§ Sir R. Peel
moved, that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Ways and Means, to consider the Income-tax resolutions.
§ On the question that the Speaker leave the Chair,
§ Mr. Blewitt
said, that the right hon. Baronet opposite had introduced a tax which had been received with universal execration by the people of this country. In connection with that tax, the right hon. Baronet had proposed certain amendments in the tariff, and the general feeling throughout the country, a feeling in which he participated was, that it was not in the power of the right hon. Baronet to carry the amendments he had proposed. In that opinion he said that he shared, because he remembered a noble Duke in another 'place declared, that if the right hon. Baronet brought forward any pro-. position in which that noble Duke did not coincide, that he and his party would turn the right hon. Baronet out of the position which he now held. He saw a corroboration of this in a newspaper of yesterday, which contained an account of a meeting held in Lincolnshire, at which a gentleman stated that he had been told by a noble Duke, that if he were to oppose the tariff, the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government would be obliged to modify it. Believing, then, that the tariff would most likely be carried in the shape proposed, he thought they ought first to consider the tariff before they proceeded with the question of the Income-tax. Taking into account the probable expense of the war with China, the right hon. Baronet had calculated the deficiency in the revenue at about 3,000,000l. but now he called on them to raise, by means of an Income-tax, 3,770,000l. He would not be doing his duty to his con- 1253 stituents if he consented to the right hon. Baronet raising 770,000l. more than he had shown any absolute necessity for; and until the right hon. Baronet could show that there were no other means of making up the deficiency, he for one would never consent to the imposition of an Income-tax. Having no wish to take up the time of the House; and having stated shortly his objections to going on with the Income-tax, he would conclude by proposing a motion to the House. The hon. Member concluded by proposing as an amendment to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the question, in order to add the wordsPart of the produce of the Income-tax which has been proposed by her Majesty's Government is intended to form a fund to provide for a large amount of existing taxes to which this House has not yet consented, and which it may refuse to reduce or repeal; that the adoption of the said Income-tax, under such circumstances, would impose upon the people, already suffering under very severe privations, a greater burden than the necessities of the public service for the current year will require; that this House, therefore, will not again resolve itself into a Committee of Ways and Means on the Income-tax, until after the House shall have determined what amount of the existing taxes it will consent to reduce or repeal.
§ Mr. S. Crawford
said that he wished to make a very few observations on the question During the recess, he had taken the opportunity of communicating with his constituents on this subject, and he had made up his mind to support the proposition of Government so far as it went to lay a tax on real property, because he was of opinion that such a tax would fall on the rich, and exempt the poor. He also felt inclined to support the proposal for taxing non-residents and funded property. In agreeing in the opinions of his constituency on these points, he also concurred with them in thinking that there were disadvantages arising from the tax which counterbalanced the advantages of the measure. He was of opinion that the tax on incomes derived from trades and professions would be of a most oppressive and unjust nature, more especially any tax on commercial property would, at the present time of distress, be peculiarly oppressive, and ought not to be submitted to. In 1833, when Mr. Robinson proposed an Income-tax, he also proposed to take off taxes on consumption to the amount of 3,000,000l, His great objection to the 1254 tax now proposed was, in consequence of its being proposed for the purpose of sustaining monopolies, while an abatement of the duty on foreign corn and sugar would have gone far to replenish the revenue, and to render the tax itself unnecessary. He also objected to the tax on the ground that it was proposed for the purpose of carrying on wars which, in his opinion, were sinful and unjust; that with the Chinese was to support a contraband trade, and to enable this country to introduce a poisonous herb into China; and in India they were endeavouring to place a tyrant over an unwilling people. The state of the revenue of the East-India Company had been put forward as a ground for the tax; but if the East-India Company had been wasteful and extravagant, he saw no reason why the House and the country ought to be called on to make up any deficiency on that account. The hon. Member then read two resolutions passed at meetings held at Rochdale, condemnatory of the tax, to the effect that—any deficiency in the revenue ought to be met, not by an Income-tax, but by a corresponding reduction in the expenditure. He did not wish to oppose the right hon. Baronet as a party man, but he felt bound to give his measure that opposition which he thought the interests of the country required. He felt surprised at the right hon. Baronet not taking into account the revenue which would arise from the increased importation of foreign cattle—he had made no estimate of revenue from this source. In opposing the Income-tax, he was greatly influenced by his having no idea how long it would be continued. The right hon. Baronet had proposed three years in the first instance, but he had not informed the House by what means he expected to be able to dispense with the tax at the end of that period. He would not trouble the House further. He felt it his duty to his constituents to state what he had done as explanatory of the vote which he intended to give.
§ Mr. T. Duncombe
said, that as this motion seemed to be treated with silence by Ministers, he wished to state very shortly how he intended to vote if the motion should be pressed to a division. He had heard, in answer to a question put to the right hon. Baronet in regard to the tariff—which, by the way, he always supposed to be part and parcel of the Income-tax measure—that the right hon 1255 Baronet was not now prepared to stand by the tariff as originally laid on the Table of the House, but that considerable modifications were to be made in that tariff. Now, what was the question involved in the motion of the hon. Member for Monmouth? Simply, that the House ought to be acquainted with the extent of the duties proposed to be reduced before it laid any additional burdens upon the people. They heard, that it was very prevalently stated throughout the country— and the farmers not quite one hundred miles from London had been told—that the tariff would be postponed, or at all events considerably modified. They were told to swallow the pill of the Income-tax, or else the right hon. Baronet would be turned out of office, and the tariff would be postponed. He did not care whether the tariff were postponed or not; but he did hope that it would not be modified or altered in any way to such a degree as not to be worthy the acceptance either of the people or the House. He felt sure, that the right hon. Baronet would feel greatly indebted to him, for giving him an opportunity of explaining whether it had ever crossed his mind to postpone the tariff. He did not believe the right hon. Gentleman had any such intention; but it was right that individuals out of doors should not be misled by persons within— that persons should not be allowed, for the sake of bolstering up a vote, to say to the farmers, "Oh, do not take alarm at the tariff; it may be postponed." The motion, in his opinion, directed itself to that point; it asked the House, before agreeing to the Income-tax, to take care and clearly to understand that the duties in the tariff were to be repealed to the extent proposed. He had always understood that the tariff and the Income-tax were to go pari passu, and that, if any accident should happen to the Tariff Bill, here or elsewhere, that the right hon. Baronet was too honourable to seek in that case to press the Income-tax. The motion ought not to have been met by the silence and by the contempt of Ministers. They had treated it as one totally undeserving their attention, while, if the right hon. Baronet had taken the trouble to read the resolution, he would have found that it contained a good deal of reason, justice, and common sense.
§ Sir Robert Peel
The hon. Gentleman had asked him whether it had ever crossed 1256 his mind to postpone the consideration of the tariff after he should have obtained the sense of the House in favour of an Income-tax. Without hesitation, he would answer that question by saying, that it never had crossed his mind to do any such thing. Some little delay had been found necessary before bringing on the discussion of the tariff, but he was sure the House would, when the matter was explained, readily acquiesce in the propriety of that delay. Many important interests would be seriously affected by the alterations proposed, and it was considered but just to give the parties an opportunity to have the subject duly weighed before the measure was introduced, in order that the tariff might undergo such changes as circumstances seemed to demand. He had great hope, that on Monday next he should be able to introduce the tariff so amended; and he thought he could state with confidence, that it would be considered by an immense majority of the House that, in the amended tariff, they had, in all its essentials, adhered to the principles of the original tariff. The delay between this and Monday arose solely from a wish on the part of the Government to hear the statements of those affected; still he was justified in saying none of the alterations would be considered as a departure from the general principle of the measure. He trusted that because of these few day's delay, the House would not refuse its consent to this preliminary resolution on which to found his measure for an Income-tax. It was very important that he should have leave to bring in the bill, in which the details and machinery of the measure would be distinctly set forth. The amended tariff must be in possession of the House before they would be called on to vote for the second reading of this bill. If then the House should consider that there was any departure from the general principles of the tariff after passing this resolution, it would be perfectly open to the House to withhold its assent to the second reading of this measure and reject it altogether. With respect to the delay of a few days, he had already stated that such a notion had never entered into his head as that imputed to him by the hon. Gentleman's observations opposite.. It was quite clear that by the general reduction of the duties he had proposed, an important question arose as to the necessity of an 1257 Income-tax. The proposed reduction in the duties would involve a sum of 1,000,000l., or 1,200,000l.; under which circumstances a little delay might not be considered unadvisable. He thought that hon. Gentlemen could not accuse him of entertaining any such notion as when endeavouring to get the House to pass this Income-tax, at the same time to be voluntarily engaged as a party to the postponement of the tariff. He had acted throughout with the most perfect good faith, and he did not think by the short postponement of the tariff that they had any reason whatever for refusing their consent to this preliminary resolution, which was necessary to have passed, to form a foundation for the introduction of the bill. The House should bear in mind that it would have the fullest opportunity of recording their dissent against the principle of this bill in its future stages. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Monmouth had said that the proposition of an Income-tax had met with universal execration. Now, his (Sir R. Peel's) impression was totally and entirely different. He, on the contrary, considered that the proposition had been received with general and universal approbation throughout the kingdom, fie would not, however, quarrel with the hon. Gentleman on this subject; but he begged to assure the House that, from the numerous communications which had been made to him, he thought there was a very strong and general impression among the commercial, manufacturing, and trading communities, since the commercial tariff and commercial policy of the country was made known, that they hoped to derive the greatest advantages from the passing of the measure, which would conduce, in a great degree to the interests and prosperity of the country. After having delayed proceeding with the measure until after the holidays in order that that tremendous burst of indignation which had been anticipated by hon. Gentlemen opposite might be allowed to have effect, every opportunity had been given for this tremendous demonstration. And if hon. Gentlemen opposite were satisfied at this loud explosion of public indignation on the subject, he could assure them he was equally well satisfied. They could then approach the consideration of the question with mutual satisfaction, as each party bad gained their end.
was glad to have the present 1258 opportunity of offering a few remarks upon the subject before the House, and of saying that he so far agreed with the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) that, finding a great deficiency of revenue, and an increasing expenditure, he had no other course to take than that of appealing to the property of the country to make good the deficiency, and at the same time to give as much relief as possible to the suffering commercial interests of the country. He said that he thus agreed with the right hon. Baronet, not because he should have been at a loss to have found some other theoretical mode of proceeding that might have been better in itself, but because in his (Sir R. Peel's) situation, he did not see what other practical course the right hon. Baronet could have adopted. Although he had stated this, yet he could not concur with the right hon. Baronet in his Income-tax. What the right hon. Baronet should have attempted, if there were any overwhelming public exigency (but he did not at present see any very severe pressure)—what he should have attempted to do, according to his view of the case, would have been to have found some less objectionable principle under which he could have brought a tax upon property to the assistance of the revenue, without having recourse to the old Income-tax, with all its inequality and unfair pressure upon the community. Agreeing as he did with the right hon. Baronet that there must be some means taken for maintaining the credit of the country, and making the revenue more adequate to the expenditure of the State, one of three modes must be adopted. They must either have recourse to further taxation upon articles of consumption, or they must endeavour to divert a part of those taxes which were now paid to support monopolists into the public Exchequer; or they must do that which the right hon. Baronet wished to do under the guise of an Income-tax, appeal to the property of the country to support the credit of the country under its present exigencies. But when he gave his general assent to the principle of the right hon. Baronet, he felt bound to say that there seemed to him to be some great errors in his budget. He thought there were some things in the budget which would have the effect of increasing the deficiency of the revenue, and which appeared to him to be perfectly uncalled for. He could not understand 1259 why they were to abandon the tax upon timber. [" The Whigs proposed it. "] He knew they had proposed an alteration, and he should have preferred the budget of last year to the one now proposed by the right hon. Baronet, if it had been practicable to carry it. Nobody recollected better than he did he difficulties his right hon. Friend (Mr. Baring) had to encounter when he was called upon to take the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer. His right hon. Friend did all that he could do. He appealed to the House to increase taxes upon articles of consumption. The House assented, as it ever would do in cases of emergency. But that failed him. The additional tax produced but a very small sum towards the amount his right hon. Friend calculated upon. Last year his right hon. Friend was very much in the same situation as the right hon. Baronet was now. His right hon. Friend was obliged to come forward to supply a deficiency in the Exchequer. His proposition was to endeavour to obtain a part of the sum abstracted from the pockets of the public by monopoly taxes, but which did not find its way into the Exchequer. He hoped to have obtained from that source a sum sufficient to meet the public wants; and he thought it was unfortunate that the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) and his party opposed that proposition. Still he would not disguise from himself that probably the sums expected to be derived from those sources were somewhat exaggerated, In principle, they were the best that could have been proposed, under the circumstances of the country. He, as an older practical observer of the workings of measures of finance, might probably not have entertained the same opinion as his right hon. Friend as to the productiveness of his measures; still, whether so or not, the alterations proposed were right, and were very creditable both to him and to the Government who supported him. It was beginning a new era in endeavouring to remove the shackles and impediments that interfered with the trade of, the country; and so far as the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) had imitated his right hon. Friend (Mr. Baring), he, on behalf of his constituents, and on the part of the commercial community, gave the right hon. Baronet his sincere thanks. But what had induced him principally to allude to this subject, was the proposition of his right hon. Friend last year in 1260 respect to the timber duties, which was to reduce the duty on foreign timber. Now his opinion last year was that the way they ought to proceed with regard to timber was to levy an additional duty on American timber at once, by way of revenue, and then, when they had more nearly equalized the duties between foreign and American timber, if the state of the finances admitted it, they might at a future day reduce the duty on both together. But the plan of the right hon. Baronet, as well as that proposed last year, was to give up the present duty. Why, he could not possibly understand. There was only one interest—the shipping interest—that could have any possible claim to such a favour. He admitted that the shipowners were entitled to every indulgence, and if they had complained, it might have been reasonable to have given them relief. But who else was there that suffered so much more from a tax upon timber than upon any other commodity? If the right hon. Baronet had proposed an additional duty of 20s. upon Canadian timber, with a view to equalize the duties on colonial and foreign timber, and then, when the state of the country admitted it, have proposed to reduce the tax on both, he could have understood it; but he could not see why, instead of imposing a certain additional sum on Canadian timber, and maintaining the present duty on foreign timber, a reduction should be made of the latter duty that would subject the revenue to a loss of above 1,000,000l. An additional duty on Canadian timber would have been raised; the trade would have borne it. He had himself fully examined this subject upwards of twenty years ago. If, indeed, compensation to the Canadians was considered necessary, there was a mode at hand. Why not take off the paltry duty of 2s. or 3s. a quarter upon Canadian wheat? He could not understand why that tax was maintained. The taking off that duty would have been a full and adequate compensation to the Canadians for any loss they might have sustained by an additional duty on timber. He could not, therefore, help thinking that the proposed reduction of duty on foreign timber was altogether a sacrifice of revenue. Then with respect to a property tax. He was not one of those who thought that there was something so sacred about property, that they could only approach a property tax in time of 1261 war. He could not conceive why property I should not at all times be taxed. It was I a source from which assistance could be most easily drawn under all circumstances, and with the least injury to the different trading interests of the country. But if it should be desirable to impose a tax upon property, why not attempt to arrive at some reasonable and equitable mode of raising that tax, especially in the peculiar times in which they now lived? He represented a great commercial city (Coventry). Let the right hon. Baronet go and witness the depression of the trade of that city, and then let the right hon. Baronet allow him to ask, whether it was fair to tax the income derived from a declining trade, or to put the persons who were engaged in that trade, and contending with the difficulties of their situation, to the obligation of either saying—" We have nothing. We lost last year; and we have nothing to return as income:" or else, for the sake of endeavouring to maintain their credit, inducing them to make a return of some reasonable average of profits? Then with respect to professions, the same hardship was produced. He thought, under the peculiar circumstances of the country, and particularly at a time when there was no great urgency in public affairs to require haste, an effort should be made to arrive at some reasonable means by which the inequalities of an Income-tax should be avoided, at the same time the revenue be maintained. This was not the only country where a property tax had been established. When Gentlemen talked of direct taxation he believed that nearly half—certainly one-third of the whole taxation of France— was derived from a direct tax upon property and, when Gentlemen talked of the impossibility of imposing a tax upon property separable from income—why, in France nobody thought of taxing profits or income, except derived from property. In the different states of Switzerland there was a property-tax. Everybody was obliged to go before a commissioner to state, beyond his landed property or other visible property, which was easily assessed by the collector, what other capital he had engaged in trade; and an average percentage was put upon that property, but there was no tax upon profits. He knew that all this led to great difficulties; he did not mean to say that they could easily adopt such a measure as this. 1262 It was one which required great care. It was much easier to walk in the footsteps of those who had gone before, and adopt a burden which they had devised, with all its inequalities and injustice, from which it was impossible an Income-tax could ever be exempt. He for one sincerely thanked the right hon. Baronet on behalf of the commercial interests of the country, for the great relief he had promised to afford by his new tariff; and he could place such confidence in the right hon. Baronet of his intention to do what he had honestly promised to do, that he could not assent to the motion of the hon. Member (Mr. Blewitt), which was, that the House should refuse to pass the right hon. Baronet's first measure for fear they should not arrive at a satisfactory result with respect to the second. He knew enough of the right hon. Gentleman to be convinced that he meant honestly to carry out the whole of the measures he had propounded; he would not, therefore, be a party to impede his course: and, above all, though most earnestly opposed to the injustice, to the inequality, and to what the right hon. Baronet would find throughout the country to be considered the odious character of an Income-tax, he would not throw any unnecessary obstacle in the way of a well regulated property-tax.
§ Mr. T. Duncombe
in explanation, disclaimed having said, that the right hon. Baronet had the intention of carrying his Income-tax, and then throwing overboard the tariff. He was sure the right hon. Baronet could not have any such intention, and he had only called upon the right hon. Baronet in consequence of what had been said out of doors, to state so explicitly to the House.
§ Sir R. Peel
What the hon. Gentleman asked was, whether it had ever crossed his (Sir R. Peel's) mind to do so; and to that he had given a distinct answer; and now he hoped the House would consent to treat this subject in a proper manner, and discuss it in committee. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Blewitt) was at liberty to divide the House upon his motion he wished to do so.
§ Mr. Blewitt
denied having said, it was the intention of the right hon. Baronet to abandon the tariff; what he said was that the right hon. Baronet might be forced to do it. Giving the right hon. Baronet full credit for a sincere and honest desire to 1263 redeem his pledge, he would with leave of the House withdraw his motion. He did not think it was in good taste for the right hon. Baronet to denominate the speech of an honest and independent Member of Parliament as an explosion. If the House would allow him he would make a prophecy. The gallant Commodore be low (Sir Charles Napier) had made a grand explosion at San Jean d'Acre; now he (Mr. Blewitt) would venture to prophesy that if the Income-tax should be carried, there would be such an explosion in the country that would blow the Members of this House from one side of it to the other.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, he had made no allusion to the hon. Member. He had remained perfectly tranquil under the hon. Member's explosion. He spoke of the explosion which was threatened to break out in the country during the holidays— an explosion created by the universal execration with which this measure would be met throughout the kingdom.
§ Motion withdrawn, House in Committee.
read the resolution formerly moved by Sir Robert Peel as follows—That it is the opinion of this committee that, towards raising the supply granted to her Majesty, there be charged annually, during a term to be limited, the several rates and duties following, that is to say; for and in respect of the property in any lands, tenements, or hereditaments, and for and in respect of every annuity, pension, or stipend, payable by her Majesty, or out of the public revenue of the United Kingdom; and for and in respect of all interest of money, annuities, dividends, and shares of annuities payable to any person or persons, bodies politic or corporate, companies or societies, whether corporate or not corporate; and for and in respect of the annual profits or gains arising or accruing to any person or persons whatever, resident in Great Britain, from any kind of property whatever, whether situate in Great Britain or elsewhere, or from any annuities, allowances or stipends, or from any profession, trade, or vocation, whether the same shall be respectively exercised in Great Britain or elsewhere; and for and in respect of the annual profits or gains arising and accruing to any person or persons not resident within Great Britain, from any property whatever in Great Britain, or from any trade, profession, or vocation, exercised in Great Britain; for every twenty shillings of the annual value or amount thereof, seven-pence.
§ Question put, and resolution carried.1264
then read the second branch of the resolution—For and in respect of the occupation of any lands, tenements or hereditaments (other than a dwelling house occupied by a tenant distinct from a farm of lands), for every twenty shillings of the annual value thereof, three-pence half-penny.
§ Mr. M. Gibson
said, that the right hon. Baronet had made a statement so completely the reverse from those made by the hon. Member (Mr. Blewitt) as to the feeling of the country upon the question of the Income-tax that he was sorry they had not the opportunity of ascertaining the fact in the most legitimate way; namely, by receiving the petitions of the people. They had no opportunity to receive petitions on this question. He was glad to hear the hon. Member for Fins-bury say he should take the sense of the House upon the propriety of the rule as to not receiving petitions at certain stages of any measure. The right hon. Baronet, by way of inducing hon Members to vote for the Income-tax, had promised that it should only last three years. He could not see any reason, if the tax was necessary now, why it should be less necessary in three years' time. The right hon. Baronet had laid it down that the deficiency of the revenue was a permanent and not a casual deficiency, and that if nothing were done to prevent this disparity between the revenue and the expenditure, the deficiency would last. What had the right hon. Baronet proposed that would enable them to dispense with this tax in three years' time? It was true he had brought forward a tariff reform, by which he said he would revive the trade of the country, make the customs duties more productive, and thus increase the expenditure of the country. No doubt such a policy would in time have the effect the right hon. Baronet anticipated, but it must be by bolder and more comprehensive measures than were now proposed. Talk of the visionary theorists of the Anti Corn-law League. Why, the right hon. Baronet expected a larger result from his commercial reform than ever was expected by the most sanguine and visionary enthusiast. He could not conceive how the right hon. Baronet could suppose, that at the end of three years four millions could be derived from other sources than those now open to him, in consequence of his commercial reform. Therefore, knowing 1265 how much they had heard of the impropriety of holding forth expectations which could not be fulfilled, and of the impolicy of giving rise to hopes which would afterwards be disappointed, he concluded there must be other commercial reforms coming, but which for the present were postponed—perhaps an alteration in the duties on foreign sugar. Some treaty perhaps with Brazils, or some other ground caused its postponement. There must be some such circumstance in order to justify the right hon. Baronet in holding out the expectation that this Income-tax could be dispensed with at the end of three years. He could only say that if there were any new reforms to be made—if, for instance, there were any proposition to come forward for equalizing the duties on inheritable real property with the duties on personal property if there were any such intentions on the part of Government, he regretted that they were not brought forward now: because he thought, on a future occasion, the right hon. Baronet would not find the same subserviency as that which supported him now. The time of Parliament would be advanced, and Members would soon have to meet their constituents, and they would not be so subservient, so docile, nor so willing to be led wherever the right hon. Baronet might be disposed to lead them. But he entertained no hopes of such measures, and he feared that if the Income-tax should be now adopted it would become a permanent part of our system. And why not, if it were so just a tax as the right hon. Baronet said it was? If every one would pay according to his means to support the State, and according to the degree of benefit he derived from the State, he would ask why should the right hon. Baronet hold out the hope that he would give up so good a tax at the end of three years? If the tax were so good and so just, why, when there should be a surplus, instead of giving up this tax, should he not give up taxes on consumption, which the right hon. Baronet himself said were so injurious and unjust? Thus, the argument of the right hon. Baronet is not consistent. He says, "I will put on a good tax; but I will give it up at the end of three years, and will maintain all those which are so injurious." He had not at present given his own opinion upon the Income-tax; and before he did so, as he might be supposed to have spoken in dis- 1266 paraging terms on the tariff, he wished to say that he should not be expressing his own opinion or the opinions of his constituents if he were to say that in the tariff' there were not many improvements, and which were not considered both by himself and by them to be a more free system of commerce. He did not go so far as the Agricultural Advocate, which had stated that the Anti-Corn-law League had found in Sir Robert Peel a fit minister for their purposes, because he believed the reductions, were, in many instances, of so trifling a character, and the articles affected so insignificant, that the alterations amounted to little more than mere make believe. He considered the doing away of prohibition on the introduction of foreign cattle, although the duties were still high, to be a step in the right direction, which would lead to great improvements in our commercial system. He regretted, however, that the right hon. Baronet had not made a bolder attack upon the system of protection. The right hon. Baronet had quoted the opinion of Mr. Deacon Hume, a man of deservedly high authority, looked up to by the Anti-Corn-law League and their party; but he wished the right hon. Baronet had thought of one quotation when making his alterations in the tariff; he wished the right hon. Baronet had thought of the saying of Mr. Deacon Hume, "that people cannot pay private taxes and public taxes too." He wished that instead of reducing those duties which went into the Exchequer, the right hon. Baronet had made a bold attack upon those taxes paid by the consumer, but which did not go into the Exchequer, but into the pockets of private classes. The West India proprietors secured to themselves the difference between the duty of 8d. on foreign coffee and 4d. on colonial. The question he had put to himself was this: Supposing the commercial reform proposed by the right hon. Baronet would produce the effects he himself anticipated, and there was a deficiency in the revenue, ought he to consent to an Income-tax? In considering this question it was necessary for him to bear in mind that they were not about to enter upon a large, a bold, a comprehensive scheme of fair taxation. They were engaged in no such scheme. The plan of the right hon. Baronet was only to levy a contribution for a given period in a certain way upon the country. Now, he 1267 contended that this particular way did distribute the burden of contribution unjustly upon the people. The right hon. Baronet had professed that he wished to take from all parties according to their means, but he failed to realise his professions, because he exacted from persons in trade, and from persons who lived by their learning and faculties, as much as from individuals of real property. He appealed to every man, Conservative or Liberal, whether this was just, and moreover whether they would sanction injustice with their eyes open? Did not such flagrant injustice invite every species of evasion? As an excuse the necessity of the State had been urged, but what necessity was greater than that of being just? The very plea of necessity showed that the proposers of the law knew it to be unjust. The right hon. Baronet had said that all taxation must be unjust; financial science had not yet discovered the means of imposing taxes with equality. He begged to know whether the experiment of imposing taxes equally had ever been tried? The Income-tax formerly adopted had failed; it had been weighed in the balance and found wanting, on account of its inequality It had been the studied endeavour of the framers of our laws not to levy taxation equally, but to ascertain how they could favour particular classes, and shift the burden from the shoulders of one party to those of another. If half the zeal, half the energy, half the ingenuity displayed in making taxation unequal, had been evinced in making it equal, we should have now heard no complaints of injustice and oppression. The right hon. Baronet had said much of the exhaustive process; but he seemed to have avoided some obvious sources of taxation, and his politicial opponents could have given him a useful lesson upon this point, but they were right in not giving it, upon the very principle stated by the right hon. Baronet at Tam-worth, when he said he would not prescribe until he was called in. Not only was the tax unjust in itself, but it was unjust in its mode of collection; to realize the sum calculated upon, the Income-tax must be levied with the utmost strictness and severity, and the system existing of old must be revived, of employing persons to give information against those who were supposed not to have given in a fair account of their incomes. Spies and informers must be set to work, and a pecu- 1268 niary interest must be given to them in the additional amount they procured for the Exchequer. Could anything more obnoxious or more repugnant to English feelings be devised? Mr. Pitt imposed 10 per cent., and endeavoured to raise a revenue from it by a lax system, but finding it unavailing he imposed 5 per cent., and collecting that with rigour, by the aid of spies and informers, he found that it produced him as large a revenue as the 10 per cent. When the right hon. Baronet taunted the opposition side of the House that there had been no explosion, no expression of public feeling, he ought to recollect that the people of this country never began to move until they began to smart. Depend upon it, all in good time, the right hon. Baronet would find quite as loud an explosion as he could desire, but it might be the intention of the present Cabinet to impose this tax for a short time, and then to get a new lease of popularity by repealing it. This might be a good party manœuvre, although the right hon. Baronet might not have given his consent to it. He (Mr. Gibson) believed that it would prove a mere delusion to promise that the Income-tax would be repealed in three years: it would prove a delusion also that any important articles of consumption would be reduced in price: the tax would be most unequal and oppressive, and the collection of it odious and injurious. On all grounds, therefore, he should resist the imposition of it.
§ Mr. Wason
proceeded to say, that there was in fact no question before the committee: the first resolution, if he were not mistaken, had been put and carried. The hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Rice) had risen before the question was put and after it had been carried, but had not persevered in his intention to address the House, because the hon. Member for Southwark had informed him that the resolution had been agreed to. He wished to know whether he was correct in saying that the resolution had been put and passed?
(the Chairman) was not aware that the hon. Member for Dover had risen. He had certainly put the question upon the resolution, and, after a pause, had declared that he thought the ayes had it.
§ Mr. Wallace
had come down to take part in the debate, having hitherto been prevented from attending by indisposition.
1269 He had not heard one word of the resolution read from the Chair, nor did he even hear the Chairman declare that the ayes had it. He believed, however, that it was quite open to any Member to discuss the whole question on the second resolution. For his own part, he had been taken by surprise, and at a disadvantage.
§ Sir E. Knatchbull
had no doubt that the hon. Member had not heard the question put, but that it had been deliberately put he was quite sure, and that it had been heard by Gentlemen standing below the bar. The hon. Member for Dover had certainly risen twice, but twice he had resumed his seat. He had sat long in the House, and could assert that he never heard a question put more distinctly and deliberately: afterwards there was almost a dead silence, indicating surprise that no Member on the opposition benches rose to speak.
§ Mr. Hawes
observed that the Chairman, quite unintentionally he was sure, had put the question in a tone of voice, and with a rapidity of utterance calculated to take off attention. He should not have said so but for the solemn and emphatic manner of the right hon. Baronet when asserting the contrary. He was sitting close to the Table at the time, and had not heard the question put, and left his seat to ask the Chairman whether he had in fact put it. All the Members round him had participated in his doubts, and some Members on the Treasury bench seemed to look with extreme surprise when they found that the question had been put and carried. Nobody had risen to speak, because they were not aware that the opportunity had arrived, much less that it had been lost.
had sat near the Table, and did not hear the question put. The effect was, that those who objected to the resolution had been deprived of the opportunity of voting against it; but many other occasions would offer themselves.
§ Mr. T. Duncombe
did not consider it of much importance whether the committee divided upon the first or second resolution. He, for one, had not heard a syllable of what was read by the Chairman, excepting when he declared that the ayes had it. He hoped that the hon. Gentle man would speak louder in future. He was quite sure that the right hon. Baronet would not take advantage of the accident.
§ Mr. Lindsay
stated that he had dis- 1270 tinctly heard the question put when he was below the bar and outside the green door.
Mr. V. Smith
remarked, that in that case the Chairman was much better heard out of the House than in it. He had not heard the resolution read, but merely the declaration that it was carried; it certainly was not read in the usual solemn and formal manner. If the second resolution were even successfully resisted, the right hon. Baronet would be able to found his measure upon the first resolution.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, that hon. Gentlemen could hardly plead ignorance of the resolution itself, seeing that it had been upon the notice paper for about the last three weeks. At the same time, they might not be aware when it was actually passed. He was certainly aware of the course taken by the Chairman, and heard him say that the ayes had it. He was surprised that it had passed, and that no hon. Member on the other side had risen to oppose it. He admitted that there had been some inadvertence, but still the resolution had been passed; and it would be a course of extreme danger to endeavour to reverse the vote. The debate might proceed on the second resolution, but it seemed to him that it would be much better to enter into a discussion of the whole question on the report. It was not his wish to take undue advantage of any accident.
§ Alderman Humphery
observed, that he was sitting near the Table, and could assert that the question was put most deliberately. He had not seen the hon. Member for Dover rise until the Chairman had said that the ayes had it.
said, that he had risen after the right hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. Ellice), being desirous of saying that it was especially necessary at this period for this country to display the extent of her energies and resources. He would not treat this as a party question, and he believed that the proposal was founded upon the best economy. It was perfectly consistent for the Members of the late Administration to resist the Income-tax, because they had proposed to augment the revenue by reducing the burdens of the people; but he should offer no opposition to the measure of the right hon. Baronet. At the same time he must say, that to tax fluctuating incomes in the same degree as. fixed property, was a great injustice, and he hoped that some remedy might be found for it. He had always been in favour of 1271 direct taxation, and so far as this tax was direct, he approved of it. A large sum must be raised for the exigencies of the State, and he was willing to give a candid consideration to any proposal to meet the necessities of the public service. On this account, he should not resist the introduction of the bill.
§ Mr. Gibson
explained that he had understood the right hon. Baronet to say that be could not discriminate the sources of income, and would rather abandon his plan than attempt to make the discrimination.
§ Sir R. Peel
had been misunderstood on that point. He had never said, "I propose my plan, and you can make no alterations in it." He had merely stated that the tax ought to be in proportion to income, and that for that purpose he would take the principle of former acts. He had heard nothing in the slightest degree to shake his opinion that the tax should be imposed upon income, and not exclusively upon property, nor was there any ground for saying that it was only a resource for time of war. A tax upon income was the basis of his financial policy, and he meant to defend that principle to the utmost; but he had never said that he would abandon it because some alteration might be made in the details; he had never held out any such expectation as that he would abandon the tax altogether because the House might be against him on some particular point.
§ Mr. Gibson
recollected the words of the right hon. Baronet very distinctly, and the published reports would confirm his memory. The right hon. Baronet had said, There ought to be no discrimination as to the sources from which income may be derived; and if you attempt to remit the tax upon any principle which has reference to the sources from which income is derived, we must abandon the tax altogether." Such was then the language of the right hon. Baronet, although he might be disposed now to admit of modifications.
§ Sir R. Peel
added, that he did not recognise the justice of the principle of discriminating, and he meant to do all in his power to carry the tax upon the principle he had stated in the outset.
explained that he was not in favour of exempting incomes derived from professions, but of modifying the tax as regarded them.
§ Mr. Wallace
said, that he had been a 1272 commissioner under the former Income-tax, and was acquainted with the working of the whole system. Wherever he had been of late, he had heard the inequality of the tax reprobated, whether by men in business, or by such as were engaged in agriculture; but all admitted that the right hon. Baronet had managed it with great tact and apparent cunning, in order that one portion of the House might be set against another. Thus the Members for Ireland were arrayed against those of England and Scotland, by relieving that country from the operation of an Income-tax. The reason was, that the right hon. Baronet had no machinery there by which to work it, inasmuch as no assessed taxes existed in Ireland; he could establish no system of espionage in that country. He could speak from his own knowledge of the oppressiveness and injustice of the tax in former times, when he was a commissioner. It was objectionable, not merely because it was burdensome, but because it was inquisitorial, and, therefore, odious. He was a young man at the time, and in a very short time he found his duties so painful, and incompatible with the feelings of a gentleman, that he had told his father that he would no longer continue an actor in such a scene of iniquity. If he were not much mistaken, the right hon. Baronet would find difficulties of this kind in his way on the present occasion. He was speaking of the day when 10 per cent, was exacted, and on this occasion there was no difference in point of principle, and very little in point of practice; for the right hon. Baronet had passed a bill which nearly brought 10s. to the value of 20s. That bill and the enormous amount of the national debt with which the right hon. Baronet's predecessors had saddled the nation, were at the root of the evils under which we now suffered, and not the seven or eight millions that the late Ministers had allowed to go into arrear. If it were true that we were at war with three or four different countries, why did we not borrow money as we had done before? and if we were not at war, why did they not postpone the tax? He had himself sat as a commissioner of the Land-tax with men of different classes, with landowners, with merchants, and once with a wine merchant, who were strict scrutinizers of income, wanting to know how other people got through the world better than themselves. They were, indeed, sworn to secrecy, but 1273 somehow or other it all got wind, the clerks perhaps peached, and it was no uncommon thing to hear it asked, "Is it true that Mr. So-and-so has only such an income?" How would landowners like all their In cumbrances and family allowances thus made known? Then, again as to commercial men supposed to have large incomes, they might have lost much the year before, but they would be glad to pay a large tax upon what they did not possess, because if their customers knew that they had lost so much the year before, their trade would be destroyed altogether. They would, therefore, give an income which they did not possess, and injure themselves, rather than lessen their credit. The right hon. Baronet now estimated the produce at a small sum, but he believed it would be much larger; the screw would be put on to a great extent. He knew how it was done before, for he had been a commissioner of the assessed taxes from the time he was born, he might say. [Laughter.] He might raise a laugh, but it was true. The assessed tax commissioners in Scotland were generally the justices of the peace, and he was himself on the list of justices when he was eleven years old, and became a justice on attaining twenty-one, just because he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. That was the reason why they bad so many discreditable magistrates in Scotland: they succeeded as justices as they succeeded as heritors. And having seen what had been in Scotland under the old act, he wished to put the people on their guard as to the machinery employed. He should have other opportunities for discussion, but he now objected to the measure on every ground, both as a Member of the House and as a member of the community; and he had no hesitation in saying, as far as he could judge, that the people approved of the conduct of those Members who had stopped this measure, and sincerely thanked them, whilst they did not like those Members of the late Ministry who went out of the House at a certain hour of the night, and left their posts undefended. The people highly approved of the conduct of the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. T. Duncombe), and thought him their best friend. The people did not understand what the word "factious" meant; they thought that the Radical Members had only done their duty, and could not distinguish between faction and duty. Those who had been 1274 absent on the recent division had not done their duty.
had thought there had been a growing feeling in the country in favour of direct taxation, and he thought also that this mode had found great favour with hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. Although he did not concur in that opinion, he had felt great satisfaction in finding such a mode of taxation adopted by the right hon. Baronet, as fixed a great portion of the other side of the House to support it. He was aware that the Income-tax might give rise to some injustice in respect to annuities, and as to incomes derived from taxes and salaries; though he did not see that they should go entirely free, yet he admitted that there was some hardship in putting the same tax on incomes which depended on the exertions of individuals, and might be interrupted by illness, as on more permanent incomes. Holding these opinions, the simple question was, whether the urgency was so great as to make up for these defects? He thought that it was, and that her Majesty's Government were fully justified in their proposal. In a great country like this, the revenue should be equal to the expenditure, or rather exceed it; and they were called upon to adopt some mode of taxation in which there should be no uncertainty. Hon. Gentlemen opposite were always professing themselves favourable to commercial reform, and they ought to prefer, as he did, the tariff of the right hon. Baronet to their own, especially that part of it which related to the timber duties; for the late measure would have deeply injured Ireland —it would probably have thrown much Canadian timber out of the market; this would stop emigration to Canada, and in proportion as they stopped that emigration, they would inflict an injury on Ireland. It was said that Ireland was to be exempted from the Income-tax, but it had to pay two other new duties, and he confessed that if money must be raised, he preferred taking it by a tax on spirits, which would operate as a discouragement to intemperance. He would, however, call the attention of the right hon. Baronet to one or two parts of that tariff. That which enabled vessels to procure for themselves foreign provisions, had given rise in Ireland to great complaints; and as to foreign cattle, he did not think there would be a great increase, but there should 1275 be a higher duty on fat cattle than on lean. Upon starch also, the reduction of duty was very great, and he hoped to see it increased to 10s. He would, however, support the right hon. Baronet, for if the alternative were between the Government of the right hon. Baronet and a new Government to be formed by hon. Gentle men opposite, the only course which he had to pursue was clear.
§ Mr. Wakley
thought, that the committee was proceeding with this discussion at a very great disadvantage; and the main resolution having been carried, he could not discover that any benefit could arise from a division being taken against a minor proposition; but he thought that hon. Members near him should rather strive to muster all their force for the purpose of opposing the general measure at a future stage of the proceeding. With regard to the manner in which the first resolution had been put to the House, he begged to assure the hon. Chairman that he had not heard it. He was, at the moment when it was put, engaged in a conversation with some hon. Friends near him upon the propriety of adjourning the debate to another evening, and it had not reached his ears; but he begged to suggest, that for the future convenience of the committee the Chairman should vociferate "Order, order," in as loud a tone of voice as he could command, before he put any proposition for adoption. He thought that it would be improper now to go into a discussion of the proposition which had been already decided; but there was one matter before the committee affecting the landed interests of the country, on which he would offer a few remarks. It had been always felt in all countries, and in all ages, that taxation, to be useful, should be drawn from the people according to their means of bearing it, and that there should be no inequalities in its operation. His constituents asked him why it was that a special provision was made for the farmer, and that no such provision was made for any other portion of the trading community of this country? And they referred to the proposition of the right hon. Baronet at the head of her Majesty's Government by which farmers were ex empted from the scrutiny—that oppressive, annoying, and torturing ordeal which tradesmen were to undergo in giving an account of their income. He believed, that the right hon, Baronet had applied 1276 all the powers of his intellect to remedy the difficulties in which the country was placed, and he had successfully applied his mind to the necessities of the empire; but in looking at the tariff which he had proposed for the relief of the nation, it appeared that his will was at variance with his proposal. Let them look to the proposal with reference to the exemption of the farmer from the scrutiny. The committee had heard the statement made by the hon. Member for Greenock with regard to the course of conduct of the commissioners under the old acts. Was it nothing to undergo such a scrutiny as he had described? Was it nothing to be questioned —for a man to be put upon his oath—to be treated with contempt, and insult— and though he had given his evidence on oath, for that evidence to be rejected as unworthy of unbelief? This system was not to be applied to parties connected with the agricultural interests of the country; and in answer to the question of his constituents, why such an exemption should be made, he could only refer them to the right hon. Baronet himself, for he confessed his inability to discover any satisfactory reason for it. But it was said out of doors, that by reason of the removal of the prohibition upon the introduction of cattle, the farmer would be ruined. For his own part, he thought that the agriculturist need be under no apprehensions whatever upon this score, for he thought that before the proposition of the right hon. Baronet had been submitted to the House, his calculations had been very shrewdly made, and he was satisfied that the farming interests would suffer no injury from its adoption. He believed that if the necessities of the country demanded a sacrifice, the people were perfectly willing to submit to it; that they were quite prepared to support the honour of the nation by whatever means might be deemed requisite. But they denied that there was-any necessity for the sacrifice which was called for, and they demanded that if it was enforced, its weight should fall equally upon all classes. What was the first proposition with regard to the farmer? It was, that if the farmer's rent was under 300l. per annum, whatever his profits might be—whatever amount of capital might be invested in his establishment, he should be free from the scrutiny; and that, after all, was the great, the master grievance; and should besides be subject to no 1277 Income-tax. Then, going above 300l. per annum, supposing the rent of the farmer to be above 300l. a year, his profit was to be assessed at one-half his rent. What, he asked, was the justice of this resolution? He would tell the right hon. Baronet what was passing out of doors— what were the opinions expressed upon this subject by those who were entitled to express their feelings and views. It was believed that this proposition was made to keep the 50l. tenants in good humour—that it was a "sop to Cerberus," to satisfy the great land monster of the country. He had heard no satisfactory explanation of this part of the case from the right hon. Baronet. He believed that the right hon. Baronet had the greatest possible difficulties to contend with—he unhesitatingly admitted that he had never known a ministry assuming office under circumstances of greater difficulty, but he thought that some explanation upon the point to which he had adverted was requisite. Then, what was the state of the case with reference to the tariff, and the Corn-law? He believed that the right hon. Baronet himself did not consider that he should reduce the price of bread in this country by the proposal which he had made in reference to the introduction of foreign wheat into England. The tradesman said to this, "See the reduction the Minister is proposing on articles of foreign manufacture; but surely when such a reduction is made, a similar reduction should be made in the price of food," and he thought that this was a very fair and just observation. It was exceedingly difficult to know whether any reduction in the price of food would be made by the measure of the right hon. Baronet, and he believed that those who were most conversant with the subject declared their conviction that there would be no reduction effected; the experiment of the right hon. Baronet might regulate trade with reference to the introduction of foreign corn, but he was convinced that in the actual price of bread no change would be effected favourable to the working man. Looking at the tariff, they found that many of the duties, which were called protective duties, were reduced 50 per cent, and upwards, and they were told that this was done for the benefit of the working classes: but the working people came to him and said—" As the price of food is not to be lowered, are these reduc- 1278 tions fair?" Articles of brass, bronze, pewter, copper, shoes, gloves, furs, were all to be admitted at reduced duties; but the working classes declared, that as the consequence of this measure their ruin was inevitable. He believed that the right hon. Boronet desired most sincerely to benefit the country, but he thought that if he gave his proposition some new consideration, he would draw the conclusion which had already been drawn by others, that it was injurious to the interests of the working classes, in permitting the introduction of articles of foreign manufacture at reduced prices, while it did not make a corresponding reduction in the price of food. Something had been said of the introduction of cattle, and of the consequent injury which would be produced to the landed interests of Scotland, and also of Ireland. He was sure that if the landed interests of England would only investigate this subject with a proper feeling, and with a due consideration for the wants and necessities of the empire, if they would but reflect on the immense amount of wealth which they had accumulated in consequence of giving freedom, and therefore increased energy to the commerce of the country, they would be satisfied that the security of their own possessions would be best attained by an extension of that system which had been already commenced. He hoped, therefore that the right hon. Baronet would again take his propositions into consideration; and notwithstanding the clamour raised among interested parties out of doors, see whether it was not consistant with his duty to bring forward a resolution for the purpose of reducing wheat to a lower price, so as to enable the working people of this country to compete with the foreign artificer—an object which, if he gained, he was convinced would secure him the blessings of millions of his fellow country men.
§ Mr. Stuart Wortley
thought that the answer to the question, which the hon. Member who had just sat down had put to the right hon. Baronet, was obvious. It was this—that in the case of the agricultural tenant, there was a test as to the amount of property on which the assessment should be laid, whereas with respect to persons who derive a subsistence from trade no such test existed. With regard to the proposition between rent paid by the tenant, and tax imposed upon him, 1279 there might be room for discussion, but that was a question entirely different from that upon which the hon. Gentleman had relied, and into which he should not enter. The hon. Gentleman, he thought, had quite miscalculated the result of the measure of the right hon. Baronet with reference to its result upon the landed interests of the country; for he fully believed that the new tariff and the proposed Corn-law would have a most material effect upon the prices of the food of the working classes. In the article of corn alone he believed the reduction of duty would amount to not less than 130 per cent. For his own part he should have been exceedingly willing to have seen a measure adopted with a view to a reduction of the Income-tax in the case of persons engaged in trades and professions. If such a course could be taken without any serious damage being done to the scheme of the right hon. Baronet—and he really hoped that the right hon. Baronet would exert all his ingenuity, and adopt any suggestion which might be offered to him, with a view to carry out this object—which could be adopted without endangering the general success of the measure which he had proposed.
Mr. Hope Johnstone
would press upon the attention of the right hon. Baronet the case of the farmers of Scotland, who, so far from realising a profit from their agricultural exertions of one-half the amount of their rent, were, in reality, in a far inferior position. If the opportunity were afforded them, he was persuaded they would be able to prove this fact by evidence at the bar of the House.
§ Sir R. Peel
I hope the House will bear in mind the two speeches which have just been delivered on this subject; I mean the speech of my hon. Friend who has just sat down, and that of the other hon. Gentleman, the Member for Fins-bury. The latter Gentleman seems to hint that favour was shown to agricultural income, for the purpose of conciliating political opponents; and spoke of rumours being afloat, that the present proposition was brought forward for that purpose. On the other hand, my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Johnstone) contends, that it is unjust to the agricultural tenants to assume that their income ought to be estimated at one-half the rental, and denies that such is the case, as regards that class of persons in Scotland. I hope that 1280 the conflicting opinions contained in these two speeches will serve to convince the House that it was the intention of Government to attempt to deal out an equal measure of justice to all parties. 1 can, at all events, assure those hon. Gentlemen and also the House, which I hope will support me in carrying through the mea ' sure successfully, that in making the proposition there was no intention to conciliate any political parties in the country, the only object being to deal as fairly as possible between the producer and the consumer. I am relieved by the speech of the hon. Member for Finsbury, from some difficulty which I might have in an swering various communications I have received, the whole tenour of which was, that the proposed financial scheme went in wholly in favour of the manufacturer, and dealt with much injustice by the agriculturists. It will afford some satisfaction to the parties so complaining to hear from the hon. Member for Finsbury that there will be no material reduction in the price of corn, and that upon this point the agricultural classes are labouring under a delusion. The statements of the hon. Gentleman are so completely different from the communications which I have received that I owe him some acknowledgement for assisting me to dispel the alarm which existed on the part of the agricultural body. The hon. Gentleman dwelt strongly upon the favour which the proposition conferred upon the agriculturists as compared with the manner in which it would operate upon manufacturers, and the hardship to which those latter would be subjected by a scrutiny into their trade. I hold in my hand a statement made to the Government on the part of the farmers with respect to the proposed financial plan. This document states that they have never, with the exception of one or two favourable years, made a profit on their farms, including the interest of their capital, nearly equal to half their rents, and that for the last six years there has been a, succession of bad crops, which has made the return for their labour and outlay very inadequate. They conclude by saying, that they do not object to an Income-tax, that they are quite willing to pay their fair proportion of the necessary burdens of the State, and that all they desire is, that they should not be dealt with according to an arbitrary rule, different from that applied to 1281 other branches of the community, and which, in their own individual case, they think would be attended with injustice, affecting not only themselves but the public at large. The hon. Gentleman opposite says I am unjust to the agricultural interest. To what part of them is that observation meant to apply ! [Mr. Wallace:To my own country.] Oh! to your own country only. The manner in which, in former periods, the Income-tax has been applied to those engaged in agricultural pursuits, has been by calculating the profits of the farmer on a certain proportion which they have been assumed to bear to the rent. That proportion I reduce from three-fourths to one-half, from a perfect conviction that the rent of the farmer has been raised in proportion to his profits, and because I do believe that reduction to be consistent with justice. I am quite willing to admit, that there are circumstances in respect to Scotland which may make some difference. There are modifications in the act of 1806 which apply to the Scottish farmers. Allowances were made to them on account of the exemption of the land from the payment of tithe. There are also circumstances, I am ready to admit, as to the mode in which county and local charges are borne in England and Scotland, which require some consideration. All I can state is,; that I wish to put the Scottish farmer as nearly as may be on the same footing as the English farmer, which is, I think, demanded by justice. I apprehend the I peculiarity of the case is, that local charges in that country being generally borne by the landlord, and in England by the tenant, that constitutes a reason why a difference was made in the former act; and I readily admit, that it would not be quite fair to tax the tenants of the two countries in precisely the same ratio. With respect to the general question of imposing this tax, I find throughout the country, as 1 have said in the course of this evening, a strong sense of the necessity of some vigorous exertion for the restoration of the national finances. I find also, I must say, that interest felt in the maintenance of public credit which induces all parties to come forward with cheerfulness, and take their share in the burdens which may be necessary for this purpose. When it comes to the question of imposing taxes, I must, say, I think it highly creditable to this country that there is a generally prevailing 1282 inclination to make an exertion for the maintenance of national honour and good faith. I must say also, of the agricultural interest in particular, that I have found among them the greatest willingness to bear their part of taxation, and I am perfectly certain that the prevalence of that feeling will ensure ultimate success to this attempt to equalise the expenditure with the income of Government. At the same time, however, I must say, that concurrently with that general acquiescence, there is on the part of every interest in the country a universal desire to remonstrate against any interference with them, each saying that they are the part of the community which is most hardly treated by the tax. The hon. Gentleman opposite says, for instance, that there is no reduction in the protection to articles of food corresponding with the reduction which I propose in articles of manufacture. It was impossible for me, in dealing with interests so extensive and so complicated, not to anticipate that I should receive remonstrances of that kind. But the consolation which I and my Colleagues have is this—the consciousness that in dealing with those interests we have attempted to do justice, and not to conciliate support. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester said at one time that he was perfectly convinced this tax would be a permanent one, and at another time he said he was perfectly convinced the outcry against it would be so great that a repeal must immediately take place. He said I had promised a repeal of the tax at the end of five years. I begged to remind him of what I really did say. I said I thought a fair experiment could not be made with respect to the tariff in less than five years; but at the same time I proposed that the duration of the tax should be limited to three years, and I reserved to Parliament the full power of determining whether or not the tax should be continued. That was the statement I made; but I am perfectly certain, if the tax should receive that strong opposition with which I am threatened by Gentlemen on the other side, and if the general sense of the country be decidedly against it, that, at the end of three years, Parliament will be unwilling to continue it; but if no such aversion to it should be manifested, then I must say, I hope, that at the end of the period of three years Parliament will consent to the continuance of it for 1283 such a period as the public exigencies may require, and it will be for Parliament itself to determine the length of that period on a comparison of the advantages of the tax with its inconveniences. Feeling every confidence that the reduction which I propose in the protective duties will afford ample scope to the development of the energies of the community, I entertain the hope, that unless circumstances not now foreseen should arise, there may be an opportunity of putting an end to this tax at the expiration of the period of five years to which I have referred, but I have a very strong impression that its imposition in the meantime will be for the general benefit of the whole country. With respect to the reduction of the protective duties on corn I have always said that I thought there ought to be a corresponding reduction in the protection on manufactured articles. I propose a reduction of the protection on all articles, almost indiscriminately, on corn and provisions, as well as on manufactured goods. I entertain now the confident belief that there will be from the combined result of all these measures that which I think will be highly desirable to this country,— a reduction in the general expenditure of the people on articles necessary to their subsistence and to their comforts. We shall then bold out an increased temptation to Gentlemen to remain at home, instead of spending their money abroad. I entertain the confident belief, that speaking generally, there will be. on account of the reduction in the price of living—a reduction, be it observed, in the benefit of which the agriculturist will participate equally with the manufacturer and the labourer—a pecuniary saving in the amount of weekly, monthly, and annual expenditure, which will compensate, very nearly, if not altogether, for those sums, whatever they may be, which individuals are called upon to contribute on account of the tax of 3 per cent, on their incomes. Sir, I hope that this House, after having discussed the subject, will come to the conclusion which 1 have formed, and which further reflection has confirmed, that the present situation of the country does require a vigorous exertion to be made, and that the House will consent to enable us to make the experiment of restoring our finances to prosperity by a tax on the income of the country. If they resolve on an Income-tax, then I hope they will adopt the principle of that 1284 Income-tax which has been in force in former years. I hope they will feel, that there can be no distinction expedient in time of peace, in respect of the nature of the income taxed, which might not be appealed to in time of war; and in establishing an Income-tax for a limited time, I hope they will take special care not to establish any precedent which would have a tendency to impair the efficiency of that instrument which you may be compelled to call into action in time of war, and on which your chief reliance may, perhaps, be placed for enabling you to make the income of the country in time of war in some degree correspond with its expenditure. I trust the House will never lose sight of the importance of keeping this principle un infringed, and if an Income-tax is to be taken, whether in time of peace or of war, I hope the country will see the justice of a proposal to subject the income of individuals to equal taxation. If, in time of peace, you make exceptions in favour of persons holding a life interest, or holding offices, I do say you will be establishing a precedent to which in time of war an appeal may be made with equal justice. I should be inclined, Sir, to doubt the policy of an income-tax at all, if you could not have resort to it without establishing a precedent which might lead to the most dangerous consequences.
Lord J. Russell
entirely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman in the principle he had laid down, that it would be most unadvisable to impair the efficiency of such a powerful instrument of taxation as an Income-tax, and it was for that reason he should be unwilling to vote in favour of any particular exemptions which might be proposed. Therefore it was, that he felt disinclined now to entertain the proposal of such a tax at all, because he felt, that if you called upon the country to make a great effort of this kind, and if the country found the burden to be very oppressive and very galling, you would, in a certain degree, prejudice any demand which might be made for large contributions in time of war. It appeared that the House had now to deal only with a particular part of the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman, and he wished to say a few words only on this part of the subject. The right hon. Gentleman said, he looked to the principles on which the former Income-tax was levied in fixing the proportion which was to be borne by the agricul- 1285 turists. He must say, he thought the right hon. Baronet had made a mistake as to the amount of rent which he had selected as the lowest standard on which the Income-tax was to be levied, and that change now made would be very injurious, because, while there were some estates on which, the farms being large, the tenants would have to pay the tax, there were other estates where the tenants, having small farms, would not be liable to any tax at all. If this tax were to last for a certain number of years, the landlord of the latter would derive an advantage which the proprietor of the former would not possess. He thought it was not advisable in any scheme of taxation to favour any particular mode in which a proprietor might choose to let his land. Consequently the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman had this injurious effect which had not attended the former Income-tax. The observation made by an hon. Gentleman representing a part of Scotland, with respect to difference between the Scotch and English tenants, was also deserving of consideration. Under the former Income-tax three-fourths of the rent were taken as the criterion of the profits of the English tenants, and one-half of the rent as the criterion of the profits of the Scotch tenants. There seemed to be some reason for making that distinction, because many charges were paid by tenants in England, being ancient and customary, which were not paid by tenants in Scotland, and I therefore the rent of the former was proportionably lower. The right hon. Gentleman said, he found the English tenants charged too much, and he diminished the amount on which the tax was to be rated to one-half of their rents; but it did not appear why some distinction should not be made between the English and the Scotch tenants. He certainly had not heard any reason for not retaining this distinction; but this was a matter of detail, and might be discussed hereafter. With respect to opposite and contradictory complaints having been made, he must say, that though they were opposite, there was very considerable justice in many of them. He thought the hon. Member for Finsbury had made a well-founded complaint when he said that a great distinction was drawn between the landed interest of this country and some of the manufacturing interests, in respect to the lowering of the tariff. It did not appear why the reduction of the 1286 duty on corn should be in a smaller ratio than that on metals and leather. He could well understand that the makers of boots and shoes, and workers in brass, might declare their readiness to compete with foreign manufacturers, but then he had a right to ask to be put upon equal terms, and if he found that the corn and flour from abroad would feed him better and cheaper than the corn and flour at home, he might claim to be enabled to buy that corn and flour, in order that he might compete with foreigners. But let him not be exposed to that competition at a disadvantage, for that would not be manifesting that wariness with which the Legislature ought to act in regulating the different duties. He (Lord [John Russell) confessed, that the mode which had been adopted in arranging the duties in the tariff was not the fairest which the legislature could have adopted. The right hon. Gentleman said there was an unnecessary alarm prevailing in the country, both amongst the producers of corn and provisions, but that they should recollect that the reduced cost of living would affect them as well as other classes. Now it appeared to him that one of the great evils which had been attendant on the plan of the right hon. Baronet was the suddenness of the change. The change must have appeared most sudden to the class of persons he had alluded to, for, from the declarations and the recommendations of Gentlemen opposite, their supporters had no reason to believe that any such propositions were intended to be made. They were not told that he was aware of, by Gentlemen opposite, that the Corn-laws were so defective that they must be altered. They had not been informed by these Gentlemen at public meetings, or from the hustings, that the prohibitory duties on the importation of foreign cattle were so very absurd and objectionable that they must be abandoned and taken away. If they had previously been informed of this, they would not have the same ground of complaint as they had at present. After such complete silence had been maintained by those whom they had so strenuously supported, was it surprising that the farmers were not ready to see the necessity of adopting the proposed changes. For his own part he sincerely believed, that when the proposed arrangements were made, there was no necessity for the farmers to apprehend 1287 any great evils that would result. He must add, that when he recollected the conduct of those who had, both in that House and out, stated that they stood up exclusively as the friends of the farmers, and who arrogated to themselves the sole privilege of protecting their interests, and who had declared that they would keep the Corn-laws intact, and that the prohibitory laws against the importation of foreign meat should remain as they were, he was not surprised at the apprehensions expressed by the farmers. The conduct pursued on this occasion appeared to him as if it were like following the front rank of an army which suddenly turned round and fired on those whom they had induced to follow them. After what had taken place with reference to the first resolution, he did not think it necessary to take the sense of the House on the second resolution, but in bringing up the report he should propose a resolution, as he found that it was only in the House that he could propose an amendment to the resolution. He begged the committee to recollect, that the proposed alteration in the tariff was an entirely different matter from the present proposition; and, in alluding to the proposed changes, he would seriously beg those whom it was proposed to continue to favour with a high protecting duty on corn, seriously to consider whether it was not at once desirable to make the Corn Bill assimilate and conform to the general rule which seemed to be laid down in the proposed tariff with regard to articles of manufacture. If they did not assent to such a change they might depend upon it that constant propositions would be made for the alteration of the proposed duties, or for the abolition of them altogether, and they would be bold, and truly bold, when they made the alterations in the general duties, if they left corn, and corn alone, as an anomaly in the tariff. He trusted that hon. Gentlemen would on reflection see, that it was impossible for them to continue to maintain this high rate of protection alone for one particular interest. He, therefore, would suggest, that it would be better, instead of waiting for one or two years, when they would have to make a further change, to do so now, and thus aid in reducing, as the right hon. Baronet said, the cost of living in this country, which must ultimately prove for the benefit of the landed interest. It would then appear that they did not give any advan- 1288 tage to the foreign manufacturer over our own manufacturer, but that they were prepared to carry out the same principle as regarded themselves for the general interest and benefit of the community.
§ Mr. Greene
said, that before leaving the Chair he wished to offer a few words in explanation of his conduct. When the hon. Member for Ipswich had risen to order, he had supposed that the hon. Member had intended to advert to something which had fallen from the hon. Member for Manchester, who had just sat down, and it was only on that account that he had thought it his duty to check the hon. Member. He (Mr. Greene) had little thought that the hon. Member had risen for the purpose of alluding to his conduct in relation to what had occurred during the preceding part of the evening. He was the last person in the world to wish to interrupt hon. Members who were desirous of observing upon his conduct; on the contrary, he was thankful to hon. Members for observing, whether in public or in private, on his conduct in the Chair, for he could assure the committee that he was only anxious faithfully to discharge his duty. It was his conscientious belief that he had put the question fairly and distinctly, and he could assure the committee that nothing could be more painful to his feelings, than to have it supposed that any conduct of his had been such as to prevent any opinion from being expressed, either by the committee or by any hon. Member.
§ Mr. W. Williams
had understood the hon. Gentleman to express his willingness to put the first resolution again, if such should be the desire of the House. [" No, no."] It had been his intention to have voted against the first resolution. As, however, that resolution had been agreed to, in consequence of which all the property of the country, except landed property, was to be subjected to an Income-tax, and as the only effect of negativing the second resolution would be unjustly to exempt landed property from the burden to which every other species of property was subjected, he should not, under the circumstances oppose the second resolution. He regretted the error which had taken place, and thought, whenever an error occurred in the proceedings, the House ought to have an opportunity of rectifying it.
Second resolution agreed to; as was also the third, which was as follows:— 1289That, towards raising the supply granted to her Majesty in lieu of the several stamp duties now payable in Ireland, there shall be charged, levied, collected, or paid, upon and in respect of every deed, writing, or other written or printed instrument, or in respect of any legacy, or succession to personal estate upon intestacy, or in respect to any other matter or thing now liable to stamp duty in Ireland, the like amount or rate of stamp duty as is now payable in Great Britain.The House resumed; report to be brought up on Thursday.
Lord J. Russell
hoped, if the report were to be brought up on Thursday, that the discussion would be commenced at an early hour. He wished to know if the right hon. Gentleman had made any arrangement with those Gentlemen who had notices on the paper for that day?
§ Sir R. Peel said
, the only notice that he was aware of was the notice of the hon. Member for Greenock; and as that hon. Gentleman's motion could not be conveniently discussed in the absence of the Lord Advocate, who was at present unable to attend to his duties in the House, in, consequence of illness, he trusted the re- port might be brought up at an early hour.
§ Mr. T. Duncombe
had a notice on the paper for Thursday, of which he had given notice in the early part of the evening. It was for a suspension of the standing orders preventing the presentation of any petition in relation to a tax which had been proposed in a committee of Ways and Means. As that motion had some relation to the present subject, and as it would not take long to discuss, he certainly did not feel inclined to give way. Had it been on a matter not in relation lo the subject, he would not have hesitated to give way at once.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, that the hon. Gentleman had a perfect right to take precedence on Thursday, if he desired it.
§ Mr. Wallace
would not, certainly, press for the presence of the Lord Advocate, if he were unwell, sooner than was quite convenient to himself; but he believed that the Home Secretary had a great deal more to do with the question which he had to bring forward than the Lord Advocate. He should not be long about what he had to say; indeed, it was almost matter of indifference to him whether his motion were acceded to or not, as he should make use of it either way. He did not, however, imagine that the House would be detained by the discussion.
§ Sir R. Peel
would not bring on the question on Thursday at a late hour in the evening, and if he should be prevented proceeding on Thursday, he would fix on Friday for the bringing up the report.