HC Deb 01 June 1840 vol 54 cc789-800
Mr. Christopher

rose, in pursuance of notice to move, "that it is the opinion of this House (as the people of Ireland do not contribute to the assessed taxes) that in any additional taxation that may be required to make up the deficiency of the revenue of the United Kingdom it is unjust and inexpedient to impose any tax which will fall exclusively on the people of Great Britain." He could not see the justice of such a partial system of taxation as that which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had adopted. He might come forward, as the representative of a large agricultural constituency, and say, that they were very little benefitted by the reduction of the penny postage, but would be exposed to much inconvenience by the increase of assessed taxes. The only ground which the Chancellor of the Exchequer could take was, that the people of Ireland were in such a state of poverty and distress that it would be wrong to impose on them the same amount of taxation as on other divisions of the empire. That was a very dangerous argument to introduce. But he would not waste the time of the House in dwelling upon arguments of this description, because he could show that the people of Ireland were as able as the people of England to contribute towards the taxation of the country. Now, if it could be proved that Ireland derived as much advantage from the colonies as England—and the colonies, it should be recollected, were a main source of the increase in our expenditure—and also that Ireland had derived a greater advantage than England from the Penny-postage Act, because she was brought into closer communication with the commercial towns of England, then it would follow, that the right hon. Gentleman had introduced principles of taxation which were partial and unfair. He wished to call for an expression of opinion on the part of the House, that the system proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer was unjust and inconsistent. He could show that it was so, for he held in his hand a convincing proof of the increasing prosperity of the people of Ireland. Ireland might be looked upon as a purely agricultural district, and if he could show from official returns that the agriculture of Ireland had increased since the union to an amazing extent, that was a sufficient proof of the increasing prosperity of the people of Ireland. He held in his hand a return of the exports of every description of grain shipped from Ireland from the year 1800 to the year 1839. In the year 1801 the quantity of grain of every description exported from Ireland was 525 quarters; in 1802, the year after the union, the quantity ex- ported was 461,371 quarters; in 1810 the quantity had increased to 631,227 quarters; in 1820 the exports were 1,415,722 quarters; in 1830 they had increased to the extent of 2,215,521 quarters; in 1835 the exports were 2,679,000 quarters; in 1836, 2,900,000 quarters; in 1837, 3,030,000 quarters; and in 1838 they were 3,474,000 quarters. Thus it was evident, that in the last thirty-eight years the quantity of grain exported had increased from 525 quarters to the enormous extent of 3,474,000 quarters. He thought that there could not be a greater proof than this of the increasing prosperity of that country, and he believed that if Ireland were free from the continual state of agitation which was now kept up there, there would be very little difference in the condition of the people of England and Ireland. He was convinced, that whatever might be the motives by which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been influenced in proposing his plan, the people of England and Ireland would attribute it to the important support which the Government received from the Irish Members in that House. He thought that he should not have done his duty towards his constituents if he had failed to bring this question under the consideration of the House, and he should conclude, therefore, by proposing the resolution which he had already placed in the Speaker's hands.

Mr. Sergeant Jackson

said, that it was very far from his intention to rise for the purpose of seconding the motion of his hon. Friend. There was very little indeed of what had fallen from him in which he could concur; but he could concur with him on one point, and that was, that in his opinion the mode by which the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to supply the deficiency in the revenue was a partial one, but it was by no means partial towards Ireland. He conceived that the mode adopted was both unjust and inconsistent. The assessed taxes had indeed been remitted to Ireland, but it was not from any feeling of liberality, but because those taxes had not been productive. An immense staff was necessary for their collection, and he believed that the income received was exceedingly small, and that was the ground on which the remission had been made. But his hon. Friend had said, that Ireland had been benefitted by those causes which had led to the present deficiency. His hon. Friend said that Ireland derivd very great advantage from the colonies. Now, could any assertion be more extravagant than this? Ireland had no import or export trade with the colonies. He admitted that she received benefit from emigration, but England received as much. As to trade, however, with the colonies, Belfast was almost the only town in Ireland which carried on any foreign trade worth speaking of. His hon. Friend said, that taxation ought to be imposed equally on the two countries. Was his hon. Friend aware of the mode in which spirits were taxed by the plan of the right hon. Gentleman? The duty would operate much more oppressively on Ireland than either Scotland or England. An equal duty of 4d. per gallon was to be laid on spirits of all kinds. Now, the present duty on French brandy was 22s. 6d. per gallon, and the increased duty would only be 1½ per cent. On the spirits distilled in Ireland the duty was now 2s. 4d., so that an increase of 4d. per gallon would amount to 14½ per cent. The duty on English spirits was 7s. 6d., and the proposed increase would only amount to 4½ per cent. This, therefore, afforded a just ground of complaint on the part of Ireland, and he submitted that he had clearly made out, that though the mode by which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to supply the deficiency was a partial one, the partiality shown was not in favour of Ireland.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that the hon. Gentleman seemed disposed to regard Ireland, in one respect, as an English country—but had Ireland the same privileges—had she the same franchises—had she the same liberties, as if she were an English country? The hon. Gentleman would, indeed, give to Ireland an equality of burdens with England, but he would at the same time deny to her an equality of rights. The hon. Gentleman would give an equality in the burden, but an inequality in the relief. The financial was a different question from the political, and yet by the Union they were to be secured an equality of political rights, while they were told that they were to be free from an equality of fiscal burdens. But, then, the hon. Gentleman talked of the prosperity of Ireland! He said that Ireland was prosperous because it exported the prime necessaries of life! Now, if the hon. Gentleman spoke of its imports, it would then be known that the country was prosperous, because it was a consumer of those necessaries of life. On the contrary, it was a proof of the poverty of the people. Did the manufactures of England go to Ireland in return for their exports, or did money return to Ireland for them? No; the provisions went to Liverpool—they were turned into money, and it was sent to the banking-house of the absentees. And it was for this cause that the hon. Gentleman talked of the prosperity of Ireland! The hon. and learned Member for Brandon had truly said, that the assessed taxes were given up in Ireland because they were not productive. But, now, let them look a little closer to this question. Since the peace the amount of taxes reduced in England was 40,000,000l. and in Ireland but 1,000,000l. including even this miserable portion of the assessed taxes. On one article—that of spirits, the hon. and learned Member for Bandon had shown what was the proportion of the rise. Taking it in round numbers, the rise on English spirits was 5 per cent.; on Scotch 10 per cent.; and on Irish 15 per cent. This, then, was the partial taxation of which the hon. Gentleman complained, as unfavourable to England, and favourable to Ireland! He admitted that the duty was smaller on Irish spirits, and that it was in the same money the calculation was made. But, why was the duty smaller? Was it as a matter of favour to Ireland that it was smaller? No; but because the smuggler had corrected the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and it was to make it productive to the revenue that the small duty was imposed and substituted for the large duty. In England, the spirits were allowed to be transferred to the rectifying distiller without paying duty. It was not necessary that it should pay duty on leaving the King's stores, as in Ireland; and at the time that it was announced that the new taxes should be imposed, it happened, by a very fortunate accident, that there was no stock of spirits in Scotland, there was no stock in England, and there was an enormous stock in Ireland. In the latter place it arose from two causes; first, the badness of corn last season, and next the cessation of the use of spirits, owing to the exertions of Father Mathew. There would then, of course, be a great deal of taxation on the spirits in Ireland; while there was scarcely any stock in Scotland, and he was assured that there was none in England. This was a very fortunate accident both for Scotland and England. If hon. Gentlemen would look into this subject (and he trusted that they would, now that the question had been mooted by the hon. Gentleman opposite) they would find that the grossest wrong and the greatest injustice had been done to Ireland on the subject of taxation. What was the relative state of the debts of the two countries at the time of the Union? Ireland then owed 20,000,000l. and England owed 446,000,000l. Now, England had had a bonus of ten millions on this. The debt of Ireland, as to that of England, was as one to twenty-two, and that was the proportion of the burden which she ought to have borne; but instead of being as twenty-two to one, it was as eight and a half to one. Lord Castlereagh made these flourishing premises on the subject on the 5th February, 1800. In respect to the past expenses, Ireland had no concern whatever with the debt of Great Britain, but the two countries were to unite as to future expenses, on a strict measure of relative ability. He should have considered it a most valuable circumstance in this arrangement if the countries could have been so completely incorporated as not to have had distinct revenues, a part of the system of the Scots' union, which had been felt to be of such importance that a great effort was made to equalize the circumstances of the two countries for that purpose. England had a large debt, Scotland had none charged upon her revenues; an accurate calculation was made of the sum to be paid to Scotland, to justify her in accepting her share of the debt, and the sum was paid accordingly by England. The taxation of the two countries was accordingly fixed at the same proportion, except in the instance of the land-tax, which was fixed at a different ratio, because the land-tax in England was imposed so unequally, that had Scotland paid in the same rate as the nominal tax of England, she would really have been taxed much higher than her just proportion. He mentioned this to show the pains that had been taken to incorporate the two countries, as well in point of finance as other circumstances; but in the present situation of these countries, this part of the system could not be adopted. Great Britain now paid in taxes for interest on her debt ten millions annually (it was nearly 17,000,000l. for funded and unfunded debt in the January of the next year, according to the Parliamentary papers endorsed to be printed 15th April, 1824,) for any proportion of this she could not call upon Ireland, nor could she offer, as in the case of Scotland, any equivalent; it was, therefore, necessary, that the respective debts of the countries should remain distinct, and of course, that their taxation should continue separate. See, then, how far the premises of Lord Castlereagh were realised. By the Parliamentary paper ordered to be printed on the 15th April, 1824, it appears that the amount of the funded and unfunded debt of Great Britain, and the annual interest payable thereupon, were, in January, 1801, or when the act of union became first operative, as follows:—

Funded debt £420,305,000
Unfunded debt 26,080,000
Total debt £446,385,000
Charge of funded debt £15,800,000
Ditto of unfunded 1,021,000
Total charge £16,821,000
Thus it appears that the amount of revenue Great Britain was compelled exclusively to raise at the union was nearly 17,000,000l. in a single year. There being a junction of debts, and a power to levy indiscriminate taxation, Great Britain does not now raise 17,000,000l. exclusively, or, as far as can be conjectured, 7,000,000l. According to the finance accounts of the last year, the following were the items of her separate taxation:—
Land and assessed taxes £3,939,000
Bricks 463,000
Soap 782,000
Post-horse duty 224,000
Total £5,408,000
In certain stamp duties and home-made spirit duties there is a higher rate of taxation in England than in Ireland. Its produce is at present uncertain, but should be ascertained. Assuming it to add a fourth to the foregoing items, the total is 6,775,000l., which leaves a balance of relief from exclusive taxation to Great Britain exceeding ten millions annually. Thus it was that the promise and the pledge of Lord Castlereagh were redeemed. Here was a plain and a palpable wrong done to Ireland; and yet with the fact falsified by Lord Castlereagh of what it was that England was liable to pay, it being 17,000,000l. and not 10,000,000l., as he had stated, the hon. Gentleman, perceiving this, talked of both countries being equally taxed. Now, when the union took place, the first thing that was done was to raise the taxes as rapidly as possible. The report of the select com- mittee on the income and expenditure of Ireland, which was ordered to be printed on the 19th of June, 1815, would show how a united Parliament dealt with Ireland, for it would be found that that report said this:— Your committee cannot but remark, that for several years Ireland has advanced in permanent taxation more rapidly than Great Britain itself, notwithstanding the immense exertions of the latter country, and including the extraordinary and war taxes; the permanent revenue of Great Britain having increased from the year 1801, when the accounts of both countries were first made to correspond in the proportion of 16½ to 10—the whole revenue of Great Britain, including war taxes, in the proportion of 21¾ to 10, and the revenues of Ireland in the proportion of 23 to 10. But in the twenty-four years referred to by your committee, the increase of Irish revenue has been in the proportion of 46¾ to 10. But let him now refer to the opinion of the chief governor of Canada, Mr. Thomson, who, on the 26th March, 1830, in moving for a Select Committee for a revision of taxes, said:— A case is established in the instance of Ireland, which was written in characters too legible not to serve as a guide to future financiers—one which ought to bring shame upon the memory of its authors. The revenue of Ireland, in the year 1807, amounted to 4,378,000l.; between that year and the conclusion of the war, taxes were successively imposed, which, according to the calculations of Chancellors of the Exchequer, were to produce 3,400,000l., or to augment the revenue to the extent of 7,700,000l. What was the result? Why, that in the year 1821, when that amount, less about 400,000l. for taxes afterwards repealed, ought to have been paid into the Exchequer, the whole revenue of Ireland amounted only to 3,844,000l., being 533,000l. less than in 1807, previous to one farthing of these additional taxes having been imposed. Here is an example to prove that an increase of taxation does not tend to produce a corresponding increase of revenue, but, on the contrary, an actual diminution, In 1821, however, the Irish revenue fell to 3,844,000l., which proved that the English Government had put burden upon burden upon Ireland, until she actually broke down under the load. Then, with regard to the balance arising from the remittance of public money, to and from the Irish and British Exchequers, he held in his hand a Parliamentary document, dated the 24th of August, 1833, from which it appeared, that from 1796 to 1800 there had been a balance of 435,637l., and up to 1833 a balance of 11,389,178l. in favour of Ireland. He would now beg the attention of the House to an extract from the report of the committee of 1814:— Your committee have employed a considerable portion of their time and attention in the investigation of the expenditure of the United Kingdom, with a view to the settlement of the account of proportionate contribution between the two countries. They have not yet the means of stating an account with so much exactness as to serve as the foundation of a definitive settlement between Great Britain and Ireland, as the accounts which they have directed to be made up in Ireland are not yet completed. While they have been in preparation your committee have to state that they could not be more usefully employed during those several sittings than in discussing and settling, subject to the final judgment of Parliament, the principle by which the account ought to be regulated, with respect to certain articles as to which the sense of the Act of Union appeared to admit of question. With respect to these points your committee are of opinion, that in the adjustment of the payments made on account of the joint charge of Great Britain and Ireland, the payments made from the consolidated fund (Ireland), since the union, under the act of 40 George 3rd, ch. 34, so far as relates to any composition to any bodies corporate or individuals, in respect to any city or borough which may have ceased to send Members to Parliament in consequence of the union, should not be a joint charge. This "joint charge," the gentle name intended to include the bribing money, with which the Act of Union was purchased, amounts to 1,275,000l.; and the sole payment of this sum was cast, as it were, as a brand of infamy upon the people of Ireland. According to Lord Castlereagh, there were seventeen millions which ought to be paid by the people of England, the people of Ireland being left untouched; whereas he had shown that the people of Ireland paid ten millions to England's seven millions. All he asked for the people of Ireland was, that if they were to be thus taxed, they should, at least, have the credit of it, and enjoy equal rights in every respect with the people of England.

Mr. Lucas

said, that Ireland was already sufficiently taxed, and he thought the proposition of the hon. Member would be unproductive of any real good, he could not support it.

Colonel Conolly

expressed his regret at being compelled to differ with the hon. Member for Lincolnshire, but he must do so upon this occasion. The assessed taxes in Ireland had not produced more than 120,000l., while they cost 70,000l. in the collection. Then, again, with regard to the duty on spirits, the abatement of that duty from 6s. to 2s. 4d. per gallon was found to have a most beneficial effect, inasmuch as it very nearly extirpated the illicit trade. He trusted, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would bear that latter fact, in mind, and that the House would see that no advantage could possibly arise from laying fresh taxation upon Ireland.

Colonel Sibthorp

said, he had felt it his duty to second the motion, and after listening to the speeches of hon. Members on both sides of the House, he must say that the motion had not been fully and fairly discussed. These hon. Gentlemen, who came from the other side of the channel had carefully watched their own interests, and showed zeal for their country; but all parties had suffered the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer to escape both on this and on former occasions. The right hon. Gentleman, ay, the whole of the Ministers ought to be told, that they had no business to entail upon either England or Ireland any new lax at all. The statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer showed that there had been gross mismanagement of the finances of the country, and hence had arisen the necessity for this new taxation. He was astonished to see the public money voted away in so thin a House. To be sure, hon. Gentlemen pleaded that it was their dinner hour, but let them remember that they might deprive many a poor man of his dinner. He observed a noble Lord smiling. Why, did not the noble Lord know that very often there was not a single Minister in his place to answer a question? He was sorry that steps were not taken to oust such Ministers altogether. Some people might say we cannot find better. One thing he knew, it was impossible to find worse. They had got into place and power by professing to be friends and promoters of economy and retrenchment. What taxes had they reduced? Why, the duty on balsam of copaiba, and on shepherd's dogs, and such like trumpery matters. The right hon. Gentleman knew that the increase of taxation was only the beginning of the mischief. He could foretell that in the next Session of Parliament 3,000,000l. or 4,000,000l. more would probably be demanded. And all this was the consequence of the mismanagement of the finances of the country during the last six or seven years. Instead of retrenchment, the present Ministers had favoured the country with the grossest extravagance. Look at their commissions. Why, 119,000l. went in one year for new commissioners, who, he believed, were chiefly employed in doing nothing. Well, the consequence was, that there must be an increase of public taxation. But why did they tax the poor, and not the rich? He wanted to see 10, or 20 or 30 per cent, laid upon all salaries of 800l. per annum and upwards, and not upon the poor under clerks. The noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, then might be made to contribute his share to the public burdens, for he received a very good salary, although he spent half his time in cutting capers and dancing quadrilles. Oh, he did not blame the noble Lord for that; he was fond of dancing himself. But if the noble Lord was wanted in Ireland, why did he not go thither? and if nor, if a deputy could do his duty there, why was not his deputy better paid, and he compelled to pay a percentage upon his income. He thought a small absentee tax upon some persons would have a very wholesome effect. He regretted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not taken a better mode of increasing the revenue. It must be increased, it appeared, but the right hon. Gentleman did not seem to care how, so the poor were to be taxed as heavily as the rich. He did not wish to say anything rude of the right hon., the Chancellor of the Exchequer: he believed him to be a very good man in private life, but he was wholly unfit for his present office, and knew not how to manage the finances of the country. He did not think it was quite fair to saddle this country alone with the proposed increase of taxation. He could not acquit her Majesty's Ministers of partiality in this or in other matters in which Ireland was concerned. He perceived that they were the complete slaves of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin. He saw that they watched his eye, and his every feature, and were entirely at his control. His nod was positive law to them, and they were nothing more nor less than his absolute slaves. That state of things might not be agreeable to some of them, and he confessed that he wished he could see a division amongst them, as it would be a sign of their breaking up. Whatever became of the motion, he was satisfied that he and the hon. mover had done their duty to their constituents.

Mr. Humphery

wished to asked the right hon. Gentleman whether gentlemen who came from Ireland, bringing their own carriages, horses, servants, &c. with them, were exempt from the payment of assessed taxes while they remained in this country?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

replied, that they were protected under a special act; but gentlemen arriving earlier than the opening of the Parliamentary session, and staying after its close, would be liable.

Mr. Humphery

thought it a hard case upon English gentlemen that Irish gentlemen should be thus exempted, and on bringing up the report he should move the insertion of a clause for the purpose of taxing the horses and carriages of Irishmen resident in England to the same extent as the horses and carriages of Englishmen were taxed, which was not the case at present.

Mr. J. Jervis

thought this was a proper subject for inquiry, as the first step to equal justice to Ireland, for he could not see why Irishmen living under the protection of British laws should not be taxed to an equal extent with Englishmen. He could not understand what objection there could be to equal taxation. If, however, this motion came to a division now, he was afraid the minority would be such as to compromise the question in some degree, and he therefore hoped it would not be pressed at present.

Mr. D. Browne

said, that if the hon. Alderman near him (Alderman Humphrey) proposed to tax Irishmen residing in England higher than Englishmen, he should be glad to second that motion, as such a course would, he hoped, have the effect of inducing Irishmen to reside in their own country, and to spend their money there.

The House then divided, when there appeared—For the motion 11; Against it 86: Majority 75.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, Major Benett, J.
Baring, F. T. Bernal, R.
Barnard, E. G. Bewes, T.
Barry, G. S. Blake, M. J.
Blake, W. J. Lucas, E.
Bridgeman, H. Maule, hon. F.
Brocklehurst, J. Morpeth, Viscount
Brodie, W. B. Norreys, Sir D. J.
Browne, R. D. O'Brien, W. S.
Bruges, W. H. L. O'Ferrall, R. M.
Bryan, G. Ord, W.
Busfeild, W. Parnell, Sir H.
Butler, hon. Col. Pendarves, E. W.
Callaghan, D. Philips, M.
Collier, J. Pigot, D. R.
Corry, hon. H. Russell, Lord J.
Courtenay, P. Rutherford, rt. hon. A.
Damer, hon. D. Salwey, Col.
Dundas, D. Seymour, Lord
Ewart, W. Sheil, R. L.
Ferguson, Sir R. Sinclair, Sir G.
Fleetwood, Sir P. Slaney, R. A.
Fort, J. Somers, J. P.
Goulburn, H. Stansfield, W. R.
Greig, D. Stewart, J.
Grote, G. Stock, Dr.
Hall, Sir B. Strutt, E.
Hamilton, Lord C. Style, Sir C.
Hastie, A. Tancred, H. W.
Hawes, B. Troubridge, Sir E.
Hawkins, J. H. Tufnell, H.
Hayes, Sir E. Turner, E.
Hobhouse, T. B. Vigors, N. A.
Howard, P. H. Vivian, J. E.
Howick, Viscount Williams, W.
Hughes, W. B. Williams, W. A.
Hume, J. Wood, C.
Hurt, F. Wood, B.
Hutton, R. Worsley, Lord
Jackson, Serg. Wyse, T.
James, W. Yates, J. A.
Kemble, H.
Labouchere, rt. hn. H. TELLERS.
Lefroy, T. Stanley, hon. E. J.
Litton, E. Parker, J.
List of the NOES.
Arbuthnot, H. Polhill, F.
Fielden, J. Rickford, W.
Hector, C. J. Rundle, J.
Humphrey, J. Smyth, Sir G. H.
Lockhart, A. TELLERS.
Mackenzie, T. Christopher, R.
Marsland, H. Sibthorp, Col.