§ Resolutions reported.
§ Resolution 1, read.
§ MR. HORSMAN
—Sir, I wish to avail myself of this opportunity to make some remarks upon the foreign policy of the country, especially as to the position in which this House stands in discussing our relations with other Powers, both towards our Ministry at home and foreign Powers abroad. In doing this I shall not go prospectively into questions which are now the subjects of negotiation, but shall endeavour rather to vindicate the rights and privileges of the House as to the present than revive unnecessarily questions of the past. When Parliament met at the beginning of the Session it was well known that various questions, not of negotiation only but of diplomatic controversy, had given rise to serious differences between the Governments of England and France—questions respecting Egypt, respecting Spain and Morocco, and respecting China. No one can say that the Government has been hampered by any undue interference on the part of this House in connection with any of those matters. It was well known that there had been a controversy of so serious a nature on the subject of the Suez Canal that at one time, judging from the information given by the authorized French journals, it had caused considerable embarrassment to the English Cabinet. But it was stated that the Emperor of the French, not wishing at that moment to increase that embarrassment had postponed the question to a more convenient time. But although we know that such a postponement must sow the seeds of future 1245 difficulty to this country, not one word of information has been laid upon the Table by Her Majesty's Ministers as to the correspondence between the two Governments, and no question has been asked in this House concerning it. Again the outbreak of the war between Spain and Morocco excited attention. We know that in the first instance the English Cabinet took a high tone with Spain. The French Cabinet took an equally high tone on the other side in support of Spain, and we were again told by the official organs of the French Emperor that there had been what in diplomatic language was termed an animated conversation between the First Minister of England and the French Ambassador, which ended in the French Ambassador politely informing the English Minister that although the Emperor attached importance to the opinions of the British Cabinet, he was not to be diverted by their representations from the course on which he had already determined. Then we were informed by Her Majesty in the Speech from the Throne at the opening of the Session, that efforts had been made to mediate between Spain and Morocco with a view of preventing the war, and papers on the subject were promised, but that promise has not yet been fulfilled, and not one question has been asked. Again, various difficulties occurred with the French Government as to the joint expedition to China. The officials organs of the French Government stated that it was the determination of France not to help England out of her difficulties in China unless England would help France out of her difficulties in Italy. The joint expedition, however, was finally arranged, though many persons believe it to be a great error and a source of much difficulty and embarrassment in the future. Not a line of the correspondence on this subject, again, has been laid upon the table, nor has a question been asked of the Government. I state these facts to show that on questions which are not urgent and do not require immediate serious discussion there has been no desire on the part of the House to embarrass the Government, or in any way to fetter their freedom of action. When, therefore, upon the question of Savoy greater anxiety was displayed, we had a right to expect credit from the Government for interfering only because it was a matter of great urgency, in which we thought that the functions of diplomacy were about being exhausted, and that the interposition 1246 of Parliament was absolutely necessary to avert consequences which the diplomacy of the Government had been too weak to deal with. As to Savoy, I wish to call the attention of the House to the points which have been brought more immediately before us in the course of the present Session. At the close of the last Session it may be remembered the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary stated that the Emperor of the French in making peace with the Emperor of Austria had voluntarily abjured all ideas of anything like territorial aggrandizement, and he remarked, in what seemed a very fair spirit towards the Emperor, that he thought it right to make the statement, because rumours of an entirely opposite character had been propagated. The House separated with that assurance. At the beginning of the present Session those disquieting rumours were again revived, questions were asked as to their truth, and the answer given was that no official information had been received on the subject. There then appeared no belief on the part of the Government in the existence of the designs imputed, and for the moment the House was satisfied; but immediately afterwards the organs of the French Government published an open and avowed declaration of the determination of France to annex Savoy. Again the Government were interrogated, and the answer was that, no doubt, France had indicated a desire to annex Savoy, but that Sardinia had determined not to give its assent, and without that assent it could be done. The House was again satisfied for the moment; but shortly afterwards the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Kinglake), supported by the hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel), showed that they were in possession of precise and accurate information that Sardinia had agreed to cede Savoy, and they asked whether the Government had not the same information. The answer was, that such information had been received by the Government, but it was coupled with the agreeable assurance from the Emperor, that nothing would be done without the consent of the population concerned, and that both the Emperor of the French and the King of Sardinia would abide entirely by their decision. After that communication there was another pause. But shortly after the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater came down to the House, and, supported by the right hon. Baronet, said he had reason to believe that a treaty between Sardinia and France was on the 1247 point of being signed by winch Savoy was to be ceded without the consent of the population. Again they received for answer that this also was quite true, but there was yet comfort, because the Government had obtained from the Emperor the gratifying assurance that the question should be submitted to the Powers of Europe, and that nothing should be done without their assent; and it was added that if the House, which had so far shown forbearance towards the Ministry, would only continue to exhibit that forbearance, and would place in them the same confidence which the Government reposed in the Emperor of France, Savoy might still be saved. This appeal was responded to with more sympathy and applause from the benches behind the Ministry than had ever been bestowed on his previous announcement. Whereupon the noble Viscount, the First Minister, elated by the enthusiasm displayed, so far forgot himself as to relapse into high encomiums upon the Emperor, reminding the House of his Majesty's first declaration that the Empire was Peace, going out of his way to assert that nothing which had occurred in the invasion of Italy was at variance with this declaration, and expressing also his opinion that the invasion of Italy was a noble enterprise. The House rested upon the assurance then given; but a few days afterwards the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Kinglake) got information of a still more precise and alarming character, which was to the effect that not only was the annexation determined on, but that deputies from Savoy were actually on their way to Paris to do homage to the Emperor. The hon. and learned Gentleman showed me his telegram, and did me the honour to consult me whether, considering the impatience—and, I may say, the intolerance—which had been shown in some quarters of the House, he should be justified in again intruding himself upon its attention after the repeated explanations of the noble Lord. My opinion was, that the statement which he had to make was so serious a one, that it was his duty again to bring the subject under the notice of the Government. He accordingly did so, and with what result? A despatch of the greatest gravity had just been received, as the Secretary for Foreign Affairs informed the House, and it announced, not only that the annexation of Savoy was determined on, but that the assent of the great Powers of Europe was not to be required; and the noble Lord, on the impulse of the 1248 moment, speaking as he did under great emotion, told us that as soon as he had written an answer to that despatch, and Her Majesty's approval had been obtained thereto, it would be laid on the table. That despatch has been written—it has been transmitted—but when we ask the noble Lord to let us see it, we are told that the Cabinet does not concur in the fulfilment of the pledge which he gave, and that despatch has not been produced. I must say, that this is to me only another indication that it is not the spirit of the noble Lord that guides the councils and rules the foreign policy of this country. What is the reason that is now given for the non-production of that despatch? We are told it would become subject to hostile criticisms. But any criticism that might follow the perusal of the despatch would naturally depend on its character and spirit. If it be a despatch in harmony with English sentiments and English feelings, no criticism need be feared, and the very fact of its being kept from our sight in order to shun criticism is not to my mind to the belief that it is favourable in accordance with the opinions of the people of this country. But, while we are not allowed to learn the nature of the despatch from our own Government, a description of it—but, I hope, not a true one—has been given to the world in the official journals of France. The character given of it is exactly that which the enemies of the Government abroad, and those who wish to make a tool of it, would give;—that it is a protest couched in the most friendly terms. M. Thouvenel wrote and published his despatch; he did not fear criticism—and why? Because the Emperor of the French knew that, by the publication of his despatch, he would produce a great effect upon Europe—that he would depress Germany—he would (or at least he hoped he would) dispirit Switzerland—he might cow Savoy, and coerce Sardinia. But while the people of Europe are looking for the counteracting despatch from this country showing what is the spirit and the policy of England, we are told that that despatch is to be kept back for fear the English public might indulge in disagreeable criticisms. Now, there is one indication, and I hope the only one, of a plea which is put forward in some quarters—that the action of the French Government has been precipitated by the discussions in this House. I can imagine how that might be in one way. I can 1249 imagine the Emperor saying to his Council, "As long as the House of Commons is weak and docile, neglecting its own interests, choosing to leave this question entirely in the hands of their Government, we may proceed at our leisure, because they will do our work as well as ourselves." "But," he may say, "I see notices of Motions by independent Members of the House, which, if carried, may be very embarrassing to the policy we are pursuing. They may rouse Germany, may inspirit Switzerland, may encourage Savoy, and may thwart and discourage the policy of France, and therefore it is for our interest to move rapidly, promptly, and to anticipate events which might be very inconvenient for us." I hold that the rule which ought to guide this House towards the Government in relation to its foreign negotiations, is a very simple one, and one that cannot be mistaken, and I hope the House will lay down for itself some rule by which it will vindicate the high privilege it enjoys of free speech concerning the Government at home and Governments abroad. The rule I take to be this—when complications arise and danger threatens, it is right to leave unfettered the course of the Government, and generously to conclude that the threatened evils may not be realized, and that the Government may be able to avert the danger. But it is a different thing when the opposing Power is not diplomatizing merely, but acting. When that occurs the point for Parliamentary forbearance has gone by. This question of the annexation of Savoy has passed through a succession of phases, each of which has been of itself a distinct and important act, and from the first disavowal of the design to this last apparent accomplishment, the artifices, and frauds of diplomacy have, one by one, been superseded by more effective action. The Emperor has made a speech avowing the accomplishment of that design, the Minister has written despatches to Europe in the same spirit, troops have been marched to Savoy, ships of war have appeared off Nice, and the event is actually accomplishing at the moment when Her Majesty's Government think they are still negotiating it, and they ask us still to forbear, to have that confidence in them which they have all along had in the Emperor of France, and then even at the eleventh hour they would persuade us Savoy may yet be saved. I must say, recollecting what occurred last Session as to the relations between this House and the Government, and contrast- 1250 ing the course taken by the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater with that pursued by the Government, that contrast is as favourable to the one party as it is unfavourable to the other. The accuracy of my hon. and learned Friend, his early information as to the progress of events, his predictions of danger to be apprehended, the consequences which he said must follow, if not by timely action averted, the warnings he gave of events that have since occurred, combined with the earnestness and moderation of his statements, all, I think, contrast most favourably with the conduct of the Government—with their apparent ignorance, their reluctance to give information, their evasion of discussion, their blindness to events that were happening, and their neglect of every proper effort to avert the dangers of which they have been warned. I think my hon. and learned Friend is, for the past, entitled to the thanks of the House, and, for the future, to its confidence and support; but our experience makes it imperative upon us to watch vigilantly every single movement of the Government, and rigidly to inquire into every part of these negotiations, in which I am bound to say neither in courage nor in duplicity can they rival their Imperial Ally. So far as regards our relations with the Government at home; but there is another question—What is to be the limit of our privilege of free speech in this House in criticising the policy and the acts of Governments abroad? In the course of last Session, when I had occasion to enter at great length into the question of our relations with France on a Motion as to the state of our national defences, I laid down a rule which I have always observed when referring to the policy and acts of the Emperor of the French. I said then that the Emperor was the chosen of the French people; that they trusted him, admired him, obeyed him, and thought him a great benefactor, and that from a French point of view, he was entitled to their gratitude and respect, and, therefore, on his personal character and his acts, as far as they relate to the internal Government of France, I thought we had no business to make remarks. But I said, as to his external policy, it was the duty of this House never to turn its eyes from that policy. I described that policy as one of war, aggrandizement, and aggression. Two of these have been already fulfilled—the aggression has taken place, the aggrandizement is in course of accomplishment, and who can say how 1251 distant is the war? During the administration of the noble Viscount, and under the very peculiar, and, I might say, unprecedented relations between him and the French Emperor, there has been a new doctrine laid down—that we must frame our speeches, not according to what we consider to be for the interest of England, but according to what may not be hurtful to the feelings of the Emperor of France. That is a doctrine which I hope this House will at once and for ever repudiate and set at rest. As to the Emperor, his views, and our manner of discussing them, I think our course is clear. As long as the Emperor refrained from action, I think it was right and reasonable to give him credit for honourable motives, but when it is notorious to all the world, except to the Members of the Cabinet, that he is proceeding to the accomplish- of his designs, then I say it would be not merely folly but hypocrisy on our parts if we were not to characterize, as it deserves, the policy he has pursued. Silence in such a case implies indifference, if not complicity. Can it be said for a moment that because we are characterizing, as we believe it deserves, the policy of the Emperor of the French, that we are doing that which is irritating? I say we are acting in self-defence. It is the only way to bring him before the tribunal of opinion which he dreads. He cannot complain that in the Parliament of England his policy is discussed. The Ministers of England should be the first to vindicate the right of free speech which is the highest privilege we possess, and with which we will never part. At this time any attempt to suppress the expression of opinion here, when Ministers cannot defend facts, would degrade us to a state of moral weakness and acquiescence in wrong, and justify the imputation that is made abroad against us of unworthy sycophancy; and the more adulation is heaped upon the Emperor of the French from that (the Ministerial) bench, the more necessary it is that truth should be heard from other quarters of the House. It is for that reason that I vindicate in this Assembly the right of free speech, which there has been an undue attempt to fetter, and that in the exercise of my privilege as a Member of this House I denounce the recent policy of the Emperor of the French in Italy as a policy of deceit. I say that he has deceived the English Ministers, and has made them his tools for deceiving the English Parliament. 1252 I say that he has treated them with a duplicity which they had not the candour to acknowledge, and a contempt that they had not the spirit to resent. And, speaking of his proceedings in Savoy and Sardinia, and the manner in which he has announced his policy to Europe, I say he has added insult to aggression, and perfidy to injustice. Am I to be rebuked from that bench (pointing to the Treasury bench) for this language? Why I look along that bench, I see such an array of Ministers as never sat there before, associated with Parliamentary censures and "horrible and heartrending" disasters. Let me remind them that in 1855 there was a Cabinet occupying that bench apparently stronger than the present, and with quite as reliable a majority, though I do not think it was quite so intolerant of all who differed from them as the majority which now sits behind them; but in one night a storm of indignation arose, and that Cabinet, by an unprecedented majority, was censured and ceased to exist. In 1858 the noble Viscount was at the head of a still stronger Cabinet, but it was stated openly that he had truckled to France, and because he had done so he was censured, and his Cabinet was swept away. And now I would warn those who would attempt to fetter the freedom of speech in this House, that the spirit which on two occasions came to the rescue and vindicated the honour and interests of the nation yet survives, and it may inflict a third penalty as sudden and more severe than any which has preceded it.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has raised up a great many spectres, with which he has fought much more than he has combated with any reality that exists. First of all he supposes that we have been continually complaining of the freedom of speech in this House, and endeavouring to suppress it. That is an entire imagination on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, and I think he has given us to-night a tolerable specimen of the manner in which the freedom of speech may be exercised, whether as to Ministers at home or Sovereigns abroad. The right hon. Gentleman, indeed, has imagined that we have been continually rebuking the House for the freedom with which its Members speak of foreign affairs. I do not think that we have so presumed with regard to the freedom of speech in this House. I think, on the contrary, with regard to hon. Gentlemen op- 1253 posite, we have every reason to be satisfied with the forbearance that has been shown, and with the unwillingness they have for the most part displayed to enter upon any general discussion of foreign affairs, or, at all events, to impede the action of negotiations that might be actually pending. I thought at one time the language of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Horsham (Mr. S. FitzGerald) unbecoming the position he had held and the responsibility that consequently must attach to his words, but on a subsequent occasion the hon. Gentleman made a speech full of moderation and, if he will allow me to say, of good intention, and I have no reason to find fault with him. But I must say that, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud has given us so much warning and advice, and so much objurgation, I may be permitted to give him one piece of advice,—that, seeing there is on the other side of the House an indisposition to enter upon any violent course of opposition, or any factious misrepresentation, I wonder that he does not himself take his place on the front seat of the Opposition bench, and endeavour to show to the shame of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite what faction can effect. The right hon. Gentleman has certainly imagined a good many anecdotes with which I was perfectly unacquainted. He tells us with respect to Morocco that we intended to lay the papers on the table of the House, which we have failed in doing, and that there was a very animated discussion between my noble Friend the First Lord of the Treasury and the French Ambassador respecting the affairs of Morocco. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that I never heard of that discussion, nor do I think that any warm discussion has occurred between this Government and the Government of France with respect to the Spanish expedition to Morocco. We thought the war was an unnecessary war on the part of Spain; that opinion was very ill taken by Spain, but it gives me much pleasure to say that I believe that war is now approaching a termination. Then with regard to China, the right hon. Gentleman says we asked for the assistance of the French in China, and that we were told the French Government would only give that assistance if we assisted their policy in Italy, and that a bargain was thereupon made. That is another specimen of imagination on the part of the right hon. Gentleman; but whether it is his own or whether he has picked it up from some 1254 of those telegrams which fly about the world, and have little authority, I know not; but, at all events, the House should not be misled by taking everything for certain that the right hon. Gentleman said. Then with respect to this great and important question of Savoy, I have more than once told the House the state of our information on that subject. I told the House what had passed between our Ambassador in Paris and the French Foreign Minister, and what our Minister at Turin had reported of his conversation with the Minister of France. I never considered myself bound to vouch for everything that was so reported, as to the way in which the project was to be carried out. The right hon. Gentleman says that I assured the House to its very great satisfaction not only that the Emperor of the French would consult the great Powers of Europe, but that he would be guided by their opinion. The noble Lord the Member for Leicestershire (Lord John Manners), endeavoured to extract from me an opinion whether the Emperor of the French intended to consult the great Powers of Europe in the sense of explaining to them his views with regard to Savoy, and then to act as he thought fit, or whether he meant to abide by the decision he might receive. Not being certain myself, I never could state to the noble Lord in what sense the Emperor of the French meant to consult them; but the very moment I received a despatch explaining in what sense that consultation was to be made I came down to the House and told them I thought it was intended in the sense of exposing the reasons of the Emperor of the French, but at the same time not supposing the great Powers should decide upon the question, but that the Emperor himself should decide. Well, as regards that subject I said, however, that I thought if it met with the unanimous disapproval of the great Powers—if they should feel the course the Emperor of the French meant to pursue with respect to the annexation of Savoy was an alarming step for France to take, and might betoken future aggression, I did not believe that that plan would be proceeded with. Whether I was right or wrong in that opinion cannot now be ascertained, but I know that with respect to the great Powers the Austrian Government said in the first instance that the annexation of Savoy to France was not worse, at all events, than the annexation of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany to Sar- 1255 dinia, and that it was a question in which they had less interest. But we know besides that the Emperor of Russia has said that it was free to the King of Sardinia to give away his own province, and that it was free for the Emperor of the French to receive it; and therefore it was impossible that a foreign Sovereign could interfere. Well, then, I say with regard to any opinion that we might give, we could not expect that it should have the same weight as if it bad been the opinion of the four Powers unanimously given and expressed—if not in the same terms, in terms of strong disapprobation. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think that we are ashamed of the despatch we sent in answer to that of M. Thouvenel. I can assure him the Government are not at all ashamed of that despatch, and when it is produced I think this House will be of opinion that we have no reason to be ashamed of it. But, then, Sir, there are other questions connected with this subject, especially one that must be of great importance to Europe; and to this country, as a free country, to this Parliament, as a free Parliament, must be one of surpassing interest,—I mean that which is connected with the independence and neutrality of Switzerland. Some days after the despatch of M. Thouvenel we received a representation from the Government of Switzerland complaining of the disposition about to be made with regard to the neutralized territory of Savoy. This, Sir, is a question of a different nature from that of Savoy, because, with regard to Savoy, it may be said, as with regard to Tuscany, it was part of the settlement of Europe in 1814 and 1815 that Savoy should belong to Sardinia, and that Tuscany should belong to the Grand Duke of Tuscany; but there was no guarantee on the part of the other Powers with regard to the possession of Tuscany by the Grand Duke and of Savoy by the King of Sardinia; and therefore the transfer by the King of Sardinia of his rights over Savoy to the Emperor of the French is a question on which those Powers may, or may not, think it right to remonstrate or go further. But, with regard to the independence of Switzerland, that is a matter of interest to all Europe, being guaranteed by the great Powers of Europe. Indeed, not only is the territory belonging to the Confederation guaranteed, but there is a part of Savoy which is declared to be neutralized, and with regard to which it is provided that, 1256 if war should break out between the neighbouring Powers, the troops of the King of Sardinia shall evacuate that territory, and a Swiss military force shall hold it till the termination of the war. Now, it is obvious that the transfer of that territory from the King of Sardinia to the Emperor of the French is a great change in the condition of that territory; and, though not within the letter of the treaty, it does bear in an important respect,—it may be indirectly—but it does trench in a very important respect upon the independence of Switzerland. For that reason, as M. Thouvenel has applied, on the part of the Emperor of the French, to the various Powers of Europe, and has received, as the French Government say, favourable answers from several of those Powers, so, on the other hand, Switzerland has applied to the Powers of Europe with a view to maintain her neutrality intact, and with a view to her future independence. Now, this is a question which does not require merely an answer on our part to the despatch of M. Thouvenel, but, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, it does require that we should endeavour to ascertain what was the opinion at Vienna, what was the opinion at Berlin, and what may be the opinion at St. Petersburg upon this subject. We have ascertained, so far, that without having arrived at any concert, without any decided course of conduct being agreed upon, the Courts of Berlin and Vienna do attach the highest importance to the neutrality of Switzerland; and we see by what has appeared in the newspapers today—of which we also received a summary in our despatches, that the Powers of Europe will be called upon to say whether the position of Switzerland be safe under the Treaty made by the Emperor of the French and the King of Sardinia. Well, I will say that I do not think this is a negotiation that could be carried on by this House as a body. I do not think that the Members of this House, voting by a majority, could undertake to make the communications that must be made to Berlin, that must be made to Vienna, and see whether, with Vienna and Berlin together, we may not obtain some co-operation with the Court of Russia. The right hon. Gentleman despises our ability; he thinks we are objects of contempt to the Emperor of the French; and so far as we are concerned the right hon. Gentleman thinks there should be a vote of want of confidence. But this House has not taken 1257 from us its confidence, and till such vote takes place we shall think ourselves entitled to carry on this negotiation and place before the House, when concluded, its results. For these reasons, Sir, with a view of giving more information to the House than I can do at present, I have meanwhile withheld the answer to M. Thouvenel's despatch. I do not follow the right hon. Gentleman in his depreciation of the character of the Emperor of the French; but it is obvious that the course he has pursued, as I expected, and as I said from the first, frankly and fairly to the French Government, has already produced a great deal of distrust. I believe myself that if when the war was begun last year the Emperor of the French and the King of Sardinia had said openly to the world, "The King of Sardinia has to sustain a great war against the empire of Austria; he cannot sustain it alone; the Emperor of the French has determined to help him, but the Emperor of the French expects, and has stipulated by treaty with the King of Sardinia, that if the territories of that King are very much increased in Italy that portion of the territories of the King close neighbouring on France and on the French side of the Alps shall be given to the Emperor of the French"—if that bargain, not so unlike many others which have occurred in the history of Europe, had been openly declared, I will not say what amount of indignation would have been entertained in regard to it; but I must say, looking to the circumstances under which the question has been brought forward, and with which it has been attended, especially after the declaration of the Sardinian Government that they would neither sell, exchange, nor surrender this territory, the course that has been pursued has produced great distrust in this country, and I believe it will produce great distrust all over Europe. Sir, I very much doubt whether strong Resolutions, or even strong language, on the part of this House would have produced any great effect upon the ultimate issue of this affair. We have been told that the passionate language held in this House made it necessary for the French nation to insist on their Government doing what has been done. That is rather a pretext than a true representation. It is evident that it is a plausible pretext to say, "We would have negotiated or conceded this point, but the insulting language used is such that our honour is at stake and we can no longer give 1258 way." I say that is a plausible pretext; but, be this as it may, there has been declared from the beginning of these discussions, immediately after the first debate that took place in the House of Lords—and the declaration was carried by The Times newspaper all over Europe—that, although strong language might be used on the subject, there was no intention of going to war on account of it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) said in one of his speeches that we might be quite sure no man in this House wished to go to war for Savoy; now, if there had been entire liberty to Her Majesty's Government to negotiate on this subject—although certainly they would not have threatened war—although they would still less have pledged the Government and the country to go to war, still it is a different thing, not saying anything on the subject, and declaring from the commencement of the negotiations that whatever may be the issue we will not go to war. Sir, my opinion as I declared it in July and January I have no objection now to repeat—that such an act as the annexation of Savoy is one that will lead a nation so warlike as the French to call upon its Government from time to time to commit other acts of aggression; and, therefore, I do feel that, however we may wish to live on the most friendly terms with the French Government, and certainly I do wish to live on the most friendly terms with that Government—we ought not to keep ourselves apart from the other nations of Europe, but that, when future questions may arise—as future questions may arise—we should be ready to act with others and to declare, always in the most moderate and friendly terms, but still firmly, that the settlement of Europe, the peace of Europe is a matter dear to this country, and that settlement and that peace cannot be assured if it is liable to perpetual interruption—to constant fears, to doubts and rumours with respect to the annexation of this one country, or the union and junction of that other; but that the Powers of Europe, if they wish to maintain that peace, must respect each other's rights, must respect each other's limits, and, above all, restore and not disturb that commercial confidence which is the result of peace, which tends to peace, and which ultimately forms the happiness of nations.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
The ready cheer which rang through the whole House 1259 when the noble Lord commenced the concluding portion of his speech, must have been very gratifying to the right hon. Gentleman as furnishing a complete justification for having initiated this discussion. I cannot say, for one, with what pleasure I heard that statement of the noble Lord. I hail it as an augury of a return on the part of Her Majesty's Government to those alliances and that friendly co-operation with the other Powers of Europe which, in my opinion, ought never for one moment to have been disturbed. Sir, I feel that the announcement of the noble Lord is of such paramount importance, and is a cause of such sincere congratulation to all lovers of their country, that I am quite content to overlook nearly every thing that might raise a controversy, in what fell from the noble Lord in the previous portion of his speech. But the noble Lord having appealed to me to confirm his statement as to the tenor of two answers he gave to questions I put to him, he must permit me to say that, speaking from memory, my recollection does not tally with his. I certainly was under the impression, from his first reply, that he wished us to understand that having studied the despatch from Paris, and having further had the opportunity of holding a conversation that morning with the French Ambassador, he was of opinion that it was still the intention of the Emperor of the French to consult the great Powers of Europe previously to the annexation of Savoy and Nice. I understood the noble Lord, on a subsequent occasion, to give a similar answer; and I understood the noble Lord at the head of the Government to give, on a still later occasion, a distinct assurance of a similar character. The noble Lord will therefore forgive me if I cannot corroborate his statement of the effect of those replies. But having heard the statement which the noble Lord has now made, having heard from him that the independence and neutrality of Switzerland are occuping the most serious attention of Her Majesty's Government, in conjunction with the other great Powers of Europe, and having heard the gratifying announcement that Her Majesty's Government is honestly endeavouring to re-establish friendly and cordial relations with those Powers I am not disposed to press this matter further than to say, as the noble Lord has taunted the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud with imagining that the House of Commons 1260 had already withdrawn its confidence from Her Majesty's Government, that I did not understand the right hon. Gentleman to make any such assertion, nor, indeed, to imply anything of that nature. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that Her Majesty's Government, by their own admission, and by the acknowledged course of events, stood in this position, that they had failed, either from want of information or of a right appreciation of the information they had received, to understand the true bearings of this important case; and, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman claimed for the House of Commons for the future perfect freedom of discussion, and the right to exercise the greatest vigilance over both the language and the action of Her Majesty's Government respecting foreign affairs. I did not understand the right hon. Gentleman to go further, and I think that previously to the concluding statement of the noble Lord there could be very few Gentlemen on either side of the House who did not think that the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly justified in the language he made use of, and who did not feel the necessity of that vigilance which he recommended to the House of Commons. For the reasons I have given it is not my wish to enter into the controversy that has been raised; but having from the first taken the deepest interest in this question, I cannot sit down without tendering my thanks to the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Kinglake), to the hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel), and to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman), for the patience, perseverance, ability, and thoroughly English spirit they have manifested in bringing this subject before the consideration of the House. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) also has touched a chord that will vibrate from one end of England to the other, and I trust if it ever be our duty to discuss these great questions again we shall discuss them in the spirit of those concluding observations of the noble Lord, and that hereafter the country will feel that its foreign policy is safe in the hands of those ministers to whom for the time being it has been entrusted.
§ MR. BRIGHT
Sir, I am unable to say exactly how many times this subject has been before the House during the last month, but I am sure it has been more times than was convenient for the House, 1261 or for the despatch of public business. I may not be able to quote accurately or to remember all the speeches that I have heard made, nor to recollect all I have read of those which I have not heard on this subject; but I have come to this conclusion, that those hon. Gentlemen who have been so anxious to introduce this question to the House have entirely avoided that which appears to me the most important point, namely, what clear and direct interest this House and this country have in the matter under discussion. I contend that we are here for the interests of England. I repudiate altogether the views of the hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, whose interest is clearly of the warmest with regard to Switzerland. I repudiate the course taken by the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater, who has taken Sardinia under his particular care. [Mr. KINGLAKE: No, no!] Now that Sardinia is proved to be the only Power that is not trustworthy in this matter the hon. Gentleman probably wishes to discourage discussion. I repudiate the course taken by the right hon. Gentleman below me (Mr. Horsman), who appears to find every question a suitable one for attacking the Members of the Government; I am here as the representative of a great English constituency, who have no kind of business with this question except in so far as it affects the honour and interest of England. I can conceive men, being great Englishmen—and I am astonished that it has not struck some of these ingenious Gentlemen in their researches on this question—viewing very favourably the transfer of Savoy to France, and I will give one reason why I think England should rather be glad at it. Sardinia agrees to the transfer as a compensation to France. Has it not been matter of talk among Englishmen and in all the clubs during the last year that by the success of France in the Italian war Sardinia has been placed in the power of France, and that in consequence France has been aggrandized by the acquisition of Sardinia in an almost perpetual alliance? But if Sardinia be able by the cession of what may be called politically a worthless province ["Oh, oh!"]—understand me, I say, "worthless" politically only—if Sardinia has compensated France by the cession of that territory, and has, therefore, disengaged herself from any feeling of what I may say created that supremacy of France in consequence of what 1262 France had done for her in the Italian war, then I say, on your own principles and the policy of the noble Lord, that England should be glad that the score had been settled in this manner rather than that for the future Sardinia should consider herself greatly indebted to France, and bound up in a perpetual political alliance with that country. France is now acknowledged even by the right hon. Gentleman near me (Mr. Horsman) to have acted in the transaction with perfect good faith. ["Oh, oh!"] I thought I was stating that which was admitted on both sides of the House the last time this matter was discussed. I heard it said by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli), though I see that Gentlemen opposite have no faith in his statements; but that he did say so I call the right hon. Gentleman himself to witness. This House, the English people, and the English press have for the last nine months been exciting the English Government to take that precise course which rendered the cession of Savoy inevitable, and I take it for granted therefore we are not in a position to complain of what has taken place. Then who is it that is to be alarmed at the issue things have taken? For that, after all, is the principal point to be determined. The noble Lord has told us in a manner perfectly charming, when we recollect the somewhat hot despatches he has written, and the hotter despatches Gentlemen in this House have desired him to write, that he has communicated with all the Powers who were parties to the treaty of Vienna. It is a delightful thing when all the Powers of Europe slumber at their posts that the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater should be wide awake. ["Hear, hear!"] No doubt, hon. Gentlemen opposite fully appreciate the course he has taken. But the noble Lord tells us that Austria in reply says—what? Why, that nobody cares about the treaty of Vienna, that when her provinces were wrested from her they were not taken by treaty, but by force of arms, and that Europe looked quietly on, while the English Ministers almost applauded, and the English people welcomed with enthusiasm every intelligence that was received of the destruction of an Austrian army in Italy. ["Hear, hear!"] Then, not only is Lombardy taken from Austria, but those pet duchies over which Austria has exerted so much influence are also gone, and that patrimony which is held 1263 by Austria to be sacred—the patrimony of the Pope—is in part wrested from the Papal Government; and all this is transferred bodily to Sardinia, which has tripled in extent since this time last year. All this has been done with the sanction of the English Government and the English people. [Mr. BOWYER: No!] Do hon. Gentlemen opposite, or does the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater, think that the Austrian Government would join in a quarrel about Savoy when they had not a word to say when Austria was dismembered? Then you go to Russia, and you ask her to join you. Russia replies, "As there is no question involved affecting the principles on which government rests, it does not concern us." And then, if you look back seven years, is there any man such an idiot as to suppose that the Russian Government would step out of its tranquil path to join you upon a miserable question like this, remembering the course you took with regard to Russia seven years ago? Then, I suppose, the noble Lord appealed to Prussia, and the Court of Prussia is particularly allied to the Court of England, and is, for many reasons besides, rather disposed to side with England. Well, what in reality is the answer of the Court of Prussia? I am not sure that the noble Lord has stated exactly that answer tonight, but the general impression is that, as the French Government do not insist upon what are called the natural boundaries of empires, Prussia has no interest in this question, and does not desire to take any steps with us. Then it comes to this, that no one has any interest in this matter but England; and yet every one will admit that whatever interest England has is necessarily smaller than the interest of the other Powers of Europe, for it is sheer folly and childishness to say that we who live in this island have a greater interest in this small question of boundary than the great nations which inhabit the continent of Europe, and which are nearer to that point where the boundary touches. But I ask, who in England is so far interested in this matter? I have looked in vain to the English press to find any considerable alarm on this question. There is, of course, some following of the rumours spread in this House, and there is one newspaper in London which is celebrated—I should rather say notorious—for a mixture of piety and ruffianism which has never before been equalled in the press. Day after day that newspaper endeavours to stir up the pas- 1264 sions of this country by vituperating everything connected with the French people and the French Government. I do not hesitate to express here the suspicion that has filled my mind. Let the House and the people of England remember that there is in France at this moment, as there was here 150 years ago, the great question of dynasty. Remember that the partisans of a dynasty deposed are restless and unscrupulous, and I am not certain at all that there are not means taken by those who have no friendship for England, and who never had any when they were connected with the Government of France—I am not certain that means are not taken which do not come to the light of day for influencing the press and public opinion in general throughout England against the existing Government of France—not for any object good to England or to Europe, but for objects good only to a family or faction—who, when in power, were not able to maintain themselves there, and who have no claim on the strength or influence of this country to replace them in the position they have lost. I cannot, I say,—I do not believe that the House is alarmed about the matter. Europe has given the question up, and it seems that England has also given it up. The House of Commons is willing to give it up, and now the only persons who are in a state of trepidation are the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Kinglake), the right hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman), and one or two others. [Cries of "No."] Well, that is my opinion. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud made use of one expression to-night which I think it is a pity he did, not explain further. The right hon. Gentleman defended the freedom of speech, which I am not about to contest. The House allows me to use that freedom of speech here, and I do not complain that any one else uses it. The right hon. Gentleman said that when he saw diplomacy exhausted he wished to give power to Parliament to do what diplomacy had failed to do. What do Parliaments and Governments do when diplomacy fails? They either retire and succumb, and say that their reasons have been misunderstood, or they go forward to another mode of compulsion, different from that of diplomacy. Did the right hon. Gentleman mean that? No; for he told us on another occasion, that he did not wish to have a war with France. But, though the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to go to war with 1265 France, he is quite determined to have a war with the hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Treasury Bench. I have not the least objection to the right hon. Gentleman making war on the Treasury Bench. But, if he will allow me to give him a piece of advice—and the right hon. Gentleman has given us a good deal of advice on this and on other occasions—I would suggest that if he wants to make war upon the Treasury bench he should not begin those assaults when the Treasury bench is in the right. I have been opposed to Governments, and I have done something, I hope, to make their position unpleasant. But I always went upon this plan. All Governments, even the Government of the Earl of Derby, have sometimes done things that are right, and then I was very willing to support them. On the other hand, every Government, even the Government of the noble Viscount, makes mistakes. Now I attack the Government on its mistakes. The right hon. Gentleman not only makes war on the Government, but he attacks the party on this side of the House, with whom for twenty years he has been supposed to be acting. He makes war on all the past of his own life; and for a Gentleman of his power of debating, his power of comprehending public questions, and of being useful to the House of Commons and the country, I say that it is a lamentable thing, and that the right hon. Gentleman has made a mistake. Now, with regard to the main question at issue, I am against the House putting itself in the humiliating position which it is invited to take up, and barking where it does not intend to bite, and making itself not the guardian of the affairs of Europe, for that would be foolish and impossible, but making itself the common scold of all Europe. There is nothing more humiliating, nothing more hopeless, than placing yourselves in such a position, and I am not sure that these debates, among their other pernicious effects, have not rather affected the judgment of the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I was not able quite to understand the observations with which the noble Lord closed his speech; but the noble Lord opposite (Lord J. Manners) always glad to ally himself with that from which civilization day by day is departing—namely, privilege and despotism, rose to compliment, the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and say—what he never said before—how grateful he was for the opinions the noble Lord had 1266 expressed, and the course the Government were about to take. Now, the House knows that upon this question of the French alliance I have more than once expressed the opinion that a close personal alliance between the Sovereign of this country and the Sovereign of any European country is not, in my opinion, advantageous for England or indeed for Europe. I think the noble Lord at the head of Foreign Affairs means to take a course which we must all hold, if impartially taken, to be wise and good—namely, that the policy of England ought not to be such as to estrange this country in future from any of the Governments of Europe; that we should not side with France on the one hand, or Austria on the other, in such a mariner as to make one the embittered enemy of England, but that we should take an impartial course among the Governments of Europe, and only give our opinion on questions not immediately affecting us when our opinions are asked upon them. If this were the proper occasion I should take the noble Lord to task for the course he has taken in regard to Naples. I believe nothing more firmly and unchangeably than this—that the past policy of the English Government with regard to various matters connected with the continent of Europe has been a policy not tending to her honour, not good for her people, disastrous to her finances, and, I am sure, most needlessly meddling, and of no advantage whatever to Europe. I am not now asking for a policy of entire and absolute isolation, but I believe that even a policy of isolation would be better than a policy of incessant meddling. I hope the noble Lord will take that course to which I have referred. Move with France where you have to move with her, clearly, firmly, honourably, and in a manner that cannot be mistaken. The noble Lord will truckle to no Power in Europe, I am sure; but let him so conduct the foreign policy of this country that all the nations of Europe shall say, what, I believe, they hove not, heretofore, said, that England is a Power regarding her own great interests mainly, not interfering in Europe when it can be avoided, and, when interfering, doing so, not for the sake of degrading one Power and exalting another, but in favour of those great principles of justice and moderation which are necessary in the transactions of the great Powers if the peace of Europe is to be preserved.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, he 1267 confessed when the hon. Gentleman first rose to address the House, he thought he was about to deprecate the tone which the present discussion had taken. He supposed that he was going to follow up his former declaration of "Perish Savoy!" with the further declaration of "Perish Switzerland!" Having listened to him, however, for some time, he (Lord Claud Hamilton) must own he did not think the hon. Member himself or any one who heard him could tell what was the precise object the hon. Gentleman had in view. It was true he repudiated the opinion that the hon. Member for Bridgwater was one who represented in his speeches upon this matter the people of England. Certainly the hon. Member himself (Mr. Bright) in no degree expressed the opinion of the English people on this question. The French proverb was, "Ce n'est que le premier pas qui coute;" and the danger was that if we acquiesced in silence in things of which we disapproved, we should, by such a course, be giving direct and palpable encouragement to further progress in the same direction. For this reason he conceived that the hon. Member was not in the slightest degree justified in saying that this was not a matter which affected the honour of England; and, on the contrary, he thought that England would be most deficient in her duty if she did not express her strong disapprobation of what was taking place. When the hon. Member contended that this annexation was one of no political importance, was he deaf to the representations of the Swiss Government! Did the hon. Gentleman, the professed admirer of liberty, wish to see that glorious Republic, long the asylum of freedom, which had baffled the schemes of tyrants, sacrificed to the ambition of the great military Power on her frontier? Was it the business of the hon. Member for Birmingham to express an opinion like that which he had uttered, and then to say that such was the opinion of the general public? He (Lord Claud Hamilton) utterly denied this assumption, and ventured to state that the hon. Member would never be able to carry the British public with him in reference to this flagrant violation of the public law of Europe. As to the assertion that Europe looked on with indifference at what was happening, it was much to be regretted that those to whom the honour of England was confided had neglected sooner to raise their voice. If Her Majesty's Government had acted with greater promptitude we might have escaped 1268 the grave complications and serious entanglements in which we are now involved. Nothing could have been more distinct than the promise that the great Powers should be consulted on the annexation. That assurance, however, gradually frittered down into the proposal—first, that the population should be consulted; next, that the feeling of the municipalities, not of the population, should be taken; and lastly, they found a treaty signed in which the annexation was to come first, and the reference to the great Powers, to the municipalities, and to the population to come afterwards. If we remained mute while such a mockery was perpetrated in the face of Europe, we must for ever hold our peace when future aggressions were meditated. Our silence would make us participes criminis in such a policy, and would be thrown in our teeth in the most embarrassing manner when its present success tempted the same great Power to make further advances. All the efforts of France to seduce the population of Chablais and Faucigny into anything like an expression of opinion in the least degree favourable to her had failed. He did not wish to go into this matter, but he must say that, in his opinion, the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater more truly represented the people of England upon this subject than did the hon. Member for Birmingham. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the course of his speech alluded to the difficulty of England in taking an active part in the question; and he stated, too truly, alas! that there was no sympathy for England on the part of other Powers, as shown in the expression of their opinions. But ought the feeling thus manifested to cause astonishment or surprise, for had not the policy of the noble Lord at the head of the Government been of a character that had irritated and alienated all the old Allies of England? That noble Lord might be perfectly justified in his policy, but still it was the fact that since 1830, when he entered the Foreign Office, he had been constantly charged by Foreign Governments with a policy of irritation towards them, and we were now reaping the natural fruit of this foreign policy. The noble Lord the Foreign Secretary now happily saw the necessity, in consequence of recent events, for drawing closer the ties of alliance and friendship with other States. But if he would succeed in his object, he ought carefully and dispassionately to study the causes which 1269 had alienated the sympathies of those States with a view of avoiding in future the policy that had created such general distrust. It was a remarkable circumstance, and one pregnant with the most serious reflections, that the noble Lord should have now discovered—only three weeks after the House had so loudly cheered the conclusion of the treaty which was to bring us into such intimate and cordial relations with France—that it is not well for this country to keep herself apart from the rest of Europe, and that this announcement should have been received in a crowded House with cheers no less general or enthusiastic than those which so recently greeted the Address congratulating Her Majesty on the signature of the Treaty.
I can assure the House, Sir, that I had not the slightest intention of addressing it upon the present occasion, nor should I have been induced to do so but for the observations which the hon. Member for Birmingham thought proper to make upon my conduct with regard to these transactions. Sir, the speech of the hon. Gentleman was truly characteristic of the man. I say it was truly characteristic of the man because it displayed in every sentence that firm reliance upon the infallibility of his own opinions, and that total ignorance of the views of others which so peculiarly mark the character of the hon. Gentleman. He began by imputing to me that I discussed this subject in the character of a person interested on behalf of Sardinia. Why, Sir, if he had only done me the favour to lend to the statements which I have made to the House even the most languid attention, he would have known that I was the man who informed the House of the existence of that pacte de famille which I disclosed to the House for the purpose of inviting its opinion, not only upon the Emperor of the French, but also upon the King of Sardinia, who was a party to that pacte. The hon. Gentleman also said that it is a defect in the arguments of those who have interested themselves in this matter that they have never shown how England has any kind of interest in the question. Again, I must say that if the hon. Gentleman feels capable of making such a statement as that, it can only be because he never did myself or my hon. Friends the favour to give us the least attention, for we have argued—ineffectually perhaps, but certainly, most patiently and laboriously—to show that the regard due to the faith 1270 of treaties, that military considerations, and many other reasons, do make it of the deepest importance that England should prevent this unsettlement of Europe; and among other instances of that singular audacity which characterizes the hon. Gentleman, I find him coming forward to-night to give the House that which I shall venture to call a military opinion, because, speaking with that confidence which seems never to desert him, he has said that Savoy and Nice are worthless provinces. Well, Sir, when we talk of the worth of provinces of this kind for the purpose of discussions such as that in which we are now engaged, of course we allude in a great measure to military considerations. I believe that there are military Gentlemen in this House who will give strong opinions upon that subject, but when the hon. Gentleman says that a province is a worthless one, he means, I suppose, that it is worthless in a military sense, and he must forgive me if I say that upon such a question I cannot be guided by any opinion of his. [Mr. BRIGHT: I said politically worthless.] Politically worthless! I suppose that the value of a province politically depends upon the degree of strength which it may give to the nation; and the degree of strength which it may give to the nation may be, and in this case realty is, a military question. I say, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman is not justified in saying that these provinces are politically worthless, unless he has so completely informed himself upon the military question as to be able to contradict all the military men in this House, and to assert that Savoy and Nice are worthless as military acquisitions. The hon. Gentleman said that there is great danger that this House will degenerate into the position of being the common scold of Europe; and I have no doubt that he thinks that his demeanour, his gestures, his diction, are exactly those which he should assume in order to dissuade the House from sinking into such a position. Having thus dealt with the observations of the hon. Gentleman I will do no more than express the heartfelt gratification with which I have heard the statement of the noble Lord. I can assure the noble Lord that it was gratifying to me beyond expression; and I feel great satisfaction in thinking that, however imperfectly I may—in the Motion of which I gave notice—have expressed the opinion which I entertained as to the desirability of our entering into communication with the great 1271 Powers of Europe, my view was the one which has happily been entertained by Her Majesty's Government. I have only to thank the House for the kindness with which they have listened to me, notwithstanding the great difficulty which I have experienced in addressing them.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, he rose, not to continue the discussion with regard to Savoy, but to say a few words upon the income tax, which was more properly the question before the House. He did not mean to follow the example of the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs when in 1842 he announced his intention of opposing the income tax on the Resolution, on the Report, and on the first, second, and third reading. He should, on the contrary, accept the Resolution as carried, and as an expression of opinion in favour of a temporary income tax, though in a full House it was doubtful whether the decision might not have been against the proposition. In 1842 there was a promise that when the deficiency in the revenue was made up the tax should cease; and again in 1845 the noble Lord, with zeal equal to that which he had displayed on the former occasion, opposed the renewal of the income tax as not being a fit tax. The noble Lord insisted then, and he (Sir H. Willoughby) insisted now, that it was the duty of the Government to correct the inequality of the tax if they could do so. The House was aware that the income tax was extremely unequal in reference to various classes of the community, and he wanted to impress on the Government the advisability of removing two hardships which pressed on persons assessed under Schedule A. Those possessed of houses and lands paid on their gross rental, and this was clearly an act of gross injustice on all the owners of such property. In order to make the assessment fair there should be a reduction of ten or twenty per cent from the gross rental. He believed that such a provision would be consistent with common justice and with common sense. There was another question in reference to mines and the like property, when worked by the owners themselves. In such cases they were assessed on the profits, but, as he understood, were allowed no power of appeal. He wished, therefore, to know whether they would be allowed an appeal to the Commissioners? He would simply state the points, and he trusted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would say how far he agreed with him.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
Before the right hon. Gentleman replies in reference to the points which have been brought under his attention, there are one or two other points respecting the income tax on which I think it desirable that he should give to the House some further explanation than we have yet received. I agree that it appears to be the pleasure of the House of Commons to give its assent to that tax which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with most extraordinary inconsistency, proposes this year to double; this being the very year in which, on account of the frauds and immorality attending the income tax, he proposed to do away with it altogether. But as the right hon. Gentleman is now going to require an income tax of 10d., I think it desirable that we should be better informed than we now are as to what is to be the actual produce of this tax. The right hon. Gentleman states as clearly as possible what we are to pay, but not what he is to receive. The right hon. Gentleman will possibly explain what appeared to me to be a discrepancy in his original statement, my impression being that he put down the produce of the income tax at various amounts differing from each other considerably. He first estimated the production of the half-year at 5d., now to be raised, at £2,400,000. Well, Sir, that would give a sum of £960,000 from each penny of the income tax. But a few sentences later in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman he told us that the actual amount which the income tax, the whole year's income tax produced, in 1859, was £6,140,000. I do not clearly recollect whether he meant the year ending on March 31, 1859, or whether he meant the coining year. I presume he meant the year ending March, 1859. His statement was that the actual produce of the income of 5d. for that year was £6,140,000. Well, Sir, that would give for each penny of income tax an amount of £1,228,000. Then as to the three quarters of the increased tax which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to collect in the ensuing financial year. The right hon. Gentleman estimated the three quarters of the tenpenny income tax at £8,472,000, which should be added to that anticipated from the fourth quarter of the existing income tax to be received at the commencement of the ensuing year, which would amount to £2,250,000. That gives an aggregate income tax for the ensuing year of 1273 £10,722,000, which makes each penny of income tax £1,082,000. Well, Sir, the difference between the estimated receipt from the income tax in the ensuing year and the sum which the right hon. Gentleman told us it actually produced in 1859 is very considerable—it amounts, I think, to £148,000 on each penny of income tax, The result would be, then, that if the right hon. Gentleman was accurate in stating that the actual produce of the income tax at 5d. was £6,140,000, the difference on each penny of income tax is so great that the 9d. proposed on a former evening by my hon. Friend (Sir H. Willoughby) instead of 10d., would actually have produced a larger revenue than the revenue which the right hon. Gentleman naw estimates from the 10d. I have endeavoured to make my figures as clear as possible. I have no doubt there is some mode of explaining the apparent discrepancy, and I shall be very glad to hear that explanation from the right hon. Gentleman, and what is the sum he really expects to receive from each penny of the income tax as now levied. These are one or two other points upon which the right hon. Gentleman has not yet given any explanation, and I trust in the course of the evening he will do so. One is as to the mode in which he proposes to collect the three-quarters of the income tax within the year. It appears to me that there will be considerable practical difficulty in collecting three-quarters in the year instead of half, as is usually the case, I shall be glad to hear some explanation upon that, and would also suggest that some alteration should be made in the percentage now received by the income-tax collectors. I believe at present it is a very profitable office, and when the income tax stands at double its present amount, I trust the right hon. Gentleman will make some reduction in the per-centage. These are points on which I shall be glad to hear some explanation from the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. DEEDES
said, he wished to express the great disappointment he felt at the financial statement of the right hon. Gentleman. Last year the right hon. Gentleman on a Motion hostile to his scheme being made, had stated that the tax was entirely temporary—that he looked forward to a period when the financial system of the country should be thoroughly examined and remodelled; and he held out, in the strongest terms, that the House might expect to see that done this year. It was 1274 with great regret, therefore, that he found the right hon. Gentleman now shelving that question. He, for one, was not satisfied to leave the consideration of the permanent imposition, as it appeared it would be, of the income tax to a new House of Commons, to be elected under a new constituency. It was impossible to separate the consideration of the Reform Bill from the consideration of the Budget, and believing that the Reform Bill, if carried out as it then stood would alter very materially the constituencies sending Members to that House, which had hitherto been recognized as representing different interests, he anticipated with the greatest possible alarm the future financial condition of the country being placed in the hands of new constituencies.
§ MR. POLLARD-URQUHART
said, the House would not be justified in drawing an inference as to the probable produce of the income tax from what it had produced in past years. Owing to irregularities in the collection, it was exceedingly difficult to estimate what would be produced in any one year. A million for each penny of tax was probably a near calculation; and if the tax yielded more than the Chancellor of the Exchequer estimated, the House ought rather to be gratified, than the reverse. He considered the Budget a great, though a bold one. It was most desirable to avoid a deficiency of revenue, as that seriously affected the public securities. He hoped to see the whole question referred to a Select Committee next year.
§ MR. BLAKE
said, that the income tax, as then levied, pressed with undue severity on the commercial community, and with undue lenity on the agricultural classes, and he would suggest that in any future arrangement the trading and commercial classes should receive equal consideration with the farmer. As matters stood, while the one escaped, up to a certain point, the others were assessed in the strictest manner.
§ MR. LONGFIELD
said, he hoped that as regarded Ireland the income tax would not be levied on a larger assessment than was strictly required for the necessities of the State, and that on three of the schedules at least—namely, A, B, and C—the tax should not be levied on the assessments of former years. If it were levied on these assessments a great injustice would be done, as the parties under these schedules would have to pay not 10d. in 1275 the pound, but 1s., 1s. 4d., and 1s. 6d. respectively.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he had listened to the various points mentioned in the short conversation which had just taken place. The difficulties attending the opening of the question of the inequalities of the different schedules had been made apparent in that conversation. The hon. Member for Evesham (Sir H. Willoughby) complained that the present arrangement bore unjustly on Schedule A, while the hon. Gentleman below him (Mr. Blake) opened another source of complaint, one that was much more rife, and much more serious and difficult to deal with, whenever the subject was fairly broached, its unequal pressure upon Schedule D. The truth was, that the great battle of the income tax was between Schedules A and D. The question of remissions in favour of the farmers under Schedule B was a very small one; the real question was between Schedules A and D. If the hon. Baronet made the Motion which he promised, with a view to improve the terms for Schedule A, he would find other hon. Members on his right and left up in arms for Schedules D and E; and he might be left to be dealt with by those hon. Gentlemen. No doubt this tax was full of inequalities, but he would submit to the hon. Gentleman that there would be no advantage to any particular interest in considering the question of inequality, except at a time when the House could give the subject an attention hearing some proportion to its extreme difficulty, its vast importance, and the immense financial and social dangers which he did not hesitate to say would infallibly attend any precipitate proceeding with regard to it. He was not afraid of such precipitate proceeding, if they endeavoured to keep in view the extremely critical and perilous nature of the whole question, which would, in point of fact, open something like a scramble between class and class throughout the country. The responsibility which would attach to such a proceeding, he, at all events, was not disposed to incur, while he was perfectly prepared to admit that the subject was one, to the elucidation of which any hon. Member might legitimately turn his attention. If, however, the hon. Baronet (Sir H. Willoughby) made the Motion he proposed, it would be convenient to both Houses, with regard to the progress of the public business, if be would make it either that evening, or on the Report of 1276 the Bill. In reply to the hon. and learned Gentleman who bad last spoken, he had simply to state that the proposal which he had made in reference to the assessment was meant to operate in favour of the taxpayer. It had reference exclusively to Schedule B; and the object was not to increase the burden on leaseholders. The hon. Member for Evesham had also asked him if an appeal would be granted under Schedule A for the tax levied on mines. He had not had any recent application on the subject to which the hon. Gentleman had alluded in such general terms, and he felt some difficulty in understanding the precise nature of the question; but he should be happy, either in or out of the House, to hear any statements which might give an opportunity of adjusting the tax in proportion to the receipts of the owners of mining property. In speaking of the unfavourable result that might happen to Schedule A, from a general discussion of the subject, he was quite aware that the matter was a grave one. He himself had laboured in that House to show that the tax fell upon Schedule A much more heavily than was generally supposed, as all house proprietors in particular were aware, for on them it fell with a weight that was really extreme. The right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir John Pakington) had adverted to two points. The right hon. Gentleman had charged him with a breach of promise with regard to the income tax. Now, he would venture to quote a few words of what he stated in the year 1853. The right hon. Baronet appeared to think that he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had promised that some measures would be positively taken in 1860, irrespective of what might happen in the meantime, and irrespective of the demands of the public service. If he had made such a rash promise, it was quite evident that it would have been the act of an insane man to have attempted to have kept it. But he did not find, in the authentic records, that he was ever guilty of such an excess of folly. What he said at that period was this;—I think it also would be desirable that effectual measures should be taken to mark this tax as a temporary tax. By that I do not mean mainly or chiefly that I would commit the Government to an abstract opinion as to a future year. My own opinion is decidedly against the perpetuity of the tax, as a permanent ordinary portion of our finances; but while I state the wish of the Government to propose it as a temporary tax, I do not ask you to rely on their word to hind them or ourselves, irrespective of what may occur in the interim, as to what you will do under all circum- 1277 stances at the expiration of the term, which we propose to fix for its continuance now.The right hon. Baronet would find that such was the general tone in which the proposal at that period was considered. The answer to those who insisted that the expectation ought be fulfilled, was to point to the fact that since that period the expenditure had increased 14 millions. How far that was a satisfactory answer, he pretended not to say; but it merely showed how foolish it would have been in the Government of the day to make such a pledge, or in the Parliament to accept it, supposing they had done so. Now, with regard to the figures quoted by the right hon. Gentleman in regard to the amount of the tax. He thought he should be able to show how all the figures quoted by him were strictly accurate. He was not aware that he had referred to the proceeds of the tax in the financial year 1858–59; but he had no doubt he might have done so; nor did it at all surprise him if he stated that the proceeds of that year were £6,140,000. But perhaps the right hon. Baronet would allow him to remind him that he was rather misled by assuming that because, in 1858, the tax was allowed to drop to 5d., therefore the result of the tax in 1858–59 represented the value of a fivepenny tax. It really represented the value of a seven-penny tax for the first half-year; and a fivepenny tax for the second half; so that, assuming it to have produced £6,140,000, it was a tax of 7d. for the first half, and 5d. for the second. He had then stated, as was very truly said by the right hon. Baronet, that there was due to the present year, in respect of the law expiring on the 31st March, a sum of £2,400,000. He also stated that they would obtain out of the tenpenny income tax, if it should be voted by the House of Commons, for the three-quarters within the year, a sum of £8,412,000; and he likewise stated that a sum, he believed of £2,250,000, would remain to be collected after the 1st April, 1861. There was an apparent discrepancy, but the reason of it was the collection not being quite equal. It varied in the three countries. In Scotland the whole tax under schedules A, B, and D was collected within the year, and at once, in the month of January. Again, a great deal depended on the time at which the tax could be collected under schedule C. Owing to the lateness of the period at which the financial statement was made last year, the July dividends, that ought to have 1278 paid 13d. in the pound, escaped with a tax of 5d. It was necessary, therefore, not only to estimate the general amount of the tax as so much for every penny, but the amount in reference to the precise period when it was enacted. This disturbed the calculation, and presented an apparent discrepancy. In fact, the Government would obtain more than three-fourths of the tax within the financial year, owing to the arrangements under which it was paid in Scotland. If £2,250,000 were one-fourth of the whole tax, then £9,000,000 would be the produce of the whole year's tax, whereas he took credit for the whole year's tax on an aggregate receipt of £8,472,000 within the year, and of £250,000 beyond the year, making together, £10,722,000. These were the causes of the apparent discrepancies in the figures. With respect to the collection of three-quarters in lieu of one-half the tax within the year, there was no alteration in the law, and its collection was not by law uniform as it now stood. In some places it was paid quarterly, in others half-yearly, and in Scotland once for all over the whole year. The payments by Scotland were most favourable to the Exchequer, because there were the smallest average arrears, but the regulations that had to be made were such as were required by the present law and were not attended with inconvenience either to the collectors or the parties. Another question upon which he would not enter fully, but which was one of considerable importance, was the percentage allowed on the collection. There was only one change the Government proposed to make in the mode of collection, and that was to transfer the assessment of the railways from the head offices of the companies to Somerset House. Hitherto the location had been by accident. The chief station of the North-Western Railway was in the parish of St. Pancras, but the property the company held in that parish was comparatively small. It was, therefore, almost absurd that the collector of the St. Pancras district should obtain all the profit on the collection of the whole of the company's assessment. The Government, therefore, proposed to make it a matter of direct arrangement between the companies and the Government; and no doubt, as the percentage would be high, it would afford the collector a liberal commission. The whole subject of remuneration and poundage to collectors required revision, and ought to undergo that revision whenever 1279 the House of Commons felt itself to be in a position to vote the income tax for a term of years. When the income tax stood at 5d. the poundage was insufficient to give adequate remuneration; on the contrary, when it was 16d. during the war it was much larger in proportion. It was very desirable to adopt a different and better balanced system. The reason the Government did not propose a general plan of revision of the mode of collection was because the House was only asked to vote the tax for a single year. But in the present Session he should propose a measure bearing on the important question whether the Queen's taxes should continue to be collected by the local authorities or by officers directly responsible to the Government. He should not propose any general or compulsory change in the present system, but there was such a desire on the part of local authorities to get rid of the duty of collection, and bring it under the control of the general Government, that he thought it advisable to propose a measure enabling those local authorities to transfer the duty to the Government. The manner and degree in which this plan might be acted on, would have a bearing on any change in the mode of remunerating those engaged in the collection.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he believed he might now understand that the right hon. Gentleman estimated the amount of a penny in the pound at about £1,100,000.
§ MR. DISRAELI
The House may remember that I disapproved of the financial scheme of the right hon. Gentleman when he originally introduced his Budget to the House. I then thought, and I still think, that it was an improvident and an unwise one even under ordinary circumstances, but under existing circumstances, I thought that it was even dangerous. But having had an opportunity, on the Motion of the hon. Member for Essex (Mr. Du Cane), of expressing my opinion by my vote, upon the general policy of the Budget, and having had subsequently an opportunity of voting against the repeal of a particular tax proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, and the House having on both occasions conclusively approved of the policy of Her Majesty's Government and of the repeal of the particular tax, which was one of the most important proposals that I think was ever made to Parliament, I did not feel myself justified in voting against the proposition of the Government to vote for 1280 the public service a tenpenny income tax. Although I can understand the conduct of hon. Friends of mine, who took the same course in both these instances that I did, in supporting the hon. Member for Evesham (Sir H. Willoughby) in his proposal the other night, I cannot understand the remarks made by hon. Gentlemen in the position of the hon. Member for Kent (Mr. Deedes), who voted, I believe, in favour of the financial scheme of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He voted certainly not against the repeal of the tax upon paper, and now he seems to be very much alarmed at the dangerous financial position of the country. The hon. Member for Kent is one of those, as may be proved on many occasions, who is always ready with warnings against the consequences of events which he himself always assists to accomplish. We are again discussing this subject of the income tax, that has for so many years engaged our attention, that has been the subject of such bitter controversy and the theme of such long Committees, and that has occasioned in its time even the fall of Governments. We are called upon to vote an income tax to a very great amount, with no prospect—so far as I can judge from any observation that has been made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—with no prospect of a relief or release from what I still believe to be a most unpopular burden. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich, has referred, and not for the first time, to a passage in his speech of 1853, to prove that he entered into no compact with the country or with Parliament for the absolute termination of the income tax in this year, when, by a most unfortunate coincidence, he stands in the position of the Minister who has to make the proposition for its continuance and its increase. No one, of course, pretends that any Minister on such a subject can enter into an absolute compact, that he is to be held to the letter of the bond, that he is to be superior to all political circumstances of the times and all the financial considerations of the moment, and that whatever may be the state of the country he is to be called on to carry on its affairs without levying an income tax. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer quoting his own speech, cannot pretend to say that the whole scope of his policy in 1853 was not that in 1860 the termination of the income tax should take place. He must feel, and he must admit that on the 1281 acceptance of that policy by the country generally he has enjoyed for seven years a great reputation. And when he tells us now that our expenditure has increased; that the cost of Her Majesty's service is now so many millions more in amount than at the time he held out these prospects, the Chancellor of the Exchequer seems to forget the calculations and the estimates he made in 1853, by which he arrived at the sanguine conclusion that probably in 1860 this income tax would cease. Then he particularly referred to the falling in, in the present year, of the terminable annuities—amounting to more than £2,000,000 per annum. The right hon. Gentleman's opinions were not founded on transient and illusory speculations, but he induced Parliament and the country to believe in them on the credit of definite calculations; well, he has not apportioned that two millions per annum for the relief of the country, by reducing the income tax, but he has opened up a new scheme of finance which, under all circumstances, would be imprudent, improvident, and unsafe, but which, under the circumstances in which the country finds itself, is, I think, replete and rife with danger. Why has not the right hon. Gentleman redeemed his promise with respect to the terminable annuities? That perplexing point has not been answered. It is one of the main causes of the public dissatisfaction, and it is a point always avoided by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the consideration of the subject.
I cannot help contrasting the present position of affairs and the present opinions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with what took place at the memorable end of the year 1852. I still remember the fierce denunciations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer against the Government of that day on account of their policy with respect to this particular tax, and their particular financial propositions on that occasion—propositions that to a considerable extent gained the general support and sympathy of the House. But the right hon. Gentleman called upon the House to crush the Budget of 1852 mainly on three grounds. First of all he contended that it was an immoral and dangerous proposition to apportion to the services of the year £400,000 which had not been furnished by the revenue of the year. Society, he said, was not only in danger, but would be dissolved, fall to pieces, and be destroyed if a financial principle of this character were 1282 adopted. But what do we find now? Why the Chancellor of the Exchequer actually proposing that to the service of the year should be appropriated not a sum of £400,000, but a sum of upwards of £1,500,000, which is not furnished by the revenue of the year. That was one of the chief grounds on which the Chancellor of the Exchequer assailed the Government of 1852. Then with regard to the income tax, he said that no Minister was justified in proposing its continuance without providing for its final termination. What position are we in now? Here is an income tax nearly double that of 1852, and is there any one who will pretend to say that there is any provision for its final termination? The third charge against the Ministry of 1852 was that they proposed some difference between the rate of assessment in Schedule A and Schedule B, but on this condition that all exemptions should be put an end to, and the assessment to be as low as on incomes of £50 a year. I was, therefore, much surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman admit that, when this important financial law should be taken into consideration next year, he would be willing to consider the policy of increasing the whole scheme of exemptions and of reducing the rate of assessment on the different classes. [The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER dissented.] If you did not say that you must have said something like it, although I admit I was not in the House at the time. But if it be the policy of the right hon. Gentleman to tax the rich and poor on different principles, anything that we proposed in 1852, in point of danger compared with such a principle, shrinks into an insignificance I can scarcely describe. The hon. Member for Kent, who has made a speech to-night that would justify the most uncompromising opposition to the financial propositions of the Government, has called our attention to the very perilous position in which this country is now placed with respect to its finances for the coming year and the possible occurrence of important political events. No one doubts that it is a serious complication—a very grave conjuncture, and I am only surprised that with such opinions the hon. Member for Kent is so ready to give his support to the Government, though I am not surprised that the coming danger has created in the hon. Gentleman such a degree of spirited opposition that while denouncing the policy of the Government he begged, in humble terms, permission of the Chancellor of the 1283 Exchequer to make his observations, and trusted they would be received without offence. It is true that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has embarked in as important an enterprise as any Chancellor of the Exchequer can undertake. He is about to substitute, and I am afraid he has succeeded in substituting, direct taxation for indirect taxation to a very large amount. He has laid down principles which if followed out will lead to consequences still weightier, and at the same time he boasts that he is a member of a Ministry that next year will have to meet a deficit varying from £12,000,000 to £15,000,000, and that the principles on which that deficit is to be supplied are to be settled (to use the right hon. Gentleman's own language) by the representatives of the masses who would then possess the franchise.
§ MR. DISRAELI
It is rather inconvenient to have this running commentary from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which the right hon. Gentleman seldom spares; but what he said was that the masses were about to possess the franchise, and he should be ashamed of himself if he sanctioned any arrangement calculated to deprive them of the opportunity of settling the new principles on which the taxation of the country was to be settled. That is a very serious state of affairs when you are promised a financial system which is mainly to depend on the payment of direct taxation, and at the same time are informed by the same minister that the new constituent bodies about to be created are not to be payers of direct taxation. A position more dangerous to the country than this cannot he contemplated. We have had a discussion as to whether the Emperor of the French was influenced in his policy by what was said in this House, and whether he might not he offended or irritated by it, and I am not surprised that the right hon. Member for Stroud made the observations that he did, for they were the necessary consequences of the observations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other night, in which he intimated to the House the 1284 probable course the French monarch had taken in consequence of the sharp comments made on his conduct in this House. For my own part I do not think that the Emperor of the French has any cause to complain of the House of Commons. It appears to me that the House of Commons are probably doing his work as expeditiously and as completely as any Ministers of his own can do it. A system of direct taxation in England, and that taxation not to be put upon the great majority of the constituent body, appears to me to be a policy which, if anything can break down the free spirit of this country, and all the salutary influences of ancient property and prescriptive right, which have so often exercised a beneficial power in guarding and vindicating our liberties, the Emperor of the French has that prospect fairly before him, and I cannot believe that with such a policy pursued by Her Majesty's Ministers, and supported by the House of Commons, the Emperor of the French can feel any irritation with anything that is expressed in this House. On the contrary, I believe that he watches our career with complete and interested satisfaction; and when we look at the financial system proposed to be established on these new principles, and at the political system existing in such perfect unison with it, when you find that the revenue is to be raised by the representatives of bodies who do not contribute to taxation, I say that Necker himself, in all his glory, never accomplished a consummation so promising to the endurance of a monarchy or so conducive to the prosperity of a kingdom!
§ MR. LAING
said, that all the visionary pictures which had been for some time in circulation had been brought to a climax by the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. They had been told that they were throwing away all that indirect taxation which formed the mainstay of our revenue, and substituting direct taxation to the extent of confiscation of the rich as against the poor. But in speaking on matters of finance there was only one sort of figures allowable, and those were figures of arithmetic. They were told that they were throwing away an immense amount of indirect taxation in their Budget, but the fact was, that the amount of indirect taxation levied during the next year would be greater than ever had been levied in any financial year in the history of the country. Let them for example go back to the year 1856–57, when taxation was at its maxi- 1285 mum, and the Russian war at its height. In that year the amount raised from the Excise and Customs was £41,486,000, and in the same year the income tax was £16,089,000. Now, in the Budget as prepared this year the amount of indirect taxation would be £42,970,000, being a million and a half more than in the great year of the Russian war, whilst the amount of direct taxation, which had been described as something so extraordinary, would be £10,900,000 against £16,000,000. That was to say, there would be, in round numbers, an increase of a million and a half on the amount raised from indirect taxation, and a decrease on the income tax imposed of five millions and a half. The great object of these alterations in the tariff was to increase the fruitfulness of indirect taxation, experience having shown the beneficial effects resulting, in a financial point of view, from the steps taken to relieve industry and to simplify commercial transactions. In 1842, when the new system was entered on, the amount derived from the Customs and Excise duties was less than £36,000,000. Since then indirect taxes to the extent of £12 000,000 had been remitted, and the result was that the revenue from indirect taxation now stood higher by £8,000,000 than when the process had commenced. The course which the Government were now proposing was in accordance with the principle which had been acted on for the last twenty years; and they recommended it with the full conviction that the indirect taxes, which were now more productive than at any former period, would, in the course of the next five years, in like manner, yield an increased revenue greater than could be procured by any mere increase of the taxes themselves. When the provisions of the Budget had passed into law the system of taxation would be simple, and, with regard to all classes of the community, as equitable as it was possible to devise. The raw materials of industry and the primary articles of food would all go untaxed, and the sum of 42 millions would be levied by indirect taxes, mainly upon what he might call nervous stimulants—articles such as spirits, tobacco, and beer, which were luxuries, and not absolutely necessaries of life. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in referring to the Reform Bill, had merely done so with a view of pointing out that when large classes of the community were about to be newly admitted to the franchise it was of the ut- 1286 most importance to show them that the system of financial legislation hitherto had not been partial or one-sided—had not favoured the rich at the expense of the poor, but that it had been applied, with due allowance for the difficulties which must necessarily be experienced in all schemes of taxation, in as equitable and humane a spirit as it was possible to conceive. In the course of a large personal experience among working men during strikes and at periods of great excitement he had always found one argument that exercised a most powerful effect upon their minds; and this was, when he contrasted the statements made by demagogues, about the oppressive disposition of the aristocracy, with the fact that these very classes had submitted to the income tax in order that the repeal of the corn laws might be effected, and the poor man relieved from indirect taxation of a very injurious nature.
§ MR. MALINS
said, he still retained the strong feeling of dislike to the income tax which he had avowed in 1853. At that time no one could have expressed more emphatic condemnation of the tax than the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and nothing could have appeared more unlikely—after the repetition of similar arguments in 1855 and 1857—than that the right hon. Gentleman in 1860, with scarcely a word of apology, should first require payment of 1s. 1d. instead of 9d., for the half year which had just elapsed, and should then, in the very year of expected release, impose an increased taxation equivalent to 57 per cent. More than that, they were told that the country could not expect to get rid of any portion of the tax at the end of the year; although in 1853 a solemn pledge had been given that the terminable annuities should be devoted to the reduction of the income tax. Such a breach of faith was eminently calculated to destroy that confidence in the professions of public men, which it was of the utmost importance to maintain. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Laing) had stated that the ratio of direct to indirect taxation had not increased, in proof of which he had instanced the incidence of taxation during the Russian war. But that was an exceptional period when the upper and middle classes, for the purpose of carrying on that contest, had cheerfully consented to bear the burden of a sixteenpenny income tax; but those circumstances were wholly changed. The right hon. Gentleman need 1287 not suppose that this was now a popular tax. Popular it perhaps might be with the great manufacturers who expected through its means a vast increase in their trade—an expectation which he believed would not be realized; but to persons of small incomes, who formed the great bulk of those on whom direct taxation pressed, the impost was hateful and intolerable. Under Shedule D, 260,000 persons were assessed, of whom 200,000 had incomes of less than £300 a year. "What do we care about the reduction of the wine and the abolition of the paper duties? was the complaint which these persons raised, and justly so, for among them the income tax produced the greatest inconvenience and suffering. Even as regarded the working classes, it was doubtful whether the right hon. Gentleman was proceeding on a sound principle of finance when he violated the pledge entered into for the reduction of the war taxes on tea and sugar in order that he might take off taxes on articles which the working classes did not consume. He was no enemy to the principle of free trade when that principle was properly applied, but he must deny that it was properly applied by Her Majesty's Government. The abolition of the paper duty was a mere delusion. It was a tax which nobody felt, and which presented but few impediments to trade, all the alleged difficulties of collection having been cleared away by the evidence; and what was the result? The French Emperor had agreed to remove the prohibition on the export of rags, and instead of a prohibitory duty had laid on a duty of 100 per cent. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Has he?"] It was so announced. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER indicated that he was unaware of any such imposition.] At all events, it was to be a very heavy duty. Russia, too, was about to prohibit the export of rags; all Europe would no doubt combine, seeing that there would be a greater demand for this material in England; and the consequence would be a sacrifice of £1,200,000 of revenue, and paper dearer than before, in the same way as leather had risen in price since the duty on that article had been removed. When the right hon. Gentleman stood so positively pledged to take off the income tax it would have been better that he should have ceased to be a Minister rather than not fulfil his pledge. As it was, it was to be hoped that if he lived to be a Minister in the reformed Parlia- 1288 ment, when the middle classes might be no longer in a position to protect themselves, he would then act as their protector, and would preserve something like a just proportion between direct and indirect taxation.
said, he was anxious to get some intimation from the right hon. Gentleman respecting a future re-adjustment of the tax, which, while it pressed but lightly on the wealthy men of Manchester, was heavily felt by the members of small trading communities. In towns such as that one which he had the honour to represent (Reading) the amount of the tax was a matter of very great importance.
§ MR. BARROW
observed, that he thought no time should be lost in bringing forward the question of the re adjustment of the income tax, so as to do away with the inequality with which it bore upon different classes, which was its most objectionable feature. The present mode of assessment, particularly with respect to Schedule D, the tax on trades and professions, caused much dissatisfaction, and a great deal of injustice had also been caused by the mode of assessment of mines under Schedule A. The assessment upon mines was somewhat like the assessment on professions. It was in effect an assessment on capital, but with this disadvantage, that whereas in Schedule D there was an appeal to the Board of Inland Revenue, in the case of mines the Commissioners had stated that being an assessment under Schedule A, it was entirely in the control of the local Commissioners, and that the Board of Inland Revenue could not interfere. That certainly was an injustice, and he was sure that on its being properly pointed out to the Chancellor of the Exchequer he would interfere and remedy it. He quite concurred in the opinions which had been expressed that if possible the mode of assessment should come under their consideration this year.
§ MR. PEASE
said, that the imposition of the income tax this year was in consequence of the failure of all other resources, and, therefore, although he fully concurred in the opinion that as at present levied it was most unequal in its pressure he thought that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had no other option under the extravagance of the country but to continue it, as the only effectual means of raising the revenue. It might be said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought not to 1289 have taken off the paper tax, or disposed of the terminable annuities as he had done; but the House had already condemned the paper duty, and looking to the Budget as a whole, the right hon. Gentleman had made the best possible investment of the terminable annuities which had fallen in.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, he thought the income tax one of the best taxes which they had. He hoped they should always have an income tax. If, however, the Chancellor of the Exchequer wished to have a majority in the next Parliament to support the tax, he must be prepared to take means to ensure that it be levied more justly. He was willing to agree to the tax as proposed for this year, because he believed it to be absolutely necessary. He trusted that the operation of the Treaty with France would be such as to lead the Government of that country to substitute low instead of high rates.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that it was plain to him that if the House had made up its mind that the system of raising the revenue by the imposition of an income tax was to be perpetuated, it was absolutely necessary that something should be done to make the burden fall more equally than it did now on the various classes of the community. Several years ago he had sat upon a Committee before which the question of the income tax as a means of raising revenue was investigated, and notwithstanding all the arguments and all the calculations which the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden) and the late Mr. Hume produced in favour of a graduated property tax in lieu of an income tax, and in lieu of indirect taxation, the Committee came to the conclusion that the great difficulty which beset this form of taxation was the difficulty experienced by Mr. Pitt and Sir Robert Peel, when they considered the feasibility of establishing an income and property in just proportion, not merely to income, but to the nature of the sources whence that income is derived, namely, the difficulty of graduating it according to the relative proportion of capital and means upon which it is now levied as an income tax. He did not wish to detain the House, but they would allow him to put one case to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that case was the case of mines which had been alluded to, and it was one of the simplest cases which must be considered. Clearly in that case the income tax was levied on capital, because it was a tax levied upon the return which a mine pro- 1290 duced, which was exhausting the capital of the estate; and as the tax was intended to touch income only, it was perfectly clear that when the capital of the estate was being exhausted, the charge ought to be levied on the interest of the capital only and not on the capital. Having studied this question deeply, he confessed that he had been unable to surmount the difficulties which had defeated Mr. Pitt, and Sir Robert Peel. He did not believe that they could establish a just system of graduation, or define strictly between those accumulations of income which created or returned capital and income itself. The House had launched into a system of taxation which was fraught with injustice, and he felt it his duty to point out to the Chancellor of the Exchequer the task which he had undertaken. He had undertaken a task which defeated Mr. Pitt, he had undertaken a task which defeated Sir Robert Peel, for he had undertaken the task of adjusting an income tax according to the relative proportions of income and capital. The right hon. Gentleman having undertaken that task in defiance of the opinion both of Mr. Pitt and Sir Robert Peel, he (Mr. Newdegate) hoped that the House would not be satisfied with the abandonment of other sources of revenue unless that task were adequately fulfilled. He had said that the country had been launched into a most dangerous system, and it had been launched by a coup d'état—it had been launched in the dark, and the right hon. Gentleman would not think him unfair if he asked for an explanation of the means by which the right hon. Gentleman intended hereafter to levy an income tax that should be just as between capital and income. He was too well acquainted with the inequalities of the income tax to concur in its perpetuation. The hon. Member for Birmingham was much more the fair and honest of the two, for he was willing to make the attempt to establish a graduated property and income. That he fail, would he (Mr. Newdegate) believed, but that was a matter of opinion. The House had no right to continue as a source of income a tax which Mr. Pitt and Sir Robert Peel considered only justifiable as a subsidy in time of war, owing to the injustice it occasioned, which they felt themselves unable to redress.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
—Sir, I just wish to explain, after what the hon. Gentleman said who has just sat down, that I was certainly not aware 1291 that any person was under the impression that I had undertaken to re-adjust the schedules of the income tax. That is a task far beyond my strength, and the utmost I said was, that if there was a disposition on the part of the House to institute an inquiry into the subject, it would not be my duty or that of the Government to oppose it.
§ MR. JOHN LOCKE
remarked, that he had always understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that he thought it almost impossible to make such an adjustment of the tax as that referred to. He thought, however, that some attempt ought to be made to lessen the pressure of the tax on those least able to bear it, such as clerks and small tradesmen. The taxation of incomes of £100 a year was carrying the tax a great deal too low, and therefore he regretted that the hon. Member for Lambeth had not proceeded with the Motion of which he had given notice on that subject.
§ MR. JOHN LOCKE
said, it was a question which ought to be considered, although he admitted it could not be carried out without deranging the whole financial measures. His belief was that some of the larger tradesmen did not always pay income tax to the amount they ought to do. Those who had anything to do with compensation claims for goodwill of a business knew that the returns, for income tax were extremely inadequate as compared with them. He knew of a case in which a man had returned to the income tax Commissioners an income of £500, although he had made a claim for net income of £5,000. Over and over again he had known cases of £200 or £300 returned to the income tax, and as much as £1,500 claimed for compensation. On the other hand the small traders were arbitrarily assessed, and in many instances actually paid for larger profits than they made. He hoped, therefore, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he could not make a general equitable re-arrangement of the whole system, would at least consider the undue pressure with which the tax bore upon small incomes.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
begged to say that when the Bill went into Committee, he should take the opportunity of moving that the charge of sevenpence on incomes from £100 to £150 should be altogether abolished.
§ MR. HUBBARD
said, he had not changed his opinion of the Budget or of the Treaty which was the key to the whole scheme, and the main cause of all the difficulties by which the Government were surrounded. It was perfectly obvious that if they gave up all their means of indirect taxation, they would have no other resource than an income tax; and that tax was made more unjust and demoralizing by the manner in which it was imposed. So with respect to the minor taxes in the Budget, he was quite sure that the Chancellor of the Exchequer must feel that they would be no small infliction upon the commercial world. The hon. Secretary of the Treasury (Mr. Laing) had spoken a great deal about loosening the strings of industry and liberating trade. Phrases of that kind were exceedingly expressive, and if true they would be valuable; but in this case they were no counterpoise to the small taxes which, while they caused great annoyance to the trader, added little or nothing to the revenue of the country. With respect to the 11th Article of that Treaty, whereby we bound ourselves for a certain number of years to permit the free exportation of coals, the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs had said it was not the policy of this country to levy an export duty upon any commodity. He would call the attention of the House to the able administration of Mr. Wilson in India, and contrast it with the administration at home. Mr. Wilson had abolished the export duty on hides, wool, and grain, and he had done rightly, for no man in his senses, seeing the competition which existed in those articles, would dream of continuing a tax on such exports from India. On the other hand, he had imposed an export duty on saltpetre, in the production of which India had had a natural monopoly; and again he had done right, for while he had acted on the just principle of removing taxes which discouraged trade, or which induced foreign competition to a dangerous extent, he had retained and imposed taxes which yielded a revenue to the exporting country at the cost of the Foreign consumer. Did the French Government, when they bound this country not to lay an export duty on coals, bind themselves not to lay an import duty on them? Not at all. On the contrary, they bound us not to impose an export duty that they might be able to lay an import duty on them. Even with the modifications which they proposed in their 1293 tariff they were about to lay a tax of 1s. 2d. a ton on coals when introduced into French ports. That duty of 1s. 2d. per ton on coals if levied here, on the 6,000,000 tons exported from this country, would have produced to the Chancellor of the Exchequer the comfortable sum of £350,000, which would have relieved him from the disagreeable duty of imposing those petty and annoying imposts he was now forced to levy on the operations of commerce. But he must apologize to the House for allowing himself to be diverted from the subject of the income tax, on which he had risen to say a few words, because it was a subject to which he had long given close and constant attention. He must say, with all due regard to his hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Newdegate), who had spoken as if it were treason to question the policy of Mr. Pitt and Sir Robert Peel, that be did not rate these examples so very high or regard them as cases from which be ought under no circumstances to deviate. He could not entertain any great regard for the financial policy of the times which witnessed the establishment of a sinking fund—one of the grossest delusions that was ever practised on a people by a finance Minister, and, therefore, he was not disposed to rate very highly the precedent set them by Mr. Pitt, or to think that because he had recourse to an income tax it was therefore a financial measure for all time. He had still less respect for the example of Sir Robert Peel, because that statesman on this subject distinctly proposed the income tax as a temporary measure in order to effect a great national purpose. And that had been the excuse of every succeeding Minister, not excepting his right hon. Friend who was now at the Exchequer. Parliament was therefore nowise bound to the income tax by a consideration of any of its antecedents. At present, however, they were in such a position with regard to the public revenue and expenditure that unless they trusted to some extent to direct taxation he did not know where the national revenue was to come from. They could not retrace their steps; they could not reimpose indirect taxation; and the inevitable result was a resort to direct taxation. For his own part, he saw no objection to the principle of the income tax, except its inquisitorial character. Its demoralizing tendency, of which so much had been said, depended on the feeling of injustice which men entertained when it was applied to them. If a man was 1294 asked for a tax which he thought himself reasonably bound to pay, he would meet the demand fairly and honestly; but if he thought it was a tax unjust in its incidence, he had a strong temptation to apply a remedy of his own to the grievance. He (Mr. Hubbard) contended, therefore, that no Minister was justified in continuing the income tax year after year without endeavouring to devise a remedy against its demoralizing tendency. It was his deliberate conviction that there would be no more difficulty in remedying the evils of the tax than there was in the arrangement of his right hon. Friend's succession tax. That tax involved far more intricate calculations and computations than would be necessary for an equitable income tax. It proceeded on the principle of taxing the capitalized value of real property on its transfer from one person to another, and that principle was equally available for the taxation of income from year to year. A tax which was levied on yearly income ought to be juster and more equitable than a tax which was levied once only in a generation. He, therefore, contended that the succession tax was a precedent, and an example to be followed in the income tax, while he believed that the income tax would not require an equal I amount of deep and intricate computations. He trusted that another year would not pass before the income tax was seriously dealt with by the House, and that they would not be tempted to deviate from their resolution by the opinion that the difficulties which Mr. Pitt and Sir Robert Peel failed to grapple with were insuperable. To his mind it was incredible that in these days of scientific investigation it should be admitted that the income tax was full of inequalities, and yet that it should be declared in the same breath that it was impossible to find a remedy. He said that a remedy could be found, and that it was quite possible to make distinctions, not, indeed, between individuals of the same class, but between different classes. If they attempted that, he had no doubt they would succeed. If they did not, he believed they would fail in making the income tax a permanent source of the revenue of the country.
§ LORD HARRY VANE
remarked, that no man could have sat, as he did, on the Income-Tax Committee, of which the late Mr. Hume was chairman, without coming to the conclusion that the difficulties in the way of a fair and equitable adjustment of 1295 the income tax to all classes were absolutely insuperable. Such at least was the unanimous opinion of the Committee. He believed, however, that the principle of graduation, if they were to graduate, was possible to a certain limited extent. Favourable as he was to a certain amount of direct taxation, he viewed, nevertheless, the present financial measures of the Government with some alarm, looking to the state of foreign affairs, to the general uncertainty with regard to political events, and to the possible tendency of the debate of that night. He confessed he was sceptical as to the possibility of any very early reduction of the naval and military expenditure, and so far was he from thinking, with speakers at public meetings at which the provisions of the Budget had been discussed, that the income tax would altogether terminate in the year, he apprehended that next year the House would be invited to continue the tax at a still higher amount than 10d. in the pound. It was admitted by all who had philosophically considered the subject, that if the income tax were levied for a long period of years at one rate the injustice of it would disappear. He would not be a party to holding out any prospect that they would be able to diminish the amount of the tax next year, and he hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not intend to convey the impression that he contemplated making any difference between different sources of income. At the same time he trusted some means would be devised of making the burden lighter on persons of limited income.
§ MR. CROOK
said, that a portion of his constituents entertained the profound conviction that the income tax was only rendered necessary by the enormous and unjustifiable amount of the naval and military expenditure. The tradesmen with whom he was familiar entertained the opinion that it was thrust upon them by the ambition of clergymen and professional men to see their sons dressed in red flannel and green flannel. They were the men who were fond of military display and of wars, not for freedom, but for despotism all over the world. They were the persons who sanctioned a most aggressive policy on the part of this country towards every State with which we came in contact. They had in support of the most odious of all despotism—the despotism of Mussulmans—led us into a war in Russia, not with Russia, for Russia never declared war against 1296 us; she would have scorned to make war for such a purpose. Our policy was one of annexation and aggrandisement, and we had just been fighting to the death for the annexation of fresh provinces in India, while our conduct in China had been such as to outrage every moral and national law. If our policy were a policy of peace, and for the encouragement of freedom, he believed a million would be enough for our military expenditure. He hoped next year would witness a large reduction in the expenditure of the army and navy.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he rose to make one observation which had been forced on his mind on this subject, and to which he wished to draw the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because he knew his mind was directed to the subject of the income tax. If the tax was to be made perpetual and really fair, the greatest difficulty in the whole matter must be overcome—the difficulty of self-assessment, and the frauds to which it gave rise. He would suggest that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should consider whether it was possible to discontinue the assessment as a secret assessment; because he believed that publicity was the only remedy for the frauds now perpetrated, and that if they could not solve that difficulty they must give up the tax as a permanent source of revenue. He was not prepared to give an opinion on the point then, but he wished to point it out to the attention of his right hon. Friend, because, undoubtedly, if the tax were to be continued, the mode of assessment must undergo consideration.
§ Resolution 2.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been charged with making a running commentary on the speeches of hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House, but he should be much obliged to him if he would do so on the remarks he was about to make. The subject to which he wished to draw his attention was one which he had on a former occasion been desirous of bringing under the notice of the House, but was prevented from so doing by the lateness of the hour. The Resolution now before them was that upon "every note, memorandum, or writing, commonly called a contract note, or by whatever name the same may be designated," &c., there should be charged a stamp duty of one penny. He wished to know whether the right hon. Gentleman intended to include in that arrangement 1297 what were called "time bargains" on the Stock Exchange, and to allow them to be ratified and legalized by the imposition of a 1d. stamp. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER signified his assent.] The first two lines of the Resolution were, "Provided the restrictions on dealings in the public funds contained in the Act of the seventh year of George II. shall be repealed." But did the House know what that Act was? It was an Act passed originally for a period of three years by way of experiment, but found to work so beneficially that it was made permanent. It was still in operation, and to carry out this Resolution the right hon. Gentleman proposed, he understood, to repeal it. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Yes, by bringing in a Bill for the purpose.] The preamble of the Act set forth thatWhereas great inconveniences have arisen and do arise by the wicked, pernicious, and destructive practice of stock-broking, whereby many of Her Majesty's good subjects have been and are diverted from pursuing and exercising their lawful trades and avocations, to the ruin of themselves and families, the great discouragement of industry,and the Act provided among other penalties upon gambling in the funds, that a fine of £500 should be imposed on any person who bought or sold stock not actually standing in his own name. It was well known that the practice of "time bargains" had long been sanctioned by custom if not by law, but he apprehended that the sanction of custom had not removed many evils connected with the practice. Now, there were many other things which society tolerated but which the Legislature could not sanction. The Government had for many years past taken stringent measures for the suppression of gambling practices of every description, and he wished to know on what possible ground the police were to be authorized to break into houses, in order to discover whether gambling was being carried on, and take any persons so employed before a magistrate to be mulcted in heavy penalties, when at the same time sanction by legislative enactment was to be conferred on a species of gambling by many degrees the most expensive and ruinous ever invented by the ingenuity of man? The name commonly given to gambling houses was one not mentioned to ears polite, but it was ten times more applicable to the Stock Exchange, which, as far as "time bargains" were concerned, was little better than a vast Pandemonium. So far from encouraging such a system by legis 1298 lative sanction, every means ought to be taken to suppress it. The proposal came from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who represented one of the first constituencies in the country for piety and virtue; but was the right hon. Gentleman carrying out the principles of piety and virtue when he sanctioned in the manner now proposed one of the most mischievous practices of gambling? For his own part he could not understand how such a proposal was consistent with public morality and the good order of the State, and therefore he gave notice that when the proper period for doing so arrived he would oppose by an Amendment the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he would in the first place answer the appeal of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Norfolk. It was true he represented one of the Universities, and he would assure the hon. Gentleman that although his constituency were undoubtedly among the most distinguished supporters of piety and virtue, yet they had not—and they numbered 3,800—sent him a single remonstrance against the proposal, which had been published to the world for a length of time, to repeal the Act of 7 Geo. II.—Sir John Barnard's Act. Whether it would have the effect which the hon. Gentleman imagined he did not know, but the principle upon which the Government had acted was this, that it was not wise to keep on the statute-book a pretended prohibition, which was constantly violated by the sanction of that branch of the community which stood in connection with those practices. There was an evident confusion of ideas in what had been stated by the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman lamented and deplored the great temptations offered to young men on the Stock Exchange, and no doubt many resorted to that place who had less discretion than means, from a desire to acquire a fortune rapidly. That no doubt was to be regretted, but the truth was that those persons continued to ruin themselves by turning to a bad purpose means that were not in themselves essentially bad. It was not in the case of time bargains only, but in every description of dealing in the funds, in mining speculations, and in joint-stock banks also, that such individuals might find the way to ruin. All these dealings involved the principle of gambling when taken to by persons who had, from their limited knowledge and 1299 means, no business with them. With regard to time bargains, the question was whether they were so bad in themselves that the Legislature ought to interfere with private discretion and to prohibit them. The first objection to legislative interference was that it was totally in effective—that the law was a dead letter, and had been a dead letter almost from the day it was enacted. For the sake of the respect in which laws should be held by the whole community the laws ought, practically, to have some force in them; they ought not to be passed by the Legislature as mere expressions of abstract opinion, but as instruments of Government. The question was not whether foolish persons might be tempted to ruin themselves, both in their fortunes and morally, by dabbling in these time bargains, but whether they were so essentially immoral as to make it proper to proscribe them, like the practices carried on in a gambling-house. Even the transactions in a gambling-house were not easy to define or describe, when it was sought to put down the evil by law, and as no great philosophical nicety could be attained, it was requisite to include everything which bore a resemblance to the evil in question. With regard to these time bargains, he was not prepared to say, on the face of the facts within the knowledge of everybody, that there was anything essentially in the nature of a time bargain which was vicious or immoral, so that it ought to be proscribed by law. As for the class of gentlemen who dealt in money, he did not believe there was a more respectable class of men in the commercial world than those who were immediately connected with the Stock Exchange in London; and time bargains were a part of the regular business of the class of gentlemen whoso business it was to deal in money as their trade and daily occupation. These transactions could not be divided by any difference of principle from transactions in the funds. No doubt that they involved a greater degree of hazard, but that was just as the insurance of high risks involved greater hazards than low risks. At the time when Parliament attempted to proscribe these time bargains, an idea prevailed that all dealings in the stocks and funds were deserving of reprobation, and therefore stock-jobbing was called "a wicked practice," and it was so designated in the Act to which the hon. Member had referred. But who supposed now that stock-jobbing was 1300 a wicked practice? The time was also when forestalling and regrating were considered immoral; but we know that no class of men were more beneficial to the community than the forestallers and re-graters, who bought up grain for a time of scarcity, and by raising the price induced economy in consumption when the time of scarcity actually came. These things were quite elementary, and he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was almost ashamed to dwell upon them; but if the hon. Member wished to bring matters back to the condition in which they were in the good old times of Geo. II. should direct his opposition not against time bargains only but against every description of trading that implied risk and against the entire system of stock-jobbing so strongly reprobated in. the time of Geo. II.
§ MR. BOVILL
said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman did not quite understand the state of the law. He would remind him that in the eighth and ninth year of the present reign an Act had been passed to prevent contracts by way of wager or gaming being enforced in courts of law, and the legislation against time bargains, which it was now proposed to repeal by a simple Resolution, was based on the same principle. It was not therefore simply a question of repealing Sir John Barnard's Act, but of reversing the whole course of legislation down to the present time, for the purpose of preventing gambling speculations. The speculations in opium in India ought to operate as a warning. Wagers were once carried on in that article to such an extent that one mercantile firm "stood to win," or "stood to lose," a million and a half of money on a single operation. At the same time many commercial houses were placed in jeopardy by such practices. The legislature of India had put down these wagering practices; and he (Mr. Bovill) protested against a Resolution which was to sweep away the whole legislation on the subject.
§ Resolution 5.
§ MR. HUBBARD
said, he thought the language of the Resolution extremely large, and, although he believed it was not intended to include coupons or dividend warrants, it would be very satisfactory to have that assurance from the right hon. Gentleman.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the Resolution would not in the slightest degree affect the question raised with regard to the liability of 1301 coupons or dividend warrants to pay the 1d. tax. A question was raised on the law as it stood under the Act introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, but the law, he believed, was against the liability, and no attempt had been made to enforce it. It was not intended by the Resolution to affect the law at all. He believed it did not affect the law, and when the Bill was drawn the form of the clause would make this clear.
§ Resolution 11.
§ MR. PULLER
said, he understood the object of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this proposal was to catch property which passed by will under a power of appointment. Now, he desired to point out to the right hon. Gentleman a distinction which would exist under the new law, which ought not to be allowed. French Rentes, or Pensylvanian Bonds, when bequeathed in execution of a power of appointment, would be subject to duty, but the same kind of property, when absolutely belonging to the testator, would not be so liable.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the subject was one of considerable difficulty, and the heads of the Department and his learned Friend the Attorney General did not think it could be summarily dealt with in the few words allotted to it in the Resolution. It was a difficult matter to know where to draw the line as to the liability of property not entirely in England, and, therefore, the subject well deserved further consideration. However he thanked his hon. Friend for calling attention to the matter.
§ Resolutions agreed to.
§ Bill or Bills ordered to be brought in by Mr. MASSEY, MR. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, and Mr. LAING.