§ The House resolved itself into a Committee of Ways and Means; Mr. Wilson Patten in the chair.
Question again proposed—
That, towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, from and after the 5th day of April, 1853, the Duties granted and made payable by the Act 14 &15 Vict. c. 36, upon Inhabited Dwelling Houses in Great Britain, according to the annual value thereof, shall Cease and determine, and in lieu thereof there shall be granted and made payable upon all such Dwelling Houses the following Duties (that is to say);"—
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. DAVISON
said, he must claim the kind indulgence of the Committee, as this was the first time of his addressing them, and he would promise not to trespass at any length. He had endeavoured to view the Budget as a whole. He had endeavoured to come to a conclusion upon its own merits. He had not pinned his faith to any one section of its details, but viewing it as a whole, he asked himself— Is it founded upon principles of justice? Is its tendency to promote the general welfare? Is it in harmony with the principle of unrestricted competition which had been affirmed by this House? Does it unloosen any of those fetters which bind that great arm of our national prosperity—the shipping interest; and is its tendency to remove any restriction which fettered the legitimate enterprise of the merchant? He was rejoiced to be able to answer all those questions in the affirmative; and on behalf of the large constituency of Belfast, as well as his own, he begged leave to tender to the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the measure the expression of their warmest acknowledgments. He listened to the development of its details with that undeviating attention which became so important a subject, and he came to the conclusion, at its termination, as he had heard elsewhere, that a man of genius could also be a man of figures. Although the representative of a large commercial constituency, he and his learned Colleague were returned in opposition to able and talented men, by a majority of several hundreds, 1316 mainly on two grounds: first, because he and his Colleague asserted their determination to give their unqualified support to the Earl of Derby's Government; and, secondly, because they also expressed their determination to give their support to the principle of unrestricted competition. With respect to the last principle, he conceived that the discussion was at an end—he conceived that the Budget affirmed that principle in all its details, and therefore he had no hesitation in giving that Budget his firm and decided support. With respect to the first principle he gave his support to a Conservative Government, because he should regard any sudden change in the Government of Ireland as one of the greatest misfortunes that could befall that country. He conceived that change would lead to perpetual agitation, and divert the minds of the Irish from those legitimate pursuits, the improvement of agriculture, commerce, and manufactures, and the extension of the industrial occupations of the north of Ireland, to the south and west, where they did not so much prevail. He thought there never was a period when the Irish mind seemed so quieted as at present, and he attributed that mainly to having a firm and decided Government. They had perhaps one of the most popular Lord Lieutenants that ever presided over the destinies of that country. In addition, they had a nobleman of great experience, most approachable to all who had occasion to see him on matters of business, as Chief Secretary— one well acquainted with the details of his office, and an honour and credit to his country. In the next place, they had one of the most able, if not the most able, men at the Irish Bar, as Attorney General—a man who combined with the greatest decision and firmness of purpose the greatest gentleness and amiability of conduct. They had in addition an able and talented Solicitor General. [Laughter.] Gentlemen on the opposite side might laugh possibly because the hon. and learned Gentleman had crossed their path, but he saw no imputation on his honour or reputation. He did not mean to trespass more than a few minutes on the Committee. The duty he had taken was mainly at hand, namely, to express not only his own opinion, but the opinion of his constituents, on the subject of the Budget, which, in all its details seemed to meet their views, to have a tendency to put matters in a right direction, 1317 and to give an impetus to the mercantile transactions of the country, which could not fail to be highly beneficial. He was no speech-maker, but he would add that the measure of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer should receive his warm support.
§ MR. COBDEN
Sir, if the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down had offered one word of argument in reply to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Sir Charles Wood) on Friday evening, I should have felt it my duty to have recurred to the topics he then urged; but as the hon. Gentleman has not ventured to grapple with that speech, the statements contained in it remain unanswered, and that relieves me from the necessity of touching on the principal parts of the Budget of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I wish, however, to refer to one part of the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, He represents the city of Belfast; and on a question which touches the taxation of the people of England, I think he would have exercised a sounder discretion if he had remained silent. By the obtrusive activity of the hon. Gentleman, attention is directed to that on which I should not have observed if he had been silent—that the question does not touch his constituents. The hon. Gentleman is an illustration of the evil of what is called an United Kingdom which is subjected to different modes of taxation in its different portions. We are now discussing the question of the house tax, and the hon. Gentleman cordially concurs in the proposition which has been made. Now, it is a house tax for England and Scotland, and the city of Belfast has no interest whatever in the matter. We are going to deal with England—the hon. Gentleman has only himself to thank for any remarks I may make —and the hon. Gentleman is about to give his support to an income tax which is to be levied upon the trades and professions in England, and on my constituents in Yorkshire, and upon the manufacturers of linen yarn at Leeds, and Barnsley. I take this to be an illustration of the evils and absurdities of the system. There are in Belfast, as every one knows, establishments for the manufacture of linen yarn and linen cloth, which enter into competition with establishments for a similar manufacture possessed by my constituents in Leeds and in Barnsley. In Belfast labour is cheaper, the raw material is cheaper, 1318 capital is quite as cheap, and there is little difference in the price of coal. Now, my constituents in Yorkshire pay to the Government 3 per cent on the profits of their manufactures, while the constituents of the hon. Gentleman, who are engaged in the same trade, are exempt from that tax. Is it not evident that my constituents labour under a great disadvantage in competing with the constituents of the hon. Gentleman?—and, since he has entered into this discussion, I put it to him whether he will be ready, by-and-by, to agree to a proposition which is threatened to be made by my hon. Friend the Member for Marylebone (Sir B. Hall), to extend the same income tax to Ireland as it is to be levied in England? I leave the question to the consideration of the hon. Gentleman.
With reference to the question which is immediately before the Committee, I will observe, that in some remarks which were made by an hon. Gentleman on Friday night, who spoke before the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax, it was stated that somebody on this side of the House objected to the Budget, because it created an addition to the direct taxation of this country. The hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire (Sir Bulwer Lytton), and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. E. Ball), threw out such taunts as these against the free-traders, and said, "Now we will put you to the test, carry out your own principles now that we are all free-traders." Now, I am prepared to answer the challenge thrown out with regard to the promotion of direct taxation. I say, on the part of the free traders, that we do not object to direct taxation, where, in the first place, it is shown to us that it is levied equally on all descriptions of property, and where, in the second place, it is shown that a direct tax is one which will prove beneficial to all the interests of the country. But we do not recognise any right on the part of the representatives of the agricultural districts, or any claim arising out of free-trade, which entitles them to levy a tax on some particular kind of property in the towns, in order to relieve certain kinds of property in the country from taxation, for that would be a one-sided, partial, and unjust system, and just the kind of system which we have been struggling for the last fourteen years to get rid of by the abolition of the corn laws. It would be, in fact, adopting the odious principle of compensation. Our first answer to the taunt from the 1319 other side of the House, is, that we do not recognise, on the part of Members representing the agricultural districts, any grievance or losses incurred by them which entitles them to ask anybody else to submit to taxes which they do not pay themselves. Hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to doubt this very point themselves. The hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire (Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton) says, that a great deal depends on the way in which relief is granted. "Do it graciously," he said; "even if you don't grant that the farmers are distressed, still they think they are, and therefore give them something, in the way of the abolition of the malt tax, which may console them." This is a very sentimental way of dealing with a great question which involves a sum to be counted by millions, and one which I do not understand. I deny that there is any distress which entitles them to ask for compensation. I had a note the other day from one of the most enter rising and intelligent farmers in the East Lothians, which I will read to the House, as I believe it will afford not a bad explanation of the condition of the farming world in general. He says—The farmers of the Lothians of Scotland, essentially a wheat district, never were, as a body, in a more flourishing condition; and the demand for land, in consequence, is beyond all parallel for the last 30 years. Every farm that is to let brings an advanced rent of from 10 to 30 per cent. I have four years of my lease to run, but have made a new arrangement at an increased rent of 15 per cent, which I begin to pay immediately, and I have always one-fourth of my land in wheat. Two farms have been let in this parish within the last six months at a similar advance to my own, and an adjoining farm, belonging to the Marquess of Dalhousie, is at present to let, the factor being in London with the offers in his pocket to show to his Lordship's commissioners; and I know for a fact that first-rate tenants, men of capital and skill, have offered 30 per cent increase on the rent which the farm was let 19 years ago, when it was advertised for six months and then let to the highest bidder. My brother took a farm last week adjoining the one on which he resides of 225 acres imperial, and for which he pays 20 per cent increase of rent. Sheep farms have brought higher additional rents; but I have said enough to show you that any talk of agricultural distress is sheer nonsense, and for myself I have done, and am doing, as well as I could possibly desire. One of the principal reasons for this is, that where land is properly drained, by a liberal use of guano and other artificial manures, the crops have been increased one-half at least, and every acre is made to carry as much corn as can stand. It costs me upwards of 700l. per annum. for artificial manures, on a farm of 650 imperial acres. I know several farmers whose outlay in proportion is greater; but then, in place of four 1320 quarters of wheat per acre, we have now six or seven quarters, and other grains in proportion while root crops are also much heavier, and their value per ton is as great or greater than ever— thanks to the numerous consumers of butchers' meat.I mention this in the outset, because I have observed in the papers this morning a letter written by a Member of the Cabinet—["No, no!"]—but if he is not a Member of the Cabinet he is an exponent of the policy of the Ministry—and he states to his constituents, that although the Government do not intend to propose a return to protection, yet that they do intend to propose compensation, and that the Budget is the first step towards it, and that the repeal of the malt tax is peculiarly a measure of relief to the landed interest. If such is the case, I say that we are entering on the old controversy between town and country—and you compel us to go into this controversy in a spirit that I thought was never to have been revived. An hon. Gentlemen opposite says, "Carry out your principles of direct taxation with regard to the duty on soap and on paper." I say that I am ready to carry out direct taxation if you propose a tax which shall be equitable, and levied on all kinds of property alike; but my objection to the Budget is, that it does not carry out direct taxation fairly and equitably. The proposal now made with regard to the house tax is most unjust. What do you propose? You have already imposed a property tax of 3 per cent on all land and on all houses. You next go to Schedule A, and you lay an additional house tax of ninepence in the pound, or 3 per cent, making the tax on houses to be at the rate of 6f per cent as against 3 per cent on land. Then you say, "We want more money by direct taxation," and you come with your scheme of compensation, or rather, I should call it spoliation, and you go to Schedule A again, and select houses, and lay on another ninepence in the pound, or another 3f per cent, thus making the tax 10½ per cent on houses as against 3 per cent on land. But that is not all; for we all know that in making an assessment on real property and on houses, you assess houses at a much fewer number of years' purchase than you do land; for land is usually assessed at 30 years' purchase, while houses are only assessed at the utmost at fifteen years' purchase; and therefore, if you levy the same rate of taxation on both of them, you cause a double pressure of taxation upon houses as compared with land. If 1321 you invest 1,000l. in land, and 1,000l. in houses, while the one is assessed at 30 years' purchase and the other at 15, if you lay the same tax on both of them, it is in fact double on the sum invested in houses, making in the whole 10½ per cent, and that brings the whole amount you levy on houses up to 21 per cent, and that is what you propose to levy on houses as against 3 per cent on land. That is a great injustice on the part of the Government, and the House will do wrong even to attempt it; for even if it is carried by a majority, do you think you will ever be able to maintain it? Do you think that the intelligent people of the towns will ever submit to it? Do you think that those centres from which radiate the light and intelligence of the country— ["Oh, oh!"] Why, whence do you get your literature and your science? Is it not from the towns? I never heard that we went into country hamlets to seek for such things. I say if you pass such a law you cannot expect it will be submitted to, and it will be the worst thing that could happen for you, for you will revive the old controversy between town and country— but not in the old form, when hon. Gentlemen opposite could say it was a contest between cotton lords and landlords—but they will have every little market town taking sides against them, for they will all see the injustice that is practised on the owner of house property. Your argument is that this house tax would be a tax, not on house property, but on rents. I think, myself, that this, as well as every other tax, would ultimately be felt more or less by everybody. But at all events, as regards the great proportion of house property, it can be clearly shown that you tax the owners as well as the occupiers, inasmuch as there are a large number of houses in the towns which are owned by those who live in them. Let the House see how the tax will work. You have benefit building societies whereby frugal mechanics and humble tradesmen manage in the shape of weekly payments to get together sums of money sufficiently large to build or purchase houses for themselves, and many of these houses would be generally 10l. houses: —and in future they will be still more numerous than they have been, for I am glad to say the saving character of this class of society is increasing, and they are now happily bent on improving their dwellings. Well, what kind of justice is it to meet these men immediately that they have ac- 1322 cumulated as much savings as enables them to become possessors of small houses, with this inordinate taxation? Your notion of justice is to say that they shall pay at the rate of 21 per cent on their investment, in proportion to the 3 per cent which is all that is paid by the owners of the large landed estates. Take another example. Look at the vast landed property in the metropolis owned by noblemen who let it out on building leases. Take Belgrave-square, for instance. You would find houses built there on land held on a 99 years' lease, and at a ground-rent of about 50l. a year for each house. Well, the person who had put the bricks and mortar on the ground, or who has bought it, is subjected to this direct taxation, but it does not reach the ground landlord. He carries off his 20,000l. or 30,000l. a year, and is left untouched. Is there any justice in that? Let mere-mind you, further, that the householders in towns are subjected to very heavy charges of another kind: to a vast number of local charges, not only for the support of the poor, but for police rates, for highway rates, for lighting, and for every description of impost; and bear in mind that inequality of the pressure of the rating which I alluded to before—that the smaller number of years' purchase that this house property is rated at, presses with equal severity on the owners of that property in assessing it for the local rates, as in the case of the property and the house tax. Not only therefore has this property higher general taxes to pay—proportionally—but it has higher taxes to pay for local purposes. You cannot expect a system of direct taxation which would work like this, can ever be carried out. And what is this direct tax to be laid on for which we are now discussing—for it is the house tax which is now before you? It is to be laid on for the purpose of enabling us to remove one half of the malt tax? The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Christopher) has stated, with his usual frankness, what the object of it was. He tells us that the Government are about to take off one half of the malt tax for the benefit of the land. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, however, tells us that he makes the proposition in the interest of the consumer. Well, which are we to believe? I certainly think the Government would do well to come to some understanding with respect to their principles, or, at least, if they cannot agree, that one or the other section of them should engage to be silent. My idea of the malt 1323 tax is precisely that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; that it is a tax paid by the consumer, but, that, undoubtedly, as with all taxes laid on a commodity we produce, the producer is subjected to inconvenience and to loss by it. The illustration which the right hon. Gentleman gave is precisely analogous. The cotton printers protested against the 3½d. per square yard duty on printed cottons, because that duty tended to hamper them in their business, and to diminish the consumption of their goods. I quite agree, therefore, with the right hon. Gentleman, that the consumer will primarily be benefited by the remission of the malt tax, and also that the producer will be benefited, although to a email extent comparatively. But I have always understood that the great grievance of this tax consists in the Excise regulations which it imposes. This does not affect the farmer, it is true; but in one way it does affect him. An intelligent farmer with whom I have the honour to be acquainted—one who has been a free-trader from the time the Anti-Corn-Law League began its agitation—I mean Mr. Lattimore, of Herefordshire, a person who is a model-farmer, and admitted to be so by all his neighbours—Mr. Lattimore was the first who converted me to the importance of repealing the malt tax, on the ground that it would enable the farmer to feed his cattle with malt. How far this is a valid ground I cannot say; but I have so much faith in Mr. Lattimore's judgment, that I believe it to be a valid ground, and I have always considered the claim of the farmer to the repeal of the tax to be founded upon that fact, if it be a fact. I have, therefore, publicly stated, that if we could by any means produce the necessary revenue without the malt tax, I would advocate its total remission; but I have at the same time always said this, that I would never be a party to imposing a substitute for the malt tax. I don't know that you could point out to me any tax, however little objectionable in its form, which I would substitute instead of the malt tax, if the amount of revenue it produces is indispensable. And I am not less strongly opposed to removing only one-half of the malt tax. I voted some two years ago against the proposition of that kind of my hon. friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Bass). My objection to the remission of one-half the malt tax is on principle: I won't agree to halve an excise tax, especially the malt tax. I object, independent of my objection to the way in 1324 which you propose to make up the deficiency. As the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) has put the case—as the case merely of the consumers —it is open to objections of a serious kind. The right hon. Gentleman says that beer, like bread, is a primary necessary of life; and that idea has been complacently repeated by all the hon. Gentlemen who have spoken on that side since—that it is a necessary of life, indispensable to the health and strength of the labourer. Now, the fact is, that there is a wide difference of opinion on that subject; and I have repeatedly said, both in this House and out of it, that the great difficulty you have to meet in dealing with the malt tax is, that there is a large, a growing, and an influential body in this country—some of them very fanatical, too—who hold the opinion that beer is not only not a necessary of life, but that it is a very pernicious beverage to the individual, indulgence in which leads to the infliction of serious evils on the community. You think they are wrong, no doubt; but you have to deal with that class, which, within my knowledge, is a numerous and a highly influential one among our constituencies; and I think that, wrong or right, they are entitled to be heard in this House. This class is not speaking wildly, or without considerable authority; and it may not be amiss if I read to the House what has been said on the subject by certain persons, begging hon. Gentlemen not to give way to any lively emotion until they have heard the names attached to this document. These persons say—An opinion, handed down from rude and ignorant times, and imbibed by Englishmen in their youth, has become very general—that the habitual use of some portion of alcoholic drink, as of wine, beer, or spirits, is beneficial to health, and even necessary to those subjected to habitual labour. Anatomy, physiology, and experience of all ages and countries, when properly examined, must satisfy every mind, well informed in medical science, that the above opinion is altogether erroneous. Man, in ordinary health, like other animals, requires not any such stimulants, and cannot be benefited by the habitual employment of any quantity of them, large or small; nor will their use, during his lifetime, increase the aggregate amount of his labour. In whatever quantity they are employed, they will rather tend to diminish it.Now that is a very strong opinion, and that "opinion" is signed by upwards of seventy of the principal medical men of the kingdom; amongst whom I find the great names of Sir Benjamin Brodie, Dr. 1325 Chambers, Sir James Clark, Mr. Bransby Cooper, Dr. Davies, Mr. Aston Key, Mr. Travers, and Dr. Ure. I think that after having got such a declaration as that, I am entitled to say that this question— whether an increase in the consumption of beer would increase the health and strength of the people of this country—is, at least, an open question; and in this direction, therefore, I claim leave to differ with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his friends. And observe that this increased house tax would fall on very many thousand professors of "temperance," and that some of you avow your object, in imposing that tax, is to cheapen the price of beer. The "teetotallers" among my constituents would naturally say, "We don't want to be relieved from the malt tax; we have already repealed it, so far as we are concerned; we are trying, by tracts and lectures, to induce our fellow-citizens to imitate us; and we think your Budget unjust, and we won't have it;" and, more than that, they believe that the consumption of malt is pernicious to the interests of society, and take pains to persuade their fellow subjects that it is so—and yet the Government ask them to submit to the house tax, in order that beer may be cheapened, and that a greater consumption of it may be occasioned. Had the Chancellor of the Exchequer put his proposition on any other ground—on the scientific ground that the malt tax was a nuisance to the trader, and that it prevented the farmer giving desirable food to cattle—all the principles of political economy would come to his aid, and we would be compelled to acquiesce in the project. But as it is the obstacles you have to encounter are twofold: first, that you substitute a partial tax not levied equally on property generally; and next, that the malt tax is to be reduced for a purpose to which the great bulk of the people are indifferent, and to which hundreds of thousands—I have heard them estimated at millions — are wholly opposed on strong grounds of moral principle. Such being the case, I don't think you have the least chance whatever of passing a house tax. I don't know what a present majority of this House may do; but I can tell you you can't maintain that tax if you do pass it. You have seen lately with the window tax how long-lived is an agitation against an unjust impost; and, depend upon it, you are embarking in a contest out of which you will come as disastrously as you have 1326 done out of the battle for protection—with this difference, that you will be far more easily beaten. And what is more—you are going to fight a battle not worth fighting for. I can hardly bring myself to regard this as an attempt at compensation. I did not want to allude to the thing; but the statement of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster does not leave me a chance of passing it over, and I've been obliged, in some respect, to deal with it in that manner. There is another proposal in connexion with this subject, in regard to which I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer has really quite wreeked his character as a financier; and that is the proposal to remit one-half of the hop duties. I have often had communications with the growers of hops in Sussex, who have represented that they wanted the whole duty off, but have expressed apprehensions in consequence of the Kent hop-growers advocating only a removal of half the duty; and I have comforted them in this way, "Don't alarm yourself for a moment; for after the great doings of Peel we shall never have a half-and-half Chancellor of the Exchequer making two bites at a cherry." Here is a most exceptional tax—the only tax you have collected upon the produce in the fields and gardens of the country—worthy, no doubt, of Persia, or of Turkey—but too ridiculous for this England of 1852. How is it collected? Every September the Chancellor of the Exchequer sends a little army of tax-gatherers into half a dozen counties; and every Member of Parliament knows that every spring he is asked by some unfortunate poor fellow to use his influence to get for him this temporary employment in collecting the hop duty. In September the hops are picked, carried, and dried; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer disperses his little army of taxmen over half a dozen counties. They take stock of the hops, and thus an estimate of the tax is got. It comes sometimes to 200,000l. a year; sometimes to 300,000l., sometimes to 400,000l. a year; hardly ever to half a million. It is a very uncertain tax. Thus it has all the evils that can attach to any tax: it is cumbrous and costly in its collection; it is uncertain in amount, no Chancellor of the Exchequer ever being able to calculate to any positive amount on it; and it bears with most unequal pressure on different parts of the country. In some districts the hops are hardly worth half the price of hops grown in other districts; and as 1327 this is a tax on the quantity, and not on the value, of course it falls with the severest pressure on the poorest soils and the poorest quality of hops. Well, is it conceivable that the right hon. Gentleman, after the experience we have had of the great works that some of his predecessors have done—after the corn laws had been abolished, and the vast system of navigation laws had been done away with—could come down to the House of Commons, and, as a great scheme of finance, propose such a mockery, the remission of one-half the hop duties? I hope the House will never consent to such a paltry and trifling policy as this. If no one else will make the Motion, I will myself undertake to propose the total repeal of the hop duties; and even should that not be carried, I will still vote against the repeal of only one-half the tax; for it is far better to keep it as it is, if we cannot get it done away with altogether. With regard to the proposed modification of the income tax, I feel bound to give the Government every credit for the way in which they have dealt with that question. I do say it is most remarkable that a Government supported almost exclusively by county Members—representing territorial interests only—should have been the first Government to deal—at all events in principle, if not going to the full extent—fairly with the income tax as it relates to trades and professions. Most assuredly, that proposal should have come from a Government representing this side of the House. My own opinion is, in spite of all that mathematicians and philosophers may say, that when you are going to levy a tax upon income and property, you must adopt one of two courses—either vary the tax upon incomes, making it lighter than the tax upon property, or take the plan which has been adopted in the United States, and capitalise the whole property of the country, whether it is in land, or in capital or stock engaged in trade—capitalise it all, and levy the same rate on all. Either you must capitalise all in this way equally, or you must make a distinction between permanent property and incomes derived from precarious sources—the practice of professions—the midnight working of the physician, and the daily toil of the lawyer—from trades such as that of a farmer, whose profits depend upon the changing manner in which his capital fructifies on the soil, and the income of a man who sleeps while his property fructifies. I repeat that I must give the Government 1328 credit for their intentions to make this distinction; and I am persuaded that if it is not done by them, it must very speedily be done by some one else. But in dealing with this question, the old curse of the party has settled on the right hon. Gentleman, and he could not deal fairly with it; he was obliged to make a miserable paltry attempt to get a special benefit for the tenant farmer. Instead of charging the farmer the tax on one-half of his rent, he proposes to reduce it to one-third. In the time of Pitt the farmer paid on three-fourths; Sir Robert Peel reduced the three-fourths to an estimate on one-half of the rent; and now it was asked to go down to one-third. Well now, really, I will ask hon. Gentlemen—say the hon. Member for Somersetshire (Mr. Miles)—whether they think farming would be worth following as a trade if the tenant-farmer could only get a profit equal to one-third of his rent?— that the income derived from profit and interest on his capital—from profit arising out of his own skill and industry—would altogether only amount to one-third of his rent? Would not it be better for you to say at once, if that is so, he ought not to be taxed on his income at all? But would it not be much nearer the mark to say that it ought to be equal to the whole rent? You are proposing to extend the area of the Income tax so as to embrace incomes of 50l. a year from real property, and of 100l. a year from trades and professions; and, as a principle, I am bound to say that I do not object to an extension of the area of direct taxation. But I say, too, include all alike within the area—tax every description of income and property. Certainly you are embarrassed in applying the principle; for you have such an amount of indirect taxation, comprising seven-eighths of your whole revenue, and which, no doubt, presses with the greatest severity on smaller incomes, and especially on the labouring classes, that there are large sections of the community who have a claim to exemption from direct taxation. There is, in fact, no other ground on which you can resist the application of the principle, that your direct taxation should be universal. The proposal of the Government is to extend the area of the tax to incomes of 50l. on property, and 100l. from trades and professions. Let us see how this extension to incomes of 50l. and 100l. affects the justice of the case, as compared with what you are going to do towards the farmers. I'll put a case: of a farmer 1329 with a farm of 250 acres of moderate land, and paying a rent of 280l, a year. By your proposal, farmers paying rents under 300l. a year, are exempt from this tax altogether, because it is proposed that the tax shall not apply to farmers whose rents are under 300l. a year. If the farmer I speak of farms as be should do in free-trade times, he has 2,000l. or 3,000l. capital. In fact, 10l. an acre is not so much as he should have; he would be better with 15l.: but at any rate he should have not less than 10l. an acre. Here, then, would be a man with a capital employed of 2,500l. paying no income tax whatever, the Government assuming that he does not make 100l. a year. Let that be assumed. This farmer goes into the market town riding his nag, and looking in fine health and great spirits—and he passes by a lawyer's clerk who gets 100l. a year, and who is subjected to an income tax of 5¼d. in the pound. The farmer has 250 acres of land, many labourers employed, stables full of horses, sheds full of cows, pens full of sheep, yards full of stacks: and yet the lawyer's clerk pays, and this farmer does not pay, income tax. Now, do not deceive yourselves, do not suppose for a moment that this could last. Is there any judgment or common sense in making such a proposal? Is it not provoking a quarrel with us on the most miserable grounds? You say you want, in this way, to benefit the farmer: but I do believe on my honour, unless the farmers are very unlike the rest of their countrymen, that they will not thank you for putting them in this invidious position. They do not want these special exemptions; they want to be regarded as contributors to the revenue on the same footing as the rest of their countrymen. By your proposal you are widening the operation of the income tax so as to embrace a great number of people who were not included in its range before; you do that on "principle." But you have especially framed your measure so as to prevent any new class of farmers from being brought under the range of the tax. Is it worthy of the territorial party? What do you mean by it? Are you always thus to keep the farmers on your hands as a separate and distinct class? I put it to the farmers— have they not had enough of it themselves? Have they felt it to be their interest to be kept apart, as a separate class, to be made political capital of? I thought the example which had been shown in the last few years, in the case of the farmers, of the 1330 way in which they have been most ridiculously bamboozled, would have been enough for them; I really thought it would have had the effect of preventing them or any other class from being made a separate class for political objects. I never thought we should have had a body of men setting up as friends of the tailors, or friends of the grocers, or friends of the shoemakers. I thought that trade would have been kept out of the arena of polities for ever, after the ridiculous way in which the farmers bad been bamboozled; and I sincerely hope that this Budget will be modified and with-drawn, and that farmers will be placed on an equality with other classes, and will be made to pay on their profits just the same as other people. I know the objection that is made to that. You say farmers do not keep books, and that, therefore, they cannot give an account of their profits. Well, here is a good opportunity for making them keep books. You cannot do the farmers a greater service than by inducing them to keep books, and to know exactly what they realise in a year. No, Sir, I did not expect that on this occasion we should have had these old grievances revived. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has thrown over local burdens, and we were to hear no more about exclusive taxation of that kind; I thought that we were going to get rid of this farming interest altogether; but it seems to me that hon. Gentlemen have not entirely comprehended their position, and do yet understand what free trade is. It seems to me they have confounded two subjects which are not the same—the question of protective duties and the question of direct taxation. Now they will perhaps excuse me if I give them a little A B C on this matter. I see the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire here. He has not been much accustomed to hear free-trade speeches. I want to show him and other hon. Gentlemen what it is we have been doing. I beg to inform that hon. Member and other hon. Gentlemen on the same side, that the advocates of free trade have not been necessarily the advocates of direct taxation. Direct taxation is indeed a distinct question from that in which we have embarked. We have been opposed to protective duties, and we have said, Give us freedom of ox-change with other countries; do away with the restrictions on our commerce, and we do not inquire what the effect of that freedom will be on price; all that we want is to have free access to as great a quantity of these good things as can be got. What is 1331 running in the minds of the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire and of other hon. Gentlemen opposite—I believe the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire has shed tears upon the subject—is sheer prejudice on this question — that as free-traders we mean low prices for every thing. Now what we want is abundance. We do not say that free trade necessarily brings low prices. It is possible with increased quantities still to advance prices; for it is possible that the country may be so prosperous under free trade, that whilst you have a greater quantity of anything than you had before, increased demand, in consequence of the increased prosperity, may arise, so that the demand will be more than the supply, and you may raise the price on some articles. In some articles that has been the case; it has been so in wool and on meat, and we do not know yet what effect it may have on wheat itself. But hon. Gentlemen opposite seem always to proceed on the assumption that the free-traders want to reduce prices, and that, therefore, they ought to have some compensation for those reduced prices. And then they talk of competition with foreigners; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that he was going to prepare a Budget which would enable the industrious classes of this country to sustain themselves under the pressure of this unrestricted competition. Now I thought it had been universally admitted that the industrious classes were in a much better position under the competition than they were before under the old system of restriction. I and my friends do not want commiseration for the working classes for the evils which they may have suffered in the progress of free trade, for the working classes themselves declare that they have derived great advantages from free-trade measures. Free trade has, indeed, conferred great benefits upon the community at large, and it is intended that it shall confer upon them still greater advantages. I do not acknowledge, however, that it is necessary to propose any remedial measures to benefit anybody against the evils which are alleged to be caused by free trade. The Chancellor of the Exchequer—who, I think, is not yet very enthusiastic in the cause of free-trade principles—has told them that he had framed a great measure to enable the country to adopt and conform itself to this new system of commerce. Nobody, that I am aware of, has asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer for any such measure. The right hon. Gentleman said 1332 that his proposition would cheapen the necessaries of life, and, in the opinion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, beer seems to be one of the chief necessaries. Well, how does the right hon. Gentleman intend to cheapen beer? By raising the price of lodgings. But are not lodgings as necessary to the people of this country as beer? If we are competing with foreigners, which would lower the price of commodities, I say that to reduce the price of beer, to raise the price of lodgings by putting a tax on houses, is not, after all, a benefit to the people of this country. I do not admit that the people of this country will come in formâ pauperis to this House for anything of the kind. The truth is, you have got into a false position by making promises you ought never to have made. You have tried to appear consistent when consistency was impossible. But what I am anxious to do is to see that you do not mix up free trade with any question of compensation. I say the effect of free trade hitherto has been to change a failing revenue into an overflowing exchequer. Free trade has made the people more prosperous, has diminished pauperism and crime, and in every possible way has promoted the prosperity of this country. Do not come to the House and say we must do something to enable the people to bear up under the load of this competition. And then hon. Gentlemen opposite ask us to give a new name to the principle, and to call it "unrestricted competition." I think it is Lord Byron who says a party has a right to fix the pronunciation of his own name; and I think free-traders have a right to put their own name on their own principles. I never insulted you by calling you "monopolists" when you choose to call yourselves "Protectionists;" and do not you go out of the good old Saxon "free trade," and give us this new name—do not call us—I really cannot pronounce it. How can we call ourselves an "unrestricted competition party?" You must adopt our principles, name and all. Now one word with regard to the proposed alteration of the tea duties. I think that is a question which the late Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to have dealt with; and I am sure, that if I had been Chancellor of. the Exchequer, I should have done what the present Chancellor of the Exchequer now proposes, four or five yearsa go. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman is far wrong in that proposal; but, on the whole, I doubt whether the Budget is the Budget 1333 of the Chancellor of the Exchequer at all. I do not believe, either, that the passage in the Speech from the Throne alluding to this matter, was drawn up by the right hon. Gentleman. I think the Budget has been cut and snipped away, patched, dovetailed, and swapped away—until at last-— as in the Queen's Speech, when somebody suggested that an "if" should be put in that all parties might be accommodated, so in this case some one suggested one thing and some another—until at last, all the bold things that were intended were abandoned, and what was left was the proposal which has been submitted to the House. The fact is, that the Budget does not at all correspond to the magniloquent phrases in which it was introduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was not at all worthy of a five hours' speech. Indeed, I humbly conceive that I could have discharged the duty in about an hour and twenty-five minutes. But the right hon. Gentleman, I suppose, has done his best. And now with regard to this controversy as to the direct taxes. I have long foreseen that this would he discussed. The hon. Member for West Surrey stated the other night that I was consistent in advocating direct taxation, because I have said that such taxation would not be paid, and that then the public establishments could not be maintained. I have never said the taxes would not be paid. I have always had the opinion of the people of England that they would pay their just debts under any circumstances; but I have always said this—if you come to get more of the taxes from the people in the way of direct taxes, they will come to scrutinise the expenditure more closely—and I think so still. The House may depend upon it that we are now entering upon a controversy as to how the imperial taxation is to be raised. When we come to have what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has promised us, the whole of our accounts of the taxation brought into a balance-sheet — even the cost of collection—we shall find that our expenditure is approaching to 60,000,000l.; that is, about as much as the annual income from real property in England, and pretty nearly as much as the trades and professions are assessed to the income tax. You will find that the great body of the people will be galled with the yoke, and that there will be pressure against some particular tax. Take, as an instance, the paper duties. Since I have been in this House a gentleman has shown me an 1334 American newspaper, printed on paper made out of straw, at an exceedingly low price. Now, the raw material of that paper is worth two guineas; but the tax in this country would be fourteen guineas; and therefore before a paper maker in England can manufacture such paper, he must pay upon two guineas' worth of raw mate-vial fourteen guineas of taxation. I have also received a letter from Bristol, enclosing specimens of the same paper, and stating that, if it were not for the Excise regulations, the paper could be manufactured in England quite as well as it is in America. Then, besides paper, there is the tax on soap. What an abominable tax is that! Only conceive of an agitation against the excise duty on soap. Why, the supporters of the tax would have it said of them that they were the advocates of dirt. Then take the insurance duties. For an insurance from fire to the amount of 100l., you pay 1s. 6d. for the risk, and Government makes you pay 3s. for the duty. I will not go over the rest, but their name is legion. But as they are discussed, you will feel more and more the necessity of resorting to some other mode of taxation. It is not merely that you are competing, but the change in the habits of business renders these obstructions impossible. The greater velocity of business will render them impossible. Look at your Customs regulations; there has been an agitation about them, and you cannot see the end of the difficulty, except by abolishing custom-houses altogether. The late Sir Robert Peel effected reduction of duties upon a great many articles; and many of us thought that the reduction of customs duties would cause a great reduction in your custom-house establishments. But no: you cannot allow articles to pass without examination; if you did, goods that do pay duty would come in in the guise of those that do not. For instance, if you allow cotton bales from America to come in without examination, how soon would these cotton bales be metamorphosed into tobacco hales. Look at the magnitude of your transactions. You are receiving from 25,000 to 30,000 bales of cotton a week, and how difficult it is to examine all of them. How different it was thirty years ago, when you had not as many hundreds. Then suppose any other country, such as America, should adopt the system of getting rid of these custom-house regulations, you must adopt their system. You may make up your minds, that having got rid 1335 of protection, with the large mass of taxation hanging over this country, you are entering upon a long controversy on the subject of taxation, in the course of which you will have to deal with many of the duties to which I have referred; and if the growing surplus of the revenue does not enable you to abolish these duties, you would find it necessary, especially in the case of the Excise duties, to increase the amount of direct taxation. When you do that, you must make up your minds to come to a fair and honest system of direct taxation; for there is too much intelligence and discussion in these days for any party to escape his fair share of taxation. This country is adopting the system of free trade, and yet it is extending its colonial empire, and spreading its establishments all over the world; and all the expenses are paid from the taxation of this little speck of an island. That might have been very well 100 years ago, when Adam Smith had not laid down the laws of political economy; but Adam Smith said, seventy years since, that he did not suppose the time would ever arrive when protective duties would be altogether abolished. We have arrived at those days; but they have totally changed the aspects of your policy with regard to your colonial empire, and you ought to make up your minds to that change. Our colonies must maintain their own establishments. We cannot keep armies in Canada and elsewhere—we cannot afford it. The taxation of this country, which impoverished the people, will drive them to those colonial settlements, where so many inducements to emigration exist. Twenty-five years hence there will be removed not only many of the physical but other obstacles in the way of emigration. Emigrants can now perform their voyages in one-half the time, and at one-half the expense they could do five years ago; and they now feel that they were not going into exile, for many of them have friends or families in our own colonies or in America, and they go there as on a visit; hut can you suppose, if you allow mismanagement to go on here, that the people will not be eager to go there to escape the effects of your taxation? That has been the effect of enormous taxation everywhere. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said the other day that this emigration did not tend to impair the consumptive ability of the country. It may be that the emigration of some 200,000 or 300,00 0 people may not 1336 have impaired the national resources; but what will be the effect if one-half of the population of the country quitted our shores? There is every reason why they should look this question in the face, as the beginning of a movement which will widen in its extent and scope. I wish the House to consider, when the people of this country have so many burdens of taxation to bear, whether you ought to increase the taxation, as has been done already. We have wasted a great deal of money, and our expenditure is much too large; but it is of no use my saying so, because you call me a Quaker if I do. You have added l,200,000l. to your expenditure lately; and while we have this large amount of expenditure, let no man in this country expect to escape from taxation. I will not undertake to exempt the 10l. householders from taxation to meet the expenses of our establishments if they send up to this House Members to vote an increase of that establishment. Already we are spending sixteen millions in the expenses of our establishments. Then let the middle class make up their minds that they must pay for this. We are now, however, dealing particularly with the house tax, which the Government propose to levy to meet the deficiency arising from the reduction of the malt tax. If they can show me that there is a deficiency arising from an excess of expenditure, and that that expenditure is supported by public opinion out of doors, I will lay that tax upon the shoulders of those who have sent Members to this House. But it is an entirely different thing when the Government propose to create a deficit by reducing the tax upon malt. I say there is no tax I will vote for, I know of no tax that I would vote for, in substitution of the malt tax. It is only in the case of a sufficient surplus that I would vote for the reduction or the abolition of the malt tax, and that not being the case I cannot vote for the reduction now proposed,
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, if the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had made nothing else plain, he had at least made this plain that he and his party would never really consent to the system which had been termed "unrestricted competition;" for he had told them, with perfect fairness, that he objected to the term itself, and that he preferred that one-sided system of legislation which might more properly be termed "free imports." But if the hon. Gentleman had made this plain, he could not compliment him on having redeemed his pro- 1337 mise to instruct the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire in what he was pleased to call the A B C of political science; or if indeed he had endeavoured to make the A B C of his political creed plain to the understanding of his hon. Friend, he seemed at any rate to have entirely forgotten the D E F that followed. The hon. Gentleman told them there was no necessary connexion between the system of direct taxation and that of free imports; and he then, towards the close of his speech, entered into an elaborate argument to show them that if they touched the customs duties at all, they would inevitably find themselves landed in a general system of direct taxation. He would leave the D E F of the hon. Gentleman to answer his ABC. Well, having got the sanction of the hon. Gentleman in the concluding, if not in the be-ginning, part of his speech to this system of direct taxation, which at one moment he defended, and at another said had no necessary connexion with free trade, he would ask of the House to observe what were the hon. Gentleman's objections to the mode in which the Government proposed to carry that system out. The hon. Gentleman, following the right hon. Member for Halifax (Sir Charles Wood), said that the Government proposal with respect to the house tax would set class against class, and country against town; and, as figures were never wanting to prove anything, so, in this instance, he quoted figures to make out some show for his proposition. But it must have struck the House that in the catalogue the hon. Gentleman gave of those items of taxation, which he said would swell the tax on houses to 21 per cent against 3 per cent on land, he had omitted all reference whatever to the land tax, and those other taxes which pressed especially on the land. The hon. Gentleman gave as an illustration house property in London, and instanced Belgrave Square, and the advantage that the great lords of the soil would derive from their ground-rents, which would be free from the new impost; but he forgot to tell the House that as the revenue of those gentlemen increased, so would their assessment to the income tax increase, and diminish their exorbitant receipts. The hon. Gentleman alluded two or three times to an excise impost—the soap duty. Now, his argument on that point was a little hazy and uncertain, and he was not altogether surprised that it should be so; for though it would appear to ordinary intel- 1338 lects that the soap duty was to the master manufacturer very much what the malt tax was to the farmer, he did not tell them that the master manufacturers enjoyed, and had done so for years, a drawback upon all the soap used in their manufactories, while the farmer enjoyed no similar drawback on the malt which he consumed, and which, according to the testimony of the hon. Gentleman himself, he might advantageously use in increasing the production of his farm. The hon. Gentleman admitted that the claim of the farmer to the repeal or diminution of this tax was undeniable, in point of justice, fiscal science, or the principles of free trade; but, though he told the landed gentlemen in that House, as he had often told the farmers of that House, when it had suited his purpose to do so, that they would always find in him the most strenuous opponent of this obnoxious tax, it seemed that whenever he gave that assurance it was coupled-—-at least in his own mind— with the determination never to consent to its repeal so long as any other tax must be imposed to make up the deficiency caused by its abolition. The hon. Gentleman, in short, gave them to understand that he would vote for the repeal of the malt tax at the Greek Kalends, and not before. He told the House he thought that the whole system of Custom-house duties would give way, that other Excise duties must be repealed, that the malt tax was an unjust tax upon the farmers, and that he would he prepared to vote for its repeal when there was no other tax to he substituted for it. He (Lord John Manners) trusted that the farmers out of doors would now know how to appreciate the often vaunted professions of friendship which the hon. Gentleman had made to them. The hon. Member, however, differed in one important respect from the right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles Wood) who had concluded the debate the other night in doing ample justice to the motives of Her Majesty's Government in proposing their alteration of the Schedules for the income tax. Surely the same considerations ought to have induced him also to see the injustice of the accusation he had previously brought against them— namely, that they wished to set town against country, and to perpetute the old war of classes. Why, if any step could possibly have been taken by the landed gentlemen of England to prove that no such feeling lingered in their breasts (if, indeed, any such had ever existed—which 1339 he denied—it was the proposal which, on behalf of those great classes which were connected with the land, the Government now made to the House of Commons, to establish on a just and equitable basis the tax upon incomes and property. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir Charles Wood), indeed, seemed so oppressed with the sense of the justice of what was about to be done to the industrial interests, that he had given the landed gentlemen warning how they permitted the Government so to place taxation upon their backs; but the consolation offered by the right hon. Member to the landed gentlemen was not of such a nature as to be likely to make them look to his embryo Budget for the relief which he somewhat obscurely hinted. He stated, frankly enough, that he was of opinion the income and property tax must be continued, that the amount of taxation levied by it from the landed gentlemen must continue unabated; but that under his scheme they would, at least, have the unimaginable consolation of knowing that an unjust mode of assessment to the income tax would still be maintained upon shopkeepers and professional men. But he (Lord John Manners) was satisfied that there was not a landed gentleman in the House who would consent to derive consolation from so contaminated a source. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding had laid great stress upon the argument that it was unjust to continue the exemption of the small farmers of this country; and he had asked that class how they could any longer consent to to be freed from their share of the burden. But the hon. Gentleman had entirely omitted, in the opening part of his speech, to put the same inquiry to a class to whom it would have applied with tenfold force, and who did object to be taxed like the rest of the community. Would the hon. Gentleman have the goodness, the next time he met his constituents in the West Riding, to ask the 10l. householders the question which he had asked of the small farmers, namely, whether they would any longer consent that a small portion of the householders of this country should be subjected to a system of taxation from which they (the 10l. householders) were altogether exempt? The right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles Wood), in his extreme eagerness to prove that the main source from which we must continue to obtain remission of other taxes was the continuance of the malt duty, pronounced the sources of additional revenue proposed by 1340 the Government to be all objectionable; and in so doing he was led into the indiscretion—the most grievous indiscretion into which an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer could fall—of revealing to the country his own embryo Budget. He had told the House that he was prepared to maintain the present income and property tax in all its present injustice and inequality; and to vindicate the continuance of that small and objectionable house tax which he (Lord John Manners) would venture to say no scientific authority, either in or out of the House, could be found to recommend. The right hon. Gentleman also objected to that mode—as it seemed to him that most legitimate mode—of bringing 400,000l. into the Exchequer, which had been proposed by his right hon. Friend He stated also that the proposed remission of the malt tax would be a boon neither to the producer nor to the consumer. He first of all endeavoured to prove to the tenant-farmers that the repeal of 2,500,000l. of taxation would be not of appreciable benefit to them; and then, lest the constituents of the metropolis and the larger towns should be too much struck with this great fiscal remission, which would give them cheap beer, the right hon. Gentleman assured them, with equal positiveness, that they would derive no imaginable benefit from it. Well, then, the question was, where was that 2,500,000l. to go? The right hon. Gentleman said it would be swallowed up by the maltsters and brewers. But surely a Chancellor of the Exchequer who year after year had proposed or supported the propositions of other Chancellors of the Exchequer to reduce the imposts upon other excisable articles, on the score that the producer and the consumer would be alike benefited, was placed in a very awkward position when he gravely told the House that the remission of more than two millions of Excise duties would be of no service, either to the producer or the consumer. Was it to be understood that the right hon. Gentleman, who had supported the remission of the excise duties on glass and the duties upon auctions, and who had himself proposed the repeal of the duty on bricks, was in reality persuaded that in doing so he was only giving a great bonus to the brick-makers, the auctioneers, and the glass-blowers? He (Lord John Manners) would leave the answer of the right hon. Gentleman to the verdict of the country. The great mass of the people who had tasted the benefits arising from those remissions 1341 of excise duties would know well that there was not a labouring man, whether he was the inhabitant of the town or a tiller of the soil, who would not derive some very appreciable benefit from this remission of the malt tax. The remission of half the malt tax could not but increase the consumption of that fine old English beverage which, in spite of the denunciations of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Cobden), was a beverage which would be dear to the working classes so long as they had to endure labour and toil to procure the means of their daily subsistence. It was well, indeed, for the hon. Gentleman to read them a protest by a number of learned gentlemen against the use of what they termed "alcoholic beverages;" but he would ask the hon. Member whether he believed in his conscience that any one of those eminent medical gentlemen, for all he had signed his name to the document, thought it necessary to abstain, even for a single day, from the use of intoxicating liquors? But the hon. Gentleman, who was willing to vote at some impossible period for the remission of the malt tax as a boon to the farmers, and in accordance with the principles of unrestricted competition, now entertained grave doubts how far he should be justified as a moral man in voting for a measure that might increase the consumption of beer. It seemed that the hon. Gentleman had fallen into the old fallacy which had so often been combated by the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) and was prepared to make men strong, healthy, and moral, not by a simple Act of Parliament, but by the maintenance of an outrageous duty on an article of consumption which he thinks objectionable on some moral ground. Let not the House hear the maintenance of an unjust tax supported by hon. Gentlemen because they might not themselves appreciate the beverage which was dear to the labouring classes of this country. He thought that after the speeches of the right hon. Baronet and of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, the Committee must come to the conclusion that in the opinion of the eminent leaders of the "free importers" opposite, the system which heretofore they had laid down as the necessary and just corollary of their favourite principle, was one that would not stand the test of a single day's experience. The right hon. Baronet, in terms almost prophetic, had declared that direct taxation could only be made tolerable by being levied on so small a portion of the community, that 1342 the great mass should go untouched by it. A system indeed founded on enormous exemptions had not even the merit of novelty — the absence of which both hon. Gentlemen had so regretted in the Budget of the Government. That system was at least as old as the days of Bold Robin Hood, when he robbed the Bishop of Hereford of his gold in the glades of merry Sherwood, and was thus able to reduce the misery of the poor in that neighbourhood. In the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman a Budget ought to be founded upon a system which pressed unfairly upon the trade, professions, and science of the country, and upon a tax which was levied on the smallest number of houses possible. If the right hon. Gentleman should ever regain that place— which, without offence to him, he must say he had forfeited to the universal satisfaction of the taxpayers of this country—those classes would find the favourite weapon in his armoury to be the maintenance of the income tax in all its present injustice; and the landed interest would find the next arm on which he would most depend for maintaining the credit and institutions of the country would be that tax which, they had the testimony of the hon. Gentleman opposite, was most opposed to science, and interfered most with the industry of the corn producer. The right hon. Gentleman would give the country no relief beyond dealing with the tea duties, and the remitting 100,000l. which it was proposed to give to the shipping interest. Beyond this the right hon. Gentleman would return to office, his mind unmoved, and his views unchanged as to those details of direct taxation which the hon. Members for Montrose and the West Riding had told them were unjust and inequitable, and which must at no distant period be changed by some Chancellor of the Exchequer, so as to be more consistent with fairness and justice. The principle, then, which united the heterogeneous sections on the other side of the House against the Government, and the object of the contradictory assertions and arguments to which the House had been doomed to listen—and it was right that the country should know this—really was to maintain in all their injustice and want of equity the present financial arrangements of the income and house tax. To the country, then, he appealed from the decision, should it be against the Budget, of an Opposition guided by such a principle, and directed towards such an object.
§ MR. RICH
said, he could assure the Committee that he would not have persevered in attempting to address them had it not been a matter of somewhat a personal nature on which he wished to make a few observations. He had been informed that the other evening the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir R. H. Inglis), had during his (Mr. Rich's) absence from the House, been induced, no doubt unintentionally, to indulge in some remarks relative to himself, which he regarded as very unprovoked and somewhat unjust. He (Mr. Rich) had made some observations upon the manner in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had proposed to deal with the exemption of certain of the clergy from the income tax; and he had understood that the hon. Baronet had said that he (Mr. Rich) had made such mistakes, that if subjected to an examination before such a committee of examiners as the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Ewart) had proposed for attachés, he (Mr. Rich) would, undoubtedly, have been plucked. The joke might be a good one, but it contained a reflection upon him which he ought to refute if he could; and if he could not, and the fool's cap fitted him, he would wear it; but he thought he could show that it ought to fall, not upon him, but upon some one else. The right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer said—But I think it right to say that in that estimate I have taken into consideration the position of the clergyman who has not more than 100l. a year. The position in which he is placed, in the manner in which the duty is now raised, is extremely severe, and I may say unfair. He is rated under schedule A at the highest scale, whereas a Dissenting minister who has 100l. a year, being rated under the scale of salaries in the mitigated schedule, would have an advantage of the mitigated rate. The position of a clergyman is, in fact, the position of a person working for a salary, hut, from the nature of the property from which he derives the sources of his maintenance, he is deprived of the advantage of the mitigated schedule. And therefore it is necessary to make special provision for them, because he must still be assessed under schedule A. I have estimated the probable diminution from this source under schedule A at 30,000l., but I have taken that into account, and it will not affect the figures which I have put down, of 5,361,300l., as the produce of the income tax."[3 Hansard, cxxiii. 888.]That statement appeared to him to involve three propositions—first, that it was expedient to remove all beneficed clergymen whose incomes were below 100l. a year from Schedule A; secondly, that the assessment of the clergy in general under 1344 the higher schedule was unfair and unjust; and, thirdly, that the proposed relaxation would cause a loss to the revenue of 30,000l. a year. On reference to a return of 1834, he found that there were then 1,629 clergymen having incomes of between 50l. and 100l. a year. Calculating these on an average of 75l. a year, and deducting 7d. in the pound, he found the remission of taxation under this head would be 3,500l. in round numbers. Comparing this with the Chancellor's statement, there remained a loss unaccounted for of 26,500l. From the same return he found that there were 10,400l beneficed clergymen, including archbishops, bishops, deans, and canons, receiving incomes above 100?. a year, whose total income, according to the return, amounted to upwards of 3,600,000?. Deducting from this the incomes under 100l., and adding something for incomes not included in the return, for new endowments and the improvement of property, and also remembering that the incomes of the bishops and prebends had been nearly all understated, the revenue of the clergy above 100l. a year might fairly be taken at 3,600,000l. The loss on that amount, by reducing the tax from 7d. to 5¼d. would amount to a little over 26,000l., which added to the 3,500l., the loss on incomes below 100l., just made the 30,000l. He was, therefore, at a loss to conceive why the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. H. Inglis) should have thought his calculations so inaccurate. But how did the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself account for this estimated loss? He had said distinctly that he should relieve the clergy under 100l., and transfer the rest to Schedule D. How otherwise did he account for the 26,000l. If it could not be accounted for, let it be transferred to the estimated surplus, which would be small enough. It was said 400,000l. would arise from repayments to the Loan Commission. These loans had been in operation for the last thirty-five years, with great advantage, for the promotion of drainage, railways, emigration, and other matters. So carefully had these operations been conducted, that, instead of a loss, there had been a gain of about a million of money. Nevertheless the Chancellor of the Exchequer said he would abolish the system, though the demand for such loans was as great as ever in Ireland. But there was still a balance of 2,700,000l. of unpaid loans; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to apply these sums, as they fell in, to the 1345 service of the year in the same manner as the money arising from the sale of "old stores" were repaid into the Exchequer; and he referred to some regulations adopted in 1837 as establishing a distinction between money which should be applied to the reduction of the national debt as having been given from "advances," and money voted for the current services of the year. This was a serious principle, and one which the House would do well to consider before assenting to the proposed application of the 400,000l. The surplus was estimated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at 1,300,000l., and he suggested that there might be a saving of 250,000l. from the Kafir war; adding the 400,000l. from the repayment of loans, and 500,000l. from the proposed increase of the house tax, he made out a surplus of two millions and a half. On the other side there was 1,000,000l. allowed for the loss on the malt and hop duties, 400,000l. from the reduction of the duty on tea, 600,000l. for the extraordinary estimates, and 100,000l. from the removal of the light-dues, he made a total loss of 2,100,000l.; —leaving the narrow surplus of 400,000l., precisely the amount to be derived from the repayment of loans, and which ought to be applied in liquidation of the national debt. Should the House reject the proposal as to the application of these advances, the surplus would be extinguished; and should the Kafir war again blaze out, the anticipated saving of a quarter of a million, which had been described as contingently applicable to the services of that war, would not be realised, and the estimated surplus would be converted into a deficiency. Thus Ministers had begun their financial career with the prospect of a deficit, which would be one entirely of their own creation; for it was on the reduction of the malt tax that the whole of their financial operations were based. And whom would that reduction benefit? The hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire (Sir Lytton Bulwer) had calculated that there would be a remission of a penny a pot on strong beer. He (Mr. Rich) had inquired of his Friend Mr. Bass as to the quantity of gallons produced from a quarter of malt, and the quantity of malt brewed in a year, and he found that 580 millions of gallons of beer were produced in a year. Taking then the full remission of duty as equal to 2,500,000l., he found that there were 600,000,000 pence on that amount, showing that the gain to the producer 1346 would not be a penny a pot, but a penny a gallon, and the saving to the poor would be something less than a farthing a pot. The remission would not be so much a benefit to the poor as to the more wealthy classes. But it was said the remission of one half was nothing; the whole duty must come off to do any good. If the House was prepared to double the house tax now, they might depend they would have to double it again next year to meet the views of the Government. And why? Merely to fulfil expectations that had been most wantonly raised, and never could be realised. It was notorious that the malt tax was now very cheaply collected, since the late improvement in the Excise, and there was no pretence for meddling with it. Direct taxation was a valuable element in a system of general taxation; but if the proposal of the Government were carried out, it would make direct taxation so odious that the public would be anxious to revert to import duties. It should be remembered, that on all articles of consumption the poor paid higher in comparison than the rich. On tea, for instance, they paid 200 or 300 per cent on the cheaper sorts; while the rich did not pay a quarter so high a per centage. Hence the necessity for an ad valorem duty. It had been speciously urged, in support of the now house duty, that taxation ought to be coincident with representation, and therefore houses ought to be taxed down to 10l,; but this doctrine was more specious in theory than practical, in fact; and, if any attempt were made to apply it, it would probably have a very large disfranchising effect. Many men would be rated at 9l. only, to avoid the tax; others would be disfranchised for non-payment of the tax, and many who retained the qualification would be disposed to say, in contested elections, that the least that could be done for them would be to pay the house tax. He did not deny that this tax had many things to recommend it. Under some circumstances it might be a better measure of the ability to pay than the income tax itself; but, looking at the great temptation to fraud and evasion, and the measures which would be necessary to counteract this, it was to be feared a strong feeling would be excited against the tax. If these objections applied to the house tax, they applied with double force to the income tax. The proposition for taxing funded property and salaries in Ireland, and allowing the land of Ireland to escape, and that for altering the assessment in 1347 favour of the farming class in this country were in particular unfair and unjust. As far as human foresight could speculate, it was probable, if not quite certain, that in the next ten years prices in this country would rise to double their present amount, owing to the influx of gold from Australia, California, and, perhaps, other yet undiscovered sources. The recipients of salaries and the owners, of money in the funds would be the great sufferers by this rise in prices; and yet these were the persons whom the Chancellor of the Exchequer selected for the imposition of an Income tax. The right hon. Gentleman exempted the landed property of Ireland because it was burdened with a poor-law. He admitted that Ireland had passed through a severe ordeal, and that might be a reason for exempting her altogether from an income tax; but it was none whatever for making a distinction between salaries and landed property. Still more unjust was it to draw a distinction in favour of the land of Ireland, as compared with the funds, which stood upon the public credit and national faith. Then, with regard to the farming class, whilst every tradesman and artisan with incomes between 100l. and 150l. were brought under the operation of the income tax, not one additional farmer would be touched, whilst the duty was to be lowered for those who came under its operation, from one-half to one-third of their profits. But in his (Mr. Rich's) opinion the pecuniary compensation which was intended to be given by the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman to the agricultural interest, would ultimately fall into the hands of the landlords, and not those of the farmers. He objected to this Budget because, in the first place, it was one-sided; because, in the next, it gave compensation where none was due; and, lastly, because it was penal in its effects. It threw the main burden of taxation on the towns; it was penal in its operation on those who rented houses between 10l. and 20l. a year—the class of persons by whom free trade was carried. It was dangerous and unjust, and he might almost say dishonest, because it would leave the country in the approaching year, a year of great anxiety, with no greater a surplus at the best than 400,000l.—which might possibly prove no surplus at all—and it was unjust and dishonest, because it transgressed the law by imposing a tax on the fundholder of Ireland, while it exempted the land. Upon these grounds he would give a most 1348 willing vote against it. It unsettled from 5,000,000l. to 6,000,000l. of malt tax; from 5,000,000l. to 6,000,000l. of income tax; from 1,000,000l. to 2,000,000l. of house tax; and all this was done for no other purpose than to fulfil a vain expectation which had been recklessly held out to a particular interest.
§ SIR B. H. INGLIS
said, if the hon. Member who had just sat down had made an equally elaborate speech on the former occasion, he certainly should never have accused him of being unacquainted with figures. But his remarks were founded on the observations made by the hon. Member on Monday last, of which, in order to insure greater accuracy, to use the words of the highest authority in that House, "he had obtained a copy" through the ordinary means of intelligence. On that occasion the hon. Gentleman said, "Now, as 30,000l. on those data represented an income of 4,000,000l. per annum, the inference was that the Chancellor of the Exchequer intended to include in the exemption the whole body of the clergy, rich as well as poor, bishops, deans, and curates." He (Sir R. H. Inglis) contended that such was not the intention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; 30,000l. did not in fact represent 7d. or 5d. in the pound on a sum of 4,000,000l.; 7d. in the pound on 4,000,000l. would amount to nearly four times 30,000l. He (Sir R. H. Inglis) should be exceedingly sorry if, through mistake, he had been led into any misrepresentation of the words of the hon. Member.
§ MR. LOWE
said, that when he considered the great prosperity of the country at the present moment, and the very flourishing condition of two out of the three great interests which contributed to the revenue; and when he considered that, on the showing of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer they would have a surplus of 1,350,000l. for the year ending the 5th of April next, he confessed he should have thought that the wisest course any Government or any House of Commons could have adopted, would have been to persevere quietly and steadily in the system hitherto carried out with such successful and beneficial results. He saw no case made out for any change at all. All 1349 they had to do was to continue going on as they had gone on hitherto; and that when the surplus should be disposed of by their making still further remissions of taxation, on the same principle as those remissions had been made, which led to the wonderful extension of trade, commerce, and increasing revenue which all acknowledged, they would then have done all that a wise Government and a prudent Legislature could do under the circumstances. Furthermore, he confessed he should have thought, the present time being one of unexampled prosperity, and the lot of mankind being at all times subject to change, that the probability was, that if any change took place in the course of events, that change would be for the worse rather than for the better, and that we should therefore be wise in our calculations and proceedings, not to form our estimate on the ground that the present state of prosperity would be necessarily permanent and continuous up to the utmost extent it had hitherto reached, and not to act in imitation of the fool in the parable, who said, "To-morrow shall be as to-day, and much more abundant." They ought to look their affairs in the face, as all previous history warned them to do, and to make their estimates, not on calculations of limited expenses and unabated prosperity, but rather make them with a view to the many hundred contingencies that might arise, each of which might, temporarily or continuously, retard the national progress. What he complained of in the Budget was, mainly, that it had not taken this view into consideration; but that, with that enthusiasm which converts were always said to exhibit, the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer had not only adopted free trade, hut seemed unable to come to the conclusion that the existence of free trade and of an enlarged commercial policy was perfectly consistent with those changes and mutations, and to conceive that the country must necessarily go on as it had done. Further than this, he should have thought, considering what the right hon. Gentleman had so ably stated—namely, that the cause of the great emigration that had taken place from this country, was not any want or suffering on the part of the people, but had arisen out of an anxiety to participate in the great opening of prosperity in another country—that the causes which really regulated emigration were causes over which the internal organisation of this country had little or no control; and that it was not in our power to ameliorate the condition of the 1350 emigrating classes so as to prevent them from quitting this country; nay, that if we increased their resources we should be giving them additional means to emigrate upon a still larger scale: considering that to be a true representation of the case, he (Mr. Lowe) should have thought that this was of all times the most ill chosen to give an impulse to the mighty tendency of emigration, by imposing new taxes on men pinched in their circumstances at home, and on classes most uneasy in this country, and who were now at work for wages considerably below what they might obtain elsewhere; thus suggesting to them in the most forcible manner that there were lands in the world where there was no House tax, no income tax, no assessed taxes, no Excise duties. He spoke with some experience on the subject. He believed hon. Gentlemen had very little idea of the magnitude of the change that was coming over them; and, with great deference to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he (Mr. Lowe) could not acquiesce in the justice of his argument, that the more people left this country, the smaller our population became, and the greater the proportion of women and children that remained in this country, the better our revenue would be, the more prosperous our circumstances, and the more commanding our position. It seemed to him (Mr. Lowe) that the right hon. Gentleman's argument, if pushed to its legitimate conclusion, led to this—that the moment the last man quitted the shores of this island, and carried his skill and labour elsewhere, then this country would reach the highest pinnacle of prosperity. As the hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) had said, emigration was a question of degree. Up to a certain point, and as long as the people were not able to find employment, but were in a state of destitution, emigration would be a great relief to the country; but when they wont beyond that, they were then sucking away the very life-blood of the country. But the question was not in their hands. It was not in their power to say to the tide of emigration at any particular period, 'Stop!' It depended not upon what they could do, but upon the progress, more or less rapid, in which the resources of the colonies became developed. He thought they would be acting most improperly and most unwisely if, by any shifting of the burdens of the people, or by any jugglery or contrivance with taxation—favourable as might be the present 1351 appearance of things, and of their pretending to do somewhat when nothing was really intended to be done, they should accelerate that tide which had already set in with such tremendous force. Having made these preliminary remarks on the general tendency of the Budget, he would now take the liberty of offering a few observations upon that which had been truly said to be the keystone of the arch, namely, the malt tax. It appeared to him that if they were to get any benefit for the farmer and for the consumer by the repeal of this tax—if this measure was to be any step in the way of compensation—that step must be in the direction of a rise in the price of barley; but he would suggest that there was no probability that the adoption of the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer would lead to a rise in the price of barley. He admitted at once that the malt tax was open to many economical objections. In the first place, it was a duty on the raw material, which it was always desirable to avoid in every manufacture. In the next place, it involved an absolute prohibition of the importation of foreign malt. These objections struck the mind of every free trader and political economist. But, though this measure might be introduced for the purpose of affording relief to the farmer and to the consumer, and in perfect consonance with the principle of free trade, still he had yet to learn, that it was any part of free trade that they were to tamper with or bring into danger the revenue of the country in any way whatever. At any rate a large portion of the revenue of the country was raised by means of the malt tax, and it was paid with less discontent than any other description of taxes. It was also a remarkable fact, that although the tax fell mainly on the consumer, there never had been an instance in the history of the malt tax of a meeting of consumers of beer to insist upon the repeal of that tax. There had, no doubt, been frequent meetings held upon the subject by farmers, landlords, and agents—those who represented the growers of barley; but he believed that a meeting to present a petition for the repeal of the tax by the consumers of beer had never been held. That was a fact worth observing by a practical man, whether he was a free-trader or not. It was in itself a most significant fact, and ought not to be lost sight; of. Again, the malt tax rested on the prohibition of foreign malt. That, it was said, was not with any view 1352 to enhance the price of home-made malt, and so aid the grower of barley. However that might be, there was the prohibition. But this prohibition had not been imposed for the benefit of the agricultural class, but for the purpose of Excise. No one on his (Mr. Lowe's) side of the House wished for a moment to interfere with it; though that prohibition the Government did intend to take away. There was another benefit connected with the malt tax which ought not to be forgotten, and which was also in violation of sound principle; and that was, that it was the practice of the Excise to give six months' credit for the payment of the malt tax; so that the maltster was enabled to sell his malt to the brewer and receive his money for it (including, of course, the duty), thus receiving from the brewer, in advance, that duty which he would not have to pay to the Government till six months after. Thus the Government, by that singular Excise regulation, tempted people into the malting trade, offered long credit, and provided capital and a regular fund by which purchasers of barley could always be found. The system might be a loss to the revenue, but its effect was to raise the price of barley by providing a fund which stimulated a large number of purchasers to enter the market, and by their competition to enhance the cost of the article. We were to get in exchange for the advantages to be given up a reduction of 15½d. and 5 per cent, which in effect meant 16d. on every bushel of malt, and then it was argued, or rather it was assumed, as a matter of course, that because the cost price of beer was diminished, the retail price at which it would be sold was necessarily diminished also. That would be quite fair if the beer trade was under the influence of fair competition. Then cost would regulate price; but in the present instance there was one element wanting which was necessary to regulate the relation between cost and price, and that was unrestricted competition. He said it without meaning offence, but there was not in the country any monopoly so close, so complete, and so circumscribed as that of the brewers. It was daily getting into fewer hands—it was daily becoming as a system better organised; the capital was becoming larger, and the monopoly more strict; and if the House thought by taking off 16d. per bushel of malt they would lower the price of malt liquors to the consumer, and would not let the difference go into the hands of this monopoly, they were 1353 deceiving themselves most grossly. Just let them look to the past. They knew that malt was much cheaper now than it used to be before the Corn Laws were repealed; but had the consumer or the poor man derived the slightest benefit from the reduction? Every one knew that he had not, and that not one halfpenny had been gained by him, but that the whole amount reduced had gone into the pockets of the brewer. But how was it that the brewers, if the price of malt was continually diminishing, were still able to keep up the price of beer? The answer was simple. The brewers possessed themselves of all the public-houses in the metropolis and all over the country; and then they let them to a body of tenants with whom they made stipulations as to the amount of profit they were to have on the sale of beer. In London, he believed, the amount of profit per barrel was about 4s.; and when a man had to provide servants, and gas, and to furnish decent rooms, that was a miserably small sum, but it was one which would never be accepted or submitted to, if the licensed victuallers did not know they were in the brewers' hands. In order to increase their profit, what the publicans did notoriously was to make the quantity of liquor supplied to them into a considerably larger quantity—to adulterate it in short—-and then to sell it to the public. What better proof of a monopoly could they have? But there was still another which he would mention. There was a different class of brewers from those he had alluded to, who manufactured another kind of beer, which was sold in bottle. What was the result of that? Why, he knew, and they all: knew, that the quart bottle was daily becoming less a quart, and the pint bottle becoming daily less a pint; and if the reduction went on at the present rate, he believed that the quarts would soon become pints, and the pints become medicine bottles. In fact, that was about to be the whole art of the brewing trade; and the licensed retailers were placed in this condition, that they had to choose either to give full measure and adulterate the liquor they sold, or to give genuine liquor and sell it in smaller measures. What chance was there, then, of the 16d. finding its way into the pocket of the consumer, and what reason had they for supposing it would not go to the brewer? None whatever. In fact, there was only one way by which any reduction of taxation in this respect could be of 1354 advantage to the consumer, and that was by breaking up the brewers' monopoly, That was a difficult thing for the House to do, because that monopoly rested on private property and on capital which they could not touch; but, supposing they were anxious to do away with it, let the House give up the system of licensing, and Jet any one sell beer, and the monopoly was broken up. Until they did so it was folly to talk of reducing an old English beverage in price; for, no matter about the reduction in the cost of materials, it would always remain at the same price as long as they had the same system. He thought he had proved there would be no diminution in the price of malt liquors. If there was no diminution in price there could be no increase in consumption, and if there was no increase in consumption there would be no increase in the growth of barley; and then, he asked, what would be the success of the present measure? Why, simply to put so much into the pockets of the brewers. But would not the grower of barley profit by the change also? Not exactly; because, instead of an almost absolute prohibition, foreign malt would then be admitted at just so much protective duty as would destroy the boast of hon. Gentlemen opposite that they had adopted complete free trade. It would also enable the foreigner to compete with us; and the result would he, that while they were led to think barley would be raised in price by this measure, because it would increase the demand, they would find the demand little, if at all, increased, while they would, henceforward, have to deal with a new set of competitors, who would make malt on the Continent, and, unembarrassed by the restrictions of the Excise, would be able to compete with our home-growers on very favourable terms. In fact, so far from increasing the price of barley, the tendency of this measure would be to diminish it. He had thus given his reasons why he could not on any account consent to the repeal of the malt tax- a step which would benefit neither consumer nor producer, but would injure our revenue in a most vital point, and all merely for the sake of a few gentlemen for whom be had a deep respect, but who were certainly no great objects of compassion at present. He would now take the liberty, if the Committee would indulge him for a few moments, to make one or two remarks with respect to the Budget. He could imagine no more vicious principle for a 1355 Chancellor of the Exchequer to act upon than that he should purchase immediate popularity by the remission of taxes, which remission was not to be immediate, but to be put off for some time to come. That was a system of post obits —it was raising money by borrowing, and then drawing bills on futurity to pay it. Such was the principle of the Budget. If the malt tax was to be repealed to stimulate some suffering interests, the sooner their sufferings ceased, that this duty was removed, and the consumer benefited, the better, and therefore he had been much astonished when he heard the reduction was not to come into effect till the 10th of October next. At first he supposed the reason for that delay was, that the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, having an eye to the expense which would be incurred by the necessity of paying drawback on stocks of malt in hand, put the reduction of duty off till the 10th of October, and thus economised a large sum of money; but he found, on going further, that the right hon. Gentleman, after all that delay, and after nine months' notice to the grower and merchant, still proposed to pay the draw-hack. It seemed to him a great pity to pay 1,000,000l. sterling for this drawback, because the only ground on which it could be paid was that the reduction was of prejudice to a particular class; but if the change was deferred to so distant a period as the 10th of October, the maltster should be trusted to make provision for it, and ought not to he entitled to any compensation on the ground of injury to his interests. No doubt, if the right hon. Gentleman's proposition was adopted, there would be plenty of trade and speculation meantime, and plenty of malt made, and the 1,000,000l. would be spent, to the great delight of the maltster, but with very little satisfaction to the country; for he asserted that the money was thrown away, and that, if the maltster was told so long beforehand of the change, he would take care to have no stock on hand to lose by. Malt did not require keeping, and the fresher it was the better; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer was endeavouring to induce people to accumulate large stores of malt, which in the course of summer might become heated and spoiled, in order that they might get the drawback on it. It was evident the saving of the drawback was not the reason for the delay. The reason was indeed plain enough. It was, that no part of the loss by the malt tax should 1356 come into the next financial year; for, as the Budget proved, the right hon. Gentleman was not prepared for that reduction, and therefore the new malt tax came into effect five days before the commencement of the financial year of 1854. If the malt tax was to be repealed, let them not put it out of the financial statement, and then make it out to be a remission of taxation on which alone Ministers could lay claim to the thanks of their supporters, when it was to be carried into effect just fifteen months after. The right hon. Gentleman, in fact, gave the House a double Budget, for he not only reckoned up the Estimates for 1853, but called on the House to estimate the resources of the nation for the year 1854. It was merely for them to take an Estimate for the current year, and, if they wanted instances of the uncertainty which prevailed on these matters, they could not find a better than that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who said some time ago we might put the surplus income for the year at 400,000l., but now he put it at 1,300,000l. But that was before the general election. The object, then, was to make the surplus as little as possible. The object now was to get as much out of the free-trade policy as possible by way of recouping the interest on the capital they said they had lost. Now he asserted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not made out any case at all for the surplus in 1854, and he proved it thus: The statement of the right hon. Gentleman was as follows: He had, he said, a surplus of 1,300,000l., and he would gain on the decreased expenditure in the Kafir war 250,000l.; on the Exchequer loans, 400,000l.; the gains by the increase, of the house and income taxes 1,000,000l.; the reduction of the Three-and-a-Quarter per Cents 350,000l. On the other side there was the drawback on malt, which would amount to 1,000,000l.; the reduction of the tea duties 400,000l.; the cost of national defences 600,000l.; Relief to the shipping interest 100,000l.— total 2,100,000l., giving, in round numbers, a surplus of 400,000l. Now, in the first place, he begged to observe that as to the Estimate of 250,000l. to be saved by the termination of the Kafir war, this was certain—that the war would terminate whenever it was the pleasure of General Cathcart to say the Kafir war had ceased; but the ruinous and miserable consequences to us would not terminate because General Cathcart announced that it was over. 1357 Peace and war were mere names when dealing with barbarous enemies, whom no treaties could bind, whom no force could subdue, and who were bound by no treaties, and eluded every attack that might be made against them. He, for one, would never believe they were free from the expenditure on account of the Kafir war until they had withdrawn all their troops from the colony, except such as were necessary to furnish our posts at Cape Town, and handed over the country to the inhabitants, with free constitutions and the full management of their own affairs, with ample armaments and munitions of war to defend themselves. As to the Exchequer loans, they appeared to him to stand in this way: They had borrowed money on Exchequer Bills to lend again, and when they were disposed of, fresh Exchequer Bills were issued for a certain time, and the money so borrowed the Government continued to lend on very good account, and made a very good thing of the transaction. Notwithstanding the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had promised that he would answer the objections of the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone), he (Mr. Lowe) could by no means admit that the measure proposed by Government was any necessary and legitimate financial operation. Let them take a case by way of familiar illustration. Suppose that to-morrow a gentleman, having a large quantity of laud, a large family, and no ready money — no impossible conjecture, had an opportunity of putting a son to great advantage in business, and in order to raise the necessary sum mortgaged a part of his estate for 5,000l., and that the son, becoming prosperous, sent continually instalments to his father of the money he had borrowed; would the right hon. Gentleman say that the owner of the land was acting as the father of a family, or as a man of common sense, if he took those instalments and spent them as he received them as part of his income, in-stead of doing his duty and carrying them to the current account against the mortgage on his land? Well, that was the case of the Exchequer Loan Commission; and when the right hon. Gentleman got up to answer the right hon. Member for the? University of Oxford, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not think it beneath him to answer the case put by so insignificant a person as he (Mr. Lowe) was. He passed now to the next year, for in order 1358 to estimate the present Budget rightly, they must look to the state of income in 1854–5 as well as in 1853–4. They were called on, in fact, to exercise a double amount of the sagacity every House of Commons and every Chancellor of the Exchequer exercised on the Estimates, because they had to found possibilities on possibilities, to place conjecture on conjecture, and to form Estimates on Estimates. One of the things to be assumed was, that if the malt tax was repealed they would have a surplus, and that the financial year 1854 would terminate as the previous year had done. Unless that House was satisfied that was the case, they would not he justified, in the present state of the country, in touching one shilling of a tax so certain and remunerative as the malt tax. How could they foretell the events of 1853,1854, or 1855?—how could they tell what extraordinary circumstances might arise in the interval, or venture to say that all would go on as it had done hitherto with this country, that we would hold to the same course of trade, of foreign and colonial policy, and that we ought to go speculating on speculations of this kind? The right hon. Gentleman was hound to show some reason why he assumed that there was to be the same surplus in 1854 as in 1853. He did not object to the right hon. Gentleman speculating. No. His speculations were most interesting; but what he objected to was that that House was called on to act as if speculations were realities, and that on the right hon. Gentleman's statement they wore to assume a surplus existed as if they had already got it. He would put this case: Suppose he had a ship on a voyage home with a certain cargo, the profits upon which he knew; and suppose also, in order to complete the parallel, that that ship was not insured— because, although we could insure ships, we could not insure the success of Governments, or Government measures—would it be a legitimate thing for him to presume upon those profits before the arrival of the ship, and to draw bills against them? But, supposing he were to go further, and to assume not only that the ship would get safe home with those profits, but that he should afterwards send her somewhere else, and that she should bring home another cargo and other profits, and suppose he were to speculate upon those profits also; why, everybody, in such a case, would say that he had lost sight of, and departed from, all legitimate mercantile 1359 transactions; that he was a dreamer instead of a practical man of business; and that he had substituted the reveries of Alnaschar with his basket of glass for anything like sound financial considerations. Yet that was the course proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. His first assumption in the contemplated surplus of 1,350,000l. was, that the whole of the 450,000l. would be saved from the expenses of the Kafir war, although we had nothing to induce us to suppose that that expenditure would come to an end. The probabilities upon which we were called upon to act were, that we should have first a surplus of 1,350,000l.; and, secondly, that we should have no more trouble from the Kafir war; but if unfortunately those two expectations were not realised, the right hon. Gentleman would leave the country in a deficit of 1,400,000l., and that would be the result of his improvidence in dealing with our national finances. The result of all was this, that the reduction of the malt tax was not to come into practical effect upon the revenue till the financial year beginning in April, 1854; and the loss it would occasion was estimated at 1,700,000l.; to meet which no other provision was to be made except the assumption that there would be a surplus of 1,800,000l. Why, it was very easy to take off taxes upon that principle. He had one word to offer with regard to his constituents, who felt on the subject of the proposed extension of the house tax very acutely. In 1841, an Act was passed which exempted all houses in Kidderminster under 10l. rent per annum from the payment of any rates and taxes whatever; and houses above 10l. had to pay 4l. of local taxes a year. This gave a great encouragement to parties to seek houses under 10l. rent; and if to the 4l. of local rates was to be added the burden of this house tax, it was most seriously to be apprehended that a very large disfranchisement would take place. The real state of the Budget amounted to this: that it proposed to reduce the revenue to the extent of something like 1,200,000l. by the remission of the tea duties and the light dues, and by the increase to the national defences—with all of which nobody quarrelled—while, on the other hand, it only imposed 1,000,000l. in the shape of house tax; and for the rest, to meet the loss of half the malt tax, it trusted entirely to the chapter of accidents. Now he, for one, refused to be led into that line of 1360 recklessness. He was satisfied that if in such a year as the present—a year of unexampled and glorious prosperity beyond all imagination—the nation was not honest enough to meet its obligations, it was not likely to meet them in harder times. If they began by borrowing money—for the proposition with regard to the Exchequer loan amounted to this—they would set an example to future Parliaments of reducing taxes like the malt tax, although the people were never so well able to bear them; and that example future Parliaments would either follow or they would not. If they followed it they would in a very short time wreck and ruin the finances of the country, shipwreck its credit, and reduce us to the level of a third-rate Power, contemptible in the eyes of the world. If they did not follow it, then they would hold them up to scorn and disgrace as the most reckless and improvident stewards of the public money that ever dishonoured the name of a Parliament.
§ MR. A. MILLS
said, he wished to express the strong feelings which he knew his constituents entertained respecting the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the house tax. He had heard it said, that taxes might safely be imposed at the commencement of a Parliament which it would be impracticable or impolitic to impose on the eve of a dissolution. But he thought it mattered very little whether hon. Gentlemen were to meet their constituents to-morrow or five years hence—the chief consideration for them was whether they were dealing out substantial justice to their constituents or not. He had the misfortune to differ on this subject with many of those with whom he ordinarily agreed. In his opinion the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer was acting unwisely in accompanying the reduction of one tax with the extension, in a double shape, of another. Indeed, he did not see the necessity for a reduction of the malt tax, which was not called for, or agitated for even by the agricultural classes. He was not prepared, in order to the remission of that tax, to support an aggravation of taxation which he believed the necessities of the country did not warrant, and which aggravation was alike unnecessary, impolitic, and unjust. If any amendment were to be moved, negativing the increase of the house tax, but affirming the extension of its area, he would be prepared in no hostile spirit to the Government to support it. He knew that middle courses. 1361 were seldom popular, but he could only say such were his views. But though he had the misfortune of differing from Her Majesty's Government on this question, he could not help asking hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House, who objected to the extension of this tax, as a measure of disfranchisement, what became of that longing for political power of which we had heard so much, if Englishmen were prepared to forfeit their privileges for such a small consideration as this? He could not believe so ill of his countrymen, though unfortunately for those who said that the people of this country desired an extension of the suffrage, that opinion was not borne out by facts; for a very popular Review, which certainly did not write in the interest of what was called the country party, had told them recently that out of 500,000 electors in the country, there were not more than 300,000 who exercised the franchise at the last election. The hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Locke King) had given notice of a Motion for the extension of the franchise to that very class of men to whom it was proposed by the Resolution then before the Committee to extend the burden of taxation. He (Mr. Mills) confessed, if that measure was submitted to the House—the effect of which would be to grant the suffrage to that very class who now sought to avoid contributing to the public burdens—he could not see with what grace or propriety the House of Commons which should refuse the extension of the house tax could listen to the Motion of the hon. Member for East Surrey. He had no doubt there were some hon. Members who thought that what he (Mr. Mills) said was unconservative. For his part, he had seen enough of the working of popular institutions in other countries, and particularly in the United States, to be convinced that the larger the number of those who by direct contributions to public burdens had earned their title to the suffrage, the greater was the security for the maintenance of law and order. He regretted it would not be in his power to support the proposition of Her Majesty's Ministers as it stood, and he trusted that some reconstruction of this portion of the Budget would take place. He hoped that by such a timely reconstruction the revenue might be saved from what he considered would be a very serious and uncalled-for sacrifice—the reduction of the malt tax—a measure which, he believed, under the circumstances of the country, 1362 was uncalled for; a measure with regard to which very great diversity of opinion existed, even among the agricultural classes themselves, and other classes who were supposed to be benefited by it; and by which very little popularity, and, what was of more importance, very little substantial advantage to the country, would be gained. For these reasons he would not be a party to the sacrifice of so large a sum, when it could not be gained without the imposition or the duplication of a tax which, he believed, would press very severely upon certain classes in this country who had hitherto been exempt from both the house tax and the income tax; and it was therefore impossible for him to support the proposition as it now stood. He would, at the same time, say he did believe the imputations cast on the Government with respect to their motives in bringing forward this proposition were wholly unfounded. He could not say that it appeared to him any case had been made out for those imputations. He knew it had been said this measure would become a question of town against country and country against town. That might be so; and the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) might look to that result. That hon. Member had told them that they would again be involved in a long and disastrous contest—longer and more disastrous than any they had yet been engaged in. Very possibly it might be so, and he (Mr. Mills) might congratulate the hon. Member for the West Riding upon that circumstance; that hon. Member know that free trade was no longer in danger; he knew also that another trade in which he was deeply interested—the trade of agitation—was not in danger, and he would have an opportunity now of agitating, and, as he (Mr. Mills) trusted, unsuccessfully, for a reversal of those principles on which the Government founded this proposition.
§ MR. BASS
said, that, after the eloquent and able speech of the hon. and learned Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe), so severely censuring as it did the class of tradesmen to which he belonged, the Committee would not perhaps be surprised if he wished to make a few remarks on what had fallen from the hon. and learned Gentleman. He would attempt to unravel some—he could not hope perhaps to unravel all — of the mysteries with which the hon. and learned Gentleman enveloped the question of the malt tax. The hon. and learned Gentleman talked of the monopoly of the brewers. Now, he (Mr. Bass) always thought that 1363 the phrase "monopoly" meant a power conceded to a limited number of persons, and withheld from all others; but there was nothing in the world to prevent the hon. and learned Gentleman himself from becoming a brewer to-morrow; and if he would only direct to the business the same eminent talents which he had exhibited that night, he (Mr. Bass) had no doubt he would prove as successful in it as some others whom he had in his eye. The hon. and learned Gentleman could have no difficulty in borrowing capital, especially after the description he had given of the profits of the brewing trade. The hon. and learned Gentleman had also adverted to the licensing system. Now, he (Mr. Bass) was not there to speak in favour of that system; but what he did say was that the brewers had no part in creating the licensing system, and as far as he himself was personally concerned he would not care how soon that system was abrogated, for he was not in possession of a single house in London, although he sent to it close upon 100,000 barrels a year. He, consequently, was not one of the monopolists described by the hon. and learned Gentleman. When the hon. and learned Gentleman talked of the enormous capital required to commence the brewing trade, he would tell him that he (Mr. Bass) found men competing with him, and successfully, too, who had no more than 1,000l. or 2,000l. as well as those who had more than a million. The fact was there was no monopoly—all that was wanted was industry, and superior skill in the application of large sums of money. Why, they might as well say that the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had got a monopoly because he had more brains than many of them. The right hon. Gentleman had most judiciously and wisely deferred commencing the reduction of the malt duty till the 10th of October, because, if he had reduced it at once, he would not only have disturbed the whole calculations of the present year, but have thrown the whole malting and brewing trade into confusion. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Lowe) evidently did not understand either malting or brewing; and when he talked of brewing fresh beer with fresh malt, he could only say that the hon. and learned Gentleman was much better acquainted with other matters than with that part of his (Mr. Bass's) trade. He would inform him, before he made another speech on this subject, that there 1364 was a malting season, which began about the 1st of October, and ended about the 1st of May; and from the 1st of May to the 1st of October there was a general cessation in the process of malting. A brewer must begin brewing with a stock of malt amounting to very near one-third of his annual consumption; and how could he do that unless he was allowed to have a stock of malt on hand? He could assure the hon. and learned Member, therefore, that as to brewing fresh beer with fresh malt, it was altogether out of the question and impossible. But turning to the general question of the removal of the malt tax, he (Mr. Bass) last year had the honour of submitting to that House this very proposition to remit half the tax upon malt, believing that it would be, as he still believed, most advantageous to the country, that it would be of considerable benefit to the producer of barley, of much advantage to the consumer of beer, and that it would entail very little loss, ultimately, to the revenue. On that occasion, however, his proposition did not receive the support of more than thirty-one hon. Members, and among its friends he did not find the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or any of his present Colleagues. Let them look at the reason of the thing. Were they to say, "We must remit every duty on foreign articles; but we shall obstinately retain every tax upon our own produce?" But it was said that the malt tax involved 5,000,000l. of our revenue; and that that was too large a sum to deal with in the way of reduction. Well, he admitted the force of that argument; and therefore it was that he had thought that they should begin by degrees, taking off one-half at first, which would by no means cause a loss of one-half to the revenue; and then, if the prosperity of the country at some future time enabled them to repeal the remaining half, it would be for Parliament in its wisdom to take that step. But the right hon. Baronet the former Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir C. Wood), the other night argued that to remit the duty would be useless, for it would not increase the consumption of malt; and he said that there had been no corresponding increase in the consumption when the beer duty was removed in the year 1830. Now, he (Mr. Bass) thought the right hon. Baronet was mistaken in this. True there was no immediate increase after the year 1830, because we had two bad harvests at that period; but in the year 1836, the quantity 1365 had increased prodigiously. He believed that, in round numbers, the consumption, which in 1830 was 3,500,000 quarters, had risen to considerably more than 5,000,000 quarters. He thought that ought to have satisfied the right hon. Baronet. But then they were told that Mr. Barclay, the largest brewer in the world, had stated, in his evidence before a Committee of the House of Lords, that it would be useless to take off the malt duty; and it was also said that Mr. Taylor—who was Mr. Barclay's maltster, by-the-by— had stated pretty much the same thing. Yet the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Sandars)—himself an eminent maltster— had, the other night, countenanced the idea that the reduction of the duty would all go into the pockets of the great brewers; and still the hon. Gentleman said he would vote for this Budget, although he had opposed his (Mr. Bass's) proposal last year. But he would ask, what became of the charge of rapacity against the brewers? It was said that this measure would distribute 2,500,000l. among the brewers; and yet, on the other hand, they were all to a man against it. Surely the brewers— men who had made large fortunes—ought to be allowed credit for some sagacity—or cunning, as hon. Gentlemen would perhaps call it; and if they were so rapacious as was alleged, how was it that they were opposed to a reduction which it was said would swell their profits so enormously? But it was said they had not made reductions in the price of beer when there had been considerable reductions in the price of barley. That was perfectly true. For twenty years, or nearly, since the last adjustment of the prices of beer, the price of barley had been remarkably uniform; and he had once before explained to that House how it was that in an article divided so minutely it was inconvenient to have frequent alterations in price, and that it became almost an agreement between the brewers and publicans that there should not be sudden and frequent changes. ["Hear, hear!"] He hoped that the Committee would be good enough to hear him out. Since the establishment of free trade, it was true that there had been a steady and permanennt reduction in the price of barley up to the present year. In the present year the brewers were paying considerably more than the average prices of the last thirty years; but up to the present year there had been a considerable and an important 1366 reduction, and no corresponding reduction in the price of beer. Now, he explained to the House last year, and he now repeated it, that it was very difficult to make a reduction in the price of beer, on account merely of the reduction in the price of barley. But if they added to the reduction in the price of barley the proposed reduction of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the duty on malt, he said emphatically not only would the consumer of beer receive the benefit of the reduction in the malt tax, but he would get, in addition thereto, that reduction which had taken place in the price of barley, which the brewers and the maltsters owed to the public at large. [Laughter.] He repeated, that he believed whenever they made this reduction in the malt tax, that the brewers would not only make commensurate reduction to the public, but would also make a further handsome reduction for the reduced price of barley. An hon. Gentleman below him asked, what would the reduction of half the duty on malt amount to? He (Mr. Buss) had no hesitation in stating his computation, and he was sure there were many who would not refuse to be guided by him. He thought there ought to be a reduction of from 4s. to 6s. a barrel, according to the strength of the beer. Hon. Gentlemen would understand that light beer would not be capable of as large a reduction as strong beer; therefore it would be quite unreasonable to expect as largo a reduction in pale ale as in other descriptions of beer. Still he undertook to give that opinion, that there ought to be reduction of from 4s. to 6s. a barrel on the price of beer, according to its strength. Remember, the brewer had, or ought to have, a profit on the capital which he employed in his trade, and there would be not only the reduction in the duty, but in the interest of the capital which would be no longer required to conduct the business on the same scale. Enabling the trade to be conducted with a smaller capital would invite more competition, and this the brewers must expect. He might perhaps be permitted to say a few words with respect to the bugbear of foreign malt. He would undertake to say, that if the British manufacturers only had a fair chance—that was to say. if the foreigners would reduce their duty, they would supply the foreign market with malt instead of the foreigner supplying us. What inducement could our brewers have to take the foreigners' malt? Why, the 1367 manufacture of malt was an operation of so much nicety and importance that the principal brewers of this country would not trust the maltsters to make malt for them —they made their own malt. He begged his hon. and learned Friend to understand, that in order to be a successful brewer you must understand the maltster's trade too. It was not every sort of malt that would produce a really valuable quality of beer; it was not the foreigner who could supply an article that could be trusted to produce a desired quality of beer. What inducement had British manufacturers to go to the foreigner when they could make their malt cheaper than he could, and, as he (Mr. Bass) undertook to say, make it better too? With respect to keeping malt in the winter, there were very few countries in which it could be done, and none that he was acquainted with so favourable to the production of malt as this country. For that purpose a mild and moist climate was required; with a very severe degree of frost they could not make malt, and when that occurred in this country the process was interrupted. He could not think that the countries on the Baltic or on the banks of the Elbe could make an article equal to that used by the English brewer, and never would he believe, till he saw it, that a single bushel of malt could be brought into this country which would injure our manufacturers by foreign competition. As to the production of foreign barley, he believed the difficulties arising on that head were greatly overrated. He knew that at times very large quantities of foreign barley might be introduced into this country. As much as 1,600,000 quarters had been imported in 1849, but of that quantity not one-fourth was fit for malting, the rest being used for the purpose of distillation or fattening cattle, as well as for human food. He had ascertained on careful inquiry, that, going from one end of Europe to the other, there was the greatest difficulty in procuring, on all the large quantity produced, more than 200,000 quarters of fine malting barley. What was that in comparison with the 5,000,000 quarters we used? Evidently it would have but little effect on prices. In 1850 the quantity we imported fell off to 1,100,000 or 1,200,000 quarters; in the following year it fell to 800,000, and during the year ending the 10th October last—for this information he was indebted to the kindness of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade—it 1368 was under 600,000 or thereabouts, The Committee would not fail to observe that this decline in the importation of foreign barley—this diminution of competition with our English barley-growers, had taken place not with such a reduction of price as might reasonably account for it, but with a very great and serious advance of price. The price in 1849 was 23s. a quarter, next year it was 23s. 2d., in the year after it was 24s., and at the present moment the average price was upwards of 30s. He was paying for fine barley 36s. a quarter, and could not get a supply from abroad, yet they had had fine harvests in the barley countries, excepting France, whilst the barley harvest in this country had been very indifferent, a considerable proportion of it having been damaged. He could not meet with a single sample of what was called bright barley in this country; indeed, they were using it abroad, for foreign brewers were beginning to compete with our own for the finest qualities of foreign barley. The right hon. Baronet the late Chancellor of the Exchequer asked, why meddle with a part of the farming business that was so profitable, for sheep were best reared and fattened on barley soils? He (Mr. Bass) said, the more you extend the trade, the more good you did the farmer. With regard to the hop tax, he could not but hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would listen to the representations addressed to him from so many quarters, and give up an impost against which there were such grave objections. They had heard a great deal about fattening cattle with malt. He had attempted that himself, and the question had been examined, at the instance of Government, by some of the best and most competent authorities in the country, the Messrs. Thomson of Glasgow, whose opinion was that it was not a profitable mode. There was, however, no hindrance to feeding cattle on malt at present; the only point at which the Excise stopped you, was in taking it on the kiln, and he maintained that it was not necessary to do so, but was in fact a hindrance and a loss. Considering the indulgence which the Committee had extended to him, he should not intrude further on their patience, or say a word more on the other interesting topics with which the Budget was fraught.
§ LORD ADOLPHUS VANE
said, he felt that after the eloquent and and lucid statement made by the right hon. Gentleman 1369 the Chancellor of the Exchequer in introducing the Ministerial measures, he need say very little to justify to the constituents who had returned him to Parliament the vote he was about to give on the present occasion. He had heard an hon. Member who represented a borough, assign as a reason for not supporting the measures of the Government the unpopularity he should incur by so doing; but he (Lord A. Vane) fearlessly said that unpopularity, if he were doomed to encounter it, would not prevent him from giving a vote in favour of measures which he conscientiously felt to be devised in equity and based upon justice. If he understood the policy of past years it was that indirect taxation, which pressed on the essential articles of consumption among the poorer classes should be removed, and direct taxation be imposed instead, not exempting any classes who were in a social position that enabled them to bear their due share of the public burdens. Now he conceived that the measures brought forward by the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, and approved of by Her Majesty's Government, did embrace those desirable objects. Respecting the proposed increase of the house tax, he confessed he saw no reason why 10l. householders should be exempted, as they now were. At present many a man who was subjected to very hard work by the duties of his profession or occupation paid as much as 10l. a year on account of income tax. He saw no reason why such a man should be obliged to pay a larger quota of taxation than was fair, while a man who had 140l. a year of income was entirely exempted, and the labourer in the field was paying a larger share by indirect taxation on all articles of consumption in consequence of this exemption, The right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer told them that he was prepared to vindicate his proposal regarding the house tax on grounds of justice and expediency, and he had heard another right hon. Gentleman who lately filled that office state, on Friday night, that he was not prepared to say that the house tax should not be extended. He (Lord A. Vane) considered that those authorities quite justified him in voting for the extension of the house tax, and he could not imagine a fairer extension of it than that men should be assessed who occupied property which entitled them to vote at elections for Members of that House which had the control over the supplies of the country. In reference to the duplication 1370 of the tax, he considered that the measure of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was but the supplement of that brought for-ward by the late Government. Either tax was just, and therefore the Government ought to obtain a fair quota from each, or it should be removed altogether. He did not think they obtained that quota now in the case of the house tax, and therefore he should have no hesitation in supporting I both its extension and duplication. If he incurred unpopularity, he could say to his constituents that his vote was an honest one, and that if he voted for taxing classes who were hitherto exempted, it was in order to benefit the poor of the country. Gentlemen on his side of the House could corroborate him in saying that the great difficulty they had to encounter at the late election, was, that their opponents continually impressed on the people that they were the only men who would secure cheapness, and that they would pour blessings from that exhaustless cornucopia of free trade of which they were the sole possessors. He believed that the measures brought forward by the Government would give the country plenty in earnest, and therefore he gave them his hearty support. No one would pretend that a reduction of half the malt tax would not very much diminish the price of beer, and that the remission of the tax on tea would not be an immense benefit to the poorer classes. He had great satisfaction also in supporting the system first Ministerially enunciated by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, recognising the truth that incomes which were precarious, inasmuch as they depended on health, were not to he taxed in the same proportion as those derived from realised property. He thought that a fair principle, and was persuaded that the popularity which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would reap from this part of his plan, would far overbalance any unpopularity he might incur on account of the increased house tax. He would beg to observe that some hon. Members held language on the subject, which, in fact, offered a premium to householders to agitate against the tax. It was by no means a difficult thing to head a popular crusade against any tax, and if Members went and addressed battalions of householders, and called on them to rise under their guidance, as he observed from the papers that the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams), and the hon. Baronet the Member for Mary- 1371 lebone (Sir B. Hall), had been doing, he said they were countenancing an agitation against a measure which he considered fair and just, and therefore the blame of creating disturbance must lie, not on those who proposed the tax, but on those who organised the agitation. He had heard the Government accused of a wish to retain office, and bitter attacks directed against the noble Lord at the head of the Government. It was not for him to defend a nobleman whose talent was universally admitted to be pre-eminent, and whose character malice could not assail; it was not for him to defend a Government whose conduct was before the country, but as an independent Member of that House it was with high gratification he supported a Government who he believed were actuated solely by a wish to amend the financial system of the country, and to carry out the principles which the House and the country had sanctioned, with fairness to all classes, and without oppression to any. He hoped hon. Members would not be led away, by specious fault-finding or dexterous straw-splitting, to cavil at the details of the Government plan, but that they would consider its whole spirit and main features, and give the Ministry strength to carry out a system just in principle, and, he believed he might add, in the opinion of the country grand in the comprehensive views it took of the public requirements.
§ MR.FREDERICK PEEL
said, when the hon. Member for the West Riding observed that hon. Gentlemen opposite appeared to think there was some inconsistency in opposing the Budget on his (Mr. F. Peel's) side of the House, he perceived from the reception they gave to the observation how much importance they attached to that position. The noble Lord who had just sat down, as well as some of those who preceded him on the same side, had plausibly argued that the essence of this Budget was the remission of indirect and the substitution of direct taxation, in conformity with the policy which had been inaugurated in 1842, and continued by subsequent Governments, and that all that the present Government proposed to do was to take up that policy where the late Ministers had left it, and to extend it over a greater range of subjects. Now, he admitted that since 1842 direct taxation had formed a much more important source of the public revenue than it did in times previous; but he did not know that direct taxation had been substituted for indirect taxation from any abstract preference 1372 for it in a financial point of view; on the contrary, the only ground on which the income tax was recommended was its capacity to be made instrumental in effecting a great commercial reform. The House felt the necessity then existing for relieving industry from the load of incumbrances which weighed it down, and that if a large development of our trade were to take place, it could only be effected by the remission of indirect taxes and the substitution of a direct tax, to such an extent as might ensure a considerable result. He hoped, therefore, that on this occasion the House would not yield a blind subserviency to any supposed theory of taxation, and that before they voted for the doubling and extension of the house tax, they would satisfy themselves as to the existence of an emergency calling for this imposition, and as to the advantages to be expected from the proposed remission of indirect taxation. He was himself in favour of a judicious intermixture of direct and indirect taxation. He thought direct taxation useful in many ways, and in this, amongst others, that it tended to keep up a disposition to murmur at any unnecessary outlay of public money, and caused the people of this country to watch with jealousy any increase in the estimates—though it was very possible the country did not go along with him in that sentiment. He knew that notwithstanding the acknowledged advantages which had resulted from the imposition of the income tax, there was some difficulty in procuring its periodical renewal; but of this he was certain, that if direct taxation were to answer, it was an essential condition of its success that it should be laid on by a friendly and discriminating hand. If an impression prevailed— no matter whether well-founded or not— that the doubling of this house tax was brought forward in a spirit of retaliation for supposed injuries which had been inflicted by recent legislation on the agricultural classes, he did not think it required any great sagacity to foresee that it would not be possible to saddle this load on the country. It was said, indeed, that the house tax was one of the justest which could be imposed, because it was exactly in proportion to a man's expenditure, and because, differing in this respect from the income tax, it was levied only on the disposable part of income. He, however, concurred in an observation that he heard made on Friday evening—that the house rent was hardly a fair criterion of indi- 1373 vidual expenditure, and that it would be found that it formed a continually increasing part of the income in proportion as the income sunk in amount, being greater in the case of persons of moderate income than with the higher classes. It had been urged that there was reason to apprehend that the doubling of the house tax would lead to the disfranchisement of some voters; and he had heard it said on the other side that they, the Opposition, ought not to complain of that since it was one of their axioms that taxation and representation ought to go hand in hand, and that all they were doing was to give a Parliamentary recognition to this principle. Now, it was one thing to include among the possessors of the franchise those who contributed to the public taxes, and quite another thing, when they had got their franchise settled, to rearrange their financial system on the basis of possession of the elective franchise. He could not see that any other result would accrue from this than to make the franchise be regarded as a burden rather than a privilege. In his opinion, house property was quite sufficiently taxed in this country already; it contributed to local taxation, it was assessed under Schedule A to the income tax, and now it was to be charged at a special rate for the public service. Under these circumstances, he thought nothing more probable than that many persons now possessed of the elective franchise would resort to voluntary disfranchisement, by having their houses rated at less than that sum, which would expose them to the liability of being called upon to contribute what they regarded as a disproportionate share of the public burdens. Another consideration was, that the house tax had not a very good name. And its reimposition now under the pressure of no emergency would cause it to be regarded still more unfavourably. This was not an unimportant consideration, because it was possible that times might occur when they would find it necessary to call on the people to make great sacrifices, and the only shape this could assume was that of a direct contribution from income, or the levying a tax on house rent; but if they now exhausted their resources they would not know whence to obtain their additional supplies. They could not expect to procure any increased revenue from the customs under such circumstances—foreign trade would be already liable to obstructions and embarrassments enough. In fact they were doing all they could to render a resort to 1374 direct taxation in any emergency impossible. The number of houses between 10l. and 20l. rent might be considerable enough to bring round about them battalions of exasperated householders, but still the sum derived from increasing the area would be inconsiderable. According to the present assessment, the yearly value of private houses liable to the tax was 13,000,000l.; and, according to the estimate of the Government, even carrying down the assessment to 10l. houses, it would not be raised beyond 15,000,000l. Shops which were now assessed at 8,000,000l., it was estimated, would be increased to 10,000,000l. So that while the risk was run of arousing great discontent, they would continue to levy the bulk of this house tax from those who occupied houses above 20l. in yearly value. They were the persons who would bear the greater part of it, and they said, naturally enough, "Show us the advantages to be derived from this new imposition. What are the advantages that we are to get in compensation for this new tax?" And what answer could the House give them? "You are to have cheap tea, and, if you drink beer, supposing that the brewer and the maltster do not divide the remission of duty between them, it is just possible that you may get a quart of beer a farthing cheaper than before." He did not say that the tea duty was the redeeming feature of the Government Budget; but it was at all events that feature which had most commended itself to the judgment and the opinion of the country. He believed, however, that they might reduce the tea duties, not only without the imposition of any new burdens, but, as far as the present year went, without making provision for any anticipated loss to the revenue. He said this, relying very much upon the experience that he had had in the analogous case of sugar. The Act of 1848 reduced the duty on sugar on a scale very similar to that proposed for the reduction of the duty on tea, and under that Act there had been no diminution in the revenue received from sugar. No doubt, the sugar duties did not now produce so much as they did ten years ago; but that was on account of the Act of 1845, which reduced the duty from 24s. the cwt. to 14s. Lot the House remember that the revenue derived from the tea duties had increased remarkably of late years; he believed, during the last four years not very far short of one million sterling, and this of course under ordinary circumstances. The right hon. Gentleman estimated the loss to 1375 the revenue for this year from the reduction of the tea duties at 400,000l., a sum which would be made up by an increased consumption of from five to six millions of pounds of tea; and when the House considered that there had for the last two or three years been an increased consumption of tea to the extent of three millions of pounds each year, there could, he thought, be nothing unreasonable in estimating that, with the diminished price of tea consequent on a reduction of the duty, the increased consumption of tea might go on at such an accelerated rate as would be sufficient to make up the anticipated loss to the revenue. Now with regard to the malt duty—he did not understand who were the persons to be benefited by the remission. If it was regarded as a question of compensation to the agricultural interest, it was at once obvious how partial must be its operation. At the best it could only benefit that portion of the light soils devoted to the cultivation of barley; and even the holders of that portion of the soil would only be benefited under one or other of two conditions: either the consumption of barley must increase—and the right hon. Member for Halifax (Sir Charles Wood) had given good reasons for supposing that that result was rather problematical—or the price of barley must increase if they were to be benefited. Now, it was stated that when, in 1830, four times the amount of duty that it was now proposed to remit was taken off the bushel of malt, the average price of barley for the four years following was actually less than in the four years preceding 1830. Of course he did not mean to say that the reduction of the duty led to that state of things; but he inferred that the diminution in the price of barley was not conteracted by the remission of duty. Well, then, if anybody was benefited, it must be the consumer. If, however, the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe) was right, the benefit to the consumer would be intercepted by the brewer; if on the other hand the Member for Derby (Mr. Bass) was right, it would appear that the price of beer to the consumer would be reduced to the extent of from 4s. to 6s. per barrel—no very great advantage; at all events it was not an adequate advantage to justify the House in purchasing it at such a tremendous sacrifice of revenue as the present Budget contemplated. This was bad enough, but it was much worse when they considered that all this unprofitable remission of duty, and 1376 all this onerous and burdensome imposition of taxation, was to end in a disastrous financial result. They were going, for the sake of these very questionable advantages, to convert a substantial and legitimate surplus of 1,500,000l. into a fictitious surplus of 400,000l.—a surplus existing only by the payment into the Exchequer of a loan which, if it was to be called in at all, should undoubtedly be applied to the reduction of the debt which was contracted when the loan was granted. There was, however, one view of this question to which adequate importance had not, he thought, been attached. The income tax was the pivot upon which all their financial discussions must turn. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that there was a moral certainty that the income tax would be renewed; but they knew that there were many persons who would not vote for the renewal of the income tax unless all those grievances and inequalities which they charged against it were redressed; and that, on the other hand, there were others who would not vote for incomes being assessed at different poundages, not only upon the ground of public faith, but also that by taking such a course they would be frittering away the income tax, and preventing it from being that productive source of revenue which it was at present. First, let them look at the question in this light: they had the income tax on the one side, and the malt duty on the other. Both sources of revenue yielded between five and six millions annually; but would anybody make a comparison between them for a moment in respect of the difficulty of assessing them—in respect to the troublesome machinery required in collecting them, and in respect to the disclosure of private circumstances to which they led? And yet they were about to reimpose the income tax and to reduce the malt tax. He looked upon the malt duty as one of the best that we had; for he did not know any tax which brought more money into the Exchequer, at a cost so comparatively trifling to the industry and capital of the country. And now with regard to the proposed modifications of the income tax. The income tax was at present complained of because it levied the same poundage upon every income, and it required incomes of the same nominal amount to contribute precisely the same sum to the Exchequer; while it was contended that incomes nominally the same have really a very different value, as would 1377 be seen at once if they were capitalised; for while one income would be worth thirty years' purchase, another would not produce, more than ten. Why was that? The value of an income was affected by the character of its tenure, and of its source. The quality of the sources from whence the income arose would differ. Capital might be invested in land, in the funds, in trade, or in professions, and just as it was invested in one form or another, an investment became of an inferior character. The worse it was, the greater was the part of the income required to be devoted to cover any depreciation of the capital, and the cost of insurance against the possible chance of its entire annihilation. Now, what did the Chancellor of the Exchequer propose to do 'He proposed to recognise the inferiority of one description of investment—that of capital invested in and yielding an income from trade. But if they recognised that distinction, why not recognise also the inferiority of other descriptions of investment? There, were, for example, investments in house property and in minerals. An income could not be derived from minerals at all, unless the capital itself were destroyed; and with regard to house property, the census showed that no fewer than ] 66,000 houses were generally uninhabited. Why, when the houses were inhabited, the income must be sufficient to compensate for the loss that accrued during the time that they were uninhabited, and yet no allowance was to be made for the inferiority of that class of investment. Then with regard to the depreciation of income arising from tenure. One income might be held for perpetuity, and another for life or a term of years, or upon some contingency, as health, reputation, or the will of a master. Now the right hon. Gentleman proposed to recognise the inferiority of one sort of tenure only—that of incomes of the class of salaries. But why should not the inferiority of an income derived from a life annuity charged on land be equally recognised? It was the annuitant who had so long complained of the injustice of the tax, and it would be cold comfort to him to be told that the Government were prepared to recognise the distinction between permanent and real income, and then to find that he was not to get any relief, but that his brother annuitant of 50l. was now, for the first time, to be called upon to contribute at the same rate with himself. Then, with 1378 regard to the exemptions proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. He admitted that it might be desirable to carry down the tax to incomes below 150l.; and his reason for saying so was, not that he wished to assess those who had less than 150l., but because he found that great numbers of those who had incomes of more than that amount took shelter under this exemption. He found it was stated before the Income Tax Committee, that in one year no less than 10,000 persons claiming exemptions as having incomes under 150l. a year, were brought under its operation by the vigilance of the officers charged with its collection. Now let the House sec the anomaly which might arise from the alteration proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with a view of assessing all persons having an income of 100. from commercial gains, or 50l. from land. If a man had 130l. a year, partly derived from land and partly from commercial gains, it appeared to him (Mr. Peel) that there might be the singular anomaly of his being entitled to exemption. Then with regard to the mode in which it was proposed to assess the profits of the farmer under Schedule B. At one time his profits were assessed at three-fourths of his rent, at another at a half, and now it was proposed to take them at one-third. He did not, however, see that any injustice would be done to the farmer if the present standard were retained, because, by the provision adopted last year on the Motion of the gallant Member for Lincoln (Colonel Sibthorp), if, in the course of the current year he found his profits less than they were estimated at the commencement of the year, he was at liberty, on making a proper explanation, to claim an abatement of the duty to that extent. But if the profits of the farmer were now assessed at one-third, there would be no means of surcharging him if his profits exceeded that sum, and he would, doubtless, escape his fair contribution. He would only say, in conclusion, that, looking at the Budget as a whole, it certainly had created in him a feeling of disappointment. He was in hopes that the right hon. Gentleman would have done that which he undertook to do. He said that he would reconcile the interests of town and country; hut instead of appearing in the character of a mediator, he had rather assumed that of a partisan, and his measures were calculated to foment jealousy between the urban and rural interests of the country. He had also expected that our finances were to be re- 1379 generated. That was the great boon which was promised to the country. It was said, "Your financial system is a perfect hodgepodge of assessments, imposed without justice, without principle, without proportion, imposed solely with a view to bring into the Exchequer as much money as could be collected." The country was told to place the right hon. Gentleman where he was, and they would then see this chaos reduced to order, and what now was void of method and system reduced into the most beautiful proportions. All anomalies were to cease; there were, in future, to be none such, for instance, as a stamp duty upon two kinds of insurance and not upon a third, or as pro-bate and legacy duties upon one description of property and not upon another. He could not, however, say that he thought any of these undertakings had been realised; and, without wishing to say anything in depreciation of the right hon. Gentleman, he must say that he saw nothing in his Budget which might not have been found there if it had proceeded from the laboratory of any ordinary predecessor in his office. His objections to the measure were so strong and so numerous, that he should, undoubtedly, vote against it.
§ MR. WALPOLE
Sir, we have certainly had some important admissions during the course of this debate. Remember, we are discussing the present question, according to the suggestion of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, as a whole—as a whole we are considering the financial statement of my right hon. Friend and, bearing that in mind, I think it will be seen that some very important admissions have been made by hon. Gentlemen opposite. We have had an admission from the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, in conformity with the opinion expressed by other hon. Members, that the remission of the tea duty is a wise and beneficial measure. We have the admission of the right hon. Gentleman the late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Charles Wood), that the way in which we have dealt with the shipping interest, so as to give relief to it from certain restrictions to which it is exposed, is wise and beneficial. We have to-night the admission of the hon. Member for the West Hiding (Mr. Cobden), answering one-half the objections and arguments that have come from the other side of the House, with reference to almost the most important point in the Budget—we have his admission, I say, that our proposition in regard 1380 to the income and property tax is so good that it ought to have come from his own friends, and net from us. We have these great admissions, and I think we have also had the admission that even with regard to the distinct and specific Resolution that we are now dealing with, namely, that relating to the House tax— we have the admission, although you object to the increase of that tax, you do not object to the extension of area, over which it is distributed; and in justice I believe you cannot take any such objection. All these being your own admissions—and bearing in mind that we are to consider the Budget as a whole-1-what is the issue that you are taking with us except this—that while you are admitting the reasonableness and propriety of the greater portion of the Budget, you are opposing us on one part only, and that a very small part. The principal objections which you have raised are two—one applying to the increase of the House tax in part of amount, and the other applying to any remission whatever of the malt tax, These are your principal objections— against which I set your important admissions, and then I ask you whether dealing with this subject as a whole, and upon principle, you should not support us, at any rate to this extent that the scheme as a whole may perfectly he adopted, though in its details it may reasonably be modified? ["No, no!"] Well, then, you object to that? Now, I wish to put the question on the fairest ground. The subject is a large and very comprehensive one, and I wish to bring you to the test, by reducing that large and comprehensive subject within the few and important principles which are necessarily involved in it, the objects which these principles have clearly in view, and the results to which they must necessarily lead.
What, then, are these principles? I think if you examine the propositions of my right hon. Friend, you will find that they are three in number; and the objects contemplated of course correspond to the number of the principles. The principles are— first, to adhere unreservedly to—or, in your own formula, firmly to maintain and prudently to extend the commercial system which is now established in this country. The object of that principle unquestionably is to bring home to every one all articles, whether of import or of domestic produce (for you must regard both in the same light if you wish to be consistent), as cheaply 1381 and as readily as the lowering effects of unrestricted competition can supply them. That principle and that object are exemplified, as I will presently show you, in the remission of the tea and malt duties. The second principle contained in this Budget amounts to this, that if, while you are acting on the recommendation contained in the Speech from the Throne, you find that in the establishment of the present commercial system you have inflicted any injury upon any particular interest, then in common justice you ought to endeavour to mitigate that injury by enabling those interests to meet successfully the unrestricted competition to which they are subjected. Now, what is the object of that principle? Obviously it is then that those interested shall enjoy the same advantage, in their competition with others, as others enjoy in their competition with them. That, I think, you will admit is a just principle; and if you apply it to those articles that we have dealt with, you will find that we have dealt with it in a just manner. The third principle contained in the Budget, and that which has attracted most attention in this debate, is the mode in which we have dealt with the taxation of this country, so as to put it on a fairer and more equitable footing, in order that all who are to run together this free-trade race may he equally unfettered by any restrictions and equally unencumbered by any impediments which do not press upon the rest of the community. These are the three principles contained in this Budget; and I will undertake to show you before I sit down that every one of them is just, and that they have been fairly acted upon in the propositions which have been submitted to you my right hon. Friend.
I will begin with the first—that relating to the commercial policy of the country— the object being to give to every one all articles, but especially those which are the prime necessaries of life, as cheaply and as readily as they can be procured. Now, how did you work upon this principle in the alterations that you have made during the last ten years? The first alteration of your tariff was in 1842, when, by removing prohibitory duties on certain articles of imports, you admitted the importation of animal food for the consumption of this country, so as to make it more cheap than it would otherwise have been. Ten years afterwards you will find, from the returns, that instead of no animals baring been brought into England as was 1382 the case before, 100,000 of larger cattle, and 200,000 of sheep and lambs have been imported in less than a year. Whether it is or is not wise to admit them absolutely duty free, may be, I think, a question. I question it on this ground, because I believe that without any material addition to the price, you might have made an addition to the revenue by means of a small duty which would not have been felt. What did you do with respect to the supply of another great article of consumption in this country—corn? Ten years ago the quantity of corn brought into the country was 2,150,000 quarters, the quantity of wheat and other flour being 1,200,000 quarters; but in the ten months ending November, 1852, the corn imported into this country for the benefit of the people had increased to 5,500,000 quarters, the wheat and other flour being 3,100,000 quarters; so that there is an increase of 2,000,000 quarters under each of those heads. Thus it is you have dealt with the people in regard to those articles of food which are unquestionably the prime necessaries of life; but did you benefit the consumer equally with regard to the other necessaries of life? Did you benefit him by giving him his beverages as cheap as you gave him his food? No; you left all your duties on tea and malt as they were before. I know you say you had a good reason for this; and the reason is, that if you had done otherwise you would have had to deal with such a large amount of revenue that you could not afford to make the remission. But I contend upon your own principles, that if you had intended to benefit the consumer of this country with reference to that which is as much a necessary of life to him as his his bread and meat— ["Oh, oh!"] Yes, I believe that there is not a village so remote, or a cottage so poor, but that any addition to their beer and their tea is as important as an addition to their food; and if you had intended to benefit the consumer with reference to these articles, you ought to have boldly grappled with that difficulty. Now I will deal with these articles particularly with reference to the observations which the late Chancellor of the Exchequer made upon the subject.
And, first, with regard to malt, which is, after all, the great point against which your objections are mainly directed, I am dealing with this question at present as a consumer's, and not as a producer's question. What did the late Chancellor of the 1383 Exchequer say on this point? He said that as to the benefit to the consumer, he doubted very much whether we should materially benefit the consumer by a reduction in the duty, because he thought, from statistical returns, that we should not materially increase the quantity of malt. I own I was astonished at that statement. The malt duty was first imposed at the end of the 17th century. It was raised, during the 18th century, from 4s. a quarter up to, at one time, 1l. 15s. a quarter; it was subsequently reduced to 1l. 8s., and afterwards, I think, to 1l. 2s. 7½d. Now, any one who has taken the trouble to go through the returns of the manufacture of malt in this country, cannot fail to draw some important conclusions which displace the argument of the right hon. Gentleman. The first and most startling fact—a fact which I was astonished to hear denied this evening—is, that, notwithstanding the increase which has taken place in the population and the wealth of this country, the manufacture of malt has, for the hundred years ending 1816, remained nearly stationary. And why was that? Because you had put on so high a duty. Let there be no mistake on this subject; I will read you an authority which cannot be doubted:—Owing to malt liquor having early become the favourite beverage of the people of England, the manufacture of malt has been carried on amongst us for a long period on a very large scale. Instead, however, of increasing with the population of the country, it has been nearly stationary for the last 100 years. In proof of this we may mention that the quantity of malt that paid duty in England and Wales, at an average of 12 years, ending 1720, was 24 millions and a fraction bushels a year; whereas the annual average quantity that paid duty during the 12 years ending 1816, was only 23 millions and a fraction bushels per year. This apparently anomalous result is probably in some measure to be accounted for by the increased consumption of tea and coffee, which are now almost in universal use; but there cannot be a question that it is mainly owing to the exorbitant duties with which malt, and the ale or beer manufactured from it have been loaded, and the oppressive regulations imposed on the manufacture of malt and the sale of beer.The authority I have just quoted is Mr. Mac Culloch [Commercial Dictionary, MALT], I see an hon. Gentleman thinks he has an answer to that statement. I should like him to reconcile his answer with the statement made by the right hon. Member for Halifax, that he could show by statistical returns relating to malt that the quantity of malt would not be materially increased by the remission of the 1384 duty. There is another and a most important conclusion to be drawn from these-returns, and it is one which I think upsets almost the whole argument which was addressed to the House on this point by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Halifax. It is this, that as you increase the duty you diminish the consumption per head. I have here some tables, the principal results of which I will briefly state to the House. One hundred years ago—in 1750—the quantity of bushels of malt which were made in this country was 29 millions and a fraction, the duty being 6d. per bushel, and the consumption from five to six bushels per head. Now let us see whether the consumer of the country has been benefited by your mode of dealing with this question since 1750? Between that year and 1801 the duty was increased first to 1s. 9d., then it was fixed at 1s. 4d., and at last it was increased to 2s. 5d. per bushel. What was the effect of this? In 1801 the manufacture was 30,000,000 bushels, the duty being 2s. 5d. per bushel, and the consumption, which was formerly 5 bushels per head, had been reduced to 3 bushels and 3 gallons. Following up these documents, I will next take periods often years each, and show how your tax has operated on the manufacture of malt in this country. Between 1801 and 1811 the duty was raised to the enormous amount of 4s. 5¾d. per bushel, but was subsequently reduced to 2s. 5d. What was the quantity made in 1811? Instead of being 30,000,000 bushels as in 1801— I am speaking now of Great Britain— it was only 25,000,000 and a fraction bushels (the duty being 2s. 5d.), and the consumption per head, instead of being 5 bushels, as in 1750, or 3 bushels 3 gallons as in 1801, was now reduced to 2 bushels 4 gallons per head. In the period between 1811 and 1821, the duty was raised to 3s. 7½d. per bushel. What was the consumption per head? It fell from 2 bushels 4 gallons to 2 bushels 1½ gallons—the increase of tax and the diminution of consumption went on together. I now take the period from 1821 to 1831, the duty having been reduced to 2s. 7d. in the interval. The effect of that reduction was instantaneous. Notwithstanding all that was said by the right hon. Member for Halifax, and repeated to-night by the hon. Gentleman opposite, in 1831 the quantity of malt manufactured rose to 33,000,000 quarters, the duty being, as I have said, 2s. 7d. per bushel, and the consumption 1385 per head to 2 bushels 2 gallons. That is the return, and a most important return it is. The hon. Member very properly reminds me that the beer duty was taken off in 1830. No doubt it was; and it shows how the increase of consumption followed the reduction of duty. The hon. Member for Marylebone (Sir B. Hall) said last night —and I confess I wonder where he got his statistical figures—that the remission of that beer duty had no effect upon the price or the consumption of beer. But I will show that it had; for I will read another table precisely showing the progress of consumption, in bushels of malt from that year, 1830, to 1840; and it will be seen that the effect of taking off the duty in 1830 was immediately perceptible; for, while 23,428,000 bushels were made in 1829, and 26,000,000 in 1830, the manufacture rose in 1831 to 32,965,000 bushels; in 1832 it was 31,669,000, in 1833, 33,769,000 bushels, and it continued to increase until 1840, when it reached 36,652,000 bushels. That was the effect of what was equivalent to a great reduction of duty. But the right hon. Member for Halifax went on to argue that there was a great falling-off in 1841–2. I reminded him that 5 per cent was then added to the duty on malt, and—mark the effect—the 5 per cent then added appears to have sunk the quantity of malt manufactured to 30,956,000 bushels in 1841, and 30,760,000 bushels in 1842. It has, indeed, been remarked that these were years of considerable distress, and that it was therefore distress as well as the addition of the 5 per cent to the duty that concurred to diminish the quantity of malt consumed. I wish to state everything fairly. Probably the distress had something to do with the diminished consumption: giving you credit for this fact, you, on the other hand, give me credit for the other facts I am going to mention. You will not say that all the years from 1842 downwards have been all years of distress; nor do I say, that in the last four years the manufacture of malt has not increased—-in 1849, it amounted to 32,456,606 quarters; in 1850, to 35,207,946; in 1851, to 32,875,662; and in 1852, to 35,202,955; but what I wish to point out to you from these returns is this, that notwithstanding that there has been great prosperity in the country— notwithstanding that everything else has gone on improving—notwithstanding the manufacture of malt itself has to a certain extent increased, yet in the year 1851 the 1386 malt manufacture in this country is actually less than it was in 1840. Now, take all these facts together, and I say it is impossible to arrive at any other conclusion than this—that the quantity of malt, and the consequent consumption of beer in this country, has been materially impeded by your legislation; and if that be so, may not a remedy be found by reducing the malt duty one-half? May you not fairly expect—-when you see that during the last 100 years the consumption of malt has diminished as your taxation has increased —that the manufacture of malt may increase as your taxation diminishes? If for no other reason than this, I say that for the benefit of the consumer (for it is as it affects him that I am now arguing this case), I think that the remission of duty, as proposed by my right hon. Friend, is a "wise, just, and beneficial measure."[Ironical cheers.] I suppose you will admit it is wise if it increase the quantity consumed of that which is a wholesome and favourite beverage. I suppose you will not deny that it is just if it enable the agriculturist to cultivate his land at a greater advantage; and I suppose you will admit that by both these results some benefit may be conferred on the community in general.
Having thus dealt with the subject of malt, another great duty we propose to modify is the duty upon tea; but little need be said by me upon this subject, for you all, I believe, agree that it is a beneficial proposition. It is the part of the scheme of my right hon. Friend, for which he is entitled to the greatest credit, as being a subject with which no previous Chancellor of the Exchequer has dealt so wisely and so well. The repeal of the tea duty will be admitted to be very beneficial to the people of this country in three points of view, socially, commercially, and financially. Socially it will benefit them, because it will cheapen for the poor of the country that beverage which I believe upon the whole is the most required by them. Commercially it will be beneficial, because it will open to us a much wider trade with the East, in the same way as the opening of the trade formerly carried on by the East India Company alone conferred many benefits on the country, and our manufacturers will find a vastly enlarged exchange for their goods in the East. Financially you will find it will be beneficial, because, in the first place, we see that when former Chancellors of the Exchequer have dealt with 1387 the subject by remitting the tea duties, they have increased the consumption of that article to an enormous extent. There were two periods when the tea duties were diminished—one in 1745, and the other in 1784. Previously to 1745 there was an excise duty on tea of 4s. per pound, and a customs duty of 4 per cent ad valorem. In 1745 the excise duty was reduced to 1s. per pound, and 25 per cent ad valorem. In the five years ending Michaelmas, 1745, the consumption was 768,520lbs.; in the five years after 1745 it had increased to 2,360,000 lbs. In 1784 Mr. Pitt reduced the duty from 119 to 12½ per cent. "This measure," says Mr. M'Culloch, "was signally successful; smuggling, and the practice of adulteration, were inmediately put an end to, and the legal imports of tea were about trebled." To this I may add that in the course of ten years it was actually quadrupled.
I have now dealt with the first portion of the subject, showing the principles on which the Government proceed, and the course by which they desire to carry out those principles. We are acting upon your own principles of commercial freedom, and we apply that principle to those two great duties—the duties upon malt and tea, the reduction of both of which I believe will benefit the consumer as well as the producer and the manufacturer in this country. Upon that point of the Budget I think you can take no reasonable objection.
I now come to the second principle that is contained in the Budget, and that principle has reference to the mode in which we deal with those interests that have been peculiarly affected by recent legislation. You cannot say that we are acting inconsistently with that system in any degree. Three great interests have been affected by recent legislation—the colonial, the shipping, and the agricultural interest. What do we propose to do for each of them? For the colonial interest we propose to enable it, consistently with all your principles, to deal with the produce of the sugar-producing estates in the manner most conducive to their own interests. Is not that just? With regard to the shipping interest, it will be greatly relieved from the restrictions which the noble Lord the Member for the City of London admitted on the hustings affected that interest, by the measure proposed by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. 1388 And as to the agricultural interest, we shall benefit it, as we hope, to a certain extent, by enabling the owners and occupiers of land to cultivate their own soil in a way which they could not have cultivated it so readily if you leave upon them the same burdens as those which pressed upon them before. Now, Sir, the hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) argued this question with perfect fairness in the early part of the evening, and he makes an admission most inconsistent with his own opinions with respect to remitting the duties upon malt. That admission is, that if you could remit these duties altogether you would be doing for the agriculturists no more than had been already done for the calico manufacturers by taking off the duty of 3½d. per square yard: I think that was done in the year 1830. The fact was pointedly alluded to by the hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire (Sir Lytton Bulwer). Mark the effect produced by that remission, and apply it by analogy to the case of malt. The effect of that remission was this, that whereas in the year previous to 1830 —previous that is to the remission of the duty on calicoes-the quantity of calico exported amounted only to 89,000,000 of yards. In ten years afterwards, that is, in 1845, the export of printed calicoes only, amounted to the enormous quantity of 329,240,892 yards, of which the declared value was 7,732,735l. If you could take off the whole duty on malt, I should be glad to know why that would not lighten the springs of industry as applied to the soil, in the same way that you lightened the springs of industry as applied to manufactures by the remission of the duty on calicoes in 1830l Unquestionably, it would have the same effect—unquestionably it would be consistent with your late system of legislation—unquestionably it would be beneficial both to the producer and to the consumer. But then it is said, if you cannot take off the whole duty you had better not take off one-half, because you will still have, notwithstanding that reduction, all the odium and inconvenience of the Excise. Now, Sir, that argument merely amounts to the old story—if you cannot do everything, you must do, therefore, nothing. I appeal to the hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding, and I will take his own illustration; I will ask him whether, supposing there were 5,000,000l. of duty on cotton at this moment, and you could not take off the whole because the revenue could 1389 not afford it, would it not be just to take off a part? Would he not say that it would be reasonable to give them an instalment? Would he not say it would be prudent to obtain as much as he could now, with a view, in the end, to take off the whole? By no person could such an argument be more forcibly and pointedly put than by the hon. Member for the West Riding; and I will call upon him—for it is consistent with his own principles—to apply that argument for the benefit of the agriculturist; and, as he would not sanction unnecessary restrictions on his own business, so I would call on him to remove those restrictions which are equally unnecessary on the business of other classes. On this question of malt we are not without great authorities. There are three authorities in this House that must be always regarded with the greatest deference and respect on such a question as this. I cannot quote a higher authority than the hon. Gentleman who first advocated the repeal of the corn laws in this House, and who, in fact, may be considered as the primary mover of that great change that has since taken place, and for the success and triumph whereof the highest credit is so freely given to him: I mean the hon. Member for Wolverhampton. What did he say with reference to this measure? He said—Would the landed interest be willing, if the malt tax was taken off, to release the country from the tax of the corn laws? for of this he was sure, that all those who were now injured by the existence of the monopoly, which he might term the community at large, would be ready, nay, he anxious to get rid of it by acceding to those terms. The produce of the malt tax would be lost to the revenue, no doubt; but he was perfectly satisfied that the public credit would not he endangered, but strengthened, by the fetters on the industry and commerce of the country, being removed. Four millions and a half was a small sum indeed, compared with what might be raised through the medium of taxation, if the energy of the country were allowed its full and natural play."—[3 Hansard, xivi.358.]According to that opinion, the loss of 4,500,000l would be a small one compared with what might be raised by the medium of taxation, if the energy of the country were allowed its full play; but Her Majesty's Government only propose to take off 2,500,000l. The next authority is the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham). I quote those authorities not for the purpose of taunting them now with a change of opinion, but for the reasons that are adduced by these Gentlemen for making this change, which, I 1390 think, are strong and overwhelming. What are the reasons which the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle has given for the remission of the malt tax? He said—It enhanced the price of beer; this enhanced price of beer diminished the demand for it; the diminished demand caused a smaller quantity of barley to be cultivated; and the lessened price of barley was, pro tanto, a tax on the barley land; or, as Adam Smith, he believed, said, it had the same effect as if the barley land were stricken with barrenness. That if five quarters could be grown, according to the usual nature of things, with the malt tax only three quarters could be produced. He was convinced, however, that if they repealed the corn laws, the malt tax would not survive a single year. The Gentlemen opposite said that if there was to be free trade in corn, there should be a free trade in all articles of consumption; and he (Sir James Graham) felt certain that if this was carried out, no power on earth would he able to maintain the malt tax for another year."—[3 Hansard, xlvi. 685.][An Hon. MEMBER: When was that?] In the year 1839. The last authority I shall quote is the hon. Member for the West Biding (Mr. Cobden). The hon. Member for the West Riding put it even on higher ground than either the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, or than the hon. Member for Wolverhampton. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton put it upon this ground, that 4,500,000l. were as nothing if you could only lighten the springs of industry in the country; and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle put it upon this ground, that if you continued the malt tax you would strike the barley land as it were with barrenness; but the hon. Member for the West Riding put it upon still higher ground. He said it was a debt due to the farmer since the repeal of the corn laws. He says, in a speech at a public meeting, so late as the 12th of January, 1849—"We sympathise with the farmers. We never will tolerate one shilling duty on corn; but we will co-operate with them in getting rid of that obnoxious tax the malt duty." Wow, mark these words: "We owe the farmers something, and we will endeavour to repay them in kind." And yet, when the first instalment of this debt is asked, the hon. Gentleman rises in his place in this House, and denies the payment even of that first instalment, although he made no objection to the repeal of the whole of the tax.
I have now, I think, shown that the second principle in this Budget is a principle which ought to meet with the approbation of the House. I shall next apply myself to the third question, which relates to 1391 the readjustment of the direct taxation of this country. Assuming I am right that the remission of the tea and malt duties will be beneficial to the country—assuming that I am right that, consistently with those principles, and consistently with the principles which you have established— the great principle of commercial freedom —there is no injustice in relieving any interests which have any restrictions or impediments resting upon them that do not rest on other classes of the community —assuming I am right in the two proposals which I think are involved in the first two principles to which I called the attention of the House, let me see if I may not legitimately and freely carry into execution the result of those principles by the mode in which we propose to adjust the direct taxation of this country. Sir, the hon. Gentleman who last sat down has told us that direct taxation was first established in order to commence a great commercial reform. I say that an addition to the direct taxation (if it be really an addition, as to which I shall presently call the attention of the Committee) as now proposed, is to enable us to complete that great commercial reform. You put on the property and income tax originally, not, as you have said repeatedly in this debate, because there was a deficit. There was a deficit, it is true, but the deficit did not require you to add to the taxation of this country 5,000,000l. a year—2,500,000l. would have been sufficient for this purpose — I believe 2,000,000l. would have been sufficient; hut you put on direct taxation not merely to get rid of a deficit, but also to commence a great commercial reform. Well, it is true we have no deficit now, but the addition to the direct taxation (if it be an addition) which we propose is put on to complete this great commercial reform in the same way you originally commenced it. What is the direct taxation with which we deal? The house tax, and the tax on property and income. We deal with the house tax by increasing its amount, indeed, as compared with the year 1851, but not as compared with the ten or twenty preceding years. We extend the area upon which that house tax is to be assessed, and we vary the relations of the property and income taxes. What is the first great objection taken to this? It is the objection raised by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Halifax (Sir Charles Wood). He says, "You are introducing by this 1392 Budget an oppressive direct taxation. "I say," We are not increasing the direct taxation of the country as compared with the year 1852, but we are remedying an injustice which the right hon. Member for Halifax first perpetrated by repealing the window tax, and substituting a house tax of the most unequal character. "In the year 1850 your window duties, which were direct taxation, yielded to the revenue 1,950,000l. annually, and the house tax, when increased in the way which we propose, will yield annually about 1,720,000l. So that actually in 1852 the alteration of the house tax, instead of increasing the direct taxation of this country as compared with what it was in 1850, will leave it 250,000l. a year less than it was then; while it will remedy the admitted failure—admitted on all sides—the failure of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Halifax when he substituted his partial and unequal house duty for the window duty previously existing. Well, then, do you object to this tax upon any philosophical or scientific ground, or upon any economical principles? Remember the reasons for which you repealed the window tax. They were two —that which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has adverted to was one—namely, the improvement of the sanitary condition of the people; the other was, because by the different percentage that was placed on different houses it pressed very unequally on different classes. What was the remedy for that? Was the remedy for that to sacrifice millions of the public revenue? No, the remedy for that was to substitute a direct tax which would not interfere with the sanitary condition of the people, and which should not be unequal in its pressure upon different classes. If you had brought forward the house tax as a substitute for the window duty, you would have done what was just, and you would have done that which all the best political economists have invariably recommended; for, as we have heard during this debate, the house duty is probably the fairest direct impost you can place upon the different classes of the community. ["No, no!"] Well, if you do not admit the word" all,' I will change the phrase, and say "the best" political economists. Whether we go back to Adam Smith, or take the most modern political economists, I mean Mr. Mill and Mr. M'Culloch, we find that these able and well-informed writers say it is the fairest income tax you can impose, and they 1393 gave this reason for it—because the rent which a man pays for his house is the best criterion of that which he has got to spend. But there are additional reasons why a house tax is peculiarly fair and unobjectionable. There are these two great reasons: first of all, because the house tax does not interfere with any branch of domestic industry; and, secondly, because the subject of the tax being visible or tangible, and unconcealed, it is not open to fraud or perjury. In both these respects the house tax is greatly superior to any tax from excise you can put on, or to the property or income tax, which must necessarily be—as we have seen it to be—both vexatious and unequal, there would not then seem anything unreasonable in now increasing the direct taxation of this country in the shape of a house tax, so as to obtain from it something—not equal—but something less than it yielded in 1850. Another objection has been taken: it is said we are disfranchising a vast number of the constituency of this country—and from whom does this argument come? It comes from those whose great theory is that taxation and representation are convertible terms, and ought to go together. They who wish that the 10l. householder, or the possessor of any income which may fairly be considered as the income of a 10l. householder, should be exempt from this tax, are the very persons who wish that 10l. householders should return Members to this House, or that the possessors of incomes by which the parties may be fairly considered as 10l. householders shall constitute the great bulk of the constituent body of the country. Now, I have no hesitation in saying, that if you proceed upon that principle you will inflict a greater blow upon your representative system than ever was inflicted upon it before. For this reason—because if you pursue that system the untaxed constituencies of the country will be returning Members to this House who are to take such care of those who return them as to impose no tax other than that which is to be borne by others and not by themselves. Now, this proposition is so preposterous that I am confident, if hon. Gentlemen will only fairly look into it, they will see that they cannot maintain it for a moment. There is one other objection I have heard in reference to this question—I do not think the objection has been been taken in this House, but it was taken by an hon. Baronet (Sir B. Hall), when addressing 1394 some of his constituents in the borough of Marylebone. Unless the hon. Baronet has been misrepresented, his objection is, not that you are extending the tax to 10l. houses, but that having extended it to 10l. houses, you should also extend it to houses somewhat lower. I cannot agree in that view of the case. I think myself that if the propositions which my right hon. Friend has made to the House, in reference to direct taxation, have one merit in them greater than another, it is this, that he is putting the direct taxation of this country upon a fair and reasonable footing. What do I mean by that as applicable to the suggestion of the hon. Baronet? I mean this: that if there be one principle more than another which ought to be recognised in the direct taxation of the people of this country it is, that in charity at least, if not in justice—certainly I think in justice as also in charity, too—you ought never to compel any one to contribute his quota towards the public revenue, unless his means may fairly be considered as sufficient to provide for himself the necessary articles of healthy subsistence. There is nothing unreasonable in that proposition when you come to consider of it. There is a minimum which is necessary, and that minimum ought not to be merely what would provide for the actual articles of subsistence, but what will provide for the ordinary comforts of life. My right hon. Friend has done that first of all by fixing a minimum, below which direct taxation should not descend—in the case of property 50l. a year, and in the case of the house tax 10l. a year, which, taking the rent a man pays as one-fifth of his income, gives precisely the same minimum as that which was fixed upon for the minimum for the property tax. For these reasons I think that the exemption we have commenced with is at a point where we ought to commence, and, without pledging myself to the exact figures, I think, upon the whole, that the 10l. house tax and the 50l. property tax are about the minima from which you should set out as being the points at which you should tax either a person's house or his means of subsistence. I have now gone through the question of the house tax. The other subject of direct taxation which we have varied, is the income and property tax. I hardly know whether I need defend the alterations we have there laid down. The hon. Member for the West Hiding has completely and to- 1395 tally upset all the arguments which hare been urged against them. He has shown the fairness of a distinction between precarious and fixed incomes so clearly, that, in point of fact, the arguments that have been urged by hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House have been answered by him. But I will not shirk the matter; I will not shrink from the objections which have been taken. The objections which have been taken to it are principally two— the one intimated by the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) the other night, and strongly pressed by his former Colleague the Member for Halifax (Sir Charles Wood), and the other objection taken by my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone). These two objections are objections, I agree, of such a formidable character, that if they could be sustained, they would materially affect the financial scheme of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The objection of the noble Lord is this—that we have increased the number of exemptions; the objection of my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford is, that we have broken faith with the public creditor. Now I will deal with both these objections. First of all, I beg the Committee to bear in mind the present exemptions in the case of the Income and Property tax. They are these: You exempt property in Ireland of all classes and descriptions, the owners of which are resident there; and you exempt every person whatever whose income is under 150l. a year, whether the income be certain or precarious. But what are our exemptions? Instead of exempting every class of property in Ireland, we for the first time exclude from this exemption the salaries of persons in Ireland, and the annuities of persons derived from funded property, residing in Ireland. In that respect, therefore, we have diminished the number of exemptions. We have also reduced the point of exemption with reference to precarious incomes to 100l. a year, instead of 150l., and we have reduced the point of exemption besides with reference to fixed incomes to 50l. instead of 150l. Now, how the noble Lord could gravely tell us, with the knowledge of these facts, that there was a great increase in the exemptions, both as applicable to Ireland and to England, I certainly am at a loss to comprehend. He may say the alterations we have made are not alterations equitable in themselves; but I think I may defy 1396 even the noble Lord, with all his great abilities, to show that we have actually increased the number of exemptions. How-then have we dealt with this Property and Income tax? Variations we have made of an exceptive character, but only such as are necessary to put the tax on an equitable footing. It is said we have benefited the farmer. What have we done as regards the farmer? We have proceeded on the notion that since the repeal of the Corn Laws the proportion between profits and rent is not what it was before. Therefore an alteration should be made; but these are details which you will have to go into; and I believe you will have it demonstrated to you that the proportion between profits and rents is not what it was before, and for that reason, as well as for the unjust way in which the tax pressed on the farmer, we have made an alteration in that respect. Another alteration we have made, is with respect to the incomes of clergymen under 100l. a year; and we have done this, because the income of a clergyman or a curate under 100l. a year, is, in fact, analogous to any other professional income. His income does not merely depend on his life, but also on his health and strength. If his health and strength fail him, he must give up that income, or find a substitute; and by a fair analogy a clergyman with an income under 100l. a year is as much entitled to a reasonable consideration as a professional man, inasmuch as the income of a professional man, like that of a clergyman's, is not one which necessarily lasts to the end of his life. That is the second great variation. What is the third? It is the taking off a fourth from precarious incomes. Why have we done this? Because upon the reasoning of all those best acquainted with the subject, probably the fairest average you can strike, having regard to the various ages, health, and strength of professional men, a fourth of their income is about the sum which a man can lay by, as a provision either for his children or for old age. I do not exactly pledge myself to the matter of detail; but I say the principle is a just one. I now think I have shown—or at least I have endeavoured to show—that when the noble Lord talks of increasing the number of exemptions, he ought rather to have said we have diminished the number of inequalities, that we have redressed the evils which have always been pointed out in the Income and Property tax, which everybody admits, and of which everybody complains. Having done this, the arguments of the no- 1397 ble Lord as to the alterations we have made in the Property and Income tax, cannot be supported on the ground that we have increased the number of exemptions, whatever other arguments he may offer to the House to show that the variations which we propose are not expedient or not beneficial. I now proceed to a much graver objection, and that is the objection of my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford. My right hon. Friend says, we have broken faith with the public creditor [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] If you make out that proposition, I say this Budget ought not to stand for a single moment. But have we broken faith with the public creditor? The argument has been put in two points of view—first, in regard to Ireland; and, secondly, in regard to England. As regards Ireland, it is said we are taxing the landholder when we are not taxing the landowner; and the inference drawn from that is, that since in no case you are justified in taxing the fundholder at all, unless you tax persons who are in a similar position with regard to other property, you are committing a breach of faith with the public creditor. Now in the first place I deny altogether that the Irish fundholder is exempt, any more than the English fundholder, from this Property and Income tax, upon the ground of any national or legal obligation. He is exempt on one ground, and on one ground only, and that is the ground of residence in Ireland. The Act 5 & 6 Vict., c. 35, which is called "An Act for granting to Her Majesty duties on profits arising from property, professions, trades, and offices, until the 6th day of April, 1845," puts the tax in Schedule C on all profits arising from all "annuities, dividends, and shares of annuities," &c, and charges upon them 7d. in the pound, without deductions. The duty is imposed without exemptions; and when you come to the rules by which the exemptions are constituted, under section 88, you will find that the only ground of exemption by means of which the Irish fundholder can escape from this tax is solely and entirely a question of residence. In the 88th section, containing the rule for assessing the tax, and charging the duties under Schedule C, it is said the duties—"shall extend to all public annuities whatever payable in Great Britain out. of any public revenue in Great Britain or elsewhere, and to all annuities payable in Ireland out of the revenue of the United Kingdom, to or for the use or benefit of any person not resident in Ireland.1398 How then does the matter stand? Let the House boar this in mind—the amount of dividends paid to the public creditor in Ireland during the year ending June 5, 1852, was 1,350,462l., of which there were exemptions from income tax 1,247,395l. 100,000l. per annum, therefore, of Irish annuities was charged with income tax to the Irish stockholders. Now, I ask my right hon. Friend this question: if the Irish fundholder is exempt upon the ground of national engagement, why is not that engagement, like every other national engagement, universal in its application? The answer is plain. It is residence which exempts him, and residence only. The national obligation does not exempt him; for, if it did, the mere fact of an Irish stockholder residing in Ireland ought not to he an exemption more than the more fact of his being a resident in England ought to charge him. But that is not all. If this be a great national engagement—the breach of which the public creditor has a right to complain of— the English creditor and the Irish should he treated in the same manner. If Ire-laud be a part of the United Kingdom, why is the English creditor to be taxed while the Irish creditor is allowed to go free? The fact is, the exemption is not a national engagement, but it was granted for this reason: that all persons resident in Ireland were supposed to be living in a country so much distressed, that you ought to allow them to recover from that distress before you taxed them, and that is the sole ground why either the Irish landholder or the Irish stockholder is exempt from the payment of this tax. But I go further. I adopt the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax, with reference to they mode in which we have dealt with this tax as applicable to Ireland. He has said, "I do not approve of the extension of it to Ireland because, when Ireland is just recovering from its great embarrassments, you ought not to tie another weight round its neck until it is clear." I think that argument is a sound one; but, mark you, it does not apply either to the salaried officers or the holders of funds, because the embarrassments which afflict that country no more afflict those individuals than they do the English salaried officers and fundholders. I say, then, the extension of the tax by my right hon. Friend is a just extension in the way he proposes it. So much for the question as it relates to the Irish fund- 1399 holder; and now let us look at the case of the English fundholder. Have we broken faith with the public creditor who is a holder of funds in England? If we have, it must he on one or two grounds—either upon the ground of a Parliamentary contract, or upon the ground of moral, equitable, or legal obligation. I ask my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone), with all his wonderful astuteness of mind, to say whether there is a flaw in the argument I am now addressing to the House? Do you put it on Parliamentary contract? You did in the first instance. What was that contract? That you should never impose any tax on the public creditor. But what have you done since you first imposed a property and income tax? You have taxed him since then 3l., 5l., and 8l. per cent, and yet your Parliamentary contract remains. I do not complain of your putting a tax upon him; but you cannot say we are breaking a Parliamentray contract for the first time when it was broken the very first time that this tax was imposed. Then, if you put it on any ground at all, you must put it on the ground of moral or equitable obligation. But if you put it on that ground, you put it on one which is universal in its application—applicable alike to all holders of stock, in all times and in all places. Yet what have you done? You tax the larger creditor, who has as much right to claim the benefit of your national engagement as he who has less than 150l. a year; and you let loose the smaller creditor because he has not got so large an income. If there is a national engagement upon you not to tax the national creditor at all, what right have you to tax the larger creditor, and to let the smaller one go free? But is that all? No. You have entered into different contracts with the different fundholders; you contract with one for 3l. per cent, and with another at a much higher rate of interest. Now what is the effect of that contract when you proceed to tax him? Why, it is this: you tax in the one case interest alone, and in the other case capital as well, because every time you demand 7d. from the holder of terminable annuities you are taxing a part of his capital. Both these cases may probably be justified upon other grounds; but I will defy even my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) to justify this mode of dealing with the national creditor upon the ground of national engagement. If that be so, how ought we to deal with the Irish or English fundholder? My opinion is that the question you have to 1400 ask yourselves amounts to this, and this only: Are you taxing him in the same manner as you are taxing every other class of the community, the quality of whose incomes and the nature of whose estates in respect or duration are the same? If you are, you are doing what is just; otherwise not. Viewed in that light, the whole question is explained. You may tax the English or the Irish fundholder if the quality of his income or the nature of his estate is the same as that which you are taxing in the hands of any other person. But if they differ, then I agree you have no right to tax them. The question resolves itself, therefore, into this: Whether you are justified in making a difference between precarious and certain incomes? If you are justified, you must put the fundholder either in the one class or the other. No one would say you must put him into the class of precarious incomes; and, consequently, you must put him into the class of incomes derived from certain sources, and you must tax him with all the exemptions which that class may claim. I am sorry to have troubled the House at this length; but when the public faith with the public creditor was said to be broken, it is but right that we should look at this question, not in a party view, but fairly and honestly, in order that we may see whether we are dealing with the fundholder in an unjust or in an inequitable manner, or in a way which would amount to a breach of the national faith. For the reasons I have given, I think I may say you are clearly not; and with confidence, therefore, I ask the verdict of the House in favour of, the principle of the proposition of my right hon. Friend.
Such are the propositions which have been submitted to the House by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have stated the principles on which we proceeded. I have pointed out the objects we had in view, and the just results of those principles. I challenge you to show either that those principles are unsound, or that our objects are otherwise than beneficial to the whole of the community; and although I do not see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Sir Charles Wood) in his place, I must take leave to add that notwithstanding the tone of self-constituted superiority which he assumed the other night, I will defy him or any of his supporters to prove that the propositions of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer are propositions which are shaking and impairing the 1401 credit of this country, or tarnishing, as he said, the good name of the nation. When the right hon. Baronet told us that my right hon. Friend need not be ashamed to follow the example of the Administrations of Mr. Pitt and of Lord Liverpool, and amend his Budget in the Christmas recess, Sir, if there were any necessity for my right hon. Friend to amend his Budget, he need not seek for precedents in such olden times-—he would find a precedent in a late Chancellor of the Exchequer, who in the course of one year amended and re-amended his Budget, three and even four times; and that Chancellor of the Exchequer was the right hon. Baronet the Member for Halifax (Sir Charles Wood). Now, my right hon. Friend will find no necessity, as I believe, to alter his Budget in any material point. I think you will find that the miscalculation to which the right hon. Baronet has adverted are his own, and not my right hon Friend's. I think you will find that, although the measure is a large and comprehensive one—so large and so comprehensive, indeed, that the right hon. Baronet opposite seemed to wish him to divide it into two halves, making one of them his Budget for 1853, and the other half, I suppose, the Budget for 1854 —yet that Budget is not so large nor so comprehensive but that my right hon, Friend will show to this House—and I trust that he will at least have the opportunity of doing so—that he can do in one year what one Chancellor of the Exchequer would do in two. But here I must ask—and I would not have gone into the subject at all unless it had been for the disparaging tone which, I think, was somewhat improperly made use of—I must ask, whence is it that these extraordinary attacks are made against ray right hon. Friend? What is the reason, what is the cause, that he is to be assailed at every point, when he has made two financial statements in one year, which have both met with the approbation of this House, and I believe also with the approbation of the country? Is it that you are jealous of his success? Is it because he has laboured hard and long—contending with genius against rank and power and the ablest statesmen—-until he has attained the highest eminence which an honourable ambition may ever aspire to—the leadership and guidance of the Commons of England? Is it because he has verified in himself the dignified description of a great philosophical poet of antiquity, 1402 portraying equally his past career and his present position?—Certare ingenio; contendere nobilitate;Noeteis atque dies niti præstante laboreAd gummas emergere opes, rerúmque potiri?My right hon. Friend has attained that position, and who will grudge it to him? I will not speak disparagingly—God forbid I should!—of the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Halifax—his power and ability are admitted; but, without disparaging him, I think I may say the Budget of my right hon. Friend may bear comparison with any of his. The best judges in the country will declare, as I believe they have declared, that by his Budget he has put himself on a level with the boldest and at the same time with the most prudent financiers whom the country has ever seen. They will tell you, at any rate, that in the greatest emporium of commerce in the globe, these plans of his have reflected on him, in the judgment of those best capable of judging on the subject, of the highest credit. They will tell you, as you have been reminded to-night, that he has disproved by his propositions the common fallacy which the world runs away with, that a man of genius cannot be essentially and practically a man of business. And, whatever may be the result of this debate—whatever may be the fate of the present Government—whatever may be the effect of that ill-assorted alliance which I see before me—the country will see, I firmly believe, that my right hon. Friend has earned for himself a reputation as extensive as the Empire for which he is so greatly legislating, and a gratitude as permanent as the honest generosity of a thankful, enlightened, and reflecting community.
§ MR. GOULBURN
said, he was sure that his right hon. Friend who had just sat down would not impute to him that he rose with any feeling of "self-constituted superiority" to criticise the Budget which was the subject of that evening's debate. His right hon. Friend would do him injustice, also, if he supposed him to envy the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or to be jealous of the credit to be derived by him from the course which he had thought it his duty to pursue. He (Mr. Goulburn) rose to oppose the Budget, not from any factious or hostile feeling, which had been imputed on the other side of the House to those who took a different view on this subject from themselves, but in rigid adherence to a principle on which 1403 he had always acted when administering the finances of the country, and which he had steadily maintained whenever he had been in Opposition. That principle was the maintenance of a surplus revenue—a principle which he believed to be founded on the highest sense of national interest, and from which he -was not prepared to depart, either in deference to the opinions of his right hon. Friend—greatly as he respected them—or in deference to the talents of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He thought he should be able to satisfy the Committee, that, able as was the speech of his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, he had omitted that point in the consideration of the Budget, upon which, of all others, it was most essential that the Committee should come to a correct conclusion. The right hon. Gentleman, at the outset of his speech, laid down the principles on which he said the Budget was framed. He told them, in the first place, that it was framed in strict conformity with the Votes of the House of Commons—with the view of maintaining and prudently extending the system of free trade or unrestricted competition. He told them, in the second place, that the Budget dealt with the distressed interests in a manner which, while affording them relief, would not in any way controvert the principle which had been generally laid down for the guidance of that House; and he stated, as a third principle, that its object was to apply equal taxation to every class of the community. The right hon. Gentleman objected to those who thought fit to oppose the Budget in parts; that objection, however, would not apply to him, because he objected to the main principle on which it was founded. The right hon. Gentleman took credit to the Government for having in this transaction followed the example of those who on previous occasions introduced what were called free-trade measures, and he asked triumphantly, "How did you work out your free-trade measures?" "You took off," he said, "large Customs and Excise Duties, and thereby professed to give relief to the suffering interests of the community; and," said he, "we now propose to reduce large Excise and Custom Duties in order to give relief to certain classes of the community; and therefore we consider that our policy will stand on a par with yours." But mark how different was the basis on which this and former Governments proceeded. They pro- 1404 ceeded on the basis of having first secured by a skilful management of the receipts and expenditure of the country a large available balance, out of which they could afford to make reductions. They did not, in the first place, create a deficiency, and then call upon Parliament to make it up by fresh taxation. That was the broad distinction between the course pursued by the present Government and that by those who had preceded them. And, although the right hon. Gentleman had said that the sense entertained of the Budget out of doors had been manifested by the acclamations with which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been received in the City, he greatly doubted whether that applause would be repeated two years hence, when by the calculation now before the Committee, there would be no surplus revenue; and he doubted still more, when the deficiency would have to be made up by loans or fresh taxation, whether the applause which the right hon. Gentleman had hitherto enjoyed would be continued to the future stages of his official career. But the question before the Committee involved higher considerations than the popularity of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was not even whether they ought to relieve a certain class of consumers in the country from a portion of the duty which they at present paid on their beer; or whether the consumer or the brewer would receive the largest portion of the proposed benefit. The question before the Committee involved the stability of their financial system. The question was, whether their finances were in that state that they could afford to part with 2,500,000l. of productive duties which might press — he did not deny it, for all taxes did so press—in a certain degree upon the general consumers of the country, but the pressure of which was, of all the taxes to which they were subjected, the least oppressive? And what was the time at which this measure was propounded? They had been latterly employed in adding to the defences of the country—not with a view to hostile operations, but with the view of placing the country in that condition of safety in which every great nation ought to stand. But had the Government forgotten, that if there was one element of safety to a State—one ground of defence on which they could rest with greater confidence than another, and one which it was not possible at the instant to secure, it was an unembarrassed state of 1405 their finances? If they were to go on creating deficiencies—if they were to enter the service of each year with the confident expectation that at its close they would be involved in a debt, they would not only raise up obstacles to the adequate defence of the country hereafter, but would inflict a blow on public credit, for which no amount of military force could compensate. The Budget of the right hon. Gentleman proceeded on the supposition that at the end of the next financial year he would have a surplus of 400,000l., and that only derived from a diminution of the balance in the Exchequer. But letting that circumstance pass, with a surplus so small it was natural and reasonable that the Committee should look closely at the items out of which it arose; and, although with respect to the items individually there might he little difference of opinion as to the estimates which the right hon. Gentleman had made, yet, in a surplus which was assumed originally to be so small, minute differences made the whole distinction as to whether, at the end of the year, there would be a surplus or a deficiency. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not explain in his speech why he assumed the loss from the malt duty during the first year at only 1,000,000l., nor why he confined the loss to be sustained to the 1,000,000l. which was to he repaid as drawback. Surely the Committee had a right to expect an explanation on these points; and, in default of these explanations, they had a right to assume that the loss from these sources would be greater than the sum at which the right hon. Gentleman had placed it. He (Mr. Goulburn) had had some experience of calculations with respect to repayment of duty; he had also seen others more skilful than himself placed in similar situations; and he had never yet known an instance in which the estimate of a Chancellor of the Exchequer with respect to drawbacks for stock in hand, had not been falsified by the ultimate result. He had no doubt, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman would find that, however he might have been guided by persons skilful in such matters, there were elements of loss not taken into account which would affect his estimated surplus. There was also a trifling difference in the calculation which the right hon. Gentleman and he had made with regard to the Tea Duties, to the amount of about 50,000l. He had likewise assumed the repayments on public works at a sum of 1406 400,000l., while, in fact, it was only 360,000l., making thereby an additional deficiency of 40,000l. Then, again, if they took into consideration the loss which would be entailed by the proposed alteration in the income tax — partly by the reduction of the rate in two of the schedules, and partly by the large increase of persons ever whom it was to be spread hereafter, which must entail a largo increase of establishment, they could not but allow another 150,000l. or 200,000l. to be deducted from the estimated surplus. And, if this were so, was it not clear that, having in his possession a real surplus to the extent of about 1,500,000l., he proposed deliberately and calmly to subject the country, at the end of the next financial year, to the risk of a deficiency to an extent which it was impossible beforehand to calculate, because it was impossible to know what convulsions might arise in foreign countries, what seasons might prevail in this, or what accidents might occur in the interim to affect the revenue on which he so confidently relied? The right hon. Gentleman who last spoke had said that it was a proof of the courage of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to propose to do in one year what you timid counsellors had been afraid to do in two. He gave the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer credit for that degree of courage, He (Mr. Goulburn) and his right hon. Friends certainly had not had the courage to spend money which they had not. They had not had the courage to risk the safety of the country at the expense of gratifying any claimants for the remission of taxation, when they knew that that remission could only end in injury to public credit, and in a sacrifice of the best interests of the country. The right hon. Gentleman had that courage. Not content with a deficiency in one yea:', he assured the Committee that he was also prepared to be in a deficiency in the year ensuing. This might be courage, but his admiration of it was not such as to induce him to abandon the principles for which he had contended, and to consent to a state of things which he had always held to be dangerous and inexpedient, He saw many hon. Gentlemen opposite who had fought with him the battle against continued annual deficiencies. In the period before 1842. they had struggled together in support of national credit, and they felt the severity of the pressure which was occasioned by defici- 1407 encies that had occurred during a series of antecedent years. Surely, those hon. Gentlemen could not now view with tranquil feelings the prospect before them. They must remember that they only recovered from the position to which he alluded by the imposition of taxation heavy in its amount—intolerable, indeed, if it had not been accompanied by remissions which the magnitude of the impositions enabled the Government to make. To such a position they would again be reduced if the Committee did not now interfere to prevent the Chancellor of the Exchequer from making away with that which he had in hand, and which he might retain without injury to any interest that required relief. He did not deny to right hon. Gentlemen opposite the merit of alleviating the burdens to which the shipping interest was subjected, nor did he complain of the reduction of the tea duties, or of the manner in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to effect that reduction. Those measures, with a surplus revenue of 1,600,000l., fell within the limits of the right hon. Gentleman's power, and did not endanger the credit of the country. He admitted that tea was a safe subject for a reduction of duty, and that that reduction, carried on to its utmost extent, as was proposed, might ultimately be the means of affording increased employment to the shipping interest of the country, additional comfort to the lower classes of the community, and might—as had been proved in the case of coffee and of sugar—replace the revenue which it was proposed to sacrifice. It might perhaps be stated that the repeal of the malt tax, as stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, might benefit to a certain degree the producer of barley. The right hon. Gentleman had quoted a speech of his (Mr. Goulburn's) right hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham) made at a long antecedent period, when he was arguing against a continuance of the Corn Laws. [Several Hon. MEMBERS: For a continuance of the Corn Laws.] Well, for a continuance of the Corn Laws. His right hon. Friend stated, that if the Corn Laws were repealed, barley land would be then stricken with barrenness. If that prophecy had come true it might be a good argument, if the revenue admitted of the reduction, for taking off the whole duty on malt; but he would appeal to any Gentleman opposite whether barley land had been stricken with bar- 1408 renness—whether on the contrary it was not the description of land which had least suffered, nay, it had not suffered at all from the alteration of the Corn Duties. When his right hon. Friend, therefore, supposed that the malt tax ought to be entirely repealed in order to relieve certain lands growing barley from barrenness, he had been a false prophet, and no man, he was sure, would be more ready to acknowledge the fact. The land in this country that had suffered least with regard to the price of the article which it produced was that very land in favour of which the Government were now prepared to sacrifice more than the whole surplus revenue, and that not to confer the benefit of removing the whole of the duty, and with it the restrictions and penalties, but to take off a modicum of duty not felt by the consumer, and which would be of no benefit to those whose land' was the peculiar subject of the measure. The right hon. Gentleman who last spoke had claimed great credit for the Government on account of the manner in which they had dealt with the three afflicted interests— the colonial, the shipping, and the agricultural. He (Mr. Goulburn) had heard with satisfaction that the Government proposed to admit the sugar of the Colonies to refinement in bond, and he presumed they would recommend that optional measure of refinement which was submitted in the course of last year to the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, and which he negatived because he said it would necessarily create a loss to the revenue; for it was clear that if only particular classes of sugar were admitted to refinement in bond, and others were excluded, the duty would be lost upon the inferior sugars, and nothing would be gained upon the higher qualities. If the right hon. Gentleman (Sir C. Wood) was correct in that statement, and he was sure he must be so, then he (Mr. Goulburn) asked why had the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer not made a calculation of that, which was no small loss in the Budget? If he was to lose duty by a measure of relief to the Colonial interest, that was surely another ground why they should look with jealousy to the diminution of the existing surplus. Whatever injury classes might sustain, either from ill-imposed taxation or from other causes affecting their interests, he sincerely believed there was no cause from which they could suffer more than from a course taken by the House of Com- 1409 mons which tended to impair the gene-rail credit of the country, and to prevent the growth of that facility of monetary transactions which prevailed when the revenue was in a prosperous state. He thought that any Chancellor of the Exchequer abandoned his duty if, for the sake of repealing a particular tax, or of acquiring for the moment the applause of those who surrounded him, he forgot what was due to the higher interests of the State, and did not always bear in mind that there was a largo encumbrance of debt, which could only be diminished by the maintenance and due application of a surplus revenue. In saying this he was far from expressing opinions which were confined to himself and to hon. Gentlemen near him. He had the authority of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, when discussing at Aylesbury in 1849 the importance of maintaining a large Sinking Fund for the purpose of creating an impression on the debt, and supposing the Chancellor to be in possession of a surplus, said—Why, in old times we should have had some one coming forward and proposing the abolition of some paltry tax which, while it would be no great blow to the revenue, would, individually, give scarcely any relief. Is this the means by which to regenerate imperilled agriculture? Certainly not. What I propose is, that a real sinking fund shall be maintained, which will, in less than ten months, raise Consols above par, and thus enable landlords and tenants to borrow money to apply to their land at 3 per cent interest instead of four or five.The right hon. Gentleman, speaking at that time to an assembled multitude of agriculturists, said—This is your real remedy—equal taxation and cheap capital. If my recommendations be adopted, the public credit will be maintained; it will give the farmer independence; it will recover from their present state of depression the landlords of the country; they will then obtain capital for the improvement of their estates at a low rate of interest, and if you do not gain that relief which the country has a right to give you, we must consider what we are next to do.Those were principles in which he (Mr. Goulburn) cordially concurred, and which he regretted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not now that he had power disposed to carry into effect. The right hon. Gentleman had been pleased, on a former night, to speak in favourable terms of the success which attended the measures that he (Mr. Goulburn) had on two several occasions brought forward for reducing the interest of the public debt; and he wished sincerely that the right hon. 1410 Gentleman had prepared himself to attempt a similar course. He had hoped that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer might have been the successful Minister who might hereafter have rested his claim to public approbation on the ground of having effected a larger operation for the benefit of his country in this respect than had been accomplished by his most distinguished predecessors. In that speech which the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered at Aylesbury, ten months was the period prescribed as necessary by the then proposed Sinking Fund to raise the public debt to par. Within ten months that desirable object might not be accomplished; but he feared, by the course the Government was taking, by snatching at the paltry remission of taxation of 2,500,000l., they would perhaps for ever lose the opportunity of conferring great and permanent benefit on the country. The reduction of the public debt would have a beneficial effect on all the burdens of the country. It would confer still greater benefit on the agricultural, manufacturing, and commercial classes, by placing at their disposal capital at a low rate of interest, and enabling them to pursue their operations with increased activity and enterprise. If he might presume to give an opinion to the House of Commons—having heard from various quarters that the acceptance of half the Malt Tax was more a matter of feeling than of profit—that it was not expected to derive from it that extent of benefit which some would consider compensation for past injury, or to give to the consumer that relief which they all desired to afford—if he might presume to give an opinion, he would say, "instead of giving up that 2,500,000l of revenue, apply your surplus so as hereafter to render feasible great financial reductions." His great feeling of regret with respect to the Budget which had been announced was that this course had not been pursued. The right hon. Gentleman opposite seemed to object to discussing the Budget in parts, and in that opinion he had shown that he (Mr. Goulburn) entirely agreed. If he thought an attempt was made unwisely to repeal the Malt Tax, he naturally objected to the particular tax which was proposed as the means of effecting a repeal in itself objectionable. He did not deny that it might be proper, under circumstances which required it, to impose a House 1411 Tax, properly distributed and properly modified. He objected last year to the House Tax then proposed, because he thought it was not framed upon the principles on which a House Tax, if imposed, ought to be placed; and he objected equally to the House Tax now proposed, because, though avoiding some of the defects of that of the right hon. Baronet (Sir 0. Wood), it had fallen into others which he (Mr. Goulburn) thought essentially fatal to it continuance. But it was not necessary for him to discuss the substitute, when he objected to the repeal of the tax the produce of which it was to replace. The right hon. Gentleman had said that this direct tax was necessary to complete the scheme propounded by the Administration of Sir Robert Peel; that Sir Robert Peel recommended the imposition of direct taxation upon principles the same as those on which the present House Tax was to be supported. Not so. Direct taxation was introduced by Sir Robert Peel when indirect taxation had been carried to its full extent and found unproductive. It was introduced to make up for a great and accumulating deficiency; and so far from the tax now proposed being the completion of the plan which originated with Sir Robert Peel, it was one merely made for the temporary object of affording a relief which was but partially sought, and was not likely to be generally beneficial. The right hon. Gentleman said the House Tax recommended itself, because there had been a sacrifice upon the Window Tax, and that the burden would not exceed that to which the country had been subjected from ten to twenty years ago. But it would be well for him to remember that if there was a tax which at no distant period had excited the feelings of the country more than any other, and given occasion to petitions for its repeal, it was the House Tax. The table of the House of Commons was loaded with such petitions in 1832, 1833, and 1834. It was stated to be more odious than the income tax. If the Government should now succeed in imposing it, notwithstanding the objections to it, and notwithstanding the absence of any necessity for imposing it beyond the repeal of half the Malt Tax, they must be prepared at no distant period for a repetition of attacks upon this duty, which, if imposed in the shape proposed by the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, would at no very distant day lead to its repeal and to a further deficiency of revenue. The right hon. Gentleman had gone in detail into the 1412 reasons which had induced the Government to propose alterations in the Income Tax; and he said, as a noble Lord said early in the evening, that they had remedied the inequalities of the tax in its present shape. The right hon. Gentleman must have looked upon the Resolutions on the table with a very paternal eye if he could consider that they remedied any of the grievances which had been made the subject of complaint. He said, "We have reduced the number of exemptions." Yes, by imposing the tax upon a class of persons with respect to whose capacity to bear it there would be shown to be great doubt when it should come under discussion hereafter. He said, "We have applied the tax to the funds in Ireland:" exempting every class in Ireland but one, they had rather added to the exemptions than reduced them. With respect to that particular class on whom he meant that the burden of the tax should fall, the right hon. Gentleman had no foundation for assuming that there was anything in the proceeding of 1842 which justified the imposition of a tax upon the funds in Ireland received by residents in Ireland. The principle in the Act of 1842 was, that persons residing in Great Britain should pay the tax upon any income received by them in Great Britain, though the property might be in Ireland or any other country; land, professions, trades, and funds of persons resident in Ireland were equally exempt. Ireland was exempted because other taxes were then imposed on Ireland, which were to be a compensation to Great Britain for alone bearing the Income Tax. If the Government selected one particular class of property in Ireland, and that the funded property, for this tax, they would therefore as clearly violate their contract with the public creditor by making this property alone the subject of taxation, as they would by the imposition of a separate duty on funded property here. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) had argued without reason that the variation of rates in the schedules would be a breach of faith with the public creditor. He (Mr. Goulburn) adhered to that opinion, and the reasons for it given by the latter right hon. Member; and, when the House should arrive at the period for the discussion of the Income Tax, he thought he should establish beyond a doubt that there was a contract with the public cre- 1413 ditor, confirmed by the uniform decisions of all the Courts to which the question had been submitted, preventing the House of Commons from placing upon this species of property a higher rate of duty than was imposed upon other property. The right hon. Gentleman said, "We have made a division between precarious and certain property, and taxed them accordingly." He (Mr. Goulburn) would toll him what he had done. He had made the funded property of the country, which was thought to be the most secure, the most precarious property, for he had made it dependent on the will of a Minister. If he could by his own authority, upon the construction which he put upon the contract, imagine it lawful to impose one-third more duty upon funded property than upon any other, what might not some future Chancellor of the Exchequer less moderate than he effect? What were pence now might be shillings to-morrow, and what were shillings to-morrow might be pounds in subsequent years, if the country should he weak enough, or the Minister wicked enough, to impose different rates upon funded and other income. When the question should come on, he thought he could show that, whatever irregularities there might have been, whatever injustice any might suppose to operate in carrying into effect the measure of 1842, the measure now proposed abounded in inequalities ten times worse, and would involve the collection of the tax in inextricable difficulty. With respect to the mode in which it was proposed to estimate the profit of farms, it would be remembered that in 1842 the profit was taken at half the rent, and the tenant had no right to a reduction, nor the Govenment to an increase of that charge; but since then we had given the tenant-farmer the right of coming to the Commissioners at the end of the year and saying, "My profit has not amounted to half my rent, and I am entitled to a reduction;" and the Commissioners, upon examination of him and his books, were to abate the sum reckoned as his profit, not to one-third of the rent, but to one fifth or one sixth, or any proportion to which he could show that his profit had fallen. The proposal, with respect to him, then, was perfectly unnecessary. It might go forth to the country that the Government were conferring benefit on the farmer, by estimating his income at so much less than it was estimated at before; but when he knew that 1414 it was equally in his power before the alteration to obtain even a greater reduction, his gratitude would possibly be diminished. Then, it was said, there had been exceeding liberality to the clergy in making a reduction of duty on those who had less than 100l. a year. It was said that the clergyman had a precarious income—an income dependent on his life, uncertain in its duration—and that at present he paid the highest rate of duty. But it may be asked why, if his income were precarious, take 100l. for the limit? The man who had 150l. must have an income as precarious as the man who had an income of 100l One could understand such an arrangement if it were made on the score of charity alone; but when it was made on the ground that the income was precarious, how could such a remission be taken as a principle of legislation? He had thus stated the views he was disposed to entertain with respect to the measures now before the Committee. He objected to the repeal of the Malt Tax, at a time when a revenue was not in a condition to part with that amount. He objected to the Budget, because the whole surplus was derived from an application of money not legitimately made—namely, from the application to annual income of the balances of the Exchequer; because there must be a recurrence of that system of deficiency which it had been the whole of his ambition to put an end to, and which of late years had been entirely avoided. It was on the ground of the ultimate effect on public credit that he could not but view with alarm the proposals which the Government had made. By their proposals they were debarring themselves from the legitimate advantages to which, in the present state of the country, they might fairly look. The Government were gradually weakening the public sense of good faith by spending in the year more than they acquired from the revenue of the year; and, taking into consideration those serious matters —which weighed on his mind more than anything relating to a change of the Property and Income Tax, or the House Duty, or the Malt Tax—taking into consideration those several circumstances, he should conclude by humbly imploring the Committee to avoid measures which by impairing the public credit of the country, damaged its best interests, and which, involving all interests, would in the end be as injurious to the agriculturist as it would be to the manufacturer.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER
hoped the Committee would remember the time of the year, and the day of the month. He trusted they would come to an agreement to conclude the debate to-morrow. It would, he was sure, he satisfactory to all present, if there were a general understanding to that effect.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, he did not think it possible at the present moment, so many Members being absent, to come to an understanding of that nature. He for one, should be very happy if it were the disposition of the Committee to conclude the debate to-morrow night. There were, he understood, many hon. Members absent who wished to express their opinions. He thought, therefore, that the matter must be left to their discretion; but he concurred with the right hon. Gentleman in expressing the hope that the discussion might he brought to an end to-morrow.
§ House resumed;—Committee reported progress.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before One o'clock.