§ Order for Committee read.
§ Debate resumed.
§ SIR DE LACY EVANS
said, a desire had been expressed on the previous night that the discussion should, if possible, be concluded that evening. It had, however, only lasted as yet two nights, and it must be remembered that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with all his skill as an orator, had been compelled to occupy nearly the whole of one night in the development of his plan. He (Sir De L. Evans) thought, then, it was rather too much to expect that the whole of the representatives of the country should be called upon to decide in two evenings upon this important subject. Again, only one metropolitan Member had yet had an opportunity of addressing the Committee upon it. Another reason was, that time ought to be given for the opinion of the country to be expressed with regard to it; and on all these grounds he hoped the Committee would not be pressed to a decision to-night.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I am sure, Sir, there is no Member in this House who is less inclined to throw any difficulties in the way of Gentlemen expressing their opinions than myself, and I am sure I have never exhibited any desire to restrict our debates. I am perfectly aware that when measures of this 1436 extent are brought forward it is extremely desirable that a sufficient interval should elapse to enable the country fully to consider them, and that there should be ample discussion in this House; but I cannot but remember the moment at which we are assembled, and the absolute necessity that there is for the House adjourning for a considerable period. I assure the House that nothing is more foreign to my nature, or more repugnant to the wishes of the Government, than in any way to precipitate a conclusion upon any great constitutional point on which the will of the House has not been perfectly expressed. The hon. and gallant Gentleman referred to my statement; but he must recollect that that statement included a great variety of subjects. I do think it would be only fair to the Government if before the holidays we could take one vote. I do not want in any way to narrow the issue. I wish, if I possibly can, to put it on a principle. I do not ask any Gentleman on either side of the House, by voting on this occasion, to come to any direct vote in favour of the repeal of the Tea Duties, or the Hop Duties, or the Malt Duty, or of any detail of the Income Tax, or even of the mere details of the vote on which we are to come to an issue to-night. All I ask the House is, that it will at least affirm what we consider a vital principle, and that it will allow Us to bring forward measures of financial reform (not merely with reference to the particular plans we propose) which depend upon the country being agreed to bear a certain quantity of direct taxation. I do not ask any Gentleman to be in the least pledged by the vote he may come to to-night to any details of this Resolution. I only ask you to affirm that the area of direct taxation should be extended.
§ House in Committee.
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)":—
§ VISCOUNT JOCELYN
said, he regretted that he should stand for a moment in the way of hon. Gentlemen expressing their opinions, whose opinions were of far higher value than his; but at the same time he would be sorry to give a vote upon a question differing from those with whom he had 1437 hitherto had the pleasure to act—especially differing from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone), for whose opinion on all matters of general policy he had the highest regard and respect—without stating his reasons for doing so. He had come to the consideration of the proposition of Her Majesty's Government in a different spirit from that which appeared to have actuated those around him. He was one of those who had been returned to Parliament to maintain intact the great measures of commercial freedom on which the fiscal policy of the country had been regulated, and which he believed had tended to improve the condition of all classes; and when he looked at the measures of Her Majesty's Government, it was with no small degree of gratification he found that there was no attempt to reverse the policy which they had adopted—a policy which the Government had acquiesced in—a policy which Parliament had sanctioned. When he looked at the measures of the Government, he found in them a frank admission of the justice of that policy; and he trusted the House and the country would yet find in those Ministers the ablest supporters of a wise extension of that policy, He was not prepared to question the prudence of the course which had been marked out by the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in reference to the order in which the items of the Budget were to be taken. If, indeed, he believed that the income tax was henceforth to be considered as a temporary source of revenue—if he believed that any party in this House were prepared to propose measures for its reduction, tending to ultimate abolition—if he believed that the finances of the country would admit of such a step, then he might agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford, that it was their first duty to look to the position of that tax, and to place it on a proper footing. Put believing, as he did, that the income tax must, at all events for the present, be viewed as a permanent source of taxation—believing it to be necessary to carry out the financial arrangements proposed—looking to the conduct of different Governments with respect to this tax—seeing that whenever it was on the point of expiring, arguments were found for its reimposition—-believing it was not an unpopular tax if fairly adjusted—he could not consider that it was of much importance whether the income tax were dis- 1438 cussed now or at a future period. Neither could he wonder at the position which had been assumed by the Government themselves. He could not wonder that they were anxious to ascertain the position in which they stood before the House and the country. Nothing was so objectionable as a Government on sufferance. A Government on sufferance was injurious to the men who formed the Administration, and it was objectionable for the sake of the best interests of the country. They had had experience of a Government of sufferance—they recollected the last three years of the Administration of the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), composed of men of great ability, and presided over by the noble Lord himself, whoso integrity and ability were unimpeachable; but the House would recollect that for two years he was impeded in bringing forward any measures of public importance simply by the want of power to carry them out. He thought, therefore, that the Government were right in endeavouring to ascertain their position; they might not have chosen the best, but they had not certainly chosen the least dangerous question on which to test it, and they were not open to the charge of an immoderate desire to retain office. To his mind there were two principles involved in this Budget: the first was a readjustment of the direct taxation of the country; and the second was an extension of the policy which they all supported—a reduction of the duties on articles of general consumption. With regard to the first principle— when he looked at the fact that there were two direct taxes that were imposed upon the country, and that a comparatively small portion of the community were subjected to them, he thought it was matter for grave consideration how far they should allow a system to continue which was obnoxious to every principle of sound policy, and how they could go on for any length of time with a system which excluded a portion of the community deeply interested in the welfare, tranquillity, (and good government of the country from bearing a fair proportionate share in its burdens. With regard to the second principle—an extension in the reduction of duties on articles of general consumption—that appeared to him to be a question which depended entirely on the financial condition of the country. He would never be a party to shifting taxation from one class to another, for the purpose of relieving or benefiting any particular interest. Such a principle was contrary 1439 to the policy by which he had always been guided. If it should happen that by the reduction of the duty on one article of consumption any particular interest was benefited, so much the better for it, hut the advantage to that class alone was no ground for proposing such a reduction. He now came to the consideration of the Budget. Whilst he looked at the separate propositions, he was still desirous to regard it as a whole. In the first place, as the representative—the unworthy representative— of a community largely interested in the shipping interest, he. would return thanks to Her Majesty's Government for the care and attention they had bestowed on that interest. His right hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Sir C. Wood) insinuated the other evening that the measures now proposed by Her Majesty's Government for the relief of the shipping interest were measures prepared by their predecessors. If, indeed, they were so prepared—if, indeed, the predecessors of the present Government were aware of the wants of that community, and had not the courage to bring forward those propositions, all he could say was they were more to blame than he had before believed them to be. But whether that were so or not, as Her Majesty's present Government had had the courage to deal with that question, he tendered them the thanks of the community he represented, and he thought he might also say the thanks of the community at large. He begged also to say, with reference to the shipping interest, during the existence of the late Government he had, on several occasions, brought before the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax the importance of abolishing the timber duties, not so much because he considered the amount of the duty as a point of importance, as because he thought it unjust in principle to maintain a duty on the raw material in manufacture, while the manufactured article itself was admitted to free competition. He trusted the attention of Her Majesty's Ministers would be directed to that subject, as he believed that nothing would more tend to the benefit of the shipowner than the reduction of that duty. He came now to the question of the income tax. He had always thought it a matter for grave consideration how far Parliament was justified, in 1841, in placing the scale of exemption so high as 150l.; but it must be recollected that at that time there were important reasons for the course which his late right hon.
1440 Friend (Sir Robert Peel) pursued. At that time there was a large deficiency in the Exchequer. It was necessary immediately to meet that deficiency. It was of importance to pas the measure with as little opposition as possible, and it was distinctly declared it would be only imposed for three years. But now that it was to be continued as a permanent tax, none of those arguments held good for allowing it to remain in its present position, and every argument of policy and justice was in favour of its reconsideration. Though he did not bind himself to the details of the Government proposition, he believed it was a step in the right direction. There was another point with reference to the income tax on which he wished to say a word; and here he was sorry to say he was at issue with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone). He knew the authorities his right hon. Friend had quoted were high authorities. He knew that the names of Mr. Pitt and Sir Robert Peel must always have great weight in that House, and he admitted that the opinion of his right hon. Friend himself was always worthy of great consideration. But there was an authority still higher than the names of these most eminent statesmen, and that authority was his own sense of what was just and right; and he must say that he could not bring himself to believe that it was just and right to levy the same tax upon precarious incomes derived from daily toil and the labour of mental and bodily faculties, as upon incomes of a permanent nature. Precarious incomes depended any moment upon the visitation of God. At any moment the man who had only a precarious income might lose either his mental or bodily faculties, and be wholly incapacitated for exertion; but the man who enjoyed a permanent income, whatever might be the state of his health, still continued to receive that income, and still possessed the power to make a provision for his family. He might be wrong, but his sense of justice revolted against taxing the two men equally, and believing the principle of distinction which the Government had introduced to be equitable, he could not refuse to give it his support. He came now to the question of the house tax. He knew how unpopular that tax was. He knew how he endangered the good feelings of those he represented; but there was a feeling above that—the sense of independence—which should induce every Member of the House of Commons to act as he 1441 thought best for the public welfare. It appeared to him that the arguments for extending the area of the income tax applied with equal force to the house tax. Great authorities had pronounced a house tax the best that could be imposed, as testing the means of the occupiers to contribute to the State. The hon. Member for the West Riding seemed to think a house tax was not necessary at all. That was not the question. The question they were considering was this: a house tax having been imposed, would they extend it? It was proposed to double the amount of the house tax, and to extend it to houses of 10l. a year, for the purpose of reducing the duty on malt. He had great doubts of the wisdom of reducing the duty on malt. Regarding it solely as a consumers' question, and not for a moment as benefiting the agricultural interests, he owned that from all he could gather from the highest authorities on the subject, the consumer would be benefited more than people allowed, not so much by the reduction of the tax itself as by the encouragement that reduction would afford to other parties to enter the brewing trade, whereby competition would be introduced, and the community secured the supply of beer at a cheaper rate. Whether the reduction should be made at the present moment or not was an- other question; but he was satisfied that the question must within a short time come before Parliament, for they had the best authorities in favour of the reduction of the malt tax; and he considered no authority on agricultural questions higher than that of the right hon Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham). If he might be permitted to make a suggestion, he would say that the House should look at the question solely as a question of principle, not of detail. Let them not look at the question of the reduction of the malt tax as involving the necessity of doubling the house tax in order to make up the deficiency; but let them confine themselves to the assertion of principles, and let those principles be the extension of the area of direct taxation, and a further reduction of duties on articles of general consumption. They would carry the first principle in the Resolutions to broaden the area of the house and income tax, and the second is that for the reduction of the tea duties. With respect to the tea duties, he had the honour to be a Member of the Committee which sat five years ago on the subject of 1442 those duties; and he well remembered that all the evidence laid before that Committee went to prove the arguments on which the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had based the proposed reduction— that the price of tea in China would be little, if at all, raised by the increased demand in this country, and that the consumers would be benefited, if not entirely, almost to the full amount of the reduction in duty. He knew no article which entered more into the consumption of the humbler classes, or any that they more dearly prized than tea, and he thought the Government deserved credit for endeavouring to diminish the cost of their favourite to those classes. There was another subject to which he wished to allude—the proposal to tax the funded property of Ireland. They had heard high authorities on both sides of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn), and the right hon. the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Walpole), had fully discussed that point. He did not pretend to enter into the discussion, but this he did say, as far as he had ever known, the funded property of Ireland must be considered as part of the funded property of the United Empire. If, therefore, there was a breach of faith with the public creditor, it was in 1841, when they imposed the income tax on the funded property of England, and left the funded property of Ireland exempt. One reason for not then imposing it on Ireland, was the distress of the landed interest—a distress unparalleled in any country in the world; but, in principle, for the life of him, he could not see why Ireland should not contribute to the resources of the Empire. He candidly acknowledged that no one knew better than he did the condition of Ireland, and the suffering which she had endured; but that was no justification for exempting Ireland from bearing a share of the national burdens. He felt that they, the Irish, had suffered greatly, but England had come forward with a generous hand to assist them. If there were any burdens resting upon the land, let those burdens be relieved; their existence was still no argument why the Irish should not be made to bear their proportion of the burdens on the Empire. He had endeavoured to take a general view of the propositions of Her Majesty's Government; and believing, as he did, that they amounted to the assertion of great and sound principles; believing, as 1443 he did, that many of them would he of great advantage to the people—he was not prepared to peril those principles and those great advantages by voting against the Resolution, because he might not approve of every proposition involved in it. In voting for the Government proposition he conceived he was affirming the principle of direct taxation properly adjusted, and the perseverance in those principles which the great statesman with whom he had so long the honour of acting had maintained, of mitigating those burdens which pressed most heavily on the springs of industry.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
said, that so far from having any wish to review the financial scheme of the Government in a captious spirit, he was willing to give credit to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer for two main points in his Budget. He felt that he was entitled to credit, in the first place, for the relief he had afforded to the shipping interest. He lamented, indeed, that he had not gone further, and taken off the duty on timber; but at any rate he thanked the right hon. Gentleman for what he had done in that line. He thought likewise that the right hon. Gentleman had taken a sagacious and statesmanlike view with respect to the Tea Duties. He was not disposed to quarrel and split straws with him because the reduction was to effected in six years instead of a less time, as proposed by the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. MacGregor), but would at once say that he thought the right hon. Gentleman deserved credit for those two propositions. He was even disposed to go further, and say that the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, in bringing forward the Budget, was as clear a statement as had ever been put before that House. He (Mr. B. Osborne) knew no man in that House who combined the two antagonistic qualities of lucidity and obscurity so much as the right hon. Gentleman; hut he was bound to admit that in placing his financial statement before the House he had done so without any reserve or mystification, and that there could be no mistake on either side of the House as to what they were about to vote for in the present Budget. Having made these admissions, he trusted he might be allowed to look at the Budget as a whole; and if it was true, as the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Mills) stated on the previous night, that there was universal disappointment throughout the country at the contents of the Budget, he would take the liberty of 1444 asking what that disappointment had arisen from? Was it not from the magnificent promises which were held out by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer? The promises of the right hon. Gentleman were so magnificent that the people in the country actually thought that he had obtained possession by some means of the philosopher's stone—that a fiscal millennium was about to ensue—that the time was coming when tax-gathering would cease, and when the Consolidated Fund would be converted into a refuge for distressed agriculturists. What was it that "loomed in the distance" in the month of June last? If he understood the promise which was held out by the right hon. Gentleman in his address to his constituents, as published in the Times of June last, and again in his speech at Aylesbury, as reported in the same paper, it was just this —that in his forthcoming Budget he undertook no less a task than the total revision of the taxation of the country—not a mere shifting of taxation from the shoulders of one class to another. In the right hon. Gentleman's address to his constituents, dated June 2, 1852—and he (Mr. B. Osborne) begged the Committee to remark that that was not a common address, merely soliciting the votes of the electors, but an address in which he propounded a policy conveyed in beautiful language and most indistinct terms—in that address the right hon. Gentleman said—One of the soundest means, among others (to diminish the cost of production), is a revision of our taxation; juster notions of taxation are more prevalent than heretofore; the possibility of greatly relieving the burdens of the community by both adjustment and reduction seems to loom in the future.Well, what happened in December? Had they had a revision of taxation? No. All that they had was an ingenious attempt to transfer a large portion of 2,500,000l., which was now raised through the means of an excise duty, to the shoulders of a class who were not supposed to be very favourable to the Government—the 10l. householders; and there was this peculiarity about the Budget, that whilst the house tax was to be immediately extended and doubled, and the income tax brought down to men receiving 50l. a year from real property, the remission of the tea duties was to be spread over six years. The taxes were immediate, but the remissions loomed in the future. He denied that the Budget would at all conduce to reconcile conflict- 1445 ing interests, as the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Viscount Jocelyn) seemed to suppose. The noble Lord, he observed, had succeeded in catching the jargon of the other side of the House. It was merely "the area of taxation that was to be increased" by the present Budget, they were told—-which, to his (Mr. B. Osborne's) mind, looked very much like as if a certain portion of the Budget were about to be withdrawn. The Budget seemed to him as if it had been conceived in a hostile, if not a revengeful spirit, against the middle classes. [Cries of "Oh!"] What did the Chancellor of the Exchequer say in that singularly lucid and clear speech of his? He said, that "the tenpounders were revelling in the relief which they enjoyed from the repeal of the corn laws." These words conveyed something very distinct to his mind, and convinced him that the right hon. Gentleman had framed his Budget, not as a healing measure to reconcile conflicting interests, but as a scourge to the backs of those who were "revelling in the relief which they enjoyed from the repeal of the corn laws." He had no doubt himself this was the spirit in which the Budget was framed, "You middle classes have gained everything by the repeal of the corn laws; if you will have free trade, you shall pay for it, therefore you shall have the house duty doubled and extended to houses of 10l., and the income tax extended to incomes from property of 50l." The noble Lord (Viscount Jocelyn) had rather entered into a discussion of direct taxation. He, for one, did not intend to argue the respective merits of direct or indirect taxation. He candidly owned that he was of opinion that in an old country having to raise 60,000,000l. annually, direct taxation should be extended with great caution. He had never been one of those who theorised on direct taxation. It might be very well in a new country; but he very much doubted if, in a country like this, with a great debt and a purely artificial system, they could proceed with safety in making all taxation direct. Sure he was that previous to extending the area of taxation, to use the now fashionable term, they were bound to undertake a review of the whole system of taxation with a view to its revision. But he doubted whether it was wise, politic, or beneficial to make all their taxes depend upon a system of direct taxation. He dismissed that part of the subject, to which he should not have alluded if it had not 1446 been alluded to by the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn. He now came to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary last night, and he must say that he thought the criticism of that right hon. Gentleman upon the observations of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Halifax (Sir C. Wood) was most extraordinary. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole), alluding to the house tax, said that the right hon. Member for Halifax had imposed a most unjust tax upon houses; and what was the remedy proposed by the Home Secretary? Why, he thought the tax so unjust that he proposed to double it at once. [Mr. WALPOLE said that he had described the tax as unequal.] Well, but how did the right hon. Gentleman render it more equal? The Government adopted an arbitrary line, and proposed to extend the tax to 10l. houses; but if the tax was just in principle, why did they stop at 10l. houses? He was not one of those who were particularly enamoured of the house tax. He doubted the justice of that tax, and he thought the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) had succeeded last night in making out a very strong case against it; but he asked the Home Secretary, if the house tax was unequal under the dynasty of the right hon. Member for Halifax, how he (Mr. Walpole) made it more equal by extending it to 10l. houses? Why were such large numbers of cottages in the country to be excluded from the operation of this extended tax, which would tell almost exclusively upon the towns? He contended that if this tax was just in principle, the Government were bound to apply it equally to town and country. What was sauce for your town goose was equally sauce for your rural gander, and it was not by plucking the feathers of the one bird that any compensation could be given to the other. Let the Committee mark that "compensation" was the term, and he was prepared to argue that this plan of laying on the house tax was nothing more than compensation to the agricultural interest. [Cries of" No!"] Several hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House said no. Were they inclined to listen to what he should adduce as proof? He was sorry to trouble the Committee with another quotation from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman had been so much quoted that he must bear a charmed life. What said he, in the month of March, and as late as the month of July, as to the plans for compensation to the 1447 landed interest? It was a very curious thing that the right hon. Gentleman had fixed upon the exact amount of compensation which he was ready to give. The light hon. Gentleman said—It is quite clear, by your system of local taxation, land is subject to 2,500,000l. more than any other property in the country.Now this was the exact half of the malt tax which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to take off. "If Parliament will not, in the manner I recommend"— namely, by countervailing duties, which were now given up—do justice to the agricultural interest, they must submit to a revision of the taxation of the country, and they may depend upon it the redress which their own sense of justice will ultimately prompt them to accord to the agricultural interest will be obtained in a manner far more coarsely, and by means much more expensive."…"The policy of Her Majesty's Ministers is to do justice to the land; to bring in measures of redress for all those great producing interests which are now suffering injustice; if the country will not have recourse to these remedial measures we bow to their decision; but, though we may not be Ministers, still, as Members of Parliament, we will labour for other measures of redress; we will, though in opposition"—[in which situation he (Mr. B. Osborne) hoped soon to see them]—"exert ourselves to obtain those countervailing and compensatory regulations which justice demands.That was in the month of March; but, at a dinner of his constituents at Newport Pagnel, on the 14th of July, the right hon. Gentleman said—It is in reviewing the system of taxation, in the readjustment of that system, that the cultivators of the soil will find that compensation which they have a right to expect from the abrogation of the corn laws.That was the opinion expressed in the month of July last by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government— [Laughter. ] Well, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was at the head of the Government. There was no doubt of that, and he was glad to see the right hon. Gentleman, on account of his abilities and talents, in such a position. But what did a right hon. Gentleman say who was at the tail of the Government? He would inform the House what were the opinions of that right hon. Gentleman, which were so far valuable, because he was almost the last of the Romans—the last of the Protectionists. Whenever that right hon. Gentleman wrote a letter he, (Mr. B. Osborne) was always delighted to see it. It was true that a great many letters had been forged in the right hon. Gentleman's name; but, in order to secure correct copies, 1448 he (Mr. B. Osborne) did—what he recommended every hon. Member to do—he took in the Stamford Mercury, a most excellent paper, and, having the advantage of being the right hon. Gentleman's organ, no fictitious letters were printed in it. Well, what did the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster say? He was going to read them the right hon. Gentleman's very last, last letter. He would pass over the right hon. Gentleman's avowal that he was one to maintain monarchical institutions, and all his reflections on his friend Sir Montague Cholmeley, and come to his opinion of the present Budget. Here was the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster writing to those deluded Lincolnshire farmers, and here was what he said—The Government have presented a financial scheme, which, although there is only a surplus revenue of 1,300,000l., will relieve the agricultural interest of a vexatious impost to the amount of 2,500,000l.Well, the right hon. Gentleman did not seem particular to a shade or two. He did not tell those to whom he wrote that in his way of stating the question he was leaving a deficit of 1,200,000l., but he endeavoured to persuade the electors of Lincolnshire that the financial scheme of the Government would, from a surplus revenue of 1,300,000l.—the Government, he (Mr. B. Osborne) supposed, being so generous as to make up the difference from their own salaries,—enable them to remove a vexatious impost of 2,500,000l. Now, he asked any Gentleman whether, after hearing these statements of the head and tail of the Government combining all shades of opinion, they could doubt that the house tax was laid upon the middle classes as what the right hon. Gentleman called a compensatory regulation for the suffering agricultural interest? [Cries of" Oh! ]"He thought there could be no doubt that this house tax was laid on for no other reason than as the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said, to compensate the agricultural classes for what they had lost by the repeal of the corn laws. Now, they had heard a great deal about the malt tax, and he must say that if the Exchequer was overflowing, and other more oppressive taxes were taken off, he, for one, would have no objection to vote for the repeal of the malt tax; but at the same time he thought it was one of those taxes which ought not to be removed, unless-the country was in a state of great pros- 1449 perity, and there was a real, and not a fictitious surplus in the Exchequer. The right hon. Secretary for the Home Department, in dealing with this question last night, had argued as if there was a great surplus in the Exchequer, and he did not seem for a moment to consider that by taking off the malt tax he was making a deficit. The right hon. Gentleman kept steadily out of the consideration of the Committee the fact, that in taking off the malt tax he was making such a deficit that the Government were obliged to extend and double the house tax, and to lower the income tax to 100l. of precarious income, and 50l. of fixed incomes. The right hon. Gentleman had argued the matter as if he was doing all this from an overflowing Exchequer, instead of commencing by making a deficit. He (Mr. B. Osborne) thought the right hon. Home Secretary, when he was arguing as to the effect of repealing the malt tax, and looked back for something like 100 years, quite forgot the altered habits and tastes of the people of this country. He seemed completely to have forgotten that the people of this country now consumed upwards of 60,000,0001b. of tea, and 40,000,000 lb. of coffee, a circumstance unheard of 100 years ago, and that the taste for those beverages was unquestionably extending. He (Mr. B. Osborne) would not stop to argue this question upon sanitary grounds, for he believed that to be purely nonsense. He believed it would be just as possible to prove that there was a great increase of nervous disorders in consequence of the use of tea, as to prove that there was any harm in good wholesome beer—such beer as was brewed by his excellent Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Bass). He (Mr. B. Osborne) believed with the noble Lord the First Commissioner of Woods and Works (Lord J. Manners) beer to he a good, wholesome, and national beverage, and, therefore, he at once dismissed all sanitary considerations on the subject. He must deny, how-over, that this proposed reduction of the malt tax was a consumer's question. He denied that the price would be materially affected so far as the artisan and mechanic were concerned. What had every Gentleman who was acquainted with the brewing trade, and who had spoken during the debate, said on the subject? The hon. Member for Derby, who, he thought, had sailed rather near the wind with regard to protection, had admitted last night, that although barley had been falling in price 1450 for many years, the brewer was the only man who got the benefit. Indeed, that hon. Gentleman said in effect, "If you'll take off the whole malt tax, we will give you something handsome;" and it seemed that this "something handsome," if one-half the malt tax was repealed, would be a farthing a quart on the price of beer! But if it did not benefit the artisan, how would this partial remission of the malt tax benefit the farmer? Now, he was himself a considerable barley-grower. He had taken some pains in considering the subject, and he did not believe the proposed measure could benefit the agricultural interest generally. What portion of the agricultural interest was chiefly suffering at this time? Not the producers of barley. He knew that the barley-producers were never better off than they were now. He had himself sold barley last week, and he bad never got a better price since he had been farming. But what was the description of agricultural land, the occupiers of which were now complaining? The heavy clay lands, the wheat lands. Well, he might be told, perhaps, that this land would be forced into the production of barley; but what sort of barley would they get from such land? Every one at all acquainted with the subject knew that the inferior sorts of barley bad no sale with the brewers, but the brighter kinds of barley, such as the best Chevalier barley, were what they bought. It was then absurd to suppose that the partial remission of the malt tax could be of any benefit to the farmer. Then something had been said about the advantages which would be derived by the farmer with regard to the fattening of cattle; but the opinion of all the practical men of science—of Baron Leibig, of Dr. Lyon Playfair, and of others, who were examined before Lord Mont eagle's Committee in 1846—was, that cattle might be fattened much better upon ground barley than upon malt. He denied that this partial remission of the malt tax would benefit either the consumer by lowering the price of beer materially, or the agricultural interest as a whole, by allowing the farmer to grow a high class of barley, or to fatten his cattle to advantage. But he could adduce on this point the evidence of a Gentleman who had applied his mind to these matters, and who was well qualified to form a judgment on the subject. In the year 1851, when the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Bass) brought forward his Motion for a reduction of one-half of the 1451 malt tax, the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) expressed himself in the following terms:—No man had voted more steadily than him self for the total repeal of the malt tax; but its partial remission would neither diminish the expense of its collection nor remove the restrictions which it imposed upon agriculture or on brewing at home; in short, it would afford none of those indirect advantages which the agricultural community valued…ֵHe should much rather support the partial reduction of a Customs duty than of an Excise duty, because a reduction in the former case would lead to a diminution in the staff for collecting the Customs, while no such advantage could be obtained by the partial repeal of an excise tax."—[3 Hansard, cxvii. 912.]Now if he (Mr. B. Osborne) were to speak for five hours—if he were making a Budget speech, and he did not say so sneeringly, for he had listened with great delight to the whole speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—he could not adduce better reasons against the partial remission of the malt tax. He therefore claimed the vote of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire on this occasion. He had, however, a still higher authority against the partial repeal of the malt tax—that of the late Sir Robert Peel, who summed up most compendiously the advantages and disadvantages of the tax in a speech which he made in 1835. In that speech the right hon. Baronet proved most conclusively that no tax was collected at so trifling a loss to the revenue, and he showed that 5,100,000l. of revenue was collected at an expense of only 150,000l., and he warned the House in the most emphatic language against tampering with that tax. He (Mr. B. Osborne) found that whenever the House had made any changes in the malt tax, they had always come back to its reim-position. In 1816 one-half of the malt tax was removed, and in 1819 it was again imposed. In March, 1821, the tax was repealed, and in the following April the vote was rescinded. In 1833, on one Friday the tax was repealed, and, on the following Friday that vote was rescinded. In 1833, Sir William Ingilby, who was then an amateur Chancellor of the Exchequer, brought forward a Budget, by which he proposed to repeal the malt duty; that Budget was accepted; but the House of Commons would not make up the deficiency which that repeal would occasion by laying on fresh taxes on houses and windows; on the contrary, they took off the taxes on houses and windows. They were put on again, but it remained for the right hon. 1452 Gentleman the present Chancellor of the Exchequer to propose to repeal half the malt tax and to make up that deficiency by laying a tax on houses and incomes. He thought that if the Committee adopted the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, they would enter upon a most mischievous course, for they would remove a tax which was collected at the least possible expense, which was onerous and oppressive to no one, which would not relieve the agricultural interest as a whole, and which would not cheapen beer to any great extent. They would, in fact, be repealing a tax in order to keep up a delusion that it would benefit the agricultural interest, while, in fact, it would only benefit the brewer and the publican. He must say he regretted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer appeared to have forsaken all his former schemes. He wished to know why the right hon. Gentleman had not moved for a Committee of the House to consider the peculiar burdens affecting land. What had become of the right hon. Gentleman's schemes for the growth of tobacco in Ireland? What had become of the right hon. Gentleman's proposals for placing the establishment charges of the poor-rate on the Consolidated Fund? The right hon. Gentleman had given no reason the other night for not having stood by his colours, and for not bringing forward some Motion to place the establishment charges on the Consolidated Fund. If the right hon. Gentleman's arguments were good for anything in 1849 and 1850, why did he not bring forward some Motion on these subjects now? He (Mr. B. Osborne) would not promise the right hon. Gentleman his vote, but he would tell him this, having some interest connected with land—that he thought it would be a very fair subject of inquiry whether there were any peculiar burdens affecting land, in order that the question might be finally set at rest. He thought the right hon. Gentleman was bound, after all his promises, to have held out to the agricultural interest something more solid than this partial repeal of the malt tax, which was, in fact, no concession to the agricultural interest. He (Mr. B. Osborne) entirely dissented from the manner in which the income tax had been treated by the Government. He regarded that tax as most inquisitorial in its nature, and as extremely demoralising to the people of this country. It was only necessary to read the evidence of Mr. Pressly, and of the other witnesses examined before 1453 the Committee on the Income Tax, to be satisfied of its demoralising tendency. He must, however, deny the statement which had been made, that that tax had been imposed in order to maintain free trade. He understood, when the tax was brought forward by the late Sir Robert Peel, that it was proposed as a temporary expedient to make up a deficit. It was merely a temporary expedient voted for three years; but Parliament had since gone on voting it for three years at a time. It had been said that the public had become habituated to this tax; but, for his own part, he hoped the public would not become habituated to it, for he regarded it as a most odious tax, because it was both inquisitorial, and, therefore, demoralising. The Government were bound to state their views upon this subject, and as to the length of time for which this income tax was to be imposed; for they had at other times given very strong opinions upon it. Lord Derby said, on the 28th of February, 1851, in the other House, that "any surplus revenue that might arise should in the first instance be applied towards a reduction and final extinction of the income tax;" and that was followed up in the House of Commons by a Motion to that effect, made by the right hon. President of the India Board (Mr. Hemes), whom he (Mr. B. Osborne) was sorry not to have heard upon this Budget, for the right hon. Gentleman was an able financier, and his studied abstinence from assenting to anything in this Budget was remarkable; when he was appealed to, there had been nothing but a grave shrug and a very suspicious silence. He (Mr. B. Osborne) would not go into the distinction attempted to be drawn between precarious and certain income; he did not feel qualified to give any opinion as to the justice or the scientific accuracy of the discriminating duty proposed. That question had puzzled many-wise men. He remembered hearing the late Sir Robert Peel say, that if you determined to interfere in that way, you would have to do away with the tax altogether—that you never could make any approximation to a discrimination. He (Mr. B. Osborne) wished to look further into the subject before pronouncing upon that part of the scheme. He would proceed now to advert to some very remarkable opinions which he had heard uttered the other night by the hon. Member for Hertfordshire (Sir E. B. Lytton), whom, however, he begged to assure, when ven- 1454 taring upon any criticism of those opinions, that no one more admired his literary talent; he read him with delight by day, and listened to him with pleasure by night; he was a man who must do honour to any assembly of which he was a member. But this must be said of that distinguished Member of Parliament and of the literary world, that he gave somewhat original reasons for his change of politics—a subject into which he (Mr. B. Osborne) should not have thought of entering, hut that the hon. Baronet had considered it necessary to make a defence, not only for the Ministers, hut for himself, when his conduct was not impugned. The hon. Baronet said he had always abided by the Liberal party till it was in a state of exhaustion, and then he left it. For what? Because he differed with them on the principle of free trade. And what did he do? Why, he joined the other party just as they had given up the principle for opposition to which he had left his friends! A singular reason for so eminent a Member of Parliament to give! Singular that he should have left the corpse of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London without consigning it to a decent funeral; but more singular that he should have left the noble Lord upon a difference on the principle of free trade, and joined the right hon. Gentleman opposite just as he had given up the principle for which the hon. Baronet forsook the noble Lord! He hoped the hon. Member had not forgotten his speeches for the ballot and triennial Parliaments, He hoped the air of Hertfordshire had not had that enervating effect upon him that he had forgotten his vigorous youth when representing Lincoln. But he chiefly referred to the hon. Baronet because he gave an extraordinary opinion, for him, the other night, in favour of direct taxation. Probably one of his books, by which he would live longest in the world, was that admirable work upon the institutions of this country—England and the English. He (Mr. B. Osborne) would advise every new Member immediately to get a copy of that work, because there was a chapter on the formation of a national party which, at this particular epoch, was well worthy of study, and in which he gave his opinion upon taxation; and here were his views on taxation. They were a little curious, as compared with his present views. This was in chapter 8. The hook was published in 1840:—I have little faith in the virtue of any com- 1455 mutation of taxes. I have studied the intricacies of our finance; I have examined the financial systems of other countries; and I cannot discover any very large fiscal benefit as the probable result of new combinations of taxation. House and window taxes are less just than property tax.He then went on, in reference to direct taxation, of which he was now enamoured—An immense national debt renders direct taxation a dangerous experiment.And here was a most extraordinary note; he believed it was only appended to the fourth edition. [Sir E. B. LYTTON: The book was written twenty years ago.] This was published in 1840, according to the date on the title page. [Sir E. B. LYTTON: Yes; but that is a recent edition. The book was originally published in 1833.] But had the hon. Member forsworn all his opinions of twenty years ago? Then he did not tell the whole secret the other night. He thought the hon. Member quitted his party only for free trade. But at any rate this note was worth listening to, and was most instructive. This was revised by the hon. Gentleman; it was the last edition he revised, and here was the editor's note; let county Members listen to this:—I firmly believe that if the national debtor be ever in danger, the fatal attack will come less from the Radicals than the country gentlemen, who are jealous of the fundholder or crippled with mortgages. The day after the repeal of half the malt tax (leaving a large deficit in the revenue) was carried, I asked one of its principal supporters, a popular and independent country gentleman"—He (Mr. B. Osborne) believed it was the hon. Member for the North Riding, Mr. Cayley, and he had nothing to say against the account of him—how he proposed to repair the deficit? 'By a tax of 2 per cent,'quoth he, 'upon Master Fundholder.' 'If that does not suffice,' asked I. 'Why, then we must tax him 4 per cent,' was the honest rejoinder!The hon. Member, transplanted from the healthy atmosphere of Lincoln to the rather sickening and enervating soil of Hertfordshire, came down and said it was written twenty years ago. He (Mr. B. Osborne) supposed the hon. Member was now a convert to direct taxation, and very probably he would go upon "Master Fundholder." In this debate very little comparatively had been said upon the Irish part of the question. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his address to the Buckinghamshire constituency, eloquently alluding to that country, said that "Ireland had irresistible claims." He 1456 (Mr. B. Osborne) was one of those who,; though representing an English constituency, but not from any paltry considerations merely of property in Ireland, would never shrink from saying that he thought, under the circumstances of Ireland, it was neither wise, beneficial, nor politic, to extend any additional taxation to that country. He would go further, and say, the "Consolidated Annuities" were a gross injustice to that country; and the labour rate, by which money was forced upon the people of that country, and no option was given them in the spending it, but their roads were broken up and the people demoralised was a bad and unjust system. He would say, further, that the potatoe famine ought always to be looked upon as an Imperial calamity, and Ireland no more charged for it than she would have been for the expense of a defence if a foreign invader had landed in Ireland; and till these accounts were put upon a juster footing, he, for one, would be no party to an increase of taxation upon Ireland. But, if the arguments of the hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. Davison) last night were to have any weight, one could have little hope for Ireland. The hon. Member, who said he was no orator, but a simple man of business, gave as a reason for supporting the Budget, that there was a most popular Lord Lieutenant, a most amiable Chief Secretary, and most intelligent Law Officers. It was true enough; but was that any reason why the people of this country were to be loaded with the house tax? If he (Mr. B. Osborne) might respectfully address himself to the Irish Members, who he thought in the main always voted right, for the advance of great and liberal principles, he would say to them, "Beware how you inflame the mind of the English people by laying on a tax you refuse to bear yourselves." But the virtues of the Irish functionaries were no argument for laying on a tax, and would be very little consolation to the English householder when the collector called. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary wound up his most interesting and spirited speech by an elaborate panegyric upon his Colleague the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He (Mr. B. Osborne) was not prepared to say that in many points of that panegyric he did not fully concur. He would grant all that was said as to the energy, the ability, the great powers of the right hon. Gentle-man—he would grant it ungrudgingly and fully. He thought the right hon; Gen- 1457 tleman had the ingenium velox, audacia perdita, sermo promptus. But he must take exception when the right hon. Home Secretary talked of him as the most bold and prudent financier the world had ever seen. With regard to finance, he (Mr. B. Osborne) was of opinion that the great majority of that House would incline to think that in financial projects "discretion was the better part of valour." But the right hon. Gentleman went on to say, following in the footsteps of the hon. Member for the North Riding (Mr. Cayley), that this Budget must be a most popular Budget, because there was such a cordial reception at Guildhall; and he quoted a passage from Lucretius, as he (Mr. B. Osborne) believed, but he was irresistibly reminded of a parallel case, as narrated by Buckingham to the Duke of Gloster, of what had occurred in the Guildhall when the Duke's claim to the Crown was urged there. Gentlemen would remember the quotation in Shakspeare:—When he had done, some followers of mine own, At lower end o' the hall, hurl'd up their caps, And some ten voices cried 'God save King RichardAnd thus I took the 'vantage of those few— 'Thanks, gentle citizens, and friends,' quoth I; 'This general applause and cheerful shout Argues your wisdom and your love to Richard.'The passages were somewhat parallel. He would venture to suggest to the right hon. Home Secretary, when he quoted the reception at Guildhall, that it was not very probable a set of well-to-do gentlemen, who were met to discuss the tender merits of turtle and venison, would be inclined to criticise with any severe eye the dry details of a financial project. No, those were not the classes they must quote as giving a cordial reception to their Budget. It was the industrious clerk, striving to support his family upon an income of not 150l. a year—it was the energetic mechanic just emerging into independence, whom they must ask what they thought of the Budget. Sure he was this Budget could never be popular with those classes in this country; and he called upon the Committee, in the name of those classes, to resist a Budget which was based at once upon tyranny and injustice.
MR. ALDERMAN THOMPSON
said, that he should like to hear the hon. and gallant Member who had just sat down state to the House the sources from which he thought the taxation of the country ought to be raised, and how the national credit 1458 was to be maintained? He had always been foremost in favour of the remission of indirect taxation. [Mr. OSBORNE: No!] Why, the hon. Gentleman had voted for the repeal of the corn laws, the abolition of the differential duties on sugar, and other indirect taxes. The hon. and gallant Member had declared himself disappointed with the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman, and had characterised the Budget as meagre; but, on the other hand, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax and the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge were of opinion that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had aimed at too much, and that he would have done bettor if he had extended it over two years. In his (Mr. Alderman Thompson's) opinion, the Budget was a bold, statesmanlike, and wise measure, and deserved the confidence of the country. He would even go further, and say that, with the exception of certain objectors within the walls of Parliament, it had been received with very general acceptation. The hon. Member said the Budget was framed in a revengeful spirit. Did he mean to say that the working classes would receive no benefit from the reduction of the duty on tea, and from the reduction of the sugar duty in July? [Mr. OSBORNE: That is not in the Budget.] Well, but when he complained of the hardship upon those who occupied houses at rents between 10l. and 20l., it was proper to show that the occupiers of 10l. houses had obtained great relief from the course of legislation which had been adopted of late years, and that they had no cause of complaint whatever in being called upon to contribute towards a house tax. The tax, in point of fact, would fall upon the capital invested in houses, the rents of which were from 10l. to 12l., the returns from which were in general from 10 to 20 per cent; it appeared to him, therefore, that the proposed extension was rather a landlord's than a tenant's question. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the North Riding had attempted to show the distinction between taxing houses and land; but land being worth thirty years' purchase, and houses only fifteen, it was clear that the latter produced double the income, and ought to pay a larger rate of taxation. He did not mean to say that he was prepared to vote for doubling the house tax, but that he was prepared to vote for extending it to the 10l. householders, both because of the large incomes which houses of that de- 1459 nomination produced, and also in consideration of the advantages which their inhabitants had derived from the diminution of taxation in other ways. With respect to the shipping interest, he felt persuaded that it would be found in every way beneficial. It had been stated by hon. Gentlemen opposite, that to have reduced the timber duties would have been a greater boon to the shipping interest than what the Chancellor of the Exchequer now proposed to do. He was startled at the assertion; and, to test it, had only yesterday asked a man—not biassed, for he was a very good Whig—a man who was one of the largest shipowners and shipbuilders in England, and, consequently, in the world, what he thought on the subject. The reply was, that nothing in the world could be better than the Chancellor of the Exchequer's proposal; that the repeal of the timber duties would be a mere drop in the ocean compared to it. He (Mr. Alderman Thompson) then asked this gentleman what he should save by the repeal of the timber duties, in the building of one of his magnificent ships of 600 to 2,000 tons, and which cost about 20l. a ton? The answer was, "2s. 6d. a ton;" in other words, 2s. 6d. on the 20l. He would admit, however, that ships employed in the coasting trade would benefit to a greater extent; the saving in their case might be 7s. 6d. a ton. He thought, therefore, that this statement was a sufficient contradiction of the erroneous notions which existed in regard to the advantages the shipping interest would derive from a repeal of the timber duties. While giving his humble thanks to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for what he had done, and promised to do, with regard to pilotage and the manning of the mercantile marine, there was another point, not touched upon, but more important than any alluded to, as regarded the commerce of this country—that was, the question of salvage by the Royal Navy. That bad been a grievance ever since be had been in business, and he had no hesitation in saying that the present system operated most severely and unjustly against the shipowner. He would give one or two instances of its unfair pressure, for the purpose of proving his statement. He had held the office of chairman at Lloyd's, and recollected a case which, at the time, attracted the attention of the whole commercial community, and which he would state now to the Committee. Her Majesty's frigate Thetis was on the coast of South 1460 America in 1830, and to accommodate the merchants she went from port to port to collect specie. On the 4th of December she sailed from Rio, and on the 5th ran foul of a reef of rocks off Cape Frio, and was lost. Her preceding captain had been unfortunately drowned, and the Admiral on the station had appointed an officer to command her. A court-martial was summoned, and it found that the officer in command had not shown sufficient care and skill in the navigation of his vessel. Meanwhile Admiral Baker sent three sloops of war to see what they could get from the wreck, and to recover as much as possible of the specie. Originally the Thetis had on board about 800,000 dollars belonging to various English merchants, and worth, in our money, some 200,000l.; of this about 150,000l. was recovered. They should mark what followed. The Navy, the Admiral, and the captain who was appointed for this particular duty, first claimed salvage—claimed it under the circumstances already stated—that the ship, according to the finding of the court-martial, had been lost for want of sufficient skill in its commanding officer. After much litigation, the matter ended in this way—the officers of the Navy obtained 29,000l.; 13,800l. was claimed by the Admiral for the use of the three sloops, for interest, and for seamen's wages; and there was a bill of 7,000l. for stores. The conclusion therefore was, that within a trifle of 50,000l. was claimed and paid in this case on account of salvage. He said these were charges on the commerce and shipping of this country which were unendurable, and which did not exist in any other country. Take another ease. A British merchant vessel, the Rosalie, sailed out of the port of Monte Video. About eight hours afterwards the captain discovered that she was on fire. He put about ship and sailed back; but the wind was adverse, and he was obliged to take to his boats. He went to the British consul at Monte Video and communicated the disaster to him, and the consul thereupon immediately gave him a letter of introduction to the captain of the Locust, a Government steamer. The Locust proceeded to the ship which was on fire; but in bringing her into port both ships got on shore, and would have been wrecked but for the interference of the Brazilian Admiral. The captain of the British ship went to the Brazilian Admiral, and asked him what claim be had to make for saving his ship. His reply was, "None 1461 whatever; it gives me great satisfaction to have been able to serve the vessel of a friendly Power in distress." But, notwithstanding that generous declaration, the course adopted by the captain of the Locust was very different. He immediately placed a distringas on the ship and cargo for salvage, for which he claimed 3,000l. Yet such abuses went on year by year without being prevented or reformed. He was confident that the noble Duke at the head of the Admiralty would readily be instrumental in carrying out measures for the advantage of the mercantile marine. Wherever there was hazard of life—wherever efforts must be made to save life— the officers of the British Navy ought to be rewarded. The system that existed was one which had been allowed to endure too long. With regard to that part of the Budget which had reference to the sugar colonies, though they would probably receive relief to the extent probably of 1s. 6d. per cwt. by the facility proposed to be given for refining sugar in bond, yet he must own that when he heard from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the course of legislation which had been observed towards the Colonies was unjust, he did hope the right hon. Gentleman would have proposed some measure for their relief. He did hope this, because, though he admitted that for the last three years there had been an increase of British plantation sugar, he believed that had been owing to the quantity of cane planted in 1851, when there was a differential duty of 7s. per cwt. He was afraid that in the next two years, when the duties on British and foreign-grown sugar would become equalised, it would be found that the West Indian colonies would fall off greatly in respect of production. He deprecated the mode in which allusion had been made to the circumstances that Parliament had granted half a million of money to be lent to proprietors in the West Indies, and that they had not taken half of it. He felt that the course those proprietors had taken had been suggested by the most honourable motives; and that, but for their being conscious of their inability to fulfil the engagements which a loan implied, they would have availed themselves of the grant to a greater extent than they had. As regarded the proposed reduction of the duty on tea, independently of other considerations, he had always been apprehensive that if we continued a duty upon that article of something like 240 per cent, 1462 whilst China was admitting our manufactures at 5 per cent, and America, which was the most importing country in point of quantity, admitting tea from China free of duty, the time would come when the Chinese Government would say, "We charge you 5 per cent only on your cotton, an article of very great consumption in China, and in which the Americans now carry on an almost successful competition with you, yet you will not admit our tea, which is almost the only article we send you, except at this exorbitant duty. We certainly shall not any longer allow your goods to come into our country at 5 per cent, while we are paying upwards of 100."That this would he the language of the Chinese had long been his apprehension, an apprehension which this measure, he was glad to say, removed; and therefore he gave his entire approval to this proposition. He would next refer to the Income Tax; and here he must say he admired the courage of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had ventured upon a much-needed modification, which he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would successfully carry out. Coming, then, to the very severe censures of the right hon. Gentlemen the Members for Halifax (Sir C. Wood) and for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone), as to the extension of the income tax to funded property in Ireland, he would refer them to the Act of Parliament, which might perhaps throw some light upon the subject; he would remind them that the debt was a debt of the United Kingdom, not of England only, nor of Ireland only. By an Act passed in the 5th Geo. IV. cap. 35, sec. 6, for the purpose of facilitating the transfer of stock from England to Ireland, or vice versâ, it was enacted that, "each of the several stocks should be deemed, reputed, and taken to be one capital or joint-stock." And how did this operate? The right hon. Gentleman said they must look what a cruelty it was to the poor shopkeeper in Dublin who had perhaps a sum of 50l. a year in the Irish funds to pay the income tax on that amount. But the right hon. Gentleman made this mistake—it was not the poor shopkeeper, nor the poor farmer or landowner in Ireland who were the stockholders; it was the banking interest who were the stockowners, the joint-stock banks, carried on not by Irish but by English capital, and making large profits. Was it right they should escape the tax on property? He had been investigating the 1463 nature of the transactions between England and Ireland in stocks since the imposition of the income tax in 1842, and he found that from England to Ireland there had been transferred 16,590,927l.; from Ireland to England during the same period, the amount of stock transferred had been 10,849,836l.; Ireland had therefore a balance in her favour of 6,000,000l., which did not pay duty at all. But if he went to the terminable annuities, where the tax was about fifteen or sixteen per cent, the Irish had no competition; in 1842 they amounted to between 700l. and 800l., and now to 120,839l. Was this their justice to Ireland? It was not all. He found that about a fortnight before the stocks were closed, there was an enormous transfer of funded property to Ireland, and that as soon as the dividend was paid in Ireland, it was all sent back again. There was no expense attending the transfer, because the Act said this stock should be transferred without any charge. If he held 10,000l. Consols in the English funds, and wished to transfer it to the Irish, all he had to do was to get a certificate from the Accountant General, on presentation of which at the Bank of England they gave an order on the Bank of Ireland to raise 10,000l. Consols, and cancelled those which he held in the English funds. That was a very simple and convenient operation; he admired it very much; but this facility was liable to abuse. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax bade the Irish Members, the other night, take care of this income tax, warning them that the Chancellor of the Exchequer wanted to get the point of the wedge in as a preliminary to driving it home. The hon. Member for Marylebone not only put it in, but wished to drive it home. But although he entirely approved of the extension of the income tax to Ireland, he did not go along with those who wished to extend it to Ireland generally. He could not forget the hardships which that country had endured, and the great sacrifices of property which the Irish had been obliged to make under the Encumbered Estates Act. And though he hoped the time was not distant when Ireland might bear a fair proportion of the national burdens, he contended that that time had not yet come. He regretted to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn) characterise the Budget as one that tampered with the national credit. Look 1464 at the best indicator. How much had the premium upon Exchequer Bills fallen since this Budget had been introduced? How much per cent had Consols fallen? That was the very best answer to the right hon. Gentleman's objections. With regard to the application of the 400,000l. to be received from the repayment of loans, he contended that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was perfectly right. What was that fund? It was the difference in the rate of interest between borrowing and lending. Upon that transaction the country had made a profit of 360,000l. He should treat it the same in any private transaction of his own. If he borrowed a fixed sum of money at 2 per cent, and employed it at 4, he gained 2 per cent, and he should consider the difference available capital.
§ SIR C. WOOD
said, the hon. Gentleman was in error in supposing that he disapproved of the proposal of the Government as regarded the relief of the shipping interests. He must refer the hon. Gentleman to the speech of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who, the previous night, said he was glad to find he entirely approved of it.
MR. ALDERMAN THOMPSON
said, he had understood the right hon. Gentleman to have stated that he thought a removal of the timber duties would have been more beneficial to the shipping interest.
§ SIR BENJAMIN HALL
said, it was not his intention to follow his hon. Friend who had just sat down, through all the topics upon which he had touched. The real question for the consideration of the Committee now, was the first proposition of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to double the house tax; and until that evening, he had certainly expected that that was the point which was to be decided in the first instance. It seemed, however, that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not feel inclined to take issue on that question, and that he now wished the House to limit that issue to a very narrow compass, namely, that the area of taxation shall be extended. That was not the question. The question was, should the house tax be doubled, for the purpose of repealing the malt duty? The right hon. Gentleman, with his usual versatility of purpose, tried to evade his first propositions as to the house tax, and was desirous of confining the issue, and taking the question as to whether the area should be extended. But that was too limited a ques- 1465 tion to discuss; and he (Sir B. Hall) would hold the right hon. Gentleman to the positive issue upon which, only two days since, the Minister stated he would stake the existence of his Cabinet. The Secretary of State for the Home Department had given it as his opinion, that although the Opposition took some exceptions to the Budget, yet as they made some admissions, they should vote for the Budget as a whole, and move amendments at subsequent periods. This would be a very fair course if the exceptions were not paramount to the admissions, and the latter were only of minor importance; but such was not the case, and the whole scheme of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was based upon a proposition (that of doubling the house tax), so objectionable that he (Sir B. Hall) could not for one moment assent to it. Connected as he was with a large house constituency, he would beg leave to detain the House for a short time. He would endeavour to show that the doubling of the house tax was unjust; that the distinction made between the tenant-farmer and the tradesman was most unfair, and ought not to be carried out; and that the whole scheme was directed against the inhabitants of towns. He was prepared to show that as regarded the farmers, they would, as compared with the inhabitants of towns, be greatly benefited by the alteration of the present Budget. But before he entered upon these several points, he must notice an observation which had fallen from the noble Lord the Member for the City of Durham (Lord A. Vane), who had said, that if any unpopularity attached to this house tax, it would be owing to himself (Sir B. Hall), who had organised his battalions against this tax. That statement was without foundation. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his speech on Friday night, spoke of the intelligence of the inhabitants of the metropolis. He concurred in that view of the right hon. Gentleman as to their intelligence, and that intelligence, he submitted, would learn them to discern whether a proposed tax was just or unjust; and if the latter, they would naturally meet together to oppose its imposition, and if they did so it was the duty of their representatives to give them all the assistance in their power. Their course was like that taken in the pro-corn-law agitation. Noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen who now denounced agitation by 1466 others, collected large masses of the people to discuss their views. The only distinction between the course of that agitation and the present was, that their (Sir B. Hall's) agitation was for a good object, while their opponents was the reverse. The fact was, the cause of their opponents was a bad one, and it broke down. But their case was a good one, and it would succeed. And whether the Ministers succeeded in carrying their proposition on that subject or not that night, they might rely upon it, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr.Goul-burn) had told them, the tax would be so unpopular that they would have the same number of petitions against it on the table of the House as in 1833 and 1834, and they would be ultimately obliged to abandon it altogether. His noble Friend the noble Lord the Member for Lynn (Viscount Jocelyn), said that this was not a question of the house tax. He agreed with his noble Friend that this was not so much the question of a new house tax as it was a question of whether they should double the tax that existed. He (Sir B. Hall) did not deny that houses ought to be taxed as property. There could be no doubt of that. But if they went beyound that then taxation became unequal, and it must break down. They had agreed with the late Chancellor of the Exchequer to com-promise the imposition of a house tax of a smaller amount to get rid of the window duties, and they did not intend to have that arrangement broken through. By that arrangement the householders had yielded a great deal, and he wished to know why the inhabitants of towns were to be taxed more than the people in the country. This was now to he effected by a partial system of taxation. According to the present system if a person took a property from a landowner that was subject to a property tax, he then built a house upon it, and that was taxed; not merely to property tax on the rent paid to the landlord, and which might be deducted by the ten-ant, but to income tax, and also to 6d. in the pound on shops, and 9d. on dwelling-houses; and if he died, the personalty was also taxed. It was now proposed, without any good cause, to increase that taxation. Now, with respect to direct taxation, he was in favour of that so far as it could be carried out fairly, and he believed that a great deal of the revenue of the country ought to be collected that way; but at the same time they should remember this, that 1467 if they rendered it partial and unjust, they would render it odious and unpopular, and it would be put a stop to. Why should there be any difference between tenant-farmers and the tradesmen in towns? The former lived in the country, and at a cheaper rate; but otherwise their position was precisely similar, and the one should be exempted from no tax which the other was obliged to pay. Another exemption in favour of the tenant-farmer, which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to effect was, that he was liable to be taxed for only one-third his rent, and if he found that he had not made an amount of profit equal to one-third his rent, he was allowed to appeal. But the tradesman must undergo all the annoyance of the inquisitorial system, of the income-tax commissioner, and whether he made out one-third his rent or not, he had no appeal. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department had alluded to what had taken place at a meeting of his (Sir B. Hall's) constituents, and to what he had said at that meeting. He did not say that he objected to a house tax in the shape of a property tax, but he said, "Why should they stop at 10l.? This is simply the reason, because if they go below 10l., they must go into the agricultural districts, and thus eventually come to tax the landlords themselves. This, I think, is the reason why the Government proposed to stop at 10l."But the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he had made that proposition, had said, in speaking of the inhabitants of the metropolis, that he "was surprised that they objected to this tax." He said, that "the repeal of the window tax was not made on account of the pressure of taxation, or because it was an oppressive or vicious tax; but that it should be repealed on sanatory grounds." "That plea was admitted, and the tax repealed." He (Sir B. Hall) was surprised to hear this statement from the right hon. Gentleman, not only because it was wholly unfounded, but because the right hon. Gentleman ought to have known that it was so. If anybody knew it, the right hon. Gentleman should have known that the window tax was an unpopular tax in the metropolis, for he himself was one of the loudest declaimers against it, and he issued addresses in which he had said that it ought to be immediately repealed. That had been one of the right hon. Gentleman's earliest opinions with regard to political subjects; and the question of sana- 1468 tory reform had not been considered with reference to the window tax till within the last few years. Above twenty years ago, when he (Sir B. Hall) had first the honour of a seat in that House, the question of the window tax was considered by the inhabitants of the metropolis as a vexatious impost, which they ought not to be called on to pay. But the right hon. Gentleman, in order to reconcile them to the imposition of a double house tax, had ordered a paper to be printed [No. 54: of this Session, printed on the 6th instant], in which a return is given of the number of houses assessed in house duty in 1852, showing the amount recived thereon, the amount of the window tax levied in 1851, and the difference caused by the substitution of a house tax for the window tax. If anything would make the inhabitants dissatisfied with the proposed house tax, it was an analysis of this return. Not an atom of benefit would be derived by the larger or even by the smaller towns, by the proposed change; and this, he (Sir B. Hall) would make much more manifest if he obtained the returns he would move for on Thursday next. The only town given in the return of the right hon. Gentleman, was the City of London. How would the alteration of the duties fall upon that portion of the metropolis? The house duty, according to the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman would yield 73,110l. The window tax yielded 61,300l. There would thus be an increase of 11,810l. But if they went farther, and compared the tax which was paid in 1851 with the tax which was proposed for 1853, and compared that to be paid by towns with that to be paid by counties, he would be able to show that the right hon. Gentleman's proposition was most unjust towards the inhabitants of towns, and was a completely partial mode of taxation. It had been impossible for him to get the returns for all towns; but he had been able to inform himself of the amount of taxes paid for windows, and to be paid for houses in the parishes of St. Pancras, Westminster, and Marylebone, and the following was a comparison of what they would have to pay for the house tax in 1853, with what they paid for the window tax in 1851. He (Sir B. Hall) would state these sums to the House, and thus he would show how the towns would be overtaxed, and how agricultural counties, which in 1851 paid almost precisely the same amount of window tax would be relieved:—