§ On the Order of the Day being called, for going into committee of Ways and Means,
Lord J. Russell
begged to inquire whether the right hon. Baronet opposite would make any statement or give any explanation upon his financial measures, and particularly with reference to the mode in which he proposed to collect the Income-tax, previously to the Speaker leaving the Chair?
§ Sir Robert Peel
replied, that it was his intention to make any statements he might think necessary, and answer any questions which might be put to him upon the subject, upon the House resolving itself into a committee of Ways and Means.
Lord J. Russell
thought, that as the late statement of the right hon. Baronet comprehended the whole financial condition of the country, it would be the most convenient course for the House that he should make any explanation he might intend to offer, and which would not properly apply to a mere resolution, but to the general state of the question, before the Speaker should leave the Chair.
§ Sir Robert Peel
said, that when the House should resolve itself into a committee of Ways and Means, he should take the earliest opportunity of replying to all inquiries made, and of making his own statement. He proposed to commence the debate by that step. He should then have an opportunity of speaking more 840 than once, and be able to reply to objections.
§ On the motion that the Speaker do now leave the Chair,
§ Mr. F. T. Baring
said, he would not make any observations upon the course which the right hon. Baronet opposite had thought proper to pursue, with respect to the manner in which this discussion was to be taken. He did not quarrel with the right hon. Baronet for reserving his explanations upon the Income-tax until the subject should come specifically before him in committee. But it did appear to him that, after the discussion they had heard, after having heard the statement of the right hon. Baronet on the financial condition of the country, and having received the proposition which on the part of the Government the right hon. Baronet had felt it to be his duty to propose—he thought that it would be by far the best course, adverting to the manner in which the debate of Friday had been conducted, that the right hon. Baronet should have taken the opportunity before the House went into committee of taking a general view of the question without reference to particular items of that question. The House would remember that on Friday, when the right hon. Baronet made his financial statement, no distinct expression of opinion was called for at that time on the part of Gentlemen on his side of the House. They could hardly be expected to enter at once into the details of such a question, and give any distinct opinion upon its merits. They therefore offered no opposition to the resolutions proposed by the right hon. Baronet as necessary for the public interest, reserving their objections until a future opportunity; and if he thought that these objections could be advantageously brought forward in committee, he should not for a moment have thought of demurring to the plan of proceeding proposed by the right hon. Baronet. He merely wished to bring the measure of the right hon. Baronet fully before the House and the country, and after such a discussion he would have no objection to the House at once going into committee, to decide upon its merits. It was in committee that they would have to decide upon each proposition of the bill, and in committee they should rather turn their attention to particular details than to the general question. He was not in the habit of using long pre- 841 faces, which were generally the preludes of tedious speeches, but he felt himself called upon to request the indulgence of the House whilst he addressed himself to a subject with which it was to be presumed he ought to be in some little degree conversant. He should not, however, trespass much upon the House with statements of figures. The right hon. Baronet, in making his statement, stated the present deficiency to be somewhat about the same as that which he (Mr. Baring) had made it, whilst the present expenditure was stated to be somewhat under his own. He did not wonder, that the estimate for expenditure was somewhat less than his, for it should be remembered, that in making that estimate, it had been deemed advisable, under the existing circumstances of the country, to make the estimate a full one. There was one point to which the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, appeared to advert—namely, the estimate of the expenses as relating to China, to which he would wish to refer. With respect to that estimate, he could assure the House, that he found extreme difficulty in procuring the requisite information. Such information as he could procure, he had made a full and a fair use of, and if, after all his efforts, the estimate turned out to be wrong, he could only say, that he never pretended under such circumstances to frame his estimates with great exactness. He had drawn up his estimates from the surest sources which he had access to, and if they had proved erroneous, he had been misled by the information he had received. With respect to his estimate of the amount of income, he found it had fallen off more than he had calculated upon, and he could not, therefore, take to himself the compliments which the right hon. Baronet had paid him upon that score: The estimate had been made without reference to the large amount of sugar which had come in, as well as without reference to the harvest, and other circumstances which had been productive of great distress. It was not necessary for him to allude to the Customs and Excise, to show, that there had been a greater deficiency than he had calculated upon. Having said so much with respect to his own estimates, he would now address himself to the statement which had been made by the right hon. Baronet. He would not enter into details respecting the sources of income and expenditure, as 842 the House was well aware, that for the circumstances in which the country was placed, there was not any likelihood of any diminution taking place in the latter. If, then, he took no exception to the expenditure, he was aware from long experience, that even the oldest officers engaged in that particular department, were unable to make out their estimates as to the probable income with any great degree of correctness, and as to any attempt made by parties not possessed of the information furnished to the Government, they could not even make an approach to correctness. Perhaps, he might state, before proceeding further, that at the period when Chancellors of Exchequers usually made their statements, the documents on which they were founded, and which were prepared in their own offices, generally found their way to the public. These papers, which were of a demi-official character, he should treat as authorities, and on those papers he should found the argument he was about to address to the House. He found, then, that the estimated expenditure by these documents for the year to the 5th of April, 1843, was 50,819,000l; that the estimated income was 48,350,000l., leaving, as was stated, a certain deficiency of 2,569,000l. Now, according to the system of calculation pursued when he (Mr. Baring) was Chancellor of the Exehequer, 48,350,000l. deducted from 50,819,000l. would have left as a deficiency not 2,569,000l., but 2,469,000l. This mistake was not a mere accidental blunder, the whole subsequent calculations were founded upon it, and its effect was to add 100,000l. to the amount of estimated deficiency. Now, it afforded him a little consolation to be able in the present state of the finances to hand over to the right hon. Baronet a clear sum of 100,000l. When he was on the other side of the House he had been taunted with not being able to catch much when he went out fishing for a budget. He had been, however, more fortunate since he had changed his position, for while hon. Gentlemen opposite had been vainly thrashing the water, he had been lucky enough to hook out 100,000l., which he now offered in the most perfect good humour to the right hon. Baronet, as the first fruits of his financial angling, on that side of the House. As they were on the subject of deficiencies, he must allude to a statement of the right hon. Baronet, with 843 reference to his estimate for 1842, that the House might understand in what way the deficiency had occurred. In 1837–38 the deficiency amounted to 1,428,000l. On what did that deficiency arise? If any Gentleman remembered that year, he would remember that it was a year of unparalleled difficulty, the revenue fell off to a great extent, or rather, if he might use the expression, the revenue of the preceding year, 1836–37, had anticipated to a great extent that of 1837–38. On that occasion, the total ordinary revenue fell off by 2,500,000l. in the course of the year. The course pursued at that period by his noble Friend (Lord Monteagle) the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the course which, adverting to the circumstances of the year, to the state of the revenue, and to the elasticity of the usual sources of revenue, which had borne it harmless through greater difficulties, he considered to have been the wisest that could have been adopted—that course was, to make up for the deficiency of that year by the excess of income of the year which had preceded it. He thought that, at that time it would have been unadvisable to have imposed additional taxation upon the country. To a great extent, the anticipation of his noble Friend had been realised; for the deficiency which in the year 1837-38 amounted to 1,428, 000l., was in the following year diminished by 1,000,000l., leaving only a deficiency of 430,000l. And he was sure that, had not unexpected difficulties intervened—had not those disturbances broken out in Canada, which had occasioned so great an increase of our military establishment, and consequently, of the expenses of the country—he repeated, that he was sure that the next year would have seen an equalisation of the expenditure and income. In 1839-40 the deficiency amounted to 1,457,000l. He then came into office. Besides this certain deficiency, he had to calculate upon the estimated deficiency in the Post-office Department, and he felt it to be his duty to take steps for the purpose of bringing the revenue, if possible, up to the expenditure. The right hon. Baronet, in the course of his financial statement—and here he would be careful to avoid anything tending to personal altercation, anything tending to crimination or recrimination into a subject of such deep and vital interest. He would most carefully imitate the example of the right hon. 844 Baronet, and avoid -all those personal allusions, which sometimes might enliven but could never improve the debates in that House. But the right hon. Baronet had stated something with reference to his plan which he could not allow to pass unnoticed. Upon the occasion to which he had referred, in 1840, he had recourse to the imposition of 5per cent. on the customs and excise, and 10 per cent. on the assessed taxes. Of course, that was a source of taxation which was liable to great change. No doubt, taxes on consumption were liable to increase or diminish according to the condition of the country and the capacity of the great bulk of consumers to pay for the taxed commodities and revenue derived from such sources was liable to be affected by many circumstances, such as a good or bad harvest. No human being, therefore, could pretend to predict with certainty what the result of such a measure would be, or depend with perfect confidence on its success. The main point in all those cases, and the first question which was asked at the Treasury, was what is the state of the harvest? When the harvest was good, the consumption rarely failed to make the revenue equal to the expenditure, but if it should happen, as it had happened of late years, that there was a succession of bad harvests, the people would be in a state of difficulty and distress. It was not the additional 5 pet-cent. which caused a diminution in the customs and excise, but the distress which prevented the people from being able to consume the articles on which the duty was levied. The additional pressure of the 5 per cent. was not severely felt, but the calamitous state of the country made a great diminution in the consumption inevitable. He had thought it right to state this, because the right hon. Baronet had told the House, that it was unsafe to look to increased consumption in articles of subsistence as a source of revenue. The right hon. Baronet said, he wished to exhaust all the modes of supplying the deficiency, and referred to the failure of the measure imposing a tax of 5 per cent. as if it were a proof that to this mode of taxation it was unwise to resort. He did not refer to this matter merely with the view of setting himself right with the House and the country, but it was important to subject the statements and calculations of the right hon. Baronet 845 to a careful examination, he must say, that if they were going on a calculation which had really been the foundation of the conclusions of the right hon. Baronet, that it was hardly possible to increase the revenue by the increasing of the amount of taxation on consumable articles, he meant to say, that if such was the foundation of the light hon. Baronet's arguments, he had made a most egregious mistake as to the amount of the probable proceeds of such an additional taxation. The right hon. Baronet had said, that the 5 percent. which he had imposed on articles of consumption produced only 1½ percent. or 206,000l. But the right hon. Gentleman had forgotten that the 5 per cent, was never placed on corn. Now, if it were proved, that if corn were included in the right hon. Gentleman's estimate of the produce of taxation on articles of consumption, there would have been a great increase to the revenue above that amount which the right hon. Gentleman had stated, he thought, that the foundation on which the right hon. Gentleman had raised his superstructure was taken away, and he had not satisfactorily proved, at any rate, that he had exhausted the means of supply from those articles which were consumed by the mass of the people. He hoped he should not be misunderstood. He was not urging whether it was expedient or not now to deal with articles of consumption. He was not raising the question whether it were advisable to take more direct taxes than those which were laid on articles of consumption; but he was showing, that if the right hon. Gentleman based his conjectures on the failure of the projected plan of the late Government, he was reckoning without his host, for his calculations were not founded in fact. He had not obtained all the official papers; he had only the means, therefore, of showing what the net payment into the Exchequer had been, though he believed that the gross amount did not present any great difference. In 1839, the Customs and Excise amounted to 35,093,000l.; from this if we deducted 1,098,000l. for corn, it left a residue of 33,995,000l. In 1841, customs and excise 35,577,000l.; and if we took away 575,000l. for corn, there would remain 35,002,000l.; leaving. instead of206,000l., a balance of 1,007,000l., as contrasted with the preceding year, if the 5 per cent. duty had been attached. He should be 846 happy to hear any answer given to that statement. His scheme might or might not be a good one; but he remembered, that though it met with general concurrence, there were two propositions which came from the opposite side, which it was urged might be adopted with advantage. One came from the right hon. Baronet (Sir It. Peel), who stated, that he preferred an addition of 2d. to the postage; and the other emanated from the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who insisted that the proposal of 4d. upon spirits should be abolished. But the right hon. Gentleman saw reasons, when he came to the Government, for not acting on the proposal which he had given with regard to the postage; and the duty of 4d. on spirits, which the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer considered so objectionable, he rendered palatable by clapping on in Ireland an additional 1s. His former proposition was this, 5 per cent. on the customs, which would have given an increase of 1,007,000l., and 10 per cent on the taxes, which would produce 742,000l.; making together 1,749,000l. He apprehended, that the circumstances of the year 1841 were of too recent occurrence to render it necessary to give a history of them. He wished, however, and he thought it not unfair, that he should state the grounds on which he had made his proposal to the House. He proposed a certain alteration in the duties on sugar and timber, from which he anticipated that the revenue would derive a certain sum, and he also contemplated a change in the duty on corn, from which an additional amount might be expected. This was a debate on a financial question, and he had not the slightest wish to revive the party questions which were bandied so freely at both sides during the last year; but he was anxious that they should look back and see, as far as it could be calculated, what was the result of his proposal, and whether it was so wild and visionary, so contemptible a bubble as it then was held to be. Let it be borne in mind, that the right hon. Baronet never referred to this part of the subject at all. The right hon. Gentleman merely said, with reference to this question, "When we have exhausted the different modes of raising a revenue by taxing articles of consumption, shall we recur to a system of reducing the duty, expecting thereby to have the same or a larger 847 amount of revenue than we collected before? "Now if that were supposed, by the right hon. Baronet or anybody else, to have been his anticipation from his proposal, the right hon. Baronet had not the slightest conception of what he really did found his plan upon. He might perhaps be mistaken as to the right hon. Gentleman's use of this precise argument, but he certainly had heard arguments which tended to show that as the reduction even on the article of coffee did not give the same amount of revenue until after the lapse of three years, there was no hope that the revenue would have derived last year any advantage from a change of duty on corn. He should show from documents furnished by the right hon. Baronet, that far from estimating the result of a change of duty on corn too high, he had made much too low an estimate of it. If the amount of duty proposed last year had been adopted, there would not only have been a considerable increase over the amount which had actually been received into the Exchequer, but over that which he had been considered so sanguine in announcing last year. The amount of revenue from corn of all sorts in 1841, as per trade and navigation returns, was 575,5812. Now there were admitted of foreign wheat and flour 2,388,072 quarters, which, at 8s. per quarter, would give 955,228l.; also 222,312 quarters of foreign barley and meal, which, at 4s. 6d., would give 50.020l.: 20,769 quarters of foreign oats and meal at 3s. 4d. would give 3,461l.; and 386,328 quarters of rye, peas, and beans would supply 96,582l.; making the whole produce 1,105,291l. This was a sum not only exceeding that which had been received under the existing state of the duty by 529,710l., but it was beyond the amount which had been anticipated when the proposal was first made, and which only amounted to 900,000l. But it might be said that corn would not have come in; but he ventured to say that it would not only have come in, but that it would not have cost the consumer a sixpence more. With regard to sugar, he saw from the way in which the right hon. Baronet smiled that he expected him at once to admit that a considerable addition had resulted to the revenue without any change in the duty. The real increase in revenue of 1841 over 1840 was 584,143. He knew it would be at once said, as was urged in a former 848 debate, "we have had this return without any change in the law, and simply by leaving things alone, and your proposal would have done nothing, except to injure the labouring population of the West Indies, and to endanger the security of property. "He had told the House at the time he submitted his plan that though he estimated the return from the change of duty on sugar at 700,000l., yet that he expected, from communications which he had with individuals, a much larger sum; but every return which had been since made satisfied him that if the course he recommended had been adopted, the revenue would not only have received 584,143l., but double that sum. He had been assured by those opposite that the imports from our colonies would be amply sufficient to meet the consumption of the country. The right hon. Gentleman opposite attempted to fix him to the estimate which he brought in, but he always met this appeal by saying that he should let the people have as large a supply as they could procure at a fair price. Now, let us see whether from the supply afforded during the last year, which was furnished at the moment, and, as it were, from hand to hand, they were not justified in concluding that if there had been a larger supply there would not have been a much larger demand. He should be able to show that if sugar could be procured under a certain given price, the consumption would go, on to an extent almost unlimited, but the moment it rose beyond a certain price, consumption was checked, the poorer class of consumers ceased to buy, and they were obliged to depend upon a smaller class of consumers. He thought he could show that during the past year the demand had not been met by the supply. He did not pretend to say that he could show that sugar had been consumed which had never been brought to market, but as far as he could judge from the returns laid on the Table, he thought he could show that a further supply would have been met by a further demand. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Labouchere) and himself had seen, while in office, several deputations connected with the sugar trade, and they all assured them that the stocks in the country were very low. The total import of sugar in 1840 was 4,035,000 cwt.; and deducting foreign sugar 805,179 cwt., the whole colonial sugar amounted to 3,230,666 cwt. The 849 consumption, according to the papers of the right hon. Baronet, was 3,606,853 cwt.; making a deficit of 376,187 cwt. In 1841, there were imported 4,883,974 cwt.; deduct foreign sugar 806,530 cwt., and the colonial sugar would be 4,077,444 cwt. The consumption was 4,065,971 cwt. showing a deficit of 11,473 cwt. Now, was he wrong, even on the statement of Ministers, and on their own figures, in saying, that if their supply had been more ample, the demand would have been more considerable, and the revenue would have proportionably increased? But this was not all; the right hon. Baronet had favoured him with the amount of stock, and the document which showed it was a valuable one, for it gave the amount in bond in all the different ports. He wished to compare it with an estimate furnished by the West-India body, which was entitled to every credit, as it had been borne out by facts which since occurred. He found, that on the 1st January, 1841, the stock amount, according to this estimate, to 700,000 cwt., and the return of the right hon. Baronet on the 5th March, 1842, gave the quantity of stock at 590,000 cwt., and if these two statements were accurate, there had been a deficiency from the 1st January, 1840, to March, 1842, of 110,000 cwt. of supply, as compared with demand. Now, therefore, he thought he had good grounds for stating, that if sugar had been more extensively supplied, at a reasonable price, the consumption, and consequently the revenue, would have greatly increased; and it. must be recollected, that if any foreign sugar entered, it would not have been at 24s. but 36s. In the statement which he had made on the sugar duties, he had laid on the Table of the House a document showing the consumption which might be expected with relation to the population, if the price was reasonable. He should state how that matter stood. In 1841, there were imported, of sugar and molasses, 4,233,653 cwt. Now, if we were to take the average calculation of consumption per head for 11 years, it would give 4,545,664 cwt., leaving a difference of 312,011 cwt., which at the 5 per cent. duty, would have given 587,000l. being about just as much again as they had received under the existing state of things. He was in this difficulty, undoubtedly, that he was giving this as the result of calculation; but no man could 850 possibly doubt, that the estimate he had formed was under the due amount. And here he could not help referring to the opinion of one of the most able and efficient public officers, he meant Mr. D. Hume—who stated, when the details of his plan were mentioned to him, that though he was not friendly to it as it regarded the West Indies, yet so far as the revenue was concerned, it would produce a great deal more than ever had been calculated on. He now came to timber. With regard to timber, he perfectly admitted, that he had not the same means of making a calculation as he had on sugar and corn; but, although he should not trouble the House with details, he thought he could prove, that the amount and more than the amount he calculated upon, would be received. Respecting the timber duty he would, however, remind the House—and he was surprised, that the circumstance had not been adverted to before—he would remind the House, that something had already occurred with reference to the proposition of a timber duty. And, indeed, it struck him as especially remarkable, that the circumstance should have been forgotten by the parties who took a part in the events to which he alluded. In 1821, there was a committee of the House on foreign trade. He wished to advert to the circumstance, because it was said, that the proposition which he had made regarding timber was opposed to all liberal principles of political economy, and against the principle of free-trade. That committee made a very full report. Lord Wallace was then the chairman of the committee; and Mr. Robinson (now Earl Ripon) the then Vice-President of the Board of Trade, was also a member of that committee. He did not wish to make any charge of inconsistency, for all men were liable to a change of opinion on financial matters; and what may appear to them to be desirable in one year, may appear altogether the reverse on another year. The recommendation of the committee at the time, in order to carry out right principles of finance, was advisable, that the differential duty between Canadian and Baltic timber should be diminished. There were three ways of doing this—the first was to increase the duty on Canadian timber; the other was the reduction of the duty on Baltic timber. Neither of these courses did the committee recommend, but what it did recommend 851 was to increase the duty on Canadian timber to 10s., and reduce the duty on Baltic timber to 56s. That was the principle of the proposition he proposed, the equalisation of both duties by raising one and diminishing the other, and was that complained of as an anti-free-trade proposition—as being no benefit to the consumer—and as being one of the worst modes that could be adopted for equalising the duties on timber? On the contrary, he found that that very measure was brought in and approved of by gentlemen who appeared satisfied that it was at least a step in the right road of legislation. He (Mr. Baring) had not only in view the increase of the revenue, but the additional object of throwing open the trade in Baltic timber, and carrying on that system of legislation which he and his Colleagues thought it was for the benefit of the country to adopt. What was the result of that measure in 1821? He found, that in 1820, before the duty was altered, the amount received on timber was 927,000l. He would not compare the receipts in that year with 1821 or 1822, for they were complained of; but in 1823, the revenue on timber from 927,000l. had increased by 625,000l., for the duty produced 1,552,000l. Consumers made no complaint; but not only so, it was found from that time, the consumption of timber of all sorts increased, instead of diminished. If he had gone into these details, connected with the arrangements which he once had the honour to propose to the House, he could assure them it did not arise from any personal wish to defend himself, or from any pertinacious adherence to his own plans. His object was of much greater—of infinite importance—to show, when they came to consider the decision they should pronounce with respect to the finances of the country, that they had not exhausted either of the sources to which he had ventured to refer. His object was, to show that they had not exhausted either of the sources of revenue which he had stated. His object was to tell the House, that when they came to look at the whole course they had to pursue, when they had to choose, and an unfortunate choice he admitted it was, when it was for them to choose between adding, in some way or other, to the burdens of the country, there was none of that impossibility in raising a revenue from other 852 taxes which could alone justify their recurrence to the odious impost which they had adopted. The right hon. Baronet, in the speech which he made to the House on a former evening, and to which, though he differed from the results contained in it, no one listened with more admiration than himself, — stated the actual deficiency at 2,569,000l. and the probable deficiency at 3,000,000l. To cover this deficiency, the right hon. Baronet proposed to raise 4,300,000l., that was to say, 3,000,000l. would be required for the public service, and 1,300,000l. which he intended to dispose of in the reduction of duties, in the manner which he had explained to the House. The proposition, therefore, included not only the raising an amount of money equal to the acknowledged wants of the country, but likewise a further amount of about 1,300,000l. for the purpose of dealing with matters affecting the commerce of the country. The House ought 1.o look to the principle on which the right hon. Baronet proposed to act in this respect. It was necessary for the House to consider upon what principle this new commercial code was founded, and the arrangements held out as a temptation to the public, and to the mercantile classes in particular, to submit to a tax, the history of which was quite sufficient to render it most objectionable. They had to look at what were the propositions of the right hon. Baronet, and what was the principle upon which they were based. He would not enter into particular details; he would not quarrel with the right hon. Baronet about this duty or that, but this he would assert, that one principle pervaded the whole tariff, a principle about which the right hon. Baronet said nothing in his opening speech, but which appeared to him to be fraught with danger to the commercial interests of the country. What had hitherto been the utmost extent to which the differential and protective system had been carried? Some articles affecting the important interests of our colonies, had been largely protected, but the system of protection had not been extended to all small matters; the Legislature had not laid down the principle that, in every possible case, it would establish heavy differential duties between the produce of Our colonies and of other countries. That was the principle which he found laid down in the tariff. He would 853 not enter minutely into matters of detail, but he would refer to the first article in the tariff— Asses. [Great Laughter.] After the sly observation which he heard escape from the right hon. Baronet, in communication with an hon. and excellent Friend of his, it made it rather uncomfortable for him to allude to the protection given to English and colonial asses. This was the paper of the First Lord of the Treasury, upon which his budget statement was made:—Revision of the tariff. It is computed, that there are 1,200 different rates of duties, all carefully considered. Proportion borne by duty in each case to average price considered.The right hon. Baronet, in a very solemn manner, assured the House that all these came under the consideration of himself and the Cabinet, and that they had given to each individual case a careful consideration. That being the case, he would wish the right hon. Baronet to explain his conduct with respect to asses. The right hon. Baronet had diminished the protection hitherto enjoyed by English asses; but then, after grave deliberation of course, he had given a protection of 100 per cent, for colonial asses, which heretofore had enjoyed no protection at all. The right hon. Baronet reminded him that this was ridiculous legislation. True, it was so. It was laughable to see a Cabinet gravely deliberating on the amount of protection which ought to be extended to colonial asses. Why one schedule of the new tariff comprised a whole apothecary's shop. In one page he found a protection on Eau de Cologne the produce of the colonies. He knew perfectly well how that incongruity occurred. The Government had laid down a general principle, and applied it to all cases. They had not been influenced by such considerations as the protection of the negro population, the ensuring of a supply of home-grown corn, of promoting the timber trade in our own colonies; they were not apprehensive that the supply of Eau de Cologne would not be equal to the demand. No; those were not the grounds upon which they had proceeded in drawing up their new tariff, but they laid down the principle that in every case, and under all circumstances, there should be differential duties. Was that to be the commercial principle of the Government. Mark how unfairly their principle operated. There 854 Was a large class of persons entirely employed in cork-cutting. He had been told that by the reductions they were making in the tariff these persons, who were the creatures of the protective system which had been fostered in this kingdom, would have their interest most materially affected. He did not mean to contend that if, for the purposes of carrying out the general principles of free-trade, they would have to remove that protection, they had no right to do so; but he would tell them that these persons had a right, not unfairly, to complain if they found that the protection was taken away from them, whilst protection upon many articles of colonial produce had been increased, and in many instances articles were protected which had never before received protection. He would take two of the schedules, the 1st and the 7th, in which there were 313 different articles; to 67 of these articles no protection was granted, and there were introduced not less than 246 new protecting duties. It would be said, these were small articles, and not worth considering; but he thought that man was not a wise man who would venture to foretell what might be the ultimate result of any protection, however small. He firmly believed that a considerable portion of that inconvenience from which trade was at present suffering arose from the injudicious attempts which had been made to give protection to particular trades, at a time when it was wrongly thought they required the fostering care of the State. Take another article which the Government proposed to deal with, this was tobacco, upon which they proposed to reduce the duty on colonial tobacco 3d., establishing a differential duty to that amount in favour of the colonies. The proposition of the Government upon that point had been repeatedly submitted to the House, and as frequently rejected. Mr. Huskisson at one time entertained the idea that tobacco could be grown in our North American colonies, and under that impression fixed the duty upon tobacco, the produce of the West Indies and Canada, at 3d. less than that upon tobacco grown in the United States. His differential duty, however, was not extended to tobacco grown in the East Indies, to which the Government now proposed to apply it. It was one thing to take away protection which parties bad long enjoyed, and another to extend it to 855 parties who had never had it. This was what the Government was about to do. They were about to extend the differential duty on tobacco, which was at present a cypher on the books of the Custom-house, to India, where it would make a practical difference, because a considerable quantity of the article would be imported from that country. What would be the difference to the consumer? Would it reduce the price of tobacco a single farthing? It would not, and the result of the arrangement would be merely to deprive the English Exchequer of the differential 3d., and to place it in the pockets of the Indian speculator. In the present state of our relations with China he would not say much of the favour shown to Assam tea. He only hoped the right hon. Baronet would not compel him to drink it. To those who might object that the points to which he was adverting were of small importance, he would reply by asking what effect the new principle introduced into our tariff would have when we came to negotiate commercial treaties with other countries? It had been the object of wise men, in latter times, to liberalise the tariff, and reduce the distinctive and differential duties by which it was deformed, but now it was proposed to impose a differential duty upon every article which could be found. Was it not probable that foreign states would turn round upon us, and say—"Your principle is a differential one, and the principle which you act on we will carry out also; we are persuaded your principle must be a valuable one, because you even incur the risk of making yourself appear ridiculous from the manner in which you carry it into practice." Ought we not to look to the future? The interests to be protected by the imposition of differential duties might be small in themselves, but those interests, when United, would be as difficult to break as the bundle of sticks, and they would hereafter oppose a firm resistance to measures having for their object the benefit of the consumer. Was it wise to increase the opposition which obstructs every Minister who endeavoured to take a single step in a liberal course of policy? The question now was, whether the country was willing to undergo an Income-tax for a tariff founded on such principles. Was the advantage to be gained by the adoption of the new tariff sufficiently great to induce even those who did not entertain 856 the strong objection which he had always felt to the tax proposed by the right hon. Baronet, to consent to its imposition? The opinion he now held on the subject of an Income-tax he had always entertained. It might be urged against him that he had not made any public declaration of his opinion upon that point; but it should be remembered that he had held the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose duty it was said to be to talk as long as was necessary without expressing a decided opinion upon anything, until his budget should come out. He saw the right hon. Gentleman opposite was looking at one of his speeches, but he would find nothing in it in favour of an Income-tax. He remembered, on one occasion, making a speech of half an hour's length, and he was told, at the conclusion of it, by the hon. Member for Lambeth, that he had made a good-humoured speech, without saying anything; and this he certainly considered one of the greatest compliments that could be paid to a Chancellor of the Exchequer. Other opportunities would occur for discussing the question of the Income-tax; but he could not allow that occasion to pass without asking the House and the country at large to calmly consider what was the nature of the impost to which it proposed to subject them, and to deliberate as to whether there was no other less objectionable mode of sup-plying the deficiency of the revenue. When he came down to the House on the evening when the right hon. Baronet made his financial statement, he had not the slightest notion that it was the intention of the Government to propose any such measure. He had expected that, on that occasion, it might be necessary for himself and his late colleagues to enter into a discussion respecting the measures which they proposed last year, to vindicate the accuracy of the statements they had made, and the principles they had laid down. At the same time speaking for himself and his late Colleagues, he could state they had resolved that they would not, for any mere party purpose, object to the imposition of any fit and proper taxes that might be necessary to raise the sum required for the service of the country. The tax now proposed, however, was one to which he could not consent. Was it a just tax. Was it an equal tax? Those were questions for the country to deter mine. Was it fair that those who were in 857 the permanent occupation of property— that those whose property descended from father to son, and who might dispose of it as they pleased, should pay in the same proportion as those who obtained their annual incomes by their own exertions— incomes which would be immediately cut off by some of those casual accidents to which humanity was liable, leaving the families dependent upon them wholly unprovided for. The right hon. Baronet had already learned what that large and influential body, the Bank of England, thought of a scheme which affected equally permanent and annual funded securities. For his own part he could conceive nothing more unfair than such a mode of taxation. He was aware that many persons believed that the scheme proposed by the right hon. Baronet was the fairest and most equal mode of raising a revenue, but his own opinion was that no tax could be devised which would operate more unequally, more unjustly, and more oppressively. When he was in office, and sitting on the other side of the House, he put a question to the right hon. Baronet to which he was not fortunate enough to obtain an answer. He asked the right hon. Baronet what, in the event of the House rejecting the measure which he then proposed, he would himself propose. He believed, that the right hon. Baronet would not now put a similar question to him. On the 14th of May last year, he made use of the following language in that House:—I ask from hon. Gentlemen opposite not that kind of information which was wrung from me last year, to the inconvenience of the public service—not particular details, but the general course which they are prepared to adopt. It is the duty of the House to provide for the public service, and I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite in what mode they would perform that duty. I do not call on them to specify the actual taxes they would propose, but the general course of policy. Are they prepared to have recourse to additional direct taxation to make up the public revenue if they reject my motion? I have proposed to raise the means for the public service without laying additional burdens on the people of this country—if you oppose me, are you prepared to assert a further taxation.He was not prepared to offer a budget to the right hon. Baronet. Nothing could be more indecorous and improper than such a proceeding; but he should not feel justified in opposing even the proposed Income-tax unless he could point to other 858 sources of revenue for the means of enabling the country to avoid so great a calamity. He last year proposed a mode of raising a certain sum. He would not now go over the grounds of the arrangement which he then proposed. He at the time fully explained the reasons which induced him to think that sufficient money might be raised in the manner he suggested to supply the large deficiency of the revenue. Looking at the enormous amount of taxation which had been repealed since the war, could it be justly alleged that there were no other means of supplying the existing deficiency except by a tax upon income? He would briefly state the taxes which had been repealed since the war, leaving the property-tax out of consideration:—
The right hon. Baronet did not rely upon the Income-tax alone for raising the money he wanted—he resorted to other sources of revenue. The right hon. Baronet expected to obtain 400,000l. from Ireland by the addition he proposed to the stamp and spirit duties affecting that country. Would any man venture to assert that if 400,000l. could be drawn from Ireland, means could not be found of restoring public credit, and raising the income to a par with the expenditure, without resorting to a tax which had hitherto been considered the last resource of the Treasury, and to be applied to only in cases of the greatest difficulty? When Mr. Vansittart had been compelled to give up the property-tax, he levied three millions of other taxes in 1819, and that the imposition of those imposts did not injuriously effect the public welfare was evident from the fact that in 1822, 1823, and 1824, the Government was enabled to repeal a considerable amount of taxation in consequence of the increased revenue derived from articles of consumption, and the general improvement of trade. As the right hon. Baronet had not explained the nature of the machinery which he intended to employ in the collection of the Income-tax, he would not dwell upon that point; but he could not help calling the attention of the House to as important a document as he ever read, namely, a petition of the merchants of London, presented to the House of 859 Commons when the last Income-tax was in operation. The meeting at which the petition was agreed to, was stated to have represented all the property and respectability of the City of London. It was stated in the House, at the time the petition was presented, that an attempt had been made to get up a counter-petition in favour of a modified income-tax, for which only twenty-three signatures could be obtained; and the original petition, therefore, came to the House, expressing the experience and feelings of the whole mercantile class of London. It was worthy of remark, that that petition was moved by the very gentleman (Mr. Hibbert) who was the author of the income-tax, and suggested it to Mr. Pitt. He would take the liberty of reading the petition to the House. It stated:—
In the customs there had been a reduction of £7,500,000 In the excise of 12,000,000 In stamps of 866,000 In taxes" of 4,800,000That in the judgment of the petitioners, the property or income-tax is in its principle arbitrary, at variance with the spirit and general practice of our constitution, and that it ought only to be submitted to in cases of urgent necessity; that inasmuch as it operated indiscriminately npon all casual as well as permanent incomes, it is not equitable; and that, in its application to trade and commerce, it has been found inquisitorial and oppressive; that during the long and arduous struggle in which this country has been engaged, the petitioners have patiently submitted to taxes, however burdensome, and even to this imposition, however vexatious, in the confident reliance that upon the return of peace they should be relieved from those contributions at least which were professedly raised for the purpose of defraying within each year a considerable portion of the extraordinary and unavoidable expenses of the war; that the faith of Parliament had been expressly pledged for the cessation of the income-tax with the war, which alone could justify such establishments and expenditure as rendered that galling burden necessary; and that in the petitioners understanding and belief, it had never been continued nor renewed without its being accompanied by the same pledge; that no modification of its details, or abatement in the rate of its immediate exactions, can in the opinion of the petitioners remove the obnoxious principle of this tax, or compensate for the alarming precedent of its enactment during peace; that to anticipate in time of peace those extraordinary resources which should be reserved for the defence of the national interest, honour, and independence, when either are endangered by foreign aggression, appears to the petitioners to be injurious, not only to the domestic comfort and prosperity of the country, but to its reputation and influence abroad; that the petitioners, therefore, earnestly entreat the House not to permit the renewal of the income and property- 860 tax, and to promote efficient measures forthwith for the diminution of the public expenditure.The petition which he had read was received by the House with a shout of unanimous applause. It was presented on the 18th of March, 1816, and, by a singular coincidence, the right hon. Baronet had selected the anniversary of that day to call upon the House to re-impose the tax which the petition was mainly instrumental in causing to be repealed. He trusted, that in what he had said, he had avoided any thing like recriminatory language, but he felt the deepest and sincerest objection to the tax proposed by the right hon. Baronet, and if he were to stand alone he would record his dissent from it.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, it was perfectly natural, that the right hon. Gentleman opposite should take the earliest opportunity of expressing his sentiments with respect to the financial measure of her Majesty's Government, and he, for one, had nothing to complain of in the tone in which the right hon. Gentleman had expressed them; nor was he himself disposed to take a different course than to abstain from that recrimination which the right hon. Gentleman had avoided, and confine himself to the arguments which the right hon. Gentleman had used on that occasion. He must, however, be allowed to express some surprise, that while the right hon. Gentleman had naturally taken an early opportunity of expressing his opinion upon this subject, he had taken it in such a form as not to call upon the House to give any opinion on the principle which he had advocated—he had made a speech, but had offered no proposition upon which the House was called on to divide; and although he had heard the right hon. Gentleman throughout his speech, yet he could give no opinion as to the course which the right hon. Gentleman intended to take with respect to the measure then under their consideration. He understood the right hon. Gentleman intended to vote against the resolution in committee. He thought it was more conformable to ordinary usage, more conformable to the fair discussion of the subject, if the arguments had been introduced at a period when the House might have had an opportunity of bringing conflicting opinions to a test. He proposed, as the right hon. Gentleman had gone back to a considerable period, and had travelled over 861 a large field of taxation, to address himself, in order, to the several topics which the right hon. Gentleman had introduced. The right hon. Gentleman commenced by referring to that period of the management of the finances of the country when that deficiency first commenced for which they were now called on to provide—not, indeed, a deficiency alone, but the accumulation of deficiency which the system adopted in 1838 and 1839 had led to, and which had now entailed upon the country, even according to the confession of the right hon. Gentleman, the absolute necessity of providing by fresh taxation for the exigencies of the State. The right hon. Gentleman told them, that the Ministry was justified in the course which they took in 1838, in not providing for the large deficiency which was then permitted to remain at the end of the year; and that there were no extraordinary occurrences on that occasion which obliged the Government to call forth the energies of the people. He further eulogised that system of borrowing and temporary arrangement which now proved to be the great misfortune of the country, and rendered it necessary for the Government to tax the people for the purpose of repairing past errors. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to that period of 1838 and 1839 as if it were a period promising such perfect tranquillity, that no provision was then necessary to be made for the exigencies of the State; but he had forgotten, that in those two years, there were circumstances sufficiently threatening to have pointed out to a Government with ordinary prudence, that the state of the finances of the country ought not to be permitted to fall into dilapidation. In the year 1838, they had had a manifestation of revolt in the Canadas, originating in circumstances to which it was then unnecessary to advert, but which immediately entailed upon the country a considerable expenditure, and threatened an increase of it even in that year. There were circumstances, then, in the commencement of that deficiency to warn the Government that it ought not to be permitted to continue; and if they took not that early warning, at least to induce them, at a subsequent period, to combine with an united effort to prevent the consequences. Nor was the whole evil of that want of energy in not providing by taxation for the wants of the country, shewn 862 by the actual deficiency of the year. Unwilling to face the difficulty of imposing fresh burdens on the people, the Government had recourse to a system of reducing the balances in the Exchequer to a hazardous extent. The House, perhaps, was not aware what was the balance in the Exchequer at a period just previous to that to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred. On the 5th of January, 1837, it was 6,049,000l. On the 5th of January last, that balance was reduced to about 3,500,000l.; let not the House suppose that that was an inconsiderable evil, or one which they were to put out of their consideration in dealing with the finances of the country; or that, though not called upon to provide for that deficiency of balance, but only to make up the deficiency of the annual receipts to meet the annual expenditure, there was anything but danger in leaving the balances in that condition. The present proposition was to provide for the moment, for the debt that was due; but in proportion as that balance in the Exchequer was reduced, so were they obliged to depend upon the Bank of England for a larger supply, and were making the country more and more dependent on that great establishment, and not only that, but were also deranging the currency, and preventing the Bank from making those arrangements in respect of it which might be necessary for their own security and the prosperity of the commercial and manufacturing interests of the country. When the right hon. Gentleman told them that he had forborne to impose upon the people fresh taxation, it was no trifling consideration, in dealing with the finances of the country, to remember what had been the effect of that abstinence, followed up as it had been by five consecutive years of deficiency, upon the Exchequer of the country. The next attempt of the right hon. Gentleman was to show, in opposition to what had been stated by his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government on a previous evening, that taxation on articles of consumption had not been unproductive to the degree which his right hon. Friend had stated and here he must say, that the right hon. Gentleman seemed altogether to have misunderstood the argument which his right hon. Friend had used. The right hon. Gentleman supposed that his right hon. Friend had stated that the addition of 5 per cent. imposed on Customs and Excise had not 863 raised any revenue at all to the country. But that was not the argument which his right hon. Friend had used. His right hon. Friend wished to show that the consumption of the country was so affected at the present moment, that when you attempted to make to it even a small addition, in proportion to the total amount, the effort must necessarily fail. The right hon. Gentleman complained that his right hon. Friend had taken the total amount of the Customs in 1840 and 1841, and had shown from that total amount of revenue the failure of his (Mr. Baring's) plan. He further contended that that view was altogether erroneous; and that he ought to have excluded, in considering the question of consumption, the amount produced by the 5 per cent duty. He thought that that was the argument of the right hon. Gentleman; but he was afraid the right hon. Gentleman would not derive much advantage as to the main point at issue between them from the observations which he had made on the statement of his right hon. Friend. The question which the House had to decide was this—could they, with a prospect of raising revenue, impose on articles of consumption a new taxation to the amount of 3,000,000l. or at least without great burden upon the commercial, manufacturing, and trading interests of this country, or whether they should adopt another system of taxation now proposed to them? He had had a paper made out, stating the produce that was derived from certain articles of revenue in 1840, he had added to the produce of those several articles the per centage which the right hon. Gentleman imposed, and had compared the total result that ought to have been derived from it in the year, with the actual result of it in the following year; showing thereby, what was the increase expected from the addition of 5 per cent., and what was the actual result. Now, to take some of the articles with respect to coffee, the amount proposed to be derived from it was 890,000l., the actual amount was only 870,000l. That was taking the whole year during which the additional duty was received. In sugar the amount ought to have been 5,017,000l., it was only 4,310,000l. In wine it was to be 1,998,000l., it was only 1,806,000l. In timber it ought to have been 1,590,000l. it was only 1,540,000l. Upon these few articles alone, there was a deficiency of 864 nearly a million, comparing the actual result with what the result ought to have been, had the addition of 5 per cent to the duty, produced the expected increase. Now, to come to the corn duty. The corn duty, in 1840, produced 1,000,000l., in 1841, only 500,000l. [Mr. Baring: I was speaking of the net amount.] It was only by taking the gross amount that they could arrive at the real result. He admitted, that no just conclusion could be drawn from the gross amount as to the effect which the tax had on the revenue of the country, for it might require an additional establishment for its collection; and, although the tax might be productive, yet the deductions from it might be very considerable; and, again, when they dealt with the net amount received by the Exchequer, that might be a fair test for the purposes of revenue, but for the purposes of testing the consumption, it would be of very little avail. The right hon. Gentleman next spoke of the inconsistency which had been displayed by himself, and by those who acted with him, with respect to the imposition of a fresh duty on spirits in Ireland. When the impost of 4d. a gallon on spirits in Ireland was proposed in 1840, observed the right hon. Gentleman, the present Administration declared, that they apprehended an injury to the revenue by its operation; yet, that when they were able themselves to choose a tax for the restoration of the finances of the country, they had not only adopted a principle which they had before condemned, but, that they had also carried that principle further than was previously contemplated. Now, he believed, that he should be able to make a satisfactory reply to this objection of the right hon. Gentleman. He found, that in spite of the additional tax imposed on Irish spirits by the right hon. Gentleman, the consumption had increased; therefore, he thought he was justified in changing his opinion, and in thinking, that a tax imposed on that article was advantageous for the revenue, without being prejudicial to the cause of morality. The right hon. Gentleman had then proceeded to review the budget of the previous year. Now, he thought, that the merits of that budget had been so completely discussed, and the opinion of the House respecting its merits had been so decisively expressed, that he might very well have been excused from enter- 865 ing at the present time on that question. But as the right hon. Gentleman had, in reference to this point, made some statements which he thought required a reply, he would reply to them. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to a fixed duty on corn as a source of revenue; and the right hon. Gentleman said, that if his scheme had been adopted, instead of 500,000l., which was obtained for the revenue from the duty on foreign corn, 900,000l. would have been realised. But the right hon. Gentleman must know, that in matters of finance there was considerable truth in the adage, that two and two do not make four. It was not certain, that if the duty for the past year had been changed from 3s. 5d., which was the average, to 8s., as was proposed by the late Administration, the consumption of corn would have been increased. [Mr. Hawes: But what was the price?] He left the question of the price to those who maintained, that any duty on corn had a tendency to produce starvation of the people. He maintained, that they who increased the duty rendered themselves at all events liable to the charge of starving the people in the opinion of those who had adopted the agitation and declamation which had been employed on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman was reduced to this dilemma—either he must acknowledge, that his scheme would not have produced the advantage to the revenue which was pretended, or else, that the consumption would have been diminished. Next, the right hon. Gentleman touched on the subject of sugar. While on this subject the right hon. Gentleman remarked, that though he had fished in vain for a budget while on the Government side of the House, yet he had been more successful since his withdrawal from office. He quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman, that the side of the House which the right hon. Gentleman then occupied, was more propitious to the piscatory pursuits referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, than was the side which the right hon. Gentleman had lately relinquished. The right hon. Gentleman would, doubtless, recal to mind a pretty convincing proof, that this was the case. When the right hon. Gentleman, on a former occasion, proposed to raise 700 000l. by some alterations in the sugar duties, it was sug- 866 gested to the right hon. Gentleman from the Opposition side of the House, that the same sum might be raised without the introduction of those changes which the right hon. Gentleman then proposed. He would state, and without any intention of praising those from whom the suggestion emanated, that the prediction had been verified, and that the required sum had been raised without a change in the scale of duties, and without those changes which would have given an encouragement to slave-grown produce. But the meditations consequent on retirement from office appeared to have been useful to the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman stated, that he had discovered, that he had originally been under a delusion, and that he ought to have estimated the amount to be raised by the operation of his own scheme at 1,000,000l., instead of only 700,000l. It was late, he thought, considering the length to which the discussions on this subject had been carried, to find out, that after seven or eight months of deliberaiton his original estimate was so far erroneous. He confessed, that if he had not well known the sincerity of the right hon. Gentleman, he should have been induced to suppose from the tardiness of this discovery, that a knowledge of subsequent events had had some share in producing it. But the right hon. Gentleman should have remembered, that the Members on his side of the House had not objected to the proposal made by the right hon. Gentleman exclusively on the ground of revenue. The main objection entertained to the right hon. Gentleman's proposal was, that by its operation, an encouragement would be given to slave-grown sugar, before the insufficiency of free grown produce had been shown. The noble Lord (J. Russell) had said that foreign sugar could only be imported into this country, if the measure came into operation, when colonial sugar was at 61s. a cwt. If the noble Lord was correct in his supposition let the right hon. Gentleman look to the prices in the market during the period of the last year. During that period he would find that the price of sugar had averaged 61s. 8d. Consequently upon the hypothesis assumed by the noble Lord the foreign sugar could never have been imported. One of these alternatives, then, was necessary—either that our West India colonies would have been ruined by the measure, 867 or that the amount would not have been produced to the revenue which the right hon. Gentleman now thought would have been produced by the measure. But the right hon. Gentleman entered into calculations to show that some apprehensions might be entertained that in the ensuing year the supply of sugar from free labour would be insufficient for the demand in this country. With the view of supporting this point the right hon. Gentleman had referred to the quantity of sugar in bond last year, and with this he had compared our present supplies, and the prospects of further increase in our stock. Considering then the resolution, which met the general assent of that House—for he thought that no one's opinion ran counter to the principle, that provided the supply of our own sugar equalled our demand encouragement to slave-grown produce ought not to be given,—considering this, he thought the right hon. Gentleman had not succeeded in making out the point for which he contended. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to the quantity of sugar in bond last year, comparing it with what was in bond at the present time. As the right hon. Gentleman found that the quantity at present in bond was less than the quantity in bond the same time last year, he inferred that the consumption of sugar in this country had increased: and, moreover, that the extent of the supplies which might be expected during the ensuing year warranted the impression that our demand would exceed the supply. He would endeavour to demonstrate that there was no foundation for these apprehensions; from the paper to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred it appeared that at this period last year there were in bond about 35,000 tons. He had made some inquiries, and he had ascertained that there were at present in bond in London, Liverpool, Bristol, and Glasgow, upwards of 29,000 tons; and looking to all the accounts which had arrived from both the East and West Indies, there could be little doubt that from 260,000 to 280,000 tons might be expected here during the ensuing year. Considering that the consumption of last year was only 203,000 tons, he thought himself justified in anticipating that the entire supply would be fully sufficient for all our demands. With respect to timber, the right hon. Gentleman had said that he 868 expected to raise 600.000l. of revenue from this source by the operation of his measure. But there was one question which the right hon. Gentleman had never answered, viz., whether the concession was to be adopted which had been expected by the Canadian Government, viz., that in the event of there being a change of duly on Canadian and Baltic timber, the Canadian merchants should have time allowed them to dispose of the timber which was at that time on hand. The House were in possession of Lord Sydenham's opinion that this course ought to be pursued, and the right hon. Gentleman ought to have explained whether or not he would adopt it before he took 600,000l. to his account. The right hon. Gentleman said that the report of the committee of 1821 had recommended the plan he intended to adopt, and on the ground of the similarity between his own project and the report of 1821 he had asked the House to agree to his proposal. But were the two projects identical? He denied that they were, for by the recommendation of the report of 1821 the duty on Canadian timber was to be 10s., when the duty on Baltic timber was 55s. But the right hon. Gentleman's plan was, that when the duty on Baltic timber was 50s., Canadian timber should be imported at 20s. The difference between the respective duties in the one case was 45s., in the other case it was 30s. And the effect of the latter scale would be, that the consumption of Canadian timber would be diminished by the operation of the increase of duty, while the consumption of Baltic would not be materially increased by the trifling reduction in the duty. The benefit would therefore go to the producer, and not to the consumer, by the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman. Having thus adverted to the topics embraced in the budget of last year, he thought he might now be allowed to come to the more important question for the consideration of the House at the present time—viz., how the House were to make up the deficiency in the account of the last five years, and how they were to repair those differences in a way which would be least oppressive to trade and manufactures, and most advantageous to the revenue. The right hon. Gentleman persisted that a tax levied on articles of general consumption would be most effec- 869 tive for their purpose. Those who acted with him thought it more conducive to the interests of the country to levy a tax on the accumulated wealth of the country, which might be ascertained by the amount of income, rather than one which, although it affected all orders of society, still pressing on articles which were generally needed, would be felt more keenly by the middle and lower than by the upper classes of society. This was the right lion. Gentleman's plan, ["No, no."] Why, the right hon. Gentleman held in his hand a list of the customs duties which had been taken off, and he wished to know how it was possible to add to the customs without affecting the interest of the consumers. After having objected to the reduction of the customs duties, he next came to the 13,000l., which had been taken off the excise. Take, for instance, the article of salt. The right hon. Gentleman would have them impose a duty on salt with the view of remedying the emergencies of our finances. If this duty were re-imposed, no doubt the higher orders, and those possessed of large capitals, would be exempt from paying the amount to the State, which the tax proposed required; yet would this arrangement entail much disadvantage on our manufactures, besides diminishing the comforts. Then, again, take candles. Was it expected to re-impose a duty on them? Who were the chief consumers of tallow candles? They were not those who would contribute principally to the tax on incomes, but they were chiefly those who were liable to suffer by consecutive bad harvests, who sustained great misery, who were less able to bear the burdens of the State, and whom, if we were sincere, we ought to relieve of those burdens. Then, again, soap; and he might go through all the articles of the excise, and the objections to one would be found equally applicable to all. Would the right hon. Gentleman impose the duty on beer? He had removed that duty principally because he wished to restore to the lower orders that beverage, which he believed was so necessary to their health, their comfort, and their strength; and he should be most unwilling (a feeling in which the House, he was sure, would sympathise) to re-enact that duty. Yet this, among, others, had been brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman as one of those taxes which he 870 would re-impose on articles of consumption necessary to the working classes. The opinion of the Government, however, was, that the period had arrived when, instead of thus imposing new burdens on the consumption of the community, the wealth and property of the country should be appealed to. What other taxes would the right hon. Gentleman consider as available resources? The window-tax— half of which had been repealed? Or the house-tax? Would not either of these fall heavily upon those very orders of society which it was least desirable to burden? He believed, that whatever might be the feelings of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the feeling of the country was strongly against the imposition of such taxes as he had alluded to; and if the Government were to reserve a weapon in their armoury for periods of difficulty and distress, when it might be necessary to call for every possible exertion, he thought it would be far better to reserve those taxes which the right hon. Gentleman had suggested, and now to adopt that which the Government recommended. But the right hon. Gentleman said the Income-tax ought never to be imposed except under the pressure of war. What, however, was this fanciful distinction, as to war? The tax was not imposed because they were at war; but because they were involved in difficulty with respect to raising a revenue, because they were involved in debt, and because they were bound to extricate themselves from debt. Had they not been long under the pernicious system of borrowing from year to year—in nominal peace, but in virtual war—war as to its effect on the finances of the country? Nay, if Gentlemen opposite required some actual hostilities as the justification of an extraordinary tax, he would ask them to look to the East, and remember the warfare in China and India, which, though in some respects perhaps inglorious or unworthy of our arms, and though in some part attended with disaster, had required great expenditure, and would require the strongest financial exertions on the part of the Government. Then the right hon. Gentleman had talked about the injustice of the proposed tax, as not pressing in the same way on different classes. "Unjust, unequal," cried the right hon. Gentleman. Why, this was the very language which he had seen in the streets on the placards of some 871 low weekly papers—" No Income-tax — no inequality—no injustice." It was impossible not to be sensible that taxation must be necessarily an evil. It was impossible, in the present state of society, to impose any tax, (so complicated and so artificial were the relations and the interests of the community), without pressing with greater force on one class or on another. Nor would he say, that an income-tax was exempt from this objection, applying as it did equally to all taxes. But look at the articles of taxation which the right hon. Gentleman himself proposed. How did they operate? Did they press equally on all classes? Did they not press more heavily on the lower and the middle classes, to whom they were necessary? Was it not in the power of the higher and richer classes often to relinquish articles which their inferiors in society must consume? Was it then fair to tax equally articles necessary to one class, luxurious to another? The excise duties, for instance, appeared in some respects oppressive or unequal in their operation, with a considerable degree of domestic inquisition, all of which had been, and would be, characterised as exceedingly vexatious. All the eloquence which the right hon. Gentleman had used against the Income-tax had been used in former times by those who had pointed out the Excise duties as containing every possible vice; and of this the right hon. Gentleman might be assured, that all the accusations which he had brought against the property-tax would be repeated from time to time against any tax that might be invented, certain as it must be to affect some particular interests. Let not the House suppose, that in bringing this measure forward, as essential to the interests of the country, the Government had not been fully sensible of the difficulties under which they would have to labour—had not been quite aware, that when they struck at the incomes of the country they should excite a feeling to a considerable extent against the measure and the Administration. But they knew enough of the patriotism of the country to believe, that whatever might be the feelings of indiduals, there was yet abundantly sufficient of respect for national honour, of affection for our constitution, and of determination to uphold it, to counteract particular objections, and to induce the people to sus- 872 tain cheerfully a tax levied on the principle of burdening as little as possible the poorer and the working classes. These were the feelings which would, he was persuaded, overcome all minor considerations, especially when regard was had to those improvements which were to be effected in the trading policy of the country. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to some of the alterations in the tariff, and said, that he observed a number of articles on which duties had been arranged "without principle;" nay, "in some cases, with accompanying augmentation of other duties;" and the right hon. Gentleman had been pleased to be jocular about the first article in the tariff. Now, the principle which had been announced as the basis of the measure was, by the general relaxation of prohibitory duties, to give facilities for the introduction of articles into this country, connected with the progress of our manufactures, and facilities for intercourse with foreign states. True, a distinction had been made in favour of our colonial possessions. True, a principle had been adopted, that because our subjects had settled in distant parts of the world, establishing communities — perhaps empires—calculated to produce, and producing the greatest benefit to their mother country, it was just, that these colonies should have, in essence, if not degree, the same protection for their commodities as we had for ours against foreign manufactures or productions. Nor did he shrink from the assertion of that principle. And though he did not pretend to say, that the Government plan was perfect in all respects (what human scheme ever had been or would be?) this he did say, that the principles on which it was constructed were calculated to improve the condition of our fellow-subjects, whether in England or in the colonies, and to advance our commerce and our manufactures. The right hon. Gentleman had complained of a variety of the particulars in the new tariff as likely to be oppressive or impolitic, or to embarrass future negotiations with foreign states; and the right hon. Gentleman had affected a great deal of commisseration for the cork-cutters, to whom, he said, the measure would be seriously injurious. When did the right hon. Gentleman open his ears to the complaints of such parties? Why, it was not very long 873 ago, that these cork-cutters had cause to complain bitterly of the right hon. Gentleman's measures, as exposing them to loss and injury by lowering the duties on the importation into the colonies of the articles they manufactured. Yes; they had complained only last year of the right hon. Gentleman's measure affecting our trade with the colonies; and bitterly had they complained, when the right hon. Gentleman had reduced the duty from ten to seven and a half, which they had represented as likely to ruin their trade. Of course, it would not be supposed, that he was expressing here any opinion at all on the representations these parties made with regard to the Government measure, as to which he was soon to have the pleasure of meeting them, but really it would not do for the right hon. Gentleman now to profess sympathy for the men who so recently had occasion to complain as loudly of himself. The right hon. Gentleman had adverted, moreover, to tobacco, the cultivation of which, he said, had been encouraged in our North American colonies. But there had been a most important petition from the East-India Company, stating in the strongest terms the hardship they had sustained, from not being put on a footing in protection with the inhabitants of our colonies in the western hemisphere. What said the then Government? Did they demur to the proposals for equalization? No. They had agreed to the reference of the question to a committee presided over by one of themselves. They had then felt no fear as to the raising of a protected interest in the East Indies. They had shown a disposition to place the colonies in the east on the same footing with those in the west; giving the East Indies the means of enlarging remittance to this country. Now, tobacco was among the articles which, in this very petition, had been included, and it was not forgotten in the report. The right hon. Gentleman, the late President of the Board of Control, concurred in the importance of encouraging the cultivation of tobacco in the East Indies; and the present Government had felt it due to the immense empire of India, which had so materially suffered in times past, through the superiority of our manufactures, to reduce the tobacco duty, to that imposed on the western colonies of Britain, hoping 874 hereby to encourage the growth of tobacco and to induce the abandonment of that opium traffic, on the part of the East-Indian people, which had already involved us in serious difficulties, and might, hereafter involve us in difficulties yet more serious. He had now touched on most of the topics which had been urged by the right hon. Gentleman. He had no desire to trespass upon the House with any further allusions to particular branches of the Government plan, which, in common with his Colleagues, he should have abundant opportunity for explaining in the committee. The House in entering upon those discussions in which they were about to embark, would not forget the position of the question as it now stood, in this preliminary debate, between the right hon. Gentleman and himself, that he had been contending for the Ministerial measure, as calculated, by taxing property, to afford relief to the lower classes from the burden of the requisite taxation, while the right hon. Gentleman who had preceded him desired to re-impose taxes, which fell much less on the rich than on the poor, and which were felt more severely though they were not levied so directly. Such a plan as that proposed by the right hon. Gentleman could not fail of inflicting permanent and serious evils. He and his colleagues had laboured most anxiously to avoid having recourse to the measure now proposed by her Majesty's Government, knowing the opinion which would be entertained against it, by some portions of the people, and the burdens which it must throw on many. But he did most sincerely believe, that under the present circumstances of the country, encumbered with a debt which must be discharged, bound to maintain a receipt equal to the expenditure, equal to the preservation of our empire abroad, and our character throughout the world, it was only by the imposition of a tax affecting the property of the country, that it was possible successfully to cope with difficulties so gigantic. For that reason, he had joined in proposing this measure; and he trusted, that whatever might be the inconvenience, it must and would occasion its reception by the people of this country, would increase the confidence entertained throughout the world in the energy and the stability of the empire, founded on 875 the determination of the higher and the more wealthy among its subjects, in common with the middle and the lower classes, to make every sacrifice for the preservation of its power, and in maintenance of its honour; that then the result might be not merely present relief, but that elevation of the national character, and that demonstration of the nation's unanimity which was the most effectual security against hostile machinations.
§ Viscount Howick
said, the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. Goulburn) has complained of the manner in which this discussion has been commenced, and has said that it might more regularly and more conveniently have been deferred until we had gone into the committee; in this opinion I cannot agree with him; when we are in committe our attention will be more properly directed to the several and distinct parts of the plan of her Majesty's Government. The particular objections which exist to an Income-tax will, I have no doubt, be urged when the resolution in favour of that measure is submitted to us, and I shall find it my duty to join the hon. Gentleman opposite, the Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Bell) in resisting the resolution for the imposition of an export duty upon coals; but before we come thus to consider individually the different measures which have been proposed to us, I conceive it to be both convenient and consistent with the established practice of the House, that we should avail ourselves of the opportunity afforded by the question that you should leave the chair, in order to discuss the general effect and character of the financial measures recommended to us by the Government, when considered as a whole. The right hon. Gentleman next proceeded to argue that the necessity of imposing so burdensome a tax as that to which we are now called upon to submit, has been produced by the financial mismanagement of the preceding Government in the years 1838, 1839, and 1840. Sir, whether there was such mismanagement or not is a question which I will not now condescend to discuss; though 1 had myself during two of those years the honour of holding office, and though I must therefore consider myself jointly responsible with the friends who sit around me for what was done at that time. I will not now* From a corrected report.876 attempt to defend the conduct of the administration to which I then belonged. I will abstain from doing so, because I think the question now before us is one which ought to be considered without any reference to party interests, or the comparative merits of the two great parties which have successively held the reins of government. The question whether those who now occupy this bench acted judiciously or otherwise in the management of our finances when they were in office, is one of so little moment, when compared with that which is now before us, that it ought not to be allowed to occupy our attention. The question we have now to discuss is not whether the measures of the late Government were right or wrong, but what are the best measures, with a view to the interest of the country, which Parliament can now adopt. It is to this question, and to this question only, that I will address myself. The right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, in unfolding, a few nights ago, his plans to the House, condemned in the most emphatic terms the policy of persevering in any course of financial management which could lead to a further accumulation of debt during peace; he enforced upon the House, in the strongest manner, the necessity of adopting such measures as may effectually prevent the public expenditure from exceeding our income. In these sentiments of the right hon. Baronet I most heartily concur, and I am ready to consent to any sacrifice which may really be necessary in order to support the honour of the country, and to maintain the civil and military establishments of the state, without augmenting the public debt. I admit also that 1 do not look for any reduction of our present expenditure, and if it can be shown that the taxes it is proposed to levy are really indispensable in order to raise a sufficient revenue to meet that expenditure, I am quite ready to take my share of the responsibility of voting for their imposition. But, on the other hand, I take it for granted that it will be equally admitted that the House of Commons is not justified in imposing new burdens on the people, unless their necessity can be very clearly shown; for one, I should not think it consistent with my duty, under any circumstances, least of all in such a time of admitted distress as the present, to consent that any additional weight of taxation should be placed upon the people unless it 877 can be proved to me that there are no other means by which the wants of the public service may be met; and I think we are bound to be more than usually careful, and even jealous, in looking into the case of necessity which is laid before us, when the new tax which we are called upon to levy is one by its nature so objectionable, and so odious, as that which has now been proposed. Then, Sir, I ask the House whether we can consider the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government to have thus clearly established the necessity for the very onerous tax he intends to levy, after listening to the statements we have this evening heard from my right hon. Friend, the Member for Portsmouth. I confess it appears to me, that my right hon. Friend has shown, that much might be done towards supplying the deficiency of our revenue, without adopting what I think ought to be a last resource, and I think the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Goulburn) has signally failed in pointing out any error in the statements he had made. The House will recollect, that among the various sources whence the public income might be recruited, pointed out by my right hop. Friend, he mentioned a fixed duty upon corn. So much has lately been said upon this topic, and I had myself only a few nights ago an opportunity of so fully expressing my opinion upon it, that I had not meant now to advert to it at all; but I really cannot pass by without some observation the answer of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to what I thought the very clear statement of my right hon. Friend—that if the proposed fixed duty of 8s. a quarter upon wheat had been adopted last year by the House, it would have produced 1,100,000l., instead of only 500,000l., and the revenue would have gained the difference, or 600,000l. Now, what was the answer of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? He told us that my right hon. Friend was quite mistaken in his argument, that either the revenue he had calculated upon from the 8s. duty would not have been obtained, because, had this duty been payable the large quantity of wheat entered at the 1s. duty would not have come in; or else, he said, if the revenue had still been obtained, it would have been a great addition to the burdens of the country. Surely when the right hon. Gentleman used this argument, he must hare been inwardly laughing at 878 the credulity of his hearers. The right hon. Baronet, a few nights ago, taunted the opponents of the Corn-law with the want of ability which has been shown upon this side of the House during the protracted debates upon that subject; but I think his right hon. Colleague has a little too much depended upon our dullness of comprehension when he ventured to use a fallacy which I think could hardly impose upon a child. No doubt, Sir, it is very true, that by raising the rate of duty upon any article of consumption you cannot in general ensure a proportional increase of revenue, because the increase of duty raises the price, and thus limits the consumption of the article upon which it is imposed. This is a principal perfectly simple and well understood, but how, let me ask, does it apply to disprove the assertion of my right hon. Friend, that a fixed duty of 8s. upon wheat would produce a much larger revenue than that which is received under the existing law? Would the substitution of the fixed duty during the last year have raised the price of wheat to the consumer, and thereby limited the quantity imported? I think the right hon. Gentleman himself is hardly prepared to argue that it would; certainly the opinion out of doors, amongst those best acquainted with the corn-trade, is, that if the fixed duty had been imposed last year, the effect of the change would have been not to raise but to reduce the price. I will not waste the time of the House by fighting over again battles which have been already fought, and by attempting again to show how this result would have been produced; I will content myself with saying, that it is my firm conviction, that a fixed duty even considerably higher than 8s. a quarter would be less burdensome to the consumer than the variable duties we are about to impose, and that therefore my right hon. Friend has rather under than over estimated the additional revenue which might be realised from this article of corn.* Thus, therefore, no very incon- * A strong confirmation of the accuracy of this statement may be drawn from what took place towards the close of last summer. Upon referring to the Gazette averages at this time, it will be found, that for seven weeks,— namely, from that ending the 30th of July to the 10th of September, the average price of wheat was 72s. 5d., and even this average price, as given in the Gazette I have already 879 siderable part of the deficiency for which the right hon. Baronet has to provide might have been met, and I would ask that class with which I am myself most closely connected—I mean the landed interest—whether, now that they know the whole plan of the Government, they have any great reaon to congratulate themselves on its adoption? Are they quite convinced that they have done wisely to insist upon retaining the "sliding-scale," when the consequence of doing so is, that itshown, (see speech on the Corn-laws, p. 12), to be much below that really paid by the consumer. Now, if the importer had not had a motive to keep the foreign corn then in the country in bond until the aggregate average which governs the duty had risen to the point which allowed them to enter it for home consumption at the minimum duty, there can be no doubt that this corn would have been gradually brought into consumption at an earlier period, and would thus have kept down the prices during these seven weeks. It is impossible to ascertain with any degree of accuracy, how much the cost of wheat was thus enhanced to the consumer at this time; but that it must have been so to a very considerable amount, there is no room to doubt. It appears from a statement of the prices of Dantzic, high-mixed wheat in bond in London given by Mr. Hubbard, in the appendix to his very able pamphlet, in favour of a fixed duty, that from the middle of June till the end of July, the price of bonded wheat of this description ranged from 47s. to 57s. a quarter; it is therefore obvious, that if it could then have been entered at a duty of 8s. or 10s. a quarter, it might have been sold with advantage at a price much under the very high one, to which good wheat attained during the month of August; and if the duty payable on wheat had been a fixed one of about this amount, the importer would not only have had no motive for keeping back the stock he held, when from the state of the markets it was most wanted; but he would also have been enabled to make earlier arrangements for the importation of corn, for resorting to more distant markets, so that he would have had a larger and a cheaper supply. From these considerations, and looking also to the fact, that a great fall of prices speedily followed the liberation of the bonded corn (three weeks after the large entry which took place, when the minimum duty became payable), the Gazette average came down to 61s. 9d,, it may, I think, be assumed, without any risk of exceeding the truth, that for the seven weeks I have mentioned, the price of wheat must have been raised to the consumer, by the operation of the sliding-scale, at least 10s. a quarter. But the consumption of the United Kingdom is reckoned at 24,000,000 of quarters annually, which is880 becomes necessary to impose the Income-tax? Is it not possible that when they come, at the end of the year, to cast up their accounts, and see what they have had to pay and what they have gained, they may find that the "sliding-scale" has been rather an expensive luxury? But, Sir, I am aware that the House has practically decided the question as to corn; I will not, therefore, dwell further upon it, nor should I have mentioned it but for what fell from the right hon. Gentle-equal to a weekly consumption of about 460,000 quarters. In this, however, is included the wheat used for seed (none of which, of course, would be required at the season of the year to which I am referring), and the ordinary consumption must also have been a good deal checked by the high price, it will therefore be necessary to make a large deduction from the average weekly consumption of the country in calculating that of this period. I will take this deduction at 100,000 quarters, leaving 360,000 quarters at the estimate weekly consumption, making in the seven weeks a total of 2,520,000 quarters; upon which, as I conceive, the consumer paid an enhanced price of at least 10s. a quarter, in consequence of the present state of the law; that is to say, a tax was virtually levied upon the country of at least 1,250,000l. without bringing one shilling into the Treasury. For this tax thus burdensome, but at the same time unproductive, I have contended that we ought to substitute one less burdensome, but which would produce a very considerable revenue, and it is the refusal of Parliament to take this course which has mainly contributed to render the Income-tax necessary. One more observation on the high prices of last summer: were they of any advantage to the farmers, while they were so heavy a tax upon the consumer? I believe you well know, that in general they were not; the rise took place too late to be of any service to the farmer; from the beginning of the year up to about the middle of July, the price of wheat, according to the Gazette, had varied from a little under 60s. to to about 64s. a quarter,—even so late as the 22d of July it was not higher than 64s. 11d., and it was only after that time that it rapidly rose; but I need hardly observe that the number of farmers who had then any considerable quantity of wheat left to sell must have been very small, and by the time the new crop was ready for market the price had again seceded. Thus the effect of the sliding-scale was to stop the regular influx of foreign wheat when it was most wanted, and to raise the prices to an extravagant height when the farmers had nothing to sell, and then letting in the whole accumulation thus caused by damming up the regular stream to deluge the markets just as the new crop came to be disposed of.881 man. The right hon. Gentleman, when he brought forward his budget, in labouring to prove that we have no other resource but that of an increase of direct taxation, told us that it was in vain to look for an increase of revenue from a mere diminution of duties. He said, that although it is true a great advantage frequently arises from the diminution of duties which have been injudiciously raised too high, still the immediate effect of such a diminution, even in the case of duties which have been extravagantly high, is almost always some loss of income, the lower duties may be proportionally more productive, but it scarcely ever happens that they are sufficiently so to prevent the positive amount of revenue received from falling off in the first instance; sometimes it is never again recovered. I freely admit, that this statement of the right hon. Baronet is perfectly correct—a reduction of mere revenue duties is not a means to which we can look for an immediate increase of the public income, but I want to know against whom is the argument directed? It has no bearing at all upon the point really at issue, and the right hon. Baronet, in taking so much pains to establish it, has only been fighting with a shadow. That for which we contended last year was something very different from the reduction of duties, however injudiciously high, which have been imposed merely for the sake of revenue. There are fiscal regulations which bring no money into the Exchequer, yet raise the price of the articles to which they apply; and it is to a modification of these regulations, of these "protections," as they are termed, that we have contended that we ought to look, in order at once to increase the revenue and to relieve the consumer. The case of sugar, which was so much debated last year, will serve to illustrate what I mean. Foreign sugar is very much cheaper than that of the produce of the British colonies, but the former is excluded from consumption in this country by a prohibitory duty, while the latter is admitted on the payment of 24s. a cwt. Last year, her Majesty's then Government proposed, that foreign sugar should be admitted for home consumption on the payment of a duty of 36s.; I will not now inquire whether this measure was a good one or not, but I will ask whether any man 882 in his senses can doubt that it would have produced a very considerable increase of revenue. No one has denied that foreign sugar would have come largely into consumption paying a duty of 36s., and that subject to that duty it would have been sold at least as cheap as British sugar. What then would have been the result? Upon every cwt. of foreign sugar the Exchequer would have received 12s. more than for the same quantity of British sugar, while at the same time, a larger supply of sugar being brought into our markets, the price would have been lowered; thus the effect of this measure, so far as reducing the price, and thereby increasing the consumption, would have been that of a diminution of the duty; but in respect of productiveness to the Exchequer, its effect would have been that, not of a reduction, but of an increase of the rate of duty, since taking the whole quantity imported, British and foreign together the average duty paid would have been raised. The principle is precisely the same with respect to all our protecting duties, nor can anything be clearer than that by modifying them we may improve the revenue; and I would ask, what is there in common between measures of this kind and those for the reduction of duties to which the right hon. Baronet referred, in order to prove that no increase of the public income could be thus obtained? It was very natural that the reduction of the duties upon wine, upon tobacco, upon newspaper stamps, and even upon coffee, however advisable upon other grounds, should occasion all of them for a time, and some permanently, a diminution in the revenue realised from these articles, because in these measures you did not alter at least, not materially, any previously existing "protecting" or differential duty. But there was one exception to the rule laid down by the right hon. Baronet, there was one reduction of duty amongst those he mentioned which did produce an immediate increase of revenue—and what was that? The exception was with regard to rum, and this exception proves the soundness of the distinction I have drawn. The duty upon rum is in the nature of a protecting duty, it is comparatively so much higher than the duty upon British spirits, which, to a great extent, compete with it, that it causes the latter to be consumed in its place; but by the reduction of the duty upon rum, the artificial preference 883 given to British spirits was diminished, hence the immediate increase of the revenue in consequence of that measure, and thus even the cases mentioned by the right hon. Baronet, instead of making against the principle for which we contend, on the contrary, tend to establish it. Now, Sir, when it is a question whether we are to impose a new and most burdensome tax upon the people, I must contend that, before we proceed to do so, we ought fairly to try whether, by adopting the principle of modifying our protecting duties, it may not be possible to obviate the necessity of increased taxation. And in the first place, I am bound to say, that I think this principle ought to be applied in the case of sugar. I am not arguing that the precise measure of the late Government ought to be adopted, all I contend for is, that the principle of admitting foreign sugar to compete with that produced in our own dominions, is one which ought to be in some shape or other admitted. We have just been told that, without any such alteration, the increase upon the sugar duties has been as great as that calculated upon by my right hon. Friend, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer. I care not whether it has so or not—I care not what may have been received; whatever that amount may be, it is clear it would have been still larger if foreign sugar, paying 50 per cent. more than our own, had been allowed to come into consumption; and I take my stand upon the broad principle, that if it can be introduced into this country upon these terms, it ought to be admitted. I do not wish to debate over again the question we last year discussed, as to whether the admission of foreign sugar would encourage the slave-trade, but I cannot help saying that I believe the fallacy of the arguments put forward upon this point is now pretty generally understood, and that the country knows very well what to think of that very sensitive fear of encouraging the slave-trade, which was not felt by the great majority of those who were most active in contending for the abolition of slavery, but was most loudly proclaimed by the old advocates of slavery and of monopoly. The delusion upon this question, if it ever really existed, has now passed away; it is therefore to be regretted, that in the eagerness of party warfare, the right hon. Baronet last year selected this as a ground of attack upon the late Government, and is consequently now pre- 884 cluded, by a regard for consistency, from availing himself of the financial resource which an alteration of the sugar duties would have afforded, and of which I think he must wish that he could take advantage. The next point to which I should wish to call the attention of the House, is the change it is proposed to make in the duties upon coffee. The right hon. Baronet told us, that in consequence of this change, he calculated upon a loss of 170,000l., but that he expected it to prove of great advantage to the consumer. I am by no means insensible to the advantage of affording to the people a cheaper supply of so important an article as coffee, and I am glad to find that, in spite of the danger of encouraging slavery, the right hon. Baronet is not afraid to facilitate the importation of foreign coffee, though I believe no very small quantity of slave-grown coffee will probably be imported from Brazil and from Cuba. But, however great the advantage of obtaining a cheap supply of coffee, I must say that I think 170,000l. is a large amount of revenue to sacrifice at a time when we are considering whether it may not be possible to avoid imposing so heavy a burden as the Income-tax, and we ought to recollect, that a few such items as this saved in the budget of the right hon. Baronet, would go far towards averting the necessity of that most odious impost. Keeping this in mind, I cannot approve of the manner in which the right hon. Baronet proposes to deal with the duties upon coffee. He intends (the House will recollect) to reduce the duty upon British coffee from 6d. to 4d. per lb., and that upon foreign to 8d.; that is to say, he intends to maintain a protection; in other words, a tax upon the people of this country in favour of the colonies of no less than 100 per cent. I cannot see the policy or the justice of this proceeding, and, in my opinion, it would have been a much wiser course to have maintained the duty on British coffee, for the present at least, at its actual amount, and to have made no other change in the law but that of admitting foreign coffee at the duty of 9d., without requiring it to be shipped from a British possession within the limits of the East India Company's charter. At present the House is aware, that foreign coffee is only admitted at a duty of 9d. when thus brought to this country; the consequence is, that the coffee of Brazil and 885 of Haiti is sent to the Cape of Good Hope, there landed, and then again shipped for this country. The effect of the change I have ventured to recommend would be, that the absurd waste of expense in making two voyages, and in twice shipping and unloading the cargo, would be saved, and foreign coffee brought direct from the countries where it is grown, would be admissible on the payment of a duty 50 per cent. higher than that on the produce of British possessions, the result would be, that the consumer would have a more abundant and a cheaper supply than at present, while the revenue, instead of losing 170,000l., would certainly be increased, and probably in a few years to no very small amount. Perhaps it may be said, that 170,000l. is, after all, no such very large sum; but I repeat, it is only one item in the budget, and when we are trying to find the means of dispensing with an Income-tax, these apparently trifling matters are not unworthy of our consideration. On the article of timber, the proposal of the Government involves, as we are told, a loss of revenue of 600,000l; to this again I must object, but the subject is so extensive, there are so many circumstances to which it would be necessary to advert in considering how we ought to deal with the timber duties, that, upon this point, I will merely say that the proposal which has been made seems to me to be one which would be attended with a needless and gratuitous waste of the public resources. Passing from this part of the subject, and turning to a consideration of the new tariff proposed by her Majesty's Government, I feel bound to say, that I fully occur in the opinion expressed respecting it by my right hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth; like him, I heard with great delight the liberal sentiments expressed by the first Minister of the Crown, in his speech the other night, on the subject of commercial policy; but when I came to look through the scale of duties proposed, I could not but feel grievously disappointed. While I admit that the right hon. Baronet has promised us some valuable remissions of duties, I think hon. Members must have seen, if they have carefully examined the proposal submitted to us, that he has at the same time introduced a principal into his financial plan of the most objectionable nature. The principal to which I object is that which pervades the whole tariff, of increasing old bounties 886 where they exist; where they do not, of creating new bounties in favour of the produce of our colonies. This is a course, as I believe, little for the advantage of the colonist, but seriously detrimental to the nation at large. I am persuaded that the soundest policy is to establish no monopoly either in favour of the mother country or of the colonies, and that we should give the latter the power of buying what they want wherever they can obtain it at the cheapest rate, while, on the other hand, they should not have the power of taxing this country, for it is obvious that the real effect of differential duties in favour of colonial produce, is to impose a tax upon the British consumer, to compel him to buy a dearer or a worse article than he could otherwise obtain. The right hon. Gentleman thinks that a very different policy is the right one, and has told the House — if I have correctly taken down his words— that the "principle of her Majesty's Government with respect to the colonies is that of giving to our fellow-subjects who inhabit those colonies the same advantages in essence though not in degree as ourselves." Now, if it were possible to establish a complete equality of taxation, and a perfect freedom of trade between the colonies and this country, like that which exists between Ireland and Great Britain, and to let the colonies share our burdens on the one hand, and have an entirely free-trade with us on the other, this would be a wise course to pursue. But the right hon. Gentleman is aware that this is not possible, there are physical and natural obstacles to such a course which are insurmountable; the colonies cannot be included in the same revenue system as ourselves; and as a great part of our revenue is derived from duties upon articles imported from foreign countries, which are also produced in our colonies, if we give to the latter the power of sending here these articles at lower rates of duty than are charged on the similar produce of other states, this has the effect, in the first instance, of unnecessarily taxing the people of this country and next of injuring the colonies themselves by diverting their enterprise and capital from their natural channels, and by creating great interests in trades only bolstered up by artificial means and by monopoly. Such is the policy recommended by the right hon. Gentleman. The policy which I, on the contrary, shall ever advocate, is that of dealing fairly both 887 with this country and with the colonies, by allowing free-trade on their side, and not giving them any advantages here of the kind proposed. I am perfectly aware that the opposite system has been too long in force to expect an immediate change; under the opposite system interests have grown up, and habits have been formed which it would not be expedient at once to disturb. I never have been an advocate for sudden and violent changes, and therefore I do not call upon the House at once to sweep away all these differential and protective duties; but what I do contend for—and I think the House and the country will concur with me in believing it to be the correct policy— is this, that when we are about to deal with these duties when we are going to make changes in them, all these changes should be in the right direction, and should lead us nearer to, not further from, the adoption of sound principles. When we are dealing with differential duties, we should endeavour to mitigate and not to increase them; and when we find no differential duties in existence, we should be most cautious not to establish them. But is that the principle upon which the right hon. Gentleman has constructed his scale? No; precisely the opposite. The principle of the right hon. Gentleman is to increase protection where it now exists and to create it where it has hitherto been unknown. My right hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth has pointed out many cases in which such new protections are to be established; some of these, for instance those given to colonial asses and Eau de Cologne, will it is true, as he has observed, have no practical effect, and they are to be condemned only because they are absurdities in legislation and because they recognise a vicious principle; but there are some of the new differential duties which will be productive of much more serious evil and will have a most injurious effect upon our revenue and upon the British consumer. By far the most important of these cases is that of tobacco, adverted to by my right hon. Friend, and I beg most particularly to call the attention of the House to the facts bearing upon the proposed change in the tobacco duties, and to the answer which has just been made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the argument upon this point of my right hon. Friend. At present the duty payable upon tobacco, the produce of our North 888 American or West Indian colonies is 2s. 9d. per lb.; the tobacco of all foreign countries and of India being subject to a duty of 3s. The proposed change would extend to East Indian tobacco, the same advantage in the rate duty now enjoyed by the tobacco of the West Indies and of North America, the plausible ground upon which we are asked to make this change, being that we ought to do away with invidious distinctions between different parts of the British dominions. But in point of fact, the advantage now enjoyed by our colonies in America, is altogether nugatory and the whole of our supplies of tobacco are now drawn from foreign countries, and mainly, as the House is aware, from the United States; I find by the paper which the right hon. Baronet has laid upon the Table of the House, that the amount of duty received in the year 1840, upon tobacco the produce of British possessions was "none," while the duty on foreign tobacco amounted to 3,498,112l. Now, under these circumstances the effect of the measure proposed by the right hon. Baronet, will be for the sake of getting rid of a merely nominal inequality between the East and West Indies, to give to East Indian tobacco an advantage over American tobacco of 3d. per lb.; but 3d. per lb. is equal to the full value of tobacco, taking the average of different qualities, therefore, we shall give to East Indian tobacco an advantage equal to 100 per cent. upon the original value of the article. And what will be the consequence? Why if East Indian tobacco can be brought into this country at a cost something less than double the cost of American tobacco, our whole supply of tobacco will be drawn from India instead of from America, our trade with the United States will be greatly injured, and they will no doubt, impose retaliatory duties upon the importation of British manufactures; but this is not all, our revenue would suffer no less than our trade, without giving the slightest advantage to the consumer, or any discouragement to the smuggler, without rendering tobacco cheaper, or benefitting any one but the speculators in Indian tobacco, we should make a great reduction in the amount of duty paid upon an article which now yields a revenue of three millions and a half. Of course, I do not mean to say that this result will follow immediately from the adoption of the measure, it will necessarily take time to 889 extend the cultivation of tobacco in India, but if, as I have said, it can be produced there so as to cost here a very little less than double as much as American tobacco, it must by degrees drive the latter out of our market, the American supply will gradually fall off and that from India will gradually increase, and in the end we shall find that the public will have to pay the same price as before, nothing will be gained by the consumer, while at the same time the Treasury will receive only 2s. 9d. instead of 3s. on every pound of tobacco, that is to say, we shall have made a reduction of 8 per cent. in one of our most productive sources of revenue without obtaining any one of those compensating advantages to which we usually look from a diminution of taxation. Perhaps when this result becomes apparent we may wish to retrace our steps, but if we attempt to do so we shall immediately be met with the cry of "vested interests;" we shall be told that it would be a breach of faith, that land has been brought into cultivation, and capital invested upon confidence in an act of Parliament; as usual, we shall find the interests of monopoly more powerful than those of the public, and we shall be permanently saddled with a new tax, disguised under the name of protection. And I am reminded, that while we make this wanton sacrifice of revenue for the benefit of India, with wonderful consistency, in order to maintain this very same source of revenue we have prohibited the cultivation of tobacco in this country; it is only a very few years since we most properly passed an act to put a stop to the cultivation of tobacco in Ireland, because we perceived, that if it were permitted to continue it would occasion a heavy loss to the Treasury without advantage to the consumer. But what is the answer of the right hon. Gentleman opposite to these reasons, conclusive as they seem to me against the proposal submitted to us? Why, Sir, he justifies the course he proposes to take by the example of the late Government; he says, the late Government referred to a committee of this House, the question of equalising the duties upon the East and West Indian produce, and upon the recommendation of that committee did equalise the duties upon sugar, and upon rum. No doubt they did, but are the cases in the slightest degree parallel? Is it not notorious, that the duties upon foreign sugar, and 890 foreign rum are so nearly prohibitory, that at that time none of either were consumed in this country, our whole supply was drawn from our own possessions, so that in these cases there was a real inequality to be corrected, while there was no Joss of revenue to be apprehended from doing so, and the consumer gained from the extension of the field whence a supply could be drawn. But further, does not the right hon. Gentleman perfectly well know, that the late Government was repeatedly and strongly urged to make the very concession to East Indian tobacco, which is now to be granted, and that they steadily and constantly refused for the very reasons that I have now stated. Even before I had myself ceased to have the honour of belonging to that Government, I know that such had been its decision, and it continued afterwards to adhere to the same policy. Tobacco, though by far the most important, is by no means the only article upon which the revenue would be subjected to loss by the establishment of new differential duties in favour of the colonies, the same principle is applied to the articles of tallow, cheese and butter, which together yield no inconsiderable revenue. Cheese and butter produced above 375,000l., in 1840. There is now no protection whatever in favour of our colonies on these articles, but the right hon. Baronet proposes, that in future produce of this description from our colonies should be reduced to half the rate of duty levied upon the same articles from foreign countries; that is to say, he proposes to establish an entirely new monopoly. The duty upon colonial tallow is now 1s., that upon foreign 3s. 2d. a cwt.; the net amount of duty received in 1840, upon foreign tallow, was 184,202l, a larger sum than we ought rashly to risk the loss of to the revenue. But it is obvious, that we cannot, without danger to the revenue, meddle with the existing rates of duty, because I find that there is now some colonial tallow imported, the sum of 81lhaving been received under that head. Why then make so great a change as to reduce the duty upon the colonial article to 3d., leaving that upon the foreign tallow at its present rate of 3s. 2d., or nearly thirteen times as much. Sir, I will not proceed to multiply, as I easily might, examples of the same kind from the paper I hold in my hand; I think I have sufficiently shown, that I was right in assert- 891 ing that this new tariff, of which we were led to hope so much from the speech of the right hon. Baronet, is not founded upon principles of which the House ought to, approve, that it does, as I have already-stated, increase many monopolies which now exist, and establish others from which we are at present free, and I must repeat, that the House cannot judge of the real importance of these changes, and of the evil which will ultimately result from them, from the effect which they are calculated immediately to produce; a trade to which you give a protection may very speedily rise into considerable importance, and when it has once done so, however serious the loss, the protection you have granted is not easily withdrawn, you should, therefore, beware how you in the first instance, nurse up trades which exist only by artificial regulations. Sir, I have stated thus at length the objections which I feel to parts of the tariff of the right hon. Baronet, because I agree with him in thinking, that the financial measures of the Government must be considered as a whole, and because it appears to me, that by carrying farther than he has proposed the principle of relaxing the present restrictions upon trade, her Majesty's Government might raise a very large portion at least of the additional revenue which is required for the public service without any addition to the public burdens; and here I cannot help remarking, that nothing can be more incorrect than the statement of the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last, that the question on which the two sides of the House now differ is, whether we are to tax property, but at the same time to relieve commerce and industry; or whether instead of this, we are to impose taxes which would press less severely than those proposed by the Government on those ranks of society to which we ourselves belong, but would fall heavily on the ranks below us. I utterly deny this to be anything like a correct statement of the difference between us; the grounds on which I object to the policy of the Government are of a totally different character, I agree with the right hon. Baronet, that we are bound to take such measures for obtaining the necessary increase of the revenue as to avoid (as far as it is practicable) to do so, any increased pressure upon the industry of the country; but I contend, that with this view, our first step ought to be to 892 reduce differential or protecting duties which would at once augment the public income, and tend to relieve the consumer. Until we have done what we can to increase the revenue in this manner, I think, that upon every principle of justice, and of good policy, we ought to resist the imposition of any new burdens, and more especially that of a tax in its very nature so exceedingly odious as that proposed to us. The right hon. Gentleman seemed anxious to make out that this would not be so very harsh and odious a tax as we consider it, and he told us, that after all, it would fall principally upon property, and asked whether, instead of it, we should wish to revive the house-tax, or increase the window-tax, which, he observed, would fall more severely upon persons in trade, and of moderate incomes than upon the rich. If this is a valid objection to the house or the window-tax, does it not apply with at least equal force to the Income-tax? Only consider how hardly this will operate in many cases. When, for instance, the class of officers upon half-pay having, of course, only a life income, out of which they have generally to make some provision for their families. I mention this class more particularly, because, in consequence of the situation which I formerly held, letters have been addressed to me by several officers on half-pay, pointing out the cruel effect which this tax will have upon them. I will trouble the House with but a single example; one gentleman has written to me, who, at the early age of twenty-three, was compelled to leave her Majesty's service by a severe wound received in action, by which he was entirely incapacitated for any other employment. He, of course, received a pension for his wound upon which, and his half-pay, he has since been living, these are his only income and will be lost to his family at his death. Now, the pension and half-pay together, of this officer amount to 153l a-year; he, therefore, will come just within the scope of the measure of the right hon. Baronet, and I ask, whether any tax can operate more cruelly than the deduction of a heavy per centage from the scanty income of a person so situated. Sir, I perceive in the countenance of the right hon. Baronet, what is passing in his mind, he will tell us, that individual cases of hardship may easily be found under any system of taxation. This may be true; but I contend, that the Income-tax will press with great severity 893 not merely upon a few individuals here and there, but upon whole classes, upon thousands of persons in this country. If you impose a window-tax, a house-tax, or a tax upon commodities, it may be met in cases where the pressure is greatest by retrenchment, by sacrifices which it is possible to make, but from the Income-tax there is no escape, and though the sum which will be charged upon an income of 150l. a-year may appear small, yet to those who, with such an income, have to preserve a decent station in society, and to provide for their families, the deduction from their means will be a very serious one. Again, we are told, taxation ought to be equal—can anything be more monstrously unequal than the tax recommended to us? The right hon. Baronet does not mean that it should extend to Ireland, because he says, that in Ireland he has not the machinery for its collection. He told us, indeed, that Irish absentees would have to pay it, but it afterwards appeared that this was only meant of Irish proprietors, resident in England, the real absentee, the Irish nobleman or gentleman who chooses to go to Rome or to Paris, will escape, for the right hon. Gentleman has no machinery that can reach him there. Well, then, what are we to think of the equality of a tax which will not be paid by an Irish nobleman of 70,000l. or 80,000l. a-year, but which will be levied upon the pittance of the half-pay officer I have mentioned? And then, Sir, we are told, that this inequality is to be redressed, that Ireland shall pay her share, and that for this purpose an additional tax is to be levied upon Irish spirits. Now, I want to know, will this affect the Irish nobleman abroad? [Lord Stanley here made a remark across the Table.] The noble Lord reminds me, that such a person would equally escape any tax upon consumption —no doubt he would, but the noble Lord should remember that I have not recommended a tax on consumption; I have contended, that it would be unjust to levy an Income-tax, while the revenue might be increased by altering the duties on various articles in such a manner as to relieve, not farther to burden the consumer, in point of fact, if we would take this course, either no new tax would be wanted, or at all events one to a much smaller amount, and of a less odious nature would be sufficient. And this reminds me how completely the right hon. Gentleman 894 opposite seemed to misunderstand the argument of my right hon. Friend who stated, that 26,000,000l. of taxes had been remitted since the peace from which undoubted fact he inferred, that it was impossible the right hon. Baronet could be driven as a last resource to the painfully oppressive tax he now proposes. The right hon. Gentleman treated this argument as if my right hon. Friend had meant to recommend the re-imposition of any one of these taxes which have been repealed, he had (if I did not greatly misunderstand him) no such intention, he argued, (and I join with him in the argument) that, looking to the amount of taxation which has been remitted, the imports not being all upon consumption, but some of them direct taxes of an infinitely less objectionable character than that proposed by the right hon. Baronet, it is not to be believed, that if proper means were taken, the wants of the Exchequer might not be supplied without having recourse to a tax which except in time of war, or as a last resource, in a great exigency, is in the highest degree objectionable. In my opinion, the course proposed to us is unjust and unnecessary. If we began by first altering the present protecting duties, we might find it unnecessary to impose any new burden upon the people; but at all events, there can be no doubt that the amount we should require to raise would be much smaller, and that the new burden, whatever it might be, would be much more easily borne, when the people had been relieved by the removal of restrictions. But there is another, and a still stronger reason which will induce me to refuse my consent, not only to so odious a tax as that upon income, but to any tax, until the course of endeavouring to recruit the revenue by the reduction of protecting duties has been first fully tried. I believe, the adoption of a much more liberal commercial policy to be essential to the welfare of the nation, but we know, from long experience, that the various protected interests are so powerful in this House, so much more powerful than the public interest, that except in a time of financial difficulty I have little expectation of ever obtaining the reforms which are so much wanted. Those who are in favour of these reforms, ought, therefore, to avail themselves of the present position of affairs, we ought now to say, we will grant no new taxes, impose no new burdens upon the people, till we 895 have obtained such a modification of the present protecting duties, as we have a right to expect. By taking this course, I believe, that though we may not succeed now, we shall do so at no very distant time, for though the right hon. Baronet will now have a large majority in favour of his Income-tax, its vexatious and oppressive character, will not have been long practically felt by the country before the disposition to get rid of it, becomes universal, and if he endeavours to maintain it, he will, like the Minister of 1816, see even his truest Friends go out into the lobby against him, upon a proposition to abolish it. And, I think, that this consideration of the certain unpopularity and difficulty of maintaining the tax is one which we ought not to lose sight of, when we are called upon to trust so largely to it, for the maintenance of the public credit, and upon the faith of its continuance to adopt a tariff, creating new protections in favour of the colonies which must, in a few years, be attended with a great loss to the revenue. What will be our situation if, in a few years, when this loss is felt, but we find it difficult, (as I have argued that we should) to recall the steps by which it has been occasioned; if then the oppressive nature of the Income-tax should make the country refuse to submit to its continuance? How much embarrassment might such a state of things occasion, and how much danger to the credit of the country? I feel that I have detained the House too long; I will, therefore, passing by some points to which I could have wished to advert, conclude by repeating, that in voting against the Income-tax, I do not mean to vote against the adoption of any measure, however severe, and however onerous, which can be shown to be really necessary for maintaining the honour, the solvency and the credit of the country; let the right hon. Gentleman opposite show the necessity, and I shall be ready to vote even for the Income-tax; but 1 cannot reconcile it to my sense of duty to my constituents, and to the distressed people of this country, to lay on them such an impost, unless, at the same time, we adopt all the measures in our power for rendering our present taxes more productive, and less oppressive to the people. When this has been done, the proper time will be come for demanding additional taxes, if they should still be wanted, and I shall then be prepared to 896 vote for such as shall be necessary—really necessary for raising a revenue fully adequate to the public wants.
§ Lord John Russell
wished to say a few words before the House went into committee, and as he agreed in all that had been said by his noble Friend, and his right hon. Friend who had preceded his noble Friend, he would not long detain the House, the more especially as he considered that the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had, in fact, given no reply to their arguments. He had considered very much since the right hon. Baronet's speech on Friday last, the arguments that could be adduced in favour of the course then proposed by him, and the result at which he had arrived was the same as had been so ably stated by his noble Friend who had just sat down. In the first place it was their duty to do away with those restrictions which pressed most onerously upon the country. In that respect he found a very great omission in the plan of the right hon. Baronet. With respect to sugar, they were going to raise up a new monopoly, or worse. In 1831 the West Indies furnished more than sufficient for the consumption of this country; now these colonies were unable to send enough. The remaining produce necessary for our supply was to be brought from the East Indies, and thereby every year increasing the capital invested there in the production of sugar. It was, therefore, a very great omission, if they pretended to proceed upon the principle of an advance in commercial freedom, to except sugar from the operation of the rule they applied to other articles. They proposed on some a great reduction of duty changing in some cases from prohibitory duties to 5 or 10 per cent.; but they were wholly inconsistent with themselves in their plan with respect to corn, upon which at the price of 50s., they imposed a duty of 20s. Therefore, in commercial matters, to sugar and corn, represented as they were by great interests, defended by men of large properly and weight, by rich merchants and great planters, they did not dare to apply their own principle, the principle which they themselves acknowledged to be the true principle of commerce. Last year they said, that the late Government brought forward their measures on account of political necessity — the cry served its purpose, but in the present year 897 when they were backed by a large majority, they who were last year looking with so patriotic a view to the interests of the country, now acknowledged the principles they formerly repudiated. But with respect to the two great articles of sugar and corn, they did not dare to carry them out As had been said by his right hon. Friends, they were creating new colonial interests, they were giving new advantages and creating new restrictions, in favour of our colonial interests, but were they not at the same time sowing the seeds of great embarrassment in regard to our relations with foreign countries, encouraging them to adopt the same protective system against ourselves, and so deranging the commerce and industry of this country. They ought to recollect at all times that unless they had very strong reasons — unless they wished to collect revenue, or were bound to a great body of men who were existing by some particular class of industry, every legislation on the subject was mere evil and mischief; and therefore in mere wantonness to create a number of protective duties was the most mischievous course that could possibly be taken. Such being the course proposed to be taken with regard to the colonial commercial policy, he had next to consider what was next to be done with regard to taxation. The right hon. Baronet had said there was an enormous deficiency to provide for. Now, his right hon. Friend (Mr. Baring) had shown if the policy of the last year had been adopted, that deficiency would not have been so great. Other reasons than those connected with slavery might have prevented them from adopting that policy, but it was clear that as a financial plan, had it been adopted, 1,800,000l. would have been secured to the revenue, and the deficiency, in place of 2,500,000l, would not have been more than from 600,000l. to 700,000l. The deficiency then, was so enormous, as the right hon. Baronet called it, because the party opposite had refused what he and those with whom he acted were of opinion would tend to remedy the then state of things. But, as matters stood at the present moment, he would not say that he would absolutely refuse such measures of taxation as would make it certain that next year the revenue might be made not only equal, but above the expenditure. He would not go into details or enter into the question of how 898 the financial difficulties had arisen in former years, but in 1840 his right hon. Friend had proposed measures of taxation, with the view of making the income equal, or nearly so, to the expenditure. In 1841, likewise, they proposed measures which, they conceived, would make the revenue equal to the expenditure; therefore, in principle he was willing to admit that, in 1842, they ought to make some exertions for that purpose. Considering the state of matters in India and in China, which made increased expense necessary, a greater exertion in the way of taxation must be necessarily required; but he could not conceive even after making that admission, that the inadequacy was such, that the deficiency was so great, as rendered it necessary to revert to an Income-tax. It was generally admitted that it was a tax only to be resorted to in a very great emergency; admitting that it did not matter whether the emergency arose from war or from preparations rendered necessary by the state of things, still the emergency must be great. And with respect to objections to an Income-tax, he had high authority on his side, and that was no less than the right hon. Baronet and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In 1840, when his right hon. Friend (Mr. Baring) proposed the addition of 5 per cent. upon the Customs and Excise, and 10 per cent. upon the assessed taxes, the right hon. Baronet said he thought the proposition was the best that could be proposed; when there was what he then called a small deficiency of under 2½millions, it was better to resort to a general tax upon consumption than to an Income-tax, which was not advisable. On another occasion, when one of the Members for Birmingham brought forward the proposition for a tax upon property and income, the right hon. Baronet said nothing, but the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated his opinion freely to be, that it was more advisable to lay a tax upon capital in a diffused state, than upon capital and income in its sources. He did not mean for a moment to say that the right hon. Gentleman had not a right and were perfectly justified in coming to the conclusion that an Income-tax was necessary; he was only showing that even they formerly were of opinion that only great necessity could justify it. He objected to the Income-tax, because 899 he thought a deficiency of 2,500,000l. could be very easily supplied—first, by relaxing the restrictive system of protection; and secondly, by additional taxation in another shape, in order to make up the sum required. Even if they were to recur to some of the assessed taxes which had been repealed—for instance, the Earl of Ripon took off two millions of taxation in 1823; he removed the taxes on four-wheeled carriages and riding horses, which might have been re-imposed. The evil of a tax such as the Income-tax was not confined to the sum drawn from the community; the great objection to it was that which was universally felt and stated, and that was a better argument against it than the most refined that could be used in that House, viz., its inquisitorial character. That character belonging to it had this evil effect, it obliged the needy tradesman, or the person deriving a small income from a profession, to reveal all the sources of his income, and they were made public to all the community and his enemies; or again, it was equally noxious, if not more so, because it induced a man who wished to conceal the state of his affairs to attempt by evasion to avoid the tax, and therefore induced a great part of the community to depart from that truth and sincerity which was so necessary for the happiness of a people. Then with respect to the tax upon consumption or the assessed taxes, they were known—the tax-collector called for a specified sum, and they were not open to the same objection. But the strongest objection of all was, that it had always been considered everywhere as a tax to be resorted to only as a last resource. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Baring) had told them that 36,000,000l. had been taken off since the peace. Now that was not known in foreign countries; the feeling there must be, that they were reduced to the imposition of a tax which was alone resorted to in extremities— when there was a mutiny at the Nore— when the country was in arms against all Europe—when Napoleon was in the zenith of his power—when they were obliged to strain every nerve for the safety of the country. What must they think of the condition of England, if it would suffer, after many years of peace, the imposition of a tax, which had always been essentially a war-tax—a tax which the people would not tolerate after the very first year 900 of peace. The imposition of such a tax would produce a conviction that they had no other resources, that they were obliged to resort to a tax as if the nation was making a struggle for existence, and therefore that the country would be found unprepared for a war. For those reasons he should consider it his duty to vote against the resolution of the right hon. Baronet. If the right hon. Baronet should make changes and modifications in the plan, of course he would consider them, for he would not consider it fair not to look at the whole plan; but he must say that there were some classes who should go free, and to whom the tax should not be applied. He thought Mr. Pitt was perfectly justified in making no distinction, because at that time the nation was engaged in a struggle for its very existence. There were many to whom, under other circumstances, he acknowledged the tax should not apply, but as the nation was engaged in a most arduous and perilous struggle, he said wherever he found income he took the tax. But if they imposed the tax during peace, they required to give far stronger reasons why it was considered preferable to all other taxes which had been projected. If an Income-tax was the best, it was fair it should be made equal, all circumstances being taken into consideration. The right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer said he would not agree to any tax upon consumption, or to the re-imposition of the window-tax, because they might press upon the condition of the poor. If the right hon. Gentleman was so careful of the interests of the poor, and wished to better their condition, when they next went into committee on the Corn Importation Act, let them have their food cheaper than a duty of 20s upon the price of 50s. would allow. As he had before stated, he would give his vote in committee in opposition to the proposition of the right hon. Baronet. If that proposition should be carried in committee, and should hereafter come back to the House upon the report, he would then propose resolutions, and take the sense of the House upon them, in order to place upon record his sense of the nature of the financial situation in which the country was now placed, and his opinion that it was not necessary to have recourse to this very odious, and—if unnecessary—most unjust tax.
§ House in committee of Ways and Means.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, I can assure the noble Lord, that the notice he has given of his intention to offer a determined opposition to my proposal has not in the slightest degree disappointed or disconcerted me. Notwithstanding the silence of the other night—notwithstanding the calmness with which my proposition was received—notwithstanding the declaration that my proposal should be considered as a whole, I felt that in the attempt to meet the difficulties in which this country had been involved by the financial administration of the late Government, I felt that whatever efforts I might make, whether by the continuance of loans, whether by the imposition of taxes upon the income and property of the country, whether by burdens upon the working classes by means of taxes on articles of consumption, I had not undertaken an easy task; but I was confident that my chief opponents would be those who had involved the country in difficulties. But you (speaking to the Opposition), shall not divert the attention of the country from the real point at issue. This is no question of Eau de Cologne; this is no question of colonial asses. Never did I see the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. Baring) so much excited as he was upon that subject. The right hon. Gentleman never felt half the indignation at the financial difficulties of the country that he exhibited at the imposition of a differential duty upon colonial asses as compared to foreign asses. He contemplated with the calmness of a philosopher, year by year, an increasing deficiency in the public finances; but to propose a differential duty of 3d.upon a colonial ass excited the right hon. Gentleman to a pitch of indignation. But the question to be considered is this—the financial administration of the country and of India having been, for five or six years, in the hands of hon. Gentlemen opposite, in what position is the country placed? The time has arrived (again speaking to the Opposition) when your tampering with saving-banks, and with 5 per cent. upon Customs duties, must be abandoned, and some decided and vigorous effort must be made to equalize the income and expenditure of the country. You say that you will submit to future and onerous taxation when you are convinced of its necessity, in order to produce that equalization. 902 Well, upon the actual expenditure you will be called to make in the course of this year, there is a deficit of 3,000,000l. It has become necessary, since I last addressed the House on this subject, to send additional reinforcements to India in consequence of the policy you have pursued with regard to that country; and it will be my duty, in order to adopt the measures which are requisite for vindicating the honour of the British arms, to propose to Parliament increased military estimates, in addition to those which I have already submitted. The actual deficit is 2,570.000l. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. Baring) has seemed delighted at an error he supposed he had discovered in my estimate. The right hon. Gentleman said he had been fishing, and that he had fished with great success, and he informed me that he was about to offer me a large sum of which I was not aware. The right hon. Gentleman said I had calculated an actual deficiency of 2,569,000l., while he had discovered that it would only amount to 2,469,000l., making a difference of 100,000l.; and he taunted me with my arithmetical inaccuracy in exhibiting such a blunder in my calculations. This sum of 100,000l. I thought it necessary to provide, though I could not enter much into detail on the subject, to meet any deficiency which might arise on special emergency. But I must deprive myself of the consolation which the right hon. Fisherman has offered me, for I will venture to say, that the result will be, that I shall have an actual deficiency to provide for to the amount of 3,000,000l. I presume that a provident man, in calculating his expenditure for the year, will take into account, not merely the actual payments for which he has to provide, but any special expenses he may be called upon to meet. 1 said, therefore, that I calculated the cost of the expedition to China—which, in pursuance of the policy of the late Government, we have undertaken to carry on, I trust, even with additional vigour—I calculated the cost of that expedition, for the year ending April, 1843, would be at the very least 1,300,000l. I proposed merely to include in the estimates a vote of 500,000l., because I thought it might only be necessary to provide for the actual payment of that amount in the course of the present year; but 800,000l. of expenditure is thus left unprovided for, and add that sum, supposing the actual deficit should amount 903 not to 2,570,000l., but to 3,000,000l. in the course of the year, to the amount which must be demanded for the service of the ensuing year, and you bring up the clear net deficiency to 3,800,000l. I think that estimate will not be questioned. How, then, is this deficiency to be supplied? All appear to concur in opinion that it ought to be provided for by an addition to the revenue of the country. Sir, I wish in the face of that deficiency to incur a further deficiency. I wish, for the sake of public policy, for the sake of removing burdens which press upon the springs of manufacturing industry and commercial enterprise, to add to the existing deficiency. If it be politic to abolish altogether prohibitions—if it be politic to reduce prohibitory duties—if it be politic to mitigate the duties upon certain articles of consumption, and upon certain raw materials which enter into every commercial enterprise—I allude to such articles as timber—and if that policy be approved of and adopted, a fresh addition must be made to the deficit of the year of from 1,000,000l. to 1,200,000l., leaving, therefore, a total deficiency of revenue, as compared with expenditure, for the ensuing year, of not less than 4,800,000l. I explained to the House, on a former occasion, the mode in which I propose to meet this deficiency. I propose to levy a tax upon the income of the country—upon the income of persons, all of whom I cannot call rich, but the greater number of whom are in comparatively easy circumstances, and this tax upon the property and income of the country will produce the sum of about 3,700,000l. If my facts be admitted as to the extent of the deficiency—if the policy of removing prohibitions, of mitigating prohibitory duties, and of reducing the amount of duty upon certain great articles of commerce, be allowed, the deficiency thus produced must be met in some manner; and the question at issue between the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) and myself—the question which will decide the financial policy as it will decide the fate of the Government—is whether my advice, or that of the noble Lord shall be taken—whether I shall be permitted to make this attempt to relieve the country from embarrassment, or whether the financial affairs of the nation shall be restored to the hands of those who are responsible for the difficulties by which we are surrounded. How does the noble Lord 904 (Lord J. Russell) propose to raise this deficiency of 4,800,000l.? He says, that if I had proposed any other tax, I should have had his cordial support. Does the tax upon coals afford me any striking indication of that cordial acquiescence, when the noble Lord has stated, that I may not only expect his determined opposition to the Income-tax, but also to the tax upon coals? The right hon. Gentleman opposite, (Mr. F. Baring) has questioned the policy of increasing the tax on spirits, and has said, that he entertains opinions most adverse to such a measure. How I shall fare with regard to the stamp duties in Ireland I know not; but I see a right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sheil) preparing for opposition to that branch of my proposal. [Mr. Sheil: I said nothing.] It is some consolation to know that the right hon. Gentleman does not threaten me with opposition; but I do not think, from the indications I have perceived, that I have a right to entertain very sanguine anticipations, that if, instead of resorting to a tax on the income of the country, I had revived the tax upon leather, or salt, or any of the articles from which duties have been removed, I should have received very cordial support from hon. Gentlemen opposite. The noble Lord, (Lord J. Russell) has intimated, that he will submit resolutions to the House in opposition to my measure. Those resolutions will, of course, involve the consideration of the Corn-laws and of the sugar" duties. The noble Lord will again propose his fixed duty on corn, as a means of raising the public revenue; and it will be for the House to determine whether they will adopt the principle of the property-tax, or impose a fixed duty of 8s., or a lower amount, upon corn, in order to improve the finances of the country. Those right hon. Gentlemen who are political supporters of the noble Lord, and who tell me, that by the scale of duties I propose, I am ruining Irish agriculture, and destroying the hopes of the growth of oats in Ireland, will have to decide whether they prefer the noble Lord's scheme to that which I contemplate, for the noble Lord proposes to reduce the protective duty upon Irish produce, below that which it now enjoys, anticipating a supply of revenue from a fixed duty on corn. With respect to sugar, I admit that it is a subject perfectly open to consideration. The noble Lord will be acting in consistency 905 with the opinions he has before expressed, if he proposes a reduction of the duty on foreign sugar, in the hope that a revenue may be derived from that source. What other suggestions the noble Lord may make for improving the revenue of the country I cannot conceive. I am not a little surprised at the course which has been pursued with respect to the reduction I propose to make in the timber duties. I certainly thought it was a prevailing opinion on the opposite side of the House, that there was no more onerous impost than that upon foreign timber. It has been argued that the result of that impost is not merely to diminish the supplies from the countries on the shores of the Baltic—not merely to prevent us from availing ourselves of an extensive market for a considerable portion of our manufactures, but it has also been contended, I believe, that the operation of the tax is to give a preference to inferior timber, as compared with good, and to lead to the purchase of a comparatively bad article at a high price. The proposal I make is to attach a nominal duty to Canadian timber, and to make as great a reduction in the duties on foreign timber imported into this country as is consistent with a just protection to the produce of our own dominions. The loss of revenue, I have no doubt, will be considerable; but I reconcile myself to that loss from the conviction that when you deal with articles of extensive consumption, or the raw materials of manufacture, it is on the whole good policy to make such a reduction as will insure to the consumer the full benefit of that reduction. I have read treatises on this subject edited by hon. Gentlemen attached to the principles of the noble Lord opposite (Lord J. Russell), who have held office in connexion with the party by which the noble Lord is supported, and who have always been considered high authorities in reference to financial and commercial matters. I certainly think that the publications of Sir Henry Parnell are, on many points, entitled to considerable weight; but I have frequently heard them appealed to on the other side of the House as almost conclusive declarations in matters of commercial policy. That hon. Baronet has expressed this opinion with respect to the duty on timber:—The duty on timber affects and injures industry in a great variety of ways, in conse- 906 quence of its being so much used in buildings, ships, machinery, &c.He then goes on to say,That countries possessing forests in the vicinity of navigable rivers have great advantages over others not so circumstanced, and by laying a duty on timber you still further increase those advantages. It would appear as if it were an indispensable preliminary to a continued successful competition with foreign shipbuilders that you should admit foreign timber free of all duty."That, however, (he adds), might be too great a sacrifice of revenue;" and he goes on to state that the particular measure he proposed was this:—that in place of the present duty, it should be reduced to 1l. 10s. per load; and that, thereby he calculated the revenue would be considerably increased, because then nearly the whole of the foreign timber consumed would pay a duty of 1l 10s., instead of a small portion paying 2l. 15s., and the remainder only 10s. His proposal was to impose a duty of 30s. on foreign timber, and of 10s. on that from our colonies; and the duty I propose from 5th April, 1843, is 25s. on foreign timber, 30s. on deals, and on colonial timber only a nominal duty. [Mr. Labouchere: That proposition was made when the revenue was abundant.] Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would wish me to impose an additional duty on foreign timber. Why, that was the policy of the late Government; but I leave the House to judge which is the wisest policy—if you can afford it, to encourage the importation of foreign and Canadian timber at the duties I recommend, or to lay a duty of 50s. on foreign timber, and of 20s. on Canadian timber. If Sir Henry Parnell be right, I cannot help thinking that, if your object be to relieve the pressure upon the springs of industry—upon the ship-builder, the landowner, the builder of manufactories, or the builder of cottages and houses of every description—it is hardly possible for you to make a reduction of duty upon any article of consumption which will give such great and general assistance as the duty on timber, the facility in the importation of which will be so extensively increased. If you can do this without injustice to the colonial timber merchant, you will have accomplished a most important benefit. With respect to coffee, also, I am surprised at the comments made on the other side on my proposed reduc- 907 tion of duty. I thought, after the evidence taken before the import duties committee, showing the gradual increase of consumption—after the testimony given by coffee-house keepers in London, as to the immense importance which the labouring classes attach to the cheapness of coffee—I did not expect to hear from the noble Lord a doubt as to the policy of sacrificing revenue for the sake of increasing consumption. For this purpose, in addition to the deficiency caused by expenditure, I am willing to incur the risk of further deficiency by a remission of duty, making, as I before stated, the total deficiency to be supplied amount to 4,300,000l. I do not deny the objections that exist to a tax upon income: I expected to hear it said, that it is a novel proposition in time of peace; but let me ask, is there any man who can be deceived by such plausible but fallacious observations. It is public necessity which justifies the tax, whether imposed in time of peace or of war. In time of peace, too ! To call this a time of peace. Because you have not the cannon actually booming in your ears, you wisely arrive at the conclusion that we are living in a time of peace. Elevate your vision until it can embrace your Indian territory; look at the war you have been carrying on on the western bank of the Indus. I say nothing of the policy of the course you have pursued there, but can a country engaged in such a war flatter itself that it is at peace? Look again at your Syrian expedition of last year, and concurrently with that the costly hostilities carried on in China. Have you been, and are you now, in that state of profound tranquillity which entitles you to call it peace? Mark, then, all these sources of expenditure, and tell me if you are not in a condition which excepts the present from the ordinary case, and justifies a resort to the Income-tax, and to the objections and inconveniences to which I know it is liable? The noble Lord says,—Do not impose the Income-tax, because you wilt show foreign nations that the resources of this country are exhausted.I say, never mind what may be the impression upon foreign countries. Do that which you believe to be just—that which you think consistent with sound policy— and let foreign nations think what they will. If in a time of peace—a time of 908 European peace—you have a large deficiency to supply, and consider it more just that the affluent classes shall supply it, rather than pressing upon the poor by taxing articles of consumption, adopt that course, and do not be afraid of what foreign countries may think of your resources. If foreign countries misapprehend and mistake—if they print paragraphs in newspapers to show that England is in a condition of financial embarrassment— what difference can that make in your real situation? The time will come when they will discover their error; and in the meanwhile act no unworthy as well as unwise part, but disregard all such consequences as what others may for the moment think of your condition and resources. If you do what is just, and so far what is politic, depend upon it, after mists have cleared away, perhaps, in a little week, foreign countries will arrive at a more fair conclusion, and if their opinion be of so much importance, they will then admire you for making exertions corresponding with the necessity of the occasion. In order to prevent erroneous notions on their part, will you consent to pursue a course which you know to be neither just nor politic? With such a deficiency as I have pointed out, is it better then to call upon the income of the country to supply it, or to tax articles of general consumption? There is no alternative. In order to raise four millions of revenue, does any man think there is any alternative? You want four millions for the service of the present year, but to try experiments on the commercial tariff of the country will not furnish the money, and does any man mean to tell me that there is any middle course between imposing a tax upon property and laying taxes upon articles of consumption? Certainly you may say, I will resort to a house-tax; but I can only say that Mr. Pitt adopted that course in 1797, and found the burden so great, and the evasions such, that in the next year he resorted to a property-tax. Mr. Pitt, wishing to affect the property of the country, produced a plan by which the assessed taxes paid at a preceding period should be considered the test of property. He tried to obtain a 10 per cent. Income-tax by that criterion; but he was obliged to abandon it, and my belief is, that a house-tax would be much more unjust in its operation than an Income-tax. The 909 objection to the Income-tax is, that it is inquisitorial. I do not deny the objection; but, apart from that, I feel it to be one of the best taxes that can be imposed. 3 per cent. in the present condition of the country is absolutely necesssary to procure the supply, and I make the proposition from a firm conviction that it will be infinitely less onerous and more just than any other tax. Moreover, I have the strongest persuasion that if my general proposal be received by the House, the actual sum each man will contribute will be exceedingly small. If my whole plan be adopted there will be a diminution in the cost of living which will repay to the contributors of the Income-tax a large portion of the money they are called upon to advance. Take the case of a man of 5,000l. a year: he will contribute 150l., and it is my fixed belief that he will receive back in cheapness of living the greater part of the sum he pays. My settled opinion is, that the burden will be less than that arising from any other tax we could devise. The noble Viscount (Viscount Howick) states the case of a man who has only 153l. per annum; but, wherever you draw the line, there must be some hardship; and I will venture to say, that it is impossible to propose a tax which will not be liable to an objection of that kind. But even in the case of a man of 150l. or 200l. a year, I entertain the most confident hope that the reduced cost of articles of consumption will enable him to pay the tax without inconvenience. Suppose the noble Viscount were to take a window-tax instead, there must be an exemption of houses under a certain number of windows: seven windows might have to pay, and six windows be free from the impost; but still a line must be drawn, and, where it is drawn, there will of necessity be hardship; the rule must, to a certain extent, be arbitrary and inconsistent with the strict principles of reasoning. I do trust, however, that this tax will not be condemned upon individual cases of hardship, but that the House will rather attend to general results, and fairly consider whether any other tax, equally just, can be found which will be equally effectual in raising the required supply for the public exigency. I said, on a Former day, that I would avail myself of the earliest opportunity of giving a full explanation of the machinery for the collection of the tax, and I assure the right, 910 hon. Gentleman, that when I refused to answer the question he put to me the other day, it was from a strong impression, that I could not, in answering a question, give a full and satisfactory explanation. I thought it would be infinitely better to reserve myself to a time when I could go into all the details. The period since the Income-tax was imposed is considerable; I know, that I speak to many who are aware from practical experience, or from being conversant with financial subjects, of the principles applied to the collection of the tax; but, in order to make the matter intelligible to those who may not be so well acquainted with it, I must necessarily refer to some points well known to such as have made the subject their study. I shall now propose to adopt for the purpose of the collection of this tax, the machinery, speaking generally, applied by that act brought in by Lord Lansdowne, then Lord Henry Petty, in the year 1806, under the Administration of Lord Grenville and Lord Grey; and a reference to that act will show any hon. Gentleman, who may wish to ascertain it with precision, the general mode which I propose to adopt for the collection of this lax. The property tax was collected and assessed by that act, and it will be collected and assessed now under the general regulation applicable to the collection and raising of the assessed taxes, and the land-tax. There are in each county in England, certain persons known by the name of the commissioners of land-tax. Those commissioners of the land-tax will be empowered, and required to appoint, speaking generally, from their own body, but they will not be limited in the selection to themselves, certain commissioners, to be called commissioners for general purposes. Those commissioners for general purposes will have to select others, to be called additional commissioners. Those additional commissioners were not limited in the act, but generally two were appointed, and those two had the charge of the assessment on property. I need not enter into the mode in which Bank stock, East-India stock, and stock in other public companies will be assessed, but I may say, generally, that I shall adhere to the provisions of the old law. As far as the interference of the Government is concerned, the duty will be placed under the general superintendence of the office of Stamps and Taxes, and their officers, as 911 far as they are available in all the duties connected with the mode in which the tax is to be levied. The local commissioners will appoint assessors who will deliver, at a certain time, blank forms, within the districts for which they act, with minute instructions how they are to be filled up. Every person will have to make an accurate return of the property derived from land, from the rents of houses, and from other property included in schedule A. With respect to the profits derived from trade, the provisions of the act of 1806, I propose to retain, and the income will be returned on an average of the three years preceding; but, of course, it will be necessary to make special provision for those instances in which the trade shall not have been carried on for three years, which I need not now detail. The general principle will be to estimate the profits on an average of the three years. With respect to the income derived from professions, they are to be calculated upon the profit of the preceding year. I really, Sir, believe, that the chief difficulty will arise from the income in schedule D, the income derived from trades and professions. I believe it is with respect to that income, the inquisitorial power is mainly objected to. With respect to incomes derived from the public funds, there will be no necessity for this inquisition, the amount is easily ascertained, and few who have this property, will deprecate the mode of ascertaining it. Under an act, too, recently passed, I refer to Mr. Poulett Scrope's Act, the valuation of land is tolerably well known. It will, then, be generally conceded, that the chief force of the objection as to the inquisitorial nature of the assessment, will apply to income derived from trade, and to professional income. I, then, propose, that the return shall be sent to the assistant-commissioners, and that it should be accessible to the surveyor, acting on the part of the Government. With respect to the additional commissioners, there will be various regulations, and they will be sworn to secrecy. The return is to be sent to them sealed up, it is to be inspected by them, and it will be competent for them, or for the surveyor acting on the part of the Government, to make a surcharge on that assessment. Then, as the law stood in the year 1806, an appeal against the surcharge could be be made to the head of the general body of commissioners, called the commission- 912 ers for general purposes. They will hear the appeal, and have the power of demanding precise information as to the nature of the property. I hope, that I shall be able to retain that provision, because the policy of the law hitherto has been with respect to the assessed taxes, and it was the principle with respect to the property-tax, not to make the collection depend upon the will of the Government, because it was thought more consistent with constitutional law, to entrust the amount to local parties, and that those who may have the confidence of their neighbours shall be employed for this purpose. I propose, Sir, to leave the provision of the law in this respect untouched. Although, however, it is more consistent with former usage to employ local parties in each neighbourhood to collect the tax, yet a great objection has been raised to their sitting in appeal on the affairs of their immediate neighbours. It has been peculiarly objected that it is inexpedient to produce before their neighbours, or those who might stand towards themselves in the relation of friends or of personal or political enemies, these accounts, and divulging to them their true state. I propose, therefore, to appoint other persons, and to give an option to the parties. I propose that the Tax-office should appoint a certain number of persons to be named special commissioners, and I propose that these special commissioners shall have all the powers of hearing appeals which the commissioners for general purposes possessed under the act of 1806. I propose that the party shall have full power of going before the committee of general purposes if they so pleased, but if they preferred it the appeal might be heard by the special commissioners under the control of the Government, and appointed by the Tax-office, which commissioners will be sworn to secrecy. I propose, then, that, at the option of the party, the appeal may be heard by these special commissioners. The decision that these special commissioners may come to will of course be final. It has not appeared to me necessary to extend this option beyond those who make returns from property included in schedule D. When, Sir, I am stating this, of course I reserve to myself the right to alter it. There is, I fear, a disposition to blame the Government if they make any alteration in the proposals they 913 submit to the House. I trust that with respect to minute matters, after seeing a variety of persons, the House will not make it a subject of reflection, if, having a great subject to deal with, I may alter the details; I am sure that in matters of principle there will be little for me to alter, but in matters of detail I reserve to myself the right of making use of any information I may receive, in order to form a satisfactory arrangement upon this subject, and full power of making any alteration which I may be satisfied is consistent with public policy. Then, Sir, I hope to be able to include in the new act some provisions which are not in the old act of 1806; I hope to be enabled, with respect to parties who have been once in the returns, whether in respect to the income from trades on an average of three years, or to the profits of professions for one year, to make an arrangement by which they may be able to compound for their assessment. I am sure that every endeavour ought to be made to guard against evasion, since one great objection to the Income-tax is, that it will fall with peculiar severity upon those who are determined to act honestly. We ought to endeavour, if we can, to avoid entailing peculiar severity on any one, if this act and if this Income tax is to pass; we ought to give every advantage to the honest man, and to use every prevention against fraud or evasion. I hope to be enabled to introduce some provision which will make one return endure for the whole time of the act. I do not say that in all cases it ought to be obligatory on the office of stamps and taxes to admit a composition; but when they believe that the person as assessed is properly taxed, I think, with the addition of some such addition as the 5l. per cent. on the assessed taxes, we can, by some mode or other, make some easy provision to enable the tax to be payable once for all. In making this statement, I do not bind myself to all the special provisions. I think that we may have recourse to some things which may be a great improvement, without acting with any undue severity. The House, therefore, will see that these are two main provisions in this act which are not in the other. In the first place, if the appeal to the local commissioners shall be objected to, as leading to a disclosure of private affairs, I propose to give as an option of which the party may avail him- 914 self, to go before the special commissioners appointed by the Government, sworn to secrecy, who may hear all parties, and determine the appeal. And in the second place I propose, if possible, that facilities shall be given for compounding for the payment of the tax, that composition to endure for the whole period of three years. I believe, Sir, that I have now answered the question put to me by the right hon. Gentleman. I do not apprehend that the present establishment of the stamps and taxes will be sufficient for the additional duties I impose on them. All I say is, that every effort shall be made, in the appointment of additional officers, that their general character shall be a sufficient guarantee for the integrity with which they shall perform their duties, and every endeavour shall be made to prevent a permanent increase or encumbrance upon the country of officers, who I trust will be employed for a merely temporary purpose. There is only one other provision proposed by me on which I wish to touch. It was included in one of the acts relating to the property-tax, I think the act of 1806. Many persons did object to payment to the collectors of the sums due from them on account of the property tax; it was said that although there was no inquiry as to the property, it was still painful to some that a person in the immediate neighbourhood should be privy to the payment, from which they might infer the return that had been made of the amount of the property. I propose that a party wishing to make a payment may do so without giving his name into the Bank of England on account of the property-tax. That was a provision in the act of Lord Grenville, and I might refer to that. I hope that as the branches of the Bank of England have become numerous, that as the ramifications of the Bank of England become more extended in different parts of the country, parties may have the advantage of making these payments with infinitely greater ease than if the place of payment was Confined to the principal office of the Bank of England in London. A question, Sir, was put to me respecting terminable annuities, and I was asked whether I proposed any reduction in the rate of duty on terminable annuities as compared with incomes derived from stock. Now, I am bound to say, that I do not intend to make any such reduction. The proposal which I make is a proposal for a 915 tax on the income of this country; and if I once begin to make a distinction with respect to different kinds of income, it will be absolutely necessary that I should abandon the Income-tax. If the Bank of England—if the owners of terminable annuities were to be exempted—if a distinction were to be made in favour of those who are comparatively wealthy and affluent, I think that I could easily show that the remission must be made to a much greater extent than hon. Gentlemen may perhaps be inclined to think. If there is to be an Income-tax at all, it must be uniformly laid upon all income, and in no case whatever can I allow a distinction to be drawn. Therefore, whatever inconvenience I may suffer from it in argument, I am bound not to admit the justice of an alteration of the bill with respect to terminable annuities. With regard to them, there was no distinction made by Mr. Pitt in 1798—no distinction was made in the act of 1806. I am aware that the terminable annuities had at that time a much longer period to run; but still the principle is the same, and the tax was laid on terminable annuities. At that time there were also Exchequer annuities, and which were then in much the same position as are the terminable annuities now. The tax I propose is 3 per cent. upon income, and from that tax no remission or reduction can be made on account of any class who are thought at all competent to pay it. I now leave this question with the House. The noble Lord intends, and I am glad to hear it, to ask by vote for the determination of the House, and I hope that that determination will be expressed at as early a period as is consistent with the due deliberation on so important a matter. By your vote upon this measure, you will express your opinions of the whole financial policy of the year, and by that vote the determination of the question in whose hands the Government of this country shall be placed. If the House thinks it desirable to support the principle of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), and the measures which he proposes—if it thinks that by imposing a fixed duty upon corn, and by reducing the duty on foreign sugar, it will meet the difficulties by which the country is at present surrounded—if it adopts these principles, and rejects those which I have recommended, then the administration of the affairs of Government 916 will again change hands—But, for myself, I am not prepared now—considering the question of slavery, considering the prospects of supply, the condition of our colonies, and the other important points which crowd themselves upon one's mind in reviewing subjects of such general interest —considering all these things, I am not now prepared to advise a remission of the duties upon foreign sugar, and not being so prepared, I cannot advise a remission of the duties on the sugar of our own colonies. The more I look at this question, the more I consider the amount of the sum to be raised, the more confident am I that the best measure now to be adopted is to resort to a tax upon income rather than to impose a tax upon those articles of excise and customs to which I have referred, and upon which an abatement of the duties has of late years been made. I believe that such an attempt would far more disturb the application of capital and the operations of active industry than will a call upon each individual to pay 3l. out of every 100l. I have a strong conviction that the great mass of the lower classes will consider the voluntary determination of Parliament to accept for themselves, and to impose upon the wealth of the country this tax for the purpose of relieving its burdens—I have a strong conviction that it will be generally hailed on the part of the country, as a strong proof of the determination of the upper classes to bear their fair share of taxation. Although I admit that the tax may press with additional severity on account of the uncertain nature of profits on that property which is derived from trade and professions, yet when I consider that one of the main objects of this measure is to reduce the duties upon the raw materials of production, and that such a reduction will give the best chance for a revival of commerce, I cannot but think that the measure will work for the especial advantage of those who are connected with the trade of the country. As to those who hold land, or those who derive their incomes from professions, I have a confident expectation that by reducing the cost of living I shall compensate them for a great part of their burden, but if I may not offer them that advantage—yet, if by consenting to such a burden, instead of throwing it upon the articles of consumption, they diminish the embarrassments of their country, and take from those who are disposed to agitate the pub- 917 lic mind the means of creating discontent and disunion—if they effect this, surely the compensation they will receive will be ample. I hope that my expectations as to the revival of trade in three years will not be disappointed—that my anticipations as to the temporary character of this tax will be realised. Then, when that happy time arrives, when we shall be enabled to dispense with this tax, then shall we find a revival of commerce and of industry, and then shall we have the satisfaction of contemplating a people contented and united, from the proof they will have received that those in the highest stations, and those who are comparatively affluent, are prepared, in a crisis of commercial and financial difficulty, to bear their full portion of any charge which the exigencies of the country may render necessary. The right hon. Baronet concluded by moving the following resolution:—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 stipend or any annuities, allowances, 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 20s. of the annual value or amount thereof, 7d.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 20s. of the annual value thereof, 3½d,
§ On the question being put,
§ Mr. Labouchere:
I am very sensible how difficult it is for me, after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, to obtain 918 the attention of the House, but I trust for their indulgence while I offer a few observations in discharge of my duty. I would not at this hour trouble the House if I really did not feel, after the speech of the right hon. Baronet, that it is incumbent on me to offer some remarks. The right hon. Gentleman began by saying, that although my noble Friend (Lord J. Russell) declared he would give the proposition for an Income-tax the fullest consideration, and act in such a manner as should be best for the general interests of the country, still he heard that declaration with incredulity; for he was perfectly satisfied that the noble Lord had made up his mind to oppose this tax, and the right hon. Gentleman went on further to say he was perfectly convinced that whatever had been the nature of the financial operations of the Government; whatever taxes they had proposed; whatever course they had taken, the noble Lord and those who voted with him were prepared to oppose the plan. I will not retort imputations of that kind upon the right hon. Baronet. I am ready to give the right hon. Gentleman the justice which he has refused to my noble Friend; and strongly as I object to the course which the right hon. Baronet has taken, I am willing to say that I believe that he has taken it from motives worthy of the first Minister of the Crown, and that he has not resorted to it without thinking that it was for the benefit of the country. I think, however, that such imputations came with peculiarly bad grace from the right hon. Baronet. It was true he had been all his life opposed to the party which was now arrayed against him, but he had some opportunities of seeing the manner in which it had acted; and the right hon. Baronet must recollect occasions, neither few nor unimportant, when my noble Friend, and those who act with him, had concurred with the right hon. Gentleman when great interests were at stake, in supporting measures which the right hon. Gentleman believed were for the benefit of the country, at times when his own supporters had openly deserted him, or given him but very lukewarm assistance. When that recurs to my recollection, I must confess my surprise at hearing the taunt of the right hon. Gentleman, which was equally unmerited and uncalled for. The right hon. Gentleman went on to introduce various extraneous topics relating to the policy of the late 919 Government into which I shall not enter, as they might divert the attention of the House from the great question before it, which is itself quite enough without mixing up other questions. The right hon. Gentleman also expressed surprise at the course which my Friends around me have resolved to pursue. But I recollect the language which the right hon. Gentleman himself used on no very distant occasion with regard to a property -tax. I recollect on that occasion, when there was a deficiency of two millions and a half, and the House was called upon to make good that deficiency, the right hon. Baronet said, and it was on the debate of the budget in 1840, that on a comparison of the present estimated expenditure with the revenue there was a deficiency of 2,300,000l., but that the attempt to raise that small sum (the deficiency did not then appear to the right hon. Baronet so tremendous as the present deficiency,) by a property-tax, or a tax on articles of general consumption would not be advisable, therefore upon the whole he gave a preference to the plan of the right hon. Gentleman. I do not complain that the right hon. Gentleman has changed his opinion, but in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman there was a tone of exaggeration as to the financial and political difficulties of the country, which, coming from a Minister of the Crown, might produce a very dangerous effect in foreign countries, and which the right hon. Baronet's desire to persuade the House to accept this unpalatable impost ought not to have induced him to use. The right hon. Baronet had said,—Talk of a peace-tax—are we not now engaged in a war which will require the utmost exertions of this country.Now, I confess, that to hear this language from a Minister of that country which grappled, and successfully grappled, with united Europe—which had struggled with, and in the Struggle had overcome the greatest conqueror of modern times; to hear a Member of this country talk of the inroads of the barbarians of Affghan, and the weak attacks of China as a state of war which calls for the imposition of a war-tax, is to hold language calculated to excite regret and surprise, if it does not give rise to a stronger feeling; and I cannot help thinking from this, and the Whole tone of his speech, that though he 920 professed to believe that this tax would be well received by the country, he could not but feel the conviction, at the same time, that this unjust tax—for so I will call it— must be most repulsive; that there was a necessity to colour the picture rather highly, or it would be very difficult to persuade this House and the country to adopt it. I fairly admit, for my own part, that I continue to believe that if the measures which were proposed last year had passed in the then condition of the country, a most favourable result would have been produced. I regret their failure, and I believe that if a commercial Corn-law, and the sugar law which was then proposed, had been tried, a result would have been produced different to that for the consequences of which we are now called on to provide; and I regret that I was deprived of the opportunity of doing that of which I had given notice, namely, of proposing a plan of an improved tariff, a year's operation of which I am persuaded would have materially benefitted the position of our finances. I say that I regret the state of things which exists on this subject, because, had the course which we proposed been adopted, we should now have come to the consideration of this question with a greater advantage than we can now do; but I am perfectly prepared to own for myself that I very much doubt whether, under the present circumstances of the country, you can, by any mere modification of duties, fairly meet the public exigencies which exist. I also think that it is the duty of this House, from the moment they believe this, to take care that by taxation of some sort, if it can be done by no other mode, the exigencies may be supplied, and the deficiencies may be met. Therefore, I beg the House will not run away with the idea that there is not a desire on this side of the House, as strong as that which exists on the benches opposite, to take such measures as the public credit and the safety of this country demand, to place our revenue on a footing satisfactory and honourable to the nation. But in one point of view the right hon. Baronet was right in saying that a comparison might be instituted between our scheme and that now before Parliament, and I will show how this may be. The right hon. Baronet admitted, I think, that if the Corn-law which we proposed were to be carried now, and our law with regard to the sugar 921 duties were to be also carried, an Income-tax would not be necessary. I hope this will be well understood by the country as well as by the committee, that whatever hon. Gentlemen may think of the existing Corn-law, and of the sugar duties, we are indebted to them for this Income-tax. [Cheers.] I see the hon. Baronet, the Member for Devon, (Sir T. D. Acland) cheers; he seems to say, rather than have the Corn-law altered, it is better to submit to the Income-tax; but I very much doubt, whatever may be the opinion of the landed gentry of the country on this subject, the country at large will agree with me, and when they hear the ad captandum arguments on the other side of the House, of this being a proposal in favour of the poor man, and find that it presses most severely on the great masses of this country, I think that when the poor man, and the man of small property, come to understand that if commercial reform had been carried to its proper extent, and the high protective duties now existing had been taken off, a result would have been produced extremely beneficial to them, their belief will be that the Government has not decided this point in the manner most favourable to them. The right hon. Baronet has stated, amongst other reasons which he has given for asking the House to agree to these taxes, that it would afford him an opportunity of trying on an extended scale the effects of a liberal and improved commercial policy. I confess myself, strong as are my objections to an Income-tax, and deeply as I feel the evils likely to result from adopting such a tax in the time of peace, yet that if the right hon. Baronet had come forward with a really bold and just measure of commercial policy, not operating too strongly upon the weak and defenceless, and leaving unscathed the great interests of the colonies and the landowners of this country, if he had brought forward his Income-tax on any such grounds, and had said, "I propose this measure, the effect of which I have no doubt will be salutary, but in the mean time, too, I am bound to place the finances of the country in a proper position, might have been disposed to consider the propriety of such a course. But, when I look to the measures which he has brought forward, I cannot say that I think them entitled to the character which he has given them. I remember that, on the discussion upon the question of the 922 Corn-laws, my noble Friend the Member for Liverpool (Viscount Sandon) said that, looking to the commerce of the country, a fixed duty such as that advocated by my noble Friend would be better than the plan proposed by the right hon. Baronet. It was admitted, and no one can deny it, that, looking to that only, the proposal of the right hon. Baronet is not found on a good principle, and therefore, the right hon. Baronet cannot say that this is a measure which he can take as a measure to relieve the manufactures of the country. I pass by the total omission of any alteration being proposed with regard to the sugar duties; but, at the same time, I cannot help saying this, that it does give me the greatest concern to find that the right hon. Baronet, after having taken a general review of the circumstances of the country, should have come to a conclusion, that it is desirable to re-model the commercial code, without effecting any alteration with regard to these duties. I will not repeat the arguments which were used by the right hon. Baronet upon this point, but, I ask, what is the effect of the existing stale of things? It is not the West Indies which supply our demand for sugar, we derive that supply from the East Indies, where there is an immense sugar interest gradually, but rapidly, growing up. If I believed that this would be a permanent system, I should rejoice in it. No one can be more alive than I am to the importance of the increasing sugar trade of the East Indies; but it is because I believe that it is most valuable that I regret its artificial growth, seeing, as I do, that it is raising itself on the rotten foundation of monopoly, and not on the sure and firm basis of a moderate protection. And there is another reason which makes me regret this. It is well known that France is about to alter its laws with regard to sugar—to allow foreign sugar to be introduced into its territory. By doing so, it will obtain a great advantage; the markets of the Brazils, of Cuba, and of Java will be open to it; and therefore I regret the course which the right hon. Baronet has taken in reference to this portion of his scheme, when there is this additional reason for altering our law. With regard to the scheme of the tariff proposed, without denying that there is much that is highly beneficial in it, I cannot but say, that it appears to me, as if the right hon. Baronet had 923 wished to render his deficiency as large as he could, from the reckless manner in which the revenue of the country is sacrificed. I do not think, that it had ever entered into the mind of a minister before, to give up looking to the colonial timber trade as a means of some revenue, and I must consider the course which the right hon. Baronet has adopted as most reckless and un advisable. I will now come to that part of the measure on which the right hon. Baronet mainly depends, in order to render this plan of his palatable to the commercial and manufacturing interests of the country—to the improved tariff which he laid upon the Table of the House. I am as well aware as any man of the extreme difficulty of a task, such as that undertaken by the right hon. Baronet, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that neither now nor hereafter will I raise objections to any tariff of the principle of which I approve, of an unjust or a factious character, and 1 am willing, therefore, to admit that there are parts of this tariff which involve very material and important improvements in our commercial system. But there is one principle which pervades it, which, in my opinion, is fatal to it, and so erroneous, that it is my belief, if the House should unfortunately adopt it, that it would outweigh all the benefits likely to result from the remainder of the tariff. I allude to those points which have been already adverted to by my noble and right hon Friends near me. I am speaking of the extension of the principle of colonial protection to every article which can be thought of. I beg I may not be misunderstood. 1 have never been one of those who desire that no preference should be given to our colonial produce in our markets. I think I see many advantages in giving a moderate protection by a tax to many articles, the production of the colonies; but the principle which the right hon. Baronet is about to adopt, is quite different from this. The right hon. Baronet's principle would extend to every thing, to every article in the world in which we trade with the colonies. The article of tobacco has always hitherto been treated in the same way, coming from our colonies as from the rest of the world. [Sir Robert Peel: Not always.] The right hon. Gentleman dissents from my observation. It is quite true, that some years ago, Mr. Huskisson proposed, that there should be a differential duty 924 between the tobacco coming from our West Indian colonies, and from other parts; but the effect was, that no tobacco to any amount in consequence had been brought into this country from those colonies. Petitions have been presented to the House for the equalization of the duty on tobacco from our East and West Indian possessions. Memorials were also presented to the late Government on this subject; but I always declared, that the Government could not sanction the proposition. With respect to the equalization of the duties on rum coming from the East or West-Indies, the question is very different. That equalization of duties was assented to by the late Government, and by the House, as a necessary corollary to the equalization of the duties on sugar; and this was done, although the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated, that the adoption of such a measure would be attended with ruin to the West-Indies. When that was done, and on other occasions, deputations waited on me from persons connected with commercial matters in the East-Indies to induce the Government to make an alteration with reference to the differential duties on tobacco, and on this point I can appeal to my hon. Friend, the Member for Nottingham, the chairman of the East-Indian Association, as to whether this was not the case; but on this point, neither myself, nor any other Member of the Government, ever assented to the proposition. I always told the parties that nothing should induce me, either in a financial or commercial point of view, to sanction a proposition which would allow a great monopoly interest to grow up in India with respect to the article of tobacco. The prime cost of that article may be taken at 3d. per lb., and the duty paid upon it is 3s. per lb. It is an article that may be produced with facility in many climates, and, with any great difference of duty, a monopoly would grow up, as it was an article of general demand. The soil of India also, as I understand, is most advantageous for the growth of tobacco. Therefore, if the House adopts a scheme of the kind for the creation of a monopoly, it would end in sacrificing a great portion of foreign trade in this article. The principle that I have stated, with reference to the great difference proposed to be made between articles brought from our colonies and from foreign states, would vitiate the 925 greater portion of the advantages that might otherwise be drawn from the proposed change in the tariff. I fear that I have already trespassed at much too great length on the lime of the House, but I cannot sit down without making a few observations on the proposed Income-tax. I will not dwell on the inconveniences which have resulted from the operation of the old income-tax, for the right hon. Gentleman has said, that he will modify many parts in the machinery of the old law. The points, however, which the right hon. Baronet has stated on this part of the subject, requires great consideration before I can give a decided opinion on the subject. I do not say, that they may not prove, in some degree, advantageous; but from the opinion I can now form on the subject, it appears to me that they will, in a very slight degree, modify the evils which must necessarily be attendant on the imposition of an income tax. I have never met with a statesman, or any one experienced in political affairs, who did not declare that the imposition of such a tax was most objectionable, and, above all, that it should be avoided, as far as possible, in time of peace; and I must call the adoption of such a tax a most objectionable proceeding, notwithstanding all that has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman on the subject. As to the nature of this tax, I will quote from the works of one who formed his opinion on the subject after the closest and most profound observation, and whose opinion had been delivered calmly from the closet, not in the hurry of public affairs, but I am sure that it is the language of one whose name would be received with the greatest respect in this House—I allude to Adam Smith. That eminent authority said,—The quantity and value of the land which any man possesses can never be a secret, and can always be ascertained with great exactness. But the whole amount of the capital stock which he possesses is almost always a secret, and can scarce ever be ascertained with tolerable exactness. It is liable, besides, to almost continual variations. A year seldom passes away, and frequently not a month, sometimes scarce a single day, in which it does not rise or fall more or less. An inquisition into every man's private circumstances, and an inquisition which, in order to accommodate the tax to them, watched over all the fluctuations of his fortune, would be a source of such continual and endless vexation as no people could support.926 Adam Smith, it appeared, was wrong in this respect, for in a time of war the people of this country—and to their honour I mention it—did support a tax of this kind under a great emergency, and I have no doubt, that if this country were called upon again to meet a foreign foe, the people would cheerfully submit to this or any other burden, if they were satisfied that it was necessary. But Adam Smith went on to say:—The proprietor of stock is properly a citizen of the world, and is not necessarily attached to any particular country. He would be apt to abandon the country in which he was exposed to a vexatious inquisition, in order to be assessed to a burdensome tax, and would remove his stock to some other country where he could either carry on his business, or enjoy his fortune more at his ease. By removing his stock he would put an end to all the industry which it had maintained in the country which he left. Stock cultivates land; stock employs labour. A tax which tended to drive away stock from any particular country would so far tend to dry up every source of revenue both to the sovereign and to society. Not only the profits of stock, but the rent of land, and the wages of labour, would necessarily be more or less diminished by its removal.Sufficient has been said to the House, I believe, as to the vexatious and harassing nature of this tax, and if I appeal to facts stated as to its operation, I find the truth of the passage which I have just quoted fully borne out. I will merely on this point refer to the inconveniencies which must have been experienced in consequence of the number of surcharges made in the last year of the existence of this tax in the City of London. On this point Mr. W. Smith, in one of his speeches on the Income-tax said; —It appeared that 11,000 surcharges had been made in the City of London alone during the course of the last year. It might be said, that this afforded in some degree a presumption of commercial prosperity, but he thought that no such inference could be drawn. Of these 11,000 surcharges, 3,000 were set aside on appeal, after a critical examination into the appellant's circumstances. This had made him a declared enemy to the tax in every shape. 7,000 out of the 11,000 did not appeal; they probably thought it a less evil to submit to the imposition, than to expose the situation of their affairs. But, suppose that these 7,000 were surcharged justly, what a pestilential influence must the tax have produced on the morals of the country? when such a body had recourse to the most guilty evasions to avoid the assessment!Am I wrong in quoting such an opinion 927 when it shows what is the effect of the operation of such a tax on the honour and character of the commercial body of the country. I conclude with saying that I am satisfied that there does not exist on this side of the House any indisposition to meet the financial difficulties of the country; but I trust that the country is not in such a situation as to render it necessary to resort to this tax, which, in ray opinion, should only be adopted either at a time of extensive war, or on some great emergency. God forbid, that under present circumstances, the financial difficulties of the country should appear such as to require that House to adopt such an extreme measure. I would resort to almost all other means before I adopted a scheme of taxation which was alien to the habits of the people of this country, which must be carried into execution in an inquisitorial manner, and therefore which must be attended with vexatious proceedings, infinitely more annoying than the amount taken from their pockets.
§ Lord Worsley
had asked the right hon. Gentleman the other night what he presumed the amount of duty would be, which he calculated he should obtain from the operation of his proposed Corn-law. He did not press the right hon. Gentleman on the former occasion for an answer when he was told that he should obtain his information on the present occasion, but the right hon. Gentleman, although he had alluded to other questions put to him on former evenings, had not returned an answer to his question. He presumed, that the right hon. Gentleman might have abstained from answering his question on the former occasion, as well as on that evening, because he thought, that he might frighten those who sat on the other side of the House behind him, or that he might like to have a larger sum of money in hand than he calculated the amount of the Income-tax would be, for he believed with many others, that one of the effects of the imposition of such a measure would be to materially lower the amount of the assessed taxes. He believed, that he was only expressing the opinion that obtained with many most intelligent persons when, he said, that the country had not had sufficient time afforded them to judge, or to understand, the probable operation of the measures 928 which the right hon Baronet had proposed. His own opinion was, that one part of the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman with respect to an Income-tax would operate as a bonus on bad farming. It was very fortunate for the right hon. Baronet, that the disastrous news from the East Indies arrived the night before he announced his Income-tax. He had believed, that it would not have been necessary to ask for an Income-tax in time of peace, and he could not conceive, that the proceedings in India could be regarded as such a breach of the general peace, as to call for such an extreme measure. He repeated, that he hoped that the right hon. Baronet would state what amount of revenue he expected to get from his Corn Bill. It was generally understood, that large speculations had been entered into out of doors, in consequence of the probability of its coming into operation.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, that he was not aware that he had refused to answer any questions as to the Corn Importation Bill.
§ Lord Worsley:
No; but you said, that you would answer my question when the motion with respect to the Income-tax came under discussion.
§ Sir R. Peel
was not aware that he thought that he should frighten any Gentleman who sat near him as to the amount of what revenue he should get from the alteration of the corn duties. If the noble Lord had been in the House in the early part of the evening, and had heard the speech of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer at, the commencement of the debate, he must have heard him say, that it was almost impossible to form a correct estimate of the expected revenue of the country—that even the oldest and most skilful officers of the customs and excise were frequently baffled in their attempts to do so, because it mainly depended on the state of the harvest; if the harvest was unfavourable, in that case both the customs and excise would be injuriously affected. And if that were true with regard to other branches of revenue, how much more so must it be with respect to corn. It was therefore exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to form anything like an estimate. If the harvest was favourable, and the produce plentiful, they would have corn low, and the duty would be very trifling in amount; whereas if the harvest was unfavourable, and prices high, the amount would be something consider- 929 able. Those hon. Members who sat near the noble Lord would perhaps be able to relieve the apprehensions of the friends of the English farmer who believed, that the importation would be immense, because they had declared his measure to be a mere delusion, under which it was doubtful if any corn would come in. He had taken an increase on the Customs of 500,000l., without including corn in the amount. Supposing the year was favourable, the Excise would be productive, and the corn duties low, and on the other hand a bad season would increase the corn duties, while there would be a falling-off in the other departments of the revenue. He had really answered the question to the best of his ability.
§ Lord Worsley
understood, that the rests in the scale were for the purpose of enabling parties to bring in supplies of corn, and it was understood, that the revenue from that article would be somewhere about 500,000l. It had been also argued, that the effect of the new scale would be to create a more regular trade in corn.
§ Sir R. Peel
was unable to answer the noble Lord's question more accurately; but, with regard to the rests, the noble Lord should submit to some eminent accountant the proposition, giving the rests in the scale, to determine the amount of corn to be introduced. It was not more easy of solution than another problem he had heard of, giving the height of the mast, and the captain's name to determine the latitude of the ship.
§ Debate adjourned.
§ House Adjourned.