HC Deb 15 May 1865 vol 179 cc299-300

said, he would beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has exonerated the officers of the Civil Service from having divulged his intentions as to the Budget, on a late occasion, such information must not have been supplied from some higher source; and, if so, whether the noble Lord can afford any indication of the quarter from which that communication has proceeded?


In the first place, Sir, I must beg leave to disclaim all responsibility for any prophecies which newspapers may make. They live on the future as well as on the past and present, and it is their business to make guesses, which sometimes are right and sometimes wrong. When they are right they gain credit; when they are wrong people soon forget them. When the time came for my right hon. Friend to prepare and announce his Budget, the world at large was pretty nearly as well informed about it as any Member of the Cabinet. They knew pretty well what was the amount of the surplus from the papers which had been laid on the table and published. Natural sagacity must have led every man to believe that with regard to the Fire Insurance Duty the Government were bound to adopt the Resolution which the House of Commons had come to. It was pretty clear that in distributing the remaining part of the surplus some would go to direct some to indirect taxation. It did not require much sagacity to foresee that there would be a reduction of the Income Tax, and when you look to indirect taxes the Tea Duties form a natural subject for reduction. Therefore, I contend, that on the one hand, there was no great credit due to The Times for the article—which I am ashamed to say I did not see—for anticipating what the arrangements of my right hon. Friend would be, because when my right hon. Friend stated his Budget everybody must have seen what the general outline must be; in fact, we may say it was what had been "often thought but ne'er so well expressed." Therefore, it was obvious what ought to be, and what was likely to be the general arrangement of the Budget. With regard to the question of the hon. Gentleman, I must say that I am quite convinced that no person belonging to the Government, in whatever Department he may be, high or low, Would be guilty of any breach of faith in regard to any matter confided to him. As the matter stands, I see no reason for complimenting The Times for any peculiar saga city in guessing the general arrangements of the Government, and I am quite sure that no breach of confidence has been committed by any person belonging to the Government in any Department.