§ House in Committee of Ways and Means; Mr. Bernal in the chair.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Mr. Bernal, often as I have on similar occasions experienced the kindness of the House, I feel that I never stood more in need of their patient indulgence than on the present occasion. My hon. Friend the Member for Montrose has, in addition to the ordinary duties of a Chancellor of the Exchequer making a financial statement to the House, called upon me for some information, or opinion, at least, on the general subject of the incidence of taxation. But, independently of this, I cannot sufficiently describe how deeply I feel the importance of the proposal which I am about to submit to the House, and the more than usual difficulties which I have to encounter upon the present occasion. When the income tax was first renewed in the year 1845, the country in all its branches was in such a state of pros- 704 perity, that the pressure of the tax seemed of little moment to anybody. In 1848, such were the circumstances of the country, that little choice was left to any Member of the House on that occasion. I cannot but feel that circumstances are now different, and although I believe, and am deeply convinced that the course which I propose is as wise and expedient now as it was on either of the former occasions, I cannot but feel that many Gentlemen in the House may be of a different opinion, and that opposition may be made to that proposal to-night which on former occasions was almost universally acquiesced in, namely, the renewal for a limited time of the income tax as regards Great Britain, and of those stamp duties in Ireland which were imposed concurrently with the income tax. Before, however, I come to that proposal, of course it is my duty to state the present financial condition of the country. Hon. Gentlemen have had in their hands the balance-sheet up to the beginning of January; and that forms no bad criterion of what the probable state of the revenue may be on the 5th April next. I must, as on former occasions, ask for some indulgence as to the precise accuracy of estimates made at so early a period of the year. That course is rendered necessary by the proposal I shall ultimately submit to the Committee, upon which a decision at as early a period as possible is most desirable, for reasons that will be obvious; but it must be evident that, whereas in former years the financial statement never was made until after the financial year had commenced, I am now making a statement for a period that will close some fourteen months after the time at which I am now addressing you. It matters little when the country is in a state of prosperity, and the probability is that the income will rise; it matters still less when the House is prepared to support such a proposal as that which I shall to-night make, of maintaining a fair surplus of income above expenditure; but no doubt there may be circumstances in which an estimate formed at so early a period as the present may lead to considerable inconvenience, from the imperfection of the data on which it must necessarily be formed. Sir, in the estimate I formed last year, I stated that the imports of corn had been falling off for a considerable time, and that I did not feel myself justified in taking a large sum for the produce of the corn duties of the ensuing year. Subsequently to the 5th April 705 the importations of corn increased very much—they are nearly equal to the importations of the corresponding period of the previous year; whereas in the six months ending the 5th of April last, they were, as I stated on a former occasion, only half those of the corresponding six months of the previous year. I will now proceed to lay before the House—first, the probable estimate of income and expenditure up to the 5th April next; and, secondly, the probable income and expenditure for the year ending 5th April, 1852. Sir, the income which estimated last year up to the 5th April next was 52,285,000l.; the actual income for the year up to January is 52,810,000l. I do not believe, so far as the means we already possess enable me to form a judgment, that the present quarter will be equally productive of revenue with the corresponding quarter of last year, partly on account of the loss to be sustained from the reduction of stamps, so that do not think that the income up to the 5th April next will exceed 52,656,000l. It is, however, a most gratifying circumstance to find that there has been a large increase in that item of revenue ordinarily taken as the best test of the condition of the people—I mean the Excise. In April last estimated the Excise at 14,045,000l. I subsequently repealed the brick duties, the amount of which, of course, is to be deducted from that sum, leaving a probable income of 13,590,000l.; and taking not an exorbitant estimate of the produce of the Excise up to April next, I believe it will have increased above that amount by no less a sum than 668,000l. The estimate of expenditure, in the budget of last year, was 50,785,000l.; there were voted, including 250,000l. for buying up an annuity payable to the Equivalent Company, and 211,000l. for naval excess, 50,987,735l. Now the naval excess, of course, was paid before the 5th April, and therefore does not appear in the expenditure of the current year. The expenditure voted, therefore, excluding the naval excess, was 50,776,000l. The actual expenditure for the year ending the 5th January was 50,205,879l., including the payment to the Equivalent Company; but I believe the expenditure of the year ending April 5 will be somewhat less than that, and I calculate it at the sum of 50,134,900l.; showing that we have so administered the funds intrusted to us by the country as to effect a reduction of expenditure to the 706 extent of 640,000l. below the estimate of the year. The probable surplus on the 5th April will be 2,521,000l. Sir, I now come to the estimated income for the ensuing year. The balance sheet shows that the receipt of the Customs for the year up to the 5th January is rather upwards of 20,400,000l. In the course of the ensuing year, the last reduction of the duty on colonial sugar, and a further reduction of the duty on foreign sugar, in pursuance of the Act of 1848, will take place; but I think, notwithstanding, although that reduction amounts, calculated on the former revenue from this source, to about 330,000l., I am justified in taking the receipts of the Customs for the ensuing year as about the same as for the present year, namely, in round numbers, 20,400,000l. In the Excise, I am afraid that I cannot calculate upon so large a receipt. The main part of the Excise depends upon the duties derived from malt and spirits. In the year 1849, which was a remarkably fine barley harvest, a very large amount of malt was made. The barley harvest for the year 1850 is, I am told, of inferior quality, and I do not think it possible that the same amount of revenue should be derived from those two duties which are the principal source of the Excise revenue during the present, as during the past year. My hon. Friend the Chairman of the Board of Excise is sanguine in general in his estimates of revenue; but it was with great difficulty I induced him to allow me to take so large a probable receipt for the ensuing year as that which I am about to take, namely, 14,000,000l. In the stamps there will be, as Gentlemen who have attended to this subject must be aware, a further decrease in the course of the ensuing year, because the Act passed last year did not come into operation till the 10th of October. The probable amount of loss which was estimated upon the stamp duties in the course of the full year was about 500,000l., and the experience of the past year fully justifies that estimate. Of course, until the month of October, people deferred taking out stamps, in the expectation of the reduction of duty about to take place on the 10th of that month; in the two quarters ending 5th January, the amount of the stamp duties was 245,000l. less than in the corresponding period of former years. So far as I know from present appearances, that decrease is fully sustained—in point of fact it is rather exceeded; and, there- 707 fore, I believe the estimate of loss I made will be, if anything, within the mark. It cannot be less than 250,000l. on the half-year, and 500,000l. on the year. Allowing, therefore, for that reduction, I take the stamps at 6,310,000l. The taxes and the property tax I take at the same amount, as I believe they will produce in the course of the present year—the taxes 4,348,000l., the property tax 5,380,000l.; the Post Office about 10,000l. more than last year, namely, 830,000l. I take the Crown lands at the same sum as last year; although some alterations may be made in voting part of the expenditure, the revenue would be increased to precisely the same extent, and the net revenue will be the same as under the present system of showing the accounts. I therefore take the Crown lands at the sum of 160,000l. I take the miscellaneous receipts at 262,000l.; the old stores rather higher than last year, at 450,000l., which will give me an income altogether of 52,140,000l. I now come to the charge of the year, and I think the Committee will probably hear with some satisfaction that an increase in the charge for the debt has arisen, contrary to what has happened for many years, from a very large purchase of terminable annuities. That of course provides for the extinction of a certain amount of debt, in the best practicable mode, within a certain number of years; and although a present increased charge is imposed upon the country, yet we shall ultimately derive a benefit from the falling in of those annuities. There is some reduction in the charge of the Consolidated Fund. The amount of the interest on the funded debt, including annuities, is 27,688,000l.; that on Exchequer bills is 404,000l., making a total of 28,092,000l. The charges on the Consolidated Fund are 2,600,000l.; making the charges for the debt and on the Consolidated Fund, 30,692,000l. I now come to the estimates for the ensuing year, and I take the charge of the Army, including the militia and commissariat at 6,593,945l., that of the Navy at 6,537,055l., that of the Ordnance at 2,424,171l. There is some reduction, but not a large one, in the amount of those three estimates taken together, and the reduction would have been greater, but for certain circumstances to which I will immediately allude, involving partly additional expenses for the benefit of the soldiers, and partly charges of a temporary nature. There is, however, no reduction of force. The Government are not of 708 opinion that, in the present unsettled state of affairs on the Continent, it would be consistent with the best interests of the country that the numbers of our military forces should be reduced. Affairs at present certainly wear a more tranquil and peaceable aspect than for some time past; but it must be remembered that but a few months have elapsed since some million of armed men were arrayed one against the other. Hon. Gentlemen will also remember that a great change has taken place in the means which an assailing Power now possesses with respect to this country. I certainly never have been, and am not now in any way whatever, an alarmist on this subject; but there is the greatest difference between unnecessary alarm and absurd confidence. Those who are best acquainted with these matters, are quite aware that our great ports and arsenals are not in that state of defence which is expedient, and it is necessary to maintain certain means of defending those great depositories of national wealth in the event of any interruption of that peace which I hope may long be preserved. The estimates to be presented contain no large sum, certainly, but still a sum for continuing the defensive works of Pembroke Dockyard, and for strengthening the defences of Portsmouth on the land side. I must say, on the part of the Government of which I have the honour to be a member, that, leaving those matters unprovided for, would have been a responsibility which we were not prepared to incur; and my firm conviction is, that, however strong and however general the feeling for economical reduction in this House may be, the British House of Commons will never consent to leave their country in an undefended and unprotected state. The vote for the three services, Army, Navy, and Ordnance, in the current year, was 20,012,000l.; it will this year be 19,555,000.; the reduction, therefore, will be about 457,000l. From that, however, must properly be deducted the vote taken last year for the naval excess; and the absolute reduction from the expenditure of that year, in the three heads of the naval, military, and ordnance expenditure, will be 246,000l. The reduction would have been more, as I have already intimated, but for two or three causes, some of a permanent, and others of a temporary character. Hon. Gentlemen may remember that my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty announced last year that it was thought advisable, for the improvement of the condition of the 709 sailors, that the usual allowance of grog should be diminished, and a money compensation given instead. It also appeared that the amount of provisions allowed to seamen in the fleet was not as great as it ought to be, in reference to the victualling of sailors in some branches of the merchant service; and it was thought desirable that the condition of men in the Navy should be improved in this respect. These changes involve a charge of 80,000l. Gentlemen who sat also on the Army Committee will remember that a question was raised as to the rations allowed to the soldiers serving abroad; and in compliance with the suggestions made, as well as with what I have myself for two or three years thought right, we propose to improve the condition of the soldier serving abroad in respect of his rations. In accordance, I believe, with the sentiments of the Committee, we have, therefore, thought it right to diminish the stoppage of soldiers' pay, when serving abroad; a fixed stoppage of 5d. a week has been made hitherto; we propose to maintain the principle of a fixed stoppage, but to diminish the amount from 5d. to 3½d.; and an additional charge will become necessary on that ground of 60,000l. These two items are of a permanent nature, and amount to about 140,000l. There are some additional changes of a temporary nature of no great amount; one day's pay for the Army more than in the current year, next being leap-year, and the purchase of an annuity charged on the Ordnance in Ireland, which an opportunity has presented itself of redeeming on advantageous terms. The amount of this last charge is 20,000l. The miscellaneous estimates voted last year were 4,065,000l. Of course it is impossible for me at present to say precisely what the amount of the miscellaneous estimates will be in this year. There is a charge of a temporary nature which I propose to place in the estimates, that has not hitherto been borne by them—the expense of taking the census. In former years that expense has been borne on the local rates: but as it relates to an object of public and general interest, I think it quite fair and reasonable that it should be borne on the estimates. I believe this expense will be about 110,000l. Including that sum, and allowing for small additions which may become necessary in the course of the year, I propose to take the miscellaneous estimates at 4,000,000l. The total amount of the expenditure for next 710 year, therefore, will be 50,247,171l. Deducting that probable amount of expenditure from the amount I have stated as that of the probable income, there will remain an estimated surplus of 1,892,829l. The first point which I will bring under the consideration of the Committee is, how this statement bears upon the main question which I propose to submit to them in the resolution, namely, the renewal of the income tax. The amount of the income tax may be taken in round numbers at 5,400,000l,; that of the stamp duties concurrently imposed in Ireland was first, I think, 120,000l., but some reduction was effected in them by the Act of last Session, and therefore I will take them in round numbers at 100,000l. If, therefore, the Committee should refuse to vote for the resolution which I am about to move, a revenue of 5,500,000l. lapses and falls in. Deduct from that the probable amount of surplus, estimated at, in round numbers, 1,890,000l., and there would be a deficiency to the extent of 3,610,000l. In the ensuing year, it is true, the deficiency would not amount to quite as much, because half of the income tax, amounting to 2,700,000l., is receivable after the 5th of April; and, taking that into calculation, the deficit for 1851–2 would amount to only 910,000l.: but in every subsequent year thereafter—supposing no improvement to occur in the revenue, and no reduction to be made in the expenditure—the annual deficiency would amount to 3,610,000l. Those Gentlemen who were Members of the late House of Commons will remember, that when Sir R. Peel proposed the imposition of the income tax for the first time, there was a deficit, on the 5th of January, 1842, of only 2,100,000l. That deficiency, however, was, in the opinion of Gentlemen, most of whom sit now on the benches opposite to me, a sufficient ground for the imposition of the income tax, and therefore I can hardly suppose that they will now reject the vote I am about to propose, and thereby create a deficiency exceeding that which then existed by the amount of a million and a half. It is quite true that, at the period when the income tax was first proposed, successive deficiencies had occurred in former years; but they had been provided for by a loan; and, though I frankly admit that the circumstance of a deficiency occurring year after year rendered it imperatively necessary for the House of 711 Commons to make a great effort to equalise income with expenditure, yet that circumstance did not necessarily point to the description of tax imposed in 1842. Sir, I may be taunted with having myself opposed the imposition of the income tax. I thought then, and I still think, that the grounds which were urged for the imposition of the income tax were not sufficient to justify the passing of that measure. But I stated at that time, when so opposing the income tax, that if it were to be passed for the purpose of covering a great alteration in the import duties of this country—if it were to be applied to the repeal of the duties upon timber, corn, and sugar, I should then be prepared to vote for the imposition of that tax. And I said in subsequent years, that which I have always felt, that the use which Sir Robert Peel made of the income tax, when he obtained it, fully justified him in its imposition. Acting on that principle, I supported the renewal of the tax in 1845, and myself proposed its continuance in 1848; and holding as strongly as ever the opinion that it is desirable to persevere in the selfsame policy on the self-same grounds, I now propose the renewal of the income tax for a further limited period. The timber duties have been reduced—the corn duties have been reduced—the sugar duties, partly by the measure of 1844, partly by the measure of 1846, and subsequently by the measure of 1848, have been reduced; and all these reductions have been productive of great benefit to the consumers in this country. Those measures have been carried into effect which, in my opinion, at that time justified the imposition of the income tax. Now, Sir, if the House is not prepared to adopt this course, let me suggest to them what the alternative must be. There must either be a deficit to that amount in the revenue, or there must be a reduction of the expenditure to that amount; but I don't believe that any person who has looked into these matters can entertain an opinion that it is possible, out of an active expenditure of 15,000,000l., to make a reduction of 3,500,000l. Now, if that reduction cannot be effected, it will be necessary to impose new taxes to about that amount; and I ask hon. Gentlemen, if in the present disposition of the country it will be possible to make an increase to that extent? With the common concurrence of the House of Commons for some years past—with the general approbation of the coun- 712 try, and certainly to its great advantage, we have been repealing and reducing the taxes which press either upon the industry or the consuming power of the country, and I do not believe that it will be possible to reimpose those taxes. I believe, further, that there are many taxes still remaining on the Statute-book which it would be most desirable to reduce—taxes which, either in their amount or in the mode of their leyy, are far more objectionable, far more oppressive, and far more unjust than the income tax. Sir, when those taxes have been so reduced and repealed—when the duties upon the raw material have been taken off—when those duties which interfere with the process of manufacture have been reduced—when the inequalities, the anomalies, and the injustice which prevail in some portions of our taxation are removed—when the duties on imports and the Excise are so reduced that the consumer can no longer be said to be hardly pressed upon—then, I think, the question will fairly arise, whether it is expedient further to relieve the consumer, or remove a portion of the burdens from the property of the country. But until that is done—until we have removed the imperfections of our fiscal system—until we have carried out and completed that course of commercial policy which we have been pursuing for some years past, and the happy results of which have been felt by the country at large, as I stated only three or four nights ago, both financially, politically, and socially—until that has been done, I hope that neither this nor any other House of Commons will refuse to continue that tax under the cover of which, as an hon. Gentleman truly said the other night, those changes which have proved so beneficial to the country, have been accomplished. I trust, therefore, on the present occasion, that all those who are opposed to any disorder in our finances—all those who believe that a reduction to the extent I have stated is impossible—all those who wish to carry out more fully and completely that gradual improvement of our commercial system which is now in progress—all those who approve of the general view of taxation which was suggested by Mr. Huskisson in 1830, and the effect of which will be rather to remove the burdens from the consumer, and impose them on the property of the country—I trust that all those classes will support me in the proposition with which I shall conclude to-night, for a renewal, for 713 a limited time, of the income tax. Sir, I do not think it would be advisable, on the present occasion, to enter into the details of the measure. In the course of the discussions on the Bill which it will be necessary to submit to the House, ample opportunities will be afforded of raising all those questions which, no doubt, will be raised on the present as on former occasions. I hare received remonstrances enough against many parts and many portions of the income tax—suggesting the reduction of Schedule A, the total abolition of Schedule B, and complaining of the injustice of Schedule D; and I am quite ready to admit that exceedingly good arguments may be advanced for exemptions and allowances in every schedule of the income tax, except perhaps Schedule C. But for the maintenance of that schedule, let the Committee remember that the fund-holder has our plighted faith. Having considered the subject most anxiously, and I believe read through every word of every debate which has taken place on the income tax from its first imposition by Mr. Pitt up to the present time, and many publications besides, I have come to the conclusion that, upon the whole, the only practicable mode, taking one circumstance with another, of levying the tax, is that which every person who ever proposed the tax has advocated—namely, by an uniform rate on all descriptions of income, from whatever source derived. The question of the mode of levying the duty in Schedule B will doubtless be raised in the discussions on the Bill. I will only say, at present, that I shall be perfectly ready to I discuss the question fairly, as it ought to be discussed. I think that those who object to the mode of levying the tax in that Schedule, attach too much importance to the matter, and that the advantage which the tenant could derive from any change, would not be so great as they suppose. But, as I said before, ample opportunity will arise for discussing all these questions during the progress of the Bill. It was during the progress of the measure that discussions were taken in former years; and I think it will conduce to the convenience of the House to pursue the same course on this occasion. There is only one further observation which I feel it necessary to make at present with regard to the income tax, and that is, that I propose to continue the exemption which Ireland has hitherto enjoyed. After the shock which has been given to property in that country 714 —after the diminution which has taken place in its value, and the complete revolution in the condition of almost all classes of property in that country, from which they are but beginning to recover—I think it would not only be impolitic but cruel now, for the first time, to impose that burden upon them. I propose, therefore, to continue the exemption which Ireland has hitherto enjoyed from that tax. I propose to renew for the same limited period the stamp duties in Ireland; for their renewal has always accompanied the renewal of the income tax. And I propose to renew the whole as heretofore for the term of three years. I ask the House to come to a decision with respect to the income tax at as early a period as possible. I feel justified in doing this, because it must be obvious that the financial scheme of the year depends on this question of the renewal of the income tax—that if it is renewed, I ought to be in a position to proceed immediately with the measures which are dependent on its adoption by the House. If, on the other hand, the income tax is to be refused, it must obviously be necessary that the Gentleman who will then occupy the situation I have now the honour to occupy, should have as much time as possible to prepare his financial scheme. Sir, my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose asked me, the other day, or rather claimed the performance of some promise which he conceived I had given on a former occasion, to make a return, as I understood him, of the incidence of taxation; but he hardly seems to be aware that he has imposed on me one of the hardest tasks which was ever imposed on a Chancellor of the Exchequer, because, with regard to the incidence of a great number of taxes at least, the most learned persons differ in the most essential particulars. I may just, refer to what occurred during the debate the other night. The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, who had evidently spared no research in preparing the materials of his speech on that occasion, and who had consulted authorities of great eminence on matters of political economy, expressed his opinion that the malt tax was paid by the producer of barley. Now, I agree with the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon, that the malt tax is paid by the consumer. Then take another tax—the import tax on tobacco. The hon. Gentleman seemed to think—although he did not seem to know how to make it out—that the Customs duties on tobacco were a charge upon 715 the landowners of the country. Now, considering the views usually entertained by the party with whom he acts with respect to the duties on imported articles, I should have supposed he would rather have been inclined to consider that the incidence of the duty on tobacco fell upon the foreign producer, because we are generally told that when we impose an import duty on food, the burden of that duty falls upon the foreigner who produces the food. Take another item, which was formerly attended with rather more difficulty—I mean the item of tithes. I had thought it was now generally admitted that tithe was a rent-charge, and formed a portion of rent; but the hon. Gentleman, from the views he expressed the other evening, would seem to entertain a different opinion. Therefore, when my hon. Friend (Mr. Hume) calls upon me for a return with regard to the incidence of taxation, he ought to remember that he is calling upon me to give him that which, after all, is a mere matter of opinion; and I must say I do not think that the Government are called upon to make returns involving mere matters of opinion. Returns, in my opinion, ought to be confined to matters of fact. I am quite ready, however, to state my opinion on any subject on which it may be asked, because I consider it my duty to state my impressions to the House; but those, of course, are only worth the value which hon. Gentlemen may choose to attach to any opinion of mine. I have had prepared a classification to a certain extent of the different items of taxation, and that I am ready to state to the House; and having stated those items, it will be open to the House, of course, to form its own opinion how far they think I have been justified in the classification which I have adopted. It is right I should state to the House how the account is made out. I take the account ending the 5th of January 1850. I have taken the gross receipt of Customs, for instance, including that which is subsequently paid in the cost of collection. I have omitted all incidental receipts, and merely taken the amount paid in duty. I will first of all state the produce of the revenue upon the articles of food, whether solid or liquid, and on tobacco. There are, under the head of Customs, about 45 different articles of this description, including butter, cheese, coffee, corn, currants, lemons and oranges, pepper, raisins, spirits, tea, sugar, molasses, tobacco, and wine, producing 20,893,4602. There are three articles of the same de- 716 scription in the Excise—malt, hops, and spirits, producing 10,927,338. The whole revenue derived from what we eat, drink, and smoke, is 31,820,7982. There are certain items which come under the heads of manufactured articles—the principal of which in the Customs' department are gloves and silk, together with books, opium, and other miscellaneous articles; and in the Excise and Stamps, paper, soap, medicines, &c.—the whole of which produce a revenue of 2,452,658l. Then there are the duties on raw materials, the main items of which are the duties on agricultural seeds, tallow, and timber, producing 764,000l. All these duties clearly fall upon the consumer. He is the person who uses manufactured articles, or who consumes the food, or who pays for articles into which the consumption of the raw material enters. The amount of duty collected on all those articles is 35,037,456l. There are certain other duties which fall upon trades and professions, such as licences to trade, bills of exchange, receipts, marine insurances, and the income derived under Schedules B, D, and E, of the Income Tax Act. I include in this class the duties paid by persons in the service of the public, because I can see no distinction between persons earning salaries in the service of individuals, and persons in the service of the public. I therefore class Schedule E with that portion of Schedule D, which is laid upon professional income, and I find the amount of all these duties to be 4,464,906l. For post horses, stage coaches, railways, and other conveyances, the amount is 648,487l. There is paid on newspapers and advertisements, 511,418l. The amount of the assessed taxes, excluding the window tax, is 1,491,308l. Now what may be the precise incidence of some of these taxes I will not pronounce an opinion. It is obvious that they are not taxes upon property. The amount of all these taxes together is 42,153,575l. I now come to what may fairly be considered to constitute, one way or another, taxes upon property, such as stamps on deeds, probate duty, legacy duty, and fire insurance—all, I apprehend, taxes on property—and which amount to 5,188,036l. The produce of the land tax is 1,159,324l., but it is quite fair that hon. Gentlemen should take it, as they have done, at 2,000,000l., because it is obvious that the interest of the money paid for the redemption of any part of this tax is so much 717 charge to the land. The window tax I take to be a tax upon property. Schedule A of the income tax is of course a tax upon property, and also Schedule C. The amount of the window tax is 1,856,167l.; Schedule A, 2,656,796l.; Schedule C, 750,781l. The general taxes on property, therefore, amount to 12,451,776l. I believe the local rates in the three countries amount to 13,000,000l. When the hon. Gentleman made a speech in 1849, he included in local taxes, and properly so, certain tolls, dues, and fees. Now although they are local taxes, they are not local rates, and do not fall on property. The amount of local rates falling on property I have stated to be 13,000,000l., making the amount of taxation upon property 25,451,776l. Tolls, dues, and fees, which fall on persons using turnpike roads, harbours, &c., are not to be included in the taxes on property, but, on the other hand, they ought rather to be classed with the first description to which I alluded. These taxes amount to 3,300,000l. The amount of taxation of this description, local and general, therefore, amounts to 45,453,575l. I altogether exclude the Post Office from this calculation, because it is, in point of fact, a payment for service done, and because the net revenue of 832,000l. derived from that source is almost absorbed by the expense of the packets. Hon. Gentlemen will see how large a portion of the taxes of the country are derived from the consumer, and I may at the same time say that I believe it is pretty easily borne, on the whole, because I find, on comparing the different years, that even when a reduction of taxation has taken place, or when a period of distress has diminished the consuming power of the country, a very short time has usually elapsed before the revenue has been equal to what it was before those reductions or that distress had occurred. I find, for instance, that the reductions of 1842 were more than recovered in 1844—that the effects of the reductions of 1845 were nearly made up in 1847—and that, although 1848 was a period of diminished trade, and consequently of diminished consumption, &c., the revenue in 1849 rose again to nearly its previous amount. Last year, it will be remembered, there was a great reduction in the departments of Stamps and Excise, and yet the ordinary income, I am happy to say, has not greatly diminished. I think, therefore, that 46,000,000l. of ordinary taxation may 718 under ordinary circumstances he borne; without any severe pressure upon any portion of the country. Now, Sir, having, as I hope, met the view of my hon. Friend behind me, and stated generally the great heads into which our taxation may be divided, I will say a few words on a proposal brought forward elsewhere (and sometimes in this House), that we should undertake a general revision of taxation. Now, I confess, I have never been quite able to understand what it was that Gentlemen meant by this demand, I am certain that the two sides of the House are little likely to agree in the sense which they put upon these words, because I apprehend that what hon. Gentlemen behind me are anxious to arrive at is the removal of duties from articles of consumption and the raw materials of manufacture, and their imposition upon property; while, I apprehend, judging from the speeches and Motions of hon. Gentlemen opposite—and it is clear they amount to nearly one-half the House—that they would be equally anxious to remove taxes from property, and impose them in some shape or other on consumption. So that I do not think that any arge scheme of that sort would he likely to meet with great favour. Sir, an hon. Friend of mine has stated that it would be wiser, instead of going on steadily and gradually pursuing our present commercial policy, as we have for the last eight or nine years, to make a great reduction at once in taxation, run the risk of a deficiency, and trust to chance for the recovery of the revenue. Sir, I do not think that such a course could wisely be pursued. I think that nothing is more injurious to the prospects of commerce or trade, or any branch of industry, than either a great commercial or political revolution, and that as in politics so in commerce, it may be said (as once was said by a noble Friend of mine) "the country cannot bear a revolution every year." It might be proper, when a great change; was to be made, as in 1842, that some risk should be run. I then felt that a great object was to be gained, and therefore, though I differed in some points from the policy then pursued, I thought it unwise to mark that difference, except on one or two points where I found principle was departed from, and so I gave a cordial and unhesitating support to the measures proposed. But that policy, I take it, is now firmly established, and all that remains is that we should steadily 719 year after year pursue it, keeping principles constantly in view, and carrying them out as the altered circumstances of the country fairly allow us to do. That, at least, is the course which the present Government have pursued ever since we came into office, and I believe it to be a course which it is for the benefit of the country should be pursued; and it is that which we are prepared to pursue so long as the House shall continue to us its support. In having thus, I hope not to the dissatisfaction of the House, stated generally the views of the Government as to the pressure of taxation and the policy that ought to be pursued, I will revert to the subject more immediately before us. I have stated that the probable surplus at the end of next year will be about 1,890,000l. But before I go farther I will advert to an observation which I saw was made elsewhere by an hon. Friend of mine—that any surplus we might find in this or any other year would be mainly owing to the large sums placed at our disposal by the taxpayer, and not to any reductions we have made in taxation. Sir, I do not think that is a fair view of what we have done. If the hon. Member will compare the income of 1847 and 1850 (the year of the last balance sheet and the corresponding period), he will find, no doubt, that in spite of great reductions of taxation which have taken place, there is an increase of income of nearly 739,000l. But if he will compare the expenditure also, and take the expenditure of the Army, Navy, and Ordnance (the three great items of expenditure), he will find that the expenditure for these three services, in 1847 was 18,500,000l., and in last year 15,391,000l.; showing a reduction in three years of not less than 3,100,000l. Sir, that may not go perhaps as far as the wishes of some hon. Members behind me; but I think that the House generally will do us the justice to say that we have not been neglectful of economy, and that having reduced in three years more than three millions, we at least do not deserve to be told that no portion of the surplus is owing to our exertions in that respect. Sir, I now come to the proposal I shall make to the House on the supposition that the income tax is renewed. In 1845, the late Sir Robert Peel, proposing to renew the income tax, stated what he should do if that renewal were conceded; and following that example, I think it is fair now to state to the House 720 what I propose to do in the event of the renewal being agreed to. It must be obvious that what I can do in other respects must fall to the ground if the renewal should not be granted. I think that the first claim upon us is for some reduction of our debt. I stated last year, that since 1830 we had borrowed 35,000,000l., and that we had paid off 8,000,000l. Having, therefore, in 20 years, of uninterrupted peace, contracted 27,000,000l. of debt, I do not think we ought to abstain from grappling with the reduction of that debt. I am not one of those who think it desirable that we should make a great effort for the reduction of our debt; but I do think that we ought from year to year to maintain a reasonable surplus, so that with no unforeseen necessity for increasing the expenditure there should be a certain amount applicable to the reduction of our debt. I am happy to say—I confess I say it with more pleasure than I can express—that in the course of last year we have paid off a sum equal to the 2,000,000l., borrowed in 1848, together with the interest accruing upon that sum; the actual sum paid off up to the quarter ending the 5th of January last being 2,330,000l. I am happy to state, also, that the surplus at present accruing is such as to justify a hope that we may be able, in the course of the ensuing year, to pay off a sum nearly equal to the amount paid off last year. I hold that it is essential that we should maintain in every year a reasonable surplus, in order to provide for a certain, though a gradual reduction of our debt. Now that we have got our expenditure and income into a fair state, it is only necessary that we should exercise a little self-denial in the remission of taxation in order to achieve the object to which I have referred. I am not disposed to put the surplus at which we should aim very high; but I am of opinion that we ought never to begin the financial year with a less surplus than 1,000,000l. This, after all, is only about the fiftieth part of our expenditure. A private individual who should manage his domestic economy so that his fixed expenditure should fall short of his probable income only by a fiftieth part would not, I think, be considered as acting a very prudent part; and, applying the test of what would be thought right in an individual to the income and expenditure of the country, I think I am not making a proposal at all calculated to shock any Gentleman in this House, however anxious he may be to have taxes reduced, when I 721 propose that we should endeavour to aim at a surplus of about 1,000,000l. As to the disposal of the surplus available for reduction of taxation, I have had no want of claimants. I think I have within the last few weeks received deputations from almost every class of persons who pay any sort of tax, each stating that the tax they paid was by far the most partial, and iniquitous, and unjust; and some of my hon. Friends who came up with more than one deputation must have been amused at hearing their friends make the same statement as to several different taxes, any one of which would absorb the whole surplus. Among those various classes of taxes, I have had to decide which, on the whole, I thought it most for the benefit of the country to repeal. This year it is obvious that it would be impossible to reduce taxation to anything like the amount which has been asked, or even to the amount which has perhaps been anticipated by many persons. They must be taken, however, more or less, in their turn; and I hope those parties whose duties I am not prepared to reduce will give me credit for being anxious as soon as I can to remove the irregularities that exist in the taxes of which they complain. I fully admit that I should have been glad to meet the views of many of the claimants, if I had the means in a larger surplus, and I must regard their claims as only postponed to a more favourable opportunity. Some must come before others, and I hope that all parties will be satisfied with seeing that I am proceeding in the direction they would wish, and I hope the revenue of the country may so increase in future years, and the expenditure be so reduced, that we may be able to go further in the direction in which I am proposing to proceed. I must say, that of all the claims which have been put forward—though I cannot meet it to the extent, I fear, which will satisfy the parties who have made the request—that one which bears upon the health, the comfort, and the well-doing of the lower classes has the first place—I mean the claim for an alteration of the window duties. But, when I state that the amount of the window tax is 1,856,000l., it must be obvious that the request which has been made, and for which I think a petition was presented tonight—the unconditional repeal of the window duties—would absorb the whole surplus of which I have to dispose; and I confess that, objectionable as many Gen- 722 tlemen may think the window tax to be, I cannot but feel that it would be unjust to many other classes paying taxes that the remission of the window duties should be allowed to absorb the whole of the surplus, I believing, as I do, that the objections to the tax which I consider of the strongest and most pressing nature, namely, those founded on its operation upon the sanitary condition of the people, may be altogether removed without the remission of any portion of the tax. I do not, however, propose so to deal with the tax, but I propose to give considerable relief in amount. And I am the more disposed to do so, because it presses more hardly on country houses than it docs on houses in town; and under present circumstances I am not unwilling to give that benefit to the country gentlemen. Last year the hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. G. Bankes) was one of the most eloquent advocates for the reduction of the window duty; and as he may fairly be taken for an exponent of the feelings of the country gentlemen on this matter, I hope they will consider I am meeting the views expressed by one of the most prominent members of their party. Except as to the mode of assessment there is a good deal to be said in favour of this tax; and there is a wide difference between imposing and retaining a tax. I do not say it would be one of the most convenient taxes to impose if no such tax were in existence; but the question is not of imposing, but of retaining that to which people are already accustomed, to which the various interests concerned have to a great extent accommodated themselves; and, be it observed, moreover, that the property upon which it is levied has, within the last fifteen years, been relieved to a very great extent. From this property has already been taken off the whole of the "inhabited house duty," and part of the window tax, and to facilitate their repairs, there has been a remission of the brick duty and the duty on glass. Independently, then, of other considerations, I cannot think that in this respect the property to be benefited by the absolute repeal of this tax has the primary claim to relief; and if any Gentleman will make the circuit of the outskirts of this great metropolis, or, indeed, I might say of any of our large towns, he will see street upon street rising up in a manner to me most astonishing, and which does not look as if this description of property were at a discount. I must, however, 723 admit, Sir, especially with a view to those considerations to which I have referred, that the mode of levying the tax is most objectionable. It induces 'parties to shut up window after window, and confine the unfortunate tenants in an atmosphere most prejudicial to health. The tax, if strictly levied, is payable on any opening, however small, for light or air. And I have heard from those who, like my noble Friend the Member for Bath, have visited the houses of the poor—and especially from medical men, whom I have seen in great numbers on the subject—statements which I cannot disbelieve or disregard as to the degree to which they attribute the spreading and perpetuating epidemic disorders among the poorer classes in large towns to the deprivation of light and air, to which in one way or another the window duty conduces. We have given, Sir, to the working classes an improved command of food and clothing; it remains now to go one step further, and to endeavour, so far as we can, to improve their lodgings and their dwellings. Now, the present tax is a tax imposed upon houses according to the number of lights or windows they have; and I propose altogether to repeal that mode of levying the assessment on houses, and to substitute as a principle a tax according to the value of the houses, and to apply it without restriction to all new houses. I am aware that great objections were taken during the existence of the old house tax to the test of value. We were told that it was unjust that large houses in the country should pay less than smaller and more valuable houses in towns. I think, however, that this objection, specious and popular though it may be, is not one founded on equity or good sense. The acknowledged principle of a house tax is that, whether the party be owner or occupier, his house is supposed to be proportioned to his means. I do not think that the size of a house is an indication of the means of a party; on the contrary, it very often is a cause of poverty; but I think that the value of a house is a fair test of the means of the owner or occupier. If the party be occupier, he may be naturally supposed to pay such a rent as he can afford; if the owner, he receives a rent proportioned to the value of the house. Therefore, although I am aware that the objection is a popular one, as I said before, I think the experience of some years has probably induced people to take a view which I consider to be more just and sound; that in this, as in other matters, the fair 724 criterion of the value of the thing is what it will fetch, either in the way of rent or price. Sir, other modes of levying the tax have been suggested; it was proposed to me to levy it, not on the number of windows, but on the cubical contents of the house, or the whole area of the openings; but, apart from the impracticability of these plans, they are exposed to the same objections as the test of the number of windows; for it is just as desirable that these poor people whom we are so anxious to relieve should have a large and airy room as a sufficient opening to admit air and light. Discarding, therefore, these plans, I propose to adopt as the principle upon which the tax is to be levied the value of the houses. But in adopting this rule in all new houses, I feel it necessary to make considerable modification in the mode of applying it to existing houses. I hope I have profited, Sir, by the lesson I got last year in an attempt to remove some of the anomalies of the stamp duties. I adopted a principle of which hon. Gentlemen en this side of the House approved, namely, the ad valorem duty, and I reduced the amount very considerably upon smaller transactions, but, to a certain extent, I increased it upon larger; and, though Gentlemen who represent property generally might naturally be expected to be opposed to such a change as I proposed, I certainly was not prepared for the views maintained by some Gentlemen behind me, who are generally not unwilling to take taxes off consumers and place them upon property. But in this case they concurred in the opposition, and I was obliged, as my hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding said the other day, in order to carry out a sound principle, to sacrifice considerable revenue. In these eases anomalies cannot easily be removed without either sacrificing such a revenue as I cannot very well give up, or creating an amount of dissatisfaction which it is not worth while to incur for the sake of the object. I propose, therefore, to modify the tax in regard to existing houses. I found it impossible to adapt the principle of value to existing houses without making such a universal change of the actual amount paid as hardly any one would suppose; and, as the gratitude of those exempted would by no means equal the dissatisfaction of those who had to pay more, it was a plan that would, I think, have raised opposition which I was not prepared to incur. The present tax is levied ex- 725 clusively upon the number of windows, and to substitute the test of value would utterly change the amount paid in a very great number of cases. A house in a fashionable square would pay infinitely more in proportion than a house in an unfashionable quarter. At present, a shop in Regent-street pays no more than a shop with the same number of windows in a very different class of street. I conceive that it would be very unwise to attempt to make the change in that way. It was stated the other day, at a meeting of the window-tax payers who came to Downing-street, that two houses, one worth 50l., the other worth 20l., pay the same amount. The method to which I am referring would greatly raise the payment of the one, and depress that of the other; the gratitude of the one party, as I said, would not equal the dissatisfaction of the other; and the change would not very fairly meet the justice of the case. The proposal I shall make will be this:—I shall propose that upon all new houses, the value of which shall be 20l. a year and upwards, the house tax shall be calculated at a certain rate per pound; that all houses now paying the window tax, but of a value not amounting to 20l. a year, shall be exempted altogether; and that all houses of the value of 20l. a year and upwards, now paying window tax, shall pay two-thirds of the present amount levied—that they shall pay a house tax which shall once for all be two-thirds of what they now pay. Of course, Gentlemen will understand that the window duty will be entirely done away in future; a man may open 50 windows in his house if he pleases. There is a certain class of houses now, above the value of 20l. a year, but not paying window duty at all; I propose to impose upon them two-thirds of the lowest amount of window tax paid by any houses, leaving it, of course, free to them to open any number of windows. I propose to provide that, in the event of an increase of value to the amount of 20l., or half the present value—whichever is the least sum—by additions or alterations, they should then pay the poundage upon it. The old rate of house tax was as follows:—Upou houses between 10l. and 20l. a year, 1s. 6d. in the pound; upon houses from 20l. to 40l., 2s. 3d.; upon houses of 40l. and upwards, 2s. 10d. I have calculated, as nearly as I can, what would be the amount equivalent to two-thirds of the present window tax, and I find that it will be fairly met by a tax of 726 1s. in the pound upon a house of the value of 20l. a year and upwards. The lowest class of houses, then, from 10l. to 20l. a year, which paid 1s. 6d. in the pound, will pay nothing at all; the class from 20l. to 40l., which paid 2s. 3d., and those above 40l., which formerly paid 2s. 10d., will now pay 1s. in the pound—that is, new houses. There are houses which enjoy at present an advantage in respect of the window tax; I mean those a part of which is used for shops. In his plan for modifying the house tax, Lord Althorp proposed to give a certain advantage to houses of that description, and I think that is quite fair. I propose, accordingly, that houses, a portion of which is used for exposing goods to sale, shall, instead of paying 1s., pay 9d. in the pound. I propose to extend the same advantage to houses occupied by persons licensed to sell wine, spirits, or beer to be drunk on the premises; and to farmhouses occupied by tenants. The result of the proposal, if the House shall adopt it, will be as follows: to exempt altogether from taxation about 120,000 houses which now contribute to the window tax; to bring into taxation, at the rate of 12s. a piece (two-thirds of the lowest window duty), about 30,000 houses; to exempt, as far as I can judge, the great majority of farmhouses in the country, because I believe, very few, rated alone, would amount to 20l. a year; upon the remainder to impose a tax equivalent to two-thirds of the window duty which they now pay. The financial result will be this:—The produce of the window tax is 1,856,000l.; I calculate that the loss from exemption of houses under 20l. will be 150,000l.; that leaves 1,706,000l. payable on the new scale by houses at present paying the window tax. Of one-third of that they are to be relieved, leaving 1,137,000l. I expect to receive 18,000l. from 30,000 houses at 12s. a piece; making the produce of the future house tax 1,155,000l. The loss to the revenue, therefore, will be 701,000l. The Committee will observe that all reference whatsoever to windows, or the number of lights or openings, being entirely done away with, the objections to the tax on sanitary grounds are altogether removed. No man need stint himself in the amount of opening for air or light which he may wish to have. Of houses now paying window duty, 120,000 will be altogether exempted, and all the rest will have their tax reduced by one-third; a certain number of houses now exempt will 727 have a slight tax imposed upon them; but, in return for that, there will be no regard had to the number of openings that may be made in them. The first proposal I make, then, is the substitution for the window tax of a house tax calculated in the manner I have stated. The next proposal I shall make to the House is in regard to the duties upon coffee. Gentlemen will see, by reference to the tables of trade and navigation, that the revenue from coffee has materially fallen off in the last two years; in the last year it has fallen off no less than 77.000l.; and this great reduction is connected with a point frequently brought before the House—the admixture of coffee with chicory. Now, though I do not often allude to personal matters in this House, I hope I may be permitted to take the opportunity of referring to a statement which I have seen, that I myself have a direct interest in the question, being myself a grower of chicory. I have been told by many gentlemen who have come to me upon this subject that that is generally believed. I am not generally very sensitive to attacks; but when a thing of that kind is spread abroad, I think I have a right to say, that though the public press has a perfect licence to refer to conduct and character, such a matter as this should not be stated as a fact when it is not the fact. I never grew a root of chicory in my life; to the best of my belief, not a single root was ever grown upon my property; and, so far as I know anything of the cultivation of chicory, for I never saw it, except upon the road side, I do not possess an acre of land from which chicory ever will be grown. I do not think that, as has been frequently asserted, the mixture of chicory with coffee diminishes the use of coffee. I believe, on the contrary, that the mixture to a great extent promotes the use of coffee, because, while chicory is not injurious to health, the experience of many grocers has proved that the price of the coffee being thus reduced, it is placed more generally within the reach of the lower or working classes. Some time ago a committee of a commercial body came to me to complain of the adulteration of coffee with chicory, and they put into my hands a paper, in which I found an account that I will quote to the House, because I think it bears very directly upon this point. It was an account containing the answer of fifteen grocers in one of our large manufacturing towns to certain queries that had been addressed to them, and 728 they stated that they charged their lowest price, from 1s. to 10d. a pound for the same coffee which they sold in the bean at from 1s. 4d. to 1s. 2d. So that after it had undergone the additional process of grinding, it sold cheaper than when it was in the bean, and, of course, that could only be accounted for by the mixture of chicory. But that article was thereby brought within the reach of many persons who would otherwise in all probability have been unable to obtain it. I hold in my hand a circular from a firm (Abbiss) in the City, who say—which entirely agrees with what I have heard from other parties—that they have found an immense increase in their coffee trade in consequence of the admixture with that article of chicory—that the coffee thus mixed is considered much more palatable than the pure coffee by their customers—and that many of them have expressed their approval of the mixture. I may further state that in America, where there is, I believe, no duty on coffee, a similar mixture takes place; not with chicory, but with other articles. I find, in a book sent to me on this subject, extracts from two New York papers, which perhaps may amuse, if they do not instruct the House. The one is a statement that a merchant on one of the wharfs in Boston had sold 8,000 casks of peas, to be burnt and ground with coffee; and the other is a report that "Canadian peas are dull in consequence of the decline in coffee." I have been called upon in the course of the last year to prevent adulterations in sugar, pepper, coffee, tea, and half-a-dozen articles. I believe, upon the whole, the buyer must protect himself. If he does not like the ground coffee, he can buy it in the bean; and, on the other hand, if the merchant sells an unwholesome and unpalatable article, he will lose his customer. I am not prepared, therefore, to incur the odium or the difficulty of imposing a new excise duty on chicory, much less when that duty will fall upon an article of agricultural produce that I believe the hon. Member for Essex, whom I see opposite, knows to be a matter of some importance in the quarter of the county from which he comes. But it is quite fair to attempt to meet this adulteration by a reduction of the duties on coffee. I hold in my hand a return of the quantities of colonial and foreign coffee entered for consumption in the last five years. The quantity of colonial coffee entered in 1846 was 23,794,716 lbs.; in 1847, 27,030,907 729 lbs.; in 1848, 30,146,707 lbs.; in 1849, 29,769,730 lbs.; and last year 28,892,722 lbs. There was, then, in the course of the last five years, an increase in the quantity of colonial coffee entered for consumption to the extent of 5,000,000 lbs. In the case of foreign coffee, however, the duty upon which is 6d., as compared with 4d. a pound upon colonial, the result was very different. The quantity of foreign coffee entered in 1846 was 12,998,345 lbs.; in 1847, 10,439,672 lbs.; in 1848, 6,959,000 lbs.; in 1849, 4,661,344lbs.; and in 1850, 2,335,546 lbs. While, then, the consumption of colonial coffee increased during the last five years by 5,000,000 lbs., the entries of foreign coffee have fallen off by upwards of 10,000,000 lbs. The inference, I think, is clear, that the differential duty is telling most strongly against the admission of foreign coffee, and I conceive that if we intend effectually to reduce the price of coffee, we must reduce the duty upon both colonial and foreign. I do not believe, indeed, that the present protection is of much value to the colonial producer; for if hon. Gentlemen will refer to the accounts for the last year they will find that while the consumption of coffee in the course of the year was about 31,000,000 lbs., more than 36,000,000 lbs. were imported from our colonies, being about 5,000,000 lbs. more than this country could consume, and of that excess more than 3,000,000 lbs. were exported. I propose, therefore, with a view to do justice to the consumer in this country, and to promote the consumption of coffee, to reduce and to equalise the duties both upon foreign and colonial coffee, and to impose upon all coffee an equal duty of 3d. a pound. At the same time I propose to reduce the duty upon foreign chicory and other similar substances which have hitherto paid the same duty as foreign coffee, to the same rate of 3d. a pound. This reduction of duty will amount to 176,000l. The next proposal I have to make relates to an article respecting which a good deal of discussion took place last year—foreign timber. Hon. Gentlemen will remember that great complaints were made last year on the part of shipbuilders in this country of the unfair competition to which they were exposed in meeting foreign ships built with untaxed timber. I cannot say I think experience has shown that the injuries they have sustained are of a very serious description. I find that the number of first-class ships built in this country is increasing, instead 730 of diminishing, and in the port of London ships are now being built to foreign orders. This shows that the building of ships of the higher description is cheaper in this country than in those foreign States of whoso competition we have heard so much. But between ships of the first class and those of an inferior description there is some difference; and I think the builders of vessels of the lower class in Sunderland and some of the northern ports have something to complain of in the amount of duty they pay on foreign timber. I propose, therefore—and the proposal is grounded also on a consideration of the expediency of reducing the cost of all raw Materials in this country—to reduce the duty upon foreign timber. I do not know that I received many thanks for the measure I proposed, and which was adopted last year, with regard to the brick duties, though some hon. Gentlemen on the other side did tell me that I had contributed in some degree to facilitating the erection of those buildings required for carrying out the modern system of agriculture. When I went home at the end of the Session I was told, with reference to buildings upon my own property, "It is a pity you did not defer the erection of these buildings until after the duty upon bricks was reduced;" and I have no doubt myself of the beneficial effect, in this respect, of the reduction of the brick duty. But if a great diminution was made in the cost of buildings required for an improved system of agriculture by the reduction of the duty on bricks, the cost of such buildings will be still further diminished by reducing the duty upon timber. The timber used in the western districts of England, which are principally manufacturing districts, comes generally from America; while the timber imported into Hull, Leith, Yarmouth, and other eastern ports, to supply the agricultural districts, is obtained from the Baltic. The duty upon the colonial timber used in the manufacturing districts is merely a nominal duty, while a high duty is paid upon the Baltic timber, which comes into use in the eastern ports. I propose, then, to reduce the duty upon foreign timber to one-half its present amount. The duty upon sawn timber is now 20s., and upon hewn timber 15s. I propose to reduce the duties respectively to 10s. and 7s. 6d. Some persons may perhaps wish that I should go further. I can only say, that even if I were prepared to take off the whole duty eventually, I should not go further than I 731 have stated in the present year; because I believe, if I were to do so, that there is not sufficient competition on the part of colonial producers to bring down materially the price of foreign timber; and I should therefore be merely putting so much money into the pocket of the foreign producer. There is another article which I have already-mentioned, upon which I propose to reduce the duty. I stated in the classification of taxes that of three principal items of raw material upon which a heavy duty remains, one is agricultural seeds. I do think that in this respect the agriculturist suffers great injustice. There is a heavy duty upon his raw material, and it is the only duty the agriculturist exclusively pays, and from this impost I think he ought to be relieved. The amount of the duty is not large, but it obviously does raise the price of that which is essential to good cultivation. I believe that Dutch cloverseed is generally supposed to be better than that grown in this country; but I find that upon the importation of clover and grass seed alone there is raised a duty of 30,000l. out of the 35,000l. which is the whole amount this duty upon seeds produces. I think, therefore, in justice to the agriculturists, that this raw material should be relieved from duty, as the raw materials of most of our manufactures have long been. I remember hearing from a large farmer in the north of England, when the former reduction of the duty upon agricultural seeds took place, that he actually saved in the price of his cloverseed the whole amount of his income tax. I do not propose altogether to take off the duty, because I find on inquiry that it is desirable with a view to the examination of the foreign seed, that it should be warehoused; but I propose, instead of the present duty of 5s. per cwt. on foreign, and 2s. 6d. on colonial seeds, to levy a duty of 1s. a cwt. upon all seeds. The amount of this reduction of duty will, I believe, be about 30,000l. The reduction of the duty on timber, to which I before referred, will amount to 286,000l. I am not now stating the loss to the revenue, because some portion of it will be recovered, but the actual amount of duty reduced. These, then, are the proposals I have to make with regard to reductions of taxation. Hon. Gentlemen may remember that upon more than one occasion an appeal has been made to the Government to take upon the Consolidated Fund a portion of what are called the burdens upon land. I have stated more than once the 732 insuperable objections which I feel to do this to any large extent. Various Motions have been made by hon. Members, the effect of which would be to charge the Consolidated Fund to the amount of 2,000,000l. or 3,000,000l. annually. My own belief is, that it would be most impolitic to remove this burden from realised property, and to transfer it to the consumer, to the industrious artisan, and thereby to impede his exertions, and diminish his means of comfortable existence. But I have always stated that I feel still more strongly the political objections to such a course. If I were anxious to bring about a social revolution in this country, I would urge above all things a system of centralisation, the throwing the responsibility of all local administration upon the Government, and imposing upon the Consolidated Fund the payment of local charges. I do not think it is desirable that we should lose the check which now exists on such expenditure. When parties upon the spot, who have to pay the money, can check the expenditure, they have every inducement to keep that expenditure down to the lowest amount. But we know by recent experience in Ireland how great a disposition there is to swell expenditure where those who have the distribution of funds are not the parties who have to pay the money. I believe, also, if the responsibility of everything that might go wrong in any portion of this country was brought to bear upon the Government, it might cause a popular excitement, and bring upon them an amount of unpopularity which no Government could sustain, and the worst of revolutions might be caused by some outrage or local disturbance, which under the present system of local government would be suppressed at once by the local magistracy or authorities. My firm conviction is that the safety of this country depends upon the number of persons who, in one part of the country or another, take their share in the administration of its affairs; that it is to the local magistrates, to jurors, to the boards of guardians, to the local commissioners, to the boards of finance, of lighting, and of paving, and to the municipal bodies in the various towns, that we must look for the best administration of local government; and I believe no greater mistake could possibly be made than to adopt the system to which I am sorry to see there is at present, for different reasons, a great tendency—to displace the local bodies, and vest the administration entirely in a central Govern- 733 ment. I believe that if you transfer local payments to the control of the Government, you must also transfer to them the management of local affairs, for the paymaster is always the real controller of these matters. It is impossible that the central Government should make the payments while the local bodies retain their control If you take the payment out of the hands of local bodies, you must also deprive them of the control they now exercise; and I believe you could not strike a more fatal blow at the stability of our institutions than by adopting such a measure: therefore to any such transfer on a large scale, I entertain the very strongest objections. But, on considering this subject, I think there is one charge—on a portion of it at least—which may be thrown upon the general revenue of the country, without our incurring any of the dangers to which I have adverted. It is a charge which has been recommended to the favourable consideration of Parliament by more than one report of Parliamentary Committees; it is a charge of a very exceptional nature, and which I think may be in part defrayed from the public purse without being open to any of the objections to which I have alluded. I refer to a portion of the charge for the expenses of pauper lunatics. The Committee of the House of Lords on the subject of the burdens on land recommended that the whole of that charge should be thrown upon the Consolidated Fund. For the reasons I have mentioned, however, I do not think it right to take the whole charge, because that cannot be done without depriving the bodies of visiting justices of the control they now exercise; and I do not believe that it is possible properly to regulate the lunatic establishments without the constant supervision of those gentlemen. I propose, therefore, only to take a portion of the charge, so as in no way to oust the visiting magistrates of their superintendence. In some counties of England large lunatic asylums have been built, and considerable expense has been incurred for this purpose. I think, therefore, that such counties are more entitled to our consideration than those which have not incurred such expenditure. I propose, then, to take a portion of the charge of the maintenance of pauper lunatics, and to take a larger share of the maintenance of those confined in county asylums than of those who are confined in private establishments. I propose to take such a portion of the expense as will leave the cost still 734 to be borne by the parishes little more than that of maintaining ordinary paupers. It is a reason for taking some portion of this charge that no foresight, no sacrifice, no care on the part of the ratepayers can prevent the charge from being thrown upon the parishes. It is attributable to no neglect of theirs; it is the act of Providence. I think it is desirable to encourage them to send unfortunate individuals to the asylums. On the other hand, I think it very desirable not to encourage them to keep in the asylums those who may safely be removed, because it is notorious that the probability of a cure in such cases depends almost entirely upon parties being sent to the asylum at the earliest possible stage of the disease. I am acquainted with a case where there was great difficulty in clearing from an asylum a number of harmless idiots, in order to make room for those whose admission at an early period of the disease would, in all probability, lead to their speedy cure. I have not been able to make any precise inquiries on this subject, because I did not, of course, wish to intimate to any persons the course I intended to take; but I estimate the charge for this purpose at 150,000l. I am speaking of the united kingdom. I propose to take a portion of the expense of all pauper lunatics confined in public asylums or private madhouses in England, Scotland, or Ireland, upon the public funds. These are the proposals which I shall in due time submit to the House. The reduction of duties, and the consequent relief afforded to the country, will be as follows: On sugar, 330,000l., on windows, 700,000l.; on coffee, 176,000l.; on timber, 286,000l.; and on agricultural seeds, 30,000l., making, altogether, a relief to the public amounting to 1,522,000l. I do not, however, estimate the loss to the revenue at anything like that sum. I have already stated that I conceive the Customs revenue will make up in other items the whole of the loss upon sugar. The loss in regard to the window duty will, of course, be a total loss to the full amount of 700,000l., that being the difference between the amount of the widow duty I repeal, and the amount of the house duty which I substitute. I believe the loss upon the reduction of duty on coffee and timber together will not exceed 400,000l., and the loss upon agricultural seeds I calculate at 30,000l., making altogether a loss to the revenue of 1,130,000l. But, in addition to this, is 735 the charge which I propose to lay upon the revenue by transferring from local rates to the Consolidated Fund part of the charge for lunatic asylums, amounting to 150,000l. This will consequently cause a further loss to the revenue; making it altogether amount to 1,280,000l. Deducting this from the surplus of 1,892,000l., it leaves for future years a net surplus of 612,000l. But it will he remembered that half a year's amount of window duty will have to be received in the course of the next year, which, amounting to 350,000l., will make the surplus for the next year amount to 962,000l. The surplus for future years, however, should the House consent to a renewal of the income tax, will he 612,000l. I do not think it can be fairly objected to me that I have endeavoured to retain too large a surplus. These, then, as I have already said, are the proposals which I shall make to the House, in the event of their acceding to a renewal of the income tax. Of course, knowing as I do how much larger a surplus has been anticipated, I cannot but expect that some disappointment will be felt by parties in this House as well as out of it at finding that the amount of reduction that can be afforded is less than they expected. Knowing also the views which are entertained by many Gentlemen opposite on the subject of an extensive transfer of local rates to a charge upon the general revenue, I cannot but expect that they should be diappointed at finding that I do not consider it just to the community at large to transfer a larger portion of local rates as a charge upon the general funds of the country. My own firm belief is that these local rates are not any charge upon the occupiers of the soil. I believe that they fall upon the owners of the land. I do not think it is consistent either with good policy as regards our institutions, or with justice to the other classes of the community, to relieve the land from those local burdens to a greater extent than that which I have now done. I cannot, however, feel myself open to the reproach of having, in dealing with the general taxation of the country, been regardless of the claims of gentlemen connected with the possession of land. The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire told us the other night that the stamp duties were a charge on land, which he considered, and justly—justly to a certain extent—to be a set-off against the probate and legacy duty. Now, the House will remember that I last year proposed a re- 736 duction of the stamp duties upon deeds, the far larger portion of the benefit of which would fall to the share of the owners of land, to the extent of 500,000l. Last year also I proposed a remission of duty on bricks, and I now propose a reduction of duty on timber, which is much used in the construction of farm buildings and barns. Indeed, I am of opinion that there is no duty the reduction of which will relieve the owners of land to so great an extent as the reduction of duty on timber. I am most anxious to assist them in the improvement of their property, and in the improvement of the system of husbandry, by the removal of every species of tax which impedes this improvement, so far as I can do so in justice to the other classes of the community. I know there are some Gentlemen who entertain an anxious desire that the loan granted for drainage last year should be extended to farm buildings. I would remind Gentlemen what took place last year on this subject. While stating my own individual objections, I said that, as far as the public revenue was concerned, I had no objection to the loan being extended to farm buildings. Words to that effect were actually introduced into the Bill, in order that the subject might be discussed; it was discussed, and more especially by Gentlemen representing counties. I remember the hon. Member for Somersetshire saying that I had behaved most fairly in giving a full opportunity to consider the subject. But what was the result? Of the county Members of England and Scotland who divided on the measure, there were 36 against the loan being extended to farm buildings, and 12 for it. But, as I have said before, so far as the Exchequer is concerned, there can be no objection to the proposal; however, there were last Session three to one of the county Members who thought it a boon which it was not advisable to accept. Individually I have no hesitation in saying I concur in that opinion; but let it be understood that the objection to its adoption did not come from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but from the country Gentlemen. I can only say that if they should have changed their mind, and wish that that extension of the loan should be made, there are ample funds still left, the whole amount granted last year not having been taken up either in England or Scotland. Therefore, if it should be the opinion of the majority that the money should be so applied, it is still open to them to have it so applied. I 737 shall oppose no objection on the part of the Exchequer, although I hope, as a country gentleman, I may be at liberty to state my opinion upon the subject. I can only say upon this, as upon any other proposal which may be made with a view to mitigate the effect of any measure of legislation which may be considered to operate oppressively on the agricultural interest, I shall be perfectly ready (I assure hon. Gentlemen I say it with all sincerity) to discuss those proposals with the utmost frankness, and with the utmost disposition to consider them in all their bearings, with a view, if they should be well founded, to their practical adoption; but I cannot think that there is any portion of our taxation which presses unfairly upon that interest. I consider the well being of that class connected with the proprietorship and cultivation of the land to be inseparably mixed up with the well being of the community at large; and, therefore, that the system of taxation which is, upon the whole, best for the entire community, is also best for them, as part and parcel of that community, and whose interests are indissolubly joined with it. I do not know that there is any other point on which it is necessary for me to trouble the House at present. The proposal I shall put into your hands, Sir, will be simply for a renewal of the income tax, and of the stamp duties in Ireland. If any alteration in those duties should be proposed, the more convenient time for discussing such a proposal will be in some one of the stages of the Bill itself. If it be the wish of hon. Gentlemen that I should not this evening ask for a vote, I am perfectly prepared not to ask them for it. I only wish to point out to them that, by agreeing to a resolution this night, they are not precluded from making any general proposition with respect to the modification of the income tax at a future stage of the measure. My proposal is, that the tax be renewed for a period similar to that for which it was renewed on a former occasion, namely, three years. I will only further observe, that it is desirable on every account that no longer delay than what is necessary for a full discussion of the question should be allowed to take place, whatever opinions hon. Gentlemen may entertain respecting it.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
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.
§ MR. HERRIES
said, that he had listened with great attention to the elaborate speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but he would beg to remind that right hon. Gentleman that the details of his financial scheme, with regard to the window duties, coffee, chicory, timber, and other matters, must necessarily: be subordinate to the decision which the House might come to upon the question whether the property and income tax should be continued or not. Of all questions which now excited the mind of the country, that was perhaps the most important; and he did claim from the Government, therefore, that which they were apparently quite prepared to concede—ample time for consideration before the House was called upon to determine the question, should this tax be continued or not? The concluding portion of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was so far satisfactory that it indicated upon his part and that of the Government a desire not to press this; question precipitately or even hastily. He presumed, therefore, if the subject were postponed to-night, that the right hon. Gentleman did not intend to bring the House to its discussion at an earlier period, at least, than Friday next. He was sure the right hon. Gentleman would accept that proposal—[The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Hear, hear!] On the part of hon. Gentlemen on that (the Opposition) side of the House, he had not the most distant intention of offering anything like obstruction, or interposing unnecessary delay; but this was a subject upon which some delay was really required. And the House ought to have time to consider the measure proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, and to weigh well all the circumstances under which they were called on to agree to it. The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that there were peculiar features in the present condition of the country, and in the prospects of public affairs, which rendered this question more difficult, perhaps, than on any former occasion when it had been introduced to the House. Having reason to hope that time would be given until Friday to come to the discussion of, and a decision on, the question, in the interval he would avoid 739 everything that should even tend to the expression of an opinion on his part with regard to that which would be most wise, prudent, and politic in this important crisis of our public affairs. He would content himself with only showing, further, that there could be no object or desire on the part of any hon. Member to give any other vote upon this question—this great question, for great it was in every point of view—than that which should conduce to the present welfare and the future satisfaction of the country.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
was quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House would not interpose any unnecessary delay upon this question; and he thought the proposal that the House should go into Committee again on Friday next, with a view to its discussion, was a perfectly fair one, and one in which he could entirely agree.
§ MR. HUME
thought it right that time should be given to consider, not only the statements which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had made, but his omissions also. He regretted that the right hon. Gentleman was not prepared to make any reductions in the establishment of the country, the estimates he had given them being within 150.000l. of those of last year. They were told that because two million of men had appeared in arms somewhere, that this country could make no reductions in the Army. He must confess that he was disappointed, because after what was stated by the noble Lord last year with regard to his colonial policy, and of the determination of Government to withdraw the troops and to make the colonists pay for their own troops, he thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have found there was a large field for reduction, and that we might have expected in the course of this year the fruits of that reduction. He knew no reason why the Canadians should not govern themselves. The clergy reserves had been given up to them. He thought it became a question whether we were to keep troops there. They were quite unnecessary, and he was informed that if we gave them up, the Canadians would not maintain them for one day. The question was whether the country was satisfied with the expenditure amounting to 54,000,000l., which, including the costs of collection, was the amount, and whether the House would take any steps to effect a reduction in our civil and military establishments. It seem- 740 ed to him that there was great delicacy in dealing with the civil establishment. He should have expected that the Government would have come forward, and that from the Crown down wards we should have been relieved, with a view either of dispensing with the income tax altogether, or of repealing other taxes. He confessed that he would rather see removed the soap tax, the paper tax, and all other taxes which press upon trade, than the income tax. But if they were to be continued, and the income tax too, then it became a question whether they should not dispense with the income tax. The right hon. Gentleman had misunderstood an observation that fell from him (Mr. Hume) when this tax was proposed three years ago. The proposition was made that it should be continued for three years; and he moved a substantive Motion that it should be continued for only one year, in order to afford time for an inquiry into the whole incidents of our taxation, and with a view of effecting such improvements as might be made in the mode of collection. With regard to the income tax there were great objections to the present mode of levying it. He always regarded it almost as a robbery to charge the same percentage upon terminable incomes as upon incomes which were not terminable. He had no hesitation in saying that it was impossible to go on with the present amount of taxation, and he could not believe that the agriculturists would allow these large and expensive establishments to be maintained as at present. A Committee upstairs during the last three years had gone through the estimates of the Navy, Army, and Ordnance, to an extent of which the Minister could avail himself, and he had expected that Government would have been prepared to show reductions in all those establishments, and also in the civil administration. But not a word had been said about it. Everything was to remain the same, and there was to be no alteration either in the home or the colonial establishments. He thought the country would be disappointed, and he was disappointed, because he knew that Government had the information before them on which to found the reductions. With regard to the window tax, it was quite right to remove it; but he must say, as to the house tax, that while they had been spending years in simplifying taxation, the proposed house tax was of a most complex nature, and he thought it would be a year before the re- 741 gulations could be brought into operation. He trusted that the House would repeal the window tax, and not impose the house tax. With regard to coffee he thought the reduction proposed was a wise one, and that it was better to have one duty on both foreign and colonial. He also thought that the right hon. Gentleman was acting wisely in refusing to put an excise duty upon chicory. As to timber, the only objection he had was, that the reduction did not go far enough. At the same time there was some truth in what the right hon. Gentleman said, that it required time for them to get the supplies. He believed, as was stated some years ago, that if our shipbuilders had fair play, we should become as pre-eminent for our manufacture of ships as we were now for any other article, as we had peculiar facilities for shipbuilding. It was also proposed to reduce the duty on agricultural seeds. He had only been surprised that country gentlemen had been so long silent on that head. They constituted a raw material, but a most important material; and in 1842 he expressed his regret that the duty on seeds was not taken off. He hoped that country gentlemen would see the importance of having seeds at as low a price as possible. With regard to pauper lunatics, he could not see why they should become a charge upon the public any more than other local charges. The result of the measures taken by Sir Robert Peel and Lord Althorp in relieving counties of the expenses of prosecutions, had shown the want of wisdom of such measures. That which cost 1l. before, now cost 4l. or 5l. The Government had no check or control; it rested with the county magistrates, and not with them entirely, as from the evidence of the chief constable of Stockport it appeared that there were parties interested in every county in carrying on prosecutions. He entirely disagreed with the right hon. Gentleman as to applying any portion of the surplus to pay off the debt. The paper manufacture was one which might give employment to thousands, and might become as extensive a manufacture as any in the country, not only for our own use but for foreign supply. With the means and materials which this country possessed, it might become as prosperous a manufacture as any we had. The employment it would give, and the mischiefs it would prevent, were incalculable. These manufactories existed in remote parts of the country, chiefly where, there was a 742 convenient and abundant supply of water; in each of these localities a little town had grown up around the manufactory; and seeing that there was a decrease instead of an increase, in this manufacture, great care should be taken to avoid throwing the population, so called into existence, upon the poor-rates. It would be much better to repeal the duty on paper, which gave employment to thousands. The right hon. Gentleman boasted of having purchased 2,300,000l. of the debt—
§ MR. HUME
This debt had been funded at 86, and the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer would redeem it at 96, which would be a loss to the country of nearly 250,000l. This was not a time to throw away that sum in operations upon the Stock Exchange. How much better it would have been to take off the duty upon soap, than to buy up 1,200,000l. Three per Cents. Wherever fiscal regulations interfered with commerce and industry, the first object should be to relieve them. By every means let the soap and paper duties be abolished, not only for the relief which would be thus afforded to our people at home, though that would be great in every point of view; but as a means of enabling this country to become an exporter of soap, instead of being dependent on other countries for its own supply. The Government would, of course, buy stock at the market price; but when a surplus arose, the first question was, how it could best be applied? Instead of applying it to paying off two millions and a half, or 2,300,000l. of the debt, as he understood the right hon. Baronet to say, let it be applied to the removal of taxes pressing on industry. This was not applying the principle laid down by Sir Robert Peel in 1843; nor was it carrying out the principles of free trade. There were numerous articles of industry which were not yet free. It was said that glass was duty free; but there were kinds which still paid a duty of 50 or 60 per cent. Why not remove all the duties of a protective nature? Why, for instance, should the import duty on gloves be, continued, when the price of the article in this country was higher than ever, and a greater quantity was exported? Why not let the consumer have the full benefit of that competition which we had declared should be the principle of our fiscal system, by re- 743 pealing all the taxes on the products of industry?
§ MR. HUME
said, the right hon. Baronet greatly misrepresented him. He did not say, let all taxes he repealed; that was the argument of fools out of doors. But he contended that the application of the surplus ought to be so regulated as to remove the existing impediments to the employment of industry and the investment of capital, for the beneficial employment of which every outlet was needed. To buy up any portion of the debt, with these objectionable taxes existing, would be extremely imprudent. The right hon. Baronet had alluded to the increase of annuities—a favourable symptom; and he did not believe that there would be any fear or risk as to the public faith being kept, so long as they took care not to strain the spring of industry until it broke. He entirely concurred in one sentence of the right hon. Baronet, which had also been expressed by the noble Lord at the head of the Government on a former evening—that the security and peace of the country depended mainly on the number of people who took a share or were interested in the government of the country. Let the occupants of the Treasury bench be consistent, and bear that sentiment in mind when the question of the franchise came on for discussion. The same principle applied to taxation. It was their duty to lessen, by every means in their power, the burdens of the community, in order that they might be comfortable; and in the train of comfort would follow peace and content. But he did not think such a state of things would be realised under the present system.
concurred with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stamford, in thinking that, until the question of the property tax was settled, it would be almost premature to make any observations on the other parts of the right hon. Baronet's scheme. As to the property tax, he thought Sir Robert Peel was fully justified in introducing it along with the changes which he made in our fiscal system, inasmuch as he removed the taxes from the food of the people. So for the experiment had been perfectly successful; and it was mainly owing to that policy that the condition of this country was now so different from that of other 744 countries; for it was the only country in Europe which had any surplus to dispose of. He hoped that if the property tax was re-imposed, it would be done on the same principle on which it had been originally imposed, and that corresponding reductions would be made in all taxes which affected the comforts of the working classes. He had a Motion on the book for Thursday next for the repeal of the window tax; but, as he understood from his right hon. Friend that the arguments he had used on a former occasion had at length convinced the Government of the necessity of repealing that tax, he trusted there was now no difference of opinion between them. He regretted that the right hon. Gentleman, in proposing the repeal of this tax, seemed to cast "a lingering look behind," for he was probably the only person in the country who would have ventured upon the assertion, at the present day, that there was a good deal to be said in favour of the window tax. The right hon. Gentleman said, "Look how much house property has been relieved in the last few years by the repeal of the duties on glass and on bricks." But what relief was this to houses already built? It only applied to those to be built. Another argument had been used—that the window tax ought to be kept on, because people were accustomed to it. This reminded him of the old story about skinning the eels. He feared the proposed arrangements would not be very satisfactory or consolatory to those who looked for a total repeal of the window tax. He thought he was perfectly justified in proposing its repeal last year, though he was told that faith could not then be kept with the public creditor. He feared the proposition of a house tax would cause considerable disappointment to many; he much wished the substitution of that tax could have been avoided.
§ SIR J. TYRELL
thought that hon. Gentlemen opposite should be satisfied with the victory they had gained over the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as far as the window tax was concerned. He (Sir J. Tyrell) congratulated the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer on an admission which he had made that evening—an admission which was great in principle, though small in amount—namely, that on certain occasions the country could have recourse to the Consolidated Fund. He now proposed to administer relief from that source, to a portion of the pauper lunatics of the country, but he would find it a grave 745 question to find out in many cases between paupers who were lunatics, and those who were sane. All medical men confessed the difficulty of determining the almost transparent boundary between sanity and lunacy. His proposition, however, would encourage various parishes throughout the country to send numbers of paupers of every sort to the lunatic asylum. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to chicory. Now it was important that the lower orders of the people should have a wholesome beverage to deal with, and, although chicory, mixed in certain proportions with coffee, made a better and wholesomer beverage than inferior descriptions of coffee, yet it was right that some precautions should be taken against the adulteration of coffee, which had already taken place to so great an extent. The poor man should know what it was he was really buying, and that when he wanted coffee, he was not supplied with parsnips, mangold wurzel, or chicory. He (Sir J. Tyrell) hoped some efficient safeguard would be provided against those adulterations.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, he was quite sure the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement would disappoint the country, as well as that House. If the House wished to force reductions on the Government, they must begin with our expensive establishments. After Committees had been sitting for three Sessions on the Army and Navy Estimates, the Government ought to have been prepared to carry out some very extensive reductions. But it appeared that, whenever the finances were in a flourishing condition, there was always an extravagant expenditure. The expenditure of 1845 had been 2,174,000l. less than the expenditure of this year; and what were the circumstances of the country to justify such an increase? At home, tranquillity, peace, and contentment reigned to a much greater extent than was the case in 1845; the colonies were in a state of quiet—there were some misunderstandings, but nothing to warrant such an expenditure as this; and foreign nations had quite enough to do to manage their own affairs: they had neither the means nor the disposition to interfere with us or any of their neighbours. Let the right hon. Baronet state to the House the necessity for the increased expenditure this year over the periods he had named. The expenditure of the Army and Navy was a million more than in 1845. What was there to require or justify that? 746 Sir Robert Peel had carried on the Government peaceably with the smaller expenditure, and why could not the present Government carry it on as cheaply as he had done? They had certainly never carried it on more efficiently. Was it through want of disposition or of ability? As the question would again come before the House, he was not disposed to take up the time of hon. Gentlemen at the present moment. With regard to the window tax abolition and the substitution of a house tax on the principle proposed by the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he should say he considered it most objectionable, as it removed none of the complaints urged against the inequality of taxing the houses of the poor from 25 to 30 per cent on the rental, whilst those of the wealthy were only taxed 2 or 2½ per cent. Then, the income tax, also, was an impost that the community expected would be placed on a different principle from that which previously regulated it. But, as further opportunity would occur for the consideration of all these topics, he did not deem it necessary to refer to them more particularly on the present occasion.
§ MR. ALDERMAN SIDNEY
did not wish to anticipate the debate, but could not avoid making a few observations for the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The scheme proposed for the reduction of the window duty, by the levy of a house tax yielding two-thirds of the present window duty, he considered a great injustice to houses already erected, and containing a larger number of windows. He would bring to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman that houses hereafter to be erected with fifty or seventy windows, assessed at 50l. or 70l. per annum, would, under the altered state; of things, have to pay some 1s. in the pound, or 2l. 10s. or 3l. 10s. in the year; whilst the old houses, under the former system of equal value, would have to pay 13l. and 20l. per annum. As to the income tax, he remembered when the noble Lord at tin1 head of the Government reintroduced the tax in 1848, he proposed it on the ground of its being merely a temporary tax. In 1842, Sir Robert Peel stated to the House that if the tax were to be a permanent one, he would consider it the duty of the Government to investigate how far it pressed on the different classes who paid it. He therefore trusted the House would offer the most determined opposition to the income tax, unless Ministers were prepared 747 to make it more just and equal in its operation. He would never consent to the renewal of a tax which exacted in the same proportion from talent, salary, and daily toil, as from realised property. He should differ with the hon. Member for Montrose, and assert that Government was not to blame for having appropriated a certain portion of their surplus revenue to the payment of the national debt, as, in his opinion, they were bound to leave as little as possible of such a legacy to their successors. In conclusion, he hoped that some important Member on one side of the House or the other would insist that the income tax, if renewed, should be based on fairer principles.
MR. T. L. HODGES
thought that as the brick duties came under favourable consideration last year, the hop duty should not have been overlooked on the present occasion. For the last thirty years there had been great complaints amongst the hop growers, and these complaints had not lessened, but aggravated; and from what he knew of the condition of the farmers in the hop counties, he could undertake to say that Government would be unable to collect the hop duty in the present year.
§ MR. SLANEY
thanked the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the several reductions which he had made in the taxation of the country, but more especially he thanked him in the name of a great and suffering body, shut up in the courts and alleys of this city, for the removal of the window tax. He himself had visited those places; he had reported on them, and he knew, therefore, the extent of the boon. He fully believed that by relaxing the restraints on the springs of industry, and relieving the burdens which now pressed down the mind of the country, that they would be able—without changing the burdens from one class to another—to improve the working classes so as to make them better, more happy, and more contented. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had on a previous occasion stated his willingness to grant assistance to the suffering agricultural interest, in the way of loans for draining. That had been found so useful in his (Mr. Slaney's) part of the country that there had been a general demand for loans, great additional numbers of persons had been employed, and great benefit had accrued. He wished his right hon. Friend had stated his willingness to extend to that suffering interest other agricultural improvements. 748 Why not allow private individuals to make loans? Why not afford them the same machinery, and, instead of coming to the Exchequer, persons close by would be ready to lend their money for the purpose. If there was only the same machinery for putting the charge on the land and receiving it back half-yearly through the medium of collectors, individuals with ample funds desiring investment would be ready to lend the landowner money, which the landowner could not now get, because of the cumbrous nature of the titles of land. Nothing proved it so clearly as the fact that they could not get money on mortgage for less than 4¼ per cent, whilst Exchequer bills were only 2¼ per cent. The reason was, one was a simple mode, and the other was loaded with complexity. The lawyers prevented the getting money cheaper upon land, and he hoped, ere long, those difficulties would be removed. He should conclude by tendering his humble meed of thanks to the Government for the benefit to the industrious classes which the proposed repeal of the window tax would secure.
§ MR. FREWEN
regretted that the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not announced his intention to remit any portion of the hop duty. He had mentioned to the right hon. Gentleman, when attending with a deputation which waited on him to show the state the county of Sussex had been brought to by that duty, that, in a neighbouring parish to his (Mr. Frewen's), there were at this present time 1,000 acres out of 3,000 thrown on the hands of the landed proprietors; and of that amount a large proportion belonging to a noble Lord sitting on the other side of the House, had been on his hands since Michaelmas 1848. He (the noble Lord) had a very good farm of 450 acres, which he could not let on any terms whatever. A friend of his (Mr. Frewen's) had stated at a public meeting last week—In his own neighbourhood there were many farms wanting tenants. He himself had one for which he could not find a tenant; and he knew that Lord Ashburnham, Sir Peckham Micklethwait, and Sir Godfrey Webster, also had farms, some of them several, which they could not let. They were obliged to cultivate them themselves; and if tenants could not cultivate to advantage, he was sure that landlords using vast quantities of land could not either.Literally, in Sussex, thousands of acres had been thrown up, and thousands more would be thrown up by next Michaelmas. 749 The right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon had said, the other night, that he was only owed 300l. in arrears for rent. He (Mr. Frewen) could mention some landed proprietors to whom rents were some thousands in arrear. A friend of his, a liberal landlord, had, arrears amounting to nearly 8,000l., and another gentleman had more than 700 acres on his hands. In the eastern part of the county of Sussex alone, the hop duty came to more than 100,000l. a year. In 1848 it was more than 117,000l., and in 1850 nearly 116,000l.; and when the protecting duty had been lowered to one-fourth of what it was some few years ago, they had, he contended, a just claim for a mitigation of that most oppressive burden. Before a return to cash payments there was no difficulty in paying this tax; but, since 1819, it had never been regularly paid, although the amount of hop plantations had been enormously reduced. In 1819, the amount of hop plantations was 51,014 acres, and the amount of duty—the old duty—242,076l. In 1822, the amount of plantations was reduced to 43,766 acres, and the duty a little more than 200,000l. And in consequence of the depressed state of the country in that year, Lord Liverpool's Government sent down orders to the excise officers not to collect the hop duty; and although last year the depression had been much greater in the hop districts than in 1822, and there had been great meetings and deputations, and petitions without end, yet the Government enforced the dut3', causing ruin and distress throughout those districts. By a return of last year, the plantations were reduced to 42,798 acres, as compared with 51,000 acres in 1819; so that it could not be said that the plantation was too large. This was the only tax which had not either been repealed or mitigated since the time of* the war; and when the protecting duty had been lowered to about one-fourth, he thought that the excise duty should be lowered at least one-half. He must tell the right hon. Baronet that it was utterly impossible that it could he continued to be paid; last year's tax it would be impossible to collect, and the extremities resorted to lately had caused enormous ruin and distress, and excited ill feeling against the Government. Many of their old political friends, who had been strong supporters of the Government ever since they had been in office, had, in consequence, expressed a wish that they would not long continue there.
§ MR. COWAN
rose to confirm what had 750 fallen from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stafford, and to assure the House of the general impression entertained amongst his constituents of the extreme injustice of the income tax, as at present existing. He would only refer the Committee to what took place some three years ago, when the present First Lord of the Admiralty had demonstrated in the most powerful manner the unfair mode in which the property tax was assessed, and appealed to the Government to endeavour to make it more palatable to the people at large. He (Mr. Cowan) had presented petitions from the Lord Provost and Town Council of Edinburgh, the Merchants' Company, and Chamber of Commerce, against it, on the ground that the tax upon incomes offered a premium to evasion and dishonesty. He knew instances, also, in which the notices relating to the tax had been transmitted through the post-office, in envelopes open at the ends, so that, without a great breach of confidence, any post-office clerk or messenger could peep in and ascertain the amount at which every person in the city of Edinburgh was assessed. Another remarkable fact at which he could not help expressing his surprise, was, that in the year ending 1848 it appeared that, of the 147,659 persons assessed under Schedule D, no fewer than 34,370, being nearly one-fourth of the number, paid the tax on incomes under 150l. This 73,000l., therefore, looked very like ill-gotten gains. He hoped the Government would propose some modification of the tax, or they might ask for a vote on account, and refer the matter to a Select Committee, where he was sure a more just scheme could be devised. He must express his disappointment that the claim of the licensed coach proprietors and post-horse masters was not taken into the favourable consideration of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There was no class of the community whose means of livelihood had been so ruinously affected by the operation of railways, and as they had proposed a plan to the right hon. Gentleman, by which they might be relieved without any loss to the revenue, their claim was the more deserving of consideration. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester would renew this Session the Motion which he made last year for a remission of the tax on paper and all other taxes on knowledge. With regard to the amount of the duty on paper, it appeared to him that, by the existence of that duty, the 751 country lost on the one hand as much as they gained on the other.
§ SIR B. HALL
said, that when the noble Lord at the head of the Government, three years ago, proposed the income tax, he spoke of extending it to Ireland, when he next proposed to reimpose it. He (Sir B. Hall), therefore, gave notice at that early period, that, whenever the opportunity arose, he would propose the extension of the income tax to Ireland. With regard to the imposition of a house tax, he begged also to give notice that he would take the sense of the House on that proposition. And, as it was desirable to know what strength he was likely to enlist in favour of that Motion, he begged leave to ask his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether the imposition of the house tax was to be confined to Great Britain, or whether it was to extend to Ireland also?
§ MR. ALCOCK
begged to express his satisfaction at the announcement of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to taking the duty off cloverseed, and he was anxious also to explain the reason why he voted the other night in favour of the Motion of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire. He did so, not from any view to a return to protection, but because he was one of those who wished to force the Government to give them a full and complete system of free trade. He wanted to extort from them free trade in the important article of barley. The House was hardly aware that one-ninth part of all the cultivated land was occupied by barley. When the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire last year proposed to transfer to the Consolidated Fund a part of the charge for the poor-laws, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department and Sir Robert Peel proved, that even if the hon. Gentleman had made good his case, it would not have made more than 2d. or 3d. an acre difference. But the tax on malt was to the extent of 4l. or 5l. per acre, though hon. Gentlemen said it was of no importance at all. Were they aware that a farmer must send twelve quarters of barley to a maltster to get back five quarters of malt? The reason was perfectly obvious. The duty on a quarter of malt was 22s., and the expense of converting barley into malt 6s. per quarter; and, therefore, on five quarters the difference would be no less than 7l. Such a grievous impost only existed, because the agriculturists had not yet combined against it as commercial men had 752 combined to demand a repeal of the window tax; they had been fighting half for protection and half for a repeal of the malt tax or some other tax, and therefore they had failed to come before the House, or Her Majesty's Government, with any effect or power whatsoever. But, if they did combine, as they had done in South Nottinghamshire, and elected their own representatives, they could not fail to obtain justice, although, apparently, it might be a matter of indifference to that House.
§ SIR W. JOLLIFFE
was obliged to the hon. Member who had just sat down, for having at length admitted that he and the other advocates of the agricultural interest had some reason to be discontented with the present state of things. To his own knowledge, those employed in that part of the country with which he was connected, were suffering severely, and it would be some consolation to them to find that the House in some degree sympathised with their sufferings. They certainly received no sympathy from Her Majesty's Government, or from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He never listened with more pain in his life to any statement than he had to the financial statement of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Only the other night the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Her Majesty's Ministers, and Her Majesty from the Throne, described the agricultural interest as suffering from distress. Was there in the statement just made any symptom of consideration for the farmer? How could the farmer sympathise in any way with any one of the propositions? He did not see that the farmer would gain one shilling by the alteration. If he occupied a house of above 20l. a year value, some one would pay the house tax, which he did not pay before. Another point further showed the right hon. Gentleman's ignorance. He might benefit Scotland and the north of England by taking off the duty on seeds, but he would do infinite injury to the south of England, where the growth of seeds afforded a profitable employment. By raising cloverseed, the small farmer was able to employ labour during the winter; and he believed that reason weighed with the late right hon. Member for Tamworth to induce him to leave that considerable amount of duty on seeds which would now be taken off. He (Sir W. Jolliffe) did not intend to enter with the hon. Member for East Surrey on any discussion of the malt tax; he should confine himself to a few words on the consid- 753 eration of the budget. The right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had entered into a long detail of the budget of last year, and seemed to say he had done a great deal for the landed interest last year. Considering the two budgets together, he had dealt with a very large sum of money—some two millions and a half of taxes had been repealed, or would be by these propositions, and with that the Chancellor of the Exchequer might have done some little for the land and some little for the tenant-farmer. The right hon. Gentleman claimed some merit for having remitted the duty on bricks. The benefit to the tenant-farmer was best shown by the answer of one of the right hon. Gentleman's tenants, who said, "You built all my farm buildings before you took off the duty on bricks." He (Sir W. Jolliffe) very much doubted whether the man was then much impressed with the wisdom of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Now the right hon. Gentleman would have to tell his tenant that he had kept on the income tax on Schedule B, but taken off one-third of his own window duty; and he then doubted very much whether the tenant-farmer would not have considerable doubt of the right hon. Gentleman's honesty. But they would have time to consider all these things. All he could say now was, that dissatisfaction with the present budget would pervade all these suffering classes from one end of the country to the other. They would see they could have no hope, no consideration, from a Government who would trifle in this manner with two millions and a half of money. He would sooner have the budget he had listened to of the hon. Member for Montrose, than the budget of the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ LORD D. STUART
said, a question had been put to the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer on a very important matter, which ought to be answered to enable the House to see what they were about. His hon. Colleague had asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer a very plain and a very distinct question. The right hon. Gentleman must know what his intentions were, and it was only common fairness that the House should be put in possession of the fact, whether this house tax, which he meant to call upon them to vote, was or was not to be extended to Ireland? That question had been put quite plainly, and he did think the House had a right to have it answered.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that half-a-dozen questions were sometimes put, and it was not very convenient that he should always rise immediately to answer them. The more usual course was to answer the various questions of the various speakers when the debate was pretty nearly drawing to a close. He assured the noble Lord that he had not the slightest intention of not answering the question, nor of shrinking to answer it. He would answer it at once. What he proposed to do was to reduce the amount of duty which houses paid in Great Britain, and he did not propose to impose any new tax upon Ireland. An observation had been made by the hon. Member for the city of Edinburgh as to the apparent injustice of so many persons receiving incomes under 150l. a year, and nevertheless paying income tax. The cause of those persons paying income tax was, their enjoying other sources of income than under Schedule D. If a person had an income from any other source of 1,000l. per annum, yet if he also made a profit, though it did not amount to 150l. a year, it would appear under Schedule D, and therefore the injustice was, in point of fact, no injustice at all. The hon. Baronet the Member for Petersfield had not practised the principles which he preached. He began by saying he should take time to consider the budget, and ended by condemning it in most unmeasured terms. When the hon. Member for Montrose would propose a budget more to the hon. Baronet's taste, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) could not say; but when the hon. Member for Montrose took his position, he would be glad to find the hon. Baronet better pleased. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had always maintained that the rates were not paid by the tenant, but by the landlord. If the result of a remission of the duty on bricks or timber enabled the landlord to give better buildings to carry on the cultivation of the lend, then he did contend the tenant would be benefited by that remission of duties. He never said that the remission of duty on bricks and timber was a direct benefit. As to the present proposal, the tenant would be benefited to the extent of one-third of the present window tax in most cases, and to the whole extent where the house was of less annual value than 20l. Thus it would be a distinct boon to all persons occupying houses. With regard to the duty on seeds, it was said that pro- 755 tection should be kept for a portion of the agriculturists who produced seeds; but he thought the unfortunate farmers who did not grow seeds had a right to obtain their raw material as cheap as they could, and ought not to pay a higher price for the benefit of a few of their own body.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that the theory of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the rates were paid by the landlord and not by the occupier, was contrary to the principle on which ratepayers were elected as guardians of the poor, for they were elected on the principle that they had a direct interest in the application of those funds. He had not heard in the estimate of the revenue for this year, which the right hon. Baronet had stated, what was the amount the right hon. Gentleman estimated he should receive from the duty on corn, and he wished to ask him that question. In the financial statement of 1849, the right hon. Baronet stated that he had expected that the duty for that year would amount to 250,000l.; at the rate of 1s. per quarter it actually amounted to 617,818l. Last year, again, the right hon. Baronet expressed his belief that the duty on corn would yield 250,000l. again, and it actually brought in 473,170l., thus exceeding the right hon Baronet's estimate for last year, and proving it incorrect by 70 per cent. This was a very important fact, because, in addition to its being no insignificant sum, at a fixed duty of 1s. the amount would give a clear insight into what quantity of grain and flour Her Majesty's Government and the right hon. Gentleman anticipated as the future importation of corn against which farmers would have to compete in the ensuing year. The right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the right hon. Member for Ripon had adverted to the condition of France on a previous evening, and stated that prices were lower there than they had been for fifty years; and argued that, because prices were low in France, notwithstanding the imposition and maintenance of a high, almost prohibitory, duty on the import of grain into France, that, therefore, protection by the imposition of a customs duty upon agricultural produce into England would not afford effectual protection; but that exceptional circumstances, which they did not show were common to both countries, would have abated prices in this country, as they had in France, notwithstanding 756 the existence or imposition of a duty. But surely these right hon. Baronets, who professed to be political economists, must know that the rule and circumstances which regulate prices in a corn-importing country like England, are totally different from those which regulate the range of prices in a corn-exporting country like France. France had so increased her agricultural produce under protection, that in ten years she had become an exporting instead of an importing country; and the prices in a corn-exporting country were regulated by the prices which the exported surplus could command in the markets to which the export was sent, and were quite independent of the duty imposed at home. Instead, therefore, of the abatement of prices in France being any consolation to the agriculturists of England, as though casual and exceptional, that depression proved that the prices which the surplus corn and flour from France, when exported to this country, commanded in the markets of England, were so low, owing to the competition of other foreigners, that neither the French nor the English farmer could obtain a living or a profit from their produce. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave us a continuation of the income tax, without holding out the slightest hopes of a remission of the excise duties, although the case of the hop growers of Sussex and malt-growing counties had been brought before him repeatedly, not only by Members of the Opposition, but even by Gentlemen sitting behind him; and although a very large portion, if not a majority, of the tenant-farmers demanded the remission of the malt tax, as one which was grossly unjust in its operation. In comparison with this, he did not consider the paltry question of 30,000l. a year on agricultural seeds as one of any importance. He would refrain from going at length into the large question of the commercial condition of this country; but he must say, notwithstanding the constantly reiterated congratulations with which they were cheered upon the condition of their commerce, that he believed the commercial state of this country was unsound. If the right hon. Gentleman would analyse the state of the cotton trade this year, he would find it to be the bitterest satire which he could peruse upon the whole free-trade system. We did find that there was an increase in the exportation of cotton goods; but where was it sent to? Not to Europe—not to 757 the countries from which we were drawing our enormous supplies of grain, but to China, Asia, and our own colonies; while there was an absolute decrease in the exportation of cotton fabrics to the Continent last year, as compared with the year 1849, to the extent of twenty-seven millions of yards. Yet the House had been constantly assured that the direct consequence of our admitting agricultural produce duty free, would be an increased exportation of our goods to those countries from which we drew our supplies. This was now falsified to the utmost; for the increased demand for our manufactured produce came from our colonies, whom Her Majesty's Government proposed now further to injure by the admission of a differential duty upon their produce coming to this country. He could not agree in the congratulations which he had heard upon the improved condition of the country. The largest section of tin: population—the agricultural body—was very heavily depressed; and he did not see any prospect of a manufacturing prosperity sufficient to counterbalance that disadvantage. The imports last year had increased from 84 millions in 1845, to about 110 millions, while the exports had at most increased in declared value only from 60 to 70 millions, so that, while our exports had increased 15 per cent, our imports had increased 30 per cent. He could not help expressing his deep dissatisfaction that, after all the admissions in the Queen's Speech of the existing distress, and all expressions of sympathy from the Government, no practical measures had been taken to relieve the agricultural classes of this country.
§ MR. F. FRENCH
said, that, though; there was a surplus, the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not proposed to divert any portion of it to the most miserable and overtaxed part of Her Majesty's dominions, Ireland. But his hon. Friend the Member for Marylebone, not content with this indifference, actually desired to increase the present amount of taxation on that country. Now, he did not shrink from stating, nay more, he was fully prepared to prove to demonstration, that Ireland already paid at least an equal share of taxation, and bore, proportionately to her means, her full quota of the burdens of the State. Out of the nine millions to which it was said the income of Ireland now amounted, he believed 7,000,000l. at least paid income tax 758 through absentees residing in England, or Irish moneys placed in the funds in this country. The hon. Baronet might perhaps, without contradiction, in the borough of Marylebone, lay down the proposition that Ireland ought to be more heavily taxed, but he would fail in this House, because he would always find one or other of the 105 Irish Members prepared to show that it would be the grossest injustice to encumber Ireland with another shilling of taxation.
§ MR. BANKES
would not object to anything which the hon. Member for Roscommon had urged in favour of Ireland, although there might have been a time when he (Mr. Bankes) thought that portion of the country should have had to hear equally with England the heavy imposts to which we were subjected; but now he, for one, was far from giving his assent to any extension of the income and property tax to Ireland, and, in fact, would strenuously resist it. The right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer had dealt in a most unsatisfactory way with the owners of land; and the answer given by the Government to the just complaints of his hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire respecting the burdens upon the soil, was lame and insufficient. But there was a class to which neither that hon. Gentleman nor any other Member of the Administration alluded. They spoke of the landlords and of the tenant-farmers, but they never once alluded to a class who were neither landlord nor tenant, but partook of both—he meant those men who owned and who cultivated their farms—that class which had long stood high amongst the yeomanry of England; these were the men upon whom these burdens and our recent legislation pressed most severely—a class who enjoyed a prominent place in our history, and whose interests he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not disregard. They had always been loyal, they had never been clamorous—they had not commanding influence, but yet they had claims to the attention of any British Government. As regarded the window tax, it was his duty not only to give his attention to those by whose influence he might be more particularly returned, but to extend it also to the large towns that were situated within his county, and having their interest at heart, as well as that of the rest of his constituents, he had raised his voice against the window tax. He thought that the duty might be 759 changed from windows to houses, greatly to the advantage of the occupiers, and without any great loss to the revenue. He joined heartily, therefore, in the propriety of removing that tax, reserving to a future occasion the expression of his opinion upon the income tax.
§ MR. MITCHELL
had last year expressed the opinion that the remission of the timber duties would give an impetus to our shipbuilding trade. He had the greatest confidence in repeating his belief that the remission of these duties would prove of great advantage to this country, and would give employment to one of the most valuable classes of our labourers—the shipwrights, with whom machinery did not interfere. He did not see why, with untaxed timber, they should not be able to build ships in this country which would in all respects compete with those of foreign build. The reduction of the duty on Baltic wood would increase materially the lower class of shipping, and thus give increased employment to a most valuable set of men. It was also important to other classes. Sir Robert Peel, in 1845, reduced the duty on the most valuable kinds of wood, such as rosewood and mahogany, without altering the duties upon coarse wood applicable to domestic purposes; so that a man who had a table made of mahogany paid no duty upon it, while the poor man was taxed for the deal of which his table was made.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
, after his experience of twenty-four years in Parliament, had heard many statements made by Chancellors of the Exchequer, and he had said that, although an angel from heaven came down, he could not please all parties with a financial statement. He (Colonel Sibthorp) begged, however, to say, that, in his humble judgment, he had never heard a more weak statement than what had been made that evening by his right hon. Friend, and, he might add, his most respected relative, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in trying to please every body, would please nobody. The Government had, in fact, set a most unworthy trap on purpose to catch the hon. Members who represented the sister kingdom, and without whom they knew they could not get on. Therefore it was that they proposed to continue the income tax in England, but not to extend it to Ireland. He did not blame the Government, for they had set many traps and spring-guns to catch anything they could 760 get. He only trusted that the Irish Members would not be deceived by the trickery of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and become subservient to his will. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had announced no intention whatever to relieve the agriculture of the country; but surely that would have been the least he could have done. He ought to have created a surplus for the purpose; and he might have done that by reducing his own salary, and those of others, without continuing the income tax. He (Colonel Sibthorp) trusted, however, that the time would soon come when the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be compelled to listen to the claims of the British farmer. The bird that could sing and would not sing must be made to sing. The pressure had already begun to be applied within the House, and he hoped that would soon be also the case without, and that the Ministers would be compelled to bestow a due consideration upon the case of the most important interest in the country—the agricultural interest.
§ MR. MUNTZ
would not say whether the statement of the right hon. Gentleman was strong or weak; but he would venture to say, like the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Lincoln, that a Chancellor of the Exchequer was much like the painter who, in striving to please every body, pleased nobody. If they had entirely repealed some oppressive and obnoxious tax, they would at least have given satisfaction to somebody; but they had taken away the whole of the grace from their concession of the window tax, by their substitution in its place of a house tax. They were also continuing another tax, which was one of the worst that could be imposed—the property tax. When that tax was proposed by Sir Robert Peel, he (Mr. Muntz) believed he was the only Member on his side the House that voted for it; and he took the course he did on the express understanding, most distinctly given, that the tax was only to last for three years. To his great astonishment, however, when the time came that the tax should have been repealed, it was reimposed; and many hon. Gentlemen, by whom he had been blamed for supporting the measure in the first instance, voted for its renewal. It had been renewed three times; and there was no tax that ever committed such infamous frauds upon society as this. He knew many instances where small tradesmen with incomes just over the 150l. a year had been over- 761 charged, simply because it was known I that they dared not appeal. He had been repeatedly applied to by constituents who had been treated in this manner, and who wanted to know what they were to do; but, of course, his answer invariably was, that there was nothing that they could do, unless they were prepared to show their books. There was one case, where a man had actually been thus overcharged three successive times; and it must be clear that any tax that could be made so fraudulent was a most oppressive one. That he considered it to be, both as regarded its principles and its arrangements. He had risen more particularly to ask the right hon. Baronet to explain how he proposed to levy the tax on warehouses and similar premises that were rated above 20l., a thing which persons who used manufactories would be very anxious to know.
§ MR. W. BROWN
I am induced to offer a few observations to the House in consequence of the statement made by my hon. Friend the Member for Warwickshire. He states, that our exports last year were 70,000,000l., and our imports 100,000,000l.; and, consequently, that we must be losers, having so largo an excess to pay for. If I mistake my hon. Friend's reasoning, he will put me right. I, as a merchant, take a totally different view of this matter. If we part with 70,000,000l., that is, property that was worth 70,000,000l. to the nation, and receive back property that to us is worth 100,000,000l., I consider that we are carrying on a very profitable trade, and that the country is becoming richer. There may be some inaccuracy in the returns; but it is sufficient to support my view of the case, that in a series of years our imports exceed our exports. If the reverse were the case, the country would be losers. The hon. Member for Carlisle the other night stated, that there was great distress in Carlisle amongst the operative manufacturers. This, however, is no argument against the general prosperity. If the fashion changes, and checks and ginghams are supplanted by muslin do laines and silks, as a matter of course the manufacturers of checks and ginghams must be a suffering class, as were the buckle makers when buckles went out; as were the hair dressers when powder ceased to be worn; and I don't believe but that how prosperous soever a country may he, there must from time to time be some distress in one class or another, from the constant changes 762 in fashion that are taking place. But I believe at no period of English history were the great masses of the people so well employed as now. Even in the agricultural districts, where wages are reduced, the labourers are better off than formerly, as the money they now receive goes further in procuring them food and the other necessaries and conveniences of life, than when they got higher wages and everything was dearer. No one can deny that our cotton manufacturers have been well employed and prosperous; but that prosperity has been checked by the advanced price of the raw material. Now, Sir, with respect to the malt duty, how does the matter stand? A most intelligent gentleman, who was formerly a Member of this House, told mo he voted for the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose to remove that duty, but afterwards voted against it, when he found that the maltsters were afraid of malting foreign barley, for that it sometimes heated in the vessels that brought it here, and thus they could not depend upon it; and if malted, the duty must be paid. They preferred malting from English barley, which they could depend on. This clearly gives the English farmer a monopoly of the barley market for malting purposes. If no loss of duty were sustained by the malting of foreign barley, as it comes earlier to market, it would in many instances be substituted. I still think that the landed interest have nothing to complain of. They had an unfair monopoly of this market for many years, and the duty on malt indirectly benefits them. I must apologise to the House for troubling them, although I seldom detain them long; but I cannot sit still and hear fallacious statements made without endeavouring to show their fallacy.
§ MR. G. SANDARS
said: I have heard the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer with mingled feelings of satisfaction and regret: satisfaction at the large surplus in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman; regret that he has not made a more satisfactory disposition of it. I am not disposed to quarrel with the repeal of the window tax; on the contrary, I have always supported its repeal; but the right hon. Gentleman has done away with much of the grace of the boon by coupling it with a reimposition of a house tax. If the right hon. Gentleman should fill the honourable post he now holds another year—which is exceedingly problematical—I trust he may 763 have a still larger balance at his disposal, and that he will repeal the 5 per cent on the customs and excise, and 10 per cent on the assessed taxes, which at a time of deficiency in the revenue were put on, and which now in a time of surplus ought to be taken off; and also that he will repeal that tax on prudence and forethought—I mean the tax on assurances, which in many cases is 50 per cent on the premium charged, and which forces much business from us to foreign ports; and also that objectionable tax the receipt tax, which, as far as the county trade is concerned, is almost a dead letter. Ask a county shopkeeper for a receipt on a stamp, he would consider it a reflection on his honour, and that you dared not trust his integrity. Sir, I hold a tax is always bad when it is disregarded by the great portion of the middle and industrious classes of the country. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has proposed the continuation of the income tax for three years longer, in its present objectionable shape. I tell the right hon. Gentleman he had better have continued it for twenty-one years, if not in perpetuity—for I believe we shall never get rid of it—nor do I object to a well-adjusted income tax; but I do object, and, if I mistake not, the country will also object, to continue it even for three years in its present objectionable and unjust shape. I ask the House is it fair, is it reasonable, to require the same amount percentage from one who has an income of 500l. per annum from the funds, or other realised property, as from one who has the same income from a hazardous trade or profession, which income depends upon his health, his industry, or the sweat of his brow? I ask, is it right to tax the poor tenant-farmer for profits when it is notorious that, during the two last years, in place of profits he has had nothing but losses? Is it reasonable, I ask, to tax the gross income from houses and warehouses in place of the net receipts, after deducting rent, repairs, &c. &c.? Why, Sir, I know a party who should have an income of 400l. per annum from houses, and though he had to pay the income tax on this sum, yet from deductions of insurance and sundry repairs last year, he did not receive half this sum. I tell the right hon. Gentleman, unless he modifies his plan to meet these inconsistencies, the country will be dissatisfied, and at all risks the House will refuse to renew the tax. I therefore advise the right hon. Gentle- 764 man to reconsider this question with a view to remedy these defects, and to satisfy the country that its principle is just and equitable towards all classes. Sir, we are told by the right hon. Gentleman that the income tax is necessary to enable him to relieve the springs of industry, and to perpetuate that policy which has, since 1846, been adopted by the Government, and a majority of this House. Why, Sir, the great apostle of free trade has told us that the income tax was a necessary consequence of the corn laws. "With free trade," said the hon. Gentleman, "there will be no income tax." The hon. Gentleman expressed himself in figurative language, and called it a fungus growing from the tree of monopoly; "that one great monopoly (the corn laws) renders that tax necessary." This was the hon. Gentleman's opinion before the repeal of the corn laws; we shall, perhaps to-night, or during the debate, learn from the hon. Gentleman what he thinks of it now, and whether he considers it necessary to perpetuate his free-trade policy. Sir, I have said the income and property tax would never be got rid of, but I should make one exception. If the hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding should ever attain the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer, or that which his ambition may lead him to aspire to, of Prime Minister, then as one of that hon. Gentleman's constituents, I shall remind him of his past sayings; but I, for one, should be sorry to get rid of this inquisitorial tax through the instrumentality of such an infliction as placing the destinies of this great country in the hands of the hon. Gentleman.
MR. A. B. HOPE
experienced some disappointment in finding that the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had made no mention of the duty on hops. He lamented to say that the class interested in the growth of hops were now ground down. The right hon. Baronet had received various contrariant statements, but he might not be aware that lately the hop-growers of the different districts had come to the conviction that all their divisions must be laid aside, and they must unite to defend themselves by a strong and united resistance to the pressure under which they now suffered. The duty on hops was originally laid on as a war tax; it was more than doubled by Mr. Pitt, and it was never remitted when all other war-duties were taken off. It was in fact just the same now as it was during the war, although the pro- 765 tection had been reduced from 8l. to 2l. 5s. He knew that as there were only four hop-growing counties in all, their case would not meet with such prompt consideration as that of other interests, otherwise their case would not have remained so long unredressed. The hop duty was raised in a manner most arbitrary and vexations. Belief to other parts of the country had been given, and he must say that when the question of relief from taxation was before the House, he did think that the hop-growing districts were entitled to due I consideration.
§ MR. C. ANSTEY
said, it was to some extent satisfactory that the grower of coffee was raised to the same level with the grower of chicory and with the grocer. He considered that to be a valuable concession, and one for which they were bound to thank the right hon. Baronet, it being a principle for which they had long striven. It perhaps was not much to thank the Government for putting the genuine article on a level with the adulterated, but still it was some advantage. They must not suppose that coffee was only adulterated with chicory. All the chicory that was grown, including that for feeding purposes, would not, even if it were all used for mixing with coffee, account for more than one-half of the adulteration. Burnt earth, torrefied or roasted yarn, damaged bread, and all kinds of excrements (for the term was not too strong) were used for the purpose. The evil would never be put a stop to until the Treasury minute preventing excise officers from entering tin; houses of grocers was rescinded. If the right hon. Baronet wished to abate the evil, let him accept the recommendations offered to him; let him rescind the Treasury minute, and put an end to these infamous practices. If this were not done, he should feel bound—though admitting the value of the concession made—to proceed with his intended Motion on this subject.
§ MR. HENLEY
rose to put one or two questions. There was, be understood, to be 150,000l. distributed in the way of aid for the maintenance of pauper lunatics; he desired to inquire if that proposition extended equally to England, Scotland, and Ireland; and he next wished to know on what principle the valuation of houses was to proceed—what was to be the rule with respect to farmhouses to be hereafter built? Was he right in understanding that farmhouses and trade buildings, being under the annual value of 20l. were to be exempt 766 from window and house tax, and whether farmhouses above the annual value of 20l. were to be rated or taxed at 9d. in the pound? As to the income tax, he would ask did the right hon. Baronet intend to insist on the tax, the whole tax, and nothing but the tax, for three years; would there be any alteration or modification as regarded the landed interest? As to their looking for relief in the general prosperity of the country, hon. Gentlemen who made that their cuckoo note appeared to him to be in this predicament: they must either admit that the statement of general prosperity was not well founded, or they must allow that the condition of the agriculturists was in the inverse ratio. How they were to find consolation in that he did not know.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that be would not detain the House with any lengthened observations; but he would confine himself to what he had to say in answer to the questions which, had been put to him by various hon. Gentlemen who had spoken in the debate. In the first place, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham had asked whether the Government proposed that any house duty should be paid for warehouses and manufactories? He thought it would have been clear, as it was proposed to reduce the duty on dwelling-houses with respect to their windows, that no such misapprehension could have arisen. The whole of his proposition was confined to houses in respect to their windows. He proposed to repeal the present mode of levying the duty on houses—to take away the consideration of the number of windows, and to substitute a duty to be levied on a different principle. That principle was confined to new houses, and it was the principle of assessing them according to their value. It was proposed also to enable the owners of existing houses to compound on the same principle. Another hon. Gentleman asked what principle he proposed with respect to new houses? It was that of their annual value. So long as the income tax existed, that would afford means of ascertaining their value; but if the income tax ceased, then the value would he estimated in the manner in which it was I when the old house duty was in force; Farmhouses, if under annual value of 20l., would be exempt, and if above, they would pay two-thirds of what they paid at the present moment. With regard to new houses, the assessment would be made according to the annual value. The hon. 767 Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire asked a question with respect to the maintenance of pauper lunatics. He proposed that the sum in question should be divided between England, Ireland, and Scotland, but he could not say exactly in what proportions. If he might be allowed to say without prejudice to what might be done hereafter, he thought a certain proportion could be paid for each pauper lunatic in the county asylums, and a lesser proportion for those confined in private asylums.
thought, after the acknowledgment of agricultural distress in the Speech from the Throne, that Ministers ought without delay to have proposed some alleviation of that distress. He believed Ministers did not dare remove the burdens from the agricultural interest so long as they were dictated to by the party who sat on their right. He did not object to the commutation of the window tax to a house tax; but the latter ought to be viewed with a jealous eye, to guard against its subsequent increase. He should ask whether, considering the great changes which had taken place in legislation in this country, it would not be a wise step to take a revision of the whole system of the taxation and tariffs of the empire. He did not speak then as a protectionist, but as a funded proprietor, and he looked as such to the taxation of the country, and called upon the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to preserve the revenue of the country, and thereby guarantee its credit, and maintain its public faith. When the alteration to which he (Captain Harris) had referred had taken place, a great source of the revenue of the country had been swept away, and it behoved the Chancellor of the Exchequer to face the coercion of interested parties, and not sweep away another important item of revenue. Though they might not live to see the day, he believed that if a Radical Ministry succeeded to power, after having destroyed our institutions, it would renew the duties it now proposed to repeal; yet persons professing to be statesmen listened to that party, and rejected the claims of the agriculturists. They had been goaded on by agitation. Sir Robert Peel had acted on a temporary emergency; but it was for the Government to say whether, that emergency having been removed, they were prepared to do away with the great body of taxation. He (Captain Harris) thought that a 5s. duty ought to be placed on foreign corn. In 768 taxing articles for the sake of revenue, he would always draw a wide distinction between the necessaries and the luxuries of life. An average of 10 per cent he considered, if applied to every necessary of life, and duties on other articles at a revenue point, would guarantee the payment of our debt, and place the taxation of the country on a firm and substantial basis.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
, in explanation, said, the hon. Member for Youghal misunderstood his meaning. What he intended to convey was that if a man brought goods by a much larger amount than he sold, his capital would not long remain.
§ MR. WAKLEY
, in reference to the effect which the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman for levying a house tax would produce out of doors, predicted that it would meet with a most unfavourable reception. He begged to ask the right hon. Gentleman when he would be able to receive a deputation from the inhabitants of the metropolis upon the subject? It was his firm conviction that the proposition would excite so hostile a feeling that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not be able to carry it.
§ MR. T. B. HILDYARD
begged to ask what was the correct definition of "new houses?" There were many houses now in course of erection, which were constructing in reference to the window tax.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he had had the satisfaction of seeing his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury with a deputation a short time ago, and having then heard all that was to be said upon the subject, he did not think it necessary to receive another deputation. His reply to the question of the hon. Member for South Nottinghamshire, who had asked for a definition of a "new house," and whether all houses not yet assessed to the window tax would be deemed "new houses," was, "such as did not come under the old system."
§ Committee report progress; to sit again on Wednesday.