, in bringing forward the Motion of which he had given notice relative to the taxation and large expenditure of the country, said that the necessity had now arisen for Her Majesty's Government taking into their serious consideration the mode of levying taxation in this country, with a view of making some radical change. The last time he troubled the House on this subject, he asked for leave to go into a Committee of the whole House, in which they might have been enabled to go into these matters in detail, referring to all the various establishments in which economy might be practised, and in which expenditure might be reduced. Her Majesty's Government were pleased to oppose that proposition, and one of them had turned his remarks into ridicule, while another had warned the House against following so inexperienced a Palinurus. To 566 come to a plain conclusion, however, it needed only a reference to the numerous blue books and reports on the table, and to those he referred for a justification of the course he proposed. He feared that Her Majesty's Government would judge of this Motion rather by association with former Motions, similar in words, but very dissimilar in tendency; for they had usually been made by some persons intending to damage the Government, and to establish some rival faction in power and emolument in their place. He needed hardly to waste the time of the House by pointing out how impossible it must be that such could be the intention of this Motion. In fact, the days of party were at an end; and it would not now do to proceed in this covert way against one party, for there was no other party to substitute. Whether it were right, or whether it were wrong—whether it were advantageous, or not—parties were at an end. He, for one, regretted—greatly regretted—that there was no powerful party to whom the Sovereign of this country might have recourse, if need should arise; but, nevertheless, they had to deal with the House as they found it, and not as they might wish it to be. If there was a disadvantage, and on that he gave no opinion, in no longer having these strong parties in the House, at all events there was an advantage for independent Members, and they had a greater opportunity, if they used it aright, of carrying into effect the measures they thought necessary for the public good. For, in point of fact, the great interests of the country at all times had been sacrificed to party purposes; from the days of the Revolution—he meant the Revolution of 1688—down to the present time, every great interest in the country had only been the battlefield upon which the real question at issue had been, which faction in this House should rule. It was so at the beginning, it was so in the days of the early French Revolution; it was so during the days of the American war; it was so during the time of the Canada rebellion; it was so in the case of the corn laws; and it was so now every day in the case of free trade. And some people adopted this course really believing they were free from it. To-night he had seen the operation of the principle. An hon. Gentleman who sat on his side of the House said to him, with regard to the Motion he was now bringing before them, "Oh, I quite agree with your Motion, and 567 think it a very right sort of thing, but then you know I could not go into the lobby with the Member for the West Riding." Again, another hon. Friend, who sat on the opposite side of the House, said, "Oh, I entirely agree with you—I am a Radical reformer, but when I see the Conservatives supporting you, I think I cannot fitly do so." Now, it was in that way that they sacrificed the interests of the country to faction. There was also more than ordinary difficulty in the way of independent Members carrying out measures, and the reason was this—that, individualised by their peculiarities, they must of necessity be a desultory body; they could not he in compact order: and certainly a small and compact body would always in detail be a more powerful body than a more numerous company with no common principle of union. To illustrate what he meant, they very well knew what difference in the speeches they should hear from hon. Gentlemen now on the opposite side of the House, if the Gentlemen on this side of the House were sitting there. Well did they know how lively on the subject of economy and retrenchment they had been; but those eloquent tongues were silent now. Perhaps they were keeping these away in a little corner for a future time, when the Whigs were in want of a subject for popular commotion, to be used as a stepping-stone to power. The policy of independent Members must be this. There were no greater differences among those who were convinced of the advantages of retrenchment than were to be found in any other body of men. If one discussed one mode of doing a thing, and another discussed another mode of doing a thing, an ingenious Government might very well be able to be heavy upon them, exclaiming, "what inconsistences there are among these people!" and "how difficult it is to examine their crotchets!" They must come to conclusions, and leave details, for differ as they might in their plans, both as to the how it was to be done, and the when it was to be done, the long and the short of the story must be for them to say, "You shan't have so much money." That was the end of the whole story. It was not, however, that those Gentlemen [referring to the Treasury bench] should rest altogether upon any assertion they could make; they ought to give them authority, more of authority than reasons for it. He desired upon that occasion to avoid using either inflammatory or exaggerated 568 language, because he knew full well that there were greater expectations of relief to be derived from this source among the public, than there was any good foundation for. He had also seen it stated that the whole amount of our taxation was en pure perte—was just as completely wasted from the resources of the country as if it had been thrown into the sea. Now, that was not the fact; whatever the disadvantages of our taxation might be—and he was not inclined to diminish its disadvantages—a great deal of it did return to the country again, and was not therefore en pure perte. The advocates of retrenchment might readily grant all that—there was no necessity for exaggeration on the subject. All that they need attempt to show was, that the amount of taxation was excessive, and that the mode of levying it was unjust. He disclaimed all intention of casting any special blame upon Her Majesty's present Ministers for the evils of which he complained. In order to show clearly what he meant, he would take for his examples a few articles upon which the duties had already been repealed. The duty on the highest priced printed cottons, on the dearest cottons, which were only worn by the richer classes of the community, was 10 per cent; but upon the very commonest cottons, those that were low-priced and worn by the poorest, the duty was 50 per cent. You would say, you had repealed all these; yes, but the principle on which the taxes were made existed now. The tax upon leather was regulated by the weight; but everybody knew that a countryman's shoes weighed more than a hundred pairs of ladies' shoes, and accordingly they cost him more. The same with the tax upon wine; it was 100 per cent, while the tax upon beer was 175 per cent. These were illustrations of his meaning, and further than that he would not detain the House. It was the whole establishment of the country that had been in that sort of way pitched at too high a rate; and as evidence of that, he would give the House first a quotation from a journal which was the great organ of the last Administration. The Quarterly Review, in a long panegyric which it pronounced upon the right hon. Member for Tamworth, said—If we are to keep our place, it is indispensably necessary that every incumbrance should be removed which clogs the activity and energy of individuals or the Government. Every part of the machine of society must he adapted to the increased exertion it is called upon to make. If 569 this be so, every branch of our public and private economy—the administration of the affairs of parishes and counties; the state of charities, corporations, public schools, colleges, the law, the Church, and the whole management of our foreign dependencies, must necessarily submit to examination and amendment. Wealthy as the country is, and attached to ancient institutions as it has always been, it can no longer support the burden of places or proceedings which can be simplified or dispensed with. While no branch of our institutions ought to be touched which can be safely let alone, there yet exists an imperative necessity for submitting many of them to alteration. When the situation of a State becomes really critical—when its affairs require to be effectually disentangled, it is neither to men of mere routine, nor to proficients in statistical calculation, and the metaphysics of political economy, that the wise will look.He believed that was exactly the state of the case; that unless they would, by some strong resolution, compel, if they supposed them disinclined, or strengthen the hands of the Administration if they were inclined to make retrenchments in the public expenditure, they neither would nor could. He was further strengthened in his views by a passage in a despatch, lately presented to the House, from one of our colonial governors to Earl Grey:—Your Lordship will find, that I stated in my message to the council, that though I was not of opinion that the salaries were extravagant, or the officers too numerous, yet I considered that some diminution should take place in consequence of the state of the finances, and that I intended making a proposal to your Lordship. This I proposed should be to the effect that from the 1st of October next a graduated deduction should be made by the treasurer on all salaries from 100l. and upwards. It has been objected, that to touch the fixed salaries was contrary to all rule and practice. I do not pretend to know whether such be the case or not; but it certainly does appear to me that if the revenue cannot meet the expenditure, and if at the same time the whole population is in a state of distress, that in equity it is not only just, but also expedient, as manifesting a proper sympathy on the part of the Government, that some reduction should be made in the salaries of its officers.Now, Earl Grey did not assent to that in the case of the colony referred to; but he found him assenting in the case of another colony, which would do just as well. Earl Grey says, March, 1849, very much to the same effect as the Motion of the hon. Member for Oxfordshire the other night. Objections had been urged touching fixed salaries, upon which it was unnecessary now for him to give any opinion; but at a time when the revenue of the country was not meeting the expenditure, and when the great body of the people were in distress, it was worth considering whether it would 570 not evince a proper sympathy in the Government with the sufferings of the people if they submitted to reductions in the salaries they received. His Lordship writes—That a complete revision of the financial system of Jamaica, including an improvement in the existing mode of taxation, both for general and parochial purposes, would afford more real relief to the suffering planters than any other measure which it is in the power of the Legislature to adopt.In another colony they made a stand and a remonstrance against any alteration or reduction in the Government expenditure. Then the council of the colony took it into their own hands, and stopped the supplies. [An Hon. MEMBER: What colony?] Guiana. What said the document in his hands?—Due weight ought to be given to the following considerations—That the agriculture of the colony is in a state of great depression; that every degree of retrenchment in the public expenditure that is consistent with justice and good faith is imperatively called for; that an example of the reduction of emoluments set by the Governor would increase his personal influence and authority in the colony, and would tend to reconcile the holders of subordinate appointments to the application in their own case of a rule to which the highest authority in the colony had voluntarily and cheerfully submitted.That was from the report on the colony, and he believed it was drawn up by Sir Robert Peel. Next to the alteration in the mode of levying the taxation, that was by relieving the poor and making it press more severely upon the rich, was one that he had most at heart, and was the most important in consequences, that they should take some means to pay off or diminish the burden of the national debt—whether by conversion into terminable annuities, or by buying up stock in the market—that was a point which was necessary, and could not be too soon attended to by those Gentlemen who talked of the recovery of agriculture. It was perfectly true they could raise five times the amount of eatables out of the land which they now raised. That was perfectly true, no doubt; but then it could only be done by an expenditure of capital greater than the value of the produce raised. Therefore, the only way in which they could give relief, was by lowering the rate of interest to such an extent that money might be employed productively which was now unproductive. He should conclude by reading one passage from Burke, to show the necessity there was of a higher object being contemplated by Government in their wishes to benefit the 571 country, and of some such measure to carry their wishes into effect:—The private enemies to be made in all attempts of this kind are innumerable; and the enmity will be the more bitter, and the more dangerous too, because a sense of dignity will oblige them to conceal the cause of their treatment. Very few men of great families and extensive connexions but will feel the smart of a cutting reform in some close relation, some bosom friend, some pleasant acquaintance, some dear protected dependent. Emolument is taken from some, patronage from others, objects of pursuit from all. Men forced into an involuntary independence will abhor the authors of a blessing which in their eyes have so very near a resemblance to a curse. When offices are removed, and the officers remain, you may set the gratitude of some against the anger of others; you may oppose the friends you oblige against the enemies you provoke. But services of the present sort create no attachments. The individual good felt in a public benefit is comparatively so small, conies round through such an involved labyrinth of intricate and tedious revolutions; whilst a present personal detriment is so heavy where it falls, and so instant in its operation, that the cold commendation of a public advantage never was and never will be a match for the quiet sensibility of a private life; and you may depend upon it that when people have an interest in railing, sooner or later they will bring a considerable degree of unpopularity upon any measure. So that for the present at least, the reformation will operate against the reformers; and revenge (as against them at the least) will produce all the effects of corruption.It was not the first time that a man in the Administration had been very willing to do all in his power, but never had been able to do what he thought was necessary, for want of the cordial support of that House; and hence, not desiring to lay upon Ministers the blame arising out of this censurable system, he should encourage them by this resolution in doing that which he believed was necessary for the good of the country.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That whereas a greater amount of Taxation is levied upon the people than is required for the good and efficient government of the United Kingdom; and whereas large sums are expended in supporting needless places, extravagant salaries, and unnecessary works and establishments; and whereas the present Taxation of the Country depresses all classes, and especially the labouring classes, by diminishing the fund for the employment of productive labour, it is the opinion of this House, that adequate means should be forthwith adopted to reduce the expenditure of the Government.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the hon. Gentleman had stated that it was no part of his intention or Motion to express any censure or blame 572 with regard to his Colleagues in the Government; but that, on the contrary, he would encourage them, if they were disposed, or compel them, if they were not disposed, to take certain measures which the hon. Gentleman considered necessary for the country. Now, if the House should think it necessary, by a general resolution, such as that of the hon. Gentleman, to express their opinion in favour of a certain course of policy, the Government at all events could have no objections, because, for the last two years, they had done their best endeavours to pursue such a course, and the whole tendency of their measures had been to carry the reduction of expenditure in all parts of the service, as far as they considered to be consistent with the best interests of the country. He did not know whether it would be necessary to repeat what had been stated on other occasions. The extent of the reductions made by them, showing that the Government had been engaged on the details of reductions to as great an extent as was compatible with the maintenance of the departments of the public service in an efficient condition. Beyond that point the hon. Gentleman himself would not push his proposition for retrenchment. The hon. Gentleman, in the course of the observations which he had addressed to the House, adverted to the argument which had frequently been before the House, about a higher rate of duty being imposed on low-priced articles, and a lower rate upon high-priced goods. That was a mere revival of the old argument which rested on the comparative advantage of an ad valorem and what was called a rated duty. He did think, and the hon. Gentleman himself must be aware, that the tendency of all our recent legislation, and generally the opinion of men engaged in trade and commerce, was in favour of a fixed rate as more likely to promote the interests of commerce than an ad valorem duty. There was a great deal of sound argument to be used on both sides, for and against both an ad valorem and a fixed duty; but the general and strong opinion was in favour of a fixed rate, even though it included the articles usually consumed by the lower classes of the community. The tendency of the legislation had for some time been to impose a low fixed rate instead of ad valorem duty, as more beneficial to the commerce of the country, and that even in cases where the articles were those of general consumption. The hon. Gentleman stated it was most 573 desirable to take the taxation off the poor and impose it on the rich; but the precise mode in which he would do that, the hon. Gentleman did not proceed to state. He could only repeat, therefore, that the tendency of all the recent legislation of the country had been to that end, and more especially within the last few years. It was rather remarkable that the hon. Gentleman at this period should have talked emphatically of the taxation pressing upon the great body of the people, when there hardly ever was a period during which within a few years larger reductions had been made in the taxes levied on those articles of general consumption by the people, and to supply their place additional taxes had been laid upon incomes and property. Since the year 1842 up to the present year 1849, from the commencement of the measures introduced by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tarn-worth, the reductions made upon articles that were either the raw materials of our manufactures, or the articles generally consumed by the great body of the people, had been no less than 9,000,000l. That had been the amount of duties either reduced or repealed. The course which had been pursued in the repeal or the reduction of these duties, had a strong tendency to remove taxation off the poorer and to lay it on the richer classes of society. He apprehended that those persons whose incomes were so large as to be subjected to the tax, might be described as the richer classes of society. The course, therefore, of the Legislature of the country, during the last eight or nine years, had been precisely in the direction indicated by the hon. Gentleman, and strictly on the principle of removing taxation from the poorer to the richer classes of the community. Whether the hon. Gentleman proposed to go further—whether he would take a greater amount of taxation off and increase the rate of taxation upon incomes—whether he would double the income tax and take 4,000,000l or 5,000,000l. more from the amount at present levied by taxation, he knew not; but this he would say, that if he did not mean in that way to carry out his purpose, he did not understand how he could further relieve the great body of the people at the cost of the rich. It would have been more desirable for the hon. Gentleman to have stated in what way he meant to carry out his project for the relief of the poor. The hon. Gentleman said that it was indispensably necessary in 574 some way to pay off or diminish the national debt. He had no objection, if the holders of the interminable annuities were willing to have them converted into terminable annuities; but as to buying up stock, the hon. Gentleman has unfortunately forgotten to point out how the means could be provided for this purpose. If the hon. Gentleman meant to provide the means of buying up stock, by imposing additional taxes, he confessed it was not in his power to deal with the subject in that way; and otherwise the hon. Gentleman must be a more able financier than he professed to be, for he had never been able to see how it was possible to buy stock without money in his pocket to pay for it. If the hon. Gentleman meant to establish a sinking fund for the purchase of stock, he was reviving an exploded doctrine, which had now been universally given up, and had scarcely been held by any one for the last twenty years at least. The hon. Gentleman stated, as to the productions of agriculture, that five times more could be raised than now produced, but that that additional produce could not be raised without an increased expenditure of capital in the pursuits of agriculture. He certainly did look, as well as the hon. Gentleman, to see, by a judicious application of capital to agriculture, the resources of the country increased to meet the additional demands of the people for food. When the hon. Gentleman stated that he would lower the rate of interest, he seemed to forget the vast amount of rash speculation which had occurred within the last few years, arising principally from that very source. Indeed, numerous complaints were again being made, since the late panic, that money was abundant and might be obtained ad libitum at 1 or 1½ per cent. As far as he could see, looking at the amount of bullion in the Bank of England, and other tests on that subject, there was no lack of capital in the country, or any necessity for lowering the rate of interest. It might be well for the hon. Gentleman, in making such a proposal, to consider whether lowering the interest might not again force up into rank strength that spirit of speculation which it was desirable to check rather than to encourage. The hon. Gentleman said they ought to reduce the expenditure of the country. Well, what had they been doing? Within the last year and a half they had effected large and considerable reductions in the expenditure of 575 the establishments of the country. But, said the hon. Gentleman, it was not enough; and the hon. Member for the West Riding joined him by adding, reduction must be made in the forces. Why, it was not a year and a half ago since it was not in the power of Government to supply the additional forces asked for by the manufacturing towns for the protection of life and property. As soon as these disturbances had passed over, reductions had been made in the Army to the number of 10,000 men. The proposals for further reductions in the Army were made and rejected in the House, and he concluded that this Government so far had the concurrence of the House in the limit which they had fixed for this year. In the Navy, reductions had been made to the number of 3,000 men. The hon. Gentleman stated that he cast no blame on the present Government, and he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) admitted he did not think, when he stated that reductions had been made in the estimates for both services to the amount of 2,360,000l., they were fairly open to the charge of having been unmindful of reductions in the expenditure. He did not mean to say that the course they had pursued had been satisfactory to all, but at least they had the approval of the majority of the House in not carrying to a greater extent the reductions which they had made. As for the reduction proposed to be made in salaries, that was a subject which had been fully discussed the other night; and it appeared then that the various officers were paid at a much higher rate, about 1780, than they were now, in consequence of emoluments then enjoyed which did not now exist. In the minor departments material reductions had been effected. In the course of the present year the pay-offices had been consolidated, whilst in the Paymaster's-office reductions in the amount of salaries had been effected to an extent of no less than 16,000l., and of thirty-five in the number of persons employed. There had been a reduction of 47 per cent upon the whole amount of salaries paid, and of 33 per cent in the number of persons employed. The salaries in the Home Office had been reduced 3,774l. a year. Complaints had been made of the number of persons employed in the public service, and inquiries as to how many hundreds were employed in the Home Office, and at the Treasury. He would tell the House, the whole establishment of the 576 Home Office consisted of eighteen persons; and fifty-four was the whole of the Treasury, exclusive of the six Lords and Secretaries in Parliament. Comparing the number of persons employed in the public offices in this country with the number employed in those of foreign countries, Franco for example, it would be found that they were one-fourth or one-third less. At the Treasury, including the Parliamentary staff, 62 persons were employed; at the Exchequer 9; at the Pay-office, 61; making, altogether, 130 persons for those establishments. In the French Ministry of Finance alone, no fewer than 560 persons were employed. He knew not what better test could be applied than this; and he thought if he had the hon. Gentleman under his guidance at the Treasury for a short time, he would find it pretty hard work there. In the Treasury a saving-had been effected of 2,600l. per annum, while there was every prospect that, by carrying out a similar system of retrenchment, a saving of 10,000l. a year might be permanently made in that department. Hon. Gentlemen were fond of talking of patronage. He could assure them that no fondness for patronage should interfere with reductions. He himself had one office at his disposal—the Exchequer Seal-office—of 600l a year, and this he had abolished. There had been inquiries instituted in the Home Office, with a view to a reduction in that department; many minor offices of a similar kind had been abolished also, while 2,000 persons were reduced in consequence of the consolidation of stamps, taxes, and excise—making a saving of 250,000l since 1833. The Mint Solicitor's-office was abolished, which made a saving of 800l per annum. In the Audit-office there had been a saving of 4,070l.; and reductions were made also in the following instances:—Auditors of Exchequer, Scotland, a saving of 1,500l; Assistant Secretary of Chelsea Hospital, &c., a saving of 1,700l.; Stationery-office, a saving of 31,000l. (in the expenses of printing), and further contemplated reductions, by which 50,000l would be saved. In the Customs, a saving of 60,000l to 80,000l. a year. He mentioned these facts to show that in little things as well as great the attention of the Government had been directed to a reduction of expenditure in every way consistent with the efficient discharge of the public service. But he must remind hon. Gentlemen who advocated economy, that in some respects they 577 were hard taskmasters, for whilst calling upon the Government to take increased duties upon themselves, they objected to grant the means to pay for them. During the whole sitting of Parliament, half the time of the clerks in the public departments was occupied in furnishing returns which were called for day by day in that House. Hon. Gentlemen complained if they were not furnished with the utmost readiness, whilst at the same time they were crying out, "reduce your establishments, and do not employ so many per-sons." But if such duties were constantly imposed upon the establishments, and such labour was perpetually being called for, it was absolutely impossible to execute it without adequate means of remunerating the persons employed in performing it. As he had already stated, they were called upon last year to furnish troops in greater numbers than usual for the manufacturing towns; yet from some of those places there had proceeded a cry for a large reduction of force. Then they were told that they were looking for patronage rather than the efficiency of the public service; yet they had been perpetually pressed in that House to appoint new commissions, new inspectors, and new establishments, to take upon them duties which the Government would not undertake. That pressure came from the House of Commons; and even the hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose, though he deprecated any addition to our establishments, supported a Bill the other day which in this respect would have called for several new appointments. Under all these circumstances, the Government had, in his opinion, given sufficient proof that they had not been unmindful of economy; and they were determined to persevere in that course, because nobody could feel more than they did the necessity for it, keeping in view at the same time the efficiency of the public service. No person in the House had a stronger interest in promoting economy than the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But he must say that for the greater part of his official life he had had to resist the pressure of the House of Commons for further expenditure; and therefore he felt he did not need any of that pressure which the hon. Gentleman put upon him to persevere in a course which he had pursued ever since he became a Member of the House. He did not think the Government could justly be exposed to the censure implied in the resolution. The reductions they had made 578 were as great as it was advisable to make in the present year; in future years further reductions might be made, and he had no hesitation in giving the strongest assurances to the House that no expenditure would be sanctioned by the Government which was not indispensably necessary, and that every reduction would be made consistently with the real interests of the State. They had given practical proofs of such being their intention. The resolution seemed to him to express a censure upon the former as well as the present Government, which they did not merit. They had no objection to it as a principle, because it was only consistent with their profession and their practice; but, as a Motion, he did not think the House ought to agree to it, because it implied a censure which was not deserved.
§ MR. HUME
was almost ashamed to answer the statements of the right hon. Gentleman, because they had been repeated four times in the House. The question submitted to the House was, whether more money was raised than was wanted. The terms of the hon. Gentleman's Motion scarcely did justice to the subject. The hon. Gentleman said, that the day of party had gone by; he (Mr. Hume) wished that that was the case. Unfortunately, up to this hour, he found that party operated to reject measures which the country approved of, and which, if followed up, would confer a great benefit on the country. He thought the hon. Member for West Surrey had scarcely done justice to his own Motion; he scarcely knew in what way he supported his own allegations. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had a complete answer, and he (Mr. Hume) agreed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it was not the Ministry, but the House of Commons, that was responsible. Last year, on the proposal to renew the income tax, the House of Commons evinced their decided opinion against it, and then the Ministers came down and revoked their resolution. He wished that in the present case the House would show themselves equally alive to the pressure of taxation; but Members did not think of the manner in which the taxes were exacted, and consequently did not trouble themselves much about it. He did not deny the benefit they had derived from changes; he only complained that they had not carried them further. He entirely concurred in the Motion of the hon. Gentleman; he concurred that a greater amount 579 of taxation was levied on the people than was required for good and efficient Government. He concurred that large sums were expended in supporting needless places, extravagant salaries and unnecessary works and establishments. The discussion of last night ought to have satisfied any hon. Gentleman on many of these points. The present establishments of the civil list were now maintained on the scale, pound for pound, which George IV. established, and that was the most extravagant establishment that could be; and those who knew what took place under the reign of that King, knew that extravagance was carried on in regard to his own person to the utmost extent. We had renewed and continued under William IV. and Victoria, the same charge in all these establishments. Let hon. Gentlemen refer to the Bills in detail, as laid before the Committee on the civil list of William IV., and they would see what ground there was for saying that there were needless places, extravagant salaries, and unnecessary works and establishments. If he extended his inquiry, he would find a vast number of cases where reduction might be made. We had at this moment a dead weight on this country, which was going on increasing almost daily; and until they had some revision of that, it was not enough to tell him that the Duke of Wellington's report in 1840 sanctioned extravagant proceedings in many branches of the Army. All the recommendations that would lessen the expense had not been carried out. We had now arrived at the point when the amount of our dead weight was five millions sterling. He found that when the present system of allowing retirement on half-pay commenced, the charge was trifling; and it showed how careful Government ought to be, that in getting out of one evil they did not fall into a greater. Perhaps the House was not aware that in 1810 a great effort was made to get rid of large sinecure offices. Mr. Bankes, the Member for Dorset, took the lead on that occasion, and the House and the country were so anxious to put down sinecures that then existed in the gift of Ministers, that they adopted a means by which officers in civil appointments should have a legal claim. That had gone on increasing. In 1810 the whole amount of charge was 94,550l The law being adopted giving power to the officer in charge of the department, for a long time they included whom they thought fit. They took in whom they 580 pleased, and the establishment of the civil list had increased by the control which the Treasury had over it. He found day by day individuals representing themselves as unfit for business, who were allowed to retire in perfect health to enjoy the full amount of their salaries, merely because they had served a given time. The civil department had gone on increasing; in 1816 it was 230,534l.; in 1820, 291,068l.; in 1824, 388,003l.; in 1826, 478,236l.; in 1827, 484,031l. The civil superannuation payable 31st December, 1848, was 644,747l.—itself almost amounting to the whole pay of the civil establishments at The time they were appointed. By a paper which was laid before the Committee of 1828, the half-pay, which was called Vansittart's dead weight, was 5,455,990l. We had reduced the amount of military half-pay, but others had increased. The half-pay list of the Navy was 840,000l. a year in 1828; at this moment, after a long peace, it was 774,000l. Was it possible to be otherwise when the Navy was made the means of pensioning off thousands of people, not for actual service, but because they were in service? A paper which would be laid on the table of the House would show These results. One admiral had served eighteen years on full pay from the date of his commission, and he had been thirty-three years on the half-pay list. Another admiral who entered the service in 1790, served ten years, and received half-pay forty-one years; another eight years and one month, and received half-pay forty-nine years; another nine years and ten months, and received half-pay forty-three years. Going down further, he found indivividuals who had served three years and two months receiving pensions for thirty-six years and seven months; another serving four years, and receiving a pension thirty-five years and eleven months. Was it possible that the country could stand such a state of things much longer? and yet they saw each brevet adding to the list of promotions, and consequently to the charge of the half-pay and pension lists. This, too, when there were actually six or seven relays of officers in every station. If the hon. Member had looked at the paper which he (Mr. Hume) had obtained and held in his hand, he would have seen the average of the half-pay list to be as follows. The average service of all the admirals, from their entry as midshipmen to their ultimate station as admirals, was— 581
He could give examples still stronger, but he conceived he had shown enough to convince the House that the system, if allowed to progress, must eventually ruin the country. He came now to a most important point—that which was touched by the repeated declarations of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the noble Lord at the head of the Government—that the people of this country bad been relieved from a great amount of taxation. He admitted that the arrangement of taxation was changed, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth having relieved productive industry to the extent of ten millions, and placed five upon property in the shape of the income tax; but the point which he wished the country to understand was, that the total amount of taxation had not been changed in the right direction. He would first take the expenditure:—
Full pay. Half pay. Yrs. M. W. D. Yrs. M. W. D. Admirals 16 7 2 1 39 2 1 5 Vice ditto 13 6 3 5 41 5 1 5 Rear ditto 15 5 2 2 32 0 3 2 Retired ditto 11 8 2 2 35 8 2 2 Retired Capts. 10 10 2 1 33 8 3 5
Now, that was what was called relieving the expenditure of the country! The greatest amount expended had been in the last two years; and even allowing the increase to the charge for the debt consequent on the Irish loan, the advance was enormous. Let them then look to the revenue side of the account. He held that there was a greater amount of taxes levied now than at any former period since the Peace, and within a million of the war taxation; for the greater part of the expenditure of the war was met by loans, which were now saddled in debt upon the people to the extent of 600,000,000l. Now, in answer to the right hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord, he would proceed to show what had been the average amount of revenue taken for average perioda of five years each:— 582
In 1837 it was £51,319,113 1838 51,720,748 1839 53,440,287 1840 53,440,053 1841 54,465,318 1842 55,223,873 1843 55,501,739 1844 55,103,645 1845 53,873,062 1846 55,583,025 1847 59,230,413 1848 58,990,736
Was it not too much, in the face of such a statement, to be told that the country was taxed more lightly now than it had been formerly? He contended that it was not, and he had expected that the hon. Member for West Surrey would have introduced the question of direct taxation as a means by which reduction, or at least more equable distribution, might be effected. They were told by some persons that this country was richer than any other. If that were true, the money was in the hands of the great capitalists; and if they meant to keep up a high taxation, those were the persons to pay it: they must tax the property, not the poverty, of the country. Why should they levy in customs and excise 40,000,000l. on the labouring classes, who were less able to pay it now than ever? The labouring classes paid a much larger proportion of the 57,000,000l. raised ill 1849, than they paid of the taxation of 1792. He admitted that these numbers had increased; but still, taking them as individuals, their proportion was much higher now than formerly. He contended, then, that the two great means of relieving the working classes of this country would be, first, to look fairly and strictly into our military establishments, in and of which reform the colonies must be made to defend themselves; and, next, they must remodel the whole system of taxation. His reason for moving that the income tax should only be granted for one year, had been to procure a revision of taxation. On that occasion a revision was promised, but no revision had since taken place. That revision must come; for the country being just able to swim in time of peace, would be fearfully overburdened if any sudden warlike crisis should occur. With respect to the national debt, he much regretted that money had ever been borrowed on any other terms than terminable annuities; and therefore he agreed with the hon. Member for West Surrey, that some mode of adjustment was well worthy of consideration. But he would do nothing to damage the national credit, as he believed that in an artificial country like England, any such step would be followed by an incalculable amount of calamity. He should support the Motion of the hon. Member, as a step in the right direction.
From 1834 to 1838 inclusive, the average revenue was £51,075,408 1839 to 1843 52,402,899 1844 to 1848 57,001,632
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, that when the hon. Member for Surrey invited the House to agree to a Motion made by him some days or weeks since on financial subjects, he (Mr. Gibson) was considered to be a little squeamish, and unwilling to agree to what appeared to many hon. Gentlemen to be a reasonable proposition, because he moved the previous question. He made that Motion then, and if the hon. Member had submitted a similar Motion on the present occasion, he should have taken a similar course, and for this reason—his first Motion was simply to come into Committee of the whole House, in order to do something which was shadowed forth in the hon. Member's speech. The Motion only asked for a Committee; and it was not to be supposed that he would go into Committee for objects shadowed forth in a speech to which he did not agree. He, therefore, could not have reasonably been expected to vote for the hon. Member's Motion. But here the hon. Member presented himself in a different guise, and asked for a distinct opinion as to whether there did exist a margin of expenditure which might be cut down, still continuing a good and efficient system of government. He merely asked them to leave on the Votes of the House of Commons a record to the effect, that, at the present time, the expenditure was larger than was necessary to carry on good and efficient government. Now, he (Mr. Gibson) must say, that if he was asked to give his deliberate opinion, aye or no, he must say decidedly that he thought there was a larger expenditure than was necessary for good and efficient government. Therefore, thinking, as he believed most men thought, that there must be a reduction of expenditure, he could have no objection to vote for the hon. Member's present Motion. It might not be desirable in the opinion of some to put abstract resolutions on that subject on the books. There might be some technical objections to that course; he had none; but there could be no objection on principle to it, so long as all were agreed that there must be reduction of expenditure. If he understood the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he had no objection to this Motion. The right hon. Gentleman said that Government was so anxious to carry out measures of economy, that they would make no objection to having this Motion placed on their proceedings. He (Mr. Gibson) was glad to hear that. He did not look 584 upon a vote of this sort as a vote of censure on the Government. It was a vote of censure on the system, for which this particular Government was not responsible. But it was a vote by which that House would leave on record its solemn opinion that the time had come for looking into the expenditure of the country with a view to its reduction. He looked upon it as an instructional Motion—one, also, encouraging the Government to go on in their reductions. It would also provide his noble Friend at the head of the Government, when pressed by the different departments, the members of which hovered about the Treasury during the recess, to get as much as they could of the public money, with a most complete and sufficient answer to their appeals. What an answer it would be for his noble Friend if he were able to say, "Look at the resolution the House passed last Session. Look at what is in that resolution. How can you expect me, a Minister of the Crown, anxious to retain the confidence of the House of Commons, to increase the expenditure, when the House has solemnly resolved that it shall be reduced?" He repeated that it would arm Government against those men, who, when Parliament was prorogued, would commence their attacks upon the Executive, and, under pretence of increasing the efficiency of the Army and Navy, sought to increase the expenditure of the country. He was in this difficulty with his constituents when he defended the Government on the score of economy. He might say that great economy was going on; but then the people replied that they were paying the same amount of taxation. Nothing, in fact, could persuade them that economy was going on while they were required to pay the same amount to the taxgatherer. Until his friends enabled him to say that there was to be reduction of taxation, he feared that he could not make a good defence for them on the subject of economy. His hon. Friend the Member for Montrose had alluded to the civil list, which was a delicate question, and much misunderstood. A large portion of that list was appropriated to the payment of political officers with whom the Crown had little to do. Parliament had imposed upon the Crown the duty of disposing of the civil list in a particular way in certain public offices: and if his hon. Friend could show that these officers were not necessary, he would not be acting inconsistently with a desire to maintain the 585 dignity and honour of the Crown, but merely acting on the principle upon which the Parliament had previously dealt with them in desiring that useless places should be abolished. If he could show that the present officers were not useful public officers, and that useful public servants might be paid out of the civil list instead of such officers as the Master of the Buckhounds, he would be in no way trenching on the constitutional principle. He (Mr. Gibson) was sure that every Gentleman in the House would be ready to affirm that they were needless places, extravagant salaries, and unnecessary public works going on. There was no man who could conscientiously say that, in the united kingdom, there existed at the present time no needless places, no extravagant salaries, no unnecessary works. Unless a man was prepared to make that solemn assertion, he could have no objection to vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Surrey. As to needless places, he could mention one in a moment by which a saving of from 100,000l. to 150,000l. a year might be effected. He meant the Viceroyalty of Ireland, with its mockery of a Court in Dublin. He did not believe it was in accordance with the necessities of the times, that we should keep up a second Court and establishment in Dublin, the communication being now so rapid that the executive functions of Government could be carried on just as well in this country. He knew the great talent and ability, and had the highest respect for the character of the present Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. He was only speaking of the system; and he believed he was speaking the sentiments which were shared by great statesmen and many Members of that House when he advocated the abolition of the office. There was another great establishment which effected no practical good, and was a serious detriment to the trade of the country by creating misunderstandings with foreign Powers—he alluded to the slave-trade squadron. All these things justified him in supporting the Motion, and he felt that he should be stultifying himself if he felt any difficulty in supporting the present Motion, He believed that his hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding, in pressing on our attention the Army, Navy, and Ordnance, attacked the great causes of high taxation; but all useless expenditure, small or large, it was the duty of that House to get rid of. It seemed to him that our naval and military expenditure had gone on increasing as the likelihood of war diminished, and 586 that since the Peace, instead of reducing the national debt, to which allusion had been made, we had spent nearly 600 millions, almost the whole of the debt, in preparations for war. He did not mean to say that some should not have been spent, but he believed that far less would have been sufficient to secure the safety of the united kingdom.
said, that if he might be permitted to state the points upon which he agreed with, and differed from, the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Surrey, with a view to giving his vote in support of the hon. Gentleman's Motion, he would say that the hon. Gentleman had one foot of iron upon which he might stand in defiance of all arguments against his Motion, and that was, that there was not a fair partition of taxation on the working classes. Now, if they looked to the taxation upon such an article as tobacco, they would find that by the manner in which that taxation was made, the working man paid eleven times as much as the rich consumer of that article. And when he heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer say there was a sort of balance in the case of the income-tax, he could not agree to it until he found that the rich man paid something like eleven times as much as the poor man. As to the policy of paying off the national debt, he thought they must some day have a friendly passage of arms. He could not understand how it was to be paid off except at the market value, and he feared that if it were paid off we should be told to-morrow, "Oh, you are a happy nation—you have no debt;" and the first thing we should do would be to get into debt again. He would also take that opportunity of saying that hon. Gentlemen ought not to be too hasty in forming an opinion in consequence of what was considered as the report of the African Committee. In the main, that report was the opinion of the Chairman; for generally there was an equal division of the Committee, and then the Chairman gave his casting vote. He (Colonel Thompson) hoped, therefore, that the report would go forth to the world as the opinion of the Chairman.
§ LORD R. GROSVENOR
thought one thing was evident—that there was a great difference of opinion as to the remedy by which the evil complained of was to be met. To the resolution he thought there was no substantive objection; but the arguments in support of it ought to be borne in mind, or it might give a notion to the 587 public out of doors that the present Government and others before them had been exceedingly remiss in endeavouring to reduce taxation—a charge which he thought could not be fairly made. The House would not fail to observe that the hon. Member for West Surrey and his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer agreed upon this subject. His right hon. Friend made no objection to a resolution pledging the Government or the country to a reduction of expenditure, and he himself thought a resolution might be prepared which would be unanimously agreed to by that House. He would therefore suggest a resolution to that effect. If the hon. Gentleman would not consent to adopt that alteration, he (Lord Grosvenor) would move it as an Amendment to the hon. Gentleman's Motion.
declined adopting the alteration proposed by the noble Lord. Amendment proposed—To leave out from the words 'That whereas' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, no greater amount of Taxation ought to be levied than is sufficient for the good and efficient government of the Empire; and whereas it is expedient that a searching inquiry should take place, whether some places may not have become useless, whether some salaries are not too large, and whether some works and establishments may not be unnecessary, it is the opinion of this House that a vigilant superintendence should be exercised over the expenditure of the Country in all its departments, in order that every reduction may be made therein which can be effected without detriment to the public service.'
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, surely the House was not going to adopt such a resolution as was proposed by the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex, for it was the identical proposition that that House ought to do its duty—that whereas there were many needless places and so on, therefore the House ought to be vigilant in reducing the expenditure. Could the House understand a proposition of that sort? He could understand the proposition of the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Surrey, for that stated distinctly and categorically that the expenditure was too great; and he hoped the House would not for an instant pass over what was a real and substantive proposition, to accept one which was evidently put forward as a makeshift and excuse to escape from a plain-spoken and proper proposition. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that this was a sort of charge against the Government. He (Mr. Roebuck) accepted it in that 588 meaning. He believed that it was and that it ought to be a charge against the Government; and he would ask any one who wished for a sort of historical recollection for the holydays to take the years 1815 and go to 1830, and to consider the proceedings of the Governments, the old Tory Governments of those days—Conservatives were not discovered at that time. In 1830 the House saw two remarkable events—a Government with an overflowing Exchequer, and the Whigs with a majority on a Motion for economy. The Duke of Wellington's Administration in 1830 was displaced; and it was a very remarkable event, as it bore upon an observation made by the hon. Member for Montrose that evening—it was displaced on a Motion made by Sir H. Parnell on the civil list of that day; and it was a curious circumstance connected with that vote and the subsequent proceedings of the Whig Administration, that although by that Motion they voted that the Government of that day was extravagant in a civil list of 900,000l., having got a majority and turned out the Government, they within a few months brought in the same identical civil list with a diminution of only 5,000l., and the only distinction was that part of it was made a permanent charge which before was granted only for the life of the Sovereign. That was the proceeding of a Whig Administration upon that occasion. Now, he did accuse the Government of extravagance; for from that year to the present they had been increasing the expenditure. At that time there was very nearly 3,000,000l. over the expenditure. That had never been seen during the Administration of the hon. Gentlemen who were now in possession of the Treasury bench; but, on the contrary, from that time every one of our institutions had been increasing in its extravagance. At that time the whole expenditure of the country was 49,000,000l. Last year it was 57,000,000l. And yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer considered this Motion as a charge against the Government. It was a charge against them. He understood it as a charge against them, and upon that ground he would vote for it. Could it be said that an ordinary private man, when he found his daily expenditure growing from year to year beyond his means of payment, did not look to his income and ask himself what he could do to meet the expense absolutely necessary for his concern? Was this country in a position to go on as it had of late years? It would not do at 589 that time to tell them that the Government had been effecting savings, as some of their simple friends had been suggesting; on the Contrary, the country felt that day after day, and year after year, the expenditure of the country had been increasing, and with obviously no necessity for any such increase. He knew it had often been said that Europe was in a dangerous state, and that a large expenditure was necessary for the purpose of warding off danger, and that therefore we must retain an immense war establishment. Now, what rational ground was there for any such assertion? He would take upon himself to say that never since England was a kingdom had she been in a situation of such perfect security as at the present moment. The main was to her a tower of strength; and even if any danger were to be apprehended from the hostility of Continental Powers, their present distractions were to this country a source of additional security. It was, therefore, an idle pretence, a purely fantastic idea, to talk of the dangers by which we were surrounded, as a pretence for augmenting the public expenditure. What had this country to do with the causes of distraction which disturbed the Continent? The business with which Parliament ought then to occupy itself was not foreign affairs, but the most effectual and judicious mode of Cutting down the public expenditure. They had a very expensive amusement in the nautical evolutions of a gallant admiral who had formerly made some evolutions in that House. What was the use of having that gallant admiral with a large fleet wandering about the narrow seas and doing nothing, except sometimes going to Lisbon and firing off a little gunpowder? The people of England were really behaving like persons who knew not how to take care of their money; according to the old phrase, as if it were "burning a hole in their pockets;" as if they had not a sufficient pauper population to take care of. Then there was Ireland, They were obliged to pay her from day to day, and this with not the slightest show of economy, nor any the least opposition on the part of Members of that House. Private individuals were accustomed to cut down their expenses within the limits of their income, but the House of Commons never thought of anything half so prudent. The army of this country was such as had never before been maintained during peace. He said nothing of the army of India, because it was maintained abroad; 590 neither did he say anything of the army maintained in Canada. If England dealt honestly with her colonies, she need not maintain any for their use. If representative governments were given to the whole of Australia from end to end, and given also to New Zealand—if they reformed their colonial governments—they might at once bring home their troops. As to Canada, if they could not keep it by the agency of a Parliament, they could not hope to maintain it by the force of an array. When this country was at war, it possessed an Army and a Navy sufficiently effective, and the expense of it was not great, unless when we thought proper to throw away money upon the Peninsula, and otherwise to waste treasure by subsidising foreign Powers. If a man were to pass the globe all over, he would find nothing but profound peace in all the British dominions; and if, in the midst of this perfect tranquillity, England were to pay 57,000,000l., what would be her condition if she really went to war? The right hon. Member for Tamworth imposed upon the country the income tax; and when he (Mr. Roebuck) asserted that it would be a permanent impost, he was sneeringly told that it would be merely temporary. The right hon. Baronet, with the plausible smile for which he was distinguished, repeated that it would very soon be removed; and with the same smile, which seemed stereotyped on his countenance, he on a subsequent occasion said the tax would not be for ever. Would the present Chancellor of the Exchequer tell the House that the tax was a temporary impost? It was true the present Government had tried to increase the tax. With the true feeling of a Chancellor of the Exchequer, he considered it the easiest mode of imposing taxes, and he (Mr. Roebuck) considered it one of the best modes of doing so. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer was afraid to persist in that proposition, for he must have known that a large income tax would be the surest way to stimulate the vigilance of the House of Commons, as it would touch them and their constituents. But he repeated his disposition to favour direct taxation rather than any other. Upon these grounds he must vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for West Surrey, for it had become absolutely necessary to excite the vigilance of that House, and to rouse the Government, which lived on from day to day in constant terror of being outvoted. Nothing could be more untrue than 591 that party was dead in that House. It was by accident he spoke from the place he now occupied (on the Opposition side). The least trifle would split the party in two. The Protectionists at one end of the bench, the remainder of the leading Oppositionists who sat at the other, were as distinct as positive and negative electricity. No Members could be more opposed to each other than those who sat above and below the gangway. The bench opposite to him was totally unlike the bench behind it, and the whole House was but as a nest of partisans. He really wished instead of all this that there was something like a strong Government established. For his part, he would willingly give up a popular for a strong Government. He should gladly support a Government that had vigour enough to carry out its own right intentions; but he could not give his support to those paltry hesitating fears, that feeling of shrinking from trouble, that self-deceit, which, like the wild ostrich in the bush, hid its head, and thought it concealed its body. If he could force out such a Government and force in a strong one, he would most willingly do so, and, therefore, he gave his cordial support to the Motion of the hon. Member for West Surrey.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
said: Those who at all consider the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for West Surrey, must admit that he did not mean to bring any charge against the present Government, for my hon. Friend had himself said so most distinctly. Then if there has been no charge conveyed in the Motion, and if it has not been accepted by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer as a charge against the Government—if those, also, who this evening debated the question, were also agreed in not regarding it in the light of a censure, then I venture to think myself warranted in saying that no sort of censure has been intended. But nothing less would please the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield than to take the Motion in a sense totally different from that which the hon. Mover himself intended and plainly professed. That hon. and learned Gentleman would take it to be a censure, and insisted upon his right to take advantage of the opportunity which that Motion gave him, to speak of what he called the imbecility of the present Administration, and to express his earnest wish that a strong Government could be found. Now it would be difficult to imagine that the 592 hon. and learned Member would regard anything as a strong Government unless it were to be an Administration consisting of himself and no one else; for, of course, he could not support those who differed from him, and there was scarcely any one who agreed with him. The hon. and learned Gentleman maintains his own opinions honestly and independently; but I believe that there is not any set of Gentlemen in this House who agree with the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, so that he clearly could not be satisfied with any Government excepting one which should begin and end with himself. As to the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for West Surrey, though it is not a censure on the Government, it nevertheless is one to which I cannot give my assent. My hon. Friend has spoken in his resolution as holding the opinion that in the present Session the policy and measures for which he contends ought to have been carried; and that, I apprehend, is not so much a censure on the present Government as it is a condemnation of the House itself. It condemns the manner in which the votes of this House have been given, and the way in which its proceedings have been conducted—for it asserts that after six months of deliberation, the House has in the present Session not performed its duty; and, again, after six months of deliberation, my hon. Friend having put off his Motion until this present evening, now comes forward to say that 500 Members of this House who have voted upon the questions brought before them, and the greater part of whom are now out of town, have, during the whole of the Session been misapplying the powers with which their constituents intrusted them. It cannot fail to appear very extraordinary that my hon. Friend should now bring forward this accusation against the whole House, not only when a very large proportion of them, probably 500 Members, but also at a time when some of the ablest debaters in Parliament, were absent. Are we not, then, driven to the conclusion that he takes advantage of the thinness of the House at the end of the Session to bring forward a Motion which he could not hope to propose with equal success at any other period of the year? It is at this time and under these circumstances that he brings his Motion before the House. Assuming, then, for a moment that my hon. Friend could carry his resolution, I cannot suppose that such a decision could come before the 593 country with any weight, seeing that at best it would only express the sense of a very small number of the Members of this House. But even in the existing condition of the House, the Motion, in its present state, is hardly one which we could adopt; nevertheless, it is one which the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield says he will support, though he seems to justify his vote upon rather extraordinary grounds. He says that Sir H. Parnell moved a resolution in 1830, which Lord Althorp, in 1831, did not practically carry out. Now, supposing the statement of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield to have been well founded with respect to both, I do not see how that ought to induce this House to come to a vote of censure on the present Government. The fact is, however, that the points to which the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield referred, were not argued in 1830 and 1831, as he represented them to have been. The leading Whigs of that period. Lord Brougham and others, objected to certain expenses being included in the civil list, which in all previous times had formed part of that branch of the public expenditure. They objected to apparent additions being made to the household and personal expenses of the Sovereign, which properly did not belong either to the one or the other. They argued the question on two grounds—one was that all charges on the civil list should, according to the previous arrangement, expire with the life of the Sovereign—the other was, that means should be taken to do away with the influence of the unfounded assertion that 900,000l., to which the charges on the civil list amounted, was a sum which the actual expenses of the Crown required—whereas the personal expenses of the Sovereign and the dignity of the Crown could be and were maintained at less than half that amount of expenditure. That was the light in which the subject had been regarded by the Whigs of that period; and the House of Commons, engaging in an inquiry on that subject, referred the question to a Select Committee, with power to send for persons, papers, and records. Upon the appointment of that Committee, the Wellington Administration resigned their offices. But, even on the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield's own showing, there is no reason why the present vote should be agreed to by the House, and there certainly is less reason for it when the history of those transactions comes to be explained. Ac- 594 cordingly, the civil list was, at the period to which I have been referring, so settled as that during the reign of William IV. the amount was considerably less than in the preceding reign. At the commencement of the present reign it was still further reduced, and therefore the events connected with the accession of the Whigs to power, and the resignation of their predecessors, in 1830, ought not to induce the House to assent to the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey. As to the grounds that have been laid for that Motion, I cannot agree to the doctrine put forward by ray hon. Friend the Member for Montrose, who repeats what he has often before stated as his settled conviction, that if the gross amount of the taxes be not lowered, the people of this country can have experienced no relief. [Mr. HUME said that relief had not been given to the people by lowering the whole amount of taxes that they paid.] But if there were any value in that argument, it was this, that taking off taxes did not give the people any relief. It has never been maintained by us, that taking off taxes eventually diminished the gross amount of taxation to an equal amount; but I hope the House will do us the justice to remember that we did not merely change taxes—that is not all that has been done, for every one must recollect that Parliament took off more taxes than were imposed; and further, there were other cases—there were cases of total abolition. Surely it will not be said that by such measures the people were not relieved, even though the revenue might still remain at the same amount. Now I cannot help reminding hon. Members of some of the changes that have been effected. On salt there has been a reduction to the amount of 3,000,000l It once bore a price of 15s. a bushel; and I now learn from a person very largely engaged in that trade, that he can now purchase it for 6d. a bushel instead of 15s. This is taking off duty to the amount of 3,000 per cent. If, then, when 3,000,000l. were taken off, the revenue in a short time rose to its original height, it was not owing to the unaltered nature of the taxation, but in consequence of the riches of the country. The people had been relieved to a great extent, but in a short time the gross revenue regained its previous position. The tax on sugar has also been reduced from 3d. a pound to 1½d. The poor man can now have it for 4½d.; surely that is a relief, and if, notwithstanding that he paid 595 4½d., the wealth of the country still continues to be such that the whole revenue remains of the same amount as before, that fact surely affords no proof that the people had not at that time been relieved, or that their burdens still remained equal to what they had previously been. I cannot understand how the hon. Member goes on repeating that the taxes are just the same as before, merely because the total amount of the revenue remains unchanged. On the contrary, I do believe that the largest amount of taxation which the country has paid, is but proof of its riches and prosperity—that it was better off than before; and there can be no doubt that the American and the French wars, which added so largely to our public debt, have but afforded proofs of the great resources of the country ever since peace has been re-established. The taxes on salt, the taxes on candles, the taxes on leather, the taxes on coals carried coastwise, have been removed. There has been a diminution of the taxes on sugar and beer—all these are matters which the poor man consumes, and which paid heavy duties before we undertook those unfortunate and mistaken wars with America and France. But, Sir, having taken off these taxes, and having taken them off consistently with maintaining a considerable military establishment—some say much too large a military establishment—and consistently with the credit of the Country, the hon. Member for West Surrey asks us to adopt some scheme by which we may be relieved from what he rightly considers the great burden of the country, namely, the sum of upwards of 28,000,000l. annually, which we pay as the interest of our national debt. Now, I own that while I think the wars I have mentioned were unnecessary, while I think we never ought to have entered into a war with our people in America, and while I think it was quite unnecessary to go to War with the French when they established a republic, and that prudent conduct would have saved us from those wars—I say the nation is now bound by faith, and by a regard to policy if not to honesty, to pay the interest of the debt it has incurred. Well, if that be the case, I own I do not believe there is any contrivance—any sort of hocus pocus—by which, if you are to pay the interest of the debt, and to be liable to that debt, you can get rid of the burden of it. Any scheme to raise an amount of taxation to pay off that debt, would either produce such an immense 596 amount of taxation as the country would not tolerate, or, after two or three shifts, you would find you had exactly the same burden to bear as was the case before. There is only one Way of dealing with this debt, and that is regularly to pay the interest of it. If you have a surplus, employ that surplus to a moderate amount, if you please, in paying off some of your debt; but I believe that we made a useful change when we abolished the sinking fund, which would never have materially diminished the capital of our debt, in order to enable us to take off taxes by the removal of which the country has become much richer, and is much better able to bear the interest of the debt than if those taxes had been retained. But, admitting that the debt must remain, and that there is no ingenious contrivance by which we can get rid of the burden, if we maintain the public faith, we are told by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield that the Army is a great deal too large, and that it ought to be considerably reduced. I must say with respect to the Army maintained in the united kingdom and its colonies, that we have this year reduced it by no less than 10,000 men. I certainly consider that such a reduction made in one year is a very considerable reduction. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield has said—following others who have frequently made the same assertion, though I never heard anything advanced in proof of it—that if we did but govern our colonies well, and give them representative institutions, we should have no need of our Army. Why, these hon. Gentlemen suppose that our Army is maintained for the purpose of keeping down the people of the colonies. Then, why not reduce the number of troops at Portsmouth and Plymouth? But we do not keep troops at Portsmouth and Plymouth because the people of those towns are disaffected, and we wish to restrain them by military force. We keep troops at Portsmouth and Plymouth to defend those places, because we consider their defence to be essential to the safety of the country; and on the same ground we have troops in Bermuda and Other possessions, to defend those colonies. In some instances, no doubt, when there are dissensions in our colonies, those dissensions might break out into disturbances, and the troops are of use for maintaining the peace in the case Of any such disturbances. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield has said that if we gave representative 597 institutions to the colonies, we might diminish our Army; but it is remarkable that the Governor of New Zealand entertains the opinion that with representative institutions there would be much more danger of disturbance among the natives of that colony than there is at the present time. I have always maintained that we ought, as far as possible, to establish representative institutions in our colonies; and the only question is with regard to particular colonies, whether they can or cannot bear representative institutions. Now, with regard to the question of salaries and offices, if a resolution were submitted to the House like that which my noble Friend the Member for Middlesex has proposed, which only implies that salaries ought to be reduced, and that offices ought to be abolished, whenever there is a reason for taking such a course, I think—the Government being disposed to act upon that principle—that I could have no objection to the House affirming such a principle. But I conceive that we are not at all liable to the charge of wishing to keep up offices when they are Unnecessary. I do not think any proposal was ever made in this House to reduce the number of the Commissioners of Stamps and Taxes and of the Excise; and yet the appointment of those commissioners was, in the way of patronage, about the most desirable patronage any Minister could possess. Now, what have we done? We had no pressure upon that subject; but we reduced the number of Commissioners of Stamps and Taxes and Excise from twelve to seven, abolishing five commissioners, and of course parting with a great deal of the patronage which belonged especially to the First Lord of the Treasury. That, I say, is some proof that we are not indisposed to measures of economy and reduction. Then, with regard to Masters in Chancery, last year one of those offices became vacant. I asked the Lord Chancellor whether it was necessary that it should be filled up. He said it was not necessary. No Motion was made in this House on the subject; but we abolished that Mastership in Chancery, and I thereby parted with the patronage of the appointment. So with respect to several offices in the Treasury for the transaction of business connected with payments, in cases with which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is acquainted, we introduced regulations by which those offices have been abolished as they fell vacant, or have been united with other 598 offices in the Treasury. I say, then, that I can have no objection to any general resolution with respect to these offices. The hon. Member for Montrose has said that our expenses have been increasing. It is certainly true, with regard to the year 1847 and the beginning of 1848, that there was an increase of expenditure; but the great increase of expense was in the estimates of 1845, which were very fully explained to this House, and which the House affirmed. It was explained to the House that an increase was proposed in the Navy for the purpose of defence; and the House—I think without any opposition—affirmed the necessity of that increase. I believe there was nothing beyond a very insignificant opposition to that proposal. At present there is a contrary disposition; and the House of Commons now Calls upon the Government to make reductions in the estimates. Well, at the end of last Session, and in the course of the present Session, we have made very considerable reductions. The reductions stated in the budget of 1848–49 were 828,000l. In the estimates of 1849–50 the reductions were to the amount of 1,511,455l., and there has been a further reduction in the Ordnance Estimates, making a total of 2,361,824l. But while we have been making these reductions, we are constantly told that we are always increasing our expenditure. It is said, almost every night, "You may require as many troops as you have had, but why should you be constantly increasing them?" My answer is, that we are not increasing, but in the progress of reducing the number; and I therefore consider that it would not be wise on the part of this House to come to a general resolution, which is proposed, not as a vote of censure upon the Government, but which would be a vote of censure passed by the Members present upon the Members absent. I own that in that view I do not think it would be either a very wise or very fair course of proceeding. I think we should rather adopt some resolution which would convey the general sense of the House when the House is full, and that, with regard to the carrying out of such a resolution, we should reserve our decision until further estimates are laid before us. The right hon. Member for Manchester has told us that the people say, "You tell us you are making great reductions, but how is taxation lessened?" That right hon. Gentleman might reply, "If you go into the market you will find that prices 599 are reduced in 1849 very much below what they were in 1841, and this reduction is owing in many instances to the abolition or reduction of duties either under the Government of the right hon. Member for Tamworth, or under that of the present Ministry." I trust that if the House comes to any resolution they will rather adopt the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex, for I think it would be unwise to pass a resolution in such sweeping terms as that of the hon. Member for West Surrey, which cannot lead to any practical result.
§ MR. SPOONER
said, he had attended to what had fallen from the noble Lord at the head of the Government, but he was at a loss to know how he intended to meet the Motion of the hon. Member for West Surrey. They had had many matters introduced into the present discussion which were altogether extraneous as regarded the speech of that hon. Gentleman; but in a few words which he (Mr. Spooner) desired to address to the House, he would endeavour to confine himself to the proposition which he had made. In the resolution the hon. Gentleman had moved—there were two propositions—one enunciating that there were overpaid salaries and needless offices, and one that the taxation of the country bore unfairly on its income. And how did the noble Lord meet that resolution? Let the noble Lord meet it with a direct negative—let that House say that there were too heavily paid salaries and too many offices—and let them know who thought that such was the case, and who did not. Instead of taking that course, however, the noble Lord recommended the House to adopt the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex, who said that these things might exist, whilst the resolution of his hon. Friend the Member for West Surrey asserted that they did. The noble Lord had said that the adoption of his hon. Friend's resolution would be the adoption of a vote of censure on the absent Members by those that were present; but did not the same argument apply to the proposition of the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex? Why did not the noble Lord put the House to the test as to whether there were too heavy salaries or unnecessary offices, and not meet the question by a side wind, instead of by a direct negative? They had taken off the customs duties, and suffered the produce of foreign articles to come into this country 600 and enjoy the benefit of our own market, without contributing anything towards our taxation; and that was the real reason why the taxation of the country pressed so heavily upon the nation. Taxation entered into the cost of production of every article produced in this country—and, if so, on what principle of justice could they admit the produce of other countries into this duty free, which did not contribute towards such taxation? They had taken away the means of profitable employment of the capital of the country, and had reduced the wages of labour. They must, then, retrace their steps, and lay upon every article that came into this country from others a tax equivalent to the amount of taxation that entered into the cost of the production of the native article. Those who had fixed salaries and incomes, those were the persons who had been benefited by their late legislation: but on every productive class in this country—on every industrious class—they had inflicted a lasting injury. With these views and opinions, he was unable to support the Motion of the hon. Member for West Surrey, nor could be tell on what ground either they were to vote for the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex, which was a complete evasion of the question before the House, and one which if he had not known the high honour and upright conduct in public life of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, he should almost have been disposed to have said he had, by some means or other prevailed upon the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex to propose. What he (Mr. Spooner) asked for was, a plain answer "aye" or "no," to the question whether there were salaries unnecessarily heavy, and places needlessly numerous, and that question ought to be met in a manly way by a direct negative, and not in the evasive manner involved in the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex.
§ MR. CHRISTOPHER
wished to explain the grounds on which he intended to vote for the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for West Surrey. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated, in reply to the arguments of that hon. Gentleman on the subject of salaries, that official salaries were in the aggregate less now than they were at the end of the American war; but he wished to know whether—with reference to the prices of articles of consumption, these salaries were not much higher now than they were ten years 601 ago? Considering that the policy of the last and the present Governments had been to make all articles of consumption cheap and money dear, it did not require any long argument to prove that persons receiving official salaries were benefited by those changes. That was a sufficient reason for the House to interfere and to reduce their salaries in accordance with the existing state of things in the country. The Amendment proposed evaded the question altogether. It asked the Government to exercise a supervision over the expenditure; but as the Government professed to do so already, any resolution of that kind was not wanted. What was required was for the House to come to a resolution that under the altered circumstances of the country, brought on by recent legislation, it would not sanction the same salaries as were given during a different state of things.
§ MR. HAWES
wished to correct a statement made by the hon. Member for West Surrey. He understood the hon. Member to state that certain reductions were proposed by the Governor of Trinidad—which the noble Lord at the head of the Colonial Department refused to sanction. The hon. Member was in error, for no reductions had been proposed by the Governor of Trinidad which did not meet in principle, though in regard to the extent there might be some question, with the sanction of the noble Earl; and he could assure the hon. Member that, as far as the noble Earl was concerned, whenever well-considered reductions were proposed, they would not meet with opposition.
§ MR. BANKES
expressed his surprise that the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex should have brought forward his Amendment without giving notice of it. Having heard the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he undoubtedly understood that the Government meant to offer no opposition to the Motion; and having been absent from the House for some short space of time, he was astonished on his return to find an Amendment moved by the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex. That Amendment gave an opportunity to hon. Members of slipping through the question; but as he was not prepared for any evasion of the question, he should give his vote for the original Motion. The time had come, he thought, when Parliament was called on to give an aye or no decision on the question whether 602 under the existing circumstances of the country a searching inquiry and economy, with respect to these matters, was not required. He should be heartily sorry, if the Government had no serious objection to the Motion, that they should at the present moment endeavour to get rid of it by a side wind, for such was the character of the present Amendment.
, in reply, observed that there was no intention on his part to misrepresent the conduct of Earl Grey, but he thought that what had fallen from the Under Secretary for the Colonies made more strongly for his argument. It was unjust of the noble Lord at the head of the Government to say that he had taken advantage of the absence of Members to bring forward the question, for the fact was that he had urged the matter on the attention of the House last Session, and twice during the present. With regard to the national debt, it had been said that that was an advantage to the public, though, if the same rule were applied to the nation as to individuals, it would not be so considered, for it was always thought to be an advantage to gentlemen having mortgages on their estates to pay them off. In conclusion, he declared that he did not bring the Motion forward as a censure on the Government, and he believed that no Gentleman on either side of the House, with one exception, thought it had that tendency, either directly or indirectly.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 71; Noes 68: Majority 3.
|List of the AYES.|
|Alcock, T.||Fox, W. J.|
|Bankes, G.||Frewen, C. H.|
|Bass, M. T.||Fuller, A. E.|
|Blake, M. J.||Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.|
|Blewitt, R. J.||Gooch, E. S.|
|Bouverie, hon. E. P.||Gwyn, H.|
|Bright, J.||Hastie, A.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Heathcoat, J.|
|Burrell, Sir C. M.||Henley, J. W.|
|Chaplin, W. J.||Henry, A.|
|Christopher, R. A.||Heyworth, L.|
|Cobden, R.||Hindley, C.|
|Coles, H. B.||Hodgson, W. N.|
|Dick, Q.||Hollond, R.|
|Dickson, S.||Hood, Sir A.|
|Duncan, G.||Horsman, E.|
|Du Pre, C. G.||Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.|
|Ewart, W.||Kershaw, J.|
|Fagan, W.||Lennard, T. B.|
|Fergus, J.||Locke, J.|
|Fordyce, A. D.||Lockhart, A. E.|
|Meagher, T.||Rushout, Capt.|
|Moore, G. H.||Salwey, Col.|
|Mowatt, F.||Scholefield, W.|
|Noel, hon. G. J.||Smith, J. B.|
|Nugent, Sir P.||Spooner, R.|
|O'Connor, F.||Stuart, Lord D.|
|Osborne, R.||Thompson, Col.|
|Pearson, C.||Thompson, G.|
|Pechell, Capt.||Tollemache, J.|
|Perfect, R.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Pigott, F.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Pilkington, J.||Wood, W. P.|
|Portal, M.||Wyld, J.|
|Roebuck, J. A.||Drummond, H.|
|Rufford, F.||Hume, J.|
§ Main Question put and agreed to.