§ House in Committee of Ways and Means.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
then rose and said: I am afraid, after the debate on the state of Ireland, the subject I am about to introduce, although of more general importance, will not excite so much interest, especially among Members connected with that country. Nevertheless, it is requisite, for many reasons, that the statement I am about to make should be made to-night; because, according to the forms of the House, we cannot go into Committee of Ways and Means on Saturday; and it would materially impede the progress of public business if I were not allowed to make my financial statement before the close of the week. This was the only reason why my noble Friend suggested the propriety of going into Committee of Ways and Means without further delay; and not in the slightest degree because we were insensible to the importance of the subject, or were unprepared to give our best attention to the condition of Ireland. Having stated this much, which I hope will satisfy the Gentlemen from Ireland, that really good reasons existed for the course my noble Friend has taken in cutting short the debate, I will at once turn to the important subject of the Committee of Ways and Means; and, first of all, I will state what I consider the financial condition of the country, and the means which the Government have adopted since the commencement of the Session in regard to the finances. In doing so, I am aware I shall not have much that is new to state to the Committee; for, in the first place, as the whole of the estimates have been voted, the amount of expenditure is perfectly well known to the House. At the beginning of the Session, and at various other periods, statements were made which put the House in possession of the then precise state of affairs. But, although I have not much to state that may be novel, it is desirable that I should place before the Committee, in one view, the result of the operations of the Session—what the expenditure will amount to—what we expect the income to be—and how I propose to make the income equal to the expenditure. This I 541 am anxious to do as clearly, as accurately, and as concisely as possible. Gentlemen will probably remember, that when my noble Friend made his statement early in the Session, the prospects which he held out to the country were as follows. He estimated the probable receipts at 51,250,000l.; he stated the debt and other charges on the Consolidated Fund at 31,280,600l.; he took the current expenditure to be voted in supply at 21,820,441l., making an expenditure belonging to the year of 53,101,041l. He stated the amount of expenditure which had been incurred on account of the Caffre war and the excess of naval estimates in the preceding year at 1,345,411l., making altogether 54,446,452l.; and he intimated the intention of the Government to make a further development of the militia force of the country, which would occasion an expense of 150,000l., making the total expenditure of the year as then proposed 54,596,452l. In order to meet this expenditure, the proposal of the Government was to raise the income-tax from 3 to 5 per cent for a period of two years. This was estimated to produce 3,500,000l. My noble Friend then proposed to remit the duty on copper, by which a loss of revenue was expected to the extent of 40,000l. The estimated income then was 54,710,000l, the expenditure 54,596,452l., leaving a balance of 113,548l. The proposal we then made was, as I have said, a temporary increase of taxation for a period of two years; and the reason for proposing that temporary increase was, that a great portion of the expenditure incurred was for temporary purposes. There was the expenditure for the Caffre war, which was closed, and the naval excess had occurred in the preceding year, for which it was necessary to replace in the Exchequer the moneys which had been withdrawn; and with regard to a considerable portion of the increased expense, it was occasioned mainly by heavy works in the dockyards, which had been begun, not by us, but by a preceding Government; but which certainly it was desirable to carry on, and which I believe it would be, after all, most desirable with a view to real economy to complete at an early day. Feeling this, the Government thought it necessary in order to meet this expenditure, to make a heavy demand on the resources of the country, and for the period of two years we proposed an increase of the income-tax. That proposal was certainly 542 not received with any favour by the House. I am perfectly prepared to admit that the circumstances under which the country was labouring, the distress through which they had gone during the six or eight months preceding, formed a very good reason why they should have been unwilling at that time to submit to additional taxation. The circumstances, too, which occurred on the Continent shortly after that proposal was made, throwing as they did into the greatest uncertainty the whole prospects of the country, not only politically but commercially and financially, tended to make us more willing at that time to abandon our proposal for additional taxation, leaving to a future time to announce what other resource we should adopt. The abandonment of that proposal for additional taxation made it necessary for us to review the whole finances and taxation of the country, in order that we might take such an altered course as, in the altered circumstances, might appear advisable. I now propose to state to the Committee what that course was, and the result at which we have arrived. With the permission of the Committee, I will, for the present, put aside all considerations of past expenditure, and deal only with the income of the year as compared with the expenditure; for it will be observed that, both with regard to the expenditure for the Caffre war and the naval excess, they had been defrayed by moneys in the Exchequer. They were included in the expenditure as stated in the balance-sheet of the 5th of April, which nevertheless showed balances to the extent of 6,768,336l. The moneys so advanced, however, it was necessary to replace to the Exchequer. The first object of the Government was to revise the expenditure. It must be observed, that in the course of the two or three preceding years there had been no inconsiderable increase of expenditure—not an increase of expenditure proposed by ourselves, but principally before we came into office. I find that, in the year 1846, an increase of the estimates and of charge as compared with the preceding year was no less than 1,610,000l., exclusive of those charges which, to the extent of 345,500l, were transferred from the county rates and local taxation to the general revenue, making in all an increase of 1,955,500l. in the expenditure of 1846—in round numbers, nearly 2,000,000l. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire said very truly not very long 543 ago that it was not this Government nor any other Government that was responsible for this increased expenditure. The House of Commons had concurred in its propriety, and in many instances had pressed the increased expenditure on the Government. The increased estimate was passed with little opposition—the country concurred in it; and the hon. Gentleman said, very wisely, if blame there was, all participated in it. Our duty, therefore, is not to recriminate one on another, but in the present state of the country to unite our common efforts for the purpose of reducing expenditure, so far as it can he done without impairing the efficiency of our establishments. I think, moreover, that in respect to the object for which the greatest increase of expenditure has taken place, namely, in the maintenance of our national defences, the House of Commons has only carried out what appeared to be the feeling of the country. Last year, and the year before, there was a very general feeling of alarm throughout the country. Not only Gentlemen in the House, but the public generally, had a strong feeling of that kind; and in the proposals which were made in this House for increasing our means of national defence, both the Government of the day and the House of Commons itself fairly represented the opinions of the country. That opinion, no doubt, has since changed. I myself was never one of the alarmists. I never took a very desponding view on that subject. But such was the general opinion; but it is now desirable that these measures should be carried only more slowly into execution than was then thought advisable by the House and the country. With a view to reduction the first step taken by the Government was to appoint two Committees to look into the expenses of the country—one having the miscellaneous estimates, the other the naval and military estimates, submitted to them. We have now before us two able reports on these subjects, from which great information will be derived. As I stated before, those Committees were not appointed for the purpose of avoiding responsibility on the part of the Government. But I do think the revision of our expenditure from time to time is a matter of the greatest importance, if it were only to afford to hon. Members that knowledge which will enable them to discuss the estimates with discrimination. Having appointed these Committees, the Government immediately gave their earnest attention, to the subject, and it was my 544 duty to call on all the departments and insist that they should act with the utmost economy. With the greatest readiness this desire was complied with. In one point, namely, the amount of force, no reduction was made. That was absolutely necessary, as we thought, for the safety of the country; and the House of Commons have confirmed that opinion by the largest majorities in regard to both descriptions of force. I do not think, looking at the circumstances which have since taken place, that we could safely have proposed a reduction on that head. Both with regard to the sister country and the manufacturing districts there have been constant demands for military protection, and we should have been less able to afford that protection to those parties who had a right to demand it, if we had not had a force fully as large as the House of Commons voted on the proposition of the Government. But with respect to other portions of the expenditure, it was possible to make considerable reductions. I do not wish to deceive the House, however, by saying that I think it good economy to make all the reductions we propose if we could avoid it. On the contrary, I am of opinion that it would be better economy, in the end, to proceed at a more rapid rate with the works we have on hand than to defer the expenditure, and spread it over a longer period. But, on the other hand, it is sometimes advisable to defer the expenditure, and spread it over a longer period, in order to bring the yearly outlay within the means of the country; and therefore we have determined to do so in the present instance. In the course we have pursued, therefore, I wish to state fairly and frankly what my opinion is. I think we were justified in making the proposals we did by the soundest principles of finance; but the House not having concurred in those proposals, we have endeavoured to meet the views of the House by reducing to the utmost extent we could those portions of the expenditure which were at all susceptible of it. The reductions which we have effected are as follows:—The vote on the Navy is 208,000l. less than that which we originally submitted to Parliament. The vote for the Army, including the militia and commissariat, is 150,200l. less; the vote for the Ordnance, 123,000l. less; the Miscellaneous Estimates, 235,500l. less. The proposal to embody a further militia force having been given up, there is a saving on that head of 545 150,000l. The whole of those reductions amount to 866,700l. But the increased pay of the pensioners having required a sum of 25,000l., and certain additions to the Miscellaneous Estimates a further sum of 13,200l., the actual reductions amount only to 828,700l. This is the amount of the reductions upon the original estimates we submitted to Parliament. I will now state the whole expenditure. The expenditure for the year is as follows:—31,280,600l. for the debt, and other charges on the Consolidated Fund; 7,518,610l. for the Navy; 7,012,795l. for the Army; 2,801,760l. for the Ordnance; 3,783,570l. for the Miscellaneous expenditure; 25,000l. for the pensioners—in all 52,422,335l. My noble Friend in his statement at the beginning of the Session estimated the receipts at 51,210,000l. But an arrangement having been made to pay the appropriations in and at once into the Exchequer, instead of allowing them to accumulate, and adding them to the revenue of the following year, a sum of 500,000l. becomes available this year, in addition to what we had calculated upon. I have stated before, also, that owing to the excellent barley crop of last year, malting has been carried on to a much greater extent than usual, and has consequently helped to increase the Excise revenue. The Stamp revenue has fallen off; but taking the two sources of revenue together, we may calculate on an increase of revenue above what we anticipated, of 340,000l. In addition to this, we have received 80,000l. as the last remnant of the China money, making altogether 52,130,000l. The deficiency of income below the expenditure is therefore 292,335l. This, considering our prospects at the beginning of the Session, is, I venture to think, not unsatisfactory. I stated to the House early in the present year, that I hoped they would give us credit for an anxious desire to reduce the expenditure as much as possible. I stated that it would not be possible to reduce the expenditure summarily and at once—that I indeed thought it would be exceedingly bad economy to do so; and that I hoped they would not press us to carry the reductions further than was really consistent with the best interests of the country, and with maintaining the efficiency of our establishments. My noble Friend stated that considerable reductions might he carried into effect next year, but that he could hold out little hope of much reduction being effected in the present 546 year. I have shown the Committee, however, that even in the present year we have effected reductions to the amount of no less a sum than 828,000l., which I hope the Committee will accept as an earnest of our anxious desire to reduce the expenditure as far as possible. In the present state of the Continent, and considering how our trade is affected by the state of affairs there, it is very difficult to anticipate what our revenue may be next year; but taking the year as an ordinarily favourable one, I anticipate that, with the reductions which we shall be able to carry into effect, the income will more than equal the expenditure, in which there is, as I have stated, a deficiency of only 292,000l. I have now stated the ordinary expenditure of the country as compared with its income for the year. I have now to advert to the extraordinary expenditure. In the first place there is a sum of 1,100,000l. for the Caffre war, and 245,411l. for the naval excess, making together, 1,345,411l. Then there is a sum of 262,545l. for Irish distress, and 130,965l. for assistance to the destitute emigrants landed in Canada, making together, 1,738,921l. The total expenditure of the year is, therefore, 54,161,256l.; and the income being 52,130,000l., the deficiency is 2,031,256l. If I followed the course which has been followed before, I might propose to the Committee to charge this deficiency upon the Consolidated Fund, leaving the charges to be met at the end of the year by a diminution of the balances in the Exchequer; but I do not think myself justified in doing so. The House has already sanctioned the advance of considerable sums from that source. The Committee will remember that, some time ago, it was agreed to advance the sum of 2,000,000l. for the purpose of drainage in England and Scotland, and a further sum of 1,500,000l. for land improvements in Ireland, making together a sum of 3,500,000l.; of this sum there has actually been advanced, for England and Scotland, 180,000l.; and for Ireland, 330,000l.; together, 510,000l.; leaving 3,000,000l. of the sum still to be advanced. It is, of course, impossible to say how much of this may be demanded in the course of the year, but it may probably amount to one-third. As the works proceed, the charge upon the Consolidated Fund will necessarily increase; because, while there is great delay at the commencement of the works, when once they are in progress they will be carried on 547 more rapidly, and the demand for the money to do so will be proportionately great. There is also a charge upon the Consolidated Fund of 70,000l. for New Zealand; another charge of 170,000l. for Trinidad and Guiana; and another of 50,000l. for Tobago: making, with some minor sums, a total charge on that head say of 300,000l. With respect to the sums advanced for drainage and the improvement of the land, I need not say that we have ample security. I have reason, from the report of the Board of Works in Ireland, to believe that in that country the average improvement will be about 8 per cent on the outlay—thereby supplying a source of increased income to the parties who have borrowed the money. With respect to Ireland, there can, I think, he no possible mode of improving that country half so good as that of putting it in the power of the proprietors themselves to improve their land, and also putting them in a position of benefiting the neighbourhood in which their estates are situated, by furnishing labour to the people, and acting as a benefactor to them in the most wholesome and sound of all ways—improving their character, at the same time that they are improving their condition. Having thus stated the sums with which the Consolidated Fund is chargeable at present, I have now to state that the plan which I propose for replacing the sums which have been drawn from the Treasury for these extraordinary services, and enabling it to meet the demands for advances which may be made upon it, is by borrowing to the amount of 2,000,000l. Different courses have been pursued, on former occasions, when it was necessary to provide for a deficient income. I find that in 1842 the following course was taken. In that year the estimated deficiency of income from the repeal and reduction of duties, and other causes, was 3,780,000l. The estimated amount of taxes imposed was 4,300,000l.; but the whole were not to be received within the year. Deducting one-half of the income-tax, 1,850,000l., not receivable within the year, the amount receivable within the year was 2,450,000l. The probable deficiency in April 5, 1843, therefore, was 1,330,000l. The actual deficiency, however, was 2,421,000l. Now the course taken at that time to meet this deficiency was to take a credit on the surplus of the Consolidated Fund for more than it could produce, and to meet the demand at the end of each successive 548 quarter by a large issue of deficiency bills; and to such an extent was this done, that, on the 5th of January, 1843, the deficiency bills amounted to 8,567,729l.; and in the course of the ensuing April the amount borrowed was 7,549,440l. Such was the provision for meeting the deficiency of income in 1842. On the 29th of April, 1844, I find the then Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goulburn), stating to the House that that deficiency had been completely extinguished by the surplus of the succeeding years. The right hon. Gentleman said—It will be in the recollection of the House that, it the close of the last year, I had to announce to the House the fact of a very considerable deficiency of income. I recommended to the House to make no provision whatever for the payment of that deficiency—not to raise money by loan for the purpose of getting rid of it, but to leave it to be defrayed out of the surpluses of future years, as circumstances might from time to time allow. And I am now happy to announce to the House that the deficit of last year, amounting altogether to 2,749,000l, has been cleared off and discharged out of the produce of the revenue of the present year.Now, although in this case it was justified by success, I cannot disguise from the House that this is a dangerous course to pursue, and in the state of affairs at homo and abroad, it would not be at all justifiable on the present occasion. I propose to adopt a course which was pursued by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth in 1841. I find that on that occasion the money raised to satisfy grants on supply and interest on Exchequer-bills was 2,467,432l. I propose in the same way to meet the deficiency of the present year by taking power to raise the necessary amount by the issue of Exchequer-bills and the sale of stock. No person feels more than myself that in ordinary circumstances this is a most objectionable course to pursue. We thought it so objectionable that we proposed to meet the deficiency by increased taxation. The House, however, did not think it advisable to accede to that proposal; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stamford—no light authority on these matters—thought that we had good reason for abandoning the proposal, since the House and the country were not prepared to submit to increased taxation for two years for the purpose of defraying a temporary excess of expenditure. I do not, therefore, see what other course we can pursue. I do not think I should be justified in proposing a permanent tax for the purpose 549 of covering temporary expenditure. I still think that for a temporary excess a temporary tax—and in the shape in which we proposed it—would have been the course most advisable; but that proposal having been rejected by the House, the next best course is to borrow the money in the way I have proposed. The circumstances in which the proposal is made are not of an ordinary kind. In the course of the last two years we have been called upon to deal with the questions of a famine in Ireland—commercial distress in England and Scotland—and revolution throughout Europe, which have affected this country both commercially and financially in no inconsiderable degree. I say nothing of insurrection at home. In such extraordinary circumstances, therefore, I conceive that we are justified in taking a course which would not be justifiable in ordinary years. I do not believe that the history of the civilised world records a greater destruction of human food than that which occurred in 1846, or such a demand for capital to replace that food. I will not say that the commercial distress of 1847 was the severest ever known; but it certainly ranks among the severest pressures that ever took place. Just when we were recovering from that distress, and when symptoms of reviving trade were appearing throughout the country, a series of revolutions took place on the continent of Europe, which, independently of other evils, put a check upon our export trade; and if anybody will refer to the returns of our exports, he will see to what an extent they have fallen off in consequence of the cessation of the Continental demand. Everybody will also recollect the effect of the blockade of the northern ports in consequence of the dispute between Denmark and Germany. All these matters have seriously affected our trade, and it must be the anxious desire of all of us to see an early termination put to these unfortunate occurrences. And having said this, I will only observe further, that any one who reflects upon it will see the deep interest which this country has in the universal prosperity of other countries. I have heard it stated that these occurrences abroad benefit this country; but they do no such thing. On the narrowest ground of our selfish interest it is infinitely more for our benefit that other countries should be happy and prosperous than that they should be the reverse; and, therefore, no effort we can make for the settlement of 550 those questions can be more useful to those countries, or to the interests of humanity generally, than to the commercial and selfish interest of this country. Of course, in the uncertainty which prevails with respect to the state of affairs on the Continent, it is difficult to anticipate what expenditure may be required; but I hope not only that we shall be able to reduce the expenditure, but that the revenue will considerably increase. I wish to show to the House how, even under existing circumstances, the revenue has kept up to a degree which, I confess, has filled me with astonishment. Comparing 1845–6 with 1847–8, I find that the receipts in the former period were 51,258,465l., and in the latter 51,627,736l., being nearly 400,000l. more than in the former year. At the beginning of 1847 it became my duty to state to the House what the probable income of the year would be. Of course, it was impossible to anticipate the convulsions which have since taken place; but I stated, early in February, that my estimate of the ordinary revenue for the year 1847–8 was 52,065,000l. Well, in spite of those convulsions and the consequent stagnation of trade, the actual produce of the ordinary revenue was 51,627,000l., being only 438,000l. loss than that which I estimated it at the beginning of the year. When I mention that a diminution of no less a sum than 1,400,000l. took place on malt and spirits, arising from the failure of the spring crops, the Committee will see to what extent the general revenue must have been affected. I am happy to say that, taking the present quarter so far as it goes, the prospects of the revenue are anything but unsatisfactory. I find that the decrease on the whole ordinary revenue from April 8 to the middle of August, 1848, as compared with 1847, is only 115,000l.; while there has been an increase of the Customs and Excise duties in the same time of 500,000l. A portion of that was owing to the receipt of corn duties which were not receivable in the previous year; but, excluding the corn duties, the increase of the Customs duties is 22,000l. Without anticipating too much, and without being too confident with respect to the future, I think that the facts I have stated are satisfactory, as showing how, even under the adverse circumstances of this year, the revenue has maintained itself; and that the receipts had not fallen off so much as, looking to all the circumstances, might have been anticipated. 551 They are also satisfactory, as showing the great power of consumption of this country; for, although our exports have fallen off, our imports have remained at a high point—a proof of the benefit of the cheapness which during the last twelve months has enabled the great mass of the people to provide themselves with the necessaries and many of the comforts of life. In another respect the circumstances of the country have been most satisfactory, and for which we cannot he too thankful—I mean the state of tranquillity and peace which has prevailed at home. For, if we refer to what has taken place abroad—though the last thing we have reason to look at with satisfaction is the distress of our neigh-hours—yet, if we compare the receipts of the Customs duties of Franco with the receipts of this country, the result is most striking; and ought to be a subject of deep reflection with those who have at any time shown a disposition to disturb the public peace amongst us. From that comparison they must see what an infinite disadvantage it is to themselves, and what misery must he entailed upon a country by any interruption of its internal tranquillity. A short time ago an account of the receipts of the French Customs fell into my hands, by which it appears that, during the first five months of the year 1847, the receipts were in pounds sterling 2,191,000l.; while for the first five months of the present year (1848) the receipts were 1,290,000l., being a falling-off of 901,000l., or 5–12ths in the latter period, as compared with the former. Now, the amount of Customs duties received in this country for the corresponding five months in the year 1847 was 8,308,000; and the amount received for the first five months of this year was 8,207,000l., being a falling-off of only 101,000l., or say 1–83rd part of the produce of the first period. I am sorry to say that, looking at the French Customs receipts in the month of May last, the falling-off was, as compared with the receipts of the preceding month of May, not less than one-half. This great deficiency in the receipts of the French Customs duties is unquestionably to be attributed to the extraordinary check which the disturbances of the public peace in that country have given to industry and the employment of capital among that people, and demonstrates how great are the sacrifices which a nation is compelled to undergo where such revolutionary movements occur. Thank God, nothing of that kind has hap- 552 pened here; and that we have reason to be most grateful for the state of peace and tranquillity which has prevailed in this country, conferring, as such a state ever does, so many benefits upon all classes, but more especially the working classes of the community. With regard to the state of trade, without pretending to say that it is in a most flourishing condition, I feel fully justified in declaring it to be in a sound and satisfactory state. I find that the drain of bullion from the Bank, which was taking place some few weeks ago, has ceased; and that the amount of bullion has not only been maintained, but in the course of the last week has been augmented. In the week ending the 12th of this month the amount of bullion in the Bank was 13,365,000l.; while in the week ending on the 19th, it was 13,371,000l.; there being at both periods a reserve of about 9,000,000l. In considering this criterion of the condition of the country, one must always compare the state of the Bank at equal periods after paying the dividends. Now, I find that the amount of bullion in the Bank on the 19th of this month was about the same as it was on the 20th of May last; in the former period the amount being (as I have already stated) 13,371,000l., and in the latter 13,379,000; both periods being equally distant from the payment of the interest on the public debt. I think, therefore, we may assume that the state of trade, though not very prosperous, nor the demand for labour very great, is upon the whole satisfactory, especially when we bear in mind the cheapness of all commodities, and particularly of the raw materials upon which labour is employed. At all events, I think it may be fairly stated that we are in that position in which we may readily avail ourselves of any favourable turn which a more tranquil state of affairs on the continent of Europe may open to us. I do not think I should properly perform my duty if I did not advert to that topic about which every hon. Member must be naturally very anxious—namely, the prospects of the country in regard to the produce of the harvest. Considering the very unsettled state of the weather, the condition of the crops must necessarily be a source of great concern and anxiety. Without going into any lengthened details, I will state generally the information which I have received upon the subject. I am sorry, then, to say that in the west and south of England there has been a considerable failure of the 553 potato crop; but from the north I have not received any account that, as yet, there are signs of injury to the root, at least to any great extent. The same also may be said with regard to Scotland, where I understand the crops have not hitherto suffered injury. There are, however, very different accounts as to the harvest; but I cannot discover from them that in general much harm has been done. In some parts of the country, more especially in the west, it is stated that, in consequence of the wetness of the weather, the corn has sprouted; but from the north of England and from Scotland the accounts are much more favourable, and there is no reason to expect that any great damage has been sustained. Indeed, I believe, that in respect to rain, which has been so very plentiful in this metropolis, there has been a want of it in some of the more northern parts of the country, and that the turnip crops have, in consequence, been injured. Upon the whole, however, I sec no reason for any great anxiety being felt in regard to the general produce of the harvest, so far as this country is concerned. With respect to Ireland the accounts are exceedingly various. Even at the same place the prospects at different periods have been very different. It would be quite impossible for me to go into details; and perhaps I shall best discharge my duty by stating what I believe to be the general result of the accounts which have reached me. I believe there is hardly any part of Ireland in which the potato disease has not in a greater or less degree shown itself. In the south the disease has appeared and disappeared and appeared again, according to the change in the weather; and in the north the accounts received are equally various. That in many places the root is injured, I am afraid is too true. The early crop has in various instances escaped; but with regard to the late crop, present appearances are not so favourable. The reports, however, from all parts of Ireland are, that so much larger a quantity of ground has been planted with potatoes this year than in almost any preceding year, that, even allowing for a very great loss from disease, still there is no reason to apprehend that there will not be a large amount of human food in the country, the supply from the larger quantity planted, approaching, even after the loss, to what it has been in former years, when the crops on a less area of ground were comparatively uninjured. I 554 find, on referring to a Mayo newspaper which was put into my hands this morning, that this is precisely the view taken as to the crops in that county. The writer says—All the tops of the late plantings are becoming withered and black. We are not, however, without hope as regards the early ones, as, while the stalks are affected, the tubers continue generally excellent. Should the disease progress, this country is ruined. On the other hand, should it please God to stay the spread of the disease, from the quantity of ground under potato, much of the evil of the last famine would be forgotten amongst us.It is, very difficult to ascertain accurately the truth of the case, with regard to the crops. There is—and not unnaturally so—a tendency on the part of certain interested parties to exaggerate the deficiency of the crops; and I am afraid that in some parts of the country the population avail themselves of the means put in their power, by misrepresenting the actual state of the produce of their farms, of working upon the benevolent feelings of others, and thus throwing themselves upon eleemosynary and, instead of doing their best to render any such assistance unnecessary. Doubtless numbers of people have been saved from starvation by the timely help afforded them in the last year or two; but it cannot be concealed that much demoralisation of the people has been caused, and that they are but too willing to depend upon charity, and Government assistance, instead of endeavouring to raise the food and adopt the means which are necessary for their subsistence. I therefore think—as my noble Friend has already stated—that according to the present amount of information obtained as to the real state of the crops in Ireland, it is impossible to foresee what amount of produce will be available for human food in that country. It is, however, quite certain that upon all former occasions when a scarcity has been assumed to exist, and, indeed, when it has really existed, there has been a much larger quantity of food in the country than anybody has at first represented there to be. So, in the present instance, my opinion is, unless, indeed, there be such a failure of the crops as to be unexampled even by the year 1846, that there will be an amount of food in Ireland adequate to support the people of that country for a considerable time. After what the hon. Member for Montrose has already stated, and after what has fallen from my noble Friend on a former occasion when speaking as to 555 the state of the crops in Ireland, I think it would, on the one hand, he unjust to the suffering people of this country, and fatal to the ultimate welfare of Ireland, if any sweeping measure of relief were at once to he adopted; I hope and believe that it will not be needed; but, on the other hand, I think it would he wrong, and an act of cruelty, if under the extremest emergency we were to say that no assistance or relief whatsoever should be given to a suffering and starving population. With these views I consider it inexpedient to hold out an expectation of any large assistance being afforded; while I hope that to a limited extent the House will place confidence in us, and allow us, within moderate limits, to dispense such assistance as may be absolutely necessary. As to what the result will actually be, no one can pretend to foretell. It may be like the former visitation. I hope and pray not; but if it be, then it will be our bounden duty immediately to refer the case to the wisdom of Parliament. Without wishing, then, on the one hand, to hold out any general expectation of relief, yet, on the other hand, feeling that relief ought to he given whore it would be utterly impossible that life should he maintained without it, I think for the present we must wait till we see what the result of the harvest shall be. We must know what the produce of the crops is, and what the circumstances of the country arc, before we can decide what shall be the course we ought to pursue.
§ MR. HUME
said, that whore men found themselves not in quite so bad a position as they anticipated, they were in the habit of congratulating each other on their good fortune. The House was in such a position, and was evidently in the vein to he pleased with a very little. It was a matter of serious consideration to find that after reducing the deficiencies from 3,000,000l. to 2,000,000l. they still required to borrow. This might be very well if there was a thriving population well employed; but when the state of the country, and the increasing burdens on account of the poor, were borne in mind, our condition was not one for congratulation. He regaetted that no hope had been held out of a diminution of the Army and Navy, as a temporary reduction of 826,000l, caused by the postponement of public works, could not afford any substantial relief to the country. In point of fact, with the exception of a saving on the 556 head of militia estimates, not a single shilling had been saved. The naval and military force of the empire was at least twice as large as there was any necessity for. It could scarcely be credited, but such was the fact, that there were more armed men in Ireland in the service of the Government than there were voters. Let them look at the income and expenditure of past years. The national income from 1840 to 1843 averaged from 50,500,000l. to 52,000,000l., and the expenditure was proportionately small; but since that period the revenue, instead of being 50,000,000l. or 52,000,000l., increased in 1844 to 55,500,000l.; in 1845, to 57,000,000l.; in 1846, to 56,250,000l.; and in 1847, to 56,000,000l. In 1844, the expenditure on account of the Army and Navy amounted to 14,000,000l.; in 1845, to about the same; in 1846, to 15,600,000l.; in 1847, to 16,800,000l.; until in 1848 it amounted to 18,500,000l.; and the country had a just right to complain of such enormous additions to the public burdens. The actual taxation, including the cost of collection, about 4,000,000l., amounted to nearly 60,000,000l. As to the disturbances which had taken place in this country, he could scarcely have believed that men were to he found capable of such visionary, crude, and impossible schemes. It was, however, satisfactory to find that the proceedings which had recently taken place were not planned by the labouring classes of the country, but originated amongst the lowest and vicious of the community. Many persons were now suffering in prison who had openly given expressions to their political feelings who should no more be liable to be imprisoned than himself or any other hon. Gentleman. He had expressed himself as strongly on politics as many of those who were now in confinement; and he hoped that before long there would be an end put to such arrests. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not raise his loan by the creation of stock, as great loss had been occasioned by previous transactions of the kind. In conclusion, he expressed his deep regret that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not announced any reduction in the Army and Navy.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
Sir, I do not propose to follow the hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose, still less to dispute the statement he so frankly made, that he has held stronger language than that given expression to by those lately convicted 557 under the Crown and Government Security Bill for sedition; and, I suppose I may add, treason and felony, for I remember the occasion upon which the hon. Gentleman advised the Canadian colonists to cast off the dominion of the British Crown. When the hon. Gentleman rose, he created some surprise at this side of the House by observing that the Chancellor of the Exchequer sat down amid general congratulations. Surely, if any such expressions of gratification were indulged in by hon. Gentlemen on the opposite benches, they must have been conveyed in a suppressed whisper, for they did not reach us. I do not think there is anything to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon, although I heard him congratulate himself that things were no worse. It appears to me, that a more insolvent statement could not be made by a Chancellor of the Exchequer; and the only consolation to derive from it is that, as things are so bad, they may soon get better. Such also was the right hon. Gentleman's hope in the spring of 1847. For my part, I think the best foundation he has for his congratulations, and his most consoling reflection, is very much akin to that of a certain gallant knight (Sir Hudibras) who, when imprisoned in the village stocks, expressed a hope that his dog-bolt fortunes might—… "quickly end,Or turn about again and mend.The right hon. Gentleman told us, that various financial statements had been made to the House. Various and varying they were; for this is the fourth budget or explanatory financial statement with which we have been favoured. The right hon. Gentleman has gone to some pains to explain budget No. 4; but now that I have heard it, I am not sure I understand it. We have not been told that the corn duties were included in the statement. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: They are always included.] Not "always;" for when the right hon. Gentleman made his financial statement in the early part of the Session, he forgot to include them. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say, that there was an increase in the Customs of 22,000l. over the corresponding period of last year. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Exclusive of corn duties.] I understand, that 207,000l. had been received up to the 15th of June. So I presumed, that up to this time about 300,000l. had been received from corn duties. The House will recollect, that when 558 the first financial statement was made, we were informed that there would be a deficiency of nearly 3,000,000l., and that such deficiency was to be made up by an increase in the income-tax yielding 3,500,000l. That proposal for an in creased tax upon incomes was subsequently abandoned; but we are now told that the malt duties have so much exceeded in amount the estimates framed by the right hon. Gentleman, that on the head of Excise there is already an increase over the corresponding period of last year of upwards of 500,000l. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: I said the increase was upon the Customs and Excise.] If I understood the right hon. Gentleman, he said that the corn duties were not included in his statement of Customs. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: I stated, that the increase upon the Customs and the Excise, taken together, was more than 500,000l. I also said, that there was an increase of 22,000l. in the Customs duties, exclusive of the corn duties.] Then we are to understand that there is a decrease on stamps, the amount of which the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to state; and that upon the balance there is an increase of revenue on Customs and Excise to the extent of 500,000l. The right hon. Gentleman tells us, that it is his intention to provide for the deficiency, which is estimated at 2,000,000l., by selling stock; but, as the value of stock varies, to borrow money in such an irregular way is very like flying a kite. When looking forward to an increased surplus of revenue wherewith to reimburse himself, the right hon. Gentleman has forgotten to tell us to what source he looked forward with so much confidence for this increase of revenue; for the House will recollect that this corn duty, which, coming in at the present rate within the current eleven months, would yield 670,000l., will cease on the 1st day of February next. This shows, that there is a prospect not of an increase of revenue, but of a considerable decrease. Let me also remind the hon. Gentleman, that even on the head of sugar duties (one of the largest sources of revenue), his expectations are not likely to be realised, for although by increased consumption the amount of duties received may not be diminished, still it is most probable that from the article of sugar he will not derive any increased revenue. You are also going to reduce the copper duties, which last year produced 40,000l., and the year before 559 50,000l; and these things, taken together, indicate that there will he a diminution instead of an increase in the revenue. Really it appears to me as if the right hon. Gentleman is seeking to ape Sir Robert Peel; but he forgets that when Sir Robert Peel borrowed in 1842, that he put on a property-tax, which gave him 5,000,000l., and that at a time when there was something to look forward to. It is true Sir Robert Peel reduced the duty on timber, thus sacrificing 500,000l. or 600,000l., and that he made other reductions of duty to the extent of 1,000,000l.; but he compensated for the loss by the imposition of an income-tax. The policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer inclines, on the other hand, to the increase of expense, without removing any burdens, or without providing fresh sources of revenue. I say, therefore, that he is unwarrantably confident when he looks forward to an increasing surplus revenue to compensate him for his 2,000,000l. of deficiency. He is aware that there are no more instalments of China money, and therefore on all hands I say there is every prospect of a diminished income. With regard to expenditure, he tells us that there is a saving amounting to 828,000l. upon the various estimates; but that saving will have to be made up in future years. It is not as if he told us that great works would have to be finished this year, but, on the contrary, everything is to be postponed, as a charge upon the future greater than the present charge. Far from thinking we have subject for congratulation, I am of opinion that the right hon. Gentleman's prospects are the darkest and most obscure that can possibly be conceived. The right hon. Gentleman speaks of a prospect of increasing the surplus revenue; but how is he to make amends for his present deficiency, and what will justify this irregular mode of borrowing money by selling stock which he does not possess? When I look at the return that was presented to this House a few days ago, which shows that in the Customs duties there is a diminished receipt of 500,000l., and an increased expenditure to the amount of 40,000l. on account of collection, in addition to the salaries of extra custom-house officers and coast-guards to the number of sixty-two, I cannot agree with the right hon. Gentleman in thinking that we can depend upon a surplus revenue in anticipation. But it appears we are to part this year at a period when we might have postponed the budget 560 until next year, and have amalgamated the budget of 1848 and 1849, with the prospect of meeting again in three or four months, with a virtual deficiency of two millions. With such prospects as those—apart from considerations of reductions of expenditure—I must say that I never heard a statement by any Chancellor of the Exchequer less a subject of congratulation, either to the House, to the country, or to myself, than the statement which the right hon. Gentleman has made this night.
§ MR. J. O'CONNELL
wished to say a few words with regard to Ireland. No doubt in some parts of the country the gloomy anticipations which had been entertained would not be realised to the full extent. The potato disease was perhaps not so active or malignant as it had formerly been, but it was to he feared that it was making a steady progress; and it was much to be apprehended that if famine visited the country to anything like the extent that was threatened, the people would be in a most frightful condition, inasmuch as in the year 1846 and 1847 they possessed resources from which in the autumn and winter of 1848 they could not hope to derive any advantage. The case of Ireland was most melancholy; it called for extreme and anxious attention, the more especially as the recent attempts to create disturbance were not the acts of the people, they were merely the proceedings of rash, mad, and criminal persons. As regarded the conduct of the Government, it was in this matter most merciful; and he earnestly hoped that they would continue to show the same spirit.
§ SIR H. WILLOUGHBY
said, all they had heard amounted merely to a postponement for one year of the imposition of fresh taxes, and the only thing Ministers seemed able to do, was to go on borrowing more money. On referring to a paper recently presented to the House, he found that the additions to the national debt, from the 1st of January, 1847, to the 1st of January, 1848, made a total of 7,933,259l.; and even that was not the whole deficiency, for the whole of the money sent to Ireland was borrowed, and England imposed upon herself, by that operation, a permanent annual expenditure of 200,000l. a year. It was quite evident that the country could not go on in that way much longer; The noble Lord had upon a former occasion said, that when the deficiency amounted to so much as 2,000,000l., that there should be no loan—no petty device; that 561 taxes should be found to meet the deficiency. Now, when the noble Lord was beaten upon the tax that he had proposed, he ought to have submitted to the House some other scheme.
thought, that the country had come to the ne plus ultra of taxation; and he trusted that the Government would at a future period be prepared to come forward with some plan adequate to the exigencies of the time. The imputation thrown out by any Irish Catholic bishop, that this country intended to starve the Irish people, though it might be passed over with the phrase that it was all "Tullagh-hill talk," was in plain, honest Saxon, nothing but a wilful and deliberate falsehood.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
observed, that there was no ground to suppose any reason why, with the reductions that had been made, and those that might be undertaken next year, the ordinary expenditure should not be reduced to the income of the country. The hon. Member for Montrose had said, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not stated that any further reductions were to be made; but there had been in various debates declarations made by himself (Lord J. Russell), by the hon. Secretary to the Admiralty, and by other Members of the Government, that on every possible occasion reductions would be made with the view of bringing the expenditure within the income. At the same time, he did not at all regret having, in the present year, kept up the naval and military forces at the point at which they were now maintained. When complaints were made of the great amount of the Navy and the Army, he must say, that considering the events which had occurred on the Continent, considering the excitement which such events were likely to produce in this country, giving encouragement to misguided men to imagine that they had only to go out into the streets with knives and pistols in order to effect a revolution, and considering the attempts made in Ireland, he should have been sorry if, for the mere purpose of popularity, the Government had proposed reductions in the Army and Navy. He did trust, however, that 562 circumstances would enable the Government to make further reductions. With regard to the statement made by the hon. Member for Limerick, he must say, that the Government claimed the confidence of the country for their intentions. He hoped that the potato failure was not so great as was apprehended a week ago, though he admitted that there was still ground for fear and alarm on that head.
§ Resolutions agreed to:—"That towards making good the Supply granted to Her Majesty, the sum of 10,584,871l. 19s. 10d. be granted out of the Consolidated Fund of Great Britain and Ireland. That there be issued and applied to the Service of the year 1848 the sum of 41,786l. 19s. 9d., being the Surplus of Ways and Means granted for the Service of preceding years. That the sum of 500,000l, being part of the sum in the Exchequer of the United Kingdom, a balance from the services of the years 1846 and 1847, be applied to the Service of 1848."