HC Deb 27 April 1855 vol 137 cc1897-900

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee; Mr. Fitzroy in the Chair.

Clause 1. That an annuity of 14s. 6d. shall be granted upon a loan of 16,000,000l. for thirty years.


said, he thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer had committed a great error in proposing to contract a loan upon the terms contained in this Bill. If the information he had received was correct, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had he given the public the opportunity of taking up the loan, might have readily obtained 20,000,000l. of money upon terminable annuities for the terms of forty-four, forty-eight, fifty-two, and fifty-six years, giving an average of fifty years, at an annual rate of interest not greatly exceeding that which he now proposed to give. He must complain that the Government had not afforded the public an opportunity of competing for the loan, but handed it over, in fact, to four or five great capitalists. He begged, therefore, to move as an Amendment— That, instead of the loan of 16,000,000l. being raised by three per cent perpetual annuities, and 14s. 6d. per cent annuities, terminable in thirty years, the sum of 20,000,000l. be raised by terminable annuities.


said, that it was not competent to the hon. Gentleman to propose such an Amendment.


said, in that case, he felt it his duty to move that the Chairman report progress, and ask leave to sit again.


said, the hon. Gentleman could not, consistently with the forms of the House, propose a Motion in Committee on a money Bill, to extend the charge upon the Consolidated Fund, without having proposed a previous Resolution authorising such an extension. For his own part, he regretted that the hon. Gentleman was precluded by the forms of the House from moving his Amendment. The only practical difficulty he saw in the way of giving effect to that Amedment was, that lie thought it probable the contractors for the loan would have made some objection to pay the Government 20,000,000l., when they had only contracted to receive interest for 16,000,000l.; but, so far as the Government were concerned, they could have no objection if contractors who had engaged to furnish 16,000,000l. at a certain rate of interest consented for the same amount of interest to give them 20,000,000l. He hoped, as the hon. Gentleman had recorded his protest against a loan which he considered extravagant, he would consent to withdraw his Amendment, and would allow the Bill to proceed in Committee.


said, that he was satisfied with having entered his protest against the loan, and he would therefore withdraw his Amendment.


said, a Chancellor of the Exchequer could often do only what he could do, and not what it would be the most advisable to do. [The hon. Member here read an extract from a speech of Mr. Gladstone, in which the right hon. Gentleman was reported to say that he anticipated it would be necessary, if the war continued, to have recourse again to indirect taxation.] It was important at this particular period that no misunderstanding should exist on such a vital question as free trade, and he hoped, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman would give an explanation to the Committee.


said, that the grand and main object of Parliament had been to destroy protective duties, and when this was done it was right to say that the system of free trade had been accomplished and established. He had been understood to say that certain high duties—Customs and Excise—adverse to free trade, ought not to be got rid of. That was correct. But he also said that the gradual and progressive reduction of duties on articles of primary consumption ought to take place. It was not possible to deny that such a reduction had formed an important and a valuable feature of late in Parliamentary legislation. Then the great or total abolition of duties that were unproductive in themselves was aimed at. Duties had in that way lately been taken off of from 1,000 to 1,300 articles. It was quite consistent with free trade to keep on some duties, but nominal duties ought to be got rid of as soon as possible. He must have been misunderstood if he had been reported to say that he contemplated with satisfaction the possibility of a return to protective duties. But he could not dismiss from his mind, if the war continued, that as the burdens of the war increased, as they must do, though the House of Commons, he was satisfied, would do everything to avoid a return to protective duties, yet such would be the difficulties in the choice of objects of taxation that it might be, not a visionary apprehension, but a political necessity, for Parliament to find itself in the inevitable position, from lack of sources, rightly or wrongly to resort to the reimposition of protective duties. He hoped the day was distant or would never come. He should be sorry to see it; but he could not exclude the impression that such a contingency was not an impossibility.


said, he feared it was very likely the country would be obliged to return to the imposition of protective duties should war last any length of time.

Clause agreed to; as were also Clauses 2 to 6 inclusive.

Clause 7,


said, he wished for some explanation as to the difference in the payment of interest.


said, that with respect to the Consols part of the loan, it was customary to pay the interest on Consols in January and July, and it had been thought advisable to commence the interest from January, so as not to interfere with the customary forms.

Clause 7 agreed to; as were also Clauses 8 to 21 inclusive.

Clause 22,


said, he had great objection to this clause, and would have opposed it earlier had the Bill not been passed through the House with such celerity. He thought the House ought to have an opportunity of considering the question, whether, at the outset of the war, a system ought to be adopted of charging posterity—whatever might be the state of the finances and condition of the country—with the payment of a large sum of interest. When the Report was brought up he should move the rejection of this clause. He would also suggest an addition of certain words in order to make the sense clear.


said, the hon. and learned Member had indicated an ambiguity in the clause. It would be found that in the Bill in the hands of the Chairman, words had been introduced to prevent misconstruction with reference to the general policy of the clause; it would not be necessary to occupy the attention of the Committee by going into a discussion of its merits; and as the hon. and learned Gentleman had signified his intention of moving the rejection of the clause when the Report was brought up, he would then state fully the grounds that induced him to propose the clause as it stood. The Committee would, therefore, excuse him if he refrained from entering into the question at that moment.

Clause agreed to.

House resumed.