§ The House, according to Order, resolved itself into a Committee on the Customs Acts.
§ Mr. MASSEY in the Chair.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
rose and said: *Sir—Public expectation has long marked out the year 1860 as an important epoch in British finance. It has long been well known that in this year, for the first time, we were to receive from a process not of our own creation, a very great relief in respect of our annual payment of interest of the national debt—a relief amounting to no less a sum than £2,146,000—a relief such as we never have known in time past, and such as I am afraid we never shall know in time to come. Besides that relief, other and more recent arrangements have added to the importance of this juncture. A revenue of nearly £12,000,000 a year, levied by duties on tea and sugar, which still retain a portion of the additions made to them on account of the Russian war, is about to lapse absolutely on the 31st of March, unless it should be renewed by Parliament. The income-tax, from which during the year we shall have derived a sum of between £9,000,000 and £10,000,000, is likewise to lapse at the very same time, although an amount not inconsiderable will still remain to be collected in virtue of the law about to expire. And lastly, an event of not less interest than any of these, which has made public feeling thrill from one end of the country to the other—I mean the commercial treaty with France which my noble Friend the Foreign Minister has just laid on the table—rendered it a matter of propriety, almost of absolute necessity, for the Government to request the House to deviate, under the peculiar circumstances of the case, from its usual, its salutary, its constitutional practice of voting the principal charges of the year before they proceed to consider the means of defraying them, and induced the Government to think they would best fulfil their duty by inviting attention on the earliest practicable day to those financial arrangements of the year which are materially affected by the treaty with France, and which, though they reach considerably beyond the limits of that treaty, yet, notwithstanding, can only be examined by the House in a satisfactory manner when examined as a whole. 813 This must be our apology, if any apology be needed, for asking the House to take into its earnest consideration the matters which I am about to submit to it. And, Sir, every consideration both of gratitude for the kindness of the House to myself and likewise of public duty will ensure that, if I have an extensive field to traverse and many subjects to open and discuss, I shall not, at least, make any wanton trespass on the time and attention of the House. The results of the finance of the last year, inasmuch as it has not positively reached its close, can only be presented in a form founded partly on account and partly on estimate. At the same time they will be given in figures on which the House may place reliance as being for every practical purpose perfectly safe. It is necessary for me here to remind the House that, as is not usually or frequently the case, circumstances have occurred during the latter portion of the present financial year which tend materially to influence its results. The expedition to China has made it necessary to enlarge the proposed military and naval expenditure of the year, even beyond the liberal scale of provision supplied by Parliament in the last Session; and likewise the arrangements coming into force under the commercial treaty with France, in case the provisions of the treaty shall receive the sanction of the House—will act materially upon the Customs revenue for the residue of the year. I will, therefore, Sir, with your permission, first present to the Committee the state of the account as it stood, entirely apart from these disturbing causes, and I will then in a few words show the Committee how, since these causes have come into action, it is at present likely to stand. The results of the year in a financial point of view—at least, so far as receipts are concerned—have been eminently satisfactory. The Customs revenue, which I estimated at £23,850,000, and which I estimated at that amount so lately as the month of July last, will produce—apart from the causes to which I have referred—and I beg the House all along to bear this parenthesis in mind—£24,750,000. The Excise I estimated at £19,310,000; it will produce £19,724,000. The Stamps, however, show a small deficit, having been estimated at £8,100,000, while they will produce only £8,000,000. The Land and Assessed Taxes were estimated at £3,200,000; they will produce the same sum. The Income tax was estimated at 814 £9,940,000; it will produce £9,894,000. The Post-office revenue was estimated at £3,250,000; it will produce that sum. The Crown Lands were estimated at £280,000; they will about fulfil that estimate. The Miscellaneous Revenue was estimated at £1,530,000; it will produce £1,480,000. The general result will be this:—The revenue was estimated to produce £69,460,000, and it would have produced £70,578,000. On the other hand, looking at the side of expenditure, we should have stood as follows:—The interest of the funded and unfunded debt, estimated at £28,600,000, will amount to £28,638,000; the Miscellaneous and Consolidated Fund charges amount to £1,960,000, the sum at which the estimate was taken; the Army was estimated at £13,300,000, and it would, independently of the recent measures, have cost £13,550,000, in consequence of an excess of expenditure handed over from the preceding year. The Navy was estimated at £12,782,000; it would have cost £12,630,000. The expenses of the Civil Service—called miscellaneous—were estimated at £7,825,000; they would have cost £7,700,000. The Revenue Departments were estimated at £4,740,000; they would have cost £4,447,000. The total result is that, whereas the estimated charges of the year were £69,270,000, the total expenditure would have been somewhat less, or £68,953,000. Comparing this expenditure of £68,953,000 with the receipts of £70,578,000, the Committee will perceive that we should have had a surplus of income over expenditure of not less than £1,625,000. That surplus would have been the result of the liberal and wise provisions made by Parliament in the past Session to meet the expenses of the year. As matters now stand, indeed, it will not be available for the reduction of the National Debt, for it has almost entirely been absorbed; yet, nevertheless, it may serve for a good example of the prudence of that rule which always induces this House, when appealed to for the purpose, to provide ample means to meet the public expenditure, inasmuch as Parliament will by means of it be enabled, if it shall think fit, to carry forward measures of great importance without any new financial provision.
But, Sir, after Parliament had adjourned, as I have stated, we had to encounter additional charges; and I come now to what I have called the disturbing causes which have acted on the revenue. 815 The necessity of making provision for the expedition to China—an expedition to be the bearer, in the first instance, of peaceful remonstrance—cast an addition on the votes for military expenditure, which, together with an excess in the army expenditure in the year 1858–9, stands as follows:—Army, £900,000; Navy, £270,000. Then has arrived the treaty with France. It is very difficult indeed to estimate for so short a time as that which has to pass before March 31st what the results and effects of that treaty will be upon the Customs revenue, more especially as a question may arise with respect to certain payments which it may be requisite to make to a limited class of persons who are affected by some of the peculiar arrangements of that treaty. However, we have assigned what we think an ample amount; and I have therefore to deduct from the estimate which I have submitted to the Committee for the Customs revenue of the current year a sum of £640,000. We, therefore, stand worse than we should have stood by £1,170,000 for additional charges on the army expenditure, and also by £640,000 likely to be lost on our Customs receipts in consequence of the treaty with France. The total of these two is £1,810,000, which, being deducted from the surplus we should have had, would appear to place us on the wrong side of the account. But deliverance has come in from a quarter from which, perhaps, it would not have been expected.Via prima salutis,Quod minimè reris, Graiâ pandetur ab urbe.A friendly kingdom has undertaken to pay us a debt, and this at the very moment when she herself is engaged in war. Spain, not under any peculiar pressure from us, but with a high sense of honour and duty, not wishing to avail herself of the plea which, I do not hesitate to say, she might under the circumstances have advanced for time, has remitted to us a sum in bills which will shortly come due, of nearly £500,000, of which £250,000 will come to the credit of the revenue before March 31st. And now, Sir, if the Committee will take the trouble to compare the figures, it will be seen that we set out with a probable surplus of £1,625,000; adding to that surplus the £250,000 of which I have spoken, it becomes £1,875,000, against which we have a charge of £1,810,000; a state of the account which will leave the Chancellor of the Exchequer with a surplus—undoubtedly one of the narrow- 816 est on record, but still a surplus not a deficit.
This, then, Sir, is the probable state of the account for the present year, ending with the 31st of March. I now proceed to approach the more extensive and more difficult part of the subject—that which relates to the charge and expenditure of the coming year 1860–61.
First, Sir, the estimated charge for the funded and unfunded debt in the coming year is only £26,200,000, which shows a decrease of £2,438,000—a sum considerably larger than the amount of the annuities which are about to fall in. But the reason of that greater decrease is that—as the Committee may probably recollect—we were called on last year to make a special provision for the quarterly payment that falls exceptionally into this year, in consequence of the determination of the annuities; whereas, if it had continued to run its full term of half a year, it would have gone into the year 1860–61. That arrangement swelled the charge for the debt in 1859–60, and proportionately augments the relief from that charge in the year 1860–61. Therefore, the charge for the debt stands only at £26,200,000. The Consolidated Fund charges, commonly so called, stand at £2,000,000 exhibiting an increase of £40,000. The Army and Militia, including a Vote of credit to the amount of £500,000, which it will be our duty to propose on account of the Chinese expedition, will amount to £15,800,000. The Navy and Packet Services—which I mention together for the purpose of easier comparison with former years, though the Packet service is likely to be separated from the Admiralty—will stand in the Estimates at £13,900,000. These two sums, which together include the whole military expenditure of the country by land and sea, along with the cost of the packet service, amount to £29,700,000, showing an increase of £3,618,000 on the Military Estimates, in the same sense of the term, which were voted last year, and an increase of £2,448,000 on the Military Estimates for the current year, as they stand augmented by the additional charge that will be brought upon them if the House should grant the sum for which the Goverment will think it their duty to ask.
The Miscellaneous Civil Estimates are taken at £7,500,000. That amount exhibits a decrease as compared with the Estimates of last year of £325,000; and if the Committee which the House has in some 817 manner declared its intention of appointing, should be enabled to enter on its labours at an early period, and shall prosecute them with such vigour and success as to enable us to carry further the process of retrenchment, I assure the hon. Gentleman who moved, the hon. Member for Birmingham who supported, and the other Members of the majority who carried the Motion for its appointment, that it will be a result acceptable to Her Majesty's Government.
The estimate for the Revenue Departments, standing at £4,700,000 presents an apparent increase of £225,000; but do not suppose that this is a real increase of the charge; it is due, to speak in general terms, to an increase of accommodation in the Post-office Department, which I have no doubt will continue to be fully balanced by the increase of revenue in that branch of the public service. The total amount of the six sums which I have stated to the Committee is £70,100,000.
With respect to one great and conspicuous head of increase—that on the Military and Naval Estimates—it is not my intention at the present to enter into any discussion; but it will be the duty of my right hon. Friend and of my noble Friend who represent those departments respectively, to explain that subject to the Committee at the earliest date, and to lay before them the nature of the special, and, we may hope, in a great degree temporary, causes which have rendered it necessary to make so considerable a demand on the country. Now, Sir, when we look at the estimated income for the coming year, it is a matter of which the first view will hardly be found satisfactory. And I confess I am not sorry that the figures should be such as will at least draw serious attention to the whole subject. For it is well that, in addition to your annual review of the income and expenditure, there should be special junctures with circumstances so marked that you are obliged to institute a deeper and more comprehensive examination, and to consider more at large what is the proper scale both of taxation, and likewise of expenditure, for this great country.
The estimated income for 1861 will be taken by me in the first instance with reference simply to the law as it stands; except that I shall assume that the Committee would, almost as a matter of necessity, think it right to renew the taxes on tea and sugar at rates not less than that which they deliberately adopted in 1853. Pray understand that I am assuming the renewal of 818 these particular duties at what would he called the minimum rate, but I shall assume nothing else beyond what is absolutely given us by the law, so that I may exhibit to the Committee, as fully and as clearly as I can, the nature and the whole extent of the deficit which they will have to supply, in order that they, on their part, may exercise the largest and the freest choice with respect to the means which they may think proper to adopt for that purpose.
Approaching the subject from that point of view, we estimate that the Customs will yield £22,700,000; the Excise, £19,170,000; the Stamps, 8,000,000; and the Taxes, £3,250,000. The Income-tax, that is one half-year still outstanding at the rate of five-pence in the pound, would yield £2,400,000; the Post-office, £3,400,000; the Crown Lands, £280,000; and the Miscellaneous Revenue, 1,500,000. The total of these receipts would be £60,700,000. The total charge which I have exhibited is one of £70,100,000; and the apparent deficit, I need hardly state to the Committee, amounts to £9,400,000.
I am not representing a brilliant state of affairs as respects the revenue and expenditure of the country, nor do I pretend to place on it any such colour. We have a prosperous country, a wealthy country, a country rapidly growing in wealth and power; but the relative state of your revenue and expenditure is such as I have described. And pray observe that in that charge of £70,100,000 we get the benefit of the 2,000,000 and upwards of annuities which will fall in during the year. I am bound, also, to say that I am not in a condition to ask you to do all that might under other circumstances have been desirable. I frankly own that I do not feel myself in a position to propose, as I otherwise might have proposed, that you should make provision for the payment of the sum of £1,000,000, which will be due for Exchequer bonds in November next. Such as it stands, without any such provision, you have the deficit before you.
And now, Sir, it would be perfectly possible for me to close, were it not for the treaty which I have to discuss; it would, at any rate, have been perfectly possible for the House, if such were the view which they entertained, to close the whole account by a very simple, but, I must Bay, a very rude process. £9,400,000 is wanted. I will suggest to you two modes, by either of which you might have thought fit to supply it. You might have said, or 819 you may still say, we shall keep the tea and sugar duties at their present rates; that determination would supply a sum of £2,100,000. But £2,100,000 taken from £9,400,000 still leaves the less formidable, yet rather intractable sum of £7,300,000. And now I beseech the Committee to observe that if they think with the Government, that the large and ample provision which we are about to propose for the services of the country is a necessary outlay, they will have to make good the deficit of £7,300,000, irrespective of any treaty with France, of any relief to the people, of any improvement of the commercial laws, of any remission whatever of taxes affecting trade or industry, even to the extent of a single shilling. And what is meant by filling up the deficit of £7,300,000? It means, at any rate, an income tax of 9d. in the pound. The tax at that rate would give you for the year 1860–1 the sum of £7,672,000, or a surplus of £372,000. This would certainly be a possible measure. But, again, supposing you were to take a more liberal view of the matter, and to say we do not think it right that there should be no remission on articles connected with the trade and industry of the country, or that duties on tea and sugar which were imposed for the purposes of war, and have been kept on during three or four years of peace, should be further prolonged. Well, then, abandoning the war duties on tea and sugar, and keeping on what may be called the peace duties, then in order to fill up the deficit of £9,400,000 you would require the very neat and easily stated and easily understood sum of an income tax of 1s. in the pound. This also would be without any other remission of duty, and would be simply what is required for the general demands of the revenue.
Then, Sir, it may be said, and said with justice to many Members of Her Majesty's Government—but most of all with justice may it be demanded of me—what has become of the calculations of 1853? It is a perfectly legitimate question, and I can render to my hon. and learned Friend who cheers it an answer so simple that the wayfarer "who runs may read" it. Our financial calculations dated 1853 are to be found in Hansard, and from that indubitable source I have within the last two or three days refreshed my own recollections. Those computations I find are capable of being presented in a very simple form. We reckoned that we should gain 820 upon revenue in the interval between 1853 and 1861 in the following proportion:—from new taxes then proposed, including the succession tax, £2,549,000; from lessened charge on account of the national debt, £1,264,000; at the same time we knew that terminable annuities would fall in in 1860 to the amount of £2,146,000. Adding together these three chief sources of relief, they make a sum of £5,959,000, which is as neatly as possible the sum to which the income tax, at the rate of 7d. in the pound, was estimated for the year 185L. The actual estimate was £6,140,000, which, with this sum of £5,959,000 to set against it, we should have been able to surrender. With regard to these calculations, they have suffered some damage; they have suffered considerable damage from what has since occurred. But that damage is not the cause of our not being able to dispense with the income tax. I can show demonstrably that this is not the case. The succession duty failed to produce what we expected of it, partly, or rather mainly, because it was found that by the usual course of succession real property goes in the direct line in a much greater number of cases than personal property; so that if £100,000,000 a year in real and settled property came under the succession duty, that amount would not yield the same average of duty as if it had been personal property. I do not now speak of a fact known to the Committee, that only life interest is valued with respect to real property, but, over and above that, real property descending in the direct line from father to son and grandson pays only 1 per cent duty. That course of direct descent prevails in a much greater number of instances in real than in personal property, and consequently, while the revenue from this source attains its maximum more slowly than we anticipated, that maximum itself will also be lower. At the present moment, for the year 1860–1, we stand worse than we reckoned in 1853 by £1,000,000 on account of, the failure of the succession duty. Besides this, instead of being able to apply an annual surplus of revenue towards the extinction of debt, that surplus has been required by the necessities of war, and its application to the diminution of debt was stopped for three or four years. That likewise tended to disturb our calculations. The amount of this surplus may be taken at £320,000. But the most serious item of all was the additional debt contracted 821 on account of the Russian war. It created an additional charge upon us of £1,400,000 per annum. Under these three heads, therefore—the deficiency in the amount of the succession duty, the stoppage of the surplus applicable to the extinction of debt, and the additional charge created by the Russian war—we stand worse than in 1853 by the sum of £2,720,000 a year. But, Sir, that sum has been fully compensated from other sources. The experiment I commenced with a timid hand in 1853, of raising the spirit duties, was again followed up by myself in 1854, and by my successors down to 1858. That increase has added a permanent revenue to the country of perhaps from £1,500,000 to £2,000,000 a year; and if, along with the general productiveness of the revenue, your expenditure had continued to be anything like what it was, you might at this day have done what you please with the income tax. In 1853 the annual expenditure was £52,183,000. To that sum I add on account of the additional debt, £1,400,000, and £4,700,000 for the collection of the revenue; this would make the actual charge £58,283,000. But the estimate of the revenue for the year 1860–61, with the tea duty and the sugar duty each reduced to the minimum as fixed for a time of peace, is not only £58,283,000, it is £60,600,000, leaving a surplus at your disposal, without looking to any removal of the income tax, of £2,317,000, if your expenditure had continued what it was. A larger sum, I need hardly remind the Committee, than the amount of income tax which will still be outstanding on the 1st of April. And now I come to the true explanation of your altered power. It is to be found simply and entirely in the comparison of charge at the respective periods. In 1853 the whole amount voted for Supply and Services of every description, including the Miscellaneous charges on the Consolidated Fund, was £24,279,000—that was the proportion of the public charge or expenditure that was under the control of Parliament. But in 1860–61, instead of £24,279,000, these charges amount to £39,000,000, showing an increase in your expenditure of £14,721,000. This increase is, as nearly as may be, the exact representative of what would be in itself an income tax of 13½d. in the pound. I ask now, Sir, from my learned Friend, whether I have not redeemed my pledge?
Sir, the period at which I address you is a period of so much interest and so much importance that, even at the risk of occu- 822 pying a few minutes of your time, I wish to dwell a little on the subject of public expenditure, because I admit that my statement thus far, though true, and I hope clear, is an imperfect statement. It would not be fair to speak of the great increase in the expenditure of the country without considering the great extension of the means by which that increase is supported. The country is richer than it was in 1853 in a degree really astonishing. Permit me to lay before the Committee, as well as I can, a criterion by which we may arrive at some idea of the truth with respect to the increase in the wealth of the country; and then we can institute a just comparison between the rate of increase in this wealth and the rate of increase in the public expenditure. The best mode of making an estimate of the rate of increase in the wealth of the country is to resort to the income tax. No other criterion is comparable to it, for, though it may not be an exact index of the truth in this matter, in any one year, yet, as between any one period and another, I believe it is an index on which we may safely rely. But, in taking the income tax as a measure of the income of the country, I beg to object to two out of the five schedules of the tax. Schedule C does not, I think, represent any portion of the wealth of the country in the sense of its productive power. It represents income from the funds, that is to say, a charge imposed upon the property of the country at large, just as a mortgage is imposed upon a particular estate. Schedule E represents the income of the fraternity to which I myself have the honour at present to belong, including the salaries of what are termed officials, that is to say, Ministers and others who are receivers of public allowances. But I do not take an increase in the salaries of these gentlemen as any material augmentation of the wealth of the country. What this House has been about I do not exactly know; I believe there has been a considerable transfer of officers from D to E, which may have imparted to the latter schedule something of a factitious augmentation; assuredly, however, the growth of that most respectable company of salaried gentlemen must have been viewed with delight by all who take an interest in the body. But the test of the wealth of the country by comparison must be taken principally from Schedules A, B, and D. The profits derived from lands and tenements, from all real and moveable property, are included in Sche- 823 dule A. Schedule B represents the tax levied upon the occupiers of land, and it Varies mainly with the amount of rent paid. Schedule D includes the profits derived from trades and professions. I will take two periods; the period from 1842, when we commenced our great career of commercial legislation, to the year 1853, when we closed it—I hope to be renewed—under the pressure of war. I will also take the period from 1853–4 to 1857–58, because it is the last year in which the returns are made up; and I will carry it on for two years by estimate, assuming the same rate of increase to have continued to 1859–60. Now the net amount shown by these three schedules of the income tax conjointly is as follows:—In 1842, £154,000,000; in 1853, £172,000,000; in 1857–8, £191,000,000; and in l859–60,£200,000,000.Theincrease in the wealth of the country between the first period and the second was 12 per cent in eleven years; the increase between 1853 and 1860, as thus returned, was 16½ per cent in six years. That undoubtedly shows a very large increase in the wealth of the country. I think it will also be interesting to the Committee to know in what proportions that increase has been distributed between the classes represented by three of the Schedules to which I have referred; for I must say that the statement is one which throws a very considerable light upon the condition of the landed interests, and more especially upon that of our old friend, the farmer. I shall take the period from 1853–4 to 1847–8, a period of four years, for which we have the latest possible returns; and I find that during those four years the income under the head of Schedule D, which embraces the profits on trades and professions, grew from £64,974,000 to £70,703,000, or at the rate of 9 per cent; while that under the head of Schedule A, which represents real and immovable property, grew from £96,129,000 to £106,972,000, or at the rate of 11¼ per cent. At the same time, Schedule B—which represents the profits of the farmer, but having, also, no small degree of reference to the rent of the landlord—grew no less than from £11,123,000 to £13,436,000, or at the rate of 19 per cent. That being the case, I rejoice to think that we now live in times when any hon. Gentleman may, if he thinks fit, attend an agricultural dinner, and congratulate his hearers upon the prosperity of their condition without being considered to offer them an insult. I must at the same 824 time observe, lest I should appear to be representing the condition of this particular class in colours too sanguine, that during the period which elapsed between 1842 and 1853, the case was far different with it, inasmuch as Schedule B exhibited during that time, unfortunately, no increase whatever. A change has since taken place, and I am happy to say it is a change which must he satisfactory in the highest degree to the community at large.
Having thus spoken of the increase of wealth in the country, the Committee will, perhaps, permit me very briefly to compare it with the rate of increase in our expenditure. I shall in the first instance compare the growth of wealth with the total expenditure—that is to say, with the whole State as well as the whole local expenditure, as far as the latter can be ascertained; for the local expenditure of the country is likewise beginning to form a very considerable item in our financial calculations, and it shows a disposition to grow to an extent which makes it well worthy of the serious attention of the Committee. I may, in the first place, state that my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Home Department has been good enough to obtain for me certain returns in connection with this local expenditure, which are trustworthy, although I do not mean my statements will be literally accurate, as they must in part be founded upon estimate. Well, then, to proceed—the gross expenditure of the State was in 1842–3, £55,223,000, and the local expenditure in the three kingdoms was in the same year £13,224,000; making a total, in round numbers, of £68,500,000. In 1853–4 the total State expenditure was £55,769,000, or very nearly the same amount as in 1842–3, and the local expenditure £15,819,000; making together, in round numbers, 71 millions and a half, instead of the 68 millions and a half which was the amount in 1842–3. In the year 1859–60 the gross State expenditure had grown from £55,769,000, which it was in 1853, to £70,123,000. The local expenditure—no doubt actuated by a spirit of honourable rivalry—increased in the same period from £15,819,000, which it was in 1853, to at least £17,458,000. The total expenditure for the year 1859–60 thus reached £87,697,000 It thus appears that in the eleven years from 1842–3 to 1853–4, the expenditure of the country under the two comprehensive heads which I have mentioned, increased at the rate of 825 4½ per cent, while in the six years which have elapsed between 1853 and 1859 it became much more mercurial, and increased at the rate of 22½ per cent. But in order to bring homo to the Committee the real importance of the question which is raised, not so much by the gross amount of the Imperial expenditure as by that portion of it which is under the control of Parliament, and for which Parliament is responsible, let me take the increase which has occurred during the same period in the expenditure which has been voted by this House, or which is, for certain miscellaneous purposes, charged on the Consolidated Fund. The two items which come under this head I shall call optional expenditure, and I may briefly state that they amounted in 1842–3 to £21,487,000; in 1853–4 to £23,361,000. Thus the increase in this expenditure which, as I before said, is under the control of Parliament, and whose amount is in the main determined by public opinion, in eleven years amounted to no more than a sum of £1,874,000, or at the rate of 8¾ per cent; but during the period from 1853 to 1859, a period of six years, it increased from £233,61,000, at which it had stood in 1853–4, to £36,898,000, or at the rate of 58 per cent.
Now, therefore, you have at your command a tolerably complete comparison between the rate of growth in the wealth of the country and the increase in its expenditure. Between the years 1842 and 1853 the increase in her wealth was at the rate of 12, and that in her expenditure at the rate of 8¾ per cent; while between 1853 and 1859 the national wealth grew at the rate of 16½, the public expenditure, so far as it was optional and subject to the action of public opinion, at the rate of 58 per cent.
I have troubled the Committee with these particulars because I deemed it right to invite their attention to what is a subject of vital importance. The country may be right in the course which she is now taking, but, at all events, that course ought not to be pursued blindfold. We ought, on the contrary, to have a clear knowledge of the proportion which our wealth bears to our expenditure, in order that we may be able to take a comprehensive view of our financial position, and have full means of measuring the policy which we ought to adopt. Let me now recall to the recollection of the Committee the fact that our fiscal situation—to borrow a phrase 826 from our neighbours on the other side of the Channel—as it stands is this. There is a deficit of £9,400,000, the best means of providing for which it becomes our duty to consider; and we ought not, in my opinion, to face a question of such magnitude as is now before us, without having duly weighed the principles upon which we are to proceed, and the policy on which we mean to act. Now I have already indicated to you a summary budget which might have the effect of filling up the hiatus which I have mentioned. I have also shadowed out to you another and a more generous budget, which, providing you with an income tax of 1s. in the pound, would achieve the same object, and would enable you to relieve the consumers of tea and sugar to the extent of the remaining portions of the war duty; as well as that more niggardly budget, which would keep up the duties on tea and sugar, and would still leave the country liable to an income tax of 9d. in the pound. With what views, then, and upon what principles, are we to face this state of circumstances; I may at once venture to state frankly that I am not satisfied with the state of the public-expenditure, and the rapid rate of its growth. I trust, therefore, that we mean in a great degree to retrace our steps. The process of retracing our steps in such a matter, however, even were it resolved upon and begun, is one which must necessarily be gradual; for, if it be not pursued with circumspection and with caution, it will serve but to aggravate the very evils which it may be intended to remove. I assume, therefore, whether the Committee concurs with the Government in the expediency of the Estimates which they have submitted, or are about to submit to the House, or whether it does not, that you can effect no radical change in the scale of that expenditure on which you have now, for a series of years, embarked—no radical change, I mean, applicable to the operations of the present year, or to the provision you will have to make for filling up the gap which yawns before you, and which is represented by the figures £9,400,000. The real question with which we have to deal is whether we ought upon this occasion to say our necessities are great, our means too narrow, to enable us to effect any commercial reforms. Such reforms are all very well, it may be contended, for fine weather, but they do not suit a period of pressure and alarm. That is, I know, a favourite doctrine with some classes, but 827 against the justice of that doctrine I for one protest. And upon the part of the Government I do not hesitate to say that, at an epoch so marked and signal in our financial history as the year 1860, it is their opinion that it is the duty of Parliament to take some steps in advance in that career of commercial improvement which, perhaps, more than any other cause, has contributed to confirm the prosperity of the country, and the security of its institutions, under the auspices of the Sovereign under whoso rule it is our happiness to live.
There are in the present year special reasons why we should pursue such a policy as that to which I refer. The first of these I find in the cessation of the Long Annuities. Are we to be told that when a sum of £2,000,000 and upwards annually, which we have hitherto been obliged to pay on the national debt, comes into our possession, it only remains for us to cast it into that great gulf of expenditure, there to be swallowed up and to disappear? That sum is a mighty engine for the purposes of relief, while for the purposes of expenditure, such as expenditure is now, it is comparatively unimportant. Applied to the purposes of relief, you may by its means shed a thousand blessings over the land; thrown into the scale of your expenditure it represents, after all, but the difference between the £13,000,000 which you have already added to that expenditure and the £11,000,000 which you might have added. The next of these reasons is to be found in the state of the tea and sugar duties. They have continued to be levied for three years at a rate exceeding that which was fixed for time of peace, and this even while the income tax was allowed to sink to 5d. I do not say that we are bound to choose these particular duties for reduction unless we find that a reduction of them will be the best of all the reductions that may be within our choice; but I do confidently urge that the position of these duties offers a strong reason why we should endeavour to afford on this occasion a considerable relief, and give attention to the claims of the people, as well as to the claims of trade, on which the prosperity of all classes mainly depends. There is yet another special reason. It is my intention before sitting down to propose to the Committee that they shall apply in aid of the expenditure of the year a sum of not less than £1,400,000, which is no part of the proposed taxation of the 828 year, but which will be obtained by rendering available another portion of the malt credit, and the credit usually given on hops. That may, under our present circumstances, be a salutary measure; but if we are employing in aid of the year extraordinary resources which form no part of its public burdens, that is a reason why we should also include in its arrangements special benefits, and make use of the means thus supplied for carrying forward the great work of public improvement.
But, Sir, I am not satisfied to place this duty on narrow grounds of whatever kind. It is not simply because annuities are falling in—it is not simply because we have considerable funds to be drawn from this source or that. We must look at the question from another point of view. We must take it for granted that for the present we have attained to what may be called a high level of public expenditure, and that we are likely to remain on that high level for some time at least. Is that a reason, or is it not, why we should arrest the process of reforming the commercial legislation of the country? I say that is no reason for stopping—I say more, it is a distinct reason for persevering in that process and carrying it boldly and readily to its completion. Let us, however, glance for a moment at our position. If we were, in the year 1860, to hold our hands, let us consider what aspect our procedure would bear. For seven years, under the pressure of war and of demands for increased expenditure, we have intermitted the course of commercial improvement on which we had entered: we have now arrived at a year of unexampled financial relief as regards the charge of the public debt, a year of which the Ways and Means will be enlarged by special resources, and a year which obliges us to reconsider the existing duties on tea and sugar. If, after such a period of years, on a review of a juncture like the present, we stop in 1860, will it not be supposed that we stop for ever? In truth, if this be not a fitting opportunity for endeavouring to give increased effect to the beneficial principles of your legislation, I, for one, must frankly own I know not when such an opportunity will arise. But, Sir, I come now to the broader view of the truth of the case. Our high taxation is not a reason for stopping short in our commercial reforms; it is a reason why we should persevere in them. For it is by means of these reforms that we are enabled to 829 bear high taxation. What, I ask, has the country done during the last six months? It has paid an income tax, which, during the half-year, was at the rate of 1s. 1d. in the pound. Would that tax, so suddenly imposed, have been borne as it has been borne without discontent, but for the strength which the country has derived from the recent commercial legislation? In stating that this great and sudden augmentation of the income tax has been borne without discontent—[An hon. MEMBER: Hear, hear!]—I speak in general terms. Indeed, I now remember that I myself had, about a fortnight ago, a letter addressed to me, complaining of the monstrous injustice and iniquity of the income tax, and proposing that, in consideration thereof, the Chancellor of the Exchequer should be publicly hanged. Of course I do not mean to say there has in no individual case been a murmur; but, upon the whole, speaking with the necessary latitude that must attach to general expressions, I am justified in saying that this high rate of taxation has been borne throughout the country with a most extraordinary, laudable, and honourable forbearance. It was, I think, Lord Londonderry who complained of the people of England as exhibiting an 'ignorant impatience of taxation;' but I think, were he to rise from the dead and again take his place in this House, he would be very much more likely to describe them as distinguished by an ignorant patience of taxation.
I wish, however, Sir, to show more particularly the connection that subsists between commercial reforms, as affecting trade and industry, and the power to pay the high taxes you have imposed. These two subjects are inseparably locked the one in the other. You shall have the demonstration in figures. I again ask you for a moment to attend with me to the experience of two periods. I take the ten years from 1832, the crisis of the Reform Bill, down to 1841, during which our commercial legislation was, upon the whole, stationary; and I take the twelve years from 1842 to 1853, within the circuit of which are comprehended the beneficial changes that Parliament has made. In the ten years from 1832 to 1841 this was the state of things:—You imposed of Customs and Excise duties £2,067,000, and you remitted £3,385,000, exhibiting a balance remitted over and above what you imposed of £1,317,000, or at the rate of no more 830 than £131,000 a year. Now, observe the effect on the state of the revenue. During these ten years the Customs and Excise increased by £1,707,000, or, at the rate of £170,000 a year; while the increase of the export trade was £15,156,000, or at the annual rate of £1,515,000. Let us next take the twelve years from 1842 to 1853. You remitted during that period of Customs and Excise £13,238,000, and imposed£l,029,000,pre-senting a balance remitted of £12,209,000, or an annual average of £1,017,000. What was the effect on the revenue? The Customs and Excise increased £2,656,000, or at an annual rate of £221,000. When you remitted practically nothing, your Customs revenue, in consequence of the increase of the population, grow at the rate of £170,000 per annum; and when you remitted £1,017,000 a-year, your Customs and Excise revenue grew faster than when you remitted nothing, or next to nothing at all. I ask, is not this a conclusive proof that it is the relaxation and reform of your commercial system which has given to the country the disposition to pay taxes along with the power also which it now possesses to support them? The foreign trade of the country, during the same period, instead of growing at the rate of £1,515,000 a-year, grew at the rate of £4,304,000. I say, then, Sir, without hesitation, that it is the duty of the Legislature, both on account of the special circumstances of the juncture, and likewise, and still more, on the broad ground of general and comprehensive principle, at this time to make considerable remissions; and if that be so, the next question is on what principle you should make them.
When we have arrived at this stage of the question, the subject of the tea and sugar duties may naturally occur to the mind of every one as having a presumptive claim, at any rate, to the first consideration. I am bound, however, to say that these are not the subjects on which it has appeared to the Government that they might operate with the greatest advantage. No doubt the duties on tea and sugar are taxes most desirable to be reduced. They are harmless and beneficial articles—articles of universal consumption, and I trust the time may arrive, and arrive at no distant date, when we may be able to recur to our former standard in regard to these taxes. But, on the other hand, there never was a time when the people were so well able to pay these taxes as now. The 831 increase in the consumption of these articles is regular, and the revenue is a growing revenue. If we are to have a very large scale of expenditure and a very high income tax, I cannot think, while the bulk of the burden should fall on the shoulders of those having property, that it is otherwise than desirable that the labouring classes should bear their share of the burden in a form in which it will be palpable and intelligible to them, rather than in forms in which it will be veiled from their eyes. But, Sir, I take my stand more especially on this consideration;—the duties on tea and sugar, whatever else they may be, are simply revenue duties. They entail no complexity in the system of Customs law; above all, they entail none of the evils that belong to differential duties; and I will by and-by invite you to join the Government in adopting measures whereby you will be able to counteract and root out evils of that peculiar and aggravated kind, as well as to give relief in the price of commodities. But I do not hesitate to say that it is a mistake to suppose that the best mode of giving benefit to the labouring classes is simply to operate on the articles consumed by them. If you want to do them the maximum of good, you should rather operate on the articles which give them the maximum of employment. What is it that has brought about the great change in their position of late years? Not that you have legislated here and there, taking off 1d. or 2d. in the pound of some article consumed by the labouring classes. This is good as far as it goes, but it is not this which has been mainly operative in bettering their condition as it has been bettered during the last ten or fifteen years. It is that you have set more free the general course of trade; it is that you have put in action the process that gives them the widest field and the highest rate of remuneration for their labour. Take the great change in the corn laws; it may even possibly be doubted whether up to this time you have given them cheaper bread—at best it is but a trifle cheaper than before; that change, however, is one comparatively immaterial; but you have created a regular and steady trade which may be stated at £15,000,000 a year; by that trade you have created a corresponding demand for the commodities of which they are the producers, their labour being an essential and principal element in their production, and it is the price their labour thus brings, not the price of cheapened 832 commodities, that forms the main benefit they receive. That is the principle of a sound political economy applicable to commercial legislation, and that is the principle on which we will to-night invite you to proceed.
I may simply state, therefore, in passing, in regard to the tea and sugar duties, that we shall ask Parliament to renew them,—not to renew them for any lengthened period, but only for one year, with the further addition of three months till July, 1861; an addition for which we shall ask on the simple ground that the 1st of April is an inconvenient period, as it restricts too much the time within which Parliament has to consider the question.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I mean to ask for the duties precisely as they now stand; that is, 1s. 5d. per pound on tea, and the duties on sugar, which are classified at various rates on the various descriptions, but which may be represented on the whole as being about 3s. the cwt. above the minimum point at which they stood fixed in 1853.
Having thus far stated to the Committee the conviction of the Government that we ought to have remissions, and large remissions of duty—and further that we ought to have those particular remissions in preference to all others by which we may most effectually act upon the trade and commerce of the country, and upon the demand for the labour of the people—I come now to the question of the commercial treaty with France. And, Sir, I will confidently recommend the adoption of the treaty to the House, as fulfilling and satisfying all the conditions of the most beneficial kind of change in our commercial legislation.
But, perhaps, Sir, as the Committee has not yet had an opportunity of reading the treaty, it may be convenient that I should in the first place state to them very briefly its principal covenants. First, I will take the engagements of France. France engages to reduce the duty on English coal and coke from the 1st of July, 1860; on bar and pig-iron and steel from the 1st of October, 1860; on tools and machinery from the 1st of December, 1860; and on yarns and goods in flax and hemp, including I believe jute,—an article comparatively new in commerce, but one in which a great and very just interest is felt in some important districts,—from the 1st of June, 1861. That is the first important cove- 833 nant into which France enters. Her second and great engagement is postponed to the 1st of October, 1861. I think it is probably in the knowledge of the Committee that this postponement is stipulated under a pledge given by the Government of France to the classes who suppose themselves to be interested in the maintenance of prohibition. On the 1st of October, then, in the year 1861, France engages to reduce the duties and to take away the prohibitions on all the articles of British production mentioned in a certain list, in such a way that no duty upon any of those articles shall exceed 30 per cent ad valorem. I do not speak of articles of food, which do not materially enter into the treaty; but the list to which I refer, Sir, includes all the staples of British manufacture, whether of yarns, flax, hemp, hair, wool, silk, or cotton—all manufactures of skins, leather, bark, wood, iron and all other metals, glass, stoneware, earthenware, and porcelain. I will not go through the whole list, but I am not aware of any great or material article that is omitted. France also engages to commute these ad valorem duties into rated duties by a separate convention. But if there should be a disagreement as to the terms on which they shall be rated under the convention, then the maximum, chargeable on every class at 30 per cent ad valorem, will be levied at the proper period, not in the form of rated duty, but upon the value, and the value will be determined by the process now in use in the English Customs. That is to say, the importer will declare the value, and it will be in the option of the Custom-house authorities in France to appropriate the article upon paying the price which he has declared, with a per centage added. And I must say that I hold it to be a signal proof of earnestness and liberality on the part of the French Government that it has introduced this administrative regulation into its code, borrowed, as I believe, from our own, for the purpose of disarming suspicion and insuring the efficacious execution of the treaty. There is a further provision, Sir, that the maximum of 30 per cent shall, after a period not exceeding three years, be reduced to a maximum of 25 per cent.
And I may be permitted to remind the Committee that this rule of 30 per cent, to which France is nominally about to pass from a system of prohibition, is the very rule which was adopted, nominally adopted, by the British Parliament when Mr. Hus- 834 kisson was our Minister for trade, and when we first set about making important commercial relaxations. But there is, I am bound to say, this difference between the two cases—that the rule was accompanied in England with such modes of operation that duties far exceeding 30 per cent were, in a multitude of instances, nay, are in many instances to this day, kept alive; whereas, as far as the terms of this instrument go, France has, I think, given us a security that 30 per cent will really be the maximum. And I need hardly observe that if this be the maximum, then, with a system of rated duties, it must happen that, in a great multitude of instances, the duties will be much below that rate on many classes of our manufactured goods.
I come next, Sir, to the English covenants. England engages, with a limited power of exception, which we propose to exercise with respect only to two or three articles, to abolish immediately and totally all duties upon all manufactured goods. There will be a sweep, clean, entire, and absolute, of manufactured goods from the face of the British tariff. She engages to reduce the duty on brandy from 15s. per gallon to the level of the colonial duty—namely, 8s. 2d. per gallon. She engages to reduce immediately the duty on foreign wine. In the treaty it is, of course, French wine which is specified; but it is perfectly understood between France and ourselves that we proceed with regard to the commodities of all countries alike. England engages, then, to reduce the duty on wine from a rate nearly reaching 5s. 10d. to 3s. per gallon. She engages further to reduce that duty from the 1st of April, 1861, to a scale which has reference to the strength of the wine as measured by the quantity of spirit it contains. That scale is as follows:—On all wines in bottles, whatever the strength, and on all wines having 26 degrees and upwards of proof spirit, 2s. per gallon; on wine having 15 and under 26 degrees of proof, 1s. 6d. per gallon; and on wine with less than 15 degrees, 1s. per gallon. The maximum of 40 degrees, beyond which no liquid is admissible as wine will remain without change. A power is also reserved to us of increasing our duty on wine in case we should increase our duty of Excise chargeable on spirits. We have also reserved a general power of augmenting or imposing duty upon purely fiscal considerations. The exercise of this power is subject to the condition that we 835 shall not charge upon any article of French production a greater sum than may he equal to the corresponding duty on the same article of domestic production, together with an allowance for any extra and further charges to which the English producer may be put in consequence of the necessary regulations of our Inland Revenue Department.
These, Sir, are the chief covenants on the part of England. There are also provisions by which both parties reserve to themselves power to place Customs duties anew on any foreign articles whatsoever, provided they place the same duties on the like articles of domestic production. They likewise agree to treat each other on the same terms as the most favoured nations with respect to all the matters comprised in the Treaty, and with respect to all prohibitions. Lastly, all the articles of the Treaty are to continue in operation for a period of ten years, with a provision as to giving notice of any desire for their revision.
These, then, are the principal stipulations of the Treaty with France, which may have been seen by hon. Members in one form or another, but which have not collectively, or upon authority, as yet met the public eye. I will not affect to be unaware that many objections have been stated to this Treaty. It has even been said that its terms indicate a subserviency to France, and involve a sacrifice of British interests to those of foreign nations or of a foreign Government. Sir, I am thankful to think that no Ministry, be its own merits or be the distinction of its chief what they may, can in this country hold office for a single Session upon terms of subserviency to any foreign Power whatever. There is here a perfect security (to omit all mention of any other guarantees) in the nature and in the traditions of the two Houses of Parliament. But, Sir, I know not what is meant by subserviency to France as regards the articles of a Treaty like this. We have given to France in the proper sense of the term, nothing by this Treaty, if I except some very trifling fiscal sacrifice which we are to make with respect to the single article of brandy. I mean that it might not be necessary to reduce the duty to quite so low a point as is fixed by the Treaty, and therefore there might be a question whether some infinitesimal advantage may not be surrendered in that form. But, with that small, and I believe solitary exception, we have given nothing to France 836 by this Treaty which we have not given with as liberal a hand to ourselves. And the changes here proposed are changes every one of which deserves the acceptance of this House on its own merits, in conformity with all the principles that have been recognized and acted upon for many years past.
But further, Sir, as respects the charge of subserviency to France, I know that this Treaty may be said to bear a political character. The commercial relations of England with France have always borne a political character. What is the history of the system of prohibitions on the one side and on the other which grew up between this country and France? It was simply this:—That finding yourselves in political estrangement from her at the time of the Revolution, you followed up and confirmed that estrangement, both on the one side and the other, by a system of prohibitory duties. And I do not deny that it was effectual for its end. I do not mean for its economical end. Economically it may, I admit, have been detrimental enough to both countries; but for its political end it was effectual. And because it was effectual I call upon you to legislate now for an opposite end by the exact reverse of that process. And if you desire to knit together in amity those two great nations whose conflicts have often shaken the world, undo for your purpose that which your fathers did for their purpose, and pursue with equal intelligence and consistency an end that is more beneficial. Sir, there was once a time when close relations of amity were established between the Governments of England and France. It was in the reign of the later Stuarts; and it marks a dark spot in our annals, because it was an union formed in a spirit of domineering ambition on the one side, and of base and vile subserviency on the other. But that, Sir, was not an union of the nations; it was an union of the Governments. This is not be an union of the Governments; it is to be an union of the nations; and I confidently say again, as I have already ventured to say in this House, that there never can be any union between the nations of England and Franco except an union beneficial to the world, because directly either the one or the other begins to harbour schemes of selfish aggrandizement, that moment the jealousy of its neighbour will powerfully react, and the very fact of their being in harmony will of itself be at all times the most con- 837 clusive proof that neither of them can meditate anything which is dangerous to Europe.
There is another class of objections of which I do not complain, but which I hope to remove. There are those who say that a commercial treaty is an abandonment of the principles of free trade. Well, certainly a commercial treaty would be an abandonment of the principles of free trade, in the latitude in which we now employ that phrase, if it involved the recognition of exclusive privileges. In this sense I admit that Mr. Pitt's commercial treaty would, if we had now adopted it in the terms in which it was expressed, have been on our part an abandonment of free trade; but, at the same time, I cannot mention that treaty without saying that I think it was, for the time at which it was made, one of the best and one of the wisest measures ever adopted by Parliament, and has contributed at least as much as any other passage of his brilliant career to the fame of the great statesman who concluded it. We, however, have no exclusive engagements; we have not the pretence of an exclusive engagement. France is perfectly aware that our legislation makes no distinction between one nation and another, and that what we enact for her we shall at the same time enact for all the world.
I am, however, a little surprised at the number and variety of these objections which come rushing from all quarters. It is like the ancient explanation of the physical cause of a storm—all the winds, north, east, west, and south, rushing together:—Unà Eurusque Notusque ruunt, creberque procellis Africus.Sometimes a treaty is an obsolete and antiquated idea; sometimes it is a dangerous innovation. In the view of one class it is an abandonment of free trade. There are also another class of men, of opinions diametrically at variance with these, and those are gentlemen with whom we shall have much difficulty in dealing. These are they who find fault with it—and that I must say is by far the soundest objection, inasmuch as it is unquestionably founded on the facts—because it is an abandonment of the principle of protection. This treaty is an abandonment of the principle of protection. I am not aware of any entangling engagement which it contains; it certainly contains no exclusive privilege, but it is an abandonment of the principle of protection, 838 and a means, I hope complete and efficacious, of sweeping from the statute book the chief relics of that miscalled system which still remain upon it. The fact is, and you will presently see that it is so, that our old friend Protection, who used formerly to dwell in the palaces of the land, and who was dislodged from them some ten or fifteen years ago, has since that period found very comfortable shelter and good living in holes and corners; and you are now invited, if you will have the goodness to concur in the operation, to see whether you cannot likewise eject him from those holes and corners. I told you that we are to remove the duty from all manufactured goods. Now, Sir, there is hardly one of that class of duties which is not, in point of fact, the representative of a strictly protective duty; nay more—and mark my words—in many cases of a prohibitory duty.
Perhaps the best method of giving a summary view of the case will be by my stating to the Committee what will be the financial results of the treaty as it stands. I will not enter into any of the smaller details, and will take three branches of reduction only—the reduction of the duty upon wine, the reduction of that upon brandy, and the abolition of the duties upon manufactured goods. The reduction of the duty upon wine from 5s. 10d. to 3s. per gallon will afford to the consumer a relief of £830,000, and will entail upon the revenue, after allowing for an increase of consumption to the extent of 35 per cent, a loss of £515,000. The reduction of the duty upon brandy from 15s. to 8s. 2d. a gallon will give to the consumer a relief of £446,000, and, assuming that the consumption will be raised to the point at which it stood in 1850, just before the disease of the vine commenced, it will cause a loss of £225,000 to the revenue. Before I give the chief items of manufactured goods I will mention some minor cases, with which we propose to deal for the time as exceptions. There are three small articles the abolition of the duties on which we propose to postpone for a short period, in the meantime reducing it by one-half. One of them is the article cork, which has been the subject of a great deal of debate in this House. I must say that although there never was a stronger apparent case made out for protection, and although, in consequence of the measures which were adopted, there has been a considerable shock to the trade, and a con- 839 siderable change of its nature and of the course which it takes, the House has nothing to repent. On the contrary, the total consumption of cork wood in the domestic manufacture is much larger now than it was before the duty was reduced. On account of the importance of the present change, however, we propose to give until the 1st of April, 1861, for the reduction of the duty on cork; and we also propose a delay of the changes affecting two other trades, upon the simple ground that they are trades carried on almost entirely by widely-diffused rural labour, to which it is not desirable to give a sudden shock. These are the glove trade and the trade in straw plaiting. In the meantime the duties will be reduced, and next year they will be taken off.
I pass now to state the mode in which the treaty deals with manufactured goods in general. The amount of duty on these articles), which will be abolished, is no less than £432,000. The principal articles are silk manufactures, £270,000; gloves, subject to a short delay, £48,000; artificial flowers, £20,000; watches, £15,000; certain oils, £10,000; musical instruments, £9,000; leather, £9,000; china, £8,000; glass, £7,000, and many others yielding smaller amounts. There are a great number of minor articles of industry produced largely in France, especially in Paris. The total relief to the consumer—that is the gross amount of duty remitted under the French treaty—will be £1,737,000; the loss to the revenue for the first year will probably be £1,190,000. Now, Sir, the objections which are taken to this treaty in the interests of Free Trade will not, I am quite sure, be very long-lived; but there is one objection which turns upon another point, and with which I must endeavour to deal. It is that which tells us that the duties we are about to repeal are, forsooth, revenue duties, and duties which are levied upon luxuries, but which do not affect the poor man. Compassion for the poor man is a very fine feeling, and I should be very sorry to say anything that appeared to depreciate or undervalue so sacred a sentiment, but I must say that it is entirely out of place here. There is not one of these duties that is a revenue duty—no, not one of them. How they work with respect to poor men, how they work with respect to those who are not rich men, we will presently inquire. But if these are revenue duties, it is very curious to notice which are the classes that 840 are alarmed at the treaty. Are the manufacturers of British brandy the guardians of the British revenue? Are the importers of Cape wines the guardians of the British revenue? Have the manufacturers of British wines a peculiar interest in the well-being of the exchequer? The manufacturers of Spitalfields, and those of Coventry, who have an incomparable organ in my right hon. Friend (Mr. Ellice), are most excellent citizens, and no doubt contribute their share to the revenue; but my right hon. Friend will not tell me that their great activity, their speed in rushing up to London, and urging their representations upon this subject, has arisen from their interest in the British revenue. It has arisen from something very different. These gentlemen do not enter my room to tell me that they come there as the guardians of the British revenue; they tell a much more simple and a much more intelligible tale. They say this—that the duties which now stand upon your tariff are, and it is perfectly true, levied upon articles consumed by the rich. But why are they not levied upon articles consumed by the middle, the lower middle class, and the poor? Because they will not let them in; because they are prohibitory as against those articles. That is the explanation of the whole case. Our manufacturers give over to France the highest qualities under cover of duties, which are as good for their purpose as prohibitions, and reserve for themselves the making of the lower qualities, and the power of exacting from the British consumer a higher price than they will be able to obtain if this treaty is confirmed by Parliament. I took the liberty of saying to one of the deputations, "It seems to mo this is much the case of the corn law over again." Now do not let there be any mistake. What is wanted is, a higher price than that at which the public can get goods from France. That is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end of it. I asked then, "Is not this the case of the corn law?" The answer was, "Oh dear, no; not the least like the corn law." In fact, there is generally, on the part of the most respectable classes, a desire for the protection of their own business. They show that though they are without exception adherents of free trade, they are not adherents of free trade without exception. They make no secret of it, nor should there be any secret made of it here, that the duties in which they take an interest 841 are not revenue duties but are protection duties, and, therefore, duties ill adapted for the purposes of revenue.
Let us now, Sir, proceed to consider some of the circumstances which have rendered it allowable and desirable, in the view of Her Majesty's advisers, to make a special arrangement in this case. I entreat the Committee to look at the present state of the trade between England and France; it is not a little instructive. Consider, in the first place, the relative positions of England and France. It is perfectly true, that France is a foreign country, but she is a foreign country separated from you absolutely by a narrower channel than that which divides you from Ireland; and while nature, or Providence rather, has placed you in the closest proximity, it has also given to these two great countries such diversities of soil, climate, products, and character, that I do not believe you can find, on the face of the world, two other countries which are so constituted for carrying on a beneficial and extended commerce. I believe, indeed, that the prohibitory system subsisting between England and France is but little less unnatural as to every commercial—I think I may add as to every moral and political—result than if you were to revive those prohibitory systems which formerly separated England from Scotland, and Great Britain from Ireland. I shall be told, perhaps, that our system is not prohibitory. And certainly in respect of many articles the statement is a true one, for we have considerable importations from France; but when I remember how much we still practically prohibit, I have no hesitation in saying that, although our system is far better than that of France, yet, on the other hand, it is far indeed from being what it ought to be. And now let us look for a moment at the question on the French side. The doctrine is that we should attend to our own interests, and leave France to manage hers. What, then, is the state of the trade as regards France? In 1858 the total value of exports from England to France—not British exports only, but exports of whatever origin—was£14,821,000. Of that amount the home consumption in France took £10,465,000. A portion of the articles are unenumerated, and I cannot get at the details, but I have obtained the particulars of articles to the value of £9,819,000, about nineteen-twentieths of the whole. Observe how they are distributed. Of this large proportion of the goods sent to 842 France in 1858, amounting to £9,819,000, raw materials, upon which no labour whatever had been employed, and the great bulk of which were not of British origin, but merely passed through our warehouses, were £8,070,000, and half-manufactured articles were £1,060,000. The total amount of manufactures which we send abroad every year is about £130,000,000; but in 1858 our exports of manufactured goods to France were only £688,000. It is worth while to go yet one step further in the analysis. Of that £688,000, £208,000 were for Cashmere shawls, which merely came here in transit, and £217,000 for machinery, which our friends over the water have been pleased to admit under some notion of special advantage. The value of all the other manufactured articles sent from the United Kingdom to France was £263,000. I want to know whether that is a state of things so satisfactory that when we have an opportunity of amending it we should refuse to do so. I understand the statement of the moderate Free Trader who says that half a loaf is better than no bread, that all breaking down of restrictions is good, and that it is wiser to break down our own restrictions and leave those of our neighbour standing if we cannot touch them than to perpetuate both. That is true and reasonable; but I cannot understand those immoderate and unmanageable Free Traders who come from other quarters, many of whom have not long been thus fastidious and jealous on behalf of free trade in its most rigid purity, and who seem to think it is a positive evil to induce our neighbours to break down their restrictions. They do not see that what they condemn is a doubling of the benefit. They think there is a chivalry in free trade, which is degraded if it becomes a matter of bargain, whereas it appears to me that bargain is really the true end and aim of the whole. The only reason why we have not made bargains similar to the present in former years was simply because we could not make them. It was not for want of trying. For four or five years this was almost the chief business of one or more departments of the State, and yet no progress could be made. Why? Because they set out upon a false principle—the principle that the concessions which each party made to the other were not a benefit but an injury to itself. We have not proceeded upon that principle. We have never pretended to France that we were going to inflict injury upon ourselves. 843 We have offered France our best aid in breaking down her own vicious prohibitory system. In doing so, we may have given a greater benefit to Franco than to ourselves. I shall not attempt to measure it on one side or the other. What we have done is good—nay, doubly good—good for ourselves if France had done nothing at all, doubly good because France has done a great deal. And now, Sir, one word upon our exports to France at a former period. About twenty years ago there was a trade in English manufactured goods with France. It was in linen and linen yarns. In 1842 we greatly reduced our table of Customs duties, not by treaty, and independently of France, but in such a manner as greatly to extend our trade. How did that country reply to us? France was under a very friendly Government at the time, but how did she meet the immense changes we had made in favour of her commerce? She met it by smiting this single branch of trade in British manufactures with prohibitory duties. She raised her duties upon linen yarn, which before 1842 had been from 9 to 12 per cent, to from 13 to 27 per cent. Her duties upon linen cloths, which before 1842 had been from 15 to 23 per cent, were increased to from 20 to 36 per cent. The result may be anticipated. In 1841 we sent to France linen and linen yarns to the amount of £1,090,127, whereas in 1858 we sent only £151,483. Such is the state of trade between England and Franco; and I confess I am not so well satisfied with it as not to think that it admits of some improvement. As an hon. Friend whom I see opposite said the other day with respect to our wine duties, so I say of our trade with France, it is not in "the best" possible state, but, on the contrary, might be amended with advantage.
I have promised, however, to show what is the real meaning of the allegation urged against the treaty that we are here dealing with revenue duties. Take the article of brandy. I presume nobody will pretend that a duty of 15s. upon French brandy, compared with a duty of 8s. on British spirits, is a revenue duty. There is indeed an article manufactured in this country which some of us may have been happy or unhappy enough to taste. It is called British brandy. In consequence of the immense price to which French brandy is raised by our duty, which has the effect not only of raising the price of the best French brandies, but of excluding entirely everything but 844 the superior French brandies, our middling and indifferent British brandy comes into the place which is kept empty for it by means of the prohibitory power of our duty. As far as brandy is concerned, therefore, we are not dealing with revenue duties. Can we, then, regard the duties upon silk and wine as revenue duties? The mystery of the wine duty is a very deep one. Here especially we are met by the cry that wine is the rich man's luxury. It is the rich man's luxury, but I shall show presently that those who are not rich are making desperate struggles to get at it, and that, too, with some limited and qualified success, but under grievous discouragement. But wine, forsooth, is the rich man's luxury. Is tea the rich man's luxury? No. It is the poor man's, and, above all, the poor woman's luxury. But I speak in the year 1860. In 1760, tea too was the rich man's luxury. In 1760 there was no more tea consumed per head of the population than there is wine now. In 1760 there were 4,000,0001b. of tea consumed; now the annual consumption is 76,000,0001b. The price of tea which is now sold at 3s. per lb. was somewhere about that time advertised by the cheap houses at £1 per lb. Wine is the rich man's luxury, and you may make tea, or sugar, or any other article of consumption, the rich man's luxury if you put on it a sufficient weight of duty. By that means you will not only effectually bar the access of the poor man to it, but will reserve to yourselves the proud satisfaction of saying with literal truth, "Our indirect taxes are paid by the rich; none are levied upon articles consumed by the poor."
Let us consider now the necessary operation upon an article like wine of a uniform rate of duty. Wine, I suppose, more than almost anything else that is produced from the earth by the labour of man, varies in quality and price. It is not too much to say that the price of wine runs from 1 up to 100. Upon all qualities we lay the same rate of duty. What is the effect? That we tax even the highest wines somewhat heavily; the next to the highest we tax very heavily indeed, and all except those limited classes we in effect totally and absolutely prohibit. Let me give one illustration from a simpler case than that of wine, which very clearly explains how this matter stands, and let me thus dispose, once for all, of the notion that we are dealing with revenue duties, laid upon the luxuries of a class, and not upon 845 articles wanted for the consumption of the poor. It is the very simple case of gloves, which was stated to me by a most intelligent and respectable deputation, who, as became them, made no secret at all about the matter. Our import duty upon gloves is 3s. 8d. a dozen. We imported in 1859 about 300,000 dozen. The value of the gloves we import is about 24s. a dozen wholesale; the retail price of such articles probably ranges from 30s. to 36s. and upwards. Our duty is something like 15 per cent, which seems very moderate, and enables those who are so disposed to say, "Ah! we do not discourage the importation of French gloves; we merely lay upon them a duty of 15 per cent, simply for the sake of revenue." How does this work? It works in this way, that it causes the French to furnish us with the finer qualities of gloves, while they leave to the British producer the supply of the poorer qualities. Abolish the duty, and you will find that ft quantity of gloves would be imported from France, Naples, Germany, and Belgium. They will not be gloves at 24s. a dozen, but gloves at 18s., 15s., 10s., and even, as I am informed, at 6s. a dozen. These lesser-priced gloves cannot pay the duty, for the duty, when applied to gloves of 10s. a dozen, is 37 per cent, and when applied to gloves of 6s. per dozen is 58 per cent; and those gentlemen, whose words I heard with implicit belief, told me distinctly that if this duty were removed a large quantity of gloves would be imported here at 10s. and 12s. the dozen. Therefore the duty is not a revenue duty, but it is a protective duty on the higher qualities, while as regards the bulk of the trade, and as regards the bulk of the British consumers, it is to every practical intent and purpose a duty not of protection but of prohibition. Even so it is with the wine duties. Is that doubted? Let us then see how the wine duties operate as a system of protection. We have heard of Cape wine, and if we visit places much frequented by what may be termed the lower middle classes we see advertisements representing large tuns surrounded by jovial people, with the words Cape port and African sherry written on them. In all probability that is not Cape port or African sherry. Some of those who import Cape port and African sherry know how to make a better use of them. There is a system of promotion and preferment in wines. The African wines are used for mixing 846 with foreign European wines, and, to employ language familar to my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War, vice the African wine promoted, some new composts are brought forward and delivered to a discerning public, with what results it is not for me to say. The colonial wine has a differential duty in its favour of nearly 3s. a gallon; and, if there really be this great care for the revenue from wine, I beseech those who feel that anxiety to go along with us in reforming the wine duties; for they will find that the decrease in the receipt of duty from year to year would, apart from any treaty with France, but from fiscal considerations, compel them in the course of a few years to reform the wine duties.
To afford the proof of what I have just stated, I take for each period of three years, during the last nine years, the consumption of foreign wine and Cape wine in the United Kingdom. The average of foreign wine consumed in the three years, 1851–3, was 6,225,000 gallons. During the same period the average consumption of colonial wine was 254,000 gallons. In the period of 1854–56 the average consumption of foreign wine was 6,393,000 gallons, being an increase of 168,000 gallons over the previous period. It is worthy of notice that this increase took place when the disease of the vine was at its worst; and I mention this particularly, because, as this represents the consumption of foreign wine during the disease, it shows that the increase which has taken place in the consumption of Cape wine cannot be owing to the disease in the European grape. When that disease was at its worst the consumption of foreign wine increased, as I have already stated, by 168,000 gallons; the average consumption of Cape wine during the same period—1854–56—rose from 254,000 gallons to 298,000 gallons. During the latest term of years—1857–59—the disease of the vine was very much mitigated, but the average consumption of foreign wine showed a decrease of 500,000 gallons as compared with the consumption of 1854–56. The average consumption of foreign wine in 1857–59 was 5,893,000 gallons, while the consumption of the colonial wine had increased by no less than 357,000 gallons, the average consumption in this last period being 655,000 gallons, more than double the consumption of the former triennial period. The colonial wine is, in fact, rapidly displacing the foreign. The present duty is purely a protecting and 847 differential duty, and is hostile to the revenue of the country.
But, besides wine imported from a colony, there is another element affecting the wine revenue, and that is the manufacture of what is called British wine. While the consumption of foreign wine has fallen from an average of 6,225,000 gallons to 5,893,000 gallons, there has been an increase in the manufacture of British wine. British wine—I mean that in the hand? of highly respectable manufacturers, and I am not referring at all to what is sold for fraudulent purposes—is made very much with raisins, sugar, and brandy. The duty paid on these materials is reckoned as amounting to 1s. 2d. a gallon. Therefore you have a duty on foreign wine of 5s. 10d. the gallon—on colonial wine of 2s. 11d. the gallon, and on British wine of 1s. 2d. the gallon. The result is that the consumption of foreign wine diminishes, the consumption of colonial wine has increased, and the consumption of British wine has doubled within the last ten years. This case, then, has all the essential characteristics of a trade carried on, and a revenue pining, under the influence of differential duties. I therefore say that the present wine duty is a protective and differential duty with respect to the three classes which enter into our consumption, namely, foreign, colonial, and British wines, they all paying different rates of duty to the revenue.
Out of the enormous quantity of foreign wine manufactured abroad no doubt it is true that only a small fraction would become available in this country. The great bulk is a wine which an Englishman would not take in exchange for his beer; but it is also true that between that common and coarse wine and the fine wines there are ten thousand intermediate shades, and there is an immense capacity for producing wines fitted for the English market and for the taste of the middle and lower middle classes in this country, which capacity is at present entirely stifled by the operation of the wine duty.
There is a notion gone abroad that there is something fixed and unchanging in an Englishman's taste with respect to wine. You find a great number of people in this country who believe, like an article of Christian faith, that an Englishman is not born to drink French wines. Do what you will, they say; argue with him as you will; reduce your duties as you will; endeavour even to pour the French wine down his 848 throat, but still he will reject it. Well, these are most worthy members of the community; but they form their judgment from the narrow circle of their own experience, and will not condescend for any consideration to look beyond that narrow circle. What they maintain is absolutely the reverse of the truth, for nothing is more certain than the taste of English people at one time for French wine. In earlier periods of our history French wine was the great article of consumption here. Taste is not an immutable, but a mutable thing. If you go back to what an eminent living poet has called'The spacious times of great Elizabeth,'you will find that the most delicate lady in the land did not scruple then to breakfast off beefsteaks and ale. Down to the revolution, French wine was very largely consumed here. I have seen it stated, and have no reason to doubt the assertion, that in 1687 there were imported into this country 3,800,000 gallons of French wine, or nearly two-thirds of the whole quantity of foreign wine which we now consume. How was this consumption subsequently checked and discouraged? By the influence of prohibitive duties. The prohibitive system grew up by degrees, and by degrees the English people were positively punished and starved out of their taste for French wine. But for 100 years, after that the taste itself remained, for when Mr. Pitt made the treaty of 1786, what was the result? According to the interesting paper written by Lord Chelsea, in the year preceding 1786 the import of French wine into England was under 100,000 gallons. In the six years from 1787 to 1792 the import grew to 683,000 gallons. Then, with the outbreak of the war, or not more than two or three years afterwards, a nearly prohibitive, at all events a high differential, duty was imposed, and the average import fell to 161,000 gallons. At that average it remained till 1824, when the differential duty, instead of 4s. 5d. became 2s. 5d., and the consumption rose to 379,000 gallons. I must admit that when the duties were finally equalized in 1830, the consumption of French wine did not increase. It seemed as if by that time, after the pressure of heavy duties for a century and a half, the taste for it was nearly forgotten. It had become the luxury of a very limited class in the community, and of a class the variations of whose tastes are but little controlled by price. But it is remarkable that in conjunction with the 849 very changes of taste which have been proceeding of late years, we may likewise perceive, even under the operation of the present wine duties, and without any fiscal change in their favour, proofs of a growing taste for French wine; for whereas from 1825 to 1830 we only consumed 379,000 gallons a year, and after 1830 that consumption was reduced to something like 310,000 or 315,000 gallons, on the average of the last ten years we have consumed 584,000 gallons; so that both the importation of French nines is absolutely increasing, and the percentage of the total consumption is relatively increasing. Taste, I say, is mutable. It is idle to talk of the taste for port and sherry and the highly brandied wines as fixed and unchangeable. There is a power of unbounded supply of wine if you will only alter your law, and there is a power, I wont say of unbounded demand, but of an enormously increased demand, for this most useful and valuable commodity.
And now, Sir, I think cause enough has been already shown for an alteration in the present system of wine duties. But I beseech the Committee to remember the immense masses of evil which are connected with that system. Look at the fraud and adulteration to which it gives rise. Many of the houses engaged in the wine trade bear as high a character as any in England; but those gentlemen will tell you of the difficulties they have to encounter in holding their ground against persons of inferior character who are brought into that trade. And why do persons of inferior character embark in it? Because our law invites them to do so. Because the restrictive operation of your tariff is so severe that it affords temptations which they cannot resist to counterfeit the article on which you have laid such heavy duties. That is the way in which the wine duties work; and let me, in concluding my remarks on this subject, ask the Committee to consider yet one thing more. We hear of the rich man's luxuries, and of contemplated reductions of duty upon articles which the poor man does not consume. Now, I make my appeal to the friends of the poor man. There is a time which comes to all of us—the time, I mean, of sickness—when wine becomes a common necessary. What kind of wine is administered to the poor man in this country? We have got a law which makes it impossible for the poor man when he is sick to obtain the comfort and support derived from good 850 wine, unless he is fortunate enough to live in the immediate neighbourhood of some rich and charitable friend. Consult the medical profession; ask what sort of wine is supplied to boards of guardians in this country; go on board the Queen's ships, and see the wine supplied there. Some time ago I had the honour of being on board Her Majesty's ship Scourge, at a time when an accident had happened to one of the sailors. I went to see the man when he was recovering from the effects of an operation. "What wine do you give him?" I asked. "We give him the wine of our own mess," the surgeon told me; "we cannot give him the wine supplied to the ship." He moreover insisted on my drinking some of the ship wine, and certainly it was with great difficulty I succeeded in accomplishing the operation. Now, this wine had without doubt been taken out of bond, and had paid no duty; but our system of duty vitiates the entire trade, and, except with regard to the higher and most expensive class of wines, makes it almost impossible to obtain a sound or wholesome article. Certainly, Sir, cannot think that, under those circumstances, the Government can require further justification for making proposals which will lead to an effectual diminution of these duties.
I believe I have now gone through the principal heads of the Commercial Treaty with France. I do not think that the friends of free trade, or those who are anxious respecting the revenue, will find fault with the provisions of that treaty. I believe myself that you never were called upon to make a sacrifice—that is, an immediate sacrifice—of revenue which promised to be more fruitful of good. I believe that the trade which will be created will be immense; and I know very well that the expedition imparted to trade, and the economy brought about in the public establishments by abolishing the duties on manufactured goods, will form results of no common value. Again, everybody appreciates facility of personal intercourse with the Continent, and the changes we propose in our tariff will immensely facilitate that intercourse, by enabling the Customs' authorities to withdraw the greater part of the annoying restraints which are now found necessary.
Sir, I cannot pass from the subject of the French treaty without paying a tribute of respect to two persons at least who have been the main authors of it. I am bound 851 to bear this witness at any rate with regard to the Emperor of the French—that he has given the most unequivocal proofs of sincerity and earnestness in the progress of this great work, a work which he has prosecuted with clear-sighted resolution, not doubtless for British purposes, but in the spirit of enlightened patriotism, with a view to commercial reforms at home, and to the advantage and happiness of his own people. With regard to Mr. Cobden, speaking, as I do, at a time when every angry passion has passed away, I cannot help expressing our obligations to him for the labour he has, at no small personal sacrifice, bestowed upon a measure which he, not the least among the apostles of free trade, believes to be one of the greatest triumphs free trade has ever achieved. Rare is the privilege of any man who, having fourteen years ago rendered to his country one signal and splendid service, now again, within the same brief span of life, decorated neither by rank nor title, bearing no mark to distinguish him from the people whom he serves, has been permitted again to perform a great and memorable service to his Sovereign and to his country.
The point to which I have now brought the Committee in this, to them, I fear, laborious and irksome inquiry is this:—I have asked them to sacrifice £1,190,000 of the existing revenue in order to effect a relief to the consumer of, I think, £1,737,000, by giving effect to the provisions of the Treaty with France. That treaty would bring about a sensible reform in the Customs' establishments of the country. At the same time, it would not effect a reform which would have any pretensions to the character of completeness, and there are many other duties still remaining on the tariff of a description which we think calls for the attention of Parliament, and by the reduction or removal of which immense advantage might be conferred upon the country. I have thought it best to separate them entirely from those articles which we deal with by the Treaty, with a view to the convenience of the Committee and their clearer understanding of the whole subject. But this being the state of the case, and the Government wishing to give, as far as may be, the character of completeness to their reform of the Customs—which, indeed, is essential to the attainment of some of the objects in view—I now come to what I may term the supplemental measure of Customs reform.
852 It is our intention, Sir, to propose to the Committee a further change in the Customs laws, which will entail at first a loss of £910,000, giving at the same time a relief to the consumer of about £1,040,000; but we propose also, in a manner which I will explain to the Committee, to meet the charge of that loss by certain impositions upon trade of a character which I hope will not be deemed exceptionable. I will take these two subjects next. They together form the supplemental part of the Customs reform proposed by the Government.
This second portion of the Customs reform contains many abolitions and some reductions of the duty. I will read the principal abolitions contemplated. But, Sir, at this point my memory reminds me of an omission of which I have been guilty with reference to an important point in the treaty with France—I mean the proposal to give immediate effect to the changes on the English side, notwithstanding the postponement of the changes intended by France. The provision which we have adopted to this effect was not pressed upon us by France; on the contrary, we have reason to believe that she would have given us the time which she was compelled to require for herself, but the arrangement I have stated to the Committee for early change in preference to general postponement, was owing to the deliberate judgment of the English Government that it would be, on the whole, more advantageous to the English people.
Apologizing to the Committee for this omission, I now come to the abolition of duties which forms part of the second or supplementary part of the measure we propose for the alteration of the Customs law. We propose to abolish entirely and immediately the duty on butter, which yields £95,000; the duty on tallow, which yields £87,000; the duty on cheese, which yields £44,000; on oranges and lemons, yielding £32,000; on eggs, £22,000; on nuts, £12,000; on nutmegs, £11,000; paper, £10,000; liquorice, £9,000; dates, £7,000; and various other minor articles, the total of these abolitions amounting to £382,000.
We propose likewise a reduction of duties upon five articles of great importance, one of which strikes at the principal differential duty, except those which we shall, I hope, abolish by the French treaty—namely, the duty on timber. I propose to reduce the duty on timber from 7s. 6d. and 15s. to the colonial rate of 1s. and 2s. 853 There will be on this article a relief of £400,000 to the consumer, but we reckon on a considerable recovery by increased consumption. The next article, the duty on which I propose to reduce, with the approval of the House, is the duty on currants. There is no article of greater importance to the mass of the community. All those of the labouring classes who are in good circumstances are large consumers of currants. The duty now charged on currants ought to have been reduced many years ago—I mean in 1853; but it was impossible to recommend the change to Parliament at that period in consequence of the almost entire failure of the crop, which made it impracticable to act upon consumption by any reduction of the duty which we might have made. The duty on currants is now 15s. 9d.; we propose to reduce it to 7s. per cwt., which will involve a loss of £170,000. This, however, will in part be compensated by increased consumption. We propose to reduce the duty on raisins from 10s. to 7s.; on figs, from 10s. to 7s. I also propose to reduce a duty with regard to which I shall have to give a further explanation—the duty on hops. I propose to reduce the duty on hops, not immediately, however, but on and after the 1st of January, from 45s. to 14s. The total amount of these reductions will be £650,000, and the abolitions £382,000. There will also be a small article, namely, plaiting, the reduction on which will be postponed, and which will raise the gross loss to £1,035,000, but the increase of consumption will probably reduce this loss, as estimated, to £910,000.
I will presently state the general condition in which these changes, if they are adopted entire, will leave the tariff; but for the present, I will go on to state the mode in which the Government propose to supply the revenue to compensate for the loss that will follow these last-named changes. I am afraid, from the sensation that is expressed, that I may cause some disappointment, for, in point of fact, I am not now going to fill up the great chasm that lay before us a short time ago, but only to deal with the little chasm created by parting with the sum of £910,000. The general principle of the measures I am about to propose will be an extension of a minute kind of taxation, which may be called generally penny taxation. The penny taxation has answered the purpose of assisting the revenue, but has not been unacceptable to the public. It seems to 854 have shown that at least there is one kind of "penny wisdom" that is not "pound folly," for it has been at once popular and productive. We propose to levy upon all goods imported and exported, by way of registration due, a duty which will in general be charged at the rate of one penny per package. It has often been said and argued that when the tariff was cleared of so many articles, a small duty ought to have been retained to cover the cost of registration for statistics, and of the various services performed on behalf of trade by the Customs' establishment. That is an argument of very considerable force, but there has been one argument, as I think, of conclusive weight the other way, which has determined successive Governments and Parliaments not to retain these duties on the tariff, and that is, that if you retain small duties on your tariff, they are attended with nearly all the incidents of a large duty. They require the same sort of inspection, the same following the goods, the same delay, and the same system of accounts, as if you were levying large and productive duties. But none of these objections apply to the measure I now propose. It would be a measure of the simplest kind, levied at the rate of 1d. per package, and, on goods in bulk, according to the unit under which they are entered. There must be a few cases of raw materials, such as salt, coals, and corn, as well as of packages of small value, in which it will be necessary to alter the unit to prevent the penny from becoming a heavy charge; either with reference to smallness of value, or because, not being entered in small parcels, but by the whole cargo, and not being warehoused, they give very little trouble to the Customs. All this, however, will be matter of consideration in the Bill, and it will be for the Executive Government, in the administration of the law, to place the matter under well-considered general rules. But what an idea it gives of the wealth and power of this country, that to levy a small duty of 1d. per package, and a similar rate on all goods in bulk, will produce £300,000 a year. This will be levied without any reference to the goods whatever, and without any detention or examination. It will be taken off the ship's papers as one of the charges incidental to the receipt or despatch of the ship.
The next charge I propose to the Committee to enact is the charge upon certain operations now performed in warehouse. 855 The Committee are aware that the original object of the warehousing system was to enable the importers of goods to obtain two most important advantages—one the postponement of the payment of the duties, and the other to retain for themselves the option to the latest moment between entering the goods for home consumption and entering them for a foreign market. With neither of these do we propose to interfere or to saddle them with any charge whatever. But it has here a consequence of one system of heavy and restrictive duties, particularly with regard to certain articles, such as spirits, and most of all wine, that we should endeavour to mitigate their pressure by a system of expedients. Hence there has grown up a most complicated system of operations of every kind, which are performed in bond at a great disadvantage in respect to delay, in respect to charge upon the Customs establishment by consuming the time of its officers, to the risk of fraud affecting injuriously the owners of the goods, and to the loss of revenue, which is a loss to the country. But great as are these evils, they are some of the necessary results of the state of our law. That state is now reverting to a more moderate range of duties and to a more simple arrangement. It is, therefore, clear that all these extraordinary operations which lie beyond the proper scope of the warehousing system, and were of the nature of additional accommodation, should be subject to some charge. We accordingly propose to fix moderate sums chargeable on all removals, on bottling, on vatting, "fortifying"—I might weary the Committee with the vocabulary of the system—in a word, on all those extra operations which have grown up as excrescences on the warehousing system properly so called. The Committee will, I think, be glad to hear that we hope to find in this method of charge a mode of solving a very difficult question, which has excited a great deal of interest in many important communities. It is known as the question of inland bonding. The great inland towns of this country have always complained that they are excluded from the facilities given sometimes to what are little more than mere hamlets, and in many cases to places of no importance as measured by trade or population, if they chance to be ports, and this with respect to articles which they do not themselves import. But under the system we propose certain charges will attach to removals in 856 warehouse, whether they are on the coast or in the interior, which will place them all on an equal footing. Of course, I do not mean to say that even with this safeguard which we now propose, the warehousing system can be applied to every town in the country. The Government will have to consider carefully the sufficiency of the accommodation which may be offered, the amount of trade and population, and the probable results to the revenue; but the principle of the plan will be first to return to the country in part the cost of the warehousing establishment, and secondly, to enable them to deal with equity and justice towards the little ports that enjoy these privileges because they happen to be ports within the meaning of the term, and at the same time to enable great communities like Manchester, Birmingham, and other large towns, which are fairly entitled to demand a concession of this kind, to obtain corresponding advantages. By this plan I expect to gain £120,000.
The next change I am about to propose is one upon which it will be desirable that the Committee should give a vote to-night, in conformity with its ordinary practice. I propose to levy a duty of 6s. per cwt. upon chicory or any other vegetable production to be used with coffee, as a protection to the coffee revenue, which has not grown, and which cannot grow as long as an article that assumes the appearance of coffee is admitted free, while coffee itself pays a high duty. It will be requisite that the Customs shall be in a condition to give immediate effect to this Resolution, and I therefore at once hand the Resolution to you, Mr. Massey, as I proceed. I may mention that this enactment will entail the disadvantage of an Excise charge upon home-grown chicory, but that is not a serious matter, because the growth of chicory in this country has almost died out. Some years ago many thousand acres were employed in the growth of chicory, but at the present day the whole quantity under cultivation, so far as I can learn, is under 500 acres. The duty on chicory, together with the improvement of the revenue from coffee, may be expected to yield £90,000 per annum, a sum which will bring up these minor Customs, charges to £510,000.
I will now briefly run over the changes which, with a similar view, we would ask the Committee to adopt in the department of Inland Revenue. A stamp of 1d. on notes of sale of foreign and colonial pro- 857 duce, and on brokers' contract notes, will yield £100,000. A stamp of 3d. on dock warrants is computed to yield £100,000; a reduction of the agreement stamp from 2s. 6d. to 6d., with the repeal of the exemption, under £20, will yield £20,000. The next change which we propose is to give to eating-houses of all descriptions, whether under that name or under the name of pastry-cooks' shops, a licence, for which they will pay at a very low rate, together with the power of taking a licence at their option from the Excise, to be had simply on the payment of a certain sum of money, and subject to no other limitation or restriction except rules of police, for the purpose of authorizing them to sell wine or beer. We think it is essential, in giving effect to the changes in the wine duties, that this sort of facility should be provided in connection with the sale of eatables, wherever the trade may be carried on; and we also look on it as a change favourable to sobriety; for the man who can get his glass of wine or beer at the same time with his necessary food in an easy manner is less likely to resort to places whither he would repair for drinking only, and where he would be tempted to indulge to excess. We also propose that by way of restraint, the duty should be doubled upon any such house that keeps open after 12 o'clock at night. Then there are a variety of very limited minor changes with which I am also ashamed to trouble the Committee. One change, however, I will mention. We propose to reduce the duty on game certificates, an alteration which I trust will be satisfactory. Only 34,000 game certificates are taken out every year. The price is very high, and no person can shoot for a day at any period of the season without paying the price of a certificate for the whole season. But the immediate and obvious ground for dealing with this licence, is the notorious fact that vast numbers of persons of almost all classes who do shoot at all, assume to themselves the liberty of shooting without a certificate. We are not able to detect more than some 400 or 500 of them in the course of the year; but I hope that so many will not escape, indeed, that so many will not offend, under the new system. We anticipate that while we shall give relief by this change to those who buy certificates to the amount of £50,000, we shall have no loss, but even a small gain of something like £10,000 a year. Instead of £4 for a certificate for the season, it will 858 be had, if taken out in August, for £3; if taken out on or after the 1st of October, £2; and if taken out on or after the 1st of December, £1.
As respects the measure of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, which was adopted with regard to stamps on cheques, we have not yet had sufficient experience to test its full effects, either fiscally or otherwise; but I think it is quite clear that if it continues, as it is likely to do, at least till we see our way more clearly, there should be no exemption for cheques when the drawer is also the payee. It is not worth while keeping up the distinction, and a small sum will be gained by its abolition. We therefore propose to remove it. The stamp on leases will yield £7,000. All personal estate, passing by will, under general appointment, will become subject to probate duty, which will yield £30,000; and the repeal of the exemption of the conveyances of building societies will give £5,000. The Excise duty on chicory will yield £5,000, and a stamp on extracts from the registers of births, deaths, and marriages £3,000. Lastly, by bringing heritable bonds in Scotland under all the liabilities of personalty on a succession, we shall gain £10,000. I may now sum up. The new cheques under the Customs will give £510,000, which, added to £386,000, the produce of the items of Inland Revenue I have referred to, will give a total of £896,000. The next item on this side of the account will give pleasure to the Committee. It is not a tax, but a saving; and a saving which of all others will, I am sure, be most acceptable to Parliament and to the people. It is a saving for the year on the Customs' Establishment of £50,000, which will be the beginning of a greater saving in consequence of the measures we are going to adopt. There will also be a saving in the department of Inland Revenue, if the measures we propose should be agreed to, of £36,000. There will, therefore, be altogether£86,000 in saving, and£896,000 in taxes, making together £982,000, which will more than replace the revenue we propose to withdraw in the second part of our scheme of commercial amendment.
Let me now once more recall to the Committee the precise point at which we stand. We venture to urge that the country may fairly expect, under the circumstances of the present year, a reduction of the indirect taxes, chosen with the greatest care for the purpose, to an extent something like that which is represented by the 859 amount of difference between the present war duties, so to call them, on tea and sugar, and likewise by the amount of annuities now falling in. The annuities on £2,141,000, and the difference on tea and sugar duties would be represented by nearly the same sum. I mean the country has a right to expect we should proceed to that extent in loss to the revenue, but to a much greater extent in relief to consumers. Of that £2,146,000 we have disposed of about £1,190,000 by the Treaty with France, so far as the plans of the Government are concerned; and by way of supplement to that treaty, we have also proposed a further measure involving the loss of £910,000, with compensation in the shape of new charges and savings to the extent of £982,000. Consequently, there is still about 1,000,000 of remission, which, in the view of the Government, is due to the trade and industry of the country on the principles I have stated. The question remains, where shall that reduction be made?
As we have frankly admitted, we do not think the greatest benefit would be conferred either on the nation at large, or on the labouring classes, by an immediate return to the minimum duty on sugar and tea; and though we might take either of the two, we could not, consistently with what I have thus far proposed, take both. As we do not think that is the direction in which relief may be best conferred, I think the Committee will readily guess what I am about to propose—the abolition of the Excise duty on paper. There is only one argument I know against its abolition, and that is, that the revenue derived from it is a growing revenue. The reason why it is so is, that we live in a country with a growing literature and a growing trade; and, as neither literature nor trade can be carried on without paper, it follows that as long as the country grows in literature and trade the paper duty must increase, however impolitic, however burdensome it may be in its operation. But let the Committee briefly consider with me some of the reasons for the repeal of the paper duty. First of all, I do not hesitate to say that one reason for this repeal, not, perhaps, conclusive in itself, but certainly far from immaterial in the view of any British Ministry, is that the duty has been condemned by the House of Parliament. And how has it been condemned? Not by any chance majority, not by an Opposition happening to overpower a resisting Government, but with the full concurrence 860 of the responsible executive of the day. On the 21st of June, 1858, my right hon. Friend, now President of the Board of Trade, made this Motion:—That it is the opinion of this House that the maintenance of the Excise duty on paper, as a permanent source of revenue, will be impolitic.The Chancellor of the Exchequer objected to a second Resolution which was proposed by my hon. Friend for the purpose of driving the nail a little further home; and, on the second Resolution being withdrawn, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli), adopted the first Resolution, said that the duty required not immediate, but yet early consideration; and the Resolution was thereupon adopted unanimously by the House. It is a question whether it is altogether a wise practice to adopt Resolutions that condemn duties which cannot at the time be repealed, and I am afraid subsequent inconveniences are apt to grow out of such a practice; but the fact that the House of Commons has recorded that judgment is a material element in the case we are now considering.
That, however, is not all. The paper duty is in many respects a bad duty, and I will show presently that it is also becoming untenable in law. In the first place, as an uniform duty on a very variable article, how does it operate? It presses on the poorer sorts, and while we find that the duty on fine papers, owing to the growth of literature, is rapidly increasing, on the coarse sorts it does not advance. Look again at its operation on literature. On dear books, which are published for the wealthy, it is a very light duty; on books brought out in large quantities by enterprising publishers for the middle and lower classes it is a very heavy and a very oppressive duty. I think the Committee will admit that it is a most desirable and legitimate object to promote the extension of cheap literature. I do not speak of newspapers alone, but of newspapers and periodical publications in common with all other cheap literature which we have seen so greatly enlarged of late, and the character of which I am bound to say since the penny stamp on newspapers was removed has been so highly creditable to the conductors of what is called the cheap press. It is hardly possible to describe, except by details on which I shall not venture, the manner in which the paper duty obstructs general skill and enterprise. But the subject has this characteristic, which I beg to call to the special attention of the Committee. The material with which it 861 eals is a material of almost boundless scope, for nearly everything which is fibrous may in one manner or another be made to serve the purpose of paper. I spoke just now of the production of British and spurious wines. I am told that in an inland town there is a manufacture of British champagne. It is made from rhubarb, and the suggestion has been made that after all the champagne has been extracted from the rhubarb the fibre should be made into paper. That is a very good recommendation. I believe, really and seriously, that whatever is grown with fibre would, by skill and enterprise, probably be made available in one mode or another for the purposes of paper if it were not for the necessary obstructions offered by the regulations of the Excise Department. But again, what are the purposes of paper? Not only those narrow ones with which the ordinary experience of every man makes him familiar. I do not think the Committee is aware of the enormous variety of purposes to which the use of this material may, in one form or another, be applied. I have a list of sixty-nine trades, in not one of which an ordinary consumer would guess it to be used. For example, it is largely used by anatomical machinists to make artificial limbs, by telescope makers, by boot and shoemakers, by cap manufacturers for the foundations of caps and hats, forming all the peaks and many of the tops which look like leather, by china and porcelain manufacturers, by coachmakers, by comb makers, by doll makers (most dolls being made of a material into the composition of which paper enters), by shipbuilders, in making optical instruments, in pictures and looking-glasses, in portmanteaus, in Sheffield goods, and in teapots. One manufacturer writes that he has made panels for doors from paper, and he looks forward, above all, to making carriages of paper when the duty is taken off. Another manufacturer, who is asked into what combinations paper may be made to enter, says—and I think it is a very just and forcible observation:—"Who can fix the limit to ingenious combinations when we see india-rubber, for instance, being made into strong and durable combs and other articles of that sort? Only this morning," he proceeds, "he was informed that paper pipes are made, prepared with bitumen, and capable of standing a pressure of 3001b. of water to the inch." These are partial but not uninteresting details, and I think that to which they bear wit- 862 ness is the unbounded expansion of which this trade is capable, and the way in which we may confer benefit on the working-classes by means of abolishing this duty—not only because they will get cheaper paper, which must be of advantage to every man who furnishes a cottage and desires to give some of his rooms an appearance of comfort and neatness, and to every purchaser of tea and sugar, into the cost of which it enters when tea and sugar are wrapped in it; but by putting in motion an immense trade it will give a greater and wider stimulus to the demand for the labour of the country. Above all other benefits, let me say the great advantage of this change, in my opinion, and in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, is, that we may promote a diffused demand and a demand for rural labour; that we shall not merely stimulate the process of massing people in great centres of industry, but the demand for labour all over the country. Where there are streams, where there are villages, where there is pure and good air and tolerable access, there are the places where the paper manufacture tends to establish itself. And there is a Gentleman, a member of this House, second to no man in England for enterprise, who did within the last few years illustrate the effect of the paper manufacture on the poor rate. The paper duty has indeed, I fear, materially helped to extinguish all the small paper manufacturers. It has concentrated the trade in a few great hands. Village mills are hardly to be found. I want to see, and I do not despair of seeing, these village mills spring up again and flourish. The case I quote, to show the effect of paper manufacture upon the poor rate, is that of a Member of this House, who a few years ago, with a view to the supply of paper for a well-known periodical, established a paper manufactory at Rickmansworth, and within three or four years the poor-rates of Rickmans worth were diminished by one-half. In this condition, I believe, they continued so long as that paper mill was at work. This is an argument of a nature to be readily appreciated and understood. And, Sir, before I conclude the subject, I must state yet one other point. I told the Committee that this duty was rapidly becoming untenable, and I am bound to warn them, as I have done with respect to the wine duties, that such is the state of things to which it tends. It is not only invidious to maintain it when every other duty of the same class has 863 been abolished, but the law is rapidly becoming incapable of being administered without discredit. The heads of the Inland Revenue Department are completely agreed that there ought to be a repeal of the duty. I asked the gentlemen whom I may call the agitators against the duty to furnish their reasons in a series of short propositions, in order to see how far they could be admitted by the Inland Revenue. They sent me fifteen arguments, and I transmitted them to the Board of Inland Revenue. The heads of that department said, that two of the propositions were rather in the nature of general propositions of political economy upon which they would give no opinion, but that with regard to all the other thirteen they agreed with the agitators. You cannot reckon on being able to maintain the duty beyond a certain time, because such are the difficulties raised as to what is paper and what is not paper, as to what are sheets of fibrous substance and what are not, that not only is there the greatest soreness among the manufacturers, and the sense of injustice that attends capricious and unequal law, but the officers of revenue find it more and more difficult to perform their duty; and the maintainers of the law will soon be placed in the ridiculous position in which they were placed when they were some years ago unable to say what was a newspaper. In short, as the paper duty must sooner or later follow the newspaper stamp, we say let it be sooner and not later, and we propose that it should follow now. It is proposed that the paper duty shall be abolished after the 1st of July next, and that drawback shall be allowed on stocks in the hands of the dealers subject to the usual rules. There will be a loss by the repeal of the paper duty in 1860–1861 of £1,000,000. But the repeal of the paper duty will enable us to take some other measures which are very desirable; to clear the tariff of all the articles coming under the heads of furnishing paper, writing paper, books, prints, and engravings, and it will greatly simplify the laborious and difficult task which the Customhouse officers have to perform in searching the luggage of passengers for pirated books—an office by which they at present afford to possessors of a particular kind of property a protection which is afforded to no other kind of property, and which ought not to be afforded to them at the cost of the revenue. Of course, whenever the Customhouse officers observe an illegal commodity it will be their duty 864 to stop it, but an officious and vexatious description of search will, as I am informed, no longer be necessary.
The abolition of the paper duty will moreover save £20,000 a year in the establishment of the Board of Inland Revenue; and it will likewise enable us to adopt another measure of some importance which I will in a very few words describe; I refer to the abolition of the impressed stamp on newspapers. The impressed stamp on newspapers is attended with difficulties which, if I were dealing with that subject alone, I might spend a long time in explaining. It recognizes the exceptional status of newspapers, and again raises the question, "What is a newspaper?" The Post Office authorities find it impossible to draw a distinction between publications entitled to the impressed stamp and other periodicals. It involves a great deal of unrequited service; and nothing is more absurd than that when the Post Office carries newspapers, or any other printed matter not exceeding four ounces in weight for a penny, they should be liable, after a stamp is impressed, to carry it half-a-dozen times over for the same money. Again, it requires a distinct code for itself. There are some fifteen or twenty special regulations which every one is bound to observe, but which nobody does observe, to secure the condition upon which the privilege is given; and this privilege, as to the mode of stamping newspapers, and as to postage, is a privilege most inconvenient to the parties and to the revenue. The State is obliged, on the one hand, to keep up various establishments for no other purpose than stamping the paper for newspapers, and newspaper proprietors are, on the other hand, with a few exceptions, obliged to cart all their paper to the establishments where this department of revenue is raised, in order to get it stamped. I cannot but think that that is a system fraught with great inconvenience and loss; it is inconvenient to the proprietors of newspapers, while it involves a loss of public money, and, therefore, it furnishes a strong argument for the abolition of the stamp. We propose, therefore, that the stamp should be abolished on the day on which the alteration in the stamp laws takes place.
But there are certain papers that take advantage of certain occasions, and among thorn that great paper The Times, of a three-halfpenny stamp. It would be a hardship to those papers if we called upon them to pay a two-penny postage, where 865 they now pay only three halfpence, and this difficulty we propose to surmount by the simple method of introducing a throe-halfpenny rate into the present scale of the book postage, which will accordingly stand as follows: up to four ounces, 1d.; six ounces, 1½d.; eight ounces, 2d.; and so on. This is a change which I think will at once recommend itself to the general favour of the Committee.
I have now stated all the remissions and changes of duty which the Government propose to recommend to the House; but with a view to the necessary balance of the revenue it is necessary that I should still refer to some articles which are connected with the departments of Excise and taxes. I have mentioned the article of hops; and I have now to state that we propose to alter the system of hop credits. That system is one that is indefensible in principle, and has nothing to recommend it in point of convenience. As things now are, the grower of hops who picks and gathers in his hops in August or September and sells them in October is not called on to pay the duty till the following May, when he pays one half, and the other half in November, when he has actually got in hand another crop. This is a system that is highly disadvantageous to the revenue while no good reason recommends it on the part of the producer: we, therefore, propose as a substitute that the hop-grower, who as a general rule has parted with his crop in October or November, shall, for the next and all coming crops, pay the duty on the following 1st of January. As, however, by taking away the hop credits we to some extent put a pressure on the grower, and as we are going to admit the foreign hop-grower to equal competition with him, we propose to give a partial remission of the duty, which will stand no longer at 19s. 1d., but at 14s. per cwt. or 1½d. per pound. I also have to mention a change in respect of malt. Malt is at present prohibited. We propose to remit the prohibition, and substitute a Customs' duty of 3s. per bushel, being 2s. 9d. and 5 percent with a further allowance in consideration of the indirect burdens imposed by the Excise on the maltster over and above the duty in reference to the Excise. The subject of compensation reminds me that it is important to consider what will be the relation of the change in the wine duties to the duty on malt. I 3hall be prepared to show that when the change in the wine duties has taken effect, wine of 866 the only description that can compete with malt will pay a tax a great deal heavier than malt, and malt, therefore, will not be subject to any undue pressure.
Let me now, Sir, bring into one view the alterations which I have stated in detail. In doing so I must endeavour to bring clearly before the mind of the Committee three separate sums—1st, the entire amount of the remission or relief to the consumers by the adoption of the plans we propose; 2nd, the amount of loss to the revenue which they will entail; 3rd, the amount of compensation which will be derived from the new charges upon operations of trade which we recommend for the adoption of the Committee. The Customs' duties altered under the treaty with France will give relief to the consumers of a sum of £1,737,000, and will cause a loss to the revenue of £1,190,000. By the supplemental Customs plan we will give relief to the consumers of £1,039,000, and there will be a loss to the revenue of £910,000; total relief to the consumers, £2,771,000; total loss to the revenue, £2,100,000. In the Inland Revenue Department there will be a relief on paper of £1,000,000; on hops, £105,000; and on game certificates, £50,000; making in all, £1,155,000; and a total loss to the revenue for the present year of £990,000. There will thus be a total relief to the consumers in the Customs mid Inland Revenue Departments of £3,931,000, and a loss to the revenue of £3,090,000. The amount of compensation by means of increased consumption has here been estimated at £841,000, but there will be a further compensation by new charges and by savings on establishments of £982,000, being a total of £1,823,000. Taking this computation, and deducting £1,823,000 from £3,931,000, there will be a net loss to the revenue for 1860–61 of £2,108,000, a sum which, as the Committee will observe, very nearly indeed corresponds with the amount of relief which we are about to receive by the falling in of the Long Annuities.
There will, it is true, be a further loss, in consequence of the projected changes, of something more than £700,000. But I have no scruple in casting this burden on the year 1861–2, inasmuch as I feel that the effect of the changes we propose upon trade and consumption will be to enlarge its revenue in more than a corresponding degree.
I will now state in a few words the effect 867 of these changes in bringing forward that most desired consummation of all Reformers—a simplification of the Customs tariff of the country. The number of articles subject to Customs' duties on the 1st of January, 1842, was 1052; in 1–845 it amounted to 1163 articles; for I must remind the House that the first operation of the reform of the tariff was to multiply the number of articles, in consequence of the transition from duties ad valorem to rated or specific duties, which caused an increase of the READINGs under which they were described. In 1853 the number of articles was 466; lastly, on the 1st of January, 1859, 419. After the changes now proposed are adopted, without allowing for a few subdivisions, such as the specification of two or three classes of sugar, the whole number of articles remaining on the tariff will be forty-eight. We shall have three classes of articles, including in all fifteen, which are in reality the only articles that will be retained on the tariff for purposes of revenue. They are as follows: First, five articles yielding from one to six millions: spirits, sugar, tea, tobacco, and wine. Secondly, four articles yielding from £200,000 to £1,000,000: coffee, corn, currants, and timber. Thirdly, six articles yielding from £20,000 to £200,000: chicory, figs, and fig-cake, hops, pepper, raisins, and rice. Besides those fifteen articles there are twenty-nine which though yielding revenue, are only retained on special grounds. Thus, five articles are retained on account of countervailing duties of Excise on domestic articles, and twenty-four on account of their resemblance to one or other of the fifteen articles I have adverted to. We could not, for example, admit eau de Cologne free of duty while there is a duty on brandy. It thus follows that your Customs' revenue will be derived substantially from fifteen articles. That is a result which I hope Customhouse reformers will be of opinion justifies the changes we have made.
There will then be a relief from indirect taxation of about £4,000,000. Out of that £1,000,000 paper duty will go directly to stimulate the demand for diffused and rural labour, £1,800,000, or the greater part of £2,000,000, under the French treaty, and £400,000 more taken off the timber duties, will in every instance strike at differential duties, and will be the means of removing from the tariff its greatest, perhaps its only remaining deformities. 868 There will be on the British tariff, after the adoption of these changes, nothing whatever in the nature of protective or differential duties, unless we apply that name to the small charges which will be levied upon timber and corn, and which amount in general, perhaps, to about 3 per cent on the value. With that limited exception you will have a final disappearance of all protective and differential duties, so that the consumer will know that every shilling he pays will go to the revenue, and not to the domestic as against the foreign producer. You will have a great extension and increase of trade, you will have a remission of the principal restraints upon travellers, and a great reduction in the expenses of the Customs and Excise Departments. I mentioned that, as is indeed obvious, those reductions must be brought in by degrees and in detail. They will not appear upon the Estimates as they are presented for this year, because it is impossible to foresee, especially until we know what the decision of Parliament will be, the precise changes which will be made. The immediate reduction in the Customs Department will be £50,000, in the Excise £86,000; and the ultimate reduction upon the expenses of the Customs Department alone I expect will be somewhere about £150,000. That is the nature of the change we propose in the system of Customs and Excise.
It is now time that I should for the last time revert to the state of the general account. It would have been possible to come to it, perhaps, by a lcs3 circuitous route, and, as I stated before, a shilling income tax would have balanced the income and expenditure without any further trouble. But I come to consider what are the means by which we propose to bring-about a balance. I do not indeed pretend to present to the House a Budget which grapples with all the difficulties of the case that is before us. I do not, let me again press on the notice of the Committee, propose to provide for the Exchequer bonds; a shilling income tax perhaps would have effected that purpose too. I have called the attention of the House to the fact that we are going to take away the six weeks' credit now allowed to maltster, which will give us £1,100,000 within the financial year. The hop credit will give us £300,000 more. The two sums together amount to £1,400,000. They do not belong to the year, although on the other hand they are not borrowed money. 869 They actually belong to the public, and they may be said at present to be public capital lent out to the producer of certain commodities without interest, which we propose to call in and apply to the purposes of the year. But the deficit which I pointed out, and which it is incumbent on us to supply, amounted to £9,400,000. The aids which I have mentioned reduce it only to £8,000,000. After this statement, you will not, perhaps, consider that there remains to us much liberty of choice. I have pointed out that a one shilling income tax would completely fill the void, and would enable you to dispense with the remaining part of the war duties on tea and sugar. Without any remission of the duties on sugar or tea or paper, and without the slightest attempt to improve your fiscal laws and extend your trade, you cannot escape with an income tax less than the amount at which it now stands, 9d. in the pound. We have proposed to you a remission which goes to the extent of £4,000,000, and the additional taxation which we have so far presented, falls entirely upon trade; and now I will state in what manner we propose to supply the deficiency which remains. The charge for 1860–61, as I have stated, is £70,100,000; the income with the tea and sugar duties at their minimum would have been £60,700,000. Deducting from that income the loss by remissions, the amount would be £58,592,000; but by retaining the tea and sugar duties at their present rates we shall have an addition of £2,100,000 bringing up the income to nearly the point where it before stood, or £60,692,000. But when we compare £60,692,000 with £70,100,000, there is still a deficiency of nearly £9,500,000. Against that deficiency, besides taking up the malt and hop credits, which will give £1,400,000, we propose to renew the income tax at a rate only higher by one penny than that which it would he necessary under any circumstances to propose—namely, at 10d. in the pound. The assessment will be 10d. in the pound on incomes above £150, and 7d. in the pound below that amount. No new returns will be called for under any of the schedules, and the tax will be taken for one year only. Both with regard to that subject and the duties on tea and sugar we wish to reserve to Parliament the fullest and freest discretion. Instead of the old system, under which only half the year was collected within the year, though by law three quarters ought to be collected, 870 we shall require three-quarters to be actually collected. The consequence of that will be, that the income tax at 10d., with three quarters collected within the year, will give £8,472,000. There will still remain due, after April, 1861, one quarter of the income tax, about £2,250,000, nearly the same sum as now remains due by law after April, 1860. There is but one slight change in it which we propose; it regards the mode of assessing railways. This proposal, which will be convenient both for the companies and for the Government, will be to assess them at their head offices instead of in the various districts through which they run. I think the House will now understand how the final balance for the year will be adjusted. But I may repeat the particulars. The revenue, after the deductions and remissions, and without allowing for what may be called the war duties on tea and sugar, stands at £58,592,000. I put the tea and sugar duties renewed at the present rates yield £2,100,000, the malt and hop credits taken up give £1,400,000, the income tax for three quarters of the year furnishes £8,472,000. That brings up the total income to £70,564,000. The total charge is £70,100,000, which leaves an apparent estimated surplus of £464,000.
As regards the method of proceeding to submit these measures, and in conformity with what I have already said, I will ask the House to pass the vote relating to chicory to-night, and the order in which we will take the other subjects will, without reference to any other matter which may intervene, be as follows. We shall proceed first with those portions of the Customs' duties which are involved in the treaty with France, and among them we shall begin with the duties on wines. I cannot overstate to the Committee the importance both to trade and to the revenue of proceeding to deal with these subjects at the earliest possible day. We should not like to make an unreasonable demand on the House or on individual Members, and, as I now speak on Friday, we could not ask the House to take an earlier day than Thursday next; but I trust that the Committee and its members ndividually will allow of our proceeding on that day in a matter where despatch is of so great importance. We should, after that, proceed with the supplementary resolutions, or the second part of our plan, relating to the Customs' duties; we should then take the Excise duties, and after that the duties on 871 tea and sugar. Probably before we get so far we shall have made some progress in the Estimates, and it will be then convenient to take the income tax.
And now, Sir, without seeking to place on the propositions, I have made a colour more favourable than they may deserve, I have endeavoured to bring strongly and clearly into view the most prominent features of the plan of the Government. We propose an ample provision for the service of the year. Our plan gives a sanction to the employment of some subsidiary resources in aid of the ordinary revenue of the year, in consideration of the great demands made on the people; it involves a high rate of income tax, and it abandons all endeavour to make a financial settlement for a term of years, a method which we do not think suited to the existing state of affairs. Those Gentlemen who may entertain a hope of some material reduction in our expenditure at an early date will be disposed, I think, to agree in the wisdom and propriety of such a course. Our proposals involve a great reform in our tariff, they involve a large remission of taxation, and last of all, though not least, they include that Commercial Treaty with France which, though objections may be taken to it, we confidently recommend, not only on moral and social, and political, but also, and with equal confidence, on fiscal and economical grounds. In conclusion, I may presume to say that I feel a hope which amounts to a persuasion, that this House, whatever may happen, will not shrink from its duty. After all it has heretofore achieved by resolute and persevering commercial reforms on behalf of the masses of the people, and not on behalf of them alone, but on behalf of every class, on behalf of the Throne, and of the institutions of the country, I feel convinced that this House will not refuse to go boldly on in the direction in which Parliament has already reaped such honours and rewards. By pursuing such a course as this it will be in your power to scatter blessings among the people, and blessings which are among the soundest and most wholesome of all the blessings at your disposal, because in legislation of this kind you are not forging mechanical helps for men, nor endeavouring to do that for them which they ought to do for themselves; but you are enlarging their means without narrowing their freedom, you are giving value to their labour, you are appealing to their sense of responsibility, and you are not 872 impairing their sense of honourable self-dependence. There were times, now long gone by, when Sovereigns made progress through the land, and when, at the proclamation of their heralds, they caused to be scattered heaps of coin among the people who thronged upon their steps. That may have been a goodly spectacle; but it is also a goodly spectacle, and one adapted to the altered spirit and circumstances of our times, when our Sovereign is enabled, through the wisdom of Her great Council assembled in Parliament around Her, again to scatter blessings among Her subjects by means of wise and prudent laws; of laws which do not sap in any respect the foundations of duty or of manhood, but which strike away the shackles from the arm of industry, which give new incentive and new reward to toil, and which win more and more for the Throne and for the institutions of the country the gratitude, the confidence, and the love of an united people. Let me say even to those who are anxious, and justly anxious, on the subject of our national defences, that that which stirs the flame of patriotism in men, that which binds them in one heart and soul, that which gives them increased confidence in their rulers, that which makes them feel and know that they are treated with justice, and that we who represent them are labouring incessantly and earnestly for their good—is in itself no small, no feeble, and no transitory part of national defence. We recommend these proposals to your impartial and searching inquiry; we do not presume indeed to make a claim on your acknowledgments, but neither do we desire to draw on your generous confidence, nor to lodge an appeal to your compassion. We ask for nothing more and nothing less than your dispassionate judgment; we know that our plan will receive that justice at your hands, and we confidently anticipate on its behalf the approval alike of the Parliament and the nation.
The right hon. Gentleman then moved to resolve—That the following Duty of Customs shall be charged on the article under mentioned, on importation into the United Kingdom, on and after the 11th day of February 1860—namely, Chicory, or any other vegetable matter applicable to the uses of Chicory or Coffee,—namely, Raw'or kiln dried, 6s. the cwt.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, it is not my intention to offer any opposition to the Resolution which the right hon. Gentleman has proposed; indeed, I must take the liberty 873 of congratulating himself and the House on the able manner in which he has addressed it under the painful circumstances with which I can assure him all present sympathize. But the right hon. Gentleman has placed before us a very large scheme, treating of subjects of the greatest importance, and descending even to the minutest details; and having, with proper confidence, invited, on the part of the House, an impartial and searching examination of these topics, I must venture to say that, as we do not all of us possess abilities equal to those with which he is gifted, it appears to me scarcely possible that an impartial and searching investigation can take place in the very limited time that the right hon. Gentleman has intimated. The claims of the trade of the country, no doubt, are great and urgent;—when any alterations of the tariff are contemplated, no man hesitates to acknowledge them; but these claims have a limit, both in their importance and urgency,—and the urgency and importance of commercial interests cannot justify this House in entering into rash and precipitate legislation. We are dealing with a very important subject; we are also dealing in the present financial statement with elements differing, in very essential particulars, from those by which even the most comprehensive financial schemes have of late years been characterized. We have to deal not only with financial and commercial considerations, but—as the right hon. Gentleman has fairly admitted, and as no Member of this House should for a moment forget—we have to deal likewise with political considerations. We are asked to enter into relations with a foreign Power, which, having once been adopted, are not susceptible of those changes which in thoroughly domestic engagements, however important, the omnipotence of Parliament would always be able to effect. And, therefore, I feel that I am but expressing the general sentiments of the House when I state that the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman that we should enter upon the consideration of this financial scheme next Thursday is one of an unreasonable nature. Acknowledging the claims to an early settlement of commercial questions, I at the same time believe that there are questions as important as even the interests of our commerce. I have no wish to interfere with the Government in the conduct of public business, or with the arrangements which have been made for bringing forward 874 the Bill popularly called the Reform Bill; but I should suggest that this day fortnight would be the period at which, under the circumstances of the case, and according to usual custom, the discussion on this subject might conveniently be taken. In several similar cases in which the interests involved were more limited than under the present financial statement, the House, I remember, requested a fortnight's interval, and sometimes even pressed for three weeks, and no instance has occurred where interests of any importance were concerned in which a less period than a week has been granted. And now we are called on to consider at such brief notice questions of financial, of commercial, and of political interest, all of the highest and most comprehensive character; and not to consider them merely, but to come to a decision—because this scheme must be taken as a whole, and it is evident that the very first vote which is given upon any portion of it will really decide the fate of the entire proposal. And not merely is the convenience of this House to he consulted, but our constituents are deeply affected by this proposition. Many hon. Members will, doubtless, desire an opportunity of mastering the financial scheme in all its bearings; and many others will desire to consult their constituencies on various points involved in the proposed changes. These have a right to consider its details and to communicate with their representatives, and many of them are at such a distance as to render it scarcely possible that a communication could be returned in time. On all these grounds I would suggest to the Government that the postponement of the further consideration of this question to this day fortnight is a step that would be most convenient to the House, and most conducive to public interests.
MR. ELLICE (Coventry)
expressed a hope that whatever course might be adopted by the House, they would not follow that recommended by the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. Interests of various descriptions were concerned in the decision of the House, and on behalf of one which would be most prejudicially affected by the proposed changes, he was very anxious that the scheme should be subjected to a speedy decision. He did not intend to go into the details of the measure. The right hon. Gentleman had stated it to the House with great ability, and it was founded on a principle which recommended itself very much to their 875 serious attention. Although the right hon. Gentleman had pointed him out as one of those who were most likely to object to the measure, he wished to express his acquiescence in its general principle, though he objected very strongly to its proposed application to the constituency which he represented; and in their name he took that opportunity of protesting against the harsh, peremptory, and inconsiderate manner in which it was proposed to deal with their interests. The silk trade was that which was most especially affected by this scheme, and of the £300,000 at present levied on silk manufactures, at least one half was paid by the particular species of silk manufactured by his constituency. A petition had undoubtedly been presented from the silk manufacturers of Manchester, in which they advocated the removal of the restrictions as calculated to benefit the general silk trade; but they were very little affected by the contemplated repeal of the duties. The branch of manufacture which would be principally affected by the alteration was that of ribands, which was principally and almost entirely carried on in the city of Coventry. In 1846, when the first general scheme of commercial reform was introduced, a certain consideration was paid to this particular trade, and a certain amount of protection was retained in their favour. That protection amounted to about 16 or 17 per cent. The trade, which was in a state of progressive improvement, was now likely to be injured by the proposed unrestricted competition. He did not say that the general interests of the country ought to be postponed for their advantage; but he thought time ought to be allowed them to prepare for the change. He was innocent enough, in the first instance, to tell his constituents that he did not believe a commercial treaty would be negotiated by the Government. In this time of day he had thought it little likely that the principle of a commercial treaty would have been resorted to; but still less had he expected that such terms would have been agreed to as were now proposed. He asked where the equivalent was to be found in the treaty for the free admission of ribands into this country? If an equivalent had been granted, if the market of France had been opened to English ribands at the same time that the English market was opened to French ribands, he should have thought the manufacturers and artisans in this country would have been able to compete with those of France on terms of equality, and that 876 they would have consented to this measure; but when he found that the duty on French ribands of from 15 to 16 per cent was to be taken off, and that they were to be admitted freely into this country, while our ribands were to be excluded from France for a twelvemonth, and then practically excluded from the French market by a duty of 30 per cent, it would require greater ingenuity than even that of his right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to persuade the English workman that the price of his labour was not diminished, and his condition deteriorated, or that he had been treated on principles of fair play and justice. The consequence of this treaty had been that the trade of Coventry was now nearly in a state of panic; and that being so, he should be sorry to see the discussion on the measure delayed longer than was absolutely necessary to enable the House to master its details; because, while the suspense lasted, the condition of the poor people there would be truly unenviable. He trusted, therefore, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would adhere to his determination to proceed with the discussion on Thursday.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
wished the Committee to consider for one moment what was done in former years when a commercial treaty with France was proposed. It was proposed by that eminent statesman, Mr. Pitt, in 1787, in the same friendly spirit towards France which pervaded that now proposed by Her Majesty's Government. But what was the precedent which the House of Commons set on that occasion with respect to the time allowed for deliberation? It was stated in Tomlin's Life of Pitt that the substance of that treaty was before the public for five months before the Minister proposed that it should be adopted by the representatives of the people. And was it hurried on, as the right hon. Gentleman proposed to hurry his measure, after it was once communicated to the House? On the contrary, the treaty was proposed almost immediately after Parliament met on the 23rd of January, 1787, and it was not sanctioned by Parliament till the middle of March. But the right hon. Gentleman expected the House to master the details of a measure which, he (Mr. Newdegate) admitted, had been brought forward with consummate ability, but which involved more complicated and intricate calculation than he ever before remembered to have been laid before the House, in the course 877 of the next five days. What was the key to the whole measure? The key to the whole measure was the treaty with France. The right lion. Gentleman said that no foreign compulsion would be brought upon us by the adoption of that treaty. But what was the fact? If the House once sanctioned this treaty, they could not for many years again deal with articles affected by the treaty without the concurrence of France, or without incurring her hostility. He therefore entreated the Committee not to commit themselves to engagements of such vast consequence without a fortnight or three weeks' deliberation; for if these steps were once taken the House could not retrace them without endangering the good understanding that now existed between two great nations whose amity they were bound by every means to endeavour to promote. He did not concur with the right hon. Member for Coventry, although of the interests and trade of that city they were the joint representatives. Such had been the secrecy with which this treaty was kept from the trade—a trade which had been greatly enlarged of late, and was now in a state of great prosperity, and upon which 150,000 of the population of the country at least were depending—for that was the number returned at the last census—that up to this moment they were in total ignorance of the measures that were proposed for adoption in conformity with the Government of Franco. When, therefore, it was proposed to sanction a measure of this kind, he thought the House would only manifest a due regard to its own character if it followed the example of the House of Commons in 1787—a House that was led by Mr. Pitt, while the Opposition was led by Mr. Fox, who was so far from being disposed to hasten the deliberations on such an important measure that he took it up in detail, and divided the House on several clauses of that treaty, and did not suffer it to pass till six weeks or two months were given to the people of this kingdom to inform their representatives whether the engagements into which the Minister had entered should be ratified by the Parliament or not. He would not detain the House longer, except to say that he cordially concurred in the considerations which had been so ably urged by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, and that he hoped the House would adopt them, and not commit itself to these important considerations with France 878 till ample time was afforded for deliberation.
§ MR. BENTINCK
need not say that he heartily joined in the pleasure which every one had expressed in seeing the right hon. Gentleman again among them, and he need hardly add that, in common with the rest of the Committee, he had listened with the deepest attention to the speech with which he had introduced the subject. He would go farther, and say that till that night he could not have believed it was in the art of man to clothe so much tinsel in such brilliant colours. The right hon. Gentleman exceeded all he had ever before heard in the power of giving to what was worthless, or, he might say, destructive, so rich and new a gloss. He would not, however, now go farther into the question than to advert to one subject. The right hon. Gentleman, with considerable emphasis, was pleased to say—triumphing, no doubt, in his free-trade aspirations—that he understood Protection for some time past had been lurking in holes and corners. Now, he (Mr. Bentinck) had never deviated from the opinions, whether right or wrong, which he had first held on the subject of protection; and he would tell the right hon. Gentleman that the course of the Protectionists had been throughout straightforward, honourable, and consistent; and when they saw those who had acted in a manner the reverse of honourable and the reverse of consistent rampant in high places, it might be well for Protectionists to betake themselves to those holes and corners where they found at least honesty of purpose. He had listened with great pleasure to the speech of the right hon. Member for Coventry, and was glad to find that, to a considerable extent, the right hon. Gentleman coincided in the views be held; but he could not agree with him in hastening on the discussion. The right hon. Gentleman forgot that while his constituents were near enough to London to learn all the details of this measure tomorrow, there were others so far distant that it would be two or three days before the news reached them. Even with regard to the Members of this House, he believed it was not in the power of any Member here to master for some considerable time all the complicated details of this measure, much less to form a sound opinion as to the probable effect of so comprehensive a scheme within the limited time which was to be allowed to elapse before its discussion by the House. So 879 far from thinking that the right hon. Member for Bucks had asked for too long a delay, it appeared to him that the time he suggested was rather inadequate for a full deliberation. He only hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would adhere strictly to the proposal which he had made, and he was sure he would receive the support of every man who wished to consider this question with a view to the best interests of the country, and not to make it a party measure with a view to obtaining a party triumph.
§ MR. BAXTER
hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not adopt the suggestion offered on the other side of the House. These questions must be considered as a whole, and ought to be considered at the earliest possible moment. No doubt the hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) had already made up his mind, for he had characterized the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as "tinsel." He (Mr. Baxter) would advise the right hon. Gentleman on no account to fix the discussion of his scheme for a distant date, and certainly not to allow it to interfere with the discussion on the Reform Bill. No doubt hon. Gentlemen opposite were anxious to have the Reform Bill interposed between to-night and the further discussion of the financial statement.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he merely wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the Government intended to do in the case of drawbacks on wine in bond?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he was extremely obliged to his hon. Friend for having put the question—the subject had entirely escaped his memory. He would state the intention of the Government at length on a future occasion; but that intention was quite distinct and founded on a clear principle. They intend strictly to adhere to the terms of what had been construed into a compact, and to give a drawback wherever the parties had complied with the terms of the Treasury Minute of 1843, which allowed it, and with the regulations of the Revenue Department issued under it.
§ MR. HORSFALL
said, he would not then venture to express any opinion upon the important proposals which had been brought under the notice of the House by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but he felt it his duty to urge upon the right hon. Gentleman the propriety of allowing a fortnight for the consideration of the scheme 880 before they were to procceed to its discussion.
§ Mr. PALK
said, the only fear he had was that the right hon. Gentleman had pursued his principle of free trade a little too far. At all events he now dealt with such a variety of subjects—and affected such a great variety of interests—that it would be only fair that those who were entrusted with the interests of the electors of England should have full time for considering them, and not consider them in the narrow-minded way mentioned by the hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. At the same time he trusted that the Government would not be induced by any delay in discussing the financial scheme to postpone the introduction of the Reform Bill, as it had been suggested they should do.
§ MR. ALCOCK
wished to offer his tribute of admiration to the right hon. Gentleman for the admirable manner in which he had made his financial statement, and he rejoiced to hear that part which related to the commercial intercourse of this country with France. It was a stigma on both countries that so little trade was done between them, but now there was a fair prospect that it would be increased. But he regretted that no promise of reduction in the malt duties had been made; and as regarded the tea and sugar duties, he must state openly that the right hon. Gentleman had not done justice to them. The working classes of London spent one-eighth of their earnings in the consumption of those articles, and they would have to pay the same duties as at present for sometime longer. He was glad that the right hon. Gentleman had determined to keep on the income tax, but he wished it had been fixed at 1s. in the £1 instead of 7d. and 10d.
said, that as a commercial man, he felt it his duty to represent to the House and to the Government the very great inconvenience which must result from any postponement of the consideration of the financial plan. With the rapidity of communication which we at present enjoyed in this country he did not see why they should not be prepared to consider the scheme of the Chancellor of the Exchequer towards the close of next week; and he would suggest to his right, hon. Friend the propriety of continuing the discussion de die in diem from the moment of its commencement.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, that between that evening and Thursday next 881 he certainly should not have sufficient time to communicate with his constituents, many of whom were engaged in the linen trade, and naturally felt a great interest in one portion of the commercial treaty with France. He trusted, therefore, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not force on the discussion upon that day; and he expressed that hope from no desire to thwart the course of the right hon. Gentleman, because he was disposed to look with much gratification at the scheme, as far as he could at present form any judgment upon the subject.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
It is quite impossible for the Government to concede to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman to postpone the discussion for a fortnight, because, for the reasons which have been clearly stated, it would he exceedingly inconvenient and injurious to various trades; but if Thursday be too early, we have no objection to fix the discussion for Friday. There will be then an entire week for consideration. But upon the question of any further postponement we must take the sense of the House. I hope if we take it on Friday that the House, feeling that these are matters of most pressing interest, will consent to continue the discussion from day to day.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, the hon. Member for Kendal (Mr. Glyn) had truly stated that it was important to trade interests not to have unnecessary delay; but, on the other hand, it must be remembered when the House of Commons was called upon to decide upon proposals of such magnitude in such a startling manner, that there were other and very large interests throughout the country involved, and it was important that sufficient time should be given for the consideration of details so complicated. He could not suppose that the right hon. Gentleman after proposing so vast a scheme would be so unfair as to press it with undue haste. The delay arising from the right hon. Gentleman's illness was unfortunate, but could not be avoided; but there was a delay which the Government could have avoided, namely, in the production of the treaty until that very night. It had been suggested that when once commenced the discussion should continue de die in diem. That was a matter for the consideration of the Government; but they could not expect that the first discussion would pass off without an adjournment, and he would suggest whether it was desirable to begin a 882 debate on a Friday, that could not be continued until the following week. With respect to the Reform Bill, of course, the Government could please themselves.
§ MR. SLANEY
was opposed to a lengthened postponement of the debate. With regard to the income tax proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he thought if 1s. instead of 10d. in the pound were to be the amount of the tax, and the duties on tea and sugar were remitted, the rich would willingly bear that increase to contribute to the comfort and necessities of their poorer fellow-subjects.
§ MR. BALL
thought the right hon. Gentleman was consistent in not showing any particular favour to the agricultural interests. In his first Budget he had made an increase in the malt duties, and he (Mr. Ball) had failed by a small minority to procure a reversal of that policy. The right hon. Gentleman, he was sorry to say, although he had dealt in a cosmopolitan spirit with other interests, and had looked about on all sides to see to what classes he might extend relief, yet had added to the burden of the maltster by shortening the period which had been so long allowed him for the payment of his duty. That, he thought, was hardly a fair course to pursue. He should not, however, enter further into the question upon that occasion, but should beg the right hon. Gentleman and the Government to put off for a more lengthened period than they proposed the further consideration of a statement so important as that which he had just made and embracing subjects so complex in their nature.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House had a common interest in having the most convenient day fixed for the discussion of the proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he did not think the question of time, therefore, was one on which it would be creditable to the Committee to come to a division. He would, under those circumstances, suggest that the further consideration of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman should be postponed until Monday next, before which day hon. Gentlemen opposite might come to some agreement with the Government as to the course which it was advisable to take. He had, however, risen principally with the object of asking the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, it being his intention to extend to other countries the similar changes to those 883 which had been made in the case of France, it was intended to make those changes the subjects of a treaty? [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER was understood to intimate that it was not.] That being so, he should also wish to know whether the right hon. Gentleman had made allowance in his statement for the loss to the revenue which the change in the tariff in the case of those other countries would occasion.
§ MR. FRANK CROSSLEY
objected to any further postponement than was absolutely necessary, on the ground that it would delay the Reform Bill. He gave credit to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the able manner in which he had explained what he considered to be the best Budget since 1853, and which he believed would give general satisfaction.
§ MR. KENDALL
was in favour of the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, for he thought that time should be given for ascertaining the sentiments of the distant constituencies.
joined in bearing testimony to the ability which had been displayed in the framing of the financial scheme which had that evening been submitted to the notice of the Committee, and dwelt upon the advantages which were likely to result from the increased commercial intercourse which was about to take place between this country and France. In its leading features he believed the Budget would receive a very cordial reception in the country, and he believed the important interests affected would be much indebted to the House of Commons if they suffered no unnecessary delay to intervene before pronouncing their decision on the great scheme which had been laid before them.
§ MR. R. CRAWFORD
said, he had taken the means of ascertaining what was the state of feeling in the City, and he found that trade was in a state of paralysis, everybody waiting to know what would be the decision of Parliament on the Budget. Take the silk trade, for instance; there was no period in the whole year when changes of the character proposed were so likely to affect that trade as the month of February, during the first and second week of which the great transactions in the silk trade were carried on. From the communications which had been made to him, he could state that the indecision affecting all transactions in the silk trade placed all 884 parties engaged in it in circumstances of great disadvantage. The same might he said of the wine, and indeed of every other trade. He therefore hoped that no unreasonable delay would be allowed to take place.
§ MR. E. C. EGERTON
said, he could confirm the statement made by the hon. Member for the City of London. He deprecated any delay in the settlement of the questions involved in the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. His constituents, the silk merchants of Macclesfield, were anxious to know at once what was awaiting them. They were alive to the benefits of free trade and not afraid of the result. They only wished to start on the same footing with their foreign competitors. The great operations in the silk trade, as the hon. Member for the City of London had stated, were carried on in February; and it was most important that there should be as little delay as possible in coming to a final decision in regard to the propositions which had been submitted to the House.
§ MR. J. EWART
entirely agreed in the views of the hon. Member for the City of London. It was most important to the commercial interest that this question should be settled as soon as possible. It certainly should not be delayed for a fortnight; a week, as proposed by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, was quite sufficient. So far as he knew the feeling of his constituents, he was quite sure that the great and comprehensive measure of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer—one of the greatest ever introduced into that House—would meet with the most cordial approval.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he could not agree in what had been said as to the favourable feeling with which the Budget would be viewed by those engaged in the silk trade. It was proposed to admit silk free immediately, while whatever was given in compensation by France was to be delayed for a long period, and then the terms of reciprocity were to be 30 per cent in France as against no duty here. On the part of the labour employed in the silk trade he did claim that the House should deliberate before adopting what he believed to be the commands of France. The House would excuse his plainness of speech: he must say the manner in which they were proceeding would not favourably impress the minds of the labouring population, but would root in them the disparaging description of the House widely circulated in his 885 neighbourhood by the hon. Member for Birmingham. Nothing could be more unfortunate for the position of the House than to beget a belief that they were disregarding the interests of the labouring classes by unduly pressing on a measure confessedly suggested by the French Government.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
never remembered since he had had a seat in that House, an instance in which so many matters of such vast magnitude and compass were brought within the scope of a Budget, and involving so deeply the great questions of European politics. He, therefore, hoped due time would be given for deliberation and discussion. It would be impossible otherwise to put an end to those suspicions which were already widely circulated, that this was not a mere question of fiscal alterations, beneficial or the reverse, but involved higher, deeper, and wider relations; and under these circumstances, if they were precipitate in the course of policy they adopted, it could never be retraced, however deeply it might be objected to. With proper deliberation, they were much more likely to come to a satisfactory conclusion. In the long run, time would not be saved by compelling a reluctant House, or one great section of it, to come to a hasty decision before they were in a proper position to discuss this vast, varied, and all important subject.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
put it to the Government whether they would not adopt the suggestion of the right hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) and take Monday week for the discussion of this subject. There was very little difference between that and the noble Lord at the head of the Government who proposed Friday next. It was desirable that hon. Members should have time to communicate with their constituents.
§ MR. BENTINCK
thought it would be to the credit of the House and the Government if a distinct answer were at once given to one question. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had told them that the terms of this treaty had been agreed upon by the French Government, subject to the approbation of Parliament. Subsequent to that announcement it had been rumoured that if they did not consent to adopt the terms of the treaty, they would be endangering our amicable relations with France. It had been asserted 886 by an hon. Member in the course of this debate, and without contradiction, that this treaty had been forced on this country by Franco. He was only repeating an assertion that others had made. If the House was to be placed under the necessity of cither ratifying that treaty or of endangering by its rejection the amicable relations between this country and Franco, he must say the proposal was one of the most degrading that had ever been submitted to any nation. He wished, therefore, to know from Her Majesty's Government whether, in the event of Parliament not thinking it right to confirm this treaty, the friendly relations between the two Governments would be in any way interfered with.
§ MR. HORSMAN
explained that he had suggested the Committee nominally for Monday, that an understanding might then be come to as to when the discussion should be taken. His object was to avoid a narrow division one way or the other.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I cannot think the arrangement suggested by the right hon. Member (Mr. Horsman) would be convenient. It would be much more advantageous that the country should know at once when the discussion will really take place. Sir, the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) is quite mistaken in supposing that the treaty is imposed on this country by France. Indeed, it has been long a matter of discussion whether any ruler of France would be bold enough to propose to diminish the protection which so many interests in that country are combined and organized to uphold. However, the present Emperor, seeing the great advantage of free trade, or at all events, of a change in the French prohibitive and protective system, authorized his Ministers to negotiate a treaty on the subject. The fact is that some months ago, when Mr. Cobden was going to Paris, he had a conversation with me, in which he informed me that he had several friends in France—one of them a person well known throughout Europe, M. Michel Chevalier; that he was anxious to converse with them in order to see whether there was any chance of a commercial treaty being entered into by France. I told him, on the part of the Government, that if he found there was such a disposition I was sure Her Majesty's Government would be quite ready to empower their representatives to negotiate such a treaty. The treaty itself my right hon. Friend has 887 explained in a manner which must have made its object clear to every one who heard him. But when the hon. Gentleman asks whether the rejection of this treaty is to be followed by—I forget exactly what—
§ MR. BENTINCK
By any probable disturbance of the amicable relations between this country and France.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
By any possible disturbance of the friendly relations between this country and France, I must tell him our argument is that the tendency of the treaty is to promote friendly relations between the two Governments. We believe that although there may be a time during which some of these relaxations may cause dissatisfaction in this country, and in France, it will work gradually, but surely, in improving those relations, and that the benefits both countries would derive from an exchange of each other's productions and manufactures would form such bonds of amity that it would be found more difficult to create ill-feeling between them than has been the case in past times. But, as to whether the rejection of the treaty would produce any disturbance of our friendly relations, why, the hon. Gentleman and every other Member of this House are quite as capable of forming an opinion as we are. That any threat or intimation of that kind has been made is utterly untrue. But, as to what effect any angry speeches in this House against France, followed by the rejection of the treaty, might have, the hon. Member must judge for himself. The right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire said it would be highly convenient if we postponed this discussion for a fortnight, and if I, in the meantime, would introduce the Reform Bill. Well, that is not the course I am going to pursue. However anxious I may be to bring in that Bill, it will be my duty not to submit it to the consideration of the House until we have gone through at least all the principal measures indicated by the Budget. The only point at issue now is the difference between the Friday and the Monday following. The subjects of the Budget have so many branches, so many Members are interested in the various articles affected by the proposal, that it is quite impossible we can get through the discussion in one or even two nights. I think, therefore, the Government could not properly delay the matter later than Friday next.
MR. T. BARING
It is very unfortunate that the Government should appear to press their proposal forward with un- 888 necessary haste. Such a course must be unfavourable to its success. It will not facilitate its adoption, but must in reality retard its progress, because a feeling will be excited in the House, and perhaps in the country, that Ministers are anxious to force their measures upon Parliament. I do not believe there has been a case in which proposals of such importance as those made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer have been submitted for out-approval within a week after their first explanation. Recollect that the secret of the right hon. Gentleman's Budget—and I praise him for it—has been very well kept. Recollect, also, that the secret of this treaty—and I cannot equally praise him for that—has been kept till this very day, and yet it is only next week that its provisions can be canvassed by the country. The Budget is very large, and affects a great variety of interests. I should be ashamed to hazard any opinion either in favour of or against it without giving it the consideration which its importance demands. Comprehensive as it no doubt is, I must be allowed also to say that a more complicated proposal was hardly ever made in this House. It has been introduced with that rare ability of which the right hon. Gentleman has given so many proofs. We all admire the talent which he has displayed; we all congratulate ourselves on his reappearance among us; and we must all have wished, while listening to him, that he may long remain an ornament to this assembly. Permit me to say it is not just to this House to force this measure upon our immediate consideration. It may be politically—it may be commercially right—it may be financially expedient. On the other hand, while, perhaps, financially inexpedient and commercially dangerous, it may yet be politically right. We have to view it in various aspects. Do not compel us to pronounce a hasty decision. If it be what we hope, what the Government say it is, and just what the country wants, it will lose none of its recommendations by the delay of a week. From what the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has told us, it appears there is evidently no hurry in bringing in the Reform Bill. Why not give us sufficient time to consider the Budget—to say whether we can or cannot give it a conscientious support? The Government, commanding a majority, may say they will give the House and the country no opportunity of examining their 889 proposals, but in pursuing such a course, I am convinced they will gain neither in time nor in credit.
§ MR. BASS
was surprised to hear so eminent an authority in commercial matters urging the necessity for delay. Many branches of trade had been suspended for weeks, owing to the uncertainty that had prevailed as to the intentions of the Government. He thought the commercial world would have no difficulty in making up their minds by Friday.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
Since we understand from the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) that the discussion of the financial scheme is under any circumstances to precede the introduction of the Reform Bill, we are relieved from any practical difficulty as to Monday week; and, as it is very unpleasant to commence a discussion of this sort with a dispute as to the time at which it should commence, I would suggest to the noble Lord at the head of the Government, as an arrangement likely to be acceded to by all parties, that he should name that day for the consideration of the Budget.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, he was very unwilling to make any change in the day which had been stated, but there was some advantage in appointing a day that was unanimously agreed upon, and therefore, although he thought it was a pity not to take the discussion on Friday, the Government would agree to take it on Monday week, with an understanding on both sides that the business should afterwards go on regularly day by day.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Resolution to be reported on Monday next.
§ Committee to sit again on Monday, 20th February.