§ House in Committee of Ways and Means.
§ Question again proposed—
§ "That it is the opinion of this Committee, that towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, there shall be raised annually during the terms hereinafter limited, the several Rates and Duties following (that is to say):—
§ "For and in respect of the property in any lands, tenements, or hereditaments, in the United Kingdom, and for and in respect of every annuity, pension, or stipend, payable by Her Majesty or out of the Public Revenue of the United Kingdom; and for and in respect of all interest of money, annuities, dividends, and shares of annuities payable to any person or persons, bodies politic or corporate, companies or societies, whether corporate or not corporate; and for and in respect of the annual profits or gains arising or accruing to any person or persons whatever, resident in the United Kingdom, from any kind of property whatever, whether situate in the United Kingdom or elsewhere, or from any annuities, allowances, or stipends, or from any profession, trade, or vocation, whether the same shall be respectively exercised in the United Kingdom or elsewhere; and for and in respect of the annual profits or gains arising or accruing to any person or persons not resident within the United Kingdom from any property whatever in the United Kingdom, or from any trade, profession, or vocation, exercised in the United Kingdom; for every twenty shillings of the annual value or amount thereof—
|For two years from April 5, 1853||£0||0||7|
|And for two years from April 5, 1855||0||0||6|
|And for three years from April 5, 1857||0||0||5|
§ "And that on April 5, 1860, except as to the collection of monies then due, the said Rates and Duties shall cease and determine.
§ "And for and in respect of the occupation of such lands, tenements, or hereditaments (other than a dwelling-house occupied by a tenant distinct from a farm of lands), for every twenty shillings of the annual value thereof, one moiety of each of the said sums of 7 d., and., 5 d., for the above-named times respectively."
SIR EDWARD BULWBR LYTTON
rose to more, by way of Amendment, that 454 instead of the Resolution as it stood, to leave out all after the word "that" in the commencement of the Resolution, for the purpose of inserting the words, "That the continuance of the income tax for seven years, and its extension to parties heretofore exempt from its operation, without any mitigation of the inequalities of its assessment, are alike unjust and impolitic." He would endeavour to condense, as closely as possible, the arguments he proposed to use to enforce his Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had informed the House he regarded the income tax as the keystone of his financial scheme; and the right hon. Gentleman requested the House not so much to give attention to the keystone, as to bestow their admiration on the various superstructures it was intended to bear. But he thought it was necessary that the House should first examine the keystone, to find out whether it was quite perfect, or whether it needed repairs; by doing this they would be able to look with more satisfaction at the superstructure. He would admit that there was much in the Budget worthy the high reputation of the right hon. Gentleman, and of the approval of the country; and he would grant, also, that the income tax might fairly be retained for a certain period, in order to enable the right hon. Gentleman to develop his financial scheme; but if the tax were necessary, it was not necessary to renew also all its defects—there was no reason that the country should not possess all the good things in the right hon. Gentleman's Budget, in combination with that reform in the income tax which was demanded by justice and the sense of the country. There was this marked difference between the right hon. Gentleman and those who had supported Lord Derby's Government; namely, that when the late Government proposed to deal with the income tax, they made it an indispensable condition to remove from that impost the elements of unpopularity, and to establish a clear distinction between precarious income and income derived from realised property. The right hon. Gentleman the present Chancellor of the Exchequer refused to make that distinction. He proposed to leave the principal objections untouched. Now it was precisely because he concurred in the two fundamental premises of the right hon. Gentleman that he was compelled to come to a different conclusion. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman, first, that the 455 income tax was a mighty financial resource, which should be kept available in all times of adequate need; and, secondly, that it should not be regarded as an habitual feature of our taxation. But exactly because he wished to have this tax available, with the ready assent of the people, in any future need, that he asked the House to remove from it those features which now made it so unpopular; or if it were held unwise to correct the machinery of the tax, we should at least endeavour to console those who were ground down by that tax, by showing them we would not maintain it a single year longer than we could help. The right hon. Gentleman, however, determined to do exactly the reverse, for he retains all the inequalities of the impost, and postpones its suspension to the furthest possible period. Seven years might be a short period in the history of a people, but it was a long period in the lives of a generation; and at the end of seven years what guarantee was there that the tax would be abolished? The right hon. Gentleman candidly said he did not wonder at the incredulity of the people on the subject of the repeal of the income tax, when he recollected the promises of his predecessors; but, said the right hon. Gentleman, "I will state the calculations and resources on which I rely for the extinction of the tax, and then leave the public to judge for themselves." The right hon. Gentleman, accordingly, luminously summed up the amount of his financial expectations, if not to their satisfaction, at least to his own; and showed that in 1860 there would be a balance arising from his scheme, which would enable Parliament to dispense with the 6,000,000l. contributed by the income tax to the revenue. But the right hon. Gentleman did not take into the account the per contra, that all this time Members on both sides of the House would be doing their best to forestall his balance sheet. If hon. Members, even on the right hon. Gentleman's side of the House, had refused to wait four days before they embarrassed his whole Budget by the repeal of the advertisement duty, how could the right hon. Gentleman possibly suppose that his opponents or the independent Members would wait seven years without interfering with that balance with which he proposed to pay off the income tax by propounding reductions of their own? Every class had some particular interest against some particular tax, stronger than its share in the general interest against the income 456 tax; and the right hon. Gentleman might rest assured that these particular interests would not wait to make themselves heard till the precise period which the right hon. Gentleman had marked for the full development of his plans. And just in proportion as the revenue was most flourishing—just as the terminable annuities were falling in—the advocates for the repeal of the paper duties, for the abolition of the stamp duty on newspapers, for the repeal of the malt tax, and so on, would the more eagerly press forward their claims, deaf to any pathetic appeal not to derange the balance that was to pay off the income tax. So that when the time came to slay the giant, the giant would have grown bigger and stronger than ever—be cased in the same impenetrable brass—and not a pebble would be left in the brook that would fit into the sling reserved to kill the Goliah. But supposing those fears vain, and supposing no taxes were taken off, still the right hon. Gentleman was compelled to base all his calculations on the bold assumption that the remissions of taxes would have replaced themselves by 1860—that from analogous experience he had a right to assume that after the reductions the amounts received from the various articles in 1860 would be nearly the same as now. The public income, the right hon. Gentleman told them, by the remissions he proposed, would be diminished to the extent of not less than 5,384,000l.; but then, said he, by the commercial law of reproduction, the amount of loss to the taxes would have replaced itself by 1860, and that at that time he would have an available surplus of 5,959,000l., which would enable the House to do away with the income tax should it think fit. The right hon. Gentleman's scheme all depended on that assumption. Now he granted that a reduction of duties on articles largely consumed did ultimately replace itself by increased consumption; but the House must recollect that that rule applied to duties reduced—and had obviously no application to articles the duties on which were absolutely repealed. And yet the right hon. Gentleman proposed to abolish altogether the duties on soap—in amount 1,120,000l., and on certain other articles of Customs, amounting to 53,000l.; making a total of 1,179,000l. of taxes absolutely abolished, and which, therefore, as a matter of course, would not be subject to the commercial law of reproduction. How could the duty be replaced when it was altogether abolished? 457 Looking further, he found other items which the right hon. Gentleman expected would be restored to the revenue in six years. He found colonial postage 400.000l.; but this was an absolute expenditure, not a duty to be reproduced. Then the law of reproduction was not applicable to articles of luxury, such as carriages, horses, &c. The duty on these articles was to be sacrificed to the extent of 340,000l. Then, with respect to spirits, what became of the law of reproduction there? It was calculated that the duty would not be diminished but increased by 436,000l., in consequence of the proposed change; but who could say that the increase, whatever it might be, would not be supplied by illicit distillation, and that the augmented receipts would not go into the pocket of the illicit distiller, instead of enriching the Exchequer? Together, these items amounted to two millions—of which one portion was not subject to the commercial law of reproduction, and the larger portion was made up of duties abolished altogether; yet the right hon. Gentleman relied on these items to produce him one-third of that surplus which, in 1860, was to get rid of the income tax. He might be told that, though individual reductions should not replace their loss to the revenue individually, yet that their effect in stimulating the general energy, and in consequently promoting the general prosperity, would operate equivalently. But there would be another operation going on at the same time; the greater the general prosperity, why, the greater the amount paid in the shape of income tax, and the greater, therefore, the unwillingness of any Chancellor of the Exchequer to part with so productive an impost when the time came. Thus there was this double risk for the country—first, that, in prosperity, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not part with the income tax, because it was so rich and ready a resource; and, secondly, that in adversity it would become a matter of necessity to retain it. He objected, then, to the continuance of the income tax for the period of seven years, without any guarantee that it would be abolished at the end of that time; and if he had any doubt on that point, and if he wished for proof that the right hon. Gentleman himself doubted the realisation of his hopes, he would find a confirmation of those doubts in a letter which appeared in one of the journals of that morning. The letter was written by the right hon. Gentle- 458 man in reply to a question from a clerk at Birmingham, asking him how he was to be benefited by the income tax? The right hon. Gentleman, in one part of his letter, informed the sceptical clerk—"The tax collector, should Parliament adopt the Government proposition, will, about January, call upon you for the half-yearly payment of 1l. 04 s. 10 d.," pleasantly adding that the visit "will be repeated in July, and this for seven years; when—unless Parliament, in consideration of other public benefits or necessities not yet foreseen, should prolong the tax, it will drop altogether." Upon such a qualified assurance as this, he thought the House would hardly consent to continue this tax for seven years—to continue it moreover with all those characteristics of unfairness and inequality which so tended to demoralise the public. The right hon. Gentleman admitted, with his wonted frankness, that the fraud and falsehood engendered by the operation of the impost in men engaged in trade and business who made out their own returns, constituted one reason, and a main reason, against the tax. But why, he would ask, were this fraud and falsehood found in classes before proverbial for their straightforward integrity? Why, but because those who had to pay it saw in it so much inequality and injustice as to reconcile their consciences to every method which could evade the intention of the law. It was a property in human nature, that evasion of the law became general the moment the operation of the law became over-harsh or unjust. Thus, when death was the punishment of offences not grave enough for that extreme penalty, jurymen had belied their consciences, and acquitted the offender. Thus the old severity of the game laws had enlisted sympathy on the side of the poacher; the same principle had bonded together the whole peasant population of Ireland against laws which they feel to be partial, and that same principle now would gradually rot away the honesty of the British tradesman. But he contended that all the objections to the income tax as it now stood, applied with increased force to its proposed extension. The late Government proposed to extend the tax to incomes of 100l. a year, but they determined the tax should be placed on that equitable footing required by the great body of the public. The present Government proposed to extend it to the same incomes, whether justly or unjustly assessed—they proposed to extend 459 it to that class whose humble subsistence was drawn from their daily labour; they proposed to extend to men whose humble circumstances must more tempt them to evade it, that same law, perfectly unmitigated, which had already corrupted the morality of men much better off; they proposed to give injustice a wider circulation, to create a wider hatred than that which already prevailed—to sink deeper still into the heart of the nation, not only a hatred of the tax, but the demoralising effects which it produced. The Government said, "We will extend the tax to Ireland." He would not argue whether Government were doing right in inflicting another burden on that country at the very period when a revolution in all the tenure of real property was yet going on; but he thought no greater insult could be offered to the common sense of that country than to propose to do away with a partial debt as a compensation for the obligations of a general tax. One could be no compensation for the other. What consolation, for instance, would the landlords of Clare feel on being told by Government, "You are wiping out a debt incurred by a parish in Limerick!" So, instead of making the extension of the tax a matter of fairness and justice, it was only an extension of iniquity. It was for the plain reason that in great measures of taxation it was necessary to go with the great intelligence of the people, that he should not follow the right hon. Gentleman through all those ingenious arguments and references to special instances and examples, by which he had vindicated the present adherence to the income tax; because, even if he granted that the right hon. Gentleman had made out his case to the satisfaction of highly-educated logicians, still he feared that the stubborn prejudice of less scholastic persons would rebel against his reasoning, and that the tradesman, after puzzling his head with all the ingenious definitions and distinctions of the right hon. Gentleman, would still blunder back to his old position, and would say, "That may be all very fine, but I can't for the life of me conceive that it is just that that income which a man enjoys for his life upon secured capital, and may give to his heirs, shall pay the same as mine, which I may lose by a casualty or by a stroke of paralysis to-morrow, leaving my children to the care of the parish." The right hon. Gentleman must remember that it had been said by the highest authority that it was never enough to prove that a tax was 460 just in the abstract, but that it was much more important for the safety of the commonwealth to convince those who paid it that there was justice in its application. He did not allow, however, that the right hon. Gentleman could make out his case to the satisfaction of logicians, and he denied altogether the accuracy of the deductions which he had drawn from the special instances he had cited to show what might be called "the latent impartiality" of the burden. If they deducted legal expenses, management charges, and repairs from real property, it actually, said the right hon. Gentleman, paid 9 d. in the pound, while the tradesman paid but 7 d. If they looked, however, with equal liberality to the reductions which should be made to traders in the shape of bad debts and matters of that description, he apprehended that that difference would vanish altogether. But was there no other property besides that in houses and land with which the tradesman came in comparison? There was no reduction for repairs upon the property of the fundholder, for example; he received his income net and clear, yet he was taxed at the same rate only as the man who had no capital save his industry, and no security save his health. That the right hon. Gentleman was aware there was injustice in this was perfectly clear, because, after having told them that land was the most severely taxed of all, he nevertheless proceeded to say that he shared in the feelings of those who considered that the tax pressed too hard upon intelligence and skill, and not hard enough upon property; and he then set to work to repair that injustice by laying the additional burden upon the owners of real property of a new tax amounting to no less than 2,000,000l. a year. But the right hon. Gentleman said, "See what difficuties you involve yourselves in if you attempt to classify incomes; the incomes from some trades are bettor than those derived from land, and in trades themselves some are worth only three or four years' purchase, while others are worth twenty-five years' purchase." Of course, those disparities would exist, and it was very hard to deal with them strictly; but the same disparities existed in all phases of life, and these small petty matters of detail must be discarded, and broad distinctions only must be recognised. The same thing must exist, for instance, in the case of assurance on lives; but, if actuaries were possessed of the same finely-discriminating genius as the right hon. 461 Gentleman, he believed that the scruples which would be engendered would prevent any assurances being effected at all. Fancy a grandfather and a grandson presenting themselves at the same office. According to general tables, the grandfather's life might be worth five years' purchase, the grandson's twenty-five; but suppose the actuary to be of the ingenious and discriminating turn of mind of the right hon. Gentleman, he might say—"Oh, but youth runs more dangers than age—the young man may hunt, and may fall from his horse, or he may shoot, and be killed in a battue; I really don't know that the young gentleman's life may not be worse than his grandfather's." And so it might be in some individual cases; still, if it were not pretty clearly established that grandchildren lived longer than grandfathers, assurance societies would have been ruined long ago. By the same argument some incomes derived from trade might be more valuable than incomes from real property; but they must lay down a broad principle in dealing with these questions, and that was the one broad general principle, that income that was derived from secured capital was, on the whole, incontestably more valuable than income that depended upon the accident of health. He had promised to be brief, and he had been so. He believed he had touched upon all the main points of the question, and he was willing to leave to others the filling up of the details. He had endeavoured to show that, if the tax were continued as a temporary tax, it was continued far too long—until there would be instilled into the hearts of our countrymen both a hatred, derived from a sense of injustice, and the demoralisation that belonged to a war between conscience and law; but that, if it were intended to be permanent, or rather easily susceptible of revival, then the first step should be to remove that which most tended to induce opposition, and allure to fraud. He had endeavoured to show that the tax was unjust in itself, and that their extensions were not politic, when, with the tax, they extended also that injustice which those who had paid it hitherto complained of. He had endeavoured also to show that the right hon. Gentleman had given them no guarantee that the income tax should cease in 1860, and that the surplus on which he relied was exposed to great hazards; and, lastly, that the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman, founded upon special instances and examples, were not 462 of a nature to satisfy or console those who paid the burden. The right hon. Gentleman would believe him that he would be the last man to depreciate his high powers and attainments. On the contrary, he hoped, if defeated in this measure, that the right hon. Gentleman would do as others had done before him—would correct his measure, but retain his position. It had sometimes been represented that the country Gentlemen were indifferent to all taxes that did not oppress themselves. He rejoiced that, upon this occasion at least, they could triumphantly rebut that charge. It might be true that some had thought it their duty—and he believed correctly thought—to vindicate the claims of British industry upon the part of the farmer. It was something of the same principle that they would defend now in the case of the British tradesman, because they believed that the rights of industry were invaded whenever Government taxed at the same rate the precarious earnings of labour and their own hereditary possessions. There had been, he believed, some vague intimation of a dissolution, in case this measure should be lost. He and those with whom he acted were quite ready to encounter such a calamity. He could not pretend to judge how many Gentlemen, the representatives of towns, might be disposed to vote against this Resolution. He could not doubt their honest motives if they did; but, if they did, and if the threatened dissolution occurred, let them go back to their town constituencies, canvass them on behalf of the income tax, and tell those whose sole fortune was their toil and skill how they had been opposed by those selfish aristocrats, the country Gentlemen of England, and the supporters of Lord Derby's Administration.
To leave out the words 'towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, there shall be raised annually during the terms hereinafter limited, the several Rates and Duties following,' in order to insert the words, 'the continuance of the Income Tax for seven years, and its extension to classes heretofore exempt from its operation, without any mitigation of the inequalities of its assessment, are alike unjust and Impolitic,' instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. EVELYN DENISON
said, that it would have been more convenient for the House and more in accordance with usage, if the hon. Baronet had given notice of the 463 Amendment he intended to propose. But the House had no right to complain of the course pursued by the hon. Baronet; and if the great party opposite had not had time to make up their minds as to the course which they ought to pursue, and especially if it should have been important to them to make arrangements with any other parties in the House, then unquestionnably the course now pursued by the hon. Baronet might be a very convenient course. He should always speak of the hon. Baronet with that sincere respect and admiration which he felt for his talents; but he must be permitted to say, that, much as he admired the hon. Baronet's eloquence in Parliament, his imaginary heroes in a recent, most pleasing, amusing, and instructive work, if they spoke hardly with equal eloquence, spoke at all events more conclusively on the topics which they took in hand—because, after listening attentively to the speech of the hon. Baronet, he was totally at a loss to divine what were his real views and wishes with regard to the income tax. Did he wish to continue the tax in an amended form, or did he wish to put an end to it altogether? If he thought by introducing his Amendment that it was desirable to continue the tax, then he (Mr. Denison) thought the proposal one to which the House might justly take exception. This was the first time, since they had embarked on the wide sea of the income tax, that they might fairly he said to have seen land—that there had been any reasonable prospect of coming to the end of the tax. But whether the tax was to be continued for any length of time, or only for a short period, it appeared to be the opinion of the hon. Baronet that the inequalities in its schedules ought to be amended. Now, how was the tax to be amended? Was it to be amended according to the scheme of the actuaries, or by the process of "rough justice" proposed by one of the Members of the Committee? Either plan he thought objectionable. If it was to be amended by the scheme of the actuaries, it would come to this—By beginning at the higher point of the scale with the payment of 7 d. in the pound, when they descended to the lower points the payment would become so small and insignificant, dropping down to a penny or a farthing, that it would be utterly worthless. But if, on the other hand, the payment at the lower end of the scale was equal to 7 d. in the pound, then, at the higher end, it would reach an amount that 464 must be considered confiscation. There appeared to exist some misconception as to the duties which different classes owed for their preservation to the State. It was said, landed property is the most secure, it must pay the highest tax. But it would not be difficult to show that under some circumstances the fancied superiority of property in land gave way. Suppose that, either by external violence or by internal confusion, the owners of property and the persons engaged in trades or professions, should be ejected and discarded from their homes—in such case which would be the most valuable possession, the land which was alienated, or the skill and industry which were inherent, and would enable the possessor to gain his living wherever his lot might be cast. There was an old adage which seemed to point to this—When house and land are gone and spent,Then learning is most excellent.Did he say this to prove that a profession, speaking generally, is more certain than land? No, but to prove that they both depend on the protection of the law from day to day and from year to year, and both ought to pay out of their income year by year, and in proportion to their income to the support of the Government which is their defence and protection. He, however, had not heard any one propose to the House this plan of the actuaries. Then with respect to the operation of "rough justice," by which parties in Schedule D would be called upon to pay at a lower rate than under Schedules A and C—was it to be said that the Bank of England, that the great private banks of the country, amounting to five hundred or six hundred, that the joint-stock banks, that great wholesale trades, were to be classed under the character of precarious incomes? Nothing could be more unjust. If the House was to be driven into this examination of details, what was to be done with Schedule A? It had been demonstrated, in a manner which it was impossible to gainsay, that payments upon land amounted to 9 d., compared with other payments amounting to 7 d. If the House should enter on a crusade of reducing all the inequalities, would the proprietors of land submit to the inequality in Schedule A? Would they be content to pay on the gross income, without receiving any allowance for repairs? If the object of the hon. Baronet was to redress injustice, he must pursue his course through the other schedules, as well as those which he had taken in 465 hand. He confessed that he took a different view of the whole subject from that which appeared to have taken possession of the mind of the right hon. Baronet. Looking at the various compensations proposed in different parts of the Budget, he (Mr. Denison) was anxious to take an early opportunity of expressing his contentment with the whole scheme—his determination to regard it as a whole, and in that character to give it his most entire and cordial support. He should be sorry to quit the subject without saying a word expressive of the obligation which he felt to the right hon. Gentleman for placing such a Budget before the House. The presence of the right hon. Gentleman prevented him from saying much that, in his absence, he might have been inclined to say; he believed the country felt, as the House must have felt the other night, that a great mind had been engaged upon its affairs. The country knew how to appreciate the incalculable value of such rare intelligence, and such truthful honesty. The right hon. Gentleman would reap his reward in the success of this great scheme; for he did not doubt that the scheme would entirely succeed, to the great advantage of every portion of this entire empire, and to the lasting honour of the genius that had devised it, of the careful industry which had brought it to completion, and of the tongue which announced it with such commanding and convincing eloquence.
§ MR. BOOKER
said, he was ready to join in almost every expression which the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had applied to the high character and talents of the Financial Minister, whose scheme was now under consideration; and he also desired to thank the right hon. Gentleman for his kind and courteous attention to some matters of commercial import which he had ventured to submit to him. But in the double capacity of the representative of an agricultural constituency, and of one who was personally engaged in the pursuits of commerce, he must say that he felt the greatest dismay at the conclusions to which the right hon. Gentleman had come, and the plans which he had submitted to the House. Speaking for his agricultural contituents, he must say that the right hon. Gentleman, in his luminous address the other night, completely made out their case, and proved with his proverbial cogency that, so far as the income tax was concerned, they were overtaxed to an enormous extent, and bore a very uneven share 466 of the burdens of the State; for he showed that while trades and manufactures were subjected to a payment of 7 d. in the pound, agriculture was taxed to the amount of 9 d. in the pound. Had the right hon. Gentleman considered the difference between 9 d. and 7 d. in the pound? was he aware that it amounted to 28½ per cent? The agriculturists had, therefore, during the last ten years, been mulcted in the sum of no less than 6,000,000l. beyond their fair proportion, and by the proposal now before the House were to be subjected, during the next seven years, to a further unjust payment of nearly 3,000,000l. The right hon. Gentleman did not attempt to show that the parties engaged in agricultural pursuits had attempted any concealment or deceit. They were willing to pay their fair share of the burdens of the State. Though those advantages had been wrested from them to which they considered themselves justly entitled, they were ready to meet the competition which had been raised up against them; but they ought to be allowed a fair start in the race, and to enter into that competition on equal terms. Being largely engaged in manufacturing, mining, and commercial operations, he begged to say, on behalf of the members of those respectable classes, and of those whose casual incomes depended on their health and industry, that he was afraid the right hon. Gentleman was about to place them in a most improper position. He felt that he had a right to claim on their behalf what the right hon. Gentleman the late Chancellor of the Exchequer acknowledged to be their due in the financial scheme he had brought forward—that in any scheme for the continuance of the income tax there should be a marked difference made between precarious and certain income. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had shown that gross frauds had been committed under the present system. He wished to know what steps the Government intended to take to make the commercial and trading interests act fairly by each other, and by the tax, in future? Was there to be no guarantee against the committal of such frauds as those pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman the other night, when property which was stated by the owners to be worth 48,000l., and for which a jury awarded 26,000l., was put down by its proprietors for assessment to the income tax at only 9,000l? If this tax was to be continued, it ought to be continued on fair and equitable principles, and with some more 467 efficient safeguards against fraud. To the continuance of the tax as now proposed, he could not give his consent. He believed the object of the hon. Baronet (Sir Lytton Bulwer) was to get rid of it as soon as possible, but he wished during its continuance to have it exacted in a fair and equitable manner. He wished also to call the attention of the House to the case of occupiers of land, whom it was his fortune and his pride to represent in that House. The exactions upon the owners and occupiers of land during the last ten years had been for the most part sheer robbery. To say that during that period there had been any connexion between the rents and profits of the occupier and tiller of the soil was perfectly absurd. Thanks to a kind Providence, and not to a human legislation, they were now gradually recovering themselves, and, as he had said, were perfectly willing to meet the competition which stared them in the face; but they were surely entitled to expect fair play at the hands of a domestic Parliament. With regard to the other measures included in the Budget, he could not avoid alluding to one which, as a representative of the agricultural interest, he regarded with the utmost terror—namely, the proposed tax on successions. This tax on successions, on constant successions, would tend more to the ultimate dismemberment of the Empire than any system ever devised by any man, whatever might be the amount of his ingenuity. It would surely—slowly as it might be—but it would surely break up the great landed aristocracy of this kingdom. He had no doubt that might he very agreeable to some hon. Gentlemen opposite; but he would tell them that the landed proprietors would not succumb—they would not, as was said in one of the leading articles of one of that morning's journals, "yield themselves as sheep to the shearer," without at least raising their voices against the attack now made on their property. He considered the Budget of the right hon. Gentleman so ill-advised as to be deserving of every opposition.
said, he was anxious to call the attention of the House to this subject, because he considered that the Motion before them was one of vast importance to the country in whatever way hon. Members might view it, whether they opposed or supported it—indeed it appeared to him that the character of the House as a representative Assembly would be mainly tested by the course pursued on the pre- 468 sent occasion. He was one of those who thought that the question of taxation had hitherto not been fully considered in the manner required by the best interests of the country. The present system of taxation was based on no principle. There were not two taxes levied on the same principle, and hence arose the great difficulty of effecting useful changes. He had not the least doubt that the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) last year felt the greatest difficulty in reconciling contending interests; and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, in going carefully through the various heads of taxation, must have met with difficulties at every step. The best way to effect an improvement in the midst of these difficulties was to make a compromise, and to endeavour to balance that tax which would be injurious whilst it continued, with the advantages proposed by the change. He presumed, as was said by the right hon. Gentleman opposite with respect to his own Budget last year, that the present Budget was to be considered as a whole, and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer wished the House to consider its advantages and disadvantages, for the purpose of seeing whether the advantages were not greatly predominant. With respect to the inequalities of the tax, he went much further than the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir E. Bulwer Lytton), and if the hon. Baronet had looked at the evidence given before the Committee, he would have found that it pointed out many more defects than the hon. Baronet appeared to be aware of. He (Mr. Hume) differed from the present Government not less than from the last, on the subject of direct taxation: they wished to abolish direct taxation, while he (Mr. Hume) wished to see it continued and extended further. He did not propose that the whole of our taxation should be direct taxation, as was assumed by a writer in the present number of the Edinburgh Review, who had evidently never looked into the evidence of the Income Tax Committee, or seen the draught report which he (Mr. Hume) submitted to them. One of the great complaints against the income tax was the frauds perpetrated under the present system; but what was the cause of those frauds? Why, the imperfect administration of the law, and its exemptions. All other taxes were collected by persons responsible to the Government; but the income tax was assessed by men having no responsibility, and so long as Commission- 469 ers were allowed to arrange districts so as to suit their own parties, frauds must be expected. The hon. Member for Maldon said that nobody had proposed the actuaries' plan. Now, he (Mr. Hume) would be fully prepared to propound that plan if he could meet the support of either side of the House. Hon. Gentlemen opposite did not think fit to adopt the plan when they were in power, and the complaint of the hon. Baronet opposite was as applicable to them as to the present Government. Now, what was the actuaries' plan? "First, that each person should be taxed for the support of Government in proportion to his ability; and as that ability is measured more accurately by the value of his property, under the protection of the State, than by any other standard, the tax, to be equitable, should every year be levied on the value of the property, labour and skill being the property of large classes of the country; and that each person having an income exceeding 50l. a year from industrial property, under Schedules B, D, and E, and all realised property, under Schedules A and C, should contribute and pay the tax in proportion to the value of their property respectively. Next, that the existing assessment of the income tax (under the Act of 5 & 6 of Vict. C. 35) should be so modified as to make it a tax on property, including, under that term, the value of all industrial incomes. And that all the property, real, personal, and industrial, in the United Kingdom, should be taxed at one uniform rate on its value." If he could collect the tax he would go down to a still lower amount than 50l., but for the present he would draw the line there, because he believed that 50l. a year was the smallest sum by which a family could be maintained in anything like comfort; was there, therefore, anything ridiculous in his proposing that all incomes above 50l. a year should be assessed at the same rate? In order to make the tax fair, he thought a certain portion of the incomes of the higher and middle classes should be exempted equally with those of the labouring portion of the community, and that every man ought to be taxed according to the value of his property. But, it might be asked, how was the property to be valued? Could any standard be found more fair—any means of estimating the tax more fitting—than the amount for which the property would sell in the market—in other words, its money worth? If, then, property could be fairly valued, would not the plan he suggested be 470 much more simple than the present complicated system? His recommendation was that a property tax should be established in lieu of the present income tax, and that all property, whether real, or personal, or industrial, should be taxed at one uniform rate. Such a tax would be permanent, stable, and equitable. Holding these views, he would have been one of the first to oppose the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to the income tax, if he had not found that the other measures brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman were fully equivalent to an improved direct tax. Disapproving, as he entirely did, of the present income tax, and disapproving likewise of the views of the Government with respect to the expediency of doing away with direct taxation altogether, he was nevertheless disposed to give the Chancellor of the Exchequer every assistance in his power, in consideration of the many important and beneficial changes he was about to effect in various branches of the national system of taxation. He could not for one moment hesitate in making up his mind—while willing to admit, with the hon. Baronet opposite, that the income tax was unjust, imperfect, and inconvenient—to support the financial scheme of the Government as a whole. He wished an equal tax on property to become a permanent part of the taxation of the country, because he was satisfied that Sir Robert Peel's system of free trade could not be carried out fully and fairly, and that they could not reduce the heavy indirect taxes unless at least 10,000,000l., or one-fifth of the general taxation of the country, was raised by direct taxation. Such a tax would enable Parliament to abolish all those taxes which now pressed so heavily on the industry of the country. For the last 100 years industry had paid more than its fair share of taxation, and at the present moment land paid only a small portion of the direct taxation of the country. He admitted there were many heavy local burdens on land; but those burdens pressed with equal severity on manufactures, and might be said, indeed, to be common to all. The Chancellor of the Exchequer admitted the inequality of the income tax—that "colossal engine," as he termed it—but he said, "Let us continue it for some time longer, but don't let us destroy it, for it may be of use to us at some future period." He (Mr. Hume) thought it would be a very unwise thing to lay the income tax aside at the end of a certain number of years. He 471 would rather reform it, and maintain it in a condition to be readily available in case of need; and, meanwhile, it was the duty of the House to remove the defects of this powerful machine, and to make it what it should be—just and equitable. Having thus stated his objections to the income tax in its present form—recollecting that the right hon. Gentleman who held the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer in the last Ministry thought he could not give greater relief than seven farthings to industrial incomes, as compared with incomes derived from realised property—and agreeing with the hon. Baronet on the other side in much he had stated in opposition to the proposal of the Government, he was still disposed and desirous to give his support to the right hon. Gentleman below him, in order that he might be enabled to carry through those other important measures of which he had given notice. Moreover, if the present Government was not able or willing to carry out his views with respect to direct taxation, he saw no prospect of any Government that could. He complained that the revenue of the country was too large. From 1831 to 1841 it was 46,000,000l., but since the latter period it had been 52,000,000l., and it was increasing every year. He disapproved of our heavy taxation and heavy expenditure, and thought the House ought to be engaged in endeavouring to reduce that taxation and lessen that expenditure, instead of wasting its time in promoting extravagance and yielding to childish fears of foreign 'aggression. Still, he was prepared to give the Government every assistance in his power, because he thought the Budget, as a whole, ought to receive the approval of the House, as a scheme well calculated to confer great benefits upon every class in the community. So far from agreeing with the last speaker in his remarks upon the legacy tax, he thought that was by far the best part of the Ministerial scheme, and, undoubtedly, he should give it his hearty support. It placed real and personal property on the same footing, and, so far from being an act of robbery, as stated by the hon. Member, he (Mr. Hume) looked upon it only as one of simple justice. He held in his hand a statement which showed that since the legacy duty was limited to personal property, no less a sum than 85,000,000l. had been raised from personal property alone, real property having been entirely exempted from the operations of the tax. The hon. Member talked of injustice; but he would 472 ask him, was it just that a widow succeeding to 100L. or 200l. of personal property should be compelled to pay legacy duty, while the property of a deceased nobleman or gentleman, worth probably 200,000l. or 300,000L., should not be required to pay one farthing? They were now, however, to receive from the Government something like justice, and he would tell the Chancellor of the Exchequer that that part of his financial scheme which related to the legacy tax had more charms for him than any of the other measures he had brought forward. He was sure the country would receive it, not only with favour, but with delight. The communications he had received spoke of it in the most favourable manner, and his correspondents were all, without exception, anxious that the Budget should be carried as it stood, in the hope that the Government would soon see the necessity and advantage of reducing our overgrown expenditure, and affording additional and permanent relief to the industry of the country. He concurred in the Resolution to extend the income tax to Ireland, though doubtless it would not prove very agreeable to some hon. Gentlemen from that country. He claimed equal rights, equal justice to Ireland; and he thought that no Irishman who was desirous to see Ireland enjoy all the benefits which England possessed, would refuse to accept their share of the burden. He wished to see Ireland brought into the same condition as England, enjoying the same blessings and bearing the same burdens, and, therefore, he approved of the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Budget of the right hon. Gentleman embraced various recommendations with respect to the assessed taxes, which he was sure would be productive of good effects. He must say, however, that he should like to see an end put to the assessed taxes altogether; and if the House would only pass a property tax of 3 per cent on all descriptions of property whatever, he had not the least hesitation in saying that the assessed taxes might be completely repealed. He hoped the day was not far distant when that would be effected. The late Sir Robert Peel was fully aware of the great inconvenience arising from the present complicated system, and, had he lived, would doubtless have improved and simplified it, though he was of opinion that the income tax should not be established as a permanent tax, but merely used as a temporary convenience. The hon. Baronet opposite seemed to attach little importance 473 to the proposed reduction of the taxes on horses, carriages, and servants. He (Mr. Hume) took a very different view of the subject. He looked upon these taxes as taxes affecting, not the wealthy classes only, but the labouring classes also; and he believed that great benefit would accrue from their reduction to the community at large. Again, he could not agree with the hon. Baronet that the repeal of the tax on soap would be productive of little good, or that the amount would not be made up by increase of consumption. Of 26,000,000l. of taxes repealed within a given period, only 10,000,000l. were entirely lost, the rest being immediately replaced by increase of trade. He was satisfied, therefore, that the proposed reductions would not cause any loss to the country, but, that, on the contrary, the revenue would remain at its present amount; or, rather, there would be an increase. If the Budget contained no other proposal than the repeal of the soap tax, it would appear to him of so much importance to the health and comfort of the community, to the cleanliness and physical improvement of the people, that he would unhesitatingly give it his most cordial support. But the repeal of the tax on soap would do more than improve the physical condition of the people—it would encourage the manufacture of the article in this country, and enable the home manufacturers to supply all the colonies, which had hitherto been dependent on other countries. The repeal of the soap tax would, therefore, he a great boon to the commercial classes as well as to the mass of the people. He also highly approved of that part of the Budget which related to stamp receipts; but he would not allude to it, or to the various alterations which were proposed to be made in the tariff, further than to say that he felt obliged to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the wise and prudent measures he recommended with respect to protected articles. He, therefore, approved of the Budget as a whole, although modifications or improvements might be desirable as to some of the details. He well remembered the late Sir Robert Peel representing him in that House, in 1840, as a person who desired imposibilities, because he had pointed out 1,150 articles taxed on entry at the Custom-house, and had said, that, in his opinion, 1,000 of them might be relieved from duty without any difficulty. The whole House cheered the right hon. Baronet when he made that allusion to him (Mr. Hume); but when the right hon. Baronet 474 commenced his free-trade career, his very first step was to strike 480 articles from the tariff; and the House was aware how fully the suggestion he (Mr. Hume) had made had since been carried into effect. Why, he believed, that when the measures now proposed by Her Majesty's Government were adopted, nearly 1,000 articles would have been relieved from duty, and he was satisfied that they might strike all articles, with the exception of about fifty, from the tariff without any injury to the revenue. He could recollect the time when the tariff was a cumbrous volume; now, it was a small duodecimo; but he wished to see it comprised upon a single sheet. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had admitted the inequalities of the existing system of taxation; and he (Mr. Hume) thought that all expenses for the repairs of houses and estates ought to be deducted before the incomes derived from such estates were taxed. He might observe, that he saw no provision made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the assessment of the property of deans and chapters and corporations, who never died. Now, they must die; or, at least, they must pay the same charge which was imposed on the holders of property of a similar description. Balancing the advantages and disadvantages of the scheme proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he felt it his duty to give the measure his entire support.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
had heard with great satisfaction the able and lucid speech of the hon. Member for Hertford (Sir E. Bulwer Lytton), with which he entirely agreed. He should, therefore, oppose the income tax at every stage, and at every period that it was brought forward. He continued to hold the same unchanged opinions with regard to it. He looked upon it as a measure which was always adopted by all Chancellors of the Exchequer, in order to relieve themselves from difficulties, and to give them an opportunity of playing and dallying with the finances of the country. It might be a very good tax in time of war, but it was unwarrantable and oppressive to impose it in the time of peace. The right hon. Gentleman said it was a very good tax in case hostilities should happen to break out. How had he come to think of that? Had he smelt a rat, like the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord J. Russell), who had proposed to raise the militia? Perhaps there might be more than apprehensions of hostilities. He wished such a thing would 475 take place. He did not doubt the loyalty of the country, and he hoped it would be his good fortune to be with the regiment he had the honour to command, upon the coast when an attempt of invasion was made. They would not disgrace themselves; but he had no doubt they would be able to give a good account of those who might dare to attack them. He had read in a paper a comparison between the income tax and dissolving views. It was not to continue as it had hitherto been. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer would not do as other Chancellors of the Exchequer had done. He had a mind of his own. But did he suppose that he was to be Chancellor of the Exchequer for the next seven years? He would excuse him for saying he hoped not for the next seven days. There was a letter in the newspapers from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to a poor clerk telling him how much he would gain—that he would have his tea, his soap, and so on, cheaper. Yes, cheap and nasty too. They would have an inundation of foreign soap. It was oppressive to extend the income tax to persons with 100l. a year, who might have a family and other advantages, and he hoped the proposition would be met in a proper manner by strenuous resistance. He would not trouble the Committee further, as he had only risen to say that the income tax had, and ever would have, his direct opposition.
§ MR. FAGAN
said, he rose, reluctantly and with regret, to oppose the Resolution of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He freely admitted that the superstructure of the financial scheme of the right hon. Gentleman was grand—statesmanlike; but the keystone of the arch on which it was erected was the inquisitorial income tax to be extended to Ireland—not to Ireland prosperous and prospering, but to Ireland downtrodden and struggling from the sad effects of a five years' famine. He felt it, therefore, a duty to his constituents and to the country of which he was one of the representatives, to offer the proposition the most strenuous opposition. It was held out as an inducement to Irish Members to vote for an income tax for their country that the Consolidated Annuities should be abandoned. Now, he solemnly and earnestly protested against bringing these annuities into the discussion at all. He recollected some months ago forming one of a very distinguished deputation to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the subject of these annuities. At its head was Lord Mont- 476 eagle. There was no part of the remarkable and lucid statement then made by that experienced nobleman, in which he more fully concurred than where he called upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer to act, as regarded the Consolidated Annuities, on the strict principles of justice, without any reference to the Budget, with which it had nothing whatever to do. The claim made was founded on simple justice, and nothing could be more unfair than to put forward the remission of the annuities as a compensation for the proposed income tax. It was the will of Providence to visit, in 1846–47, this United Kingdom with an unprecedented and wide-spread famine; and he was always of opinion that the advances made by Government to meet the exigency of the crisis should have been provided as a grant from the Imperial resources. But, this not being the view of Parliament, he was willing that Ireland should repay that portion of the advances for which she received value—he meant the money expended under Sir John Burgoyne's Act. But the large sum now due, under the labour rate, he considered an unjust claim, which ought never, and would never, be paid. He recollected perfectly well the circumstances attending the passing of the Labour Bate Act. It was passed at the end of the Session of 1846, in August. It was passed without the knowledge of the Irish people, and without the sanction and concurrence of their representatives, who were then absent from their places. It was solely the act of the Imperial Government and of the Imperial Legislature. The object was good and benevolent. It was, in the first instance, to preserve human life, and in the next, to take advantage of the famine to carry on works of permanent utility and advantage. These were the objects of that Act, as described by the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), and by the then Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Labouchere). Avoiding the defects in Sir Robert Peel's Labour Act of 1845, it was to be more extensive in its operation, and move protective to human life. But it was a failure—admitted to be so by its very framers and the universal world. The famine was too much for it to grapple with. The very test of destitution which it imposed on a starving people was the cause of the death of thousands—hundred died coming to the relief works—hundreds more died at the works and returning to their starving families—others were sent into eternity from the neglect of the pay clerks 477 to pay the wages that were earned; and, as a whole, instead of preserving, its teste. and its inadequacy tended to destroy, human life. The works done were worse than useless—they were absolutely injurious. Such, then, being the result of the Labour Rate Act, a Committee of the House of Lords, composed of noblemen not influenced by the breath of popularity—not carried away by those motives which often actuate the representatives of the people—but guided by the knowledge acquired by the examination of witnesses at both sides, who were thoroughly conversant with the Act, its execution, and its result—came to the calm and solemn resolution of recommending to Parliament that the Imperial demand for the labour rate should be abandoned. But that was not all. It was clear that the Government itself was not disposed to levy this portion of the Consolidated Annuities. It had ample power and facility of doing so. It could impound the rates in the hands of the treasurer of every union owing these annuities. It had the first claim for payment out of the rates; yet, during the last two years, after making allowances for remissions under the Treasury Minutes, all that was collected, out of 394,515.,l which was due, was 121,702l., clearly indicating that it was never the intention of Government rigorously to enforce the payment of the labour rate annuity. But, admitting, for the sake of argument, that the whole of these annuities should be paid, is it, after all, just that the portions of Ireland which does not owe these annuities should have to pay them? Is such a transference equitable? Is the imposition of an inquisitorial income tax on the industrious but struggling tradesman and shopkeeper in the towns and cities of Ireland an honest equivalent for these annuities, which, if justice were done, should never have been demanded? Let him state to the House what was the annuity now payable for the labour rate by some of the great towns in Ireland:—Cork paid 183l. 3 s. 4 d.; Limerick, 265l. 14 s. 2 d.; Waterford, 142L. 3 s. 6 d.; Drogheda, 17l. 13 s. 5 d.; Kilkenny, 40l. 9 s. 6 d.; Galway, 834l. 2 s. 1 d. Blot out these annuities, and substitute the income tax, and these towns will have to pay thousands instead of their present paltry contribution. That the labour rate portion of these annuities should be given up there can be no dispute, and no one will contend that the legacy duty on successions to real property will not be an ample equivalent for nearly 478 the whole of the annuities. He would, therefore, protest against this gigantic rate in aid to be levied off his constituents under pretence of relieving the distressed districts of the west. He recollected when the first rate in aid was proposed, how Ulster rose as one man, and declared that it would give no aid to its western neighbour. He voted then for the rate in aid, because he believed that it was the duty of the richer districts to assist the poverty and distress of the south and west. But the present was a widely different proposition. It was to put an inquisitorial impost upon Ireland, and in order to disguise the bitter draught, it was said to be put upon her as an equivalent for the Consolidated Annuities. Out with the empty pretence! it is too palpable to deceive the Irish people. Leaving that part of the question, he would come to another and important consideration. The Chancellor of the Exchequer called the income tax a colossal engine of finance for temporary purposes, to be used in great emergencies, such as war, or as an instrument by which to carry out and perfect the great commercial policy of that country. Well, it was impossible to deny that it has eminently fulfilled its functions in that respect since 1842. It has set free "the springs of industry," to use Sir Robert Poel's favourite phrase; it has made the raw materials of manufactures free imports, and it has cheapened the necessaries of life to the working classes. Mark how marvellously the exports of the manufactures of that country had increased since the income tax was reinforced, as an engine of finance. In 1842, these exports were in value about 47,000,000l. sterling; in 1852 they reached to 78,000,000l. sterling. Can any one over-estimate the enormous employment to the industrious classes in England which this has produced? No wonder for the Manchester school to be in love with the income tax. But in this respect what service has it been to Ireland? They had scarcely any manufactures, and the export of their chief fabric (linen) had rather diminished than increased, at all events since 1846. It may be seen by a return placed last Saturday on the table of the House, that the remissions of taxes since the imposition of the income tax, in 1842, come to 12,616,953l. sterling. Now, let them examine how much benefit Ireland has derived from these enormous reductions. Firstly, the reductions on the raw materials of manufactures, and on meat, cattle, &c, are as follow:—Cotton wool, 479 682,042l.; other raw materials,1,159,541l.; duties on exports, 225,216l.; wool, 97,140l. Total, 2,163,939l., of which Ireland received no benefit, except as consumers of these manufactures, in the same manner as Germany, France, or the United States. Secondly, there are reductions in excise and assessed taxes, namely, window tax, 1,278,800l.; glass, 669,000l.; bricks, 456,000l.; and on butter, 205,437l.; making, together, 2,609,237l. sterling, which exclusively benefited England. And lastly, we have the reductions in which Ireland benefited, in proportion to her consumption, as follows:—Coffee, 436,448l.; sugar, 3,763,925l.; timber, 1,485,079l.; stamps, 520,000l.; total, 6,205,452l. He calculated that about 400,000l. sterling a year was the amount which Ireland saved by these reductions. If, then, 12,000,000l. of reductions were made, by means of an income tax, yielding 5,500,000l. a year, what income tax should be paid for 400,000l. of saving by these reductions? The rule of proportion gives 180,000l. as the fair amount of the income tax on Ireland for the benefits she has derived from the imposition of this colossal engine of finance; and the increase in the stamp duties, up to 1850, with one year's increase in the duty on whisky, was a full equivalent for that sum. Well, it was now proposed to reduce duties on tea and the taxes on licences, which reductions, at the end of three years, will amount together to about 422,000l. The income tax will be increased to over 6,000,000l. a year; the whole reductions will reach 18,000,000l. Therefore, by the same rule of proportion, 120,000l. instead of 460,000l., ought to be Ireland's contribution for the benefits she will derive, through the instrumentality of an income tax; and surely the proposed duty on whisky, which comes to 128,000l. a year, is much more than an equivalent for such income tax. He had shown, then, that for the benefits conferred on Ireland, by the continuance in times of peace of an income tax, she already pays her quota, without the necessity of extending that tax to Ireland. But he proposed to go further, and show that, by the solemn treaty of the Union, Ireland was not bound to contribute to the general expenditure beyond her relative ability with the ability of England, to be ascertained by certain fixed and unalterable criteria. That was the principle on which the financial portion of the Act of Union was based. Taking these criteria as the basis of the calculations, it was 480 ascertained and settled, at the Union, that Ireland's contribution to the general expenditure should be two-seventeenths; that, in case the relative ability of both countries should alter, there should be a revision of the proportion to be contributed in periods of twenty years, unless, in the meantime, the debts of the two countries, which, at the Union, were in the ratio of 1 to 16, should approximate to 1 to 7½, in which case the two Exchequers should be consolidated, and thenceforward there should be a common taxation. Now, after the Union, the joint expenditure enormously increased, and it was soon discovered that two-seventeenths was far too large a proportion for Ireland to pay. The war had given an enormous impulse to the manufactures of England, and she was enabled to put forth her energies to meet the crisis without the necessity of much borrowing. The war, on the contrary, had an injurious tendency in respect to the industry of Ireland, and her resources rather diminished than increased. Still she was compelled to meet her stipulated quota of the expenditure. For the fifteen years before the Union, she had expended but 42,000,000l., while England expended 465,000,000l., or as 1 to 11½. For the fifteen years subsequent to the Union, she expended 148,000,000l. against 1,000,000,000l. spent by England, or 1 to 7½. To meet this enormous claim, which her revenue could not meet, she had to borrow until her debt increased from 28,000,000l., its amount at the Union, to 112,000,000l., in 1815; while the debt of England, which, in 1801, was 450,000,000l., only amounted to 735,000,000l. in 1815. Thus one increased four times, while the other increased but one-half. This proved beyond question that the principle of the Union, namely, that each country should contribute according to its ability, was violated from the very commencement of that Act. The consequence was, that before the period of revision came round, the two debts had approximated to the relative proportion of 1 to 7½, and the Exchequers were consolidated in 1816. This never could have occurred had Ireland only contributed according to the solemn contract she had entered into. Her relative ability to contribute would be periodically revised, and they would now be in a position, under the force of the Union Act, to ascertain and determine the fair proportion she should be called upon to pay. Now, the consolidation 481 of (the Exchequers arose from a distinct violation of the treaty made at the Union. [The hon. Member quoted the speech of Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald in proposing the consolidation of the Exchequer, and of Lord Castlereagh in introducing the Union Bill in the Irish House of Commons, to show the correctness of these statements.] Mr. Pitt, in introducing the question of the Union to the English Parliament, asks—"What security can you give to Ireland for the performance of the conditions of the Union? If I were asked what security were necessary, without hesitation I should answer—none. The liberality, the justice, the honour of the people of Great Britain have never been found deficient. I would desire them to look at our conduct towards those nations who have already incorporated with us—to Wales and to Scotland—that will convince them that there is the most perfect safety even if there were no stipulation." Well, has Ireland reason to regret that she had no other security but the honour and the justice of England? Where are the abatements promised by Lord Castlereagh, if she could not bear a common taxation? Why, since 1815, while 51,000,000l. of taxes have been taken off the shoulders of England, Ireland has received a relaxation amounting to only 2,900,000l. sterling up to 1846. He had now established, beyond question, that both before and after the consolidation of the Exchequers, Ireland ought not to be forced to pay more than her relative ability to the general taxation—that ability to be ascertained according to the criteria set forth in the 7th Article of the Union—namely, her relative income, and her relative consumption of beer, spirits, sugar, wine, tea, and tobacco. Now, the ratio of Ireland's consumption to that of England's in these articles, is as follows:—Beer, 1 to 25; spirits, 1 to 3; sugar, 1 to 15; wine, 1 to 12; tea, 1 to 9; tobacco, 1 to 6. This gives an average consumption of 1 to 11½. Well, the income of England is ascertained to be 250,000,000L. The income of Ireland is about 20,000,000l. or 12½ to 1. The compound ratio, then, of consumption and of income is 12 to 1, being England's ability relatively to Ireland to contribute to the general expenditure, which amounts to 52,000,000l. a year. Ireland pays into the Exchequer, exclusive of unacknowledged taxes, 4,000,000l. a year, being one-twelfth of 48,000,000l., England's contribution. Her unacknowledged taxa- 482 tion—that is, the duties paid in England on tea, sugar, wine, tobacco, coffee, consumed in Ireland, is computed to be nearly 1,000,000l. sterling a year. Conesequently Ireland now pays more than she ought, under the terms of her treaty with England, independently of her local taxation, which, including county cess, poorrates, and municipal taxes, amount to 2,000,000l. a year, or 5 s. in the pound on the saleable property in Ireland; while England's local taxation is but 12,000,000l. on 100,000,000l. saleable property, being less than 2s. 4 d. in the pound. But it is not altogether on the ground of this disproportionate taxation that he resisted the imposition of the income tax on Ireland. He did so too because of its inquisitorial character—because of its oppressive and tyrannical action on the struggling merchant and tradesman. He did it because the attempt to collect it will evoke all bad passions of party in that country. The Orange collector will expose the circumstances of his Roman Catholic neighbour. The Roman Catholic taxgatherer will retaliate on the Orange party, and thus, in the very worst form, the bitterest feelings will be engendered. Again, Ireland is not in a state to bear this burden; she has not yet emerged from her difficulties. The present high price of her agricultural produce is no sufficient proof of her prosperous condition. It is the prosperity of England which consumes her produce, and of the Continent that keeps at home the produce formerly sent to England that gives these increased prices. But so long as the emigration continues, and that the potato crop is year after year failing, so long will Ireland's difficulties continue; that then was not the moment to impose this odious tax on that kingdom. It was unjust to take advantage of the popularity of the Budget in England to force the income tax on Ireland. He protested again on the remission of the Consolidated Annuities being brought at all into the discussion as a pretence for this grievous infliction. He called upon the House to pause before it adopted so unwise and unjust a course. Her Majesty, in her gracious Speech at the commencement of the Session, had recommended Parliament to legislate in a generous spirit for Ireland. He did not know whether the present Government held itself responsible for that recommendation. He warned the House not to repudiate it, but acting on the gracious recommendation to 483 do justice to his country by rejecting the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ MR. BUCK
was opposed to the Budget as unjust in principle, and as pressing with unequal severity on a class which had already suffered much from recent legislation—those engaged in the cultivation of the soil. When Parliament announced its determination, in the first instance, to carry out free-trade doctrines, he never could have imagined that the application of those doctrines would be so partial and one-sided—that whilst large classes were relieved from heavy burdens, it was meant to continue the burdens which pressed upon another and most important class, whilst, at the same time, they diminished their ability to endure them. Was it not hard that the farmers of England should be obliged to pay from 50 to 100 per cent tax on one article, the produce of their soil, whilst the local burdens were suffered to remain, and whilst the prices of their produce were greatly depreciated? And, as if all this was not enough, they were now asked to impose another incubus on the land, by sanctioning a legacy duty. The proposal for the continuance of the income tax would be received with regret and disfavour by the nation—it was oppressive in its amount, and most inquisitorial in its nature—the sanction of Parliament to it had been obtained under false pretences—it was asked for the specific purpose of doing away with those burdens and taxes which peculiarly afflicted the country, and upon the assurance that when the occasion had passed away the tax would cease; but, instead of its ceasing, they now again asked for a fresh renewal of the term. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and his friends boasted of the prosperity of the country; he wished he could find any cause for exultation in the condition of the landed interest: the farmers' of England would not join in the expression of triumph. What were the signals of agricultural prosperity? A vastly increased and increasing emigration was one of the most prominent. And let it be remembered that it was, so far as the farming class was concerned, an emigration not of choice, but of necessity. To those connected with the land it was especially painful to quit the home of their fathers, and seek that subsistence in a foreign land which was denied to them in their own. It was now the spring of 1853, 484 and the farmers of England had been paying ever since 1846 out of their previously acquired capital—he believed, indeed, there was scarcely a farmer in England who had stocked his farm in 1846 who might not he said at the present moment to be driven out of his holding. Notwithstanding this state of things, the legacy duty was sought to be imposed on that important class the freeholders of the country. So far as the legacy duty was concerned, the landed interest would have no objection to bear it, if in other respects they were put upon an equality with the rest of the community—they sought for no exemptions, but only asked for fair play; there were thousands of industrious men who, having acquired an honourable independence, had invested it in land; and what must their feelings be on seeing their neighbours absolved from the operation of a tax which acted on them and their families in a species of confiscation? The legacy duty would press with special severity upon freeholders; and, upon the whole, he was of opinion that the Budget would increase the discontent which already-existed, and give still greater cause of complaint to those engaged in the cultivation of the soil. Believing it to be unjust and impolitic, he would feel bound to give his most decided opposition to any portion of the Budget.
tendered the thanks of his constituents to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for his Budget; at the same time he was bound to add, that, while they accepted it as a whole, there were portions of it which they would have been glad to see modified. In the first place, as members of a mercantile community, they regretted the omission of the timber duties from the proposed list of remissions of taxation, the present arrangements in regard to timber being opposed to every principle of commercial science, inasmuch as while the manufactured article, that was the ship, was exempt from duty, the raw material of which it was made was taxed. His constituents also regretted the postponement of the period when they might look forward to an abatement of the income tax, and especially for some alleviation of the severity with which that tax pressed upon precarious incomes. They could have wished that there had been in the right hon. Gentleman's speech some indication of amendments in the machinery for collecting the income tax—and they objected to the extension of the receipt tax 485 on receipts to sums as small as 2l But though they entertained these objections, they accepted the Budget as a whole; and he yet hoped that the good feeling with which it had been received, would induce the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider whether he could not make some alteration in regard to the points to which he had called attention. For his own part he thought it was to be regretted that the extension of the income tax to incomes of 100l. was not to be accompanied by an extension of the franchise to the same class of persons, believing, as he did, that they were most admirably qualified by intelligence and capacity—possibly, to a degree superior to those immediately above them—for the exercise of political rights. A distinctive feature in this Budget was the recognition by the speech with which it was introduced of the inequality with which the income tax pressed on fixed and precarious incomes. The right hon. Gentleman admitted distinctly that if the present income tax was not improvable it was not endurable in its present shape, and that as it could not be improved it must be abolished, the only question being one of time. That was a just concession, for which he begged to tender his thanks. There were several most objectionable features connected with the machinery of the tax, especially the temptation to arbitrary assessment on the part of the collectors, and to fraudulent evasion on the part of the taxpayer. With commercial men, the hardship of being obliged to show their books and expose their affairs in order to escape an arbitrary assessment, was greatly felt; and with professional men, such as solicitors and medical men, the case was still worse—for they would prefer submitting to a gross injustice to what they deemed a breach of professional honour in exposing the affairs of their clients. He thought, therefore, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had taken the only practical way of dealing with the inequality of the tax, by preparing for its prospective abolition. Taking the Budget as a whole, he had no hesitation in saying that it was beneficial and satisfactory, especially to the town constituencies, and with regard to his own constituents, he believed they were almost prepared to say, "The Budget, the whole Budget, and nothing but the Budget."
§ MR. R. KNIGHTLEY
thought it was rather hard that they should be called upon now to legislate for posterity, more especially as the noble Lord the Member 486 for London had announced a new Reform Bill—a measure that, like the mirage of the desert, danced before their eyes, a fitful and an unsubstantial vision—which seemed to recede as they advanced, and to be most distant when deemed nearest. Taking the Budget as a great whole, he arrived at an exactly opposite conclusion from that which the hon. Gentleman opposite had announced; and he was firmly of opinion that land had already contributed far more than its fair share towards the burdens of the State.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
considered the propositions of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be the most statesmanlike scheme of finance he had heard laid before the House of Commons. In his opinion the extension of the income tax to Ireland was only a measure of justice. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Fagan) had protested against that extension, on the ground that Ireland had already contributed more than her fair proportion to the general taxation of the Empire. Now he (Mr. Williams) believed himself able to prove that for every shilling of taxes which Ireland paid, it received two shillings from the taxation of the United Kingdom. The taxes paid by Ireland were about 1–13th of the taxation of Great Britain. The amount of the whole taxation of the United Kingdom, according to the last official account he had seen, was 56,000,000l and of that the amount paid by Ireland was 4,400,000l the expense of collecting which was not less than 12½ per cent, the net amount of the taxes being 3,800,000l., and very nearly all that sum was expended in Ireland. The amount of expenditure of the United Kingdom, independent of the debt, was about 28,000,000l. for the Army, Navy, Ordnance, Civil Service, and other departments of the State. Would any one believe that Irishmen only got 1–7th part of the expenditure? He would venture to say they got not l–7th but at least from 1–4th. Returns presented to the House showed that England, too, paid 13,000,000l. of taxes, from which Ireland was entirely exempt. The hon. Member for Cork had also said that it was only right to take off the four millions and half Consolidated Annuities, because they had been lent at a time of national distress. Now, when the hon. Gentleman spoke of the distress that Ireland suffered during the famine, he would remind him that in some parts of Great Britain the 487 distress was quite as great. In the Western parts of Scotland it was as bad as in any part of Ireland. In some parts of England it was very bad, and in some parts of Wales it was quite as bad. But how did they meet that distress in Scotland? They got contributions as well as they could; in Wales the rates levied were found sufficient to relieve the people, and by the aid of contributions collected, corn was brought from other parts of the world. But what was done for Ireland? In Ireland, eight millions were expended by a vote of the House of Commons, of which one half was remitted as a free gift; and yet the hon. Member for Cork spoke of that as a mere trifling circumstance, as a gift which it was only proper to make at a time of national distress, for that the calamity was an Imperial calamity. When Sir Robert Peel first introduced the income tax, in 1842, he (Mr. Williams) proposed that it should be extended to Ireland, but only to those incomes that were taken out of the English Exchequer. There was a million and a half of the interest of the national debt that was paid in Ireland, and a large amount of debt also was borrowed from the Bank of Ireland. There was the salary of the Lord Lieutenant, 20,000l.; with a whole host of officers under him. The Four Courts cost at least 30,000l., all these were exempt from paying the Income tax, while the pensioners drew 100,000l.; there were numerous other public officers who received a very large amount in salaries. He thought the Irish Members, therefore, had every reason to be satisfied with the present Budget. If they expected to be for ever exempted from the income tax, they might rest assured that they were much deceived. Here was a most liberal offer made to them, with which he would advise them to close. The interest of the annuities which were about to be given up amounted to 240,000l. a year, and they would have had to pay that for forty years, while the income tax would only last for seven years. He would venture to say that the calculations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in that respect were perfectly correct. If Parliament chose to continue that tax, which would enable them to take off probably ten millions more of taxes, Ireland would reap her full share of the benefits. He had always supported the interests of Ireland; but on this occasion he felt it his duty, while doing no injustice to Ireland, to consult the interests of his 488 own constituents. The hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire had complained of the system of abolishing taxes altogether, which, according to him, ceased on that account to be reproductive. Now, if hon. Gentlemen would only look to the history of taxation since the last war, they would find that when taxes were taken off the people never kept the money in their pockets, but spent it upon other articles which were taxed. He might mention that since 1821, 39,000,000l. of taxes had been taken off, and 10,000,000l. added, making a clear reduction of 29,000,000l. a year from the annual bur-dens of the people. But what was the difference in the revenue of the country between 1821 and last year? Why, the only difference was a fall in the revenue of last year to the extent of 1,100,000l. But if hon. Gentlemen would look at the reductions since 1842, the effect was still more astonishing. Since 1842, taxes to the amount of 13,500,000l. had been taken off, while taxes to the amount of 6,600,000l. had been added, making a clear reduction of 6,900,000l. a year. But the revenue which in 1841 was 48,000,000l., was in 1852 53,200,000l., so that after a reduction of taxes to the extent of 6,900,000l., the annual revenue had increased by 5,200,000l. And he had no doubt that the same result would follow from the present reductions, and that the right hon. Gentleman would find his calculations of increase more than realised. He concluded by expressing his entire concurrence with the Budget as a whole. There might be some things which he would be glad to see removed from it; but if they were he knew he could not get the advantages that would result from the other parts. On a view of all the parts of the scheme, and considering the immense reductions which were proposed, he thought the right hon. Gentleman had shown very great ability in bringing forward a Budget which, in his opinion, would be highly beneficial to the country.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
willingly accepted the definition of responsibility that attached to every hon. Member of that House who voted or expressed his opinion on that occasion. The hon. Member for Montrose said, the candour of each hon. Member would be tested by the course he now took. He willingly bowed to that, and would take his stand on the merits of this question as far as regarded his own country, though if it was a question that referred 489 peculiarly to England, his decision might be of a somewhat different character. He meant that if he were an Englishman he should he inclined to give a favourable consideration to the Budget; but being an Irishman, and feeling that his country was especially and hardly dealt with, he was bound to give it his strenuous resistance. The hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, had endeavoured to refute the statements of the hon. Member for Cork, but he had totally failed in his attempt. The hon. Member for Cork had proved that Ireland paid her full share of the Imperial burdens, and he could show that Ireland was not in a situation at that moment to bear any addition to her taxation, and that it would be wise and prudent in the Financial Minister of England to reduce the burdens of that country instead of imposing further burdens upon her. The hon. Member said that Ireland contributed only 4,000,000l. to the Imperial taxation; but were there not many local burdens upon her? Ireland had, in 1851, paid in poor-rates not less than 1,300,000l.; in county cess nearly 1,000,000l.; in tithe rentcharge 600,000l.; or, including other burdens, which he would not enumerate, and those which had been mentioned by the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Williams), not less in the whole than 7,000,000l. sterling. All this time the rental of Ireland had been gradually falling off; so that whereas in 1842 that rental was 13,000,000l. sterling, in 1852 it had fallen to between 10,000,000l. and 11,000,000l. by reason of the misfortunes under which the country had been suffering. In this condition of things, which, instead of inviting oppression, should have excited commiseration, let the Committee distinctly understand what was the liberal and munificent proposition which was to catch the Irish Members, and make them hang in a body to the skirts of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The 'right hon. Gentleman proposed to reduce taxation in Ireland to the extent of 400,000l. per annum; but then he contemplated increasing it by 900,000l., leaving a balance against Ireland of 500,000l. The right hon Gentleman talked of allowing for waste of spirits in bond, and of taking off 40,000l. a year that ought never to have been put on; but then he imposed an additional duty on spirits of 138,000l., making an additional charge upon that article alone of 98,000l. The right hon. Gentleman proposed to raise from Ireland a total taxation of 916,000l., and to deduct taxation to the extent of 490 409,000l., thereby leaving himself a balance of 507,000l. But he (Mr. Maguire) appealed to the opinions of all the great statesmen of modern times as being opposed to the infliction of the income tax upon Ireland. In the year 1842, Sir Robert Peel said—In my opinion, if war should arise—I speak, of course, of some great European contest, calling upon this country to put forth all her energies-in such a case, Ireland ought to contribute, and would be desirous to contribute, her fair share of taxation; but this is a tax which was not levied in Ireland during the war, and there is no machinery for levying it.In the same year, the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, who now represented the views of the Government in the House, said that the attempt to collect the income tax in Ireland would be a total failure, and that to tax Irish peasants would be mere moonshine. Ireland, said the noble Lord in 1842, could not afford any additional taxation; if that were the casein 1842, how much more strongly was it the fact now, after Ireland had, in the course of the last ten years, undergone such heavy calamities and prostrating losses? Nevertheless, the noble Lord was now prepared to tax Ireland anew, and that too, at a moment when he proposed to reduce the duty on foreign butter, thus allowing the Dutch producer to compete with the Irish farmer. As an Irish Member, he was bound to say, that free trade had not done anything for Ireland. It might have done good, and, he believed, it did do good, to Leeds and Manchester, and the other great towns of England; but it had only impoverished Ireland, and brought many a noble name to want and ruin. If the noble Lord were to visit the towns and villages of Ireland, and to see whole streets taken up with auxiliary workhouses, he would never think of imposing additional taxation on the country. With regard to the present condition of Ireland, he would be able to show that it was infinitely worse than in 1842. The glass manufactories in Cork, Belfast, and Dublin were annihilated by the duties imposed upon this branch of industry by the Imperial Parliament, whilst the woollen trade had been ruined by the glorious, pious, and hooked-nosed William the Third, who acceded to the petition of the English Parliament that he would take means "to discourage the woollen trade of Ireland." Again, if they looked to the export trade of the country, they would see the extent to which it had decreased. When manufactures were "discouraged" 491 in the country, the people were told to grow wheat and green crops, and feed fat cattle for the fat people of England. The following were the quantities of grain exported from Ireland in 1845 and 1851, respectively, by which it would he seen that the country, so far from being able to bear taxation now, was in a far worse position to bear it than when Sir Robert Peel and Lord John Russell both refused to inflict it upon her. In 1845 Ireland sent to England 93,000 quarters of wheat; in 1851 these exports had fallen off to 44,000. In 1845 she sent 2,358,000 quarters of oats to England; in 1851 only 1,141,000. Nay, more, Ireland, which had never before been an importing country, imported, in 1851, 1,600,000 quarters of grain, and, in 1852, 2,500,000 quarters. Again, look at the falling-off in the exports of swine from Ireland:—In 1847 these ex-ports amounted to 480,000 head, whereas in 1851 the exportation had fallen oft' to 136,000; so in sheep and lambs the exportation in the same years had fallen off from 324,000 to 151,000 head. In 1847 Ireland built thirty-three ships, having a total tonnage of 3,000; in 1851 her industry in this respect had fallen to thirteen ships, with 900 tonnage. The population of Ireland had decreased by famine and emigration, upwards of 200,000 since 1842. The inhabited houses had also diminished 21 per cent, the houses in progress 36 per cent, while the uninhabited houses had increased 24 per cent. The Government talked of Ireland's prosperity. Was it a sign of prosperity that no less than 8,700,000l. worth of property had changed hands in the Encumbered Estates Court, and that there were petitions in that court at this moment representing property of the gross value of 20,000,000l. or 25,000,000l. The introduction of the income tax into Ireland would necessarily have a tendency to demoralise the Irish people. It was most unjust to propose to levy such a tax on Ireland in her present depressed condition. The Chancellor of the Exchequer called the income tax a colossal engine of finance. Colossal it was, no doubt, in its power to crush a nation. The sword of the Financial Minister had been unsheathed, not to defend but to strike down Ireland in her weakness. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had proposed the remission of the Consolidated Annuities (amounting to 4,000,000l.), in order to induce the Irish Members to consent to the extension of 492 the income tax to Ireland. But he (Mr. Maguire) contended that if the Act of Union between England and Ireland were rightly construed, Ireland ought not to be called upon individually to contribute a single farthing in repayment of what was advanced from the Imperial Exchequer to alleviate an imperial distress. An hon. Gentleman opposite had spoken of a case of calamity which had occurred in the island of Skye, and said that the people of Ireland ought to have been prepared out of their own resources to meet the famine of the last few years, as the people of Scotland dealt with the distress in Skye. But it was altogether absurd to compare the paltry calamity at Skye with the terrible and national disaster which had befallen Ireland—an integral portion of the empire. He appealed to the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) to resist the proposed extension of the income tax to Ireland; for when it was proposed to subject England to that tax, that hon. Gentleman said that it would be most unjust to subject Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, and other manufacturing towns, to a new tax at a time when they were suffering from commercial depression. Now, could any one deny that at this moment the trade of Ireland was in a state of depression and suffering? The people of Ireland, from the highest to the lowest classes, were compelled, in her present condition, to resort to economy. An enthusiastic Gentleman on the opposite benches had told the Irish Members to rejoice that a great mind, meaning that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had been engaged on the affairs of Ireland. Now, in 1842, the hon. Member for Pontefract, in a similarly enthusiastic strain, called upon the English Members to rejoice that a great and comprehensive scheme of taxation had been submitted to the House by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but the hon. Member for Finsbury, whilst admitting its comprehensiveness, denounced it as he (Mr. Maguire) denounced the proposition with regard to Ireland—as a measure that was obnoxious and repugnant to the feelings of the country. Art income tax was alien to the habits of the people of Ireland. It was most distasteful to their feelings. The Government might honey the pill, they might gild it, they might gloss it over with charming words and flowing sentences, full of compliments to Ireland, but it would not go down. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that the people of England and Ireland would be rid of the 493 income tax in 1860; but did the right hon. Gentleman think that the Irish Members were so verdant, or, to use a less classical phrase, so green as to believe that the income tax would die in 1860? The income tax, when first proposed by Sir Robert Pee], was only to last for three years, but it had already been in existence eleven years; and as it was a child of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), there was not much probability of its expiring in seven years. On the contrary, it was likely to attain the age of Old Parr. If the Irish Members should act so foolishly as to consent to the extension of the income tax to Ireland, under the notion that it would expire in 1860, they would betray the trust confided to them by their constituents, and would deserve to be drummed out of that House. In conclusion, he would say, that his conduct on this question would not be influenced by any considerations of party. Indeed, no such feelings ought to influence one's conduct in matters of finance. He called upon every representative of Ireland to resist the attempt made by the Government to subject that country to an odious, oppressive, and unjust tax, which she was not able to bear. The city of Cork, with which he was officially connected, already paid 10 s. in the pound. In addition to that, the merchants and shopkeepers contributed largely to charitable institutions, and it was impossible for them to undertake to pay this new tax proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was all very well to talk of Ireland being an integral portion of the empire when they wished to make her bear equal burdens with England; but that was not the tone in which the Government spoke of her when she asked for aid when her people were suffering from famine. Ireland had often been ridiculed for her bulls and her blunders; but this Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was the finest Durham be (Mr. Magujre) had ever heard of. Ireland ought to be duly appreciated by those who were anxious to maintain unimpaired the influence and greatness of the empire.
§ MR. WARNER
said, that the hon. Gentleman's argument should rather have led him to support the measure than to oppose it. Had not the hon. Member shown beyond all doubt that Ireland was more prosperous now than she was in 1842? Had he not told them that whereas formerly Ireland was an exporting country, she was now an importing country? case, he stated the alternatives that he 494 The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Fagan) had laid down the broad principle that taxation ought to be proportioned to the ability of a country to pay it. He quite agreed with the hon. Member in that principle; and he knew no better way of measuring the ability of a country than by the income tax. He would, however, press this on the Government, that, in considering the income tax, allowance should be made, in both countries, for local purposes. In a few years he hoped they would be able to do without it at all; but for a few years it was indispensable. He asked hon. Gentlemen if they threw out this Budget what would be the result? He was not in any secret, but it seemed not unlikely they might have a dissolution. And what then? Depend upon it, "Equality of taxation" would be made a cry at the hustings, and Members would be returned pledged to do justice to England and Scotland as well as "Justice to Ireland." As a whole he heartily approved this Budget, and should give it his warmest support. Of course there might be objections to the details, but he had no doubt they would receive consideration, from whatever quarter of the House they came.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
observed that the Members of Her Majesty's Government seemed to be of opinion that with respect to the proposal for reimposition of the income tax for seven years, the least that was said by them would be the soonest mended. He would ask any Member of Her Majesty's Government to rise in his place and assert there was any urgent necessity for this renewal of the income tax. From the able statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the other night, it appeared there were two courses open to Government. The right hon. Gentleman also said there was a third course. To that third course he objected. But there were two courses perfectly open to Government, according to the opinion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—one was, to relinquish the tax, the other, to renew it. The' third—the course he deprecated, was to emasculate the tax, and so weaken the power of this great weapon as that it should not be available in case of necessity. These were the points indicated by the right hon. Gentleman. He would now ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he was prepared to say there existed any absolute necessity for the renewal of the tax? When the right hon. Gentleman made his statement, so far from saying this was the 495 considered available instead of the renewal of the income tax. He said, if the House did not propose to continue the income tax, they might provide for the exigencies of the public service, and the maintenance of national credit, by the imposition of a property tax, by the imposition of licence duties, or by extending the legacy duty to real property. He (Mr. Newdegate) was not bound to accept either of these alternatives. But he had a right to infer, from the suggestion of these alternatives by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that he considered that if his alternatives were accepted, there would be no necessity for imposing the income tax. The right hon. Gentleman told the House what great things the income tax had done for the country during the war; that when whole plains were smeared with carnage, the country was, by means of this tax, enabled to meet and to overcome every danger. Then why did not the right hon. Gentleman reserve this tax, as a mighty weapon of defence against dangers, which would reconcile those who would have to pay it to its inequalities, in consideration of the emergency which called for its use. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman a question. How he could justly expect, after his own forcible exposition of the inequality of the pressure of the income tax, of its injustice, of its inquisitorial character, and of the frauds it generated, and that he knew not how to obviate these evils; that the House of Commons could sanction his proposal when there was no emergency sufficiently strong to justify the imposition of the tax for seven years; when no Minister had ever before dared to propose to continue the tax for more than five years? It was only on one occasion that any Minister had proposed the imposition of the income tax for more than three years. The right hon. President of the Board of Control (Sir Charles Wood), when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, had proposed the renewal of the income tax for five years; but he was met by universal dissent, and he withdrew his proposal. That was in 1848, when the House was called upon to liquidate a debt of 8,000,000l. which had been incurred to relieve the distress in Ireland. Was there any necessity of the sort now? Did the House remember what was the origin of the tax? It was originally imposed in 1842 in order to pay off the debt of 8,000,000l. created by the deficiencies incurred by the Whig Government. In- 496 stead of having deficiencies to meet as on those occasions, modern Chancellors of the Exchequer had been paying off debt. This tax was renewed in 1845. But was the precedent of 1845 so inviting? The recollection of that period was rife with regret from broken pledges. He would ask hon. Members who had emphatically denounced the tax to their constituents as unjust, oppressive, and iniquitous, how they meant to justify the renewal of the tax for seven years? Were they prepared for a dissolution on the renewal of the tax for that long period? Were they prepared to justify the reimposition of the present income tax with all its inequalities and frauds—inequalities proved before a Committee of the House, admitted by every one, condemned by all; frauds so vividly depicted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself. That there was no absolute necessity for the renewal of this tax, had been proved by the right hon. Gentleman himself, for he said that it might be reserved—and in that he agreed with him—as a mighty weapon to meet any emergency that might arise from external force or internal calamity. He would ask those hon. Gentlemen who had hitherto been arrayed against the tax, what they would do in case of a dissolution, after having violated those solemn pledges they had given to their constituents? If the right hon. Gentleman had come down and said that the necessity of arming the country against external danger had so outstripped our ordinary resources that a renewal of the income tax for one year was necessary, he might have voted for it on that ground, for one year; but no such exigency could be alleged. It was the fashion for Chancellors of the Exchequer now-a-days to propose what was called a great financial reform once, at least, a year, and the right hon. Gentleman, following the fashion, had come down and demanded, for the purpose of enabling him to carry his financial reform, a reimposition of the income tax for seven years. He would ask the hon. Member for Montrose, whether every one of his proposals for adjusting the tax had not been rejected with contumely? He (Mr. Newdegate) had voted for the appointment of the Committee moved for by the hon. Member for Montrose to inquire into the income tax, and he had served with him upon it. When he voted for the Committee he told the hon. Member for Montrose that he would prove the injustice of the tax, but fail in 497 obtaining an effectual remedy for that injustice. The injustice, the inequality, the fraud of the tax were proved—all attempts to correct the inequalities, or the inquisitorial and unjust operation of the tax, which rendered the tax odious, had been rejected; but the hon. Member was, nevertheless, going to vote for the renewal of the tax, uncorrected, for seven years. The hon. Member need not expect that he would follow him in what he very appropriately called his roundabouts. The hon. Member for Montrose, the Nestor of financial reform, had often condemned the income tax as it at present existed; but, heu prisca fides, the hon. Member now told them that he was willing to renew it, bad as it was, for seven years. The hon. Member said he would support it for the sake of the remainder of the scheme. What did that scheme comprehend? There was the abolition of the soap duty. It was admitted by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that this would be a boon to Manchester. When were the boons to Manchester to end? For the last ten years they had been doing nothing but legislating for Manchester. The agricultural interest had burdens to bear. These were to be left unrelieved, aye, aggravated by the continuance of the income tax; but Manchester, which, by the by, had been declared to be in so prosperous a state, was to have this additional boon of soft soap. Then the Chancellor of the Exchequer also proposed to remit a large number of smaller taxes, some assessed taxes upon luxuries. The remission of these could not justify the imposition of the income tax for seven years. It was right to reduce the posthorse duty, but that might be done without such an addition of taxation as was proposed. The right hon. Gentleman also proposed to cast away about 600,000L. of Custom duties, although within the last six weeks the House had refused to reduce these very duties by a majority of two to one. But what mattered the decision of the House to the Chancellor of the Exchequer; he was under way for a great financial reform. Here he (Mr. Newdegate) would give an instance of the manner in which the Chancellor of the-Exchequer, judging by the papers he had submitted to the House, intended to arrange the Custom duties: He proposed to adopt the principle of specific duties, as contradistinguished from duties ad valorem. He would cite an instance by way of illustration of the plan proposed 498 by the right hon. Gentleman. Among the changes proposed for this purpose was that of the duty on musical boxes; and how did the House suppose the right hon. Gentleman proposed to regulate the duty on such boxes? Why, at the rate of so much a tune. Let the House imagine a musical Custom-house officer, winding up each musical box that was imported, and sitting down to hear how many tunes it would play, before he could assess the duty. He considered that the measure of the Chancellor of the Exchequer involved another blow at the agricultural interest. The House had decided, by a majority of two to one, to maintain the duties upon butter and cheese; but what mattered the decision of the House to the Chancellor of the Exchequer? He came down and told them they must reverse their former decision, and reduce the duties upon butter and cheese. [Cheers from the Opposition.] The right hon. Gentleman further proposed the extension of the legacy duty to real property: that was the item which chiefly palliated the Budget in the eyes of the democratic section of the House. He (Mr. Newdegate) was aware that the high authority of Mr. Pitt might be quoted in favour of such an extension of that tax. The opinions of Mr. Pitt, and his authority, would always command his (Mr. Newdegate's) deference and respect. But he remembered that when the late Sir Robert Peel came down to the House in 1846, and declared that he would not undertake to steer the vessel of the State by observations taken in 1842, he was received with applause by honourable and right honourable Gentlemen opposite. If, then, the late Sir Robert Peel was applauded for that conduct, how much more, if Mr. Pitt were now alive, and he was to declare he would not guide the vessel of the State in 1853 by observations taken before the commencement of the century, might not he well be justified? Were Mr. Pitt now alive, he would have seen the representatives of the landed interest, of the owners of real property, in dead minority of a reformed House of Commons; not predominant, as the House of his time. Had Mr. Pitt seen the change in our commercial policy which had been effected, and how little the feelings, the interest, and the safety of the agricultural classes had been regarded; had Mr. Pitt heard that the existence of the burdens which pressed upon the agricultural interest had for years been wilfully ignored; though now the Chancel- 499 lor of the Exchequer admitted the existence of peculiar burdens upon real property, including land, to the amount of 12,000,000 or 14,000,000 a year; had Mr. Pitt seen how the just claims of that interest had been scouted; that eminent statesman would, he (Mr. Newdegate) was convinced, have entertained a different opinion as to the imposition of an additional 2,000,000L. a year legacy duty on that interest. He (Mr. Newdegate) had, in 1845, urged his friends in the House to consent to a Motion made by Mr. Henry Ward for the appointment of a Committee to consider the burdens upon land. [Lord J. RUSSELL: Hear, hear!] His advice had been rejected; he (Mr. Newdegate) thought that was a great mistake; the noble Lord the Member for the City of London agreed his advice to the representatives of the landed interest was on that occasion judicious; but it was disregarded, and for years from that time the existence of any burdens upon agriculture, or upon real property, had been denied. The advice that he would now venture to tender to the landed interest was this: "If it is right that you should be subjected to additional taxation, take care it is imposed in a form as obvious as the property you hold." If they consented to this extension of the legacy duty they would be told, "You are the present possessors of the property, and the tax concerns you no more than the undertakers' bill for your own funerals." The temper of the democratic party induced them to look with jealousy on landed property, and he would advise landed proprietors to consent to no tax, the incidence of which could be disputed, or which survived the interest of the possessor; for if they did, they would get no credit for it; where the balance of taxation was struck, the legacy duty would moreover tend to separate the interest of the possessor from the interest of those who should succeed him, and thus weaken by division the power of those who are the natural guardians of the interests of all connected with real property. If personal property could be reached by any other means than by the legacy duty, he would agree that it would be unjust to tax it by that means but the frauds under the income tax proved that personal property could only be effectually brought under direct taxation when that property was attested for the purposes of legal transfer. There was no such difficulty in reaching real property for the purpose of taxation. His 500 gravest and last objection to the tax on succession to real estate was, that they were going to impose the tax on those succeeding to it at the time when most of them were least able to bear it; thus unnecessarily aggravating the burden of taxation they would be called upon to bear.
§ MR. MONCKTON MILNES
said, he would not detain the House beyond a few minutes, for he was sure they must be anxious to hear his hon. Friend (Mr. Drummond), whose eloquence and humour would enliven the debate which, so far, seemed to him to possess but little interest. It was no great want of political charity to say that hon. Gentlemen opposite, however anxious they might be to make a good legitimate use of the circumstances of the evening, could not be expected to be very enthusiastic upon the question of discrimination in the Income tax-—the effect of which was to place a larger proportion of taxation upon the fluctuating incomes which they themselves did not especially possess. Nor could hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House, who had expressed a desire for such a modification as would make a distinction between fixed and fluctuating incomes, have any great satisfaction in saying—what he should say—that we were about to give the Budget of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer the fullest support in their power. This was a practical question, to be dealt with on practical grounds. In dealing with it, they were obliged to give up what many of them believed to be very just and sound opinions; but they gave them up as Englishmen; they sacrificed their own views and opinions when it was found necessary to fall into larger schemes and enter upon higher considerations; and therefore they surrendered their opinion in favour of a modification of the Income tax, for the sake of the other advantages of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's scheme. No doubt many of them had, in the presence of their constituents, advocated the immediate repeal of the tax; it would be unjust to the constituents of many of those who had spoken most strongly upon this subject, were they in any way to give up their opinions; but when they had uttered those opinions, they regarded the income tax as in a certain degree part of the permanent resources of the country. But when his right hon. Friend laid it down only as the basis of his scheme for the revision of taxation, and showed that by the falling in of the Long Annuities in 1861, the income tax might be remitted alto- 501 gether, the circumstances of the case were altogether altered; for they afforded the most distinct ground for regarding the tax as of limited duration, and therefore it was that he felt perfectly justified in supporting the proposition of the Government. At the same time he did not deny that he should have been glad if it had been possible to effect a discrimination between fixed and fluctuating incomes; but he would not merely on this account risk the success of that which he considered one of the best financial schemes that had ever been brought forward in this country. It was easy enough to state the case of Ireland in the way in which it had been put by the hon. Member for Dungarvon (Mr. Maguire). The hon. Member had said that Ireland ought not to pay the tax at all because the heavy natural calamity that had befallen that country was a just reason for not pressing heavily on her resources; but that was not a correct view of the case. It was the object of his right hon. Friend to relieve the distressed portions of Ireland of the burdens which were pressing upon them; and to impose another tax which could only fall upon the wealth of the country—which would reach the solvent capitalist who had purchased the estate of a previous insolvent owner. This, he was sure, must be an advantage, and he could not believe that in the main it would be unacceptable to the people of Ireland. Moreover, a large proportion of Irish proprietors paid the tax at present, and therefore the extension of the tax as to a large portion pf the property of Ireland was more apparent than real. He had one remark in relation to real property as affected by the Budget. No doubt his right hon. Friend had felt the difficulties of the question, He believed, however, that his right hon. Friend would take into his consideration the large burdens at present laid upon land, and therefore he could not deny that this was a very great innovation, which would be attended with results much greater, perhaps, than those which followed the repeal of the corn laws. Yet he could not but believe that this extension of taxation must have been submitted to in a very short time, if not this year; and, on the whole, he thought it would be better to accept this tax, coupled with the general revision of taxation which the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed, than to have it forced on them afterwards. When hon. Gentlemen talked of repealing the income tax at the present moment, he thought 502 they were suggesting something which they would not venture to propose if they were themselves in office. If, in case of a dissolution, they went to the country, what would be the question? The question would not be between the present scheme of taxation and an abstract system, but it would be between the present Budget and that of last year. Presenting these two Budgets, and having regard to the classes upon whom the extension of taxation would fall, he believed there was not a constituency in the kingdom, from one end to the other, which would not pronounce for that of the right hon. Gentleman. He, for one, should not fear the result.
§ SIR WILLIAM JOLLIFFE
said, that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had put the question before the Committee in quite a novel light. He had said that he was about to give a blind adhesion to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and that he was not afraid to go down to his constituents and let them know the course which he had adopted. He said that they on the Opposition side of the House were making some party move with respect to the income tax; now he (Sir W. Jolliffe) said they should look to the hon. Member, for he was prepared to break away from all the pledges he had previously given, and blindly to follow the Minister in whatever he might propose. But there had been another speech delivered in that House in the course of the evening by the hon. Member for Malton (Mr. E. Denison), which threw the same novel light upon the subject under the notice of the Committee as the observations which had fallen from the hon. Gentleman who had last addressed them. The hon. Member for Malton had stated that he had made up his mind to look neither to the right nor to the left, but to follow without hesitation the propositions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He (Sir W. Jolliffe) could not help thinking that such was rather a strange mode of proceeding. He felt satisfied that those hon. Gentlemen, as well as the hon. Member for Montrose, were describing rather dangerous circles around the Budget of the right hon. Gentleman, and that it would act upon them by and by like the light of a candle upon some imprudent insect, and singe their wings. Now he would just for a moment call the attention of the Committee to the mode in which it was proposed to deal with the Excise duties. In the case of those duties, the right 503 hon. Gentleman opposite appeared to him to have taken a course diametrically opposed to that principle of which the hon. Member for Montrose had been the consistent advocate. He (Sir W. Jolliffe) had never disputed the principles of free trade if they were accompanied with the financial arrangements necessary to carry them into effect; but he could conceive no greater impediment to free trade than the maintenance at home of high Excise duties, which levied a toll upon the industry of the country, and promoted and continued a system of monopoly. Now, the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to raise the duty upon Scotch and Irish spirits, increasing in proportion the Customs duties on foreign importation; and, pro tanto, he would embarrass the intercourse with nations who would supply us with better articles, and upon which we might raise a considerable revenue. The measure of the right hon. Gentleman would tend to fetter the trade of this empire with France, and the countries in the south of Europe. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman, if the duty upon French brandy were reduced, would not a considerable increase of revenue be the result? If, with regard to the West India interests, a similar reduction were made, he believed a small relief would be afforded to those suffering colonies. Such a course, too, would be in accordance with the principles of free trade. The financial scheme of his right hon. Friend the Member for Bucks (Mr. Disraeli) was based upon that principle, and it was the fact of its having proposed to reduce the duty upon articles of Excise that in his (Sir W. Jolliffe's) opinion constituted the chief merit of that scheme. It had been stated by hon. Gentlemen opposite, in the course of that evening, that the Budget which the Committee was then discussing was one of the greatest financial experiments that had been made for years. But he must say that if ever the income tax, which had been described as the great feature of that experiment, was to be remitted, the present was the time for its abolition. He did not think that there was any prospect that in the year 1860 the country would be in a position which would enable us more conveniently to dispense with that tax than we could at this moment. There was a large excess of revenue in the Exchequer, and the right hon. Gentleman proposed to levy 2,000,000l. of additional taxation, and thus he had the means of dealing with the income tax; and he, for 504 one, was of opinion, that taking into account the sum which was to be sacrificed by the remission of the soap and other duties, that those remissions might be postponed with benefit to the country, and the existing surplus employed in order to effect so desirable an object as the total repeal of the income and property tax.
§ MR. H. DRUMMOND
could assure his hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. M. Milnes), that he never rose to address the House in a mood less humorous. He could see nothing very lively in a subject like the income tax, and though, no doubt, it was within the power of his hon. Friend to produce a poetical budget, yet the two greatest geniuses in the House—the right hon. Gentleman the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the right hon. Gentleman the present Chancellor of the Exchequer—had not been able to relieve it from that dulness which was generally connected with pounds, shillings, and pence. He (Mr. Drummond) had been induced to rise in consequence of some observations that had fallen from the hon. Member for Herefordshire (Mr. Booker), with respect to the proposed tax on successions to real property. The hon. Member had stated that the Government measure, in reference to the imposition of a legacy duty upon the succession to that species of estate, would tend to the dismemberment of the aristocracy, and to the breaking up of all the landed property of the country. But the proposed legacy duty would be a tax upon elder brothers, rather than a tax upon land. Now, he (Mr. Drummond), had no antipathy to elder brothers—no doubt they were the best and the most distinguished of the whole family—but he should remind the Committee that, as long as he could remember, that duty had been looked upon as a very serious evil by younger brothers. When the hon. Member opposite spoke of it as likely to break up the aristocracy of England, he seemed to pay very little regard to historical facts. Who broke up the landed aristocracy of France? Was it not the younger brothers in the National Convention? They saw that while their fathers left large estates to their elder brothers, those brothers were not compelled to pay a tax, whereas the younger sons, who received but a few thousands, were compelled to pay duty upon that sum. And when the hon. Gentleman said that such a tax was new in this country, he (Mr. Drummond) must ask where his historical knowledge was? It was one of the oldest taxes 505 which had existed in this country. Did he know nothing of the inquisitiones post mortem? Why, this tax had formed almost the sole resource of the Crown from the time of the Conquest down to the reign of Henry the Eighth. Hon. Gentlemen had referred, in the course of their observations that evening, to the probable consequences of a dissolution as the result of the rejection of the Resolutions before the Committee. But upon the hustings the Budget of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be presented as a contrast to that of his predecessor. What destroyed the last Budget? It was a most unfair run upon the house tax—a most unfair advantage which was taken to excite clamour in the towns on that subject. Now in the event of a dissolution on this Budget, the constituencies would have put before them this alternative: would they impose a tax on elder brothers on their succession to their estates, or would they prefer a double house tax? That was the way in which the question would be presented at the hustings, and when they reduced it in that way to a narrow formula, it was as good as having the big loaf on one poll, and a small loaf on another. But there was one circumstance which ought to afford consolation to the landed interests. They might rest assured that the enormous influx of gold into this country tended very much to their advantage, while it was likely to prove detrimental to the stockholder, and they would have abundant reason to rejoice in the fact that their property consisted of land and not of money. He should now advert to the income tax, and he could not refrain from expressing his surprise that any hon. Gentleman should expect that that tax would be altogether remitted. When he (Mr. Drummond) had first read the speech of the late Sir Robert Peel upon the introduction of that tax, and had seen mention made in that speech of the tax having been introduced only for one year, he had looked upon the statement as a gross imposture. He firmly believed that whether the Committee consented to the reimposition of the income tax for one year or for a longer period, no Member of that House would live to see it repealed. Then it was said that the tax was only to be continued for seven years; but what difference did that make when it was to be continued in an everlasting series? But they had been told by the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir E. B. Lytton), that the income tax was a very im- 506 moral tax; and an hon. Member from Ireland, who had spoken that evening, seemed to be afraid that its extension to his native country would destroy the morality of its people. Now he (Mr. Drummond), would ask the hon. Baronet, was it the income tax, or the operation of what had been designated wicked and unjust laws, that caused the shopkeepers of London to trade in a fraudulent manner in wine, coffee, and other articles? Was it the operation of unjust laws that gave rise to that system of adulterating the food of the people which so extensively prevailed? He (Mr. Drummond) had passed some time since in a certain locality where large quantities of pickled cabbages were exposed for sale, and beneath those cabbages were carboys of oil of Vitriol to pickle the red cabbages. It was not true, then, that shopkeepers of this country were an extremely moral class, nor was it to our taxes or our laws that their immorality was to be attributed. No Acts of Parliament could prevent it. Many persons were in the habit of decrying the intellectual power of the Members of that House; but he (Mr. Drummond) had never heard its worst enemies say that there was anybody in it so intensely stupid as not to be able to pick a hole in a Budget. But, in his opinion, the Budget should be taken as a whole. The income tax was the substratum upon which the whole scheme of creating a machinery for the reduction of the national debt was to be based. Hon. Members, before they objected to the use of such a machinery, ought to be prepared to point out some other means by which an end so desirable as that reduction could be attained. An hon. Member had complained of the extension of the income tax to Ireland; but he (Mr. Drummond) could not agree with the hon. Gentleman in the view which he had taken of that question. He thought Ireland ought to bear her fair portion of the Imperial burdens. With respect to the landed interest, he should observe that, in his opinion, they could not act wisely in objecting to the proposed tax upon successions. It was quite plain, from the vote upon the Budget of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, that it was in the power of the metropolitan Members to overthrow any financial scheme of which they did not approve. If each successive Budget were thus to be overthrown, that House might as well abdicate its functions, and adjourn sine die.
§ MR. MUNTZ
said, it was with very great regret that he rose to oppose the Budget 507 to the country at large; and if he could salve over his conscience as easily as the of the right hon. Gentleman—for in that Budget there was a great deal which he approved of, and which might he of service hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. M. Millies) had salved over his, he should sit quietly there, and make no remarks upon the subject. But having voted for the income tax when it was first introduced only on the ground of expediency, in order to raise the revenue then needed to meet exigencies of the State; and having on that occasion stated that he dissented from the principle of an income tax as it was proposed to be levied, he felt hound now to act consistently with his declarations at that period. He represented a very independent constituency—great many of them were small traders, and they felt in an especial manner the injustice and inequality of the tax—they were charged and surcharged and recharged, and he spoke with absolute certainty when he said the law gave them no redress. Often had such persons come to him with their books, for the purpose of showing him that they had not obtained the profits upon which they were charged; and when he asked them why they did not place their accounts before the Commissioners, they said that the Commissioners were their opponents in the same trades, or perhaps they naively replied—"Why, the Commissioner is my banker." He should probably take a different view of the matter, if he thought the income tax could not be amended; but he protested against such a doctrine—if the thing were attempted it could be done. Why could they not impose a bond fide property tax? A property tax fairly levied, would, he believed, produce a larger amount of revenue than the unjust tax now levied. The general feeling as regarded the income tax was, "Let us pay as little as we can, for the Government will surcharge us as much as they can." Let them assess all real property as they found it, and all personal property upon the affidavits of the party that their personal property did not exceed an amount named in them. He was sure that under such an assessment the tax would produce more than it did now, and one of the worst features of such an impost would be avoided by substituting such a mode of proof. The extension of the tax as now proposed to incomes of 100l. a year, would inflict greater injustice than ever. He did not say it was unjust on principle to apply the income tax to men who had 150l. a 508 year, or even to men who had only 100l. a year: what he contended was, that the manner in which it was now assessed was unjust, and the man who had less than 100L. a year was less capable of resisting injustice. He considered the renewal of the income tax in its present form a foul blot on the whole scheme of the Government—and the obstacle which it presented was so great that he could not get over it. He did not see, however, why the right hon. Gentleman should not, like his predecessors, amend his Budget. Able as the right hon. Gentleman was, he was not perfect. Even in his five hours' speech he made some considerable blunders. For example, after speaking of the manner in which the revenue of 22 millions was raised in 1792, he said that in consequence of subsequent alterations in the imposition of the income tax it rose in 1806 to between 60 and 70 millions; whereas, in fact, 16 millions was the utmost amount of income tax collected within one year. If the right hon. Gentleman would consent to amend his Budget with respect to the income tax, he (Mr. Muntz) would be happy to give the measure his support; but if he were determined to keep it in its present state, he was sorry to say he must oppose it.
§ MR. STANHOPE
said, that as long as a Chancellor of the Exchequer was allowed to reimpose the income tax when he had a surplus at his disposal, so long they could entertain no reasonable hope of terminating that impost. If there were a surplus of 2,500,000l., how could it be better employed than in application towards the removal of a tax admitted upon all hands to be a grievous and vexatious tax—-a tax which ought to be resorted to only in extremity? Why not apply 2,500,000L. one year, 500,000l. the next, 1,500,000l. the next, and so on, until the place of the tax was supplied, and it could be altogether dispensed withl The three principal classes affected by the income tax were those with precarious incomes, the fundholder and mortgagee, and the persons possessed of real property, and upon these classes the tax was most unequal in its operation; and surely, if the tax were to be continued, it ought not to be continued with its present inequalities and the unjust mode in which it operated against the holders of precarious incomes. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had the other evening made a forcible appeal in favour of the orphan and the widow; but he (Mr. Stanhope) felt persuaded that an equally 509 forcible appeal might be made in favour of the poor country clergyman, or of the poor country curate, or the small freeholder, whose property had been depreciated by recent legislation, and who, while he expended half of his annual receipts in the improvement of his land, was subjected on the whole of the amount to the payment of the income tax. He would illustrate by an example the unjust mode in which that tax was at present levied. He would take the case of two men, each of whom he would suppose to have a property of 400l. a year. One of them derived his income from houses, which were rated under 6l. each, and which would be assessed at 350l. a year; he paid 4 s. in the pound in the shape of rates, or 70l a year; there were 15 per cent for repairs, or 60L. a year; so that he was really in the receipt of only 270l. a year, although he had to pay income tax on 350l. The other case he would suppose was that of a man who had a mortgage of 400l. a year, who lived in a house assessed at 50l., for which he was assessed at 5$. in the pound, or 8l. a year; so that he had a net income of 392l. It was evident that in the cases of those two individuals the tax would operate very unfairly. He could undertake to say for himself and many other gentlemen connected with the agricultural interest, that they had spent 30 per cent of their incomes in improving their land, and yet they had to pay income tax on the entire amount. Then, again, let them look at the case of a tenant-farmer. They assessed him on the presumption that his profits amounted to one-half of his rent; but he (Mr. Stanhope) had reason to believe that the farmers in the county which he had the honour to represent (Lincolnshire), might much more fairly have been assessed at one-third of their rent. In the year 1850, when a Motion had been brought forward by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli) on the subject of agricultural distress, the right hon. Baronet at present at the head of the Admiralty (Sir J. Graham) had stated that "he was not prepared to say that it was fair to tax a landlord on his gross rental; and, as to the arbitrary assessment under Schedule B of the tenant's profits, which were estimated at one-half the rent, that assessment was still more indefensible." The right hon. Baronet added that, "if it should be thought expedient to renew the income tax, he would certainly put in a strong claim on behalf of the landed interest for an alteration of the terms on which they were assessed." 510 He hoped the right hon. Baronet would at present redeem the pledge he had thus given in the year 1850, and would endeavour to alter the terms on which the landed interest were charged with that tax. He wished to say a few words with respect to the proposed extension of the legacy duty to real property. He solemnly protested against that proposal, which would impose a charge of 2,000,000l. a year on land, without affording them any relief from their existing burdens. If they were to assess landlords as they assessed merchants to the income tax—that was to say, if they were to assess them on their net receipts, and if they were to review and to alter the land tax, and the other taxes which pressed on the agricultural interest with peculiar severity—if they were to adopt those measures, then, but not till then, would he be prepared to support a measure for extending the legacy duty to real property.
§ MR. J. BALL
said, hon. Members appeared to have almost lost sight of the real matter in controversy. He imagined it to have rested between the income tax, as modified by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and as modified by the theorists and practical financiers on the other side of the House; but one hon. Member had risen after another, and protested against the income tax altogether. Now, what was the meaning of this sudden change? How was it that those who in, December last sought to modify and extend the income tax, now wanted to abolish it altogether? He did not think their objection to it could be founded on the abolition of the soap duty, or on their sympathy with Jamaica, which found no more favour in December than at the present time. He could not but attribute the change of feeling to the proposed extension of the legacy duty, and the equalisation of the taxation of the country. He believed that to be the secret cause of the aversion of hon. Gentlemen opposite to the Budget; whereas that was in his (Mr. Ball's) opinion one of its strongest recommendations. As an Irish Member, he must say, that he did not concur in the view taken of the measure by the two hon. Members connected with that country who had already spoken (Mr. Fagan and Mr. Maguire). Remembering that Ireland was an integral portion of the United Kingdom, he could not consent to view the question as though the interests of Ireland and England were separate and distinct. At the same time, he could not forget the great claims which 511 his own country had upon his consideration, nor would he vote in favour of the Budget if he could bring himself to believe that it would injure Ireland; but his convictions were all the other way. He believed the financial scheme of the present Government was entitled to this praise, that it was a step in the right direction towards equalising the general system of taxation. He did not consider that the measures proposed for Ireland were so unjust, injurious, and oppressive, as they were in some quarters represented to be. He would compare the additions and remissions of taxation. He estimated the small remissions for Ireland at 47,900L., and the benefit from the alteration in the tea duty, would in the course of three years, reach 375,000L. Against those amounts he would set off the increase of the spirit duties, 198,000L., and the legacy duty, 198,500l. This statement showed a remission of 422,900l., and an addition in the shape of new taxes of 396,500l. The difference between the two sums was not considerable, but the difference to the consumer was very great indeed. The poor man would pay 2 s. 6 d. instead of 3 s. 8 d. a lb. for his tea, and would be nothing the worse for having to pay 1 d. a pint more for his whisky. The extended legacy duty might be complained of by some classes, but its operation would not be felt by the community at large. The commutation of the Consolidated Annuities for the income tax he looked upon as a very judicious arrangement. The labour rate was something about 2,000,000l., and the present value remaining liabilities of which the annuities consisted, amounted to 2,376,000l. In commutation for these annuities, which pressed with cruel severity on the agricultural interest, there was to be an income tax, which, collected at the rate of assessment proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for seven years, would, in present value, be equivalent to the sum of 2,200,000l. Therefore, the income tax levied at the rate proposed by the Government, would not be quite equivalent to the portion of the present debt which we all acknowledge to be fairly due by Ireland; in other words, we are called upon to pay off the sum which we confess to be justly claimable from us within seven years, instead of spreading the debt with interest over forty years. He had always had the strongest conviction that the pressure of taxation on the agricultural classes in Ireland, by reason of the famine and the in- 512 troduction of poor-laws, was too great for them to bear. Those who knew anything of Ireland were well aware that the cultivators of the soil in that country had been weighed to the earth by the burden of local taxation, and yet hon. Members from Ireland, who professed to have the interests of the tenant peculiarly at heart, rose up against this proposition, the object of which was to compel the annuitant, the capitalist, and the mortgagee, to bear their fair proportion of that burden which now fell with such crushing severity on the shoulders of the tenant. He looked upon the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as a means of calling upon those parties who had so long escaped, to assist the agricultural classes in Ireland. He was not surprised that the hon. Member for Cork, representing a rich mercantile community, should think it necessary to object to being called upon to pay off the debt connected with the establishment of the poor-law in Ireland; but it did excite his surprise that hon. Members from the poorer districts of the country, who knew the way in which the wretched cultivators of the soil were borne down by local taxation, should express hostility to a proposition which appeared to him to confer a great boon upon the agricultural classes throughout the whole country, but more particularly in those districts where the famine had been most severely felt. The debts and burdens contracted during the famine, and the pressure of local taxation which that calamity induced, had combined to drive the people of Ireland from their native land, and had been productive of immense evils to the agricultural population generally. Here, then, was an opportunity for the representatives of Irish constituencies to evince their interest in the welfare of their poor countrymen, and their desire to improve their condition. What did he find? He found those who called themselves the friends of the Irish tenants banded in opposition to a measure which would raise those same tenants from the difficulties in which they had been so long involved, and relieve them of burdens which had for years pressed them to the ground. He was at a loss to understand in what way impartial Gentlemen could reconcile such conduct with professions of patriotism and humanity. To have it said that they would keep upon the shoulders of the Irish tenant a debt which was not charged upon the mortgagee, or the capitalist, or the salaried functionary, was enough to raise doubts of their sincerity and impartiality. Would the 513 Irish representatives opposite allow him to ask them if they really were impartial? No doubt they would say they were impartial in that House; but in another place they would not hesitate to tell him they were not impartial. It was said they had a definite policy; if so, he should like to hear it. He hoped they would come boldly forward with it. Strange reports were abroad. He had been told that some magnificent promises had been made to the Irish Members by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire. He was desirous to know what these promises really were—what were the terms upon which he was asked to refuse his assent to a proposition that appeared to him sound and just. He confessed to a little anxiety on this point, fur he could lay no claim to the sublime indifference—the Olympian placidity—of the hon. Member for Dungarvon (Mr. Maguire). He could not believe that any man interested in the welfare of Ireland could be indifferent to the composition of the British Government. He was quite certain that the people of Ireland were not indifferent on that subject. It was true there might be good reasons for preferring the late to the present Government; but if such reasons did exist, why were they not stated? Before listening to the syren voice of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, he would ask what guarantee he should have for the interests and the honour of Ireland, not with regard to financial questions merely, but also with reference to considerations of higher and weightier importance; and if he should not obtain a clear, explicit, and satisfactory answer, he would decline to enter into the alliance to which they invited him. It had been asked by several Irish Members if the income tax should be introduced into Ireland, what security had they for getting rid of it in 1860? But, even with this uncertainty, he was willing to accept it, for he could show that up to 1860 they would get a strict money equivalent for the tax; and, he believed, that if they were to refuse the arrangement now offered to them, they could not resist the imposition of the income tax at the end of that period; and, what was more, he did not think they would escape it in the meantime. He claimed justice for Ireland, and he believed the surest way of obtaining it would be by satisfying the people of England that he neither asked nor desired more.
§ MR. GROGAN
should say that the pro- 514 position of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to extend the operation of the income tax to seven years, was one never equalled by any Minister. He did not agree with the hon. Gentleman who last addressed the Committee, that the constituencies of Ireland should be overlooked in the consideration of this matter, and he had no doubt that the result of this division would show what their feeling was. He, for one, should consult the wishes and feelings of the inhabitants of Dublin; and he believed the constituencies of Ireland in general would demur to the imposition of this income tax. He was not going to follow the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ball) through all his statements and figures at that hour of the night. But according to the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as reported in the Times, which was believed to be rather accurate, at least on the present question, the right hon. Gentleman had estimated the produce of the income tax in Ireland at 460,000L., and that of the spirit duties at 198,000L.,. making a total of 658,000L.; and in return for this Ireland was to be relieved of the consolidated annuities, amounting to 225,000L. a year, which would leave in favour of the Imperial Exchequer a balance of 413,000l. The remission of the consolidated annuities under present circumstances could not be regarded as a very great stretch of generosity. The House of Lords had passed resolutions of a strong character against the injustice of enforcing the payment of those consolidated annuities. They had heard a great deal about destitution in Ireland, and "Imperial visitation," and all that. It was now admitted that the affliction with which Ireland had been visited was an "Imperial visitation," simply with the view of enabling the present Government to impose Imperial burdens. But when that same Government was appealed to for relief at the time of the "Imperial visitation," they gave it, no doubt, but with the consideration of a 6 d. rate in aid, which was indiscriminately imposed on those parts of Ireland that suffered least, for the benefit of those which had suffered most. What security was there that even the income tax would expire in seven years? They all knew the meaning of these pledges. When it was introduced originally it was stated to be necessary for a period of only three years. But it was renewed; and here they were now after ten or eleven years with a request made 515 them to submit to it for seven years longer. He knew how the Irish constituencies felt on the subject, and, therefore, he could not allow the House to think for a single moment that the hon. Gentleman who last addressed them (Mr. Ball) spoke the sentiments of the Irish Members in reference to this Budget.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report progress.
§ The House adjourned at half-after Twelve o'clock.