that whenever a tax became unproductive, it was in itself an evidence of the impolicy of the tax. Now he had stated yesterday, that although the trade and commerce of the country had gone on increasing, yet the produce of the stamp duty on marine insurances had decreased. He therefore hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would take the subject into his consideration, and propose some reduction of that tax. After all, it appeared that the only reduction of taxes proposed were those on newspapers, on glass, and on paper. He certainly would never ask for a reduction of taxes below the amount of available surplus revenue, and as other opportunities would be afforded, he would not now do more than generally express his satisfaction with the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman, and a hope that the resources of the country would go on so improving as to admit of a further reduction of taxation, by which its industry and commerce might be promoted.
§ Sir Robert Peel
intended to follow the example so wisely set by the Gentlemen who had spoken in the course of this slight discussion, because he thought it exceedingly wise to interpose some interval between hearing the financial statement of a Minister of the Crown, from which they ascertained the amount of surplus revenue that could be fairly applied in the reduction of taxation, and of pronouncing any conclusive opinion in debate, as to the taxes which ought to be selected for reduction. Assuming that there were 500,000l. or 600,000l., which might be fairly applied in the remission of taxes, he should like to have an opportunity of referring to the very valuable information collected by the Commissioners of Inquiry into the state of the Excise Laws, for the purpose of forming a comparative view of the whole subject of taxation, and of ascertaining by what mode they might avail themselves of the small amount of surplus in the most effectual manner, for the purpose of decreasing the burdens of the people, and of increasing the productive industry of the country. The glass duty, the paper duty, the soap duty, and one other duty which had not been adverted to by the right hon. Gentleman, 684 but which he (Sir Robert Peel) should be glad to have the opportunity of fully considering—namely, the duty levied upon the importation of raw cotton—all these various points he should now avoid pronouncing any opinion upon; but having made up his mind as to the surplus available, he should at a future opportunity give his opinion as to what were the taxes most prudent to reduce. He felt the force of the observation made by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Goulburn), that in time of peace we were not making any rapid progress in the reduction of the funded debt; while we were increasing our unfunded debt, which, in a time of difficulty, might press with peculiar severity upon the country. These were considerations which ought never to escape the attention of that House; and before the House dealt too liberally with respect to a surplus revenue, he hoped that those subjects would engage their serious attention. With regard to the duty on the importation of raw cotton, he would just state, that in the year ending 5th April, 1835, the duty collected upon that article, which undoubtedly was one of the main sources of the prosperity of the country, amounted to 374,000l.; and in the year ending the 5th April, 1836, the amount levied was 400,000l.; the rate of duty being, he believed, only five-sixteenths of a penny per 1b. But it behoved the House to bear in mind that the manufacturers of this country were exposed—and so long as peace continued, they would be exposed—to vigorous foreign competition. He, therefore, would say, that to levy such a duty as 400,000l. upon a raw material which formed the staple of our chief manufactures, was most unwise. On the one hand no advantage could be gained from so small a revenue; on the other, it would be most dearly purchased if by retaining it. we should increase the advantages of an increasing and successful competition by foreign countries. With his views as to the necessity of maintaining public credit inviolate, and as to the impolicy of making no provision whatever for the interruption of that prosperity the country was now enjoying, and deprecating as he did the approach to that state of things by which they might encumber themselves with a new debt, he could not certainly press for the remission of the whole tax upon raw cotton; but he should rejoice to see its amount reduced as low as possible, 685 so as not to encourage unnecessarily any competition in that important branch of trade. He also wished to reserve to himself an opportunity of considering whether, in dealing with so small an amount of surplus revenue, it might not be better to remit the duty altogether on one article, than to make a remission of a portion of the duty on two or more articles; whether, for instance, the total abolition of all excise regulations with respect to glass might not lead to a great extension of the manufacture of that useful article in this country; and whether that might not be a new and an abundant source of wealth, by our becoming manufacturers of an article which was now chiefly manufactured by other countries. There was one point to which he thought his right hon. Friend (Mr. Goulburn) had intended to call the attention of the House—the policy of increasing the exportation of beer. There did seem to be a prospect of a very great increase in that branch of our export trade; and whether it might not be further increased by some regulation with respect to allowing a drawback, was worthy of consideration. He differed from the hon. Member for Middlesex as to the impolicy of the observation made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in that tone of caution and warning which he assumed when speaking of the present state of prosperity in the country. It was infinitely more becoming the station of a finance Minister to adopt the language and tone of caution, than the tone and language of unbounded confidence. At the same time, he saw great cause for congratulation in the present state of the manufacturing industry of the country. He believed that our present prosperity stood in general upon stable foundations, while peace continued with foreign countries; and particularly if there were any hope of the South American provinces being restored to a state of quiet and tranquillity, he could not but think that, with the elastic spirit of industry and enterprise in this country, there was a reasonable prospect of the continuance of a great part of our present prosperity. But, at the same time, he certainly thought there were indications which would lead prudent men to doubt whether the whole of that prosperity was sound, or whether the activity which was now everywhere displayed, was necessarily connected with a safe and permanent state of things. It 686 was impossible to see the rapid and universal rise in the price of every article of consumption, without asking the question—to what was that to be attributed? It was impossible to take up some of the newspapers—he particularly referred to some Liverpool papers—without witnessing a rage for the formation of joint-stock companies, having for their professed objects matters exceeding in absurdity those of the joint-stock companies of the year 1825. He had seen prospectuses put forth in a Liverpool paper of schemes which completely astonished him, proceeding as they did from a place so eminent in the commercial world, so noted for the astuteness of its inhabitants, especially that class who there carried on commercial affairs. Projects have been put forth by commercial men for carrying on manufactures and other commercial speculations by means of joint-stock companies, which could only be carried on with success when directed by individual enterprise, and with a view to individual profit. Coupling these two facts together—an universal rise in prices of all articles of consumption, and this tendency not merely to an ordinary kind of speculation, but to similar mad projects to those which prevailed in the year 1825—without feeling any cause of despondency, or any undue anxiety, yet he thought those were but acting the part of prudent men who, in time, made use of words of caution from prudential motives. There were two circumstances which ought not altogether to escape the notice of the House. One was a measure which, when first introduced, he strongly opposed—which he knew was adopted with the single view, and not perhaps unwisely, of meeting a memorable commercial crisis—namely, the measure which relieved the country banks from paying their notes above 5l. in gold, and permitting them to exchange their paper for the paper of the Bank of England. While he admitted, that supposing a crisis arose, much of the evil of the crisis might be obviated by giving such permission; yet he always feared that the measure itself had a tendency to precipitate that crisis. Therefore, he for one witnessed the adoption of that permission with some anxiety and some alarm. Now, whether the principle upon which the joint-stock banks were established was perfectly sound or not, he was not prepared to say; but it 687 did so happen, that coincident with all sorts of speculation, the multiplication of joint-stock banks throughout the country had taken place. Nothing could be so unjust as any inquisitorial interference with the private transactions of commercial men; but he thought, that as regarded these joint-stock banks, the legislature had a full right to require that there should be some general regulation established as to the principles upon which those banks should be conducted. Whether or not the habit of granting accommodation to the partners of those banks by issues of their own notes, was perfectly consistent with the commercial interests of the country, was a question which might be well deserving of consideration. He was aware at the same time that what might tend to diminish his anxiety was the present state of the foreign exchanges. Whether or not they ought to consider the state of foreign exchanges as a real test of soundness in a time of general commercial confidence and prosperity, whether they acted with sufficient rapidity, and were an infallible guide, was a point upon which he was not prepared to pronounce any decisive opinion. We were now proceeding with a flowing tide and a favourable wind, and every thing appeared prosperity and happiness; but we should bear in mind that in all times, even apart from those factitious causes which might be now increasing our prosperity, the commercial history of this country showed that we were subject to vicissitudes arising from excessive speculation; and when that period should ar-rive—if ever it did arrive—he was sure we should not feel regret that in a time of general exultation and general quiet, there were some found amongst us who, not desponding, not in the least despairing—nay, believing that a great portion of our prosperity did rest upon stable and solid foundations—yet did, from prudential considerations, warn the House and the country that that prosperity might not be permanent, and that, interspersed with solid causes of prosperity, there might be others upon which it was not safe to rest. He would not dwell upon this subject, but without advising their entering into an inquiry of an inquisitorial nature, or which might interfere with that free agency which was essentially necessary to the general prosperity of a commercial nation, yet he thought that it was perfectly consistent with that principle that the legisla- 688 ture should inquire whether the banks of issue, exercising as they did one of the royal prerogatives, were conducted upon principles of safety to the interests of the country at large.
§ Mr. Poulett Thomson
thought that caution and prudence were above all things necessary at the present time, in order that the existing prosperity of the country might be maintained, and that we might not see it succeeded by similar scenes to those that took place in 1825. It was impossible not to be struck with the spirit of speculation that now existed in the country; but he believed that there was a great difference between the present state of things and what took place in 1825. The spirit of speculation was then turned to foreign adventure of the most extraordinary description; but now speculation was directed to home objects; which if pushed too far might be very mischievous, though the consequences might not be quite so mischievous as in 1825; but, really, on turning to any newspaper, or to any price current, and observing the advertisements of joint-stock companies upon every possible subject, however unfit to be carried on in the present state of society, any man must be struck with astonishment at the fever which raged at this moment for those speculations. He felt it his duty some time ago to direct a register to be kept, taking the names merely from the London and a few country newspapers, of the different joint-stock companies, and of the nominal amount of capital proposed to be embarked in them. The nominal capital to be raised by subscriptions amounted to nearly 200,000,000l. and the number of companies was between 300 and 400. His right hon. Friend just now reminded him of the speculation in France for making beet-root sugar; but that was a sound speculation compared to some of those mentioned in his list. The first was the British Agricultural Loan Company, with a capital of 2,100,000l. He had been furnished with a blank corn note, issued by this company, which ran in these terms:—"Exchange. British Agricultural Loan Company. Ten quarters English wheat. London. 18 No. I promise to deliver on demand, to the order of ten quarters of wheat, weighing lbs. per bushel, from the county of and the growth of 689 18, warehoused on the of 18 in sillo on which all charges have been paid up to the 18 20l. standard value. For the Governor and Directors of the British Agricultural Loan Company. Entered Storekeeper. Secretary."Another company was proposed for supplying rain-water. Then there was the Patent Steam-paddle Company, with a capital of 30,000l.; the Safety Cabriolet Company, capital 100,000l.; the British and American Intercourse Company, capital 2,000,000l.; the London Whale Fishery Company, capital 600,000l. And then, to show the way these companies were starting up, for objects either of the most absurd kind, or for objects which private individuals were perfectly able to accomplish, he found the Liverpool British and Foreign Trading Company, capital 250,000l.. His noble Friend opposite knew perfectly well, that it was not at all an unusual thing for an individual in Liverpool to embark 250,000l. as a capital in foreign trade; and there were many who had a great deal more engaged in that business. Seeing these things, it appeared to him that the people of this country, having their minds recalled to notions of prudence and caution, was a likely means to put a stop to the evils that must otherwise flow from this state of things. He knew that these companies had not their origin only in London. In 1825, London was the great centre of speculation; but he was afraid that these companies now took their rise in other parts of the country. The right hon. Baronet had referred to a Liverpool paper. He (Mr. P. Thomson) was afraid that the place he represented (Manchester) could furnish as many instances of schemes for objects which could never be beneficial to any one, and in which the parties would only be throwing away their money. The fact was, that the greater part of these companies were got up by speculators, for the purpose of selling their shares. They brought up the shares to a premium, and then sold them, leaving the unfortunate purchasers, who were foolish enough to vest their money in them, to shift as they could. These speculations ought to be checked, otherwise great mischief would ensue from the odium which would be thrown on those joint-stock companies that were a national 690 good. It was well known that most of the great undertakings that had of late years characterised this country, had been achieved by the enterprising spirit of individuals forming themselves into joint-stock companies. Therefore, he felt anxious that the good accruing from companies of this description should not be lost by the discouragement which the setting on foot of these mad and foolish schemes must ultimately occasion to joint-stock companies of real merit. The right hon. Baronet had referred to the state of the joint-stock banks. He (Mr. P. Thomson) had seen also, with great regret, the extent to which joint-stock banks had sprung up in different parts of the country. He believed great good had arisen from joint-stock banks, but the observations he had made with regard to other companies were equally applicable to many of the joint-stock banks that were springing up in different parts of the country, and the existence of which could only be attended with great mischief. He had a prospectus of what was called the English, Irish, and Scotch Joint-Stock Bank, with a proposed capital of three millions in England, two millions in Ireland, and two millions in Scotland; and which held out the greatest possible advantages to the parties engaged in it. The shares too were of very small amount. Indeed, on this point, he had seen some companies with shares as low as 10l. The great danger of evil arising from speculations of this kind was obvious. But even in those joint-stock banks which were good, and could conduct their business properly, and which had an immense amount of capital laid up, as well as almost inexhaustible credit, there was, he believed, a new element introduced since the last discussions they had had upon this subject, which they must not lose sight of; but which he confessed he knew not how to correct, except through the prudence and greatest caution of the parties themselves. What he meant was this. Parliament had been in the habit of considering it their duty to look most cautiously to banks of issue; but banks of deposit were not thought likely to lead to mischief; and, therefore, that they did not require to be rendered subject to parliamentary control. In fact, there appeared to be little chance of laying any restriction upon their proceedings. He believed that that opinion was correct; but it was subject to this observation, that 691 Parliament looked for security to the prudence and caution of the parties themselves, and to their managing their business upon what he (Mr. P. Thomson) considered to be alone the sound principle for conducting a bank of deposit, namely, of dealing with the capital of their depositors, not their own, and not speculating upon the credit which they might enjoy. Now, a new element had certainly sprung up; and he believed that a great deal was done by these establishments in the way of discounting their own credit. The bills which came into them from their customers, were discounted at a much higher rate of interest than as compared with what would be charged in London, when passing with the credit of an endorsement by a joint-stock bank; and thus a much larger proportion of those bills found currency than would be the case under another system. To that might be attributed, in some degree, the circumstance which they now saw existing—namely, high prices, and the support which was given to the spirit of speculation in the country, unaccompanied as it was with any large increase of issue, either from the country banks of issue, or, in London, by the Bank of England itself. This, in his opinion, was not a safe state of things. As long as the country should go on prosperously, as long as prices kept rising, as long as the first utterer of these bills was able to meet his engagements, so long no disturbance would take place. But let there be a fall of prices, and then, he believed, the penalty which the country would have to sustain, by the encouragement of this false system, would be very great indeed. He believed, that to a certain extent, these banks did great good; but pushed as they were now to so extreme a degree of competition, he was apprehensive that considerable mischief would ensue. He hoped, however, that the prudence and caution of those parties who had so much to lose, would prevent the occurrence of mischief. He confessed, that he regarded, as of much more importance, the system of which he had been speaking, carried, as it had been, to so great an extent, owing to the competition of the joint-stock banks, than the circumstance alluded to by the right hon. Baronet—namely, the regulation under the law for making 5l. notes the limit of issues. He thought if any adversity were to arise, the 692 country would then feel the full benefit of that measure.
§ Mr. Matthias Attwood
agreed in much of that which the right hon. Gentleman had said on the subject of the mischievous effects which the errors of over-speculation were calculated to produce; but he at the same time thought it should be borne in mind that these errors and blunders were always the necessary and almost unavoidable consequence of a state of things in which enterprise was sure to be too speculative; but there never could be any great and unusual extension of the productive industry of the country unaccompanied by these results. He could not help thinking, however, that much of this cause of complaint arose from defective legislation, and that the time of the right hon. Gentleman, and the attention of the House, might be much more profitably employed in endeavouring to amend the system on which the financial concerns of the country were conducted, than in making unavailing complaints of unavoidable evils. Nor could he avoid adverting to the very extraordinary tone which had been adopted in the course of this debate, as regarded the state of the commercial transactions of the country. It seemed to be assumed that, as compared with countries on the Continent, this country was not prosperous, and that there was at present no secure basis for the very limited degree of prosperity we enjoyed. He, on the other hand, thought that the greater part of the prosperity of the country rested on the surest and most stable foundation—that of the prudence and spirit of enterprise inherent in the community; and he was also of opinion that this spirit of enterprise, if left to itself, uninterfered with by bad financial regulations, would secure a continuance of that prosperity, fixed upon a basis which no merely temporary causes of fluctuation could possibly affect. He thought, there- fore, that hon. Gentlemen opposite, rather than spend their time in enumerating the errors into which the commercial spirit of the people had led them, had better set about framing some more beneficial financial system. He did not so much oppose the arguments which the right hon. Gentleman had used, or the facts he had stated, as he disputed the inferences which he had drawn from them—inferences which he had thought the right hon. Gentleman would not have leant himself to. The right hon. the Chancellor of the 693 Exchequer had entered into a variety of statements, for the purpose of showing, that increased internal prosperity was to be inferred from the increase in exports. He was of opinion that the amount of exports was a very bad test of the commercial advantages derived by the exporters; the real question was, what profit had the people who made the exports received upon them? Increased exportation was proof of increased production certainly; but the amount of importation in return must be looked to in order to ascertain the commercial balance of the transaction. If the amount of exports were to be expressed by sixteen millions, and the amount of imports by four millions, there would be very good ground for the inference of the right hon. Gentleman, that increased exportation was proof of increased production; but he (Mr. Attwood) would require to know what had become of the twelve millions forming the difference, and what advantage the country had derived from an increased export, unaccompanied by a corresponding import? Without then delaying the House, he would only say, that he thought the right hon. Gentleman's view of the exports of the country being a criterion of prosperity, was based on delusion.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
would not be tempted by any thing that had occurred in the course of the debate, to enter into the general question of the currency; more especially as the House appeared very anxious for the termination of the discussion. He very much regretted that the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, was no longer in his place. The right hon. Baronet had confirmed the few hints which he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had thrown out—not of alarm and distrust, but of caution and prudence; and it afforded him the highest gratification to find that, in the course which he had felt it his duty to pursue, in this part of his statement, he had been supported by the authority of the right hon. Baronet. He entirely concurred with the right hon. Baronet in his estimate of the advantage the country would derive from the repeal of the duty on raw cotton, supposing the state of its revenue admitted of such a reduction. There was not one word of what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet on this point in which he did not fully concur; but however desirable he might deem such a reduction to be, he could not, with the amount of surplus he had that 694 night announced, take upon himself the responsibility of proposing it. He wished to say one word, in the next place, with reference to what had fallen from his hon. Friend, the Member for Worcester (Mr. Robinson), relative to the Stamp Act, because he knew that if observations coming from such a quarter, remained uncontradicted, they would obtain a considerable degree of currency. The hon. Gentleman seemed to think that the effect of the various details of the Bill would be to add greatly to the whole amount of duty paid. Now, he had brought the fact to a pretty fair test, with reference to one head of revenue at least, and he begged his hon. Friend's attention to the statement he was about to make, because it bore directly upon his argument. He held in his hand an account of the whole amount of stamp duty on bills paid by a very considerable house in the city of London, for one year; and on the other side he had a statement of the exact amount which would have been paid had the regulations he now proposed been in force. Under the old Act, the amount was 1,214l. 18s.; under the new one, it would have been 1,196l. 10s. 4d. He would now entreat the attention of the House to a little personal matter between his right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Goul-burn) and himself, which, like all other matters between them, could only be discussed with feelings of mutual good will and regard. His right hon. Friend had adverted to two points:—the one, his own intentions in the year 1830 with respect to the size of newspapers; and the other, the transactions which had lately occurred between himself and the members of the press. He would take each of these points in its turn. His right hon. Friend, he was quite sure, would not suspect him of converting any official information that came within his reach to an uncandid purpose, or of using it in an uncandid manner. But when he had put into his hand a printed copy of an intended Act of Parliament, it would have been the very last thing to enter his mind that it was to be treated as a confidential communication in any shape whatever; more especially as in framing the Bill he had referred to the right hon. Gentleman's labours on the subject, and to the Bills which were in progress at the time of his leaving office. Until his right hon. Friend stated it himself, he could not have believed that he had altered his mind with respect to fixing 695 a limitation of the size of the paper, because the schedule which was annexed to his right hon. Friend's proposed Bill, although it did contain particular provisions with respect to the supplement, they were certainly not the provisions which Mr. Huskisson proposed. [Mr. Goulburn: Yes, they were.] He could not conceive how that could be, because Mr. Huskisson proposed no limitation whatever; whereas, his right hon. Friend's clause applied to a supplement containing a certain number of advertisements, and sold at a particular price; and it contained an enactment specially limiting the size of the paper itself. With these documents before him, he could not suppose that his right hon. Friend had abandoned the intention embodied in them, until he heard it announced by himself. The Act of 1824 limited the size of the papers to 32 inches by 20, but Mr. Huskisson removed that restriction, and allowed newspapers to be printed on paper of any size. Now, in the schedule of his right hon. Friend there was a certain restriction—not with respect to the contents of the supplements, but to the size of the sheets on which they were to be printed, which was specially limited and controlled by the enacting clause of the bill which he then had before him. After the explanation of his right hon. Friend, he could entertain no doubt of his having abandoned this intention, and of his having determined not to bring in the Bill in the shape he originally contemplated. The next point involved a matter of private and individual faith, and he therefore entreated the patient attention of the House. On a former occasion, when the petition of the newspaper proprietors was presented, he took upon himself to express the very great surprise he felt at the course adopted by the individuals who had signed it, because he had been in communication with those individuals throughout the whole proceedings, and because every suggestion upon which he had acted had been adopted with their knowledge. Now, an utter denial had been given to this assertion, and his right hon. Friend had repeated that denial in the House. This being the case, he felt it a duty which he owed alike to himself and to the House, to give the fullest explanation of the whole transaction; an explanation which he trusted the House would admit to be perfectly and entirely satisfactory. The question was, had he really been in communication 696 with the parties who had petitioned the House. Next, with respect to the superficial measurement of the paper, and the limits he had adopted—he had adopted them with their privity and knowledge. It was in the month of July last that he had been first applied to to receive a deputation on the part of the London Newspaper Press, stating the then violations of the law which were constantly taking place, and requesting immediate protection from the infringement of their existing rights. He wrote in reply to that request, as he did to every other of a similar description, that he should be happy to receive the deputation at a convenient period, which he named. The paper he now held in his hand was the paper which was delivered to him as the authority of the deputation. It was signed on the part of The Times, on the part of The Globe, on the part of The Standard, on the part of The Sun, on the part of The Morning Advertiser, on the part of The Age, on the part of The Dispatch, on the part of The Courier, and on the part of The Bell's Weekly Messenger. The deputation stated to him that they represented the newspaper proprietors of the city of London, and he so received them. He gave them an answer with respect to the then state of the law, with which it was immaterial to trouble the House; and he developed to that deputation, in July last, the very scheme he had now opened for the reduction of the permanent duty, of which communication he now found a pencil note on the back of the paper. Subsequently, the chairman of that meeting wrote to see him again on the part of the newspaper proprietors of the city of London. He saw him repeatedly afterwards, not singly, but with five or six other gentlemen; he was always admitted to see him, for he had made it a rule to receive, not only the friends to the entire repeal of the tax, but those who were opposed to it. These gentlemen attended in Downing-street, and saw him, always representing that they were the committee—the same committee emanating from the meeting of newspaper proprietors of the city of London, whose paper he now held in his hand. He held also in his hand a suggestion which was left with him by those gentlemen connected with the alteration of the measurement. It was contained in the following resolution:—"Resolved, on the motion of Mr. Bell, seconded by Mr. Shaw, that a depu- 697 tation be instructed to take with them copies of the old and new Bell's Messenger, to present to the Chancellor of the Exchequer at their next interview, and to request the right hon. Gentleman to extend his proposed limitation of size to the superficial admeasurement of those papers." This resolution was carried unanimously and signed by the chairman, and he was informed by that chairman that the original document was signed by one of the parties representing one of the papers which had petitioned that House, who now denied, through his right hon. Friend, ever having had any intercourse with him, and protested against the change he proposed. There might be altogether a mistake in the matter, these gentlemen might have falsely represented themselves to him; but his right hon. Friend, from his habits of official business, must know, that under the circumstances he could do nothing but believe that those who told him they represented the press, and that the voucher originally brought to him, as their authority, signed by the parties interested, was a voucher which accompanied them throughout the whole transaction; and therefore that he was justified in stating that he was acting with their knowledge and privity. He would not trouble the House further; he had felt it necessary to make a full explanation, and he was obliged to his right hon. Friend for having afforded him an opportunity of doing so. The parties could refer to their own chairman, and the members of the deputation who had waited on him, both of whom would repeat the whole statement he had now made. He felt it incumbent upon him to enter into it; it was important to himself, as involving a matter of personal faith and personal feeling. With reference to any statements that had been made elsewhere, he would only say that he should not have noticed them, but as his right hon. Friend had given him the opportunity of meeting an assertion in that House, he trusted the House would see that he had done no more than his duty in stating the facts as they had occurred.
was understood to say that the deputation appeared only to have included one of the petitioning parties.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
Yes, they were stated to be represented, but no signatures on their part were added to the list which he had read.
knew nothing further on the subject, but what he gathered from communications which had been made to him in the course of the evening, by different gentlemen, who asked him to state that they had not authorized or assented to the proposition of his right hon. Friend with regard to the size of newspapers. That his right hon. Friend believed the deputation to represent those parties there could be no doubt. With respect to the other point on which the right hon. Gentleman had touched, he had found in his office the original draught of the bill, as prepared for consideration and revision, and the right hon. Gentleman had availed himself of the clauses as they stood in that draught to support the arrangement which he had adopted, but which was not borne out by the schedules actually submitted to the House. He had not intended to propose any limitation in the size of the paper; he had intended to submit a proposal, and to call on the House to approve it, which should contain no limitation whatever. His right hon. Friend would imply, that after bringing forward the general plan, it was his (Mr. Goulburn's) intention to ask the consent of the House to a clause limiting the size of newspapers, and the tendency of producing this paper, found in the office of the right hon. Gentleman, was to raise an idea that he meant to deceive the House. Now, he could assure them that he never had any such intentions; and he wished to set himself right with the House on this point. The words of the schedule were—"Newspaper containing public news, intelligence, or occurrences, or any remarks or observations thereon, or upon any matter in Church or State, with or without advertisements; (that is to say) for every sheet, half sheet, or other piece of paper, whereof the same shall consist, 4d. duty." The House would see that there was no limitation here.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that the clause he had found in his office contained an express provision that no newspaper should be printed on any sheet or piece of paper exceeding 41 inches in length, and 26 inches in breadth. He had no doubt that his hon. Friend had no more intention of bringing forward this proposition than he had stated to the house. He was perfectly satisfied with his right hon. 699 Friend's explanation; he never could have produced the clause for the purpose of asserting that his right hon. Friend meant to deceive the House. He had alluded to it for the purpose of supporting his own arrangement. There would have been no necessity in the bill of the right hon. Gentleman to say a word about a supplement, if the sheet had been originally intended to be of unlimited size, and in the bill of Mr. Huskisson, which allowed sheets of any size to pass free of duty, there was no necessity for the mention of any restriction.
—The words in his schedule were precisely as set down in Mr. Huskisson's Act, and that measure contained no limitation whatever.
§ Mr. Baines
wished to ask some questions of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer relative to three points of his financial statement. He begged to inquire whether the duty on both descriptions of paper was to be reduced; and also if the discount of 20 per cent. now allowed on the newspaper stamps would be continued in the new scale of duty. The other point to which he wished to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention was this—they had heard that it would be extremely desirable to reduce the taxes on raw materials, and particularly on cotton wool; now there was also a duty on the introduction of sheep's wool, and he hoped that they would be taken into consideration. He wished for the reduction of both taxes; the same principle was applicable to each; the effect of their reduction would be to relieve manufactures from the pressure of the import duty on the raw material.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that he meant to fix the duty on all classes of paper at 1½d. per pound, which would equalize the whole of the duty. With respect to the second question, as to the allowance of a discount of 20 per cent. on newspaper stamps, he had stated it to be his intention to propose a certain duty; he meant a certain duty in actual receipt.
§ Mr. David Roche
thought that the newspaper proprietors in Ireland had not been fairly treated, as they were not to receive a reduction of duty proportionate to that extended to England and Scotland. He begged to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the propriety of making a still further reduction in the tax on glass.
§ Sir John R. Reid
wished to know if the right hon. Gentleman had included relief to the Danish claimants in his Budget.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
did not know if he had quite understood the question of the hon. Baronet. He could state that he had placed on the table an estimate of a vote of 78,000l. additional for the relief of the Danish claimants. Provision would thus be made for those who had lost their property on shore; and last year compensation had been granted to those who had lost their goods on shipboard. He regretted that it was quite impossible for him, with the surplus he had already stated, to enter into the question of the glass duty. His hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Roche) should recollect that Ireland had suffered most severely, not from an equality, but an inequality of duty. An inequality could not exist, unaccompanied by a system of drawbacks; and it was under such a system when the manufacturers of England traded, not for the price of their goods, but for the drawback, that Irish manufacturers had become nearly extinct.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
said, that the right hon. Gentleman seemed to have completely forgotten the agricultural interest, whose claims he (Colonel Sibthorp) had so long pressed on the attention of the House. With regard to the stamp duty on newspapers, he considered that the reduction of that tax would be in effect admitting that the power of the law was not sufficiently great.
§ Mr. Blamire
was anxious to direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the propriety of making certain modifications in those restrictions on the manufacture of malt, which were found to be so onerous and oppressive.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that the subject was not altogether new to him, and had been already under consideration. The restrictions were in themselves undoubtedly a great evil, and only to be justified with a view to the protection of the revenue. The Ministers were as much interested in the question as any individual Member was, for when the restrictions were rigidly enforced with regard to some persons, and successfully infringed by others, the honest man would be ruined, with profit to the rogue. He should be most glad to receive any communications on this subject, and would give them his careful attention; and if the operation of the regulations could be relaxed in any way, without injury to the revenue, he would readily consent to it.
§ Mr. George F. Young
was sorry that the 701 right hon. gentleman had not thought fit to grant any relief to the shipowners, but he still hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would be disposed to take the subject of marine insurances into his favourable consideration, not only for the sake of the shipowners, but on those sound principles of financial policy on which he had acted in reference to the newspaper duty. The consequence of the present high rate of duty was, that parties were effecting their insurances in foreign countries, and the revenue derived from this source was dwindling away. With respect to the question asked by the hon. Member for Dover as to the Danish claims, he trusted that, as the right hon. Gentleman was proceeding in the path of justice to those who had suffered by the outrageous proceedings in 1807. as he had last year relieved those who had claims arising from book debts, and as he proposed this year to give compensation to those whose goods had been confiscated on shore, he would next year consider the claims of the unfortunate individuals whose ships were seized in Denmark at that period. If no other hon. Member brought forward the question, he should certainly feel it his duty to submit it to the notice of the house. He begged to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the estimate of the claims which had been prepared, was an equitable or a legal one?
§ The resolution was agreed to.
§ The House resumed.