HC Deb 30 April 1863 vol 170 cc995-1023

Order for Second Reading read.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)


said, he had given notice of his intention to take notice that it is proposed by Section 3 of the said Bill to impose a new charge upon the people; but that the said proposal has not been referred to a Committee of the Whole House, as the custom and order of the House require. He had given this notice because, when he first saw the Bill, he was led to believe that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been guilty of a neglect of the Orders of the House, in introducing into the Bill a provision for the taxation of charities without the preliminary form of a Resolution in a Committee of the Whole House. He had, however, received an intimation from the highest authority that that objection would not hold, and that therefore he could not move upon that ground that the Order for the Second Reading of the Bill be discharged. But he did think that the case was one in which it was his duty to call the attention of the House to the form of procedure adopted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and to the hasty and unprecedented manner in which he had attempted to press the Bill. He need not point out the extreme importance of a measure which proposed for the first time in our history to tux charitable funds devoted to the sustenance of the poor, for that subject would be dealt with by his hon. Colleague on another occasion; but the subject was one of great import- ance, as it was not a mere removal of an exemption, but a measure that would have a most serious effect upon the interests of those who derived the benefit from the charities of this country. The hospitals, which would be the principle subjects of the next tax, would be seriously maimed in their utility by its imposition. In the case of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, he understood the effect of the tax would be that hundreds of in-patients and thousands of out-patients would be deprived of the relief which, in the moments of their extreme necessity, they had been accustomed to receive from that institution. That was but one instance out of many such that would be affected by the tax, and therefore he might fairly regard the plan as an attempt to raise a revenue from the extreme necessities and diseases of the lowest and most helpless class for the community. It was a charge which one would have supposed the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have endeavoured to impose with the utmost possible forbearance and reserve. There was no precedent of such legislation—it was the first time that any political economist had attempted to wring a revenue from the relief afforded to those struck down by accident or disease, He did not say that therefore it was absolutely wrong; but it was a matter of such extreme importance, especially as it regarded a class which could have no representatives in that House, that the utmost latitude of discussion should have been afforded. But the course of procedure now adopted was certainly unusual. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had shown such haste in the matter, that had he not been firmly resisted, he would have proceeded with the measure on Monday last, and they would have been considering what would have been practically the final stage on that evening. He had to complain that the right hon. Gentleman had departed from the routine which, if not absolutely prescribed, had become habitual in the House, and had given them less than the ordinary facilities for discussion. The rule of the House was that no tax should be imposed unless it had been first proposed in Committee of the Whole House. Taking the obvious meaning of the words, the tax upon charities had never been proposed in Committee of the Whole House; it had been inserted in this Bill, and the first opportunity the House would have of deciding upon it would be when the Bill went into Committee. Two years ago the Chan- cellor of the Exchequer deprived the House of many opportunities for discussing tax Bills by lumping them all into a single measure. Before that time separate proposals were treated in separate Bills; and now the House was restricted to the single opportunity of resisting a financial project—namely, in Committee on the Bill. Having, on account of the supposed encroachments of the House of Lords in their proceedings in regard to the paper duty, limited to such a serious extent the privileges of discussion heretofore enjoyed by this House, he thought they ought to view with great jealousy any attempt on the part of a Minister to encroach upon those privileges still further. They had told the House of Lords that they would suffer no interference in matters of taxation; but a correlative duty thereupon rested on them of supplying all the checks and safeguards which the supervision of the House of Lords would otherwise have supplied. When the proposed imposition of a tax was discussed in Committee of the Whole House before it was embodied in a Bill, the House thereby took the nation into its counsels, and enabled the public to see what were the proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and between that time and the passing of the Bill there was ample time for the public to consider and to sift any such proposal. But if the House adopted the mode of procedure which the Chancellor of the Exchequer now for the first time proposed to introduce—namely, to set aside the preliminary Committee— many financial measures would pass through this House which the country would necessarily have no proper means of discussing. He understood that, technically, as the right hon. Gentleman's Resolution made use of the words "described as chargeable," instead of "charged," it was held to include all these matters. The point of order was a minute one, and he did not propose to raise it. But the tax in question had not been submitted to that amount of discussion which the forms of this House required; and now that there was only one stage in which a formal discussion of an objectionable tax could take place, he did hope that hon. Members would join him in pressing upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it was only fair to the House, and the institutions upon which the tax would fall, that time should he given to enable the public voice to be full expressed upon this question.


said, he agreed with the noble Lord the Member for Stamford upon the constitutional importance of allowing full information to the country as to any new tax which was proposed. He wished to know whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer was in a position to place on the table any document showing the exact bearing of this new tax upon charities, and the amount of property to which the tax on charities would apply, whether in the funds or in land. It had been mentioned that this tax would mulct Christ's Hospital alone of £1,600 a year; but the only impression produced by this fact upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer was, "What a fine property to tax!" No doubt that reflection was very natural for a Chancellor of the Exchequer, but the principle of taxation at which it pointed was not a wise one. The proposed tax on charities, and that upon clubs, would raise questions quite out of proportion to the amount which would be received; and he should think that it would be well for the right hot). Gentleman, for his own ease and comfort, to abandon these small and vexatious imposts. If hon. Members had anything to say respecting the national finance, this was the time to say it—upon the second reading of a Bill which raised £25,000,000 of revenue; and he wished, therefore, to call attention to the state of public finance for the last two years. He could not take the sanguine view of our finance which some hon. Members seemed to take; because he found that in 1860–1 and 1861–2 there had been a deficit of nearly £5,000,000—that is to say, this House had authorized expenditure, and had never inquired into the Ways and Means to satisfy that expenditure, to the extent of £4,970,000. That deficit the Chancellor of the Exchequer had met by very objectionable methods—by laying hold of the balance of monies on account of loans to the amount of £881,000, and taking from the balances nearly £3,000,000. There could not be a more rotten system of finance. Then, again, the payments from India of £3 10s. per head, which were made prospectively to meet claims when the men became aged and received pensions, had been taken into account, though this was merely anticipating the money necessary to meet a future demand, and could not be considered a fair item of public revenue. He confessed that he was not satisfied with the extent to which reductions had been made in public expenditure, nor did he think that this House was justified in voting £68,000,000 or £69,000.000 of taxes. As compared with 1842, the revenue now demanded had increased by £17,000,000 or £18,000,000. Nothing could justify such a reckless system of expenditure in a time of peace. He believed the Treasury was utterly powerless to control the Departments, particularly the War Department; and that it was absolutely necessary for the House to exercise the greatest vigilance, and to support the Treasury in its endeavours to assume a control over the public expenditure. Holding these views, he owned that he did not contemplate with any peculiar satisfaction the present state of the finances of the country.


said, he had given a general support to the Budget; but the scheme for making public charities pay the income tax was a thing he could not understand. By the scheme of taxing charities in the bulk the tax would be made to fall on a number of individuals each of whom did not receive £100 a year. Why should the recipients of charity be put in a worse position than other individuals with respect to this tax? The effect in the case of almshouses would be this:—That when a sum of money was left to them, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would, in the first instance, take 7d. in the pound for income tax; and, so much being lost to the charity, some of the persons whom it was intended to benefit by the bequest must be left to go unrelieved. It would be the same in the case of orphan charities; the deduction of the proposed tax would prevent them from supporting as many orphans as they now did. He could not think the House would agree to such a proposition as that. It was a most unwise one. Almshouses were exempted from poor rates, and he believed there was not a water company in the country that would receive payment for supplying them with water, He was of opinion that this proposal was unworthy of the high character of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.


said, he wished to call the attention of the House to the present state of the Income Tax. At that moment there was no such impost in the country. It had expired. As there was about to be a new imposition of the tax, he submitted to the House that they were entitled to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer for something more of his mind on this subject than he had given them in his financial statement. Formerly, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer asked the House to re-impose the income tax he told them something about its duration—he announced that it would decline year by year, and ultimately expire. In later times he told them that the tax was a most inconvenient one, but that it would come to an end in twelve months. They used to receive those periodic commentaries on the income tax; and he thought they were entitled now to have the Chancellor of the Exchequer's opinion as to the future of this fiscal engine of oppression. If it was to be of short duration, they ought to have the preliminary comfort to be derived from an assurance to that effect;—they had a right also to expect that the tax, if reenacted for a year only, should be let alone, or, if altered, be altered in the way of alleviation, and not by the removal of provisions which served to compensate for its many aggravations. He knew that there were hon. Gentlemen who thought, and not without grounds, that a duly-adjusted income tax would be one of the fairest and best of taxes, and might be made a permanent source of revenue; but be that as it might, the House were expecting from the Chancellor of the Exchequer a statement as to his views on the subject. On other subjects the House had consolidated all the statutes bearing on the same matter. That might be done in the case of the income tax. All the statutes bearing upon it might be reviewed and deliberately adopted or rejected by Parliament. But in the absence of any declaration of his intentions he was obliged to turn to what had been said by the right hon. Gentleman in his financial statement, and draw his inferences from what the right hon. Gentleman had stated there. One of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's propositions was, no doubt, a considerable concession to a large class of those who paid the tax. He proposed to start at £100 a year as the lowest income to be taxed, and from that sum up to £200 he proposed a continuous deduction of £60 from the amount of the income previous to assessment. He himself (Mr. Hubbard) had proposed an almost identical scheme; but his proposition was confined to industrial incomes, to the persons who earned their incomes by the sweat of their brow, or the work of their brain. He accepted the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as a concession to that class; but he regretted to find that his right hon. Friend gave to capital the same advantages as to industry, skill, and intelligence. He must raise his voice against the part of his right hon. Friend's proposition which had reference to incomes of from £100 to £200 a year derived from real property. He agreed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that £60 a year might fairly be taken as the minimum at which the income tax should begin, since that sum had been considered as the equivalent of unskilled labour. But it was obvious that they could not commence taxation at £1 or £2 over that minimum; they must make a certain leap, arid in that way they, arrived at £100, which gave them £40 a year to charge. That principle was fairly applicable to industrial incomes of £100 a year. But the concession proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to fixed incomes from £100 to £200 a year, was not warranted by any accepted principle of political economy or sound legislation. It was wholly at variance with the principles laid down by Adam Smith, and was one which the House ought never to allow to be introduced into the legislation of this country. The right hon. Gentleman, in answer to the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck), made a declaration which implied that social position ought to be taken into consideration in assessing the income tax. Such an axiom was certainly a most dangerous one. He talked, too, of there being a relative poverty among men which it was necessary to consider in adjusting the income tax.


Those were not my words. They were put by me into the mouth of a person with whom I supposed myself to be arguing.


said, he was aware of that; but what he complained of was, that the right hon. Gentleman had said that there was nothing wicked or unjust in such a proposal;—indeed, he had himself, to some extent, introduced a graduated scale of income tax. Certainly such a policy was exceedingly dangerous, and must give rise to all kinds of difficulties. He heartily agreed with one expression of the right hon. Gentleman that there should be a uniform tax upon all incomes. But then the question arose what was income for the purpose of taxation? Did the Chancellor of the Exchequer mean to rank on an equality the interest on capital, the gross rents of lands and houses, the earnings of industry, and the repayment of monies lent? If he ranked them differently, why did he tax them alike? If he ranked them alike, he would ask for an answer to these three questions:—Why do you remit taxation on the premiums paid for life policies on the very plea that they are not income; why do you permit local taxation to be levied not upon the gross rental but on the net ratable value; and why do you specifically enact that the landed gentry who have borrowed from the State shall not deduct income tax on the capital repaid through the Terminable Annuities? He challenged the right hon. Gentleman to give the House a distinct reply on those points.


said, he desired to bespeak the Chancellor of the Exchequer's attention to a case of peculiar hardship which would be worked should the right hon. Gentleman's disastrous proposition—as he would call it—for taxing charities be carried out. When the Harbour Dues and Passing Tolls Act was passed it, affected the revenue of certain corporate bodies, which were derived from certain differential duties and dues on shipping. A compromise was proposed, which was sanctioned by Parliament, the object of which was to continue the bodies in question, seven in number, in the receipt of those clues for a certain term of years, during which it was calculated they would be able to lay by a surplus sufficient to maintain their charities thereafter. The body in which he was most interested was the Trinity House of Hull. The Trinity House at Hull was to receive the dues until the year 1872, by which time it was calculated that a surplus would have accrued which would enable them to keep up their existing charities. It was calculated, that if the right hon. Gentleman's proposal were carried, he would comedown upon them for £550 a year; and the surplus therefore, which was extremely narrow, would be too small, when the year 1872 arrived, to maintain the charities according to the intention of Parliament.


hoped that the right hon. Gentleman, when he made his statement, would enter into further details with regard to his proposal for extending the income tax to charities, so that these bodies might really know what they had to face. Institutions of the nature of hospitals derived their incomes from various sources—from annual subscriptions, fees from students attending lectures, funded property, and extensive buildings used for hospital purposes, but which produced no revenue. It was desirable to know whether the right hon. Gentleman meant to treat all these as sources of income. Annual subscriptions and fees from students must be very fluctuating, and it would be unjust to tax the hospitals on a single year's revenue from these sources, or even on an average of three years. It was most important that the House should insist on the maintenance of all those palliatives and safeguards which were devised when the tax was first enacted, and especially that its administration should be left as much as possible in the hands of local authorities. Of late years there had been a disposition, on the part of the authorities of the Inland Revenue Department, to centralize the administration of the tax. It was of great advantage that the assessment should be made by the local authorities, because of the local knowledge which they possessed, and because they were looked upon with less jealousy than Government officials. In the Bill of last year it was provided that no fresh assessment should take place under Schedules A and B. This was done with the view of saving about £2,000; but it could be shown that they had lost more than this by the loss of the additional receipts on increased income. Either they must make an arrangement for the appointment of an assessor, or an assessment must be made by the central authority. There was an illustration of the objectionable character of the transfers of duties from local to Government authorities in the change made in 1860, transferring the collection of duties on the incomes of railway officials from Schedule D to Schedule E. Previous to the transfer, those who were in the receipt of weekly salaries amounting to £100 a year were exempted by the local authorities, for the obvious reason that such an uncertain income was not like the fixed income of persons employed by the year; but they were now charged, and in the result the railway companies who employed them had to pay, and were therefore taxed double.


said, that no one approved the Budget more than he did, but he could not approve the proposition in respect of the taxation of charities. He did not think the Chancellor of the Exchequer could have made a worse sweep than sweeping into his net the three objects of education, religion, and benevolence, and imposing a tax upon them. The fair view of a charity was that it was not individual property, but property divisible among numerous recipients. There were extremely few cases of any recipient getting £100 a year; but, when any person did get that sum, he would leave him to the tender mercies of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. At all events, they ought not to bring the impost to bear upon existing charities, but make it applicable only to charities which might, in future, be created. If the right hon. Gentleman withdrew this clause, a Budget which had been received with great favour would become the most popular ever presented to Parliament.


said, that being connected, for a period at least, with more charities than any other Member of that House, he desired to express his concurrence in the remarks of the hon. Member for Leeds. If these charitable institutions were taxed, the effect would be that their utility would be prorateâ diminished. The Sons of the Clergy, the Royal Hospitals, the Blind Schools, and many other institutions in the City, would have their recipients reduced in numbers in proportion to the amount deducted from their incomes by the tax; and the charitable gifts not only of persons living in the present day but of past generations would be interfered with. We might sympathize with a Chancellor of the Exchequer having to find new sources of taxation; but the amount that these charities could be made to yield would not compensate for the mischief that would follow.


inquired why, when other penny taxes were swept away, the penny tax on delivery orders was to be retained?


Although there is no omnibus Bill before the House, I fear I must make an omnibus speech in answering all the various questions that have been addressed to me. I will endeavour to satisfy the minds of hon. Members on the questions they have put; and I will begin with the noble Lord who commenced this discussion (Lord R. Cecil). I am sorry to be obliged to express my dissent from every statement made by the noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil), excepting the general dictum that it is the duty of the House to pay great attention to the financial proposals submitted to them by the Government in their different stages. The noble Lord says that he could not persevere with the Motion of which he had given notice because I have used the word "chargeable" instead of "charged." The noble Lord is entirely wrong; the word has nothing to do with it. If the noble Lord had applied himself to the meaning of the technical language which is necessarily used in financial Bills, he would have been aware that the whole of the property which he thinks is not charged is charged. Exemption is properly a return of duty upon proof of certain facts; but the charge of duty is a prior operation which is made according to the law on the property of charities just as on any other property. A certain portion of that property is discharged altogether, but not according to the law, but by the discretion of the Government, from the almost hopeless difficulty of working the law; but according to law the whole property is actually charged. I think it is agreed that it is not desirable for me to anticipate the statement on the subject of charities which, on the part of the Government, I intend to make to the House. But, at the same time, I am obliged to take notice of the tone of exaggeration which marks a few of the statements which have just been made. The noble Lord speaks of a hundred in patients in St. Bartholomew's Hospital being refused admission in consequence of the proposal of the Government. Has the noble Lord examined into the cost of an in-patient in St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and does he know the amount of burden which St. Bartholomew's Hospital will have to bear? I cannot speak precisely, because my knowledge of the cost of in-patients in the London hospitals rests on statistical documents; but if the noble Lord has better materials, he can correct me if I am wrong. I believe that the average cost of in-patients in hospitals generally is £25. The cost varies a good deal. It is sometimes lower; but St. Bartholomew's, I should think, was higher than ordinary. The noble Lord will, perhaps, correct me if wrong.


I have no right to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman; but lie appeals tome, and if he desires to be accurate, he ought to be aware that it is stated upon the authority of the Treasurer that the inevitable result of this proposal will be that several hundred in, and several thousand out-patients, must annually be excluded from the benefits of St. Bartholomew's Hospital. That is a statement made by the authorities of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and not by me.


If the statement was not made on the responsibility of the noble Lord, I am sorry that I ascribed it to him, and I will endeavour to make myself as accurately acquainted as I can with every particular before I discuss the statement of persons who must be well informed. But this I may say, that the amount of the tax which would under this measure be imposed upon St. Bartholomew's Hospital would, upon an income of something more than £30,000, be about £700 a year. The annual income from their property is £36,000. and the tax which they pay now £201 a year. Deducting that £201 from a mere trifle over £1,000, which would be the gross amount, the tax imposed under the new system would be £700. What compensation they will receive for that increased taxation, I will show on a future occasion; but it is a matter which belongs so entirely to the general discussion, that it would be bitter for the present to avoid it. The noble Lord has complained that I have departed from the usual course, and have attempted to force the House to a final decision on the subject of charities to-night. He is entirely mistaken. The decision in Committee upon the Bill is not final. Formerly, according to the system of procedure in this House, Amendments could be moved and discussions raised at any stage between the Committee and the passing of a Bill; and when, a few years ago, the power of moving Amendments at stages of the progress of a Bill subsequent to the Committee was modified and limited, it was distinctly understood, that if further general discussion and further Amendments were desired, the proper course would be to move the recommittal of the Bill. That has been done over and over again, and it is a course which is entirely legitimate. The noble Lord says that I have abridged the opportunities of discussion and departed from the usual form of proceeding. I have done no such thing—there has been no abridgment of the opportunities of discussion in regard to the present Bill. The complaint of combining together the principal financial propositions of the year has no effect whatever on the matter. The question of the exemption of charities from income tax could not possibly be dealt with, except in the Income Tax Bill, and consequently could not possibly be treated otherwise than according to the present mode. The noble Lord states very boldly that I have departed from routine and order; but he has not pointed out in what manner I have done so. What are called charities in this country have certain property, and that property has been included within the general words of every income tax Resolution which, as far as I know, has been passed during the last twenty years. The general words of my Resolution precisely correspond with those of every other income tax Resolution, and a little reflection will show to the noble Lord that nothing could be more inconvenient and impracticable than to attempt to indicate in a Resolution not only the general character of the profit and gains and property which it is intended to tax, but likewise the different orders and descriptions of proprietors to whom they belong. The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Hubbard) might as well complain that I had not indicated in the general Resolution the particular orders of proprietors for whom he is interested. Not only has there been no departure from routine, but really I had no option as to the course which I should pursue. The hon. Baronet (Sir H. Willoughby), who followed the noble Lord, invariable speaks upon subjects of finance with such a conscientious care, with such a perfect public integrity, and with such an entire absence of all personal and party objects, that although I frequently come under his stringent criticisms, I cannot listen to him otherwise than with pleasure, even when I am not able to concur with him in his views. The hon. Baronet has spoken to-night upon more than one topic. He says that I admit that the imposition of the petty charges which I now propose to repeal was a false step. I think, that when a man has to give up a measure of his own, he had better do it frankly and broadly; and I have acted upon that principle in making my financial statement; but when pressed by the hon. Baronet, I am by no means prepared to admit that the imposition of these duties was a false step. Although I think it would be inexpedient that these charges should be permanently retained, I, at the same time, maintain that they were a necessary instrument for effecting a great financial relief to the country and a great administrative reform. It was upon a sweeping reduction of the tariff that there depended not only the vast impulse given to trade, but also the great diminution which we have been able to make in the Customs establishment; and therefore I am not prepared to say that the imposition of these duties, which we may now find it expedient to part with, was at the time inexpedient. My hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Bass) asked, "Why not give up all the charges that have been imposed in 1860?" I see no reason whatever why, because a tax was imposed in 1860, it should be given up in 1863. The two charges are not of the same nature. The charge which is called the "penny inward" upon imports entails a great deal of labour, considerable obstruction, and impediment to the progress of business, and the expenditure of a good deal of time; and that being so, it is attended with a considerable additional tax in the shape of the labour which is imposed upon the taxpayer. The charge to which my hon. Friend refers entails no such additional taxation, because a delivery order, like a receipt stamp, costs no more in time when stamped than when it is unstamped—it is precisely the same to the revenue, and is open to no serious objection. It is the intention of the Government to adhere to the declaration which I made in their name with reference to the very moderate surplus which in the present state of the finances of the country we propose to reserve, and to resist, to the best of our power, nil attempts at its diminution by the repeal of any existing tax. The hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham says, that this is not a moment of pressure, and therefore not one at which any addition to the revenue of the country, such as we have proposed, ought to be asked fur. We do not say that the necessities of the country are such as to compel us to go groping and boring here and there to pick up £10,000, £20,000, £50,000, or £100.000; the ground on which we desire that these proposals should stand or fall is that of their justice. If they are just to the community, let us adopt them. If they are unjust, by no means let us import any such charges into our fiscal system, even if the necessity was much greater than it is. The hon. Baronet went on to say that during the last two years there has been a deficiency of £5,000,000. I confess that I am completely puzzled, and quite at a loss to discover his meaning. If I separate from the nominal expenditure of the year 1861–2 a sum of nearly £300,000, which belonged to the previous year, what I find is this—that there was a deficiency in 1861–2, and a surplus in 1862–3, and that the surplus in 1862–3 was larger than the deficiency in 1861–2. The hon. Baronet may say, "That is true; but then there is the charge for fortifications." There was expended upon fortifications during those two financial years a sum of nearly £2,000,000. The hon. Baronet must speak either with regard to form or with regard to substance. If he speaks with regard to form, then in point of form there was no deficiency on account of these £2,000,000. If he speaks with regard to substance, then it is perfectly true that £2,000,000 were spent for fortifications, fur the gradual liquidation of which provision was made by Parliament. [Sir HENRY WILLOUGHBY explained that he referred to the years 1860–1 and 1861–2.] Then, I fall back upon my previous statements as to the financial results of a period of four years, to which I regret that I have not the assent of the hon. Baronet. My hon. Friend has raised a particular point with respect to the Indian charge of £3 10s. per man for the non-effective service, which, he says, the Government have no right to consider as revenue. I entirely differ from him. For a long period of time the Treasury of this country has been paying, year by year, to sustain the non-effective services of India probably three times as much as it as been receiving; and although the absolute and full justice of the charge may not be fully equal to the reimbursement for some short time yet to come, yet upon the whole we are neither reimbursing or nearly reimbursing ourselves for what we have spent. It is a mistake to say that by the system we adopt we are making a prospective demand; on the contrary, we are only offering a very light compensation to the English Exchequer for the charge it has long been paying and enormously in excess of the £60,000 a year previously received. My hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Hubbard) has re-opened, as far as in him lay, the whole question of the income tax, and of his favourite plan, and he has put to me six questions. With the greatest respect for my hon. Friend, I beg to be excused from answering any of these at present. We had a debate on this very subject of the income tax when my hon. Friend made his Motion; we had another debate introduced by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield; and if we are to have a third debate upon equal and unequal income tax, it will be impossible to mix up a general and abstract discussion of that kind with the practical consideration of details of the financial arrangements for the present year. The hon. Member further demanded that I should give my views as to the future of the income tax. He is quite entitled to make that request, but in complying with it, I am also entitled to limit my explanation to what appears to be safe and prudent; and certainly I, of all men, have had warnings in regard to prophecies with respect to the income tax. In 1853 I made a computation, and submitted it to the House, in the belief that the expenditure of the country was likely to continue at the level at which it then was. In 1857, after the Russian war, it appeared to be the disposition of the country, with regard to its peace establishments, greatly to increase its expenditure. I objected very strongly to that expenditure. I will not say that I stood alone, but I was in a minority; others thought differently, and I had no controlling power. We have now a different scale of expenditure; but having once seen the expenses of the country raised, it is not for me to determine what may be the prospective wants of the country in future years, or to venture on any rash predictions as to what our outlay may be. I see no reason why the level of our expenditure should rise higher; on the contrary, I see great reason to hope that it may fall lower; but beyond that I am not disposed to go. With respect to the question of revenue, what I have said and will venture to repeat is this:—That if the country can meet its expenditure with a sum of from £63,000,000 to £65,000,000 a year, it will be possible at some future and not very distant period to conduct the Government of the country without resorting to an income tax. But the question whether we should or should not resort to an income tax in time of peace is one of the most important that can be conceived. Because, while, on the one hand, the objections to the tax are of the weightiest and most serious nature, on the other hand, the recommendation it possesses in the eyes of many is that it has some tendency towards equalizing the burden of taxation between the higher and lower classes of society. I come next to an hon. Gentleman who has not interposed in the present debate, but has intimated a desire to be informed of the intentions of the Government on a point of general interest. He wishes to know what would be the effect of extending the exemption of £60 through all classes of income, and what means I have of computing the effect of the measures I have proposed to the House. Our means of knowledge are partial, because while we do know the number of persons charged under certain schedules, we do not absolutely know the number of persons charged under certain other sche- dules. The best we can do is to take the proportions as they stand in those schedules which we do know, and extend them to the schedules generally. And as that was the manner in which we proceeded in 1853, when we had to extend the income tax downwards, I have no doubt that though the result will not be mathematically correct, the practical error will not be of serious moment. What we calculate is, that the incomes between £100 and £150, which are to be relieved, amount to £13.500,000, and the relief of those incomes will cost £160,000; the incomes between £150 and £200 are £8.222,000, and the relief will cost £240,000—the House will remember that these incomes do not at present enjoy the benefit of the lower rate, and consequently the apparent proportion of relief is somewhat greater in this class. The sum of these items is £400,000. Then we take the incomes of upwards of £200, with the particular amounts of which I will not trouble the House; but the general result is, that the amount of income relieved by carrying the deduction of £60 upwards to all incomes, however high, will be £17,700,000; and the charge of relieving these higher incomes will be £514,000. This, added to the other sum, will make a total relief of £914,000. I do not know what effect that statement may have on the mind of my hon. Friend, but I confess I think it quite conclusive that the effect of extending the £60 reduction to all classes of income would be a very wanton and purposeless waste of public money. You may nay that it would be very convenient if it were extended to persons with incomes of between £200 and £300; and so it may be; but I am not willing to depart from the traditional limits established in former Acts of Parliament, in which—even in those must favourable to the taxpayers— the sum of £200 is mentioned as that at which everything in the nature of exemption should cease. The hon. Baronet (Sir James Fergusson) has referred to what he thinks centralizing tendencies in the administration of the income tax, and certain circumstances connected with the assessment of last year. The machinery for collection in Scotland is somewhat different from that in England, and I will not now discuss its nature further than to assure the hon. Baronet, that whenever a change of a centralizing tendency is contemplated, it ought to be brought under the full notice of the House; moreover, I think the subject one on which the Government ought not to make any proposal, unless calculated to prove beneficial, and therefore acceptable to the people. The hon. Baronet likewise referred to the question of charities with mixed receipts, where, as I understand, the bodies, having a certain amount of chargeable expenditure, derive their income from three sources:—First, from endowment; secondly, from voluntary subscriptions; and thirdly, from the fees of students. As regards charitable endowments, it is to them that the proposal of the Government refers. As regards fees, these are not the subject of any exemption at present, and they will he dealt with on the same principle as other revenues. As regards voluntary subscriptions, those are entirely outside the proposals of the Government, and will be unaffected by them. The machinery and terms of the law would not give us the means of getting at these voluntary subscriptions, and would require fresh and separate legislation, if such legislation were desirable— which, in my opinion, is far from being the case. Every shilling of these voluntary subscriptions, in the hands of the persons from whom they come, has been already subjected to taxation. The machinery of the income tax enables us, with regard to property, to go to the source, and levy the tax before the income reaches the receiver; it gives us the power, likewise, of calling on persons to declare their receipts from trades, professions, or property held for their own enjoyment. But it is quite clear that neither of these categories would include voluntary subscriptions which are received by persons not for their own benefit. The hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Clay) has referred to the Act relating to passing tolls. This morning I received a statement, which still engages my attention, the general effect of which I understand to be that there is a positive Parliamentary compact between the Government and the local authorities, and that therefore the matter ought to be considered outside general legislation. If such should turn out to be the case—and I am by no means certain, on the primâ facie appearance, that it may not be so—it will by no means tall within the principle of the proposal now made by the Government. I should be sorry to be misunderstood by the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines). In one portion of his speech he said that the effect of the Government proposal in regard to charitable institutions would be to turn out patients, and to diminish the number of persons now in the enjoyment of incomes from charitable sources. That is not the case, because the Bill contains a double provision for the protection of individuals. Any one now in the enjoyment of receipts and allowances would not be liable at all, but would have the same privilege of claiming the return of income tax as the possessor of an ordinary income beneath the ratable amount. Over and above that, the Bill contains another and very important protection—namely, that where there is a margin of other funds from which the tax can he paid, in no case shall deductions be made from life bénéficiaires and recipients of charity under fixed allowances. With regard to the declaration of the hon. Baronet the Member for the West Riding (Sir Francis Crossley), I wish he could have permitted me to state the case before he declared his opinion, inasmuch as, if I gather from him the real nature of his views, I should be entitled, on the principle on which he seems disposed to proceed, to claim what I very highly value, and what I have often enjoyed—the advantage of his support. My hon. Friend says that the property of charities, which ought to be considered as distributable among individuals in small amounts, ought to be on no worse footing than corresponding property going straight to private individuals. I will undertake to show my hon. Friend, that under the proposal of the Government, the property of charities will not be upon a worse, but upon a better footing as to taxation than the corresponding property of private individuals with incomes which are under £100 a year. The case is a very complicated one, and I own I have had myself considerable difficulty in acquiring the requisite knowledge with respect to it. I will, however, make a full statement on the subject on Monday; and I can assure hon. Members that the desire of the Government is, that whatever course the House may take in the matter should be taken with its eyes open. It is upon grounds of the strictest justice that we wish to make the proposals which we have to submit to its notice; and if we establish our propositions upon these grounds, the House will adopt them; while if we do not, it will be for hon. Members to reject them as not entitled to their sanction.


said, that though quite agreeing with the right hon. Gentleman in the opinion that it was undesirable to attempt to enter upon a discussion of this question at the present mo- ment, he was nevertheless anxious to point out the position in which they stood with regard to it. He thought it desirable that some preliminary explanation should be made with regard to the provisions of the Bill, in order that the country might be better able to understand a complicated proposal, and that the Members of the House might be in a position to discuss them with advantage on Monday next. Certain questions had been put, the answers to which seemed to imply that particular charities would not be affected in the manner in which the hon. Gentlemen who put the questions supposed. Now, they had got the Bill on the table; but, as far as he could understand the clauses of it, there was no provision to protect the charities alluded to. He referred to such a case as the Patriotic Fund. There were questions in which public opinion was forming itself really in ignorance of what the proposal of the Government was. His hon. and gallant Friend behind him (Sir James Fergusson) had put a question—Supposing you have a mixed revenue, partly arising from endowments, and partly from voluntary subscriptions, on which do you propose to lay the tax? The answer was, "We propose to lay it on the revenue from endowments, and not on the revenue from voluntary subscriptions." But take the case of the Lancashire Distress Fund, where a large voluntary subscription was raised; there being more than could be expended at once, with a view to economy and profit a portion of it was put into the funds for a short time to be drawn out by degrees; a dividend was paid upon it, and upon those dividends he supposed the tax was to be deducted. Now, were these contributions to be treated as voluntary contributions (which they really were), and to be exempted from the tax, or were they not to be exempt from the tax? It would certainly he a matter of convenience if they knew exactly what was the nature of the proposal of the Government, and in what respect the Government proposed to modify the Bill, so that they might be prepared for the discussion on Monday night.


said, that the principle on which the Bill proceeded was to lay a tax on the great mass of endowments. The word "endowments" in its generally accepted sense meant those investments which were made with a view to a permanent object, while those investments to which his hon. Friend referred were of a temporary and partial character, made to meet a great calamity, to the progress of which the public bounty could not be held to adapt itself. Now, he maintained it to be entirely in conformity with the proposal of the Government that they should introduce a provision for the purpose of distinguishing such cases from others; but he had not, at the same time, thought it wise to complicate the Bill by introducing into it a number of minute reservations until after its principle had been discussed, and he should then hold himself entirely free to proceed according to the general view of the expediency of the case.


asked when the details of such reservations would be laid before the House?


said, he should take care that ample notice was given on the subject.


The financial statements of the Chancellor of the Exchequer are usually so clear that it is very easy to understand them; but I venture to say that hardly any hon. Member understands what is the exact nature of the right hon. Gentleman's proposal with regard to charities. I understood my right hon. Friend to argue that the tax which would fall on St. Bartholomew's Hospital, with an income of £36,000 a year, would, according to his proposal, be about £700 or £800 a year; but that can hardly be accurate, inasmuch as, according to the ordinary computation of the tax, it would amount to £1,000 per annum. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: The income tax is at present paid by the Hospital to the amount of £201 a year.] But, be that as it may, my right hon. Friend has given no explanation of that important part of his scheme which was so forcibly referred to by the hon. Member for Leeds. Are you to treat the recipients of charities as separate individuals, or to look upon the trustees as individuals receiving an amount of income on which, as individuals, they will have to pay the tax? That is a very grave question; because my right hon. Friend will bear in mind that every principle we have ever laid down in regard to charitable property has addressed itself to that very distinction. I will explain myself by a simple case. Everybody knows that the legacy duty is applicable to charities when property is given to charities generally, but not if it is given to individual recipients. Thus, let me suppose that I devise the whole residue of my property to trustees to be dis- posed of for charitable purposes—that residue will pay 10 per cent duty; but if I devise the whole of it to trustees on condition that they should give a sum not exceeding £15 to each recipient of the charity, it will be exempt from duty. The reason of the distinction is this. The Courts consider, that inasmuch as no duty is payable on any sum under £20, then if you give your residue to trustees for charitable objects, none of the recipients taking as much as £20, not a shilling of tax ought to be paid upon that bequest. But if you give it in such a manner that there is no charity impressed upon it until it gets into the hands of the recipients, then the duty is payable. I do not find that my right hon. Friend has taken that ground of distinction, which, in my opinion, ought to be adopted with regard to the taxation of charitable property. If you deal with charitable property where people are receiving large sums which they may dispose of generally for charitable purpose, without affecting retrospectively particular objects of the charity who have hitherto been entitled to particular sums without deduction, I could understand—upon the principle that every property ought to contribute its fair share to the expenses of the State—that something ought to be taken out of the aggregate fund. But when once you split up the property into small sums, and bring it under the operation of this tax, it seems to me to be utterly inconsistent with your own proposal to extend the exemption to people of £200 a year, since, in the case of those charities, you are taking away the privilege of exemption from those who are receiving very much less than £200. I do not wish to go into this question, and I should not have said so much upon it, unless it had appeared to me absolutely essential that the Government should favour us with a more distinct view of the nature of the proposition we shall have to consider when we go into Committee. If my right hon. Friend would rather postpone the discussion until Monday, I will say no more; but if he is prepared to make an explanatory statement to clear up these points, so that the House and those who are affected by the tax may know its operation, he could easily take advantage of the forms of the House to do so. I do not wish, however, to press him to make such a statement if he would rather do it on a future day, but I do press upon him that before we consider the Bill in Committee, he will let us understand the exact nature of his proposition.


would warn the Government that the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in regard to charities was likely to receive very considerable opposition from the Irish Members. The House was aware that the principal charities in Ireland were Roman Catholic charities, and that the Roman Catholic Church and its charities were maintained by voluntary contributions. The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated the other night, that the losses sustained by the people of Ireland from the bad harvests of the last three years amounted to £36,000,000. It appeared that the only proposal which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had to make for the relief of Ireland was to tax her charities. He was certain that the Government would increase their existing unpopularity in Ireland by such a proposition. If such a thing were done in Ireland, it would be considered on this side of the water as a bull; but, as it was proposed in England, he supposed it would be considered as an act of "justice to Ireland."


The Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us with great candour that this is a very intricate subject. I think he even went the length of saying that he himself had some difficulty in making himself understand it. I venture to say that after this discussion no one except a member of the Government will get up and say that even by the light of this Bill they understand, in the least degree, what the House will be called upon to vote on Monday. If this subject is intricate, it cannot be denied that it is also of great interest. I have no notion whether, and to what degree, this proposition is to be retrospective or prospective. I made a vain endeavour to gain something from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I understood him to soy, in answer to the hon. Member for Leeds, that it is not to be retrospective. But how does it apply to a bed in a hospial? Is a man now in a sick bed in a hospital to lose no benefit, and is a man who comes in afterwards to come under the tax? The right hon. Gentleman ought to put his proposition into print, and give time to the House and the country to understand exactly what it is we are called upon to vote. What has happened to night? He tells the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire (Sir F. Crossley), "Yon quite misunderstand me; upon your principle you ought to support me." That certainly is a very odd state of things. We have the Bill to look at, and we try to form the best opinion we can upon it; but it is like looking into a thick hedge—no man can get his eyes through it, much less his head and body. The right hon. Gentleman says he merely intends to deal with endowments, and then he says he should have no objection, in case a little surplus were invested, to consider whether that ought not to be let off. How is it to be told, when a charity invests £500, whether they intend it to be permanent or not? Take alms-people who have £10 a year apiece coming out of an endowed estate of £110 a year. Is each of those unfortunate people to have his income tax deducted, while the man at £90 a year is to go scot-free? I do not understand how all this is to work. All I hope is that we shall have more time, and that the right hon. Gentleman will not attempt to force this matter through without giving not only this House, but also all the charities in the country, an opportunity of knowing what he wishes to impose upon charities. It is the first time I have heard that it is just to rob the poor. We have had considerable pressure in this country since the income tax was first imposed sixty years ago, and during that period—which some of us can recollect—that view of justice has never been taken until it came into the mind of the right hon. Gentleman. His sense of justice is to take something from the poor, the lame, the halt, and the blind. That is a new system of justice—a new code of morality, which has not been arrived at in a moment, and I trust the right hon. Gentleman will give us full time to digest his new code.


said, that when he stated that his proposal would make a difference of from £700 to £800 to St. Bartholomew's Hospital, he did not profess to speak within a £100 a year. When he said the question was one of great intricacy, he did not advert to the proposal of the Government, which was quite intelligible and not by any means intricate, but to the operation of the present law. The Government had made what appeared to him to be a most intelligible proposal; but if any hon. Member would put any question before the discussion came on, he would state to the best of his ability what would be the operation of the proposal in any given case.


said, that the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not tally with that of the Governors of St. Bartholomew's Hospital. The cost of a bed at the hospital was stated at £25 per annum. The fact was, that by the bed of a hospital was meant a room occupied not by one person, but by a succession of patients in the course of a year. He agreed with his right hon. Friends, that the House required all the light that could possibly be shown on the operation and effect of the proposed tax.


said, that the question was one of the utmost importance and interest. There was scarcely a part of the country where endowed charities did not exist, and the trustees were most anxious to know exactly how the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer would affect them. It was necessary that full time and opportunity should be given for the consideration of this subject. He trusted that the House would have full time allowed it for considering the question.


said, that he thought the original statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-night was one of the most alarming and perplexing that he had ever heard, for the right hon. Gentleman made the declaration that on Monday he would deliver to them a most complicated, most intricate, and very long statement upon the subject of this proposal. That he (Lord John Manners) thought a most alarming statement—for this simple reason, that they were at the moment to be asked to vote upon the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which he had led them clearly to understand was so elaborate and complicated that he himself could hardly master the principles and the details. Upon that statement many hon. Members had expressed their opinion; and had asked, not unnaturally, that neither the House nor the country should be called on at the moment to pronounce a deliberate opinion upon a proposal which, upon the face of it, was unusual, novel, and unprecedented. But after these comments had been made on both sides of the House, the Chancellor of the Exchequer explained—and what was his explanation? Why, that all those epithets which they had thought he applied to the statement to be made on Monday, he meant to apply only to the existing law. He told them that the House would hardly be able to compre- hend on Monday what were the principles and practice of the existing law. But surely the House was not in that state of benighted ignorance of the state of the law which the right hon. Gentleman seemed to suppose. They were perfectly conversant with the existing law, and they were also perfectly content with it. They did not want to hear a long statement as to what the law was; but what the House and the country did want to know was, what were the principles on which it was proposed to interfere with the existing law, and what were the provisions by which he proposed to carry his novel principles into practice. He (Lord John Manners) had never been more astonished than when he heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer give his explanation. On Monday, he had no doubt, that they would have a most interesting and eloquent exposition of the very complicated proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which affected deeply the interests of a very large class of poor and suffering people; but he thought that after such a statement there ought to be conceded to the House this, that they should not be asked to come precipitately to a decision on a proposal which then only for the first time be practically before it.


explained, that the question he had asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer was, why the 44th section of the Act of last year was not proposed to be repealed in the Act of the present year as well as the 42nd and 43rd sections?


also hoped that this question as to charities would not be further urged upon the House until an opportunity had been given hon. Members to ascertain the general feeling of the country on the scheme. He thought the subject would require a very detailed statement from the right hon. Gentleman to remove the unfavourable impression which generally prevailed with regard to the proposal. Representations had been made to him from various quarters, proving that there was a strong feeling adverse to the measure. It certainly was believed that the right hon. Gentleman had adopted a retrograde policy in proposing such a measure, and it seemed to him scarcely wise to raise so large a question when the result was to be so small. If the right hon. Gentleman could establish the points he had brought forward—if he could prove that great benefit would arise to the re- venue, and that the recipients of charity would not be the sufferers which the public anticipated, then he would make good his case; but he (Lord H. Vane) thought the right hon. Gentleman would be acting very unwisely in attempting to force this measure too hurriedly upon the country.


said, he did not rise to enter into any discussion of the details of the proposed tax, or of the Bill before them; but he wished to make a suggestion in consequence of the nature of the discussion which had taken place. He thought that it must have become quite clear to the right hon. Gentleman that this proposal to tax charities was regarded with very great anxiety by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House; and further, the right hon. Gentleman had himself very candidly admitted that the proposal was of a somewhat complicated and difficult nature. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: No. not the proposal, but the present law.] He feared that the law would not be simplified by the addition that the right hon. Gentleman proposed to make to it. This was clear, that for the sake of the country at large, and especially of those most interested in the subject, they should clearly understand what was the course which would be taken by the Government, and what was the nature of the proposition. He would therefore suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should take until to-morrow to consider what course he would think it right to pursue, so as not to involve the House in any difficulty, and that he should state to-morrow what course he would take on Monday. The course which he (Sir John Pakington) would suggest was, that on Monday, with the Speaker in the chair, the Chancellor of the Exchequer should make a clear statement of the whole of his proposition, and that then he should allow a reasonable time before they were called upon to come to a vote upon that proposition. Without presuming to press this particular suggestion, he would submit that, at all events, it would be convenient for the right hon. Gentleman to announce to-morrow what course he would take on Monday.


thought that it must be admitted that the proposal to take 3 per cent from every charity in the country was certainly not a light one. St. Bartholomew's Hospital was the greatest hospital in the country; but still there were a great many more similar institutions. The right hon. Gentleman said that the measure would take away about £700 from St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and that sum would support forty in-patients if they remained in the establishment the whole year. But experience showed that they did not remain there more than a month or five weeks, and therefore the effect would be that the number of in-patients who would be affected was about 400. Add to St. Bartholomew's the eight or ten other great hospitals, and they would have no fewer than 3,000 or 4,000 poor patients excluded from the London hospitals alone by the effect of this taxation. What was the amount of revenue which it was supposed would be derived from this novel principle, which was repugnant to the feeling of the whole country, and which the right hon. Gentleman must have great difficulty in carrying into operation? He (Mr. Malins) could not conceive anything more unpopular than to diminish the amount of the charitable funds of the country; and he would suggest, not in an adverse spirit—for he cordially supported the Budget, though he regretted that on this, as on other occasions, the propositions were disfigured by some deformities—that this subject should be further considered. The two blots upon the present Budget were the tax upon clubs, by which, for the sake of getting some £2,000 a year, the right hon. Gentleman had broached a most unpopular principle, and the tax upon charities. The right hon. Gentleman had done that which neither Pitt nor Peel had ventured to do; and had violated the sacred principle that the property of charities should be kept intact. He would suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should between that time and Monday turn over in his mind the advantages and the disadvantages of his proposition, and consider if it would not be the wisest and most graceful thing for him to come down to-morrow, and say that he would abandon this part of his financial scheme.


entirely concurred with what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley). This was a tax on the very spirit which, of all things, they ought to encourage in the country, and he thought it would be well if his right hon. Friend gave a statement of what he intended to do, and then afforded the House time to consider it.


must say he had, heard with considerable regret the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) speak of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as if he for the first time had introduced the principle of robbing the poor. That was one of the inconveniences of the present discussion; for, while his right hon. Friend had all along felt that the real debate on the merits of the question, with every consideration of justice and argument, should be reserved till Monday, many objections on one side were stated and insisted on. He was surprised to find this charge made against his right hon. Friend; for he thought, even in the discussion of this question, even if it were not already a matter of history, it could easily be proved that of all the men who had managed the financial or commercial affairs of this country there had been few who had conferred upon the poor such great and important advantages as those they had received from the hand of his right hon. Friend. He understood it to be agreed that they should not discuss the question, in which it was said by so many Members that the feelings of the community out-of-doors were so greatly interested, in a piecemeal or partial manner, but after a full statement of its principle, with all the facts and details, by his right hon. Friend; but the question was raised whether that course of proceeding was the right and proper one. The plan appeared to the Government to be simple, clear, and just; the difficulty and complication were believed by the Government to rest not in the principle of his right hon. Friend, but in the present cumbrous and minute operation of the law. That would be shown to the House on Monday. Surely, then, it was right that they should reserve themselves for the discussion when the House was in Committee; when after hearing the proposal, statements, and arguments of his right hon. Friend, full opportunity would be afforded of forming any judgment which to the general body of the House should appear expedient and right. What he asked then was, that the House would now permit the Bill which contained the general legislation for the year to be read a second time, on the understanding that on Monday in Committee this clause of exception might be dealt with as the House in its wisdom should determine.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read 2°, and committed for Monday next.