§ Order for Committee read.
§ House in Committee; Mr. Bernal in the Chair.511
§ Clause 1.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Mr. Bernal, before we proceed with the progress of the Bill with regard to the property and income tax, I think the Committee will prefer that either my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer or myself should state the course we propose to pursue with regard to this measure and the financial measures of the Session; and, as it is a matter that regards the Government in general, I have thought it better that I should take upon myself the task of stating that course. The Committee on Friday night, by a majority of 14, came to a decision that one year instead of three should be the period for which the property and income tax should last. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), who made the Motion to that effect, stated as his ground for doing so that it was desirable that an inquiry should take place with regard to this tax, with a view of making it more just and equal, and that he wished, such alterations and modifications having been introduced, that the tax should be continued, and, indeed, that it should be made permanent. I could not agree, nor do I now come to the conlusion, that it was desirable to abridge the duration of the tax for this purpose. But the Committee having decided otherwise, it was for us to consider what course we should take, so as to maintain public credit and the financial system of the country. Now, although in my opinion it is very inexpedient so far to place such a tax in jeopardy as to make it last only for a year, yet I cannot suppose that the majority of the Committee which agreed to that Motion had any view, any intention, of placing in jeopardy the public credit of the country. I could not so suppose, because the House since its first assembling after the general election has shown itself most careful in preserving public credit, and in providing for the necessary establishments of the country. I could not so suppose, because among the Members who voted for that Motion were many who are distinguished for showing, both by their acts and their speeches, their determination to maintain that credit, and to provide what is necessary for the public service. Therefore, Sir, concluding that such would be the intention of the House, we have to consider whether or no we can adopt the Resolution of the Committee, and proceed with the Bill in its present shape. Now, many Gentlemen who in private have argued this question 512 with me have said that there is a general impression in the country that the income tax, which is at present unequal, might be made more just and equal: and when I have answered that Mr. Pitt and Sir Robert Peel, and others who have been in office, and had to carry on the financial arrangements of the country, have always come to a different conclusion, it has been replied to me that, if the conclusion to which those eminent men came should be supported by an inquiry, the country would feel satisfied by the result of that inquiry. If, on the other hand, it should be shown that the tax by modification could be made more fair and equal, in that case such alterations might be adopted. So that in either way the maintenance of the tax might be secured. I have no doubt that those who have expressed this opinion in private, acted on that view when they gave their support to the Motion of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hume). Seeing, then, that contrary to our opinion the Committee has come to that Resolution, we think it desirable, in the present state of affairs, that there should be inquiry upon this subject. I think, such having been the decision of the Committee, that it would neither be fair nor wise to attempt to refuse or evade that inquiry; but that there ought to be a fair inquiry, and one conducted by the men who in this House are generally the leaders upon financial subjects, and to whom the House is disposed to pay deference. I should therefore say that the Government is prepared to agree that there shall be a fair and full inquiry upon the subject. But a further question naturally arises—whether, taking this income tax only for a year, we can agree to any other modification of the tax, and whether we can proceed with those measures relative to the financial system of the year which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already brought before the House. Now, upon that subject, we have to consider that the Committee has, by its previous votes, agreed to the continuance of the income tax for a limited period, and rejected the Motion made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stamford (Mr. Herries), that the financial arrangement of the year should consist in taking off, without modification or alteration, a part of the income tax equivalent to the surplus which the House might be disposed to apply to remission of taxation. The House likewise concurred with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Ex- 513 chequer in the proposal to repeal the window tax, and to supply part of the deficit which would be occasioned by the loss of that tax by a tax on a more equitable principle upon house property. The House likewise agreed, without any division, I believe, to the Resolutions which were proposed on the timber and coffee duties, which Resolutions formed the main part of the proposed financial arrangement of the year. Now, we should be extremely reluctant to forego the repeal of the window duty, which my right hon. Friend has proposed. We look upon the window tax not so much as a great financial burden as a great social evil. I consider, therefore, that it would be a great misfortune if we should be obliged to maintain that tax, which the House has already resolved to give up. But, at the same time, we must consider that, in order to carry those Resolutions into effect, we ought to be enabled to have it made clear to us that, during the pendency of that inquiry, there will be no further alterations of the income tax, diminishing the produce of that tax during the year; and, in the next place, that there will be no further breaking in upon the finances of the country, so as to deprive my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the means of supporting public credit, and defraying the cost of those establishments which the House has already agreed to maintain. I think I am making no unreasonable requirement of the House when I ask these things; and I think it will certainly be our duty, while we propose to go on with the income tax, limited as my hon. Friend (Mr. Hume) proposes, to expect that that income tax shall pass without further modification, and likewise that the whole of the revenue which we hope to obtain will be secured, so as to enable us to repeal the window tax, and to carry into effect by Bill the Resolutions respecting the timber and coffee duties. I might, perhaps, ask the Committee to allow me, further, to correct a misconception which seemed to prevail on Friday night, and to prevail in the mind of my hon. Friend (Mr. Hume). He seemed to think that I was reproaching him with asking the aid of a party with which he does not agree in general political principles; and, supposing that to be the case, he said fairly enough that such had often been my own situation. I meant no reproach to my hon. Friend upon that subject. When parties happen to agree on the immediate question before the House, 514 it is evidently natural that they should agree in the vote at which they arrive. But the observation I made to my hon. Friend was, that I did not think they were agreed in the ultimate object at which they aimed. For instance, when I have had the support of Gentlemen on the other side of the House—say upon the question of military and naval establishments—they have voted with me because they saw the same danger that I did in reducing them; and when they voted with me against the proposal of my hon. Friend himself with regard to reform, it was because they saw the same injury to the public welfare that I saw in that measure. But the question of Friday night was totally different, because my hon. Friend (Mr. Hume) had in view the maintenance of the property and income tax, which he would have modified with the view of maintaining it; and those who voted with him (I believe upwards of 200) had generally expressed by their votes their wish to diminish the property and income tax without modification, and to do away with it altogether. I only pointed it out to my hon. Friend as a reason why he should not expect these Gentlemen to go with him in the further propositions which he might make. But, as I have already stated, these questions will be submitted to a fair inquiry, and I trust that the country will be satisfied, either, with the Government, that this tax cannot be made more equal, without either damaging its amount, or else making it ten times more inquisitoral than it is; or that, if they are not satisfied in that respect, and there should appear to the Committee and to the country to be a modification of that tax possible, which should make it more just and equal, then my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose will have had a great success in carrying his Motion—a success the credit of which I do not wish to deprive him of, because I think it will be fairly due to him for having made a proposition which will make this species of taxation more tolerable to the country than it now appears to be. Such is the course which the Government proposes to take. I wish to state it fairly to the Committee, and I can assure my hon. Friend that, the opinion of the Committee having been declared, the last thing I should think of doing would be to evade the inquiry.
§ Mr. HUME
begged to give his concurrence in the view of the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) that, after the determination to which the Committee had come on Fri- 515 day night, no further alterations should he made in the taxes during the present year. It might turn out that the difficulties were so great that no improvement could be made in this tax; but if that should be the case, the country would be satisfied that every effort had been made to remove what had hitherto been a reproach on what was, in his opinion, a tolerable, and indeed a preferable, mode of raising taxation. He hoped that the gallant officer the Member for Lincoln (Colonel Sibthorp), who had given notice of a Motion for an alteration in the mode of levying the tax upon the incomes of tenant-farmers, would not press his Motion, but would allow the Bill to go through Committee without alteration. He thought that the noble Lord bad done well not to interfere with the repeal of the window tax; but he could not agree with the noble Lord that the Committee should be precluded from interfering with parts of the expenditure of the country, though he had no objection not to interfere with the taxation. No one had, for a long period, endeavoured more strenuously to support public credit than he (Mr. Hume) had done; and he therefore hoped that the noble Lord would acquit him of any intention, by that Motion, to interfere with the public credit. He should he satisfied, whatever might be the result, with doing his best, as one of the Committee, to place matters on a proper footing. A direct tax, to be a just, should be a general tax; and he hoped that the inquiries of the Committee would be directed to that point. He hoped that the Committee would be appointed without any long delay.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, I think that the vote to which the Committee came on Friday night was a very fair one, and after the notification received to-day from Her Majesty's Ministers, that a Committe will he appointed to inquire into the subject, it does certainly appear to be desirable that, after so shortening the lease of this tax, there should be no criticism in detail on any particular schedule. There certainly, however, is one Motion to be brought before the Committee by my gallant Friend the Member for Lincoln (Colonel Sibthorp), in reference to a part of the Act, which I think is entitled to the special consideration of the Committee. And although, perhaps, my gallant Friend might not think, after all that has occurred, that it would be altogether desirable for him to take exactly the course which he had anticipated pursuing, I still hope that, if that 516 be the case, Her Majesty's Government will consider the propriety of adopting the principle suggested from more than one quarter—that the tenant-farmers of England should be rated to this tax in the same manner and upon the same principles as all other classes. I think that such an alteration on the part of Government would be quite consistent with not encouraging any further criticism on the Bill before the House. I hope that the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer will express the cheerful readiness of Her Majesty's Government to comply with that request. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) made some observations which well became an individual in his eminent and responsible position with respect to the maintenance of public credit, justly giving credit to Gentlemen on this side of the House—and also, with equal justice, to those on the other—for being extremely anxious to fulfil that paramount duty. So anxious am I myself, and I am sure every Gentleman here, to maintain public credit, that, after the vote which the Committee came to on Friday night with respect to the term of the income tax, I shall feel it my duty—at least I shall consider it quite open to us—to consider the other financial propositions of the Government with reference to the new position which they now occupy. I do not consider, now the Committee has determined that the income tax shall only last one year, that we are bound to anything that has passed previously with respect to the other financial propositions of the Government, which passed under the impression that the income tax would last a much longer period. I reserve to myself the right of considering those propositions as new propositions—as propositions made under circumstances so different from those under which they previously came under the consideration of the Committee, that I think that, with reference to the great point on which the noble Lord has dwelt, with reference to the maintenance of the credit of the country, we must consider those propositions anew. The noble Lord has also made some remarks upon the imputed contrariety of purpose between Gentlemen on this side of the House and the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), and upon the causes which led them to come to a common conclusion on Friday night; but still I consider that, though the noble Lord has had the advantage of reconsidering his previous remarks, he is still labouring under very falla- 517 cious views of our conduct, and of the circumstances of the case. I think that the object was fairly and fully a common object between ourselves and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose. It may be true that he wishes the principle of the income tax to be a permanent principle in our finance, and certainly it is true that that is not a dogma which we should support. But I beg to remind the noble Lord that neither myself nor any Gentleman on this side of the House with whom I have had the pleasure of acting, has attempted to lay down the principle that we should oppose the reimposition of the income tax under the present circumstances. If we felt that we should at once terminate the income tax, that is the course we should have taken. But after well considering the subject, all that we counselled was that we should gradually terminate the tax; but the very circumstance that we felt that the tax should only be terminated by a very gradual procedure, proved that we did not consider that there was any mode of a very speedy termination. I cannot myself, and I should think that very few Gentlemen can, anticipate that, when the year is passed, we shall be able to carry on the affairs of the country without some reimposition of this tax. Well, then, the question arises, when the tax assumes a character of such permanence—at least, of such continuity—is it not our duty to make it more equitable if we can? That was the object that I had in view. I believe it was mainly that of the Gentlemen on this side of the House; and therefore I cannot agree that there was no fair common Parliamentary object in the course which we pursued. I think that the conclusion arrived at by the Committee on Friday night was a salutary one. I look back to it with satisfaction, and I have no doubt that it will lead the country to the opinion that the House of Commons is worthy of its confidence.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Sir, I do not wish to say anything with regard to the latter part of the speech of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli), but will leave it in the way in which he has already stated it. But with regard to an observation which the hon. Member made at the commencement of his speech, that he thought the Government must agree to place the tenant-farmers in Schedule D, to be assessed in the same manner as persons in trades and professions, I think the Committee, upon consideration, must feel that it is desirable 518 not to make any such alteration at the present time. When the proposition that has been adopted was originally made, it was supposed to be rather an advantage to the tenant-farmers: it is now said that it would be an advantage to them to be assessed in a different manner; but that, I believe, is a matter upon which there is considerable diversity of opinion, and therefore, I think, it is one of the questions that will very properly come under the consideration of the Committee, and that the Committee should not prejudge it by altering for this one year the mode of assessment which has been always adopted while the income tax has lasted.
§ Question put, that the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
said, he had been delighted with the decision of the Committee of Friday, and had thought, now the ice was broken, he should have a better chance of success for his proposition respecting the tenant-farmers. The decision gave the Government a shake, and, above all, a severe shake to his right hon. Relative the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) evidently smarted under the lashing he had had from his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume). He (Colonel Sibthorp) did not shrink from the discharge of his duty; but at the same time he should be prepared to defer to the wishes of those with whom he had the honour of acting. He was willing to postpone the Amendment of which he had given notice, but hoped, however, that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not take advantage of the indulgence now extended to him, and leave the supporters of that proposition in the lurch.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
did not understand what the hon. and gallant Member for Lincoln wished him to say, beyond what had fallen from the noble Lord (Lord John Russell). The Committee had voted the renewal of the tax for a year only, and that the possibility of modifying it should be inquired into before a Select Committee; so that his hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Sibthorp) would have an opportunity, if he wished, of examining, before the Committee, into the question which he proposed to submit to it. He hoped that the Committtee would assent to the opinion of the hon. Members for Buckinghamshire and Montrose, that as the Bill was to be renewed for a twelve- 519 month, and that as an inquiry into all these questions should form part of the duties of the Committee, no alteration of the financial arrangements for the year should take place.
§ VISCOUNT JOCELYN
wished to explain the reasons why he had proposed to move, and why he had resolved to withdraw the Amendment of which he had given notice, to the effect, "that in place of the arbitrary assessment in Schedule B of the farmer's profit, there shall be substituted some fairer mode, similar or analogous to that for computing the duty on trade and manufactures." It was because he thought that would be doing only a simple act of justice to a very important interest. When the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), at a very early period of the Session, brought forward a Motion with reference to the distress of the agricultural interest, he (Viscount Jocelyn) and many of those who had acted together with the noble Lord at the head of the Government upon matters relating to the removal of restrictions on imports, supported the Motion of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire; but he had done so because he believed that he was only doing an act of justice; and in the same spirit he had desired to bring forward his Amendment. The object of it was simply to ask for the farmer a power to appeal from a surcharge. But when he came to consider what took place on Friday; when he considered that it had been agreed to limit the duration of the tax to one year; when he considered what had been stated by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, that they were prepared to grant an inquiry; when he considered the difficulty with which the subject was surrounded—he came to the conclusion not to bring forward his Amendment, believing that the question was one to which the Committee about to be appointed would turn its attention.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
had no expectation that any good would arise from a Committee upon this subject, as no good had been derived from the Committees which had sat the last three years upon the Army, Navy, and Ordnance, and also upon Official Salaries. The injustice of the tax, as at present levied, was generally admitted, both in that House and in the country; and he should have preferred the imposition of the tax for three years, with the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Boston (Mr. Freshfield), by which profits in trade were to be charged 520 only one-half the rate charged upon realised property, to its imposition unaltered for a single year, if the choice lay between these two alternatives.
§ MR. BOOKER
said, that representing a county from which he had presented many petitions complaining of the distress of the occupants of land, he could have wished the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer had given up part, if not the whole, of the paltry sum which his hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Sibthorp) wanted, and which amounted to only about 300,000l. However, thinking that his hon. and gallant Friend could go before the Committee with a case which it would be impossible to resist, he thought he should be best consulting the wishes of his constituents, if he asked him to postpone his Motion, and reserve the question for the consideration of the Committee.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, that he had an Amendment on the Paper, which he supposed, under the new circumstances that had arisen, he must also withdraw. But he could assure the Committee that the farmers could not bear this tax any longer, and he was afraid that before the Committee made its report three-fourths of the farmers of Hampshire and Wiltshire would be swept off the face of the land. He thought that the small modicum of justice which he sought for might be given without the least fear of disturbing public credit. It was said that farmers, like manufacturers, should redouble their exertions, and they would then find relief. The two cases were not parallel. The manufacturer, having capital, could regulate supply and demand. The farmer could not do so; he had only a small capital, and was obliged to go on with the seasons, and under fresh circumstances—when he had done sowing and reaping he got nothing for his labour. It was remarkable that in the present year hardly any flour had been conveyed to the metropolis from the district with which he was especially connected. The millers in Hampshire contemplated the destruction of their business, not being able to compete with foreigners. In the present state of things the English miller naturally got less from the farmer. They were told that the millers' distress was owing to the superior grinding and dressing in France. If that wore so, he could not blame any one; but he believed it arose chiefly from the fact, that the poor of France consumed a much worse quality of food than was consumed 521 in England. [Cheers.] There was a much larger demand for the inferior descriptions of flour in France than here; and the result was that the better quality of French flour was forced into competition with ours, and consequently scarcely any flour had, during the present year, found its way from Hampshire to London. If the agriculturalists were treated justly and generously, they would display the same energy as other portions of the community.
§ MR. SPOONER
agreed with the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), that having allowed the property tax to continue only for one year, it would be desirable to make as few alterations as possible in the measure itself. He thought that the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Sib thorp) had done well in postponing his Amendment, but he hoped that he would not withdraw it altogether, if the result of their discussion were to tax the farmers so unjustly as it was proposed for the next twelve months. He hoped that the Committee would enable the tenants to appeal if they thought they could show that they had not received those profits upon which they were taxed. It was a well-known fact that many of them, so far from making any profit now, were wholly unable to pay their landlords their rents. In such case, deductions ought to be made in the property tax, in order that these persons might be relieved from the injustice to which they were at present exposed. It was a common case now for the man who was perhaps worth 4,000l. or 5,000l. in 1844 and 1845, to have lost half of his capital, from the change which had taken place in the corn laws. Was he, then, to have no deductions allowed him now? Under Clause 70, if a tenant goes away without paying a farthing of his rent, and without paying any portion of the property tax either for his landlord or himself, the produce of the next tenant was immediately seized upon by the Government for the former tenant's arrear. Would they suffer such an evil to exist for another twelve months, when the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer might easily remedy it by the introduction of a simple clause? He was as anxious as any person to preserve public credit. But if they wanted to shake public credit, they would make the farmers believe that they were dealing with them unjustly, and imposing upon them a burden which in common justice they ought to avoid doing. He would consent to allow the Bill to go 522 on without further opposition, if the right hon. Gentleman opposite (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would but say that he would take that single question into consideration, and would give the tenants an opportunity of proving that they did not make the profits upon which they were to be assessed. If, however, the right hon. Gentleman refused to consider this point, then he hoped that his hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Sibthorp) would renew his Motion.
§ SIR THOMAS ACLAND
concurred in what appeared to him to be the general feeling of the Committee, that if the Government were going to consider upon what large principles the income and property tax could be permanently maintained, then the best course would be to let the Bill pass through Committee as speedily as possible. At the same time, it was admitted on all hands that the farmers were in a different position from any other class. It had been acknowledged that they were the only exception to the general prosperity; and the legislation of that House was stated as partly the cause of their being an exception. At the time this taxation was arranged, it was not contemplated that they would be deprived of protection. He hoped the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner) would press the Amendments of which he had given notice, to make allowance and deduction from duties under Schedule A for repairs and rent irrecoverably lost; for repeal of the power of distress on lands in the occupation of a person who was not in the occupation thereof at the time the duties became due; and to give the power of appeal to persons assessed under Schedule B, either as owners of land in their own occupation, or as tenants in respect of losses.
§ MR. ALCOCK
did not wish to exempt the farmer from his liability of paying his fair proportion of the tax, but he claimed for the farmer exemption from the payment of a sum arbitrarily fixed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and altogether irrespective of profits. There were 70,000 farmers who paid on an average 4l. 10s. a year for income tax. That was 300,000l., or 3 per cent on 10,000,000l. The Act of Parliament and the Government said, that that amount had been made by the farmers. He denied that it had been made; and the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer had no right to charge the farmers with 3 per cent, when he knew they had 523 not realised 1 per cent. He would suggest to the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer the propriety of dealing with the farmers precisely as he did with every other class of persons in the country whose income he had no certain means of ascertaining. Any person claiming exemption from the tax on the ground that he had not 150l. a year, had the privilege of proving that before the Commissioners, and thus getting rid of the impost. Why not allow the tenant-farmer the privilege? It was not altogether the amount of the tax that made it so objectionable, as the galling injustice that the farmer was obliged to pay a per centage on supposed profits, when, in reality, he was at a loss. What added to the sense of injustice was the fact that the Irish farmer paid no income tax at all, and the Scotch farmer only a mere trifle. If the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer did not concede this privilege to the farmers, he (Mr. Alcock) hoped the Committee would compel him to do so.
§ MR. BANKES
said, it might be thought very reasonable to say that as the tax was only imposed for a single year, the tenant-farmer might very well wait until that short period had lapsed. But, let it he recollected, that this was the year in which Her Majesty was advised by Her Ministers to state that the tenant-farmers were in a state of great and peculiar distress, and that this also was the year in which the same Ministers refused to do anything to alleviate the distress of that suffering class. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) had stated, that at the time when the income tax was proposed, the arrangement then made was considered a good one for the tenant-farmers. It might have been a good arrangement for them at that time, for then the tenant-farmers had protection and fair prices for their grain; but now they were in great distress, and therefore it was but right to concede to them the small favour which they sought with respect to the income tax. He had heard with much pleasure a portion of the speech of the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Chaplin), and regretted that that speech was not heard by a fuller house. The interruption which occurred in the course of its delivery did not come from that (the Protectionist) side of the House, but from the free-traders, who did not much admire the hon. Member's statement. He had stated that the labourers of France were maintained upon a much cheaper and infe- 524 rior kind of food than that which our labourers would or ought to accept, and that the consequence was, that our farmers were unable to compete with foreigners. Another important point which the hon. Gentleman had noticed was, that the flour of Hampshire did not now come up to the London market. He (Mr. Bankes) hoped the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer would give his assent to this very small proposition on behalf of the tenant-farmer—a proposition which, if the right hon. Gentleman resisted, would assuredly be forced upon him by the Committee.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
thought what had fallen from his hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Alcock) showed how difficult it was to deal with this question without going into the whole question of the mode of assessment. His hon. Friend said it was very objectionable to the English farmer that the Irish farmer should be exempted, and that the Scotch farmer should pay less in proportion than himself. They were really getting into a discussion on the whole principle of the mode in which the assessment under Schedule B was made. The truth was, that all the questions were so linked together that it was almost impossible to deal with any one of them fairly, and to give it the consideration which was, necessary, and which it deserved, without going into the whole matter. Hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House would remember that last year the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (the Marquess of Granby) observed that, at the time when the income tax was proposed, he thought the assessment under Schedule B favourable to the farmers. His (the Chancellor of the Exchequer's) opinion was to the same effect. He believed that the farmers of England paid far less in proportion, in ordinary times, than the tradesman paid under Schedule D. His belief, moreover, was that the present state of things would be far more favourable to the farmer than that which was proposed, for if a reduction of the assessment was hereafter to be made at all, it would be more advantageous to have it made upon the amount of their rents than upon the proportion of profits which they might realise. On general grounds, therefore, he thought the present arrangement was far more preferable for the farmer than that which was proposed by hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. Hon. Gentlemen must see that it was hardly possible to 525 deal with one portion of the subject without entering into the whole. Moreover, if the anticipations of hon. Gentlemen opposite were correct, the present state of things would prove still more favourable to the farmers than it had been contemplated it would do. Hon. Gentlemen seemed to think that the circumstances of one particular year ought to induce an alteration. He thought they could not draw just conclusions from the circumstances of any one year; and he repeated that they could not make any change without taking the whole schedule into consideration. The present mode of assessment, he considered, would be the best on the whole for the farmer; and, as a landlord, he thought the wisest course would be to renew the tax as it stood for a year, and to go into the various questions as a whole in Committee. He quite agreed that the farmers had an equitable claim to be put on Schedule D; but, granting that, logically, he was still of opinion that it would be a bad thing for the farmers themselves.
§ SIR THOMAS ACLAND
Would the right hon. Gentleman not grant at least the right of appeal to the tenant-farmers?
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Would his hon. Friend allow him to overcharge tenants between 150l. and 300l. a year who made any profit at all? On the whole, the assessment was a good bargain for the farmers as it stood. If he were to surrender on the one side, he surely ought to be allowed to surcharge on the other. He was prepared, however, to stand by the arrangement as it stood.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
said, that after the discussion that had taken place, he thought the best course would be to withdraw his Motion, reserving to himself the power of discussing the principle on a future occasion. He hoped, however, there would be a suspension of financial arrangement until the Committee was appointed.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
was of opinion that the hon. and gallant Member had been unfairly treated, in consequence of so much irrelevant discussion having been raised on his Motion. However, he did not see much of practical use in the suggestion of suspending all financial arrangements until the Committee was appointed. He thought it was obvious that no time should be lost in the appointment of the Select Committee, in order that, 526 if he had the honour to occupy his present position next Session, he might be able to direct his attention to their recommendations. He appealed to the Committee, however, whether the best mode of dealing with the subject now was simply to renew the Bill as it stood, and leave the matter for investigation before the Select Committee. As it had been his duty to look minutely into the measure, he could assure hon. Gentlemen that the questions involved in it were much more interwoven and intermingled with each other than many Members seemed to have any notion of.
§ MR. HENLEY
thought the case of the farmers generally rested upon very special grounds. The assessment now expiring was a triennial assessment, on which the tenant paid 3½d. in the pound; and if the assessment were continued, he knew no means by which they could get relief from one halfpenny of that 3d. in the pound. That being so, he did not think any one would have the hardihood to get up in that House, and say that in 1849 and 1850 the tenant-farmers had made anything like the amount of profit at which they were assessed. During that time many a tenant-farmer's capital had been diminished at least 25 per cent. All that was now asked by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner) was, that the Committee should give a power of appeal by those parties who had made no profits, not only during the last year, but during the year for which they were about to be assessed. He (Mr. Henley) thought that was not an unreasonable proposition. He very sincerely regretted that, though the suffering of the tenant-farmers was admitted, they were to have no hope held out to them of any amendment of their condition in the present year.
§ SIR JOHN TROLLOPE
said, the noble Lord at the head of the Government had not yet told the House how far he intended to carry out the recommendations of the Committee on Official Salaries; and now he had a proposition for a Committee on the Income Tax, which was no doubt a very convenient mode of getting over that question; but he trusted the noble Lord would be compelled to bring the fate of the tax to an issue during the present Session of Parliament. This course of proceeding was highly unsatisfactory to hon. Gentlemen on that (the Opposition) side of the House; and unless they had something more satisfactory held out to them on the point under discussion, he, in common 527 with the hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), would ask the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner) to persevere in his Motion.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
must say that the hon. Baronet who had just spoken had not put the question very fairly. The hon. Baronet spoke of the proposal of a Committee as being entirely the proposal of the Government, and as if they had used every argument they could to persuade the House to adopt it; and then the hon. Baronet came forward and said this was no doubt a very convenient course for the Government to take in order to get rid of the question. Now, he thought the Committee was not likely to be of the opinion of the hon. Baronet. There had been two courses before them on Friday next, either of which the House might have fairly taken. One was, that with the view of having a Committee appointed, the duration of the income tax should be limited to one year; the other was to discuss all the modifications and proposals that might be made in a Committee of the whole House, and either reject or adopt those modifications, renewing the tax for three years. Either of these courses might have been taken; but a majority of the House thought it most convenient, and the hon. Baronet voted along with them, that the first proposal should be adopted, and all the various matters sent before a Committee of Inquiry. But they were told, that before this was done, they must have a special clause to meet the case of the tenant-farmers. If the Committee were to agree to such a clause, which however would be a most injurious precedent, and lead to inextricable confusion, what would be more reasonable than that those connected with trade and manufactures should put forward a claim for similar indulgences? It would be said, that in 1847–48 many traders and manufacturers were losers in their business, and yet they were obliged to pay on the three years for which they had made their returns, though for two years out of the three they had been losers. It would be most unfair to have a special clause for one portion of the community, and not for another; and he hoped, therefore, the Committee would not take such a course, but allow the Government—though not for their convenience, as the hon. Baronet had alleged—to renew the income tax for one year, and appoint a Committee of Inquiry. As to the Official Salaries Committee, he had stated some time ago 528 that on going into the first Committee of Supply, he would point out the course which he wished to take with reference to the Report of that Committee. He held in his hand that Report, and he proposed, in the course of the evening, on the Motion for going into Committee of Supply, to state what course he intended to take regarding it.
§ SIR JOHN TROLLOPE
begged to explain that his vote on the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) was given to substitute one year for three. He (Sir John Trollope) had nothing to do with proposing a Committee, nor did he or hon. Members with whom he acted assent to such a proposition in any way whatever. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) had on a previous occasion taunted hon. Members on his (Sir John Trollope's) side of the House with not marching in time, and with firing off their muskets without orders; but he thought the noble Lord would be convinced by that time, that on the occasion of the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose they had marched in pretty fair time, and that their muskets had something more in them than blank cartridge.
§ MR. DISRAELI
considered the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) was under a misconception when he supposed that those on his (Mr. Disraeli's) side of the House had voted for the Motion of referring the income tax to a Committee. He understood the proposition for a Committee to inquire into the property tax as wholly a Government proposition; and if it was not so, he was labouring under a complete mistake. He knew of no Motion that was ever made in the House for a Committee; and if it had been made, he should probably have taken a different part from what he did. He had received no intimation of the Government Motion for a Committee until he heard it proposed by the noble Lord that night; and he must say, he was himself very incredulous of the fact when it was first mentioned. He said the Government was not likely to propose a Committee. There was the Kaffir Committee; and he thought there would be some difficulty in manning a Committee on the Property Tax. With regard to the Motion of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner), it was virtually embodied in the proposition of the hon. and gallant Colonel (Colonel Sibthorp), and he thought it would perhaps be the better course to withdraw it in 529 favour of that of the gallant Colonel. Then he would suggest to the noble Lord, that inasmuch as he had come down to make an unusual proposition, which had not been very favourably received, he should move that the Chairman report progress and ask leave to sit again, so as to enable his (Mr. Disraeli's) hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Sibthorp) to bring forward his proposition; and then, too, the noble Lord could inform them as to what further business he proposed to proceed with that night.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) had taken pains to assure the Committee more than once that he (Lord John Russell) was entirely mistaken in the supposition that the hon. Gentleman had taken a different view from the hon. Member for Montrose upon his Motion; and that he was in error in supposing that the proposition of the hon. Member for Montrose was inconsistent with the view in which it was held by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire. Now, it was in the recollection of the Committee if what he stated was not the case; and it was a point which they could ascertain not only from the lips of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), but also from his recorded Motion. The hon. Member (Mr. Disraeli) said this was a Government proposition. Now, the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose was—though of course he could not make the whole Motion in Committee—the terms of the Motion were, "to limit the duration of the tax to one year, with a view to institute an inquiry by a Select Committee into the mode of assessing and collecting the tax." The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) having repeatedly declared that he took the same view as the hon. Member for Montrose, he (Lord John Russell) could only suppose that the hon. Member likewise wished to support the Motion for inquiry by a Committee. He put it to the Committee whether the Motion put by the hon. Member for Montrose, and as explained by that hon. Member, was not the one assented to by the House? And when the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire asked him, on the ground that the appointment of the Committee was a Government proposition, to move that the Chairman report progress, he could not assent to that proposal. Having acceded to the wishes of the House—a course which he had not adopted without very great consideration and deliberation with his Colleagues, he 530 was not prepared to assent to any step—which would be a deviation from the line which the House had pointed out.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, that so far was the proposition of the hon. Member for Montrose from being put to the House in the terms stated by the noble Lord, that he found this Motion was in the business paper for that very evening:—Mr. Hume.—To move to limit the duration of the tax to one year, with the view of instituting an inquiry by a Select Committee into the mode of assessing and collecting the tax; and whether the injustice of levying the same rate of charge upon terminable as upon perpetual annuities, and upon fluctuating and varying incomes from trades and professions, as upon fixed incomes from real property, cannot be greatly modified or altogether removed.This showed the Motion was not yet made. And what was more, the hon. Member for Montrose had never read a Resolution, and had never referred to it. But he excused the noble Lord, as no doubt after what had occurred the noble Lord was under excited feelings. But what he rose for was, for the purpose of saying that the proposition of the hon. and gallant Member for Lincoln (Colonel Sibthorp) was a fair proposition; and he would suggest to the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner) not to press his Motion for the present, so that on bringing up the report the hon. and gallant Member for Lincoln might bring forward what he had to submit to the House as a substantive Motion.
§ MR. HUME
said, as a witness in this case, he hoped he might be allowed to repeat what he distinctly stated when he brought forward his Motion. He said, let no hon. Member vote with him on any other supposition than this—that if he carried his Motion for limiting the duration of the tax to one year, he would then move for the appointment of a Committee. Those were his words; and he would ask if it was fair to misrepresent his intention, as he had stated it very clearly on bringing forward his Motion? It was quite true he did not in terms move the appointment of a Committee, but he came down that night with the intention of doing so.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he must confess that he had understood the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose as the hon. Gentleman had stated it. He (Mr. Newdegate) rose, however, to call the attention of the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer to the circumstance which constituted the case of the tenant-farmers a perfect exception to every other. The right 531 hon. Gentleman in his first Budget proposed a specific mode of relief for the sufferings of that class, namely, the remission of some 30,000l. a year on seeds, and the transfer of some 150,000l. from the local rates to the Consolidated Fund. But the right hon. Gentleman had withdrawn that proposal. On the ground, therefore, that there was an admission on the part of the Government of the propriety of giving a specific relief from taxation to the agriculturists in the first Budget, and also on the ground of their being deprived of the power of appeal, he (Mr. Newdegate) thought hon. Members on his side of the House ought at once to demand, on behalf of the tenant-farmers, relief from a pressure which, under their present circumstances, was exceedingly grievous to them.
§ MR. SPOONER
said, in deference to his Friends he would not press his proposition at that time, as he thought it would he dealt with in the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Lincoln (Colonel Sibthorp).
protested against the proposed reference of so important a question to a Select Committee. He believed that a large portion of the Members on both sides of the House had no idea of such a step being likely to follow the vote which they gave on Friday, in favour of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Montrose. He (Capt. Harris) looked upon the appointment of a Select Committee on this question as a step towards making the tax perpetual. Nothing could be more mischievous than the reference to Select Committees of such important questions as these. Whenever the Government desired to get rid of a heavy responsibility on important matters, they moved, whenever possible, the appointment of a Select Committee. That was the course taken with reference to the Kaffir war, and, above all, to our colonial dependencies—a step that, in the latter case especially, the House ought not to have permitted to have been taken. He held that such a tax as this was wholly unjustifiable in time of peace.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
said, in deference to the advice of hon. Members on his side of the House, he should reserve his Motion until the bringing up of the Report of the Committee.
§ SIR BENJAMIN HALL
said, the hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition benches should recollect that although some hon. Members might have voted with the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) with 532 the views entertained by the hon. Member for Buckingham shire (Mr. Disraeli), yet they must recollect the majority of hon. Members on the Government side of the House, who voted with the hon. Member for Montrose, voted in favour of his Amendment, for the purpose of obtaining the appointment of a Select Committee. Complaint was made by hon. Gentlemen opposite about the sufferings of tenant-farmers; but were there no tenant tradesmen, if he might so speak, who were suffering as well as they? He should determinedly resist any attempt on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite to dictate to the Select Committee about to be appointed what particular class of sufferers they should most particularly take under their protection.
§ MR. GEORGE SANDARS
said: I beg to differ from the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Capt. Harris), for I distinctly understood that in voting for the Motion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose, I was voting for the income tax for one year, in order that it might be referred to a Select Committee to examine into its inequalities and injustice, and to report to the House the best way of modifying them, that if it is to be made a permanent tax, that it may be placed upon a fair and solid basis, and made as palatable as a tax of this kind can in its nature be. On its present principle it is impossible it can remain a permanent tax. All classes are dissatisfied. Schedule A are charged on the gross rental, when one-third is deducted on houses and warehouses, &c., for insurance, local taxes, and repairs. Schedule B complain they are made to pay for profits, when of late years they have had nothing but losses. Schedule D complain that they pay the same rate oil uncertain incomes from trade or profession, as those who have real property. I presented the other day a petition from my constituents, signed by, I believe, every lawyer and every medical man in the borough (and I assure the House they are not a few), complaining of the injustice of taxing them at the same rate as those possessing real property, and praying for a modification of the tax. By supporting the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, I feel that I am taking the surest method of having those inequalities remedied; that is, if they admit of a remedy, and if not, the country will he better satisfied after it has been sifted and reported upon to the House; and I think, Sir, it should now be sent, 533 with all its faults upon its head, without any partial attempts to modify it, to a Select Committee of the House.
§ MR. FRESHFIELD
could answer in the affirmative the query of the hon. Baronet the Member for Marylebone (Sir Benjamin Hall) as to the tenant tradesmen. Many of that class were certainly suffering—and from what cause?—why, from the effects of free trade. But there was this difference between the case of the tenant-farmer and the tradesman—the latter paid income tax only on the actual amount of his income; whereas the tenant-farmer was obliged to pay the tax in proportion to the rent he paid, whether high or low, and no matter what might be the amount of his profits—no matter, indeed, whether he sustained an actual loss. He felt bound to support any proposition of relief to the farmers, whose case at present was almost hopeless.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
wished to know from the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer if it would be in the province of the Select Committee to inquire whether it was expedient to extend the tax to Ireland? A few nights ago he (Mr. W. Williams) called the attention of the House to the fact that the salaries of the public officers in Ireland, from the Lord Lieutenant to the humblest official, were not liable to the income tax, which he thought inequitable.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER
said, the question just put to him by the hon. Member for Lambeth, was one entirely for the decision of that House, and not of a Select Committee. He apprehended that the object of the Select Committee to be appointed, with reference to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) would be to consider what modifications ought to be made, and the mode of collecting the tax.
§ SIR BENJAMIN HALL
said, he was constantly asked by Irish Members when he intended to bring on his Motion with reference to the extension of the income tax to Ireland. Now, that would depend entirely on the day when the Committee of Ways and Means would be moved for. He should be happy to bring on his Motion on any day that his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer might name.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
should certainly resist the Motion of the hon. Baronet whenever he might 534 bring it forward. As the income tax was, by the Amendment of the hon. Member for Montrose, to last but for one year, he thought it would be a mere waste of time to discuss the question whether, during so limited a period, its operation ought to be extended to Ireland.
§ SIR BENJAMIN HALL
said, if his right hon. Friend would give him an assurance that the income tax would continue for no longer than the present year, he should very willingly abandon all idea of bringing forward his Motion. But as nothing of that nature had been suggested, he should certainly take an opportunity of taking the sense of the House upon his Motion. He, therefore, wished to ask his right hon. Friend whether he would be good enough to name a day on which it would best suit him to take the Motion into consideration?
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he must decline to undertake a Committee of Ways and Means, merely for the sake of giving the hon. Baronet an opportunity of bringing forward such a Motion.
§ Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 2.
§ MR. CHAPLIN moved a proviso to the effect that, with a view to a just relief of the occupiers of farms chargeable to the duties under Schedule B, the same privileges of exemption from duty be granted to all persons chargeable under that schedule as are by the 133d and following sections of the present Property Tax Act secured to the persons made liable to duties by Schedule D of the same Act in respect of the profits of trade, &c, in the events set forth in the beforementioned section, 133.
§ MR. SPOONER
said, that the proviso would be rendered unnecessary if the Amendments intended to be proposed by the hon. and gallant Member for Lincoln (Colonel Sibthorp) should be adopted; and as that hon. and gallant Member had postponed his Motion to the bringing up of the Report, he would suggest to the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Chaplin) that he also should do the same.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
concurred in the propriety of the course suggested by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire. If the question in a larger shape was to be brought forward on the bringing up of the Report, it would be very unwise to press it now.
§ MR. HENLEY
trusted that the hon. Gentleman would not press the proviso at 535 the present time. It would be impossible to carry it, and it would be much better to bring the matter in a more special way before the House. If the hon. Gentleman persevered, it would be a breach of faith, after the understanding which had been come to with the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner).
said, if the Motion was then pressed to a division, it was clear the sense of the Committee would not be expressed, as a great many Members on that side (the Protectionist) had gone out.
§ MR. BANKES
said, the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Chaplin) would damage the cause he meant to promote by pressing his Motion then to a division.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, he had had the notice on the paper for a week; and on Friday he had waited from five till half-past twelve, in expectation of being able to bring it forward. On the suggestion of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner), he had got his solicitor to draw the clause, and should now propose it. He would not be a party to postponing it. If hon. Members chose to leave the House, he was not to blame.
§ MR. SPOONER
said, he should, therefore, move as an Amendment that the Chairman report progress, and ask leave to sit again.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, there seemed to be a most extraordinary misapprehension on the part of hon. Members opposite. They seemed very much embarrassed with the victory they had gotten, and did not know what to make of the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume). As the Government had agreed to the inquiry, he should object to any alteration in the provisions of the Income Tax Act, either then or on the bringing up of the Report. He had done all he could to induce the hon. Member for Salisbury not to press his Motion; it was not his (Lord John Russell's) fault if he did so.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
said, it was not the practice of hon. Members on that side the House, to place their principles and their conscience in the hands of their party. He was satisfied from long experience of the inconvenience and danger of what were called "understandings" between indivi- 536 dual Members; they generally implicated other parties, whom they could not bind. But it was a clear understanding of the House, on Friday night, that the carrying the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose should put an end to all further questions, as far as the House was concerned, the same being referred to the Select Committee. He held himself bound by this understanding, and would have no exception made to the extent of the Committee's inquiries. By opposing the discussion of these Amendments now, he he would not be understood to express an opinion against the Amendments themselves. Should they now discuss the question, a great many points must be considered. Were hon. Gentlemen opposite prepared to place the farming interest on the same footing, in every respect, as the interests embraced in other schedules!—["Hear, hear!" and "Yes!"]—what, to tax them, for instance, at 7d. in the pound instead of 3d., as at present? If so, let them go before the Committee and raise all these points. He maintained that, they were bound by the understanding of Friday evening.
§ MR. CHRISTOPHER
denied that there had been any such understanding. As the vote of Friday night had altered the whole complexion of the question, it would be better if the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Chaplin) would defer his Motion until the subject could be maturely considered, and bring it forward on the Report. The result of pressing the Motion now would only be to give them, two discussions instead of one, and impede the public business.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, as far as his opinion went, he was desirous that the proviso should be withdrawn.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, under these circumstances he would consent to this course, and withdraw the proviso.
§ Proviso, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause agreed to;—as were Clauses 3 and 4.
§ MR. J. B. SMITH moved the addition of the following clauses:—"That all appointments to any offices authorised to be made by Local Commissioners of Property Tax shall be subject to revision by the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury. That no appointment to any office under the provisions of this Act shall be made of persons under twenty-one years of age." He had understood that on application to the Treasury in a certain case, the answer had been that they had 537 no power over the local commissioners. In answer to an application from the town council of Dunfermline, where a boy of fifteen years had been appointed by the local commissioners, the Lords of the Treasury stated that they had no power in the matter; and the Board of Trade stated that they had made inquiry, and found that the duties of the office in question were well performed. He was certain, however, that the public would not be satisfied with such appointments.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
thought the clauses had better not he pressed, as the whole of these questions would doubtless come before the Select Committee. No doubt the House of Commons had been exceedingly jealous of these appointments, so much so that the Treasury had been prevented from having anything to do with the making of them. Whether it was desirable to change that system was a question for the decision of the Committee, in whose hands it ought to be left. He quite agreed that the appointment of boys to responsible offices was highly objectionable; but in the case alluded to it so happened that the boy had nothing particular to do but to deliver some papers, and any boy of his age could do that.
§ Clauses, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Other clauses agreed to;—House resumed:—Committee reported, as amended to be considered To-morrow.