§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
MR. T. BUNCOMBE
I feel, Sir, that the House is placed in rathe a peculiar position in reference to the Motion just made—that you, Sir, leave the Chair for the purpose of our going into Committee of Ways and Means, to entertain the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer — that is, his Budget. I also think that I should ill discharge my duty to my constituents if I did not at once state that they do not wish their Representatives in this House of Commons, if they could he so persuaded, to entertain the proposition of the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer at all. I dare say, and I should not be surprised if this proceeding of mine were called factious. But that is a very old story with me. I have been called factious by all Governments ever since I first had the honour of a seat in this House, and I 1215 defy any man, or any body of men, to do their duty to the public without incurring that charge. But let me tell those Gentlemen who care about it that it means in point of fact nothing—or anything or nothing at all, as the case may be. Sometimes, when it suits them to do so, Gentlemen feel highly indignant at the charge— sometimes they treat it with the contempt it deserves. They are indignant when it suits their purpose to give that tone to the debate; but, I say, to be called factious on this occasion, is to carry out the wishes of the great body of the people—at all events, it will be carrying out the wishes of this Metropolis to oppose your leaving the Chair. Certainly the Government cannot object to that course—for that is the simple straightforward and candid way of meeting the question. We do not want your Budget, nor do we want you. And the peculiar position in which the House is placed, arises from this circumstance—that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has told you that he wishes to stand or fall by each and every one of his Resolutions. What is the use, then, of going into a Committee of Ways and Means on the Resolution for increasing the House duty? Suppose you carry that—there are other propositions which will be equally opposed —and you tell us that if you break down in one of them, you intend to resign. All our time, therefore, in discussing this Resolution will have been wasted and thrown away. Why not, then, take the decision at once on the question of Mr. Speaker's leaving the Chair? I do not know whether or not I shall be accused of it, but I intend no offence or insult to any one by my proposition. If hon. Gentlemen will be insulted I cannot help it. If they will say their feelings are outraged, it is no fault of mine; that is not my object. I have only to carry out that for which I rose—to bring the present question to as speedy an issue as possible. My hon. Friend the Member for Westminster (Sir J. Shelley) has abandoned his Motion for postponing the Government propositions until after Christmas. Perhaps he has had an intimation from his constituents that that course would not be satisfactory to them, and he has fortunately abandoned it. He has been told most likely that they had quite enough bills to bother them at Christmas without being kept in suspense about this Government Bill, and as to what the 654 Gentlemen who sat in that House meant to do about it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer does 1216 not give any equivalent to the country for the House duty he proposes to double besides carrying it down to the 10l. householders. As regards this class, it can hardly be said to exist in the Metropolis. The houses generally in London are all above 10l. a year; but the proposed extension will include many houses between 10l. and 20l. a year; and I understand that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken the 10l. householders because they possessed the franchise—that I believe is the basis of his calculation—and applying this House tax to them all at the same time that he doubles it in amount, estimates that it will produce only a few thousands a year over what was derived from the old Window tax. Now I am told, and I believe on very good authority, that it will produce very considerably more than that. Estimating it by the franchise, there are many thousands who cannot have been included in the right hon. Gentleman's calculation, but who will have to pay the tax, and there can be no doubt that the revenue derived from this source must be far greater than was derived from the Window tax. Take the city of York, which now pays 5,000l. a year to the House duty; under the proposed arrangement it will pay 7,500l. What equivalent does the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer give to the 10l. householders of York, who are now to be brought in for the first time within this tax? A teacup full of tea a week, or a pot of beer a year, at the most. That is all they can possibly get from the reduction of the tea duty or the duty on malt and hops. They had rather things should remain as they are, and their wish is that such a proposition should not be entertained. The right hon. Gentleman coolly told them that the Window duty (though I feel that this is not the time to go into details) was repealed solely and entirely on sanitary grounds. Now I deny that. At all events, that repeal was not based on those grounds wholly. The repeal of the Window tax was agitated in the Metropolis for thirty years before it took place. It was objected to, in the first instance, as a War tax—and though sanitary grounds were brought in as an argument against the tax latterly, it was only by way of makeweight. It was true the Sanitary Commissioners came forward and said, "We will give you our assistance, we will get your Window tax off;" but had that Commission never existed, no Chancellor of the Exchequer 1217 could have maintained the tax for any length of time. The window duty was repealed because the Government of the day found they could no longer maintain it—they saw it dwindling away before them—I went with a deputation to the right hon. Member for Halifax (Sir C. Wood), the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the subject; and what did that deputation tell him? They did not argue the question on sanitary grounds, but what they said to him was, "We do not mean to pay this tax any longer;" and the right hon. Gentleman saw that a determined struggle was about to commence, and that if the tax were collected at all it must be by distraining on the different houses. Such was the language of the deputation; and the then Chancellor of the Exchequer finding it useless to attempt to oppose arguments of that nature, thanked them for the ability with which they had argued the case, and complimented them on the courage they had exhibited. That was really the ground on which the repeal of the Window duty was carried, and not on sanitary considerations. Well, then, I want to know how many nights are we going to waste in discussing these details, upon which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has pledged himself and the Government that they will stand or fall if any one of them give way? I ask you who are against the Income tax, hut favourable perhaps to the House duty, why are we to wade through this discussion on the House duty, when perhaps we shall, after all, support you in defeating the Income tax? Why should we thus waste the time of the House in what in that case will be a useless discussion? With regard to the reduction of the Malt and Hop duties also, I very much doubt if you (the Government) are strong enough to carry that. This I know, that a very strenuous opposition will be offered to that proposition; and if that opposition should succeed—as I have every reason to believe it will—what excuse shall we have to offer to the country for having wasted night after night in debating whether or not the House duty should be doubled? Therefore, Sir, I say, the way in which the question will be best understood by the public is as I propose—that is, that the objection should be taken at once, and the vote of the House taken on the question of your leaving the Chair, as a vote of want of confidence not only in the present Administration, but in the proposterous Budget which 1218 was laid before us a week ago. I can only say, from the representations which have been made to me, and the agitation which I know is going on, that I believe if the Government persevere with this Budget, or if the House of Commons should be so insane, so dead to the wishes of the people, as to sanction it, they will in so doing be entering upon a course of agitation and creating a spirit of discontent and dissatisfaction in the country which will be far less easily allayed than excited. It is on these grounds, Sir, if I can find any hon. Gentleman who will divide with me against your leaving the Chair, that I shall take the sense of the House on that question.
§ MR. WALTER
said, that if the hon. Gentleman (Mr. T. Duncombe) persevered in his Amendment, and divided the House upon it, he should be very happy to divide with him, not putting the question, however, upon the harsher ground of "No confidence," but on the more charitable footing, that if the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer was resolved upon committing an act of suicide, he should have a little more time for repentance. The right hon. Gentleman had run together a string of Resolutions which had no more to do with one another than chalk with cheese. If the House was called upon to discuss them as they stood, a more miscellaneous debate would never have been heard within those walls. He denied that there was any sort of necessity on the part of the Government to compel the House to a vote of confidence or no confidence in such a case as this. There was no deficit to make up, as when Sir Robert Peel came down to the House in 1842, yet the first thing the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer did was to propose an increase of taxation. He (Mr. Walter) demanded that a case should first be made out by the right hon. Gentleman for that increase of taxation. For himself, he had no abstract objection to a House tax, and he did not scruple to say that, were an increase of taxation really necessary, he should, without paying the slightest attention to any clamours outside, vote for such a House Tax as might be requisite; but to the utterly unnecessary and uncalled-for reduction of the Malt duties he was decidedly opposed. He had never met with an intelligent farmer who considered that either he or the public at large would be benefited by the removal of that tax; he did not know whether the farmers of Oxford- 1219 shire were more stupid than the rest of their profession were assumed to be; but, being a landowner himself, and having frequent opportunities of conversing with farmers, he could repeat that he had never found an intelligent farmer who felt that the repeal of the Malt tax would do him any tangible service. He should certainly, as he had before said, divide with the hon. Member for Finsbury, if he persevered in taking the sense of the House.
§ MR. ALCOCK
said, he should have no hesitation in voting against the proposition for increasing the House tax, though he should have some doubts on the subject if he thought it would endanger the proposed reduction of the Tea duties. That was an undeniable proposition, and he believed there was no man in the country but must approve of it. He did not, however, see that it was at all necessary to postpone the question of the House tax until the question of the Tea duties and the Malt duties was considered. For his own part he should be very glad to accept the offer to remit one-half the Malt duty as an earnest that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would, as soon as porsible, abolish it altogether. He thought the country owed a deep debt of gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman for having been bold and honest enough to propose the reduction of the Tea and the Malt duties. He differed altogether from those who contended that no benefit would be derived from the repeal of half the Malt duty. He looked upon that reduction as a boon, not only to the consumer, but to the landed interest also. Was it not monstrous that 5,000,000l. should be derived from taxes on the beverage of the people? And yet it was said that the reduction of the duty would be no boon to the landed interest. It was proposterous to say that the farmers and landowners of England, when they were brought into competition with all the world —with all the soils and all the climates of the world—should continue to be subject to a tax equal to 500 or 600 per cent on all the barley land of the country. The amount which every man growing barley paid in the shape of the Malt tax was equal, on the average, to 5l. an acre, and yet hon. Gentlemen, who ought to know better, alleged that there was no objection to it on the part of the farmers. It had been said that the consumer paid the tax, but did it therefore follow that it was no disadvantage to the producer? Suppose 3s. or 4s. a ton was put upon coals in the shape of a 1220 tax, though no doubt it would be paid by the consumer in the end, would it not he considered a grievance by the coalowners? The people would never stand a duty of 3s. or 4s. a ton on coal, and the producer and consumer would equally suffer by a diminution of demand. He said that it was right to give so great a boon as a reduced duty on tea and malt, but there was no necessity in his opinion to double the House Duty. Why did they, not adopt the proposition, of the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams), and place a Probate and Legacy duty on real property, which would produce a revenue of 1,000,000l? Why did not the Government carry out the Income Tax to the whole income of the country without reservation? That tax was now only collected on 190,000,000l., whereas the income of the country was 400,000,000l., the tax upon which, if levied at 3 per cent, would amount to 12,000,000l. instead of 5,000,000l., as now. He (Mr. Alcock) would have the Income Tax go down as low as the man at 12s. a week, who would be glad to compound for the payment of it by a reduction of the duty of 50 per cent, which was now levied on such necessities as tea, sugar, soap, and tobacco. Why not carry out the Income tax, not only to part but to the whole of the property of Ireland? He was sure the Gentlemen of Ireland would not condescend not to pay that tax in a fair proportion) when it was imposed on every man who earned as small a sum as 12s. a week. He also thought that the duty on tobacco, which was now from 1,000l. to 1,200l. per cent, and which caused so much smuggling, and actually was the cause of 3,000 persons being sentenced to imprisonment between 1843 and 1845, should be reduced to 1s. His own belief was, that more than one-half of the 55,000,000 lbs. of tobacco imported was smuggled. He thanked the House for the hearing they had given him, and all he wished to press on the House was, that there should be a reduction of the duties on tea and on malt, and that the revenue should be kept up by greatly extending the Income Tax.
SIR EDWARD BULWER LYTTON
Sir, I shall not follow the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down through all the points on which he has touched. It is true that the whole Budget is indirectly open to our consideration; but I do not think it necessary to touch upon those parts on which the House are agreed, such, 1221 for instance, as the measures connected with the colonial or the shipping interest, which other Gentlemen are far more competent to discuss than I am. With respect to the income and property tax, to which reference has been made by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, the question is so large in itself, and by the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), it is become so complicated, by a variety, not of details merely, but of principles, that it is impossible now to discuss the question fairly, and it must be left to some later occasion, specially set apart for the purpose. But, as in the meanwhile the principal objection to the Government measure in regard to this tax relates to the extension of its area, it may be well for the country to be aware that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as far as the extension of the area is concerned, has acted not in harsh, but in mitigated conformity with all the most valuable evidence which was given before the Committee on the Property tax; and he also acts, as far as that extension is concerned, in conformity with the suggestions of that unquestioned champion of the industrious classes, my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose. But I shall not enter into that question to-night, nor into that question which has been raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone), how far the speech of Mr. Pitt can induce this House to believe that it is a fraud upon income derived from the property of the fundholder to diminish the tax upon income derived from profits. I take it for granted that the majority of Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House, as well as Gentlemen on this side, are agreed upon this, that you can no longer tax in the same proportion an income which a man, without any fault of his own, may lose in a moment, and income which is derived from capital which a man enjoys for his life, and which he may bequeath to his children. But then, let me suggest for a single moment this serious consideration to Gentlemen on both sides of the House—for we heard the other night speeches from two Gentlemen so pre-eminent in this House that one or other of them must be a leading Member in any Administration which may replace the present—I mean the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford, in which he declared that the very distinction which you desire to enforce was a positive dishonesty; and the speech of the 1222 noble Lord the Member for London (Lord John Russell), in which he declared his apprehension of the great dangers that would accrue if we depart from those principles of the income tax that have been established by successive Parliaments. This is matter for grave reflection, and may suggest to Gentlemen on both sides of the House how far by their present vote it may be desirable to destroy the first Government which has ventured to establish a distinction so important to the industrial portion of our constituencies, and to abandon that principle to the hostile feelings, or at any rate to the uncertain mercies and divided counsels, of the Gentlemen who may succeed them. And now I shall come to the main question before the House, namely, to the consideration of the indirect duties which it is proposed to reduce, in connexion with the house tax, which it is proposed to double. Sir, if any philanthropist desired to confer some special boon upon the industrious classes, the reduction of the duties on malt and tea are precisely those which he would select; and though I have seen it stated in some quarters that it would be better to prefer the reduction of some other excise duties than that on malt, such as the excise duties on paper or soap, yet that is said now by the very parties who have all along up to this period contended that the first articles to be selected for reduction ought to be those affecting: the physical sustenance of the people. Now, though certain learned men have gravely informed us that sawdust may be made a very nutritious substitute for potatoes, yet I do not know that any one has ever attempted to induce the people to oat paper or soap. It was said, most forcibly, in a former debate, by the hon. Member for Montrose, that "from whatever source you derive your revenue, you ought not to raise it from the beverage of the working man and the middle classes. The question is one which affects the whole population. You have cheap meat and cheap bread, why should you not also have cheap beer?" These are sentiments worthy of the benevolence of my hon. and respected Friend. But a Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot afford to be actuated by benevolence alone, he must indulge his philanthropy only according to the rules of political economy; and, therefore, in the selection of duties for reduction, he must look to those which press most upon the commercial and industrial energies of the country, and the removal of which will tend most to the re- 1223 production of national wealth, and therefore he selects the tea duties because a reduction of those duties tends at least to augment our trade with China, and to promote the interchange of our goods. Directly the reduction of this tax is a benefit to the consumer, while indirectly it benefits Manchester and Liverpool, the merchants and manufacturers of the country, and we, the country Gentlemen, sincerely rejoice to think so. Now let us in the same manner look at the malt tax, because, though it is not directly before the House, yet it is impossible to hear the speech of the hon. Member for Nottingham, and the cheers with which it was received, and it is impossible to read what has been said and written out of doors upon the subject, without perceiving that it is the reduction of the malt tax, taken in connexion with the doubling of the house duty, which is now prominently before the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite. Let us see, then, if the reduction of the malt duties does not proceed upon precisely the same principle as the reduction of the duties on tea. I grant that we shall not obtain anything like a proportionate advantage from the reduction of half the malt tax that would accrue from its total repeal. I grant that we shall still retain the costly and vexatious machinery of the excise restrictions, and that by retaining half the tax you will still cripple the farmer in the direction of his capital, and in the preparation of malt, whether for fattening his cattle or for brewing his own beer. But what then? It is still a bold step in the right direction. It is so, considering the state of the revenue, and considering the feelings of Gentlemen on this side of the House, who never desire to forget the claims and interests of other parties. But I frankly tell my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that so long as a revenue is drawn from this duty, so long as the farmer is impeded in the direction of his industry and capital, so long, hon. Gentlemen may rely upon it, will the country party endeavour to obtain for the farmer, through the means of free trade, fair and impartial justice. Still, while I admit this to the hon. Gentleman the Member for the North Riding of Yorkshire, and while I agree with his arguments in favour of a total repeal of the malt duty, I would remind him that a diminution in the amount of this tax so far lessens the great financial difficulty of getting rid of it altogether. But even suppose you were to doubt the benefit of the 1224 reduction of this tax to the farmer, surely no one will be absurd enough to deny that the reduction of this tax by one half will cheapen the price of beer — that no monopoly of the brewers can altogether defeat this intention of the Legislature, in the face of public opinion—and that if they should attempt to do so, it would only unite all parties in favour of an alteration in the system of licensing. I remember the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Bass), who is a great practical authority on this subject, and who is the great reformer of the principles of British ale, on a former occasion, brought forward a Motion for a redaction of the half of this tax, and he rested his whole case on the argument— which he accompanied with his own personal guarantee as an eminent brewer— that the reduction of the half of this tax would give good beer to the people at a more moderate price. I myself, since the Budget, have had an opportunity of speaking to persons eminent in the trade, and their calculation is that a reduction in the tax would cause a reduction in the retail price of superior beer to the extent of a penny a quart. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, but I have a right to my calculation, if you have a right to yours, and do not forget your own arguments with regard to the corn laws. You said, "we do not pretend to fix the point to which the price of bread will be reduced by the repeal: all we can do is to legislate so that our legislation ought to reduce the price." The reduction of the duty on malt, therefore, is the same in principle with the reduction of the duty on tea. It is intended directly as a benefit to the consumer, and indirectly as a benefit to the farmer, just as the reduction of the duty on tea is intended directly as a benefit to the consumer, and indirectly as a benefit to the merchant and manufacturer; and in order to see how far this reduction will benefit the farmer, I shall read to the House a short extract from that great finance and free-trade authority, Mr. M'Culloch. He states that though the malt tax falls directly upon the consumer, "still, however, it must be admitted, that indirectly it is an especial injury to the agriculturist; "and he says," Suppose a high duty were laid upon calicoes and broad cloths, it would fall upon the consumer, but not the less it would be a serious injury to the manufacturer. In point of fact, a duty of 3½d. per yard was imposed previous to the year 1831 upon printed cottons; it fell directly upon the consumer, but indirectly 1225 it was so injurious to the manufacturers, that, in consequence of their well-founded representations, the duty, which produced 600,000l., was repealed, and the results have been sufficient to testify to the policy of that measure. The case of malt is precisely analogous, and may be stated to show that the injuries produced by a duty on cotton may, mutatis mutandis, be applied to describe the injuries produced by a duty on malt." Now, it may be said that all this goes to prove the advantages of a total repeal of the malt tax; but subsequently Mr. M'Culloch, despairing of the total repeal, suggests the very measure that is now before the House, namely, a reduction of one-half the duty. But, because this question is accompanied indirectly with benefit to the farmer, and is accompanied by a double house tax, we are told that this is a question of town against country. No, Sir, it is a question of free trade against restriction: it is a question whether you will attempt to lower the price of an article of popular subsistence—whether you will remove a check which operates directly against an important branch of the industry of the country—and it is accompanied with a direct tax which would be fair and just, and as such is recommended by all political economists, even if it were not accompanied with any reduction of the malt tax at all. But I suspect that what deprives this reduction in the duty on malt of all merit in the eyes of hon. Gentlemen opposite, is the very reason that should induce them to support it, namely, because it removes some weight from that class which has the most cause to dread competition. I fear that if the measure proposed inflicted some new hardships on the agriculturists, and gave to hon. Gentlemen opposite a new triumph of class and party—and if all the agriculturists were therefore combined against them, we should hear of nothing but the selfishness of squires and farmers, who refused to cheapen the price of beer for the benefit of their poor countrymen. Better at once support the doctrine that because the farmer contends that he is suffering partial distress, therefore he is not to he impartially relieved; that because in the cultivation of wheat he is subjected to unrestricted competition, therefore his industry is to be fettered in the cultivation of barley. And what is this grain thus selected for fiscal harassment and discouragement? Why, the grain which, above all others, is adapted to 1226 the climate and soil of this country. In wheat we are equalled, perhaps excelled, by other countries—in barley we are unrivalled; and this article in which we are unrivalled is the very one which you specially select for impediments in the employment of industry in its most profitable channel. This is more than an injury to the farmer—it is more than a grievance to the consumer—it is a perverse and elaborate rejection of one of the most fertile sources of national wealth which Providence has conferred upon this country. If hon. Gentlemen do not object to the malt tax considered in itself, what is it to which they do object? You say you object to the house tax being doubled for the benefit of the farmers; but that is simply to say that you object to the further extension of free trade when it operates against the other classes whom you represent. What is it you object to in the house tax? Do you object to the tax itself? You cannot do that, because it is a tax which has been specially selected by all authorities on the subject as a tax which they would recommend for almost indefinite extension. Mr. Mill says, that of all possible taxes a house tax is one of the fairest, because it falls upon a man in proportion to his expenditure; and Mr. M'Culloch, almost anticipating the measure now before the House, years ago advised that we should commute the tea duties, the more obnoxious excise duties, nay, half the malt tax—what for?—for a tax upon houses; and this, too, at a time when the window duties were still in existence. The only point worthy of consideration is that which has been suggested by the hon. Member. But the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Williams) suggests that instead of the house tax we ought to impose the legacy duties upon realised property. Now I frankly own to the hon. Gentleman that the feeling out of doors on this subject is so strong, and partly so reasonable, that if you are to continue these duties at all, sooner or later they must be applied to all descriptions of property. I grant that; but then in return I think you will grant me this—that the question is, which is the best tax of the two? and I think I shall show that on sound financial principles the tax which you propose is infinitely more objectionable in itself than the house tax. All political economists, and indeed all educated men, agree that taxes 1227 ought to fall, not upon capital, but upon expenditure. When a tax falls upon expenditure, you supply a stimulus to the person paying it to make it up in some other way; but when the tax falls on capital, that stimulus is not given, the tax is not made up, and the loss is one which falls upon the very wealth of the nation. But of all taxes upon capital, that which directly taxes capital itself is the worst; and, therefore, Mr. Ricardo singles out the legacy duty for unqualified condemnation. His argument, if I remember right, is somewhat this: "Suppose I have a legacy of 1,000l., and the State takes 100l. from me in the shape of a legacy duty; I should only consider that I have received 900l., and I have no particular motive to make up the loss by lessening my expenditure. But if I have received a legacy of 1,000l., and 100l. is taken away in a variety of other taxes, such as a tax on house, servants, horses, wine, &c, in all probability I shall decrease my expenditure to that amount, and so the national wealth will remain unimpaired." So that, this tax being bad in principle—bad on all the principles relied on by hon. Gentlemen opposite—surely it is wise not to increase that tax to such an extent as that it can never be taken off from the national revenue. Besides, it is obviously unjust to inflict this new burthen on land and real property until you have first taken off all the stamp duties that at present press unequally on the transfer of that description of property. For landowners are not, as a class, those great leviathans they have been represented. On the contrary, it has been proved in statistical evidence that the average income of all the landed proprietors of the kingdom amounts only to 150l. a year; and as this average includes all the great landholders, it follows that there must be a great many landowners whose incomes are much below that average. Therefore a legacy duty on these small properties would necessitate sale or mortgage; and the abolition of the stamp duties must in common justice accompany the imposition of the legacy duty. So, then, you see that these operate against your substitute of the legacy duty, or level first the objections to all legacy duties whatsoever, and next the necessity of first abolishing all stamp duties on the transfer of that property in particular; while the house tax is one which political economists approve in itself, and can be adopted as a single 1228 proposition on its own merits. But you object to the extension of the area. Yet no man can deny that the same principle which you apply to the income and property tax you must apply in a still more rigid manner to the tax on houses. The only exemptions you can allow are the classes who live on the wages of unskilled labour; the only limit should be that at which it becomes unsafe or impossible to collect the tax. But then we are told that the tax will interfere with the elective franchise. This, no doubt, is a grave consideration; but there is a consideration before the House which is still more grave, and it is this—the 10l. householders now form a large portion of the electoral constituency, and it becomes a matter of great danger if a class which exercises so great an influence on all the taxation of this House, is itself altogether exempted from the taxation which it has the power of inflicting upon other classes. Now, if the House should resolve to sanction and enforce such a principle as this exemption by a deliberate vote, they will affirm the principle by which the old republics were first corrupted and then destroyed; they will sanction a principle which justifies the people of France in preferring an absolute monarch to the workings of an unrestrained democracy; and that principle is the confiscation of property—confiscation for the benefit of numbers. And now, one word for the farmer. I wish hon. Gentlemen opposite would dismiss altogether from their minds the spectre of compensation; for if compensation were sought for by the reduction of half the duties on malt, it would indeed be a miserable dole, altogether unworthy the House of Commons. But still the relief would be real, though I grant it would not be large; it would be a real and practicable relief to agriculture, and that I will show if the House go into Committee on the subject. But it is not always the amount of relief given, but the mode and spirit in which it is offered, that allays dissatisfaction, and reconciles those who suffer from the crises which the changes in our national policy sometimes compel classes to undergo. We feel this when we have to deal with Ireland; one Government can often do very little more for that country than another; but it is the animus in which the offers of relief are made—the desire to do something—that makes all the difference between the Government which the Irish 1229 people are prepared to approve, and the Government which they are prepared to detest. So it is in England. All men are governed by their feelings as well as their interests. Men are not leather bags or strong boxes—but living beings, with hearts in their bosoms and blood in their veins—who can appreciate kind intentions as well as resent the systematic disdain of their complaints. I entreat you, then, not to treat the British farmers as if they were your enemies. You are not political economists only—you are politicians—you are English statesmen; and even supposing that the distress of the farmers is exaggerated—suppose that the farmers are the only persons in the world who never know whether their pockets are full or empty, still you cannot deny that they believe they are distressed —? they assert that they have been injured, and that impression tends to produce disaffection; I put it to you whether it would not be wise and politic to remove the impression which alienates your countrymen from the laws. And what is this class? Why, that in which you have hitherto found, in times of danger and in case of war, that cheap defence of nations which consists in the ancient loyalty and the love of the native soil. It is seldom that the removal of disaffection can be purchased at too dear a rate; but now that you can do it so cheaply, and strengthen your country in the affections of its best defenders, how can you hesitate to accept the advantage? But the fact is that behind all these questions there is to be found another which forcibly presses itself upon the consideration of the House. I should be the last person to impute to hon. Gentlemen a single factious or unworthy motive; but you have been so severe on the inconsistency of hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, that you will allow me to ask you respectfully whether consistency of principle, independent of party, be precisely that virtue of which you set us an example—when, having first desired that we should recognise free trade as the guide of our future proceedings, no sooner is that concession made by the Government than the very gravamen of the charges against that Government is the concession it has made. Surely never before were men who were in earnest about a principle, so angry when they heard that their principle was not to be opposed. You have specially invited the Govern- 1230 ment, by the Resolution of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, to a farther extension of the principles of free trade; and now that measures in that direction have been prepared, accompanied by a direct tax so sound in its principle that there is not a single political economist whom you can cite against it, at once free trade is given up, political economy is thrown aside, and restriction on industry becomes the cry of the towns, in order to prevent free trade being carried out for the benefit of the country. It is so impossible to ascribe all this to unworthy or paltry motives, that I ascribe it rather to that honourable ambition which induces you to substitute a Government composed of the men you prefer, for a Government whose measures you are compelled to be inconsistent in order to disapprove. Now, one word with regard to myself, for it applies equally to Gentlemen on this side of the House whose adherence to the cause of free trade you have somewhat ungraciously received. The opinions which I entertained upon the subject of a repeal of the corn laws gradually estranged me from a party to which I formerly rendered some trifling service—a party in which I still recognise not only private friends, but many accomplished politicians and statesmen—of consummate talents and experience. But it was not on that single question alone that I transferred my very humble support to the party and policy represented by the present Government. I did not make that transfer so long as the late Administration lasted. I did not do so till that Administration— I hope I may say so without offence—died from its own exhaustion. Not until the noble Lord the late Premier, looking at the state of parties, could see no other person but Lord Derby to suggest to Her Majesty as his successor — not till, regarding the position of affairs at home, still more the position of affairs abroad, I myself believed that it might be for the welfare and perhaps for the safety of the country, to give to Lord Derby's Government a fair and a cordial trial. It was first to that trial that I bounded my support; but I did so with full allowance for all the difficulties which the Government would have to encounter, and a firm belief that it would unite a conciliatory policy towards a class in which prolonged distress had produced a deep-seated sense of injustice, with that rational re- 1231 spect for public opinion which Lord Derby frankly expressed so soon as he acceded to office. In that school where I learnt the meaning of constitutional liberty, it was never considered a disgrace to a Minister of England to regulate, not indeed his private doctrines, but his political conduct, according to the opinions of his time. Nor did I ever think I should hear a taunt on the expediency of bowing to public opinion from the very men who have threatened to change the constitution itself in order to bring us still more under the influence of popular control. But that which has sanctioned and confirmed the support which I now tender to the Government is not any question connected with agriculture; it is not any party consideration; it is simply this—the disposition they have shown to promote general measures for the improvement of the laws, and for advancing the welfare of the people. I do not allude alone to reforms of the Court of Chancery, nor to the programme of useful measures announced in Her Majesty's gracious Speech, nor to the financial projects now before the House—of which I sincerely approve—but I must look also to the liberal and enlightened speech of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other evening. I see there, for the first time, the pledge from a Minister of the Crown for economy and retrenchment, in the implied promise of large administrative reform. I see there a capacity to deal with the most complicated of social questions—that connected with criminal punishment. I see a general understanding of what I conceive to be the great want of this time—for I believe the great body of the intelligent public are disposed to favour the policy of a Government which, while it will be conservative of the great principles of the constitution, will make that constitution suffice for all purposes of practical reform. It is by measures and sentiments like these that the Government has shown already that they do not come into office as the exclusive advocates of a single class, or the inert supporters of a retrograde policy. On the contrary, the more they can mitigate the sufferings of every class, whether commercial or agricultural, the more worthy they will be of the support of that House of Commons to which every section of the community that contributes to the supplies has a right to come for the redress of grievances; and if they can so con- 1232 trive that no large portion of the community shall be left excluded from that prosperity which is paraded before our eyes, the more they will unite all classes and interests to co-operate with them in that calm but continuous progress in which it is the duty of every Ministry to maintain our hereditary place in the foremost rank of European civilisation. Therefore, for my part, I declare that the satisfaction with which I shall give my vote in accordance with the intrinsic merits of the question immediately before us, will be increased by thinking that it is one vote amongst many which may serve to continue this Government in its career of useful and liberal legislation; believing, as I do, that those same causes of dissension which before rendered a Ministry formed from the opposite benches so weak and ineffective, in spite of the honesty, the virtues, and the genius of the men who composed, and the Premier who presided over it, do still exist, and will still prevent that unity and firmness of purpose which can alone render effectual the desire to preserve—perhaps against attacks from its own supporters—that balance between safe reform and hazardous experiment on which I believe, in my conscience, depend the continuance of our prosperity and the stability of the Empire.
Mr. Speaker, if it be any satisfaction to the hon. Baronet, my hon. Friend who has just sat down, to widen the question now raised respecting the House resolving itself into Committee, in order that we may proceed to the consideration of the House Tax—to extend that question, in the first place, to a detailed discussion of all the more important items in the Budget, and then to pass from the discussion of the entire Budget to an eloquent and elaborate defence of the policy of the Government, and likewise to enter on a spirited vindication of his own character and conduct—so far as I am aware, impugned by no man—it is a satisfaction of which I, for one, would be most sorry to have deprived him. But, on the part of this House, on the part of the principles which regulate the conduct of public business, I cannot refrain from making an appeal to you and to others, and from pointing out that if it is really intended that we should make progress towards a decision on the measures of the Government, it is most important that we should condescend, at whatever sacrifice of our 1233 own oratorical prepossessions, to approach the consideration of these measures in their natural order. Upon that ground, with my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham (Mr. Walter), I entirely decline to accede to the doctrine that the Vote now before us, or that any vote we may be called on to come to in Committee of Ways and Means, is to be understood as a vote of confidence or no confidence in the Government. It may suit the convenience of persons or of parties, sometimes of one, and sometimes of another, to attach to discussions respecting the taxation of the people the character of votes of confidence and no confidence; but I say, on the part of this House, that nothing can be more dangerous, nothing can more tend to corrupt the House of Commons in the discharge of its high functions, than allowing considerations purely political to become the governing and determining motives in voting for or against particular taxes. I hold, and I have always held, that the primary duty—perhaps the highest, certainly the most elementary, and the most ancient, and the most important among all our duties—is to provide the means which are requisite for carrying on the public service; and I say you cannot exercise a deliberate and dispassionate judgment on the provision of those means—you cannot arrive at a safe conclusion respecting the method in which the funds necessary for the public service are to be obtained from the people —if you allow yourself at every stage of your progress to be drawn off from the consideration of the propositions or their intrinsic merits, in order rather to take a view of their bearing on the interests or convenience, I will not say of obsolete factions but of political parties. The question before us is whether we shall consent to entertain the financial propositions submitted by the Government, and shall accordingly proceed in Committee to examine them in their proper order. I think that, after what took place on Friday night last, it is impossible for the House to refuse to go into Committee. I, for one, cannot divide with the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. T. Duncombe) if he should press his Motion to a division. But at the same time, although I go into Committee on the ground of an understanding which I think has generally prevailed, and also on the ground of practical convenience, I am bound to say I do so under protest, and for two reasons, which I will briefly state to the House. The first of those reasons is, Sir, 1234 that for the first time within my recollection, I think for the very first time, and perhaps for the first time within the recollection of men much older than myself, a Budget has been presented to us on the part of the Government, in which I presume to say it is not professed to provide for the service of the year one single farthing beyond what is absolutely necessary to meet that service. The right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it is true, upon the figures he has submitted to the House, purports to show a surplus of 400,000l.; but that 400,000l., which he will apply, I say, to the service of the year, is not money raised for the service of the year—it is simply and solely—and I think it is the first time I have known such a proposition to be made—it is simply and solely so much debt which it is proposed virtually to assign to that purpose. In former years it was found convenient to borrow money for the purpose of lending it out again for useful public works. The right hon. Gentleman says it is necessary to put an end to that system. The repayment of this money will come in this year at the rate of 400,000l. On money borrowed for public works coming in, what ought to be done with it? It is a question I am ashamed to ask. There is no man in this House who will not say at once that money borrowed for the purpose of public works ought to be applied to the extinction of the debt by creating which it was obtained. But the right hon. Gentleman applies it to the service of the year. By creating debt for the service of the year, he shows a surplus of 400,000l. I protest against a recognition of the principle that it is the business or duty of the Minister to submit an estimate of Income and Expenditure for the year in which he makes no provision beyond the absolute minimum which that service will require. The other ground on which I protest against the mode and order of proceeding, is one to which I glanced on a former night. I took the liberty of requesting the right hon. Gentleman to consider that representation. He did not think fit to do so, but gave a negative answer on the instant. It is necessary, therefore, I should state afresh the grounds of my protest, and I shall be much surprised if I do not show the House they are no light grounds, whether considered in their own intrinsic reasonableness, or with reference to the authority from which I think they derive their strongest and most positive support. The ground I took 1235 was this—that, in making provision for the service of the year, the House of Commons ought not to remit taxation until you have made sure of your Ways and Means for the year, and therefore I may presume to say to the right hon. Gentleman that he would he wrong if he called on us to deal with the minor items of his Budget—if he called on us to settle the question of the House Tax—and especially if he called on us to proceed to the remission of any duty, until he had obtained from this House a new recognition of the principle of the Income Tax. And in so doing, I stated the principle on which Sir Robert Peel proceeded in 1842. At that period he was pressed from all quarters, and with much reason, because of the great inconvenience to trade in consequence of delaying the discussion of the tariff—he was requested to proceed with the discussion on the tariff, before that on the Income Tax. He steadily refused. It was even imputed to him that he was insincere, and meant to throw over the tariff when he had got the Income Tax. He repelled, as well he might, such an imputation with scorn, and he obtained from this House the second reading of the Income Tax Act before he would proceed to discuss any remission of taxation. That, I say, is a sound and reasonable principle, and that is the principle in favour of which I wish to record my protest. But I intend to support ray protest by reference to the conduct of another authority. It is not the first time a protest of this nature has been taken. We had this matter fully discussed at a recent period, and that period was only last year, 1851. I will state to the House briefly the circumstances of the two cases. In 1851 the Income Tax had been renewed only for a single year. In 1851 there was a surplus of 2,000,000l. The right hon. the then Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir C. Wood) proposed to the House—with the Income Tax about to expire in nine months—he proposed to the House to deal with certain branches of revenue—he proposed to exchange the Window Tax for a House Tax, and in so doing to sacrifice some 600,000l. upon the service of the year. I think I am correct in that statement. One half of the remission only would come to be charged on the year. Half of the Window Tax was 950,000l., and half of the House Tax 350,000l. It, therefore, appeared he would make a sacrifice of 600,000l., and retain a surplus of 1236 1,400,000l. Under these circumstances the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Disraeli) made a Motion in this House, which was supported by myself, and to the reasonableness of which I still adhere. On the 24th June;, 1851, the following Resolution was submitted as a condemnation of the conduct of the then Chancellor of the Exchequer:—That according to an Estimate of the probable future produce of the existing taxes, submitted to this House by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it appears that a surplus Revenue may be expected in the present year to the extent of about 2,000,000l. That in the Revenue so estimated is included a sum exceeding 5,000,000l., derived from the Tax on Income, respecting which an inquiry has been directed to be made by a Committee of this House, on the result of whose labours may depend the future renewal or modification of that important impost. That in this provisional state of the financial arrangements of the country, it appears to this House to be most consistent with a due regard to the maintenance of public credit, and the exigencies of the public service, not to make any material sacrifice of public income in effecting such changes as may be deemed advisable in other branches of taxation."—[3 Hansard, cxvii. 1164.]That Motion was moved, Sir, as an Amendment to your leaving the Chair to go into Committee on the House tax, and the principle of it was, that because the Income tax was only renewed for a year, it was not justifiable to sacrifice 600,000l. of taxation, although it left a surplus of 1,400,000l. in hand. I am not sure if there were any other items: if there were, they were of a trifling character. I am not sure whether there was not a reduction on coffee; but it is immaterial for the present purpose whether the surplus left was 1,400,000l. or 1,200,000l. I now wish to draw a comparison between the proceedings of the author of that Motion, and the proceedings of the present Government. I have shown the strict views which the author of that Motion entertained of the financial duty of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have shown that he was not satisfied with the late Government, because they retained only 1,200,000l. or 1,400,000l. surplus when the Income tax was renewed for one year. How do we now stand? We now stand thus: The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer shows for the year—I proceed all along upon his own figures—for 1853–4, a surplus in all of 1,600,000l. that is, 1,300,000l. which he calls surplus, and 300,000l. which he saves in the Kafir war. Against that 1,600,000l. he charges 600,000l. which he lays on the 1237 Estimates, and 100,000l. remission of the Light dues, making together 700,000l. That deducted from 1,600,000l. leaves a surplus of 900,000l. Where the late Chancellor of the Exchequer had a surplus of 1,400,000l., the right hon. Gentleman has a surplus of only 900,000l.; and is he, who was not satisfied with his predecessor leaving only 1,400,000l. surplus, going to sacrifice any portion of that 900,000l.? Let us compare the taxes he proposes to impose and the taxes he is going to remit. I will take it on his own estimate, without questioning its correctness. He proposes to surrender for the year 1853–4, 1,000,000l. on the Malt tax—I confess I thought it a low estimate, but I will take it as he gives it—then he proposes to give up 400,000l. on tea. Against those sacrifices he imposes a new House tax, the amount of which will be 1,000,000l. annually. Only one half of that increase can be charged against the present year, being 500,000l. He is going to remit 1,400,000l., and impose 500,000l.; therefore, he is going to part with his 900,000l., the entire surplus which he professes to show. And yet the right hon. Gentleman himself is the man who made the Motion I have quoted. It was the right hon. Gentleman who laid down the principle that with the Income tax renewed only for one year, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not justified in reducing the surplus even to so low a point as 1,200,000l. It is the right hon. Gentleman himself who, with the Income tax depending, refuses to take a vote on that tax, and insists on proceeding to consider the scheme of the Budget, which involves the surrendering of every farthing of the surplus he professes to show. Therefore, my protest, I humbly submit, is entirely supported both by the doctrines and practice, under happier circumstances, of the right hon. Gentleman himself. The hon. Baronet who has just sat down deprecates the many taunts and jeers directed against Gentlemen who have changed their opinions on the question of free trade. I confess, so far as the debates in the House are concerned, I had hoped that there had been a great absence of such taunts and jeers. All I can say for myself is, that, whether succesful or not, I have striven to avoid their use—and I am quite certain, if they have escaped from me, or any other person, they have escaped from inadvertence and human infirmity. But at the same time I must say there are circumstances, and especially the circumstances in which the Government appears 1238 to you to be going wrong, in which it is your duty to remind that Government of the principles which they themselves have laid down. I read the other day an amusing account, whether correctly reported or not I cannot say, of proceedings at a local election (Peterborough), at which one of the Candidates (Mr. Whalley) complained of the other Candidate, that he had resorted to an unworthy artifice in referring to his antecedents. It is from no desire to practise either a worthy or unworthy artifice, that in this single point I refer to the antecedents of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but to point out that the doctrine, as I think a sound doctrine, which he propounded last year, and on which he felt so strongly that he felt it necessary to make it the subject of a Motion and a Division—the doctrine, that it is the duty of the House to secure the Ways and Means before it votes away any taxes—is the identical doctrine which I submitted to his acceptance on Monday last, and which I will not say he contumeliously but he certainly summarily rejected.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, I do not think the address of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford has a tendency to facilitate that progress of the public business which he says it is his object to promote. One would have supposed, from the observations of the right hon. Gentleman, that my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire (Sir E. Bulwer Lytton) had originated a discussion which was an obstacle to that progress which I presume all desire. I am grateful to any circumstance that gave my hon. Friend the opportunity of making one of the most masterly speeches I have ever heard. Certainly no Gentleman in this House could have risen more legitimately than my hon. Friend. What has taken place? No sooner had the Motion been made by the Secretary of the Treasury that you, Sir, leave the chair, and we should go into Committee and proceed to business, than one of the most influential and distinguished Members of the Opposition, representing, I suppose, the united opinion of what I must term the somewhat discordant aggregation of sections of which it is composed—with that vivacious tone which distinguishes him, and with that energy of language which is always at his disposal, seemed to me, in opening the campaign, to indicate the line 1239 the opposing forces were going to take. Certainly I did imagine, when a person of so much influence was advanced as an organ of the party, that a trial of strength was about to be taken upon an issue which I, as representing the Government, exceedingly deprecate. The hon. Gentleman was supported by another hon. Member, the Member for Nottingham; and a county Member, also on that side of the House, made an excellent speech in vindication of the policy of the Government. Certainly, so far there was no inclination on our part to throw any obstacle in the progress of public business. Three Gentlemen opposite had spoken, and the debate was assuming the character of a debate on the general question—and I was extremely obliged to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hertfordshire when he rose, as I think, under most legitimate circumstances, to answer an attack made, and to vindicate the policy of the Government, which is honoured by his approval; and I am sure the House will not regret any circumstance which led to that expression of opinion by my hon. Friend. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford, rising, as I supposed, to recall the House to what would certainly be the more convenient course, enters into an argument, which, if I answer in detail, it will lead almost to a complete vindication of the policy of the Government, and certainly entirely prevent you, Sir, from leaving the chair. I must refrain from replying in detail to the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman has made one charge against me, that I have estimated a surplus which is a fictitious surplus, entirely produced by borrowed money now repaid. I do not think this is exactly the opportunity to go into minute detail on that subject. I can only say that it appears to me that the right hon. Gentleman is completely in ignorance of the facts. I shall be able to show the House, at the right time, that no other course could be taken than including it in my estimate as I have done. I shall show, to the satisfaction of the country that not one shilling of that money is borrowed money. I shall show the highest authority for the course I recommend. But I hope I shall be able, not merely to obtain that particular sum towards the estimate I have offered to the House, but that I shall also be able to obtain their support, by laying before them certain facts which will lead to a great and salutary change in the 1240 mode in which we keep the public accounts; and I am persuaded that when that case is fairly brought before the House, it will establish, to the satisfaction of a large majority that the course I propose is a legitimate and salutary course. The right hon. Gentleman is offended with me because I did not adopt his advice the other night as to the conduct of public business. No man has a greater respect for the right hon. Gentleman than myself; no man more appreciates his abilities; and I meant no disrespect to him that I did not, in conducting the business of the Government, adopt the course which he himself thinks the preferable one. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to the course I took with reference to the conduct of the Government when the income and property tax was only voted for one year. I think the circumstances of the case perfectly dissimilar. When I brought forward that Motion the income and property tax was referred to a Committee—it was under the investigation of a Committee—and it was extremely doubtful what would be the result; the impression rather was that the report of that Committee would be against the continuance of the property and income tax. Now, there is not a single person in this House, wherever he may sit, or whatever his opinions may be, who has the slightest moral doubt that a sum of money equal to that produced by the property and income tax will he produced this year by a law of the same kind. Whether the scale I propose, or the old scale, or the proposition of the hon. Member for Montrose shall be adopted, may be a question; but that a sum of five millions and more will be raised by a property and income tax, no man can have the slightest doubt. Well, then, the right hon. Gentleman says, I ought to take the course usually taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer under the circumstances of bringing forward a financial statement. I want to know what parallel there is between the circumstances in which the present Government is placed, and the ordinary position of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in bringing forward his financial statement. Have we not been taunted from the beginning that we are avoiding bringing forward our measures? Have not the most vulgar insinuations—not heard, of course, in this House—been made, that we are clinging to office, if not to power, and evading that responsibility which attaches to every Government, of coming forward 1241 and indicating the policy which we recommend? The policy which we recommend is a distinct policy. I said on Friday last, that with a view to assimilate our financial system to the new commercial system now universally acknowledged and established, I had, on the part of the Government, to bring forward measures for the purpose; and now I am taunted, and told I ought to have followed the miserable routine—[Cheers] — the miserable routine of commonplace circumstances. I feel persuaded that the course I have taken is right. I feel persuaded that we ought not to avoid a free and frank encounter on the policy we recommend. I have endeavoured to place that policy, without reserve, before the House. Nothing is further from our desire than to shrink from the decision of the House; and I hope now, Sir, that you are about to leave the chair, that decision will soon be arrived at.
§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE
said, he wished to ask the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer one question. He understood on a former occasion that the right hon. Gentleman stated that Ministers intended to stand or fall by the proposition he then made. His (Mr. Duncombe's) objection, therefore, was that the House was to have the Budget, the whole Budget, and nothing but the Budget; and that, if so, they were not going into Committee for the purpose of amending this Budget, rejecting or adopting any particular item, but of swallowing it altogether. To that he objected. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer would state that he had been misunderstood, and that he meant to treat that as a deliberative assembly, and that they might alter and amend the Budget, it would be unreasonable and unjustifiable in him (Mr. Duncombe) to divide; but unless he had that assurance he should certainly take the sense of the House on the question of the Speaker leaving the chair.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, that he wished to state, as his hon. Friend (Mr. Duncombe) had intimated that he had doubts whether he should divide the House, that if he thought proper to divide, he (Lord J. Russell) could not take that course with him, but should be ready to go into Committee upon the propositions of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He would only say, further, that he supposed the right hon. Gentleman would expect that when they went into Committee they should not merely discuss a single proposition that might be 1242 before them, but that he, having unfolded a plan on Friday last, and gone into the consideration of it for five hours, would be prepared to expect that the whole of his propositions should be discussed. They might then examine what was the state of the finances which the right hon. Gentleman found, and what would be the state of those finances supposing his propositions carried; in short, the whole case must be before the Committee. He (Lord J. Russell) certainly did not find fault with the right hon. Gentleman for having brought forward the plan which he thought for the benefit of the country; he would say that the right hon. Gentleman had certainly so far redeemed his pledge that he would lose no time in bringing forward his Budget, however much he (Lord J. Russell) might object to the greater part of that Budget.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
said, he hoped the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer would give an answer to the question of the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Duncombe) because on the answer of the right hon. Gentleman would depend a considerable number of votes on that side of the House. He had no wish to divide with his hon. Friend the Member for Fins-bury, if he was mistaken in his view with regard to what was said on a former occasion by the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but he must say it was an insult to this House and to the country, if they were to he told— [Mr. HUDSON: Hear, hear!] At such an early hour of the evening he would beg to inform the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Hudson) that he had no excuse for the interruption he was causing. He was saying he thought it was an insult to this House and to the country, if they were told, that, unless every item of the Budget was accepted by the House there should be no Budget, and the Ministry would stand or fall by the Budget. Under such circumstances his hon. Friend could take no other course than to move an Amendment to going into Committee on such terms. He called on the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer to give a distinct answer to that question. If he refused to give an answer, he hoped the hon. Member for Finsbury would not withdraw his Motion. He hoped that there were a sufficient number of Gentlemen in the House to show by their votes the opinion which they entertained of Her Majesty's Government on this occasion.
§ MR. HUDSON
Sir, having been per- 1243 sonally alluded to by the hon. Member for Middlesex, I get up to answer the imputation he has cast upon me. I can understand the hon. Gentleman—and the hon. Gentleman or any other man ought to be ashamed of himself to make use of such language. I tell the hon. Gentleman that there is no man more ready to meet an imputation than myself; and tell him that I am ready to meet him here or elsewhere. I have now done with the hon. Gentleman. I am not unwilling to return any friendship the hon. Member may think fit to express, and I am sorry that he should have cast such an imputation upon me. [Mr. BERNAL OSBORNE: I accept your apology.] I trust the hon. Member will not again indulge in any such remarks as he has made to-night. I now wish to address myself to the main question, namely, whether this Motion should be withdrawn or not. I think that the hon. Member for Finsbury, having made it, is bound to divide upon it, and, for my part, I am quite ready to go to a division on the question.
was of opinion that the question to which the hon. Members for Finsbury and Middlesex were so anxious to obtain a reply, had been answered Already. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had asked for a question on which to take a vote on the whole policy of the Government; but that vote would not bind each individual Member as to every item of the Budget. He apprehended that it was perfectly understood, on both sides of the House, that upon each and every one of the votes proposed by the Government, whether with respect to the house tax, the malt tax, or the tea duties, hon. Members were to have an opportunity in Committee of submitting any amendments they pleased. He trusted that, under these circumstances, his hon. Friends would perceive that the very best course that the House could pursue was to go, with as little delay as possible, into a Committee of Ways and Means.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER
I beg the House to believe that I have no desire to answer, otherwise than in the most satisfactory manner in my power, any questions that any hon. Member may think fit to put to me. I thought there was a most distinct understanding on all sides of the House as to the course to be pursued on this subject; and if I had any doubt as to the existence of such an understanding, it would have been dispelled by the remarks which have fallen 1244 this evening from the noble Lord the Member for London, who appeared to be quite as well aware of the true state of the case as any one could be at this side of the House. With respect to the statement I had the honour to make this day week, I am sensible that it may have been too long, but it was not longer than I felt it consistent with my duty towards the House and the country to make it; but when it was concluded, I had thought that it was perfectly well understood on all sides of the House that we were to go into Committee this evening, and that an opportunity was then to be afforded to all Members who might choose to accept it, of stating in what respects their own views might differ from those which I propounded on the part of the Government. The noble Lord the Member for London has expressed so well the feelings of the Government— and, indeed, I think I may add of the House—upon this subject, that I do not think it necessary to dwell upon it at any length. It did not occur to me that there was any necessity to answer the questions of the hon. Members for Finsbury and Middlesex-questions which seemed to me of a loose and inconclusive character, and having no especial reference to the rather vague and desultory statements with which they were prefaced. I certainly did not say that the Government were resolved to stand or fall by every vote in Committee of Ways and Means, for I should have considered such a declaration most arrogant and presumptuous; but what I did mean to convey was this: that the whole scheme of the Budget being founded upon certain principles, we should consider as fatal to the whole any vote that was actually subversive of those principles. I said that the whole project being based upon certain great principles, we must, as a matter of course, fall by any vote the effect of which would be to cause a departure from those principles. In the case, for instance, of the income and property tax, the whole policy recommended by the Government being founded upon the principle that a distinction should be recognised between precarious and realised incomes, any negation on the part of the House of that principle would, no doubt, be fatal to the whole scheme. But if this principle be preserved inviolate, other regulations respecting the income tax will be simply regarded as matters of detail, and as such will not involve the fate of the Government. So, again, with regard to 1245 the first vote—the extension of the house tax—is a principle of such importance that the Government are of opinion that it ought to he insisted upon. The details of the tax doubtlessly are also matters of importance; hut it would be arrogant and presumptuous in me to declare that the Government are prepared to stand or fall by them. I trust that this explanation will be regarded as satisfactory.
§ MR. DUNCOMBE
said, that after the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman, he did not think it necessary to press the Motion to a division.
§ The Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
moved the following Resolution:—That, from and after the 5th day of April, 1863, the Duties granted and made payable by the Act 14 & 15 Vict., cap. 36, upon Inhabited Dwelling Houses in Great Britain, according to the annual value thereof, shall cease and determine, and in Hon. thereof there shall be granted and made payable on all such Dwelling Houses the following Duties (that is to say)—For every Inhabited Dwelling House which with the household and other offices, yards, and gardens therewith occupied and charged, is or shall he worth the rent of 10l. or upwards by the year.Where any such Dwelling House shall be occupied by any person in trade who shall expose to sale and sell any goods, wares, or merchandise in any shop or warehouse, being part of the same Dwelling House, and in the front and on the ground or basement story thereof;And also where any such Dwelling House shall be occupied by any person who shall be duly licensed by the Laws in force to sell therein by retail beer, ale, wine, or other liquors, although the room or rooms thereof in which any such liquors shall be exposed to sale, sold, drunk, or consumed, shall not be such shop or warehouse as aforesaid;And also where any such Dwelling House shall be a farm-house occupied by a tenant or farm servant, and bonâ fide used for the purposes of husbandry only,There shall be charged for every twenty shillings of such annual value of any such Dwelling House, the sum of One Shilling.And where any such Dwelling House shall not be occupied and used for any such purpose and in manner aforesaid, there shall be charged for every Twenty Shillings of such annual value thereof, the sum of One Shilling and Sixpence.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, he had he-stowed great attention upon the whole scheme proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but he intended to confine his observations entirely to his proposal to increase the House Tax. When the right hon. Baronet the late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir C. 1246 Wood), brought forward his measure imposing the House Tax, he stated that he did so solely with the intention of raising the sum required to make good the deficiency occasioned by the repeal of the Window Duties; and he declared that he did not wish to obtain a single shilling more than was wanted for that purpose. Undoubtedly, by the repeal of the Window Tax a very large concession had been made to the public; but the proposition of the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer was in direct violation of the understanding that took place at the time, and which induced the House of Commons to assent to a House Tax in any shape. The effect of it would be to lay every working man, though he only occupied a single room, directly or indirectly, under contribution; and the tax would consequently inflict upon the labouring classes of London, and of most other large towns, the greatest possible injustice. The hon. Baronet opposite (Sir B. Lytton) had said that a tax upon houses was just and fair; but he (Mr. Williams) was directly of the opposite opinion. In the towns—and especially in the metropolis—almost every house would be liable; whereas in the country there would be whole districts in which scarcely a single dwelling would be rateable to the tax. ["Oh, oh!"] He would venture to assert that there were at least 20,000 persons in the constituency which he represented who would have to pay the increased duties, but who had not before been liable to the tax; whereas in the country there was not one farmer in ten who would come within the scope of the measure. Again, in the country the houses of gentlemen not being rated according to their cost were often treated with notorious partiality; mansions that had cost 50,000l. or 100,000l. to build, being frequently charged at only 150l. or 200l. a year. It was this which had formed one of the chief grievances of the old war Property Tax. Why, one of the richest noblemen in the country had once occupied one of the most splendid houses in the metropolis, and yet he was rated at very little more than the next house which had only two windows to each story. He (Mr. Williams) had attended on the previous night a very numerous meeting of his constituents, at which a very high authority in the parish of Lambeth stated that the imposition of the proposed House Tax would disfranchise 2,000 electors in that parish alone. It would embrace every 1247 house in the parish, and would lead to the wholesale disfranchisement of voters. Indeed it was his opinion that this tax had been proposed for the express purpose of disfranchisement. In the small country constituencies the disfranchisement of ten or twelve voters would make all the difference; and Gentlemen on the other side looked more after these things than those who belonged to the Opposition, and especially to the party with which he (Mr. Williams) was more immediately connected. They went about with tax collectors, and having discovered what voters were in arrear of their rates found means to pay them for them. He (Mr. Williams) did not object to the reduction of the duty upon malt, though he thought that the benefit both to the consumer and the barley grower had been very much overrated. He was also a strong advocate for the reduction of the duty upon tea, and for the abolition of the Light Dues; and, if the House adopted these reductions, they must of course provide some means of making up the deficiency; but he did object to any attempt to so by an increased House Tax. He would point out, however, to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer other means for making up the deficiency. There was a tax which affected most oppressively one class of the community, but which, at the same time did not affect the rich, but which ought to be extended to them—he meant the Probate and Legacy Duties, which were at present levied upon personal property of every description, but from which all real property was exempt. If a man, by a long life of penury, should be able to leave 20l, though the very bed on which he died and the clothes he wore were valued to make up that sum, it must be taxed 10 per cent; but a person might leave a vast landed property—a property perhaps of 50,000l. or 100,000l. a year—and it would be entirely exempted from these duties. Was that fair or just? The present Probate and Legacy Duties produced 2,400,000l. a year; and if the right hon. Gentleman would extend them to real property, he would not only be doing equal justice to every class of the community, but he would have ample funds with which to carry out his contemplated reductions of taxation. There was, by-the-by, another impost, the removal of which was cryingly demanded, and that he ventured also to press upon the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman, namely, the duty on soap. To 1248 return, however, to the subject now before them, he trusted that the Committee would sanction the principle to which he had adverted, and that the right hon. Gentleman would reconsider his Budget, with a view to adopt his (Mr. Williams's) proposition, and so to put an end to a system so iniquitous as the present. With this view he begged to submit to the Committee the Resolution which he had put into the hands of the Chairman; and in conclusion, he wished to express his opinion that the greatest credit was due to the right hon. Gentleman for the announcement he had made relative to the payment into the Exchequer of all the public money, amounting to 6,000,000l. a year, which was now paid over, without the authority of this House, by the various departments that collected the taxes. He also thought that the greatest credit was due to the right hon. Gentleman for the announcement of his intention to review the whole of our public expenditure, with a view to a considerable reduction in the different public offices. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would remain in office long enough to carry out these important reforms; but he was sorry to say that he could not vote in favour of his scheme for extending the House Tax, because he looked upon that scheme as founded on injustice and inequality. If, however, the right hon. Gentleman would adopt his (Mr. Williams's) proposition, he thought he should have little difficulty in accepting the rest of the Budget; and he certainly much approved of the distinction which was proposed to be made in levying the tax upon fixed and uncertain incomes. He would now beg to move the Amendment of which he had given notice.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That in lieu of an increase of the Tax upon Houses proposed by the said Resolution, real property shall be made to pay the same Probate and Legacy Duties as are now payable on personal property.
begged to ask how they were to come to a decision upon this subject? He would venture to submit to his hon. Friend (Mr. Williams) that his Amendment did not meet the object for which the question had been brought forward. The point they had to decide, was, whether they were disposed to accept the Budget, and give the Ministers time to carry it out; or whether they should, in limine, reject it altogether, and tell them to go about their business? The Amendment, therefore, could lead to nothing; and 1249 he submitted to his hon. Friend that he had better wait until the Government should bring in their Bill altering the tax. That would be at least an intelligible course.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, that the Motion he was proposing could not be brought forward as an Amendment on such a Bill as that to which the hon. Member for Montrose had alluded. He was supported by a high authority in the opinion that this was the best and most just means of bringing the question forward.
§ SIR ROBERT H. INGLIS
said, he wished to make an observation on what had fallen from the two Arcadians opposite. He agreed with the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) that the proper time for raising the question, which the junior Arcadian (Mr. Williams) had introduced was when a Bill was brought forward. Strange to say, he agreed with that hon. Member in his concluding observations: he felt that an appeal ought to be made to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reconsider the exemptions that were previously in force, and some of which he proposed by this measure to continue. He could very well understand a system of taxation which excluded all exemptions whatever, and touched the labourer at 12s. a week equally as the man of an independent income. That was intelligible. But, if exemptions were introduced at all, he contended— whatever might be the point at which they fixed the limit, whether it were 100l. or 150l. —that limit ought to be observed in all incomes, whether in the case of the income below the limit, which was therefore exempted altogether, or in the case of an income above the limit, which ought to be taxed only on the amount of the excess. If they felt that a man with 150l. a year ought to be exempt from the Income Tax, they ought to exempt all small incomes to that extent. For instance, if a man was in the receipt of 160l. a year, they ought to exempt the original 150l. upon which the assessment had hitherto been made, and only charge him for 10l. The same should be done with incomes of 300l. or 500l., and up to 1,000l., at which the whole income might be taxed. If it were fitting to exempt a party who only received 150l., they ought in consistence to extend the boon, and grant it to those who had an income of 150l., plus 10l. The case was peculiarly hard at present on those who had about 151l. They were a great deal 1250 worse off than those who had only 150l. To Members of that House it might be a matter of no consequence whether they paid 4l. 7s. 6d. a year more or less, but to their poorer fellow-countrymen it made all the difference between comfort and necessity. In their behalf he contended that if an Income tax were founded upon exemptions at all, it ought to be done upon a different principle. Then there was the case of those of a particular profession. The right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer suggested the relief to all clergymen having 100l. a year; and he hoped this would not be objected to by any one. But he had been surprised to hear it calculated by a former Lord of the Treasury that the loss of 30,000l. thus caused represented a capital of 4,000,000l. He (Sir R, H. Inglis) denied this, and doubted the capacity of one who could make such a calculation to fill the office of Lord of the Treasury. He hoped that not only the incomes, but the houses, of this class of the clergy would be exempted. They were compelled, whatever their privations, to maintain the external appearance of gentlemen; and their exemption or non-exemption would make all the difference between comfort and penury. He implored the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he continued the system of exemptions, to make the assessment over and above the amount of exemption, and also to exempt the clergy of 100l. a year from the operation of the House Tax.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, he concurred entirely with the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams) in regard to the tax he suggested as a substitute, provided one was necessary; it would be very much better than the Chancellor of the Exchequer's proposition, and very much more just to the country. But he did not think it advisable that that proposition should he interjected at that moment, when the House was about to consider a distinct proposition made by the Government. As a Resolution with regard to the House tax was now before the Committee, it would be much better to vote "aye" or "no" to that proposition. He did not himself see the necessity for any new tax at all. When there was such necessity, he thought a tax upon successions applying generally to all property, would be the tax that that House ought to agree to; and till that was agreed to, he did not mean to give a vote in favour of any new tax whatever. He begged to suggest to the hon. Member for Lambeth, 1251 whether it would not best serve the discussion of the important question now before them not to have the simple proposition of the Government covered over, so that the Committee might know what it was voting about. Such a course would best serve the purposes of the Government, of the House, and of the country.
§ MR. HUDSON
said, that the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) had asked the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams) to withdraw his Amendment, on the ground that no new tax was wanted. But the hon. Member for Lambeth would be under this difficulty, that he had admitted his entire approval of the Budget, and allowed that a new tax was required. Under these circumstances he (Mr. Hudson) could not see how the Amendment could be withdrawn. Having presented a petition from his constituents against the increase of the House tax, he wished to make a few observations explanatory of his reasons for disagreeing with the prayer of that petition, and intending to support the increase of the tax. Already he thought his constituents were under much obligation to the Government, for their removal from the shipping interest of all those impositions and causes of complaints which that interest had so grievously laboured under. That interest had had justice done to them, and no more than justice. But even that they had sought unsuccessfully for years, and whatever Government was at the head of affairs, he had assisted them. From this Government they had obtained it, and in the removal of their grievances, and so far as that part of the Budget went, his constituents were under very great obligations to the present Government. If, then, they were to have added to this the benefits of cheap tea and cheap beer, they could scarcely complain if they suffered a little in some other way, especially when the loss was so disproportionate to the gain. When he looked at the result of the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer's operations, he found a reduction of 3,000,000l. of taxation, and an imposition of 1,000,000l., therefore, as a part of the community, his (Mr. Hudson's) constituents must derive great advantage from the Budget. Taking first the reduction of the Tea duties, if it, while extending the comforts of the poor, extended also our commercial relations, he was satisfied that it was a wise measure, and only regretted that instead of having to carry the reduction over six years, they were not able to carry it out immediately. 1252 As regarded the reduction of the Malt Tax, he believed it would have a most beneficial effect on the agriculturist as well as upon the comforts and enjoyments of the poor. He was one of those who thought the total abolition of the Malt Tax most desirable, but it was apparently, for the present, impossible. However, he believed the abandonment of one half of it must lead in no short time to the abolition of the other. He was satisfied that eventually the whole of that tax must be done away with. As regarded the Budget generally, he was satisfied, from his connexion with numerous parties, that it was acceptable to the country. He was satisfied that the real opinion of the hon. Member for Lambeth, had he appeared there as the representative of an agricultural instead of a town constituency, would have been in favour of accepting the whole Budget; for himself, even if it should be offensive to his constituents, he was perfectly ready to give his support to the increase of the House tax. The right hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone), whose opinions must always have considerable weight with the House and the country, said that they had no right to make a difference between incomes derived from real property and from precarious sources. But if the right hon. Gentleman had proved anything he had proved too much, for it went to the extent of showing that they could not tax funded property at all. To put a tax on funded property, whenever the necessities of the country required it, had been the custom ever since that kind of property existed. But he would ask the right hon. Gentleman was there no difference between real property and fluctuating, or precarious incomes; was there no difference between the case of a gentleman obtaining his 500l. a year from real property, and that of another gentleman earning the same sum by his own talents? Was there any one could say that a person receiving his income had the same objection to pay for the public maintenance as the individuals who had a fixed and ascertained real property? Everybody out of the House would thank the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the bold manner in which he had acted; and he (Mr. Hudson), for one, rejoiced that the right hon. Gentleman had not been bound down and fettered by the precedents of former times, but had taken a course which he (Mr. Hudson) believed consonant with good faith, and beneficial to the country at large. 1253 The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford had stated that the Ways and Means would not be equal to the expenditure of the country. On the 5th of October last, there was a surplus of 2,000,000l. He did not think that surplus would be diminished on the 5th of January next. Any person who knew the resources of the country, must be fully aware that the revenue of the country must largely increase, and that there would not only be a surplus, but a very large surplus, if the financial arrangements of the Chancellor of the Exchequer were, as he hoped they would be, fully carried out. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell) had stated, to his (Mr. Hudson's) great surprise, that considerable alarm existed in the public mind with regard to this Budget. But he, who mixed very much with commercial men, and knew well the state of commercial feeling—perhaps there was no man whose transactions were of equal magnitude— could assure the Committee that the Budget had created no alarm either in his mind or in that of gentlemen in the commercial world much more able to judge than he. On the contrary, it had created a strong sense of obligation in the public; it had caused a rise in all the public securities. There could be no better test than this, that when the Budget was announced the funds rose. The poor were to have cheaper tea and cheaper beer; the trading classes were to have cheaper tea and cheaper beer, and to be relieved of part of the Income tax. He was sorry that these reductions necessitated an increased House tax, but it was to be remembered that this increase affected not the poor alone, but those who lived in large houses. He should pay nearly double by it. He should have to pay 56l. instead of 28l. He was glad that the hon. Member for Westminster (Sir J. Shelley) had withdrawn his Motion; he could assure the hon. Baronet that what the country, which was looking on with contempt at the proceedings in that House, really wanted, was decision, and if a decision could be obtained that night it would be a great benefit. It would be a great boon if they could decide at once without an altercation. The Budget conferred great benefit on the poor, and the whole country; and he believed he stated the feelings of eight or even ten out of twelve commercial men, when he said that the commercial advantages of the right hon. Gentleman's course of policy it was impossible to over- 1254 rate. He thought the hon. Member for Lambeth quite right, and trusted that the remarks of the hon. Member for Manchester would not drive him from his purpose.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, he would beg leave to withdraw his Amendment. As many hon. Members near him shared in the feeling of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright), that a distinct vote should he taken on the House tax, unencumbered by any other Motion, and as he should be very sorry to risk the loss of one vote against that tax; he would consent to the appeal which had been made to him, and withdraw his Motion, but he would take the earliest opportunity of submitting it again to the House.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. PHINN
said, he would not have ventured to present himself to the House thus early in his career as one of its Members, because he knew that on financial topics and on questions of such magnitude professional men were rarely listened to, and that they were expected to confine themselves to subjects in more immediate connexion with their own pursuits; but that, representing a large and important constituency, who had thought fit to confide their interests to a lawyer, he felt it his duty to disregard all those feelings and inclinations of his own which would have induced him to postpone addressing the House, and to represent the views and wishes of those who had sent him to Parliament on that important and most momentous question. The great controversy of free trade having been settled by the late election, it had been his wish to give Her Majesty's Government the fullest support in any measure they might propose to carry out the policy they had adopted, and to give them the most ample consideration for the position in which they were placed; and it was in no factious spirit, and with no party object, that he rose now, feeling it necessary that he should do so, to offer his most determined opposition to the plan submitted to the judgment of the Committee. His reasons for that opposition were twofold. He felt that the House tax was not called for by the exigencies of the country, and that it would inflict on the people twofold evils. First, it would affect them financially most unfairly and unjustly; and, secondly, their political existence was involved in this proposition, because they felt it was a measure of disfranchisement to a great body of those who had hitherto been admitted to 1255 have ft voice in the country. Whatever censure might be cast on the 10l. householders, he had never found them backward in sharing their fair proportion of taxation. He had never heard from them any murmurs, except against extravagant and excessive expenditure; and those who represented the new constituencies created under the Reform Act had always given Government a willing aid in providing for the exigencies of the State. Therefore he said their voice was entitled to be heard on that most momentous occasion; and therefore he would dwell on that view of the question alone, were it not mixed up with other considerations, and were it not that the plan of the Government on this point was so united with other portions of their proposition, that it was necessary to view it not merely as an abstract tax, but in relation to the other subjects which had been introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the House the other night. They were entitled to ask—was that new tax rendered necessary by any public or political exigency? Were we carrying on any extensive war? Was there a deficiency in the Exchequer? He apprehended no such exigency existed. It was, in fact, a mere question of shifting the burden of taxation. It was a question whether one class was to be relieved, and another was to be burdened—vvhether the poor, who were struggling, were to have added to their struggles a new burden of taxation, while those who were comparatively well off were to be relieved of their fair share of those burdens. When Parliament assembled to hear what Her Majesty's Government had to propose on financial questions, he expected from the election speeches and the trumpeting of the Government organs that there would have been at least an attempt to lay down some plain and intelligible principle on which our future taxation was hereafter to he conducted. They had been told in various quarters, and from high authority, that the Government had a secret which would reconcile party feeling and compose all party jealousies—which, without pressing on one class more than on another, would raise what was necessary for the State with the applause and approbation of all. He had thought that the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, during his researches in financial science, might have discovered some secret which had baffled the genius of Pitt, and had eluded the grasp of Peel; but he found no such principle 1256 enunciated. He had waited for, but had not heard, the solution of the problem—in what proportion, if you had a system of direct and a system of indirect taxation combined, they were respectively to be imposed; how far, if you had the two systems together, you were to let the application of the one be such as to lighten the rigours of the other. A more important question in the whole range of political science than that of the exact proportion in which one system was to be applied rigorously, and in which the other was to he applied moderately, did not exist; but that question had not been decided by Her Majesty's Government. Another question which he had hoped to hear solved was whether, in reducing taxation, you should reduce the duties of Excise or the duties of Customs. Considering the importance of Excise restrictions—those impediments in the way of producer and consumer—the domiciliary visits, the minute details of the system so distasteful to Englishmen, he thought they would have had some solution of the difficulties of that system; but he had been disappointed. The great fault of the Budget was, that it laid down no new and intelligible principle of commercial policy, but left that great question still untouched and unsolved, and that there was no guiding principle to rule its details. Much of the right hon. Gentleman's statement, indeed, he was disposed to agree with, because it set forth the views of those on his (Mr. Phinn's) side of the House, who had always contended that there was no class with just grounds of complainst against recent legislation, and that those clients of the Chancellor of the Exchequer whose combined action had lifted him into power, and who had been told at various country dinners that the agricultural interest and the West India interest had great grievances which he would redress, though he now told them all their statements were fallacious, would be deceived by the right hon. Gentleman when he came into power. They were quite right, and they now saw the right hon. Gentleman who spoke of those inequalities and grievances telling his followers that they could not have any further protection, and that they must trust to themselves. That was the doctrine they on his (Mr. Phinn's) side of the House had always contended for in opposition to the right hon. Gentleman. Concurring with the right hon. Gentleman in the propriety of making a distinction between income derived from the land and 1257 from individual exertion, and of putting a proportionate tax on each, he could not agree with him in the propriety of taking off the Malt tax, which was, however, the pivot on which his whole Budget turned. He proposed to reduce the tax one-half; but he would still leave all the same restrictions and the same control over the farmer as before; and, while he diminished the revenue considerably, he would leave all the evils of collecting the tax untouched. The expenses of collecting the Malt tax were now 6 per cent; if the tax were reduced one-half, the expenses of collection would be 12 per cent. If they professed to take off the tax in the interest of the consumer, it was a great mistake; the fact was, that the reduction would not benefit the consumer one halfpenny, or probably one farthing, in his pot of beer, and that the profit would go into the pockets of the great maltsters, brewers, and publicans, and not to the labouring classes. In return for the deduction of the duty on tea, they were to have a reversal of the policy which Sir Robert Peel, not for the first time, had proclaimed, that in apportioning the contributions of the various classes to the taxes, you must exempt, first, the mere labourer; secondly, those struggling to maintain a decent appearance in the world on slender incomes; and, thirdly, those who had realised by great exertions some small modicum of money, regarding it as a subsistence whereon to retire in their old age. But that principle was entirely violated in the Budget, and these classes were attacked in more ways than one, because, while the people were called on to pay an Income Tax on the profits of trades and professions reduced to a lower rate than before, they were at the same time subjected to an increased House tax, so that a person with 145l. a year, living in a house of 16l. a year, would have to pay an Income tax from which he had hitherto been free, and then have to meet a House tax from which he had been also exempted hitherto. He was willing to admit, if any overwhelming necessity could be shown for that increase, and if Government could not have gone on without it, that it would be the duty of the people to submit to it; but with a rising Exchequer, and with a large surplus, it was too much to call on these struggling classes to consent to the imposition of fresh burdens. It must be remembered that the House tax was only an Income tax in another shape. The worst of the tax was that it did not compass the end proposed, 1258 and it was imposed as if the expenditure of income on a man's house bore in all cases a material proportion to his whole income. But let them take the case of a man with 10,000l. a year. He lived probably in a house of 500l. a year, and would not pay more than 5 per cent, while in the case of a man of 1,000l. a year, who probably would live in a house of 100l. a year, taking the average of England, the tax would come to 10 per cent; and when they came to a man of 150l. a year, they would find that he paid 15 or 18 per cent for his house. Therefore the House tax, brought down so low and not graduated, was an unjust and unequal Income tax. And now he approached a part of the subject on which his constituents felt most deeply, and to which he would address a very few words. He had already told the Committee they looked on this proposition as a disfranchising Bill, and he would now state their reasons. There were, he believed, about 90,000 voters on the registries in England, and, as far as they could be ascertained, about 320,000 of them lived in houses of between 10l. and 15l. a year. He asked any hon. Gentleman acquainted with the operation of taxation in towns how far the consideration of paying 15s. a year more would operate on a man in reducing his rent? They would find that the tenants would constantly apply to the landlord, and say, "Reduce your rent to 9l. 18s., and I will keep on, for 15s. a year will be a great gain to me." Well, then, when the revision took place, the first question of the revising barrister would be to each man, "Do you pay the House tax?" and, if the answer were in the negative, it would be considered conclusive against his right to be on the registry; and no doubt it was so intended. It was but the day before yesterday that the Government had successfully resisted a moderate proposition to alleviate the pressure of the assessed taxes on the voter, and now they introduced a proposition which would press on the voter still more. He repudiated this principle as unjust and unfair from beginning to end, and so long as they retained it the advocates of extended franchise would use it against them. The measure of the Government appeared to him to be conceived in a double sense. They had been told the functions of the Government were twofold—first, to settle our financial policy; secondly, to restrain the progress of democracy. He believed they had combined those two objects in the present measure, and that they had 1259 endeavoured to disqualify for the suffrage those most opposed to them, and who constituted the strength of the adverse benches; for in proportion as they affected the 10l. householders, to that extent would the forces of the Opposition be diminished. On that ground alone those in favour of extended suffrage would found an argument against the measures of the Government, and there would be a renewed agitation got up by the disfranchised householders, which might be fatal to the institutions of the country, and for which they would have to thank a Conservative Government. He felt he had trespassed far more on their patience than his position in the House entitled him to do, but he would not have discharged his duty to his constituents if he had not taken that opportunity of laying before the Committtee their views and wishes with regard to the great question they were then discussing.
§ MR. E. BALL
said, he could not, like the hon. and learned Member who had just sat down, apologise to the Committee for addressing them as a new Member, for he thought if there was one Member entitled to greater consideration than another it was the youngest and most recently elected. He had listened to the hon. and learned Member with dissatisfaction—not because he was a young Member, but—because, as a professional man, he had not justified the conclusions at which he had arrived in the course of his address by any fair reasoning. He stated there would be a disfranchisement of the 10l. householders, but at the same time he declared they were always most willing to bear taxation. If they were willing contributors to the exigencies of the country, how was it possible they could be disfranchised by being called on to pay a fair proportion of the taxation of their fellow-subjects? Why should they seek to be exempted from that which all other classes had to pay, and which had always been considered as connected with representation, namely, a share in the general burdens? He had been exceedingly pleased with the observations of the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Walter), who, with fearless integrity,. declared his belief that if the measures of Government were requisite, he would not regard any clamour that might be raised against them; and he believed there would be no clamour at all. He maintained that they must regard the present system as a part of the whole 1260 system now produced; and if hon. Gentlemen opposite could bring forward objections to the taxation of houses, he (Mr. Ball), and those who sat on that side of the House, could bring forward objections to other parts of the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer's proposition. Hon. Gentlemen opposite dwelt on the reduction of the Malt tax as if it was entirely a benefit to the farmer. But was it no advantage to the beer drinker and consumer? Would the occupiers of houses in great towns gain no advantage from it? It had been suggested that the brewer would reap, in a great measure, the result of the remission upon the Malt tax; but the monopoly of the brewer was strong enough already, and the consequence would be, therefore, that if any attempt were made to extend that monopoly, the public would rise up and demand an alteration in the whole system of brewing. As an occupier of land, he would much rather have had, and he thought they ought to have had, not only a remission of one-half, but the entire abolition of the Malt tax. This would have been a double advantage; we should have had beer considerably cheaper, and all the expenses of raising the Malt tax would have been done away with. But, as the proposal now stood, it must be remembered that while the agriculturists reaped some benefit from the contemplated remission, they would also experience some disadvantages. At present no foreign malt could come into the country; but now the foreigner was to have the privilege of introducing malt, which would be an advantage to the consumer of beer, and a disadvantage to the grower of barley. They were now, too, under restrictions in making malt, and were subject to very great inconvenience from those restrictions. The foreigner, however, would have none of these, for he would make his malt as he pleased, and without the scrutiny of the supervisor and exciseman. Again, the maltster was subjected to very great disadvantages which the foreign maltster did not labour under. Perhaps many hon. Members were not aware of the very exorbitant security which all maltsters were called upon to give—a security not only for the actual amount of malt made by them, but for double that amount; and one gentleman largely engaged in the trade had told him that he had been obliged to find two bondsmen for the amount of 50,000l. All this, of course, would not attach to the foreign producer of malt, who would be enabled to bring 1261 his commodity into the English market under very advantageous circumstances, and the competition which would thus arise would be another benefit to the beer consumer. Altogether, the proposed remission, while it would be, he would not deny, of some advantage to the agriculturists, would be of much more advantage to the consumers of beer. With respect to another item in the financial scheme of the Government, the disappointment of the agriculturists was greater than that felt by them with regard to the Malt tax. They had always been led to suppose they should have very great relief afforded to them in the Highway, County, and Poor Rates. All of them looked for some relief from that quarter. They did not, it was true, know how it was to come, but they thought everybody was to pay a less amount of taxation in this shape. They did believe there was a power especially communicated to the Chancellor of the Exchequer; they did not suppose him to be an alchymist at whose touch everything would turn to gold, hut thy believed him to have a power surpassing that of all other men, and that by the exercise of a magician's wand he could give the agriculturist great relief. When, therefore, hon. Gentlemen opposite came forward to complain of a certain part of the financial scheme which touched their constituents, it must be remembered that the representatives of the landed interest had greater cause to complain that it was not a boon to them, but just as much a boon also to other interests represented in that House. Well, then, how did the party with whom he was connected propose to act? Did they propose to come forward and say they would oppose the scheme because it was not a positive benefit to themselves? No! He would not advise his constituents to do so; he would not come forward in a party spirit, and say the Government ought to have done more for them; but he would say this, that it was his firm belief, looking to the whole of the measures proposed, that the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer had laid before the House such a scheme as ought to have been concocted by a man who considered himself not a Minister of a party but a Minister of his country and of the community at large. He (Mr. Ball) was bound also to state that he did think it was a fair proposal to all the various sections and classes in this country, and that there was not one part of the community which could say that they had been touched, and that 1262 any other class had been left untouched; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with equal justice and great fairness, had so framed his Budget that it bestowed upon all classes greater benefit than inconvenience; he should, therefore, most willingly give his vote to the passing of the whole scheme. He was prepared to take it as a whole, and as the best which, under the circumstances, he could get. ["Hear, hear!"] He granted that he expected more; he granted too, that he wished for more. He had come into that House as an advocate of protection, hut he soon saw he could not obtain that, and he was prepared, therefore, to abide by the decision of the majority. If the population of this country were to turn round, perceive the errors into which they were led, and demand the restoration of protection, he should be very glad to see the House once more revert to that principle; but so long as the opinion of the country remained what it was, he considered the question of protection was terminated. And now, what did he ask them to do? They had annihilated protection; now let the country have entire free trade. Let them abolish the duties on all manufactured articles—from metal, which now paid an import duty of 10 per cent; let the duty on soap be struck off, and let entire free trade prevail. He had given over protection; he meant now to be an honest Freetrader. He meant now to ask hon. Gentleman opposite to stick to their text-—-not to be partial in their sympathies —to deal with their own friends as they had dealt with the agriculturists. And what he should have liked to have seen, what he should have thought more just, and more equal, and what would have been more acceptable to all classes, was, that everything should have been made free, and then an ad valorem duty placed upon every article. The announcement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to the boon proposed to the sugar trade, had been followed up the other night by a statement made by the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Wilson), who declared that our West India Colonies were in a very flourishing state, and exported more sugar than before. Now, if there was one subject which he (Mr. Ball) felt more confidence upon than another, it was his conviction of the want and misery which rested upon these Colonies generally, and upon Jamaica more particularly. That island was described to him by missionaries of every 1263 sect who had returned from it as a perfect wreck and ruin. This very summer he met with a member of the Church of England, a man of very high standing, who had been ten years in Jamaica, and who stated that he could not give representation to any distress and suffering which was not equalled and surpassed by the state of things there. His informant added that the measures of 1846 had entirely desolated that beautiful island; that they had had schools, and churches, and chapels, but that half of them were closed, and multitudes of the poor blacks who had been taught in those schools, and who had assembled in those places of worship, had now gone back to heathenism. And yet he was to be told, as compensation for all this, that the quantity of sugar exported from Jamaica was equal to what it ever was before! Was this test of increased production always to be taken as the criterion of prosperity? The question had suggested itself to him, on hearing this argument, whether we had any example in sacred or profane history where a people had increased their tally in spite of their burdens, and he had remembered the burdens imposed upon the Israelites, and their result. He was not quite sure but that greater production was an evidence rather of the higher degree to which the powers of the people were tasked, than of prosperity. He must apologise to the Committee for the length to which his remarks had extended; but, connected as he had been with the National Association in all its ramifications, he had felt that he Should not be performing his duty, if he did not state the conclusion at which he had arrived with respect to the financial Scheme of the Government. That scheme, he repeated, he was willing to take as a whole; but, believing that the consumption in tea and malt would be so much increased that the revenue would not suffer to the extent of the half duties which were proposed to be remitted, he hoped the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer would be enabled in the course of a short time to take off the other half of the Malt tax.
§ MR. MONCKTON MILNES
said, he was sure that hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House would receive with great pleasure the adhesion of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, and would gladly receive him into their ranks as an honest Freetrader for ever. With respect to the subject before the Committee, he believed 1264 they were perfectly right in considering the Budget as a whole, because, if it were separated into its different parts, they would be so unreasonable as scarcely to be able to come under the discussion of the Committee. The Income tax, however, did seem to him to stand somewhat separated from the rest of the Budget. Parliament had determined that the system of continuing the Income tax for a limited period should not be disturbed, and he was prepared to enter into the consideration of that part of the subject, in order to come to a decision satisfactory to the country. The question before the Committee on the present occasion was the combination of the repeal of the Malt duties and the increase of the House tax, because, he believed, if these two questions were fairly out of the way, they might come to the consideration of the other parts of the Budget, without any difficulty whatever. With respect to the reduction of the Tea duty, the sacrifice of revenue would be so small as to require no extension of the House tax, and therefore he considered that question to a certain degree out of the range of consideration. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had expressed their desire to set the question of the repeal of the Corn Laws at rest for ever; but he believed they would be entirely deceived, and that they could not have taken a more effectual means to re-open the question of agitation between town and country than by the production of the present Budget. The class which they would provoke to action in the towns by this tax was the class which was most active in the repeal of the Corn Laws —which believed that it carried that repeal—and which would, therefore, regard the imposition of this tax as an act of revenge on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite. That could not but be the feeling of a man who would be called upon to pay four times a year two separate taxes from which he had hitherto been exempt. He knew very well that that was a consideration which would never present itself to a Government framing a financial proposition; but he was certain that in that light it would be regarded by many persons: throughout the country. He really must say that in his opinion the measures of the Government imposed upon those who be-longed to the landed interest of the country a restraint rather than a substantial advantage. It struck him that the case of the consumers had been dragged into the discussion in a very subsidiary manner; for 1265 of course it was beyond a doubt that the consuming classes were always advantaged more or less by every reduction of taxation. The question, however, which the Committee had to consider was, whether the advantage derived by the consumer was commensurate with the great sacrifice of revenue which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had proposed. In the case of the repeal of the Corn Laws, the voice of the country had fully declared that the benefit conferred thereby on the consumer entirely compensated for any sacrifice which had been made. That point was certainly at one time a matter of controversy, but happily it was now no longer so. If, indeed, hon. Gentlemen were to argue that every advantage derived by the consumer was commensurate with any disadvantage that might at the same time accrue to the country, it would be to force a conclusion utterly untenable. As regarded the repeal of the Malt tax, he, for one, must say that he was very far from regarding it with favour. Even supposing that its effect was to cheapen beer, it should be borne in mind that a very large portion of the people were totally unaccustomed, upon conscientious grounds, to the use of fermented liquors. Indeed, the article of beer was already so cheap that it had been brought into a very general consumption; and, in his opinion, the reduction of the Malt duties would only have the effect of enabling those who already consumed that article to partake more largely of it, rather than increase the number of those who drank it. And this, he must say, he did not deem a very desirable object, for the Committee was well aware of the great misery already caused in large towns by the very large consumption of that beverage. The Government had no right to hold that beer was an article of primary necessity, in the same way that that term had been applied to the use of tea, coffee, or bread. It appeared to him (Mr. Milnes) that a very grave question was involved in the discussion they were then engaged in—a question, the importance of which might be felt for years to come upon the destinies of this country—it was the question of the comparative merits of direct and indirect taxation, a subject which had long occupied the ablest minds of the community. He himself could remember when the advocates of direct taxation formed, as it were, a special sect in the country, and when these gentlemen were regarded as mere speculative theorists by all practical 1266 politicians. Indeed, it was once argued that, in having recourse to direct taxation, the Legislature were receding in the march of civilisation; and Turkey—a country where direct taxation is in the fullest force —was cited in support of this view. On the other hand, it was considered by the earlier political economists that by means of indirect taxation a large amount of revenue might be collected almost without the ratepayers being cognisant of the amount they paid. But there were those, too, who believed that indirect taxation naturally favoured a system of protective duties. And therefore it was that when that system was abrogated by the tariff of the late Sir Robert Peel, the Income tax was imposed. He was quite sure that, no matter whether it be in the shape of an Income tax, or a House tax, the people of this country were fully prepared to submit willingly to taxation; but, then, they must not be called upon to pay more than their just proportion of it; and the question for decision that night was, what proportion ought they to pay? Her Majesty's Government were prepared to impose upon the country a system of direct taxation, but they should be most careful as to how far they would extend it. They had in their hands a most delicate instrument, which, if used harshly, wrongfully, or violently, would be anything but useful to them. So far as Parliament had as yet proceeded, they had only imposed direct taxation upon those backs very well able to bear it. But if the doctrine which had been propounded by his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budgets of this and last year—a doctrine which, he was sorry to say, met with a very large acceptance in that House— namely, that direct taxation was something akin to confiscation—was to be generally received, he, for one, must say that the system of direct taxation would be carried to a point at which the people of England would resist it altogether. To him it was a matter beyond all question that every system of direct taxation must admit of exemptions; and, subject to these, he was quite ready to see it enacted. For the Government might depend upon it that, otherwise, the difficulty of collecting taxation would be so great that the anticipated revenue would never be forthcoming. It was now proposed to impose upon the 10l. constituencies a double duty. Now was such an imposition required by the circumstances of the coun- 1267 try? No case of deficit had been made out to require this enormous addition to the taxation of the country, and he believed the constituencies generally would resist the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman. Hon. Gentlemen might depend upon it that the constituencies of the country would be very imperative in their demands to know the reasons for such legislation. They would be called upon to show how by such measures the springs of industry were to be set free, or the popular wealth augmented—to prove what advantage was conferred upon the people in return for the ill-accepted compensation to the landed interest. The question of the Tea duties depended upon an entirely different principle. The remission proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to him to be a reasonable and prudent one, and one which he (Mr. Milnes) would have supported most heartily, coming from whatever Government it might. To the question of the Income tax, he was ready to give his most earnest consideration; and on this point he was willing to recognise the distinction which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman between fixed incomes and incomes derived from trades and professions, and to accept what the common sense of the country had declared to be rightful, and which he believed to be a very sound and tenable principle of taxation. He believed that a very great deal of difficulty would be got over if hon. Gentlemen would but make up their minds as to the proper principles upon which taxation ought to be levied. The main point, however, upon which he approved of the distinction made by the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, was, that thereby a man's expenditure rather than his income would be taken into consideration. He should have been very glad if they had been enabled to approach the discussion of tonight without seeing it demeaned by the introduction of party questions and party politics. He did not mean to say that the Budget ought to be, as it were, a riddle at which a Chancellor of the Exchequer should be permitted to have so many guesses, a view which seemed to have been taken of it on some former occasions; but, still, he believed that it was impossible for a finance Minister in this country fully to understand what would be the effect of any proposal until it was submitted to the consideration of the public; and he was convinced that any Minister that ignored 1268 public opinion would fail in his duty as a constitutional Minister. Nevertheless, he must prepare the Government for the storm which would yet be excited in the country by their proposed financial measures. But, without yielding to popular clamour, he must express his opinion that the Government had acted most injudiciously in bringing forward this Budget at the present conjuncture, when the question between town and country had been as nearly as possible closed, and was now likely to be reopened by some of the propositions of the Budget. By bringing forward an obnoxious increase to the taxation of the inhabitants of towns in connexion with an advantage to the agricultural classes, they were doing all in their power to increase the storm which they professed themselves anxious to allay. To the proposed increase of the House tax he should give his most decided opposition. He believed it to be an unnecessary measure, and one which ought not to be passed except under circumstances of peculiar necessity; and he feared that it would be most distasteful to the people, not only as an increase of their burdens, but as a favour to the country party at the expense of the towns. A very large number of the present constituency would much prefer going into houses of the value of 9l. 15s., and surrendering the franchise, than remaining in a 10l. house, and thus rendering themselves liable to the tax of 15s. per annum. He did not mean to say that in some future revision of taxation some connexion might not be very wisely established between representation and taxation; but in that case taxation would be associated in the minds of the people with a new privilege, which they would then enjoy. What they would get out of the hard earnings of the man living in a 10l. house, by means of direct taxation, they would lose in indirect taxation, for the 15s. which such a man would have to pay to the House tax, he would, in most cases, deduct from his purchase of exciseable articles. Looking at this question from every point of view, and laying aside all party bias, he (Mr. Milnes) must declare himself utterly unable to support his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in that part of his scheme which related to the increase of the House tax. When he remembered the immense expectations which had been raised in regard to this Budget amongst all classes of society, he could not help believing that it could hardly have been the scheme which 1269 the right hon. Gentleman had had in his mind at the time when he held out to the country the enormous advantages which were to result from his great plan for reconciling all classes; and he (Mr. Milnes) must own that he could not help regarding the present Budget with much disappointment.
§ MR. SANDARS
rose for the purpose of expressing, in a very few words, his reasons for the vote which he intended to give upon this important question. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had laid before that House and the country a large and important measure of finance, and he told the House that, as a whole, they must take or reject it. Mr. Sandars regretted that decision; for while there was much in the scheme of which he approved, there were parts of it to which he felt a strong objection, and he was desirous of having the opportunity of going into Committee on the whole Budget, with a view of weeding out the bad, and preserving the good. But as this course was not left open to him, he must consider the question as a whole, to see whether the good or evil preponderated. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract, who had just sat down, had objected to the House Tax mainly on account of its including houses of 10l. rental. He said it would disfranchise many of the 10l. householders. He (Mr. Sandars) did not fear such a result. He thought the franchise was too much valued by its possessors for them to lose the privilege for the sake of some payment of 10s. or 15s. per annum; if otherwise, he felt no sympathy with those who declined to bear their fair share of the burthens of the country. It had long been a favourite doctrine of hon. Gentlemen opposite that taxation and representation should go hand in hand; and he trusted that now they had an opportunity of practically carrying out that principle, they would not repudiate it. His (Mr. Sandars') objection to the House tax was the proposal of doubling it at a time when our finances were in that satisfactory state that there was no call for any increased taxation. It was at all times difficult and unpopular to increase taxation, but doubly so when the state of our finances did not require it. What was the alleged cause for the increase on the House tax? Why, a repeal of half the Malt tax. He (Mr. Sandars) had opposed the Motion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the North Biding when he proposed the total repeal 1270 of the Malt tax, and he had also opposed the Motion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby when he proposed the repeal of one-half the tax. He had then stated fully his objections to both those propositions, and he now saw no reasons to induce him to change those opinions. He then contended that it would afford but little, if any, relief to the agriculturist, and that he was of the same opinion as Adam Smith, who said, "Five or six millions sterling might be had more easily from malt, and so as to be less burthen some to the country, than in any other way." But the proposal to take off half the Malt tax was much more objectionable than to take off the whole, for it left all the vexatious restrictions and penalties, and the same expenses of collection on half the tax as on the whole. He had also a further objection. At present the manufacture of malt was confined to this country, hut the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed, on the principle of unrestricted competition, to admit foreign manufactured malt at an equivalent duty to that which the maltster at home paid. Barley fit for malting purposes came chiefly from those ports in the north of Europe which were closed by frost from November to March or April; these were the best malting months in the year. But the foreigner, now prevented by physical causes from sending his bailey here, four or five of the best malting months, would, if these Resolutions were passed, be enabled to malt his barley at home, and send it in the shape of malt through the summer months, to the great injury of both the home maltster and producer of barley. Nor would the advantage to the consumer be felt. It would amount to but a farthing in the quart of beer; too trifling a difference to cause a reduction in the retail price, and the large brewer and retailer would be the chief, if not the only, parties who would be benefited by the repeal of half the Malt tax. He did not see the hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Bass) in his place, or he would have asked him if he had lowered his price of beer since 1847, when barley was 60s. per quarter, but had since fallen to 20s. and 25s. in 1850? He had now stated his objections to the Budget of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he would next shortly refer to the bright side pf the question. He approved of the proposed reduction in the duty on tea, though he should have preferred a more speedy plan of arriving at the minimum duty of 1s. per 1271 pound, say in four years instead of six. He thought this a wise and judicious step. Tea had become a necessary of life, and the reduction of the tax would be a seasonable relief to the poorer classes, and at the same time greatly extend our trade and commerce in the East. He also approved of the principle, now admitted by the Government for the first time, of a distinction between incomes from real estates and those from trades and professions. He could have wished the reduction carried further, if not from 7d. to 4d. in the pound, at any rate to 5d. He did not see the wisdom of retaining those fractional parts of a penny when making these extensive changes in our finance. It was proposed to put a duty on malt of 1s. 3½d. and 5 per cent per bushel. Why not say at once 1s. 3d. per bushel, or ten shillings per quarter?—this would be acting like men of business, and plain business men could then understand what they had to pay. It was high time that the 5 per cent on the Excise, and the 10 percent on the assessed taxes, imposed some years ago, by the right hon. Baronet opposite, when there was a deficit of revenue, should now, when there was a surplus, be abandoned. He had now stated what he thought was good and what was objectionable in the financial scheme of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he was bound to say he thought the good preponderated over the bad; and, further, in coming to a decision upon the whole scheme, it was impossible for him to overlook another circumstance, namely, the probable effect of the rejection of the Budget on the position of the Government. Frequent changes in the Government of a great commercial country like this, were greatly to be deprecated; and feeling confidence in the general policy of the Government, feeling strongly the great evils attendant on frequent changes in the Administration, and believing that the merits of the financial scheme exceeded its demerits, he had, after deliberate consideration, decided to give his vote in favour of the Resolutions before the Committee.
§ MR. H. H. VIVIAN
said, he wished to address himself to one or two practical points of the financial scheme. He considered the Budget had set at rest the great question of Free Trade and Protection much more peaceably than it would have been even had the Resolution of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. C. Villiers) been carried. There was a good deal of good in it, and for his part he had 1272 no hesitation in declaring his belief that it was a step in the right direction. The proposed remission of the duty on tea, for instance, was important as much in a commercial as a domestic point of view, and so far as that part of the scheme was concerned, the Chancellor of the Exchequer should receive his willing support. In the establishment of a distinction between incomes derived from realised property and professions, the Government had taken a step in the right direction. He was disposed to look with the same favour upon the concessions made to the shipping interest, though he must at the same time deny that the repeal of the Navigation Laws had inflicted any injury upon that interest, for it was never more flourishing than it was at the present moment; but there were many trifling imposts, such as passing tolls and dues to private lights, which could be abolished with advantage to the shipping interest, but more especially to the coasting portion of it. He decidedly objected, however, to imposing the House tax upon 10l. houses, or to reducing the Income tax to incomes below l50l., as it would be imposing the great burthen of the taxation upon classes that were ill capable to bear it, and he should join his voice to the Opposition in resisting that portion of the Budget.
§ MR. H. DRUMMOND
was never much disposed at any time, in shaping his course in that House, to be governed by considerations affecting the upholding or upsetting of any party or faction; and he certainly was less disposed than ever to be influenced by such motives on the present occasion, when we were about to enter on a new course of taxation, for sure he was that, whether the present Government should continue in office, or be succeeded by another, the principles laid down by the Chancellor of the Exchequer must be adopted and carried out by every Chancellor of the Exchequer who might come after him. This was, perhaps, the first time that any Chancellor of the Exchequer had been able to take advantage of circumstances, and to act as the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire had done. He cast no blame on Chancellors of the Exchequer gone by. He must say that the right hon. Gentleman had done well to bring forward measures which, on the whole, were entitled to the approbation of the enlightened, whatever difference of opinion might prevail as to various portions of the details. But it was, however, 1273 somewhat amusing to witness the extraordinary dismay and consternation which betrayed themselves among Gentlemen opposite on the first appearance of a practical free-trade measure. It reminded one of Milton's description of the feelings in the breast of a gentleman of great notoriety on beholding his own offspring: —Whence and who art thou, execrable shape,That darest, though grim and terrible, advanceThy miscreated front athwart my way?This seemed to be a just description of the Free Traders, and rightly to express the nature of the feelings with which they received a Free-trade Budget at the hands of the present occupants of the Treasury benches. Hon. Gentlemen opposite were frightened at this direct taxation they had so clamoured for, and, in his opinion, they were not far wrong. The question of direct taxation was not a difficult one; but he thought that the system was not carried far enough by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The sources of direct taxation were, first, the land; secondly, the funds; and, thirdly, houses; and the system ought to extend over the whole of those three sources, without exception. Then another tax should be imposed on income, and in this way property would be taxed doubly; first in itself, and secondly in the income derived from it. This sounded very well, but the fallacy of direct taxation had been proved in a neighbouring country on a very large scale. [Mr. HUME expressed dissent.] The hon. Member for Montrose shook his head; but there were others in that House who remembered that, at the beginning of the French revolution, in order to strike at the privileged classes, indirect taxation was abolished, and direct taxation resorted to. What was the result? At the very time when Napoleon was desirous of becoming Emperor, and when he had every reason to natter the people, he nevertheless declared that they must go back to indirect taxation, because direct was found to be totally useless. M. Thiers had described direct taxation in a few remarkable words:— Ce systeme, si beau dans la theorie, si faux dans la pratique. Now, mark! It was by indirect taxation alone you could touch the masses, and when they held up in an offensive way to the public that class which they called the aristocracy, let them remember that the aristocracy, in point of numbers and property, were really as nothing in proportion. You are leading the people to suppose 1274 that the aristocracy are a sort of mine to be worked up for their benefit, and, if they can only get hold of them, all the rest of the public would escape from contributing to the support of the State. This was a fallacy. Those taxes were most productive which were paid by the greatest number of persons. The hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) was the only person who was consistent on this subject. Both in his speeches and writings the hon. Gentleman had avowed his desire to see direct taxation established. He (Mr. Drummond) differed from the hon. Member on the end to be obtained; but he said truly, not only there, but elsewhere, that the people would never pay it, and then the Government would be obliged to abandon their expensive and extravagant establishments. You ought, in conformity with your principles, to extend the House and Property Taxes to the lowest point— to every cottage rated to the poor; but if you did so you would, in troublous times, be unable to collect them. As to the Malt tax he had never advocated its repeal on the ground that it would be advantageous to the landed interest. Instead of this being a question between town and country, it was a question between the shopkeepers, who never drink beer, and the poor, who drink nothing else. The labouring classes in London, to his certain knowledge, saw through the opposition to the House duty. They said that the shopkeepers wished to condemn them to drink blacking, which was called beer. Gentlemen who drank their wine treated this question very lightly. His poetic Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Milnes) was afraid the working men would drink a little more beer, which he thought was not good for their health. The total repeal of the Malt tax would alone have destroyed the brewers' monopoly, and got rid of the expense of collection. Nevertheless, the proposed reduction was a step in the right direction. He had never taken part against any Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he cared not whether he brought forward one or two Budgets in a year. He must say of the last Chancellor of the Exchequer that his calculations had always been very correct, and he never could understand why his own friends should have set about badgering him in the way they did towards the close of his career. It appeared to him that more Gentlemen in the House thought themselves qualified to fill the office of Chancellor of the Exche- 1275 quer than any other under the Government; hut, as far as his experience went, it was a most difficult post to fill, and, for his part, he would never oppose the Budget of any Chancellor of the Exchequer.
* Sir, I think I am acting upon the common understanding of both sides of the House, and upon the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when I assume that the question we are now considering is the whole financial scheme proposed to us by Her Majesty's Government, and not merely the first Resolution concerning the House tax, which constitutes the technical question put by you from the chair. It is, indeed, essential that we should so consider the subject; for without we have regard to the subsequent Resolutions for the remission of taxation, no basis whatever has been laid, no shadow of argument has been given, for the imposition of any new tax, still less for the imposition of a new tax so harsh and oppressive in its bearing as this proposed new House tax. Considering, then, the whole Budget, I am bound, in the first place to call the attention of the Committee to the present financial condition of the country, partly because I have the misfortune to differ, in some respects, from the view presented to us by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and partly because it is absolutely necessary, before we come to a definite conclusion on any financial changes, that we should carefully investigate the existing condition of the country to which these new proposed schemes are intended to be applied.
We must recollect, in the first place, that we are still in the year 1852, and that we have already had two financial statements made to us of the accounts of this very year, which, according to our Parliamentary usage, terminates on the 5th of April, 1853. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a very few months ago, namely, on the 30th of April last, in a speech of remarkable clearness and ability, went through the various heads of the revenue of the State, and laid before us an estimate of what might reasonably be anticipated to be produced by each of them. He also investigated each one of the items of expenditure for the current year, with equal care and precision. The conclusion to which he came himself, and urged upon the House, was, that we might expect a surplus income over expenditure, on the 5th of April next, of 461,021l. The right hon. Gentleman 1276 then concluded his estimate in the following words: "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." I have quoted these words because I wish to say, that having heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman on that occasion, I think the statement he then made was a clear and unvarnished one—that there was no want of ability in conveying it to the House and the country, and that there was no desire to conceal anything from us. I am desirous of now making this acknowledgment, because I am sorry to say that I cannot pay a similar tribute to the speech made to us the other evening, in which I think there were many statements and suggestions calculated to produce erroneous impressions on the country.
Now the surplus, as I have said before, which it was estimated we would have on the 5th of April next, was 461,021l. To this sum we are told to add the sum of 200,000l. saved by the very sudden termination of the Caffre war, an event on which I may in passing congratulate the House, more especially as it certainly was not anticipated by any of us. This addition would raise the surplus to 661,021l. On the other hand, we voted a sum of about 600,000l. on a supplementary estimate for expenditure during the present year. This vote would reduce the surplus on the 5th of April next to a merely nominal sum, namely, about 60,000l. Of course these calculations are based upon the estimates laid before us a short time ago, that is, on the 30th of April last; and I am quite ready to admit that since that time the prosperity of the country has been great, and that probably the surplus will prove to be larger than what might have reasonably been anticipated at the time when those estimates were made. Still we must recollect that the country was in a state of great prosperity during the spring of this year, when these estimates were made; that there was then every reason to anticipate that that prosperity would continue; and that there has not been any very remarkable change in the progress of the country within the last few months to alter materially the elements of our calculation for this current year; In 1277 the absence, therefore, of the same careful examination of the heads of revenue and expenditure by the right hon. Gentleman the other night that were made by him on the former occasion, I am disposed to rely rather on the calculations made at the end of April last, from whence we may assume that though there will be a surplus at the end of this year, it will not be a very large one.
Taking this as the present financial condition of the country, we have now to consider the proposed changes of taxation. And, first, the remission of the Tea duties. I, for one, most cordially concur in the propriety of diminishing the duty upon this great article of general consumption. There is no object that this House should have more at heart than the increase of the luxuries and comforts of the labouring classes of the community; and from the regular progressive increase in the import of tea, and from what I know of the habits and tendencies of the people, I feel satisfied that we may give this great relief without the imposition of any burdensome taxation. At the same time, we are bound to look the subject fairly in the face; and, with reference to the other portions of the financial scheme of the Government, to consider what will be the effect of the remission of the duty upon tea on the future revenue of the country. Now the present revenue derived from tea amounts to the sum of nearly 6,000,000l. It was in the course of last year upwards of 5,900,000l.—an enormous sum; and I was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman did not, in his speech the other night of five hours and a half duration, even mention the magnitude of the sum with which he was dealing, or state what would be the probable loss after the full remission of the duty had taken place. I have endeavoured to form an opinion for myself upon this subject, and the best mode I could think of, by which I could arrive at some probable estimate, was by considering the somewhat parallel case of sugar. During the six years that have occurred from 1846 to 1852, there was every year a reduction of the duty on sugar, similar to that reduction of the duty on tea, which is now proposed shall take place during the next six years. There are many parallel circumstances applicable to both tea and sugar. With respect to each article, the individual consumption by the wealthy, and indeed by all persons of moderate income, is at present unrestricted by the price, so that the increase of con- 1278 sumption due to a remission of duty must take place amongst the poorer classes alone. Well, what was the increase of consumption in sugar during the reduction of the duty? It was so large as to attract the attention of all statesmen and financiers. During the six years while the duty was annually diminishing, the consumption increased 95,000 tons, being nearly 33 per cent upon its consumption in the year 1846. Let us assume for a moment that the same will be true with respect to tea. The consumption is now 54,000,000 of pounds, producing, at the duty of 2s. 2½d. a pound, a revenue of about 6,000,000l. Should the consumption increase during the six years of the diminishing duties 33 per cent, it would become in the year 1859, about 72,000,000 of pounds, which, at a duty of 1s. per pound, would produce a revenue of 3,600,000l. being a loss of about 2,300.000l. as compared with the present revenue. It seems probable that the effect of the proposed alteration would be that the loss under the diminishing scale of duties would increase every year until the year 1859, when the greatest loss would occur; and that after that time the revenue would again begin to increase. I do not, however, pretend to make any confident predictions on the subject; my only object is to show that after having put into some peril so large a source of revenue as that derived from tea, it is our duty to be very careful with respect to any other proposed financial change.
We now come to the case of malt. The excise duty on malt for the last year produced 5,035,559l.; the loss therefore, by the repeal of one half of this duty, assuming that there will he no increase of consumption, will be about 2,500,000l. Now, for my own part, after having somewhat investigated the subject, I can find no reason for anticipating any material increase in the consumption of malt, consequent on the diminution of one half of the duty. On looking back to the past, it appears that the quantity of malt that has been used by the people has been nearly the same, whilst the use of tea and coffee and other articles has greatly increased. The best evidence leads to the supposition that the diminution of half the duty, still leaving the trade subject to all the evils incident to the collection of an excise, would scarcely perceptibly affect the price to the consumer. I think, therefore, we have no right to estimate the loss at much 1279 less than the sum I have before mentioned of 2,500,000l. The same reasoning applies to the Hop duty. It appears that the sum received in respect of hops in the last year was 426,028l.; and I know no reason for supposing that the loss occasioned by the remission of one half of the duty on hops would he less than 200,000l.
These are the several diminutions of revenue proposed by the Government. We must recollect that we have a proposed increase of expenditure also to take into consideration. There is, first, the sum of 100,000l. very properly devoted to the shipping interest. There is, then, the continued cost of the Militia; and, lastly, the other increased expenses fur national defences, amounting, as it appears from the statement of the other evening, to 600,000l. Well, how are all these proposed diminutions of revenue and increased items of expenditure to he made good? A tax on houses is proposed, calculated to produce an additional sum of not more than 1,200,000l. Now, for my own part, I have the strongest objections to this House tax; but before saying anything more particularly about it, I wish to say that my first objection to the financial scheme of the Government is, that it does not put the finances of the country in a sound and healthy condition. I entertain the very strongest opinion concerning the importance of maintaining the income of the country above the expenditure. No one can feel more than I do the hardship of the very many heavy taxes that press upon the comforts of the community; and no one can be more desirous than I am to get rid of many imposts which affect our commerce with foreign nations, or interfere with the manufacturing industry of our own people. But when I consider how it is that a healthy state of the finances maintains the credit of the country, promotes its prosperity, and gives general confidence to trade and industry, I have no hesitation in saying that we should be guilty of the height of folly if, from our objection to temporary hardship, or, from a too eager desire for any anticipated relief, we were to check the progress that is now going on around us, and mar the fair prospect of relief and prosperity that lies before us. I wish it, therefore, to be understood that, strong as are my objections to a House tax, and great as appears to me the folly of throwing away the revenue derived from the Malt duty, I oppose this financial scheme, in the first place, on the 1280 ground that if the proposals of the Government were carried into effect, we should be in danger of a deficiency of the revenue, and all the evils which experience has shown to be consequent on such a state of the finances.
I now come to the consideration of the House tax. We have heard much of the abstract justice of a House tax, if extended as it is proposed to be extended, and we have heard of the evils of any system of direct taxation based upon a system of numerous exemptions. If there were any necessity whatever for a new tax—if, for instance, this country were involved in a war, or if our finances were in a state of embarrassment, or if any other circumstances had occurred, rendering it right that we should call upon all classes to come forward and extricate the country from its difficulties, the case might be different: it is one thing to call upon the 10l. householders to pay in such a conjuncture as I have described; it is quite another thing to call upon them to pay no small imposition for the purpose of conferring an imaginary compensation on the landed interest. No case has been made out to prove that any class, with the exception perhaps of the brewers, would benefit materially by the repeal of the Malt duty; but even if this two millions and a half would go amongst the landed interest, I, for one, deny the wisdom, the propriety, or the justice of raising one farthing from the 10l. householders for the purpose of making this compensation: and now, and upon all subsequent occasions, I shall oppose to the utmost any claim for such compensation. I am not now going to enter into the evidence which has been given upon the question, whether it is not almost a matter of certainty that the brewers are the class who would in reality benefit by the change. They are a body containing many valuable and respectable members of society, but they are not a class who have any particular right to the consideration of this House, so far as their pecuniary circumstances are concerned. It is now about a century since Dr. Johpson, acting as the executor of Mr. Thrale, in disposing of his brewery, indulged in his characteristic magniloquent language and said, "We are not here to sell a parcel of boilers and vats, but the potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice." Since that time the stream of wealth has flowed on in a steady and regular current, and now in the year 1852, 1281 when the brewers are hereafter only to be called on for fivepence farthing, instead of sevenpence in the pound on their profits, I gee no reason why one million of money should be divided amongst them on the 10th of October next, or why there should be a permanent decrease in the revenue for their benefit, amounting to between two and three millions of money.
But let me say one or two words about this House tax proposed to be levied for the purpose of diminishing the malt and hop duties. Let us look back to the past for the country has had some experience concerning the merits and demerits of a House tax. In the year 1834 there was both a House tax and a Window duty, and from each of these taxes about the same amount of money was raised. Lord Althorp being in a condition to reduce taxation, took off the House tax, and left the Window duty remaining. It was before my time, so that I cannot speak from my personal knowledge of the subject; but it appears that Lord Althorp alleged the unpopularity of the House tax, as the reason why he selected it for remission. It appears, therefore, that when the people had both a House tax and a Window tax, and could judge of the effects of both, they disliked the House tax even more than they disliked the Window tax. Now I do know, for it has occurred within my own time, how great was the unpopularity of the Window tax; and I have no hesitation in saying that the difficulty of maintaining any tax equally oppressive and unpopular, is almost insuperable. For my own part, I believe that even if you succeed in imposing this House tax now, the cry for its remission, like what was the cry for the remission of the Window duties, would be so strong that you would be compelled, before long, to give it up, at any risk to the revenue; and for this reason, as well as for the other reasons which I have stated before, I say that the financial scheme of the Government is not a safe one, and ought not to receive the sanction of this Committee.
Her Majesty's Government have told us that they intend to stand or fall by this their Budget. I do not think they were wise in making such an announcement. Let them strike out the remission of the malt and hop duties, let them give up the imposition of the House tax—and with respect to the other proposals made by them, namely, the reduction of the duty upon tea, the relief of the shipping inte- 1282 rest, and the proposed modification of the Income tax, they may well receive the support of the House, and the gratitude of the country. The fact is, that Her Majesty's Government have been guilty of the indiscretion, to use no stronger language, of exciting expectations which they never had any right to believe that they could realise; and now they come with their reduction of duties on malt and hops, to try and make the farmers believe that they have done their duty and verified their promises. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer will find that there is, in reality, no legerdemain in the art of finance—that it is impossible to change taxes so as to please all parties; and that you cannot take burdens off the shoulders of one portion of the community without imposing an equal if not a greater burden upon another class. Let the right hon. Gentleman give up the practice of using extravagant and mysterious language, and state the case fairly to the public; when it will be found that the wisest statesman can do no more with respect to matters of finance than harbour with care the resources of the country— keep down the expenditure with a stern hand—and take off from time to time, out of the legitimate surplus arising from the growth and increased prosperity of the country, that particular tax which presses most heavily upon the capital of the people, or interferes most with the trade and commerce of the nation.
§ MR. CAYLEY
admired the inconsistency of the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, in which the hon. Gentleman had first accused the Chancellor of the Exchequer of courting popularity by his Budget, and afterwards turned round and almost in the same breath counselled his right hon. Friend, for the sake of his popularity, not to persevere with his measures. He (Mr. Cayley) was afraid that the hon. Gentleman's own fear to face unpopularity out of doors lay really at the bottom of his objections to this Budget. The general objections raised to the Budget on the opposite side were equally inconsistent. It was against all rule, some said, to supply a deficiency before a deficit was created—while others resisted the repeal of a tax until the substitute was found. He left it to hon. Members opposite to escape as they could from so evident a dilemma. How any financial reformation could take place under such rules, he (Mr. Cayley) was at a loss to con- 1283 ceive. The hon. Gentleman objected to the largeness of the alterations now proposed in the financial system of the country; but if these alterations were large, that circumstance arose from the neglect of duty of the Chancellors of the Exchequer who preceded his right hon. Friend. A great alteration had taken place in the commercial policy of the country; and before that alteration took place, he (Mr. Cayley) thought that common justice required that they should have accommodated the financial policy of the country to its altered commercial policy. That change, however, did not take place, and he must say that it was the greatest blot, not only upon the Government of Sir Robert Peel, hut also upon the Government of the noble Lord who succeeded it, that no attempt had been made to mitigate the pressure on particular classes by the alterations which had been effected in the commercial policy of the country through a just adaptation to that policy of our financial system which, under protection, had saddled some interests with much heavier burdens than others. Instead of doing that, the Government which preceded the present appeared to sit upon some sort of supreme eminence, looking with sublime and imperturbable equanimity upon the sufferings of millions of their fellow-creatures, as if they were wholly superior to any sense of feeling or of justice. When he, listened to the speech of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other night—that statesmanlike and enlightened speech, in which he took so comprehensive a survey of our financial and commercial policy—what most gratified him (Mr. Cayley) was the tenderness, so unusual in Chancellors of the Exchequer, with which he considered the interests of the overburdened classes, and the evidently searching attention which he had directed to probing the evils brought before him to the bottom, with the view to their remedy. When he listened to his right hon. Friend's statement, another thing struck him with no less satisfaction, which was the vigorous determination that he evinced to carry into every department of the State the same searching inquiry, with a view of cleansing out the Augean stable of the public departments of the rubbish and filth that had for ages accumulated in those departments. He (Mr. Cayley) had often voted with his noble Friend opposite (Lord J. Russell). He had in general supported his Government; he had admired his character; he still re- 1284 spected him. But he was not the less inclined, because sitting opposite to him, to support similar principles. He was still an advocate of freedom in every form, still an advocate of reform and progress-of moderate and rational progress—he had never shrunk, he would never shrink, from the endeavour to correct abuses. He thought the present Chancellor of the Exchequer more earnest in the correction of real abuses than any Minister he had ever known; and on that ground had tendered him his support. What he liked in the reference of his right hon. Friend to the reform of the administrative departments of the country also was, the promise that the country should have—what it had never yet had—full value and full service for the hard money which it paid, and every part of its finances brought under the control of this House applied for the public benefit. His hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire (Sir B. Lytton) had so entirely expressed every sentiment of his own mind on present affairs that it was almost superfluous in him to trespass on the attention of the House; but perhaps he might be allowed to elaborate somewhat more in detail some of the points to which his hon. Friend had referred. He would pass over that portion of the Budget which referred to the relief of the shipping interest and the relief of the West Indian colonies. Nobody denied that their case had been met in a masterly, comprehensive, and just manner — and that not in accordance, remember, with any principles which hon. Gentlemen opposite called obsolete, but in entire accordance with the Resolution of the House, affirming the principle of unrestricted competition, He had long wished to see the grievances of those interests met in the manner they had now been met, believing that if they had only financial justice they would be able to grapple with the difficulties into which recent changes had plunged them; and he was still of the same opinion. The proposed reduction of the tea duty was to be carried out—nobody denied—in a skilful and scientific manner. The hon. Gentleman who spokes last said he would tote for a reduction of the tea duty, but not for the increase of the house tax; and he was not singular in his taste, for many were perfectly willing to accept a boon, but not so willing to pay the price for it. It was impossible for those who mixed with the Members of that House not to know that the majority of them approved of the prin- 1285 ciples of the Budget; and it was not because they disapproved of it, but because of the supposed feeling out of doors, that hon. Gentlemen now raised an opposition to it. He (Mr. Cayley) believed they did injustice, in this supposition, to the public virtue of their countrymen. For his part, he felt convinced that, although a temporary unpopularity might be incurred by a vote in favour of the increase of the income tax or the house tax, the disadvantage arising from this enhanced taxation would be more than counterbalanced by the advantages which their constituents would derive from the other propositions of the Government. The notion of a constituency clamouring, he believed, would be found baseless. Then as to the case of the land. He was not quite sure, however, that the fact that for once the Budget contained an agricultural element in it, was not the secret objection of some hon. Members to it. He (Mr. Cayley) rejoiced, as respected the burdens on land, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had applied himself to the consideration of the malt tax, rather than to the readjustment of local taxation. When the right hon. Gentleman had first brought forward the latter subject when in opposition, he (Mr. Cayley) had, indeed, voted with him rather than produce a division in the country party. But he had stated, at the same time, that he did not concur with him (Mr. Disraeli) in the course which he then pursued to obtain agricultural relief. And for this reason, because, although a transfer of a half or a portion of the poor-rates to the Consolidated Fund might be a material relief to the farmers of Bucks or Sussex, where the poor-rate was sometimes from 5s. to 10s. in the pound, yet to the farmers in the North, where the poor-rate was, perhaps, from 1s. to 1s. 9d., the relief would be virtually nothing at all. For the same reason he rejoiced that his right hon. Friend had not resorted to a relief so trivial as the transfer of the county rate. The relief of 2d. or 3d. in the pound was wholly inadequate to meet the emergency. It was proposed by an hon. Member, by way of Amendment, to meet the deficiencies caused by the Budget, not by an increase or extension of house or income tax, but by the imposition of a probate and legacy duty on real property. This was an arrow stolen from the quiver of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume). But what did this insinuation amount to? His hon. Friend had often 1286 charged the possessors of real property with an accumulated debt to the country on account of exemption from this tax, to which personal property alone was liable, of some 80,000,000l. or 90,000,000l. But the hon. Member was now and then addicted to the convenient habit of looking only to the credit, without examining the debit, side of his ledger. If the land, on the balance of taxation, was fairly liable to this tax, let it be paid, or repeal it on other property. But before doing that, he begged his hon. Friend to call to mind the real facts of the case. Personal property had been legally as liable as real property for 150 years to the land tax. It had been as liable legally to poor-rate as real property for 300 years. It had, therefore, probably escaped between 300,000,000l. and 400,000,000l. of taxation during those centuries by being permitted to evade these taxes. Deduct his hon. Friend's 90,000,000l. from this 300,000,000l. or 400,000,000l., and a debt would be due not from real property, but to it. Personal property had also originally been liable to tithe. Omitting, also, at the present moment the grievous restrictions on land in the shape of malt and spirit duties, there were other taxes under which real property, and land especially, severely groaned, especially the stamp duties on the mortgage and transfer of land, and the assessed taxes which dogged a country gentleman into every corner he could go. Not an inch could he travel, not an out-of-doors pleasure pursue, without having his pocket invaded by them. He hoped hon. Members, before they again reverted to the exemption of real property from probate and legacy duty, would call to mind some of these facts. Now, with respect to the malt tax, he hoped they would not shirk the real gravity of this question, and that the Budget might be discussed on its own merits, without regard to party differences, personal motives, or petty jealousies against Members of the Government. It had been positively admitted in former years, by all who advocated the repeal of the corn laws, that when they were repealed, the malt tax must be removed also. Sir Robert Peel said, "Repeal the corn laws, and you must allow the agriculturist to grow his own tobacco, to grow and manufacture his own beet-root sugar, to grow and manufacture his own malt." The right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle also said that if the corn 1287 laws were repealed, not a single year would elapse before the malt tax also would be repealed; nor could he assign any reason why the agricultural interest should be restricted from raising its own beet-root sugar and tobacco. He asked the hon. Member for Manchester, and other hon. Members who thought with him, how they would like a proposal to subject the businesses they carried on to such restrictions as the farmer had to submit to under the present system. The consumption of his produce was inordinately diminished by the weight of taxation levied on it, as well as by the system of licences—licences to the maltster, licences to the brewer, and licences to the retailer. Then the penalties leviable for infractions of the excise laws were of that severe character that the maltster might incur at any moment, through the delinquency or neglect only of his servant, penalties not only of 100l. each, but cumulative; so that neglect for a number of days together involved a penalty of 100l. for each day in succession. Imagine what would be the consequence if the manufacture of cotton and metals were to be conducted under similar regulations. The hon. Member for Nottingham had just stated the malt tax to be little of a grievance. He would take him to Nottingham, and suppose a pair of stockings might be manufactured for 10d.; they then required bleaching, say at 1d. a pair; but if the exciseman made a demand of 8d. duty on every pair, then if a licence were exacted from the getter up, and a third demand for licence duty from the retailer, how would the stockinger of Nottingham like this interruption to his manufacture, or such a limitation of demand for his article from such enhancement of price? He would not complain alone, he would more probably rebel. This was, in other words, the case of the malt tax. The manufacturers would not bear such a system themselves, and yet they imposed it oh others. They had already clamoured off the Custom duty on raw cotton, and the Excise duty on printed calicoes. This they called free trade; but he appealed to the hon. Member for Manchester to do as he would be done by. The amount produced by the malt tax was 5,000,000l., but the loss sustained by the public from its operation was, as he would show, not less than 20,000,000l. yearly. Ale of a certain quality (ten gallons to the bushel) was, under the tax, charged at 5d. a quart. This, if no duty existed, could under free 1288 competition be retailed with ample profit at 2d. Now 3¼d. in the quart was the proportion of the tax on a quarter of malt. That 3¼d.represented, therefore, 5,000,000l. which was brought into the Exchequer from the malt tax. But 2¼d. remained to make up the 5d. now charged for the quart: in other words, there were three times three farthings additional to be accounted for, which the Excise and licensing system enabled the brewer and maltster to screw out of the public. This represented 15,000,000l. more; making in all 20,000,000l. which this tax levied out of the public, although only 5,000,000l. went to the revenue. And this was called by the disciples of red tape a convenient and politic tax, and cheap of collection. It was, on the contrary, opposed to every principle of free "trade and of political economy, and he defied an answer to this description of the enormity of this tax. It was impossible to argue this question, except in reference to the repeal of the whole tax; and he (Mr. Cayley) understood the proposal as only by way of instalment. The repeal of half the tax might" have some effect, especially under the altered system of credit proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He hoped his hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire was right in estimating the reduction in the pot of beer under a comparatively freer competition at 1d. But if the whole tax were removed, the working man could get his ordinary beer at 1d. a quart, which now cost 4d. A tax which drove the poor man to the public-house, and deprived him of the enjoyment of his domestic comforts at his own fireside, and in the bosom of his family, was of the most pernicious and demoralising tendency; and he could hardly conceive anymore material means by which the morality of the poor could more effectually be improved than by the repeal of this tax; both directly and indirectly, in its reducing the demand for ardent spirits. Then, again, as this tax affected the farmer. There was no article of similarly large and general consumption which had been relieved from oppressive taxation, of which the consumption had not inereased to threefold its former amount. If, then, the effect should be to raise the consumption of malt from 5,000,000 to 15,000,000 quarters, there would be a demand for 10,000,000 additional quarters of barley. Let hon. Members argue the question in this way: They admitted the fall in the price of grain which had taken 1289 place in consequence of the repeal of the corn laws; and having introduced into this country an extra supply of 8,000,000 quarters of grain, if they had also at the same moment created an extra demand to the same extent, no injurious consequences to the farmers would have been felt. How, according to the law of supply and demand, could this position he denied? Thus, in this measure, they had incidentally the true remedy for the mischief worked by the repeal of the corn laws on the land. The hon. Member for Montrose told the agriculturists that they ought to be more scientific; but it was obvious that their legislation interposed the most serious obstacles to the adoption of a more scientific system of culture; for barley growing involved the most scientific agriculture, and this the malt tax virtually prohibited. The right hon. Member for Carlisle recommended them to grow less wheat; but the existing financial system operated as a virtual prohibition of the growth of barley, and made it impossible for the farmer not to place his main dependence on wheat. With respect to the increased demand consequent on the repeal of the malt tax, he ventured to say that there was not an acre of land in the United Kingdom which would not feel the benefit of it. If there were a demand for 8,000,000 more quarters of malt, the farmers must grow less wheat and oats, and the markets would, to a great extent, be cleared of the superabundance of those articles, and their prices would in the end rise quite as much as barley; with the extra advantage that the foreigner could not compete with us in barley; whereas he beat us in wheat. One of the most scientific agricultural writers of the present day, Baron Liebig, showed that the foundation of all improved agriculture rested on the amount of cattle-fattening food which was raised on a farm. One of the most effective agencies in providing valuable fodder was in the distillery of spirits from potatoes, of which there was generally one attached to every farm in Germany. The refuse of the stills afforded the best possible food for cattle, and the farmer was thus enabled to feed his stock at the cheapest rate, by converting the starch of the potato into spirits, leaving the vegetable caseine, the most nutritious food, as the refuse of the distillery. But our heavy duties on spirits operated against our adopting this system. And yet Liebig tells us, that this system was the foundation-stone of the prosperity of 1290 German agriculture; a system from which under free trade our farmers were debarred. How, he asked, could they expect the British farmer to compete with his continental rival, in the face of such obstructions to his trade; or how could our manufacturers compete with their foreign rivals if they were subject to such restrictions? Was it just that the manufacturers of cotton, woollen, linen, metals, should be exempt, while British agriculture was not relieved from such restrictions? It was because he observed in the Budget a disposition to do financial justice that he warmly supported it—justice which was to be obtained in accordance with the present commercial policy, and without injury—on the contrary, with advantage—to all classes. He (Mr. Cayley) had now got to the end of the boons which the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to give by his Budget, and he came next to the price which the country was to pay for them. He knew of no reason why persons living in houses with a rental between 10l. and 20l. should be relieved from bearing their share of the taxation of the country; and had the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he removed the duties from windows, retained the amount of the house tax which he levied as a substitute, there would now have been no necessity to raise it. For the last few years everything had been done for this class, which he might call the shopkeeping class, in the way of taxation. They had got rid of almost all the indirect taxation which pressed upon them; but now, when it was proposed to tax them directly, they called out against it. He did not wish to press unduly upon any class; but fair dealing required that they should pay their fair quota of taxation; and because they happened to be influential in elections was no reason, but rather the contrary, that they should, through a constituency clamour excited in the first instance by hon. Members in that House, be exempted from that fair quota. More he did not demand. He thought that if there was one class of the industrious community more able than another to bear taxation, it was this—the distributing class—which was not exposed to the casualties incidental to the producing interests. Neither was there anything unscientific or objectionable in principle to a house tax. Mr. Mill, one of the highest of the philosophical authorities, specially advocated this as the best form of taxation, it being not merely an income tax, but the best form of one; because it was not a 1291 test simply of nominal, but of the real spendable income of the taxpayer. But there was one reason, and he suspected it was the real reason, why this tax was obnoxious, and this was that it could not be evaded; whereas the present income tax was notoriously evaded to a great extent among the commercial classes by their own admission. Was this to operate with the House as a reason against this proposition? It might, indeed, and he hoped it would be mitigated as between 20l. and 10l. houses; but the principle of its extension could not be and was not denied; nor, indeed, was the justice of the extension of the income tax. There were, however, some who said that the price of the boons conferred by the Budget should be paid, not by England, but by the extension of the property tax to Ireland. Now the whole tendency of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's speech, on proposing the Budget, went to affirm the principle that the land of Ireland should be equally taxed with the land of England. But surely some allowance should be made for the different circumstances in which the different parts of the Empire were at present placed. In consequence of the famine, the fever by which it was followed, the novel imposition of a poor-rate, the repeal of the corn laws, and the various calamities by which she had been afflicted, Ireland was not in a position to be placed upon an equal footing with England at the present moment as regarded taxation; and he thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer had exercised a wise and paternal discretion in exempting Ireland at this moment from the burden of the income tax. And it seemed to him rather surprising that hon. Gentlemen opposite, who protested against the extension of the house tax to the class of persons living in houses between 10l. and 20l., should advocate the extension of the income tax to Ireland, which was certainly less able to bear additional taxation. On these grounds he (Mr. Cayley) supported, in the main, the Budget proposed by his right hon. Friend, and principally because of the spirit of justice and impartiality which pervaded it. To his mind, the Budget meant relief to various interests from oppressive burdens: justice tempered with mercy to Ireland; an equitable modification of the income tax; relief to the masses in their consumption of beer and tea. And the price asked for all these boons was far overbalanced by the gain to every one who would pay it. The rejection of the house tax, on the other 1292 hand, meant an extension of the income tax to Ireland, continued indifference to overburdened interests, the continuance of an unjust income tax, and the loss of cheaper articles of consumption to the poorer classes. But the rejection of the house tax involved something more than the rejection of the Budget. It might involve—I hope (continued the hon. Member) I hope it may not—the fate of a Government. Let new Members, of whom I see many before me, especially consider their present vote in this double point of view. Who are to be the successors of the present Ministry? In financial language, you must supply a substitute before voting a deficit. In what crucible are the incongruous materials opposite to be fused into a political amalgam of sufficient tenacity to hold together? You may, indeed, fuse gold and lead into combination, but you will find the union brittle, and the brightness of the metals gone. You may lose this Budget which you know, and which, as I believe, public opinion will in the end sanction and accept, for a Budget of which you know nothing, and for a Government of which, if possible, you know still less. But there is a constituency power. Believe me, you under-estimate the sense of justice and public virtue of your constituents if you think they will condemn you for obeying the honest dictates of your conscientious convictions. By a natural instinct, as it appears to me, the common sense of the country, unswayed by political excitement, has already in its essence accepted the Budget. Nor can I believe that selfishness or faction, cowardice or clamour, will in the end prevail against it; for it has for its foundations the immutable principles of justice, sound policy, and truth; and on the late triumphant reception of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the City of London I think I read the verdict of the country, and, sooner or later, the irresistible triumph of the financial propositions now before us.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
Sir, if I agreed with my hon. Friend who has just sat down, that the common sense of the country has already accepted the Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I should hardly think it worth my while, on the present occasion, to rise for the purpose of discussing it. But, with great deference to my hon. Friend, I take leave to doubt whether the country has accepted, or will accept, the Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Resolution which has been placed in your hands, Sir, 1293 applies to but a single portion of the Budget, but by common consent, and indeed by the express invitation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, we are now to discuss the main features of his proposals; and it is a proper and legitimate opportunity for doing so. For although some portions of the Budget may well be separated from others, yet many portions of it so hang together, that it would be impossible to discuss one part without taking the others into consideration. Therefore I shall make no apology for addressing myself to the whole Budget, promising that, considering the late hour of the night, I will confine my observations within the smallest possible compass. The right hon. Gentleman divided his statement into two parts, the former treating of the claims of what he called the suffering interests, and the latter of what more properly constituted the Budget. Now this, Sir, I hope is the last time that we shall hear of the claims of the suffering interests. ["Oh, oh!"] As the Chancellor of the Exchequer states that he considers that he has this year, and by his Budget, disposed of the claims of the suffering interests, I am surprised that his supporters should cheer in that derisive manner when I say that I trust that this is the last time we shall ever hear of the suffering interests. The right hon. Gentleman commenced with an elaborate enumeration of the sufferings and of the claims of the shipping interest. Now, I confess, that on looking into this matter, I cannot discover where the suffering lies. I have heard of an increase in the shipbuilding of this country, which certainly seems as if our shipowners were confident enough of their power to compete with the foreign shipowners. It appears by the last trade and navigation papers, that British shipping is increasing as compared with foreign shipping. This is as clearly proved by these returns as facts and figures can do—facts and figures, too, not furnished by us, but by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, who would not suffer them to be falsified. So far as appears from those returns, I cannot discover that there is any suffering needing to be relieved, as far as the shipping interest goes. But the right hon. Gentleman proposes measures for their relief with which I do not quarrel. He proposes to abolish salvage and anchorage; he promises a Committee on pilotage, and, following the course pursued by my right hon. Friend the late President of the Board 1294 of Trade, to relieve the shipping interest from some portion of the charge of light-dues and of passing tolls. That I think is a right measure to adopt. It was advocated by my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose on larger and more general grounds, and on those grounds I think the measure right, but not for the reasons given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Whatever dues he has taken off are taken off from foreign as well as from British ships. It is quite right that this should he done, and I entirely approve of it on general commercial principles; but I say, that it does absolutely nothing towards enabling the British shipowner to compete on better terms with his foreign rival. But in the enumeration of the claims of the shipping interest, the right hon. Gentleman forgot one which was pressed upon me very strongly when I was in office, and the justice of which I felt—I mean the reduction of a duty which has been repeatedly urged upon the attention of the House as one which pressed unfairly upon the British shipbuilder — the duty on timber. The right hon. Gentleman says that henceforth unrestricted competition is to be the rule of our commercial and fiscal policy. In this case, however, the British does suffer under a disadvantage as compared with the foreign shipbuilder; and if the right hon. Gentleman had been disposed to benefit the British shipbuilder, as compared with the foreign one, he would have relieved him from a duty which does press upon him but not upon his rival—he would have followed the example which I set, and would have again reduced the timber duties. This would have been a measure which would have removed a burden from the British shipbuilder, and would at the same time have conferred a benefit upon the community at large. By the measure which he now proposes to the House he will confer a benefit equally upon the British shipowner and his foreign rival; but if he had reduced the duty on foreign timber, he would have conferred an advantage on the British shipbuilder which the foreign shipbuilder enjoys, namely, cheap timber, which would have better enabled the former to meet foreign competition, and would at the same time have been productive of great advantage to the community generally. The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire said that he was in favour of unrestricted free trade. Why not, then, carry out fairly and fully the principle of free trade, by abolishing 1295 the present, protective duty on colonial timber? The next suffering interest to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer alluded was the West Indian interest. I certainly cannot complain of the way in which he has treated the so-called claims of the West Indian interest, for he has negatived entirely their principal demands for altering the duties now in operation. I will not go into this question now, for it was fully discussed last night. All that I need say is, that that which the right hon. Gentleman has said is in the fullest accordance with every view which I have on former occasions expressed, and on which the Government of which I was a Member have acted for years. Did we ever deny that there was temporary distress in the West Indies? which we lamented, and which we endeavoured, as the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies fairly admitted last night, in some degree to alleviate by furnishing loans to enable them to obtain labour—a measure the value of which they seem now beginning to appreciate. But what we said was this—that by improved methods of cultivation, by the introduction of additional labour, and by the application of science to the production of sugar, free labour would be enabled successfully to compete with slave labour. And is it not so? I appeal to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, that at the present time colonial sugar is displacing foreign sugar in our market. Free labour has met with the assistance of science, and it is now successfully competing with slave labour. Sir, the third class of suffering interests to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded, is the agricultural body of this country: he stated, as he has on former occasions stated, that they claimed to be relieved on account of exclusive burdens which justified them in demanding protection or compensation for those burdens. But he has now done that which I think he ought to have done long ago—he has rejected those claims altogether. And I do trust that after this utter rejection of any claims on account of these burdens by him who was their ablest, steadiest, and most constant advocate, we shall not again hear these claims pressed upon the House. Words strong as the English language can afford bound the Chancellor of the Exchequer either to obtain protection or compensation for these burdens. But the position in which he is now placed, and the responsibility which he now feels to be imposed upon him, compel him to 1296 reject those claims. What I do regret and what I think the agricultural body must regret, is the delusion and misrepresentation which has been exercised upon them for the last three years. Will any one deny that it has impeded the settlement between landlords and tenants, and that great evils have resulted from the maintenance of the belief that relief could be obtained by the agricultural interest from these local burdens? That delusion is now at an end; but I know not what, except change of position, are the circumstances which have led the Government to change its opinion on this subject. In 1849 I met the right hon. Gentleman on this question. I then was enabled to state that which he states now—the diminution of the charge of these local rates. The same thing was repeated in 1850, and again in 1851. No doubt the continuance of low prices, consequent upon the abundance caused by our recent legislation— wise, just, and beneficial as I maintain it to have been—has caused a continued state of prosperity. Of course, the continuance of that state of things has more and more improved the condition of the labouring classes, and thereby diminished the charge of the poor-rates, which is the ground upon which the right hon. Gentleman says that he now rejects these claims for compensation on account of local burdens. I must thank the right hon. Gentleman for having candidly made this admission. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department stated that there was an increased expenditure on the relief of the poor of late years, and that this circumstance showed that the country was not now prosperous, and that our recent legislation had not been attended with beneficial results. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer flatly negatived this statement of the right hon. Gentleman. Again, the First Lord of the Treasury and the President of the Board of Trade had tried to show that emigration, and not the reduction in the price of food, had been the cause of the diminution of the poor-rates. But the right hon. Gentleman had shown that there had not been much diminution in the poor-rates in 1852 as compared with 1851; although that was the precise time at which the great increase of emigration had taken place. Glad I am that this admission comes from such a source in such a way that no question can hereafter be raised that the prosperous and well-doing condition of the 1297 community generally, and of the industrious classes especially—taking that expression in its largest sense—is owing pretty exclusively to that legislation of recent years, which those who make that admission still refuse to admit was wise and beneficial.
Now, I will at once pass to those measures in the Budget of the right hon. Gentleman which some parties out of doors are disposed to consider as compensations to the agricultural interest. I must say that I am glad to see that Gentlemen connected with the agricultural interest are satisfied with these compensations, such as they are. Certainly they seem to me to be of very little advantage to the agricultural interest. What benefit is it to them to have a repeal of half the malt tax, accompanied with an extension and increase of the house tax? What is the description of farms which is now most easily let at the best rents? Those on which barley is grown. What is the crop which pays best at this moment? Barley. What stock pays best now? That which is principally fed on barley-growing land, namely, sheep. If there be a description of land to which no boon is required, and for the burdens upon which no compensation can possibly be wanted, it is that land to which, if to any, a boon is given by the remission of a portion of the malt tax. But I must say that I believe, as the hon. Member for Wakefield—a supporter of the Government—has told you, that it will not tend to benefit the agricultural interest at all, because if, as by the admission of the right hon. Gentleman must be the case, in conformity with the principle of unrestricted competition, foreign malt is to be admitted, that will keep down the price of home-grown barley, and prevent that rise which those who have advocated the repeal of the malt tax have always looked for. I am not now arguing this as a consumer's question, I will come to that by-and-by. I am now taking it as an agriculturist's question, and I believe that while the reduction of the malt tax will absolutely give nothing to the agriculturist, an enormous amount of revenue will be sacrificed for this so-called, but illusory, benefit. I believe that the same thing is perfectly true with respect to the benefit supposed to accrue from taking off half the hop duty. The county of Sussex and a small part of Kent no doubt call out for the removal of the whole duty; but even if such a measure as that were adopted, the 1298 benefit to the English hop-grower would be very doubtful. Let me, however, ask hon. Gentlemen representing the agricultural interest, whether there is nothing in the Budget which touches them? I have, on former occasions, in discussing the question of the income tax and the uniform rate of the different schedules, defended the maintenance of that uniform rate, by showing that even if it were admitted that a different rate upon real property was just, the local taxation of this country afforded that additional rate. The local rates fall on the landlords, as everybody knows—they are in point of fact a diminution of their rents. And the boon which the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes to confer upon the landowners of England is, not to relieve them from their local burdens, not in any way to give them relief from the taxation to which they were liable; but while he relieves other schedules of the income tax, to leave a higher rate upon them under Schedule A. That is to say, he leaves a burden upon their backs exclusively, instead of giving them any relief from the burdens of which they have so long complained. I have, on former occasions, taken up and argued this question. I have no other interest in this matter except what may arise from a desire to advocate what I believe to be just and right: I have no interest in depressing land in any way whatever; but it is fair to warn the landed gentlemen of England of this, that they will have put upon them a new burden, how to limit the extent of which it may be difficult to foresee; because I know not that there is any point at which you can limit the amount of difference of rate, if you once give a discretion with respect to the extent of the tax. The right hon. Gentleman says he will tax other property at three-fourths of the amount he taxes the land; I am not going to argue that question, but I warn the gentlemen of England of the consequences of the step they seem disposed to take. The Member for Wakefield has already said that the difference of rate on land as compared with incomes from trade, ought not to be, as proposed by the Government, between 5¼d. and 7d., but as between 4d. to 7d., and if this principle be admitted, there is no limit to the difference which may be made, till it approaches confiscation of property.
I come now to the figures of the right hon. Gentleman, and am about to deal with the Budget of the ensuing year. 1299 I am not now about to advert to the principle of the taxation which he proposes to impose or take off; I am merely about to deal with the figures. The right hon. Gentleman assumes that he will have next year a surplus, everything remaining as at present, of 1,350,000l. He takes it that the vote for the Kafir war will be less than that of last year by 260,000l., leaving a surplus therefore of 1,610,000l. He proposed to repeal one-half the malt tax after October next; that is to say, I apprehend, that the crop of this year is to pay the full amount of duty, but that there will be a drawback on such as remains in hand on the 10th of October next. He proposes a reduction on tea, by which he calculates he will lose 400,000l.; the additional cost for defences he calculates at 600,000l., and the charge on the general revenue of the country by the relief given to the shipping interest at 100,000l., making an additional charge or loss of revenue of 2,100,000l. To meet that there is the surplus I have stated before of 1,610,000l.; he will also have one-half the house tax if the Committee assent to the Resolution now, Sir, in your hands, which he calculates will amount to 500,000l.; and be proposes besides to apply to the expenses of the year 400,000l. being the amount of repayments for next year from the loans made by the Commissioners of Public Works at different periods. The result of the right hon. Gentleman's figures will be an additional charge of 2,100,000l., and additional means to meet that, amounting to 2,500,000l., leaving a surplus of 400,000l. Now the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford stated early in the night that which is, I think, an objection to this measure in limine; and it is this, that the only surplus revenue which the right hon. Gentleman leaves himself, is produced not by the supplies of the year—not from the income of the year obtained from the taxation of the country, but by applying to the Ways and Means of the year a sum which was originally a loan. As I understand what I believe to be the meaning of the right hon. Gentleman, the process is this: several years ago, in times of distress, as the right hon. Gentleman has stated, Exchequer bills were issued, and money was raised upon them, which was advanced to various parties to find employment for the population in time of general distress. Those Exchequer bills were exchanged, paid off, and disposed of in succession; fresh Exchequer 1300 bills being issued until the year 1842, when a stop was put to the issue of Ex-chequer bills, the sum already lent out to, the public being of such an amount that the average repayments amounted annually to about 360,000l. The Exchequer bills then outstanding having been bought with the savings hank money, it was arranged that they should be made a portion of the permanent debt of the country, and that the sum annually advanced should be no more than the amount of the annual repayments. A revolving fund was thus created, whereby the Government and the Commissioners were always in a position to advance money for certain purposes to parties who required it. The right hon. Gentleman proposed to put an end to this Public Work Commission. I entirely disagree with him as to the policy of that course. I am quite ready to grant that at the present moment, as on many previous occasions, money may be borrowed at a cheaper rate than that at which it is advanced by the Public Works Commissioners; but it was part of the policy at all times that the rate of interest should be higher than the market rate, to pre-vent any interference with private capital. Many of the most useful works in the country have been aided by advances from this fund. A sum of 300,000l. in the year has been advanced in England, and 60,000l. in Ireland for the building of gaols, and for the erection of other public buildings, such as lunatic asylums, charged upon the county rates, and for the erection of similar buildings in Ireland, and for arterial drainage in Ireland. For the building of chapels in various parts of this kingdom the readiest assistance is afforded by those loans, the repayments being made in a manner that is remarkably convenient, where the repayments are charged on the rates. I differ with the right hon. Gentleman as to the policy of putting an end to those loans. But supposing the system to be at an end, what is to be done with the money coming in from the repayment of loans now outstanding, amounting in round numbers to 3,000,000l. of money, partly raised originally by loans, partly arising from what the Commissioners called their profits—that is, the difference between the interest paid by the borrower and that which is paid by the country? There can be no doubt that the fund arises from sums originally borrowed, and the interest derived from sums so borrowed; and did any person ever hear it said, or could it he 1301 ever supposed, that it was part of the annual revenue of the country applicable to the annual expenditure of the country? I say that if the loans he put an end to, the produce of this fund arising from the repayments should be applied to the reduction of the debt that was incurred in the establishment of the fund. Will any man get up and say that to create a fictitious surplus, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be justified in borrowing 400,000l.l If he has borrowed it, and if the security given for it be outstanding, ought he not apply the produce to the repayment of that sum? I will venture to assert there is no man who will say that that is not the honest way of applying the money? Why, then, should it be applied differently? The right hon. Gentleman proposes to apply it in a way that will enable him to make up the deficiencies which his proposed reductions will create, and in my opinion he is not justified in doing so. I come now to the Budget of the next year. The right hon. Gentleman says that with respect to the year 1854–5, the loss on malt will be 1,700,000l.; on tea, 567,000l.; on hops, 120,000l.; and on shipping, 100,000l.; making, with the 600,000l. for defences, a total loss of 3,087,000l. In telling us how he will meet that, he says in all probability—and I hope in that expectation the right hon. Gentleman will be justified—the grant for the Kafir war will entirely cease. On that ground he takes credit for 200,000l., making the surplus 1,810,000l. He takes the same sum for repayments as before, he takes credit for a sum of 310,000l. the amount to be saved within that year by the reduction of 3¼ per cents, and calculates the increased house tax at 1,000,000l., making the Ways and Means amount altogether to 3,520,000l., to meet the sum of 3,087,000l., again leaving a surplus which entirely depends—even if all his other figures be right — on the application of money that has been borrowed. I ask if the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control has looked into the Budget, and if he can say, with a knowledge of the facts, with a regard to the public credit—having an intimate acquaintance with all matters of this kind—knowing the state of prosperity the country is in, and the amount of revenue we now have—-that any man is justified in proposing, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the whole of the surplus should be created by a loan, not only this 1302 year, but two consecutive years, and I know not how much longer? In assuming this to be the result for 1854–5, I am assuming that the calculations which the right hon. Gentleman has made with respect to the produce of his taxes are correct. I think, however, I can now show that he is not justified in the calculation he has made. With regard to his calculations as to the loss on tea, I will not refer, as I do not mean to differ with him about small sums, and he no doubt may get the amount on tea that he anticipates; but I cannot agree with the right hon. Gentleman when he says that, in the second year, when the repeal of one-half of the malt duty has come into operation, the loss will only be 1,700,000l. The entire duty being 5,000,000l., the first loss of course by the repeal of one-half will be 2,500,000l. The right hon. Gentleman calculates that in one way or another, 800,000l. of that loss will be recovered, so that the actual loss will only be 1,700,000l. Now, I apprehend that a portion of that increase—the right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong—will be derived by taking away the drawback from the Scotch distillers, which will not be very agreeable to that body, who were such good friends to hon. Gentlemen opposite two years ago when they were constantly seeking to put the Government in a minority on the questions of warehousing home-made spirits. This may amount to 200,000l., and it appears from the right hon. Gentleman's calculation that a sum of 600,000l. is left to be made up by increased consumption. Now, I do not believe that the increased consumption will take place which the right hon. Gentleman anticipates, and I will give you the reasons why I think so. I entirely differ from the calculation of my hon. Friend the Member for the North Riding, and I am not going to base my calculations upon any opinion of my own, or upon what I heard from brewers here, or alehouse-keepers there, but upon facts that are before the House, and upon the evidence of one of the most able men in the country before the Lords' Committee on the Burdens on Land. This is not the first time that a proposal has been made to reduce the malt tax, or indeed that the malt tax has been reduced; and it is a most remarkable thing that the reduction of the malt tax does not seem, in many cases, to have increased the consumption. The malt tax was reduced from 4s. 5¾d. per bushel to 2s. 5d. in 1816, and the consumption of malt fell off 1303 from 26,000,000 of bushels to 20,000,000 in 1818. In 1819 the duty was increased, and the consumption increased. In 1821 the duty was reduced, and the consumption was still to a small extent increased; but the most extraordinary reduction was made in 1830, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge reduced the beer duty. I remember that he did everything that he could at that time to increase the consumption of malt. The Excise Duty on beer was reduced, the licence system was extended, and everything was done to increase the consumption of beer and therefore of malt. There was a reduction of the war duty to the extent of two-thirds on medium, and nearly three-fourths on the highest description of beer, and no doubt some increase of consumption took place. The consumption was increased from 25,000,000 to 30,000,000, 31,000,000, 32,000,000, and 33,000,000 in the following years. But when we come to the years 1841 and 1842, we find the consumption dropping off after the reduction of the duty. [An Hon. MEMBER on the Ministerial benches: There was five per cent increase.] But the increased population would have more than compensated for the increase of duty. I shall now call attention to the evidence given before the Lords' Committee by Mr. Charles Barclay on this subject. Taking the reduction of the beer duty in 1830 at 10s. per barrel, and that the reduction made by the brewer was 12s. per barrel, which made a reduction of 1d. per quart, Mr. Barclay, in reply to a question by the Committee, says the result was, that so far as his brewery was concerned, the consumption increased about one-third. But it is obvious from the figures I have just stated that the increase throughout the country at large was nothing like that. Mr. Barclay goes on further to say that the repeal of the whole malt duty would be equal to one halfpenny a quart; and on being asked if it would be fair to say that the consumption would be increased one-sixth, he says, I think it would. The result, therefore, of reducing the malt duty to one-half the present duty, would cause the consumption to be increased one-twelfth, and would be equal, I believe, to a farthing a quart, and I don't think, therefore, that there is the slightest reason for supposing that the proposed reduction will increase the consumption to anything like the estimate of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The increase, according to Mr. Barclay's 1304 calculation, will be 200,000l., and not 800,000l.; and by giving the right hon. Gentleman 200,000l. for the malt drawbacks in Scotland, he may recover 400,000l. of his loss, whereas he calculates that he will recover 800,000l. If the income tax passes in the way he proposes, there will be a loss of 150,000l., and this is the result of the second year's Budget. The right hon. Gentleman has a surplus as he states it, merely consisting of a loan, and he has calculated receipts beyond what he is justified in expecting to the extent of about 500,000l. I have stated to the Committee the grounds on which I have come to this conclusion, and they are in a condition to judge of their soundness; but suppose I am wrong by 200,000l. or 300,000l., the right hon. Gentleman is still in a deficiency, and a deficiency wilfully created by his own legislation. I contend that we are not in a state in which it is safe to tamper with the revenue; and I think that this is ground enough for hesitating before we accede to the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman. And if I can at all guess what the feelings of this House are, as manifested by their votes the other night, on the necessity for increasing the defences of the country, I think hon. Members will feel with me. The strength of this country lies not so much in her military power as in her boundless credit, and we ought to pause before we sanction a course so destructive of the real essence of our means of defence. I now leave the figures of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, having shown, I think, their utter fallacy, and I come to the principle of his proposals. We were told by the Member for the North Riding (Mr. Cayley), that we were to have some wonderful financial phenomenon. It was thought, as the Member for Cambridgeshire told us, that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had some scheme by which everybody, would be blessed with an abundance of money, which would put money into everybody's pocket, and take none from anybody; but it now seems that money will be taken out of many of our pockets, and that nothing will be put into those of other people. Now I am disposed to bear my willing testimony to the eloquence and ability with which the right hon. Gentleman introduced his financial scheme to the House; but what is the wonderfully new principle of finance which distinguishes the Budget of the right hon. Gentleman? It may be right or it may be wrong; but 1305 where is the novelty, where is the wonderful discovery which charms the hon. Member for the North Riding? It is simply that which has been done before. The right hon. Gentleman reduces indirect and increases direct taxation; but is there anything wonderfully new in that? I will not enter into any discussion of their respective merits. I will confine myself to the more practical view of the subject, and I say there is this fault, that with regard to indirect taxes with one exception, the taxes dealt with are ill-selected and ill-handled, and the right hon. Gentleman deals with direct taxation so as to make it needlessly oppressive. I approve of the right hon. Gentleman's proposition with regard to the tea duty. I think he was right in dealing with the tea duty, and in the mode in which he proposed to deal with it. I do not enter into the precise detail. I do not wish now to differ on the less important points. Two years ago, I myself had in contemplation a proposal very similar to that of the right hon. Gentleman. But I thought under the then existing circumstances, that the window duty—considering the influence it had upon the health and the well-being of the community—had a claim to preference over the tea duty, whilst I thought the next tax which ought to be dealt with was the tea duty. But the tea duty stands on quite distinct and independent grounds from the duty on houses, and the other taxes now proposed to be dealt with. I come now to the right hon. Gentleman's proposal with regard to the duty on hops; and in dealing with this duty the right hon. Gentleman seems to have committed as many blunders as it was possible to commit in so small a space. The present duty is 2d. a pound, and the right hon. Gentleman proposes to reduce it one-half, and then he adds 5l. per cent. Now, why, in Heaven's name, are we to be troubled with this 5l. per cent? It was a reasonable proposition enough when the right hon. Member for Portsmouth dealt with all the duties, customs, excise, and taxes, to raise them all 5l. per cent or 10l. per cent as the case may be; but in the instance of every duty which has been altered since 1841—certainly in all those which have been altered during my tenure of office—I have omitted that inconvenient fraction of 5l. per cent. I have reduced the timber, the coffee, and the copper duties, and I invariably omitted in every one of them the 5l. per cent, and I stated in simple figures what the duty was to be. 1306 The right hon. Gentleman said it was impossible to maintain a prohibitory duty, or more than a countervailing duty, which would do more than put foreign articles on a fair footing with British similar articles; and he has, as nearly as may be, calculated his duty on foreign malt on that principle. But what has the right hon. Gentleman done with hops? The duty on British hops is 10s. 1d. per cwt., including the 5 per cent; and though 12s. a cwt. would be, with the excise restrictions, a more than countervailing duty, the right hon. Gentleman, professing the principle of unrestricted competition, proposes a duty of 1l. 2s. 6d., or a protection of 100 per cent. But, I ask, is it worth while dealing with this hop duty as you propose to deal with it? There may be reason in taking off half the malt tax, because the half that remains is worth preserving; but is half the hop duty worth retaining? You have all the excise restrictions and all the inconveniences, and the whole duty preserved is 120,000l. Now if there he a sound principle with regard to an excise duty it is this, don't maintain an excise duty unless it brings a considerable accession to the revenue. At present this is a close monopoly; the duty is practically a prohibitory one now, as it will be if the hon. Gentleman's proposal is carried. If you pass your law as it is proposed, you contravene your own principles, and do not benefit the consumer. If you merely put on a fair countervailing duty, the producer will not thank you. Either leave the duty alone, or repeal it altogether. Now, we come to the malt duty; and I must say I was not a little surprised at the remarks which fell from my hon. Friend the Member for the North Riding. My hon. Friend enlarged on the wonderful oppression and hardship inflicted on the maltster, and the enormous cost at which the malt duty was collected. My hon. Friend seems to know very little about the subject, and I would remind him that some time ago there was a Commission of Inquiry into the whole matter, two of the Members of which were Sir H. Parnell and Mr. Wickham. Let me read what their opinion was of the malt tax. They say, in their fifth Report—We do not conceive that it can be shown that any actual tax is less objectionable than the Malt Tax. We believe that the paying of it is less felt and less obnoxious than the paying of any other. Besides, no other tax is collected at so small an expense in proportion to the revenue derived.1307 My hon. Friend may, perhaps, still insist on the hardship inflicted on the maltster; and I will read the evidence of a great maltster and practical man, taken before the Lords' Committee in 1846 on this subject—I mean Mr. Taylor, of Bishop Stratford.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
Mr. Taylor says, in reply to a question put to him—"We have almost had all the restrictions removed some years ago, and the higher class of manufacturers have been from that time quite satisfied." I must say, therefore, I think my hon. Friend is entirely mistaken in the statement he has made to the House. Now, I am much inelihed to believe, with the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Sandars), that if half the Malt tax be reduced, looking at the small amount it is possible to reduce in the price of a pot of beer, the maltster and the brewer between them will pocket the whole of that small amount. It would be no doubt a remarkably agreeable thing to Chancellors of the Exchequer if they could do without revenue at all; but since that is impossible, all that we can do is to retain those taxes which are the least objectionable and the least expensive in their collection, and certainly one of the least objectionable is the Malt duty. Now, there is a protective duty on timber: that might he reduced with great advantage; and I am anxious to know whether the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire would vote for the proposition of which notice has been given by an horn Member (Mr. Ewart), for reducing the duties on butter and cheese. Those duties raise the price of the articles far above the amount of the duty; but the Malt tax does not and they are avowedly protective duties. The Chancellor of the Exchequer might deal with the soap duties, remove some of the inequalities of the assessed taxes, or reduce various duties more beneficially than the Malt tax. I will not, however, occupy time with any suggestions of my own. I have shown how unwisely he has dealt with indirect taxes. I will now proceed to consider how he deals with direct taxation; and this I think be has done as ill, and I should say this even if I was the most devoted admirer of direct taxation—if I went so far as my hon. Friend the Member for West Surrey (Mr. H. Drummond), who would carry direct taxation to a point which would make it intolerable. Indeed it seems to me 1308 that the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer must have taken a lesson from my hon. Friend the Member for West Surrey, for his object would seem to be to make direct taxation as intolerable as possible. He proposes to bring the income tax down to 100l. on incomes derived from professions, and to 50l. on incomes received from property, to extend it to the funds and salaries in Ireland, to make a distinction in the rate on different schedules, and to extend and double the House tax. Now, how often have we heard from those benches opposite that the Income tax was justified only by the necessity of the circumstances under which it was imposed? How often have hon. Members opposite urged that it ought to be a temporary tax—that it was imposed as a temporary tax—and that it ought to be considered as such? What was the last vote which the party gave under the advice of the ablest financier they have on their benches my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Control? That the first surplus revenue should be devoted to reducing the Income tax. And these are the men who, in a state of prosperity, with no financial difficulties except those which they create themselves, propose to extend to the poorer classes the taxes which they themselves consider so obnoxious. What say you to the small owners of land? Take schedule A, the owners rented at 50l. or 60l. a year. I remember when a right hon. Friend of mine, the President of the Poor Law Board, moved for some consideration of the alleged agricultural distress, that he stated—and I agreed with him in that statement—that the large owners of land were not the persons suffering from the depression of agriculture. He said that those who suffered were the small owners, the men who were as much in debt as the large owners, but who had not, like them, the capital either to Improve their land, or withstand the shock. These are the people whom you are going to bring under taxation. The man rented at 50l. per annum will have to pay 1l. 10s. Property tax, and he will be fortunate to escape a House tax also. Very few farmers pay the House Tax now, but by this measure you will bring every decent farm-house throughout the country under the operation of the tax. What say you to the schedule under which the poor widow or the small trader of 60l. or 70l. a year is rated? You tax them for the first time, to the Income tax arid House tax too, and yet you say your pro- 1309 position is just and equitable. What do you say to the Irish part of your scheme, in which you tax the fundholder in Ireland, while you leave the great landed proprietors untaxed? Yet this is what you call justice. The Irish fundholder is to be taxed, as well as the person who receives a salary, while the great landed proprietor is untouched. And why do you do this? You say that it is because you will have no exemptions. And have you no exemptions? What say you to this very case of Ireland? The Chancellor of the Exchequer put it in the foreground as the first great and monstrous exemption. He stated that it had been intended that Ireland should in spirit duties and stamp duties pay 400,000l. as a fair equivalent for her contribution to the income tax. He stated that Ireland only paid in reality 16,000l. per annum; and he dilated on this great exemption. All the House supposed that he was going to remedy what he seemed to consider so great an injustice, and then he ended by proposing to tax Irish funds and Irish salaries to the extent of 60,000l. There are a certain number of Irish representatives, some of whom the right hon. Gentleman perhaps thought might be conciliated with so much moderation. Do they suppose that if this is carried that the Irish landholder will escape? The proposal is to put in the narrow end of the wedge, and an Irishman is less wise than I take him to be if he is gulled by such a proposition. I do not think it wise to extend the income tax to Ireland. I think you have put on Ireland burdens enough in her present State, and it is wise for us not to press her down with additional taxation. I do not say that the time may not come when it will be right to extend the income tax to Ireland. But I say the time has not yet arrived, and that it will be unwise not to endeavour to develop the resources of the country. When I last renewed the income tax, I expressed my opinion that considering the large burthen recently imposed upon Ireland in the shape of rates, and her depressed condition arising from the calamities of late years, it ought not to be extended to Ireland. I thought that in her circumstances she could not bear additional taxation. I think so still. I would also observe to those English and Scotch Members who complain of the inequality of taxation between Great Britain and Ireland, that in another way an approximation has been made to equality, namely, relief from taxation in Great Britain which did not 1310 extend to Ireland. I repealed the duty on bricks, which was not paid in Ireland. I reduced 1,200,000l. per annum in the window tax, which was not paid in Ireland. We have received extensive relief from these two measures, and so far, therefore, the taxation on the different parts of the kingdom is more equal than it was. Well, Sir, I say further that the imposition of a tax upon the Irish fundholder is a breach of faith. You tax funds paid in Ireland, and you do not tax the income derived from land in Ireland: that is contrary to the provisions of the Act as regards the fundholder. Indeed, the same breach of faith extends to further parts of your scheme. I will not now go into the question of different rates of duty on temporary and permanent income; it is not necessary to raise that question, and my views upon it are sufficiently well understood. But I say, that as you have imposed the tax in this scheme, there is a direct breach of faith. You impose a duty of 7d. in the pound under Schedule C, while you only impose a duty of 5¼d. in the pound under Schedule D. Do you know what the properties there are under Schedule D; and, knowing them, have you dared to propose this tax in the shape of your Resolutions? Now what is the most lax interpretation of the Act of Parliament which prohibits you from taxing the fundholders? Why, that at any rate all other property should be subjected to the same rate of taxation as the funds. I say nothing of incomes from trade and professions, I speak only of incomes from property. The hon. Member for Montrose, who advocates most strongly the difference of rate on professional persons, will tell you that I am right in saying this—if you find a permanent income similar in character to that possessed by a person holding property in the funds, it should be taxed at the same rate. By your measure the owner of funded property is taxed at 7d. in the pound, while the Irish landlord who spends his income in England is to be taxed at 5¼d. per pound. Look at the cases of the Duke of Devonshire and Lord Hertford, receiving large incomes in this country derived from land in Ireland. They, according to your proposal, are to pay 5¼d. in the pound. The fundholder is to pay 7d. Is their income less certain than his? I tell you this is a breach of faith to the fundholder. Income from Bank Stock is to pay 5¼d.; income from the Three per Cents 7d. This is a breach of faith. Income from Exchequer bills is to pay 7d.; 1311 incomes from foreign possessions, foreign railways, and many foreign securities, 5¼d. This is a breach of faith. All this is quite independent of any question between temporary and permanent incomes. You impose a higher tax upon the fund-holder than upon other realised property as permanent and secure as the funds, and that is distinctly an injustice and a breach of faith to him. I will now advert to another glaring injustice. Under Schedule B you have managed to exempt from payment every person who does not pay now. I give you credit for your ingenuity in the mode of doing it, but it is no less a fraud. The tenant-farmer's profits are assumed to be half his rent, and he is taxed now only when this amounts to 150l., and you propose to assume his profits at one-third only of his rent, and to tax him only when they amount to 100l?.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
The same tenant, therefore, who now pays Income tax, and no other, will pay it under your scheme. You bring under taxation a large class in Schedules D and E who do not pay now, and you do not add a single tenant-farmer who does not now pay. After having extended your tax to persons of all professions, you continue their present exemption to all persons under Schedule B. This is gross injustice. Now I will state a piece of miscalculation pretty nearly as gross. The right hon. Gentleman said that he intended to confer a boon upon the clergy, and that the amount of that boon would be 30,000l. Then he explained that he did not mean the whole of the clergy; that he meant the working clergy. Now a relief to the extent proposed of a reduction in the rate of taxation from 7d. to 5¼d. in the pound, and amounting to 30,000l., represents an annual income of nearly four millions, but the income of the working clergy of 100l. a year cannot approach to anything like that sum, or half of it. [Mr. GLADSTONE here made an intimation to the right hon. Gentleman.] I am informed by my right hon. Friend that he said he would exempt them altogether.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The right hon. Gentleman misrepresents what I said. My statement was simply this—that clergymen of 100l. a year should be exempted from the hardship of being taxed under Schedule A, and 1312 should have the same advantages as persons taxed under Schedule D.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
I think I am right, for, as I understood the right hon. Gentleman, the clergyman who is under Schedule A will have to pay under Schedule D.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
then continued: I am quite aware of that, he is exempted now, but I will not pursue this minor point. I come now to the last question of the house tax. I have never swerved from my opinion that the house tax is a good one. I should not have proposed it if I did not think so. I do not think, and I never said, that there was any peculiar virtue in a limit of 20l. I adopted that limit because I was proposing the house tax, not for the first time, but as a commutation of the window duty, and I did not wish to extend the tax further than would be sufficient to include the houses which already paid the window duty. The better description of shops and houses in towns paid, therefore, about the same sum as they paid under the window duty, and this you propose to double! I do not object to the extension of the house tax. I do not pretend to say that 20l. is the proper limit, though I have strong objections to extending the tax to houses of precisely 10l. And I must say that I do not agree in the axiom which has been laid down by the right hon. Gentleman, that direct taxation must be as universal as indirect, because, in the first place, it is simply impossible. You cannot impose direct taxation upon the wages of a labourer: he pays his share in indirect taxation. The very authorities on which the right hon. Gentleman relies take this view; and Mr. Mill in particular says that as indirect taxation presses upon the poor more heavily in proportion than upon the higher classes, it is but fair and right that there should be a limit to direct taxation; and he says that the present limit to the income tax is a fair one. I shall not go into that question now—undoubtedly the limit must, after all, he settled by an arbitrary rule, but a limit there mu3t be somewhere to direct taxation. It is impossible that you can raise the whole of your revenue by any one tax. The best way of raising it is by a judicious proportion of direct and indirect taxation, and it is no doubt a very nice and difficult question to adjust the proportions of the two. But there is, I think, the greatest objection to 1313 the course proposed. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, while he deals with classes that have hitherto been nearly exempted from taxation, gives them no boon that is equivalent to the taxation he imposes. He does not propose to increase the amount of the income tax by his readjustment. He relieves the large capitalist, the large merchant, and the large manufacturer, by assessing them at a lower rate than heretofore; and he imdemnifies himself for the loss by taxing the less wealthy, in many cases the poor man, who is now exempted from taxation. All tradesmen with incomes between 100l and 150l.—all proprietors between 50l. and 100l., are now to be taxed, while the large merchant and manufacturer are to have their taxes lowered. That is the boon you offer to the poorer and industrious classes, whom you profess so much to benefit by your Budget; and most of whom you also bring under your new and extended house tax. Well might the hon. Member for Pontefract warn you against the consequences of the call of the tax-gatherer four times a year upon large classes and numbers of persons who have never hitherto paid direct taxes. Indeed, your increase of the house tax seems to me to be utterly needless and indefensible. I am not at all averse to direct taxation within reasonable limits; but with regard to the house tax and all other direct taxes, if you wish to retain them at all, keep them light and popular in times of prosperity and peace, because they are your great resources in times of difficulty. Suppose a war were to arise, you cannot increase your indirect taxation, for that would be to add to the price of imported articles, necessarily raised by the increased freight of war, the further burthen of heavier duties; but you must have recourse to direct taxation, and it is quite fair you should: it is fair and proper, for instance, that the housekeepers of this metropolis should be taxed for the defence of their homes; but if you double the tax now, when there is no pressure, I tell you that you will make the house-tax so unpopular that it cannot be maintained. You are sacrificing one of the great resources of revenue which you ought to reserve for times of pressure— you are imperilling, by a needless and uncalled-for increase, that very direct taxation which you are so anxious to maintain. Sir, I shall not trespass longer on the time of the House. I think that your proposed mode of dealing with the taxation of the 1314 country is most visionary and most rash. No one in his senses would attempt in one and the same year to deal with six millions of the tea duties and five millions of the malt tax. No one would attempt in one and the same year to increase two direct taxes —the income tax and the house-duty—and to bring under their operation so many persons who have hitherto been altogether exempted. I, therefore, advise the right hon. Gentleman to take back his Budget, and re-examine it. Give us your reduction of the tea duties: you can do that without increasing our burdens. Give up altogether your house tax and the malt tax. Then you will have a Budget which, as far as taxes go, may be supported. You need not be ashamed to take back your Budget. Mr. Pitt was compelled to do so. You need not be ashamed of doing what he did. Lord Liverpool's Government was reduced to do that, and the right hon. Gentleman cannot pretend that his Government is as strong as Lord Liverpool's was. Take till after Christmas to consider what you will do, for I want you to reconstruct your own Budget. Take the advice of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford, for it is obvious you have not considered the details of your Budget. Either you know nothing about it, or you have recklessly abused the knowledge which you possess. My hon. Friend the Member for the North Riding talks of the consequences of rejecting this Resolution. For my part I know of no consequences but an amended Budget, and not a Budget which, as it at present stands, imperils direct taxation, tampers with the credit and tarnishes the good faith of the country.
§ House resumed; Committee report progress; to sit again on Monday next.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before One o'clock, till Monday next.