§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [13th May], "That the Bill be now road a second time."
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. HENNESSY
said, he rose to draw attention to a point of order connected with the second reading of the Customs and Inland Revenue Bill. The Bill contained certain clauses relating to Customs, and, as the House was aware, those clauses were based on Resolutions brought in in Committee of Ways and Means. According to the clauses relating to the tea duties, and to chicory, it appeared that certain duties on Customs would be levied on and after the year 1862, and, therefore, went beyond the current year. The Chicory Resolution distinctly specified that, up to a certain period in 1862, a certain rate should be charged, and that then there should be substituted a higher rate. Another point was, that these duties not only went beyond the current year, but that the Resolutions altering, extending, and, in some cases, totally repealing these Customs' duties, were not brought in according to the invariable practice of the House in Committee on the Customs Acts, but that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had, for the first time, brought in Resolutions of this nature in Committee of Ways and Means. Mr. May, in his book on Parliamentary practice, declared that the distinction between a Committee on the Customs Acts and a Committee of Ways and Means, with reference to the introduction of Resolutions on which a Bill was founded, was a very important distinction, because if the Bill were founded on Resolutions agreed to 2102 in Committee of Ways and Means hon. Members not being Members of the Government were precluded from making a Motion to alter the rate or duty, whereas, in the case of a Bill founded on Resolutions introduced in Committee on Customs' Acts they were not so precluded. By the course which had been taken, therefore, hon. Members were deprived of an undoubted right. Again, Mr. May stated—A Bill founded upon a Resolution of the Committee of Ways and Means is usually drawn in the form of a Bill of Aid and Supply; but a Bill founded upon the Resolution of another Committee is prepared and assented to by the Crown in the ordinary manner; and this circumstance may sometimes serve to indicate the proper course of proceeding when it is doubtful in what Committee a Bill should originate.Mr. Hatsell laid it down in the third volume of his Precedents that it was possible for such a Resolution as the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had introduced to be brought in in Committee of Ways and Means, but only when a specific instruction had been given by the House to the Committee of Ways and Means, and the case to which Mr. Hatsell referred in 1808 was a case in point. There, a Bill was founded on certain Resolutions agreed to in Committee of Ways and Means. One of those Resolutions was for reducing the Customs' duties on foreign ships by 2s. The then Chancellor of the Exchequer took the precaution of moving a special instruction to the Committee that they should consider the Orders in Council in Committee of Ways and Means, those orders including this specific duty. In the House of Lords it was objected by many eminent Members of the Whig party, that as the Bill was founded on Resolutions introduced in Committee of Ways and Means, and as the House of Lords was, therefore, not mentioned in the preamble of the Bill, it appeared as though it was a Bill proceeding solely from the House of Commons, and the Lords were, therefore, deprived of their privileges. The answer to that was, however, that a specific instruction had been moved by Mr. Perceval, and that that, therefore, permitted the breach of the usual practice. The question here was, whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not departed without authority from this practice in moving in Committee of Ways and Means the Resolution to which he had referred, and then founding a Bill upon them? Last year when a point somewhat similar occurred—when, owing to a mistake of the 2103 right hon. Gentleman, Resolutions agreed to in Committee of Ways and Means were reported on the same night as the Resolutions passed in Committee—the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie), called attention to the subject, the Speaker decided that it was irregular; and although the noble Lord at the head of the Government did not think it of much moment, all the proceedings were declared null and void, and the right hon. Gentleman withdrew the clauses, recommitted the Bill, and re-introduced it. Looking then at all the circumstances of the case and the total absence of precedent for what had now been done, he begged to ask the Speaker whether it was desirable that the Bill should be proceeded with in its present form?
§ MR. SPEAKER
Upon one point raised by the hon. Member—that relating to the power of the House to deal with the Resolutions agreed to in Committee of Ways and Means—I express no opinion; but with regard to the immediate question, all those Resolutions refer to Ways and Means for the services of the year. It is true that in one point they go beyond the services of the year, but they are all required for the services of the year, and, in my opinion, they properly form part of the Resolutions to be moved in Committee of Ways and Means.
§ MR. DU CANE
said, he wished, in the first instance, to dispel any impression there might be on the mind of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Monday evening that his object in moving the Adjournment of the Debate was needlessly to obstruct the further progress of his financial scheme. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman and the House that he was actuated by no such motive. It was very seldom, indeed, and always he might say with extreme reluctance, that he ventured to take any part in the discussions in that House, and he should not have done so on the present occasion had it not been for circumstances which he thought might give him some little claim to the indulgence of the House. Probably the House would be disposed to admit that, having been last year, he believed, the foremost to oppose the financial proposition of the right hon. Gentleman, it was but natural that he should take an opportunity of expressing his opinion of the general scope and bearing of the present scheme. He had sought that opportunity more than once during the progress of the debate, but with ill success; and, 2104 certainly, it would have been with great reluctance that he should have foregone that which appeared to him the last legitimate opportunity before the discussions finally ended in Committee, of stating his opinion, as briefly as he could, not so much on what might be termed the Constitutional aspect of the Bill, but on that also which he took to he the principal issue raised by the Bill—the main scope and policy of the Budget itself. And he was the more induced to persevere in his Motion for Adjournment, because it appeared to him that the debate had been conducted to a late hour, certainly with very great ability, and, moreover, with unflagging interest, and that, in addition, it had been, with one or two exceptions, carried on almost entirely by independent Members of the House. It was not his intention on that occasion to follow the course that was pursued on Monday night, and confine himself entirely to what might be called the Constitutional aspect of the measure. He had no wish to involve himself in a maze of precedents on all the mysteries of "tacking," or to go over the ground which he thought was most ably discussed on both sides of the House by eminent authorities, and which was most efficiently opened in a speech of marked ability by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sligo (Mr. Macdonogh). Whether the form of the Bill were constitutional or not might be very fairly said to be yet an open question, but about the motive which had led to the adoption of the present form there could be no doubt in the mind of any hon. Gentleman on that side of the House. That motive was very plainly stated to the House in the able and he might add the remarkably candid speech of the right hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham). He told the House that, in his opinion, the House of Lords had a perfect right to do what they did last year; but he said also, that he believed that, in the exercise of that right, they had gone to the full stretch of their prerogative. He intimated also—though he did not say it in so many words—that if the House of Lords had a similar opportunity given them this year, in all probability they would, looking to the general aspect of affairs and the previous pledges of the House with regard to taxation, have ventured to repeat the salutary lesson. "Desperate diseases, therefore," said the right hon. Baronet, "require desperate remedies; we must take a leaf out of our adversaries' book, and we also must 2105 go to the full stretch of our privileges. I call upon the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, therefore, to put all his propositions into one Bill—the House of Lords will never dare to contemplate the atrocity of rejecting a whole Budget; but if they do," added the right hon. Gentleman, "our course is clear—we can go to the hustings with our Budget in our hands, and we can meet our opponents' cry, "Tea v. Paper," by imputing to them the intention of exalting the power of the House of Lords at the expense of the just rights and privileges of the Commons." The right hon. Baronet was, as they all knew, an old and experienced electioneering tactician. He had raised other war cries before now on the hustings of Carlisle, and the one he had now started was, no doubt, a veritable "chip of the old block." But he had never heard that the right hon. Baronet's previous war cries had met with the signal success which he anticipated from them; and he might find, if the struggle came on this issue, that he had once again mistaken the feelings of the people. He might find that, while on the one hand the people viewed, in the stop taken by the House of Lords in the rejection of the Paper Duties Bill, a step based upon the principles of equity and forethought, so on the other hand they clearly saw in the so-called Budget of peace and conciliation a concealed spirit challenge and defiance, and the germs of a dangerous financial and Constitutional innovation.
Passing, however, to the financial aspect of the question, he thought the time had now gone by for disputing any longer the existence of a surplus, though he confessed that he could not very clearly understand the mysterious process by which an acknowledged deficiency of somewhere about £3,000,000 had been suddenly converted into a surplus of nearly £2,000,000. But since the present Chancellor of the Exchequer and the various ex-Chancellors of the Exchequer had agreed that, according to the right hon. Gentleman's showing, a surplus did exist, and as the noble Lord at the head of the Government had given the House solemn and repeated assurances that the daily more alarming aspect of affairs in America had been fully discounted in the Cabinet, it would be the height of presumption in him, inexperienced novice as he was in financial mysteries, any longer to doubt the fact. He would also assume that the estimates from the receipts of the 2106 Customs and Excise had been based on the certainty of a bad harvest last year, and on the uncertainty of a good harvest this year, and with a due consideration of the alarming aspect of European and American affairs. The serious misgivings, however, which he felt were not at all allayed by the knowledge that, according to the last reports from the agricultural districts, the breadth of wheat sown was considerably below the average, nor by the recollection that if it had not been for the enormous importation of corn during the past winter from America we should have been almost in a state of famine. But the House had been told repeatedly in the course of the debate that prospective legislation in matters of finance had gone out of date, and that the proper principle on which to construct a Budget was "sufficient for the day is the evil thereof." Not wishing, therefore, to be behind the fashion he would open his mouth, shut his eyes, and swallow the surplus, and he would have been very glad for the sake of peace and quietness, if possible, to swallow the entire Budget with it; but there was one point at which his powers of digestion utterly failed him, and that was the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to dispose of his surplus. Though there was a marked difference in the construction of the Budgets of this and last year, the ultimate end and scope of both were the same—the repeal of the paper duty at all hazards and in spite of all consequences. Having failed last year to repeal the paper duty at the expense of the income tax, the right hon. Gentleman now invested his old friend with an entirely new face, and attempted to cajole the House under the somewhat specious appearance of meting out the same measure to direct and indirect taxation into sanctioning the abolition of the paper duty. But he must confess that, in that somewhat pitiable abolition of a penny of the tax he did not see any material guarantee for its further reduction. What, if for a moment he might he allowed to allude to it, was the history of that tenth penny? Last year, in that year of grace, when all persons were fondly looking forward to the extinction of the income tax, the right hon. Gentleman suddenly electrified the House and country by stating that what they had really pledged themselves to was a reduction of indirect taxation, which could only be effected by a large increase of the income tax. The tenth penny was avowedly imposed to en- 2107 able them to effect the abolition of the paper duty. When, therefore, the retention of the paper duty was resolved on last year, if the Estimates of the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been correct, they might, with perfect justice, have insisted upon the immediate reduction of the tenth penny. He ventured to maintain, therefore, that, as far as the income tax was concerned, the right hon. Gentleman was simply calling upon them to be grateful for nothing at all, inasmuch as the tenth penny ought not to be in existence at the present moment. The amount of the income tax ought properly speaking to have stood at 9d. The reduction, if there was any reduction at all, ought to be from 9d. to 8d.; and the real issue which was raised by the Budget was not, as the right hon. Gentleman had artfully put it, whether they should treat direct and indirect taxation on the same impartial footing, reducing both pari passu whenever an opportunity occurred, but whether they were to maintain taxes which were imposed for the exceptional purposes of war at a rate which was oppressive and burdensome to the whole community, in order to abolish, in the interest of one class alone, an elastic and expanding source of revenue. That was the immediate issue raised by the Budget, and which so far simply as far as it affected the relative merits of tea and paper, had been decided on this day fortnight. But, beyond that, there was another and a far more serious question pending their decision, and it was this:—Were they, by giving their assent to the Budget in its present shape, to sanction the existing tendency towards a gradual but entire substitution of direct for indirect taxation? The time was gone by for entering into elaborate statistics with regard to the effect of former reductions of Customs and Excise duties. But he had been entirely unable to understand several of the arguments advanced by the other side of the House, and more especially by the right hon. Gentleman himself. He was utterly unable to understand why, if, as the right hon. Gentleman stated in the debate on the tea duties against the paper duties, the postponement of a reduction of taxation upon an article of consumption for a short period after the House had resolved on that reduction had the effect of causing a complete paralysis of trade, it should not have the same effect in the case of paper as in the case of tea. And he was also unable completely to un- 2108 derstand why, if the effect of reducing a duty upon an article of consumption was virtually to maintain the price of that article to the consumer for years to come, they had been advocates for the last twenty years of the remission of indirect taxation. These were the main arguments in favour of the abolition of the paper duty as against that on tea, and such arguments, as far as he could see, went to establish the expediency of the abolition of direct taxation and the maintenance of the present system of indirect taxation. But if one point more than another had been made clear, not merely from previous experience, but from the arguments which had been adduced on both sides of the House in the course of the debate, it was that if they reduced the duty on any article of consumption, in a year or two, or a very few years at most, the increased consumption had the effect of restoring the balance of the revenue; whereas, if they entirely abolished the duty upon any article of Excise, even though they might partially benefit the trade which they proposed to relieve, years must elapse before the gap in the revenue was finally supplied. Another point which he thought had also been very clearly established was that, if they merely reduced a duty, in the event of a sudden emergency they could retrace their steps; but if they entirely abolished a duty, the Rubicon was fairly passed and retreat was impossible. They knew by sad experience the engine to which alone they could have recourse to meet a great deficiency. They were called upon by the Budget to maintain the income tax at what he had shown to be virtually an undiminished rate, to break faith with the country on the subject of the tea and sugar duties, and to abolish the paper duties. This year paper won the day as against dear tea and high income tax. But next year they would, in all probability, have the Chancellor of the Exchequer advocating, with all the force of his crushing rhetoric, the claims of the poor for cheap tea. The fight would be between cheap tea and high income tax, and it needed little foresight to predict that tea would win at the expense of the income tax. Thus they would progress year by year, cutting off one by one the indirect sources of revenue, and either creating a surplus by forced and unwarrantable reductions of the national expenditure, or repairing a deficiency by adding to the incubus of direct taxation, until at last the day would come when the weight of direct 2109 taxation would be too intolerable to be borne, and they would find too late that, in shifting the national burdens, they had arrested the progress of industry and driven the capital of the country to seek on a more friendly soil a safer investment.
As regarded the abstract question, he was perfectly willing to admit that the paper duty possessed many of the objectionable features of Excise duties in general. But that was not the point which was raised for their decision. All taxes were, after all, simply matters of comparison. Mr. Gregg, an able writer on the first principles of taxation, said—All taxes are objectionable. Almost every tax we ever heard of is either inequitable in its nature, or fetters commerce, or stimulates to fraud, or is costly in the collection, or is irritating to the temper, or combines several or all of these objections. All that is left to us is a choice of evils. It is no sufficient reason, therefore, for rejecting or repealing a tax that it is open to one or more of the above charges.In his own opinion the plain and simple question as to the Paper Duty was whether it was the tax the remission of which was most desired by the country, or the abolition of which would effect the greatest good in the country. They could have no better criterion on that point than the unanimity which existed among the trade which it was proposed to relieve. There were some taxes with regard to the remission of which those upon whom they were levied were perfectly unanimous. Those who were engaged in the cultivation of hops were perfectly unanimous on the subject of the repeal of the hop duties. If they went to any assembly of 400 or 500 farmers, and asked them what remission of taxation would confer the greatest benefit, they would answer with one accord, "A remission of the malt-tax." If the question between tea and paper were fairly put to the working classes, he was sure their answer would be equally unanimous in favour of a remission of the tea duty. But could it be said that the same amount of unanimity existed among those who were affected by the paper duty? Were the paper manufacturers unanimous for a remission of the duty? No; they were not. Were the booksellers? There was a strong party whose convictions were the other way. Were the stationers? If they were unanimous at all, they were unanimous for a retention of the duty. He bad received a letter, which had probably also been put into the hands of other Members, 2110 from a stationer in a large way of business, in which he said—I take the liberty to ask you to vote against the repeal of the paper duty. I am a stationer. I sell a good deal of paper, and am in the habit of meeting with many persons in the stationery trade, and we are all of opinion that the repeal of the duty would be an evil to us, and not any perceptible benefit to the public.And he wound up by saying—Myself and the persons employed here—about 70 hands—would hail with much satisfaction the repeal of the duties on tea and sugar.He wanted to know where was the class which was unanimous for, or would be so greatly benefited by, a repeal of the paper duty. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) and others had been eloquent on the case of the small paper manufacturers in the rural districts, whoso mills were represented as virtually extinguished by the grinding tyranny and oppression of the Excise duty. He believed that if the paper duty were repealed to-morrow not a single small paper manufactory would start again into existence. What bad virtually extinguished those small manufactories was not so much the grinding tyranny of the Excise duty as that gradual and inevitable law which directed the progress of machinery improvement, and gradually guided all the manufactures of the country into the hands of large capitalists. They might trace the operation of that not only in the manufacturing districts, but in the most improving agricultural provinces, in the consolidation of small farms and the gradual extinction of small farmers. It was to be observed in England and France in the gradual removal of the manufactures of linen and silk from the rural districts, and in the advice which bad recently been given by the French Government to the papermakers of Brittany, Auvergne, and elsewhere, to give up their small factories and to concentrate their capital on large undertakings. He believed that nine out of ten papermakers would declare that it was not the pressure of the Excise duty which had produced the present depression of their trade, but the conduct of those who, when engaged in the negotiation of that famous reciprocity treaty, chose to leave them exposed to unlimited competition with foreign manufacturers, and though they might have made what terms they pleased with the French Government neglected to make any stipulation whatever towards relieving from an almost prohibitory duty on what 2111 was their best and almost their only raw material. Of all the fallacies connected with the subject the greatest was the idea that the repeal of the paper duty would afford great encouragement to the cultivation of flax and would open up a market for agricultural refuse. Flax was an exceedingly exhausting crop, and there were few parts of England where the soil was specially adapted for its cultivation. Even if it were to be generally grown, it could not be turned to much account without costly machinery and more extensive means of transport than were usually to be found in a rural district. It was a positive fact, that almost every experiment that had been made with a view to utilizing agricultural refuse had been a signal failure. A company was started a few years ago in the neighbourhood of Peterborough for the manufacture of paper out of twitch; a large capital was subscribed and laid out in expensive machinery, but the undertaking had proved such a complete failure that the original £10 shares were now selling at the somewhat reduced price of 2s. 6d. In conclusion, let him (Mr. DuCane) be allowed to observe that, in his opinion, the case for the retention of the paper duty was even stronger than last Session, because every year added to the weight of that obligation to reduce the taxes which were fixed at a high rate for the exceptional purposes of war, to which nearly all the Members of the present Cabinet were substantially committed long before the vague and shadowy paper Resolution was passed. That was a strong reason last year, but it is stronger by far this year, when the people were suffering from a bad harvest, and the commodities on which these taxes were levied were at once the necessaries and the luxuries of the whole mass of the labouring community. He must confess that the dislike with which he viewed this feature of the Budget was only equalled by his extreme regret. He regretted the more because he could not but see that it was intended as a peace offering and a salve to the wounded feelings of a certain section of extreme politicians, whose dangerous influence on the constitutional and financial policy of the country he had fondly hoped was slightly on the decline. He viewed in that concession at the present moment a step towards that system of financial confiscation the broad outline of which was given with all the touches of the master artist in certain almost forgot- 2112 ten Liverpool and Birmingham manifestoes. It was now some eight years since an able writer, to whom he had already alluded in the course of the debate, uttered the following words of warning against the tendency which was even then manifested towards the repeal of taxes for mere hustings popularity:—It is essential to our future safety and good government that all leaders of public opinion, whether in Parliament or in the press, should take a deliberate view of the solemn responsibilities attached to their position, and, warned by indications of the dangerous tendency of an opposite course, should resolve to abstain in future—whatever temporary triumph they may have to forego—from arousing that 'ignorant impatience of taxation,' which, if carried much further and persevered in much longer, bids fair to end in rendering the wise and safe administration of this great Empire a task almost impossible…. Already it is difficult to maintain inviolate sources of revenue which every man, with the slightest insight into public business, knows to be perfectly indispensable. Already, on more than one occasion, legislators whose class-sympathies overpowered their sense of imperial necessities, or whose thirst for popularity was stimulated by an approaching dissolution, have voted the repeal of taxes which it was impossible to spare, and have been compelled to rescind the idle and disreputable vote.More than eight years had now elapsed since those words were written, and he thought that they not inaptly pointed the moral and adorned the tale of their present financial position. He trusted that they would have the courage and foresight to do for themselves this year what they left last year to the courage and foresight of others to do elsewhere—correct the evils of a Budget based on principles of party, and not calculated to satisfy the just expectations of the people of the country. He trusted that the House would take warning even at the eleventh hour by those words, and save themselves from the pitfall on the brink of which they were now standing.
§ SIR WILLIAM HEATHCOTE
said, he did not rise to dispute the financial considerations which had been so ably submitted to them by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, because he confessed that, after the best consideration he had been able to give to the subject, he was confirmed in the view which he had taken of the question a fortnight before. On a fair comparison of the relative claims of tea and paper, he still felt the Budget was not so safe as it would have been if framed on the principles urged by Gentlemen on his side of the House. But the present debate had gone for the most part on different considerations—on the relations be- 2113 tween that House and the House of Lords. As he had the misfortune of differing from several Gentlemen who had spoken, he wished to take that opportunity of stating his opinion on that part of the subject, and he felt bound to say that he saw nothing unconstitutional in the form of the Bill. He was emboldened to make that assertion by the fact that his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole), who was absent from indisposition, took the same view. If that right hon. Gentleman had been present he should have rested content to leave to him the expression of that opinion; but as he (Mr. Walpole) was unfortunately suffering from indisposition, which disabled him from addressing the House, it became necessary for him (Sir William Heathcote) to express the opinion in favour of which he was enabled to claim the high authority of his right hon. Friend. The question appeared to him to be one which ought to be considered judicially, and, therefore, without reference to party considerations, he must state his opinion that the course adopted by Her Majesty's Government with regard to the Bill was quite in accordance with Parliamentary rules and regulations. Having had the honour to serve upon the Committee which was appointed last Session to consider the precedents and to advise the House as to the rights and duties in reference to money Bills of the Houses of Lords and Commons respectively, he came to the conclusion, which was afterwards so ably enforced by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, that the House of Lords had, in rejecting the Bill for the repeal of the duty on paper, only exercised a legitimate portion of their authority; but the facts which were ascertained by that Committee left upon his mind an impression as distinct of the rights of the House of Commons, to maintain which he was as determined as he had been to respect those of the House of Lords. The decision of the question now at issue turned upon the construction to be placed upon a Resolution passed by the Lords in December 1702, and acquiesced in by the Commons from that time to this, that no matter should be tacked to a Bill of Aid or Supply which was not connected with the subject-matter of Supply. A body of precedents showed how that rule had been understood by both Houses. Its interpretation is to be found in the usage of the House of Commons, acquiesced in by the House of Lords, as 2114 being in accordance with their Resolution; and this usage has been, on the one hand, to abstain from combining in one Bill with Aid and Supply anything not in pari materiâ and, on the other hand, to combine without scruple in one Bill various kinds of Aid and Supply, and even enactments in reference to them so different in character from each other as the repeal of existing, and the imposition of new taxes. It is said, indeed, that modern usuage has been so far different as that it has become common to find each tax dealt with in a separate Bill, and it is inferred that this separation expresses the correct interpretation of the Resolution of the House of Lords against tacking. But the answer to this is two-fold. First that the earlier precedents are of greater value than the recent. from the very fact of their having occurred while the jealousies between the two Houses insured watchfulness. It may be safely assumed that such a combination of different matters in one Bill, as the Lords did not consider to be an unparliamentary tack, when they were most on their guard against encroachment, and when they best remembered and understood their own meaning in their Resolution, ought not to be considered such in modern times, merely because it may have been intermitted for a time. Secondly, that the modern precedents do not really lead to the inference which is sought from them. If, indeed, the variation had been in the other direction, and subjects not in pari materiâ had been habitually tacked to Supply Bills; the argument, as against the Lords, and in proof of the modification of their Resolution, would have been strong, indeed, for their acquiescence in such adverse action of the other House. But that the House of Commons should, at their own pleasure, and under no pressure from the Lords vary their mode of action, and oven habitually deal with only one duty in a Bill, leads to no inference of increased strictness in the rule against tacking, with reference to the House of Lords, but only to one in favour of the existence of some reason operating within the House of Commons itself; and this reason is not far to seek. Originally many taxes were granted annually, and in those times duties of the most different kinds were dealt with in the same Bill, but by degrees a system was introduced of voting taxes permanently instead of annually, until there was only the duty on sugar which had to be imposed every year, and thus the Supply 2115 Bills became gradually of a much more simple character, and, finally, the sugar duty also became permanent. If hon. Members would look to what had occurred during the last century and the beginning of the present one they would find that the first duties of Customs and Excise, before there existed an income tax, were dealt with in one Bill, then a tax in the nature of an income tax upon pensions and offices was combined with Customs and Excise in one Bill. Nay, further they would find that at various times different taxes were repealed, imposed, or modified, all by the same measure, and under the preamble of a Bill of Supply. The Bill in which Mr. Pitt first imposed the income tax was a repealing as well as an enacting Bill, because it repealed assessed taxes to a heavy amount, which he had previously imposed. The famous Budget of the same statesman which followed the conclusion of the French Treaty, which had no less than four objects—the consolidation, repeal, and imposition of duties, and the giving effect to the Treaty with France, all combined in one Bill will be in the recollection of all the House; but it is important to refer to it because in that case, his mode of proceeding was questioned in both Houses. In the House of Commons an objection was raised, and the course taken on that occasion was that which ought to have been adopted now if objection to the form of the Bill was to be taken at all—namely, that of moving an Instruction to the Committee to divide the Bill into two Bills. That was not, however, done on behalf of the privileges of the House of Lords, but was suggested by friends of Mr. Pitt and supporters of all parts of his measure, as being for the convenience of the House of Commons. That was fully debated and negatived. The Bill went up to the House of Lords, and there the question was distinctly raised by Lord Carlisle, as to whether the introduction of the measure in that form was not a violation of the privileges of that House as defined by the Resolution of 1702, and subsequent usage? It was debated, and was decided in the negative. There are many other precedents, but those which he had cited were enough to show that the only consideration by which that House need be guided as to the combination or separation of duties in a Bill of Supply was regard to its own convenience. That convenience would vary with the circumstances of each year. 2116 The circumstances of last year were very different from those of this. Last year there was a great dispute whether the Government was not throwing away a vast amount of revenue, the raising of which had been rendered necessary by circumstances which had occurred since the introduction of the Budget. The House of Commons felt that argument to be so strong that they passed the Bill for the repeal of the paper duty by a narrow and, he suspected, an unwilling majority. The House of Lords acted upon that ground, and, without reference to the question between the two Houses, with which the country did not much concern itself. The general opinion was that the decision of the Lords was in substance right. But in this year the House of Commons had decided that a certain amount of taxation could be spared by a vote which must be taken as unanimous, inasmuch as those who voted on opposite sides for the reduction of different duties alike agreed in the recognition of the surplus. If, therefore, they sent up to the House of Lords a Bill dealing with a surplus unanimously admitted by the House of Commons, the House of Lords might think them wrong as to the particular tax proposed to be remitted, with which opinion, he was bound to say, his own perfectly coincided—but they could hardly regard it as any slight upon them that the measure should go before them in its present shape. He disclaimed any concurrence in the proposals of the Budget, against which he had indeed voted, but the House having decided by a majority to adopt it, he had to consider only the mode in which it was to be submitted to the other House. Upon that point he had no hesitation in saying that he did not view the proposed measure as calculated in any way to trench on the privileges of the House of Lords.
(who was indistinctly heard) said, that a great portion of the debate on the second reading of the Bill had turned on a supposed invasion of the privileges of that House by the House of Lords. His belief was that the privileges of the House of Commons were in far greater danger from an attack from within than from an attack from without. It had been laid down that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer assumed that he had a surplus it was the duty of the House to accept that statement without inquiry. Now, he said that by doing so the House would not only be abandoning a privilege, but ne- 2117 glecting a duty. It was their duty in his opinion to inquire most strictly into the financial statements of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and past experience of what had taken place in that House would not bear them out in abstaining from such inquiries. What, for instance, had happened with respect to the previous Budget? He had been astonished at the triumphant tone adopted by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer in bringing forward his last Budget. The right hon. Gentleman had appealed to them to know what had become of those prophets who had predicted a deficiency. What had become of them? Why, their predictions had been verified to the very letter. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to have forgotten the period when those prophecies were made, and what had occurred since. When the previous Budget was introduced he had himself ventured to doubt the accuracy of the Estimates for military expenditure, particularly as connected with the war in China. The right hon. Gentleman said that there was then no war in China—that it was a mere armed expedition intended to carry out the treaty. But, call it by what name they pleased, the £500,000 first asked for had been spent upon it, and if there had been no war in China it would have been equally necessary to come to that House for a Vote. The right hon. Gentleman afterwards asked for a Vote of Credit for £3,800,000, a portion of which had nothing whatever to do with the war in China, and which ought to have been known and provided for at the time the Budget was brought forward. Besides that, the right hon. Gentleman had the paper duty forced upon him, contrary to his own wish; and yet, with all that extra revenue, there was an excess of expenditure over income to the amount of something like £2,500,000. If that was not a deficiency sufficient to satisfy the right hon. Gentleman, he must he very difficult indeed to please. It was not to be supposed that, if they had this year a revenue equal to that of last year, which was calculated to meet a war expenditure, there would be another deficit; but it was to have been expected that the right hon. Gentleman would have provided for the payment of some of the debts which had been incurred last year before he sought to extinguish permanent sources of taxation. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had better means of calculating the probable re- 2118 venue than other hon. Members; and the question as to the mode of appropriating the anticipated surplus had already been decided by the House. But it was obvious to everybody that the reality of that surplus would depend quite as much upon the actual expenditure as upon the revenue itself. He wished, therefore, to call attention to one or two points not hitherto touched, and on which he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would afford some explanation. And, first, he had to notice a very great omission, not only in the present financial statement, but in the Budgets of all Chancellors of the Exchequer—namely, the absence of any reference to the state of the accounts between the Indian and the British Governments. It might be said the Government were not yet able to give correct information on that subject, but, surely, the accounts for the Persian expedition and the former Chinese war might by that time have been ready to be produced. It was the more important that the House should understand this matter, because the right hon. Gentleman had said he did not think it necessary to provide for any charge the payment of which would not fall within the year; and he had admitted that in bringing forward his Budget for last year he had not provided for a large claim made by the Indian Government, although a Committee of that House had pointed out that it was not proper to carry on war with China at the expense of the Indian revenue. True, it might neither be wise nor just to add to the taxation of the country for the purpose of meeting a claim which might not fall within the year; but, if there was such a charge in existence, the House ought to be made fully and fairly acquainted with it. He could not expect the right hon. Gentleman, without receiving previous notice, to enter into all the accounts now open between the Indian and British Governments; but, perhaps, some information tion would be afforded the House as to the state of the accounts between those two Governments in respect of the recent Chinese war. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that of the Vote of £3,800,000 about £800,000 was unexpended, but that there were claims which would nearly come up to that amount. The right hon. Gentleman also told them in March that the Indian Government had been paid £1,111,000. Now, he wanted to know whether any other sum paid to the Indian Government was included in the 2119 £3,000,000 of the Vote of Credit which had been expended upon the recent Chinese war? He also wished to learn what was the estimated charge due from the British Government to the Indian Government, on account of that war. He further desired to know whether, in the anticipated claims, amounting to about the sum of 800,000, credit had been given for any excess of expenditure over the money voted for the ordinary Estimates of the year. Because he must give the right hon. Gentleman fair notice, as he had done last year, that in Votes 2, 3, 4, 9, and 10, for the army, there would be an excess of expenditure over the Estimates voted by Parliament. The effective British establishment for 1860–61 was 142,000 men, and the money voted in the Estimates was £7,479,000. Comparing that with the actual expenditure of the previous year, or with the estimated expenditure for this year, there would be a deficiency of upwards of £200,000. Reckoning the cost of their effective establishment at £54 4s. 7d., the usual rate, per man, the sum required would be £7,700,000, which would leave a deficiency of about £220,000. They had commenced the year with 3,000 or 4,000 more men than they had taken money to pay for. The hon. Under Secretary for War said he did not believe that any troops would be sent to China for whom provision had not been made in the Estimates, and yet within a month after making that statement a Vote of Credit for a million was taken to provide for expenses which it had been stated were already provided for. There was another point of expenditure to which he desired to call attention. He had pointed out to the hon. Under Secretary for War that the Indian Government would be entitled to repayment of £17 for every man whom they sent home in excess of the establishment. The hon. Gentleman then said that an arrangement had been come to between the Home and the Indian Government, and that no more payments on that account would be made. He (General Peel) gave notice of an address for the production of the terms of the arrangement, but he found that they could not be given, as the matter was not then concluded, but was still under consideration, and in any case could not take effect until May 1. It was obvious, therefore, that the Indian Government was entitled to repayments for all troops sent to China and sent home up to that date. 2120 He made these remarks, not because he wished to cast doubt upon the existence of a surplus, but to throw upon the Government the responsibility of the surplus, and that the House might not be told at some future time that unforeseen charges had come upon the Exchequer. He had pointed out these matters to the right hon. Gentleman, who he trusted would give the House some explanations concerning them.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, I have listened with great satisfaction to some of the statements of my right hon. and gallant Friend. My right hon. and gallant Friend commenced by saying that the surplus—that is, the prospective estimate of a surplus, must be assumed as a matter of fact for the guidance of the proceedings of this House. He has, likewise, given his assent to the principle which it has been my duty to lay down, which, although it has been received by some hon. Gentlemen as though it were an unheard-of novelty, is really little more than a financial truism—that it is the duty of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make provision during the year of the charges becoming payable during the year, and it is his duty to make provision for no more than those charges. And my right hon. and gallant Friend also said, with candour and fairness, that he does not dispute the application of the surplus because he considered that that bad been settled by the vote of the House. Then he asked me certain questions as to military charges, which I will notice in detail. My right hon. and gallant Friend says, and I agree with him, that it is a great evil that we should have from time to time to deal with unclosed accounts involving very large sums between the Indian and the British Governments. He knows well from his own experience that the reformation of a system of this kind is a matter that cannot be effected in a day or a year; nor will I undertake to say when the accounts between the two Governments for operations which have been carried on at a distance of 15,000 miles will be brought into such a state as shall be thoroughly satisfactory. All I have to observe in mitigation of his apprehensions upon the subject is that when I say that vast sums of money are involved in these accounts I do not say that all these sums are in the nature of unsettled claims; on the contrary, the balances of accounts that may be brought out may be comparatively small, although the accounts themselves may be very large. 2121 Moreover, I ventured to say, and I repeat now, that, as far as I am able to give information, there never was or rarely has been a time when the state of those accounts has been more favourable to the British as compared with the Indian Government than at present. Now, as to the particular questions of my right hon. Friend, I find, from reference to the accounts of the revenue, that no further claims have been paid to the Indian Government since April 1, nor has any payment been made within that period under the head of the Vote of Credit for China. Therefore, as far as I can say, without reference to any one, my impression is that the payments to the Indian Government stand where they did at the time when I stated them at between £1,100,000 and £1,200,000. That statement included payments which had been ordered at the time, but which, as I am informed, were not made for a day or two after, but which are, nevertheless, included in it. My right hon. and gallant Friend also asked me whether any payments have been made on account of claims of the East Indian Government previous to the late China war? Yes, Sir; if I remember rightly, about £440,000, speaking in round numbers, was a claim provided for under the Vote of Credit in July last—a claim which my right hon. and gallant Friend says I must have been aware of in February, but which, as far as I can judge, I had no means of being aware of at that time, it being dependant upon a settlement of our accounts with others which were then, I imagine, dragging their slow length along, in a correspondence between India and Great Britain, and I had no means of knowing when it would fall due. I am not aware of any other payments, but I will not say absolutely that none have been made. My right hon. and gallant Friend challenges me as to the provision made for an excess of the army Votes, and states that, in his opinion, upon certain Votes there will be great excess. I must leave the explanations upon those points to my hon. Friend the Under Secretary for War, but I must take the liberty to make one remark. My right hon. and gallant Friend feels great apprehensions that the provision we have made for the public expenditure is very unsatisfactory, and will make a considerable inroad upon the surplus, and at the same time he gave his authority, and the weight of his name and example, in conjunction with 280 other Gentlemen, to take away 2122 from our surplus £285,000 more than we proposed. I think that proposition requires some explanation from my right hon. and gallant Friend when he next addresses us upon this subject,
I do not propose to enter now into any of the personal matters which have occurred in the course of this debate. Some of them, relating to myself, I think I shall do best to pass by. There are others—such as the impeachment by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire of what I said upon the subject of the public expenditure, and the former declarations by me as to tea and sugar—which I place in quite a different category. I think those are fair matters of attack and controversy, and it is only my respect for the House, and my unwillingness to occupy its time in personal explanations, that prevents me at the present moment from entering into those matters; but I will venture to state my conviction that I could well prove to the House, by recalling facts, that the declarations I made in 1857 on the subject of the tea and sugar duties are in entire accordance with what I have stated upon every subsequent occasion. I pass that by for the present, however, as a matter of personal controversy, which is not worthy the attention of the House. I feel it my duty to notice what is called the constitutional principle, because I cannot but feel that I have some especial responsibility as the Finance Minister for the plan of the Government now before the House, and for the particular mode of arrangement that has been adopted in presenting that plan. At the same time, I do not touch upon this question because any further argument is needed upon it, for let the House recollect how the weight of argument and authority runs. My hon. Friend and Colleague (Sir William Heathcote) having voted with hon. Gentlemen opposite upon the subject of the Budget, as a financial plan, has told us to-night, and has supported his opinion by reasoning, that he thinks the mode of presenting the financial scheme as a single measure, which we have adopted, is a sound and constitutional mode. He has, likewise, authoritatively informed us that he gives that opinion not only in his own name, but in that of his and my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Walpole), whose souud judgment and calm mind must have the greatest weight in this case, because he was last year the chairman of the Committee which considered the sub- 2123 ject, to which he applied himself with the greatest diligence. And, lastly, I am bound to say that we are acting upon the direct invitation and under the direct authority of the right hon. Gentleman himself and of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli). I do not desire to quote nor to speak of that which is history, and I have not heard the right hon. Gentleman opposite forswear the opinions of last year. I am not surprised that issue has not been raised upon the other side, because if it had been so raised, and the course pursued by the Government is challenged, I should claim, and shall claim, the vote of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire. Nevertheless, I think it will be well to take more particular notice than has yet been taken of the propositions which were so clearly and so well laid down by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Sligo (Mr. Macdonogh). I must say, with the opinion I entertain of the poverty and barrenness of materials which the hon. and learned Gentleman had at his command, I can the more conscientiously pay him a very sincere compliment for the manner in which he has handled these scanty materials. I have no doubt, he recollects, as we all recollect, with what inimitable skill, when the master of Ravenswood was in distress, Caleb Balderstone, having no provisions of any kind in the house, nevertheless, did undertake to serve without notice a first-rate banquet; and I do not think Caleb Balderstone himself could, either in diligence, in hearty goodwill, or in success, have surpassed the operation of the hon. and learned Gentleman, As he has dealt so fairly with the case, and has laid down his opinions in distinct propositions, I will endeavour to meet him with distinct propositions also. I concede to him, as has been done by my right hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham), his first proposition, that there is no instance upon record of a financical Bill rejected by the Lords being afterwards sent up and passed by them in a Bill of Supply. I make that concession freely and without reserve, but I call upon the hon. and learned Member for a reciprocal concession, that not only is there no instance, but there could not possibly be such an instance, because there never has been a case of rejection by the House of Lords of a financial Bill resembling in its essential characteristics the Bill for the Repeal of the Paper 2124 Duty. Passing from that, I do not think I need detain the House by discussing the question of tacking. In the early history of this country "tacking" was a common practice. When the House of Commons were weak, when their privileges were ill-established, they made use of it as a weapon, and perhaps in some sense and in those times as a legitimate weapon, of self-defence. Possibly it may be said that we retain a very faint relic of that state of things in the rule which still prevails, that when it is proposed to grant Supply to Her Majesty, or when the Motion is made to go into Committee of Ways and Means, any discussion, however irrelevant, may legitimately and conformably be raised by any Member of the House. On the general subject of "tacking" I think we entirely understand one another, and I make this concession to the hon. and learned Gentleman, that when Her Majesty's Government shall come down to the House and shall attach and append to a financial Bill some proposition with which it has but a slight and casual conformity, I hope he will be found in his place to expose so monstrous an attempt; and, no doubt, with the excellent case which be will have in his hands he will gain over us a very conspicuous triumph. But the proposition, as stated by my hon. and learned Friend, is, whether the question of joining proposals essentially homogeneous can, by any amount of ingenuity, or any amount of prejudice, be confounded with that which is essentially distinct, but which is the very point that is now at issue—namely, whether the proposals joined together are such as have no natural cohesion? Let me look at the cases cited by the hon. and learned Gentleman, because, although he has taken great pains, I do not think he has taken the trouble necessary to obtain a full mastery of the subject. It was not likely, I am afraid, that the hon. and learned Gentleman would have done me the honour to consult me on the best mode of ascertaining what had been the practice of the House of Commons with regard to the combination of financial subjects; but had he done so I should have been obliged to advise him to go through precisely the same process which I myself have undergone—namely, to look over the titles of all the statutes passed since the Restoration, and then, picking out those which have reference to finance, to observe for himself, from year to year, the component parts of those statutes. Though that 2125 operation is not an agreeable one I am quite certain that the hon. and learned Gentleman, if he had performed it, would not have made the speech which we heard from him. I will take his main propositions founded on the particular cases which he advanced. He quoted a case of 1676, where the effect of a vote of the House of Commons—before the Revolution—undoubtedly was to decide against the combination of a grant of money with an Appropriation Bill; and that was the first point which he laid down. I hold in my hand a list of no less than eighteen Acts of Parliament—the titles of which are at the service of the hon. and learned Gentleman—all of which are in the eighteenth century, since the Revolution, and every one of these combines grants of money with the appropriation of the Supplies of the year. So completely was the hon. and learned Gentleman misled by having—as he thought luckily, but as I think unluckily—hit upon an old case in which a Vote was passed contrary to the well-established practice of later times and more matured constitutional principle—that he has overlooked the crowd of cases which I do not doubt might be greatly enlarged, all of them going directly in the teeth of his own fundamental proposition. The 10th of Anne, cap. 36, begins by granting an augmentation of duties; goes on to grant new duties; then enacts various matters for the regulation of trade; and ends by appropriating the whole of the monies granted in that Session of Parliament. That disposes, I think, of the case of 1676, and the principle founded upon it. Then the hon. and learned Gentleman dwelt largely on another case, which I venture to think he had not sufficiently examined, and with respect to which he was evidently misled by the first aspect of the words which he read: I mean the case of 1807. I find another of the hon. and learned Gentleman's propositions was that you could not combine a grant of money in a taxing Bill with provisions dealing with Exchequer bills. The hon. and learned Gentleman found operations connected with Exchequer bills referred to, and naturally jumped to the conclusion that they were financial operations; he saw also that they were disconnected from the other portions of the measure, and that the Bill was reintroduced in a different shape, and he, accordingly, laid down that to combine operations in regard of Exchequer bills with taxes was a "tack" and could not be 2126 admitted. Here, again, I can only say the hon. and learned Gentleman is in the most distinct contradiction to the established practice of Parliament as shown by many Acts, with the list of whose titles I can supply him—the Act of the 8th of George the First is one of them—in which the granting of taxes is combined in the Act itself with full authority to levy Exchequer bills—that is to say, to contract debt on the part of the country. In the very interesting case of 1807, of which the hon. and learned Gentleman, if he will allow me to say so, has entirely mistaken the purport, a financial question of considerable magnitude was involved; namely, the attempt to combine certain provisions of a purely financial character with other provisions for removing doubts with reference to the legality of certain Exchequer Bonds. There are those in this country—there certainly is at least one noble Lord, with whom no small part of the merit and virtue of the British Constitution consists in those provisions of the law under which an independent authority at the head of the office of the Exchequer is established as a cheek on the financial proceedings of the Treasury. Be that important in the highest degree, or unimportant, it is no doubt capable of argument that such is in principle a very important control, and that, being established by law, any alteration of the law is not a financial matter. Now, the ease which had arisen was this. Lord Granville, being invested on the part of the Exchequer with that responsible check on the Treasury, happened himself to become head of the Board of Treasury, and great doubt arose how far he, or any person authorized by him, could be permitted to sign Exchequer bills, which were issued from the Exchequer under the authority of the Treasury. The question raised was evidently one of law, if not of constitutional law, and was as distinct from finance, although it happened to touch on Exchequer bills, as if some man had been on his trial in a court of justice for forging Exchequer bills, which certainly would not have been a matter of finance. That is the true interpretation of the case of 1807. But the hon. and learned Gentleman laid down another principle, that you could not combine in one and the same Act of Supply the grant and repeal of taxes. There I meet him, in the first instance, by referring to the declaration made by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Rolt) who followed him on his own side of the House, 2127 and who examined the statutes for the first twenty years of the present century. Why the hon. and learned Member limited himself to so short a range I do not know, but I am satisfied with the result of his inquiry; for he discussed this question of the grant and repeal of taxes, and said that in the course of those twenty years he found eighteen or twenty cases in which taxes had been granted and repealed by the same Act. If the hon. and learned Gentleman, the Member for Sligo, wishes for particular cases they are very easily found. In point of fact, everything that is done by this Bill in the way of combination is entirely supported by precedent. But much more also is supported by precedent than is done in the way of combination by this Bill. I will give, first of all, to the hon. and learned Gentleman, certain cases where the granting and repealing taxes has been combined together in a Supply Bill. In 1695 there was a repeal of duties on coal, culm, and tonnage; other duties were granted in the same Act. In 1777 there was a grant of duties on servants and on glass, and there was a simultaneous repeal of another set of duties on glass and on certain persons and bodies corporate. In 1798 the great case occurred where Pitt repealed the assessed taxes and granted the income tax. In 1807 there was a repeal of duty, in Ireland, on beer and ale, together with a grant of various duties, showing a combination of the grant and repeal of taxes; and instances, I believe, might be multiplied almost without number. Let us look at two cases separated by 100 years to show the immense range over which this power of combination extends; and I must say I think there is great force in the doctrine of my hon. Friend, the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir William Heathcote), who says no precedent can possibly surpass in importance those drawn from the reign of Anne, following the reign of William, when the great contest as to the Irish forfeited estates had raged between the two Houses, and when the House of Lords, with a view to the legitimate defence of their privileges, found it convenient to adopt a standing order to prevent the practice of "tacking." At no time can you find a more exact criterion to determine what is and what is not objectionable in the combination of different provisions in a financial measure, as evidenced by the proceedings of both Houses. Here is a Bill of Supply of the 7th of Anne, cap. 8. The Bill be- 2128 gins by continuing—that is by granting—duties of a very important character, on wine, tobacco, and other articles; having done which, it goes on to repeal duties on the export of copper and brass wire; it next authorizes the issue of Exchequer bonds to the extent of £612,000; and, having thus dealt with the unfunded debt, it next touches the funded debt by authorizing a loan of £645,000 to be contracted; it then enacts various clauses of regulations into the details of which I need not enter; and it ends with appropriating all the monies given in that Session of Parliament. There is no one form of financial operation material either to revenue, expenditure, or to the contraction of debt, which is not compressed within the limit of that Act of Parliament, passed when the minds of men were still warm and fresh with the remembrance of conferences between the two Houses on the subject of "tacking," and on their respective jurisdictions in matters of finance. Well then, Sir, there is the other case, and it is the only other case with which I shall trouble the House. It is that to which reference was made by my right hon. Friend, the Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham). It is most material to remember that we are not going to the extreme of our powers at all; we are doing what is required by the circumstances of the case, but stopping within the precedents of the good times of the Constitution. In 1808 an Act was passed that began by granting certain duties on malt, sugar, tobacco, and snuff. It repeals certain taxes on offices and pensions, and it regrants for the year certain of the duties that it had before repealed. The Act, therefore, combines granting, repealing, and granting anew. And that is not all. It combines duties of different departments of the State; it combines the duty on sugar, a great duty of Customs, with the duties on malt and tobacco, which were great duties of Excise—tobacco being then a duty of Excise. It combines the direct taxation of Customs' duties with the indirect taxation of Excise duties, and both with the direct taxes on pensions and offices. The precedent is positive on every point. It includes a combination of subjects, and proves that we might have introduced other points with entire consistency with former precedents. But it would have been a serious matter to lay down any precedent in this case that might hereafter have worn the character of innovation. At 2129 the same time, while I think the proof is complete and absolute—and I do not think there is a single case mentioned by the hon. and learned Gentleman which amounts to more than this, which no one disputes, that this course of combination has been variously pursued according to the circumstances of the times—while we speak so much of precedent we must not shrink from a consideration of the principles involved in the measure. A respect for precedent is idle and unimportant, unless some rational object must be kept in view. I think the remark of the right hon. Member for Bucks last year was wise and irrefragably sound when he said that the method of presenting different propositions to the House at the same time was distinctly for the advantage of the House of Commons. It is impossible to conceive a closer lie than that which unites these various items, for they are nothing but items in the same sum, and the constituent Members of one account, some standing on one side and others on the other. And, I say, the advantage has been shown first of all in the fact that last year it was found necessary to combine in one Motion things that were separate from the proposals of the Government—I allude to the Motion of the hon. Member for Somersetshire (Sir William Miles)—and, secondly, by the fact that this year it is open to any Gentleman opposite to make his choice from the series of Resolutions which are submitted to the House—a privilege to which all are entitled—and to select the point on which he will make his attack. It is only right that the Opposition should have that advantage, and I believe that the mode pursued by the Government is the best calculated to secure it, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire most properly urged last year that it would be. But undoubtedly there is more in the case than this. I am not about to enter into any discussion as to the nature of the proceedings taken in the House of Lords last year. I have heard several hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House express their gratitude to the House of Lords for the course they adopted, and really I must say that in this bad and imperfect world gratitude so disinterested is a sentiment at once so ennobling and so rare that I should be exceedingly loath—I could not find in my heart to interfere with its expression. But I can excuse myself on that ground and on other grounds for not referring to the conduct of the House of Lords. I do 2130 nothing except discuss, not the privileges merely, but the duties of the House of Commons. Let me state in a few words the whole question is really this, and it arises out of the Resolutions passed by the House last year. Because the first Resolution proposed by my noble Friend at the head of the Government was, "That the right of the granting aids and Supplies is in the Commons alone as an essential part of their constitution." It is not only inherent in them, but it inheres in them in such a manner that they cannot part, "and the limitation of all such grants as to matter, manner, measure, and time is only in them." Now, lot us pay due attention to the words "as to time is only in them." Public convenience, and considerations of expediency connected with trade and commerce of the country, have led to the practice of passing permanent Acts; and the doctrine laid down is this, when once the House of Commons has committed itself by passing a permanent Act, it has entirely foregone and surrendered its power of limitation which it unanimously asserted last year—its power of limitation of aids and Supplies to the Crown in respect of time. We are told that it has then made a grant for ever, that it has alienated the privilege which by a prior part of that Resolution we declare to inhere in us as an essential part of our Constitution. Then, if that be so, it is quite clear that the House of Commons stands seriously maimed; and the question arises whether it will not be for the House of Commons to resume those powers which they have declared to belong to them—to resume—of course, in a regular and constitutional manner—the exercise of powers which they still possess, and which they declare to belong to them, in such a manner as to be in their nature entire and inalienable. If you look at the matter practically, what is it? The question at issue—if any issue is to be raised as to which as yet we have not been informed—the question is, whether it is to remain in the hands of the House of Commons alone to adjust the income and charges of the year? Now, Sir, the doctrine upon which all our financial proceedings, until last year, have been founded, has been this:—That it has been the exclusive right, and not the exclusive right only, but the exclusive duty and exclusive burden of the House of Commons. Is this charge capable of being divided between the two Houses of Legislature? Is such a course practicable? Can it lead to any- 2131 thing but mischief or confusion? I consent to look at it merely in the utilitarian point of view, and I make no appeal to the spirit of the House of Commons and its sense of duty of preserving the privileges it has inherited. But is it practicable that you can bring two separate, distinct, and individual bodies, each of them to exercise separate judgments on the separate parts of the financial scheme of the year, and yet not lead to utter confusion and absurdity as the result? The consequence of it would be, that whereas the finance of this country has upon the whole been creditably distinguished from that of other countries, and consequently the credit of the country has been raised to a height never known in other countries, so, on the contrary, all those benefits would be lost, and we should be compelled by utter extremity, in consequence of the surrender of our rights and the abandonment of our duties—to return to the ancient system which we so rashly gave up. This is a point which, I think, is well worthy of the consideration of the House. It is said on all hands that the House of Lords do not claim the power of amendment. That is commonly stated, but is not literally true. The House of Lords has never given this up—and I must say I think they are perfectly right in declining to record against themselves this limitation of their privileges. Because cases might arises in which, from the illegitimate incorporation of elements not financial into financial measures, it might be wise and just to fall back on an assertion of the whole breadth of their privileges. I believe I am strictly correct in saying that the House of Lords have never abandoned, by any corporate act of their own, that which can bring them the right of making Amendments in a financial measure. But though the House of Lords have not abandoned it, speakers in the House of Lords, the authorities in the House of Lords and the representatives of it have; and they admit that the power of amending the financial measures of the House of Commons is a power which they do not hold. What I have to say is this: In my opinion the House of Commons would be very much safer if the House of Lords did claim and exercise the power of amendment than it would be if, without recognizing that power of amendment, it continued to send up its finances piecemeal. Why, what is the case? Suppose the House of Lords made an Amendment in this Bill for imposing 2132 duties. It conies back to us, and we have the power of taking our own course. But if, on the contrary, we strip the Bill into shreds and patches, and send it up to them in so many pieces, how do we stand? Not only do the House of Lords revise our legislation—that it could do by its power of Amendment—but it revises without appeal, and it is not simply that our finance is not passed into law, but something else is passed, and we remain, so far as the Bills are concerned, without remedy or redress. Therefore, it seems to me this is a matter of very grave consequence, hut one on which there ought to be no misunderstanding and doubt in the House. Do we or do we not claim the right and duty of granting aids and Supplies to the Crown, or, in modern language, of adjusting income and charge as a right pertaining to us and to us exclusively? If we do claim it, I must say it seems to me that the course adopted by the Government, besides being by far the most convenient for freedom of discussion in the House of Commons is, likewise, the most advantageous, and, let me add, the most respectful and considerate mode we can adopt with regard to the House of Lords. If we do not claim it, then I hope some hon. Gentleman will move to rescind the Resolution that we passed last year. Either of those courses is perfectly legitimate and intelligible—I will not say consistent, but legal. And as the hon. and learned Member for Sligo was not a Member of the House which passed that Resolution, it is perfectly fair in point of consistency for him to give notice of a Motion to remove that Resolution from the journals for something of an opposite character. But what I hope will not be done is to flinch from declaring plainly what is meant, and to take small objections to the plan of the Government, and to speak in vague and general terms of the valued privileges of the other House of Parliament, which I admit are as sacred and, I believe, as important to the balance of the Constitution as are our own. I can draw no distinction between them in point of importance. The powers of this House must remain greater than those of the House of Lords; but I believe the infringement of the privileges of the House of Lords or their functions would be as fatal to the balance of the Constitution as would be the loss of the privileges of this House itself. But do not let us resort to mere vague declamation on this subject. Let us know what we are about. As I under- 2133 stand this Bill it is one which, without being intended in any manner to rouse even the recollection of any irritating question, is intended, and is also calculated, to give the House of Commons security in the possession of those powers which are absolutely necessary for the discharge of one of its primary duties. That, I think, is a fair description—at least so far as I am concerned—of what I take to he the meaning and object of this Bill. Do let us have a similar description of what is intended by those who object to it. Do let us know what you mean when you say there is no distinction between matters of general legislation and finance, and that it is as much the duty of the House of Lords to revise and alter the financial legislation of the House of Commons as it is for them to revise and alter any common Act of Parliament. That is the question. That would be a mode of proceeding which would enable us to know what we are about. Because, I must observe, that, except my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman)—who certainly excited, I believe, great sentiments of satisfaction in those who entertained the same opinions, but who had not the courage to speak them—except my right hon. Friend the Member for Stroud, there was not a man in the House of Commons who, during the discussions of last year, laid down that doctrine, or who questioned that it was the exclusive duty of the House of Commons to regulate the income and charges of the country. They contended, and so far in the strict course of truth, that the House of Lords exercised their right in a constitutional manner. But the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud says of this Budget, as he has said of many other things, that it finds no favour in his eyes, and, in addition to its demerits, he says it is a mortal stab at the Constitution. I want to know to what Constitution does it give a mortal stab? In my opinion it gives no mortal stab, and no stab at all. But, on the contrary, so far as it alters anything in the most recent practice, it alters in the direction of restoring that good old Constitution which took its root in Saxon times, which grew under the Platagenets, which endured the hard rule of the Tudors, and resisted the aggressions of the Stuarts, and which has now come to such perfect maturity under the rule of the House of Brunswick. I think that is the Constitution, if I may presume to say so, which it will affect, and which will be all the better 2134 for the operation. The Constitution laid down by my right hon. Friend began with this—"There is to he a division of function and office"—if I understood him rightly, and if not he will correct me—"between the House of Commons and the House of Lords with regard to fixing the income and charge of the country from year to year, both being equally responsible," which simply means that neither will be responsible at all. Now, so far as that Constitution is concerned, with great respect for the abilities and candour and ingenuity of my right hon. Friend, I think the sooner it receives a mortal stab the better. I say, then, that, in point of form, the Bill which has been presented by the Government to the House is perfectly correct; and I cannot conclude without expressing my full conviction that, both in numbers and authority, it will be found to have the very general assent and approval of the House. I am convinced, likewise, that it is not less likely to receive the approval of the country. Nor do I speak of a merely temporary and passing favour, for I believe it will be approved by its deliberate judgment as being conducive to its best and permanent interests, and as being a proposal and a plan conceived in the very spirit of the Constitution.
§ MR. HORSMAN
Sir, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer commenced his speech by saying that as the Minister of Finance the House would hold him peculiarly responsible for the proceeding now before us, and he rose early in the discussion to vindicate himself from that responsibility. Now, I must say for myself that I think my right hon. Friend on this occasion stands clearer than any man on the Treasury bench. I attach to him no new and peculiar responsibility. On the contrary, I hold his position to be very different from that of the majority of his colleagues or of this House, because last year when the Resolutions were before the House there was an almost unanimous agreement in the speech of the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown, while the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer very openly and honestly stated to us that he only accepted those Resolutions under certain conditions, the principal of which was that he reserved to himself the right of future action, of which this measure is the first expression. Therefore, I am not prepared to cast on my right hon. Friend any exclusive blame for the course he now pro- 2135 poses to adopt. With regard to the speech he has just made, I have only one objection—that he narrows this question to an issue on which I cannot consent to tight it. It is not a question of mere precedents. No doubt, if this House chose, for reasons satisfactory to itself, whether sufficient or insufficient, to alter its latest forms of practice and send all the finance of the year to the Lords in one Bill, abundant precedents might be found for such a proceeding; just as if the Lords chose to exercise their extreme right and reject all the finance measures of the Commons ample precedents might be found for such a course. [MR. BRIGHT: No!] If it were a matter of precedents between the two Houses, it is very difficult to say on which side the precedents would be most abundant. But it is not so much a question of past precedent as of present policy. The right hon. and learned Member for Dublin University (Mr. Whiteside) put the question on its true grounds in one of our early discussions when he asked this plain short question, "Last year you sent up your finance measures to the Lords in two Bills; why this year in one?" Thus bringing the two years together and fixing the date of the change he discovered the motive of the change; namely, that very proceeding which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer says he will not make matter of argument. It is no use telling us what precedents were established ten, twenty, or fifty years ago. We knew of them all last year, and, with all of them before us, we sent up our finance measures in two Bills. It is obvious, therefore, that it is not the precedents that suggest the motive; but there is a motive that seeks and finds the precedent as a justification for some predetermined necessity. What is that necessity? It is to cripple and limit the functions of the Lords in matters of finance. Whence does that necessity arise? From the proceedings of last year. The Chancellor of the Exchequer does not disguise the fact. He stated that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) was now bound to vote in accordance with the opinion he expressed last year, leaving out of view changes in circumstances, which proved the most material element in his judgment. It is quite obvious that the new form has been adopted because of our finance miscarrying last year in the Lords. It is to correct something that then went 2136 amiss that we take precautions against the recurrence of that mischance; but every one in the House knows that what this Bill corrects in the past, what it prohibits in the future, it virtually condemns as wrong; and the Bill has so far a retrospective character that indirectly it reverses that judgment which the House did not venture to impugn last year, and so, under the plea of improving our forms of practice, it in reality passes a censure upon the past proceeding of the House of Lords. Now, this motive of the change being undenied and undeniable, common sense and common reason suggest to us that we should limit our discussion to an inquiry into this one point—was there anything in the proceeding of the Lords to necessitate at this time a new practice in the Commons? I will step by step follow the Chancellor of the Exchequer through his argument upon the subject. The constitutional right of the Lords it is not necessary to discuss. That was settled last year by the Committee, and, undoubtedly, in its collective capacity, the House must abide by the decision of that Committee. It is said we must restrain that right—in fact, abolish it. Why? Because by doing so we bring our practice into conformity with past precedent. But does that bring it into conformity, not with precedent, but with principle? Precedents are mere pedantry when not vindicated by principle. And the House must have observed with some surprise that after four speeches from constitutional authorities delivered in this debate—two on Monday night by the noble Lord the Member for the City (Lord John Russell), and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham), and two this evening by the two Members for the University of Oxford; and, although they have contrived to involve us in a mass of precedents, of technicalities, of contradictory rules, of theories constantly set aside by practice, of constitutional anomalies and perplexities and double readings; and yet, from first to last, there was not one word of those speeches addressed to the great principle on which the relations of the two Houses to each other were established, and which in the difficulties created by the new circumstances of our day, must be the only light and compass by which a technicality-bewildered House of Commons can safely steer. My right hon. Friend has referred to the opinions which I expressed last year upon the con- 2137 duct of the Lords. He misunderstood them, and I will show how. Though I have been challenged by so many distinguished speakers in this debate, I do not think it necessary now to reargue the questions which were discussed at such length, and which, as I thought, were exhausted last year. At the same time, I will reaffirm my belief that it is the bounden duty of the House to consider at every step of this proceeding, not merely whether it be in conformity with the past, but still more that which the hon. Baronet (Sir William Heathcote) said was the vital question—its effect and hearing on the future. Now, I will state very shortly—and I will do so only because reference has been so frequently made to what I said last year—the principles which I then ventured to urge, and by which I am now still prepared to abide. Every one admits that of all the questions we can discuss the relations between the three Estates is the one which requires the greatest thought and the tenderest care to act in the spirit of the Constitution. Every one admits that the very essence of the mode of Government in England is the rule by three coordinate Estates, each discharging its own special functions, each performing a duty which the others cannot perform, and each balancing and limiting the other. This has been the Government of England for centuries. England has never been governed by a single force. The Barons checked the Crown, and prevented it from becoming absolute. My right hon. Friend referred to the Plantagenets and the Tudors, but he knows that the Plantagenets and the Tudors were never able to seize arbitrary power. The Barons, and after the Revolution, the great families became the strongest element in the State. Since then we have seen the gradual growth of the predominance of the Commons, and it is the inordinate extension of this new and growing power against which precautions and securities are needed. Everybody knows, and no one better than my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Bright), the baneful and blighting effects of an autocracy, or an exclusive aristocracy. But, if there be one lesson more than another which we learn from all history, it is this—that the single rule of a popular assembly is both tyrannical and transitory. The Government of a single chamber has never been able to last long, and for a very obvious reason—because a single assembly, uncontrolled by any other independent power, 2138 soon breaks through all restraints. All forms of proceeding—standing orders, rules of practice, authorities, precedents all are swept away by the exciting passions and interests of the day. There is no institution known in history which is so entirely irresponsible. It is worse even than an avowed despotism, and for the same reason it is the most shortlived of all institutions. These are facts known to every reader of history, and yet because I stated them last year the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth (Mr. Collier) charged me with having spoken contemptuously of the Commons, and with having complained of its growth as a disease. What I said, Sir, was directly the reverse of this. I said that the growth of the House of Commons had been prevented from becoming a disease, and had been kept in a healthy state, because of the cheeks and balances which had been offered by the other branch of the Legislature; and to say, as I did then, that the Government of a single chamber in England would be swayed by the passions and errors which history tells us are incidental to all similarly uncontrolled assemblies was not the language of contempt; it was the language of common sense and reason, and indisputable truth. And here comes in what I urged so strongly last year. Here now we see the essential value and true character of a second chamber. It is not what some of my hon. Friends near me will insist it is; it is not an assembly of privileged men. It is a national body, selected for the performance of special functions of supreme importance for the maintenance of the Constitution; for the respect due to every right and for the welfare and liberty of the people. And I lay down this position, which I challenge my hon. Friend (Mr. Bright) to controvert—that the poorest peasant in the land has as great an interest in the existence and authority of a second chamber as in the existence and authority of the House of Commons itself. Destroy that second chamber or reduce it to a nullity and you have a despotism or a republic. The history of civilized nations has never yet shown us any alternative. But then I am told, "There is truth in all this, and truth which no one denies. Who disputes these truths?" I will tell you who disputes them—those who refuse to the Lords all voice in matters of finance. I say the moment you establish that the Commons may decree, and their decree must be instantly obeyed, disguise it as you will, 2139 from that moment you establish a despotism, and a despotism in finance speedily involves the subjugation of every other power in the State. Remember, that as money was the instrument by which the House of Commons won their rights and privileges, so money may be also the instrument by which the Commons may erect themselves into a despotism. We are told, "It is quite right, according to the Constitution, that every other display of folly or of passion on the part of the Commons should be checked, but we except finance." But why except finance? Is any good reason assigned? We hear only of one—that our forefathers chose to make finance the exclusive privilege of the Commons. If even that were true, it would not settle the question, because we are every day making changes in the practice of our forefathers. But it is not true. Historically it is false. Our forefathers did no such thing. It is true the Commons insisted on the right to tax themselves, and guarded it in many ways, but they never did or would claim exemption from all revision on finance. Errors in finance are as easy and as fatal as on other matters. Sir, it is idle to make this a question of precedents. Can any constitutional authority be quoted to show that it is consistent with the British Constitution that in any department of legislation there should be unchecked, uncontrolled, and irresponsible power? I ask you to name to me any constitutional writer you please, and I will from the same work supply you with ample evidence of an opposite principle? If that be so, how can you settle this question by reference to precedent? Do you say that the House of Commons is not liable to err in matters of finance? Impossible! Then show me any mode by which you can check the financial errors of the Commons, except by the suspensive power of the Lords? and if you cannot show me any other mode of imposing that check, which the Constitution holds to be indispensable, the question is settled. It ceases to be one of speculation or of mere precedent; it comes within the region of fact, and it is not only true that the Lords ought to possess, but that constitutionally they do and must possess this suspensive power in finance.
And I beg to say that I said in misconception of my opinions. I have never claimed for the Lords anything but a suspensive power in finance. My hon. 2140 and learned Friend (Mr. Collier) asserts I claimed for the Lords greater privileges than they claimed for themselves. That is a thing very easy to say, but my hon. and learned Friend cannot produce evidence to show that I ever expressed any such sentiments. Nor did I ever entertain or express the opinions which have been imputed to me by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-night. Upon no occasion did I ever declare that the Lords should be in any manner partners with the Commons in matters of finance. I never held or expressed the opinion that we should let them have equal power with ourselves in imposing or remitting taxes. I gave them no more than a controlling power. That is all I ever claimed for them, and as all I have ever said on this subject is duly recorded, I am surprised that I should be charged with having claimed more. Moreover, while I contended that the Lords ought to possess the power of review in finance, I emphatically said that the power ought to be very rarely exercised, should be reserved for great and critical occasions, and then should only be exercised in order to give time for reconsideration, and not for the purpose of an absolute and final rejection. These are the views I expressed last year. My right hon. Friend thought that I wished to give the Lords equal powers with ourselves in imposing and repealing taxes. Upon that point, however, there is no difference between us, because I never expressed such a wish. These being the principles on which I hold that the House should act, we have to consider their application to the case of last year. That appears to me to have been an occasion to which the suspensive power was properly applicable, and on which it was wisely exercised, and I think it would have been more becoming in the House of Commons, knowing that the Lords had used that power so beneficially, if we had approached them, not in a resentful spirit, but in the attitude of penitent offenders, with a proper sense of our own unworthiness, and congratulating the country that there was still another assembly wise enough and strong enough to avert the mischief which might have resulted from our imprudence. I should have thought that there was no distinguished Member of this House on whose co-operation we might more surely have relied for the maintenance of that right which he has told us unquestionably belonged to the 2141 Lords than the right hon. Member for Carlisle, who took a prominent part in the proceedings of the Committee of last year—a part which I have never heard mentioned except with praise. I must say that I never heard from any leading Member of this House a speech more surprising or more unsatisfactory than that in which he endeavoured to accomplish what certainly was a very difficult task—the reconciling of his support of this Bill with his defence of the Lords last year. He said, "I maintain that the Lords have an undoubted and inherent right to do what they did last year, and, therefore"—what?—he does not say "I will respect and maintain their right," but, with a strange consistency, "I prove that right only that I may show how ready I am to deprive them of it." The speech of the noble Lord the Member for the City was quite consistent. He said, "I hold that the Lords did wrong, and I will endeavour to deprive them of the opportunity of doing wrong again." But I cannot comprehend why the right hon. Member for Carlisle should differ from his Friends in vindicating a right only to agree with them in taking it away. I am sorry that the right hon. Baronet is not here, but, at the same time, before I come to the Resolutions to which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has just alluded, I must notice the speech of the right hon. Baronet. He said, "I maintain that the act of the Lords was legal and constitutional; but my objection to it is that it is novel." But is novelty in legislation in itself an evil? When I am told that it was a novel act, I ask was it not beneficial to the Exchequer and the public? and if it was, what is the second contradiction in which the right hon. Baronet is involved? The act was constitutionally right, it was financially beneficial—ergo, logically, it shall never be repeated. That, however, which has surprised me most in all the speeches I have heard from the supporters of the Bill, from the right hon. Baronet down to the Chancellor of the Exchequer—and in some of them has startled me—is the attempt made to connect this Bill with the Resolutions of last year. Really to listen to some of them we might imagine that when they passed the Resolutions last year they expected that this Bill would follow. But is it not clear that the connection of this Bill with those Resolutions is an after thought—a defence suddenly caught at in order to justify what 2142 then was not expected? Various Gentlemen have referred to those Resolutions; the right hon. Baronet read one, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer another; but the House must have observed that there is one thing they have all avoided, which is—making any allusion to the speech of the noble Lord at the head of the Government which prefaced the Resolutions, and by which they were construed and accepted. That is an omission which, with the leave of the House, I will endeavour to supply; but first let us see what the Resolution really were, and how far they justify this Bill. The first Resolution merely asserts the right of the Commons to grant aids and Supplies to the Crown. The second Resolution lays down distinctly that taxation Bills have been refused by the Lords by negativing the whole, although it goes on to contend that the exercise of that right has not been frequent, and ought to be watched with great jealousy. But the principle is admitted, and the House will observe it is not condemned, and still less doomed to abolition. Parliament is not asked to sweep away one of its usages, which, though rarely exercised, still exists. That it is rarely exercised, and that it ought to be watched very carefully, is what may be said of the veto of the Crown, but no one has ever told the House that that is an institution which ought to be abolished. But the third Resolution removes all doubt about the matter. The right hon. Member for Carlisle read it; but I wish the House particularly to remark its language, and I will read it again—That, to guard for the future against an undue exercise of that power by the Lords, and to secure to the Commons their rightful control over taxation and Supply, this House has in its own hands the power so to impose and remit taxes, and to frame Bills of Supply, that the right of the Commons, as to the matter, manner, measure, and time may be maintained inviolate.The House will observe that this Resolution affirms that the House has it in its power to guard for the future against an undue exercise of the power of the Lords, but guarding against the wrong use of a power is not the same thing as its suppression. You say the Lords shall not make a bad use of their power, but by this Bill you take it away altogether. The latter part of the Resolution becomes declaratory. It says that the House has in its own hands the power so to frame Bills of Supply as to maintain its own rights inviolate—undoubtedly, just as the 2143 Crown can coerce an obstinate House of Lords by new creation, or punish a misbehaving Commons by dissolution. But if there were any doubt on the subject, it is removed when we turn to the speech of the noble Viscount in introducing these Resolutions, We must remember that a speech of a First Minister of the Crown introducing a measure is an authoritative declaration of the light in which the Government intend that measure to be regarded. It is a declaration of the opinions of the Minister, and a pledge of his future intentions. If, therefore, there be any doubt as to the construction to be put on these Resolutions, we must turn to the speech of the Minister, and that will give us the key by which they are to be interpreted. In looking over the speech of the noble Lord, and comparing it with those we have since heard, it seems as though he had had a controversy with some friend as to what was to be done when the proceedings of the Lords took place, and, having heard all the arguments of his friendly adversary, he answers them all in his speech. The first passage which I will read from the noble Lord's speech is that in which he characterizes the proceeding on which we are now engaged. We are taking away from the Lords the power of considering the repeal of the paper duty as a separate measure, and here is the opinion of the leader of the House on that matter—To take from the Lords the power of dissenting to a Bill to which their assent is now required you would need an Act of Parliament to which they must themselves be parties, or you must, by a revolutionary proceeding, subvert our existing Constitution."—[3 Hansard, clix. 1387.]You are now taking away from the Lords the power they had last year, and the conclusion as to the character of that proceeding I leave to be drawn from the noble Lord's speech. Then we have the noble Lord's opinion as to the feeling and spirit by which the Lords were actuated, and in what manner we should meet them—Therefore, I cannot bring myself to believe that the Lords, in the step which they have now taken, intend to enter on a course, their progress in which, if they did enter upon it, it would be the duty of this House to resist by every constitutional and legal means which are at our command.But until we have some more decided proof that such an intention was entertained I would adjure the House to content itself with the record of that declaration which is contained in the Resolutions which I have had the honour to lay upon 2144 the table, and not, without being driven to it as a matter of necessity, to enter upon a formal conflict with the other House of Parliament."—[3 Hansard, clix. 1391.]He goes on—I say then, Sir, that these Resolutions are adequate to the present occasion…. The Resolutions, moreover, point out that if our rights should be invaded we have in our own hands the means of resisting such invasion."—[3 Hansard, clix. 1394.]That does not say that our lights have been invaded. It says that if our rights at some future time should be invaded, we have in our hands the power of resisting such invasion. There is another passage to which I wish to call the special attention of the House, and which points out more distinctly, not what is the course which the noble Lord would invite the House to adopt, but what was the course which he would recommend us particularly to avoid. We remember the memorable words used by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer about future action. It would appear as if the noble Lord had already heard those words, and as if he anticipated the possibility of hearing them again. He said—Many may think that the last Resolution is too vague, and that it does not distinctly point out the method by which we might enforce our Constitutional rights and privileges in the event of an attempt being made to invade them. But there are many ways in which, upon such a case arising, we should be able—first by argument, ultimately by the exercise of our own authority—to prevent such an encroachment upon the Constitutional functions of this House. If, Sir, such a mad course were to be adopted by the Lords, it would not be by a Resolution entered upon our journals, it would not be by commencing a scolding match with the other House, it would not be by impotent words laid on our table that our Constitutional rights could be vindicated. No, Sir, it would be by action, which we should not be slow to discover the mode of taking."—[3 Hansard, clix. 1393.]That means, not that the Lords had entered upon a mad course at that time, but that they had not entered upon it, and that the noble Lord did not anticipate it was possible that they ever would enter upon it. There is one other passage, which I think is very remarkable, not applied to future action, but applied to the position in which the House of Commons would place itself if it did not rest contented with the Resolutions, without that further action, which the noble Lord deprecated. This passage reads as follows:—I am inclined to think that this House values highly the existence of that harmony which it is 2145 essential should prevail between the two branches of the Legislature; and if at all times that ought to he the ruling feeling of the House, I am sure there is nothing in the present aspect of affairs out of the kingdom—there is nothing, I repeat, Sir, in the general aspect of affairs in Europe and in the world—which should lead this House to think less highly of the importance of a harmonious union, or dispose them to exhibit to foreign nations the lamentable and humiliating spectacle of a disunited Legislature, of a divided people, and of internal conflicts at a time when it is desirable for the dignity, honour, and interests of this country that we should manifest to all nations a harmonious unity of action among all the estates of the realm for the common welfare of the country."—[lb. 1396.]Again, I ask, can any one connect these Resolutions with the Bill before us? Who can forget what occurred in this House on the evening these Resolutions were passed? The speech of the noble Lord, from beginning to end, was a justification of the Peers, and he entreated and pledged the House to take no further action unless the Lords did something which could he construed into a fresh aggression. But my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer honestly expressed his dissent from every sentiment uttered by his noble Colleague. So far from accepting these Resolutions as a settlement of that question, he recognized in them nothing but a preliminary formula, a necessary standing ground for that future action for which he told us expressly he reserved himself, and the advent of which was announced by the present Bill. I must say that against the Chancellor of the Exchequer and against the noble Lord the Member for this City this House can have no ground of complaint in connection with this form of Bill. Their opinions were made known to the House, and in the Tax Committee they were ably, though unsuccessfully, maintained. The language and conduct of the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon this question has been open, honourable, and out-spoken. There has been no concealment, no ambiguity, no double-dealing about him. The right hon. Gentleman has attained, however much we may regret it on this occasion, that mastery in the Cabinet which a man who is ready to sacrifice his place for his convictions will always attain over feebler men, who are ready to sacrifice their convictions for their place. We are bound to respect the victor in such a conquest as much as we pity the vanquished. But I beg the House to consider in what position we are placed by the abandonment of the pledges which the noble Lord gave 2146 last year. The noble Lord justified the proceedings of the Lords; he induced us to adopt his Resolutions by assuring us they were adequate to the occasion, and would prove a settlement of the question; and he told us he would not be a party to any further action unless the Lords compelled him by some fresh provocation. He told us it would not only be unseemly in the House of Commons, but in the then aspect of continental affairs it would be absolutely perilous, to do anything to disturb the harmony between the two branches of the Legislature. On that solemn assertion of the noble Lord the House accepted the Resolutions. Should we have accepted them if we had been aware that he was speaking all the time in the sense of his Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that he, too, was reserving himself for that future action which on that occasion he so strongly deprecated? My belief is that if the House had suspected that, that an Amendment would have been moved to these Resolutions, affirming more precisely the undoubted right of the Lords, and declaring the inexpediency of any further action on the part of the Commons; and in the then temper and feeling of the House and of the country is it not more than probable that such an Amendment would have been carried? But we relied on the pledge we got from the noble Lord; and I do not expect to be told to-night—I should hear it with surprise and sorrow—that that pledge was one jot less binding because it was implied and not expressed in an assembly of Gentlemen who accepted it and acted upon it in its plain sense and meaning. We have been placed in a very unexpected and difficult position by this abandonment by the noble Lord of the principles he maintained last year, and we have to consider in what way the House is now to act. We are told that we have passed a Resolution for the abolition of the paper duty, and must give effect to it by Bill. Yes, but when we passed that Resolution did the majority desire that it should be used for a double purpose, and that the repeal of the excise on paper should be an incomplete transaction unless it was also made an instrument for crippling the functions of the Lords? We know that if the repeal of the paper duty is all we aim at, the easiest and simplest mode of obtaining it would be by sending up another Bill like that of last year. It is generally believed that the Lords would not again reject such a Bill, 2147 but however that may be, would it not be a more courteous proceeding towards that assembly—would it not be one more likely to meet with its concurrence, if we were to ask that concurrence as a voluntary, and not as a compelled act? But some hon. Friends near me say "That would not suit our purpose; we have another object in view. The Lords have raised a great constitutional question which we desire to settle; they exercised a power last year which we are determined they never shall exercise again." This is a very valiant determination on the part of my Friends, but are they sure they have the means of carrying it out? Suppose the Lords choose to say, "We exercised a power last year which the Commons at that time did not dare to dispute, and which the country cordially approved, and we will not now abandon that power which we hold in trust for the country and the Constitution to a House of Commons which misrepresents the one and would destroy the other. We will not do so, at all events, without an appeal to the country." Suppose the Lords say so, what becomes of your valiant determination to override them? Is it not possible, not only that the repeal of the paper duty may be postponed, but that you may find yourselves discomfited and rebuked by the Lords, and even discountenanced and condemned by the country? In these days of increased intelligence and rapid communication of information the country will form its own estimate both of the origin and of the temper of the quarrel. It will know it originated in a financial error of the Commons, which was corrected by the more sober judgment of the Lords. It will say "The Commons are angry because the Lords have shown more sense than themselves, and are placing themselves in that position in which a man is most supremely ridiculous, when, beginning by losing his head, he makes matters worse by losing his temper. It may ask a still more inconvenient and fatal question. The people of England, who are fond of plain dealing and fair play, may put this question to the Commons—"If the Lords gave you offence last year, why did you not meet it last year when the Lords and the country were both ready for you—why did you then smile acquiescence to the Lords, brood over it for ten months, and then come and give them this stab in the back?" We may rely upon it that, whatever may be our intention, the Lords cannot regard 2148 this proceeding as anything but an affront. Who can tell in what way they may meet that affront? Some hon. Gentlemen near me imagine that when the Bill leaves the Commons the question is settled. Instead of a settlement of the question take care that it docs not become the commencement of a new crisis. The interval between the passing of the Bill here and its debate in the House of Lords will be an interval of doubt, of anxiety, and, if there is any uncertainty about the intentions of the Lords, of great excitement. "What will the Lords do?" will be in everybody's mouth, and nowhere will the answer be looked for with more trepidation than on the Ministerial benches. The consideration of what they shall do with this Bill, with all the attendant circumstances, will be for the Lords a matter of deep concern. How will they deal with this first step to bring them under the domination of the House of Commons? Will they resist it at the outset, as the only chance of maintaining their independence? If this question should be solemnly raised in that assembly—the most ancient of all the legislative assemblies in the world—the greatest in its services, and the noblest in its traditions—I cannot doubt that the Lords will exhibit a spirit of wisdom and resolution equal to the emergency which we are now about to force upon them. Suppose they say, "The House of Commons are exercising an extreme right in sending up to us the financial proposals for the year in one Bill; we will exercise our extreme rights in dealing with that Bill; the issue we will leave to the country." I do not suppose the House of Lords will altogether reject the financial measures which we send up to them. We all believe, and, I hope, with good reason, that they have no disposition to take that course, and that they are not likely to be provoked into the adoption of an unwise mode of proceeding by any imprudence in which we may indulge. It is not, at the same time, in my opinion, at all impossible that the House of Lords may discover and suggest some form of action by which they may combine the acceptance of our finance with the rejection of the affront by which it is accompanied. They may say to us, "Your measures of finance we consent to adopt, but the yoke which you seek to impose upon us we repudiate, and to that yoke we will not submit." Let me, then, suppose that your Bill comes back to this House amended in form though not in 2149 substance; you will have to consider that amendment—a position of affairs for which there may he, no doubt, ample precedent. But will not our situation under these circumstances be one of great embarrassment and difficulty? May not the result tend to our political humiliation? In such a state of things the House of Commons must adopt one of two disagreeable and damaging alternatives. It may acquiesce in the course taken by the House of Lords, and thus learn submission—a virtue which the majority of the Cabinet have been practising of late, and whose adoption, as having agreed so well with them, they may recommend to their friends. If they do so, and their friends follow their advice, as I predict will then be the case, the position in which the House will be placed will, it cannot be denied, be one of a very humiliating character. You may, upon the other hand, object to the proceeding of the House of Lords, and what will be the consequence? You will have a dissolution of Parliament, and an appeal to the country. Upon what issue, I would ask you, is that appeal to be made? Will you call upon the people to express their confidence in the present House of Commons? Would that be a safe issue for you to raise? For my own part—and I say it with considerable regret—I entertain very lively apprehensions that the merits and services of the great Liberal party are not at this moment very highly appreciated by the country. On the contrary, the country labours under the impression—possibly the erroneous impression—that that great party has broken all its pledges on Reform, and that it has also lost all character on finance. And the country may say, "This House of Commons—this discredited House of Commons—is endeavouring to divert attention from its own delinquencies by picking a quarrel with the Lords, and aggravates its offences by assailing the Constitution." It is just possible that the public, in a mood so unfavourable to your claims, may tell you when you appeal to them for their confidence, "We have very little for which to thank the present House of Commons, but we thank God that we have still a House of Lords, and as you have thought fit to give back to us the trust we placed in your bands, we think the best use we can make of the opportunity thus afforded us is to return a new House of Commons as unlike as possible to its predecessor." I really would advise my hon. Friends near me to take care that 2150 they are not brought to grief by following the rash counsels of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle. He seemed ready to cheer on his friends with the hustings cry of "the ancient usages and authority of the House of Commons against the innovating Lords;" but he forgets that one half of the Members of this House, and that a very powerful half—traditionally the supporters of ancient usage and authority—would be ranged on the side of the other House of Parliament, while he would be dragged at the wheel of that new school of democratic innovation the very dread of which would rally the country round the Lords as the defenders of the Constitution. And under what banner, let me ask, is this new battle to be fought? Not under the once popular banner of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, for every one who compares his constitutional and statesmanlike speech of last year with his proceedings now will perceive that, against his own judgment and convictions, he has been coerced by stronger men. The name of the Chancellor of the Exchequer will in some districts be received with acclamation, and well has he deserved the plaudits of his followers for the sincerity and success with which he has fought their battle. The name of the hon. Member for Birmingham, will be received with loud shouts, for be has been outspoken, and manly, and consistent upon this question. But the name of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton will never be beard in the coming conflict. He will have been deposed by men of a different spirit and more unbending purpose; and in the cry of that minority—not led but followed by the noble Lord—it needs no prophet to foretell that we shall hear the knell of his Cabinet, the dispersion of his followers and the enthronement of his opponents in power.
§ MR. PULLER
said, he had listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud with that attention which his eloquence always commanded, even though his statements might be exaggerated, his reasoning fallacious, and his whole argument opposed to the great principles of constitutional law. The impression left upon his mind by that speech was that there were three parties who had reason to complain of the right hon. Gentleman—the noble Lord at the head of the Government, the House of Lords, and the country. The country had, perhaps, the greatest reason to complain, because the 2151 debate having been carried on for the most part by the previous speakers with a careful avoidance of irritating topics, the right hon. Gentleman had done all in his power to fan the smouldering embers of discord into a flame, and to stir up the House of Lords to reject the Bill, which might be sent up to them by the Commons, thereby placing the country in a state of embarrassment—the greatest that could possibly be imagined. The House of Lords had reason, he thought, to complain of the right hon. Gentleman who had asserted, on their behalf, that which the warmest advocates of their privileges had not before claimed for them, namely, the constitutional right of doing, as a matter of ordinary legislation, that which Lord Derby himself excused as an exceptional act. And, lastly, he thought the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman had treated the noble Lord at the head of the Government was hardly generous or fair. To say that, because the noble Lord had endeavoured last year to throw oil on the troubled waters, and had abstained from the use of violent language, that, therefore, he must be considered to have conceded to the House of Lords, all that the right hon. Gentleman was ready to concede to them was quite inconsistent with the conduct of the noble Lord, who had shown his sense that the privileges of the House of Commons had been, if not actually invaded, seriously disparaged—first, by moving for a Committeee to search for precedents bearing on the case, and afterwards by moving Resolutions to assert the privileges of the House of Commons, and in the last of which it was pointed out that they had in their own hands the means of resisting any aggression of the Lords. The right hon. Gentleman had argued at some length on the great advantage which the country possessed in having a second Legislative Chamber. That was a position which, probably, not a single Member of the House would be inclined to dispute. But, when the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that those gentlemen must dispute it who would deny to that Second Chamber a concurrent voice with the House of Commons in the regulation of finance, probably there would be found scarcely a Member of that House who would concur with him; and very few even of the Members of the other House. In his speech at the Mansion House the other day Lord Derby, after saying that it was for the House of Commons 2152 to consider whether they were prepared to make a large increase in direct, and a further reduction in indirect taxation, proceeded thus—"I say, emphatically, the House of Commons, because no man is more ready than myself to say that to that House belongs exclusively the imposition, and, mainly, if not exclusively, the regulation of the taxation of the country." He thought that was sufficient to show that Lord Derby would not go along with the right hon. Gentleman in the extravagant privileges which he claimed for the House of Lords. How far, indeed, were the Opposition generally prepared to go on this important constitutional question? Did they deny that to the House of Commons, as far back, at least, as the time of Henry IV. belonged exclusively the right of determining the matter, the manner, the time, and, above all, the measure of Supply? In the famous Schedule of Indemnity passed in that reign, and set forth last year in the Report of the Committee on Tax Bills, it had been acknowledged by the Crown, with the consent of the Lords, that grants of Supply belonged exclusively to the Commons, the Lords having only the right of giving or withholding their assent, and from that time to the year 1860 by uninterrupted practice, by the forms of proceeding, by the rule that Bills of Supply after passing the House of Lords should be returned to the House of Commons to be presented by the Speaker to the Throne, instead of being retained, like other Bills, in the custody of the House of Lords, by the form in which Supply Bills were drawn, and, above all, by the abstinence of the House of Lords during 400 years from rejecting on purely financial grounds any Bill which related only to taxation, the House of Lords had made a continued acknowledgment that to the House of Commons exclusively belonged the imposition of taxes and the granting of Supplies. Well, then, he had no hesitation in expressing his conviction that, so far as results were concerned, the conduct of the House of Lords last year had been really and substantially an encroachment on the privileges of the Commons. He did not impugn the motives of the Lords, he would show, presently, that a fair excuse might be made for them, and that what had occurred had occurred in some measure by the fault of the Commons themselves. Let the House remember first what had been done by that House last year. Acting 2153 on the financial information supplied to them by the Government, they agreed that an income tax of ninepence in the pound would meet the wants of the year; but, having regard to the pledges given in former years, as well as to the natural merits of the case, they determined, with the consent of the Crown expressly given by the proper Minister in his place in Parliament, to repeal the Excise duty on paper; and to meet the deficiency which would be created by the loss of that duty, they increased the income tax by an additional penny in the pound. That the two things were inseparably connected, that the repeal of the paper duty was the reason for granting that additional penny was perfectly notorious, and was, in fact, the occasion of a long debate on the Motion of an hon. Baronet (Sir "William Miles). And what did the House of Lords do? The first Bill which went up to them was that imposing the income tax of 10d. in the pound; and they passed it. Afterwards when the Bill repealing the paper duty came before them they rejected it. And what was the result of this manner of dealing with the two Bills taken together? was it not clearly this, that the House of Lords actually granted to the Crown £1,000,000 more than the House of Commons ever intended to give? What, then, became of the exclusive right of the Commons to impose taxation and grant supplies to the Crown? It might be true that looking at any particular Bill relating to taxation by itself, the House of Lords had a legal right to reject it; but if, when two Bills were sent up to them forming separate parts of one financial scheme one being a Bill to impose a tax and the other a Bill to repeal a tax, the House of Lords passed the former and rejected the latter, it was clear that the result was that the subject was taxed by the Lords to an extent to which the Commons had never assented, and that the Crown received a supply which the Commons had never granted. It might be said, no doubt it had been said, that the circumstances justified the conduct of the House of Lords. That was their argument, "The Commons," they said, "have pursued a careless, reckless course, they have shown a want of foresight. We have looked abroad and we see a war impending in China, and we hear of wars and rumours of wars in Italy and Germany. We think, there is a probability, almost a certainty, of a deficiency in the Exchequer, and, there- 2154 fore, we will take care that the permanent revenue which the Commons have thought proper to be given up shall not be given up." Now, he had no hesitation in expressing his own opinion that the circumstances last year were not of sufficient urgency to justify the House of Lords in that course, but that was really not the question now. The question at issue now was not whether their course of proceeding had been wise or prudent or economical, but whether it had been constitutional? He thought it was not, but he was free to make the admission that the Lords, if reproached for encroaching on the privileges of the Commons might reply, "It was your own fault. If you considered those two measures to be parts of one financial scheme, why did not you put them into one Bill: and then if we did not approve of the whole, and rejected any part, the Bill would have gone back, and you, the Commons, would have had an opportunity of saying whether you would accept the Bill so mutilated or make some different provision for the wants of the State? But instead of that you sent us first a Bill of Supply, to which we had no objection, and, of course, we passed it; and' then you sent us a Repeal Bill, to which we had an objection; what could we do but reject it?" Well, then, after experiencing the inconveniences which belonged to the course adopted last year, what was the Government to do in the present year? They had presented to the House and the House had approved a financial scheme, which consisted partly of grants of Supply and partly of that same repeal of the paper duty. Was the Government again to deal separately with these different parts of their scheme, and so place the Lords in the same unfair position as last year? Or were they to follow the course suggested last year by the Chairman of the Committee on Precedents (Mr. Walpole) approved by the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Buckinghamshire, and pointed out by the 3rd Resolution adopted last year by the House. That course was to combine both parts of their scheme in one Bill, not for the purpose of insulting or coercing the House of Lords, or compelling them to pass that of which they did not approve, but for the purpose of placing the whole subject before them. It would be open to the Lords to strike out any clause. If they did so the Commons would, no doubt, reject the Bill; but they 2155 would then have the opportunity of reconsidering the whole matter, and the people would not be taxed without the consent of their representatives.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
Sir, I heartily rejoice that the urgency and magnitude of the question involved in the form of this Bill appears to have at length attracted the attention of the House. When hon. Members consider the argument of the hon. Member who last addressed the House (Mr. Puller), I think they will at once see the extent to which the peculiar function of this House is at once exaggerated and invaded. The position of this House is that, whereas last year it was led into a great financial error, from the effects of which the country was partly preserved by intervention of the House of Lords, hereafter this House shall be at liberty to commit any follies as it may think fit but never again be corrected by the House of Lords. Now that is an extent of privilege which has never yet been granted to the Commons; and when reliance is placed upon the almost exclusive right of this House to regulate taxation, those who use that argument seem to lose sight of the fact that there are not less than eighteen instances recorded by your Committee on Tax Bills in which the House of Lords have refused their assent to Finance Bills sent up by the House of Commons. I hope there is no Member in this House more ready to repudiate an undue interference with the peculiar functions of this House by the House of Lords than I am. At the same time I am not prepared for such an extension of the privilege of the Commons or rather of the Crown, as that of establishing in this form of Bill, by way of precedent, that the laws which give Tax Bills effect shall in reality be passed without the assent of the House of Lords. To give taxation the force of law the assent of the Lords is absolutely essential; and to send up Bills to that House in a form in which their assent would become a mere farce, is an insult to that branch of the Legislature and an infringement of the Constitution. I confess my deep disappointment when I listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle. On referring to the proceedings of the Committee which sat last Session, I found before me a decision, given at the instance of that right hon. Gentleman, which, condemned as I understood it, the proposal to send Supply Bills from this House to the House of Lords in the shape 2156 of the present Bill. I found two paragraphs at the conclusion of the draft Report proposed by the Chairman of that Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge; the one suggesting this grave alteration, that whereas our finance has changed its character, and that instead of the greater part of the Revenue being voted annually, the main portions of our taxation have become perpetual, that the chief items of taxation should again be rendered annual. The last paragraph is as follows:—It should, likewise, be remembered that the power of the House over matters of Supply, and incident thereto was necessarily much weakened by dealing with them separately in separate Bills, instead of uniting them as much as possible in one measure, so that they may constitute and form part of the financial arrangements to be made for the year.Well, Sir, the right hon. Gentlemen the Member for Carlisle objected to those two paragraphs, and they were struck out of the Report. The proposal to embody the Supply of the year in the form now suggested to the House was deliberately rejected by that Committee at the instance of the right hon. Gentleman; and I hope that that rejection embodied his deliberate opinion upon the subject. But what does he tell us now was his reason for moving the rejection of those two important paragraphs? He tells us that he did so only for the sake of securing unanimity in the Committee, which proves, I think, that there was considerable objection in Committee to the proposal. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire stated in the last Session that he approved of this form of Supply Bill, but, clearly, those who objected to it in the Committee never had the opportunity of recording their dissent, because the rejection of it was unanimous. I say, therefore, that this Supply Bill is drawn in a form which is not sanctioned by the Committee of this House appointed to consider the question; and I say, further, that there is nothing in the Resolutions which were adopted by the House last Session, as the sequel to the Report of that Committee which sanctions, or gives even a colourable sanction, to the proposal now submitted to the House. It would be only wearying the House, and repeating what has been so ably adduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud, if I were again to read our Resolutions. The first Resolution, it is true, embodies fully the predominant right of this House to 2157 regulate the finances and taxation of the country, but the second Resolution qualifies it by recognizing the power of exceptional action on the part of the Lords, and thereby recognizes a fundamental principle of the Constitution. The proposal now before the House is to act only on the first. Resolution which we passed last year, to the exclusion of the second, without which, I can answer for it, the first Resolution would never have been passed uncontested in this House. I now wish to call attention to a subject which has hitherto been lost sight of in the course of this debate. I wish to show the House that the course now proposed to it, if agreed to, will tend to fetter and even to annul the right of the Lords to express their opinion, before they give their assent to Bills relating to taxation; and not only that, but will also grievously cramp the action of the Commons themselves with respect to finance. I know that I address the House under a great disadvantage. I speak as an independent Member sitting on the Opposition side of the House, knowing that the leader of the independent Members on the other side of the House is so deeply pledged to one item in this Supply Bill, that no independent action can be hoped for from that quarter. I trust the House will forgive me, therefore, if I point out that if, by accepting this form of Supply Hill, the House contemplates an undue curtailment of the rights and privileges of the Lords, it is also endangering its own independent action, and going far to justify a change in the form which Her Majesty adopts when She thanks the House of Commons for voting the Supplies. For such would be the increase of the power of the Government, that Her Majesty, instead of thanking us, ought rather to thank the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I felt the full force and value of the able argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Sligo at the opening of the debate. Let not the hon. Gentleman be discouraged by the witty sarcasms which have been launched against him. Brilliant as are the qualities which characterise his countrymen, he has shown others which we thought to be rare amongst them, exactitude, precision, and a control over an undue action of the imagination which is sometimes too strong for the coolness of their judgment. He has thus earned for himself a high position in this House, and long may he retain it. The hon. and learned Gentleman only 2158 pointed out the truth when he said that the House is about to adopt the system of "tacking" by the present Bill; no one who looks back to precedent can doubt that we are adopting the principle of tacking by this Bill. All that the able argument of the Chancellor of the Exchequer proves is this: that we are not following the rule of action in this matter by consolidating finance, but that we are acting as though the exceptions formed the rule. The argument of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is that because the House of Commons has tacked Bills of Supply before, that the occasion has arisen for our doing so again. But that does not disprove the allegation that we are tacking by this Bill. It amounts on the part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer simply to this: he says the occasion is extreme, and we must establish a new precedent by adopting as our future rule the exceptions to our previous action, and now begin to tack, henceforward, systematically. That is the gist of the argument of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Let the House consider for a moment why it was induced in former years to adopt the system of tacking. The great instance which is always adduced is the Supply Bill of 1700; but what were the circumstances of that case? Will the House allow me briefly to refer to them? There was then, and I dare say it was well-founded and justified by the circumstances of recent history, a great jealousy on the part of this House, because the power of the Crown appeared unduly in the action of the House of Lords. The circumstances were these. Certain estates in Ireland had been forfeited by treason, and instead of the Sovereign handing the produce thereof to his Parliament to be applied in aid of the Supplies of the year, "the Commons, inquiring into the forfeited estates in Ireland, found that 49,517 acres of those lands had been granted to the Earl of Romney; 108,633 acres to the Earl of Albemarle; 135,820 acres to the Earl of Portland; 26,480 acres to the Earl of Athlone; 36,148 acres to the Earl of Galway, and 95,649 acres (being the private estate of King James, and worth £25,955 per annum) to Lady Elizabeth Villiers, Countess of Orkney, a mistress of the King." And when the matter was brought before him by the Commons, what was the answer of His Majesty? That he thought himself obliged in justice to reward those who had served him well, and particularly in the reduction of Ire- 2159 land, out of the estates there forfeited to the Crown; for he thought that the value of these estates would thus best contribute to the honour, interest, and safety of the kingdom. Whereupon the Commons resolved, "that whoever advised His Majesty to return this answer had used their utmost endeavours to create a misunderstanding and jealousy between His Majesty and his people." These, then, were the circumstances. The Commons on that occasion perceived that the House of Lords had become an instrument in the hands of the Crown, and that Members of that House had a personal interest in increasing the power of the Crown. What are the circumstances now? Why, it is a notorious fact that the personal influence of the Sovereign in everything that relates to taxation has been nominally merged in the House of Commons; that nearly the whole power of the Crown has been transferred to this House; and there is no danger that the power of the Crown will be again so far as we can see, exercised to any great extent through the Lords. The point I wish the House to consider is this; is it wise and consistent with the independence of this House to permit so great an increase of the power of the Crown, and of its exercise in this House, for though transferred it is not lost, to the curtailing of our privileges as well as those of the House of Lords. Observe what is our real position. The power of the Crown is shown in the fact that we, the Commons, with all our privileges, cannot originate taxation, unless it is first proposed to us on the part of the Crown. Look, then, at what you are about to do. Adopt the Bill now upon the Table, and you go far to prevent yourselves from repealing taxation without the intervention of the power of the Crown. You may say that this is all done by a majority in this House, and that Ministers are but the representatives of that majority. But have they not the power in their hands of coercing the House? Have they not the power of saying, "This question is one of confidence, and if you, by rejecting any portion of our Supply Bill, manifest a want of confidence, we will resign office; that is, of making an appeal to Parliament in the aggregate; or we will dissolve Parliament, that is, an appeal to the constituencies." Do not tell me that this is not an absolute power, and that it may not be exercised to coerce this House. If, from a sense of a duty, or for any other 2160 reasons, this House adopts a course which for the time is not popular and not in accordance with the views of the Government, the Members of this House will subject themselves to the power of the Crown, which rests in the Executive, and which may be so exercised to send us to our constituencies at an inconvenient period. That is a known fact. Therefore, I say, that this Bill embodies a direct increase of the power of the Crown to be exercised over this House, as well as against the privileges of the House of Lords. I have adverted to the fact which was acknowledged by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle, that a change has taken place in our system of finance, and that instead of the great mass of the Supplies being granted annually, taxation has become more permanent in its character. I speak as an independent Member of this House to the whole body of the House; and, I say, "should we not be careful how we part with our control over taxation, now that it has assumed this altered character?" Is it not absolutely necessary that we should guard our power of repeal, which has not been hitherto qualified by the intervention of the Crown, to the same extent as our power of imposing taxes, but which, if you once adopt the principle contained in this Bill, will be materially curtailed? I am a man of the present day, and speak of existing circumstances. Are we so sure that there is no extraneous power tampering with and exerting the authority of the Crown over this House? I have not yet forgotten what occurred in the last Session of Parliament. A strict secrecy was observed as to the intention of the Government to negotiate a treaty with France. Until the House met there were but vague rumours and surmises; and even for some time after we had assembled, these rumours did not assume such a tangible form as to allow us to judge fairly of the general tendency of the provisions of this treaty. Information afterwards circulated rapidly, and by degrees the various interests which were likely to be affected, became aware of the position in which they stood, deputations waited upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I, myself, accompanied one of those deputations; but the right hon. Gentleman still maintained much reserve. It was not until just before his Financial Statement was made in this House, that we were really apprised of the actual provisions of the treaty, and found that those 2161 who negotiated it had dealt with our finances to an extent which, in the opinion of the Government, rendered it advisable that we should change our order of proceeding, and go into Committee of Ways and Means before going into Committee of Supply. In short, the instrument to which the Government had pledged the power of the Crown had so largely compromised the finances of this country, had in deference to the will of a foreign potentate, already so largely dealt with our finances, that it had become idle for us to talk of dealing with the taxation of the year until we had considered the decision arrived at by anticipation between the representatives of the power of the Crown and that foreign Power. I hope, then, I shall not be told that the power of the Crown is less now than it was. I say that it is as great as ever; I say that it controlled the action of the House unduly last year; and that, if you sanction this Bill, you may perpetuate a precedent which you will find most embarrassing to your freedom hereafter. What, then, disarranged our finances last year? Why it was this very necessity of considering the French Treaty at the commencement of the Session, before we knew what might be required for Supply. And how was that Treaty negotiated? It was negotiated by a Member of this House, who was avowedly appointed for the purpose; of whom Lord Cowley, our Ambassador at Paris stated in one of his despatches that the activity of this Member of our House was such that he really felt his own interference in the negotiation an incumbrance. In fact, the Ambassador could not go the pace of the extemporized negotiator. Well, this negotiator was a Member of this House, but his appointment was so made that it did not void his seat. His constituents, therefore, had no opportunity afforded them of expressing their judgment of his fitness for the office to which he had been appointed, in combination with the functions which, as their representative, he could not perform in this House, while thus engaged in the service of the Crown. It is well known that this hon. Member, who is also a leading member of an organization which has exercised an enormous power over this House in matters of finance for many years, scarcely ever appeared in his place to answer for what he was doing during the whole of the last Session. I once commented upon his conduct under these circumstances. He 2162 then wrote a letter to the hon. Member for Birmingham, instead of appearing in his place, to desire me to withdraw what he considered an unjust imputation, hut which I never have retracted and never will retract. When he came into this House, did he advert to the comments that had been made upon his conduct? No; not by one word: he retired again to the exercise of his functions under the Crown, and has never since presented himself in the House. Again, I say, let me not be told that the power of the Crown is now brought within the control of this House. It is exercised in this House; but it is exercised over this House. I do not wish to speak with any disrespect of the hon. Gentleman to whom I have adverted. Still, the facts are such that I think the House would be wanting to itself it it did not recognize them. The hon. Gentleman opposite, the Member for Birmingham, has declared that this is his Budget. Well, Sir, the Member for Birmingham represents the very organization of which I have spoken; thus the organization which last year provided us with a negotiator using the whole, or nearly the whole, power of the Crown, though not authorized as the Constitution requires, has now supplied us with a private Member of this House who, standing in his place here, declares that this is his Budget! Coming from any other man such words might have been deemed idle, and one might think that he only claimed the Budget as his Budget, on the part of a majority of this House of whom he was one; but has that hon. Member manifested such respect for this House that we should trust him with the control of our privileges and our freedom. Why, throughout the country the hon. Member has used expressions towards the House of Lords which seem to justify the course he is now adopting in seeking to annul their privileges. But has he not also used language which is equally disrespectful and disparaging to this House? Has he not told the public and those with whom he acts out of this House that this House is a sham representation? Has he not publicly said that we are a collection of followers of the aristocracy, whose main function it is to enable the families of the aristocracy to feed upon the sweat of the people? And now, when we have this power exercised by the organization whom he represents, and he claims this Budget as his own, are we to believe that the Budget is only an embodiment 2163 of our own will? Are we not led to suspect that this organization cares little for this House; and uses it only as an instrument for carrying out intentions which they have not been backward to avow? Sir, I own I do feel suspicious when I see the manner in which the two leading Members of that organization have conducted themselves: the one in negotiating the Treaty of Commerce with France, and the other in coming down to this House and claiming this Budget as his own—this plan for incapacitating the House of Lords—this plan for limiting the free privileges of the independent Members of the House of Commons, as his own! I ask the House to beware and pause. I believe there is reason to fear that the power of the Crown, which, I grant, was once unduly exercised by Members of the House of Lords, is now used by Members of this House representing the organization, to which I have referred, in order to carry out their own purposes, and to promote their own interests, irrespective of the general interests of the country which it is our first duty to uphold and protect. I cannot conceal from myself the fact that the repeal of the paper duty, if accomplished, will be accomplished at the instance of this organization, to advance the interests of its leading members; and precedent warns me not to consent to tacking Bills in this House, when I see that the power of the Crown is likely to be unduly increased and used against our freedom, on behalf of a particular class, in derogation of the interests of the great body of the people. I thank the House most sincerely for allowing me, one of the few independent Members of the House whose voice and whose action is unfettered, to warn them that in thus seeking to curtail the privileges of the House of Lords they are in reality curtailing their own—limiting their free action, and abridging their own privileges. The other night an hon. Member asked—"Where are the Tory Gentlemen, who were once so jealous of the privileges of the House?" Sir, I tell him that one Tory Gentleman is here, and that I believe a considerable number are here also who are prepared to guard the privileges of this House as much against this democratic faction as they formerly showed themselves ready to resist the invasion of them by the House of Lords. I am loath to detain the House; but I wish to put before it clearly that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government of the day, as the chief 2164 depositories of the power of the Crown in matters of finance, will become the real grantors of the Supplies, in derogation of the free action of the House of Commons if this system is adhered to. I do not wish to impute to the right hon. Gentleman, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, any culpable design; but I say that he has vested in an extra-official Member of this House an undue amount of power; and that I see plainly that the tendency of this Bill, instead of wisely asserting our privileges against the House of Lords, who I must say, manifest no disposition to invade them, is to forgo fetters for ourselves which we may find most inconvenient and embarrassing hereafter. In thanking the House for having permitted me to express the views which I entertain upon this subject, I reserve to myself, as an independent Member of the House, however feeble, the right of hereafter claiming for the House the power of judging of the principle involved in the form of this measure, relating as it does both to the imposition of taxation and to the repeal of taxes. When the opportunity arrives at which this House can regularly express its opinion thereon, I shall seek protection against the invasion of the privileges of this House which I clearly apprehend. Before I sit down, let me advert for one moment only, in justification of what I have said to the hon. Member for Birmingham and the organization which he represents. I would not impute to him, or to the hon. Member for Rochdale, or to any other man or set of men, designs such as I have described, if these designs were not clearly inferable from their own words. In December 1858, at Manchester, the hon. Member for Birmingham said—I am not prepared to try to interfere with the prerogative of the Crown, nor the rights of the House of Peers. I do not desire to limit their Constitutional privileges or powers. We know, everybody knows, and nobody knows it better than the Peers themselves, that a House of hereditary legislation cannot be a permanent institution in a free country. We believe that such an institution must, in the course of time, require essential modification.And then, speaking of this House, he said on the same occasion—The only great result of the Reform Bill in the House is this—that it has introduced about 100 men who do at times show some amount of independence, and act free from the shackles of the Tory or Whig sections of the aristocracy; and it is we, it is by our work, it is by our speeches and our votes that we transfer the Government 2165 from one party to another. We make it impossible for either of them to conduct the Government upon those antiquated principles which we and the people of England are desirous to abolish.Sir, I think that the House will agree with me that when the hon. Member disclaimed all intentions of tampering with the power of the Crown, we have reason to remember the old French adage, Qui s'excuse s'accuse; especially as he followed up that declaration with another to the effect that it was he, and about one hundred other Members of the House—the representatives of the organization to which I have adverted—who are virtually using the prerogative of the Crown by deciding who shall, and who shall not, be the Ministers of the day. That, Sir, is in fact, using the power of the Crown and exercising it over the House; if the assertion, then, of the hon. Member for Birmingham is true, that this peculiar section of the House does exercise the power which is by the Constitution vested as the prerogative of the Crown, it is because the power of the Crown has been so extensively used by this particular organization, and the peculiar section of this House amenable to it, that I have now shown the House that although they may believe that the power of the Crown rests with the majority of this House, there are grave reasons for thinking that the majority of this House are so governed by an organization beyond these walls to the prejudice of their independence, that the power of the Crown, though exercised nominally on their behalf, is, in reality, exercised over them. Such is my conviction. Such is the view which I take of the present position of affairs. I object, then, to this form of Supply Bill as based on exceptional precedents. I claim for the House of Commons, and, to far less extent, but still absolutely for the House of Lords, the right to judge of each change in taxation, the right to judge of each separate and independent item of taxation, according to its relation to the interests of the people, and according to the principle which each such change in taxation may involve.
§ MR. MELLOR
said, there was no man in the House who respected more than he did the independence and the sincerity of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, but he would not follow him into the French Treaty, or into the characters of the hon. Members for Birmingham and Rochdale, who were perfectly able to take care of themselves. The real question be- 2166 fore the House was whether the Bill came within the scope of the Resolutions of the House of Lords against tacking; if it did, he quite agreed with those who argued that it ought not to pass. The hon. and learned Member for Sligo, who had shown so much research on these questions, must have been surprised at the doctrines maintained by the right hon. Member for Stroud, who had gone so far as to maintain that in all matters of taxation the House of Lords was a court of review over that House. He (Mr. Mellor) however, did not believe that the right. hon. Gentleman would find any one to maintain with him that doctrine. The right hon. Gentleman had also said, with reference to the conduct of the House of Lords last year, that the House of Commons ought to go as penitents and beg their Lordship's pardon. He (Mr. Mellor) was quite sure that, if these were the doctrines of the right hon. Gentleman, he would stand alone in the profession of them; and he would be the only person who would go in the garb of a penitent to the bar of the House of Lords to confess his repentance for the conduct of the House of Commons last year. The right hon. Gentleman had claimed to interpret the Resolutions moved by the noble Lord at the head of the Government by the light of the speech in which he had proposed them. The question, therefore, ought to be determined whether it was the Resolutions or the speech of the noble Viscount by which the House was bound? The House was by no means agreed in regard to the speech, for many hon. Members who sat near him took exception to it, but were unanimous in affirming the Resolutions. What a monstrous thing, therefore, it was to assert that the Resolutions were not to be read by themselves, but that their meaning was to be taken from the speech of the noble Viscount, as the key by which they were to be interpreted. It ought not to be forgotten that hon. Gentlemen opposite put the same construction last year upon the Resolutions which hon. Members on his (the Ministerial) side now contended they bore. The first Resolution affirmed the right of granting aids to be in the Commons alone. The state of things at the time when the Resolutions were proposed was that the House of Lords had adopted the Bill giving an additional penny of income tax, which was the consideration for the repeal of the paper duty, and had thrown out the Bill repealing the paper duty. What, then, was the mean- 2167 ing of the third Resolution? The third Resolution meant that the House had it in its power at any future time to guard against any undue exercise of the power of the Lords, and to secure to the Commons their right over taxation, and to frame Bills of Supply. After such a Resolution had been calmly and carefully and deliberately passed by the House, could the right now proposed to be exercised be justly called in question? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, who spoke on that occasion after the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and after all the precedents had been brought forward, stated that the gist and marrow of the third Resolution was to be found in the last two paragraphs of the Report of the Committee, and that it was only an intimation of the recurrence to ancient practice on the part of the House in money affairs. Would the right hon. Gentleman now agree with the right hon. Member for Stroud that in all such questions the House of Lords was a court of review to the Commons? The right hon. Member for Stroud told them that if an appeal were to be made to the country many Gentlemen would find to their cost that the places which now returned them would return them no more. The right hon. Gentleman had visited Stroud in the course of the winter, and had received such an admonition from the electors of Stroud, as, no doubt, qualified him to speak as a witness on such a subject. But into that question he would not follow the right hon. Gentleman. With regard to the argument of the hon. and learned Member for Sligo, he would say that if this were not a tacking Bill the whole of his argument fell to the ground. He had argued that the word "grant" was inapplicable to the case of Bills repealing taxes. So far he agreed with him; but there were numerous instances in which Bills both repealed and imposed taxes. At the time the preamble of Supply Bills was framed by Selden, Coke, and Glanville there were few permanent taxes, and generally such as were permanent were settled for the life of the Sovereign, and the business of the Commons in the matter of taxation was mainly confined to granting Supplies. In substance, however, the claim of the Commons to settle the scheme of taxation was thereby admitted, and the practice since had been the same, whether Bills were confined to granting, or mixed with repealing clauses. In 1799 there was a Bill, with 2168 a Supply preamble, which repealed the assessed taxes and imposed the income tax; and another Bill, in 1707, with a Supply preamble, which granted certain duties and repealed the duty on beer. He gave these as specimens, but the cases were abundant in which the same course had been followed. Tacking Bills were very clearly defined in the reasons of the Lords in 1700, in the conference on the Land Tax and Irish Forfeitures Bill to the effect—That the joining together in a Money Bill things so totally contrary to the methods of raising money, and to the quantity and qualification of the sums to be raised, is wholly destructive of the freedom of debates, dangerous to the privileges of the Lords, and to the prerogative of the Crown.And this attempt of the Commons was the occasion of the Resolution of the Lords of the 9th December, 1702—That the annexing any clause or clauses to a Bill of Aid or Supply, the matter of which is foreign to, and different from the said Bill of Aid or Supply, is unparliamentary and tends to destruction of the Constitution of the Government.He could not understand the meaning of the Resolutions of last year if they did not point to the very course now being taken by the Government as the very one that should be taken with a view of avoiding a repetition of the occurrences of last Session. With regard to the repeal of the paper duty, he did not think that the importance of that measure was confined to the effect which it would have on the paper trade. There were many other branches of manufacture which would be benefited by it. He had been told by a gentleman of great practical experience that a description of paper-box extensively used in packing gloves, stockings, and other such articles cost 4d. in this country, while it was only 2d. in Germany; and that so great was the competition in the hosiery trade that the difference between 2d. and 4d. in the price of one of these boxes made all the difference between trade and no trade. On the whole, he had arrived at the conclusion that the scheme of the Government was one to be justified not only on constitutional but also on financial grounds.
§ MR. MALINS
said, he had no desire to see the House of Lords reject the repeal of the paper duty if the measure passed the House of Commons, nor was he one of those who thought they ought to go in penitence to the House of Lords and beseech them to take any particular course; for he fully admitted, in the words of the Resolution of last year, that the right to 2169 grant aids and Supplies to the Crown was in the Commons alone as an essential part of their constitution. But, for the first time it had been boldly avowed by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that any constitution which gave the Lords a voice, negative, or otherwise, on the subject of taxation, could not too early receive a stab and be destroyed. If the right hon. Gentleman's principle was a correct one, the House of Commons had better not send money Bills up to the Lords at all. That would be a more consistent course than to send them up and deny to the other House of Parliament any right to have a voice in them. He hoped, however, that the principle would be held to be unsound. They lived in extraordinary times, and various schemes had come before them for changing the constitution of the House, and if, by lowering the franchise in borough or counties, the House became extremely democratic, what might be the result? If the House affirmed that, not indirect, but direct taxation was the true system, and resolved that all Supplies should be raised by direct taxation, and all indirect taxation should be repealed, what would be the situation of the kingdom if the House of Lords had no voice upon that subject? Surely the House was not prepared to adopt such a principle? No doubt the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his speech on the Budget, recognized the expediency of not disturbing the just equilibrium between direct and indirect taxation; but looking to his antecedents, and to the paramount influence which it was said he exercised over his colleagues, what security had they that he would not unsay in 1862 what he had said in 1861, and propose to the House a system of direct taxation, which, in his (Mr. Malins) opinion, would go to the annihilation of the middle classes of the country. In what a deplorable situation would the country be if such a course were adopted, the House of Lords in the meanwhile having been deprived of all voice in the matter. The hon. and learned Member who had just spoken said that if it could be shown that the Bill was a tacking Bill the House ought to reject it with disgust and ignominy. He (Mr. Malins) admitted it was not a tacking Bill in the common sense of the word. There was "tacked" nothing which was unconnected with the subject matter of the Bill; but what he understood by a tacking Bill was one with clauses introduced on 2170 which the other House had no opportunity of voting. Directly they put a clause in a Bill with the intention of preventing the House of Lords from voting upon that clause, they resorted to the principle of tacking. The leather duty was repealed in 1830 by a separate Bill, and why? Not because any opposition was anticipated in the other House, or that it would act in contravention of the rights of that House, but to enable the Lords to exercise the privilege which had belonged to them for ages, to say aye or no upon the Bill. Again, the glass duties were repealed in 1845 by a distinct statute, and the repeal was not mixed up in the Bill with the imposition of new duties. The House on that occasion was actuated by the same feelings which induced them last year to pass a separate Bill for the repeal of the paper duties. The right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin had put a question, which had not yet been answered, namely, why, if it were right last year to bring in a separate Bill, they should this Session pursue a different course? The noble Lord, in his temperate and statesmanlike speech last Session said the Attorney General, at the memorable Conference of 1671, admitted that the House of Lords, though they could not alter or amend, had, nevertheless, the right to reject Money Bills; and added that between 1714 and the present time about thirty-six cases of rejections by the Lords of repealing Bills had occurred. What excuse could there be, then, for depriving the House of Lords of the opportunity of dealing with the Bill as they might think proper? What justification could there be for departing from the usual form on the present occasion? Was there any probability that the House of Lords would reject the Bill? The right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside) asked that question; he (Mr. Malins) repeated it. Why was the alteration made now? Was it to justify the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his financial views? The Chancellor of the Exchequer had spoken of the conduct of the Lords as a gigantic innovation. Not so, however, the noble Lord; there was a wide difference between the noble Lord and his Chancellor of the Exchequer. It might be hoped that the result would prove that there was equal difference between them now. The Chancellor of the Exchequer did in one year unsay what he said in a former year; but he trusted the noble Lord would adhere in 2171 1861 to the policy which he had expressed in 1860, and that he would not declare that he was now prepared to deny to the House of Lords all influence with regard to Money Bills, and to stab and destroy the Constitution which conferred that power upon them. It was sufficiently clear from Hatsell's Precedents, that every Bill ought to be drawn in as simple a form as possible. There was no excuse for any irregularity on that occasion, because they all well knew that the course adopted by the House of Lords last year was an exceptional one, occasioned by the state of the Revenue, and the occurrence of an event of great importance between the introduction of the Budget and the passing of the financial measures. The conduct of the House of Lords last year was, however, justifiable, and was treated as justifiable. Let the House of Commons give the Upper House an opportunity, which he was sure they would not exercise, of expressing a judgment in this matter, the question in the case being one of such great importance. With regard to the paper duty, he wished to explain that on a former occasion he had abstained from voting with the party with whom he generally acted, on the following grounds—that he thought the question had become, by various decisions and Resolutions of the House, in so unsettled a condition as to be a source of embarrassment to any Government. When, however, the question came to be one of the remission of 5d. on tea and the abolition of the paper duty, he could not hesitate about giving his vote in favour of the former proposal. He anticipated that no opposition would be offered to the second reading of the Bill, and as the question now was simply whether the Bill should be divided into two, or be read as one, he begged to press upon the noble Lord the expediency of severing the measure into two portions, and paying to the House of Lords the tribute that was due to a constitutional branch of the legislature.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, he did not expect to be able to throw much light on the question; but it had been said that the present state of things had been brought about by the extreme party in the House, who were described as some one hundred Gentlemen who entertained feelings of hostility to the House of Lords. He begged leave to say that he was one of that extreme party—one of the party who had most strongly deprecated the rejection of the Paper Duty Repeal Bill by the House 2172 of Lords last Session, but at the same time he repudiated the charge of being actuated by any vindictive feeling towards the other House of Parliament. He would call the attention of the House to the conduct of those with whom he acted last year in reference to this question. They declared from the first, when the noble Lord moved for a Committee to inquire into the privileges of the House—that the House of Lords had a right to do what it had done, and that the appointment of the Committee was a mere waste of the time of the House. What he and those with whom he acted concluded was, that it was the House of Commons who were to blame for having deprived themselves of control over a great portion of the revenues of the country by making the taxation permanent, instead of voting it from year to year. The noble Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord Fermoy) last Session called for some action in consequence of the rejection by the Lords of the Paper Duty Repeal Bill; but the noble Lord at the head of the Government, in effect, advised the House to wait, and contented himself by moving the previous question. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks upon that occasion taunted the Government with having brought the difficulty upon themselves by not including all their plans in one Bill; and, therefore, be ought to approve the present Bill. There was no desire to obtain a victory over the Lords, but simply to retain for the House of Commons its legitimate control over the taxation of the country.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, that if the debate had taken another turn he should not have considered all the questions raised by the Budget so entirely disposed of as to preclude further discussion, but he thought the debate had rather run away from those financial questions. Still, there was much to be said on the income tax and the reasons for a repeal of the paper duties, and if he did not touch upon those questions it was not because he thought the subject had been exhausted, but because the House seemed to desire upon the present occasion to confine the discussion to the form of the Bill. He did not, however, intend to involve himself in the maze of precedents and constitutional arguments that had been adduced on either side; but there was one important question raised by the form of the Bill, which was entitled to more consideration than it had yet received. For himself, submitting 2173 his opinions to the judgment of those better acquainted with constitutional questions and precedents, he did not intend to dispute the right or the wisdom of the House to adopt the course which was now proposed to it, so far as combining together in one Act all the measures connected with the taxation of the year. The point to which he wished to call attention had hardly been glanced at in the present debate, although the right hon. Member for Carlisle threw out a suggestion which conveyed a distinct meaning, and which showed what was the real danger of the course. That idea was strengthened by what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They had heard a good deal about the danger of encroachment by the House of Lords. He did not believe in that danger. A good deal, also, had been said about the danger of a collision between the two Houses. He did not believe that danger either. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had talked about Caleb Balderstone, and he (Sir Stafford Northcote) believed no more in those dangers than he did in Caleb Balderstone's thunderstorm. The whole excitement was fictitious, but the results that might follow from the Bill were not fictitious, hut real and serious. He would state what appeared to him to be a real danger. They were now about to vote for one year's taxation, to the extent of £20,000,000. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, in recommending that course, had told them that it was formerly the practice to do so, and quoted precedents to show that such had been the case, and that all the financial schemes of the year were sent up to the House of Lords included in one Bill. He (Sir Stafford Northcote) had nothing to say about there being but one Bill, but as to the practice of voting from year to year a large portion of the taxation of the country he wished to say a few words. It was true that it had been formerly the practice to vote annual taxes, but by degrees the practice changed, taxes became permanent, and at last the only annual duty was the sugar duty. In 1846 that duty was also converted into a permanent tax, and at that time, as the right hon. Gentleman had stated, complaints were made that they were parting with the control of the House of Commons over the annual taxation of the country, and that some other annual taxes should be substituted for the sugar duties. The noble Lord the Member for London, then at the 2174 head of the Government, admitted that the Government must look for some other annual tax. The point now had become very important. It was immaterial whether one Bill or four or five Bills were sent up to the Lords, as he believed that the other House, practically speaking, would have just the same power, neither more or less in either case. The House of Lords knew that when they threw out the Roll of last year they disturbed the whole financial arrangements of the country, and took upon themselves a serious responsibility, which they could not do unless they were supported by the general opinion of the country. But Parliament was now about to revert to the ancient practice, and to make a large amount of taxation annual. Now, what was the meaning of that course, and what were the taxes which were to be made annual? No less than twenty millions of taxation were to be dependent upon annual Votes, and the particular taxes selected were the tea and sugar duties and the income tax. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, following up the hint of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, had said that if this measure were adopted it would give to the House of Commons control over what he called the "time taxation"—that was, that those items were to be kept under the control of the House from year to year. ["Hear, hear!"] He could understand the meaning of that cheer from hon. Members below the gangway—such a course was coincident with their policy. The noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire (the Marquess of Hartington) upon a former evening, speaking for the Whig party, said they had been taunted with supporting the views of the hon. Member for Birmingham. Upon certain questions, said the noble Lord—such as questions of Reform and of domestic policy, they did not support the hon. Member for Birmingham, but upon commercial questions they went entirely with him. Now, they were not at present discussing commercial questions, but questions of finance, and he would like to know whether the noble Lord intended to accept the hon. Member for Birmingham as his leader upon those questions; because upon financial questions the hon. Member for Birmingham had laid down a clear and definite policy, and the present measure of the Government was in conformity with that policy, or rather, was introductory to it? The hon. Member for Birmingham had laid down a distinct financial policy; and what 2175 did he recommend? He would like to sweep away all taxation voted year by year; to sweep away the sugar and tea duties and the income tax, for the purpose of substituting for them a tax on realized property in funds, or houses, excluding property invested in trade.
§ MR. BRIGHT
—The hon. Gentleman has entirely mistaken what I said. I said nothing of the kind. I never proposed to exclude from taxation property in trade. Nothing can be more unjust than the system of taxation he has attributed to me.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he had only spoken from memory of a speech of the hon. Gentleman, and he begged his pardon if he had misrepresented him. At all events an intention had been expressed to lay a tax on realized property, that was somehow distinguished from the present income tax, which the hon. Member for Birmingham had condemned as strongly as any one. It was proposed to substitute for the taxes now voted a tax of 8s. per annum on every £100 of property realized. Was that the financial policy the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire and other Gentlemen of the Whig party were prepared to adopt? If so, he could perfectly understand their satisfaction with the system of converting the taxation into the subject of annual votes. If it was not, let them pause and consider what would be the effect of this system? The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had met them with appeals to authority; he told the Opposition they were the innovators, but that he "stood upon the ancient ways," and followed the policy of Sir Robert Peel and other great statesmen. If the right hon. Gentleman's Budget contained the same features as the Budget of 1842, or that of 1845, he should feel less alarm; he should feel that the right hon. Gentleman was going on a solid and sure foundation. But his policy was not only not the same as Sir Robert Peel's; it was the reverse of it. Sir Robert Peel made remissions of duty; that was certainly one point of resemblance; but by the same arrangement Sir Robert Peel imposed the income tax for a period of years sufficient to cover the term of the experiment and to secure a surplus during that time. Did the right hon. Gentleman make provision for a period of years? He did not even provide for a single year. Was that the policy of 1842 or 1845, or that of the right hon. Gentleman himself in 1853? What would be their posi- 2176 tion next year? Even if all turned out successful, they must renew the present amount of taxation, postpone the payment of debts, or, if they paid the debts, add further to the amount of taxation. What must be the effect of renewing the chief taxes year by year? The public expenditure was now at a high level, and would, probably, remain at that level for some time to come. How should it be met? By taxation that should be the least galling, and the least oppressive possible. Was the income tax a tax not galling, not oppressive, not unjust, not unpopular? Was it so framed that they could stand by it without provoking a war of classes? Every year that the question was renewed, whether the income tax should be 9d., 10d., or 12d., every year that the question was renewed whether the working classes should be subjected to taxation on articles of comfort and necessity, they revived a war of classes. And, taking the ground of economy, was the income tax the best kind of tax to induce it? The right hon. Gentleman had told them that the House of Commons was liable to hot and cold fits as to expenditure. If the House were in a hot fit, and were asked for enough to put all their fortifications and defences on the best footing, by a penny, twopence, or threepence added to the income tax, it might be done easily. If the House were in the cold fit, with the income tax voted year by year, it might spare itself any trouble about the details of the Estimates by at once reducing the income tax one-half or a quarter, or a Motion might be made to alter the form of the income tax. Suppose a Resolution were moved with that object, with the income tax renewed from year to year, was there no peril of giving rise to class dissensions? Might it not be proposed, from its unpopularity, to exempt certain schedules from the income tax, or to sweep away the tea and sugar duties and lay all the public burdens on the income tax? It was most dangerous to leave all these matters open questions. They might be raised when there was a weak Ministry, when the people were excited, or when parties in the House were nicely balanced, and it might be, impossible to resist a pressure. They might have a Ministry anxious to change the form of taxation; to get rid of all indirect taxation, and substitute a form more oppressive to the property and landed interests of the country. There were most serious risks incurred by voting (he taxation annually 2177 instead of fixing it for a term of years. If the system was injurious to the political interests of the country, was it not also most mischievous to its commercial interests? The amount of the tea and sugar duties being uncertain, few would embark in a trade of which they could not calculate the conditions. Such was the objectionable element they were about to introduce into their Budgets, and for what purpose? To take vengeance on the House of Lords for the insult said to have been offered last year. He did not so much object to including all the financial propositions in one Bill as to the system of making all the taxation annual instead of permanent, making their finance provisional and shifting, and introducing a system that must raise questions between class and class in the most inconvenient form. The course taken by the Government was gratuitous and unnecessary, and pursued on account of an insult supposed to have been received—but which he did not believe had been received or would be likely to be received—from the House of Lords. Having taken this course, and thus thrown the House into confusion, the Government turned round on the Opposition, and, calling them innovators, commenced a policy which he believed would be fruitful of years of increasing difficulty to the country.
§ MR. LOCKE
said, he thought the speech of the hon. Baronet was extremely satisfactory, because, after so much of the time of the House had been wasted in discussing the question which had been raised by the hon. and learned Member for Sligo (Mr. Macdonogh), the hon. Baronet told them that the question so ably raised was altogether unimportant, and that he did not care a straw whether they sent up one Bill or three Bills to the House of Lords. He must say that such conduct on the part of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite did not reflect any very great credit on Her Majesty's Opposition. The question of the paper duties had been discussed ad nauseam, the whole country was agreed upon it. ["No, no!"] It was all very well to say "No, no!"—what constituencies had hon. Gentlemen consulted? The noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Lord Robert Cecil) talked of his constituents; now, he would tell the noble Lord the opinion of his (Mr. Locke's) constituents. He had 11,600 constituents—as many as would comprise the constituencies of some twenty or thirty hon. Gentlemen 2178 opposite. When he recently went back to them he asked them whether they were in favour of the Budget of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and they told him they were. And when he told them of the course taken by the Tory party—they understood the expression "Tory"—they did not understand what Liberal Conservative meant. They knew who the party were that, down to a recent period, refused the people cheap bread, and then afterwards came forward in that House to ask for cheap tea. They called them Tories now, and he believed them Tories still. ["Hear, hear!" from the Opposition.] He liked that expression from hon. Members opposite; it showed that they did not put a mask upon their faces as they had been hitherto in the habit of doing, and that they came forth in all their ancient beauty, or ancient deformity, as one for or against them might choose to express it. The hon. Baronet had done good service to that (the Liberal) side of the House, because he had told his supporters that they had been wasting the public time in arguing a question which was wholly untenable. Hon. Gentlemen opposite put forward the hon. and learned Member for Sligo, who made a speech with great confidence and ability; but he left out of it all those precedents and points which were brought forward by other hon. Members. The hon. and learned Member spoke like a lawyer—he did as all lawyers did, as he (Mr. Locke) would do; but not in that House, because he did not think it would be correct. The hon. and learned Member just took that part of the case which suited him: he quoted the precedents which bore upon that point of the case, and left out of view everything which militated against him. He (Mr. Locke) was satisfied after the second speech in that debate. The speech of the hon. and learned Member for Sligo was answered by that of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle. The debate was concluded with that speech they had heard nothing new since. They had had the Report of the Committee tortured and taken to pieces bit by bit, misrepresented on one side and properly represented on the other, until they ought to know the whole of the Report by heart. But of all the extraordinary speeches which he had heard, the speech of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wallingford (Mr. Malins) was the most extraordinary. His hon. and learned Friend had a kind 2179 and generous heart: and when he spoke his real feelings, and was not misled by those about him, he came out in an honourable, straightforward, and generous manner. His hon. and learned Friend was so struck some evenings since by the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he rose in his place, the feelings of his heart got the better of his judgment, and he at once approved of the Budget. But in the speech which his hon. and learned Friend had delivered to night, he made some sort of excuse, and what was the excuse? The result of his hon. and learned Friend's argument was this, that they ought to place confidence in the House of Lords. Why? Because the Lords had not placed confidence in the House of Commons. The hon. Member said that was the right way and that the proposed mode was an improper mode of proceeding, and he went on for a long time about tacking, but if ever there was a curious instance of tacking it was that of the hon. Member himself who had tacked all round. He (Mr. Locke) was at a loss to know why they should place confidence in the House of Lords. It was always usual in that House to express the highest opinion of all dignitaries—he himself felt it as much even as the hon. Member for Knaresborough (Mr. Collins). His hon. Friend said, "Do not send up this Bill with three things in it, but send them up one by one, and have that confidence in the House of Lords that they will pass them one after the other." He (Mr. Locke) had not the slightest reason to think why they should. They did not do so last Session, and unless his hon. Friend could give some special reason that they would do so this Session, he declined to confide in them or adopt his advice. On the contrary, the right way was to send up the Bill as it had been introduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. As it was near the end of the debate he had a right to ask why they should not do so? Had any reason been given why they should not send up the Bill as it was, containing those three points in it? If there had ever been any doubt on the point, the hon. Baronet the Member for Stamford had solved that doubt. He was put up by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire as a little kite just to see how the wind blow. The hon. Baronet had been put up on a former occasion, on the debate on the Reform Bill, of the late Government, when the noble Lord, 2180 the Member for the City, subsequently moved those important Resolutions, which caused a dissolution of Parliament, the hon. Baronet got up and led hon. Members on that side of the House to suppose that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks was going to adopt the Resolutions of the noble Lord. He (Mr. Locke) had that impression five or six times, his hopes were raised; but then the hon. Baronet spoke with bated breath, and those expectations and hopes the hon. Baronet dashed to the ground. The hon. Baronet had behaved in the same way that night. He said that Members on this side of the House had wasted time; whereas he (Mr. Locke) said that the question which had been raised by the Opposition was not tenable, and that in short the whole course which they had pursued in this debate had been perfectly ridiculous—for what did the hon. Baronet now say, why that the question, and the only one, which the House had to determine was whether the taxes should be voted for one year or for several years? That according to the hon. Baronet was the sole point they had to determine, and as he understood that the second reading of the Bill was not to be opposed by a division, he could only express a hope that when the House went into Committee, the Opposition would behave themselves better than they had hitherto done.
§ MR. W. E. DUNCOMBE
said, he wished to recall the attention of the House to the question before it. He was extremely surprised when the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in making his financial statement, said that he was throwing down the olive branch, and that he hoped the measure would be received in the same pacific spirit in which it was proposed. He could not understand how the right hon. Gentleman could be so sanguine, for his measures seemed more likely to occasion discontent and a great political injustice. It appeared to him that the question which had been submitted to the House might be divided into two parts—the financial and the constitutional. With regard to the financial part it might be stated in a very few words. How was it he would ask that the right hon. Gentleman proposed to reduce the duty on paper, which was a tax not severely felt by the great body of the people, and at the same time proposed to retain the war duties upon tea and sugar, and the income tax at a high rate? It had always been considered a right and 2181 politic course, when the Government was in a condition to reduce taxation, that they should first reduce that part of taxation which had been imposed in time of war or of peculiar emergency, rather than to reduce other taxes that had been a long time in existence. He thought that the country had a right to feel grievously disappointed at the course which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had taken. Those great men who had employed the income tax in former times as an engine of finance reserved that tax for periods of war or of great financial difficulty. Mr. Pitt imposed the tax when we were engaged in a gigantic struggle with France, and Sir Robert Peel imposed it when the finances of the country were in considerable difficulty, and when there was a deficit of upwards of £2,000,000 owing to the mismanagement of their predecessors. It was true that the income tax had not been taken off since that period, but it was not increased until the Russian war, when it was raised to 16d. in the pound, and the extra 9d. was called the war 9d. In 1853 the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed that the income tax should cease in 1860, but instead of abolishing, or even of diminishing it, he increased it when that year came; and now when he had according to his own statement £2,000,000 at his disposal, he proposed to retain the income tax at the high rate of 9d. That proposal was altogether inconsistent with his previous views, and certainly he was bound to propose a reduction of the income tax in preference to a repeal of the paper duty. The reduction of the tea duties would also have received the general approval of the House and the country, and he could only ascribe the course actually taken by the Government to an anxious desire on their part to sacrifice even the interests of the country in order to gain the support of the hon. Member for Birmingham. On the constitutional question it was said that the Budget proposals were combined in one Bill in order to settle the differences between the two Houses of Parliament. But he denied that any differences had existed between the two Houses. When the Lords last year rejected the Paper Duty Abolition Bill a great change of opinion had taken place in this House, and when the right hon. Gentleman afterwards brought forward his supplemental Budget there was hardly an hon. Member who did not think the course 2182 taken by the Lords was wise, politic, and just. What right had hon. Gentlemen opposite to assume that the Lords would not pass the Paper Duty Abolition Bill, if it were sent up to them in the ordinary way? To jumble up so many different elements in one Bill, so as to prevent the Lords from exercising their independent judgment on any one of these different measures was, in his opinion, an attack upon the just rights and privileges of the Upper House. It was to retain the support of the hon. Member for Birmingham that this unconstitutional proceeding had been adopted. The hon. Member for Birmingham had endeavoured on various occasions to raise the feelings of the people in the manufacturing towns against the Lords, but always, fortunately, with ill success. This failure, however, had been atoned for by his success with the occupiers of Downing Street; but their unconstitutional attack on the privileges of the other House would recoil upon themselves if they ventured to take the opinion of the country on it.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, an old friend of mine used to say when a question was put to him, "I should like to hear it argued." A very prudent maxim that was, and undoubtedly the course of this debate shows the advantage of a full discussion. We began these debates with great doubts expressed whether there was any surplus at all. The statement of my right hon. Friend was disputed, his results denied, and the whole foundation of his scheme was said to be fallacious. After a certain amount of discussion it was generally admitted that there was a surplus. That admission was made not merely in words but by a Motion, because those who began by disputing the existence of a surplus ended by proposing a greater reduction of taxation, which would have absorbed a portion of that surplus. That was a step in the progress. Then arose the question as between tea and paper, and great objection was raised, which was largely and generally expressed, to the repeal of the paper duty; but discussion had its effect, and now there is no dispute as to whether the paper duty should or should not be repealed. There was step the second very satisfactorily established. Then arose the graver question—the question between the two Houses of Parliament. Serious objections were urged to the method proposed by my right hon. Friend of putting all his financial arrangements into one Bill, 2183 which was said to he an outrage on the House of Lords. That was a subject for discussion during a great many hours, but fortunately we have this very evening heard, on very competent authority, that that is a matter of no importance. The hon. Baronet the Member for Stamford (Sir Stafford Northcote) told us that the result of the discussion is that it is perfectly immaterial whether the financial propositions go up to the other House in one, two, three, or four Bills—he does not care sixpence about it, and so that question is entirely settled. Here, then, we have the surplus established, an entire acquiescence in the selection of the paper duty for repeal, and in the method and arrangement of the matters to be sent up to the other House. And, then, when—good, simple-minded people—we were looking upon the whole matter as disposed of, up starts another question, entirely unconnected with any of the former questions—whether taxes shall be voted annually, or made permanent? That is a new subject, and I dare say that when you, Sir, put the Question, we shall have a Motion for adjournment in order that it may be fully discussed like the other subjects satisfactorily determined. I can only recommend hon. Members to turn their minds to it in the course of the Whitsuntide holydays, so that they may be fully prepared to enter into a formal discussion of it. Being so far agreed, I was in hopes that the termination of these discussions might be peaceful and satisfactory; but up gets the right hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman), and throws the torch of discord into our hitherto comparatively peaceable debates. My right hon. Friend wants to set everybody by the ears. First of all he endeavours to sow dissension in the Cabinet, then he endeavours to set the two Houses in collision, and, not content with that, he carries his disturbing intentions so far as to try to get up a war between Members of the House of Commons and their constituents. I beg to assure him that he will entirely fail in his first object. He will not succeed by any taunts of his in creating dissensions in the Cabinet. With regard to his second object, I am convinced that he will be equally unsuccessful, as we have heard to-night from persons competent to speak, in creating hostility between the two Houses. That is a very satisfactory consolation. With regard to hostility between Members and their constituents, speaking generally for 2184 the House as a body, I am equally convinced that his endeavours will fail; but as far as his assertions may be founded on any local knowledge which he may possess with regard to any particular electoral body of course I cannot pretend to give an opinion. I refer that entirely to him. I will only say that it is an established maxim "Blessed are the peacemakers;" but what may be the fate of those who are sowers of dissensions, instigators of discord, and promoters of quarrels is not so clearly defined. Whatever it may be, I am afraid my right hon. Friend is determined to share in it.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, the agreeable but unexpected observations of the noble Lord appear to me to be, generally speaking, founded on an entire misconception of what has taken place, and the arguments which have been urged in this House during the last week. There is one point, however, in which I agree with the noble Lord—namely, in the estimate which he has formed of the value of discussion. It is quite apparent from the observations, however casual, of the noble Lord that he has acquired very different opinions upon many points that have been under discussion from those he entertained at a previous period, and especially last year. The first statement of the noble Lord was that we now admit a surplus, which we formerly denied. I think the noble Lord will find on reflection that there is no foundation whatever for that statement. All have admitted—the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself has admitted—an enormous deficiency for the year; all have admitted—it cannot be denied—that we have been obliged to meet that deficiency by renewing taxes, mainly war taxes, to a vast amount; and the simple question before us was whether we should renew those taxes to an amount that would satisfy the demands of the service, or whether we should renew them to an amount that would create an artificial surplus? That is the whole case. If you had followed what I believe to be a prudent course, you would have lightened the burdens of the people to the largest extent in your power, and you would have renewed the war taxes only to the amount that was necessary for the public service. But when you refused to adopt that policy, when you chose to follow a caprice of finance, and to renew the war taxes to an amount that gave you a surplus of £2,000,000 above the demands of the public service, then we said, 2185 "Do with the whole of that what you propose to do with a half—namely, apportion it to the reduction of the war taxes which you are renewing." You agreed with us so far as the income tax is concerned, and we proposed that the same process should be applied to the war tax on tea. That is the whole question. It may not have been understood at one time by the House, though it is now, but it has always been thoroughly understood by the country. You have created an artificial surplus, in order that you might gratify a financial caprice. We tried to bring you into a more healthy and advantageous position. Yet you seem proud of the triumph which you have accomplished! What is that triumph? In a House of more than 600 Members, by a bare majority—a majority of 18—a majority in a certain degree supplied by hon. Members who sit habitually opposite to you, and who voted for your measure, not because they approved your policy, but because they shrank from the responsibility of disturbing your Government—you have to this moment, and only to this moment, succeeded in the first step of carrying your policy into effect. The noble Lord is forcing by a bare majority, not furnished by his legitimate supporters, a financial policy upon the country, and telling you at the same time that that policy shall not be submitted to the consideration of the other House of Parliament. I say, the noble Lord, in thus forcing a financial policy upon the country by a bare and illegitimate majority, avowedly furnished by ambiguous means, is straining the Constitution. Then we are told that we have shifted our ground—that we have brought forward a great constitutional question, and shrunk from the issue which we ourselves selected. Who said so? I think it was that hon. and learned Gentleman who represents the borough of Southwark (Mr. Locke). He has favoured us with a speech of choice eloquence, in which he imputed motives pretty freely, and commented upon our conduct in that grotesque style which I have no doubt suits the hustings he has just left. The hon. and learned Gentleman says I set up my hon. Friend the Member for Stamford as a kite in order to discover the temper of the House. Why does he say so? Oh, precious reason! He is well acquainted with my hon. Friend; he has observed his conduct, and he remembered his speech on the Reform Bill of 1858. He says he listened with intense interest to my hon. Friend when 2186 he spoke on that occasion, and more than six times he believed he was going to say I was about to accept the Resolutions proposed by the noble Lord the Member for London. Six times did he believe that? If he could only once have believed that the noble Lord himself was going to accept them it would have been more satisfactory. That I think would have been a little more satisfactory to the electors of Southwark than the precious story about kites we have hoard to-night. The Reform Bill of 1858, coupled with what has since occurred, is not exactly the subject which an ardent and prudent supporter of the present Ministry would have chosen as an instrument of attack against us for our conduct in the matter of the Budget. But what is this great constitutional question? It is much simpler than at first supposed, though its simplicity cannot be surprising to those who were members of the Committee last year, including the noble Lord himself. The fact is, I believe, there is no light of the Commons which, if you search their journals, you cannot prove. On the other hand, there is no right of the Lords, which, if you search their journals, you cannot also prove. That is the state of the case as regards precedents. It is the natural consequence of dealing with an ancient Constitution that has gradually risen and gradually adapted itself to the wants and necessities of a great people. You have in the archives of the Lords the haughty records of prescription; you have in the journals of the Commons the rude annals of privilege. In either mighty code you may find sufficient authority for anything a factious Minister or an excited Parliament may think proper to undertake. We flattered ourselves, however, that we had not to deal with a factious Minister, but with a man who has had great experience of public affairs, and who, by his temperate conduct and moderate counsels, has generally been acceptable to Parliament. What was the conduct of the noble Lord when he had to do that which he did honestly, plainly, directly, and skilfully last year—when he had to accommodate modern circumstances to ancient precedents? He gave us temperate counsels, and if the Resolutions passed last year had been followed in their spirit by the House of Commons—if they had been followed in the spirit which was expressed in the speech of the noble Lord when he introduced them—a speech which was accepted by the House as the gloss and explanation of 2187 their meaning—there could have been no misunderstanding on the subject. I believe, indeed, that at the beginning of this Session it had never entered into the mind of the noble Lord that there could be any misunderstanding on the subject. But, then, another influence began, as last Session, to appear and to give a colour to public events and the conduct of Ministers; and what we complain of is that the policy which arose from this second and sinister influence is not one that is dictated by high considerations of State, by a regard to the spirit of our Constitution, or by a due respect for the privileges of the other House of Parliament; but has arisen from accidents, from circumstances, from private understandings, and from private pique. Hence the difficult and dangerous position in which this House now finds itself placed—a position far beyond considerations of party, far beyond the mere interests of individual Members—a position which may result in ruinous consequences to the Constitution of the country. We are, in consequence of these occult influences, brought to this condition—that we are straining the Constitution, that we are raising a question of immense importance, that we are unnecessarily and wantonly bringing into possible collision the privileges and powers of co-ordinate branches of the Legislature. Under what circumstances are we acting thus? When, in the very House of Parliament which, according to the view now advocated by the noble Lord, can alone benefit by that policy, parties are evenly balanced, or rather, I may say, a bare majority is obtained by the Government by means the most factitious. That is my answer to the noble Lord. I say, as I said last year, that to object to the mere form in which the Budget is produced would be to offer an objection which I admit is not technically valid. But why did you not bring forward your measure last year in the form which you now prefer? I should have been glad to have seen the Chancellor of the Exchequer's scheme of last year in one measure, assured that those outrageous propositions which created a mutiny in the Liberal rants at a later period, would have manifested itself earlier and ensured its defeat. But, if it was not expedient last year to include all your measures in one Bill, why, I would ash, is it necessary now? In order to find a reason for this change we must look back and see what has occurred in the interval. Taking that re- 2188 trospective glance we perceive that it is to the conduct of the House of Lords in the interval that this course of procedure is advisable. Well, and what has been that conduct? It is conduct which has been pronounced by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle—a great authority—as being perfectly legal and constitutional. It is not, therefore, because of its illegality or unconstitutional character that you object to the step which the House of Lords took last year. What, let me ask, was the policy of that step? The House of Lords were of opinion that, as the financial scheme of the Government was sent up to them, there would, if they sanctioned it, be a deficit for the year which has just terminated; and, therefore, they used their legal right—a right not contested in this House by any one except the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I believe—and prevented a branch of permanent revenue from being abolished. What has been the result? You had at the expiration of. the last financial year a deficit of £2,500,000, which deficit would have amounted to £3,500,000 had the House of Lords not pursued the course to which I am adverting. It appears, then, that the conduct of that House in this respect was legal, constitutional, politic, and most advantageous to the public interest. What, then, is the ground—the real ground—on which we are called on to adopt a course quite the contrary of that which we took last year? It must be this or it is nothing—that it is sought to deprive the other House of Parliament of the exercise of a power which you admit was legally and constitutionally exercised, and which the nation has ratified as sound and politic. That is the real position in which this question stands. There is no meaning in language if the noble Lord at the head of the Government contemplated, when he was introducing his Resolutions on this subject last year, the course which he now advises us to pursue. And what does the noble Lord gain by taking this course? As the chief Minister of this country, he has been, if not supported by an enthusiastic majority, at all events with such a measure of forbearance on the part of this House that he cannot say he has been seriously inconvenienced previous to these discussions on any one point during the whole of the Session. What is his position now? He has given his adhesion to a policy which nobody but the few who were in the secret could have expected he would 2189 sanction, inasmuch as it is a policy totally opposed to the sentiments expressed in the speech to which I have already alluded, and in which the noble Lord placed an interpretation on the Resolutions which he moved on the occasion, which was adopted by this House in faith and trust that it was an interpretation by which the noble Lord was prepared to abide. The noble Lord now finds himself in a House of Commons in which his authority is severely criticized, and in which, when a division on an important subject is called for, putting that authority to the test, be escapes only by a bare majority, and that, too, a majority of a very ambiguous character. It has not, therefore, I say been on the part of the noble Lord a wise movement so far as Parliament is concerned unnecessarily to raise this conflict, and when we are told that "blessed is the peacemaker," and listen to the elaborate reproof which the noble Lord addressed to a right hon. Gentleman whose only fault was that he gave a most logical answer to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other hon. Gentlemen who preceded him on this question, I would remind the noble Lord that he is the very man who has raised unnecessary discord in the House of Commons; that he is the man who has most unnecessarily provoked dissensions in the House, and has caused his authority to be questioned where before it was not challenged. I may say, speaking for Gentlemen on this side of the House, that we are not at all afraid of the position in which this question is placed. We entirely repudiate the accusation that we provoke unnecessary debate. The confidence which I repose in public opinion makes me assured that the general sentiment prevailing throughout the country is that this was a subject which required to be discussed; that, under all circumstances, deliberation was desirable, but that the peculiar position in which we now find ourselves when a Minister has introduced a strange, unusual, I may say even an unprecedented course of procedure, which entirely deprives the other House of Parliament of its power of revision, rendered it expedient that we should act with double deliberation, and deal with the utmost caution with the policy of the Government in this particular instance. That policy I look upon as extremely unwise. I will not say it is mean in device and malignant in execution, but I will say this: that when it is recommended to us as a policy of 2190 conciliation any retort is justified. But we are asked why, if we dissapprove the course which Ministers have taken, we do not oppose the second reading of the Bill under our consideration? My answer is that we have already given our assent to the provision respecting the income tax, which constitutes a principal part of the measure, and that as when the Resolutions relating to the paper duty were passed we reserved to ourselves the right to take with reference to all the other subjects involved in the measure whatever course we might deem expedient on the future stages of these proposals, so now we reserve to ourselves a similar right. This is a course perfectly Parliamentary, although I should nut be astonished to find that a member of the Government may hereafter rise in his place and pronounce it to he unconstitutional, inasmuch as we heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer declare that, when Resolutions affecting a duty passed, the House of Commons was precluded from considering the propriety of those Resolutions on subsequent occasions. Notwithstanding that declaration, however, we shall avail ourselves of our constitutional right, and when the proper opportunity offers we shall hold ourselves free to take into consideration the policy involved in this Bill, which we believe to be a policy dangerous to the country. I make this statement because the noble Lord at the head of the Government the other night, in one of those gay assumptions in which he so happy, proved to his own satisfaction, that we had given in our adhesion to every portion of the scheme of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I do not wish the noble Lord to remain any longer under that delusion. We at first agreed to the passing of the Resolutions, in order that the Bill founded upon them might be brought in, reserving to ourselves the right—upon the occasion which might seem to us proper and fitting, and in the manner which we might deem the most judicious, the most conducive to the public interest, and the best calculated to attain the end which we desired—to challenge a policy which, speaking generally, we entirely disapprove, and which we believe finds each day less favour among the people of England.
§ Bill read 2o, and committed for Monday, 27th May.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Put, and agreed to.