§ House in Committee.
§ MR. MASSEY in the Chair.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that on Thursday might, upon the discussion regarding the tea and sugar duties' Resolution, he had troubled the Committee at considerable length, because the question at issue had not been much under detailed consideration, either during the present or the last Session. But the question of the paper duties had been so largely discussed of late that he should deem it an unwarrantable intrusion upon the time of the Committee if he were to accompany the Resolution he was about to propose with any detailed statement, though, of course, if discussion arose, he should hold himself at liberty to contribute any information, or to supply any argument which might seem necessary on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving—That on and after the 1st day of October, 1861, the duties of Excise now payable upon or in respect of Paper of any denomination, and button-board, millboard, pasteboard, and scaleboard made 1576 in the United Kingdom, and also all Allowances and Drawbacks of or in respect of any such Duties, shall cease, and shall be no longer charged, levied, allowed, or paid respectively.
§ LORD ROBERT CECIL
Sir, I think the small discussion which we have had this evening shows that the right hon. Gentleman is resolved to foresee nothing. Last year, when the hostilities in China had actually commenced, or at all events when violence had been committed on both sides, the right hon. Gentleman could foresee nothing but a peaceful mission to the mouths of the Peiho. So it was in 1853, when the Turkish question assumed a terrible prominence, the right hon. Gentleman proposed a Budget founded upon the assumption that then peace would be of long duration; and the soap duties were removed at a time when war was absolutely impending. The right hon. Gentleman was resolved not to foresee the Russian war; last year he would not foresee the Chinese war; and this year he shut his eyes resolutely against the prospect of troubles in America. I do not think the Committee would do its duty if they were to limit their foresight to the narrow horizon of the right hon. Gentleman. By the Resolution, Sir, in your hands we are called upon not merely to sacrifice a present but a future revenue. The peculiarity of this tax is that we not only sacrifice the money so long as it is remitted, but we know that when we sweep away an Excise duty it can never again be reimposed. It is a sacrifice of the national revenue for ever and ever. The reason is, that in order to collect such a duty you must have special officers, and a large organization fitted for the purpose. When, then, you abolish the tax you sweep away all that organization. If the Committee, then, should consent to the Motion in your hands, Sir, it may make up its mind never to see the paper duty again. Now, I wish the Committee seriously to consider whether this is a wasteful proceeding or not. We are told by the advocates of the measure that it is not wasteful, for that when Excise duties are removed, the article in question on being freed from the burden with which it was saddled acquires such a development as enables it to add to the national wealth, and that other sources of revenue greater than the one extinguished will very soon contribute to enrich the Exchequer. Now, this is the position which has been over and over again maintained 1577 by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his friends. It lies at the base of that political economy which characterized the right hon. Gentleman's last Budget, and it is assumed to have been proved by the experience of former legislation. Now, the Committee will do well not to accept this principle merely because it is said to be the doctrine of Sir Robert Peel and of the right hon. Gentleman; they ought seriously to examine the facts and figures on which the doctrine professes to rest. The abolition of the paper duty is recommended to us on grounds similar to those on which the taxes upon soap and glass were remitted in 1853 and 1845. Those Excise duties have been entirely swept away. It is said that if you remit the Excise duty upon paper our revenue will be soon made up by the enormous wealth which the development of this trade will create. But I ask whether the removal of the Excise duties upon soap and glass has turned out so successful as to encourage you to imitate that example. Take soap; the right hon. Gentleman defended his proposition for the remission of the Excise duty by similar reasons precisely as those he has given in favour of his present proposition regarding paper. He said—This is an article on which the pressure of the tax is so severe, that, notwithstanding the general wisdom and fairness with which your Excise laws are administered—notwithstanding the drawback you grant on exportation—your productive power is crippled by the tax. You cannot compete with the foreigner; your export trade dwindles day by day."—[3 Hansard, cxxv. 1404.]He expected that upon the remission of the soap duties the export trade in that article would revive. But have those expectations been fulfilled? The soap duty was remitted in 1853. Up to that time the exportation of soap had been rising. In 1849 it amounted to £159,000, and in 1853 it was £290,000; but by the last Return in 1859 it was only £225,000. This was the enormous amount of prosperity promised in that trade by the right hon. Gentleman when he proposed to remit that duty. Now, I ask the Committee to consider the results of the remission of the Excise duty on glass, proposed by the late Sir Robert Peel in 1845. Sir Robert Peel urged similar reasons in support of that measure, and stated—There is no duty which in order to levy it requires such a system of perpetual and vexatious interference with the manufacturer as this duty 1578 on glass …as there is no Excise duty in Belgium, Bohemia, and France, there is no necessity for interference by the State with the process of manufacture. What takes place? There is a great import of foreign glass … and it is now beating our own manufacture, not only in foreign markets, but even in the markets of our own colonies."—[3 Hansard lxxvii. 489–90.]Sir Robert Peel, therefore, expected that as soon as the Excise duty on glass was removed there would be an enormous development in this trade. What are the facts? In 1844, the year of the abolition, the exports amounted to £388,000. In 1850, when that duty had been remitted for six years, they had actually sunk to £307,000. In 1859 there is no doubt that they had recovered themselves, and amounted to £606,000. (Ministerial cheers.) Wait a moment. Compare this, not with the absolute recovery of this trade, but compare it with the relative recovery of the trade of the country. If the abolition of the Excise duty were to be an extraordinary relief to the glass trade, the increase ought to be above the general increase of the exports of the country. But what are the facts? From 1844 to 1859 the increase of the general exports of the country was 123 per cent. while the increase on the exports of glass was only 57 per cent. So that the glass exportation actually lagged behind the general productive power of the country, in spite of the removal of the Excise duty on glass. Again I say there was a great failure of the predictions which were made by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer. The removal of the Excise duty on glass did not give that spring and vigour to the manufacture which is the alleged motive for asking us to consent to the removal of the paper duties. Sir Robert Peel urged the House of Commons to remove the Excise duty on glass because, he said, it would give a great relief to the poor in England, by enabling them to have cheaper window glass, and because it would be a great stimulus to the trade in window glass. It was a time when complaints were much urged against the window duty; and he said it was better to stimulate the manufacture of window glass than to remove the window duty. Well, what was the exportation of window glass during these periods? In 1841, when the duty pressed with all its weight, the exportation was 27,899 cwt. In 1859, instead of rising with the general trade of the country, it had sunk to 27,697 cwt., so that actually the removal of the Excise duty had an in- 1579 jurious, and not a beneficial, effect on the manufacture of window-glass. The beneficial effect, on the contrary, was felt in the manufacture of glass bottles. It is well worth while to consider this. The effect of the abolition of the tax on glass was to relieve the consumers of alcoholic liquors. Thee other night, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer recommended to us the removal of the duty on paper, he produced by bitumenized pipe made of paper as a specimen of the uses to which paper will be turned when the Exise is removed. He told us this pipe was used in very great houses, that it would be found very useful for sanitary purposes, and that the material might be available for the construction of a Crimean house. It is very easy for a Chancellor of the Exchequer to make these promises of an increase in the manufacture, but the question is whether these promises will be kept? I ask you to attend to the effect of the abolition of the duty on glass, in. order that you may estimate the value of the prediction of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the abolition of the duty on paper. Sir Robert Peel, in recommending the repeal of the duty on glass, said—If you permit this article to be free of duty, it is difficult to foresee in the first place to what perfection this beautiful fabric may not be brought; and, secondly, it is impossible to say to what new purposes glass manufactured by our own skill and capital may not be applied. I hold in my hand(They always hold a specimen of something in their hands on these occasions) [Laughter.]The balance-spring of a chronometer made of glass, instead of the ordinary material, steel. I understand that it possesses a greater degree of elasticity, and that it has a greater power of resisting the alternations of heat and cold. The manufacture is so expensive, and it requires such skill on the part of the workman, that I do not believe under the present system of restriction that this exquisite discovery can be generally applied. The fact is that a chronometer with this glass-balance spring was sent into the North Sea.… and was exposed to comparison with ten other chronometers. The result was that the report was in favour of the chronometer with a glass balance-spring as compared to all the others."—[3 Hansard, Ixxvii, 490.]The duty has been removed from glass some fifteen years; but I ask, has any one heard of the chronometer with a glass balance-spring? Then, we had our old friend the pipe again. Whenever an Excise duty to be removed there is a pipe brought up. We have now paper pipes. 1580 Then we had glass pipes. The right hon. Baronet said on that occasion also—I have read, too, in a French newspaper, the Courrier de l'Europe, within the last month, that in France they are now manufacturing glass pipes for the conveyance of water, which cost nearly 30 per cent less than pipes manufactured of iron, and which will bear a greater external pressure than iron pipes. They are luted together with a species of bitumen, and, as far as health is concerned, for the conveyance of water glass pipes are greatly entitled to the preference.… Taking all the articles between these two extremes, the balance-spring of a chronometer and the pipe for the conveyance of water, who shall say to what purposes this manufacture may not be applied among us when it is wholly relieved from the impost?"—[3 Hansard, lxxvii, 490–91.]Again, I ask, who has heard of the glass water-pipes? But, driven from particulars, the right hon. Gentleman takes refuge in generalities. He tells us that although the remission of certain taxes had not led to the increase of particular manufactures, there has been a large increase in the general manufactures of the country, in the wealth of the country, and in the taxable power of the country; and that whatever this increase may be it is all owing to the great policy of removing the indirect taxation which was inaugurated by Sir Robert Peel, and which is carried out by himself (the Chancellor of the Exchequer). Now, I want the House to consider this, because the assertion was made with such confidence that, no doubt, many hon. Gentlemen believed it. Our wealth has certainly increased, but not from the cause assigned by the right hon. Gentleman—not from the increase of the remission of indirect taxation. To what, then, is it due? It may, it is said, have arisen from one of three causes. It may be due to the increased remission of indirect taxation; it may be due to the discovery and influx of gold; and it may be due to the enormous and gigantic development of railways. Well, then, which is the principal cause? The best mode of finding out to which particular cause it is to be attributed will be to take some other country which has also equally progressed, but in which all of these three causes has not been at work. Take, for instance, France, which has shared in the advantage of the discovery of gold and the development of railways, but where there has been no remission of indirect taxation, and compare her increase of wealth with that of England. It is obvious that if the prosperity does not belong exclusively to England the cause will not belong to Eng- 1581 land only, and, therefore, is not to be found in the remission of indirect taxation. English imports, in 1847, amounted to £90,000,000; in 1856, to £172,000,000, or an increase at the rate of 90 per cent. French imports, in 1847, amounted to 955,000,000f; in 1856,to 1,872,000,000f., or an increase of 96 per cent. While England increases 90 per cent France increased 96. The exports are a still nicer test of a country's prosperity. But while the English exports have increased from £58,842,000 in 1847 to £115,826,000 in 1856, or 96 per cent. the French exports in the same time have increased from 719,759,000f. to l,865,800,000f., or 159 per cent. So that this difference between 96 per cent increase and 159 per cent seems to me to sweep away at once the whole of the parade about the marvellous growth of English wealth being due to the removal of indirect taxation. Wealth has grown elsewhere where indirect taxation continues; and we have no recommendation to further remove such taxation in the face of our increase of wealth, for wealth has increased elsewhere in a larger ratio. It may be said by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as has already been said by the President of the Board of Trade, that we ought to make provision simply for the present year, and not for years to come; that we ought not to indulge in future and prospective projects of finance. I wish to set that question at rest by digging in that mine to which all resort who wish to upset the predictions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—I mean the speech of Mr. Gladstone in 1857. Here is a speech of Mr. Gladstone against the Budget of Sir George Lewis in 1857—We have heard abundance of comment and criticism—I would almost call it cavil—from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-night on the folly of attempting to balance income and expenditure for future years. Yet it is very convenient for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to vote away from future years the revenue which he retains for the present year, and, applying that revenue to the Ways and Means of this year, to leave future years destitute; and when called to render an account to say,'It is vain to pretend to balance the income and expenditure of a future year.'"—[3 Hansard, cxliv. 989–90.]That quotation entirely refutes the right hon. Gentleman's new doctrine about prospective finance. I should like to say a word or two on the "constitutional question." My hon. Friend (Sir Stafford Northcote) showed the other night that nothing could be more vain and futile than to attempt to 1582 wipe out the Acts of the House of Lords towards this House last year by taking action against the House of Lords this year. But nothing can be more vain or more futile than the device by which the Chancellor of the Exchequer attempts to fetter the action of the House of Lords for future years. It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham and others, who take a strong view against the House of Lords, wholly mistake the question of last year They seem to imagine the question was one of jurisdiction, that the two Houses were fighting in the arena by themselves, and that there was no one else whose behests they ought to consider and obey. The Government seem to think it was a fight of procedure, and forms, and precedent, and parchment. We are accused of reaction on this side of the House. It is said we fancy we are living in past centuries, and that we are applying to the present the passion of the past. But in listening to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer we might be excused for thinking that we are still living and fighting in the days of the Stuarts. They do not see that behind and acting through the House of Lords there was the great educated public opinion of the country, of which that House and this House, too, are merely the vehicles and instruments; and not seeing that they imagine that the fight will be settled by a conflict simply between the two Houses, and that they can fetter the action of the House of Lords by an ingenious device. Why, Sir, if the occasion should again happen—which I pray may not be the case—that the House of Commons should act so madly and improperly as it acted last year, and that it should call down upon itself the condemnation of the public, the House of Lords will not be fettered by this or any other form from taking its legitimate operation. Suppose that the case of last year happened again, that the House of Commons, making no provision for the wants of the year, had left the country with a gigantic deficit. What then? The House of Lords would alter the single Bill sent to them. They would strike out the clauses remitting duties, and send the Bill down again. And what would you do then? It would be painful to you. You would make many loud and angry speeches on the subject. But if the opinion of the country was against you and with the House of Lords you would again have to submit. You 1583 would have to renew the Bill, with the absence of the obnoxious clauses, and send the Bill back in a penitential mood, and thus your new device will only force upon yourselves an additional humiliation. On the other hand, if the public opinion of the country did not support the House of Lords, the House of Lords are far too prudent ever to slight the House of Commons. But while you are so careful of the power of the House of Lords no one seems to think that this new device will to a great extent withdraw the proposition of the Government from the discussion of the House of Commons. The wisdom of our ancestors provided that the details of every financial measure should be considered first in Committee, then at the second reading, again in Committee, again on the third reading, and still again on the proposition that the Bill do pass. On all these occasions we have opportunities of discussion and amendment. But this is a device to put a stop to that in the Lords, and to leave no opportunity of discussing this question without resorting to the almost revolutionary measure of rejecting the Budget altogether. But while pursuing such a shadow we are inflicting a damage on our own House. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us the other night that he could not understand the opposition we had made to his proposal; because he had brought it forward in a spirit of conciliation. I told him he was keeping up a quarrel which had existed too long; and that he must know perfectly well the reason we opposed the measure. We oppose it as we must oppose any measure that may injure the revenue and leave the wants of future years destitute of provision. But that is not all. We know that this measure has a special political character. It is the purchase money of a political bargain. It is the hush money to the stern and watchful guardians of the public interest to induce them to condone the back-slidings of others in a new direction. I am not surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should take advantage of the opportunity, and offer hush money that costs him so little. But I am surprised at the easy virtue that is satisfied with so paltry a bribe. But at all events he cannot expect us to be passive and willing witnesses of such a bargain, carried out by such means, and having for its effect results so detrimental to the Exchequer and the country.
§ MR. LEVESON GOWER
said, he would ask the noble Lord who had just sat down if he were not—after voting for the reduction of the tea duty on Thursday night—liable himself to the accusation of want of foresight in respect to American affairs which he had made against the Chancellor of the Exchequer? The noble Lord had criticised the abolition of the Excise duties on soap and glass, and on that issue he (Mr. Leveson Gower) would appeal to the country with a perfect conviction that never was there a measure that had received more emphatically the unanimous approval of the nation. The noble Lord objected to the production, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, of a paper pipe, and seemed to think that paper pipes were never used; but if he (Mr. Leveson Gower) rightly understood the right hon. Gentleman, those paper pipes were already in use. And they would become more useful if the obnoxious tax on paper were removed. The noble Lord had alluded to the reduction of indirect taxation, and on that issue he (Mr. Leveson Gower) would also appeal with perfect confidence to the country. The noble Lord had ended his speech by arguing the constitutional question; but that was not a question which properly belonged to that part of the debate. With regard to the noble Lord's objection to the mode of proceeding adopted in reference to the finances of the country, he (Mr. Leveson Gower) contended that the proceeding was not only in accordance with the views expressed at the Ministerial side of the House, but was also in accordance with the views expressed during the previous year on the opposite side of the House. It was remarkable that the noble Lord never alluded, however, to the subject of paper, so that no one who heard his speech would have imagined that a Resolution in regard to paper was the one before the House. He (Mr. Leveson Gower) was anxious to say something on the Resolution, as he believed an impression had prevailed that there were many Members on that side of the House, particularly above the gangway, who, apart from political reasons, did not feel a great objection to the tax. He (Mr. Leveson Gower) could only speak for himself, but for economic and social reasons he had the greatest objection to it. If there was one thing more than another that struck him during the discussion—whether that year or last year—whether in the House or elsewhere—it was the very strong case that had been made out invariably for the 1585 abolition of the tax, and the total absence of an attempt to answer that case by those who opposed its repeal. The argument against the tax was met by the admission on the part of its supporters that it was a bad tax, but, as the lawyers said, it was with them a case of confession and avoidance. When its supporters did not answer the objections to the tax, it must be assumed that they were well founded, and, if so, it was not only a bad tax, but an intolerable tax. There were objections against it which did not apply to any other tax remaining on the statute book. In the first place, he objected to the tax because it was arbitrary. They all knew that the revenue officers declared they were unable to distinguish what was paper from what was not; the consequence was that a discretion was left to them with regard to certain articles, and that was a serious objection. The next objection was that it was a very expensive tax. The cost of collection was very great, and by doing away with the tax they would get rid of the whole of that cost, whereas if the partial reduction on the tea duties proposed on the other side were adopted, they would still be subject to the expense of collection. His next objection to the tax was that it was a great impediment to the industrial enterprise of the country. It had been stated, over and over again, that if it were not for this tax, paper mills would be established and a vast field of employment would be opened to the people of the country. There could not be a more serious objection. The tax was also extremely burdensome to the retail trades of the country, and he did not believe that public attention had been sufficiently called to that part of the subject. He had been informed that a respectable and intelligent grocer had calculated the payments made by him on packing paper, in consequence of the tax, at £30; and other grocers had made similar calculations. What was true with regard to one trade was true with regard to other retail traders. For example, the hon. Member for Nottingham had informed him that it was a burden upon the manufacturers of his district. Hon. Gentlemen might answer they did not care about those tradesmen, and thought more of the buyer than the seller; but a man must be ignorant of the commonest principles of political economy if he were not aware that the benefits produced by the abolition of the tax must eventually fall to the consumers and to the customers 1586 of the tradesmen. On those grounds he thought it Was most desirable that the tax should be done away with.
He now came to the other branch of the question—namely, that it was a tax upon knowledge. There had been a sort of vague idea afloat that the paper duty ought no longer to be considered as a tax upon knowledge; but no answer had been given to the evidence tendered by a great number of eminent publishers, amongst whom were Mr. Cassell, Mr. Chambers, Mr. Knight, and the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Black), that if the duty on paper were abolished, they could very much cheapen to the consumer the price of books, particularly those of a low-priced character. They also stated that they could publish a vast number of works which at present they were prevented from doing by the pressure of the tax. Until those statements were answered it was perfectly futile to deny that the paper duty was a tax upon knowledge. In those days, when hon. Gentlemen encouraged the establishment of public libraries, reading-rooms, and were anxious to do everything to attract the working man from the public-house to the mechanics' institution, he could not understand why they ventured to ignore that part of the question. He wished to say a word with regard to the cheap press of the country. There was a general impression abroad—he did not know whether it was true or not—that the remission of the paper duty was proposed because of the benefit which it would confer upon the cheap press of the country. He could hardly imagine that such was still the case, but formerly there had been a feeling, on the part of the Tory party of the country, that the diffusion of political knowledge amongst the working classes would be attended with considerable danger. He trusted that was an entirely exploded view, but he must say that the pertinacity with which the remission of the tax on paper had been resisted led him to think that that illiberal idea still lurked among a portion of those who sat on the benches opposite. On that (the Liberal) side of the House no Member having the slightest pretension to liberality of opinion could object to the diffusion of political knowledge amongst the vast mass of the community. He believed the spread of such knowledge among the people would tend to the safety of the Government. It was most desirable that the working men of this country should be made aware of 1587 the way in which they were governed, and acquainted with the laws which they were bound to respect and obey. In a moral aspect, also, he held that a cheap press was of the greatest benefit. He had watched with great interest the establishment of the cheap press, and he had observed with great satisfaction the entire respectability with which that press had been conducted. He had never seen any attack either upon humanity or religion, any indulgence in personality; but, on the contrary, he had observed that it desired to forward opinions, not by abuse but by force of argument. He would also pay a tribute to the eminent ability with which the leading articles in those papers were written, and it must be remembered that they had a penny press of all shades of politics. With the exception of The Times, which stood quite by itself, he could not see himself any inferiority whatever in the penny papers to the other newspapers. He asked, then, why persons paid 4d. for what they could obtain for a penny? It was because the penny papers were printed on such atrocious paper. But abolish the duty on paper, and the quality of the paper would be improved. If that were done, any person would be able to obtain for a penny as good a commodity to answer every purpose as that for which he now had to pay fourpence. That would be an important saving to the man who had only a small income of £200 a year. In fact, it would amount to something like £6 or £8 a year. He was delighted to notice the sympathy expressed by hon. Gentlemen opposite with the working classes. He did not mean to say that, in their private capacity, they did not feel as much sympathy with them as those Gentlemen sitting on that (the Liberal) side of the House; but as regards politics, and especially as regards commercial legislation, he had thought that sympathy not very apparent. If they desired to see the duty on tea reduced, he asked why, when it was proposed to take a penny off the income tax, some hon. Gentleman opposite did not rise in his place, and propose that instead of doing that they should reduce the duty on tea? He believed that if a proposition of that kind had been submitted to the House it would have been carried. Because, therefore, he believed that the paper duty was most faulty in political economy, and that its repeal would promote the diffusion of knowledge, the elevation of the working classes, and the development 1588 of an important industry, he gave the Resolution his hearty support.
§ MR. BENTINCK
had listened with great pleasure to the speech of the hon Gentleman, and said he felt much obliged to him for the information that the Tory party set themselves up to prevent the spread of political knowledge.
§ MR. LEVESON GOWER
explained, that he said some Members of that party formerly thought it dangerous, but that that doctrine was exploded.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he was happy to hear that the Tory party stood so much higher in the estimation of the hon. Gentleman. That hon. Gentleman had called attention to the position of persons who possessed £200 a year, and had told the House that they could not get a newspaper fit to read except at the high price of 4d. Now, he (Mr. Bentinck) must say that, considering the interest supposed to be taken on the other side of the House in the penny press, that was one of the worst compliments that could have been paid to it, because it simply implied that when that class of persons to which reference had been made wanted sound political information they would go to the high-priced paper for it. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been singularly unfortunate, both in his argument and his illustrations, with respect to this question. One of those illustrations had been referred to by his noble Friend the Member for Stamford (Lord Robert Cecil). The House would recollect that the Chancellor of the Exchequer told them how useful paper pipes would be when they could be made free of duty. He (Mr. Bentinck) had been very much struck with that illustration, but he had not then heard what had since come to his knowledge, namely, that an experiment on a great scale had been tried with these pipes, and what was the result? Why, that very shortly after they had been laid down the whole of them were devoured by the rats. Now, he did not know what was the opinion of the right hon. Gentlemen on the subject of rats. He owned himself to a special antipathy to that species of vermin. He was told that they manifested a greater partiality to large houses than to small; and as the House of Commons war a very large one, he hoped, though he had some doubts upon the subject, that every precaution would be taken to exclude them. The operation, however, was diffi- 1589 cult—for, as they had been told by his right hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire, as fast as one hole was stopped up they would gnaw out another. So far, therefore, as paper piping was concerned, although it had been much praised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he did not think it would come into such general use as was anticipated. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that last year be made a financial mistake, and the House would recollect that he was obliged to come down and ask them to pass a Supplementary Estimate. It was true that he called it a mistake, or rather a miscalculation created by subsequent events, and he went on to say that he had a warning in last year. But although he had had that warning he could see no reason for altering his present financial scheme. He asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he thought it was not probable that he would have to come down and ask for Supplementary Estimates again this year, seeing that he had based his financial project upon contingent events which might never take place? In his (Mr. Bentinck's) opinion, there was ample ground to induce the rashest financier to pause. The right hon. Gentleman had himself spoken of the China war, and he (Mr. Bentinck) asked the House whether, under the circumstances, it was not possible that the whole of the money to be obtained, if it ever was obtained, from China, would not be required for the support of the troops.
The right hon. Gentleman said the question of the paper duties had been fully discussed; but it ought to be considered with special reference to present circumstances. Speaking for himself, he would say the views he entertained on this subject were utterly irrespective of any party feeling. His conviction was that the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the paper duties was a mischievous and a dangerous one Not only was he actuated in his opposition to that measure by no hostility to Her Majesty's Government, but he should very much regret any decision of the House that would lead at present to a change of Ministry. So far as he could collect the opinions of those who sat on his own side of the House, and with whom he had the good fortune to act, he believed what he had stated was the general feeling. It seemed to be admitted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had proved his possession of a surplus; but after all the reasons 1590 which had been urged on both sides of the House he confessed that he was still unable to arrive at the conclusion whether the surplus really existed or not. It appeared to him that the alleged surplus was composed partly of money that had been borrowed, and partly of money which was to be received from China, but, in point of fact, might never reach their bands, and which, he thought, ought certainly not to be taken into consideration when they were calculating the probable revenue of the year. He felt that it was quite in vain to make any appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this subject; but he could not refrain from making one to the noble Lord at the head of the Government. For he confessed that he had heard with surprise and great regret that the noble Lord should have given the sanction of his powerful name to a financial scheme which was viewed with disapprobation by the great majority of the country. Would the noble Lord rise in his place and tell the House whether, after duly and carefully considering what had transpired within the last few days relative to the aspect of affairs in the United States, he still held the opinion he had expressed as to the financial proposal of the right hon. Gentleman? Had he duly considered what would be the effect in the manufacturing districts of a short supply of cotton from America? Would not the Revenue from Excise be considerably reduced? Would there not also be a sensible diminution in the revenue from Customs? When the noble Lord gave his adherence to the scheme of the Chancellor of the Exchequer there might have been still hopes that civil war could be arrested. There was, however, no longer any chance of that. The consequence must necessarily be the stagnation of the cotton trade. He was very much surprised, considering the difficulties which might be caused in this country by a short supply of cotton, that the attention of Parliament had not been called to the subject, and he wished to know, inasmuch as very serious news had arrived from America within the last three or four days, whether the noble Lord was or was not of opinion that it ought to make a difference in the financial arrangements of the year. His principal object in rising was to make this appeal to the noble Lord, and he hoped he should hear from him a full explanation.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Gower) had 1591 thrown out a taunt against that side of the House for its sympathy with the cheapening of the working man's tea, while it had at the same time agreed to the reduction of the income tax. The hon. Gentleman seemed to forget that the income tax had entirely ceased to exist, and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer now proposed to renew it. When, therefore, the Minister asked for an income tax of 9d. in the pound, it was absurd to suppose it the duty of the Opposition to give him one of 10d. in the pound. Again, the sympathy of the House for the cheapening of the working man's tea was first invoked in 1857 by the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, in a speech full of sound feeling and sound financial principles, which the hon. Member for Bodmin might peruse with advantage. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, it was true, had since then changed his views, and, instead of espousing the cause of the poor man, had made himself the champion of the wearers of French kid gloves and the drinkers of French wines. The Opposition had been charged with inconsistency in questioning the existence of a surplus, and yet proposing a remission of the tea duty. That charge overlooked the essential difference between the total abolition of the paper duty and a partial remission of the duty on tea. In every instance in which the tea duty had been reduced the increased consumption had recouped the Exchequer; while, in the case of paper, they were now about to root up a productive branch of permanent revenue which pressed heavily on no large class of the community. The tax on fire insurance was both intolerable in itself and indefensible in principle; and there could be no doubt that if the country were polled on the subject it would infinitely prefer its repeal to the repeal of the duty on paper. It had been said that the cost of wrapping-paper, on which the duty was heaviest, fell upon the working classes, who would consequently reap the benefit of the repeal of the Excise. Mr. Bohn, in his published letters, had entirely refuted that assertion, and shown that it was the practice for all the small tradesmen to weigh the paper along with the articles they sold, so that all the advantage derivable from reducing the price of paper would go into the pockets of the grocers and other retail dealers. A new principle of very doubtful tendency had been introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exche- 1592 quer and the President of the Board of Trade, who had both sheltered themselves from responsibility for their estimates behind the authority of the public departments. If the opinions of the heads of departments were to guide the House, those gentlemen ought to be called to the bar, in order that the House might examine them. An opinion was worthless unless the case upon which it was founded was known, and, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman ought to state what questions he had submitted to those gentlemen. Had the maintenance of European peace been assumed as certain during the year, or was any calculation made as to the effect which the disturbances in America would have upon the supply of cotton to this country? This was the first time that he had known a Chancellor of the Exchequer seek to evade responsibility by casting it upon the heads of departments, and he, therefore, owed some explanation to the House upon that point. The right hon. Gentleman had also indulged in language which was surprising in a Financial Minister. He had stated that if the country would be governed at the cost of £70,000,000 instead of £60,000,000, it must be prepared for a heavy income tax. If the right hon. Gentleman thought the cost of governing the country was too large, why did he allow his Colleagues to make such large estimates, and why did not he himself make a proposal to reduce the amount? He trusted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would give some explanation upon that point, and that the House would not have a Supplemental Budget in July, as was the case last year.
§ MR. BAINES
said, that he for one would not have supported the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his proposal to remit the paper duty if he thought the remission was intended merely to please a small party in that House. In his opinion, however, the Budget was founded on a broad and national policy, and it involved justice to the community; in fact, it was as wise and prudent a Budget as he had ever heard. It was admitted that retail shopkeepers charged the duty on their customers. The petition from Messrs. Morley and Co. was evidence of that. That firm used paper for wrapping up articles for their customers to the amount of £4,000 a year, upon which there was a duty of £800 a year; and they said that every farthing of that duty was necessarily paid 1593 by their customers, and so it was in all establishments. The incidence of the tax, therefore, was as general as that of any other impost. The noble Lord who had just sat down had paid a high compliment to the cheap press, and he must concede that the remission of the duty would tend to its improvement, which would be a benefit to the country. Indeed, the question might, he thought, have been set at rest by the admission of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks the other night, to the effect that the penny press had been conducive to the growth of Conservative opinions in the country. If the literary leaders of the opposite party, their men of genius, were of that opinion, he thought that they might have expected an unanimous verdict in favour of the repeal of the duty. The chief benefit that would result from the remission of the paper duty would be the repeal of the taxes on knowledge, by cheapening a multitude of publications of a scientific, literary, religions, moral, and entertaining character, which formed the intellectual food of the working classes. During the last twenty-five years, the only aid which had been given towards the education of the people by the reduction of taxation had been the reduction of the duty from 3d. per lb. to 1½ d.; of the reduction of the newspaper stamp, and later rendering a stamp upon newspapers unnecessary. These taxes on knowledge ought never to have existed at all. They were altogether bad, and were originally intended to prevent political discussion and the spread of news. He acknowledged that there had been a great increase in cheap literature of late years, but that had commenced in 1836, when the paper duty was reduced one-half, and he believed that the total repeal of the remainder would give an additional stimulus and greatly benefit the moral and social condition of the poorer classes. It was said that there was at present a sufficiency of cheap literature, but the fact was that there never could be too much to shed the light of knowledge into the dwellings of the working classes. There were two classes of publications on which the tax pressed heavily. It was true there was a drawback on the paper upon which the bibles printed by the Queen's printers and the University presses were printed, but there was no drawback on the duty on the great multitude of bibles published by private firms and societies; millions of copies were issued in England which paid 1594 a large amount of duty. Messrs. Cassell and Co. were publishing an illustrated copy of the Scriptures, with notes, which had a very large circulation, and the amount of duty paid yearly upon the publication was £3,000; and they paid upon other useful educational works the yearly sum of £4,500—being £7,500 a year upon valuable publications from one firm. That was, indeed, a tax upon knowledge. The price of school books and illustrated works was necessarily greatly enhanced by the paper duty. It was not so with costly books like Macaulay's History; but it was upon standard works, of a useful character to the working classes, which were stereotyped, and when reprinted the principal expense of which was the paper, that the duty was so onerous. The present price of paper was from 6d. to 7d. per lb., and the duty was one-fourth, or about ½d—a tax of 25 per cent on the most useful kind of literature. There was also the tax on writing paper. Unfortunately many persons in the country were unable to write; many had learned, but there could be no doubt that that, as well as other branches of education, were retarded among the working classes by the present high price of paper, enhanced as it was by this grievous tax. Again, the Religious Tract Society, which was supported not only by members of the Church of England, but by other sects, was a severe sufferer by reason of the paper duty. Last year it issued over 41,000,000 of publications; but if the duty, which probably added 20 per cent to the cost were removed, there might be an increase of 8,000,000 publications by that society. Could the House imagine the benefit that would ensue from such an increase of so excellent a class of publications? Was it prepared to take the responsibility of further impeding the religious, educational, and moral progress of the people of England? The arguments against the tax were so multifarious that it was impossible for one speaker to enumerate them all. For years the papermakers had complained of the duty as crippling their operations and increasing the expenses of the manufacture in which they were engaged; and although they last year opposed the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, their objections were raised, not to the repeal of the excise, but to the abolition of the differential Customs duty. But by the terms of the French Treaty that was abolished in the course of last year, and there re- 1595 mained nothing but the Excise duty. But it was not only the paper trade on which the tax was a burden; it was a tax that pressed upon all branches of trade, as had been shown by the hon. Member for Nottingham, and other hon. Members representing manufacturing and commercial cities. It acted injuriously upon the trade in ribands, laces, and every other article in the wrapping up or packing of which paper was employed. It was said by some that they were giving up a revenue of £1,300,000 a year which was most easily collected, but, in point of fact, the tax was so difficult in collection that the very persons on whom the duty devolved were unable to say what was paper and what was not, and were obliged to ask the Government for a definition. The tax was condemned nine or ten years ago by that House as one which ought not to be retained as a permanent source of revenue, and last year it was positively repealed. Under these circumstances, it was the bounden duty of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to deal, first of all, with the paper duty, when he had a surplus. He (Mr. Baines) now supported its repeal in no defiant spirit towards the House of Lords, but rather with a view to conciliation, and to the amicable settlement of the question; but he did not hesitate to avow that it was a strong reason in favour of repeal, that it would repel the encroachment made last year on the privileges of this House by the House of Lords. As the question of no surplus was quite given up by the leader of the party opposite, and practically by hon. Gentlemen opposite, by their vote of Friday night, it appeared to him that no opposition could now be raised on that ground, and, therefore, he should not touch upon the subject, but there was one topic to which he wished briefly to advert. The Estimates for the present year were the highest ever submitted to the House except in a period of European war. In 1840 the whole cost of our warlike establishments was only £l4,119,000,and in 1850£l5,392,000; but that year it was estimated at £28,285,000, showing an increase equal to about 90 per cent. That was a most prodigious—he was going to say a shameful—increase in the public expenditure. There had also been an enormous increase in the Miscellaneous Estimates. The total expenditure of the country in 1840 was £53,444,000, and in 1850, £50,231,000; but in 1861 it was close upon £70,000,000. If the 1596 House of Commons did its duty it ought to direct its attention seriously to a reduction of that immense amount, for which he contended there was no present need. England was not threatened with war anywhere, and at no former period did she stand in a stronger or more happy position as regarded all the great Powers. It might be said that, in consequence of the war in the United States, it was necessary that we should send an expedition to the Gulf of Mexico, to watch over our trade there, but the recent news from that country to the effect that nearly the whole naval power of America had been annihilated set at rest all apprehension of danger in that quarter. It was said that we ought to have a large navy, in order to be on an equal footing with France, but the fact was that our navy was equal to the whole warlike navy of all the countries of Europe. At no period was the country safer from attack. In the navy it appeared they had 67 line-of-battle ships, whilst the French had only 37. The power of the country suddenly to expand its warlike armaments had been proved in the most decisive manner within the last two or three years, both in regard to the navy and the army. The ancient prodigy of the springing up of armed men from the sowing of dragon's teeth had been surpassed, for they had witnessed the spreading of a little printing-ink over the country and an army of 150,000 Volunteers had sprung into existence. It was the latent power the country could always call forth that made it respected by foreign States, more so than the regular force it kept up. Their warlike establishments were much larger than they need to be, and he had no objection to put the Government under a little pressure in this matter and subject it to a little wholesome starvation.
SIR LAWRENCE PALE
said, that considering the latent power of criticism shown by the hon. Gentleman who had just resumed his seat, it was a pity he had not attended more frequently in his place when the discussions upon the Army and Navy Estimates occurred. It seemed to be admitted on all hands that a surplus might be expected; or, at all events, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had obtained a Parliamentary title to a surplus. The question, therefore, came to be—how was the surplus to be disposed of? The House had decided by a small majority that it would not keep faith with the 1597 country in the matter of the war duties on tea and sugar. Such was the decision of that portion of the House which arrogated to itself a high claim for popular favour, and a monopoly of sympathy for the working classes. He had always found, however, that if there were a question between the throwing over of their pledges to the working men and the salvation of the Whig Ministry, the Whig Ministry would be saved and the pledges would be given to the winds. If the Ministry had kept their pledges the income tax would have been reduced; and, indeed, the Chancellor of the Exchequer solemnly promised that it should expire in 1860, and now the miserable remission of the 1d war duty was considered as the fulfilment of the pledge. Then, again, it had been solemnly promised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the duty on tea should be remitted, whereas instead of that the right hon. Gentleman, with singular infelicity, had selected a tax which produced a very large and increasing revenue, and the remission of which would not be felt as a benefit by any portion of the general community whatever. Hon. Members would remember that last Session they had a great deal of discussion on the same matter; and when the House of Lords stepped in and saved the country from the effects of the rash legislation of that House great anger was expressed. There were meetings in the tea-room, meetings at the coffee-house, whisperings outside the doors, and at last the noble Lord at the head of the Government got up and moved a Resolution, which was to save the dignity of the House and put the Ministers in a more unfortunate position than ever. All that was nothing but a mere waste of words, a little bit of humbug, beautifully acted by the noble Lord, but which deceived nobody. The country had quietly acquiesced in the decision of the House of Lords, and nothing had since occurred to change the position of the question. Few petitions had been presented to Parliament for the abolition of the duty; there had been no indignation meetings; and, so far from the country having displayed any resentment against the Conservative party, the candidates had, on the contrary, as the House well knew, been triumphantly returned at a more than usually large number of elections which occurred in the recess, and which, in most instances, had been warmly contested. With respect to the merits of 1598 the question, he doubted whether the abolition of the duty would benefit any class. Persons largely engaged in the trade were of opinion that the abolition of the duty would not reduce the price of paper; and they even asserted that the price of paper, which formed only a very small portion of the price of a book, never operated as a restriction on literature or education. A farmer used very little stationery, a working man still less, and upon the classes to which they belonged the repeal of the duty would confer no appreciable benefit. He held in his hand a letter written by a stationer in Chancery Lane, stating that all engaged in the trade were of opinion that the repeal of the duty would be of no value to them, while the advantage to the public would be very small indeed. The writter added that to himself, as a manufacturer of envelopes, it would be a loss, for paper would become dearer, and he should lose the drawback now receivable. But it was said that the repeal of the paper duty would benefit the cheap press, and in that way promote the cause of popular education. It was also said that the Tory side of the House were afraid of the diffusion of political knowledge. That had been well answered by his hon. Friend. The Conservatives wished their opinions reported in the newspapers and spread over the length and breadth of the of the land, for the more the Tory press was spread over the country the more would the people despise the paltry attacks which were made upon them, and the foolish attempts constantly made by the Liberal party to attribute to the Opposition opinions and intentions which they never entertained, which they never would entertain, and which they utterly repudiated. He denied, however, on the authority of Mr. Bohn, that the repeal of the duty would benefit the cheap press as largely as was pretended. Mr. Bohn had calculated that the saving on each copy of a penny paper would not exceed the half of a farthing. Whence, then, he would ask, arose the cry for cheap literature? Rumour said that, although there were some daily papers conducted with considerable talent—papers which used to contain copious extracts about the American Constitution before it had clearly turned out to be a failure—yet that those journals did not pay, and that, therefore, in order to please their proprietors and editors, the tax was to continue to be levied upon the tea of the British labourer, 1599 and the paper duty was to be remitted. But who, he would ask, were those proprietors and editors of newspapers upon whom so great a boon was to be conferred? In supplying an answer to that question it should be borne in mind with what difficulty a tottering Government held its place, and how necessary it was for it to keep up alliances outside the walls of that House. When a Ministry found themselves in a minority every Wednesday, something must be done against the struggle in which the aid of the penny press might be exceedingly valuable. It was said that the House was pledged to the reduction of the paper duties, and it was quite impossible for them to retract. But, so far as that argument was concerned, he would ask whether the House was not equally pledged to the reduction of the income tax, to the reduction of the duties on tea and sugar, to the great principle of economizing in its large establishments, and, above all, to the carrying of a large and comprehensive measure of Reform? The fact was those pledges were neither more nor less than cobwebs in which to catch flies, and if any young Member were to ask the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office whether that noble Lord did not consider himself pledged to bring in a Reform Bill, he would only get laughed at for his pains. In conclusion he must warn hon. Members that they had a large army and navy to maintain; that even if they could steer clear of the civil war which had broken out on the American Continent, they must at least keep up a considerable force to protect British interests in that quarter; and that, under those circumstances, it would be imprudent to abolish a tax which, once taken off, it would be impossible to reimpose, and whose remission would not bring the slightest relief to the occupants of the humble cottages throughout the land.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, that it might, perhaps, be convenient to the House to state that he did not consider the present to be a proper occasion upon which to ask the House to express an opinion of the general policy of the paper duty; he should, therefore, wish to reserve himself until the proper moment arrived. He wished it, therefore, to be understood that in permitting the Resolution to pass it was not that they were to be debarred from asking the House to express its opinion on the general policy of the paper duty when the proper time arrived. He thought 1600 they would consult the general convenience of the House by not going to a division that night, but at the same time he begged to state that he reserved to himself the right to take whatever course he might deem expedient in reference to the measure when the proper opportunity for doing so arrived.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that after the Resolution was passed the right hon. Gentleman would of course be entitled to choose the most convenient time for giving expression to his views on this question. Considering the state of the Committee he, too, would reserve any observations which might be necessary for a future occasion.
§ Resolution agreed to.
That on and after the 1st day of October, 1861, the Duties of Excise now payable upon or in respect of Paper of any denomination, and button-board, mill-board, paste-board, and scale-board made in the United Kingdom, and also all Allowances and Drawbacks of or in respect of any of such Duties, shall cease, and shall be no longer charged, levied, allowed, or paid respectively.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the next Resolution was that relating to the Customs duty on paper. He had been informed that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire) desired to postpone the consideration of this question, and there would be no difficulty in meeting his wishes, as he found that it would not be necessary to have a preliminary Resolution with a view to a Bill. He, therefore, proposed to pass over the Resolution, to embody the substance of it in a Bill, and then the hon. Gentleman would be able to raise the question fairly when they came to Committee on the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman then proposed—5. That, towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, and in lieu of the Duties of Excise now payable on the article hereinafter mentioned, there shall be charged and paid for and upon all Chicory, or any other vegetable matter applicable to the uses of Chicory or Coffee, grown in the United Kingdom,For every hundredweight thereof, raw or kilndried, until the 1st day of April, 1862, the duty of 8s. 6d., and on and after that day the Duty of 11s., and so in proportion for any greater or less quantity than a hundredweight.
§ Resolution agreed to.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, every person who shall keep open any house, room, shop, or building, for the purpose of selling therein, or who shall sell therein
at any time between the hours of nine of the clock at night and five of the clock of the following morning, any victual, or refreshment, or cigars, or tobacco, to be consumed on the premises where the same shall be sold (except beer, cider, wine, and spirits, sold respectively under a proper licence in that behalf, and except also cigars and tobacco sold by a person duly licensed to sell beer by retail to be consumed on the premises, and also duly licensed to sell tobacco), and every person who shall keep open, at any time between the hours aforesaid, any house, room, shop, or building, for the consumption therein by the public of any victual or refreshment, cigars or tobacco (except as aforesaid), although the same shall not be sold therein, shall respectively be deemed to keep a Refreshment House, and shall, unless he shall be duly licensed by the justices to keep a common inn, ale house, or victualling house on the same premises, take out a licence to keep a Refreshment House chargeable with the Duty imposed by the Act of the last Session of Parliament, chapter 27.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, that before entering into the discussion, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would inform the Committee why he now came down to propose so serious a change in the Act of last Session.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF the EXCHEQUER
said, the Resolution involved no departure from the intention of Parliament last year as to the operation of the Act. The Government then proposed that all refreshment-houses should be subjected to a licence and to police visitation. It was objected, however, that there was no reason why refreshment-houses open only during the day should be subjected to visitation by the police, and the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. G. Hardy) with the general concurrence of the House moved that the Bill should be limited expressly to houses which were open during certain hours of the night. It was felt that that was a proper provision, and that houses open for refreshment during the night were fit subjects for police visitation. It had been found, however, in the application and construction of the Act, that the terms of the sixth section, for which he proposed to substitute the fresh Resolution, did not give effect to the intention of Parliament—namely, that all night refreshment houses should be subject to police regulation, and should pay a small sum by way of refreshment licence. He had understood the hon. Gentleman (Mr. G. Hardy) to express his desire that houses kept open for smoking should come within the purview of the clause; but neither these houses nor the houses of confectioners were found to be comprised in it. No 1602 question of principle, therefore, was raised at all. The only question was whether the wording of the Act should not be changed, so as to give effect to the undoubted intention of Parliament with regard to night-houses of this kind?
§ MR. AYRTON
said, that in Committee on the Bill of last Session the hon. Member (Mr. G. Hardy), by way of obviating the objections to the proposal of the Government, suggested that the taking of licences should be optional and voluntary on the part of keepers of refreshment-houses; but that where they kept open a place for public refreshment, resort, and entertainment, they should be compelled to take out a licence. It was objected that it would be monstrous that a private householder, who sold, perhaps, a penny bun after nine o'clock in the evening, should be liable, on the demand of any constable or police-officer, to open his door and allow the police-officer to ramble all over his house as he pleased. The hon. Member, therefore, suggested that the licensing should be confined to places open for public resort, and the Amendment was accepted without further objection. The penalties attached to the infraction of the law were very grievous. For the first offence the fine was £5, and for the second two years' suspension, and a refusal to renew the licence if the proprietor did not admit a constable the moment he knocked at the door. The Committee had to consider whether there was any case for the extension of this surveillance. The failure of the Act of last Session might have taken the Chancellor of the Exchequer by surprise, but it had not anybody else. They were now asked to remedy that failure by passing a Resolution such as no Minister of the Crown ever brought before the House, and which no former House would have granted. The proposition was conceived in the strictest spirit of the French police. There it was part of a great system of policy that every person engaged in business should be under the supervision of the police; and the Resolution actually proposed that every man who sold anything in his shop after nine o'clock which could be eaten or drunk should be subjected to the inspection of the police whenever they chose to visit him. If a grocer sold an orange to a man after nine o'clock and let him eat it in his shop he must actually take out a licence and be subject to police supervision. The Committee, he thought, would scarcely 1603 consent to such legislation as that. With regard to the financial part of the question, he should be glad to hear from the Chancellor of the Exchequer on what principle he selected one of the most useful and innocent callings in the country as a special object of taxation. After they had heard such loud declamations on the blessings resulting from admitting articles of food from corn to eggs free of duty, the first thing the Chancellor of the Exchequer did was to select for special taxation every man who sold any article of food in his shop after nine o'clock at night. The right hon. Gentleman was, in fact, re-enacting a curfew bell—for if any working man went into a shop to get his supper after nine o'clock, straightway a special tax was to be levied on persons who kept their houses open for the purpose. Nine o'clock was past the hour of the right hon. Gentleman's morality, and no working man was to go into a shop to get his supper after that hour without a policeman walking in and forming part of the company. That was a mere caprice of legislation, and when he first read the Resolution his idea was that the Chancellor of the Exchequer being so certain of general acquiescence in his paper duty and income-tax Resolutions had flung this in just to furnish a theme for discussion. The real object was to foster intemperance and vice, and not to suppress them. The real object was to put an end to those places where people could get a simple supper and a cup of coffee, or to convert them into new channels for the consumption of intoxicating drinks, which were not consumed in sufficient quantities for the satisfaction of the Excise. It was the duty of the Committee to preserve the line, which was well drawn, between places used for the purposes of temperance and places used for the purposes of intemperance. Hitherto the trade in food and innocent refreshments had been as free as the trade in clothes, or any other articles equally innocuous, and a distinction was drawn between them and the dealers in intoxicating drinks. The object of this legislation was to break down that great barrier, and to bring all persons alike under the surveillance of the police. No doubt if the keepers of eating-houses found themselves compelled to take out licences, and to be subject to the vexatious interference of the police, they would say, "We had better have the wine and beer licences as well, and do our best to fill the Exchequer."
1604 In point of fact, the legislation of last year fulfilled very much the predictions he ventured to make of it, and entirely failed to fulfil those of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and, therefore, he was encouraged in endeavouring to resist the present proposition. But he wanted to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how he proposed to deal with a very important question of finance which was connected with this subject. Last year, when it was said that the system would be an injustice, the Chancellor of the Exchequer urged that it would be rather a boon, because at present these people paid a house tax, and if they took out this licence they must be considered traders, and they would only pay a shop tax—that instead of paying 9d. they would only have to pay 6d. But when the statute was passed, and the householders went to the officers of Inland Revenue asking for the remission of the additional 3d. house-tax, the officers turned round and said, "Show us the clause in the Bill that authorizes such a proceeding," and entirely refused to give effect to the assurance of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He wanted to know whether it was intended to renew that assurance and settle the question by legislative enactment. But, before the right hon. Gentleman proceeded to deal with that subject, he (Mr. Ayrton) should like to bring before the Committee a very gross injustice that resulted from the scheme. In the Metropolis every house was valued at a rental of more than £20, but a man who kept a coffee-shop or a little eating-house occupied only a part of a house, and his rental would be not £20, but only £10 or £15. And yet, as the Resolution was drawn, if he kept a shop in his house, his licence was estimated at the rate applicable to the rent of the whole house. In the country, however, where people were not compelled to live together in one house, and where every man had a separate house, the charge was only one half that which was made on the eatinghouse-keepers in London. Would the Chancellor of the Exchequer remedy that injustice, and limit the valuation to the rooms used in carrying on the business? Because, if not, the right hon. Gentleman would make the inhabitants of London pay exactly double, though he was in exactly the same position as the inhabitant of a small town in a rural district. Hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to think 1d. in the pound more or less of income tax a great question, 1605 but it was very small in comparison with the excess of charge on the people in London which he had shown would be the effect of this Resolution. He had told the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the people who would avail themselves of the measure would not be the virtuous people, whom the right hon. Gentleman suggested, but those who lived by encouraging intemperance; and he found by a Return, granted at his request, that out of 593 persons, being beersellers, who took out refreshment licenses, 489 also took out wine licenses. The meaning of those figures was that the beerseller took out a refreshment licence merely for the purpose of selling wine, and entering into rivalry with the ginshop. Their houses were fitted up with taps, and all the decorations of ginshops. Instead of selling the British compound called gin, they sold the British compound called wine, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer told them was of the strongest character. There was no accommodation for eating. There was a bar, and a bottle standing ready with a substitute for gin. The Refreshment Act had added to the facilities of intoxication, and made a degree in the rising scale of intemperance—from beer to spirit-wine, and from spirit-wine to spirit itself. Soon after the passing of the Act of last Session he went to Coventry, expecting to see the weavers there, like those of Lyons, drinking light French wines, instead of which he found them standing at the corners of the streets with pale lank faces, on the brink of starvation, and looking the picture of misery. When he asked at eatinghouses whether they sold wine, he was told he must go to the tavern if he wanted wine. He made the same inquiry in other towns until he came to a garrison town. Here he found a pastrycooks' where they sold wine. An officer came in followed by his dog, and asked for a glass of wine and a bun. At last, then, he saw proof that the Act of last Session was a wise and useful proceeding. But the officer gave his bun to the dog and drank the wine. So that unless they had the fortuitous circumstance of a dog and a puppy coming together into a pastrycook's the measure of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was of no effect. The Act of last Session was in fact a complete failure. He objected to legislation which introduced the espionage of the police into private houses, and he trusted the Committee would reject this Resolution.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he had with difficulty comprehended the reason of the vehemence with which the hon. Member had opposed this very limited proposition, until he found that his object was to deliver another speech against the Wine Licences Act of last Session, which the hon. Member had opposed root and branch. He had now repeated his objection to that Act, which, however, was not the matter before the Committee. The great complaint appeared to be that by the Resolution the line was broken down between houses licensed for the sale of intoxicating drinks and other houses of refreshment. But the hon Member must know well that the Resolution had nothing to do with this line. Last year Parliament determined that, besides the line that separated those two classes of refreshment-houses, another line should be drawn, not at all relating to the kind of drink sold, but only to the hours during which the houses were open. Now, the sole and simple purport of the Resolution was to give effect to the line so drawn after much consideration and discussion. The hon. Member said that the matter must be treated either as one of finance; or, on the other hand, as one of morality. But in a great many of our laws, finance and police, were to a great extent combined. The case was one on which Gentlemen might have different views as to the respective importance of the two; but the important social object of police supervision being in view, there was likewise appended a financial proposition bringing the matter within the purview of the Committee. He was desirous of separating the vague and general declamation of the hon. Gentleman from the points of a practical nature to which he had called attention. The hon. Gentleman charged him with not fulfilling an engagement entered into last year with respect to house and shop rating. Whatever pledge was given last year ought of course to be fulfilled, and he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was perfectly ready to consider the means of fulfilling it; but not one single person had made a complaint to him with respect to the rating of premises separate from the rating of a house. The case of bonâ fide separate holdings, where only a part of the house was rented by the keeper of a refreshment-shop, was a very fair subject of consideration. The hon. Member was also, perhaps, of opinion that if the Legislature had provided that refreshment-houses open at 1607 night between certain hours should be subject to police visitation for the sake of good order, there was no necessity why that liability to visitation should extend over the day. If that were the hon. Gentleman's point it was worthy of consideration; but he must say that the hon. Gentleman had not represented the effect of the Resolution accurately. The hon. Member said, that if any one went into a grocer's shop and purchased an orange and consumed it there, the grocer would be compelled to take out a licence. He was surprised that the hon. Member, having read the Resolution, could think that was a possible construction to be put upon its meaning. The construction, as he read it, essentially required that something should be sold for consumption on the premises. Oranges were not sold by grocers for consumption on the premises, and no such miserable, and, he must say, equivocating and constrained method of construction was in force. The state of the case was simply this—the hon. Member had made a speech against the Refreshment Houses and Wine Licences Act. The principle of that Act was not before the Committee. The object of the Resolution was simply to give effect to the purpose and intention of the Act. The intention of the Act of last Session was that all houses below certain rentals, in certain cases, open between certain hours for optional and general resort with the view to refreshment, were, as a class, proper objects for police visitation; and it would be vain and futile to draw the distinction which the hon. Member professed to draw between houses tending to promote intemperance and houses where intoxicating liquors were not sold. The Reports of Committees of that House were to the effect that some of the houses that did not sell intoxicating drinks were the worst houses of all, and a great many of those houses it was desirable to bring under police visitation. A great number of these houses, owing to the defective wording of the Act of last Session, were not brought under the operation of the law. That defect it was the object of the Resolution to remedy. That was the fair test by which this Resolution would be tried, and he hoped that it would receive the support of the Committee.
said, he had not been fortunate enough to catch the exact object of the Resolution. The right hon. Gentleman said it was intended to give effect to the Act of last year, but he had not 1608 told them how the Act of last year was defective. He could not gather from the right hon. Gentleman's speech what he exactly meant. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said the Act of last Session was defective, and did not carry out the intentions of the Legislature. But the right hon. Gentleman did not point out in what respect it was defective, and how the Resolution proposed to remedy that defect.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he was obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for calling his attention to the omission. The precise point of difficulty turned upon the words "places of public refreshment, resort, and entertainment." The hon. Member (Mr. Ayrton) gave the Committee his interpretation, from which it appeared that places like Vauxhall were open to an interpretation of this kind. His own opinion was that shops which were kept open at night should be brought within the scope of the Act, even though they were not places of public resort and entertainment in the same sense as Vauxhall Gardens or the
said, that, after the right hon. Gentleman's explanation, the Committee would see how enormous an extension of the measure of last Session was now proposed. If he was not mistaken in his recollection, the right hon. Gentleman's original proposal was much the same as that now brought forward, and the House, after full discussion, distinctly refused to adopt such a general wording as would include every little shop that sold penny cakes. He, for one, would be very unwilling to enact that every humble shopkeeper must shut his door at nine o'clock, or pay the tax and subject himself to the supervision of the police. Such an arrangement was far too stringent; and if the Committee went that length he did not know where they would stop. The class whom the measure would chiefly affect would feel it severely, and really did not deserve it. They ought to be very careful about throwing houses open unnecessarily to the police. Every Englishman naturally looked upon his house as his castle, and to send the police prying into a house when there was no need for it would bring a great deal of odium on that force. There were houses, no doubt, in all large towns which should be under the supervision of the police, but he thought that such would be included under the phrase "places of public resort."
§ LORD FERMOY
said, he hoped his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would reconsider the Resolution. The proprietors of gingerbeer-shops and bun-shops would not pay the licence; and they would, therefore, have to close their shops at nine o'clock, which could not be considered by any means a late hour in the summer time, at all events. The effect of the Resolution, consequently, would be that people would be driven into the public houses and gin palaces.
§ SIR MORTON PETO
said, in the district which he had the honour to represent there was a number of small shops where refreshments were sold for working men, and considerable alarm was felt by the owners of these houses at the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. A guinea a year might not appear to be a large sum, but such was the nature of the refreshments sold that a tax could not be well borne. They had also a strong objection to be placed under police visitation. He was sure that no one more than the right hon. Gentleman would regret to see persons who conducted their business properly brought under police visitation. He should be glad to see the Resolution altogether withdrawn.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that the right hon. Gentleman had been wont to deplore the duty of 1s. a quarter on corn, and to speak of a tax on the food of the people as an injury. Yet the Resolution before them amounted practically to a tax on the food of the people—on the supper of the working man, for instance—and that in the most vexatious form. While relieving the luxuries of the rich from taxation the right hon. Gentleman not only refused to relieve the lower classes by the reduction of the tea duty, but actually imposed a tax on the sale of their food.
§ LORD WILLIAM GRAHAM
asked whether the Resolution would apply to houses of ill-fame? If so, a totally new system of licensing would be introduced into this country, and one inimical to the interests of morality.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he thought the noble Lord was not serious in putting such a question.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the law took no cognizance of such a subject; and the Resolution would not extend to such houses.
§ MR. CONINGHAM
said, he regarded 1610 the introduction of police inspection into refreshment-houses as objectionable, and as the commencement of an oppressive system.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he believed the Committee of last year had expressed a strong desire that places of entertainment kept open between the hours of nine at night and five in the morning should be subject to the supervision of the police; and he had introduced the present Resolution for the purpose of the carrying out that object. He admitted that the Resolution as it stood might include some shops to which it was not desirable that it should be extended; but he doubted whether it would be possible to make an exception in their favour without abandoning what he understood was the purpose of the Committee of last year. After what had been said, however, he would endeavour so to alter the Resolution as to obviate the reasonable objections that had been made to it. Without, therefore, giving up the object which the House had in view in former legislation of placing refreshment-houses under restriction, he would, in the meantime, withdraw the Resolution, and endeavour so to alter it as to meet the views of those who objected to it as it now stood.
said, he would give all the assistance in his power to any proposal for extending the supervision of the police to night houses; but he was not disposed to construct a drag-net which would bring all kinds of people under their jurisdiction. He would suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he might meet the difficulty in that case by defining a night-house to be a house which was kept open after the beer houses were closed.
said, he could not see why they should require the owners of houses in which spirits were not sold to take out a licence. He believed that the Act of last Session had been wholly inoperative in Dublin.
§ MR. HENNESSY
said, they had passed a Resolution that took cheap tea from the poor people, and now it was proposed to put a tax on refreshments. He wished to know what amount the Irish Board of Inland Revenue had derived from licences granted under the Act of last year.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he could not answer the question. The hon. Gentleman, however, might have the Return if he pleased.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.1611
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
then moved the following Resolution:—(6.) That, towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, there shall be charged and paid upon every additional Excise Licence to be taken out by any licensed Dealer in Spirits in Great Britain to authorise and empower him to sell by retail Foreign or British Spirits, in any quantity, not less than one reputed quart bottle, or as to Foreign Spirits, in the bottles in which the same may have been imported, and not to be drunk or consumed on the premises, the sum of £3 3s.
§ LORD FERMOY
said, that by the Resolution the right hon. Gentleman proposed to subject licensed victuallers to a more extended competition. The effect of the Resolution was simply this, that wholesale dealers, by simply paying a £3 3s. licence, would become retailers of spirits. That was unjust and unfair; because, in the first place, the licensed victuallers were obliged to submit to a very serious ordeal before they obtained their licences—namely, that of going before the justices of the peace. It was not fair that another body, who had to go through no ordeal at all, should have an opportunity of competing with them. The licensed victuallers were also subject to billeting and other disabilities. He, therefore, asked the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw the Resolution altogether. One of the reasons advanced in support of the Resolution was that practically wholesale dealers were in the habit of breaking the law. The right hon. Gentleman said that the law was openly invaded even by Members of that House. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to have a very limited idea of the extent of the cellars of hon. Members, but be that as it might, it was a little too much to say that the law was invaded, when no attempt had been made to enforce the law. They ought rather to say the law had been invaded, therefore, let us alter it. It was treating the licensed victuallers unfairly to say, "because we have never enforced the law for your protection, we are now going to abolish it altogether." If, however, the right hon. Gentleman did not intend to withdraw the Resolution, which he (Lord Fermoy) sincerely trusted he would, did he mean to carry it out to the letter? Would he take care that the Bill should be so framed as that the wholesale dealer—if this Resolution passed—and he (Lord Fermoy) sincerely hoped it would not—should be limited to the bonâ fide quart bottle? That would be some compensa- 1612 tion to the body whose interests he was now advocating.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, it certainly was his intention to press the Resolution upon the Committee, and he had no doubt it would meet with their approbation. It was quite true that the law as it stood was not put into execution, not because it was ambiguous, but because it was revolting to public opinion. It was irrational in itself, but it had been found impracticable to induce the administrators of the law to give effect to it, or at all events to give effect to it without denouncing its irrationality. Last year a Bill was brought in—the Refreshment Houses Bill—which certainly did raise up a class of rivals to the licensed victuallers. Not so the present Resolution, because the trade of the licensed victuallers was to supply liquors for consumption on the premises. It was in respect of that trade that they paid their licences; consequently they had no locus standi in opposing a Resolution which had no relation to anything to be consumed on the premises, and in spirits not to be drunk on the premises he did not admit that they had any right to a preference, much less to a monopoly. At the same time he was far from overlooking the peculiarities of their position, and the change proposed was a minimum one; indeed, it would be impossible for it to be more mild. The effect of the Resolution was to be limited to those traders who were in possession of a ten guinea licence. With regard to the question of the noble Lord, it certainly was his (the Chancellor of the Exchequer's) intention to adhere to the proposed limitation, and not to allow the wholesale dealers to sell spirits in anything less than a quart bottle. Many hon. Members even at home, and many more when staying away from home, as at a watering-place, must have had occasion for small quantities of spirits, and have found themselves not at liberty to buy them without sending to a public house. Every Government for the last twenty or thirty years had condemned that state of the law, and when the noble Lord asked whether it was his intention to carry out the law, he answered it undoubtedly was his intention.
§ SIR BALDWIN LEIGHTON
entertained objections to the proposed changes, some of which he thought were contrary to all our other laws, and would inflict much hardship. He would suggest that no man should be summoned and convicted 1613 in his absence for an offence against the Excise laws.
said, he wished to know whether the quart mentioned in the Resolution was the imperial quart? What was commonly called "a quart" was everything from a pint upwards.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the term "quart" was well understood. It did not mean an imperial quart, but a bottle six of which went to the gallon. He would attend to the suggestion of the hon. Baronet.
§ SIR MORTON PETO
observed that as a general rule the licensed victuallers had a portion of their premises set apart for the sale of liquors in bottle.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he had a petition to present from the licensed victuallers against the Resolution. He must say he thought the right hon. Gentleman was bringing the wholesale dealers into direct rivalry with the licensed victuallers. The argument founded upon morality was quite fallacious, for in fact it was proposed that the additional Excise duty should be levied upon an extended use of ardent spirits. He begged to tell the right hon. Gentleman that there was a public opinion even at the bar of a public house; and if a servant was frequently seen coming out of a public-house it soon became noised in the neighbourhood that spirits were consumed in her employer's house. He thought the present licensing system, with the preliminary investigation of the house and its master, tended to morality. The publicans had received rough treatment. As a body he believed them to be a good set of men, and he knew that they often rendered groat assistance to the magistrates. He regretted, therefore, to see a dead set made against them.
§ MR. KER SEYMER
said, that what ever might be the practice of the Excise officers elsewhere, he could inform the Committee that a witness who was examined before the Committee of 1845 stated that at watering places the law was evaded every day by very respectable wine merchants; in Brighton almost every House was informed against. In fact, people would not send to public-houses for brandy. Brandy diluted with water was a most valuable medicine; but it must be real French cognac and not such brandy as was commonly sold at publichouses. He had heard an excellent reason why the Excise did not do their duty. One of the witnesses before the same Committee, a 1614 wholesale dealer, said that he had frequently served two bottles of brandy at a time to the Chief Commissioner of Excise in his district. After that they might well say, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? For many years he kept an establishment without knowing that such a law existed, as he never had any difficulty in obtaining brandy in small quantities from his wine merchant. The law only pressed upon some spirit merchants who had a conscientious objection to breaking it, and who in consequence lost their customers for both wine and spirits. A gentleman at a watering place might order a dozen of sherry and a bottle of brandy, and if the merchant refused to supply him with the latter, he would soon be informed by some of his friends of a merchant who was less scrupulous, and to whom he would transfer his custom. The restrictions under which licensed victuallers were placed, and of which so much had been said, were police regulations, which, of course, would not apply to places where no liquors were consumed upon the premises. He would make one suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman. It appeared that the dealers in wines and spirits were somewhat heavily taxed. They had to pay £10 10s. for a wine licence, £10 10s. more for a spirit licence; they had likewise to pay £2 2s. for what was called a maraschino licence. Now he thought that the new £3 3s. licence ought to convey a liqueur licence along with it.
§ MR. CLAY
said, he had no doubt the Chancellor of the Exchequer was quite right in saying that the licensed victuallers had no locus standi in this discussion, because if they sent out spirits to be consumed elsewhere than on the premises, that business was not one in respect of which they paid a licence. That might be so legally, but he begged to remind him that, according to custom, there was a broad distinction between the wholesale end the retail dealing. That distinction would be broken down by the change the light hon. Gentleman proposed to make. He (Mr. Clay) found that that alteration would give additional advantages to the larger dealers when placed in competition with the smaller. He thought the licensed victuallers had been hardly dealt with. With regard to the suggestion which had been made by an hon. Member opposite, he 1615 would only remark that it was known what a reputed quart bottle was in 1860; but in 1861 they all knew that a "reputed quart bottle" meant little more than a pint. He (Mr. Clay) strongly objected to the vagueness of this phrase.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, he thought after the legislation of last year that the licensed victuallers had a right to expect that they should be let alone for some time to come at any rate. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Ker Seymer) had pressed the measure strongly on a former occasion, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had become a convert to his views. He (Mr. Williams) could not support the Resolution.
§ MR. BRISCOE
said, that a considerable portion of the profits of licensed victuallers was derived from the sale of spirits in small quantities to be drunk off the premises, and if the Resolution was passed they would have a claim to have the price of their licences reduced.
§ Resolution agreed to, as was also the following Resolution,
That, towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, in lieu of the Stamp Duties now chargeable for or upon any lease or tack of any Furnished Dwelling-house, for any term or period of time less than a year, or any agreement, minute, or memorandum of agreement containing the terms and conditions on which any such House is let, occupied, or held for any such term or period of time, where the rent for such term or period of time shall exceed £25, there shall be charged the Stamp Duty of 2s. 6d. with progressive duties respectively, to be calculated as in the case of deeds and instruments in general of the same amount.
And for the Duplicate or Counterpart thereof the like Duties.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he wished next to move the 8th Resolution. That which had just been adopted effected a very considerable reduction on the stamps chargeable on letting houses for short periods. The arrangement in existence till now had been that houses let for periods of one to three months were liable to the same amount of taxation as if let for twenty years. It was hardly fair that fugitive transactions should be taxed at the same rate as those of a more permanent character, and the effect of such a state of the law was that practically the duty was never paid. But by this Resolution the payment of duty would be insured, for it would be imposed on the class of persons who dealt in houses let for less than a year, who did not already pay duty 1616 in any other capacity. From the very nature of the principle so laid down it would be necessary that exemptions should be made to a considerable extent; he accordingly proposed to except from the scope of the Resolution auctioneers and appraisers, attorneys and solicitors, who sometimes dealt in houses, especially in Scotland, persons dealing in houses of a low rental. The object of the Resolution was merely to lay down the principle that those persons who dealt in the documents requiring a stamp should be brought by a licence under the view of the Board of Inland Revenue. He had no reason to suppose that the duty was opposed by the class of persons whom it would affect; on the contrary, those with whom he had been brought into communication had expressed themselves favourably towards the proposal. It would not be right to lay upon them a heavy duty, or to bring within the scope of it any other class of persons than those who were intended, such as those who dealt in the letting of houses for terms less than a year. Ordinary land agents would not be brought within the Resolution. A doubt might be raised upon the wording of the Resolution as it stood, but to introduce that class of persons into its provisions was quite foreign to its purpose and intent. The best form of exemption, however, could be settled when the Bill for carrying out these Resolutions was introduced.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, the Committee ought to view with great jealousy any attempt to extend the licensing system, which was calculated to interfere with freedom of action on the part of the community. It was true that auctioneers and appraisers paid duty, and so did attorneys; but these payments had no connection whatever with the letting of houses. The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that certain house agents were willing to pay the tax. No doubt they were, because it tended to keep in their own hands the letting of houses. If every man who used a stamp for business purposes required to be licensed, it would be necessary to tax every merchant accepting a Bill, and every landlord issuing receipts for rent. In country towns it was usual to see announcements in shop windows that houses belonging to customers of the establishment were to be let or disposed of, but the effect of the Resolution would be to forbid all such notices, and to render it imperative that a house agent should set 1617 up for the purpose of conducting these arrangements. In short, if any hon. Member were asked to look after a friend's house, it would be requisite for him to be duly licensed.
MR. SERJEANT PIGOTT
said, he understood the Resolution to be that a person carrying on the business of a house agent should pay a £2 licence, making those who conducted business with a profit pay some reasonable amount to the revenue. He did not understand it to mean what the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets had stated.
would reserve his observations till a future stage of the question, so many limitations and exceptions having been mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman that it was difficult to say who came within the scope of the Resolution.
said, he should not divide the Committee on the Resolution. He would see when the Bill was produced if it were possible, which he did not think it was, to reduce the proposition to an intelligible form.
That, towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, there shall be charged for and upon a licence to be taken out yearly by every person who shall use or exercise the business, occupation, or calling of a House Agent, not being an Auctioneer, or an Appraiser, duly licensed as such, the Stamp Duty of £2.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he was considering whether it might be possible to extend the next Resolution so me what further—to a certain portion of those who made use of animal power for the purpose of carrying on the hawking business. The duty chargeable on those who employed any animal, however humble or small, in aid of their trade of hawking was £8. Perhaps a distinction might be drawn in favour of parties who employed a donkey, for instance, as in the case of horses under thirteen hands high. As it would be a remission of duty it would be competent to introduce such an alteration in the Bill.
said, he entertained some doubt about the wisdom and propriety of granting the licences for six months. At the present moment much suffering was experienced in country districts by persons termed "tallymen" going round amongst the poor and tempting wives to make purchases of their wares in the absence of the husbands, and then summoning them to the County Court to recover the money.
1618 He feared that the result of giving licences for so short a period as six months would be to induce a still less reputable class of men to pursue that avocation, and that thus still more mischief would be done. He should not, however, oppose the Resolution.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he believed the licence would have a very different effect from that which was apprehended by his right hon. Friend. With regard to tallymen, he believed they did not pay for a licence at all. The law was extensively evaded—so extensively, indeed, that he had the best authority for stating that he was enabled to propose the reduction and yet to anticipate no loss of revenue. If they could bring about a state of things in which the hawking trade should be regularly and uniformly carried on by men who had licenses, instead of by men who had none, he was convinced that it would be conducted more respectably, and that the evils his right hon. Friend had mentioned would be less likely to arise.
§ MAJOR EDWARDS
asked whether the tax would apply to men who carried about their wares in carts drawn by dogs?
§ MR. NORRIS
said, he doubted the wisdom of reducing the amount of the licence. It would only subject to a more severe competition persons who paid not only the Queen's taxes, but who bore their share of the local burdens. Moreover, it would load to a great deal of cruelty to animals.
§ MR. STIRLING
said, he wished to call attention to a source of taxation which appeared to have been overlooked; in favour of which he had presented several petitions to the House, chiefly from the working people of Glasgow and its neighbourhood; and which, for several considerations, social and otherwise, was not unworthy the right hon. Gentleman's notice. It was generally admitted that in all the larger towns, especially in Glasgow, the number of pawnbrokers and of persons who were called brokers had greatly increased. According to the statement of Mr. Macrae, in a remarkable pamphlet lately published, there were in that city alone 79 of the larger pawnbrokers' establishments, and nearly 400 of those smaller establishments, most of which also lent money on pledge, and were popularly known in Scotland by the name of "wee pawns." From the same source he learnt that 30,000,000 of pawn tickets were printed annually in Scotland, and that of that number one-sixth 1619 were used in Glasgow, whilst the number of pawn tickets printed and used in the United Kingdom amounted to upwards of 150,000,000. No doubt many of these pawnbrokers carried on their business in a fair and an equitable manner, and might be classed in the category of honest tradesmen; but it was certain that that was not the case with a very large proportion of them. The connection between many of the lower class of brokers and the whisky shops was perfectly notorious; and the whisky dealer might often be seen pointing out to his penniless customer the neighbouring "wee pawn," where he might obtain, on his coat or his shirt, a pittance to spend on the decoction of alcohol, in which the other tradesman dealt. Although the pawnbroker was sometimes termed the poor man's banker, he thought that a banker who advanced money at a rate of interest which was ruinous to his customer, to be spent on deleterious spirits, might rather be called an instigator to intemperance and crime. He would suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, then, whether he might not lay a stamp duty upon these pawn tickets; and if it were true that 150,000,000 of them were printed in one year, a farthing tax upon each would give £150,000, a sum which was not altogether beneath the notice of the right hon. Gentleman at the present moment.
§ MR. FRANK CROSSLEY
said, he thought the proposed alteration of the law as to hawkers' licences would prove beneficial both to hawkers and their customers.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he was afraid it would be irregular then to discuss the question raised by the hon. Member for Perthshire (Mr. Stirling)—certainly a very grave and exceedingly important question, touching one of the sorest and most difficult places in our whole social organization. He confessed, indeed, that he should shrink from moving in the matter, unless he knew more of its merits than he did at present, for a great deal of examination was required before a legislative proposal could be made with advantage. If the hon. Member himself were disposed to take charge of a Parliamentary inquiry into the subject, no doubt he would render a great public service.
That, towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, in lieu of the Stamp Duty of £4 now chargeable for or upon a licence in Great Britain
granted to any Hawker, Pedlar, or Petty Chapman who shall trade only in the manner hereinafter mentioned, there shall be charged the Stamp Duty following, that is to say:—
For or upon a licence to any such trading person who shall travel and trade on foot without any horse or other beast bearing or drawing burden, and who shall carry his goods, wares, or merchandise to, and sell or expose for sale the same at, other men's houses only, and not in or at any house, shop, room, booth, stall, or other place whatever belonging to or hired or occupied or used by, him for selling or exposing the same for sale in any town to which he may travel.
|Where such licence shall be granted for any period not exceeding six months.…||1||0||0|
|And where the same shall be grant-for any period exceeding six months and not exceeding a year.…||2||0||0|
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the object of the next Resolution was to produce a more minute graduation in the case of stamps on foreign bills.
That, towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, in lieu of the ad valorem Stamp Duties now payable for or upon Bills of Exchange drawn out of the United Kingdom for the payment of money exceeding £500, there shall be charged for and upon every such Bill of Exchange the Stamp Duty of 1s. for every £100 and part of £100 of the money thereby made payable.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
, in moving the next Resolution, observed that for a long time there had been a practice, supposed to be legal, of selling table beer, under three halfpence the quart in value, without any licence. The practice had been carried on extensively in some parts of the country under the authority of a Treasury order of an old date; but recently the question had been raised by an information being laid against one of these small beer sellers, and the tribunal before which the case was brought had decided that the Treasury order was not a sufficient authority in the face of the rigid prohibitory terms of the Acts of Parliament requiring licences for the sale of beer. It was generally believed that the decision was sound and right in law; but it was felt that the total extinction of the trade would produce considerable inconvenience, and even misfortune in many instances to the poorer classes of the community. His object, then, in proposing the Resolution, was to legalise the trade, by requiring a licence to be taken out, so that it might be carried on with 1621 regularity, and the sum at which he would fix the licence was the very low amount of 5s. True, that was the imposition of a new tax; but the intention was to enable a beneficial trade to be carried on, which would bear a small charge of that kind, and the total stoppage of which would be attended with great inconvenience.
§ SIR WILLIAM JOLLIFFE
said, great jealousy was entertained of these small dealers by the licensed beer-shop keepers. He wished to know, therefore, what system the right hon. Gentleman proposed to adopt for the regulation of this trade?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the practice was entirely confined to the sale of beer not consumed on the premises. That being so, he apprehended that no special police regulations would be necessary.
That, towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, there shall be charged upon every Licence to be taken out by any person to sell Table Beer by retail at a price not exceeding the rate of one penny half-penny the quart, the Duty of 5s.
§ MR. ALDERMAN SALOMONS
suggested that they were descending very low in the scale of taxation when they taxed the vendors of beer at three halfpence a quart. He thought a simple registration should be enough in their case.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
pointed out that there was a difficulty in bringing them under the revenue officers without taxing them to some extent. The tax was, of course, exceedingly small, and he saw no reason why it should be dispensed with.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER moved that the Chairman leave the Chair, and report the Resolutions to the House.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he was sorry to interfere at that stage of the proceedings, but he must say one word, and it should only be one. The course, however, he was about to take was not one for which he was himself responsible. The very sudden termination of the debate on the paper question must have taken most hon. Gentlemen by surprise, particularly when they remembered the importance of the subject. That termination which owing to the absence of many hon. Members, and especially of those Gentlemen who sat on the front benches on both sides, must have created some surprise in the House, and would, 1622 he thought, also surprise the country, as indicating the great want of interest shown in the discussion of an important subject. He had put a question to the noble Lord at the head of the Government, to which he had obtained no answer, probably owing to the abrupt conclusion of the debate. That question he would now repeat. He had felt it would be in vain to put the question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as he had evidently made up his mind to persevere with his financial scheme at at all hazards. In again putting his question he would first remind the noble Lord that since they had discussed the question of finance news had reached this country from the United States of a most alarming character. It was quite clear now that all probability of the civil war being averted had ceased, and that it was likely to rage for some time to come. He would remind the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) that when he last addressed the House on the question of finance, and defended the repeal of the paper duties, he was not in possession of the momentous information he now had—he did not then know the position of things in the United States. The question he was about to ask the noble Lord was, whether he did not think the news which they had heard that day would bear in an important manner on the financial affairs of this country? He would ask the noble Lord whether he did not anticipate that the result of that intelligence would be to this country not only increased armaments, but a decrease both of Customs and Excise duties; and also a large amount of distress in the manufacturing districts, which would, to a great extent, tend to diminish the amount of revenue; and, if he did not anticipate such results, whether he was prepared to carry out the financial proposals which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had submitted to the House?
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
No one, Sir, can regret more than I do the intelligence which has been received within the last few days from America; but, at the same time, any one must have been shortsighted and little capable of anticipating the probable course of human events who had not for a long time foreseen events of a similar character to those which we now deplore. From the commencement of this unfortunate quarrel between the two sections of the United States it was evident that the causes of disunion were 1623 too deeply seated to make it possible that separation would not take place, and it was also obvious that passions were so roused on both sides as to make it highly improbable that such separation could take place without a contest. In answer to the question of the hon. Member I would say that, however much I regret the intelligence which we have received within the last few days, yet that intelligence ought not, in my opinion, to make any difference in the arrangements which, after the fullest consideration, we considered were calculated to meet all the requirements of the public service during the present year. Consequently, we still adhere to that opinion which was also strongly expressed on the other side of the House, when, in addition to the reduction of the income tax, it was proposed to make a reduction in the tea duties. I am still of opinion that, in addition to the reduction of the income tax, the repeal of the paper duties may be made safely in reference to the financial position of the country.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he thought the noble Lord had not quite understood his question. The noble Lord said the results of the disturbances in America had been anticipated in the financial arrangements. Did the noble Lord mean that arrangements had been made to meet the expense of increased armaments and the risk of diminished revenues, or did he simply mean that he did not anticipate that any such consequences would result from the intelligence lately received?
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I thought I had, by implication at least, answered all the questions of the hon. Gentleman. I do not perceive any reasons why we should apply to Parliament for increased armaments, in consequence of the events which are taking place in North America, and I also hope that the Customs' duties will not materially suffer in consequence of those events.
§ MR. DISRAELI
In moving that these Resolutions be reported to the House I think it would be convenient that we should know which of them are to be reported, as I understand that several are withdrawn. I understand that Resolution No. 5 is withdrawn by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and also No. 8.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The Resolution No. 5 I withdrew to meet the views of the hon. Member for Dungarvan, and to give him an opportunity, if he chose, of testing the opinion 1624 of the House. Resolution No. 8 stands differently. Objections were taken to it, as being too extensive in its scope, and I withdrew it for reconsideration, promising that if I could bring it into a satisfactory shape I would again propose it to the House, that not being of a nature to require a preliminary Resolution.
§ MR. DISRAELI
It appears, then, that the 5th and 8th Resolutions are withdrawn. As to the 4th, which is the Resolution having reference to the paper duty it passed in a very thin House, but it did not pass altogether unobserved. I saw it was for the general convenience of the House that the Resolution should be allowed to pass, but I reserved to myself or any other hon. Member the right in another stage to take exception to it. It is, therefore, open to us at the proper time to challenge the propriety of the policy of the Government in remitting the paper duty. I would remark to the House that from the manner in which these Resolutions have been brought forward, and the mode in which they are to be presented to us in one Bill, as far as we could learn from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer in bringing in his Budget, the opportunities which this House will enjoy of expressing its opinion on that measure will be very much curtailed, and as far as the other House is concerned, their power of revision will be entirely abolished. These are reasons why we should proceed with these measures with unusual deliberation. It would be highly unbecoming to adopt a hurried or precipitate course, and, therefore, I would wish to know from the Government what are their intentions with regard to the Report upon these Resolutions, when they intend to bring in the Bill, and, generally, what is to be the course of business in respect to these Resolutions.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, the course I propose is this. I intimated, on the part of the Government, in making the financial statement, that, for the convenience of the House, and the plan best adapted for this House as a branch of the Legislature exercising peculiarly a financial control, I should propose to bring all the Resolutions under the view of the House at once, and that at the close of the Committee I should move for leave to bring in a Bill to give effect to the Resolutions. I thought it was more convenient for the House to 1625 have all the main features of the Government plan brought consecutively and in combination before the House, instead of being presented as last year, when the income tax was moved in Committee of Ways and Means, the Customs' Resolutions in a Committee of Customs, and the Paper Duties Repeal appeared in a separate Bill. The inconvenience of that course was demonstrated by the hon. Member for Somersetshire (Sir William Miles), who, when he wished to raise a question upon the second reading of the Paper Duties Bill, felt himself compelled to call back attention to the Committee upon income tax, and to connect the two subjects together in a manner that was not provided in the Bill. I think, as several Resolutions are in the nature of details and have scarcely any financial character, and it would not be convenient to embody all those Resolutions in a. Bill containing what I may call the financial plan. The Government proceeded upon the principle that the financial propositions are essentially one, although consisting of several parts, that the provisions imposing the income tax and the tea and sugar duties and repealing the paper duties are essentially part of one measure, and in that shape they present it to the House as the most convenient form for its consideration; but it will, of course, be my duty to give any further details, if such should be considered to be necessary. It is desirable that the matter should be disposed of with as little delay as possible, and as the Resolutions are of a very simple character, and have already been for three weeks in the hands of hon. Members, I trust the House will be prepared to proceed with despatch. Of course, if we anticipate any discussion of importance on any stage we shall give a full and convenient opportunity for that discussion. I shall move the Report of the Resolutions to-morrow, and, consistent with the forms of the House, any Bill or Bills founded upon them may be presented the same evening. In that case I think the proper course will be to move the second reading on Thursday, the Bill having been printed and placed in the hands of hon. Members on Wednesday. We can proceed with any subsequent stage as may be most convenient to the House.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I think that is pressing the business with precipitation. The Resolutions cannot be reported until very late to-night, and it is not at all impossible the Report may lead to consi- 1626 derable discussion. I do not think that asking the House to read the Bill a second time on Thursday is giving that fair time for considering the course which we ought to take which is desirable. I think the proper day for the second reading is Monday, provided there is no serious discussion on the Report. I reserve the right to myself and other hon. Gentlemen of disputing, on the stage of the Report, whether we shall consider these measures in one Bill or in several Bills. That may lead to considerable delay. Provided there is no delay in receiving the Report, and no discussion on the form of legislating upon the Resolutions, I think the Government ought not to propose the second reading of any Bill until this day week.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I think the natural course is to move to-morrow that the Report be received. It may be more convenient to reserve the minor Resolutions for another Bill. But when we perceive what are the views of the House with respect to the stage to-morrow, we can make a definite arrangement with regard to the next stage—the second reading. At the same time, looking to the convenience of the public service, and to the advantage of certainty to those commercial interests which are dependent upon the judgment of the House, I think it will be a great disappointment if there is any prolongation of proceedings such as to make it necessary or expedient to postpone the second reading until Monday.
§ MR. DISRAELI
There is one point upon which I should like some explanation. Do I understand that some new details will be introduced into the Bill, founded on the Resolutions?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
No; what I said was, that I should make the usual Motion to bring in a Bill or Bills. The Bill upon which I propose to make progress is the Bill containing the main provisions of the Government plan, which constitutes one plan and one measure, although they relate to different subjects. It may be convenient to place the minor Resolutions in a separate Bill, and in that Bill it may be necessary to propose some other financial and administrative details.
§ MR. DISRAELI
With regard to the principal Resolutions which the right hon. Gentleman wishes us to pass, unseemly haste would be unnecessary for the public interest, but for the course adopted by the 1627 Government. With regard to the duties on paper, tea, and sugar there is no pressure; and with regard to the income tax, if there is any inconvenience, it is in the power of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to remove it immediately by treating of the income tax in a separate Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman has devised a course which is inconvenient to the public interest, that is a question for him to consider and for which he is responsible. It is no ground upon which it should be demanded of this House to proceed with unusual precipitation. I must again remind the House that from the form in which the Resolutions appear before us it is debarred from the constitutional privileges which it would otherwise have enjoyed, and the other House has no power of revision. If ever there was an instance when it became the House of Commons to proceed with due deliberation and caution this is that instance, and I do not think the Government will gain in despatch by the rejection of a suggestion which I threw out for their consideration in no hostile spirit.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I wish not to be misunderstood. With regard to the income tax the inconvenience is administrative and financial. The right hon. Gentleman then says, separate the income tax from the other matters, and the House can then take a more leisurely course. The Government, however, could not take that course, because it is just as important upon grounds of certainty to trade and commerce to proceed with despatch in regard to tea and sugar duties as it is to proceed with despatch upon financial and administrative grounds in regard to the income tax.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
That has been withdrawn altogether, and will be embodied in the first Bill.
§ SIR WILLIAM JOLLIFFE
said, he also wished to know what had been done with the 10 th Resolution, and what the Chancellor of the Exchequer intended to do with the Resolutions which he had called the "minor" Resolutions?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, if the Resolutions were reported the next evening, he proposed to introduce a Bill embracing the more impor- 1628 tant subjects. He should endeavour to have it printed on Wednesday. He might be able to present the two Bills on that day.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
All the Resolutions with the exception of the income tax, the tea, sugar, and paper duties, and probably, but not certainly, chicory.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed; Resolutions to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again on Wednesday.