§ House in Committee of Ways and Means; Mr. Bernal in the Chair.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
*Several weeks, Sir, have now elapsed since I first put into your hands the Resolution upon which I am about tonight to ask for the opinion of the Committee. During that time the attention of hon. Gentlemen has been directed to topics more exciting perhaps, but certainly not of greater importance, than that upon which I am now about to call for a decision. Time has been afforded to me to reconsider the proposals which I then made; and I have also had the advantage of those observations and censures which, with no sparing hand, have been bestowed upon me. We have also had the advantage of hearing from the noble Lord who leads the great party opposite (Lord Stanley) the course of financial policy which he is prepared to pursue. He is prepared, as far as possible, to reduce the income tax at once, and to extinguish it altogether as soon as the accruing surplus of succeeding years will allow him to do so. He proposes to aid that operation by the imposition of a duty upon the importation of foreign corn.
The proposals which I made in February, and those which I shall submit to the Committee to-night, have for their object to promote the comfort and the health of the labouring portion of our community; 1040 further to reduce the duty of import, both upon articles of consumption and raw material. That is the policy which we deem it our duty to pursue. These two opposite courses of financial and commercial policy are now therefore fairly before the House and the country. It is for the House and the country to decide upon which side the preponderance of advantage lies—to say which, upon the whole, is the most beneficial for the welfare of this great empire.
Sir, with respect to my own proposal, I can assure those hon. Gentlemen who have been impatient for the statement which I am now about to make, that it has been from no wish of mine that it has been so long delayed. They will readily believe that I have been anxious to correct some of the misapprehensions which have prevailed upon the subject of my proposals; that, believing as I do the principles upon which they are founded to be sound, and the proposals themselves to be honest, fair, and just, I have been most anxious for the opportunity which this night affords me of explaining distinctly what those principles are, and of vindicating the course which I deem it my public duty to pursue. This I know, that whilst I do so, I shall not in vain ask the indulgence of the House, which has never been refused to any one who has been the Subject of so much censure.
I admit that those proposals were not received with satisfaction by the country. That they should not have been so received by Gentlemen connected with the agricultural interest, and representing that interest—an interest suffering, I am sorry to say, under the pressure of those circumstances which always attend the removal of a protecting duty—could not be a matter of surprise. These Gentlemen have asked, that protecting duties should be restored to them, or that at least there should be a transference from their shoulders of a large portion of their local burdens; I, on the other hand, believe that it would not be for the benefit of the country generally—and not being for the benefit of the country generally, I do not believe that it would be permanently for their own benefit-that either of these courses should be adopted. I need not go more fully into the opinions on this subject which I have so frequently been called upon to state to the House. I will now only repeat what I have often said, that I believe it is to their own exertions, and to the increasing prosperity of the country generally, and not to any legislative enactment, that the 1041 agriculturists must look for an amelioration of that depression under which they are, unfortunately, for the present labouring. With reference to other parties who entertain opinions widely different, but who have also expressed great dissatisfaction at the proposals which I made, I confess that I have been somewhat disappointed. When, however, in the various censures and criticisms which have been made upon these proposals, I find that amongst this latter class the almost universal demand has been one for the remission of taxation beyond that which I felt, and still feel, it to be possible to accede to, consistently with what is necessary for upholding our national credit, and maintaining those public establishments which we believe to be necessary for the welfare of the country (and in which opinion we have no reason to suppose the majority of the House does not concur with us), it is a matter of less surprise than regret that this dissatisfaction should have been so entertained. No doubt the country may have expected a larger surplus than appeared in January, or will appear up to the 5th of this month, or than I can expect at the end of the ensuing financial year. I am as sorry as they can be that their too sanguine expectations have been disappointed; but they must see that this is no fault of mine.
Sir, these expectations, and these demands, have been grounded on representations of the necessity of making great reductions on account of the aggravated pressure of our present taxation. That such is the pressure generally of our existing taxes, is an opinion which I believe to be utterly unjustified by the true state of the facts. I can neither satisfy such expectations, nor give any sanction to an opinion so unfounded; and therefore, much as I regret that this disappointment should have existed, I cannot see that in any way whatsoever, if I adhere to the proposal of what I believe to be an honest Budget, I could have gratified expectations which I believe to be so unreasoning and so groundless. I might no doubt have made some minor changes. I might have reduced the duty on soap, instead of that upon windows. I might have reduced the duty on paper, instead of those upon coffee and timber; and thus I might have satisfied some who are now discontented, and dissatisfied others who are contented with what I have proposed. But I repeat that, unless I had been prepared to give an amount of remission from taxation far beyond what circum- 1042 stances would justify, I could not have met a tithe of the demands which were made upon me. It seems to me, therefore, that the single course which policy as well as duty points out, is, that I should propose that which I believe to be right, and abide by the consequences of such proposal.
Before I go into the details of the proposal which I have made, or mean to make, I may be permitted to offer a few observations upon the state of opinion, and the state of feeling, which has appeared to me so generally to prevail. It matters little whether the Budget of this year is popular or no; but it matters much whether the principles upon which the financial policy of this country is to be permanently directed are sound or unsound. We are bound to look far beyond the present year, or the existence of any particular Government. We are bound to look far beyond the present state of our finances, or the existence of any occasional surplus. We are bound to resist the first step in a wrong direction. We are bound to resist the beginning of a course which, if persisted in and pursued, would, I believe, be fatal to our credit and to the character of the country.
The all-pervading objection to the proposal which I made has been, that I thought it necessary to retain some surplus—some margin above our present expenditure. Sir, I should have thought that recent experience, the experience of no great number of years back, would abundantly have demonstrated to this House, and to the nation, the impolicy of pursuing any different course. It is just ten years since the Government of Lord Melbourne was displaced; and I know nothing which was urged against them more strongly—I know no ground upon which discredit was more attached to them—than their annually recurring deficiency. What was the result of this course? It ended in the necessity for a loan of five millions—an increase of debt in a time of profound peace to the extent of five millions of money, and the imposition of the income tax. For some three or four years, a different state of things prevailed. In 1846, however, a large reduction of taxation took place; and in some branches there was a considerable increase both of present and prospective expenditure. I pointed out, in August 1846—and the right hon. Gentleman who was at the head of the late Government acquiesced in my statement—that if the revenue in the succeeding year did not increase, and if the expenditure was main- 1043 tained, that, in the year 1847.8, there would be a deficiency. No doubt extraordinary circumstances occurred which were calculated to baffle all previous anticipations; but the fact was, that, in 1847.8, the revenue was less by two millions than it was in 1846.7 (I mean, of course, in both cases the financial year). Not only were the receipts of revenue diminished, but events took place which called upon us for a largely-increased expenditure; making every allowance, however, for that increased expenditure, and for all those extraordinary circumstances, there was still a deficiency of income below the expenditure of the country.
In 1848, under these circumstances, coming down to this House with a deficiency of nearly three millions, I proposed what I think now, and what I then thought, to be honest and right, that we should pay further taxes to bear that expenditure. Under the peculiar pressure of that year, the House declined to do so, and I was driven to borrow two millions of money to defray the expenses of our ordinary expenditure. But these extraordinary circumstances, impossible to be anticipated by any foresight, to be guarded against by the utmost caution, must, from time to time, inevitably happen in so extended an empire as that of Great Britain. Exposed as we are, in every quarter of the globe, to come into contact with nations of every description, whose actions and whose policy it is perfectly impossible to foresee or to guard against, extraordinary occurrences will take place; and I say confidently, that it is perfect folly in a Government, and in a Legislature, not to reserve some means, whenever practicable, of meeting those contingencies. Within a fortnight after I made my last proposal to the House, such another extraordinary occurrence as that to which I have referred took place, and we were greeted with the utterly unexpected news that another Kaffir war had broken out. What amount of expenditure that war may entail upon us, no man can pretend to say; but it is clear that, as the war has broken out, and as we are bound to give protection to those of Her Majesty's subjects who are exposed to these attacks, and part of whom we have sent out to that part of the world as emigrants, some considerable charge must be thrown, in this respect, upon the revenues of this country. Moreover, within the last few days, a demand has been made upon me—I hope it may not turn out so serious as it appears 1044 now—a demand on the part of the East India Company for the payment by the British Government of the unliquidated balance of the cost of the Chinese expedition, to the amount of 400,000?. I hope and trust that, upon a careful examination of the accounts, the balance against Government will not turn out to be so considerable as it is stated to be by the East India Company; but still there is the demand, and there is the possibility that the amount stated may be found accurate. This is certain, that, whatever the demand maybe that shall be substantiated, it must be paid. Here is an instance of a demand coming in unexpectedly, which it is most advisable that the Government should have means in reserve to meet.
Sir, if we are always to borrow when necessity presses us, and if we are never to pay when we have the means, I ask how public credit can stand under such a system? We have in times past accomplished great things by means of the public credit of this country. That credit was then based on the principle of a sinking fund, which was established by Mr. Pitt, and which, however fallacious we may now believe the principles upon which it was founded to be, nevertheless did undoubtedly contribute to the maintenance of the public credit of the country. Within my recollection that system has been changed, and the only available sinking fund has been held to be the annual surplus of income over expenditure. I am not disposed to differ from that amended system, but I am not prepared to hear the existence even of a surplus scouted as unnecessary, and the very basis of maintaining our national faith unimpaired, ridiculed as unnecessary and absurd. I must say that I was surprised when, in the previous discussions on this point, the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), approving generally the proposals I made, disapproved of my retaining any surplus with the object of meeting unforeseen demands, and if not required during the year for such purpose, of paying off some small portion of the public debt. [Mr. Hume here made an observation which was inaudible.] My hon. Friend objected to the maintenance of some margin above the expenditure, with the view of paying off a portion of the debt. He is certainly the last person in this House from whom I should have expected such an observation. My hon. Friend must not suppose that I impute to him for a moment that he would deliberately do 1045 anything which would, in his opinion, endanger the national faith, for no man has more strongly advocated an opposite course, and on that account I was the more surprised at the observations which fell from him. What did my hon. Friend say when I borrowed 8,000,000l four years ago in perpetual annuities? He said I should have borrowed the amount in terminable annuities; and only the other night he expressed his gratification at the purchase of annuities that had been made, and his wish that the whole debt existed in the shape of terminable annuities. Now, let me ask the House what is the difference in principle, so far as the existing taxpayers are concerned, between a terminable annuity and a permanent annuity with a sinking fund annually applied to its reduction? Both proceed upon the selfsame principle of a greater present charge for the purpose of a future relief. We constantly congratulate ourselves upon the prospective relief of burdens which will accrue in 1854, in 1860, and some subsequent years, from the extinction of the present charge under a system which the providence of those who have gone before us has established to act as a relief to those who came after them; and are we to refuse to those who come after us any such benefit as that which we ourselves enjoy? There is, indeed, this difference between a terminable annuity and a permanent debt diminished by the application of an annual surplus, that in the one case it is out of our power to be dishonest. Alas! that it should be said in a British House of Commons, that when we find we have the power of doing that which is right, or of affording to ourselves some temporary relief, we have not the self-denial or virtue to pursue the course which we know nevertheless and acknowledge to be right.
I feel most seriously upon this point, because I have, within the last six months, heard doctrines broached, in quarters whence I little expected to hear them—not certainly from Members of this House, for I believe no Members of this House would be likely to entertain them—which I consider most dangerous to public credit. Those opinions have been expressed in the organs of public opinion and at public meetings, and I think we, who hold different views, are bound to protest against the very beginning of such a system, lest it should gain too strong a hold upon public opinion. It is indispensable also to remove the delusion which has been so 1046 general, that the nonpayment of the public dividends would injure only the rich. The late Lord Ashburton called the attention of the country to a return of the different amounts of dividends paid to the public creditor, which showed that by far the greater number of them were not of the richer class. I see by a recent return that five-sixths of the persons who receive dividends, receive an amount not exceeding 5l. per annum, and one-third of them receive an amount not exceeding 51. That is some index of the number of those persons whose main dependence, in all probability is upon our public faith being rigorously maintained. It is not the rich fundholder who would suffer; it is the widow and orphan, the retired shopkeeper, and artisan, who have invested their all in the public funds in entire dependence upon the maintenance of public faith; and what would be the effect upon so large a class, if there were any failure in the punctual payment of the dividends, or any serious depreciation of the value of their capital from the bare apprehension of such an. event? Do not let us think that such an evil would affect only the rich and the wealthy; it would be felt far more extensively by those who ought to be among the principal objects of our solicitude and care.
Let me now ask the House whether the present circumstances of the country are such as justify the complaints that have been made of the pressure of taxation? I believe the case is precisely the reverse. I believe—and I apprehend that those who sit near me believe also—that the result of recent legislation has been materially to improve the well-being, and to increase the means of the country—that the people, generally speaking, are richer, and therefore the better able to pay those taxes which are still to be paid. If the complaint was made, and this argument was used by some hon. Gentlemen whom I see opposite—if my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire, who believes that the present appearance of prosperity is obtained by a gradual diminution of the capital of our manufacturers and merchants, that the agriculturists are universally distressed, and the labouring population are suffering from short wages and a want of employment—if it was my hon. Friend who used those arguments, I should understand them, coming from a Gentleman holding his opinions; but when that argument proceeds from the mouths of Gentlemen 1047 who agree with me that the country has derived signal benefit from our recent legislation, it is, if it be true, an utter condemnation of the policy we have pursued. We were told some eight or ten years ago, by those who most prominently advocated the doctrines of free-trade, that what pressed upon the energies and cramped the industry of the people of this country, and what prevented the accumulation of capital, was not the amount of taxes paid into the Exchequer, but the indirect effect produced by the existence of monopoly and protection. Those monopolies—those protecting duties—have been mainly removed, and the community at large must have derived a corresponding benefit. My hon. Friend the Member for Montrose told us the other night that 100,000,000l per annum had been put into the pockets of the community at large in the price of their food alone. I remember also that the noble Lord the Member for Stamford told us that in his opinion 60,000,000l. had been taken from the pockets of the agriculturists, and transferred to those of the other branches of the community. I do not pretend to say whether either of these calculations gives the precise amount of the annual benefit derived by the community; but, whichever be correct, or whether the amount be even less than either, to that extent at least the community at large is richer, and therefore better able to bear the taxation which remains. If they had to pay to the Exchequer in addition to existing taxes the 60,000,000l. per annum, or 100,000,000l. per annum, which they used to pay in the price of their food, they would be no worse off with regard to their expenditure; but if the taxation which presses upon them has also been reduced by nearly 10,000,000l. per annum, it follows—not as a matter of probability, or of opinion, but of absolute demonstration—that the pressure of taxation must be infinitely less now than it was ten years ago.
I am not afraid of hearing such opinions as I have mentioned urged in this House, because hon. Gentleman around me know better than to credit them; but I think it is most important that those who entertain opinions such as are held on this side the House should withstand the prevalence of delusions so fatal as this would be to the principles which we profess. They ought to withstand the putting into the hands of our opponents so formidable a weapon as this assertion, if it were true, would afford 1048 them; they ought to resist the discrediting of their own principles of commercial policy, and to counteract to the utmost that delusion which, if it is suffered to act upon public opinion in this country, cannot but lead to consequences fatal to the national faith and national credit. I beg pardon of the House for saying so much upon this subject. I speak warmly upon it, because I confess I feel warmly the dangers of such an opinion prevailing in men's minds; and I think it is time that those who hold other opinions than those to which I have alluded, should stand boldly forward and proclaim what they believe to be the truth. I know my opinions may be to some extent unpopular, for nothing is so distasteful as to tell people that they are not in the distress in which they believe themselves to be; but I must say that holding, however unworthily, a responsible situation in matters of finance and commerce, I feel it to be my duty to make this earnest protest, and to call upon those who agree with me in those views to do their duty here and elsewhere, and to counteract the spread of opinions so dishonest and so dangerous., Sir, since I last addressed the House on the financial affairs of the country, I have had the opportunity of again considering the statement I then made, and I see no reason to change the opinion I then formed of the probable income and expenditure for the ensuing year. I might, perhaps, change to some small extent my anticipations as to some of the items of receipt. I might have to add to some small extent to the receipt for Customs; and if I adopted the views of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire I should have materially to reduce the probable receipts from the income tax. If I am to believe the anticipations of a noble Lord in another place, we are not to expect that the present will be a year even of ordinary prosperity; and, under these circumstances, I cannot say that I think I should be justified in altering at all the estimate which I made of the total amount of our probable receipts. As to the probable expenditure, it is given in the estimates laid upon the table, the most material items of which have been already voted. [Cheers from the Opposition benches.] I only mean to say that we have laid upon the table of the House those estimates which we believe to be necessary, and that a majority of the House has agreed to the largest part of them; but I do not mean to urge unfairly the argument, that the 1049 estimates have been voted. We laid them on the table, believing them to be fairly and properly framed, with a due regard to economy on the one hand, and to the demands of the country on the other; and I think I am entitled to say—without provoking the cheers of hon. Gentlemen opposite—that of a considerable portion of those estimates the House has approved.
Well, Sir, the probable amount of surplus I take then to be about what I before stated, 1,892,000l. Now, I have been told that, with this amount of surplus, I ought to have done something striking, something that would produce an effect upon the mind of the country, I plead guilty altogether to the charge of not having attempted to do so. I confess that when I sat down to consider what proposals I should submit to the House, I did not consider what was likely to produce an effect upon the public mind, but what were the taxes most objectionable and productive of the greatest mischief, and the reduction of those taxes I proposed to the House. Hon. Gentlemen must remember, when they wish for some great and striking proposal, that the chief protecting duties, the great monopolies, have been already removed. The Government of Sir R. Peel reduced the protecting duties upon timber and upon corn; the present Government have reduced the protecting duty upon sugar, and have repealed the navigation laws. It is not, I think, a reasonable complaint on the part of the country, when the giants are slain, that there remain no more to be encountered. No doubt duties yet remain which are as objectionable in principle, and protections as highly obnoxious, to the extent to which they go, as those which have already been removed; they are, however, only of small extent, and operate on articles of minor importance; but, in strict accordance with the principles which dictated the repeal of the large protective duties, we ought to deal in the same way with the existing duties of smaller amount, equally objectionable though of less extensive operation. It is true there yet remains one large duty I with which I have been reproached for not having dealt—the duty upon tea; but let me remind the House that, although that is a high duty, it is not a protecting duty.; Whatever the supply of tea may be from China, there are no competing countries from which supplies may be drawn that may bring down the price of that article; and, though I have on former occasions 1050 expressed my opinion that it would be a desirable thing to reduce the duty upon tea—and I have never varied from that opinion—I think other duties have a prior claim upon our consideration. I do not know, if I had proposed a reduction of the duty upon tea, that I might not have been fairly called upon to deal with the duty upon that article with which it is supposed that tea might come into serious competition—the duty on malt. I do not know what might have been said by the Member for the North Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. Cayley); and although the duty upon tea is 200 per cent, and the duty upon malt is only 60 per cent, I think I might, in the present state of the agricultural interest, have been fairly exposed to attack, if I had dealt with an article which may compete with one of the main articles of their produce. I think, however, under any circumstances, that other duties have a prior claim upon our consideration.
I may here be permitted to make one remark to hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House, who call for a large reduction of taxation in any direction whatever. It applies equally to those who call for a large reduction upon articles of import or articles of excise, and to those who call for large reductions in direct taxation. It is this, that if they expect any large reductions of taxation, they must not perpetually demand the reduction of duties upon minor articles. If hon. Gentlemen will call to mind the proposals which have been made, in late years, in this House, for the reduction of taxes, they will see that they relate to no articles which materially affect the great body of the people. We have been asked to sacrifice some 120,000l. upon attorneys' certificates, 150,000l. upon advertisements, 360,000l. upon newspaper stamps, and to risk about 100,000l. upon Irish spirits; but every 100,000l. applied in this way diminishes the power which. any Chancellor of the Exchequer has of making a great reduction in any particular duty. If the modern system is to prevail, that every surplus, however small, is at once to be expended in the reduction of some minor tax, neither I, nor any one who fills the same office, can ever do that which the House and the country demand with regard to a considerable reduction upon large taxes. If it be the wish of the House that such large reductions should be made, they must co-operate with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and allow him to accumulate such a surplus as in 1051 a given year will enable him to do what I they require; but if every surplus is at once to be disposed of, nothing great, and, as I believe, nothing very satisfactory, can ever be done.
I have been told that there was no principle in the proposals which I made to the House. Sir, the principle upon which not only the budget of this year, but the principle upon which I have always advocated and proposed commercial and financial measures in this House, has been one and the same: it has been to do that which appeared to me to be most beneficial to the great mass of the population of this country. I have never turned aside to the right or to the left to consider what would be a benefit to one class or another; but I have looked to that which, in my opinion, would be most beneficial to the great body of our labouring and working population. They, to a great extent, are not represented in this House; they cannot put pressure upon those who sit here, which will induce them to advocate their peculiar interests; and they are, therefore, in my opinion, the special objects of the care and solicitude of the Government—Government being instituted for the benefit of the many, and not of the few. It was for their sake that I have always advocated a repeal of the duties upon corn and meat; that I have endeavoured to cheapen food; that I supported the repeal of the corn laws, and the reduction of the duties upon foreign cattle and provisions; and that I proposed myself the reduction of the duty upon foreign sugar. It was for their sake that I have advocated a reduction of the duties upon raw materials. It was not to put profit into the pockets of the manufacturers, or wealth into the purses of the merchants, but because I believed that by the free introduction of raw materials employment would be given to the labourer, and cheap clothing would be obtained for his family. We had given them food and clothing, but there remained one other matter of vital importance to them—their dwellings. Hon. Gentlemen will, no doubt, remember the report which was laid upon the table last year, and which was, I think, quoted by the late Sir Robert Peel, on the crowded and wretched state of the dwellings of the poor in the Eastern Counties, detailing the misery and immorality resulting from their being crowded together in unsuitable habitations. It was for their sake, and to remedy this evil, that I last year carried the repeal of the duty upon bricks.— 1052 [Laughter.] This may be a matter of indifference to hon. Gentlemen, but it is no matter of indifference to me or to those poor people. It is for their sake and with the same purpose, that I propose this year to reduce the duty upon foreign timber. So far as the comfort of the country labourers is concerned, I do not know that more can be done for them; but there remains another class—that large portion of the labouring population who are crowded into the dark alleys and narrow streets of our towns. There is evidence beyond dispute of the effects produced upon them by the dark and unwholesome character of their dwellings. There is evidence beyond dispute of the effects which those who are crowded into gloomy cellars and ill-ventilated apartments suffer in the stunted growth, the deformed limbs, the broken constitutions, and the enfeebled intellects, which are the consequences of the deprivation of air and light. We determined that, as soon as it was in our power, so far as taxation contributed to these effects, we would do all we could to place the labouring classes in a better sanitary condition; that, so far as it depended upon U3, we would endeavour to remedy that state of things which was proved beyond dispute to be the cause of disease, deformity, and death. I am not ashamed of having made that proposal; I believe I should have failed in my duty if I had not made it; and, whatever fault may be found with it, this at least must be conceded by those who opposed it the most, that in this respect I removed every ground of complaint. There may be other measures which will tend to the benefit of the labouring classes; this I believe is the last one, which is indispensably necessary for their comfort and health. And whatever may be the result in other respects as to our proposals, this at least I hope we may be able to carry through the British Parliament. I shall feel then that, having contributed to reduce the price of the food of the great mass of the people of this country, to cheapen their clothing, and give to them their dwellings throughout the country as cheap as they can be afforded, that we shall have well closed our career—should such be the result of any vote—if we bestow on the labouring population of our towns the unrestricted enjoyment of the light and the air of heaven.
It will be remembered, that I made two other propositions, both of them, be it observed, essentially contributing to the be- 1053 nefit of the population of the country, by the reduction of two duties, one of them on a great article of consumption, and the other on an important raw material, and the objections to which duties were as strong, on principle, as to any duties which have been recently repealed. Of all the duties on the Statute-book, protecting duties undoubtedly are the worst. That is a question which now I need not argue, because it is admitted that these are the duties which take the most out of the pocket of the consumer, and bring the least into the Exchequer. The protection on coffee amounts to 50 per cent, and that upon timber to 900 per cent. Are there not also peculiar circumstances affecting both these articles which call upon me to deal with them in this year? I need not remind the House of the complaints made night after night, of the adulteration of coffee by the admixture of chicory and other materials. Sir, I am not prepared to send an army of excisemen into every coffee shop in the country, nor am I ready to institute excise prosecutions in every corner of the land; but I am prepared, and I have proposed to meet the evil in the most legitimate manner, by reducing the duty, and thereby reducing the price, of the imported article. Again, I hold that the reduction of the duty on timber is in perfect consistency with all sound commercial and economical principles, because timber is a raw material of primary importance to every class of the community, because it is used by every class, from one extremity of the country to the other. I felt it my duty last year to resist a proposal for giving a drawback on timber used for the building of ships. I then stated that I thought one of the soundest parts of our recent policy in the reduction of duties, was the getting rid of the most objectionable system of drawbacks; that I was not then prepared to place the shipbuilder in a different position from any other class of the community with regard to the duty on timber, but that he must take his share of the benefit of any general reduction of duty. These; two articles I selected, therefore, as those having primary claims to consideration during the present Session. Well, Sir, did I deal with these protecting duties in what is called a peddling way? I removed the protecting duty entirely in the one case, and reduced it to the extent of one half in the other; and those who know best the circumstances of the trade, know that it would be unwise in the latter case, 1054 to reduce the duty further in the present year, whatever may be done ultimately in respect of it.
Sir, I have said that a reduction of protecting duties is that which is the most beneficial both to the consumer and to the revenue. And allow me to call the attention of the House for one moment to the result of that course with regard to the first proposal that I had the honour of submitting to this House, after I became Chancellor of the Exchequer, namely, with regard to the reduction of the duty on foreign sugar; and a more striking instance of the benefit derived, both by the consumer and the revenue, can hardly he conceived. In 1845, the right hon. Gentleman then at the head of the Government, reduced the duty on colonial sugar, and left nearly untouched the duty on foreign sugar. The result was a loss to the revenue of 1,400,000l. In 1846 we proposed and carried a reduction of the duty on foreign sugar, and the effect of that change was an increased consumption of 900,000 cwts., with an increase of duty to the amount of 1,100,000l. in one year. The effects from the reduction of other duties in which the protection does not so nearly amount to a prohibition, cannot be of so striking a character; but I quote this particular instance to the House, as an example of the benefit both to the community and to the Exchequer, arising from the reduction of protecting duties. Two other proposals which I made to the House were of minor importance; one of them in accordance with the recommendations of the Lords' Committee on the burdens on land—namely, taking on the public revenue a portion of the charge of the maintenance of pauper lunatics; and the other a remission of the duty on clover and other agricultural seeds. I cannot say that these proposals were well received by those whom they were intended to benefit. I have heard objections made to both the one and the other, but not a single word has been said in favour of either; and therefore, whatever my own opinion may be as to the merits of the proposal, I am most unwilling to force these benefits upon those who are so reluctant to receive them. Reverting to the main proposals which I made: they were, I repeat, based on this principle—that they were most beneficial for the comfort, the morality, and the health of our labouring population; that they were the reduction of protecting duties—one upon a great article of consump- 1055 tion, and the other of a raw material of our industry.
If the principles upon which those propositions are based are not sound—if they are not in accordance with all our recent legislation supported by the majority of this House and of the country, then I stand condemned. But if, on the contrary, these propositions are for the benefit of the people, and if they are in accordance with that enlightened legislation which has commanded the approval of the House and of the country, then I fearlessly call upon the House to record a verdict in their favour.
I am quite aware that a loud demand has been made for the unconditional repeal of the window tax. It is enough for me to say that the amount of the window duty is 1,856,000l., and the probable surplus 1,892,000l.; so that if I assented to that request I should leave myself a margin of only about 40,000l. If I add to the expenditure the least possible demand for the Kaffir war—[Ironical cheers]—do Gentlemen suppose that this country is to suffer its subjects to be slaughtered, and not defend those who have gone out upon the faith of our protection—not protect British subjects in a distant land? If they do, they will not, I think, meet with the approval of the majority of the House or of the country. I say, if I add the smallest amount to meet any charge for this purpose, I wilfully create a deficiency, which I think no man in this House will call upon me to do. But I say further, that I do not think I should be acting justly to the community in relieving house property from the whole of this tax. That which presses upon the labouring population is not the amount of the tax, but the mode in which it is levied. It is the reference to the number of windows, and not to the value of the house, which has been complained of. If I were to reduce all the taxation so far as it presses upon house property, beyond that which presses upon the inhabitants of the house—I mean the labouring classes who are affected by the number of windows—I think I should be postponing claims which are of more pressing importance for the benefit of the community.
Let me here remind the House of the representations made to the Government upon this subject. One of the first persons who promoted the movement on the window duty was a gentleman well known in this metropolis, himself an owner of house property, who was constantly urging it upon 1056 the Government, and who wrote a very good pamphlet upon the subject. Now, what says Mr. Hickson?—The revenue derived from the window duties we do not desire to see wholly abolished; the burden falls upon the owners of house property, and would be borne without a murmur, if imposed in a less objectionable form.What were the terms of the Motion of my noble Friend? It was not that house property should be relieved from taxation, but that there should be no restriction imposed upon the blessings of air and light. What was the language of members of the deputation which waited upon me with my noble Friend? Not that they came to ask merely a remission of pounds, shillings, and pence; but they represented the mode of assessment as a great evil affecting the dwellings of the poor, and they referred to the unfairness of the assessment in reference to the value of houses. They asked to be relieved from these two evils, the existence of which I admitted; but many of them, at least, did not pretend to say they had a claim to the total remission of the tax. If I had simply substituted for the window tax a tax assessed upon the value of houses, producing the same amount of revenue, I should have met all the demands grounded upon sanitary considerations, but I should, at the same time, have imposed a burden so different in its pressure from the existing tax, that I think I should have justly caused general dissatisfaction. Allowing a difference between dwelling-houses and houses, a part of which is used as shops, a duty of about 1s. 10d. on the former class, and 1s. 1d. oil the latter, would have raised the 1,800,000l.; but the result would have been to more than double the assessment upon some of the best streets in this town, and other towns in the country; and, however, in other respects equitable and fair, I cannot think such a proposal would have had the sanction of this House.
It was to avoid this objection that I made the proposal I did, by which I insured to all parties a considerable relief. No party could pay more than two-thirds of what he heretofore had paid. Of course, I could not apply the same rule to new houses; because houses that had never been assessed to the window duty could not pay a sum equal to two-thirds of a duty which had never been ascertained. I quite admit that the fairest mode, the mode most consistent with principle, is, to impose an uniform duty upon old and new 1057 houses. But, when the Gentlemen from Marylebone and Paddington complained so loudly of the injustice of my proposal, and that they would be so much better pleased if they were put on the footing of new houses, I think that their complaint was more loud than just, and that they did not even inquire before they made their complaint. The proposal I made would have imposed upon Marylebone, Paddington, and Gore Hundred, now paying upwards of 90,000l., a charge of 60,000l.; if they had paid an uniform 1s. rate, they would have paid 71,000l.; if they had paid, as I proposed, for new houses—1s. upon houses, and 9d. upon houses with shops—they would have paid about 68,000l. Therefore, if they had been put upon the footing of new houses altogether, with which they were to have been so much better satisfied, it would have imposed upon them either 8,000l. or 11,000l. more than the proposal which I made, and of which they complained as unjust and hard upon them. I admit that there was an anomaly, that in theory they are right, and my proposal was deficient in that uniform principle which, I repeat, is, upon the whole, the most just and fair. With regard to the view taken of my proposals in different parts of the country, there is no doubt that, in the case of old country houses built before the window tax, with many windows, and of small value, the duty which I left upon houses was greater than they would pay upon a uniform house tax. I remembered, however, the outcry in old times as to the undue pressure of the tax upon valuable houses in towns as compared with large houses in the country. I was willing to some extent to yield to that view. But I admit that the principle of an uniform tax upon old and new houses is the just principle; and I only hope that those gentlemen in the towns who have complained of my former proposal will not complain now, if, by the adoption of their principle, they do not, in all cases, obtain so much relief as that which I proposed. It is right, however, to say, that no uniform rate upon the value will give anything like equal relief; and for this simple reason, that one main ground of complaint against the present window tax being the alleged injustice of a system of taxation based on the number of windows, and not upon the amount of value, any measure which remedies that injustice must necessarily vary considerably the existing rate of taxation.
1058 With the view of giving as little cause of complaint, arising out of any great change in the rate of taxation, as I can, I think it is fair to take as low a rate of duty as is consistent with leaving that amount of revenue which is indispensable. Avoiding, therefore, altogether any reference to the number of windows, leaving out of consideration what number of windows or openings there may be in a house, getting rid of every objection which can be stated upon sanitary grounds, and affording great relief to all, or nearly all, parties, I propose to take an uniform rate of 9d. upon dwelling-houses, and 6d. upon those houses which contain shops. It will be remembered that I proposed before, as to new houses, that a duty of 1s. in the pound should be imposed upon dwelling-houses, and a lower rate of duty upon those dwelling-houses a portion of which was used as shops, or which were occupied by innkeepers, or used as farmhouses. Houses partly used as shops pay at present a lower amount of window duty, and I propose to continue, and somewhat to extend, that distinction. The duty which I shall propose will be a uniform rate upon all houses, old and new, of 9d. in the pound upon their annual value, and 6d. upon any house a part of which is a shop, or which is occupied by a licensed victualler, or inhabited by a tenant and used solely for the occupation of land. It will be remembered that I proposed to exempt from taxation altogether all houses not exceeding 20l. in annual value; I propose to retain that exemption. Now, let me state the result of my proposal. I get rid of all reference whatsoever to the number of windows in any shape. I reduce the number of houses paying tax at all from about 500,000 to about 400,000. I give a benefit which did not exist under the old house tax to shops, to the houses of victuallers, and houses used for the occupation of land. I give a relief from taxation altogether to the extent of 1,136,000l. The tax I propose to retain will amount to 720,000l., instead of 1,856,000l. It is true there are some few cases in which, even under this proposal, the taxation of a house will be raised; there are some cases so anomalous, that it is utterly impossible to deal with them on any principle. I find, for instance, that in one street in Liverpool there are two houses which have eight windows, paving only 18s. 1d. window duty, but which are assessed at 130l. a year. I could not give a stronger proof of the inequality of the 1059 window tax, and of its utter unfairness in reference to value. I do not think the tax will be heavy in such cases as this; but, nevertheless, there are some few such cases in which taxation will be raised. Of course, all houses of this description may open windows to an unlimited extent; and, therefore, what they will have to pay will not be without, as I believe, an equivalent advantage.
The relief, as I have said, will be unequal, according to the districts in which houses are situated; because, being based on value, the greatest relief will be in the least fashionable streets. The better streets, where the value is high, will not be relieved to the same extent as those in which the value has from any cause been depreciated. Houses in the country, where the annual value is less than in towns, in proportion to the number of windows, will be relieved more than those in the favourite parts of towns. The old-fashioned houses of country gentlemen will be relieved. The houses of most country clergymen, I believe, will be relieved. A relief will be extended to farmers paying between 200l. and 300l. a year, which would not be afforded by any reduction of income tax; for tenant's upon farms of 200l. a year pay window tax, but there is no income tax upon a rent of less than 300l. a year. By the proposal I make, there will be in almost every case a very material reduction of the tax paid by tenant farmers; and, in most cases of this class, I am inclined to think that there will be a total exemption from the tax, because I believe very few farmhouses, where the amount of rent does not exceed 300l. per annum, would be assessed at 20l. a year or upwards. Now, I think it only fair to give the House some instances of the extent of relief which will be given. I will put the Committee in possession of these particulars, because I have nothing to conceal, and am desirous that the Committee should know exactly what it is that I call upon it to assent to. In Marylehone and Pad-dington, the amount at present paid for window duty is 92,000l.; under my plan, the house tax will be 50,000l., being a reduction of 42,000l. In Regent-street, the present payment is 2,200l.; it will in future be 1,900l., being a reduction of 300l. In Finsbury-square, which I hope I may say, without offence to the persons residing there, is a less fashionable quarter than that to which I have just referred, the reduction will be very striking. The 1060 present payment is 725l.; the future payment will be 250l., being a saving of 475l. In Portman-square, the present payment is 740l.; in future it will be 610l., making tile reduction 130l. In that fashionable quarter, Belgrave-square, there will actually be a small increase to the extent of 10l.; the present payment is 990l., the future payment will be 1,000l., giving an increase of 10l. The gentlemen who reside in Belgrave-square, however, will probably have houses in the country also, and the reduction of the tax upon them will indemnify them for the slight increase in the duty payable on their town houses. Taking the two classes of houses together, they will be as much benefited by the alteration as those who do not live in so fashionable a quarter as Belgravia. It is difficult to get any return showing the operation of the tax in an exclusively rural district. I have, however, in my hand a return of 42 of the best houses—those paying the largest amount of window duty—in six counties, and I find that the effect of the change I propose will be the reduction of the duty payable by them from 2,040l. to 567l. In Liverpool, the reduction will be from 19,600l. to 9,500l.; in Manchester, it will be from 30,000l. to 15,000l.; in Birmingham, from 18,400l. to 8,400l. In the town represented by my noble Friend, who takes so much interest in this question (Lord Duncan, Member for Bath), which, I am afraid, is not so fashionable as it used to be, the relief afforded will be in a greater proportion than in the eases I have already referred to, for the amount of duty will be reduced from 23,000l. to 7,500ll. The greatest amount of relief will be afforded in the cases of those houses which have a larger number of windows or openings than is in any proportion to their annual value. At present large houses yielding very little rent pay more duty than other houses which have a smaller number of windows, but which are infinitely more valuable. That, I think, exceedingly unfair, and a very unsound principle of taxation. This will be quite reversed by the proposed house tax; because each house will pay in exact proportion to its annual value, whatever that may be.
Now, I do not think that even my hon. Friends who represent the metropolitan districts will complain of this proposal. My hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury told the House, during the recent crisis, that what the people wanted was a Ministry that would do something for them. Well, 1061 my proposition does all that is required for them in this respect. I do not think that my hon. Friend will be able to prove, even with all his talents, that this tax, as I leave it, will be paid by "the people," in the sense in which he used the term; or that it will be paid in any way whatsoever by the labouring population, by the artisan, the operative, the working man, or by any class whom he includes in his designation "the people." I take it off from the people, and I leave it on property. If hon. Members behind me, who advocate direct taxation on property, are dissatisfied with this plan, I know not in what shape a direct tax would please them. I repeal a tax which presses on those whose interests those hon. Members profess to advocate, and I levy it on the owners of house property, or, if not on the owners, at any rate, on occupiers, according to their means of payment.
There are about 3,500,000 houses in this country; 3,100,000 will be totally exempt from the tax; and the tax that I propose will be paid by about 400,000 of the most valuable houses in the country. Therefore, if my hon. Friend can by any ingenuity prove that this will be a tax on "the people," I shall be greatly surprised. It is a property tax on 400,000 houses of that class which is most able to bear the burden of taxation. I know not whether it is necessary for me to quote the authority of different political economists in favour of a tax of this description: but I believe there is no writer on political economy, of any weight whatever, who has not described a house tax to be one of the best and most just of taxes. I will not trouble the House by quoting the precise words of Adam Smith, but he says that there is no tax by which a larger amount of money could be more easily raised than a house tax; and while he speaks of a window tax as being the most unequal of imposts, he points to a house tax as one of the most just. Mr. M'Culloch also says there is hardly any country in Europe in which this tax is not imposed, and considered one of the best and most just of taxes. I will refer to one recent authority of deservedly great weight—Mr. John Mill. I find in his work a short passage, which I will take the liberty of quoting, because it is more pithily and clearly expressed than any that I have seen. He says—A house tax, if justly proportioned to the value of the house, is one of the fairest and most unobjectionable of all taxes. No part of a per- 1062 son's expenditure is a better criterion of his means, or bears, on the whole, more nearly the same proportion to them. A house tax is a nearer approach to a, fair income tax than a direct assessment on income can easily he.This, therefore, is the nature and the extent of the tax which I propose to retain—a portion of an existing tax on house property. I remove from it every objection that has been urged against it. I leave it low in amount, and unexceptionable in the manner of levying it. I repeal the tax so far as it affects the people, I retain it so far as it affect property and income, and in this shape it is a tax which I regard as one of the fairest and best that can be levied.
I will now state what will be the effect of the changes I propose on the revenue. The amount of loss to the revenue by the repeal of the window duty will be 1,136,000l. I propose adhering to the proposition I formerly submitted to the Committee relative to coffee and timber. I propose a reduction of one-fourth of the duty on Colonial coffee, and the removal of the protecting duty on foreign coffee, making both kinds pay the same duty of 3d. per pound. I also propose to reduce the duty on foreign timber one-half. The duty upon sawn timber is now 20s. and that upon hewn timber 15s. I propose to reduce them respectively to 10s. and 7s. 6d. The loss which these reductions of the coffee and timber duties will occasion to the revenue is about 400,000l., which, added to the loss arising from the alteration of the window duty, makes a total of 1,536,000l. This will leave me, after this year, a permanent surplus, or margin rather—for I can hardly call it by the name of surplus—of only 356,000l. To this sum I must, however, for the present year add half of the existing window duty, which is now becoming due, and will be receivable in the July quarter. It will amount to 568,000l. This sum, added to the 356,000. of permanent margin, gives me a surplus of 924,000l. wherewith to meet any unforeseen demand that may arise in the course of the year. The House will observe that this sum of 568,000l. would not enable me to effect any permanent reduction of expenditure, because it will cease after the July quarter. That portion of my margin will be available merely for meeting any demand for expenditure which may occur during the year. Under these circumstances I feel that I should not be justified in proposing a further reduction of taxation.
1063 I have already reminded the House of the possibility of a demand being made upon us on account of the hostilities going on at the Cape of Good Hope. [An Hon. MEMBER: What will be the amount of the demand?] It is, of course, impossible for me now to state what the amount of the demand may be. The estimate for six months transmitted by the Commissariat officer at the Cape was 400.000l.; but I cannot help hoping that, with the means which will be speedily at the disposal of Sir Harry Smith, he will be able to put an end to hostilities in a shorter time. We must, however, be prepared for the worst. We, unhappily, know too well what the duration of the last war was, and what was the extent of the demand made upon us for it; and having now the means in our hands of defraying any charge which may be brought against us, surely no man would be so unwise as to throw them away. There is a possible demand, as I have already said, on the part of the East India Company, amounting to 400.000l I certainly have great hopes, that on an examination of those accounts, the real claim may not turn out to be so large; but still we may have to pay a considerable sum on that account, and we must be prepared to meet it. [Sir J. W. HOGG (we believe) here made an observation across the table which did not reach the gallery.] My hon. Friend is aware that there must be some investigation into the matter before the demand is allowed; but I think that the House will agree with me that it would be most unwise in me so to deal with the means which I have in hand as to be reduced to the necessity of borrowing to meet the demand which my hon. Friend may at some time substantiate. These are the proposals which I have to submit to the House in the event of their agreeing to the renewal of the Income Tax for a limited time.
Before I sit down, however, I must briefly advert to the Motion of which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Herries) has given notice. I look upon the right hon. Gentleman's proposition as the first step in the direction of the policy which Lord Stanley has announced. It is due to the right hon. Gentleman to state that he has brought forward his proposition in the fairest possible manner. The right hon. Gentleman proposes to reduce the property tax, but not to an extent which would be inconsistent with the maintenance 1064 of the national faith. Upon that point, of course, I know well I could fully rely on the right hon. Gentleman. Even if the income tax is to be totally abolished, it is obviously impossible that so large an amount could be reduced at once; and I admit that if that policy is to be pursued, the right hon. Gentleman's proposal is the first and necessary step in that direction. There is, however, this difference between us—I think the policy wrong. I admit that the property tax was at first imposed for a temporary purpose—that of meeting a deficiency—and that the temporary purpose is accomplished. It was accomplished in 1845. But in that year the tax was renewed for a different purpose. It was renewed for the purpose of enabling the House to make an improvement in financial legislation by removing impolitic restrictions, by reducing the price of articles of consumption, and repealing duties which checked and retarded the development of industry. I will further admit that those objects have, to a great extent, been accomplished. But there still remain other objects of the same description to be accomplished, such as those which I have detailed to the Committee to-night, and I cannot, consistently with the policy of which I approve, propose the repeal of the property tax until these objects shall have been accomplished. I admit freely that any material reduction of the income tax ought to be followed by its final extinction. Nothing is so impolitic as a small income tax. I do not think that the amount payable under the income tax presses heavily on those who pay it. I cannot think that to a man having an income of 5.000l. a year—whether derived from land or from a profession—the payment of 150l. annually for the security with which he enjoys his income is a heavy tax. Doubtless, this tax is open to objection on account of its inquisitorial nature; but that objection applies as much to a tax of a penny as to one of a shilling. If we are to have an income tax, let us at lest fix it at an amount which will enable us to derive substantial benefit from it. My belief is, that if the changes which I propose be made, we may look with confidence to the revival of the revenue before any long time shall elapse. We shall then be in the same position in which we now are with respect to the repeal or reduction of the income tax, but shall in the mean time have got rid of the objectionable parts of those imposts which I now propose to remove. Let 1065 me direct the attention of the House to what has taken place during the last few years, in order to show how probable such a result is. I take the year in which the income tax first came into full operation, and the last year of which we have an account The first year in which the income tax was fully paid was the year ending-April 5, 1844; the last year of which we have an account is the year ending 5th April last. Now, the ordinary revenue, that is, the revenue derived from the Customs, Excise, Stamps, and Taxes in the year 1843–44, was 45,593,000l. Between that time and last year, seven millions of taxes have been repealed; and yet in the last year the revenue was equal to that of 1843–44, namely 45,600,000l. Seven millions of taxes repealed, but still, even under the pressure of the income tax, the revenue reviving and being of the same amount at the end of that time as it was at first!
With this proof before us of the elasticity of our trade and industrial resources—with this evidence that the income tax does not press very heavily upon them—I am justified in believing, that if we reduce these objectionable taxes, we shall before long be again in the same position in which we are now with respect to revenue, while we shall have had the satisfaction and the advantage of freeing trade from its fetters, enlarging the fieldof our commerce, and—what I hold to be of even greater importance—improving the condition and augmenting the comforts of the great body of the people. I will not further anticipate the discussion that will take place on Monday respecting the income tax.
I have now detailed to the Committee the proposals that we make to them for their approval—a reduction of the duty on one great article of consumption, the reduction of the duty on one important raw material; the removal of one and the reduction of another most objectionable protecting duty; a large relief to householders both in town and country, and a measure which I believe to be necessary for the welfare and comfort, the morality and health of the people. The proposal of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, on the contrary, is to reduce a tax which at any rate presses only on those who have adequate means of paying it, and which reduction would render impossible the execution of any of those measures which I have submitted to the Committee. If his proposal 1066 is adopted, no material relief can be given from the inequality and unhealthiness of the window tax, no relief by which the great mass of the population of this country will be benefited. I have to remind the House further that this proposal is coupled, not indeed by the right hon. Gentleman, but by that great party whom he now represents, with the suggested imposition of a duty on the importation of foreign corn. If that policy is fully carried out, not only will those benefits be withheld from the labouring man which we propose to confer upon him, but he will be deprived of those which he already enjoys. Sir, I cannot sufficiently deprecate the results which, must flow from such legislation. I have on many recent occasions stated that I attach—and I do still attach—more importance to the political than to the commercial results which must ensue from the reversal of that legislation which has recently taken place so much for the benefit of the population of this country. I believe it to be essential to the stability of our institutions that the great body of the people should be contented and happy. I believe that if they feel that they are the objects of our solicitude—that the improvement of their material and moral condition is a matter which the Legislature has at heart, they will remain gratefully attached to the Constitution.
I believe, that under such circumstances, the great mass of the people will continue as firm in their loyalty as they were three years ago; that we may laugh at the danger of any disturbance of the peace, the apprehension of which seems to have taken such possession of the minds of some hon. Members; and that we may bid defiance to those outbursts of popular feeling which a short time since overspread a large portion of Europe, and which in too many instances have only been quenched in blood.
§ MR. HERRIES
said that, after what had been stated on the previous night, he did not expect that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have taken the present opportunity of provoking that debate which, by common consent, it was yesterday agreed should not be taken until Monday next. But not content with vindicating his own proposition for a renewal of the Property Tax that night, be had attacked—not the policy with regard to that tax alone—but the general policy of those who were opposed 1067 to that proposal. He would not, however, be led on that occasion into the examination of the efficiency of the charges which the right hon. Gentleman directed against that policy; but this he (Mr. Herries) would announce to the House—that this speech and this Budget of the right hon. Gentleman was a formal intimation to that House and the public, that the Property Tax was to be perpetual. Out of that conclusion—with the principles of the right hon. Gentleman—with the course which he at present was pursuing, and the grounds on which he pursued it—they could not by any possibility escape. He regretted that, consistently with the understanding to which they had come last night, he could not resist, on the present occasion, the passing of the vote which the right hon. Gentleman had submitted to the House. On Monday, however, he would give the reasons for his resistance to the right hon. Gentleman's proposals, and he trusted to convince the House that that renewal was a step they ought not to sanction. If there was any person in the world who ought to have shrunk from the utterance of such sentiments as those they had heard that night from the right hon. Gentleman, it was the right hon. Gentleman himself. But having uttered those sentiments, he (Mr. Herries) was provoked to make a reference to his former sentiments, when the question of renewing the Income Tax in 1845 was discussed. At that time he (Mr. Herries) had contendod, in opposition to the right hon. Gentleman, that Sir R. Peel had a legitimate right to propose that renewal; and the House wisely, as he then, and as he still thought, was induced to concur in that proposition. When Sir Peel proposed to renew the tax in 1845, he reminded the House that he had originally proposed it for the double purpose of supplying a great deficiency, and to carry out a great improvement, and that then (in 1845) the objects for which it was first proposed were not completed. He also reminded the House that at first he had originally proposed the tax for a longer period; but that he had eventually been contented to take it for three years only, in the belief that if it was necessary, in consequence of that period being too short for the full result of the experiment to be produced, the House would consent to lengthen its continuance; upon that ground alone it was that, in 1845, the proposal was made to Parliament for a limited renewal of the 1068 tax. But what said the right hon. Gentleman then? Sir R. Peel had been saying that he believed that this tax pressed mainly on the rich, and that it did not touch the poor at all; but was the Chancellor of the Exchequer of that opinion then? It appeared from the published reports of the debates, that Sir Charles Wood said then—So far from being a tax which pressed exclusively on the rich, he believed it pressed on the labouring population by diminishing the means of giving them employment. He did not believe that Sir Robert Peel himself could think it was a tax which bore exclusively on the rich; for, if he did, why did he not impose it in Ireland?"—[3 Hansard, lxxvii. 583.]Did the right hon. Gentleman still retain those opinions? But there was another reason which the right hon. Gentleman gave—he (Mr. Herries) would gladly have abstained from mentioning the matter at all, but was compelled by the attack made by the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman then spoke to the point—would that he did so now—that there was danger of making this tax perpetual:—He declared that the question should be fully and fairly discussed whether the tax was to be regarded as a permanent one or not. Let that point be discussed on its own merits; and let not the House be led step by step into a course from which afterwards it would be impossible for it to be extricated.That was his opinion then, but surely this language was very much at variance with that which the right hon. Gentleman has just held on the same subject; and on Monday he (Mr. Herries) would show the House such reasons as he trusted would be sufficient to induce the House, before it made this tax unavoidably perpetual, by consenting to its renewal upon the very first legitimate opportunity which had occurred when they might fulfil the engagement of Parliament—the engagement of Parliament that it should not be permanent, but should only continue for a fixed time—if they lost this opportunity, there was no man in England so foolish as to imagine it could ever be taken off. He intended to urge that question fully on Monday night; but after what had passed, he must reiterate his regret that he was not then in a condition to go into the subject, and take the vote of the House upon it. He could not, however, sit down without adverting to some of the other topics touched upon in the speech of 1069 the right hon. Gentleman. He had marvelled much at the course of reasoning pursued by the right hon. Gentleman, but, most of all, at the nature of his arguments with respect to the maintenance of a surplus revenue. He was astonished greatly to hear from the lips of the right hon. Gentleman all the arguments usually urged by the Conservative side of the House with respect to the necessity of maintaining the public credit; but still more astonished to find that after all his high-sounding words, the right hon. Baronet abandoned so much of his revenue that the surplus was proposed to be reduced to 300,000l. or 400,000l. The right hon. Gentleman talked largely of the necessity of keeping a certain surplus for the sake of the public credit; and nothing he had ever heard in the course of his Parliamentary experience had sounded so inconsistent, when he found that 350,000l. was all that he himself made it possible could be reserved. Was this fulfilling those high and lofty pretensions respecting the maintenance of public credit, and of an ample provision for the public service? The right hon. Gentleman's proposition was, in truth, the very reverse of all his propositions. If he intended to pursue this policy, his eulogy of Lord Stanley was as much out of place as were many of the topics of his speech, which was simply to have introduced a Motion for the renewal of the income tax. That Motion could have been discussed without reference to corn duties or free-trade. It was purely an economic fiscal question, and he hoped to be able to show that if they wished to administer usefully, fairly, and, above all, honestly, the financial affairs of the country, the House ought to resist the renewal, unnecessarily and upon insufficient grounds, of the property tax. The right hon. Gentleman astonished him also by his boldness, and by the very little feeling he seemed to have towards Chancellors of the Exchequer who had administered the monetary affairs of this country before him—even of the Chancellors of the Lord Melbourne's Administration, although the right hon. Gentleman himself then held an office of great importance in connexion with the finances, and who, if the principles which he now talked so much about had then animated him, should have then come forward and done his best to serve his country. His remarks on the general principles which ought to actuate financial administrators fell hard upon 1070 those who were in office between 1837 land 1842, and he seemed to have forgotten what had occurred in that period, after which Sir R. Peel fortunately came to the rescue, and saved the country from the state into which it had been plunged by six successive years of Whig deficiency. Had the right hon. Gentleman forgotten what the right hon. Member for Ripon so aptly called "the straightdownward course taken by the Whig Government?" There was another point to which he must allude, and that was the refusal of the House in 1848 to double the income tax. All that passed on that occasion must have escaped his memory. The right hon. Member must have forgotten that his first proposal was a double income tax. And when the House refused to give that double income tax, the Government found the means—a salutary lesson for the House of Commons—to obviate its necessity. What was the cause of the embarrassment and difficulty in which the Government were then plunged? It was their own unwarrantable augmentation of expenditure. Had the right hon. Gentleman forgotten that the Army, Navy, and Ordnance, had increased three millions beyond the average amount of the previous seven years? There was, however, another cause, namely, the desolation and the ruin scattered over the mercantile community by that unfortunate Act of 1844, which operated upon the currency, and of which the present Ministers were, if not the sole authors, the chief authors. He (Mr. Herries) had voted for the renewal of the income tax in 1848, because he believed that such was the state of the finances, owing to the unnecessary increase in the establishments of the country, and such the embarrassments created by their currency measures, there was no other way of supporting the credit of the country. But the state of things was now stated to be altogether different, everything was smiling—and if they now renewed the income tax, depend upon it the people would never get free from it again. With respect to other parts of the budget, there were some changes which were undoubtedly improvements, and he trusted the right hon. Gentleman's friends, who had latterly not treated him very cordially, would receive them with favour. It must be remembered that the vote to-night would be on nothing but the question of the resolution for the renewal of the pro- 1071 perty tax, as he should adhere to the clear understanding that the discussion should be taken on Monday. If the House should then agree to take this first legitimate occasion which had presented itself to fulfil the intentions, and maintain the engagements between the Parliament and the people with respect to the income tax, then the other proposals of the right hon. Gentleman would not have much prospect of being carried into effect. However the House might approve of the doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman, which was to keep a large surplus, in order to maintain public credit, and to diminish the public debt, it would not, he thought, feel very willing to adopt his plan, which was to take away all the means of carrying out his doctrine. He told the House that the right way to maintain the honour and interests of the country was to keep a large surplus, and then, after a cloud of such fine sentiments, quietly managed to have no surplus, no means of defraying any part of the national debt; and made no attempt to show that there would be at any future time, if the House did not avail itself of the present, any opportunity of making a beginning of the end of the income tax.
§ LORD R. GROSVENOR
said, he had never joined some hon. Gentlemen with whom he usually acted in their opposition to the Income Tax. He had always considered it desirable that there should be more of direct taxation than there had formerly been. In the course of the debates on the Income Tax, he had declared the principles on which he supported its imposition; and he would now again state that nothing would give him greater satisfaction than to see that tax permanently imposed on the country; provided it were fairly assessed. When his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was assailed from so many quarters, he (Lord R. Grosvenor) told him that he thought his Budget was a perfectly honest and practical one, not framed so as to catch popularity, but based on principles which the House had sanctioned. He considered the feeling of the right hon. Gentleman to be that of relieving industry and taking off taxes which rendered articles of prime necessity dearer to the people; and in order to carry out that policy, it was absolutely necessary that direct taxation should be maintained. He confessed he had never been more astonished than he 1072 was at the outburst of indignation which came from the metropolis when his right hon. Friend proposed to take off the window tax, and impose a house tax. His answer to objectors was uniformly this—that he should be very happy to put into his own pocket the amount which he paid for income tax; but that so long as the poor man's tea, coffee, tobacco, and newspapers were so highly taxed, he could not do so conscientiously. He did hope that, now that the effervescence had subsided, his constituents would come to their senses; and he also hoped that his hon. Friends the metropolitan Members would come to theirs. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had that night proposed what appeared to him (Lord R. Grosvenor) a very proper substitute for the window tax. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that 150l. per annum was not a large sum for a man with 5,000l. a-year to pay for the enjoyment of that fortune in peace and security. He quite concurred in that view; and he could not forget that the working classes did not pay one farthing towards the income tax. It was, too, quite remarkable that, since the imposition of this tax, political agitation had, with the single exception of the year 1848, when there were peculiar causes of agitation, been almost extinct in the manufacturing districts, where it had previouly worked so much injury. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had called upon the House to join him in withstanding any attempt to reduce the taxes on articles of small consumption. He must say that that was tantamount to saying that small amounts of taxation, however unjust, ought to be retained for the sake of reducing taxation which produced larger sums. Now the principle of that, he (Lord R. Grosvenor) did not understand. He must say that nothing could be more unjust than to select one single profession for the purpose of levying from it 200,000l, a year. So strongly did he feel on that point, that he had pressed his right hon. Friend to include the tax in his scheme of remission; and he begged to give notice, that on the earliest day on which, he could obtain an opportunity of doing so, he should move the repeal of the tax on attornies' certificates.
§ MR. HUME
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had complained that he (Mr. Hume) had proposed something that would endanger the public credit, but he sat down without 1073 making any further allusion to the subject. The right hon. Gentleman proposed to pay off the funded debt at the rate of a million a year, and what he (Mr. Hume) had said, was, that he objected to that proposition while taxes so obnoxious were levied by the Excise, and were pressing on the industrious classes. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that he had a surplus of 1,800,000l., and that he would reserve 900,000l. in hand to meet the expenses of the Kaffir war; and he (Mr. Hume) wished, before making any further observation, to ascertain from the right hon. Gentleman what portion of the surplus he meant to apply to the reduction of the national debt, as the nature of his observations must depend on what the right hon. Gentleman stated.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
was surprised, that of all persons the hon. Member should not know what was the uniform operation under the Act of Parliament for the purpose of paying off the national debt. Surely the hon. Gentleman must know that one-fourth of the surplus was the only part of it annually applied for paying off the national debt.
§ MR. HUME
declared that it was on that ground he wanted to exhaust the surplus by the reduction of taxation. It was because the Act of Parliament directed that the surplus should be so appropriated that he desired to have no surplus while there were taxes unrepealed that press heavily upon the people. The right hon. Gentleman said he would continue the tax upon property for the purpose of affording relief to the working classes; but would, paying off one million a year of the capital of the debt relieve the poor man? [An Hon. MEMBER: Yes, there would be less interest to pay.] He wished to know in what way? The reduction of the interest would come round very seldom, and if the soap tax were removed, would it not confer more benefit on the working classes than by paying off a million of the national debt? He thought they should take off the tax on paper and advertisements, and even on the stamps on newspapers, before they proposed to pay off the capital of the debt? The noble Lord who spoke last, seemed to be satisfied with the right hon. Gentleman's statement; but he (Mr. Hume) would call attention to the mode in which it was proposed that the house tax should be levied. Was it, he asked, fair that a heavier tax should be laid on old houses than on new and more valuable 1074 ones? He was sorry to see that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Herries) had gone away; that right hon. Gentleman might vent his indignation about the income tax, which he (Mr. Hume) was prepared to maintain with the view of reducing the other taxes that press upon the people, but he would not wish to maintain it for the purpose of keeping up expensive establishments. The paper which had been moved for by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Cardwell), and delivered on the preceding day, afforded a proof of the truth of his assertion with respect to the expense I of their establishments. There was a deficiency for six years, beginning in 1837, and continuing until 1842, and the deficiency arose from the increase of their establishments. The Army was raised from 11,000,000l., and 12,000,000l. to 16,000,000l. and 17,000,000l., and the Miscellaneous Estimates were raised from 2,000,000l. or 2,250,000l. to 3,000,000l. or 4,000,000l. He was sorry that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Herries), who seemed to be so indignant with the income tax, did not assist them in reducing the expense of the public establishments. The Gentlemen opposite remained away when the estimates were proposed, and therefore the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was warranted in saying, that having done so, they now bad no right to complain; but the Members near him (Mr. Hume) objected to the estimates, and they had a right to complain. The estimates were 4,000,000l. more than would be required if the Gentlemen on the other side, who belonged to I what was called the distressed interest, supported the reduction of those establishments. Then they could get rid of the income tax altogether, for the revenue without it would be fully capable of paying every farthing of the expense of the legitimate establishments which for ten years were adequate for the purposes of the country: 5,000,000l. of taxes had been repealed on most important articles, and to have a margin for doing it, the late Sir Robert Peel asked them to pass the income tax; but he did not propose that it should be a permanent tax. The objections to the income tax arose mostly from the offensive manner in which it was collected. The House would recollect that the late Member for Oldham had been charged income tax on 15,000l.; he showed his books, and proved that he had lost 10,000l.; but the Commissioners com- 1075 pelled him to pay. Application was made to the Government, but the answer was, that they had no power over the Commissioners. A similar result had followed the complaints made against similar exactions in the Tower Hamlets. No taxes ought to be levied off Her Majesty's subjects which were not under the control of the Ministers; and of the many arguments against the income tax not the least serious was that the Ministers, when once it was agreed to by that House, seemed to have no control in its mode of collection. He was not opposed, however, to the principle of the income tax, and he could easily understand that such an impost might be necessitated by the circumstances of the country. However, he (Mr. Hume) would pay 7 per cent on income rather than see the duties on malt, soap, paper, and all those taxes continued. He wanted, also, to enable the poor people out of employment to advertise for situations without paying a duty for doing so, and that they should be placed in the same position in that respect as the people of America, where one newspaper contained 1,000 advertisements, put in free of duty. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said he would promote every object that would carry out their sanitary regulations: but was there not also the ignorance of the country to be combated with? Should they not remove so objectionable a tax as the duty on paper, rather than pay off 1,000,000l. of the public debt? They were complaining of their criminals, but they were adopting no radical means to prevent vice or crime. He would tell them that instruction and education were the best means to sap the foundations of crime, and to remove the misery that frequently leads to crime. He would ask the Gentlemen opposite on Monday to support him in his exertions to put down unnecessary expenditure, and remove the taxes that pressed so heavily as some taxes now do upon the community. The hon. Gentlemen would have time, before Monday, to consider whether they would take that course which would give the greatest possible relief to the great mass of the people.
§ MR. TRELAWNY
was of opinion that they should endeavour, if possible, to apply 2,000,000l. annually to the reduction of the national debt. He had no doubt some persons would think that was a Quixotical proposal; but he believed it to be the truest mode of reducing the pressure of taxation upon the people. There 1076 were applications from different quarters to reduce the taxes that fell upon particular individuals, such as the window tax, or the tax on attorneys for example; but what he (Mr. Trelawny) desired was, that the reduction should spread itself over as large a circle as possible, for if they reduced the taxation on the people generally, it would benefit them more effectually than any other process. The working classes were ultimately obliged to bear the burden of taxation in whatever way it was laid on: for instance, when they taxed the rich in a large per centage on their capital, it was absurd to say the poor did not pay the tax, for the tax diminished the wages fund, and the wages of the working classes were consequently reduced. The right hon. Member for Stamford (Mr. Herries) had let the cat out of the bag, and had disclosed an intention of reimposing a duty on foreign corn. But he could promise the right hon. Gentleman, that by doing this, he and his party would incur as much unpopularity as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had by showing an intention of perpetuating the income tax. What he (Mr. Trelawny) would urge upon the House was, that they should endeavour to reduce the debt in the manner he had already proposed. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn) was Chancellor of the Exchequer, he had cleared off about 60,000,000l. of capital of taxation by reducing the annual charge on the debt to the extent of 1,500,000l. He effected that object by getting persons to take a smaller per centage than they had previously received; and the consequence was, that if the country required money for a foreign war or for internal purposes, they could now borrow it on more easy terms. He thought they ought to maintain an honest and manly system of finance, and in the long run they would not suffer from it.
§ MR. H. BAILLIE
said, he did not mean to enter into the general discussion, but to confine himself to the proposal for the renewal of the income tax. He had heard with regret that it was not the intention of the Government to make any reduction or modification of that tax, but that it was to be reimposed with all the original objections. He had been somewhat surprised to hear some of the arguments by which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer sought to recommend the measure to the House. The right hon.
1077 Gentleman stated that he had been originally adverse to the tax, but had seen reason to alter his opinion, in consequence of its having enabled him to effect largo reductions in import duties. He said he had been enabled to reduce the import duties, and to substitute indirect in place of direct taxation; and he then called upon the House to support the income tax, on the ground that it was his intention to follow in the footsteps of the late Sir Robert Peel. Now, he (Mr. Baillie) must protest against the supposition that Sir Robert Peel had recommended the income tax to the House on such terms as these. Sir Robert Peel, when he first proposed it, proposed it upon the ground that there was a great deficit in the Exchequer; that there had been in several preceding years an annual deficit in the Exchequer; that it amounted to a very largo sum of money, and, therefore, he called upon the House to sustain the public credit. He then proposed the income tax for a limited period, because, as he believed, the resources of the country would not require it to be imposed for a longer period than three years. This was the general ground on which he proposed it in 1843. But, what did he propose as the grounds for its renewal in 1845? He then said—I do not wish to say one word in favour of the continuation of this tax beyond the three years. I do not think the House will agree that the income and property tax as now imposed ought to be permanent.—[3 Hansard, lxxvii. 495.]Well, then, what was the statement of Sir Robert Peel in 1848 when the right hon. Baronet (Sir C. Wood) proposed its renewal again? He then said that—One of his reasons for asking the House to consent to a continuance of the income tax for three years longer was, that last year, in a time of peace, they had been obliged to add 10,000,000l. to the debt, and that on that very account increased efforts ought to be made to meet the expenditure of the country."—[3 Hansard, xcvii. 295.]Now, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer asked the House to renew the income tax in order that he might be enabled to remove import duties; but, if that were so, the House would be very much inclined to perceive that the income tax was likely to remain a permanent burden on the people; and, if it was to be a permanent burden, then it would be for hon. Members to consider whether there ought not to be some modification of the great injustice which the tax undoubtedly worked. They would all be disposed to admit that the tax 1078 acted most unjustly with reference to professional income—men whose income depended on their exertions and oven on their health. No one would be prepared to dispute that some modification of it might be adopted by means of a graduated scale which might embrace that class of persons. But now he (Mr. Baillie) would call attention to the unjust operations of the tax on the owners and occupiers of land. He should like to know why the owners and occupiers of land should be deprived of the privileges enjoyed by other classes of the community, such as bankers and merchants—he meant the privilege of returning annually the net produce of their receipts, and paying on that net produce? Now these owners and occupiers were compelled to pay on their nominal income, which was very different from their net income, after they had paid all expenses. On what ground, then, was it, if we were to have this as a permanent tax, that the landed proprietor should not be allowed to pay on the net produce of his income? Farmers, again, were taxed upon their supposed profits. But, now, he wished to bring a particular case under the notice of the House, in order to exemplify the injustice of the tax. It was a case which had been brought under his own particular observation, because the gentleman was one of his own constituents, and he believed it had been brought under the notice of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the shape of a memorial to the Lords of the Treasury. The gentleman owned a very large estate on the west coast of Scotland—an estate on which he had been paying the income tax on a rental of not less than 5,000l. or 6,000l. a year. He stated that for the last four years he had not received one sixpence of income from that estate, but that, in addition to the entire rental being absorbed, he had advanced 1,000l. a year from his own private resources. This was an injustice which surely might be remedied; but what was the answer of the Lords of the Treasury to this gentleman's memorial? They stated that it was a case of great hardship, but that the law was imperative, and they could give no redress. He sincerely trusted that the House would enter fully into the question of whether the tax was to be permanent or not. He was not objecting now to its being made permanent, or even to its increase, but he was advocating the necessity of its being fully and properly adjusted.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, the people of England were now anxiously expecting that some change, in accordance with the expressed feelings of the inhabitants of the large towns, would be made in the amended Budget; but he believed that great surprise would be felt at finding that no change had been made. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had boasted that he was now placing the house tax on a rational footing; and, no doubt, if the principle of a house tax were admitted, the right hon. Gentleman had placed it on such a footing; but he (Mr. Williams) contended that there was no necessity for the imposition of any house tax at all, and therefore he should give the proposal the most decided opposition in every stage of its progress. A most extraordinary error had been made in the right hon. Gentleman's calculations, for he had assumed that the falling off in the revenue would equal the amount made in the reduction of taxation. This principle was entirely erroneous, as would be seen on reference to the past. In five years, from 1822 to 1826, 13,500,000l. of taxes had been taken off. The falling off of revenue during the same period had amounted to 4,700,000l.—showing that the falling off of revenue was only about one-third of the amount of taxes reduced. In eleven years, from 1830 to 1840 inclusive, 8,600,000l. of taxes had been taken off, and the falling off in revenue during that period was something over 2,700,000l. He now came to an extraordinary period. The House would remember that the reductions made by the late Sir Robert Peel commenced in 1842; and from that time until 1850, a period of nine years, a reduction of taxation had been effected to the extent of 5,128,000l.: and hon. Members would be surprised to find that last year's taxes were 4,700,000l. more than they had been in 1841. Now the reductions in 1848, 1849, and 1850, amounted to 2,284,000l., and yet the increase of the revenue for the present year, according to the estimate of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, would be 500,000l. over that of 1847. Still, in the face of this, the right hon. Gentleman had laid down the principle that the revenue was likely to fall off to the extent of the reduced taxation, whereas he (Mr. Williams) contended, as he had before, that this was utterly erroneous, and that, viewing it in the light of a mercantile transaction, there was no necessity whatever for the imposi- 1080 tion of a house tax. The right hon. Gentleman had laid great stress on the great falling off which had taken place in the revenue previous to the imposition of the income tax. But how did that arise? The commencement of it was in 1839, and it continued during 1840, 1841, and 1842, and in those four years the expenditure exceeded the revenue by 9,200,000l.; but if the limited expenditure of 1833, 1834, 1835, and 1836 had not been augmented in the subsequent years, the income tax would have been wholly unnecessary. He had been quite surprised to hear the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord R. Grosvenor) delivering a lecture to the metropolitan Members, and saying that "they had been out of their senses." Now the difference between the senses of the noble Lord and the senses of the metropolitan Members was this—that if the Gentlemen on the Treasury benches were in their senses, the noble Lord was in his senses—but that the metropolitan Members were uninfluenced by no considerations arising from the senses of the Treasury benches, but were solely guided in their conduct by what they considered the interests of their constituents. He would not occupy the attention of the House at present with any observations on the proposed continuance of the income tax, particularly as the debate on that subject would take place on Monday; but he would content himself with repeating that, believing the house tax to be unnecessary, and that the revenue would not fall off to the extent the Chancellor of the Exchequer anticipated, he would give to the imposition of that tax his most decided opposition.
§ LORD R. GROSVENOR
hoped that after the extraordinary charge which had just been made against him, the House would permit him to say a word in explanation. He appealed to hon. Members whether the charge was not utterly destitute of foundation. The hon. Member for Lambeth accused him of having said that the metropolitan Members were "out of their senses." Now, what he (Lord R. Grosvenor really did say was this: he expressed a hope that the metropolitan Members "would come to their senses." In order to vindicate himself, the hon. Member for Lambeth had said that he (Lord R. Grosvenor) was so thoroughly tied hand and foot to the present Ministry, that if they were in their senses, he was in his senses. Now, he did not feel it necessary 1081 to say more in reply to such an accusation, than this—that those who had returned him to that House would not return any man who would sacrifice his independence in the manner here alleged. He had sat there for many years, and never until that moment had such a charge been brought against him. He had sometimes differed with the Gentlemen on the Treasury benches, and then he had taken an independent course, which had been deemed deserving the approbation of the 14,000 electors who had returned him to that House.
said, he would not occupy much of the attention of the Committee, as many occasions would be afforded hereafter for the discussion of the Budget; and it gave him extreme gratification that he might now be very brief in his remarks. In 1845 he first brought the question of the window tax under the notice of the House of Commons. Since then he had delivered many speeches on the subject; and he had generally been met by the several Chancellors of the Exchequer with anything but a satisfactory reply. On the present occasion, however, it gave him much satisfaction to hear, in far more eloquent terms than he could use, and that from his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a detail of the deep injuries the window tax inflicted on the working classes of this country. The noble Lord the Member for Middlesex had expressed his surprise at the burst of indignation with which the previous Budget had been met. He (Viscount Duncan) had joined in the burst of indignation, but he could not now concur with those who regarded this second proposition as exactly similar to the former one. On the contrary, the two propositions were very distinct, differing totally from one another; and, therefore, it was very possible that different opinions of both would be entertained by the country. He believed the Committee would agree with him in thinking that the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex was influenced by a sense of public duty; at all events, he (Viscount Duncan) recollected with pleesure the several occasions on which he had received from that noble Lord the most disinterested support. With regard to the propositions in the first Budget, it would be recollected that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had endeavoured to retain two-thirds of the window tax on the old houses, and that the new houses were to be treated in a very different man- 1082 ner. That appeared a most unjustifiable principle, and one that could not be defended. Another objection to the original proposal was this, that the number of windows in houses could only be ascertained by another assessment throughout the kingdom, and then, he believed, it would be found that houses had a far larger number of windows than was supposed, thus raising the amount of the tax upon the individual occupiers. There was another objection—namely, that 30,000 houses which were now exempt from taxation would be included in the original plan. Now, with respect to the present plan, which certainly seemed to prove the truth of the old adage, that "second thoughts are best," it involved the total abandonment of the window tax. In the second place, relief was to be extended to the amount of 500,000l. a year more than the original plan contemplated; and, in the third, 90,000 houses would be relieved altogether by the present plan. Now, without expressing any decided opinion on the point at present, he must say that at the first blush of the matter he thought the second a very great improvement on the previous plan, and also that the public were very much indebted to those metropolitan Members who had come in for some censure for the active conduct they had displayed during the recent agitation of the subject. He concurred in the principle which had been laid down, that hon. Members ought to do that which was likely to prove most beneficial to the great mass of working and labouring population of this country; and without pledging himself to support this second plan, he would content himself with saying that he considered it far preferable to the former one.
§ SIR B. HALL,
as one of the metropolitan Members who had lately been "out of their senses," begged to remind his noble Friend that he might rather have said it was the Chancellor of the Exchequer who had been out of his mind, for the metropolitan Members had not changed theirs. He recollected a remarkable speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, when out of office, with reference to the income tax; and there was a general impression, when that right hon. Gentleman took office, that it was almost a guarantee that there would be a different arrangement with regard to that tax. Before saying anything upon the window tax, he must allude to what 1083 had fallen from the Chancellor of the Exchequer relative to a certain meeting or meetings that had taken place in the metropolis. The right hon. Gentleman expressed himself as surprised that any persons at that meeting should have been, as he said, favourable to a breach of good faith with the public creditor. He did not know to what particular meeting the right hon. Gentleman referred. There had been a number of meetings in the metropolis, but he knew of no individuals who at any of them had expressed a desire for a breach of good faith. What was contended for was, that by means of economy and a proper administration of the affairs of the country, a sufficient amount might be saved to enable them to repeal the income tax. The right hon. Gentleman had also referred to the statements made to him by various deputations on the subject of the window tax, to the effect that they advocated its repeal on the ground of sanitary reform. But those deputations merely took up the question of sanitary reform because that was the position which had been taken up by Gentlemen who were now Members of the Government—many of the Whigs when out of office having contended on sanitary grounds that the window tax should be repealed. With regard to the scheme of a house tax proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, he maintained that, so long as there was a possibility of reducing the public expenditure, no such tax ought to be imposed; and he was resolved to take the sense of the House on that question when the proper time came for doing so. The sum that would be derived from the imposition of this tax was 700,000l., and he thought a reduction to that amount might easily be made in the expenditure of the country so as to render the tax unnecessary.
§ MR. SPOONER
wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he meant that tenant farmers were to continue to pay the income tax on an assumed rate of profit, though they might be farming at a loss?—whether he meant to make any modifications so far as life interests and professional incomes were concerned?—and for what period he intended to impose the tax?
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER,
in reply, said, that the proposal of Government was to renew the income tax for the same term for which it had hitherto been renewed, viz., for three years. With 1084 regard to the details of the schedule, he thought the hon. Gentleman would see that it was better to reserve the discussion on these points. There had been numerous objections offered that evening, to Schedules A, B, and D; and to unravel the complicated web would obviously be very inconvenient on the present occasion. He was prepared to go fairly into the fullest discussion of all these matters; but the Committee, he hoped, would perceive that it was not expedient to enter on such a debate at present.
§ MR. HENLEY
considered that the extraordinary statements made that evening by the Chancellor of the Exchequer were of a tendency most destructive to public credit. The right hon. Gentleman started with a theory that it was indispensable, for the preservation of public credit, that in all financial arrangements, a large margin should always be left available at the disposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but the right hon. Gentleman had totally failed, in his present proposals, in carrying that theory into practice. The right hon. Gentleman, oppressed with the "Stand and deliver" agitations of the hon. Gentlemen behind him, devoted the greater proportion of his surplus to the removal of existing taxes, and what was left, he hinted, would only be sufficient for contingent demands upon him; for instance, for the Kaffir war, which the last time cost this country 1,100,000l. Now this, as he (Mr. Henley) understood, was leaving to the Chancellor of the Exchequer no margin at all; and he therefore did not see in what manner, consistent with his own theory, the right hon. Gentleman intended to maintain public credit. The right hon. Gentleman had been guilty, he thought, of some clap-traps in referring to those who were called by the hon. Member for Finsbury "the people." The right hon. Gentleman had proposed in effect two schemes of direct taxation—the one being a house tax, and the other an income tax. The calculation was that of 3,500,000 houses, 3,100,000 houses would totally escape the tax now proposed to be imposed; and the right hon. Gentleman, in referring to the income tax, entered into an estimate which suggested that that tax would operate only in a similar ratio upon the country. Now he (Mr. Henley) regarded these proposals as completely subversive of public credit. These proposals were neither more nor less than to relieve from taxation the great majority of the community. It was 1085 not likely that if they legislated in this manner, they could rely upon a revenue, The right hon. Gentleman had said a good deal as to the popular impatience of taxation; but his present scheme was likely to alarm every one of those classes interested in the due preservation of the public credit. He had to express his astonishment at the information communicated to the Committee by the right hon. Gentlemen, in respect to the extraordinary claim of 400,000l. by the East India Company, considering so long a period had elapsed since the termination of the war with China, He hoped that some satisfactory explanation would be given of a claim preferred so long after the occurrence of the circumstances in which it was stated to have arisen.
§ MR. MACGREGOR
had heard several extraordinary statements from both sides of the House; but the statements and inferences of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down appeared to him by far the most extraordinary. As he (Mr. Macgregor) viewed the question now before the Committee, he considered that there were two proposals—first, that they should go back to protection; secondly, that they should go forward with that system of policy which had been so ably expounded that evening by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He, for one, must confess that he had been delighted to hear the speech and the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, and was fully prepared to support the policy of the Government. He could not conceive on what tenable grounds the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Henley) could suggest any risk to the public credit in consequence of the present proposals of the Government. It was true that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would leave himself in possession of only a small surplus; but he (Mr. Macgregor) believed that that surplus would be rapidly augmented; and he did trust that it would be still further increased by large reductions in the various branches of expenditure. He was glad the right hon. Gentleman had resolved upon continuing the income tax; but, at the same time, he hoped that it would not be renewed without many and extensive modifications, He was glad also that a sounder principle had been adopted with regard to a house tax. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Henley) had contended that the financial policy of the right hon. Gentleman, relieved to too great an extent large classes of the community from the house 1086 tax and the window tax. But he (Mr. Macgregor) would maintain that that relief was only equitable; and that those classes who now sought to be exempted from the taxes referred to, contributed, in reality, in too great a proportion to the general revenue. For instance, a mason, a carpenter, or other artisan, earning on an aver ago 5s. a day, paid, in the shape of taxes on the articles which he consumed, to the amount of 10½ per cent on his income. With regard to the coffee duties, he thought that the reductions proposed to be made, were still not large enough to prevent the evil of adulteration. But he admitted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been in a difficulty, and that, looking to the results upon the revenue, it would have been impossible for the right hon. Gentleman to have made any further reductions. On the whole, while he reserved his opinions on the details, which he considered demanded revision, he deemed the statement of the right hon. Gentleman as most satisfactory. The Budget presented on the former occasion, had, he thought, been greatly misunderstood by both sides of the House and by the country, and he trusted that on this occasion justice would be done to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. ALDERMAN SIDNEY
did not quite understand the arrangement proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in respect to the house tax, as it would affect shops. He should like to know if the advantages conferred on houses in connexion with shops would be extended to warehouses and manufactories? He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman whether he really was prepared to continue in its present state a tax inflicting such great injustice upon a largo class of Her Majesty's subjects as the shopkeepers, and he would ask why those who had not paid the window tax were now to be called upon to pay this new tax. For the house he occupied he paid at present 21l. 17s. for window duty; and by the tax proposed to be instituted by the right hon. Gentleman he should be relieved to the amount of nearly 19l. per annum. A shop in London in any of the main streets was rated at about 350l. per annum, 300l. of which fell upon the business premises, and the remaining 50l. as the household rent of the party carrying on the business. The shopkeeper would now be called to pay upon the 300l. per annum, which he had not previously paid on. Why did the Chancellor of the Exchequer select the 1087 shopkeeper out of all the other classes of the community, and lay upon him a rating for his business premises of 6d. in the pound? He was willing to admit that the right hon. Gentleman had made an improvement upon his former proposition—but he would certainly not pacify by his present scheme the agitation which prevailed out of doors on this subject. As to the coffee duties, he could tell the right hon. Gentleman that there were great objections to his plan, and that the whole trade would be averse to it. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman whether it was just that the coffee trade should be thrown into the unpleasant position they now stood with the public by evasion of the law respecting chicory, which nothing could justify. The Government with which the right hon. Gentleman was connected, partially repealed in 1840 an Act of George III., which prohibited the sale of articles resembling coffee—they repealed it by issuing a Treasury order, authorising the dealers not only to keep articles resembling coffee, but allowing them to mix these articles—chicory for instance, with the coffee. The Government ought now to consider whether that most impolitic order should not be immediately withdrawn. With respect to the income tax, he should offer to its continuance in its present most unequal and unjust imposition the mo5t uncompromising opposition. In stating his objections to it, he spoke the sentiments of a large mass of the community. He felt greatly surprised that a Government, numbering among its Members the noble Lord opposite, and the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, after their recorded opinions of the manifest injustice and impolicy of this tax—should now, in the year 1851, come down to the House and ask the representatives of the people to perpetuate this tax, which they had themselves condemned in the strongest possible terms. He would read a short extract from a speech delivered by the noble Lord in 1845: the noble Lord said—This has always been considered essentially a war tax, and imposition is not justified by any circumstances short of those of peculiar danger in our foreign affairs.The right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated in 1842, that his strong and confirmed impression of the injustice and inequality of the tax was undiminished. The right hon. Gentlemen had declared on that occasion that his opinions on the subject were entirely unaltered, and 1088 he concluded by quoting three sentences from a speech by Mr. Fox, in 1798, when that statesman said—It seems that the State requires great sacrifices. I grant it. But I ask if the necessity be such as to require this great injustice?It was on the same ground that he (Mr. Alderman Sidney) based his objection to the income tax. If it were proposed to renew it on fair principles, he should cordially support it; but if the income tax of 1851 was to be proposed with all its glaring inequalities and injustice—if that tax grinding down and compelling those who toiled for their daily bread to pay as much as the richest in the land—then he would oppose it to the last. He would refer to the hardship of the case of a particular set of men—corn-meters—under the pressure of the income tax. The bulk of these men did not earn the half of 150l. a year, and yet sevenpence in the pound was extorted from their hard earnings by this iniquitous income tax—observe in the same proportion as the wealthiest landed proprietors. At the same time he believed that the trading community of England—but for the tyrannous and inquisitorial nature of the tax—had no objection to the principle, if justly levied. But they did most determinedly object that a tax which now appeared likely to be permanent, should be again reimposed in the same unjust manner. The late Sir Robert Peel, in 1842, said that he allowed the inequalities, and would enter into no consideration of them, simply on the ground that the tax was only to be only of a temporary character; but now in 1851 the Government coolly proposed that it was to be imposed for three years more with all its inequalities and all its injustice. He fully agreed with the right hon. Member for Stamford (Mr. Herries), that if the income tax was imposed with its present inequalities, the Legislature would be imposing, not only upon the present generation, but upon posterity, a tax universally acknowledged to be at once impolitic and unjust.
Mr. Bernal, as many Gentlemen will be desirous of speaking on the Budget on Monday, I avail myself of the opportunity of saying a few words on the subject now; but first let me put the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Henley) right, as to the surplus of the year. From the window duty it is 568,000l., and from other sources 350,000l together about 900,000l., quite little enough to meet possible contingencies. The hon. Member 1089 for Inverness (Mr. Baillie) states, that it is hard the landed proprietors should have income tax to pay on the full amount of their rents, notwithstanding that there are always heavy deductions from some cause or other. This is very true; but he must recollect that house property is in the same position: there are constant expenses attending it, and about every seven years heavy repairs are required to keep the houses in tenantable order, and the income tax is paid on the full amount of the rent. Now, with respect to the Budget, I consider it due to the shipowners, that the duty on timber, and every other disadvantage under which they labour, should be removed, as far as the revenue will admit. We have removed the Navigation Laws, and they now have to compete with all the world; we should, therefore, place them as far as possible in a position to meet that competition. The removal of the duty on coffee is a boon to the consumers, but more particularly to the labouring population, to whom this country owes much of its greatness and prosperity: that part of our population should never be lost sight of, for it is entitled to our warmest sympathies and consideration. The total removal of the window tax is most desirable; it will enable the inmates of houses to enjoy the blessings of light and air, and prevent the architectural appearance of houses from being injured, by the blocking up of windows. As the revenue cannot do without it, the substitute of a house duty in lieu of the window tax, is, as now adjusted, most equitable and fair. Those who receive little, will only be called upon to pay little; and those who receive more, will have to pay more. With respect to the property tax, there is a strong feeling throughout the country, that it may be more equitably adjusted; be that as it may, on this there is a considerable difference of opinion, but we shall hear it more fully discussed on Monday; but admitting, for argument's sake, that it is unjust in its arrangement, I nevertheless, for one, will take it as it is, rather than weaken the Government. I do not think we have, on this side the House, given Ministers that support which the exigency of the case required, or which they deserve. They have unquestionably been progressive in the right direction, which we deem of great importance to the prosperity and safety of the country. I am sorry to find that the right hon. Member for Stamford (Mr. Herries) means to bring forward a proposition which will, if carried, 1090 be a complete check to further progress, and which I view as an attempt preparatory to a retrograde movement in our commercial policy to the times of feudal ignorance. I do not wish to use the word offensively, but it is the first which presented itself to my mind. A noble Lord in another place has with great candour honestly avowed that, if he were in power, he would see no objection to impose an import duty on corn. I should regret the adoption of such a course; it would create an excitement in the country which, I fear, many of us would have too much reason to deplore. I therefore trust that honest free-traders will cordially unite in keeping in power the present Administration, and prevent the forcing upon us of a Protectionist Government. I am sorry that I do not see my I hon. Friend the Member for Dublin (Mr. Reynolds) in his place, who the other evening, in the heat of debate, avowed his determination to oppose all measures of the present Administration unless a Bill, then under discussion, and to which he was opposed, was withdrawn; but I am sure that on reconsideration he will not be disposed to pursue any such course, and will give his cordial and hearty support to any and every good measure, whether brought forward by the Conservative or Liberal side of the House. I cannot persuade myself that he will pursue any other course than that which he thinks best for the benefit of the country. It is most desirable that during our transition state from monopoly to freedom, that we should have no change of Government; for, although rents in some cases may fall, yet as most other things will be bought cheaper, landlords will find that their money produces for them as many of the luxuries and necessaries of life as it did before; and I think they will not find themselves in a worse condition, whilst the nation will be in a much better one; and, after this, we shall be better able to discuss other matters coolly and temperately. By a little more tact on the part of Government, they might have turned the late majority against them in their favour on the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Bath, about the Woods and Forests. All that some of us wanted was the annual accounts, and, to my surprise, they were on the table, which I, for one, was not aware of. Unfortunately, no civilised country can do without taxes; but I believe they are as light here, with our means of paying them, as in any country in Europe. It is neverthe- 1091 less our duty to press the Government to economise and reduce them as far as possible. We must support our Army and our Navy—we must furnish the means for the administration of justice, the general expenses of Government, and to pay the interest of the national debt. This last item is a heavy one; but it is a price we must pay for defending us from being a colony of France, and from European despotism; and we must not forget that the necessary means must be raised to satisfy the public creditors. I cannot believe that any man in this country would be willing to see us in the category of Spain, playing the part of the Russian blue roubles, of the assignats of France, or in the position of one or two of the American States, who do not meet their engagements. No Chancellor of the Exchequer can be a popular man for many years when there are applications for reductions of duty on malt, tea, tobacco, wine, hops, soap, knowledge, and many other things, amounting to 15,000,000l. or 16,000,000l., and with only 1,500,000l. to dispose of. Each party thinks his own claims for a reduction the strongest, and becomes dissatisfied if his views are not met. I consider that when all those claims are submitted to the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it is the duty of Government to select such for reduction as they may deem most burdensome to the country, and they must take the responsibility of that reduction. Before I sit down, I would again urge all honest free-traders to unite and not risk leaving the present Ministers in a minority by which they would force upon us a reactionary Administration, and undo what we have so long and justly contended for—the utmost commercial freedom which circumstances will admit.
§ SIR DE LACY EVANS
said, with respect to the duty on timber, the shipping interest was one of the most important in the country; and after the abolition of the navigation laws, he presumed that interest had very strong claims on the consideration of the Government. But he was not equally satisfied with regard to the house tax; and as he happened to have been engaged about sixteen years ago in repealing the former house tax, he should feel it difficult to vote for a renewal of that tax. But he must confess that the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was a very great improvement on that which preceded it; and so far he (Sir De L. Evans) could not help 1092 feeling a degree of satisfaction with respect to it. Whatever feelings might arise out of doors on this proposal, would be very much interfered with if any new branch of trade were brought under taxation which was not under taxation during the existence of the window duty. There were a great number of manufacturers, small and large, who had been hitherto exempted altogether from the window tax. He did not speak of dwelling-houses. There were a great many persons in this metropolis, and the large towns in the kingdom, who actually took large houses, not having any property in them whatever, for the sole purpose of letting lodgings. He did think that those persons—and they were a large class—had a fair claim to be put in the situation of shopkeepers, with reference to the proposed house duty. He entirely concurred with the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Alderman Sydney) as to the expediency of altering some of the provisions—more particularly the inquisitorial portion—of the income tax, though he (Sir De Lacy Evans) could not assent to the total repeal of it.
§ MR. STANFORD
said, he did not agree with the hon. Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Brown) that the House was not to judge of the merits or demerits of this new proposition propounded by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but that it deserved their support on the ground that it emanated from a Ministry of progress. He (Mr. Stanford) did not think that was a principle on which to conduct the business of the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had propounded his scheme, and it was for hon. Members to consider whether that scheme was for the benefit and tended to the welfare of the country, and not whether it was calculated to keep the Ministers in their places or not. He had listened with great attention to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the occasion of the first Budget, when it appeared to him that the right hon. Gentleman himself felt—if Ministers ever did feel, which was a physiological problem he would leave to others to determine—that he had committed, and it appeared to him that the right hon. Gentleman had committed, what the witty Talleyrand had called worse than a crime—namely, a blunder. What the essential difference was between the proposition now made by the right hon. Gentleman and that which he had brought forward on the 1093 previous occasion, he (Mr. Stanford) could by no effort discover. The question was, if the income tax was to be renewed for three years, whether it was to be renewed without modification, without amelioration in the unjust mode of raising it, and the inquisitorial proceedings connected with it. In its present form it was most unjust, and everybody knew that the proposal to renew it was a proposal for its perpetuity. He wished to know in what mode the right hon. Gentleman proposed to raise the tax on its renewal. Some of the hon. Gentlemen who sat opposite had taken what he thought was an unconstitutional course, and had declared that if the Government did not unconditionally repeal the window tax, and if they dared to impose another in its place, those hon. Gentlemen had distinctly pledged themselves to stop the supplies. The Government had taken this very course, and yet he (Mr. Stanford) had now heard—["No, no!"] He (Mr. Stanford) had heard the hon. Member for Marylebone (Sir B. Hall) express great approbation of the new Budget; the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Sir De L. Evans) had given a qualified approval of it; and he expected also to hear the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Wakley) give a similar opinion on the subject. He (Mr. Stanford) had attended a meeting where he had heard the hon. Member deliver a most eloquent speech, in which he had declared that a window tax was not to be submitted to; that they would not be satisfied with a mere repeal, but that it should be an unconditional repeal, without any substitution of a house tax. He (Mr. Stanford) thought the Committee had not taken a proper view of the proposition made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that night, for there was scarcely any difference between it and the former statement, only in the present one there was a little more common sense in the mode of levying the house tax. He (Mr. Stanford) asked if the country would consent to the income tax—a tax which, he maintained, was infinitely more unjust than the window tax? He had lived in several of the capitals of Europe, where no window tax existed; he had compared these with this metropolis, and he bad found that there were, comparatively speaking, twice as many windows in the houses of this metropolis as there were in any capital in Europe. He thought the country was better satisfied with the window tax than 1094 it would be with the proposed renewal of the income tax; as it had been levied, it was a tax which fell on the middle classes, and not on the poor. Where was there a poor man who paid window duty? Seven windows would give a poor man a very comfortable house, and seven windows were exempt, The great error of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was that he should have been led astray by the cry of the metropolitan agitators. Hon. Gentlemen had met together and said that if the window tax were not taken off, they would stop the supplies; and they had terrified and completely paralysed the right hon. Gentleman by their unconstitutional conduct. The right hon. Gentleman had been frightened into concession by the gentlemen who left their shops to their boys on the Saturdays, and repaired to the Marylebone vestry for the purpose of regulating the affairs of the nation. The right hon. Gentleman had not had the courage to resist these parochial agitators. Why, he (Mr. Stanford) asked, should they sacrifice such a large portion of revenue, and thus be obliged to resist any appeal for the modification of the income tax? He did not wish to give to the Government a factious opposition. He did not wish to see them put out of office unless there was the prospect of a strong Administration succeeding. He had always given an honest and conscientious vote, and would not vote against the Ministry j to forward any mere party purpose. He thought, however, that the income tax was the monster grievance of this country, and any surplus revenue would have been better applied to its modification. It was very unfair that the income from professions and trades should pay at the same rate as realised income, and that tenant farmers should be made to pay a tax when they had made no profits. This was now the second Budget they had had this year; and God knew if they would not have a third.
§ MR. WAKLEY
said, that with regard to the shopkeepers of Marylebone, he (Mr. Wakley) was very much dissatisfied with them already, and, therefore, did not require the aid of the hon. Member (Mr. Stanford) to make him more so. But if the hon. Gentleman was dissatisfied with the metropolitan shopkeepers, he (Mr. Wakley) could assure the hon. Member that he (Mr. Wakley) was very much dissatisfied with the shopkeepers of Reading. He begged, however, to ask if the hon. 1095 Gentleman thought it wrong for people to agitate for relief from their grievances?
§ MR. WAKLEY
thought it was quite clear that the Committee had before it an improved Budget, and the improvement was not owing to any agitation in the Marylebone vestry, but was to be attributed to the opposition which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had received from his own friends and his ordinary supporters. He (Mr. Wakley) therefore approved of agitation, and he considered that in this, as in many other instances, it had been highly conducive to the interests of the community. During the reverie in which he (Mr. Wakley) had been indulging, he had been doubtful as to whether the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer were really a good one; for it appeared there was something which had given mortal offence to Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House. What was this? Was it the Budget? No, it was not the Budget; but it was the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. It was the speech which he had delivered that night which had called forth so much anger and bitterness on the opposite side. In the Budget there was but little that was new, but that which was new was very good. The improvement which the right hon. Gentleman had made on his first proposition for a house tax was most decided. It was a highly beneficial alteration, and he (Mr. Wakley) had been delighted to hear of it. He knew not how it would be received out of doors, but he would state his views and opinions honestly to his constituents; and if they were satisfied, he hoped that hon. Gentlemen opposite would not feel called on to complain. He had wondered, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been making his speech, what it was that was coming which was so new, for it had been intimated that something very new had been introduced. As the right hon. Gentleman had advanced, it had been evident that his six weeks' incubation was to be productive of something good. The right hon. Gentleman had that night delivered a speech which he could assure the Government and the right hon. Gentleman would give very great satisfaction in the country. The sentiments which the right hon. Gentleman had spoken 1096 were precisely those which ought to be uttered—and much more frequently uttered—by the Members of a Government devoted to the principles of reform; and, instead of being alarmed at that speech, as the hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) had been, he felt highly pleased that such a speech should come from a Member of Her Majesty's Government. The hon. Member (Mr. Henley) had thought that such a speech was one which should not have been addressed to the people. Who were the people? Was the hon. Member himself not one of the people? He certainly was not an ourang-outang, or a baboon, or any animal not human. The hon. Gentleman was assuredly one of the people, and he was entirely mistaken if he believed the speech would create an alarm, and operate in any way prejudicial to the public credit of the country. The true way to sustain the public credit was to satisfy the mass of the people, and the sentiment of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to this effect would be received in the country with respect. The right hon. Gentleman had shown the Committee that in his late researches he had become fully convinced that the true policy of a Government was to legislate for the many, and not for the few—that the great interests of the millions must not be sacrificed, but that the units must make way for the progress of the masses. What was it the right hon. Gentleman had said that should create such alarm? The only parties who would be alarmed would be those who had to pay this house tax. He was most certain that all parties would be dissatisfied with the renewal of the income tax if it were imposed again without any change being made in the principle of levying it. The people, however, were devoted to the principle of direct taxation. They demanded a tax on property, and held that property ought to be taxed—and taxed severely—before the necessaries of life were taxed in the slightest degree. He thought he could gather, from the speech of the light hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that he was in favour of direct taxation, and in favour of the tax on property being heavy before industry was taxed at all. Under these circumstances, he (Mr. Wakley) must say that he was delighted to hear such sentiments from the present Government; and whoever might be in office, whether Gentlemen on that or on the opposition side sf the House, it was such sentiments that must prevail. He did not 1097 consider that hon. Gentlemen opposite would be liable to any reproach, even if they should adopt them. It was unwise to express opposition to such opinions, for they might rest assured that out of doors they had taken such deep root that they could not be removed, nor was it in their power by any process of legislation, or any species of trickery, humbug, or deceit, to get rid of them. Hon. Gentlemen knew not how soon it would be necessary for them to adopt the same sentiments. Probably they might find it very convenient at a very early period to commit themselves in opposition to these their present opinions. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would reconsider the subject of the property and income tax, for it was monstrous that the man with a vast amount of realised property should be charged at no higher rate than the man with the small and precarious income. He had often heard it said in that House that they could not have a graduated property tax; but had they not graduated scales of taxation on property? Let them look to the window tax, which it was proposed to repeal. Had they not various scales connected with it? Did it not rise until it got to the extent of the middle classes, and was it not lessened as applied to the large number of windows of the aristocracy? Then they had the stamp duties and the probate and legacy duties levied on a similar principle. With these examples before them, could they say that a graduated property tax could not be imposed? It could be done without difficulty. The will only was requisite, and the means were readily at hand. He gave the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer notice, that on the income tax being brought forward without modification, he would support the proposition that it should only be voted for one year.
§ MR. STANFORD
said, that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Wakley) had represented him as stating that the agitation of any subject was unconstitutional. He had not said this, but he had said that the course taken by the hon. Gentleman and other metropolitan Members, threatening to stop the supplies if the Ministry did not repeal a particular tax—that he had said was unconstitutional.
§ MR. T. BARING
had not intended to address the House, but after the speech of the hon. Member for Finsbury he could not congratulate the Government on having such a supporter. The hon. Member said 1098 he saw in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer this principle laid down as the basis of our financial policy, that the credit of the country was to be maintained by "satisfying the masses," and by relieving them from taxation. If that were so, however, what was the meaning of those grandiloquent phrases of the right hon. Gentleman as to the support of the national credit, and the necessity of a great surplus to support it? The right hon. Gentleman said he could not rest satisfied simply with equalising revenue and expenditure, but must have a considerable surplus to maintain the public credit. Yet the hon. Member for Finsbury saw in the right hon. Gentleman's speech a disposition to conciliate popular feeling; and in fact it was plain the real object of the right hon. Gentleman had been to make a great speech for public credit, and to do nothing for it. He had heard with great satisfaction that part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech in which he stated that it was necessary to have a surplus to support public credit; and he confessed his belief, that the honest, politic, and straightforward course for the Government to pursue would have been to have maintained the surplus they possessed, and not to have frittered it away in useless remissions of taxation. He should have been happy to support the Government in such a course as he had indicated; but when the right hon. Gentleman began his speech by saying that the real question before the House had become, whether Lord Stanley's plan, to relieve all classes from taxation by doing away with the income tax, or his (the Chancellor of the Exchequer's) system should be adopted to relieve the masses from taxation which pressed upon articles of consumption and necessaries—and when the right hon. Gentleman said the tax he proposed to repeal was the tax upon windows, he (Mr. Baring) could not understand the right hon. Gentleman's meaning. The right hon. Gentleman's policy was (he professed) to relieve the country from taxation on the consumption of articles of general use, and in pursuance of this policy he proposed to take off the tax upon windows, and putting it upon houses. Yet the right hon. Gentleman admitted that this was a tax which pressed only on a small proportion of the houses throughout the country; some 400,000 of them. And this was the "relief" he gave to the "masses" of the people! Why, it was the "relief" he con- 1099 ceded to the "pressure from without" of the metropolitan Members. It was too plain that the House was being led into class legislation, and that it was to the towns—those very towns which the right hon. Gentleman declared were most prosperous—it was to these towns relief was to be granted, while no relief was given to the only class allowed to be in a state of depression and distress. The right hon. Gentleman had in his first budget proposed to repeal the duty on cloverseed, and to relieve the counties from the support of pauper lunatics. But after the process of incubation in which the right hon. Gentleman had been recently engaged, the result was, that no relief was to be given to the owners or occupiers of land at all. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Finsbury said the country must rely on direct taxation. Now, he (Mr. Baring) was not one of those who had fears for the public credit, but he should very much fear if the fund holder and national creditor were to rely solely upon direct taxation. Both direct and indirect taxation might be continued, and so as not press on any great interest in the country; but if the principle were adopted of making everything dependent upon direct taxation, in any time of great distress and discontent the people would probably throw off the direct taxation, and leave the debt to the care of itself. He had heard with great pain that portion of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman which referred to his prospects and plans as to the surplus. The right hon. Gentleman had (a very extraordinary thing for a Chancellor of the Exchequer) to make excuses for having a surplus. He believed that, apart from the maintenance of the public credit, it was the right hon. Gentleman's duty to maintain a large surplus, to meet unforeseen circumstances, fie could not imagine any Chancellor of the Exchequer meeting the new year without having in his grasp the means of meeting any great unforeseen event calling for a temporary expenditure. It should always be recollected that it was not merely the national credit which had to be looked to; but that if the revenue were reduced so as merely to meet the expenditure, then, on the occurrence of hard times, the Government would be placed in this difficulty—either to allow a deficiency, or to borrow money or to impose taxation to make it up, although the country would be already in a state of distress. Let the surplus, then, be kept until a time of adversity, and then, 1100 although there might be no surplus, there need be no addition to the taxation of the country. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, however, felt that it was necessary, while speaking his real and sincere opinions as to the support of the national credit, also to conciliate hon. Members opposite, by making every sacrifice of public revenue. Unfortunately it was only a strong Government which could afford to be honest; and the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, weak from their very position, formed so weak a Government that they were obliged to yield what otherwise they would never concede. This was their misfortune; and thus it was that they sacrificed the interests of the country to the "pressure from without." They placed the country in this position, that if there were any unexpected misfortune, any check to the national prosperity, or war, or any bill of the East India Company's (and Heaven only knew how many unpaid bills might yet be discovered), then the Government would only have this alternative—to borrow money, or to tax a distressed people.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Sir, the hon. Member for Huntingdon, who has just resumed his seat, has expressed a great deal of indignation at the course pursued by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Sir, that course was this. My right hon. Friend stated that he wished to maintain public credit, and that it was desirable not only to have that revenue which was required for the expenditure of the year, but also to have sufficient in case of any contingency or demand that did not belong to the year, and could not be foreseen—sufficient to meet these contingencies without incurring fresh debts or imposing new taxation. So far the principles stated by my right hon. Friend entirely agree with those of the hon. Member. But then what did my right hon. Friend propose? In the present year there will be sufficient to meet these demands; for he is expected to have a surplus of 900,000l. to answer them; and what he calculates will remain till next year, supposing no alteration to take place in the revenue or expenditure, would be a surplus of 350,000l. Now let it be recollected that in making alterations in reduction of taxation in such duties as the timber duties and the coffee duties, we have found by experience which cannot be controverted, that, although you may lose in the first year with respect to the 1101 revenue, you will not lose longer, and that in subsequent years you may expect a large increase of revenue. Besides, you have the prospect of further reductions in expenditure; so that, with a certainty of 350,000l. next year, the Chancellor of the Exchequer may expect a very much larger surplus than he has cautiously and carefully estimated. And this has excited the indignation of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Huntingdon. The hon. Member said that only a weak Government, which feels reverses from without, would be satisfied with a surplus of 900,000l. the first year, and 350,000l. for the next. Yet the hon. Gentleman once followed a wise Minister, well acquainted with matters of finance, who, in proposing to renew the income tax in 1845, laid down as his surplus, if I recollect rightly, only 90,000l. That right hon. Gentleman then stated the reasons why he expected a sufficient revenue; he was justified in those expectations, and yet the sum he expected was no more than 90,000l. We did not then hear from the hon. Member for Huntingdon this virtuous indignation. There was not then this bitter anger; but he still continued to support the Government which considered 90,000l. a sufficient surplus. And now, when the surplus is to be no less than 900,000l., the hon. Member says this is an insufficient surplus, and that nothing but the weakness of the Government could have induced it to be contented with it. Really, Sir, on this as on some other occasions, I think I may say the hon. Member has forgotten the place in which he spoke, and instead of being aware that he was speaking in this House on matters of figures, with which he is well able to deal, he has entirely forgotten what took place in 1845, and has made this the occasion of mere "after-dinner eloquence." And when he might have aided us by his great practical knowledge and experience on these subjects, he has contented himself with a mere invective against the Government. Instead of going into these matters as financial matters, on which the Debate might well have turned, he took the opportunity of making against a Whig Government a speech, which nothing but party feelings would have led him to indulge in.
§ MR. DISRAELI
All the best speeches, Sir, in the House of Commons, are generally speaking, after-dinner speeches—and I have never found the noble Lord more happy than in an after-dinner 1102 I speech. Certainly, to-night, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Finsbury (Mr. Wakley) has told us that the new Budget is not a whit better than the Budget which he condemned a short time ago; but that it is made up for by the right hon. Gentleman's speech. ["No, no!"] Why the hon. Gentleman told: the House that the new Budget very nearly resembled the old one, and was very nearly as bad. But, said the hon. Gentleman, "What does it signify what the measures of the Government are, when they give us such good speeches?" And this reminds me of a celebrated speech of the noble Lord's—the speech in which he introduced his measure with respect to Papal aggression. That was also a most admirable speech; but, unfortunately, the measure was not equal to the speech. It is a remarkable circumstance that at the present time we should be governed by a Ministry who depend upon their speeches, and not upon their measures. I thought the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon, to-night, a very good speech indeed; and I do not agree with the noble Lord, in the analogy he attempted to draw between the present state of affairs with that in which so small a surplus was left by Sir R. Feel. There is this great distinction, the Government of Sir R. Peel was a strong Government. It was a very different Government from that which the noble Lord has come before this table several times, under such humiliating circumstances, to announce to the country was in a state of prostration; it was the Government of a Minister who had a system in which he had confidence, who had confidence in himself and in his own resources; who, being supported by a great party, might venture to make arrangements while he had but a small surplus. But the noble Lord is not in the position which Sir R. Peel then occupied; for the noble Lord, with a small surplus, has not a large party. But there is another difference also, of which I must remind the noble Lord and his right hon. Colleagues. The speech of Sir R. Peel, which terminated with the announcement of only a surplus of 90,000l., was not a speech stuffed full of boastful exclamations. Why, anybody who was a stranger to this House, and had entered it whilst the right hon. Gentleman was making his financial statement, would have supposed that he was going to pay off the national debt. That was the tone he took. The basis of his statement was, that he would maintain 1103 public credit by maintaining a great surplus. And what is the surplus? A false surplus. The surplus stated by the noble Lord the First Lord of the Treasury, within these five minutes, and the manner in which he mentioned it, conveyed a false impression to the country. The surplus was stated by the noble Lord to be 900,000l., and for the next year it is to be 350,000l. I deny the correctness of the statement. A surplus of 900,000l.! Why what is the meaning of the 400,000l. which we are to pay for these mysterious demands—this claim of the East India Company, which ought to attract the attention of Parliament? Have the Government only just heard of this demand? I want to know when that claim was made. Was it made yesterday?
§ MR. DISRAELI
Then I say that is a most fortunate circumstance that the present Administration has returned to power to secure the payment of a claim which they might otherwise have left to their successors. But with this claim of 400,000l. was the noble Lord justified in announcing to the country that he has a surplus of nearly 1,000,000l.? Sir, as I am on my legs, I must, however unintentionally, myself make a few observations upon the Budget. When the right hon. Gentleman introduces Budgets, he takes great credit to himself for the sympathy which he feels for the sufferings of the owners and occupiers of land. The measures that he brought forward for their relief, according to his own admission, were not considerable; but then they evinced at least the sympathy of the Government. There was a proposal for the reduction of the duty upon seeds, which excited the risibility of some Members on this side of the House, but not mine. There was a proposition for defraying a portion of the expenses of pauper lunatics, which I considered a very considerable proposition of relief. It appeared to me that in making such a proposition, the Government made a most important admission in regard to the principle of local taxation. Now, for the life of me, I cannot understand on what principle we can draw any difference between the maintenance of a pauper that is a lunatic, and any other pauper. If the Consolidated Fund is to support pauper lunatics, on the very same principle the Consolidated Fund ought to support every other pauper; and, therefore, when the Govern- 1104 ment came forward and made that proposition, not utterly inconsiderable in itself, I accepted it as an admission of a most important principle with reference to a most important subject, namely, our local taxation. The right hon. Gentleman tells us to-night, when he withdraws both of those propositions for the relief of the suffering agricultural interest, that he withdraws them because his nervous susceptibilities were offended by the manner in which they were received on this side of the House. I cannot myself at this moment recall a single speech that was made against these propositions. This I know, that in consequence of circumstances to which I need not refer, no discussion took place on the Budget. But, suppose some Gentlemen on this side of the House did express disappointment at the amount of relief—suppose that some Gentlemen on this side of the House, by a sneer or by a smile, may have conveyed to the Ministers that they did not think this was a relief commensurate with the expectations of the country, when the Government, by the Speech from the Throne, had announced that the owners and occupiers of land were the only suffering interest in the country—is that a reason for Ministers withdrawing the matured propositions of the Cabinet on the subject? Why, if it be a ground for your withdrawing these propositions, that they were not received with enthusiasm by the county Members, I want to know with what consistency you can vindicate the course which you are now taking with reference to the window duties, when your scheme for that remission of taxation was not only not received with cordial approbation, but meetings were called to denounce the Government, to vituperate them, to hold them up to public execration, and to declare that twenty-four hours ought not to be allowed to pass without terminating their official existence? Yet the gratitude of the Government to their indignant supporters is to increase the scheme for relief from the taxation which they thus ungratefully welcomed; while, on this side of the House, where scarcely a word of any moment had been urged against the proposition of the Government, the proposed relief to the owners and occupiers of land is, in the most cursory and off-hand manner, withdrawn from public notice; and the Government at this moment stands in this position, that having commenced the Session by solemnly assuring Parliament, from the lips of the 1105 Sovereign, that there was only one important class in the country suffering, they have now brought forward a financial scheme, in which not the slightest relief is offered to this suffering class, not the least sympathy expressed for the owners and occupiers of land. Sir, I do not know what feelings the House may entertain upon this subject, but I know what my own are, and the course which I shall take will be this. My right hon. Friend the Member for Stamford (Mr. Herries) has an important proposition to make with respect to the financial scheme of the Government on Monday. I hope that a proposition so temperate, so wise, and so salutary, will be carried; but it is impossible to foresee what will occur. It was impossible to foresee a week ago that the hon. Members sitting below that gangway, should be now the enthusiastic supporters of the Government. But this I know, that if my right hon. Friend does not succeed ill that proposition, I will myself put fairly, and without delay, before the House and the country the question of the suffering owners and occupiers of land. I will direct the attention of the House to this surplus, which the right hon. Gentleman seems to deal with in so capricious a manner, and of which he has yielded so great a portion to clamour; and I will ask the House and the country to come to a decision upon this point, whether, with a surplus, and with avowed suffering amongst one class of the community, that surplus ought not to be dedicated to the mitigation of those sufferings? I will put that question fairly before the House. I will intimate the means by which I think that mitigation can be effected consistently with the welfare of all classes of the community, because I will not have the course of justice disputed by insinuations that we have no thought except the one that is expressed in giving relief to that suffering class. I will ask the decision of the House of Commons on that question, and after all these financial manœuvres, and all these fiscal experiments, after all this series of attempts to revive exploded schemes of finance, we will at least attempt to make one direct, honest, and straightforward effort to relieve, with the surplus revenue of the country, the only class that is acknowledged to be suffering.
§ VISCOUNT EBRINGTON
felt painfully the great disadvantage which he, unaccustomed as be was to speak in that House, experienced in following such eloquent 1106 speakers as had immediately preceded him; nevertheless, he would venture to make some remarks on the speech of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire. That hon. Gentleman had stated that it was not to the credit of the country to have a Government that could only make good speeches and bring forward bad measures. To that remark he (Viscount Ebrington) begged to add this, that nothing could be more humiliating than to belong to a party that made good speeches, but was considered by its own chief incompetent and incapable to propose any measures at all, good or bad—a party admitted to be utterly incapable of forming an Administration. The hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) had stated that the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to keep no surplus whatever. Now he (Viscount Ebrington) thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated, with sufficient distinctness, that upwards of 900,000l. would probably be the surplus of this year. The right hon. Gentleman had also stated that, since 1842–3, about 7,000,000l. of taxation had been taken off, and yet the ordinary revenue of the year would be equal to that of 1842–3. That was to say, that on the average, the revenue of the country had increased at the rate of 1,000,000l. per annum from the same taxes. Calculating on that basis, it was probable that next year we should have a surplus with the existing taxation of upwards of 1,000,000l. He was exceedingly gratified by the courageous statement which the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer had made to the Committee, that notwithstanding the unfavourable contrasts constantly drawn by hon. Members on both sides of the House, this country was more lightly taxed than most of those on the Continent. He was delighted to find that statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer borne out by the hon. Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Brown), whose dealings, as a merchant, with every country in the world, were too well known to that House to require any comment upon them. With regard to the proposition of the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the reduction of the duty upon coffee, that seemed to be imperatively called for by the regular and steady decrease of income arising from that source, owing to the impossibility of competing with an article that came from abroad, against an untaxed article which, to a great extent, was produced at home. He was much 1107 pleased to find that the right hon. Gentleman proposed to ameliorate the position of the labouring classes of this country, by reducing the duty on timber, which must lead to a great improvement in their dwellings; and he thought that proposition superior to that of Sir Robert Peel, which, while it injured the revenue, conferred little benefit either on the home consumer or the colonial grower. But he was more especially rejoiced that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had proposed to substitute a moderate house tax for the objectionable window tax. That tax he had found, in his sanatory inquiries, interfered most prejudicially with the industry and health of the labouring classes, many of whom occupied dwellings once tenanted by the rich, but of which dwellings several windows were now closed, with the view of evading the payment of the window tax; and notwithstanding what had been said to the contrary, he believed its repeal would be regarded as a boon by the agricultural as well as by the other classes of the country.
§ MR. FREWEN
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the early part of his speech, had expressed the strong objections which he entertained to sending a regiment of excise officers throughout the country to collect taxes; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer did that very thing during last winter. In the county which he (Mr. Frewen) had the honour to represent, there was an agricultural parish, in which a great number of the farmers had been served with writs because they were unable to pay the hop duty. It was quite impossible for him to give a true description of the distress and ruin which had been caused in that county by the present system of administering the affairs of the country. During the last three days he had received no less than 60 letters, complaining of the distress which existed in that part of the country to which he had referred; and the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer was welcome to read the whole of them. Many of the farms were unoccupied. One landowner had received only a fourth of his rent, and a great many had received nothing at all. Several of the farmers had been reduced to a state of ruin; 100,000l. (being at the rate of 30l. per acre) in the shape of direct taxes, had been paid by the district which he represented. It was impossible that this state of things could continue. The county which he represented was being 1108 reduced to such a deplorable state of poverty; by the system of legislation which had been carried on for the last few years, that, if it continued much longer, it would soon be as bad as the worst part of Ireland. He wished to urge this question on the Committee, and. he would bring it again and again before them, until he had obtained some redress for his constituents.
§ MR. WAWN
said, that the Budget was certainly not based upon the policy of Sir Robert Peel; for that eminent statesman's principle was, that whereas he imposed duties upon manufactured articles, he admitted the raw material duty free. Two years ago they repealed the navigation laws, and ships might now be built in any quarter of the world, might be purchased by English shipowners, and might have all the rights of British vessels, without having paid a farthing duty. Whilst, however, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed thus to admit the manufactured article free, he had only expressed an intention to remit one-half of the impost on the raw material, timber. He thought the least the right hon. Gentleman could do would be, to allow a drawback on the timber used in shipbuilding. In other respects he approved of the Budget, which, in spite of the observations of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), would considerably relieve the agriculturists. For instance, a house in the country of 20l. a year often paid as much window tax as one in the metropolis of 300l.; and, of course, this would be put on a more equitable footing by the proposed measure. With respect to the question of protective duties, he could not but remember that corn had been as low with a sliding scale as it was at present; and, certainly, if a fixed duty, which was now desired by the agriculturists, was the right thing, it had been rejected by the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire and his friends, and they had had only themselves to thank for free
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
desired to say a few words with regard to the statement made by the hon. Member who had last spoken, concerning the condition of the shipping interest. He agreed with the hon. Gentleman, that it was right to give the shipping interest fair play, but he must, at the same time, repeat what he had stated when the repeal of the navigation laws was under discussion; he then expressed his complete belief that, looking 1109 at the price of iron and other materials, even before the proposition had been made to reduce the duty on foreign timber, the British shipbuilder could build cheaper than could be done in any other part of the world whatever. The best proof of the correctness of that assertion was what had actually taken place since foreign ships had been placed on the same footing as British. From returns which had been recently laid on the table of the House, it appeared that there had been only 10,000 tons of foreign shipping registered as English, since it had been in the power of our countrymen to buy and register them as British. Now, he believed that if they took only iron steamers, they would find that we had built much more than that tonnage on the foreign account. He was convinced that in steamers (particularly iron ones—a class which was becoming more and more in use) we constructed as many as would supply not only our own merchants, but foreigners, to a very considerable extent. It would not be right at that time to enter into a discussion as to whether or not the trade of shipbuilding was or was not suffering in consequence of this alteration in our legislation; but whenever that question came regularly before them, he should be prepared to prove satisfactorily that our shipbuilding trade had never been in a sounder or more prosperous condition than since it had been exposed to competition with other nations.
§ MR. WAWN
explained that he had not said a word about the prosperity of the shipping interest, or about iron steamers; but he must protest against his right hon. Friend stating that the British shipowner was now in a prosperous condition. He had means of proving that, for the last hundred years, the British shipowner had never been in such a distressed condition.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
said, he was not surprised at this second edition of the Budget of his right hon. Relative. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said the present Budget would confer a boon on the agricultural interest by the repeal of the duty on seed. However such a boon might be pretended, he could not believe that any was intended, and the proposition, such as it was, had been withdrawn. What was the reason of this? It was party. The Government could not do without party; and, in his opinion, if the Government and its party were put into a sack together, shaken up, and thrown out heads and tails, it would be very difficult to tell 1110 which was which; but he thought there would be a great deal more of tail than of head. And they might depend upon it, there would be plenty of counterfeits amongst both. He would take this opportunity of giving notice of his intention to take the sense of the House on a Motion relative to a remission of the income tax now levied on the tenant farmers; and also a Motion relative to the relief of the Army and Navy from the income tax. The Chancellor of the Exchequer might say that it was nothing for the officers of the Army and Navy to pay the income tax; but they did not live on the fat of the land. There never was such a miserable exhibition as that made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that evening. What he now said he might have said six weeks ago. But the reason he did not say so was this—he wanted to smuggle in a few of the Army and Navy estimates, and other measures necessary to carry on the credit of the country, of which he so much boasted. The right hon. Member for Stamford (Mr. Herries) had justly said that the income tax was intended to be permanent; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not the courage and manliness to own it. He hoped that hon. Members on that side of the House would persevere and show the country what trickery had been practised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the noble Lord at the head of the Government.
did not know whether the noble Lord had a large party or not; but this he knew, that he had one which kept a large party at bay, and he trusted would long continue to do so. And he foresaw one consequence from the speech of the Chancellor, namely, a large accession to that party; and he trusted that there were no Members of that House who professed themselves supporters of the manufacturing and commercial interest, who would fail to evince their support of the right hon. Gentleman; for if they did, they would display a degree of mental obliquity almost amounting to evidence of a providential dispensation. For three Sessions of Parliament he had witnessed with bitterness of heart the miserable feebleness of the defence made on the great question of commercial freedom, while he had, on the contrary, to admire the zeal, the talent, the combined action and energy displayed by Gentlemen on the opposite side who attacked it. If the free-traders were finally beaten, they would have themselves 1111 to thank for it, and he was ready to give his evidence that no men ever more deserved it. Gentlemen opposite, on the contrary, had carried on, and did carry on, the war ably and gallantly; their movements were connected; what they did in the House was in unison with what they did outside. They knew full well, though it was not their business to tell of it, that the real question at this moment before the House, was whether a large portion of the taxation of this country was to be paid by the rich, or whether it was to be paid out of the bread of the poor, and at the expense of the commercial interest. This was the present question, and if the working classes, who were rapidly rising in influence and power, did not prove that they knew the men that helped them, they would forfeit their claim to sympathy and success. He did not know that he should have risen on the present occasion, if it had not been to resist an argument thrown before those working classes, he was sure in perfect sincerity. The hon. Member for Tavistock, in the present debate, had told the working classes, that it would be of no use to them that the taxes should be paid by the wealthier classes instead of by themselves; because the means of the wealthier classes would be diminished, and they be thereby prevented from giving employment to the same amount. He wholly dissented from that doctrine. What became of the money? If 100,000l. taken from the pockets of the wealthier classes was laid out in the purchase of soldiers' clothing, it would just as much be laid out on working men at Leeds or Halifax, as it would have been laid out on working men somewhere else if it had been, left with the taxpayers. He therefore hoped the working classes would not be induced on this account to beg to pay all the taxes themselves; and he did trust they would take this opportunity of showing they could stand by their friends.
§ MR. ALCOCK
did not rise to express gratitude to the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer for any boon which he had granted to the agricultural interest; but he could not avoid saying that he thought the Budget in its amended form would give greater satisfaction to the people at large than as it originally appeared. The income tax as it at present affected the tenant farmer was most unjust and unfair, but he could not join in asking for its total abandonment. On the contrary, he hoped that the country would step forward 1112 to prevent such a proposal from being carried into effect; because it would perpetuate the malt tax. The income tax, if remitted, would cause the loss of 5,500,000l. of revenue, and while it would liberate 180,000,000l. of property, it would bind for ever a most injurious impost upon one class of the community, the landed interest. Nay, it would not affect even the whole of that interest, for out of the 77,000,000 acres in this kingdom there were only 1,000,000 that were cultivated with barley. He felt satisfied that when the matter was properly understood, the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire could not be brought to do a thing so detrimental to the landed interest. It was a mere truism to say that this tax was paid by the consumer. This was the case with every tax; but it was a fallacy to say it was not detrimental to the producer. Suppose a duty were levied on coals—a duty of 3s. or 4s. a ton—did any man in his senses suppose such a thing could possibly be carried out? It might be said that tax was paid by the consumers, but at the same time their number would be diminished. He did not believe the removal of the malt duty would increase intemperance. As it was, the people were driven to drink spirits. The people did not object so much to the income tax as to the exemptions from it. Let it be fairly levied, and they would be ready to pay their quota. Mr. Smee, of the Bank of England, had shown that the rate of income tax now levied, if imposed on property generally at 3 per cent, would produce a revenue of 14,000,000l. This would allow for the repeal of the taxes on malt, sugar, tea, and soap, which at present cost the working man 20s. a year, while the income tax, as proposed, would not be more than 13s. The exemption of Ireland was monstrous. Its railways were also exempt from the tax, though many of them were paying lines. He would also place Scotland on the same level. He hoped the farmers of England would soon give up the absurd hope of regaining protection, and see that they were more likely to get support in that House by demanding a repeal of the malt tax.
§ MR. HUDSON
said, that the arguments of the hon. Gentleman who had last spoken were equally strong against the repeal of any tax which would jeopardise the repeal of the malt tax. He (Mr. Hudson) had presented a petition, signed by every shipbuilder in Sunderland, stating that they suffered great distress, and praying for the 1113 entire repeal of the timber duty, which was, in fact, a bonus to the foreign shipbuilder of 30 per cent. It was said a larger number of ships for foreign service were now building in London than at any former period; but the fact was that many of them were iron steamers, and iron could be obtained cheaper here than anywhere else. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to have removed the whole of the timber duty in preference to repealing the window duty. That he had not done so was a just ground of complaint to the shipbuilding interest.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
wished to state one simple fact, that during the past year more ships, and larger and better ships, had been built at Sunderland than were built in any former year.
§ MR. HUDSON
said, he admitted the fact although it did not follow that the shipbuilders had made a profit. He had been engaged in the trade himself, and had made no profit for two years. It was impossible for a shipbuilder, any more than a farmer, at once to retire from his business.
§ MR. L. HEYWORTH
objected to the reimposition of the income tax as proposed, and the mode in which the surplus was to be appropriated. The working classes paid 10 per cent in indirect taxation, while wealthy men only paid 5 per cent. If the national debt was to be repudiated, it would be by persisting in such an injustice as this. The sooner they came to direct taxation the better, for the present system made every one poorer. All increase of wealth resulted from the operations of trade and commerce. Why, then, not stimulate these interests by abolishing the import duties on coffee and other articles? So long as these duties were continued, the demand for the labour of the people was lessened, and the poor rates increased.
1. Resolved—That, towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, the respective duties in Great Britain on Profits arising from Property, Professions, Trades and Offices, and the Stamp Duties in Ireland, granted by two Acts passed in the sixth year of Her present Majesty, and which have been continued and amended by several subsequent Acts, shall be further continued for a time to be limited.
2. Resolved—That, towards making good the Supply granted to Her Majesty, the sum of 17,756,600l., be raised by Exchequer Bills, for the service of the year 1851.
§ Resolutions to be reported on Monday next; Committee to sit again on Monday next.
§ The House resumed.