HC Deb 17 February 1860 vol 156 cc1234-5
MR. ELLICE (Coventry)

said, he was desirous of putting to the Secretary of State the question of which he had given notice, with reference to the discussion on the Budget on Monday, Whether the Army Estimates comprise the whole sum to be I asked for the Defences of the Country for the ensuing year, or when an Estimate for any additional sum is to be laid upon the table? The Budget which had been submitted to the House was of a somewhat ambitious character, and dealt largely with the internal and external condition of the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had gilt the pill with all that consummate art and ability of which he was master; but it was essential that Parliament, in examining the prescription, should have before them all the elements which could enable them to form a decision. The right hon. Gentleman was about to make extensive remissions of what had been hitherto regarded as the permanent revenue of the country, and to repeal some taxes which were very objectionable in themselves and had become odious to large portions of the community. He had not the least objection to the abolition of these duties, providing a substitute were forthcoming to repair the wide breaches thus made in the permanent income of the nation; but the resources which were brought to bear for this purpose were of so adventitious and accidental a character—as, for instance, the taking up of the credit on the malt duties, and the sum of money which had come in once for all from Spain — that before concurring in the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman he was anxious to know what other expenses it was probable the country would be called on to incur in the course of the year. They had been asked to vote a sum of £500,000 on account of the Chinese expedition. The war with that country he looked upon as unjust and unfortunate, and he believed that it would prove to be a great mistake; but, right or wrong, they were bound to meet the expenditure, and the experience which he had acquired from former undertakings of a similar character led him to the belief that the sum which was to be voted on this account would prove altogether inadequate. Under such circumstances he felt he was perfectly justified in putting the question of which he had given notice. For if they were about to take away a largo portion of the permanent income of the country and to repair the loss by accidental and adventitious means, and if in addition they had the prospect of a large aggravation of their expenses in the East, the whole case as to the expenses of the year ought to be put before the House. In answer to the hon. Member for Stroud, who was the great advocate of an extensive system of fortifications, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War had last Session stated that owing to the recent period at which the Commission of Inquiry had made their Report, he was not prepared to state what course the Government might think it right to adopt. What he now wished to inquire was, not what the Government were disposed to recommend, or the amount which it was probable would eventually be required, but whether it was likely that in the present Session any considerable sum of money would be asked for on account of those plans. On the subject of the expenses themselves he expressed no opinion whatever, but as regarded the military Estimates which had been laid on the table it was impossible to speak without deep lamentation and regret, and he trusted that they would afford a lesson to the younger Members of the House. It might be possible, after careful examination, to effect some slight reduction in their amount; but the great bulk would still remain, and he supposed that they must make up their minds to meet it. It was therefore of the utmost importance that the country should be dealt with openly and honestly, and be made acquainted with the entire amount of the Bill. It was simply in a financial point of view, and in order to the clearer understanding of the discussion upon the Budget on Monday night, that he would now ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Army Estimates contained the entire sum which would be required for the defence of the country during the ensuing year?