§ The House in Committee of Ways and Means; Mr. Bouverie in the Chair.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Resolution."805
§ MR. G. H. MOORE
said, nothing had surprised him more during the progress of this debate than the diverse and contradictory grounds upon which the advocates of the present Budget had rested their arguments. They appeared to unite in a harmonious discrepancy of opinion, which he had imagined was the special prerogative of Her Majesty's present advisers. The hon. Member for Montrose sepported it because it perpetuated direct taxation. He regarded the income tax as his child—and, though a somewhat unruly one, he clung to it with parental fondness. Esto per-petua was his wish and prophecy, and he accordingly supported a plan which he thought would render it perpetual. The hon. Member for Malton, on the contrary, approved of the present Budget, because, according to his ideas of financial navigation, "this was the first time since we had embarked on the sea of the income tax that we had seen land—the first time that there was a reasonable prospect of coming to an end of the tax." He supposed the ideas of the hon. Gentleman were founded on the principle that "distance lends enchantment to the view," for on no, other ground could he understand how removing the object seven years off could make it appear nearer, even to the telescopic vision of the hon. Gentleman. To be sure Bob Acres in the play declares that "the farther his adversary is from him the cooler he will take his aim;" and the hon. Member for Malton seemed equally anxious to bring down the income tax "at a long shot." The right hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth, for whose generous and conclusive advocacy of the interests of Ireland the Irish people had every reason to feel grateful, supported the renewal of the income tax on the express understanding that at the end of the seven years it was to be extinguished. The hon. Member for the West Riding, on the other band, supported it on the express understanding that at the end of the seven years it would be renewed. But there was one thing in which all of them agreed, and that was in dissenting altogether from the views and principles of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on which the whole Budget was based. If there were men in the empire thoroughly opposed to each other in moral, mental, and spiritual constitution, it was the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the majority of his present supporters. They did not sympathise with him—they did not appreciate him—they did not understand him. He was a mystery to them, but they supported 806 his Budget. They said that they supported it as a whole—that was their watchword. But it was not as a whole that they voted for it, but because of something in it. The probate and legacy duty was the scent that gathered their wings round the Budget—it was the oil of rhodium which gave a savour to the whole, which attracted the rats out of the stack, and to get at which they would swallow anything—though it were dirt or poison. Now, as to the views and opinions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on which the Budget was founded, there could be no mistake whatever; he had been unusually distinct and explicit in the enunciation of his sentiments. In his opinion—It is perfectly plain that the income tax is not well adapted for a permanent portion of our financial system, and it is on all hands agreed that it is not well adapted for a permanent portion of our financial system, unless we can by reconstruction remove its inequalities. The general views of Her Majesty's Government with respect to the income tax are, that it is an engine of gigantic power for national purposes; but that there are circumstances attending its operation which make it difficult, perhaps impossible, to maintain it as a permanent portion of the finances of the country. The public feeling of its inequality is a fact most important in itself; the inquisition it entails is a most serious disadvantage, and the frauds to which it leads are evils which it is impossible to characterise in terms too strong.Well, it had been alleged that some of the speakers on that side had spoken in condemnation of the income tax altogether, as much as in support of the Resolution proposed by the hon. Baronet the Member for Hertford; but it struck him (Mr. Moore), that from no one, at any part of the discussion, had he heard any expressions more strongly condemnatory of the income tax altogether, more strongly in favour of the Resolution before the House, than the words he had just quoted from the lips of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. And yet this tax, which the right hon. Gentleman designated as unfit for the ordinary circumstances of the country, he proposed to re-enact under circumstances—if he might use the word—extraordinarily ordinary—and at a period which one would suppose more fitted for putting in operation the ordinary fiscal system of the country than had ever been remembered in the memory of man. Oh! but then it is only for seven years. Only seven years! Why, seven years was a little eternity in the history of finance. But the question, whether for seven years, or for seventy times seven, was still the same. Was it better to have 807 for seven years a sound, just, and rational income tax that the sense of the country approved, or an income tax which was unjust, unequal, and oppressive, and which the sense of the country condemned, for the same period? Here you had been exclaiming against the income tax as it stands; for move than seven years already you had declared it to be unjust, unequal, inquisitorial, and oppressive; and here we had a Chancellor of the Exchequer who avowed to you that it is unjust, oppressive, inquisitorial, and leading to enormous frauds; and you at once consented to this because it is only for seven years. Injustice, but only for seven years—the inquisition, but only for seven years! Fraud, continual, necessary, and systematic, but only for seven years. Just the period allotted for learning any other trade. Why, did they think that the people of England would believe them when they told them that they had consented to the continuance of all that Englishmen regarded with the greatest abhorrence, for no other reason than that it was only for seven years that they were to continue? And for what purpose was this colossal engine of national exigency to be kept in full work in these piping days of peace? If the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been of opinion that England was now so wealthy and prosperous, that she would lay up something over and above our usual burdens, in order to pay off the debt we had contracted in limes of difficulty, such a proposition, although it would not be likely to find favour with the House, would, at all events, be in accordance with the right hon. Gentleman's opinions. But, so far from this being the case, the right hon. Gentleman proposed that we should continue, at a period the most happily adapted for the ordinary financial system of this country, a tax which he considered utterly unfit for such circumstances and such a system, and for the purpose of reducing taxes which did form part of the ordinary system of the country, and to which, in principle, the right hon. Gentleman did not venture to state any objection. Every one who heard the right hon. Gentleman's magnificent exposition of the nature and the functions of the income tax must have been carried away, if not convinced, by that noble argument—must have surrendered for a moment his reason prisoner. He described it as a great and precious resource in times of difficulty, but most inconvenient and oppressive in times of peace. He held it up to us as a tried 808 and proved panoply of steel that had protected us in the day of battle beneath its cumbersome but impenetrable folds, and he warned us to lay it by in times of peace, and not to tamper with a link or a rivet of the good armour that had shielded us so well; and then, coming down with a bathos unparalleled in the great efforts of the human understanding, he coolly proposed, as if it were an ordinary consequence upon these premises, that we should continue for seven years to wear this coat of mail, this iron shirt, for the purpose of saving our every-day clothes. We were to continue a system full of injustice, oppression, and fraud, in order that the right hon. Gentleman might have an opportunity of dabbling with existing taxation. And upon what grounds did the right hon. Gentleman proceed to prove the probability of the income tax being repealed in seven years? On what ground did he assert that we should be better able in 1854 than we were now to reduce the income tax from 7d. to 5d. in the pound? He said that even since 1842 we had reduced the national debt 80,000l. annually. Yes, and annually increased our expenditure by millions. Why, the estimate for the present year was a million more than the last, and yet we were told that 80,000l. a year would set it all right, and save the income tax. As for the 2,000,000l., which we expected from the falling in of the long and terminable annuities in 1861, it had no more to do with our present expenditure, than the expectancy of any other anxious inheritor warrants him in tampering with his present finances. In short, it was almost idle to deal with the subject of the termination of the income tax in seven years, as in point of fact that consideration had nothing to do with the question before the House. Looking at the income tax in its relation to Great Britain, the two questions that arose were—first, whether the people of England were content to pay the income tax in order to obtain the remissions contained in the present Budget; and, secondly, if they chose the income tax, whether they prefered an indiscriminating or a discriminating, a just or an unjust income tax during the seven years that the impost was to continue. As regarded the first of these two questions—the choice of remissions—England stood between the two bundles of hay, and had only the agreeable difficulty of making her choice. But in Ireland, on the contrary, they were left in no such gratifying embarrassment. The pro- 809 position which was submitted to them was one of severe simplicity—that they should he taxed half a million more in order that other classes might be taxed half a million less. This proposal might he just and even generous, but it did not suit them; and because they demurred to the operation they had been assailed in terms which, for the credit of public opinion in England, he regretted should have been pressed into its service. He had heard of a body of medical students in a Dublin hospital, who hissed an unfortunate patient who refused to submit to a very painful but curious operation that they wished to see performed; and it appeared to him that that was an exact description of the relations of Ireland and the English public at the present moment. They had been called not only factious, but dishonest. As regarded the phrase factious, it was one which was always used by those that were in towards those that were out, and that being the case, they were likely to continue for some time under the imputation. But dishonesty was a serious charge, and one which Englishmen were not in the habit of using inconsiderately, except when they were very selfish and very much in a passion. He did not think their vindication against such a charge would be very difficult; but, whether factious or not, dishonest or not, they certainly were not singular in this matter; for he believed there never had been yet found a class, party, or interest in this country on whose shoulders it had been proposed to lay a burden, in order to shift it from the back of another, that had not stoutly, and to a man, resisted the infliction; and if such a class was to be found amongst the children of men, it would be found in the Irish Members who might vote to-night in favour of such an imposition. That being the case, they should approach the subject with patience and good humour, and endeavour to discover, not whether their motives were creditable, but whether they were justified in the opinions they expressed. Now it was incumbent upon those who advocated this Budget in its application to Ireland, to prove one of two distinct and separate propositions: either that Ireland was at present too lightly taxed, and ought to be taxed more; or that in this Budget Ireland would not be taxed more heavily than she was at present. He objected to those two questions being jumbled together; they were in their nature distinct, if not antago- 810 nistic; and they had a right therefore to expect that any hon. Gentleman who might address himself to this branch of the subject, and in particular that every Irishman who might take this peculiar view, would state explicitly on which of these two grounds he rested his opinion. Of his jumbling together two questions totally distinct, the right hon. Member for Halifax, who concluded the debate last night, was a notable example. Some hon. Gentlemen on these benches thought the manner of the right hon. Gentlemen exceptionable. He must say sincerely that he differed from them in that opinion. He had always found the right hon. Gentleman extremely frank and good humoured in the expression of his opinions. He had always listened to him with a great deal of pleasure, which was certainly enhanced by the reflection that he did not hurt them much by his argument, however much he might in practice. But what he especially admired in the right hon. Gentleman was the satisfaction which he always appeared to feel in his own case, be it what it might. He did not mean merely that the right hon. Gentleman, after maturely weighing the merits of a question, and forming a strong opinion upon it, came down to the House with a firm conviction that his opinion was correct, and that he was well able to sustain it. No one was better warranted in that impression than the right hon. Gentleman. But, throw the right hon. Gentleman into any breach, no matter however indefensible, give him any materials, however meagre, a few scraps of paper with anything written upon them, a few marks in a blue book, no matter where, a few speeches to distil and dilute as he goes on—and he invariably delivered himself of his subject with an air as though he would say, "There, I have now exhausted the subject, I scarcely conceive that any one will even attempt a reply." The right hon. Gentleman somewhat amazed him, he must confess, when he appealed to him as to the opinion he had formed as to the conduct and even the secret intentions of the late Government, during an interesting passage of arms that occurred a few months ago; and as he seemed to set such store on his opinions, he would tell him frankly that he thought the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire defied them, and that the right hon. Gentleman himself deceived them upon that occasion. He said what he thought frankly then, and he said what he 811 thought frankly now. Now, what was the proposition of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire? In substance, although not in detail or in machinery, it was almost identical with that now proposed by the hon. Member's Government. He said, "I intend to extend the income tax in some respects to Ireland. The land now pays a tax equal to its share of the income tax in the consolidated annuities. I do not intend to assent to the recommendation of the Lords with regard to the remission of that load. Some proposition I shall certainly present to the House, modifying and equalising the pressure of that debt—but it will certainly not amount to the recommendation of the Lords. In the moan time I propose that the income tax shall be extended to other property in Ireland which has not been affected by the distress which has existed in that country." If this proposition were compared with that which was now propounded by Her Majesty's Government, it would be found that, although the details were different, and the machinery different, that as regarded its pounds, shillings, and pence application to Ireland, the result of the two propositions would be precisely the same. Well, he voted against the proposition, he spoke warmly against it. He spoke warmly, and he would vote warmly against this proposition upon the same principle of public duty. Now, he had stated that this question must he argued on one of two grounds, and that they ought to be argued separately. The rule he laid down for others he would pursue himself; and, addressing himself to these points separately, he undertook to show, first, that the Budget before him would add 350,000l to the burdens that Ireland at the present moment barely sustained, and that, one way or another, it would be a loss to Ireland of little short of half a million of money annually. He had not relied upon his own knowledge and judgment for the figures which he should lay before the House. He had submitted them to the judgment of some of the most distinguished statistical and financial authorities; they had borne the criticism of some very critical opponents, and he had every reason to believe them to be substantially correct. But before he went into his facts or figures, he wished to allude to a view of the question which appeared to have puzzled the heads of some of his countrymen, and which the hon. Member for Carlow expounded with 812 a lucidity worthy of his theme on Monday last. Admit, said the hon. Member, that we are to pay a paltry 350,000l of additional taxation for seven years: that, multiplied by seven, gives less than two millions and a half; at the end of the seven years there will be an end of the income tax, and we shall have struck off 4,000,000l, of consolidated annuities, leaving us a clear gainer of a million and a half by the transaction. Now he (Mr. Moore) thought he should be able to show that this statement was founded upon an utter misapprehension of the case, totally setting aside the conceivable hypothesis that they should not have done with the income tax at the end of that interesting period to which all their hopes were to tend—not stopping to debate the proposition of the hon. Gentleman that they ought not to have done with it even then. The fact was that the extinction of the income tax at that time, or at any time, bad nothing whatever to do with the question at issue. The question was one of the readjustment of the balance of taxation between England and Ireland. And if he should be able to prove that the proposition which had been maintained ever since the Union by the greatest financiers this country had produced, would be altered to the debt of Ireland of three or four hundred thousand pounds of annual taxation, what did it signify as regarded that change in the proposition whether the income tax were then extinguished in both countries, or in both countries were retained? The hon. Gentleman talked about mathematics; and he supposed he knew enough of that science, at all events, to be aware that the same quantity taken from both sides of the equation left the equation still the same. If the income tax were extinguished at the end of seven years, it would doubtless be supplied by other taxes applying to both countries alike; but even if it were not so, the alteration in the proportion of taxation between the two countries would be still continued. Whatever might become of the income tax, the loss to Ireland that that readjustment might involve would be permanent; and he trusted, therefore, that no Irishman would be seduced by this most shallow device into the delusion that any increase of taxation that by his vote to-night he might inflict upon his country would not be a permanent additional burden on its resources. He now came to his balance sheet, by which he found that Ireland would gain, through remissions or 813 reductions of taxation—by the tea duty, 365,540l.; by apples, cheese, lemons, raisins, &c., 5,000l.; by 133 other articles reduced, 3,500l.; by 123 articles abolished, 2,650l.; amounting to 376,690l. To this must be added 28,894l. on stamps; and say, 4,000l. on colonial postage. This would make in all 409,584l. To this must be added the interest of the famine debt at 3½ percent, amounting to 154,703l. He said the interest of the famine debt, for, regarding this as a permanent alteration of the balance of taxation, he must put down the sums that represent remissions permanently made, and not the equivalent annuities which of themselves extinguish the debt. Adding this sum, therefore, he found that the remissions made to Ireland amounted to the sum total of 564,287l. The additions to the taxation of Ireland were—income tax, 451,182l.; spirits, 198,000l.; legacy duty, 267,508l.—making in all, 915,690l. He was aware that the sum set down for legacy duty somewhat, indeed considerably, exceeded the sum calculated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but it was calculated, as he believed, on a sound basis—as he believed he could prove to the Committee, but that he feared to weary it with an Unnecessary calculation—but even allowing for a trifling error in that part of the account, there would remain to the loss and debit, and, as he thought, the wrong of Ireland, 350,000l. of annual taxation under the provisions of the present Budget. To this must be added the loss to Ireland by the alteration of the butter duties, which, on the authority of his hon. Friend the Member for Cork, and other good authorities that he had consulted, he could not fix at less than 150,000l. He did not complain of this remission; on the contrary, he thought it was only carrying out the principles of a commercial policy which the country had deliberately adopted; but surely the circumstance of the loss sustained should be taken into consideration in taxation added, so that Ireland would lose altogether, as nearly as possible, half a million annually by the present proposition of Her Majesty's Ministers. He hoped any Irish Member who might support that proposition would apply his mind to these figures, and, if he could hot show that they were wrong, that he would admit them as matters proved. But then came the second question—whether Ireland was not too lightly taxed in proportion to her capacity to pay—whether it was not just and generous—he thought somebody said generous 814 —that an additional burden of half a million a year should be placed upon her resources in order to relieve the failing revenues of the English people? Now, he thought he could show not so much that Ireland was not too lightly taxed—for that after all must be a matter of opinion and conjecture—but that there were special and sufficient reasons why she should be exempted from the imposition of the income tax during the allotted years of its financial life. In giving this subject its patient consideration the House must bear in mind that this was a temporary tax on the one hand, and that Ireland was in a state of temporary depression, and at a period of change and transition on the other. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, by a process of ratiocination which he was utterly unable to follow, having arrived at the conclusion that it was expedient to keep the income tax in operation in England under the very circumstances and just for the period for which he thought the income tax most unfit, proposed also to extend it to Ireland under circumstances the very reverse of those which happily existed in England. Now, without entering into the facts and figures which his hon. Friends the Members for Cork and Dungarvan had so fully stated, showing the large burden of taxation, compared to her small and diminished capacity, which Ireland bore, there were two special burdens, both he hoped temporary, but both certainly present and pressing, under which Ireland laboured. First, there was the fact, which he did not now state in a spirit of controversy, and which he hoped would not provoke any, that Ireland at the present moment paid two separate contributions for the support of two separate Churches—one which she regarded as yours, and which you compel her to support; the other which she looked upon and supports as her own. That this state of affairs would undergo some serious modification before this weird period of seven years was out, he hoped and believed; and as all of them might attach a different meaning to that hope and belief, the expression did not necessarily call for any contradiction. But the fact was so. The fact weighed heavily on the resources of Ireland, and ought to be taken into consideration in a temporary tax brought forward by the present Government, who, if we were to believe their Irish friends, regarded this subject with anxious consideration. The second fact which he had to allege, was the temporary state of the poor-law. 815 He did not speak of that poor-law operation that must he permanent, and ought to be permanent in Ireland and in every country, but of that which was temporary, which had arisen out of extraordinary circumstances, for which there was no present remedy, and which must last for some years to come. They were now sustaining not only the ordinary pauperism arising from day to day, but that which had been bequeathed to them by the famine; which was in gradual process of absorption, but which it would yet take some years to absorb. If hon. Gentlemen would recollect that Ireland for the last four years had paid nearly one-seventh of her rateable income for poor-rate, while England for the same period had paid little more than one-twelfth, some estimate must be formed of the difficulties under which they were struggling. If this tax were to be regarded as a permanent burden on the empire, these considerations might not be deemed of so much weight; but to place a peculiar and temporary tax upon a country labouring under peculiar and temporary difficulties, he could not believe to be a proposition founded on political expediency or financial justice. But independent of, and far more than, any such considerations as these, be would entreat the House to reflect, in a spirit of justice, on the peculiar purpose for which the income tax was revived in 1842. In that year the Chancellor of the Exchequer told them that Sir Robert Peel called forth the grant that had shielded us in war, to assist our toils in peace, and that in his hands it produced not less memorable and enduring results by perfecting the reforms of our commercial system—in other words, it enabled us to repeal the corn laws. Now, "wise, just, and beneficial," as they had pronounced that change to be—and although ultimately he doubted not every class would share in its benefits—it would be admitted that some classes had not reaped so early or so greatly as others the blessings of its harvest, and Ireland at this moment was reaping the smallest share; and yet whose were the votes, generously and disinterestedly tendered to the people of England, to which they owed the advancement by many years of that measure? And yet the hon. Member for the West Riding, with an amount of ingratitude such as never before came from human lips, had ventured to assert that the Irish Liberal Members had always withheld their sympathy from the struggling liberties of the people of England. He would confidently 816 ask the hon. Gentleman to lay his finger on a single Motion for extending, enlarging, or perpetuating the rights of the English, that they (the Irish Members) had not supported, often with a zeal and unanimity that put English liberalism to shame? There were hearts so cold and selfish that they never knew the value of friends until they lost them. They might yet teach the hon. Gentleman such a lesson, and bring him to his knees, as they had brought prouder and better men. If the Liberal Members for Ireland had been actuated by a shortsighted selfishness in 1846, and joined the opposition to Sir Robert Peel on his great financial measure, how many years might not their opposition have delayed free trade? The English were now enjoying the heaped-up abundance which they owed to their generosity and sacrifice. The Irish were struggling out of a sea of troubles, which the law that they secured to England had not tended to decrease; and they now ask to crown their already brimming wine cup out of the lees of Ireland. This was a question of the readjustment of taxation, and they were called upon to alter the proportion which, at a moment of comparative difficulty in England, and comparative prosperity in Ireland, Sir Robert Peel thought a fair one, by remitting half a million of taxation to England in the hale health of her abundance, in order to place that taxation upon the bent back of Ireland in the very crisis of her convalescence. That question he would consent to leave to an English jury unperverted by party considerations. But Irishmen also had to decide upon the matter, and if, on this occasion, Ireland was to be roasted, Irishmen, as usual, would have to turn the spit. If any such turnspits there be, they appeared to be divided into two classes—the hopefuls and the thankfuls—and to each he would take the liberty of addressing a word. Among the hopefuls the hon. Member for Carlow appeared to be distinguished for industry and courage of a slow but enduring character. There was an old Scotch saying that spoke of a faithful clan that never deserted their chief, "neither for right nor for wrong;" and in that chivalry of servitude the hon. Member had certainly won his spurs. He thought, however, that his courage rather deepened into want of wisdom when he ventured to express suspicions of the motives of others, after the melancholy exposure which he had previously made of his own. He was surely rash if he imagined that they had yet forgotten 817 the exhibition that he made, and the castigation that he provoked, but a few nights ago, when he stood forward to declare that he had intended to support the Motion of his right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester on the taxes on knowledge, but that he had changed his mind, and had resolved to vote against him as soon as he found that the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire had the temerity to agree with him in opinion. The hon. Gentleman seemed to be one of those who "will not serve God if the devil bid him," and yet he was indiscreet enough to accuse others of partiality and prejudice. But the proof which he adduced was eminently characteristic. Hon. Members on that side of the House, who, in his opinion, were but indifferently informed on the subject of the South Sea Annuities, had yet ventured to give a vote in which he disagreed. Now, be could assure the hon. Gentleman that he had the highest respect and admiration for his own opinion of himself; every one who knew him must have. But the world had yet to learn of anything he had yet done, or said, or written—and he had spoken of his doings and his writings—which entitled him to speak of the capability of any given Member of that House with disrespect. And of whom was he speaking when he spoke thus? Did he allude to such men as his learned Friends the Members for Kilkenny or Dundalk?—of his hon. Friend the Member for Meath, of Dungarvan, or of New Ross, and many others that he saw around him—men who had carved their own name, and fame, and position out of the hard world before them by their own energy and intelligence, and owed nothing to timeserving or servility, whether hereditary or innate? As for the other hopefuls who sat—not looking very hopefully—behind him, if it were true that a dissolution would follow the defeat of Government, they were wise in their generation to keep them in. Their Parliamentary existence was that of the present Parliament, and he hoped, like "the busy bees," they would "improve each shining hour." So much for the hopefuls! As for the thankfuls, of which he supposed he ought to be one, they were those who belonged to certain distressed Unions in Ireland, and who had calculated that they would gain some 1½d. in the pound by the imposition of a tax of half a million on their country. Let them pause before they consummated such a deed as this. There was not a peasant who wrung a hard livelihood out of their broad acres 818 who would not cry shame on such an act of national dishonour. It had been said that, as half of the consolidated annuities were paid by those on whom the income tax would not fall at all, this was a change in the incidence of taxation unfavourable to the landlord, but favourable to the tenant-farmer. But what had the hon. Member for the West Riding said, in reply to the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, when the right hon. Gentleman had advanced this proposition with regard to the abolition of the county rates in England? Why, that rates were a mere matter of rent, which eventually came out of the pockets of the landlord, and in which the tenant was not ultimately concerned. "Will any one venture to assert," said the hon. Gentleman, "that lands free from rates will not let higher than lands that are subject to them; and if that be the case, is it not the landlord that is the gainer?" Now, without going the length of that assertion, if it were true at all in England, how much more true was it in Ireland, in which the tenant was so much more dependent upon the will and caprice of the landlord? And what was the fact, as regarded the remission of the consolidated annuities? Was it not a question which had been almost exclusively taken up by the landlords of Ireland? He had been himself present at very many popular meetings in the west of Ireland, in which the principal grievances of the country were discussed. He had endeavoured to impress upon the minds of the people, on such occasions, the great wrong they suffered under this cruel imposition; but he had never been able to excite amongst them any strong feeling upon the subject, which he was certainly bound to attribute to the fact that they believed it was a matter of rent, and that it fell ultimately on the landlords, and not on themselves. The hon. Member for Carlow had said, truly, that the people of Ireland would not barter the right and liberties of their country for any consideration; and it was equally true that they would not allow those national rights to be bartered away by others. He, and those who acted with him, would go before their countrymen, were there a general election to-morrow, with confidence and triumph, while the hon. Member for Carlow and others would be shaking in their shoes. To the verdict of his countrymen in this matter, and to none more confidently than to the poorest of his countrymen, he confidently appealed; of that ver- 819 dict he had not the slightest doubt, and he warned that hon. Member and his wiser associates, who sat more silently behind him, that this was the last Parliament in which the rights and liberties of the people of Ireland would be permitted to be sold.
§ MR. J. BALL
said, as the hon. Member who had last addressed the Committee had thought proper to attack him, and as he understood another hon. Gentleman intended to do so—[Cries of "Spoke, spoke!"]—he did not desire to waste the time of the Committee, but he trusted that he might be allowed to say one word in reply. He confessed that it did not appear to him altogether creditable or honourable to Ireland, that when Irishmen differed in opinion, they generally thought it necessary to indulge in personal insinuations, and to impute base motives to those who differed from them. If he could condescend to imitate the tone of the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the Committee, he perhaps might succeed in saying disagreeable and offensive things—he might succeed in inventing imputations. He would simply say this—he was of course unknown to the great majority of that House. But, although unknown, he believed the humblest Member was entitled to defend his personal honour. Although unknown to the House, he was content to allow time to settle the question so far as he was concerned. He would allow hon. Gentlemen to say as offensive and disagreeable things as possible. He would allow their speeches to go over to Ireland, and was satisfied they would not have the slightest effect so far as he was personally concerned.
§ MR. JOHN MACGREGOR
said, the immediate question before the Committee was the imposition of the income tax for a period ending in 1860. He agreed with his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in regarding the income tax as an engine to work great effects; and, in his opinion, it had already done so. It enabled us to maintain our national credit in 1842, and to overcome the calamities consequent on bad harvests in 1845–1846; and he would say more, that if ever a country ought to be grateful for the benefits derived from the income tax, that country was Ireland. With respect to the manner in which the income tax was levied, he would say unhesitatingly that it was not so fairly and equitably levied as it ought to he. He had endeavoured, by various calculations, to arrive at a more equitable mode of assessing this tax; but he regretted to say that the more nearly 820 he approached an equitable mode of assessment, the greater he found the difficulties that would attach to its collection, and the more inquisitorial would be its operations. He still believed, however, that they might render the tax approximately more just than it was at present. The whole income tax now proposed would not exceed 6,500,000l., and in imposing that tax the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to deal with the soap duties, the tea duties, with the spirit duties, and with a variety of other taxes on articles of consumption, yielding a revenue of 32,000,000l., and he did not think it would be a great hardship on those who had the ability to pay to contribute for seven years an income tax of 6,500,000l. He, however, trusted the income tax would not terminate in 1860, and that before and after that period the Government would be able to remit many taxes much more objectionable. He fully approved of the abolition of the soap duties. He considered a partial reduction of Excise duties most objectionable, because such reduction did not remove the restrictions on trade, and give the consumer the full benefit of the change. It was on that ground that he last year opposed the reduction of the malt tax, believing, as he did, that the consumer would not derive any benefit from the reduction. With regard to the objections that had been made to the extension of the income tax to Ireland, he regretted that the hon. Members from that country who had spoken upon this subject, had placed themselves in such a humiliating position as they had done in resisting the just proposal of the Government. He fully admitted that Ireland had been subjected to great oppression by misgovernment, and regretted that the Act of Union had not, at the some time, been accompanied by the removal of religious disabilities and the establishment of the principles of political and civil liberty in that country. At the time of the Union the debt of Ireland amounted to about 30,000,000l.; but between that period and 1816 it was increased to about 130,000,000l. The then Chancellor of the Exchequer found it very inconvenient to pay annually a large sum out of the taxes of Great Britain to meet the interest of the Irish debt, and, accordingly, in 1817, he consolidated the English and Irish Exchequers. Since that period this country had paid, on account of the interest of the Irish debt, no less a sum than 85,000,000l., which, added to the principal of the debt, 821 and deducting the expense of the army and Constabulary in Ireland, constituted a total sum of about 200,000,000l., paid to make Up the deficiency of the Irish revenue. Such was the state of the debtor and creditor account between the two countries. He regretted to state, that up to the time when Sir Robert Peel came into power in 1835, Ireland was most oppressively and unjustly governed; but, since that period, the Governments of Earl Grey, Lord Melbourne, Lord John Russell, and Sir Robert Peel, had done all they could to ameliorate her condition, and he believed the present Government was equally anxious to do the same. A few days only had elapsed since that House passed the Canada Clergy Reserves Bill, and he believed they could not long go on in Ireland without a readjustment of the Church revenues in that country, which he sincerely believed Would be greatly to the advantage of the Church of England in Ireland. He wished also that in every other respect the people of Ireland should be placed upon exactly the same footing as the people of this country, and he lamented exceedingly the course which had been followed by the Irish Members with regard to the extension of the income tax. He believed they could not put Ireland in a satisfactory and prosperous condition until the Irish Members did that which the Scotch Members had at all times endeavoured to do since the Union of Scotland with England—agree among themselves upon all great national questions. He did not expect that in Ireland, or elsewhere, they could be entirely separated from those divisions which were incident to party; but there were great questions affecting their own country upon which they ought to be unanimous; and, instead of resisting the introduction of the income tax in the spirit they had evinced, they ought to have considered whether they should not assume the high and proud position of saying that they would pay their fair share of taxation in return for the benefits they had received, were receiving, and would assuredly continue to receive. In Scotland, notwithstanding the original barbarism of the country, the barren and sterile nature of the soil, and the great obstacles in the way of trade and agriculture, the people had, by steady perseverance, industry, and energy, attained to a prosperous and independent condition, and were now paying without a murmur every tax that was paid in England. He found from the works of Sir John Sinclair, published 822 in 1805, that three-fourths of the whole revenue of Scotland had been paid into the Imperial Treasury since the Union, one-fourth having been sufficient to pay for the whole expenditure of the country, civil, judicial, and administrative, and also for the expense of collection. Since 1805, a still larger proportion of the revenue of Scotland had found its way into the Imperial Exchequer. Such had been the result of unanimity and industry on the part of the people of that country. He made these remarks in no invidious spirit, but in the hope that the people of Ireland would do what the people of Scotland had done, and would act in a more harmonious manner in discussing great questions affecting their own interests. He would now refer for a moment to the question before the Committee. He had no hesitation in saying, in the first place, that he considered some portions of this fiscal scheme defective; but, taking it altogether, he believed it to be the most important Budget, with the exception of the great Free-trade Budget of Sir Robert Peel, that had ever been presented to that House. The sweeping reform that was proposed in the Customs, accompanied by the improvements that were to be introduced into the administration and management of that department of the public service, would be of the utmost advantage to our commerce. The reduction of the duties on butter and cheese would also he of great benefit, though he did not believe the fall in the price of these articles would be to such ah extent as was anticipated. With respect to the reduction of the tea duty, he was glad his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had adopted the course which he (Mr. Macgregor) suggested at the commencement of the Session, and resolved to reduce the duty on tea gradually until it fell to 1s. per lb. in three years. That was a wise and proper measure, for he believed that the increased importation of tea from China would not be sufficient to justify a greater reduction. He was convinced that at the end of three years the proposed reduction would he of immense advantage to the commerce of the country, that it would greatly increase the consumption of tea, and that the wives and children of poor labourers, instead of having only hot water, merely stained with a few tea leaves, to drink, would have good, strong, wholesome tea. He now came to the Excise. The remission of the duty on soap would remove the presence of the exciseman altogether, enable the ma- 823 nufacturer in this country to supply the whole world, increase the trade with Africa for palm oil, and tend to diminish the traffic in slaves; be of great service to our cloth manufacturers, and, above all, promote the health, comfort, and cleanliness of the people. With regard to stamps, he regretted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not boldly abolish the stamps upon marine assurances; while, with respect to the advertisement duty, he could not cordially approve the course adopted in that matter, inasmuch as by retaining one-third of the tax they would still keep up the whole expense of collection, without getting rid of the dissatisfaction which prevailed on the subject. In remitting the stamp upon supplements, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had done right; but he did not think that untaxed supplements should go through the Post-office without paying postage, inasmuch as there were papers that were entirely devoted to advertisements, but which would still be subjected to the stamp duty, although containing no news whatever. He trusted this part of the scheme would be modified; if not, he was afraid it would create much dissatisfaction. He thought that the extension of the legacy duty to real property was a very great measure, though he was of opinion that such a tax, whether levied upon real or personal property, was not founded in wisdom. It was a tax of the nature of which the people of England had always complained, and which was similar to the feudal exactions that created the resistance which produced Magna Charta. Perhaps, however, the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was the only practicable one at the present moment; but he trusted that at the end of a few years it would be transformed into a more regular tax upon the rents and profits of property of every discription. He believed that the financial results of the Budget would be much greater, more valuable and productive, than the right hon. Gentleman seemed to anticipate, though at the same time, looking forward to the possibility of bad harvests during the next six or seven years, he thought his right hon. Friend had done wisely in not estimating the produce of the revenue at a greater amount than he had done. He believed that the Budget would give great satisfaction to the country, and that the commercial and other advantages accruing from it would be such that no one would complain of the income tax as proposed, although he 824 admitted it was not the most just or equitable tax that could be imposed. Looking at all the advantages that we had derived from the imposition of the first income tax, and the alterations in our commercial legislation—remembering the happy and prosperous way in which we had gone through all the difficulties of the last eleven years—bearing in mind that, while other countries had been exposed to sad disasters, we had maintained peace at home and abroad, and extended our commerce beyond all previous anticipations—he trusted that there would be very little further oppooition to the adoption of the income tax as proposed, in order that the Chancellor of the Exchequer might be enabled to carry out the other parts of his most valuable and important financial scheme.
said, he considered it due to his constituents, and to the great party with whom he generally acted, to state the reasons why, on the present occasion, he could not support the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire (Sir Bulwer Lytton), and why he should vote for the measure proposed by the Government, When he looked back upon the last ten years, and observed the enormous benefits which had been conferred upon this country by the imposition of the income tax; and when he looked forward to the next seven or ten years, and estimated the great advantages which might be derived from the continuance of that tax, he confessed he could not bring himself to vote for an Amendment which declared the continuance of the tax to be unjust and impolitic. Though it was true that the late Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to modify, to a certain extent, one of the inequalities of the tax, by making a distinction between precarious and permanent incomes, it was equally true that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer had conclusively shown that a sufficient distinction existed already, land and houses being virtually charged at the rate of 9d. in the pound, and professional incomes at the rate of 7d. Surely the possessors of precarious incomes could not desire a broader distinction than that. Again, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer did not propose to make any difference in the amount of tax levied upon incomes of from 100l. to 150l. a year. The proposal before the Committee was more just in that respect, for the rate chargeable upon incomes below 150l. was less than that levied 825 upon incomes above 150l. It had been said that the tax as now proposed was unjust towards trades and professions; but he begged to remind the Committee that the income tax of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer was accompanied by a double house tax, which would have fallen with great and oppressive severity upon the very classes whose interests some hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House appeared so anxious to defend against the Government. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to renew the income tax for three years, without doing anything to prevent its continuance after that period ad infinitum; but the present Chancellor of the Exchequer pledged himself to those who complained of the inequalities of the tax, that at the end of two years it would be reduced 1d.; at the end of two years more another 1d.; and at the end of three years after that it would cease altogether. For his own part, however, he had so little horror of the tax, with all its inequalities, that he hoped to see it continued after 1860, in order that further relief might be given to the country by the remission of taxation. Next to cheap food was cheap drink, and by the retention of the income tax the Government would be enabled to abolish the taxes on beer. Among the taxes which he wished to see reduced, or abolished, was the malt tax, which pressed so heavily upon the agricultural classes. He regretted that no allusion had been made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his great and beautiful address, to the still existing distress of the landed interests, including in that term farmers and labourers, as well as landlords. It would have been gratifying to their feelings if some notice had been taken of that distress, and if some prospect had been held out, if not of immediate, at least of ultimate, relief. The landed interest were subjected to peculiar burdens—the cost of gaols, lunatic asylums, police, and other charges; and he thought it was hardly fair that a legacy duty should be imposed upon them without being accompanied with some measure of relief. With respect to other parts of the Budget, he was of opinion that the advertisement duty should have been abolished altogether; but there was so much that was good and fair, and just and reasonable, in the proposals of the Government, that he felt disposed to accept them as a whole. Much had been said on his side of the House in reference to a dissolution of Parliament. As far as 826 he was concerned, he did not fear or deprecate a dissolution. He had very little doubt that his constituents would again return him as their representative; but he would take the liberty of entreating the great party with whom he ordinarily acted, and with whom he trusted he should, on almost all occasions, continue to act, to consider well before they rushed into any temporary sort of compact, if he might so call it, with the Irish Members. Supposing the Government were to resign, and Her Majesty were to recall the late Ministry to her councils, did hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House really imagine that the Members of the present Administration would remain long out of power? On the other hand, supposing the Government were to appeal to the country, could hon. Members on his side of the House hope that the result of a general election, in the present temper of the people, would give them a larger Conservative party than was returned last year, when a Conservative Government was in power? It appeared to him to be madness to adopt this course. [A cry of "Oh!"] The hon. Member might cry "Oh," but what he stated was the fact. He might be a bad party man, but he trusted, at least, that he should have credit from hon. Members on both sides of the House that he was about to give an honest and a conscientious vote.
§ MR. H. HERBERT
said, he had been much provoked by the attack made by the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. G. H. Moore) on his Friend the Member for Carlow (Mr. J. Ball), and might have been tempted to reply to it at an earlier period, and to give the House the amusing but unprofitable spectacle of an Irish row, but that he was satisfied all such imputations would fall to the ground harmless. The hon. Member for Mayo had divided the Irish Members into two sections—the hopeful and the grateful; but he (Mr. Herbert) would add to them a third—the disappointed. As the hon. Member for Mayo had challenged them, he (Mr. Herbert) did not hesitate to say that he considered the propositions of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer as just, equitable, and statesmanlike, with respect to the tenant-farmers of Ireland. As the representative of an agricultural district, they appeared to him to convey a great boon to his constituents; and he was placed in an extraordinary position when he was called upon to vote against them and against the Government, 827 at the head of which was a statesman who possessed stronger claims than any living man on all those who valued the religious liberty for which they had so long struggled in Ireland. Previous to and at the late general election, hopes were held out to the farmers of Ireland, and even in some cases pledges were given, that some great boon was to be conferred on them by the Derby Government. It was not for him to say how far those hopes were justifiable; but when he listened to the Budget of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer he found not a single beneficial measure for his constituents, while looming in the future there was a certainty of increase of taxation. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) had proposed to repeal one-half the duty on malt and hops, but that would not benefit the Irish people, who grew but little barley and no hops, and drank chiefly whisky. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) had also argued against the odiousness of exemptions, and he (Mr. Herbert) certainly expected to hear him conclude with the proposal to extend the income tax to Ireland; but if the right hon. Gentleman bad remained in office, he would have imposed it only on salaries and on fund holders. He (Mr. Herbert) did not believe that any one class in Ireland would have consented to an exemption so odious. The extension of the income tax to Ireland, coupled with the abolition of the consolidated annuities, he regarded as a great boon to the agricultural districts, since the assessments to the former would, in almost all cases, be far below the assessments to the latter. Indeed, the tenant-farmers would only be assessed one-half the valuation. If the benefit, however, was to be obtained at the expense of an injustice to any other class, he, for one, would at once repudiate the proposition. The question had been asked, but had never been answered, why it would be unjust to extend to Belfast an income tax similar to that paid in Liverpool. Of course it would not be agreeable; but one might say—Whoe'er expects a faultless tax to see,Expects what never was, and ne'er shall be.But where was the injustice that men possessing incomes in the prosperous parts of Ireland should pay an income tax that had been so long paid in England? They had been exempted hitherto because there were other parts of Ireland in such a state that no Government could propose an income tax for Ireland; and they must rather look 828 upon themselves as having been lucky hitherto, than as having injustice inflicted upon them now. The hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Moore) stated that the ratepayers, the tenant-farmers of Ireland, did not care about this question. But, short as the time had been, and prone as they were to listen to the speeches of agitators rather than to sound advice, and notoriously blind as they were to their own interests, they were not so blind as the hon. Member supposed that class to be. In the union of the county town of the county which he represented (Kerry), the proposition that a resolution against the Budget be adopted had already been made; but the proposition was rejected by so very large a majority that he might almost say it was rejected unanimously. In the last number of the Cork Examiner there appeared a letter signed "A County Elector," in which the writer said—Your London correspondent, in his observations on the Chancellor's financial statement, omits a very important circumstance, which is, that the remission of the consolidated annuities will relieve a multitude of humble ratepayers, who will not he liable to the income tax. If we are to be taxed cither one way or the other, let us by all means have the income tax. It will necessarily fall on the persons best able to pay it, and, indeed, on a class that should, under any circumstances, be taxed rather than the working farmer. In an effort to improve the condition of the latter, we see adopted the desperate course of refusing support to a Liberal Ministry. The Irish representatives, therefore, who oppose a Budget by which the farmers would be relieved from the consolidated annuities, would, in the event of a speedy dissolution of Parliament, be re-elected by no agricultural constituency.The hon. Member for Mayo had said that if a general election were to take place, the Irish Members who supported the Budget would tremble in their shoes. But he (Mr. Herbert) would say, that if he were to oppose this proposition, he should not venture to show his face on any agricultural hustings in Ireland. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Fagan), instead of arguing the merits of the proposition, insisted that the consolidated annuities should not be paid at all; and so had some other Members. But that question was decided by the House a few nights ago, and the speeches should have been made at that time; but two of these Members were absent from the division then. But the hon. Member for Cork was consistent: when the question of the rate in aid, and of the income tax to be substituted for it were before the House, he was for letting the burden be borne by 829 the distressed owners of land, rather than allowing any portion of it to fall upon the wealthy citizen of Cork. So now the producer of butter was to pay rather than he who bought it. The hon. Member referred to the numbers driven by distress to emigration. But was it not the general complaint that it was the small farmers, agricultural labourers, and some few artisans, perhaps, that were flying—men upon whom the income tax would not fall? These persons would not be affected by the Budget, except beneficially. If their glass of whisky should be a fraction dearer, their tea would be cheaper. A tax upon spirits was, of all taxes, the least objectionable; and he (Mr. Herbert) should not object to its being at the very highest rate that could be put upon it with profit to the revenue. As to the legacy duty upon land, he would only say that all that he possessed was in land, and he had no wish to keep an exemption to which he did not think he was entitled. As for its breaking down the landed aristocracy, he did not believe it; and God forbid it should be so! There was no more wholesome influence in this country than theirs, when judiciously exercised. But let them not attempt to retain it by an odious exemption, not founded in justice. Having spoken of the consolidated annuities, he would only add, that, residing in a part of the country the least taxed of any of it, he believed he should be by a trifle a loser; but if the sacrifice were ten times the amount, it should be cheerfully made to obtain so great a benefit for the class on whom the misfortunes of the last few years had fallen with the heaviest weight.
MR. C. R. MORGAN
said, that it had been charged against the party with which he acted, that it had leagued with Irish Members in factious opposition to the Government; but, so far as he was concerned, he repudiated any intention factiously to oppose the propositions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer) but when he saw such interests involved, although not representing an agricultural constituency, he could not give a vote detrimental to agricultural interests. With respect to the income tax, he could not understand, when every Member who spoke upon it represented it as unequal and unjust, how the preposterous idea could be entertained of not only extending it to persons who were before exempt from it, but also to a country which had been always described as unfitted for its burden, and that that exten- 830 sion should be made without a removal of the inequalities of the impost. His own opinion was, that it was impossible to equalise it; but still he maintained that it was absurd to extend it in such a manner that its removal would be a matter of much greater difficulty. He came now to consider the duty upon tea, and had to express it as his opinion that the increase of revenue to be expected from an increased consumption of the article consequent upon a reduction of duty upon it, would end in disappointment, since half of what was sold as tea in this country never saw China; and, therefore, the poor would derive but little benefit from the remission of the duty. He could not see why, when each year they were removing taxes, with respect to which there existed no complaint—when, as now, they were lowering the duty upon horses, carriages, cigars, cards, and dice—there should be any hesitation to remove the income tax, against which complaint was general. There was no pretence that such an amount of taxes would be remitted as Sir Robert Peel took off when he had the income tax from 1842 to 1845. We were not in danger of immediate war; our merchants had been to Paris, and received a promise of peace. The people would more readily pay this tax in time of war, if it was not exacted in time of peace. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer, after admitting that the land paid 9d. to the tradesman's 7d., came down with a legacy duty upon land. The propositions of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer would, if carried, in the course of the three next years, inflict upon the landed interest the payment of 2,000,000l But, should the Budget be carried (and with all due deference to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he hoped it would not be), it would be desirable that he should turn his attention to the devising of some means to facilitate the transfer of land. With regard to the advertisement duty, he thought the right hon. Gentleman certainly ought to have attended to the vote of that House; and he hoped that some such modification would be made on the plan in newspaper supplements as would enable news to be published at the same time as advertisements. He also hoped the advertising vans would be taxed as well as newspaper advertisements. He was unable to agree with the opinion which the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) had advanced, that the imposition of the legacy duty was a benefit to the small growers.
831 Not being an Irish Member, he felt some degree of diffidence in offering any opinion on the subject of the extension of the income tax to Ireland. He considered, however, that at the present time it was inexpedient to extend it to that country.
§ MR. C. FORSTER
said, that though his conviction of the injustice of taxing equally incomes derived from realised property, and incomes proceeding from precarious sources, remained unchanged, yet the question assumed a different aspect, inasmuch as provisions were now proposed, first for the modification, and next for the final cessation of the tax in 1860. The charge of inconsistency brought forward by the hon. Member for Roscommon (Mr. French) against those hon. Gentlemen who voted against the continuance of the income tax in 1848, and for it now, was, therefore, a groundless one. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the speech in which he enunciated his financial scheme—a speech which would not soon fade from the memory of Members of that House—had spoken of the income tax as a subject upon which the feeling of the public ought to be met. He entirely agreed with that opinion. The remissions of taxation to the insurance offices would afford an additional incentive to men depending upon industry to make some provision for their families. There were also in other matters changes submitted to Parliament which mitigated the severity with which at present the income tax bore on intelligence and skill as compared with property. Consequently, he maintained that the principle for which he contended, in reference to the income tax, had been particularly recognised in the Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The main part of the Budget which reconciled him to the reimposition of the income tax in its present form was that great act of justice—the extension of the legacy duty to real property, and the large remission of taxation consequent thereon. It might be urged that in respect to the reduction of the tea duty, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was only following in the path of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli); but with that right hon. Gentleman's proposition for the reduction of the tea duty there was mixed up the delusion of a partial remission of the malt duty, against which there was to be set an extension of the house tax. But the benefit offered by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer had no such drawback, for he created no new tax, but only 832 abolished an unjust exemption which ought never to have existed. Of course, in the present Budget there might he points upon which all could not equally agree; but he (Mr. Forster) accepted the Budget as a whole, joining, at the same time, with the hon. Member for the West Riding, in regretting that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not entirely given way on the subject of the advertisement duty. He must add, that he had also received communications from his constituents stating that there was great injustice in the proposal, as it stood, in reference to licences; and he had therefore heard with satisfaction that it was the intention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reconsider that part of his plan. He rejoiced that it had been reserved for the Chancellor of the Exchequer not merely to defend those principles of free trade, in the adoption of which it was his highest glory to have assisted, but to propose measures which would have the effect of developing the resources of the country, and thus provide the surest defence for its institutions—the attachment of a grateful and prosperous people.
§ LORD ADOLPHUS VANE
said, he had always understood that in the event of the financial propositions of a Government not receiving the approbation of the House, they would be withdrawn, or the Ministry would resign; but the circumstances of the present discussion were rather novel, inasmuch as they were told that if the majority recorded their opposition to the scheme under consideration, the Government would then appeal to the country. He must, therefore, complain of this attempt to coerce hon. Members against their conscientious convictions by threats of a dissolution of Parliament. That was not what the late Chancellor of the Exehquer did. On the contrary, he took his stand on his measures, which he stated he believed to be just, and declared he would carry them, or go out of office. Such noble conduct had raised him higher in the eyes of the country, than the threat of a dissolution would ever raise Her Majesty's present advisers. Some Members might be deterred from giving their votes as they thought right by such an extraordinary and novel threat; but he trusted it would have no effect on the great majority of those he was now addressing. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in introducing his Budget, mentioned that questions had arisen in that House which went to the very elementary principles of tax- 833 ation; and he (Lord A. Vane) was ready to admit that, considering the enormous change which had taken place from indirect to direct taxation, the whole system of taxation ought to be reconsidered. The remarks of the hon. Member for the West Riding invariably tended to hold up the landed interest and the more wealthy classes to the odium and hatred of the labouring classes, for they represented the former as fattening upon an unfair exemption from taxation, while an enormous amount of taxes was being paid by the latter. Such statements were most gross exaggerations. For himself, he could say that he wished the lower classes to enjoy every comfort as cheaply as possible. He would never vote for a tax on any one necessary of life, or for the enhancement of the price of any article essential for the comfort of the poor man. But the question whether the existing direct taxation was fairly assessed, ought to be taken into consideration, and he should be glad to see a Committee of Inquiry into the whole system of the taxation of the country. That would prove to the country on whom the burden was laid, and would give far better data to proceed on than the confident and exaggerated assertions of the Manchester school. He would now quote from Mr. Greg's work on taxation—a standard authority with those hon. Gentlemen, to show that the contrary was the case. In the year 1849, the ordinary revenue levied was 55,204,972l.; the poor-rate, 7,255,000l.; the county and highway rate and constabulary, 3,977,000l.; giving a total of 66,436,972l. Of that amount, property paid to the poor-rates, 11,232,000l.; to the income tax and assessed taxes, 10,087,743l.; to the stamp duties, 6,600,090l.; to the Customs duties, for luxuries, such as wines, brandies, & c, 3,451,516l.; add three-fourths Customs duties on tea, coffee, oranges; two-thirds on sugar; five-sixths Post-office revenue, making a total of 38,759,558l.; add to this one-fourth of the Customs, Stamps, and Excise, say 27,538,748l., would in all, according to Mr. Greg, make a total of 45,644,245l. paid by the propertied classes, leaving 20,792,727l. to be paid by the working classes. This left a balance, as paid by the working classes, who constitute three-fourths of the community, of something less than 1l. per man; while the richer classes pay at the rate of 6l. 10s. 6d. each. The hon. Member for the West Hiding had stated that the poor received 834 no benefit from the repeal of the Customs duties since 1831, and he compared 1831 with 1842 on that occasion. He had forgotten, however, to mention the increase of the population, and the consequent increase in consumption. Now, what was the fact? Why, between the years 1842 and 1850, there had been repealed of taxes—
|Making a total of||…||£10,246,294|
§ and also let the hon. Member for the West Riding bear in mind the increase of taxation had been from 1830 to 1850 (including property tax, 5 per cent on Customs, Excise, and railways), 8,389,225l.; but the reduction in taxation, including the window tax abolition, and diminution of the house tax, had been 21,352,393l., making a difference in taxation as borne by the people of 12,962,168l. In this calculation the relief by the alterations in our tariff, and by the repeal of the corn laws, was not included. Now, when it was considered the increase of taxation was placed on the property of the country, the diminution was so assessed for the benefit of the poor, these assertions of the Manchester School were rather ex parte. If direct taxation was to be adopted as a principal means of raising revenue, he maintained that every one should contribute according to his ability; and the house tax, against which so great an agitation was raised when it was proposed by the late Government, seemed to be a fair way of effecting that object. He (Lord A. Vane) had voted for the extension of the house tax last year because he believed it would be a measure of justice. This would be seen when the proportions of houses taxed and untaxed came to be considered. In 1852, there were 444,571 houses rated above 20l. in England, and 19,292 in Scotland, while there were no fewer than 383,499 rated between 10l. and 20l., and therefore not liable to taxation. The late Government fell through this tax; but the principle they wished to extend was, nevertheless, based upon justice, though the agitation in the metropolis against it was sufficient to produce that effect. There had been so much made of the comparative statements of the two Budgets, and such threats held out to make hon. Members shiver and shake, that, undeterred by what had taken place, he would proceed to make a few observa- 835 tions on the Budget of the late and the Budget of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. The late right hon. Chancellor did not propose to increase the amount of taxation to Ireland more than 63,000l., while—and he asked Irish Members to notice the fact—the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) proposed to increase taxation 600,000l. a year. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget did not propose to make an increase to taxation of more than 1,060,000l., while his remissions were:—
|Tea (the total remission extended over six years)—each year||500,000|
§ The proposal of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, was to increase taxation 3,130,000l., and to make remissions to the extent of 5,355,000l. But he would particularly beg to call attention to what the right hon. Gentleman proposed to do with respect to Ireland:—
|Ireland was to have the income tax, which would yield about||£450,000|
|Tax on spirits would yield||248,000|
|From which deduct consolidated annuities, yearly charge||245,000|
|And there would be left a balance against Ireland of||£453,000|
|To which add the legacy duty||300,000|
|And the total additional burden to Ireland would be||£753,000|
He would also remark that, as usual—through free-trade regulations—Ireland derived a smaller amount of benefit from remission of taxation as compared with England. Hon. Members should recollect that, while the local taxation of Great Britain was only 2s. 5d. per head, that of Ireland was 5s. 7½d.; and he understood there were poor-rates, in some cases, for instance, in the county of Clare, to the amount of 15s. or 16s. in the pound; and yet, notwithstanding that, they were going to vote for the increase of taxation which he had mentioned. They seemed to forget that a large amount was now received from Ireland as income tax. The great argument of the late Sir Robert Peel was, that absentees from Ireland should pay the tax, while those who lived in Ireland should be free from it, consequently it was to be a boon
to landlords to remain in Ireland, for those landlords who lived on their estates in Ireland would not be subject to the tax. With what justice, then, did they now impose the income tax upon it? Was the country so flourishing, so prosperous, so flowing with milk and honey, that they wished immediately to drain it again? It was said, that hon. Members on his side of the House were factiously coalescing with Irish Members against this tax; but he hoped if he went to his constituents he should be able to show them that Ireland paid her full quota of taxation to Great Britain; and he believed they would not blame him for refusing to vote against a tax which, as regarded Ireland, he believed to be unfair. As to the legacy duty, he had always considered that if there were a duty on personal property, it was extremely difficult to prove that it should not also be charged on real estate; but he thought that all legacy duty was opposed to a prudent or wise policy, and his opinions were strengthened by the opinions of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, who declared that it was unsound in principle to levy taxation on the property of the country; it ought to be levied on its income. There was another view of the legacy duty, as now proposed. Sir Robert Peel brought in the income tax in consequence of a great deficit. On that occasion the noble Lord the Member for London said—
There is a proposition based on sounder grounds—a tax which seems firmer and better, and more just, than an income tax—I mean a tax on succession to property. If on the ground of necessity you must have an additional tax, I cannot see the reason why such a tax should not be adopted in preference to an income tax".
But now the noble Lord was going to vote not only for the income tax, but for a legacy duty besides. As to the termination of the income tax seven years hence, he thought no financial Minister of the country would ever be able to dispense with it. The hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) and the hon. Gentleman for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), who had been opposed to it in its present unequal form, were now going to vote for it, because it was to continue only seven years; and the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. M. Milnes), who was a poet and of an imaginative turn of mind, said the only way he could justify his pledge to his constituents was to tell them, at the end of seven years the tax would be over; but the hon. Member for Montrose could not have even this
justification, as he was of opinion an income tax should be a perpetual source of our revenue; but he (Lord A. Vane) had on the hustings declared that he would never give his vote to continue a tax based upon so unfair, inequitable, and unjust a basis as it was at present; and he would adhere to that declaration. They had seen some most fulsome panegyrics in a paper of great power on the proposition before the House; but in December, 1852, the same paper bestowed high praise on the Budget of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he believed that praise to be true, because it was not supposed to be bought, as the present praise was. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Not that he believed it; but it was right that that imputation ought to be removed, for there was a great feeling in the country that the several articles of fulsome panegyric that had been bestowed on the Budget, had been prompted by the liberal way in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had treated that great journal. But what did the Times say in December, 1852, on the proposition of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer? It said—
Had it been possible for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to surprise the House of Commons, he would certainly have done so last night by a financial statement which Peel himself would only have ventured on under the most encouraging circumstances, and in one of his most exuberant moods. … … We might say that, so far as concerns the annual ceremony of the Budget, Mr. Disraeli has entirely filled up the lamentable gap left by the most illustrious of his recent predecessors.
And in another part it said—
Without committing ourselves at once to every item in the long and mighty catalogue of financial reforms now before us, we must say that the Chancellor of the Exchequer not only takes advantage of his position with the dexterity of a master, but has really succeeded in showing that a new position, new resources, and new capabilities are before us.
That was warm praise, and he believed it was deserved. In another part it said—
In the statement made last night by the Chancellor of the Exchequer there is one point at least which will give general satisfaction, for if the proposition pass into law it will be the fulfilment, the tardy fulfilment, of a great act of public justice. Mr. Disraeli has at length recognised the principle that a distinction exists for fiscal purposes between income derived from transitory sources and income which issues from realised property. The difference throughout has been as clear to the eye of common sense as the difference between capital and interest, or between property and income.
And yet, after having written and stated
all that—after having sanctioned that principle as clear to the eye of common sense, and praised the late Chancellor of the Exchequer for laying it down—the Times had turned round and indulged in fulsome panegyrics on the Ministers who proposed to keep up that inequality and injustice, and to extend it to those whose incomes were between 100l. and 150l., and to a country hitherto exempt from it. He ought to apologise for detaining the House with these references; but when a journal like the Times did not hesitate to write down a man's character, which had been perfectly cleared by the assertions of men of high position on both sides of the House—when that paper, which went far and wide to our distant colonies, wrote down a Gentleman whose honour stood in the estimation of that House as high as any one among them, it had no right, he said, to show such gross inconsistencies as it had done in the consideration of these two Budgets. Now, there had been three remarkable Budgets in the years 1842,1848, and 1853. The first he would call the year of assertion; the second the year of prophecy; and the last the year of hope. In 1842, when Sir Robert Peel proposed the income tax, he said—
I will now state what is the measure I propose, under a sense of public duty and a deep conviction that it is necessary for the public interest, and impressed at the same time with an equal conviction that the present sacrifices which I call upon you to make will be amply compensated ultimately in a pecuniary point of view, and much more than compensated by the effect they will have in maintaining the public credit and the ancient character of this country. Instead of revising the taxes on salt or on sugar, it is my duty to make an earnest appeal to the possessors of property for the purpose of repairing a mighty evil.
The proposition for an income tax was introduced with the confident assertion it was to last only three years. This was the solemn appeal made at a time of deficit in the public revenue to the landed proprietors. Let them mark the change in the spirit of the day. The great organ of opinion now among the Members of the Government, thus expresses its opinions:—
The landed proprietors are the rich subsoil, the thick seam of coal, the auriferous quartz, the artesian reservoirs of British finance. When a war of independence is to be raised, or a legion of small taxes be driven into the sea, then the colossal engine is to be applied.
And in another paper it was said—
A colossal engine of taxation requires a colossal class and a very noble patriotic class. When
as Mr. Gladstone pointed out the other day, so large a proportion of income tax is paid by property, it is evident how much we gain in the depth and soundness of our resources by the possession of wealthy classes.
After that appeal to the country gentlemen, and after what the landed proprietors were admitted to have done, was it fair or just to saddle them with 2,000,000l. now? The noble Lord the Member for London, at that time—
objected to the income tax, because a deficiency of 2,500,000l. might be easily supplied by additional taxation in another shape.
The imposition of such a tax would produce a conviction they had no other resources; that they were obliged to resort to a tax as if the nation were struggling for existence, and therefore the country would be unprepared for a war.
And yet the noble Lord had no compunction in advocating both income tax and legacy duty on real property, not at a time of deficiency, as at the time when he opposed the income tax, but on an occasion when there was no necessity for such impositions. Now, he would quote an opinion from the year of prophecy. In 1848 the hon. Member for Middlesex said—
He was well convinced, if the Irish Members supported this tax, their English brethren would, in a retaliatory spirit, vote in favour of its extension to Ireland.
The hon. Gentleman's veracity as a prophet, however, was somewhat impaired by his being a party to bringing his own prophecy to a fulfilment. We have now come to the year of hope. If we sanction these financial propositions of voting the continuance of the income tax in its present unequal form for seven years longer, we may live on the hope it may, at the end of that period, be repealed. He (Lord A. Vane) could not be satisfied with this expectation. Granting there might be much that was beneficial in this financial scheme, when he (Lord A. Vane) considered it was based on an unmodified income tax and an extension of a legacy duty he believed unsound and impolitic, he thought the benefits would be bought at too dear a price, and must unwillingly record his vote against the scheme as a whole. He must, however, apologise to the Committee for having detained them so long. It might be the last time he might address that House, as he was in that situation in which many other hon. Members were, of having a petition against his return, and it might be that, like many others who were perfectly innocent of charges on which they were unseated, he
might lose his seat; but he should never regret that the last time he addressed the House was upon a principle which he conscientiously believed to be right, and that were it his last vote, it would be against a tax which, unmodified and in its present form, pressed unfairly on poor and struggling classes, and in its extended form was open to the same or graver objections.
§ MR. POLLARD-URQUHART
hoped the Committee would bear with him while he stated the reasons which induced him to support the measure of the Government. He would leave the general merits of the question to be argued by abler speakers, and he would simply confine his remarks to the bearing of the scheme upon that portion of the United Kingdom with which he was more immediately connected. The great feature of the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was to remit the consolidated annuities to Ireland, and to extend the income tax to that country. These two propositions could not be considered apart. The highly-taxed people of England would not consider them apart. Their representatives would not do so. Now, taking these two portions of the Budget together, and balancing one against the other, it was his firm belief that Ireland would be a great gainer by this arrangement. The sum remitted amounted to about 4,000,000l. sterling, and the tax imposed would amount to 460,000l. the first two years, to 395,000l. the following two years, and to 339,000l. the three remaining years. In spite of the ridicule that had been cast upon the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. J. Ball), he knew no way of balancing the remissions against the impositions, except by capitalising these sums, which gave 2,500,000l. sterling to be imposed upon Ireland in the shape of an income tax, and that deducted from the 4,000,000l. of the consolidated annuities, left a clear gain to Ireland of 1,500,000l. sterling by the proposed arrangement. These figures were stubborn things; they could not begot over. But then it was said that this remission would find its way into the pockets of the landlords. Now, he knew that taxation ultimately resolved itself into the question of rent; but it was absurd to say that the moment a new tax was imposed the rent of the farmer fell, or that the moment it was remitted his rent was raised; and he, for one, did not believe that rents would be raised because this boon was given to Irish farmers. Even the landlords, however, would 841 not be losers by the arrangement. It ought to be borne in mind that the annuities in general bore the heaviest on those parts of the country where properties were most deteriorated from other causes. When the poor-rate was first imposed upon Ireland, many landlords complained that they had received their property he-fore the imposition of the tax, and that if they paid it they would be unable to meet their other engagements. This argument, however, would not apply to a tax under which mortgages and family charges were allowed to be deducted. In 1849, when the rate in aid was first made, the grand juries of Ireland expressed their dissent, and intimated their willingness to contribute to any other description of Imperial taxation which might be imposed upon them. The shopkeepers, also, though this tax might bear somewhat heavily upon them, would at all events gain by the greater cheapness of articles of consumption, and the general prosperity of their customers. He believed that Ireland would be in a better moral position by submitting to the income tax, because if any future calamity should descend upon her, the complaint could not again be made against her that she was not entitled to Imperial assistance on account of having paid nothing to the income tax. During the period of Irish distress, whenever anybody pointed out the impossibility of levying 40s. in the pound in some impoverished district, it was always replied, "Oh, Ireland contributes nothing to the income tax." In fact, they had always been straining at gnats, while they were obliged to swallow camels. He believed that the late Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that part of his scheme was to sustain the free-trade principle by extending direct taxation. In the wisdom of that policy he fully agreed; but surely the right hon. Gentleman could not carry it out without extending it to Ireland. It was generally supposed that his (Mr. Urquhart's) countrymen deserved credit for their shrewdness—they were reckoned good hands at driving a bargain. He hoped they would not lose their reputation for shrewdness on this occasion—he hoped they would never have to rue the day when they despised the advice of the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), and that they had not clinched the bargain with both hands. Depend upon it, if they did not now accept the terms proffered, they would be playing over again the part of the old Roman King, who was obliged to buy one of the Sibylline for 842 the price at which the eight were originally offered to him. But it was said that this was not the time to impose additional taxation upon Ireland, when she was just recovering from a state of severe suffering. Now he thought this argument applied with much greater force to the continuance of the annuities than to the imposition of the income tax. He would suggest, however, that the tax should be imposed only upon the net income of land in Ireland, for the expense of managing land was much higher in Ireland than it was in England; the poor-rates were frequently paid entirely by the landlord; and very often, after all, the tenant carried off both crops and rent. With regard to the abolition of the tax, he must say that he was in favour of direct in preference to indirect taxation; but he felt that Government could not afford to disregard public opinion upon this subject, and he therefore rejoiced that the question was to be put off for seven years, when thinking men would be more agreed upon the subject of its continuance or its abolition, and about the best method of raising it, than they were at present. There was one part of the Budget, however, of which he did not approve—the increase of the spirit duties. It was said, indeed, that this was a tax upon drunkards; but without stopping to inquire what drunkard was reformed, or what sober man was prevented from becoming a drunkard by fiscal duties, he asked why a different system should be pursued in Ireland from that pursued in England? When the income tax was first imposed in England, a great number of indirect taxes were taken off. Why should the reverse of that system be pursued in Ireland, or why should a new tax be levied upon one of the few branches of industry that yet existed in Ireland? And so far as an increase of revenue was calculated upon from that source, he must remind the Government of Canning's saying, that in finance two and two did not always make four—sometimes it made one. Notwithstanding this defect, however, he had great pleasure in giving his support to the Budget.
§ VISOOUNT JOCELYN
said, he should not have intruded himself on the attention of the Committee, but for the proposition, on the preceding evening, of the right hon. President of the Board of Control, that there were only two classes of persons in that House who dissented from the proposition of the Government—the one party being those who spoke in behalf of the 843 landed interest, the other party being those who spoke in behalf of the people of Ireland. Now, he would contend that there was a third and a very large party, who dissented from the scheme, simply and solely because they considered the reimposition of the income tax for a period of seven years, without revision and without reform, was impolitic and unfair in itself, and injurious to the character of that House. The commercial principles enunciated by his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer were, undoubtedly, of vital importance to the prosperity of the country; but he did not see that this particular mode by which his right hon. Friend proposed to sustain that policy was at all necessary to the object, while, on the other hand, it was detrimental to the character of the House, and unequal, unfair, and injurious to various classes of the community. It was his opinion that the apparent deficiency created by the remissions proposed by his right hon. Friend would be amply supplied from the enlarged field opened to the consumer. The experience of past years showed that, however rapidly you decreased the duties on articles of consumption, more rapidly still was the deficiency remedied by the increase of consumption. There could be no doubt that the reduction of the tea duties, and the abolition of those on soap, would be of essential advantage to the community, and there could be as little doubt of the value of the policy proposed to be applied to the assessed taxes; but there was no reason why these benefits should be accompanied by the disadvantages inherent in his right hon. Friend's scheme; there was no reason why the stated deficiency should be made up in the particular mode proposed. The first Resolution which the Committee was called upon to affirm was, that the income tax should be reimposed for seven years, that reimposition being without any improvement or mitigation whatever, but, on the contrary, being extended to incomes between 100l. and 150l., and to Ireland. Now, when Sir Robert Peel came down to that House in 1842, and said, "Here is a deficient revenue; will you give me the power to impose an income tax?" he did not for a moment attempt to blind them to the inquisitorial nature of the tax—to its immoral tendency—but admitted fully that it was an objectionable tax, which only war or some other great national exigency could justify; and, indeed, his right hon. Friend pointed to the wars then proceeding in Affghanistan and China as grounds for the 844 tax. The tax was granted. In 1845 his right hon. Friend again came down to the House, and said, "If you will give mo the income tax once more, it will enable me to place the finances of the country on a sounder footing." The tax wa3 granted, but only for the same limited period as before. But the tax never had been imposed without its inequalities becoming the subject of debate in that House, and so much were they felt a few years ago that the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) moved for and obtained a Committee to inquire into the means of removing these inequalities. Now, however, his right hon. Friend opposite the Chancellor of the Exchequer asked that the House should renew the tax for seven years—renew it with all its objectionable features, and with additional circumstances of aggravation. His right hon. Friend, indeed, in common with his predecessors in office, admitted that the tax was a bad tax—a demoralising tax; indeed, singularly enough, precisely because it was so bad a tax, his right hon. Friend refused to improve it. He acknowledged that, while he agreed with the abstract principle of his right hon. Friend that all portions of the community who were benefited by the remission of taxes should be called on to contribute to the burdens of the State, he could not admit that without some remedy and alteration—believing such to be practicable—they would be justified in imposing the tax upon that class. Sir Robert Peel, in the zenith of his power, had never asked for the imposition of this tax for more than three years. Was it necessary, then, for his right hon. Friend to reimpose it for seven years? If it were, he confessed he should hesitate as to the course which he should take; but, supposing that it were passed now for three years, could not Parliament at the expiration of that period again sanction its renewal? Such was the nature of the tax, however, that he contended it was for the honour of Parliament to take it into its consideration at definite and brief periods. In three years from this time there might be a great change in the opinions of public men; in three years they might be enabled, perhaps, to deal with the inequalities of the tax, or his right hon. Friend might have under-estimated his revenue, and they might then be in a position to dispense with it altogether. His right hon. Friend said he would not trench upon the territory of labour; but there were artisans in this 845 metropolis earning 5l. or 6l. a week, and if he were not going to impose it upon them, how could he do so with any justice upon the clerk receiving 100l. a year? Now, with reference to its application to Ireland. He had always held the principle that Ireland ought to bear its share of the public burdens, and he thought so still; but let them speak the truth, and not tell him that they were going to give an equivalent to Ireland for the imposition of that tax. What equivalent was there to the north and east of Ireland, who had paid their debt? There was none whatever. We ought at once to avow that there was no new equivalent given to Ireland for the imposition of the income tax; that the remission of the consolidated annuities applied only to certain districts; and that, as she was already free from assessed taxes, and had no Excise duty upon soap, no equivalent was required. He would add, that the late fiscal policy, which had been so advantageous to this country, had been equally beneficial to Ireland, and that therefore it was but just that she should contribute her equal share to Imperial taxation. He believed that the very same arguments which were good for Ireland's bearing an equal share in the burdens of this country, were likewise good for England's sharing the consequence of the great calamity which had fallen upon that country during the famine. But, beyond this, he objected to imposing an income tax either upon England or Ireland, for seven years, without attempting to deal with its inequalities, as unjust and impolitic. Unconnected as he was with any party in that House since he had lost his friends who used to sit upon the benches near him, he was compelled to take an independent view of every question that came before him, and to deal with it as his humble ability enabled him. Until he had heard it proposed, he was ignorant of the nature of the Amendment they were discussing; but when he was asked whether it were just and fair to levy the income tax to an increased extent in an unamended form, and for the space of seven years, he was constrained to answer that it was not. With respect to the increased tax upon spirits, he believed that there was no more legitimate source of taxation than the Excise upon that article. The Only question to be considered was the point at which the smuggler would step in and defeat their legislation. The late Sir Robert Peel failed when he proposed to raise the Irish 846 spirit duties, and when he reduced them it was from no feeling of consideration towards Ireland, but because he anticipated an increased revenue from the diminution. And how was the revenue to be protected? His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, and said truly, that there was an admirable constabulary in Ireland, and that rewards would be offered for them to prevent illicit distillation. But was the right hon. Gentleman aware of the other duties of the constabulary? Was he about to offer men rewards for the neglect of their ordinary duties? Let him depend upon it that if he embarked upon such a system he would obtain no revenue, while he would demoralise the men and destroy the efficiency of one of the most efficient bodies ever organised. With reference to the legacy duty, he thought that it was fair and just to levy upon landed property a higher amount of tax than upon any other, because there were advantages both of a territorial and social character, and in the greater security of that property, which made it fair that it should pay more largely than other descriptions. They must remember, however, that the late Sir Robert Peel said, when the legacy duty was under consideration, "If you put a legacy duty upon land, you must be prepared to deal with the burdens upon land." He did not desire to make out a case for the land, but he would instance to the Committee the case of two men, each worth 100,000l., one investing it in the funds and the other in land. The man who invested in the funds would simply be charged upon that the interest of the legacy duty which he originally paid, and the income tax. But the payments on the 100,000l. invested in land were much higher. The first charge, as he was informed by the highest authorities in the City, was between 1,300l. and 1,400l. Next was the income tax; and then let him ask what paid the poor-rate, what paid the highway rate, and what the county rate? Clearly the land; and did he estimate those rates too highly when he took them at 15 per cent? Supposing 100,000l. to produce them annually 3,000l., one would have a net income of 2,750l., and the other of only 2,495l. Before imposing the legacy duty they should first facilitate the transfer of property. Next, they should deal with the question of title; and then for them to attempt to maintain the system of entail was preposterous and absurd. He did not say they Were wrong—they might be rights—only these things should accom- 847 pany their proposition. Then, what would be the effect of this tax upon the yeoman class? At one time they were regarded as the most loyal class, and they were nurtured and cherished by the State. Perhaps that class was no longer necessary. They were about to call upon men who had only 60l. or 70l. a year perhaps, to contribute under the legacy duty, although to such persons, on entering on their little properties, every shilling was of importance. Ultimately the effect must be to destroy that class. Still he did not say they were wrong: they might be right, but it was a new principle. They might speak of the inquisitorial nature of the income tax, but what could be more inquisitorial than this legacy duty? When a man came into property a Government agent was to go down and examine into and register the whole of his affairs. Depend upon it, if the man were in difficulties, and the estate were mortgaged, it would very soon be foreclosed. He thanked the Committee for the patience which they had accorded him. It was most painful for him to oppose the proposition of any Friend whom he respected so highly as the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer; but he was bound to support the Amendment, because he sincerely believed that to impose the income tax without any attempt to alter its inequalities was neither just, politic, nor expedient.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, that agreeing as he did with his noble Friend who had just sat down in regret at his having lost the friends who formerly sat beside him, it must at least be acknowledged that in the matter of the income tax no responsibility rested with those who now occupied that bench. In the year 1842, when the late Sir Robert Peel introduced the income tax, the right hon. Baronet had the advantage of his noble Friend's support. In the year 1845, when he (Mr. Cardwell)had the honour of holding a subordinate situation in the Treasury under Sir Robert Peel, he knew from personal experience that lamented statesman most carefully examined the possibility of extending to the professional classes that alleviation for which his noble Friend had now contended. Sir Robert Peel then determined that, without breaking up and destroying the income tax, it was impossible to accomplish the object; and, when the present Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) brought the question before the House of Commons, his noble Friend (Viscount Jocelyn), then 848 holding an office in the Government, voted against the hon. Member for Sheffield, and in favour of the income tax of Sir Robert Peel. But his noble Friend had certainly made some recompense, for if the Government could not enjoy the privilege of receiving his vote, there were many portions of his speech to which they might fairly lay claim. His noble Friend objected to the continuance of the income tax for seven years, and he gave a very curious reason for it. So highly did he approve of the remissions of taxation, which under cover of the income tax Sir Robert Peel introduced and effected, that he supported them; and, in like manner, so great was his confidence in the propositions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he believed the remissions of indirect taxation now proposed would be more rapidly reproductive than his right hon. Friend himself had ventured to expect. And therefore, said the noble Lord, he believed that it would be possible to abolish the income tax in less than seven years. So that really the noble Lord's argument amounted just to this: That the Budget was so much better a Budget than the Chancellor of the Exchequer had thought fit to anticipate, that the noble Lord would not support it, and could not now repeat the votes which he had formerly given in favour of the income tax. His (Mr. Cardwell's) right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, taking a prudent view of the finances of the country, and not desiring to effect remissions except under a safe shelter, certainly asked for the income tax for seven years; but if, at an earlier period, other sources of revenue arose which would enable him to dispense with the income tax, it would be open for his noble Friend or any other Member to make such a Motion, and he was sure the House of Commons would be extremely happy to receive it. But his noble Friend spoke on the part of the poor artisans earning 5l. or 6l. wages per week; and he complained that the Chancellor of the Exchequer's propositions would subject them to the income tax for the first time. But his noble Friend voted himself last December for imposing the income tax on incomes of 100l. per annum. And, besides, if his noble Friend considered awhile, he would find, on reflection, that 5l. or 6l. a week, multiplied by fifty-two, the number of weeks in the year, would not make an income that fell between 100l. and 150l., but that it would make an income which would bring the party under the present operation of the 849 income tax. If, then, the argument of his noble Friend was limited to these two points: first, that the reproductive process of the Budget would be more rapid than the Chancellor of the Exchequer expected, and that the artisan who earned between 5l. and 6l. a week was the person in whose interest the Committee was called upon to vote for the Amendment, he (Mr. Cardwell) thought that the Government might fairly claim those portions of his speech, although, as he had previously said, they would lose the advantage of his vote. But his noble Friend objected to the extension of the income tax to Ireland. Here, although it was the misfortune of the Government to differ from his noble Friend, the blame did not rest with them, because his noble Friend had himself stated that he had always been in favour of an income tax to Ireland, on the ground that Ireland ought to bear its just proportion of the public burdens. But the noble Lord objected in this particular instance, because, as far as regarded the north and the east of that country, he had not heard of any equivalent in the Budget being offered to them. But if it was just and right that Ireland should bear a fair share of the public burdens, and the noble Lord had always thought so, what was the meaning of giving them an equivalent? Now, he (Mr. Cardwell) also wished to say a few words on the subject of the extension of the income tax to Ireland. If there was any one feeling which ought to be dear to every heart in the United Kingdom, it should be this—a sincere desire that in all things, not merely as to questions of taxation, but in privileges as well as in burdens, all parts of the United Kingdom should be viewed as one comprehensive whole, and to draw as few distinctions as possible. He believed that while they were occupying themselves in these debates, in weighing with drachm and scruple the comparative proportions of advantage to be given to particular portions of the Kingdom, they were responding but in a very small degree to that public opinion which had greeted the appearance of the present Budget. Public opinion was with the Budget. Public opinion looked not so much at the comparative proportions of advantage or disadvantage which England or Scotland or Ireland had to derive from the measures of the Government, but it felt that, upon the whole, a comprehensive measure had been proposed, the result of which 850 would be to confer inestimable benefits upon the whole of the United Kingdom. It was from this aspect that that he invited the Committee to look at the question; and, looking at it with this view, he deeply regretted to hear that the sanction of a name for which he entertained the highest respect and regard had been given last night to this invidious comparison between different portions of the United Kingdom. He could not help remembering, when he heard his right hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Sir F. Baring) draw his comparison between Great Britain and Ireland, that the very last time when Parliament made great remissions of taxation, namely, in 1851, there was one remission which was, called for by public opinion. He alluded to the abolition of the window duties. That was not a tax which applied to Ireland. His right hon. Friend was one of those who introduced it to the House; but he had never heard his right hon. Friend argue that as Ireland was exempt, that was a reason why England should not receive some benefit. He (Mr. Cardwell) did not understand the arithmetic which calculated upon these invidious distinctions. The question at issue was far more important. It was this—was this House so satisfied with the past experience of the income tax, and had the financial improvement it had effected been so satisfactory, that they were willing to make another-great and decisive step forward in the same direction? Now, what were the circumstances under which the income tax was proposed, and what were its effects? The income tax was imposed at a remarkable period, when by successive deficits for several years there had been entailed upon us a debt of 10,000,000l. in times of peace. It was proposed when every other expedient had been tried and failed; it was imposed after they had tried in vain, by adding 10 percent to one tax, and 5 per cent to another, to recover the annual expenditure. Then it was, and under such necessity, that this engine was first resorted to; and what had been the first effect of the experiment? 2,000,000l. of taxation was remitted when it was imposed; and in three years what was our position? Why, that the Customs and Excise produced as much after the remission as they produced before. Was that all? Sir Robert Peel, having asked the House of Commons for the tax for three years, said it would be possible to take it off at the end of that period. Was that 851 pledge falsified or was it fulfilled? The balances in the Exchequer on April 5, 1845, were 6,500,000l., while the income tax only produced 5,100,000l. and the net surplus in actual income was 1,250,000l. Besides, they were entitled to take credit for the receipts of the current half year. They had then the power of renewing the tax, and they had a surplus, including the amount for which they were entitled to take credit, of nearly 4,000,000l. But so much was the House encouraged by the experiment, that they tried it again upon a far larger scale. In the year 1845 they made a further experiment, and took off 5,500,000l. of taxation. Sir Robert Peel, when he first introduced the tax, mentioned five years as its probable limit. This would bring it to 1847, and he (Mr. Cardwell) particularly mentioned 1847 on account of the occurrence of that dreadful calamity to Ireland, the famine. Now what in the year 1847 was the position of the country? They had taken off Customs and Excise duties to the amount of 7,500,000l., yet the revenue had recovered itself. And what was our position now? In the interval we had again removed more than 3,000,000l. of taxation; so that altogether since 1842 nearly 11,000,000l. of taxation had been removed from the Customs and Excise—that was, nearly one-third of the whole burden of those taxes. Against all this the revenue had recovered itself. Such; then, was the past history of the income tax, which Great Britain had been bearing for the last ten years, and from which Ireland had been exempted. But had Ireland had no share in all this benefit? Yes. Prohibitory duties had been entirely repealed. Protective duties—that was to say, duties levied upon the community, but not paid into the Exchequer—had also been repealed. Articles of the first necessity had been reduced in duty, the raw materials of industry had been freed, trade had been stimulated, industry encouraged, and large revenues and profits had been the result. And had Ireland derived no share in all these advantages? Yes, pre-eminently she had. He had heard an hon. Member from Ireland to-night, he was sorry to say, speak of some of these reductions as if they had been losses instead of benefits. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member cheered him; but he would ask, had it been a loss to the starving multitudes of Ireland to have the duties removed from articles of the first necessity? 852 Whose suffering was it that rendered it necessary for the British Parliament to remit those duties? What had been the particular benefit even in money value to the people of Ireland? The calamity which fell upon Ireland cost 9,000,000l. The income tax had enabled them to bear it; but was this all? He was not going to quote figures or statistics; but this he could tell hon. Gentlemen, that in the interval the shipping of Belfast had doubled, and that the railway traffic in five years had more than trebled. It should be noticed, that if to a great and wealthy country the improvement of its commercial resources was of value, to a poor and destitute country that improvement was beyond all price. Had the advantages to Ireland been limited to mere profit? Whence had come the capital invested in land in Ireland? Whence had come the development of industry, or the money which had constructed the railways in Ireland? He maintained that all these advantages were traceable to the financial reformation which had been effected during the last ten years, which had stimulated trade, and increased the prosperity of the whole United Kingdom. He would now say a word as to the Motion before the Committee. It might be thought they were about to divide upon the Motion of the hon. Member (Mr. Lawless), who proposed that the words "Great Britain" should be substituted for "United Kingdom," in line 2 of the Resolution of Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer. But that was not the proposition on which they were going to divide, nor upon the proposition whether the income tax should extend to Ireland. They were called upon to divide upon a general proposition that—The continuance of the income tax for seven years, and its extension to classes hitherto exempt from its operation, without any mitigation of the inequalities of its assessment, are alike unjust and impolitic.Now, when one found in Committee of Ways and Means a Resolution, not couched in terms affecting money, but containing a general proposition, one must know there was some peculiar motive for that particular form of proceeding. He had listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Baronet who moved this proposition (Sir B. Lytton), and he heard him say that he was animated by the same principles that had hitherto animated his exertions on lie-half of native industry. "Then," he (Mr. Cardwell) said to himself, "this is, in re- 853 ality, a Protectionist Amendment in disguise." [Laughter from the Opposition benches.] Hon. Gentlemen might laugh; but he begged to call their attention to what followed immediately after the speech of the hon. Baronet. An hon. Gentleman, the Member for Herefordshire (Mr. Booker), justified the vote he was going to give in favour of the hon. Baronet's Amendment in this way. He said he represented an agricultural constituency, and he quoted the powerful argument of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which he said had enlightened him on this subject, and had taught him that agriculture paid at the rate of 9d. in the pound, where trades and professions paid only 7d. The hon. Member was, of course, much beholden to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for opening his eyes on that point, and he would probably never again vote that agriculture should pay at the rate of 7d. in the pound, and trades and professions only 5¼d. The hon. Member also said that agriculture had paid 6,000,000l. too much in the last ten years, and that if the income tax were re-imposed for another seven years the excess would be 3,000,000l. more. Was the object in moving this particular Amendment, then, to take these burdens from agriculture, and lay them upon trades and professions? If they were going to make an equality between trades and professions on one side, and agriculture on the other, let that be so understood; but do not let them suppose that trades and professions were so simple its not to guess, if the general proposition Was to attempt to redress inequalities, it was not intended to prevent agriculture from bearing 3,000,000l. of taxation. His noble Friend (Lord Jocelyn) had also adverted to this subject, for he said they must deal with professions and the land, and he particularly instanced the cases of yeomen, classes of persons of 60l. or 70l. a year, upon whom he said the Budget would fall with peculiar severity. But his noble Friend voted in December for the proposition which would have made the income tax descend not only to incomes of 100l., but to incomes of 50l.—a tax, therefore, which would have touched these 60l. and 70l. incomes; whereas now by the present proposition they were not touched at all. Besides, in December it was proposed to tax them at 7d. in the pound, whilst the present proposal was only 5d., and thus a heavier rate would have been laid upon them than was proposed to be laid by the present Budget upon the class superior to 854 them. But did the case stop here? No; for his noble Friend, in his zeal for the yeomanry classes, whom, by his vote in December, he would have subjected to a tax of 7d. in the pound, would have given them the further consolation of a double house tax. Again he said that although he should not have the pleasure of the vote of his noble Friend, he thought he was entitled to take the credit of some of the arguments in his speech. The Amendment, as he had said, was couched in general terms; but its supporters had not told the Committee how they proposed to accomplish its objects. How did they propose to redress the inequalities of which they complained? He had not the honour of a seat in that House when the last Budget was proposed, in December; but he understood it broke down in debate, being based upon an imperfect acquaintance with the operation of the schedules. What plan were they going to propose now? His hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) had told the truth when he said it was not so much the inequalities of the tax that were objected to as its inquisitorial character; and he was confirmed in the truth of that remark by high authority. If you looked into Adam Smith, you would find him saying that an inquisition which descended to every man's fortune would be a grievance such as no country would submit to. [Sir J. PAKINGTON: Hear, hear!] The right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich cheered, as if that passage was an argument against the income tax—as if he had never voted for an income tax, and as if the Budget of his Ministry in December did not contain an income tax—[Sir JOHN PAKINGTON: But how about the legacy duty?] He (Mr. Cardwell) was not speaking of the legacy duty. He Was doing as his noble Friend (Lord Jocelyn) had advised thorn to do, and was confining himself to the question then under discussion; but if hon. Members wished to discuss the question of the inquisitions that would be necessary for the purpose of collecting the legacy duty, he should be quite ready to debate that question With them at the proper time. But, in the meantime, he wished to deal with the question as to what the effect would be if they were ready to deal with the grievance which constituted the injustice of the income tax. That grievance was this: that it Was an injustice—of which the case of the Long Annuities was the favourite illustration—to tax the capital of one man, and 855 only the income of another. But in human affairs capital and income were so inextricably intertwined with each other, that in order to prevent this injustice and unravel this intricate association, they must carry the income tax to the separate case of each man. They might depend upon it, that in proportion as they approached the greater justice in the income tax, in that very same proportion would they add to the inquisitorial nature of the system to be called into operation. This had been the conviction of hon. Gentlemen who had investigated the question in the Committee. Then what was the question? The question before the Committee was, whether they would call upon all parts of the United Kingdom to contribute again to a tax from which the country had derived, for the past ten years, most inestimable advantages, and from which, during the next seven years, the anticipations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer were certainly not too sanguine. They were told that they ought not to extend this tax to an impoverished country—that it ought to be imposed upon a rich and prosperous country only. But, in the first place, if they were to extend a tax to an impoverished country, the natural remedy against oppression would be to choose a tax which would apply to certain incomes, because then they would he quite sure that it would not touch impoverished persons. They were told by gentlemen of the highest authority that the remission of the consolidated annuities was applying a remedy to Ireland exactly of the kind required—that was, that it removed the pressure of her burdens from those who most felt them. But was it only those who had spoken on the same side as himself on this occasion, whom he would summon as conclusive authorities in favour of the imposition of the income tax in Ireland? He begged to call the attention of the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. G. H. Moore), who began the debate that evening, and who had found so much fault with the right hon. President of the Board of Control (Sir C. Wood), because, having resisted the income tax when the poor-law burdens were severe, he was willing to impose it now that these burdens were no longer in operation. In 1847, when the pressure of the poor-law was indeed at its height, there was, unless he (Mr. Cardwell) was misinformed, a meeting held in Dublin, at which the hon. Member for Mayo supported a proposal that the poor-law burdens 856 should not be charged on the poor-rates; but that in lien thereof there should be an income tax imposed. [Mr. G. H. MOORE dissented.] The hon. Member for Mayo, he observed, shook his head; but he could only say he found it so stated in the de-hate which took place in the House of Commons on the 17th of March, 1848. He would now, with the permission of the Committee, read the answer which the hon. Member for Mayo made on that occasion:—With regard to the discovery which the hon. Member for Marylebone had made, that there was one bad thing which did not exist in Ireland, and with regard to his extraordinary anxiety to supply that deficiency, he admitted that he agreed with the hon. Member in thinking that property in Ireland ought to be amenable to income tax. He thought it was just to the people of this country, and necessary for the welfare of the people of Ireland, that every man, and every description of property, should be made to bear his share of the national burdens. While the tradesmen of England were contributing to the necessities of Ireland, and while the former was endeavouring to bear up against an impossible experiment, was it not monstrous that the man who received twenty times the income of either should be allowed to sneak out of the difficulty and escape free? So far from thinking that the present circumstances of Ireland exonerated her people from the payment of an income tax, he was of opinion that the present condition of the country was the very reason why they should be taxed."—[3 Hansard, xcvii. 718.]
§ MR. G. H. MOORE
said, that the right hon. Member had forgotten that the speech which he had just quoted was in support of a proposition which he had put upon the paper of the House—but which he was not then allowed to move—the object of which was to impose an income tax on Ireland for the support of the poor during the famine.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, he must beg to remind the hon. Member that the income tax was now being extended to Ireland when the whole of the burden which was then imposed for the relief of the famine was to be removed. He begged also to observe that the speech of the hon. Member, on whatever occasion it was made, was a very good speech, his argument a very good argument, and his language such as he had great pleasure in quoting, because it was so much more powerful than any he (Mr. Cardwell) could use. In conclusion, he would ask the Committee to consider this. He had troubled them with a very concise summary of the benefits which consumers had derived from the financial reforms which, under the shelter of the income tax, they had been enabled 857 to accomplish. They had also done this:—When they were first driven to impose the income tax, the capital debt of the Kingdom was 791,000,000l. Now, at the expiration of ten years, they had paid the Irish debt of 9,000,000l.; they had reduced the original capital of the debt nearly 12,000,000l.—that was to say, that the capital debt now stood better by 20,000,000l. than it did before. Nor was this all. The balances of the Exchequer were then little more than 1,000,000l. They were now nearly 9,000,000l., having increased 7,500,000. This income tax, too, was the same instrument which had enabled the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn), when Chancellor of the Exchequer, to remove from the annual pressure of the debt the sum of 1,200,000l. These were benefits to the whole United Kingdom; and what the Committee were now called upon to do was, by an equal and just measure, to renew for seven years longer this great experiment, in order that they might confer upon the community, in time to come, similar advantages—that as they had in times past removed the duties on light and air, so they might now remove the duty on cleanliness; that as in times past they diminished the duties on sugar, so now they might diminish the duty on tea. The proposition before them was to confirm a plan by which they would extend the comforts of the people, stimulate the trade, and increase the resources of the country. From 1798 to 1816 was a period of eighteen years. The income tax carried them through the revolutionary war of that period. Prom 1842 to 1860 was also a period of eighteen years; and if they continued the income tax for that period, it would help to carry them through a different conflict; for, as an hon. Member had said that night, they were engaged in a new species of conflict, namely, in the peaceful rivalry of commercial enterprise; and unless they unfettered industry, and relieved it from every undue weight, it would be unable successfully to prosecute that course. The late Sir Robert Peel, when he began to extend to this country the many advantages to which he (Mr. Cardwell) had referred, found it, perhaps, the most heavily-taxed country in Europe. If this Budget should be sanctioned, it would probably leave the country in 1860 in the reverse position. With her ports open to every country in the world, all the commerce of the earth would necessarily 858 gravitate towards England. No one need then retire to a foreign country for cheapness—for this country would then be the cheapest, as it was the happiest, country in the world. That being the case, let them not degrade this great question to the level of a mere dispute as to which part of the Kingdom should have the greatest share of the burden. They were going to confer inestimable privileges upon the United Kingdom, and unless they could show that there was injustice in some portion of the taxation by which a great public benefit was thus to be conferred, it was their duty to give their cordial assent to a measure which was replete with the happiness and comfort of the people.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, that the right hon. Gentleman, following the footsteps of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had drawn a rather flattering picture of the results which this particular tax had produced, and had told them that in times past it had carried the country through the revolutionary war, and that if they continued it for another eighteen years, dating from 1842, it would make another revolution. He (Mr. Henley) hoped it would not be a revolution in the true sense of the word. But a little candour might have suggested to the right hon. Gentleman that the question before them was not as to whether they should raise 5,500,000l by direct taxation, but whether they should raise it in a more equitable form than at present. That was the issue before them, and he was bound to say that the right hon. Gentleman had scarcely addressed a single argument to that. It was true he had told them that it was within his knowledge that in 1845 Sir Robert Peel addressed his mind to the inequalities of the tax, and that he found himself unable to remedy them. He (Mr. Henley) also went into the Committee on the income tax two years ago, impressed with the belief that it was hardly possible to remedy the inequalities of the income tax. The inquiry which followed showed him that his opinion was erroneous. The hon. Member for the West Biding (Mr. Cobden), on the other hand, entered the Committee believing that it was very easy to remedy the inequalities of the tax, and came out of it with the opinion that it would be extremely difficult to effect that object. This proved that persons looking at the same thing might honestly arrive at different conclusions respecting it. All that had fallen from the right hon. Gentle- 859 man who had just spoken, from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or the President of the Board of Trade, amounted only to this, that because you could not do all justice, you could do no justice. That had been precisely the case adopted by the Court of Chancery—never to do anything for fear of doing an injustice—a system so beautifully contrived and spun out that the greatest delay was the greatest injustice. But the Government were called on to do a different kind of justice. Because, however, they could not do all justice, they declined to do any. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that this case was to be argued generally on the consolidated annuities. He (Mr. Henley) admitted that in all those cases into which capital came, there was such an intricacy between capital and income that it was almost impossible to separate them without a machinery so expensive and so difficult that their action would be clogged. But was that any reason why they should not deal with those classes where these difficulties did not arise—where the income was derived from sources wholly different? The Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that, at the present moment, the land paid 9d. and professions 7d. He (Mr. Henley) was glad to find, in his estimate, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer took so liberal a view with respect to the calculation on real property—a calculation in which it was to be presumed houses were included. Upon the subject of the income tax the hon. Member for the West Riding said, that the great objection to it was the inquisition to which it subjected people; and the right hon. President of the Board of Trade said the same. Now, if this were so, the Government were establishing an additional inquisition as grievous and as inquisitorial in their succession duty. The President of the Board of Control had last night taunted those who sat on his (Mr. Henley's) side of the House for not taking the 8s. duty when it was offered to them by the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell). Now, that was rather an old story to rip up; but he confessed he had never heard the Whigs, when they used that taunt, venture to say they could have secured the landed interest the 8s. duty beyond 1846. Unless they had told them that, and he had believed them—which had something to do with it—he thought perhaps they were as well off as before. But what was the present offer of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? The choice between 7d. and 860 5¼d., and the succession tax. How would that work? It appeared to him the burden would be very much against the land. Without entering into details, he was prepared to think that, considering the difference between these two taxes, a man when he came to estimate how much premium he would have to pay to get the succession duty, would find it a losing bargain for the landed interest. A great deal had been said in the course of the debate with respect to the justice or injustice of extending this tax to Ireland. Now, every man must admit that the taxation of the two countries had been always different. In 1842 Sir Robert Peel did not impose the income tax on Ireland, but he proposed other countervailing duties, amounting to about 400,000l., or thereabouts. One of those duties had been repealed equally with regard to the two countries. So far, that was a gain altogether. But was Ireland now in a better position than she was in 1842 to bear the 460,000l. income tax, and a sum of 230,000l. for spirit duties? The drawbacks upon spirits would also apply equally to the United Kingdom. In addition to the income tax, Ireland would have to pay about 200,000l. for succession duty, and the proposition, therefore, with regard to that country, he could not admit to be just. The right hon. President of the Board of Control had read last night an account of several Unions in Ireland, showing what the greatest gain would be in particular parts of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman selected those districts most favourable to his case, but he added that, although forty-five of the most distressed Unions in Ireland would pay 83,000l. a year in consolidated annuities, they would only pay 42,000l. to the income tax. This was a material item in the case. In the first place, the Irish people denied the justice of the claim. In the next, they did not pay the instalments, which was a more material part of the question. It was one thing to owe a debt, and another to pay it. Out of the whole sum of 240,000l. due from the Unions, not more than one-half was paid during the last year, and he did not suppose that the most distressed Unions were the paying ones. If Ireland denied the justice of the debt, and was backed up in that opinion by the Resolution of the Committee of the House of Lords, that upwards of 2,000,000l. was not due, and she declined paying, and did not pay, it would not be difficult to ascertain the nature of 861 the proposed exchange, by which she would be compelled to pay 600,000l. or 700,000l. a year, instead of the 240,000l. which she did not pay; and which she denied the justice of paying. The bargain was certainly neither a good nor a just one. He was decidedly in favour of equal laws and equal taxation in each of the three countries; but "equal taxation" did not mean "the same taxation," or the same taxes, because, so far as Ireland was concerned, that country started in 1800 with peculiar circumstances, the nature of which it was necessary still to respect. But a great deal had been said with respect to the great benefits of keeping the income tax for the next seven years. The arguments on this subject had been very contradictory on the part of those hon. Members who had supported the proposition. The hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) and the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) said that they would support the proposition of the Government because they hoped the tax would be a permanent one, and would continue beyond that period; while the right hon. the President of the Board of Control held out a certain prospect that the tax would cease at the expiration of the seven years; and he taunted hon. Members upon the Opposition side of the House because no arrangements were made in the Budget introduced by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer for getting rid of the tax. Such a taunt was not, he (Mr. Henley) thought, well founded. So far as the gain from the reduction of the 3¼ per cents, and the falling in of the Long Annuities was concerned, that was a gain common to both the past and the present Budget. In the proposition before the Committee the income tax was taken at 6,000,000l., new taxes laid on about 2,500,000l., and taxes taken off 3,300,000l. The greater part, however, of the taxes taken off arose from entire abolition. In the proposal of his right hon. Friend the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, the income tax was taken at 5,500,000l., the taxes put on about 1,000,000l., and taken off 2,700,000l.; but the taxes taken off were not entire remissions, but reductions, and being reductions would probably soon recoup themselves, and make up the loss to the revenue, so as to enable the country the better to part with the income tax; whereas, in the case of the proposed remissions, such recovery was impossible. But if the fund derived from the income tax wag found to work well, and to produce all 862 those benefits which were predicated of it, it was not to be conceived that the public would consent to part with it, and upon this account he was the more anxious to see the tax placed upon as perfect a footing as possible. He believed that many of the greatest injustices connected with levying the tax might be remedied; and he considered it unwise to continue the tax, with all its enormities, until it stank in the nostrils of the commercial classes, and the Government would be compelled to relinquish it. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his most able and eloquent speech—and he hoped that House would never fail to do justice to the great ability of the right hon. Gentleman, whose talents shed a lustre, not only upon the House of Commons, but upon the country—not only stated what he intended to do, but what he intended not to do. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) was attacked with regard to what he had said about imposing a succession tax. His right hon. Friend said, however, "We think it not impossible to bring forward a plan on the proper occasion; but we should not think it wise to introduce such a plan if we were not at once prepared to act on it." The present Chancellor of the Exchequer, however, said, "The question the Committee has to consider is, whether or not we should make efforts to part with the income tax. I do not say that such an alternative is impossible. On the contrary, I believe that it might be effected by a conjunction of three measures, one of which must be a tax on land, houses, and other visible property, of perhaps 6d. in the pound; another, a system of licences on trades"—hon. Gentlemen opposite would attend to that—"on trades universally, not particularly, of 7l., and a third, of charges on the legacy duty." Now, he (Mr. Henley) was one of those who judged of men's words by their acts. He found the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and other Members of the Government, talking about getting rid of the income tax in seven years. He found the right hon. Gentleman proposing to do two of the things which might enable him, as he had said, to repeal the income tax. He found the right hon. Gentleman telling the Committee how they might get rid of the tax immediately; but then it was evident he was feeling his way—to say nothing of the tax on successions—to the system of licences. Then there was the tax on land; and he wished to call the attention of hon. Gen- 863 tlemen to the circumstance that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was paving the way to a land tax of 6d. in the pound—perhaps with a view of substituting it for the income tax. Therefore, so far as the landed interest was concerned, he saw nothing to make them enamoured of the present Budget. There was another point connected with the Amendment before the Committee which rather surprised him that hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side had not noticed. What they were going to do now, if they voted this tax for seven years, was to part with the control of every single farthing of taxation for that period. It used to be the practice of that House to keep in hand a portion of the revenue of the country. It was the case with the sugar duties; and when these were disposed of, the income tax remained. They were now about to part with that tax, which, in his opinion, was not alone inconvenient, but also unwise, as that House should always exercise a constitutional control over the taxation of the country. These were the reasons that induced him to agree to the Amendment which had been proposed by the hon. Member for Hertfordshire (Sir B. Lytton) to the first Resolution of the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer. Regarding the income tax in the aspect he did, he did not consider it wise or politic to continue it for a period of seven years. Even though Her Majesty's Ministers should be sincere in their intention to remit the tax at the end of that period, he did not believe it wise or politic to continue it to them. He disapproved of the injustice of saddling Ireland with the tax. It was not wise to set up a machinery in that country for seven years, even though it was intended to get rid of the tax at the close of that period. Neither had the machinery for collecting it in that country been referred to. That there were small occupiers in Ireland could not be doubted; and it would have to be collected from these small occupiers, whether they paid rent or not. In 1842, when Sir Robert Peel proposed the income tax for five years, he declined to extend it to Ireland; and nothing had since occurred in the condition of that country to justify the imposition of the tax. With these observations, and thanking the Committee for their kind attention, he should conclude by stating his intention to support the Amendment.
§ MR. CAIRNS
said, he had no desire to monopolise for Ireland the discussion of this question; but he wished, as an Irish 864 Member, to say that he would never demand from that House anything in the nature of a boon for Ireland, and that he would never hesitate to vote for subjecting that country in any shape or form to any impost which could be shown to be just. With regard to the income tax, if ever it should be proposed to Parliament that that tax should be made a perpetual source of revenue, and so readjusted as to get rid of the present inequalities, he certainly would not refuse his vote in favour of its extension to Ireland. He felt it his duty, however, on the present occasion, to vote for the Amendment, because he considered, that, according to the proposed arrangements, there was great inequality in the operation of the income tax. He had never heard any hon. Member, not even the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, maintain that the income tax as now adjusted, was a fair and equal tax. On the contrary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated objections to the tax, and had admitted that its operation was unequal and unfair; but not a single Member had asserted that it was impossible to rectify those inequalities. All that had been said on that point was, that the rectification of these inequalities was a matter of much trouble, and involving considerable difficulty. He must, however, express his regret that the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had not himself attempted the rectification. Now, so long as it was admitted that the income tax operated unequally, he (Mr. Cairns) would always give his vote against that tax, whether it was proposed to apply it to England or to Ireland. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had alluded to the income tax as an engine of gigantic strength, which ought only to be used in times of great peril and emergency; and he (Mr. Cairns) thought that was a most forcible reason for readjusting, and amending, and rendering as efficient as possible, this important and valuable engine of finance. They were, however, asked to continue this mighty engine with all its inequalities and unjustness for seven years, and then to put it aside, to be brought into action when any emergency might occur. Now, when a war was over, did the House disband and disperse the Army of this country? No; they reduced the force of each regiment, but they retained a nucleus by which the Army might be re-established if circumstances rendered such a measure necessary. Then, why should not the same course be adopted with reference to this 865 mighty engine—the income tax? It might be maintained during periods of quietude at the lowest possible point; every means should be adopted to render its application just and equal; and then, in times of difficulty, it might be brought into full and vigorous operation. He objected, also, to the proposed continuance of the income tax, because he thought that before the Committee consented to the renewal of that tax at its present amount, they should be satisfied as to the exact amount of the other taxes which were behind the income tax, and which wore afterwards to be brought forward; and if one of those taxes was—like the proposed tax upon successions—of a novel and unprecedented description, he thought the Committee might fairly ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to satisfy them as to the data upon which he had formed his opinion with regard to the amount which he calculated this new tax would produce. It had always appeared to him (Mr. Cairns) that the exclusion of land from the present system of legacy duties was an invidious exemption, and one which required careful reconsideration. He would be glad if these duties were reconsidered, and if land and settled property were subjected to their operation, provided it was not done in the crude manner suggested by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He maintained that they should bear in mind the other duties to which land was now subjected—as, for instance, the stamp duties, by which land was burdened upon every transfer—and from which personal property was exempt. Not many weeks since the Chancellor of the Exchequer told that House how impossible it was to approach the subject of extending the legacy duties to land without taking these things into account; and he could not understand how the right hon. Gentleman had so utterly abandoned the course which he then seemed to point out. He wished to ask the Committee to consider how much the legacy duties were supposed likely to produce? Did it ever happen that a Chancellor of the Exchequer had introduced a novel and untried tax without a more definite estimate of what it was likely to produce? But all that the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, was, "The amount I expect to derive is over 2,000,000l." Now he thought the Committee had a right to expect some data and statistics upon this subject, so that they might calculate whether the sum to be derived from this tax had been correctly stated or not. Now, what was the property 866 which would be subject to that duty? He would first take personal property. The Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to subject to the legacy duties every settlement of personal property, and every description of personal property. Suppose a couple marrying and settling 5,000l. in the funds upon themselves and their children. When the father and mother died, the children would pay a succession duty upon that sum. Now, upon what amount of property would this tax be levied? The Chancellor of the Exchequer said he had ascertained that the sums held in the Bank of England upon joint account were 480,000,000l.; and it was fair to suppose that where there was a joint account the property was for the most part subject to settlement. He agreed in the correctness of that opinion. There was also a further sum of 50,000,000l. in the hands of the Court of Chancery, which was the subject of settlement. Some of this vast amount of property might no doubt be settled by will, and might, therefore, be subject to legacy duty, but the property settled by will was by no means so great in amount as that which was settled by deed of settlement. Now, had the Chancellor of the Exchequer determined in his own mind how much would be taxed for the first time by his new duties, and how much had been taxed before? That was only one item. Settlements now, especially marriage settlements, were usually vested in trustees. A large amount of money upon mortgage and policies of assurance was conveyed by these marriage settlements. One could hardly over-estimate the amount of personal property represented by these two sources, and he should not be surprised to find that, while the money in the Bank under joint settlement amounted to 480,000,000l., the sum represented by policies of assurance and monies lent on mortgage, which were made the subject of settlement, amounted to as much more. There was also settled in marriage settlements a large amount of property in railway shares and foreign funds, which would now be subject to duty for the first time. He did not say that it was not right to subject this property to these duties. Let him take now the subject of land. It was estimated that the annual income of the land of this country was 80,000,000l., which represented a total amount of corpus of 2,000,000,000l., which was to be operated upon by this duty. There were many ingredients in the calculation before 867 the produce of this tax could be arrived at. Had the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for example, ascertained how often the successions to this property took place? He must have considered this before he could calculate how much the duty would produce. It would not do to ascertain as a datum the number of deaths alone, because the right hon. Gentleman must also ascertain how many of the next successors were owners for life, and how many were absolute owners. If the owner for life came into possession, he would only pay upon his income and his life interest; if the absolute owner came into possession, he would have to pay upon the corpus. Then the duties varied, according to relationship, from I to 10 per cent; and what did the right hon. Gentleman calculate the average to be? The Committee would like to know whether he took the average at 2 or 3 or 4 per cent, what was the average number of tenants for life, and what duties were payable by them and absolute owners respectively. He had not spoken to any person out of doors whose opinion was worth having who did not say that it was perfectly idle to suppose that the amount collected under the proposed legacy duties would be limited to 2,000,000l. The general opinion among those who were most competent to form a judgment was, that the duties would amount to 4,000,000l. per annum. He had heard what he could not agree with, that the Government were unwilling to state the statistics of this question for fear that the Committee should be startled by the amount that would be collected from this source of revenue. Now, although the Chancellor of the Exchequer anticipated carrying his Budget as a whole, still it would only have been fair, before the Government asked the Committee to reimpose the income tax, that they should know how much the legacy duties were likely to bring in; because, if the Committee had the proper statistics before them, they might be of opinion that the Chancellor of the Exchequer could do without the income tax? If the sum to be realised by the legacy duties were very nearly equal to the amount raised by the income tax, then the Committee might spare themselves all these discussions. He would now say a word or two with reference to Ireland, and why he considered it impolitic to extend the tax to that country. The Government said it was to be only a temporary tax. But was it worth while to subject Ireland to a seven years' income tax, and to the operation of 868 a machinery which neither the people of that country nor their forefathers had ever yet seen? If the income tax were to be permanent, and to be adjusted, let it go to Ireland by all means. Sir Robert Peel, when he first introduced the income tax, said, that on account of the absence of the necessary machinery in Ireland, he should not subject Ireland to it, because it was a temporary measure. On the other hand, Sir Robert Peel put a duty upon stamps, and an additional duty upon spirits. Notwithstanding an assertion to the contrary, which had been made in the course of this debate, the stamp duty in Ireland at present was nearly double, compared with what it was when Sir Robert Peel introduced the income tax. The spirit duties Sir Robert Peel increased, but the increase was subsequently given up. These were two alternative duties which Sir Robert Peel levied in place of an income tax in Ireland. But the present Government were going to make them cumulative instead of alternative, and were going to put the whole upon Ireland. Was it just, then, to put on now not merely the income tax, but the increased spirit duty? and were the Irish Members to be told, because they complained of the injustice, that they were trying to shuffle off the payment of taxes which Ireland ought to pay? The right hon. Baronet the President of the Board of Control had alluded the other night to that part of Ireland with which he (Mr. Cairns) was connected. They had had a discussion on a previous evening, during the debate on another subject regarding Ireland, as to whether or not certain denominations in that country were given to resort to the practice of proselytism; and it had occurred to him, from the manner of the right hon. Baronet, that he (Sir C. Wood) was endeavouring to proselytise certain Irish Members who did not hold what he called sound views on this matter. The right hon. Baronet had, however, two objects, and his second was to show that he had always been consistent in his views with regard to Ireland. He (Sir C. Wood) must have found that a difficult task, for there was a certain speech made on a particular occasion not long ago, in which the right hon. Baronet stated that he, for one, would never consent to the extension of the income tax to Ireland. This speech had attracted the attention of the Irish Members, and the feeling that prevailed among them was that the right hon. Gentleman might be relied on to oppose the extension. But the 869 right hon. Gentleman had now endeavoured with great boldness to explain this seeming inconsistency by saying that he did not mean the country at large, but certain districts; that he would not consent to extend it to the distressed agricultural districts, and that, now that they were going to remit the burdens upon them, there was no longer any reason why his celebrated dictum should remain law. If the case were put upon that issue, let them consider the consequences. Was it not the case that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Control had put the issue in this way—that the income tax was to be put upon Ireland as an equivalent and a set-off against the consolidated annuities, which were going to be remitted? The right hon. Gentleman (Sir C. Wood) had read to them a little account of profit and loss with regard to the transaction, in which he showed that Ireland would gain between 5,000,000l. and 6,000,000l. by the proposed arrangement. That statement certainly contained several fallacies. One was the assumption that the annuities were to last forty years, while the income tax was to last only seven. He (Mr. Cairns) thought that by that time hon. Members had come to the conclusion that it was very problematical when it would cease. Another fallacy of the right hon. Baronet was, that if the consolidated annuities were not remitted, they would be paid. Let them consider the set-off between the income tax and the consolidated annuities. The right hon. Gentleman had admitted that the consolidated annuities were principally raised in that part of Ireland which abounded in small farms, and that, on the other hand, the income tax would be paid by parties who had no share in the payments for the consolidated annuities. What did this mean? It was an Irish piece of finance, and required to be translated into English. Why, it meant that one part of Ireland was to pay the debts of another part. The north and north-east of Ireland, which had no consolidated annuities, and a great deal of income, were to have an income tax put upon them to pay the debts of the south. There was a discussion a few years since about another financial matter, the celebrated rate in aid, as it was called, by which, when their resources were exhausted, and their poor-rates insufficient to maintain their paupers, Unions in the south of Ireland were entitled to come upon the north for aid. The present trans- 870 action, in his opinion, was nothing more or less than a gigantic rate in aid. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir C. Wood) had told them to look at Liverpool and Belfast, and say why the latter should not he taxed in the same way as the former. He would put a case which was a better analogy with regard to Liverpool. Supposing there was great agricultural distress in Wiltshire or Dorsetshire, and the poor-rates of those counties insufficient to provide for it, and that they called upon the great trading towns of Liverpool and Manchester to sub-scribe the sums required, and told them that this was an Imperial question, for which they would be good enough to put a tax on themselves—that would be precisely the same kind of proceeding. The right hon. Baronet said this was an Imperial question. He (Mr. Cairns) was afraid, however, that whether it was an Imperial question or not, his constituents at Belfast had not the Imperial Treasury to fall back upon. It was true that in the greater part of the north of Ireland there were only a few places that had the advantage of the consolidated annuities, and in many of them the amount had already been paid off. But, if they admitted the principle that one part of the country should be made to take upon itself the debts of another, where could they stop? Ought they not to carry it out, and say that those who had paid their debts, since they ought not to have paid them, should have the amount restored to them? But no; the right hon. Gentleman opposite did not do that. He proposed to give them an equivalent in the shape of the income tax. He was afraid that the Government, in legislating for Ireland, did so after an Irish method; this plan was, of all, the most Irish. This was the great and unassailable case of the north of Ireland, so much relied on by the right hon. Baronet the President of the Board of Control. The inhabitants of Belfast would certainly not object to pay an income tax, but they did object to pay the debts incurred by another part of the country. He should not have addressed the Committee on the present occasion, but for the pointed reference which had been made to Belfast, which he had the honour to represent. He had also a pleasant duty to discharge in acknowledging the handsome terms in which the right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the people of Belfast, who had raised themselves to their present position by self-reliance, energy, and perseverance. The compliments of the right hon. Gentleman 871 were certainly well bestowed; but the right hon. Gentleman had heard of the fable of an animal, of which he had imitated—might he (Mr. Cairns) say?—the artifice, but of which he would hardly realise the success. The right hon. Baronet knew the story of the fox, which contrived, by means of compliments more than were deserved, to charm out of the mouth of a too credulous crow a contribution to his Budget, not of money, but of cheese. The moral of the fable was instructive. He had no doubt the people of Belfast would be flattered by the compliments of the right hon. Baronet, but he did not think they would be flattered into liking the income tax. For himself, he would say, as one of the Irish Members, to whom the right hon. Baronet had addressed so much of his eloquence, that he had listened attentively to his arguments, he remained unconverted, and he should vote for the Amendment.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, he did not object to the Motion, but said he must express a hope that this long debate might be brought to a close on Monday night.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, there were several Gentlemen on that side of the House who wished to speak, but he did not think there would be any difficulty in coming to a decision on Monday.
§ The House resumed; the Committee report progress; to sit again on Monday next.