§ Order of the Day read for a Committee of Ways and Means.
§ House in Committee; Mr. Bernal in the Chair.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Mr. Bernal, an important branch of the revenue having ceased by lapse of 10 time, and a considerable deficiency having consequently ensued, it would be incumbent upon me, were there no other reason, to invite the consideration of the House of Commons to the state of the Public Finances.
Sir, of late years, commercial considerations have been so mixed up with the transactions of finance, and, unhappily, political passion has so blended itself with all the topics of commercial controversy, that I feel it would be almost presumption in me to hope that upon this occasion I shall be able to obtain, not only the serious, but the calm and unimpassioned attention of the House to the grave subject which I am now about to bring under their consideration. But, Sir, when I recollect that upon the correctness of the principles on which the finance of a country is established, must mainly depend the greatness of the realm, and the happiness of the people, I am not altogether without hope that, upon this occasion, I may induce Gentlemen on either side to dismiss from their minds all prejudgments and prejudices, and to join with me in an attempt clearly to comprehend the exact financial position of this country.
Sir, when a Minister, responsible for the condition of the finances, finds himself in the position to which I have just adverted—when he has to submit to the House a fact which none can dispute, that by the cessation of a considerable source of revenue there is necessarily a large deficiency in the public income—there is of course one question which inevitably occurs to every one who is engaged in the discussion: What are the soundest means, what is at the same time the most popular and the most practicable method—or, perhaps, I ought to say upon such a subject, the method the least unpopular and the most practicable—by which we may supply a deficiency which cannot be denied?
It is unnecessary for me to remind the House that the revenue of this country is raised, generally speaking, by three modes—by duties upon articles of foreign import; by duties upon articles of domestic manufacture; and, lastly, by a system of direct taxation. Now, we have to inquire, in the first place, which is the mode most practicable, to which I shall be most successful in obtaining the consent of the House to have recourse, in order to place the finances of the country in that satisfactory state which I am sure Gentlemen, 11 wherever they may sit in this House, wish to see them.
Now, Sir, with regard to the first method—the raising an increased supply by duties upon articles of foreign produce imported into this country—I must observe, that a very considerable branch of the revenue is still raised by that method, which perhaps is the first that naturally presents itself for obtaining an additional supply. But if I try to anticipate what may be the opinion of the House of Commons upon that point—if I pass under my review what has occurred upon the subject of Customs Duties in the several years during which the present Parliament has existed—if, indeed, I extend the range of my observation, and examine also what was the conduct of the Parliament which preceded the present, I do not think that the prospect of supplying the deficiency, certainly in the present Parliament, by an increase of Customs duties is very encouraging. For a period of ten years back, from the year 1842—I take that period because it is an epoch frequently referred to in this House, and considered by many, I think myself erroneously, as the inaugurative epoch of a new system in the conduct of our finances and our commerce—for the ten years, I say, from 1842 to 1851 inclusively, I find one very remarkable feature in the financial management of this country, namely, that in every one of those years there has been a reduction of the duties upon foreign articles imported into this country. There is no single year of those ten years in which there has not been a reduction, and a considerable reduction, of the means of raising revenue by duties upon articles of foreign produce. You have in those ten years reduced or repealed duties upon coffee, upon timber, upon currants, upon wool, upon molasses, upon cotton wool, upon butter and cheese, upon silk manufactures, upon tallow, upon spirits, upon copper ore, upon oil and sperm; and also upon a vast number of articles each producing a small amount of revenue, and with which it would be not only wearisome but almost preposterous in me on the present occasion to trouble the House with in detail. It is sufficient for me to observe this remarkable feature—that your reduction of Customs duties from the year 1842 has been systematic and continuous; that in 1842 you struck off nearly 1,500,000l. of calculated revenue from Customs duties; that in 1843 you struck off the sum of 12 126,000l.; in 1844 a sum of 279,000l.; in 1845 upwards of 3,500,000l.; in 1846 upwards of 1,150,000l., in 1847 upwards of 343,000l.; in 1848 upwards of 578,000l.; in 1849 upwards of 384,000l.; in 1850 upwards of 331,000l., and in 1851 upwards of 801,000l.—making an aggregate in the ten years of nearly 9,000,000l. sterling. Well, then, I think the House will agree with me that, having a deficiency to supply, and looking to the sources from which it is most probable that one might obtain the assistance which is necessary, after the catalogue of remitted duties which I have read, it would be somewhat presumptuous on my part to suppose that I could induce the present House of Commons to supply that deficiency by the imposition of fresh duties upon imports.
Have I then a more encouraging prospect if I seek to supply that deficiency by having recourse to duties on articles of domestic manufacture? In the great controversies upon commercial legislation which have occurred of late, and which have prevailed especially during the last six years, two opinions have been advocated in this House, and have been very warmly supported in the country, as to the preferable means by which you may relieve the industry of this country. One important party in this House and the country have advocated, and successfully advocated, the repeal of Customs, duties; and the effect of the prevalence and triumph of their opinions in this House has been exemplified in the table which I have just referred to, and which I had prepared for the information of the House this evening. But there has been also in this House a party, if not triumphant, yet very important from their numbers, and from the zeal and conviction with which they have maintained their opinions, who have asserted, on the contrary, that the best method of relieving our native industry is by the remission or the repeal of what are called Excise duties. No one advocated that opinion more zealously, and with a greater amplitude of statistical learning, than my ever-lamented friend the late Lord George Bentinck; and this is an opinion which has been sanctioned also by the authority of writers of the highest consideration, and one which I myself deem entitled to the gravest attention. But if one side of this House are of opinion that you must not supply a deficient revenue by Customs duties, and the other side of the House are equally 13 convinced that an Excise duty is more injurious to the industry of a country than a duty on the import of foreign articles, what is the prospect of success for a Chancellor of the Exchequer, if his means of supplying a deficiency are limited to those two still important sources of our public revenue?
But, Sir, that is not all; it is not merely that a very powerful party in this House are opposed to Excise duties because they think their influence is peculiarly pernicious to the exercise of our national industry; hut even hon. Gentlemen opposite, even those who consider a Customs duty the greatest of fiscal grievances, even they have shown, during these ten years, scarcely less repugnance to raising our revenue by duties on articles of domestic manufacture. Let me now place before the House a catalogue of the successful invasions which have been made during the same period of the last ten years upon that great source of our revenue—the Excise. Whilst you have reduced the calculated sources of revenue from the Customs by an amount of 9,000,000l. during that time, the House of Commons has also during the same period repealed the Excise duty upon vinegar, upon auctions, upon glass, and, finally, upon bricks, by which no less an amount of revenue than a sum approaching 1,500,000l. has been lost on the Excise duties, simultaneously with your successful assaults upon the Customs revenue. But is that all, Sir? Can I forget what occurred in this House only a week ago, when a right hon. Gentleman, once a Member of the late Administration, connected in that capacity with the department which peculiarly watches over the fortunes of our trade and navigation, the right hon. Member for the city of Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson)—an active Member also of the confederation that has exercised of late years so considerable an influence upon the finances of this country—came forward and proposed a repeal of Excise duties which virtually would have further reduced the public income by the amount of 1,400,000l Under these circumstances, then, I think the House will agree with me that, not only with respect to Customs duties, but also with respect to Excise duties, the Minister who should propose to supply the deficiency by increasing their number or amount would embark in an enterprise extremely hopeless.
But, Mr. Bernal, I fear the difficulties of an individual in my position are not 14 limited by those two branches of revenue on which I have just touched. We hear a great deal in the present day, and often from Gentlemen opposite, of the preferable mode of raising revenue by what they call direct taxation. [Mr. HUME: Hear, hear!] I receive that cheer as evidence of the attention of the hon. Gentleman, and I am honoured by it; but I fear that when I pursue the critical investigation to which for a moment I will solicit his attention, I shall not find that welcome adhesion to the principles of direct taxation which, under present circumstances, he seems to evince.
Now, Sir, we have had during the same ten years to which I have before referred, considerable experience of the temper of the House of Commons and of the country with respect to this third mode of raising the revenue of the country; and I wish to draw the most serious attention of the House, if I can attract it, to this very important branch of the subject. It is exactly ten years ago since one of the most eminent of modern statesmen, who was the principal means of effecting that reduction in our Customs duties, and even in our Excise duties, which I have recalled to the recollection of the House—it is exactly ten years ago since he introduced and successfully carried through a measure which entailed upon this country a large portion of direct taxation. Now, let me recall to the recollection of the House—the circumstances under which the Property and Income tax was recommended to our attention in 1842, the fortune which it experienced, and the fate which awaited it. Remember that this important measure of direct taxation was to have ceased after a short lapse of time, and was introduced into the House apologetically. It was introduced as a measure necessitated by an emergency, and framed to meet a crisis; and even with all those circumstances of urgency, the House and the country could not be induced to adopt it without its being framed upon a large basis of exemption. So, Sir, in the introduction of the direct tax upon property and income, there was, therefore, no evidence of a great inclination in the House of Commons or the country in favour of direct taxation; because the measure was introduced as one only justified by an exigency, and was so modelled that the multitude could not feel the pressure of its operation. Well, what was the fate of that tax, introduced by one of the ablest and most powerful 15 Ministers of modern times? Notwithstanding all his talents, notwithstanding all his power in this House, it was with difficulty renewed, and could only he renewed after repeated discussions, and after Motions made in this House by Members of great distinction, who impugned the justice of its provisions, and complained of the oppression of its enactments; until, at length, before the ten years had elapsed, it had become so odious and so unpopular that its existence was only renewed provisionally, and that too upon the severe condition that it should be submitted to the critical scrutiny of a Committee upstairs. As far, therefore, as the property and income tax is concerned, the conduct of this House, in respect to direct taxation, is scarcely more encouraging than its conduct in respect to raising revenue by indirect taxation, either in the shape of duties on articles of foreign import, or upon articles of domestic manufacture.
Sir, it was my hope that before the difficult duty devolved upon me of making the statement which I have the honour of submitting to the House to-night, that the report of the Committee upon the Income Tax would have been laid upon the table. I feel great difficulty and delicacy, of course, in adverting—as to a certain degree I must—to subjects under the consideration of that Committee. Of that Committee I have the honour to be a Member; and, therefore, if I can do nothing else, at least I may say this, that I can bear witness to the impartial spirit and indefatigable industry with which the inquiries of that Committee have been carried on; and I am sure—at least I hope—the hon. Gentleman opposite, the Chairman of that Committee (Mr. Hume), will admit that since I have had the power of exercising any influence upon the conduct of its inquiries, I have thrown no obstacle in its way. [Mr. HUME: Hear, hear!] I have not tried to narrow the issue in question. I have given every facility to an investigation which I thought the country required, and the result of which I have watched with the utmost interest. Under these circumstances it would be presumptuous in me to give an opinion upon points which that Committee have not yet finally decided, or on which, at least, they have not yet officially communicated their decision to the House; yet there are one or two of those points on which, from the position I occupy, I think it is impossible for me to he entirely silent.
16 Sir, one of the gravest objections to the tax upon property and income, one of the main causes of its odium and unpopularity in this country, is unquestionably that there is no difference as to the rate of assessment upon incomes of a temporary and of a permanent character. That most interesting and important question is now submitted to your Committee; and, as I said before, it would be arrogant in me to give an opinion upon the subject until their opinion has been formed and officially communicated to the House. But I may say that, upon this subject, we have received the amplest evidence from the ablest men; I may say that, upon this subject, the Committee have listened to those who have made the principles upon which such assessments should be calculated the study of their lives, who have brought to our Committee all that science can offer to aid and enlighten us, and who have placed before us every computation which experience and philosophy combined can devise and invent. I will not presume to enter into the question as to the justice or injustice of the schemes which these gentlemen—the most eminent actuaries in the country—have offered to us; but, as a practical man, as looking to the effect on our revenue, as looking, at this moment especially, to the most desirable means by which revenue can he raised, I may say this—not prejudging, understand me, the question at issue, neither acknowledging nor denying the principles which these actuaries have offered to us—the most eminent for their capacity and knowledge in their profession—neither denying nor admitting that these principles are just—I may at least say this—that if they he adopted, I am painfully sensible that Schedule A, Schedule B, and Schedule C, will not be less odious than Schedule D. Well, Sir, when I am to select a means of raising revenue, I must necessarily consider circumstances of this character. In questions of finance, the feelings of the people must be considered as well as the principles of science.
There is another point on which I can speak with more frankness in reference to the tax upon property and income. I have not presumed, and will not presume, to give an opinion upon the justice or injustice of a change in the mode by which the assessment of permanent and temporary incomes is effected. But there is a point, I believe, on which the Committee is so unanimous that their opinion need not be a secret; and it is also, I believe, the unanimous 17 opinion of the House of Commons, as I am sure it is of the country, namely, that if taxes of this character—if measures of direct taxation like the income tax—are to form not temporary but permanent features of our system of finance, they cannot rest upon a system of exemptions. Well, but if they are not to rest upon a system of exemptions, do you augment the methods to which a Chancellor of the Exchequer may successfully appeal for the purpose of raising revenue? No doubt direct taxation is in its theory an easy, a simple, and a captivating process; but when you wish to apply that direct taxation generally, it is astonishing the obstacles you encounter, and the prejudices you create. Sir, to my mind—and I think it is a principle now pretty well established—direct taxation should he nearly as universal in its application as indirect taxation. The man who lives in a palace and a cottager, as consumers, are proportionally assessed. It is not, perhaps, possible that in direct taxation you can effect so complete a result—perhaps it is not necessary; but that, if your revenue is to depend mainly or in a great degree upon direct taxation—if it is permanently to depend upon direct taxation, you must make the application of the direct tax general, is to me a conclusion which it is impossible to escape. No doubt, by establishing a temporary measure of direct taxation, based upon a large system of exemptions, you may give a great impulse to industry; you may lighten the springs of industry very effectually for a time; but—not to dwell upon the gross and glaring injustice of a system of finance that would tax directly a very limited portion of the population—but, looking only to the economical and financial consequences of such a system, who cannot but feel that in the long run industry itself must suffer from such a process? For, after all, what is direct taxation founded on a system of exemptions? It is confiscation. It is making war upon the capital which ultimately must employ that very industry which you wish to relieve.
Well, then, when you have examined the first and most memorable essay towards the establishment of direct taxation which has occurred during the same memorable sera to which I have called attention in reference to the reduction of the Customs and Excise duties, is the instance of the property and income tax very encouraging to the Minister who looks to direct taxation as the means of supplying a deficiency? 18 Framed with all the exceptional circumstances to which I adverted, it still has attracted great odium, and is fraught, as is universally admitted, with gross injustice. Not that I am urging this as any objection to the Minister who introduced it; the law being avowedly a temporary measure, a measure to meet peculiar circumstances, and to encounter a special emergency, he was perfectly justified in the course which he took, and met with the success which he deserved; but I am speaking of a system of finance of which a tax like that to which I am now referring is to become a permanent feature. This tax, framed by the most adroit of modern financiers, softened in all those circumstances which would have created hostility, has yet encountered such a degree of odium, is, notwithstanding, acknowledged to be the source of so much oppression, that we have not been able to keep it standing; that we have been obliged—at least those who were responsible for the finances of the country have been obliged—to go upon their knees to the House of Commons to ensure it a provisional existence; and, as I have already reminded the House, it now has for two years been submitted to the severest ordeal to which any mode of raising the public revenue can be submitted—the searching scrutiny of a Committee of the House of Commons—judges who are themselves victims, and who are, therefore, alive to all the grievances into which they have to inquire.
Well, but if I proceed a step further, and endeavour to induce the House to consider whether the system of direct taxation is that simple, that facile, and that satisfactory method by which the revenue can be raised in a country like England, can I shut my eyes to the remarkable circumstances which occurred in the last Session of Parliament, with respect to direct taxation? What was the principal feature of the last financial year? The abolition of one of the most considerable sources of direct taxation. The Minister of the day, at "one fell swoop," by the repeal of the window duty, deprived us of very nearly two millions sterling raised by direct taxation. [Cries of" No, no!"'] I think I shall be able to show that to be the case. I think I can show to hon. Gentlemen opposite, who I am willing to believe are on this occasion friendly critics, that I make no statement on the subject which is not fully authorised. Well, Sir, it was said upon that occasion that the principle of direct taxation was not in question. Direct 19 taxation to the amount of nearly 2,000,000l. was at once taken off; but then it was remitted not upon fiscal but upon sanitary considerations. Every one knows now, however, that all the sanitary objects which we wished to accomplish could have been accomplished had the direct tax remained. [Cries of "No, no!" and Cheers.] I think I shall have no difficulty in showing that that is the fact—that we might have derived from a tax upon windows a revenue not less than that which we have lost, and yet obtained at the same time all the sanitary results which we wished to accomplish. This plea—this plausible plea but miserable pretext—of sanitary considerations prevailed; and the consequence is, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has lost 2,000,000l. raised by direct taxation. But now let me notice the murmuring negative of some hon. Gentlemen opposite; because I waited for that with great interest, as it is a fresh illustration of the important results which I wish to impress upon the consideration of the House. "No," says the hon. Gentleman, "you do not lose nearly 2,000,000l., you forget the substitution of the house tax." Now, were I to fix upon any measure which more alarms me—when taught to believe that direct taxation is to be the main source to which a Minister of Finance is to look for revenue in this country—it would be that very substituted house tax, the recollection of which made hon. Members opposite murmur their negative to my previous statement respecting our loss by the repeal of the window tax. The revenue of the country could not bear that rude and entire loss of nearly 2,000,000l. sterling annually by the repeal of the window tax; and it was necessary, therefore, to have some substitute, to find some means, by which our revenue could be sustained. What did you do? You could not recur to Customs duties in the teeth of that catalogue of exploits which I have enumerated. You could not have recourse again to Excise duties, when you yourselves were bringing forward Motions asking for the extensive repeal of Excise duties. You were obliged to have recourse to direct taxation even while you reduced one source of direct taxation to such an enormous amount. What then did you do? You raised your direct taxation by a form which I have always considered it was impossible for any direct tax to take more just or less oppressive—I mean a house 20 tax. But what did you do? That invaluable weapon in your financial armoury was taken down carelessly, and used, I may say, with a very inglorious result. You raised but a very small revenue by your taxation. Out of 3,500,000 houses, following the vicious principle which pervaded all our direct taxation, you taxed but little more than 400,000; and you again practically announced to the people of this country that direct taxation is intolerable, unless it be based upon a large system of exemptions.
Well, now, Sir, I think I have shown to the Committee, by recalling facts, and by prevailing on the House calmly to survey their past career, some reason which should induce them to be at least of the opinion that the great difficulties of raising revenue in this country are not confined to Customs duties, as the early cheer of hon. Members opposite would have seemed to intimate, nor to Excise duties, as my hon. Friends near me may be of opinion; but that if you attempt in this country to establish a system of direct taxation upon any principles calculated to produce permanent effects, you are stopped either by the prejudice of the House of Commons, or by a sense on the part of the people of the intolerable incidence of that form of taxation. Sir, the moral which I would draw from this—which I should wish earnestly to impress upon the House—because they may rest assured that the time is not far distant when upon this subject they must arrive at some definite conclusion—is, that they should adopt some certain principles, and act upon them, in the management of their financial affairs. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, who in these days is to make the financial statement, and who is supposed to be in the possession of that happy, or that embarrassing, incident—a surplus, is looked upon by both sides of the House as an individual who is merely the object of prey and plunder. In the general scramble every one wishes to obtain his purpose, and no one looks to the future. No one looks to the inevitable danger which must be impending over the finances of a country where all demand relief, while at the same time they lay down principles which prevent the raising of taxes in any form whatever, whether upon articles of foreign import or articles of home manufacture, or in the shape of direct contributions; for at this moment we have come—the consequence of the policy of the last ten years 21 has brought us—to this result, that the House of Commons disapproves of all three methods of taxation.
Having made these observations, which I shall, I fear, have most painfully to apply in the course of my subsequent remarks, I will now call the attention of the Committee to the income and expenditure of the year which has just closed. In February, 1851, the income for the year ending this month of April, 1852, was estimated by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir C. Wood) at 52,140,000l. The actual income which has accrued has been 52,468,317l. [Cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman whose actual has exceeded his estimated income, is well entitled to that cheer. But I am bound to say that the statement which I have made does not do sufficient justice to the merits of the right hon. Gentleman; because it is not merely the fact that the actual income has exceeded the estimated by nearly 330,000l., but I must say in the interval a vast remission of taxation took place; and yet, notwithstanding these vast remissions, the actual income of the year just ended has exceeded the estimated income for the year. For during that period the right hon. Gentleman repealed the window tax, by which (though he incurred only half a year's loss) a loss of 620,000l, in the year was experienced, after allowing, of course, for the substituted house tax. Within that period the right hon. Gentleman also reduced the duty on coffee and upon timber, and he has also had to encounter one of the most considerable reductions which have occurred in the sugar duties. But notwithstanding this great remission of direct taxation, and this reduction of the duties on three of the most important articles of foreign import, the actual income of the right hon. Gentleman the late Chancellor of the Exchequer has exceeded that estimated by him, and which estimate was made without reference to those reductions, by a sum of more than 270,000l. Upon that view the right hon. Gentleman estimated the revenue which he should derive from the Customs at 20,400,000l., and he anticipated a loss to the revenue, from the reduction of the duties on sugar, coffee, and timber, of 800,000l., which, however, trusting to the increased power of consumption in the community, he placed in his budget at only 400,000l.; therefore, in truth, from the Customs the right hon. Gentleman estimated he would receive 20,400,000l., and we have obtained from them 20,673,000l.
22 I think it due to the right hon. Gentleman, and I think—which, with all courtesy to him, is of still more importance, that it will be interesting to the House and to the country—while our experience upon the subject is fresh, that we should trace the action upon our Customs revenue of these remissions of duty made by the right hon. Gentleman.
The duty upon coffee, it will be recollected, was reduced last year from 6d. per lb. on foreign, and 4d. per lb. on colonial, to a uniform duty of 3d. per lb. Now, this is the effect of that reduction of duty upon the consumption of the article. I will first take foreign coffee. In the year ending April, 1851, the quantity of foreign coffee consumed was 2,076,375 lbs.; in the year ending April, 1852, there has been an increase in the consumption from 2,076,375 lbs. to 5,524,000 lbs., being an increase in the year 1852, as compared with 1851, of nearly 3,448,000 lbs. Nor has this increase been obtained at the expense of the growers of colonial coffee: for while in 1851 we imported but 28,216,000 lbs. of colonial coffee, in 1852, after the reduction of the duty, and concurrent with that great increase in the consumption of foreign coffee, instead of 28,216,000 lbs., we have imported of colonial coffee 29,150,000 lbs. In 1850 we imported 32,511,000 lbs. of foreign and colonial coffee; in 1851 the demand had fallen to 30,292,000 lbs.; but in 1852, after the reduction of the duty made by the right hon. Gentleman, it has risen from 30,292,000 lbs. in 1851, to 34,680,000 lbs. I speak now, of course, of both foreign and colonial. The estimated loss of duty was 176,000l.; the amount of duty really lost has been but 112,000l.
The Committee will recollect also that the right hon. Gentleman reduced the duty upon foreign timber from 15s. to 7s. 6d. on hewn, and from 20s. to 10s. on sawn. The estimated loss by this reduction was 286,000l.; the actual loss has been but 126,000l. I know that this is detail in which perhaps I ought hardly to persevere; but I think it due to the right hon. Gentleman, and also to the subject, that the House should thoroughly understand its position at the present moment. In 1851 we imported 275,000 loads of foreign timber, and in 1852, 440,000l loads. If you come to colonial timber—I speak now of hewn—in 1851 we imported 619,000 loads, and in 1852, 671,000. In 1851 we imported 352,000 loads of 23 foreign sawn timber, while in 1852 the quantity imported amounted to 514,000 loads. In the year 1851 the quantity of colonial sawn timber imported was 454,000 loads, and notwithstanding the increase in the foreign importation, the quantity imported in 1852 from the colonies was 526,000 loads. Thus, while in the year 1851 the total quantity imported from foreign countries of both "hewn" and "sawn" timber was only 628,000 loads, in the year just terminated the quantity has increased to 954,000 loads. From the colonies the total importation of both "hewn" and "sawn" timber has increased from 1,074,000 loads in 1851, to 1,200,000 in 1852.
Passing from the reduction of the duties upon coffee and timber, I come now to the reduction of the duty on sugar. While a loss, then, though not a very important one, thus resulted from the reduction of the duties upon coffee and timber, greatly as the consumption of those articles was increased by that reduction, the effect of the reduction of duty upon the consumption of sugar is so remarkable, that I feel it my duty to trouble the House also upon that subject. In the year 1851 we imported of British and foreign sugar 7,200,000 cwts.; in 1852 the imports increased to 7,613,000 cwts. Since the alteration in 1846 the increase of our consumption of sugar has been 1,900,000 cwts. This is unrefined only. I have the other figures, but will not weary the House with them. In 1851 we imported 5,093,000 cwts. of British colonial sugar; in 1852 the quantity increased to 5,207,000 cwts., showing an increase during the past year, as compared with the previous year, of 114,000 cwts. During the last six years the consumption of sugar in this country has increased 95,000 tons, being nearly 33 per cent upon its consumption in the year 1846. Now, with respect to revenue derived from sugar; in 1852 we received 4,163,535l., being—although we calculated upon a loss of upwards of 330,000l!. or 340,000l. last year—an actual loss of only 309l.
I now proceed with the estimated income in detail for the year 1851–2, as made by the right hon. Gentleman the late Chancellor of the Exchequer in February last. I have already stated that the revenue from the Customs the right hon. Gentleman estimated at 20,400,000;—the actual receipts have been 20,663,000l. The estimated Excise duty was 14,000,000l.; 24 we have received 14,543,000l. The right hon. Baronet estimated from his Stamps 6,310,000l.; he received from his Stamps—or rather we received for him—6,346,000l. The right hon. Baronet estimated from his Taxes 4,348,000l.; but in consequence of the reduction of the window duty and the partial substitution of the house tax, instead of 4,348,000l., the actual receipts have been only 3,691,000l.; and I am sorry to say that in the subsequent half year so large a sum will not be received, because the right hon. Baronet had the advantage of receiving one half year's window tax. I now come to the Property and Income tax:—that was estimated at 5,380,000l.:—the right hon. Gentleman's estimate was realised only to the amount of 5,283,000l., being a diminution of nearly 100,000l. The Post Office revenue he estimated at 830,000l.;—but such has been the extraordinary effect—among other causes, no doubt—of the Great Exhibition, that instead of receiving that sum—[A laugh]—the hon. Member may laugh at my statement, but I can assure him it is correct, and when he becomes Chancellor of the Exchequer, he will learn what an advantage it is to have something which gives an impulse to such sources of revenue—the estimate of 830,000l. for the Post Office has been considerably exceeded, the actual income having been 1,056,000l. Besides the great effect of the Exhibition upon that branch of the revenue, there is also to be considered the effect of the late Census. Our postage bill for the Census, if I can trust my recollection, was nearly 32,000l.: that amount will not, however, figure in this branch of revenue in the next year. The right hon. Gentleman estimated the "Woods" at 160,000l. The "Woods" gave 190,000l. The "Miscellaneous" he estimated at 262,000l.; they turned out to be 287,000l."Old Stores" were estimated at 450,000l.; but they realised only 395,000l. As I have stated before, the right hon. Gentleman's total estimate of the income of the year just ended was 52,140,000l., while the actual income has been 52,468,317l.
The estimated expenditure of the right hon. Gentleman in the year just ended was 50,247,000l.;—the actual expenditure has been 50,291,000l. It is unnecessary for me to go through the items of the estimated expenditure; I have said, I trust, sufficient to place the last year of the official career of the right hon. Gentleman fairly before the House. I have, Sir, on 25 his behalf, the satisfaction of placing upon the table of the House the general balance sheet at the end of the year, whence it appears, as the consequence of the facts which I have stated, that there is a surplus revenue for the past year of 2,176,998l.
I have now, Sir, to come to the Estimates and Expenditure of another year, in which I am more deeply interested than in those figures which I have already placed before the House. For the estimated expenditure of this year Her Majesty's Government are scarcely responsible:—they have of course an official responsibility from which they do not wish to escape; but it is known to the House that the Estimates for the present year were prepared by our predecessors, and had been laid on the table when we succeeded to office; and the responsibility of the Government with respect to them is now shared by the House, which has passed the greater part of those Estimates. The estimated expenditure for this year—that is, for 1852–3—is 51,163,979l.; and it is thus formed: "The Interest on the Funded Debt" is 27,548,000l.; last year the amount under this head was 27,576,980l.—the reduction which has taken place being in consequence of the operation of the Sinking Fund. The interest upon Exchequer Bills is estimated at 402,000; last year the charge was 401,545l. The total charge upon the Debt, therefore, is 27,950,000l.; last year it was 27,978,525l. The other charges upon the Consolidated Fund are, for this year 2,600,000l.; for the last year they amounted to 2,614,416l. The total charge upon the Consolidated Fund is, therefore, 30,550,000l.; in the preceding year it was 30,592,941l. For the Army, including the Commissariat, the estimate for the present year is 6,491,893; for the Navy, 6,493,000l.; the estimate for the Navy, however, includes a sum of 870,158?. for the packet service, so that the expenditure for the Navy is really only 5,622,842l.; but, with the packet service included, it figures in the estimates for 6,493,000l. The estimated expenditure for the Ordnance Department is 2,437,000l.; the "Miscellaneous," now called the Civil Estimates, are 4,182,000l. Last year—I make this remark because, for the present year, they were, to a certain extent, prepared by Her Majesty's present Government—the"Miscellaneous"amounted to 4,114,265l., while, for the present year, as I have stated, the estimated expenditure is 4,182,000. This 26 increase in the Miscellaneous Estimates has been occasioned by two circumstances—by the transference from the Woods and Forests, of a charge to the amount, I think, if I recollect rightly, of something about 65,000l. per year, and, therefore, there is a proportionate, or nearly a proportionate, reduction under the head of Woods and Forests; and also by some increase in the charge for the convict service.
The next item to which I have to allude is a sorrowful affair. It is the item for the charge of the Kafir war. The Committee will recollect that I moved a vote very early after acceding to office of 460,000l. on account of the Kafir war. When that vote was moved, I confess I was not without hope that it would be the last vote of the kind which we should have to bring under the consideration of a Committee of Supply. But the information which we then expected, and which was at hand, unfortunately proved to be of a very different character from that which we indulged a belief it would assume. It is impossible, therefore, that I can, with a due sense of what I think becomes a person responsible for the finances of the country, allow that vote alone to be provided for by the Committee. Undoubtedly, it would be very easy, especially after having obtained a vote, in the case of a distant war, where there is not that power of ascertaining the state of affairs so correctly as in a European conflict, or one the scene of which is near at hand—it would undoubtedly be very easy to leave something to chance, and allow, if further supplies should be wanted, that they should be drawn from the general military chest. But I hope the Committee will agree with me in holding that such would be a very exceptional and ruinous system, and that it is much better to form some—I will not say extravagant—but some fair and temperate estimate of what may be considered absolutely necessary, and endeavour to meet the wants of the service by a specific vote. Well, then, under these circumstances I have acted. I know there is a great prejudice with respect to the conduct of wars in distant de-pendencies—where what occurs is not subject to that criticism and explanation to which it would be liable in countries nearer home. But I am bound to say this—that the commissariat of the Army at the Cape is under the immediate control of the Treasury, and that the Treasury has sent out officers to conduct operations there—that 27 their despatches, and even their private journals, are sent to the Treasury; and it has been my duty, and one which I can sincerely say that I have fulfilled, to read every line of the despatches, and every one of the private journals of the officers employed; and I am greatly mistaken if they are not men animated by the most anxious desire to fulfil their duty to their country. I believe that they have accomplished considerable reductions in the conduct of the operations, nor do I think that I am using the language of exaggeration when I say that the commissariat was never carried on with more efficiency, or with a greater regard to genuine economy. Taking all this into consideration—and I could prove the strict truth of my last observation by referring to the surplus left for this year from the vote taken in the last year of 300,000l. by the right hon. Gentleman opposite—and calculating (which I do) that the vote of 460,000l., assisted by such surplus as by the good management of these gentle-men we have from the 300,000l., cannot be safely relied upon for carrying us on further than the end of May, or the beginning of June, I have made up my mind, with the sanction of my Colleagues, and on the part of my Colleagues, to propose an additional vote of 200,000l.; and, if the Committee sanction that proposition, the Kafir war will appear in the estimate of this year at 660,000l.
There is yet another item for which we are responsible in the estimated expenditure of this year, and that is the charge for the Militia. ["Oh, oh!"] Why, really, the vote is not much larger than the majority which sanctioned the measure. If the Committee will sanction my estimate, the charge will be 350,000l.
The total of the estimated Expenditure for the year ending April, 1853, will therefore be 51,163,979l., the figures which I gave before.
I now come to consider the sources of Supply; and the House will now see that the few observations which I presumed to make on the subject of taxation, and upon the temper of this House upon the subject of taxation, were not altogether inappropriate. The question is, how are we to meet this expenditure; and I now come to the estimated income which I am going to submit to the Committee.
The Customs duties realised last year, as will be fresh in the recollection of the Committee, amounted to 20,673,954l. 28 But that was a remarkable year, and the circumstances which acted upon the revenue of the Post Office—so much to the astonishment of Gentlemen opposite—very much acted upon the Customs duties. The very great impulse given to consumption by the great gathering of last year, is attributable, not altogether to the influx of foreigners into the country, but to the increased travelling which took place, and by the general spirit of enterprise which prevailed throughout the whole island. Now, Sir, under these circumstances I do not feel justified in counting upon any considerable increase of the Customs revenue during the present year, but rather the reverse; and I have also to encounter that which the Committee must not forget—I have to encounter this year a further reduction of the sugar duties; and although the calculated amount of that reduction is not so considerable as that which was experienced by the right hon. Gentleman the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, still I am not sanguine that the result will be so completely triumphant and successful this year as it was last. I therefore think we must count upon some loss from the reduction of the sugar duties. The calculated loss on that head of revenue is something like 135,000l. But I hope it will not be a total loss. After the marvellous results which I have communicated to the House this evening as the consequence of the last reduction of the sugar duties, one is naturally sanguine; but still last year, as regards consumption, was an exceptional year, and we should be blind to the truth if we took that as an average year; and I do think there will be some loss upon the revenue derived from the duties on sugar. Under these circumstances, Sir—taking into consideration that last year afforded extraordinary sources of consumption, and taking into consideration also the inevitable and further reduction of the sugar duties this year—I think it most prudent, after examining all the items, and giving to the subject the utmost deliberation I could bestow upon it, to take the revenue of the Customs at the amount it reached the year before the Exhibition, namely, the year 1850; and I therefore estimate the receipts for the Customs at 20,572,000l., which is rather more than 100,000l., less than has been derived from the same source in the year just concluded.
I now come to the Excise. It may be necessary to make some deductions from the Excise in the items of stage-carriage 29 and railway duties, which will probably be less productive this year than they were last, from the very same cause which I hare already adverted to, and which the honourable Gentleman opposite, who has not given so much attention to this subject as he will bestow upon it next year, considered of so slight importance. But the effect of the Exhibition upon the stage-carriage and railway duty was very considerable. I must also, with regard to the Excise, make same allowance for the reduced produce of the hop duty: the duty which will be receivable in this year will, owing to the season, be considerably below that of the year preceding. On the other hand, there is a considerable increase in the malt duty, which will become payable on the 10th of October next, and which has now been ascertained. It has increased much beyond the corresponding period of last year. The following will be the state of the figures with regard to the Excise duties. The revenue from that source for the year ending 1852 was 14,543,895l. From this amount it is necessary, in estimating the produce of this branch of the revenue for the present year, to deduct about 189,000l. for the probable diminution of the hop duty, and a further sum for the reduction of the stage-carriage and railway duty, which I estimate at 50,000l., making together 239,000l. Deducting this sum from the Excise revenue of last year, the revenue for the present year would stand at 14,304,895. I estimate the increase of the malt duty at 300,000l., which, added to the figures I have just stated, gives 14,604,895l. as the estimated probable revenue of the Excise for the present year.
I estimate the Stamps for this year at 6,339,000l., which is about the same amount as they yielded last year. The produce of the Stamp duties for the year ending the 5th April, 1852, amounted to 6,346,000l. As the new duties have been in operation since October, 1850, I think their effects may be considered fully developed, and I do not consider there is any reason to suppose that we may not take the amount of the Stamp duty at 6,339,000l.
The Taxes, which last year amounted to 3,691,225l., I am obliged to take this year at 3,090,000l. This considerable diminution is occasioned by the right hon. Gentleman in his last year having received half a year of the window duty. He received 3,691,225l. We may add to 30 this amount some arrears for the house duty, which make the whole revenue from these taxes 3,730,000l. But this sum included the window duty for half a year, which amounted to 940,000l. Then that is to be diminished by half of the substituted house duty of 300,000l.; and therefore, in fact, I have to diminish the revenue realised by the right hon. Gentleman by the sum of nearly 700,000l. It is, therefore, necessary that I should place the Taxes at 3,090,000. The Property tax for this year is of course half of the amount of the Property tax produced the last year, because the Committee are aware that the Property tax itself does not virtually cease until October. Therefore, whatever the decision of the House may be upon the subject, half a year's Property tax will naturally and must necessarily be gotten into the revenue of this year. Therefore the Property tax would be about 2,600,000l.
The revenue from the Post Office I take at 938,000l. I am obliged to allow for the effect of the Exhibition and for the expenditure upon the Census, and also for the settling of a contested account with the railways with regard to the carriage of mails. I am, I believe, justified in taking the Post Office at 938,000l. The Woods I take at 235,000l. Last year they produced only 190,000l.; but their produce will be increased this year by the transfer to the Miscellaneous Estimates of certain charges which the Woods have heretofore borne. The Miscellaneous taxes I take at 260,000. The Old Stores I estimate at 400,000l.
These various items make an aggregate income of 49,038,000l., showing a deficiency of 2,125,000l. You have, therefore, without the Property and Income tax, a deficit to that amount. That will be the deficit for this year; but of course the Committee is aware that in the year 1853–4 that deficit would be about 4,250,000l., all things remaining the same.
Now to complete the picture which I have placed before the Committee, and which I have endeavoured to place before it in an unvarnished manner, I think it will be expedient, before we come to any decision—before I state to the House the course which Her Majesty's Government feel it their duty to recommend—I think it will be desirable to place the financial position of the country, both as to the last year, and the present year, in a parallel position, assuming that the Property and 31 Income tax had not been continued for one but for two years; and with that object I will offer to the House the estimate which I believe the Property and Income tax would produce for another year. Now, Sir, I know that on this subject considerable controversy has occurred. The right hon. Gentleman the late Chancellor of the Exchequer experienced a loss of upwards of 100,000l. in the receipt of the Property tax as compared with his estimate. I have investigated this subject with the utmost attention I could command, and I am bound to say—and I will give my reasons to the Committee for saying it—I am bound to say that there really has been no diminution in the proceeds of the Property and Income tax. What I mean is this: that there has been no diminution in the total assessments to the Property tax in the present year when compared with the two preceding years, notwithstanding the right hon. Gentleman has received upwards of 100,000l. less than in the preceding year; and I will explain to the Committee how this arose. It arose, in the first place, from the great delay in accomplishing the assessments under the Property and Income tax. The Act for the continuance of the Property and Income tax was not passed till the 5th of June; there was, consequently, great delay in making out the assessments, and consequently there were great arrears. At that time, too, unfortunately, the Office on which the duty of making these assessments devolved, was so much occupied with the arrangements connected with the Census, that the delay was unavoidable. But the Committee will see by the returns which I am about to place before them, that there has been no diminution in the total assessment of property in the present year as compared with the two preceding years, I will take the years 1850, 1851, and 1852. The total amount of duty assessed in the year 1850 was 5,727,977l. In the year 1851, the total duty assessed was 5,739,708l. In the year 1852, which has just expired, the total assessment was 5,758,709l., against the sum of 5,727,977l. in 1850. But although I have shown that the assessment has not decreased, there has been a reduction of the amount actually paid into the Exchequer. For example—the payments into the Exchequer in the year 1850 amounted to 5,466,249l.; in 1851 the payments amounted to 5,403,379l.; in 1852 the sum paid was 5,283,800l. Therefore the country had a right to suppose 32 there had been a great diminution in the proceeds of the Property and Income tax. But, in fact, the amount assessed was not diminished, but increased, and a great portion of the arrears has already been obtained. Sir, I now come to the cause of the great diminution which occurred in the amount of duty paid into the Exchequer. The diminution occurred under Schedule D. In the year 1849 a great diminution occurred in the proceeds from "trades and professions" which are levied under this schedule. From the sum of 1,754,000l. the proceeds fell in 1849 to 1,584,000l. In 1850 it again dropped to 1,570,000l.; in 1851 it rallied to 1,593,000l. Now, Sir, I am sure I have no prejudice on the subject, and I am bound to say that so far as I can form an opinion from the information laid before me there can be no doubt that the diminution in Schedule D is solely and entirely to be ascribed to the unhappy commercial year 1847. But now let us look at the proceeds under Schedule D in the year which is just completed. Instead of the amount being 1,584,000l., as it was in 1849, it has reached 1,604,000l.; and I am informed by those who are most competent to form an opinion on the subject, that we may look with perfect confidence to the assessments under Schedule D entirely rallying, because there is no doubt that, although I appear before you with a deficiency, the state of the country is, as far as this schedule is concerned, one of great and sound prosperity. I may be excused for reminding the Committee—for in order to put the case clearly before hon. Members it is necessary to refer to many things with which they are familiar—that the assessment under Schedule D is not made on the actual profits of the year, but on the average profits of the three preceding years, and, therefore, if a bad year like that of 1847 occurs, falling into the average, it would diminish its amount just in the same way as a bad year affects the average made under the Tithe Commutation Act.
But, Sir, as it is my business before this Committee to state that which I believe to be rigidly the truth on all subjects connected with the finance and commerce of the country, so I think that hon. Gentlemen will believe me when I tell them—and I do tell them with great regret—that there are classes in this country who are not prospering, and that the effect of their adversity is beginning to tell upon the Property and Income tax. 33 This is the first year—and I fulfil the duty of stating this with great regret—but this is the first year in which a Chancellor of the Exchequer, in estimating the amount to be received from the Property and Income tax, has been warned by the highest authorities that he must be prepared to make some allowance for reduced rentals. And I have to state more than that. I am informed that it is more than probable that the permission, the privilege, that was accorded last Session to the British farmers, assessed under Schedule B, will be acted upon to a very considerable extent. Now, the Committee must perceive how difficult it must be to find data whereon to found an estimate of the deduction which it may be necessary to make under the two heads to which I have referred. But it is my duty to inform the Committee that a representation has been made to me by. those who are best acquainted with the subject, and who have officially brought these facts before me. I can assure the Committee. that so far from having a prejudice on the subject, although I believe nothing would induce me to colour any case to which it may be my duty to refer, still I could almost wish that it had fallen to any one but myself to have made this statement, because I know there are some who may imagine I am giving an aspect to the statement, however slight, which I may not be justified in doing. But I am acting upon information which it is impossible for me to disregard, and I am recommended to deduct not less than 150,000l. from the estimated produce of the Property and Income tax in consequence of the probable losses which may accrue from these two causes—namely, the diminution of rental, and the decrease of the proceeds under Schedule B by the cultivator of the soil availing himself of the permission given him last year.
Now, Sir, under these circumstances, this would be my estimate of the Property and Income tax in case I had to offer to the Committee an estimate as to its probable produce for the year after October next. The amount of revenue derived from this source for the year ending April, 1852, was 5,283,800l. 'We have to add to that the sum of 54,000l., an amount due, but not collected on account of the backwardness of the assessment, making together 5,337,800l. That would have been the estimate of the produce of the Property and Income tax for the year ending 1853. 34 supposing it to be continued. I must, however, deduct from that the sum of 150,000l. for the reasons I have stated; and there will then remain as the amount of the produce of the tax upon Property and Income for the year ending April 5, 1853, the sum of 5,187,000l. If, therefore, that formed an item in the complete estimate which it would be my duty to place before the Committee, the whole of the Estimated Income for the year 1852–53 (including the 5,187,000l. for Property and Income tax) would be 51,625,000l.; and as my Estimated Expenditure is 51,163,979l., there would be a surplus Income over the Expenditure of 461,021l.
Now, Sir, I hope the Committee have obtained from me an unvarnished, and I trust clear, account of the financial position of the country. This I can truly say, that if I have not succeeded in conveying to them such an account, it is entirely attributable to my want of ability and experience, and not from any desire to conceal anything from them.
It appears to Her Majesty's Government, under these circumstances, that there is but one course for them to recommend to the adoption of the Committee—a course which I myself cannot believe any prudent man, whatever may be his political or economical opinions, can for a moment hesitate in adopting and sanctioning.
Sir, I have touched upon the extreme difficulty which now attends the management of the finances of this country. I have endeavoured to bring the Committee to such a temper that it may become habituated to consider this all-important subject with, permit me to say, more of calmness and of patience than have accompanied the statements of a Finance Minister of late years. My right hon. predecessor, whose abilities I recognise with all sincerity, no sooner rose in his place than, I well recollect, he was assailed by a thousand demands, which in each case might have been just, but which, when viewed with respect to the resources of the country, I cannot but feel were unreasonable at the time when they were urged, and many of which, I regret, were pressed with precipitation. Her Majesty's Government would not shrink from surveying the whole system of finance, with an attempt, if possible, to induce the House of Commons to come to some clear and decided opinion on the principles upon which the public revenue should be raised. They look with great apprehension to the opinions prevalent in 35 this House which seem opposed to all the great sources of raising the income of this country. They consider that nothing would be more injurious than rashly and rapidly to reduce the sources of indirect taxation while you have come to no general conclusion as to the principles upon which direct taxation shall be levied. They are of opinion that if we continue in this mood of mind—admirable as is the industry, vast as is the capital of this country, great as are the advantages which are received from our political institutions, which have secured it order, wealth, and liberty—it will be impossible to maintain the revenue of this country in that manner which the public credit and the wants of our national establishments require. Sir, we have a profound conviction upon this head. We deem it our duty to impress upon the Committee and upon the country the dangerous course in which they have embarked—to impress upon them the absolute necessity, now or in another Parliament, of arriving at some definite understanding on what principle the revenue of this country ought to be raised. They deem it their duty to denounce as most pernicious to all classes of this country the systematic reduction of indirect taxation, while at the same time you levy your direct taxes from a very limited class. Sir, we would not have shrunk from undertaking the laborious effort of examining the whole of our financial system animated by these views and actuated by this purpose. But I put it with confidence to the Committee whether it has been possible for us to undertake a duty which demands labour so patient, research so considerable, and an amount of time which no Member of the Government, I am sure, has yet been able to devote to it. The Committee will, I am sure, recollect that it is only two months since Her Majesty's present Government acceded unexpectedly to office; it is indeed only six weeks since that Member of the Government who is peculiarly responsible for the conduct of the finances, could, from the necessity of meeting his constituents, resume his seat in the House. And, Sir, although the indulgence of the House, of which no person can be more sensible than myself, has assisted me in attempting to conduct the business of this House, still the claims of the House and of my department have, I can assure the Committee, rendered it physically impossible for me to embark in such an undertaking. But, Sir, although the proposal which, on the 36 part of the Government, I am going to make is one of a very uninteresting—to use a modern phrase, one of a very provisional character—I hope the Committee will not suppose that we are shrinking from the fulfilment of our duty, or that, if it please the Parliament of this country to give us the opportunity, we shall be content with again making provisional propositions upon this important subject to the House of Commons. Under these circumstances I am sure the Committee will anticipate that I shall feel it my duty, on the first opportunity, to recommend for their adoption a continuance of those duties on property and income, for a limited period, which have been the subject of your criticism here, and are now the subject of inquiry before a Select Committee. Sir, it would have been very agreeable to me to have relieved the industry of the country, to have forwarded that great cause of the fair adjustment of taxation which I believe the majority of the House are inclined on both sides on right principles to undertake. That is not in my power. My duty has only been to place fairly before the House of Commons the condition of the public finances, and to offer that advice which Her Majesty's Government under the circumstances feel it their duty to tender; and now, Sir, in placing this Resolution in your hands, I trust the House will on this and on subsequent opportunities give me every facility to carry a law which shall continue for the limited period of one year the present Property and Income tax.
then read the following Resolutions:—That, towards making good the Supply granted to Her Majesty, there be issued and applied to the Service of the year 1852 the sum of 1,015,625l. 12s. 10d., being the Surplus of Ways and Means granted for the Service of preceding years.2. 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.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
Sir, it has often, in the course of the last five years, been my duty to follow the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down when I differed from him in most of the observations which he addressed to the House; but on the present occasion I have the more pleasing duty in following him of 37 saying that I concur not only in the course which he proposes, hut in most of the observations which he has addressed to the House. I am sure that no apology was necessary from the right hon. Gentleman, either as to the manner in which he made his statement, or the mode in which he has introduced his first budget to the House; for he has succeeded in placing before it as clearly as possible not only the financial state of the country, but the views which he, on the part of the Government, felt bound to express. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman, having watched the course which he has taken on former occasions with no slight interest, that it is with sincere pleasure that I have heard this most successful exposition of the first budget which he has brought forward. In the first place, I concur with the views which he has expressed as to the difficulties which beset any Gentleman who is placed in the responsible situation of Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have for some years past been the object of that "disposition to prey and plunder" which the right hon. Gentleman has referred to, and I am not at all sorry to see the task of resisting such disposition transferred to other hands; at the same time that I can promise the right hon. Gentleman this, that I shall be no party to prey upon and plunder him. I agree with him that on former occasions no slight disregard has been shown to the true interests of the country in the attempts that have been made for the repeal of taxation that the finances of the country could ill spare; and though I may refer to the matter at another opportunity, yet I will not, on the present occasion, interrupt the good feeling which I hope will prevail to-night by alluding more particularly to those parties who have taken their full share of the "pull upon the Exchequer." I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, that it is not easy to find any tax that would be palatable to the people; but when the right hon. Gentleman, after having made out what we, on this side of the House, consider as a triumphant case for the policy which we have advocated, proceeds to say that there are not as good grounds for reducing indirect taxation as there are for reducing direct taxation, I must say that I think the evidence he himself has adduced is the most complete justification of the reductions of indirect taxation that have already taken place. Sir, I came down to this House, being prepared with 38 some statements which were intended to show the success of the policy which this House has pursued during the last ten years; but, I think, after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman it is utterly needless to read them. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman himself, who has in the fairest and most candid manner brought these results before the House—and most grateful do I feel to him for the language in which he has spoken of the policy that I pursued, in conjunction with the late Government, of which I was a Member—I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman whether he has not afforded the most ample testimony to the success which has attended our policy? The right hon. Gentleman has stated that during the last ten years Customs duties have been repealed or reduced to the extent of 9,000,000l., and 1,500,000l. from the Excise. I will add that 500,000l. has been reduced from the Stamps, and 1,200,000l. from the Window Duties last year. I sum up the whole of these reductions—Customs, Excise, Stamps, and Taxes—and I find that they amount to a reduction from the taxation of no less a sum than 12,200,000l. in the course of ton years; and I find, at the same time, that the ordinary revenue of the country in 1842, excluding the produce received from the income tax and extraordinary sources, amounted to 48,000,000l., while last year the revenue from the same sources amounted to 46,600,000l.—that is to say, 1,400,000l. less than the revenue that was received in 1842, previous to this reduction of taxes to the amount of 12,200,000l. I appeal to the House—I appeal to the country—I appeal to the most prejudiced opponent of the policy which has of late years been pursued, as to the results of this policy. A more triumphant case I do not wish to see made out than that which the right hon. Gentleman has made for us to-night; and I trust that from his evidence—unsuspicious as it is—honourably and candidly as it has been given—the country will come to the conclusion that this is the proper policy that has been and ought to be pursued by past and future Finance Ministers in this country. I always said that changes in the Government have many advantages; and I am glad to see right hon. Gentlemen opposite come forward to that table charged with the responsibilities of office. We have been attacked in many speeches with allegations which I have had to answer as to the loud cries of distress 39 that are uttered by every class in the community. But now we are told to-night, upon the authority of the right hon. Gentleman, speaking from those sources of authority of which he is in official possession, that, taking one class with another, the country is now in a state of great and increasing prosperity. The increase of the revenue is the best proof of the country's prosperity; and I wish no further justification of what has been done during the last ten years than the statement which the right hon. Gentleman has made this evening. The right hon. Gentleman stated, though I think not quite correctly, what was done with regard to the window tax last year. I stated at the time that I was in favour of levying a tax upon houses, and that I thought the mode adopted of levying the tax according to the number of windows was a most prejudicial mode of assessing it. All I sought to do, therefore, was to alter the mode of levying the tax. What I proposed was, to produce and substitute one mode of levying a tax, with certain reductions, for another mode of levying it; and it must be remembered that the old tax contained as many exemptions as the one we are now considering. Now the right hon. Gentleman has borne most valuable testimony to the assessment of the income tax. Time after time have we been told that the falling-off in the income tax was a proof of the declining prosperity of the people. I remember when the noble Lord who is now at the head of the Government insisted in the strongest manner that the diminution which had taken place in the produce of Schedule D was a contradiction to everything that was said as to the prosperity of the trading classes; and that it established beyond the possibility of doubt, that all the representations made on that head were a mere delusion: more trade, he said, might be carried on, but it was carried on at a loss; and an hon. Friend of mine, whom I do not now see in his place (Mr. Newdegate), has year after year published pamphlets and statements in order to prove that the trade of the country has been carried on at a loss. But now the right hon. Gentleman has for ever dispelled that illusion, and I trust that we shall hear no more of that exploded fallacy. We knew that the assessment on Schedule D was no test of the trade of the year, for it was calculated on an average of three preceding years, and therefore the apparent falling-off that did take place 40 was owing to the unfortunate circumstances of the years 1847 and 1848; so that the inference drawn from that diminution was altogether fallacious. I trust that, after what the right hon. Gentleman has stated upon this subject—from information placed in his hands by his official position—we shall have no more of these inferences. I shall only refer to one point in connexion with the window tax, in confirmation of a statement I made at the time when I proposed to substitute the house for the window tax—that the benefit of that substitution would be felt to a much greater extent in agricultural communities than in towns. Before I left office, I directed a statement to be made containing the produce of the old window tax in each county, and the amount of the tax which has been substituted for it; and I find, comparing agricultural counties with manufacturing counties, that the relief has been much more considerable in agricultural districts than in towns. I will take London, Middlesex, and Lancashire as fair specimens of the manufacturing districts and towns, and I find that in these three the produce of the house tax is 260,000l., and the amount of the tax given up is 290,000l. I will take Lincoln, Norfolk, and Essex as fair specimens of the agricultural counties, and I find that the produce of the house tax in them amounts to 20,000, while the amount surrendered is 77,000l.; the amount gained by the agricultural counties being nearly four times as great as that which is retained, whereas in the manufacturing districts the amount gained is little more than the amount of the tax that has been repealed. Thus the great proportion of the relief has been given to agricultural counties; and I doubt whether there is any other way in which they would have received so much relief as was afforded to them by the substitution of the house tax. I shall now, Sir, make an observation or two upon the right hon. Gentleman's proposition. He states that supposing the income tax to be continued, he will have a surplus of 461,000l., and certainly with such a surplus it would be madness to attempt a remission of taxation, especially as I doubt whether the surplus will he as great as the right hon. Gentleman has reckoned upon. I think he has very fairly estimated the income for the year—if he has erred at all, it is in taking the increase in the Excise duties a little too high; but he will forgive me for saying that I think he will be disappointed as to the probable 41 expenditure on the Kafir war. From the best information which I was able to obtain, the probability was that the 460,000l. formerly voted would be nearly expended by the end of March; and when it is remembered that the expenditure is going on there at the rate of 50,000l. a month, I doubt whether the 200,000l. will cover the probable expenditure beyond that which has been already incurred. I therefore think that his estimate of the Excise produce is above the mark, while his estimate of the Kafir war expenditure is below the mark, so that I fear that the right hon. Gentleman will find the surplus less than he has stated. But the conclusion to be derived from this is only confirmatory of the course which the right hon. Gentleman is about to take: that there should be no alteration of the taxation of the country during the present year—to renew the income tax for another year—and to leave everything else precisely as it is. I think that in all this the right hon. Gentleman acts wisely; and as far as any assistance of mine can enable him to pass the Resolution which he has placed in your hands without delay, he shall have it; and I only regret that he has postponed his resolution for renewing the income tax so long. After the inconvenience which was experienced last year from the late period when the Resolutions were brought before the House, I should recommend that they be brought forward at as early a period as possible; and I trust the House will agree with me in seeing the necessity of affording every facility for passing this Resolution into a law. I confess that I consider some inconvenience has arisen from its being postponed so long, and I trust there will be no further delay. As I have already said, I feel that there is no necessity for me to make any statement on this occasion. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the bold manner in which he has spoken out on our financial condition. I am grateful to him for the kind manner in which he has expressed himself towards me personally. I thank him for the cordial estimate which he has formed of the success of our late policy—I take it as an augury that no change will be attempted to be made. I approve of the course which he intends to take for the ensuing year; and so far as depends upon me—and I trust I may add, the House—every facility will be given him to pass his Resolution with the least possible delay.
§ MR. HUME
said, if the Budget of the 42 right hon. Gentleman had contained any proposition to relieve the people from any portion of their burdens, he could have understood the satisfaction with which it appeared to be received. But that was not the case. He shared, however, in that satisfaction so far that the right hon. Gentleman had shown by figures and ill language that could not be misunderstood, that the policy which had been followed ever since 1842 had been most successful; that it had given relief to all the industrial classes; and that the prosperity which the people now enjoyed took its rise from the new policy that had been adopted. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken out the truth, after having satisfied himself by full inquiry; and for that, he (Mr. Hume) conceived, he was entitled to respect. But there were some parts of the speech with which he was not satisfied. Whilst he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman in denouncing all the exemptions allowed under the income tax, he was utterly surprised to find that the right hon. Gentleman concluded his statement by telling the House that he proposed to continue the very measure which he had before denounced as unjust, and a measure of confiscation. There was not a public officer connected with the collection of the income tax who would not tell him that nine-tenths of all the trouble they had in the matter arose from the exemptions; and if that were so, and if at the same time the right hon. Gentleman himself denounced the present measure as unjust, he asked him, not to remove the tax, but to place it on a sound, just, and permanent principle—one which would affect all property, and afford greater facility to the department for its collection; but till that was done he was a loss to understand how any hon. Member could vote for its renewal. The right hon. Gentleman had truly stated that in the Committee which was now sitting to inquire into the working of the tax, there was a general desire to abolish all exemptions; and here he must express his thanks to the right hon. Gentleman that he had assisted those on hi3 side to obtain an inquiry. The inquiry had taken place—no thanks to the right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles Wood) below him, who stopped the inquiry for six weeks—and they would have completed it long ago if it had not been for the unfair and shabby manner in which the right hon. Baronet had thwarted their endeavours. But he must say that he was surprised to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer first 43 denounce the measure as unjust, and then ask the House to continue it. Up to the last quarter of an hour of his speech he believed the right hon. Gentleman had no intention to renew the income tax. The right hon. Gentleman had shown that there was a balance this year sufficient to dispense with the income tax; and if he had not, he (Mr. Hume) would recommend him to lay the difference upon the holders of real property. By a paper which he held in his hand, it appeared that while personal property paid in legacy duty two millions, real property did not pay one farthing. During the last fifty-six years, personal property had paid 85,763,000l. in legacy duty, while real property had not paid a shilling. ["No, no!"] He said yes, yes; and the hon. Gentleman who interrupted him was only talking nonsense. He must, however, express his satisfaction with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, which must he gratifying to all those who, like himself, were advocates of free trade; and he contended that a reduction of the duties levied on raw materials or articles of consumption would be more than made up by the increased quantities which in that way came into demand. If ever there was a speech which proved the truth of these principles, it was the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He did not wonder at the glum manner in which hon. Gentlemen opposite had received that statement. He marked their countenances while the right hon. Gentleman was speaking; and whilst those around him testified their approbation by those shouts which rung through the House, hon. Gentlemen on the other side presented the most lamentable picture that ever was exhibited. It was highly creditable to the right hon. Gentleman that he should have stated the truth in the way he had done; and he (Mr. Hume) hoped he now looked back with regret and remorse on his past career, and the manner in which he had treated and persecuted the late right hon. Baronet who had first introduced the system. The Chancellor of the Exchequer stood now in the same situation in which Sir Robert Peel stood after he first introduced those important changes in our financial and commercial system. That right hon. Baronet had been persecuted almost to the death as a renegade to his principles. He was not one of those who would now cast back those taunts upon the right hon. Gentleman opposite; on the contrary, he would give credit to any man who, finding 44 that he had been in error, had the manliness to come forward and state his conviction. The right hon. Gentleman had done that, and though that might not satisfy his supporters, yet he was satisfied that, on reflection, they also would see that no other course was left open for them. But let him ask the right hon. Gentleman on what principle he denounced the system of direct taxation, and yet refused to relieve the people from the burden of indirect taxation. He could not reconcile this contradiction; and he must say that, so far from concurring that there should be an end to reduction in taxes on imports, he thought that everything which the right hon. Gentleman had stated to-night, in the most forcible light, showed the expediency of continuing that system. They might reduce the duty on tea from 2s. a pound to 1s. with benefit to the revenue; and he did not doubt that if they took off the excise duty on soap, they could relieve the consumer of the expense of two-thirds of that important article. The removal of the glass duty had produced the most beneficial results. But the right hon. Gentleman proposed to do nothing at all. The present Budget was a stand-still Budget; it did nothing but continue the present burdens upon the country. He was extremely sorry that no relief was intended at the present time. He was one of those who certainly expected considerable relief to those who were now affected by the Excise regulations. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman to take up the question of the Excise; and he was confident that he would rise from the consideration of that subject with the conviction that an exciseman ought not to be admitted into any manufactory in the country. He believed that if the Excise duties were removed from soap and paper, a great impetus would be given to the manufacture of those articles. Thousands and tens of thousands would be employed more than there were now; and if the malt tax, also, were removed, which he hoped the friends of the Government would compel them to do, the whole expense of the Excise staff, amounting to 600,000l. or 700,000l. a year, might be saved, and the remaining revenue would be amply sufficient to carry on the business of the country, if only the Government would be content with moderate establishments. The right hon. Gentleman proposed that the income tax should be continued as a temporary measure. If he would propose it as a permanent measure, 45 first putting it upon a principle of fairness and equality, he would be among the foremost of his supporters; but as it was proposed now he could only support it on the same ground that Sir Robert Peel first proposed it—as a means of getting rid of the odious Excise which pressed so heavily on the consumer and manufacturer. This was not proposed to be done, and therefore he must enter his protest against its continuance. The right hon. Gentleman said that the time was coming when their whole system of taxation must be revised. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman in this. Up to 1842 there had been no attempt to establish a principle in their system of taxation. But since 1842 such a principle had been established through the glorious efforts of Sir Robert Peel, who had manifested a courage which no other public man had shown; and he (Mr. Hume) never thought of his measures without expressing what he conscientiously felt, that in all his acquaintance with public men, either in his own time or what he had read of in history, he had met with no man like Sir Robert Peel, who gave up his friends, his party, and even, it might be said, his reputation, for what he conscientiously believed to be for the benefit and improvement of his country. Let the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues imitate his example, and go on in the course which he had marked out for them. At present the Customs and Excise duties amounted to seventy-five per cent of the whole taxation of the country; that is to say, it was thrown upon the industry of the country, and the proprietors of land never did pay their fair proportion. If the income tax were made equal, and all exemptions removed, so that the Peer and the artisan were alike made to pay their proportions, he would gladly support it; for then the working man would see that while he paid a penny in direct taxes, he was relieved of twenty of indirect taxes. When the proposition came regularly before the House, he would ask the right hon. Gentleman to carry out this principle of non-exemption, and not only so, but to go a step further, and let the house tax be extended to all dwellings. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that out of four million houses only 350,000 were assessed. Why should not the whole number be assessed, if this tax was fitting to be continued at all? He thought, however, that a commencement should be made by putting the tax upon a sounder footing than that upon which it was at present. 46 He was sorry to disturb the general unanimity of feeling by being the only person to express dissatisfaction; but he was dissatisfied because he thought that the people had a right now to expect some relief from taxation; and when the proper time came he should submit to the House the propriety of taking measures to satisfy that expectation.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
observed that what he meant to say was of a purely personal nature. He did not mean to allude to the able statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He intended merely to reply to the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Sir C. Wood), who had repeated a taunt which he had uttered on a former occasion against him (Mr. Newdegate). The right hon. Gentleman stated that he (Mr. Newdegate) had year after year printed, published, and circulated that which the right hon. Gentleman termed a justification of an exploded fallacy. He presumed the right hon. Gentleman alluded to the calculations he had published with respect to the balance of trade. He begged to tell the right hon. Gentleman, that he (Mr. Newdegate) adherred to those calculations, and to the accuracy of the results deduced from them, and that he had made similar calculations for the last year. The balance of trade against this country, as shown by calculations made on the same system, and verified in the same manner, as those which he had published with respect to the trade of each of the preceding six years, amounted to 13,000,000l. on the trade of the year 1851; and if the right hon. Gentleman denied the fact that any such amount of capital had been lost to the commercial classes of this country, he begged to refer him to the accounts which Mincing-lane and Liverpool could furnish on the matter, and he would see that the calculations of the losses sustained this year showed an amount even higher than that he had named. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had on a previous occasion stated that Liverpool showed a loss of 7,000,000l., and he had heard the loss in Mincing-lane estimated at no less than 8,000,000l., on the trade of last year. When, then, the right hon. Gentleman (Sir C. Wood) charged him with persisting in the publication of an exploded fallacy, he merely wished to appeal to the merchants of this country as to whether the losses to commerce, last year, had not reached 13,000,000l. sterling.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
was not aware that he had used the words "exploded fallacy" as applied to the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate); he could, however, assure the hon. Member that in whatever expressions he had used, he did not intend any discourtesy towards him. The hon. Member had published pamphlets showing that the trade of the country was carried on at an annual loss; and he (Sir C. Wood) thought that that was completely disproved by the facts which had been stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ MR. T. BARING
said, that amongst the reasons which would induce him to support the Motion of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, were the very considerations which had been urged by the hon. Member for Montrose against it. So far was he from thinking it a demerit in the Government to stand still when they were not sure what might be the future expenditure, and when they might anticipate a reduction in the revenue, that he confessed it seemed to him a great reason for the expression of praise and satisfaction with respect to the course which they had pursued. He knew that there was great popularity to be derived from taking off taxes; but he also knew that if there was any duty more incumbent than another upon a Minister, it was not to endanger the future for any momentary purposes of the present. He should be very sorry, even if he had the power, to throw any doubt or gloom upon the generally encouraging prospect which the future held out; and, before he proceeded further, he must say, that there was one thing in which he quite agreed with the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), in admiration of the motives of the late Sir Robert Peel. He had never doubted the purity of that great statesman's motives. He had ever felt the greatest admiration for his talents, nor had anything ever given him greater pain than the necessity under which he felt himself placed of opposing the measures of 1846. His opinions, however, remained unchanged, that in dealing with great commercial questions, and with great interests, sudden revolutions were the worst and most dangerous experiments. He thought his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had taken rather too bright a view of the results of our late commercial legislation; and, for his own part, he was bound to say, that from all he could gather, the year 1851 had been a 48 disastrous year to the commercial world. He did not mean to say that there were not here and there exceptions; that there might not have been well-combined operations or happy speculations; but taking the result of the exports and imports of the country, the prices of realisation must have left a very serious loss upon those who were interested in these operations. It might, indeed be said, "These are the mere carriers—the middle men—we must look to the manufacturers." And he was rejoiced that his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been able to state that that interest was in a perfectly prosperous condition. He hoped that he should see the result in the improvement of the receipts under Schedule D. He did not wish to touch upon the question to what extent free imports had been conducive to the general prosperity of the country; but he thought that the financial prosperity of the country was in reality in a great measure attributable to the measures of 1842, and not to those of 1846. It was to the imposition of the income and property tax that we must mainly attribute our financial prosperity. Without that tax, which though imposed to meet a pressing emergency, was continued for other purposes, we should never have been without a deficiency at any one period, or have attained our present position. Nor did he see, that after all our reductions in the Excise and Customs duties, we could yet dispense with it. It was another question to what extent the country might have gained by the transfer of taxes. Hon. Gentlemen opposite said, "We have taken off ten millions of taxes." Yes; but the House did not take them off when they put on the five millions. During ten years five and a half millions per annum was extracted from the pockets of the nation by the income tax; and out of that they could afford every now and then to give a little in the way of remission of taxes. If you pick my pocket of 5l. a year, at the end of ten years you may make me a present of 10l., and may give me 1l. or 2l. occasionally in the meanwhile; but let the debtor and creditor account be taken, and what would be the result? Let the House take into consideration what the country had paid in taxation by the property tax, and he should be very much surprised if it was not found that the increase of remission was not so great as had been supposed. He did not mean to say that they would not show an increase; but the remission of ten millions had only taken place for a year, while the 49 imposition of five millions dated ten years ago. With respect to the reduction which had taken place in the receipts under Schedule D of the income tax, he quite agreed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that a had year, like 1847, must affect the average of the other years; but still he did not think that that accounted for the reductions which had taken place. He thought that there must have been either evasions in the returns, or a diminution in the profits of trade. But how was the prosperity of trade tested? Hon. Gentlemen opposite said that this was shown by the exports. Well, if they took the exports for any three years since 1842, they would sec that the returns under Schedule D should not have diminished, if the exports were to be a real test of the prosperity of the country. He did not believe that the declared value of the exports was in reality the test of the prosperity of the country; but that was the test which he always heard adduced by hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. He believed, that as the income tax continued in force for a longer period, the means and the disposition to evade the returns under Schedule D would increase; and that, although they might have a prosperous year which might swell the average, or an adverse year which might diminish it, that the tendency and the disposition would still be to avoid giving correct returns. While, therefore, he thought that the general prosperity of commerce had not been so great as had been supposed, and that there were certain classes which had not shared that prosperity, he did not think that the colonial, the shipping, and the agricultural interests were in a state of prosperity. Indeed, the calculations they had heard that night, that the returns of the income tax upon the profits and rental of land would be diminished 150,000l., would (when they considered how the whole profits must have been diminished to amount to that sum at 7d. in the pound) show that one interest at all events was not in a state of prosperity. He could not conclude without bearing his testimony to the very great ability which had been displayed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the statement they had heard that evening. He had a mind which could grapple with anything, nor did he fail to ornament, elucidate, and enforce whatever he grappled with; and the House had that night had the exhibition of the greatest talent and genius applied to the practical concerns of the administration of the country.
§ MR. JAMES WILSON
was quite ready to admit that the amount of the exports from this country was not, under all circumstances, or at any one particular time, to be taken as an infallible evidence of prosperity; but he believed that the steady increase of our exports since 1846 had, under the circumstances of the country, afforded abundant evidence, as stated in the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the general state of the nation was a prosperous one; and certainly they would arrive at a wrong conclusion if they took particular statements from Mincing-lane and Liverpool as proofs that the country generally was not prosperous. The losses of the last year arose in a great degree from speculative transactions based upon the unusual profits of the preceding year; and in consequence of these losses the price of produce abroad had fallen so much that trade was likely to be more profitable in the present year than even in 1850, which was admitted to have been the most profitable year for some time. If there were any truth in the theory which had been propounded by the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. T. Baring), with respect to the decrease in the returns under Schedule D, these returns ought still to have continued to decrease; but a turn had already taken place which accorded with the theory of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the disastrous years 1847 and 1848 had diminished the returns of the last year, and even to some extent those of the present year. If we did not take the amount of the exports of the country as being an infallible evidence of the prosperity of the country, we might at least take the general amount of the revenue derived from consumption through the Excise and Customs as a satisfactory evidence. Now, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had himself shown that although 9,000,000l. of taxation had been reduced in the Customs duties during the last ten years, yet these duties were within a very small amount of what they were before the reduction; therefore it was clear that the consumption of the country must have increased so as to make up the reduction of 9,000,000l. The result with respect to the Excise duties was nearly the same. The amount now derived from these duties was but very little less than before the reduction to the extent of 1,500,000l. took place. He thought that these two facts, allowing the great increase of consumption which had 51 taken place, were a decisive test of the general prosperity of the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had, in the course of his able speech, referred to the extra consumption which he said had taken place during the last year in consequence of the Exhibition. Now, he believed the trade accounts would show that very little of the increase which took place last year was attributable to that cause. With regard to the article of sugar, for instance, although the consumption of sugar was no doubt unprecedentedly large as compared with previous years, yet for the three months already past of this year there was an increase in the consumption of 15,000 tons, even as against the extensive consumption of last year. Although, no doubt, losses had last year been sustained in some branches of trade, he thought there was abundant evidence that the general trade of the country was prosperous; and that all that had been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer in favour of the commercial policy of late years had been borne out by facts.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said, he had heard some remarks from the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. T. Baring) upon a point so vitally important that he was unwilling to allow them to pass without notice. He should have been otherwise perfectly satisfied to have allowed the case of the commercial policy of the last few years to remain on the very able statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had in a manner highly honourable to him, and in a manner peculiarly his own, laid before the House the results of that policy. He would venture to say that the speech which the right hon. Gentleman had that night delivered, constituted an epoch in the history of that policy which would not be forgotten. But his hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. T. Baring) had grappled with a statement which was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and which was repeated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member Halifax (Sir Charles Wood); but he must say that he did not think that the attempt to impair that statement was a successful one. According to the right hon. Member for Halifax, reductions in taxation to the amount of 12,200,000l. had been effected since 1842, while the produce of the taxes on which these reductions had operated had come within 1,400,000l. of their original amount; and he (Mr. Gladstone) 52 might further point out that if from this 12,200,000l. was deducted, the reduction of the window tax, which was not of a reproductive character, the account would stand thus: that reductions in taxation had been effected to the amount of 11,000,000l. upon the elastic part of the revenue, and that within the merest trifle of 100,000l. or 200,000l. the whole of that sum had been replaced. The hon. Member for Huntingdon said, that if we picked his pocket every year of 5l., it is no very great matter if at the end of ten years we present him with 10l., and likewise give him 1l. or 2l. occasionally during the intermediate time; and he seemed to consider that a fair representation of what had taken place. But was it so? He said that there had been a fund of 5,500,000l. from the income tax to draw upon during the whole time, and seemed to think that when the income tax was imposed in 1842, a margin of taxation to that extent was at once obtained, and that the whole of that sum came to credit. But he had forgotten that 4,000,000l. of that sum were employed in making up the deficiency of 3,979,000l. in the revenue, which existed in 1842. The amount of taxation imposed in 1842 was 5,600,000l., therefore in fact only 1,600,000l. instead of 5,000,000l. was brought to credit. And when the hon. Gentleman spoke of these great reductions as having only recently come into operation, he must remember that the great bulk of the reductions was made in the earlier years of the series; for while the whole reductions in the Customs and Excise amounted to about 11,000,000l., 7,000,000l. were made before 1845, and had been in operation since that period, although the income tax did not come into operation for the purpose of relief, except to a limited extent. The case, therefore, stood as it had been stated by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Halifax, that reductions to the amount of 11,000,000l. per annum had been made in the elastic parts of the revenue; and within a trifle not worth mentioning the whole of this sum had been replaced by the increased trade and commerce of the country. He would only refer to one other point. When the income tax was imposed in the year 1842, the ordinary revenue of the country amounted to 48,000,000l.; in 1845, when the commercial system had been in operation three years, the ordinary revenue of the country had so entirely recovered, that it amounted, without the income tax, to a 53 larger sum than it reached in 1842; for while it was in 1842, 48,081,000l., it was in 1845 (without the income tax) 48,111,000l And his hon. Friend might perhaps recollect, that in the year 1845, when Sir Robert Peel made his financial statement to the House, he told them, "the income tax had done its work, in conjunction with the system of legislation which it was intended to introduce; and you may, if you please, abandon it. I give you your revenue as good as before, after all the reductions that have been made;" and he invited the House to choose between abandoning the income tax, and stopping the commercial legislation on the one hand, or of retaining the income tax and continuing their commercial legislation on the other. The House wisely chose the latter, with what result the figures before the House showed. As regarded the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he could not allow the discussion to close without expressing the satisfaction with which he had listened to it. It appeared to him that, justly disregarding any momentary advantage which he might have gained from attempting to meet the wishes of one class or another, by reductions in taxation which the finances and prospects of the country would not have justified, he had pursued a course that entitled him on this occasion to the public approbation. Nothing in his mind could be plainer than that the connexion between the commercial and financial policy of this country is such, that no decision could safely be come to upon one, without knowing what course was to be pursued with regard to the other. By common consent we were now looking to the verdict of a new Parliament for a full and he trusted final settlement of the question of our future commercial policy; and it was when we should have reached that full and final settlement as to our commercial policy, that the time would have arrived for us to deal with the finances of the country. In the meantime he thought the right hon. Gentleman not only deserved the credit which had been accorded to him for the clear and able statement which he had laid before the House, hut that he also deserved still higher credit for the wise and prudent course which he proposed to the House to pursue; and that he deserved every support which the House could give him in facilitating the progress of the measures which he proposed for supporting 54 the revenue and credit of the country. He entirely agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose, that it was the duty of the House to see what remissions of taxation could be effected by means either of the productiveness of the revenue, or by reductions in the expenditure; but it was not their duty to anticipate reductions of the expenditure by remissions of taxation which the state of the finances did not justify; and he not only hoped but felt sure that the whole House would rally round the right hon. Gentleman to enable him to repel those demands, and to enable him to preserve the finances and the credit of the country in a condition unimpaired and sound, until another Parliament should be in a condition to give them a full and just consideration.
§ MR. H. BAILLIE
said, that the right hon. Gentleman who had just resumed his seat had, in stating the extent to which the revenue had recovered, notwithstanding the reductions of taxes which had taken place, attributed this entirely to increased consumption, arising from a diminution of duties; hut he had entirely forgotten to take into consideration that during that time the population of the country had increased somewhere about three millions, and therefore that this must of itself have caused an enormous increase of consumption without any reduction of taxation having taken place. That was exemplified by what had taken place with respect to the consumption of tea, which had increased at least one-third in the last ten years, although no reduction of the duty had taken place.
§ MR. WAKLEY
said, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had shown how admirably the commercial policy of the country had worked since 1842, and he admitted he deserved credit for having done so. But there wore Members on his side of the House who had, through much abuse, consistently, zealously, and honestly supported that policy. There was another party, no doubt as sincere and as honest, which had vehemently condemned that policy; and first and foremost among that party, and the most eloquent of them all, he placed the right hon. Gentleman. They had now brought the right hon. Gentleman to acknowledge, with a candour that did him infinite credit, that all that they had been doing had been right, and that all that he and his party had 55 been doing Lad been wrong. Would to God Sir Robert Peel had been alive, to listen to the elaborate and profound homage paid to him by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the exposition of the facts that he had submitted to the House to-night! Homage of a more exalted character, or more calculated to increase the admiration of the country for the memory of that great statesman, was never made, either in a senate or any other assembly. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. T. Baring), it was said, was to have been the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the present Government; but it appeared from the objections he had made, that the country would not have gained much from him; because he highly approved of the do-nothing policy of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the country would therefore have had in that hon. Gentleman a do-nothing Chancellor of the Exchequer. The hon. Gentleman maintained that the agricultural, colonial, and shipping interests were suffering, and yet he would do nothing for them. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, after having marshalled and remarshalled his party, gave the word "As you were!" He had, indeed, shadowed out something for the future, but he (Mr. Wakley) did not like the shadow, and fancied he should like the substance still less. The right hon. Gentleman liked indirect taxation, but was not favourable to direct taxation. Now, he (Mr. Wakley) infinitely preferred direct taxation. When the people were directly taxed, they knew the exact extent to which they were robbed; but when indirect taxes were levied on articles of general consumption, the Government accumulated an enormous revenue, and the people scarcely knew that they were robbed at all. All he would ask of the right hon. Gentleman was that he would pursue that odious phantom no further. He could assure him he was mistaken as to the unpopularity of a property tax. What was unpopular was the income tax, which taxed the fruits of industry in the same proportion as realised property, and also the manner in which the law was carried out. Prom the manner in which the Income Tax Commissioners had behaved, it might be supposed their desire was to get rid of the impost by tormenting the people until it became intolerable—for torment them they did in the most unjust manner; and, if the income tax were continued, it would be necessary 56 to devise some means for relieving the people from the torturing processes to which they were subjected by these Commissioners.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
concurred in many of the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But he had reduced the surplus of 2,172,000l. to 461,000l., without any reduction of taxation, and he (Mr. W. Williams) wished to point out a means of considerably increasing that surplus. The interest of the unfunded debt was calculated at 402,000l!. a year. That was at the rate of 2l. 5s. 7d., which was three-quarters per cent more than was now paid for money in the City. If the interest were reduced by that amount, it would make a difference of 135,000l.; and when a new issue of Exchequer Bills took place, he had no doubt the right hon. Gentleman would take advantage of the present state of the money market, and add that sum to his balance. The statement of the right hon. Gentleman was another proof of the great boon that had been conferred on all individuals, especially on the poorer classes, by our present commercial policy. The course he intended to adopt was one that conferred great credit on him.
§ SIR JOHN TYRELL
wished to notice a statement which had been made on the opposite side, that the Members on his had listened with long gloomy countenances to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He could assure the House that whatever the operation of his right hon. Friend's speech might have been upon other Gentlemen, it had had no such effect upon him. His interpretation of what fell from his right hon. Friend was, that this statement was altogether a provisional statement, and his budget a provisional budget. He admitted there was enough in it to encourage hon. Gentlemen opposite to say in a tone of triumph that their principles had prevailed, and that the finances of the country were in a satisfactory state under free trade. But it did not follow that, because the finances of the country were in a satisfactory state, the commerce and trade of the country were in an equally satisfactory condition. His hon. Friend (Mr. T. Baring) had proved, on the contrary, that the trade of the country was in anything but a healthy state. The hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Wakley) had involuntarily done the highest possible homage to indirect taxation 57 when he said the people were robbed, but without feeling it. The hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) had succeeded in procuring the appointment of a Committee to make inquiry with reference to the income tax; but when the Crystal Palace, in accordance with the vote of last night, was to be pulled down on the principle of keeping good faith, he should say that if there were a tax which ought on the same principle to be mitigated and altered, it was the income and property tax. Although the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been but a few weeks in office, during which time he had been pestered with applications on the subject of taxation, the right hon. Gentleman, after that short experience, had produced the budget with which the House had been so delighted, and to which even the hon. Member for Montrose, with his usual amount of grumbling, had given a favourable reception. A satisfactory financial statement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer was perfectly compatible with the existence of great distress in various parts of the country. If there was one thing for which a right hon. Gentleman, to whom allusion had frequently been made that evening, was distinguished, it was his skill in stopping up all the cracks and crevices of his argument, so that nobody could pick a hole in it—nobody could allege that his statements were not borne out by substantial facts. And so it was with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It could not be denied that the agricultural interest had suffered greatly; but, when hon. Gentlemen said that because the Government had been in power a few weeks it should deal with certain questions, he would remind them that after the next election Her Majesty's advisers would make an effort to settle those controverted points. The right hon. Gentleman pledged himself that the taxation of the country should then be defined and dealt with. He (Sir J. Tyrell) had said over and over again to those whom he had the honour of representing, that their object was to make war not on commerce, but on the unjust taxation of the country; and when they spoke of Protection, they referred to the redress of grievances. There was the question of the malt tax which required to be settled; and it was for Parliament to deal with the burdens of the agriculturists, and do them justice. He made these observations because the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not immediately upset what 58 existed on all those points on which hon. Gentlemen opposite glorified themselves, and on which those who sat on the Ministerial benches were said to have gone to the rightabout—an assertion which he entirely denied.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
confessed, that however he admired the prudence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the ability which the right hon. Gentleman had shown, he had experienced considerable disappointment in the statement which the right hon. Gentleman had made; and he thought he was justified in cherishing that disappointment by the cheers which had come from the Opposition benches. Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes. He placed no reliance on their expression of goodwill, or on the admiration they had shown for the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. It had been usual to postpone the consideration of the statement of a Chancellor of the Exchequer; but, as another course had been pursued in the present instance, he was bound to express, and he did so with great pain, his convictions with respect to the statement made that evening. He denied the prosperity of the country. He denied the prosperity of the agricultural classes. He had been disappointed also in the intimation respecting the income and property tax. That intimation would be deeply felt. He would not go so far as to say that it amounted to a positive breach of faith, but he felt called on to protest against it. There had been three years of the income tax, and another three years, and then one year. Rusticus expectat dum defluat amnis—it would go on and on again. In conclusion, he had to thank the House for the courtesy with which it had listened to his observations.
§ MR. REYNOLDS
said, that on comparing the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who last addressed the House with the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Essex (Sir J. Tyrell), it did appear to him that perfect harmony did not exist over the way. He was particularly struck by an observation that had been made by the hon. Baronet at the commencement of his speech. That hon. Baronet had declared that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not cast a gloom upon his countenance; and to any person who witnessed his constant flow of good humour, as he (Mr. Reynolds) had done for the last five years, it was unnecessary to give that assurance. He 59 would venture to say that even if the hon. Baronet were told that protection to the agricultural interest was abandoned for ever, he would bear it with Christian patience. If the Freetraders in the House had received the speech of the right hon. Gentleman with feelings of satisfaction, as they had a right to do, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer should be doubly thankful to the hon. Baronet the Member for Essex, because he had not only borne the speech, which was a free-trade speech, to the full extent, but he had attempted, and successfully, to vindicate the doctrines laid down by the right hon. Gentleman. He recollected that he had read a speech of the right hon. Gentleman, delivered in the House before he (Mr. Reynolds) had the honour of sitting in it, and he remembered a passage in it which would appear to fit in to his speech of that night. In tasking the late right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) for adopting free-trade principles, he said that "he found the Whigs bathing and ran away with their clothes." That observation had excited much laughter; but it appeared to him as if the right hon. Gentleman had found the late Chancellor of the Exchequer napping and had run away with his budget. He (Mr. Reynolds) had no hesitation in saying that the right hon. Gentleman, in the speech he delivered that night, had arranged his figures well, and had put them in a consecutive and forcible manner, and as far as a statement could go, the statement was unexceptionable. But there the praise must end. It was remakable for two things—it neither increased nor diminished taxation. But it appeared to him (Mr. Reynolds) that the right hon. Gentleman might have effected at once an increase and diminution without affecting those who were not producers, simply by emancipating labour. He perceived from the speech that there was an item for the Kafir war; and he (Mr. Reynolds) was pleased to find that it was not received with a cheer or response by the House—all were agreed in saying that the profligate expenditure for that murderous and disgraceful system of warfare ought to be discontinued. Why should the producers of wealth be charged so much a year for invading a country inhabited by naked savages? And could any lover of liberty, any humane man, any Christian man, read the despatches without feelings of shame, disgust, and indignation? Though, as 60 appeared by a despatch from Colonel Somerset, the troops were burning the food of the people, stealing their cattle, murdering them, they were not yet conquered. There was a sum of 350,000l. for the militia; he (Mr. Reynolds) had abstained from voting when the question was under discussion, but if he had voted, he would have voted against any proposition to embody the militia. He could not on the last occasion have voted on that side of the question without leaving himself open to a charge that he was not anxious to incur, namely, supporting a factious Motion; and he thought the best thing was not to vote at all, but to reserve his opposition for a future stage of the Bill. The course adopted by him was also adopted, he believed, by those with whom he was in the habit of acting; and, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman should not he perfectly satisfied that he would carry the Militia Bill. He thought it was not required, and that it was only a claptrap to draw the attention of the people of the country from other and more substantial measures. If such a measure were necessary, there was no hon. Member would be more willing to vote for it than he would; but he was one of those who believed that a militia force was the least efficient and most expensive of all military forces, and therefore he was prepared to vote against the proposition in every stage in which it should appear before the House. Some time before the Easter recess he put a question to the Government whether it was their intention to introduce a Bill during the present Session, with a view to place the dealers of home-made spirits in bond on a footing of equality with those of foreign and colonial spirits, as regarded the loss by leakage and evaporation. That question remained on the paper, and the day arrived for the answering it, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer stood up in his place and put a padlock on the lips of his noble countryman, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and prevented him from answering it, and he said that he should reserve the answer he had to give until the time when he should make his financial statement. He took the liberty of asking the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he could name a day on which he would make a financial statement, and whether he would give Members a few days' notice of his intention. He was now here in accordance with his notice; but, in the statement made that night, there had not been one sentence upon the subject of the distillers' 61 question. He, therefore, thought he had a right to complain that the right hon. Gentleman had not told the Irish distillers what his intentions were with respect to their question. He would be the last man to do aught which could possibly disturb the extraordinary harmony which appeared to prevail to-night between hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House. He thought they were a united happy family. The Chancellor of the Exchequer praised his predecessor, and his predecessor in turn praised him. How long the truce would last he could not say; but he complained that the right hon. Gentleman had not told the Irish distillers what he meant to do in their case. The distillers were impressed with the belief that, having got very little from the late Government, they might obtain something from the present Ministry. They were beginning to think that the Government might be inclined to extend justice to them, if not from love, yet from policy. The people of Ireland expected their local institutions would be spared, and that the manufacturers of spirits in Ireland would not be treated worse than the manufacturers of brandy in France, or of wine in Spain and Portugal. With the budget, in one point of view, however, he was exceedingly well satisfied. He had been unable to find a single passage in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman which suggested the idea that there was any intention on the part of the Government to give any protection to any particular interest; and the question of protection appeared now to be laid at rest.
§ MR. BRIGHT
would say honestly that he participated most largely in the satisfaction generally expressed, not with the manner only, but with the matter, of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He thought, though, that he had, after being, as he said, six weeks in the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer, fallen into an error from which his predecessor was by no means free—that of charging the people of this country with an impatience of taxation. The first part of his speech was devoted to an exposition of the difficulties which a Chancellor of the Exchequer found in dealing with the three great branches of taxation. He said it was impossible—he did not quote the right hon. Gentleman's exact words, but such were their effect—he confessed it was not possible to revert to a system of increased taxation on imports. He entirely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman in that opinion; but 62 he did not think that that argued the least impatience of taxation on the part of the people. The right hon. Gentleman made the same observation in reference to the Excise duties. But there also he had entirely failed to prove any impatience of taxation in the people, such as a Chancellor of the Exchequer had a right to find fault with; for it must be borne in mind that from 1790 to 1815—a period of twenty-five years—the taxation of this country was gradually increased, and that it was increased on no principle which referred the interests of commerce or of the people, but simply on the principle of levying as much as possible, by any means whatever, from any class in the country that could be made to pay taxes. He must say that to a more recent period, even to so recent a period as 1824, it would probably not be possible for the malicious ingenuity of statesmen to devise a system more calculated to strangle industry, to create poverty among the people, and to prevent the accumulation of wealth, than the system which then prevailed. Of late years the people had begun to understand this question; and he would be bound to say that amongst the intelligent classes of Great Britain and Ireland, at this moment, there were hundreds of thousands who understood the principle of taxation, and who would better arrange the finances of this country, than the statesmen who had managed them for twenty or thirty years of the period to which he had referred. But the right hon. Gentleman's statement was itself a complete justification of the people for their unwillingness to have more import duties imposed. He had shown that the result of taking off those import duties was of the most advantageous character to every interest in the country; that by taking off twelve millions of taxes in the last ten years, no greater loss than 1,200,000l. had occurred to the revenue; and if such a reduction had produced so advantageous a result, it was a reasonable conclusion that if they were to attempt to retrace their steps and reimpose the import duties, those advantages would be destroyed, and all the evils again incurred which had been inflicted by the miserable fiscal system of past years. There was not a man in the House who did not see that no Chancellor of the Exchequer would dare to stand up in his place—now, in a time of peace, at any rate—and make a proposition which went to impose higher 63 duties on the importation of articles from foreign countries. The right hon. Gentleman had also referred to direct taxation; and he there also intimated his opinion that the people were somewhat impatient, and he thought the right hon. Gentleman had also hinted that they were also unreasonable. Now, he (Mr. Bright) did not think that there was throughout the country any feeling whatever against the principle of direct taxation to the extent which was involved in the sum raised by the income tax. He and his right hon. Colleague (Mr. M. Gibson) represented a constituency perhaps as much affected by the income tax as any—certainly as any—borough constituency in the kingdom; but he had not been commissioned by his constituents to make any protest in that House against the principle of direct taxation; and he believed that though many persons in 1842 were exceedingly exasperated at the proposal of the income tax, believing it to be proposed to meet a deficiency which they said arose from the existence of a monopoly that they were banded together to suppress, yet so soon as they found that the income derived from that tax was used by Sir Robert Peel to introduce a new and improved system of taxation, the objections to it were for the most part at an end; and he believed also, that from that time to this they had given, through their representatives in that House, their cordial support to every proposition for the continuance of that tax. To his mind, one of the most satisfactory points in the right hon. Gentleman's speech was, that he had in so courageous a manner proposed the prolongation of that tax to a period, at all events, when some further steps in regard to it might be originated from the report-of the Committee that was now sitting. To one point connected with that tax, he wished to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention. There were two grounds of objection to it: first, the inequality as regarded the various kinds of income. Into that he would not go; he believed it to be an exceedingly difficult question; he did not think it possible for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or any man, exactly to adjust it, so as to say it was quite equal; but he believed an approximation to justice might be made. But another ground of objection was, that the Income Tax Commissioners throughout the country were taken from the Land Tax Commissioners, who had been chosen without any reference to managing the income tax. In some 64 parts of the country, where party feeling had been exceedingly high, Income Tax Commissioners, from the circumstance of their being chosen from the Land Tax Commissioners, were composed exclusively of one political party. In one district, he had been informed, that out of the whole body of Commissioners, there was but a single person who, if he wore in that House, would sit on the Opposition side. He did not say the Gentlemen who sat on the other side might not be as good Commissioners as any who sat on his side; but he did say that in a district where party spirit ran exceedingly high, it was an injudicious thing to have the Commissioners all of one political party. He should like to make a suggestion to the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to the mode of constituting the Income Tax Commissioners. If the right hon. Gentleman could arrange a system by which the persons who paid income tax in any given district during the last year, or the last three years, might be allowed out of their own body to choose the Commissioners for assessing the income tax for the next year, or the next three years, as the case might be, he believed it would give great satisfaction, and remove one of the greatest grievances existing in connexion with that tax. With regard to the general question which had been discussed on both sides of the House, he thought they might almost conclude that, on the great questions which had been illustrated in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, they were pretty much agreed; and he might almost congratulate them on the great progress that had been made in it, as had been illustrated by the right hon. Gentleman. But he should just wish to state to the House that the origin of that speech, and the facts on which it was based, might be ascribed to the Committee on the Import Duties which was appointed in 1840 on the Motion of Mr. Hume and Mr. Villiers. From the evidence given before that Committee had come all the train of grand and eventful circumstances connected with the fiscal changes in this country. About the same time the Manchester Chamber of Commerce took up that question, worked it with very great perseverance, and prosecuted it to so successful an issue, that Sir E. Peel was converted to their opinions; and through those conjoint circumstances they had landed now on a position, exceedingly fortunate for this country, when, on both sides of that House, the leading statesmen in Parliament 65 admitted that those great principles which all the illustrious writers on this subject had advocated, were not only sound in theory, but had been productive, after being practically introduced into the fiscal system of this country, of the most extraordinary advantages to the nation. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred in the course of his speech to the question of the sugar duties, and described in a most emphatic manner the remarkable gain to the country by the reduction of those duties. He recollected the right hon. Gentleman complimenting another right hon. Gentleman on the Opposition side of the House, with having converted two Secretaries of State. Now, the right hon. Gentleman had sitting by his side another Secretary of State, who had taken a great interest in the question of the sugar duties, and he (Mr. Bright) hoped the right hon. Gentleman would succeed in converting him (Sir J. Pakington) to the wisdom of the existing policy in reference to the sugar duties. At all events he trusted we should not find the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies advocating the principle of the people of this country being put on a short allowance of sugar. He understood the Solicitor General was to address a large meeting at Ipswich tomorrow. He did not know what was the hon. and learned Gentleman's brief; but if he was in the confidence of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, before he left town he (Mr. Bright) hoped the right hon. Gentleman gave him a hint not to expose himself in the manner he had done on a recent occasion. The right hon. Gentleman had that night proved that the people of this country had consumed a large and increasing quantity of tea, and that the sugar consumed had increased in proportion. Now he should like to ask the House, if the people had had so much more sugar and tea, whether it was not likely that they had had also an increased proportion of bread and butter to boot? He came now to the question of surplus; and he confessed he was disappointed. He thought the right hon. Gentleman had under-estimated the amount he would receive. Chancellors of the Exchequer were apt to keep down the estimates of income, that they might have a surplus, and that they might not be called on, perhaps unreasonably, to make reductions; but the right hon. Gentleman acknowledged that he had a surplus of above 66 460,000l.; but then he said that he had put 300,000l. aside for paying the militia. He (Mr. Bright) was glad that the question of paying for the militia had come before the House. There had never been two military or naval men in that House who had been agreed as to the propriety of calling out the militia. The truth was, the whole question of the militia was in a haze. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell), making one of those mistakes which, notwithstanding his good qualities, he was somewhat remarkable for, brought in a Militia Bill; and the right hon. Gentlemen opposite fell into a similar mistake, and, instead of making a good proposition, had actually seized hold of that which was the most mischievous and the least necessary. Now, if they added the 300,000l. to be expended on militia—and it was a monstrous and incredible thing that there should be such an expenditure, when the right hon. Gentleman had shown that they had already expended fifteen millions for defences—a sum which Chancellors of the Exchequer spoke very glibly of, but a sum which could hardly be conceived, which was equal to what they received for the whole of the Excise duties, to three-fourths of the receipts for Customs duties, to one-half of what they paid for the interest of the national debt—it was, in his opinion, a species of effrontery to ask 350,000l. for the militia, and he certainly hoped that the Bill would not be passed. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, like his predecessor in office, had taken advantage of a most discreditable thing, in the ease of the farmers, and the mode in which they were assessed to the income tax. The farmer was only rated on one half of his rent, and in addition to that advantage they gave him a right of appeal against the sum at which he might be assessed. That he thought a most unfair advantage. It was an advantage which the merchants and manufacturers of Manchester would be delighted to receive. They gave to the farmer the right of a double appeal, in order to bring his payment below the maximum; but they did not give the Chancellor of the Exchequer the right of appealing against the farmer. The maximum should be limited, or the Chancellor should be allowed to appeal. The right hon. Gentleman the late Chancellor of the Exchequer brought the subject into the House at a late hour, without having given notice of it. He (Mr. Bright) alone protested against it, and it was carried before anybody 67 knew about it. When the right hon. Gentleman brought it forward, he complimented his hon. and gallant relative the Member for Lincoln, taking it up on his own responsibility; but the right hon. Gentleman gave no notice—he proposed and carried it without any discussion. It was passed like the rider of a Bill, and was done on the very worst possible principle—contrary, in fact, to all those principles on which the right hon. Gentleman (Sir C. Wood) had prided himself as Chancellor of the Exchequer. He (Mr. Bright) did not think the farmers wanted this double appeal. With regard to the 150,000l. which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated he should lose in this way, he had not stated whether it belonged to Schedule C or Schedule B; whether to the farmers or to the landlords. He ought to have stated that, taking the 460,000l. of surplus, the 350,000l. for the militia, and the other 300,000l., there was a sum of one million which might be dealt with. By insisting on bringing in that Militia Bill, the right hon. Gentleman was getting himself into interminable trouble. If it were passed, it would meet him again at the hustings, and then the right hon. Gentleman would discover all its difficulties. If they wanted an expression of public opinion against it, it might be found in the division of the other night, on which the Members for every large borough and city constituency had voted for not proceeding with the Bill. Instead of expending the money required for the militia in such a way, it might be better employed in giving relief to some branch of industry. He had no objection whatever to the interests of the constituents of the hon. Baronet the Member for Essex (Sir J. Tyrell) being considered with such a view. The principle on which he and his friends had acted in their agitation during the last few years, both in the country and in the House, were consistent and honest. They did not regard a man as a farmer, a landowner, a cotton spinner, or a shopkeeper, but they wished to apply the principle to the whole industry of the country. If the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had had a little more courage, if he could have shaken off that mischievous and pernicious Militia Bill, he might have repealed both the hop and the malt duties. In short, the hon. Baronet (Sir John Tyrell) could have suggested half-a-dozen other subjects for consideration. A few 68 nights ago his right hon. Colleague (Mr. M. Gibson) had proposed a most important Motion; and he (Mr. Bright) asked the House whether the repeal of the advertisement duty and of the stamps on newspapers, both of which might have been done away with, without greater expenditure than that to be incurred for the militia, and the removal of which was called for on moral and industrial grounds, whether it would not have been better for the House to have repealed those duties, than to spend 350,000l. on a militia, to keep off what all considered to be an imaginary danger—a force which, according to military men, was ludicrous in the extreme. The militia was a great hoax altogether. The hoax had been palmed off upon the noble Lord the head of the late Administration, and the right hon. Gentlemen finding the Militia Bill in the pigeon-holes in Downing-street have been equally taken by it. The noble Lord had been misled by the clamours of the United Service Club, and by certain alarming letters in the Times—and mistook them for expressions of public opinion. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman was a candid speech, and needed no comment from him. It was an admirable speech—the speech of a man having a great case before him, and of which the right hon. Gentleman had made all that he ought. The speech, however, was one which every one possessing the powers of the right hon. Gentleman, and standing at that box with all the facts of the case in his possession, could have made. But the right hon. Gentleman had not improved the condition of the people, nor had he modified the operation of Schedule Don the great mass of the community. But still the right hon. Gentleman, who was formerly one of the most powerful opponents of the policy which they (the free-traders) had supported, when placed in the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer, coming to a knowledge of the facts and figures with which they had been long conversant, found the case so strong, that although opposed by his friends, he had stood forth in the face of the House and the country to bless the policy which he had so frequently censured.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
did not intend to follow the hon. Gentleman into all the subjects which he had discussed, and should not have said a word had he not been pointedly referred to on the subject of the sugar duties. In referring to the 69 subject of the sugar duties, the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bright) implied that he (Sir J. Pakington) must have become a complete convert to the Act of 1846, in consequence of the candid manner in which his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had admitted the remarkable extent to which consumption had been stimulated since that period. It could not be necessary for him to point out to the hon. Gentleman that in dealing with the affairs of this great empire, various interests had to be considered; and however much that Act might have benefited the consumer, the Government was bound also to consider the interests of the colonists. And there was another subject mixed up with this question, which the hon. Gentleman should be the last to disregard—it was the question of slavery. The hon. Gentleman ought to be aware that, although the increase of consumption during the last few years had been very remarkable, yet that that increase of consumption was not to be attributed solely to the Act of 1846. The cultivation of beetroot sugar had of late years been increased to a very great extent on the Continent: the amount of land employed in Germany in the cultivation of beetroot sugar had increased to an enormous extent. The consequence of that increase had been that slave-grown sugar had been to a great extent excluded from the Continental markets, and that that slave-grown produce had of late found its principal market in this country. That was a fact which ought to be borne in mind; and if he might request the attention of the hon. Gentlemen who had appealed so triumphantly to the increase of consumption, he (Sir J. Pakington) doubted very much, looking to the general bearings of the question, whether that ought to be subject of congratulation. What had been the statements of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the subject? The hon. Member ought to have borne in mind that his right hon. Friend had touched upon the subject in reference to one point, and to one point alone. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer had referred to it as connected with the consumption of the people as bearing upon the question of revenue. The figures of his right hon. Friend gave the following: He had stated that the importation of British sugar had not fallen off, but that it had gradually increased during the last five years. The importation of British sugar in 1852 was 5,207,562 cwts.: in 1851 70 it was 5,093,324 cwts., showing an increase of 114,238 cwts. [Mr. BRIGHT: Take 1845–1846.] When a direct appeal was made to himself, he was bound to make some reply; and he did not think that was a very generous way of meeting him, by asking him to go back to 1845 and 1846, for which he was not prepared. His right hon. Friend had stated the total importation of Foreign and British sugars during those two years. In 1852 it was 7,613,144 cwts., and in 1851 it was 7,202,159 cwts., showing an increase of 410,985 cwts. in 1852. He (Sir John Pakington) had shown the comparative importation of British and foreign sugars, that the increase of British sugars was 194,000 cwts. That must therefore be subtracted from the total difference of the two years, and there then remained the fact, that while, in 1852, as compared with 1851, British sugars had increased 114,000 cwts., foreign slave-grown sugars had increased 248,747 cwts. The total quantity of foreign sugar, he need not remind the House, imported, was very much less than the importation of British sugars, and therefore the percentage of increase upon foreign sugars as compared with British sugars was enormously great. It was clear from these statements that the lowness of price and the increase of consumption were caused, not only by the Act of 1846, but by the pressure on the market of slave-grown sugar, thrown out of competition in the Continental markets,—and by this increased importation the revenue had been increased. That was the statement of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The statement of his right hon. Friend had not concealed the fact that slave-grown sugar was now consumed in this country to an extent never known before; and he (Sir J. Pakington) was sure that it was the circumstance to which he had adverted that had involved our sugar-producing colonies in increasing distresses. He could tell the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bright) that the colonial interests, with which he was most concerned as a Member of the Government, were far from being resigned. So far from being in a state of prosperity, the colonies were suffering very greatly. At that moment he held in his hand two petitions which had arrived by a late mail, and which he had not yet presented to the House—one from the colony of Jamaica, and the other from British Guiana, which contained a tale of ruin and distress 71 —quite different from the tone of triumph of the hon. Gentleman. He would not trespass longer on the House; hut having been so pointedly called on, he could tell the hon. Gentleman that, while admitting the extent to which consumption had been stimulated by the various causes to which he had adverted, he (Sir J. Pakington) certainly had not been converted to the Act of 1846. Whatever advantages that Act might have conferred on the consumer by cheapening sugar at home, that policy had conferred no benefit whatever on the producers in the British colonies.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that the subject of the sugar duties well deserved discussion by itself; and thinking, as he did, that the language of the right hon. Baronet was calculated to do great injury by keeping up a feeling of uncertainty in the Colonies, in holding out to them hopes of protection which were doomed to be disappointed, and which were calculated to check the efforts they were now, as he believed successfully, making to meet the altered circumstances of the times, he could not refrain from offering a few observations to the House. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Pakington) had said, that there was nothing in the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to indicate that he considered that the recent commercial policy of this country was not fatal to the interests of the Colonies. Now, he (Mr. Labouchere denied that. What was it that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said? He pointed out, as was his duty, the beneficial result of the reduction of these duties, and he then expressed his satisfaction that that policy had not been attended with a diminution of the importation of sugar from those Colonies. But, said the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Pakington), the importation of foreign sugar had increased. Why, to be sure it had. That was the necessary consequence of the measures adopted by Parliament—it was the natural result of throwing open their ports. The only question the House had to consider was, whether those advantages had been purchased entirely at the expense of the Colonies. Now it was an established fact, that a greater quantity of sugar had been imported last year than in the year before:—but then, says the right hon. Baronet, the price is greatly diminished. No doubt the price of sugar was lower. No doubt the consumption of beetroot sugar on the continent of 72 Europe tended to reduce the price of sugar generally; in fact, it was impossible that that increase could have taken place without lowering the price of sugar generally; but a reduction of price wa3 one of the greatest checks to the slave trade, be-cause it diminished the motives of the slave trader to continue his traffic. High-priced sugar was the greatest encouragement to that infamous system. Before he sat down he could not refrain joining his voice with those of so many other Gentlemen in expressing the deep satisfaction with which he had heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was with no feeling of party gratification that he said this; but, after having heard that speech, he, for one, was deeply convinced of the complete and final establishment of those principles and of that commercial policy which had already tended and which were calculated permanently to promote the happiness and prosperity of the people of this empire. He rejoiced to see a man filling the high position which the right hon. Gentleman now held, possessing the talent he unquestionably on all occasions displayed—he rejoiced to see such a man enforcing and illustrating the soundness and the wisdom of those principles on which the commercial policy of this country was based. But he had heard the speech of that right hon. Gentleman with no surprise. It was impossible that a man with his comprehensive and vigorous mind, placed in his position, and with the weight of official responsibility pressing on him, when obliged to investigate the facts which had resulted from that policy, and to go into the details by which its operations were carried out, could arrive at any other conviction. He hoped, at the same time, that the House and the country would recollect that this conclusion on the part of the right hon. Gentleman had not been arrived at upon garbled statistics. They had not been "cooked," as the expression was. The statistics which had been laid upon the table were not those presented by him (Mr. Labouchere), but were produced by the innocent hand of the right hon. Gentleman the new President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Henley). He (Mr. Labouchere) believed that the statements which the right hon. Gentleman had made, would be received by every class in the country with the most implicit confidence. They, indeed, spoke for themselves, and present, ed evidence of the prosperity of this country 73 of a most satisfactory character. He, in fact, considered the debate to-night to be the death blow and knell of Protection; and that, concerning a subject which had been so protractedly agitated, there would no longer hang over the minds of the people that uncertainty which had hitherto prevailed, but that general satisfaction would be diffused through all classes of the community.
MR. ALDERMAN THOMPSON
said, he, too, had heard with unusual satisfaction the statement that had been made by the right hon. Gentleman. In reference to the speech made by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Bright), and his remarks upon sugar, he (Alderman Thompson) was convinced the increased consumption of that article had arisen solely, not from the lowering of the duties, but from the great depreciation of the price consequent upon the increased importation of it from foreign countries. The importers had sustained a loss upon an average of from 5l. to 8l. per ton. The import of coffee had been greatly increased, and yet the importers had suffered; and why? Because the import price was very low, leaving also a heavy loss to the importer. Indeed, not a few of foreign articles realised the import prices, and hence there would be a diminution in the quantity imported, and in the ensuing year a probably diminished consumption: the Chancellor of the Exchequer was therefore right in not estimating the same amount of revenue upon sugar and coffee for the current as he had received for the past year. Notwithstanding the taunting references from the opposite side of the House to the free-trade tendencies of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he understood that the right hon. Gentleman admitted, as he was bound to do, the excellent financial condition of the country, and then he stated that he would prefer the revenue should for the most part be raised by indirect taxation, leading the House to suppose by what he said, that, before the next Session of Parliament he would reconsider the whole system of the taxation, and would give relief where relief was needed. He must say that during the thirty-two years he had sat in the House, he had not heard a more clear financial statement. As to the income tax, which the hon. Gentleman had eulogised, he had found in all circles where he moved but one opinion of dislike, and a desire to get rid of it; and he hoped this would be the last attempt at a renewal of it. The tax 74 upon houses gave very little satisfaction, and operated so ill, that in the City of London alone there had been 800 surcharges. It was open to the same objection as the property tax, that so small a proportion of the people were subject to it. Houses above 20l. a year were exempted from its operation; but these were the very description of houses which produced an income varying from 15 to 25 per cent. Why, that was exactly the description of property they ought to tax, and he could not conceive why they were exempted.
would be sorry to mar the concord of this pleasant evening by any unkind criticisms, but he felt it his duty to state that there were some in the House, and more in the country, who absolutely called for an income tax, because they thought it was only an act of justice under actual circumstances to the poor and the operative classes. Was it or was it not the fact, that the poorer classes paid by indirect taxation at a higher rate than their richer fellow citizens, he did not mean by any small or fractional difference, but in some instances by as much as ten or eleven times the rate at which the rich were paying? The operative classes had a firm conviction that for this they had a right to what in the Army was called an "overslaugh." He knew that in this he did not concur with some friends on his side of the House; but he thought if hon. Gentlemen would put themselves in the place of the working classes and the holders of small incomes, they would be of the same opinion. On another point, too, he was at issue with the same friends. He was himself a holder of temporary income, and therefore spoke with feeling; but for his life he could not see in what manner, supposing the income tax to be perpetual, he was taxed unjustly. He paid the tax during his own life, and those who should get the property after him would pay during theirs. After great and habitual attention to arithmetical and mathematical questions, he had been utterly unable to discover that this was not as it ought to be. If it was intended to urge, that incomes arising from present industry ought not to he taxed at the same rate as incomes arising from past industry, let this ground be fairly stated, and all be made of it that could. But do not let the question be fought under false colours. On both the points stated, he believed the friends alluded to, to be entirely in the wrong. It was not for him to compliment the 75 Chancellor of the Exchequer; hut if it were agreeable to the right hon. Gentleman to hear it from an adversary of no new standing, he would avow high satisfaction at what he had heard, and request to add his testimony to that of the many others who had preceded.
§ MR. ALDERMAN SIDNEY
begged to state that his opinion and the opinion of commercial men, was opposed to the hon. Member for Bradford (Colonel Thompson), inasmuch as they viewed the income tax as a most unjust and oppressive tax. He did not deny that direct taxation for the purposes of raising revenue was a preferable mode to indirect taxation. He assented to the statement of the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Wakley), that, by indirect taxation, the people were less aware of the amount of taxes they paid, and only found it out by the poverty to which they were reduced. But though he would willingly support direct taxation, he required that it should be levied upon fair and just principles. The income tax was introduced as a temporary tax; and Sir Robert Peel offered that as the only defence of the inequalities which he admitted did exist. But, under different circumstances, he hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would direct his attention to the oppressive mode in which it was at present assessed, not only upon the tradesmen in London, but in many provincial towns. Parties who had suffered large losses for many years, and made no profit under Schedule D, went before the Commissioners and stated the truth; but the Commissioners, instead of believing them, inquired the amount of their returns, and then assessed the income tax upon the profits which they said ought to have been made with such returns. Consequently it was a matter of common occurrence to find persons in the bankruptcy courts, figuring as having been assessed at hundreds a year to the income tax, who could only pay their creditors 5s. or 10s. in the pound. He did not approve of the exclusion of real properties and incomes under 150l. a year from the operation of the tax. It was a fact hot to be controverted, that upwards of 70,000,000l. of Consols were exempted from the income tax by this arbitrary limit: hut upon what principle of fairness that exemption was to be advocated, he was at a loss to understand. Sir Robert Peel justified the tax in its pressure upon the widow and the possessor of small fixed property, upon the ground that the reduction in the 76 cost of articles of daily consumption was more than a compensation for it. If that were true, persons possessing incomes of 50l. a year, certainly of 100l. year, ought to be included. The same argument applied to the inequality of the house tax. He could never understand upon what principle houses of 20l. a year value were exempted. He knew there were a great many independent men living in houses of less value than 20l. a year, and were thus exempted from the tax: whilst the tradesman in a provincial town had to pay more by the house tax than by the window duties. He would only add his testimony to that, so universally expressed, as to the talented manner in which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had acquitted himself upon this occasion. The hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) twitted hon. Members on the Ministerial side of the House for not having applauded the right hon. Gentleman so warmly as hon. Gentlemen on his (Mr. Hume's) side of the House; but he reminded the hon. Gentleman that they represented a suffering interest, and he was sure it would be generally admitted that in any diminution of taxation the landed proprietors had some claims for consideration. In conclusion, he begged to say that he would heartily support the present policy of the Government in asking for the continuance of the income tax for one year longer. He did so, however. with the restriction that, in the event of his having the honour of a seat in that House after the present Session, he would oppose the further reimposition of that tax in its present odious and unjust state.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
said, in reply to a statement of the hon. Member for Westmoreland, that he had given no orders to surcharge the house duty, of London. The sum produced by the tax was within 13,000l. of his estimate last year, and therefore there was no necessity for giving such an order.
§ LORD ROBERT GROSVENOR
said, he had listened to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with unmitigated satisfaction, and it was not his intention to revert to the disagreeable reminiscences of bygone times, when the right hon. Gentleman held different opinions. If he had ever heard a speech illustrating in the strongest light the value of the policy pursued from 1842 up to the present moment, that speech was the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He was delighted 77 to see those principles acknowledged by the heads of all parties in the House. No time need now be wasted in discussing any attempts to change that policy: the principles being agreed upon, all they had to do for the future was to decide upon the best method of applying them to the taxation of the country. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had specially dwelt upon the subject of direct taxation, and intimated a fear of embarrassment in any attempts to extend that method of raising the revenue. He (Lord R. Grosvenor) did not anticipate that the right hon. Gentleman would have to encounter the difficulties he had shadowed forth. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had spoken of the impatience of the House with respect to the income tax, the difficulties which surrounded a fair assessment of it, and the scrutiny of the Select Committee. Since he (Lord R. Grosvenor) had represented the county of Middlesex, he had never presented a single petition against the income tax. The general tenor of the many petitions he had presented was not to object to direct taxation, but to complain that the income tax was not fairly imposed, and ought to be referred to a Committee to inquire whether it could not be modified; and he was quite certain that a vast majority of his constituents would prefer an income tax fairly levied to any attempt to extend indirect taxation. He could point out to the right hon. Gentleman how he might continue to raise 20,000,000l. by Customs duties, and, at the same time, largely recruit the taxation upon articles of consumption. For instance, there was the article of tea. He was convinced that even with the present small surplus, the Chancellor of the Exchequer might reduce the duty one shilling, and in the course of a year or two obtain the same revenue from the increased consumption. That tax certainly did fall in a greater proportion on the poor than on the rich. He himself did not use tea at all. A labourer in his employ used half a pound a week; and therefore paid 52s. a year in duty upon an article upon which he (Lord R. Grosvenor) paid nothing, although the labourer did not possess more pounds than he did thousands. The same held good with respect to articles not of prime necessity; such as tobacco. There was a good deal of smuggling in tobacco, and the smuggler could tell them the exact extent to which they could reduce the duty without risking the 78 amount of revenue derived from it. He had never heard the fact questioned, that with respect to tobacco they might make a very large reduction of duty. He might also say the same of wine and other articles of minor importance, which it was not necessary he should specify. He was quite sure they might give a very largo alleviation in taxation to the working classes, and yet preserve the same amount of revenue they had at present. Then, too, with regard to the Excise, it was not only that all Excise duties operated as a drawback to consumption and to the industry of the country to the amount levied—it was not merely that it was the most hateful method of levying duties, but in many cases the Excise duties entirely barred all improvements, created monopolies, and taxed the country to three or four times the amount of the sum which found its way into the Exchequer. He wanted to show the right hon. Gentleman how he could reduce those duties. When a just system of direct taxation was once established, they might extend it. The moment the people were convinced of the fairness of the principle, they might raise an additional revenue of two or three millions from that source. His hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bradford (Colonel Thompson) seemed to see a sort of poetical justice in the poor being exempted from direct taxation, because they paid too much in indirect taxation. That he (Lord R. Grosvenor) could not agree with. He thought the poor man, though he did not pay a direct income tax, paid it in taxes on articles of prime necessity; but if the poor man paid more than he ought, for God's sake let him be relieved, and let them have just principles of taxation. There was also another instance of what he considered an injustice. The legacy duty was not paid upon landed property, and he trusted the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would apply his powerful intellect to that subject, as well as to the Customs and Excise duties. If the right hon. Gentleman succeeded, after a little more time and a little more consideration, in obtaining a just system of taxation, he would truly deserve the thanks of the people of this country.
§ MR. HODGSON
said, though the House had heard, that evening, so much congratulation on the general prosperity of the country, he had been entrusted with a petition which did not bear out those statements. 79 It was a petition from the hand-loom weavers of the city of Carlisle, which stated that they were suffering great distress; and that the average rate of earnings of the best workers for rather long hours of labour was not more than from 4s. 6d. to 5s. 6d. a week. He could not tell whether the cause of this suffering was the improvements in machinery, or what it particularly arose from, but he hoped the Government would take the case of those petitioners into serious consideration, and either assist them to emigrate, in order that they might become agricultural labourers, or enable them to obtain better wages at home.
§ MR. EWART
said, it had been asserted that extensive losses had been inflicted on the importers this year of sugar, coffee, indigo, and various other articles; but if the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) had consulted the best authorities on those subjects—if he had looked into the trade circulars of London and Liverpool, he would find that the real cause of that depression arose from overtrading. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would excuse one observation which he (Mr. Ewart) wished to make. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that the great object of Gentlemen on that (the Opposition) side of the House was to have nothing but a reduction of Customs duties, and that it was the privilege of hon. Gentlemen opposite to take upon themselves the care of the duties of Excise. But if the right hon. Gentleman consulted the records of the past, he would find that all those reductions had been made by liberal Governments, from Earl Spencer to Sir Robert Peel, the latter having reduced the duty on glass and the auction duty. Therefore, he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would not consider that the free-traders on that side of the House were not quite as much against the Excise as the Customs duties. It had been said that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not proclaimed free-trade doctrines openly. He (Mr. Ewart) did not certainly see him unfurl the standard of free trade, nor hear him quote the device which might adorn that banner; but he stated facts more forcible than all his eloquence, from which the public would draw an inevitable inference, and more in favour of free trade than all the arguments of its supporters. Let those facts go to the country, and he (Mr. Ewart) was convinced 80 the conclusion would be such as he had stated.
§ MR. G. SANDARS
rose to bear a willing testimony to the able, lucid, and satisfactory statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which he believed would give great satisfaction throughout the country, and especially in that part with which he was more intimately connected—the mercantile and manufacturing districts. The right hon. Gentleman had expressed his belief that the falling-off in Schedule D had been chiefly owing to the losses in 1847; but he (Mr. Sandars) was sorry to say the losses on imports the last two years on corn, cotton, sugar, tea, and coffee, were also very large. On corn the losses had been so continuous and serious that he believed that was partly the cause of the great decrease in the imports this year in comparison with the preceding ones; and the right hon. Gentleman must bear in mind that these losses would influence the returns under Schedule D for the three following years. He (Mr. Sandars) should support the Resolution for continuing the property and income tax for another year on its present unequal basis; but he begged to tell the right hon. Gentleman that he would not, nor would the country, consent to renew it for a longer period, unless it were placed on a sound and equitable basis of justice to all parties. It was clearly unjust to levy the same amount of percentage from the uncertain incomes of trades and professions as from that of realised property. If it were to become a permanent tax, and from the opinions which had been from time to time expressed in that House in favour of direct taxation, it would appear as if such a course of legislation was more than probable, these anomalies must be rectified, and the return of incomes should be ascertained by affidavit, which would get rid of that objectionable and inquisitorial system of compelling respectable tradesmen to produce their books. Many consented unjustly to pay the surcharge rather than thus expose their dealings and circumstances to their neighbours. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said, the tax, if continued, ought to be made as general as possible. If this were to be the case, if direct taxation was to take the place of indirect taxation, so as to reduce the duty on articles of consumption, then he (Mr. Sandars) could see no objection to incomes of a smaller amount than 150l. being called upon to pay an equitable proportion of the expenses of the State; 81 and he would then say, give to every such person the elective franchise. This was the sort of reform he would be willing to grant, nor did he see any objection to a 101. county franchise, or of disfranchising some of the smaller boroughs, and transferring them to large and populous towns and counties, providing a fit and proper period was fixed for carrying those important yet desirable changes into effect.
§ MR. C.P. VILLIERS
complimented the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the ability which he had displayed in making his financial statement, out of which had arisen a most interesting discusion, which was, in fact, that of the connexion between the mode of providing for the burdens of the State, and the prosperity of the community. For years he had been endeavouring to establish a close connexion between them; and he well recollected that in 1842 he had been met with derisive laughter when in his place in that House he stated that the fall of the revenue was occasioned by artificially keeping up the price of food, which prevented a larger consumption of exciseable and other articles of general demand. He was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer make the admission he had made that evening; and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would think he was rewarded by the general meed of approbation which the expression of his sentiments had drawn forth. On that (the Opposition) side of the House, the right hon. Gentleman could not complain; but, indeed, Governments had little to fear from their opponents—the greatest danger usually proceeded from their friends. Such, he might say, had been the case of the right hon. Gentleman; for after the right hon. Gentleman had given a glowing description of the prosperity of the country, and after he had stated that nothing remained to be done, and that he would do nothing—that he could hold out no better prospect for the country than to leave things as they were—after such a statement his hon. Friend (Mr. T. Baring) rose in his place, and proclaimed to the House that the year 1851 had been a most disastrous year. Though their poor-rates were low, though their finances were flourishing, and though their trade was good, the hon. Gentleman asserted that 1851 had been a most disastrous year. He thought, however, that people were too apt to form on such general questions opinions tainted by private views; and the hon. Gentleman, holding a distinguished 82 position in the mercantile interest, and believing that the mercantile world had committed some mistakes in 1851, came to the conclusion that it had been a most disastrous year. Then they found the hon. Member for Westmoreland (Mr. Alderman Thompson) complimenting the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the ability which had distinguished his statement, but expressing his utter objection to the principle of direct taxation. Now this debate was the most important that had occurred during the present Session; for, according to the highest authority, it was admitted that the country was prosperous, and that that prosperity was connected with the peculiar fiscal and commercial policy adopted of late years, and in which direct had been substituted in a great degree for indirect taxation. Yet the hon. Gentleman the Member for Westmoreland complained of direct taxation. Now he was not aware that many petitions had been presented against the income and property tax—he believed that the mass of the people felt contented under a system of direct taxation, attended as it had been with such results, and that it was only from the wealthy, who were now taxed according to their means, that they heard complaints. He felt it necessary to point out this most distinctly to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for it was evident that the right hon. Gentleman was fishing for opinions with respect to the future course he should take, and though he appeared to be wavering between direct and indirect taxation, the course which the right hon. Gentleman seemed himself inclined to take, was so encouraging that he hoped he would be supported in it. They had heard it said by some hon. Gentlemen, and he believed the Chancellor of the Exchequer had also stated it, that the landowners were the only persons suffering from direct taxation, or from the successful commercial policy that had been adopted. He, however, begged to dispute the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman, that there would be a loss in the property and income tax of 150,000l. owing to the depressed state of agriculture, or, in other words, the fall of rent. ["Hear, hear!"] Yes, he know what the right hon. Gentleman meant, which was, that if rent falls, the farmers in some cases would become exempt from the payment of income tax—and that they now could show that they had made no profit; but he doubted about this general fall of rent: in some cases 83 rents had been raised, and where land was relet, it was at the same rental after a previous occupier had failed. He did not know how the right hon. Gentleman could come to any positive conclusion on this point. He had not heard much of the distress said to affect the landowners; but however that might be, it was a highly important statement made on good authority now, that the only sufferers from the changes which had taken place in our commercial policy were those who lived upon rent, and did not, therefore, belong to the productive class. He firmly believed that the more they persevered in their present policy, and substituted direct for indirect taxes, the more free would they in consequence leave the capital and industry of the country—the more wealth Would thus be accumulated, and while the source of revenue would thereby become more abundant, the weight of all public charges would be less felt by the people. Real property was never of more value than at present, and owing to nothing but the greater activity of commerce and the general well-being of the people. He (Mr. Villiers) said, Persevere in that course, then let the taxes fall directly upon income and accumulated wealth, and substitute that system, as far as possible, for duties of Excise and Customs.
§ MR. FREWEN
said, that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had dwelt on the beneficial effects of free trade; but he could state that in a district with which he was connected—a district fifteen miles round Hastings—large tracts of land had been thrown on the hands of the landlords by the effects of those measures of which the hon. Gentleman so much approved. He thought that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would find that one of his statements was not quite correct. The right hon. Gentleman said the amount he expected to receive from the hop duty for this year was 150,000l. less than the right hon. Member for Halifax (Sir C. Wood) received last year. If he would refer to the account he would find that the exact difference against the present year, as compared with last year's hop duty, was 188,078l. The amount of duty paid last year on the crop of 1850 (for the duty for one year was always paid in the succeeding year) was 424,702l.; and the amount now about to be paid for the year 1851 was 236,623l.; making the difference between the two years nearly 190,000l. This falling-off showed the precarious nature of this crop, 84 and also the unfairness of this mode of taxation. Many thousands of acres in the hop-growing districts of Hereford had been thrown out of cultivation, and he hoped the Government would not refuse to take into their consideration the alleviation of this oppressive fiscal burden.
§ MR. HUDSON
said, that the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord Robert Grosvenor) had stated that the general feeling of his constituents was in favour of a system of direct taxation. He was a little astonished at that remark, especially when he remembered that on the late Government a few years ago proposing to increase the income tax from 3 to 5 per cent, large assemblages were held all over the metropolis, and so great was the excitement that the then Chancellor of the Exchequer was obliged to abandon the proposal. This fact also clearly illustrated how dangerous it would be in a country with a very large debt to rely upon direct taxation as the chief source of our revenue; because, in times of depression, when public excitement prevailed, there would be great difficulty in collecting the taxes, and in obtaining the enactment of the measures by which they were to be raised. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. C. Villiers) had stated that the Chancellor of the Exchequer admitted that the classes who were now suffering were the classes who derived their incomes from rent; but surely, if one schedule of the income tax was referred to as evidencing the prosperity of the country, it was only fair to point to another schedule which showed that one important interest at least had sustained a large diminution in their incomes, amounting, he believed, to 5,000,000l. a year, thereby causing a diminution of the value of the profit of 150,000,000l. The hon. Member (Mr. C. Villiers) said he knew of no instance of a reduction in rents having taken place; but he surely could not have travelled much into the country if he held that opinion. He (Mr. Hudson) was not much of a landowner; but, for himself, he said that it could not be expected that the farmer, under the low prices that now ruled, was to pay the same amount of rents as he had done before. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in speaking of the prosperity of the country, had not contended that it was owing to free trade—he had not put it upon that principle at all, he merely stated the fact. ["Hear, hear!"] He understood that cheer, but he would remind hon. Gentlemen opposite, that before free trade existed the country had enjoyed as much 85 prosperity as it had now, and money was quite as cheap in the market. The interest which he chiefly represented—the shipping interest—he could assure the House was in anything but a flourishing state. He certainly believed, however, that its condition would revive. His constituents placed great confidence in the present Government, considering that in their hands their interests would be in safe keeping, and that many burdens which unduly pressed upon the British shipowner would be removed. They were anxious that the Government should receive a fair trial, being satisfied that if they obtained an opportunity, at a future day they would develop measures conducive not only to the welfare of suffering interests, but for the benefit of all the great interests of the country. He could only say that the rejection of the increased income tax had added 2,000,000l. to the permanent debt of the country. He left it to the noble Lord to say whether that was a wise measure or not. He thought otherwise.
§ LORD ROBERT GROSVENOR
said, that having been so pointedly alluded to by the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Hudson), he wished to be allowed to explain. He freely admitted that the inhabitants of Middlesex had been opposed to the increase of the income tax, as stated by the hon. Member; but surely there was all the difference in the world between objection to the principle of direct taxation altogether, and opposing an addition to any particular direct tax, which was believed to be quite unnecessary, and which belief, as the result of the withdrawal of the measure showed, was demonstrably proved to have been well founded. He had made an omission in his former speech which he wished to correct, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would give him his attention while he did so. It was to state his regret that the right hon. Gentleman had not expressed his willingness to consider the claim of the attorneys and solicitors to relief from the certificate duty, and to announce that, in consequence of his refusal, he (Lord R. Grosvenor) must give notice that on the 25th of next month he would himself move for leave to bring in a Bill to deal with that subject.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, I am sorry to have received from the noble Lord an intimation that the campaign against direct taxation is again to be opened under his auspices; and certainly, after having made two previous statements this evening, to close at midnight 86 by assuring me, especially in the present state of the public revenue, that he means to move for a further reduction of direct taxation, is one of the most remarkable communications that we could have heard. I assure the noble Lord that it was from no neglect of the subject upon which I was honoured with the interview of a deputation, headed by the noble Lord himself, from that respectable body the solicitors and attorneys of the City of London, that I did not give him a formal answer in the course of my statement this evening; but because I imagined that the result I arrived at was in itself an answer; and therefore I did not think it necessary to enter into the reasons why I could not grant this remission of direct taxation favoured by the noble Lord, any more than I could accede to the wish of the Hon. Member for the City of London, or to that other proposition which has been made relative to the levying of the spirit duties in Ireland. The present position of the pub-lie revenue I considered to be a sufficient reply to all these proposals; and I am sorry at the intimation that the noble Lord has thought proper to make, not on account of any embarrassment it may offer to the Government, but rather because in the present Session another attack is about to be made upon that most legitimate source of revenue which we have this night heard so often and so elaborately panegyrised.
§ MR. HEYWORTH
advocated a system of direct taxation in preference to indirect, as being; best calculated to promote the illimitable expansion of commerce. The working classes were now beginning to understand that they were paying by indirect taxation 10, 12, and 15 per cent on their incomes, while the middle classes were dissatisfied at having to pay 3 per cent in direct taxation. There had been a great outcry against the income tax, and it might be that it was open to some objections in its present shape; but if it were continued for a sufficiently long time it would become popular throughout the country; and if they would only reduce still further the amount of indirect taxation they might safely extend the income tax until it should reach the incomes of the working classes. He begged to thank the Chancellor of the Exchequer for having brought forward the budget in the manner in which he had done, and he was certain that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman would carry with it the approval of the country.
§ MR. CUMMING BRUCE
had listened with admiration to the speech of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer; hut throughout the whole of it he had not heard any expression of preference for a system of direct over indirect taxation, which some hon. Members had endeavoured to fasten upon it. His financial statement was perfectly in accordance with the promise which had been given by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, that no change would be made in our commercial or financial policy. His right hon. Friend had simply stated the difficulties with which he had to contend in raising the income of the country. He had stated that some interests of the country were suffering; and the late Government itself, at the opening of the present Parliament, admitted, in the Queen's Speech, that the agricultural classes were in a state of distress, but they forgot to propose a remedy. His right hon. Friend would suggest one. Whatever it might be, it would give equal justice to every great interest in the country.
§ MR. MUNTZ
listened with the deepest attention to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he must say that, during the twelve years that he had sat in Parliament, he never heard anything more able or lucid. There was one remark in the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he (Mr. Muntz) could not feel satisfied was quite correct; but he was not going to act so absurdly as to deny the truth of what had been stated by the last as well as the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, with regard to the general prosperity of the country. He would, however, venture to say that he had as ample opportunities as most men of judging of the commercial state of the country, and he could not altogether concur in the glowing accounts given by those two right hon. Gentlemen to whom he had alluded. But his object in rising was to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the unjust mode in which the tax on income was levied. From what he knew of the workings of that tax, he knew that the country at large would be extremely opposed to its renewal, particularly if they should find that it was attempted to be renewed on its present basis. He was acquainted with frequent instances of the injustice of its operation, particularly as regarded the small manufacturers. And the people so unjustly dealt with had no means of redress. They had no resource 88 but to go before the Commissioners. He thought it was advisable to get rid of an income and to substitute a property tax.
§ MR. ALCOCK
quite agreed with the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) that the income tax was highly objectionable. If continued, he thought it ought to be applied more generally than at present—that it should be extended to all incomes throughout the country generally. He maintained that if the duty on articles of daily consumption, such as tea, tobacco, & c, were lowered, the revenue would not suffer the slightest diminution. He looked upon the duty on tobacco as a monstrous grievance; it encouraged smuggling to a great extent; in fact, about half the tobacco consumed in this country did not pay duty. The income tax was, of course, unpopular. He did not believe that more than 420,000 out of the whole population of the United Kingdom paid the tax; but he was convinced that if a regular system of direct taxation were adopted, it might be levied on 6,000,000 persons, and would yield, instead of 5,500,000l., upwards of 14,000,000l.
§ Resolutions agreed to; House resumed.
§ House adjourned at half after Twelve o'clock till Monday next.