§ Order for Committee read.
§ House in Committee of Ways and Means.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he rose to move the following Resolutions:
He wished to state that, so far as regarded the sum of £1,000,000, the purport of the Resolutions was to make provision, according to intimations made on the part of Government early in the Session, to replace a million of Exchequer honds, which were at present the property of the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt, which would expire in November next; but instead of asking for £1,000,000, the Government thought it right to ask the House for power to raise a sum not exceeding £2,000,000. That was referable to the present prospects of the harvest and the state of prices likely to exist in the country should the harvest prove unfavourable. Looking to the possibility of an advance in the prices of all kinds of food, and the effect likely to be produced on the employment of the people, it was thought desirable, in case of unfavourable influences affecting the revenue and the balances in the Exchequer, to ask for this large margin in case of need. He had no reason to suppose that it would be necessary to make use of the power now asked for, but at the same time it was desirable, in case of unfavourable circumstances occurring, to place the most ample means at the command of the Exchequer. The Committee would agree that at a time when a large military expenditure was going on and the money market might be disturbed by large importations of corn, the Government should run the risk of being obliged to have recourse to a loan.
- "1. That, towards making good the Supply granted to Her Majesty, the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury be authorised to raise any sum of money, not exceeding £2,000,000 sterling, by the issue of Exchequer Bonds or Exchequer Bills.
- 2. That the principal of all Exchequer Bonds which may be so issued shall be paid off at par, at the expiration of any period not exceeding six years from the date of such Bonds.
- 3. That the interest of such Exchequer Bonds shall be payable half-yearly, and shall be charged upon and issued out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom, or the growing produce thereof."
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, as he understood the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, it was, that there was a possibility of an addition to the public debt 1458 of £1,000,000, in the shape of bonds. He He was extremely sorry that, on the 17th of August, the right hon. Gentleman should find himself in the necessity of contemplating an additional burden on the country, and he likewise regretted that burden should take the form of Exchequer honds, because there was no item of the public expenditure which, in the statement of accounts for the year, created greater confusion; and be had objected to those bonds when first they made their appearance. He understood the right hon. Gentleman also to say that the possibility of a bad harvest rendered it desirable that the Government should be possessed of this power for raising this further sum of money; but he had dropped an expression which appeared to him (Sir Henry Willoughby) to be the real cause of this proposal, and that was the "military expenditure." The present had proved a very curious financial year. The Session began with a vast reduction of taxation, and ended it with a vast increase. The Chancellor of the Exchequer originally stated the expenditure of the country at £70,100,000. Since that time he had taken £3,150,000 on account of the China war. Was he (Sir Henry Willoughby) then not correct in stating that the expenditure for the year ending the 31st of March, 1861, was to be £73,250,000, and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had taken Ways and Means to the same amount, with the exception only of the £14,000 to be taken out of the Exchequer balances?
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
remarked, that the expenditure was enormously greater than was ever known before; and in all their discussions they had omitted to take into consideration the £2,000,000 of the terminable annuities. Including the China war and the fortifications, the expenditure of the year would be nearly £80,000,000. It was the duty of the House of Commons to put a stop to such extravagance.
said, he thought the House had reason to complain of the manner in which that important proposal had been brought forward. The House Bat till nearly 4 o'clock that morning; and very many of the Members were present till 2, at which time no notice whatever was given of the Motion. In fact, without any notice, except in the papers of the morning, which many hon. Members did not see till 10 o'clock, the Chancellor of the Exchequer asked at 12 o'clock for a Vote of Credit for £1,000,000, or it might be £2,000,000. 1459 As to the harvest prospects, they had not varied within the last few hours. Such conduct was not creditable to the Government. It showed that the financial calculations had been finedrawn—that they were, in fact, a "very close shave."
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should say no notice was given of these Resolutions, seeing they had appeared on the notice paper in the usual way. He had proceeded on the principle that it was not his duty to ask for an increase of means until the last moment. A change of weather, almost at the last moment, might have rendered it unnecessary for him to ask for the increase at all. He had attended to what he considered the convenience of the House. He did not think that hon. Members would like to take the matter on Saturday; but if the Committee thought proper to do so, and thereby run the risk of prolonging the Session, he had no objection. In reply to the question of the hon. Baronet, he had to remark that the year was no doubt an anomalous one, partly because they were carrying on the operations of a war which had grown up during the Session, partly because it was complicated by a special plan for the erection of fortifications. The total charge which had been voted in one form or other was this:—£70,100,000 was the charge on the 10th of February. He did not say that this had been precisely voted, because there had been some minute changes by way of diminution in the Estimate. Then £3,300,000, not £3,150,000, was the additional amount voted in Supply for the China war. £2,000,000 was the sum voted for fortifications—not, however, for the present financial year; and £1,000,000 had been voted in Supply, to replace £1,000,000 of Exchequer bonds falling due in November. These items made a total of £76,400,000. That, as the hon. Member for Lambeth had remarked, was an enormous sum; but the hon. Member knew, as well as he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) knew, that it did not depend on the will of individual Members of the House to make a change in that respect, which depended partly on the circumstances of the country, and mainly, perhaps, on the view the country was inclined to take of these circumstances, and although there never was a time when our expenditure was so large without the existence of an European war, perhaps there never was a time when the public 1460 desires, as a whole, tended more to augmentation.
said, he was surprised the Chancellor of the Exchequer should have represented him as saying that no notice had been given of those Resolutions. He distinctly admitted that notice had been given, but said that it was insufficient, and that many hon. Members might not have seen it.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
replied, that he had only said what he distinctly understood had fallen from the lips of the right hon. Gentleman, but, of course, after what had fallen from him, he was hound to understand his language in the sense in which he had explained it.
That, towards making good the Supply granted to Her Majesty, the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury be authorized to raise any sum of money, not exceeding £2,000,000 sterling, by the issue of Exchequer Bonds or Exchequer Bills.
That the principal of all Exchequer Bonds, which may be so issued, shall be paid off, at par, at the expiration of any period not exceeding six years from the date of such Bonds.
That the interest of such Exchequer Bonds shall be payable half-yearly, and shall be charged upon and issued out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom, or the growing produce thereof.
§ Resolutions agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again To-morrow.
§ Order for Committee (Supply) read.