§ MR. WHITE,
in rising to move the Resolutions of which he had given notice, said, he did so in accordance with an intimation he had made in the last Parliament. In one of those fascinating surveys of our financial prospects in which he annually indulged, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the 27th of April last, took occasion to remark on the approaching general election and the contingent responsibilities of the new Parliament, and in the course of some humble criticisms of his own upon the right hon. Gentleman's observations, he had then ventured to hope that when the new Parliament was returned that House would feel itself bound to insist, as strongly as possible, upon the adoption of a judicious system of retrenchment in every branch of the public service consistently with its efficiency, and would refuse its confidence to any Government that required as the normal expenditure of the country a larger sum than £60,000,000 annually. It was the duty of Members of that House jealously and vigilantly to watch over the public expenditure, and to check those pernicious and powerful influences which were 1099 brought to bear upon the Finance Minister, leading to the grievous growth of the Estimates of late years. It was, moreover, a moment particularly opportune for dealing with that question when a re-constructed Ministry met a new Parliament, and it was to be expected that the new Members of the House would add to the usefulness of its councils. The echo of those plaudits which greeted the chosen of the people when declaring their determination to insist on the most rigid economy had hardly yet died away; and it now remained for those Gentlemen by their votes and speeches in that House to justify the expectations which their language had created in the minds of confiding constituencies. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had himself laid it down that, in addition to their annual reviews of the income and expenditure, it was well when special junctures arrived with circumstances of a marked character for Parliament to be, so to speak, obliged to initiate a deeper and more comprehensive examination, and consider more at large what should be the proper scale of the taxation and likewise of the expenditure of this great country. The present time was one of those special junctures to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred. With the exception of poor Ireland, the public mind was in a tranquil and re-assured state; owing to the noble army of Volunteers—thanks to the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho) and his gallant coadjutors—those absurd terrors and popular delusions about a French invasion, which used to be sedulously encouraged in some quarters, had been thoroughly stamped out. The losses caused by the prevalence of the cattle plague also combined with other circumstances to call for a reduction of the public expenditure within more sober and reasonable limits. It would not be fair in a general way to criticize the speeches made by candidates to their constituents, because experience showed that matters political could never be seen in their true light except through a Parliamentary medium. But it might be permissible to quote the language used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—no novice, certainly, in political life—in addressing the electors of South Lancashire. The averment of his first Resolution—namely, that the national expenditure had been excessive, might be proved from the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman, who was then, as now, responsible for the public finances. Speak- 1100 ing at Liverpool on the 18th of July last, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said—Let us see how matters stand; and before I enter into it I will just say that I am not satisfied, as far as I am individually concerned.That was exactly his own feeling—he was not satisfied—I am not satisfied, as far as I am individually-concerned, that the expenditure of the country has yet been reduced to the lowest point consistent with honour and security.After adducing such evidence as this it was needless to say one word more. He would, nevertheless, quote a portion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech containing a hint to the constituencies of the country, which ran thus—Therefore, I will say this, and say it without the smallest doubt, that if the electoral body of this country desire that reduction shall be effected in that expenditure, they have only to send to Parliament men who sympathize with that view, and the result they wish will infallibly be attained.Now, although he had but a small amount of confidence in the present, yet he thought it a great improvement on the last Government. Since he had seen the Estimates for the present year, however, it had greatly fallen in his esteem. The sum demanded for the army, the navy, and the civil service was almost the same as that required last year, notwithstanding what had been stated as to "old things passing away and all things becoming new." Unless there was an improvement in these matters, the present Ministry ought to give way and allow other men, capable of conducting the government of the country in a better manner and at a smaller cost, to take their places. Whenever he heard the high-sounding phrases about retrenchment and national prudence, in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer was so ready to indulge, he was inclined to remind him of the lines of Pope—A very heathen in the carnal part,Yet still a sad good Christian at her heart.There was not a Member of the House who had more denounced prodigality than the right hon. Gentleman. In 1860 the Chancellor of the Exchequer became quite enthusiastic in his denunciations of extravagance, and hon. Members would recollect a memorable sentence, in which he employed the words "vacillation," "uncertainty," "costliness," "extravagance," "meanness," and all the conflicting vices that could be enumerated, as united in the same system of mal-administration. In his climax he told the House that nothing 1101 short of a "revolutionary reform would ever be sufficient to rectify it." These were the avowals of the right hon. Gentleman in 1860, and yet the discreditable condition of affairs of that period still existed. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: I then alluded to public works.] He had understood the language of the right hon. Gentleman to have a general application. Had any person partially informed on public matters listened to the address of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1860, he could never have believed that such a torrent of invective had come from a man who, by the tenure of his office, was upholding that very system which he so scathingly denounced. In the same spirit of tantalizing and perplexing candour, the right hon. Gentleman dwelt upon the pernicious habits prevalent in the last Parliament; but it would be better to quote his own words. Speaking of the expiring Parliament, he said—It has raised a larger revenue than I believe ever at any period of peace, or even of war, after taking into account the changes in the value of money, was raised by taxation within an equal space of time; and the expenditure has been upon a scale that has never before been reached in time of peace.That was a voluntary declaration of the right hon. Gentleman. He must confess that the Minister of Finance had simply to bring in Estimates, get them through the House, and then, towards the end of the Session, give one of his economical homilies, and, forsooth, it went abroad that he was the advocate of the greatest economy, and the enemy of all prodigality. There should be an end of such a state of things; if the people must pay the money, let them pay it, but let them be spared such homilies as those of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He had been going over the right hon. Gentleman's speeches, a batch of which he held in his hand; and he believed he could very easily compile from them a "Financial Reformer's Manual" or "Economical Guide." Those speeches were full of sublime aphorisms, denunciations of prodigality, and warmhearted yearnings for social progress, which would be all very well if he could forget those stupendous, startling numerals which formed the bitterest commentary on the teachings of the right hon. Gentleman's text. During the last six years of his incumbency he had drawn from the earnings of the people and from the profits of capital £422,173,783—the unprecedented average annual sum of £70,360,000—in 1102 fact, a war expenditure in the time of peace—an expenditure, indeed, much larger than that required during the Crimean War. New, what, he would ask, was the relative value of £70,360,000 per annum in our social system? It would give 29s. a week—that was to say, double the amount of the alleged sum on which the Dorsetshire labourer of Lord Shaftesbury luxuriated—for one year to every male agricultural labourer in England and Wales. Seventy millions per annum, in short, meant a sum large enough to supply the yearly cost of the sustenance, clothing, housing, and education, such as it was, of one quarter of the whole population of these realms; or, put in another shape, it was three times more than the whole profits and emoluments derived at the present moment from our cotton trade—the vastest industry in the world, and all its subsidiary branches. He trusted he might add that the Government would make the statistics which they were engaged in collecting on the subject of Reform as exhaustive as possible, and inform the country what proportion of those £70,000,000 of annual taxation was borne by the unrepresented classes, for if he was not misinformed fully one-half of the entire amount was placed upon their shoulders by our present inequitable fiscal system. He wished, in the next place, to point out the prodigious increase which the national expenditure had undergone of late years. He found that during the five years from 1842 to 1846, inclusive, the annual expenditure was £52,250,000; during the five years from 1847 to 1851, £51,750,000; the five years 1852 to 1856, which embraced the period of the Crimean War, £66,700,000; while for the last eight years our average expenditure amounted to £69,200,000 per annum. In short, during the last few years, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer being in office, we had been spending £1,000,000 a month more than our ordinary or average expenditure prior to the war with Russia. For the five years before that war the average annual charge for the army was £9,350,000; while for the last five years it amounted to £16,100,000; the average charge for the navy having been for the last five years £11,800,000 as contrasted with the sum of £6,520,000 previous to the war. Nor was that all, for the Civil Service Estimates, with a sort of ambitious rivalry, had increased within the last twenty-five years from £2,000,000 to £8,000,000. 1103 He knew while making these statements that he would be reminded of the annual remission of taxation; but the truth was that there was no such remission, but only a shifting of the burden, for the Chancellor of the Exchequer still contrived to get his £70,000,000 out of the pockets of the people. He did not wish to make use of harsh language, but the financial policy which had been pursued was neither more nor less than the stale device of a second-rate tradesman, who charged 20 per cent more than he ought, and magnanimously allowed a discount of 5 per cent. The right hon. Gentleman was merely giving back to the people a small portion of their own money, under the pretence of remissions. This was the way in which John Bull was treated, and then the people were expected to throw up their hats and be everlastingly grateful to the Minister for such illusive proceedings. It was once understood that when taxes were reduced so much more money was left in the pockets of the people; but the policy of the present school of finance was so dexterously to adjust the burden as only to render it less irksome than before. In making those observations he did not mean to say anything hostile to the hon. Gentleman, for he took a greater interest in him than in any other Member whom he saw seated on the Treasury Bench; but he nevertheless thought it was not difficult to show that the industry of the country relatively contributed much mote than it did a quarter of a century ago to the general revenue. The ten articles—tea, sugar, coffee, currants, raisins, timber, wine, spirits, tobacco, and corn—which yielded in 1840 to the revenue £20,240,000, contributed in 1864 £22,291,000. But then great amazement was expressed if when the duty was reduced on some article of domestic consumption the Treasury gained as large an amount as from a higher rate, while the fact seemed to be ignored that our former ignorant and obstructive legislation had most cruelly abridged the domestic comforts of the people. The prodigality of grants to the Crown made by the last Parliament had been justly condemned by the Finance Minister, to whom, however, greater blame attached for introducing excessive Estimates, supporting them by his eloquence, and seeking to relieve himself from responsibility by throwing it on Parliament. Speaking at Manchester in July last, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said— 1104We are passing into the dangerous state of things in which the House of Commons, instead of being the jealous, vigilant, effectual controller of those proposals for expenditure which it is the duty of the executive Government to make, tends itself to become the promoter and the stimulator of public expenditure, forcing it upon the executive Government in every form of Question, of Motion, of suggestion … and ever actively tending to make invasions upon the public purse. … Most earnestly do I hope that in the new Parliament we shall witness a different state of things, and that the representatives of the people will, especially among the Opposition, resume their legitimate office of limiting and confining, not of promoting and enlarging public expenditure.He (Mr. White) hoped the Opposition would not need the stimulus referred to; and, if they wished to obtain the repeal of the malt duty, they had better co-operate with the Liberal Members below the gangway. But he would ask what influence had the new Parliament exercised on the Estimates now submitted to the House? They exhibited no real reduction, and yet Parliament had not stimulated the Chancellor of the Exchequer to bring them up to their present magnitude. Under these circumstances, he did not see how Parliament incurred all the responsibility and the Chancellor of the Exchequer none. He should like to have the right hon. Gentleman's new reading of our Constitution. He always thought that the initiative with regard to expenditure belonged to the Executive; but these enunciations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer placed them in a dilemma. Surely he would not wish to revert to the time of the Stuarts, when Parliament refused supplies to the Crown? Since that time whatever had been required for the service of the Crown had been granted by the Commons when asked for; and the unimportant and inconsiderable exceptions to this rule proved its uniformity, and therefore he felt bound to protest against this railing at Parliament on the part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If it were admitted that our expenditure was excessive, the practical question was—to what extent and by what means could it he reduced? In 1860 he moved the reduction of the strength of the army by a number that would have saved a million, and he took into the lobby with him a small minority; but he had never been reproached by any one who voted with him, and on the hustings they found that his Motions and Divisions told in their favour. Although the Motion was rejected with scorn, next year the Government pro- 1105 posed a reduction more than equivalent to that which his proposition involved. In 1862 he urged strongly the necessity of a reduction in our public expenditure, and said that we ought then to be approaching to the limit of £60,000,000, which he then and now deemed quite adequate to maintain our normal establishments in full efficiency. He was confirmed in that opinion by his late friend Mr. Cobden (whose death was felt as a personal bereavement by the earnest Liberals of both hemispheres), and who in his last public address at Rochdale on the 24th of October, 1864, said—Lord Stanley, the other day, declared he could see his way to an annual expenditure of £60,000,000 per annum, and I suppose that when Mr. Gladstone sees distinguished Members making such a statement he will hasten on to that amount for fear he should be taken up by the other side.Next came the question, what chance had they of enforcing their opinions of economy on their prodigal Chancellor of the Exchequer? He almost despaired of accomplishing that object unless the House would consent to adopt a Finance Committee, which should be appointed every Session, and fairly chosen from hon. Members on both sides, and to which the Estimates should be referred for preliminary examination. They were all aware that there was no great undertaking, no public establishment, no municipality, which had not its Finance Committee, to whom questions similar to the Estimates of that House were referred, and by whom they were reported upon. The same process was adopted in analogous cases by Parliament itself; but, oddly enough, not in the most important of all; for with regard to the national finances there was no previous inquiry of that kind. The machinery which at present existed might have done very well in the time of the Stuarts, when hon. Members used to come down in the middle of the day and discuss the Estimates, or in the days of William III., when the revenue of England did not amount to £5,000,000; but it was not sufficient for the complicated questions which were now involved in them, In 1862 he took the opportunity of going through the Estimates, and he found, as he mentioned in the subsequent discussion, that they contained 17,833 items, and that they were explained or referred to in 804 folio pages. The House could well understand how hon. Members would shrink aghast and appalled from the contempla- 1106 tion of such a mass of figures as was submitted to them by the present plan. He recollected that his hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), whose mastery of details and command of figures were justly admired for the short time that he was connected with the Admiralty, declared thatHe regarded the process by which the Estimates were said to be discussed in Committee of Supply with a feeling akin to hopelessness and despair.He was quite aware of the stale objection that a Committee of Finance would act as a sort of buffer between the House of Commons and the Executive, whose responsibility would thereby be diminished. But the experience of foreign representative assemblies did not bear out that argument, and even if it did the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the whole responsibility was with Parliament; and, therefore, they could not be worse off than they were now. Another part of the question was this. What they must do under present circumstances when the Estimates were placed before them. He was disposed to take the advice of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, given when he was not in office, and that would be an illustration of the benefit which would accrue from referring matters to a Committee. In 1857 the right hon. Gentleman said—In 1848 the Army and Navy Estimates were £17,000,000."[They were now £25,000,000.] "But they had then reached' a point beyond the patient endurance of Parliament; and the House gave such undoubted indication of its determination not to entertain those Estimates that the Government withdrew them, re-considered them, and referred them in a revised shape to a Committee, the result of all which operations was that they were reduced by an extent not far short of £3,000,000."—[3 Hansard, cxliv. 2158.]Well, let the House adopt a practice thus recommended. He should wish some hon. Member to move that the Army, Navy, and Civil Service Estimates be referred to a Committee, and then they would see whether they could not be reproduced in a greatly diminished shape. The Resolution which the right hon. Gentleman moved on the 10th of March, 1857, was as follows:—That, in order to secure to the country that relief which it justly expects, it is necessary, in the judgment of this House, to revise and further reduce the Expenditure of the State.Now, there was a Resolution ready cut and dry which he begged to hand over to some new Member who might immortalize 1107 himself, and who should have his hearty support. His own experience in Committees of Supply fully bore out the opinion expressed by the hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld); but if they had got that permanent Finance Committee which he had ventured to recommend, was it to be supposed that we could have had such an enormous growth of expenditure as we had had of late years, or that such gigantic Government manufacturing establishments could have sprung up and been continued in defiance of every sound principle of political economy and State thrift, as laid down by Mr. Burke, Sir H. Parnell, the late Marquess of Lansdowne, and, though last not least, Mr. Cobden? If the House had had such a Committee, the admirable recommendations of the Royal Commission on Dockyards, and of Mr. Mills' Committee upon Military and Naval Expenditure in the Colonies, and others of the same kind, could not have been now ignored. But what practical effect bad they now on the public expenditure? It was utterly futile to attempt to fight the battle of economy in Committee of Supply. That was the opinion of the late Mr. Cobden, of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), of the hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), and his own, and the reason was this—that a large proportion of hon. Members on both sides were of opinion that the Executive were alone competent to judge what the necessities of the public service required. Another reason was this—when an hon. Member succeeded in convincing the Committee of the expediency of reducing the Estimates—and he had often seen that done—the division bell rang, and an influx of what in the last generation was called placemen, or expectants of place, but what were now called Government Members, took place, and swamped the deliberate judgment of the Committee. Important questions were thus decided by the votes of Members who had not heard one word of the discussion. So strongly was the evil of this system felt, that in 1861 the hon. Member for Dundalk (Sir George Bowyer) moved that in any division in Committee of Supply, as soon as the voices were called, the doors should be closed. He (Mr. White) had the honour of seconding that Resolution, which the House did not think fit to adopt. He would now state a few facts to show how useless it was to oppose any items in Committee of Supply. During the last ten years the entire sum voted by the Com- 1108 mittee of Supply was £358,392,422. The items rejected by the Committee of Supply during the same years were as follows:—In 1857 there was a demand for a sum of £10,500 to build a church for the British residents and visitors in Paris. This item was very properly rejected in Committee of Supply. In 1858 some hon. Members who took an interest in the Fine Arts objected to the amount of the salary of the travelling agent of the National Gallery, and succeeded in obtaining its reduction from £400 to £100. Probably emboldened by this success, the Committee made another effort to cut down the expenses—they rejected an item of £1,000, the salary of the Registrar of Sasines. Now, many gentlemen did not up to that period know who the Registrar of Sasines was, but on making inquiries they found that he was an officer whose principal duty consisted in drawing a salary of £l,500 a year. On the death of the holder of the office, the Government, it appeared, at first intended to abolish it, but they afterwards changed their minds, and having reduced the salary to £1,000 a year, they conferred the office on some Whig dependent in Edinburgh. When the Committee refused to sanction the sum of £1,000, the Government took the unusual course of having the Resolution re-committed, and the result was that the original decision of the Committee was rescinded and the grant passed. In 1859, 1860, and 1861 no item was rejected in Committee of Supply. In 1862, £5,000 for Highland roads and bridges was rejected, and the Government did not bring it on again, probably because the commission under which the sum was claimed would have expired in 1865. In 1863, 1864, and 1865 no Vote was rejected or reduced. In the face of notorious facts—namely, such infinitesimal deductions from a grand total of £358,392,422, he asked what adequate advantage was to be gained by opposing the passing of specific Votes in Committee of Supply? If any hon. Gentleman wished to imitate the late Mr. Williams and oppose any items he considered excessive in Committee of Supply, he (Mr. White) would be always happy to follow him into the lobby, but he should at the same time say that he did not believe that any definite or practical advantage would result from such a course. In the Session of 1864, he (Mr. White) moved for a Select Committee on the incidence of taxation, and then cited one fact which he would recall to the attention of the 1109 House, as it went to prove how grievously the weight of the present taxation was felt by the labouring classes. In 1863 a calculation was made of the amount paid in taxes by 6,150 families in Manchester, Rochdale, and Bacup, The result of that calculation was that it appeared that a man who earned 30s. a week, and who had a wife and three children, paid—indirectly, of course—3s. 4d. a week in taxation. [Viscount CRANBOURNE: How much for beer?] He was free to confess, in answer to the noble Lord's question, that he had no doubt the working classes did spend a considerable sum of money on beer. Since 1863 the duties on tea and sugar had been reduced, still it could now be demonstrated that an artizan earning 30s. a week, with a wife and three children, was taxed incidentally and indirectly, under the operation of our fiscal system, to an amount quite equal to an income tax of 2s. 6d. in the pound. This showed the inequitable incidence of our present fiscal system; and was it, then, surprising that the incubus of pauperism was so great, and that an active controversy had been going on between a philanthropic peer and a dignified ecclesiastic upon the question whether the agricultural population in the West of England were as well fed, as well housed, and as well cared for as the horses of the upper and middle classes? The average rate of contribution to the Poor Law in England and Wales in the year 1864 was 4d. per head more than in 846, when the average price of wheat was 10s. 1d. per quarter higher. How much the perverted optimism of modern society, and the current fashionable prosperity-talk, may have debauched and demoralized the public mind, and to what extent Imperial prodigality has provoked an imitative spirit of extravagance in local expenditure and private outlay, he would not then stop to inquire, but only point to the significant fact, that a total sum of not less than £100,000,000 per annum was now raised for Imperial taxation, local charges, and religious teaching. He thought that the House of Commons, as the grand inquest of the nation, ought to now address itself to this momentous question of national thrift. The hon. Member concluded by moving, in the terms of his Amendment—That the expenditure of the Government has of late years been excessive. That it was and is now taken in great measure out of the earnings of the People, and forms in no small degree a deduction from a scanty store which is necessary 1110 to secure to them a sufficiency, not of the comforts of life, but oven of the prime necessaries of food, of clothing, of shelter, and of fuel.' That this House, while mindful of its obligation to maintain the security of the Country at Home and the protection of its interests Abroad, is deeply impressed with the urgent necessity of economy in every department of the State, and is of opinion that no Administration is deserving of the confidence of this House and the Country which shall not relieve the present burden of taxation on the unrepresented and other classes by making an early and large reduction of the Government expenditure,
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the expenditure of the Government has of late years been excessive. That it was and is now taken in great measure out of the earnings of the People, and forms in no small degree a deduction from a scanty store which is necessary to secure to them a sufficiency, not of the comforts of life, but even of the prime necessaries of food, of clothing, of shelter, and of fuel,'"—(Mr. White,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. BAXTER
said, it was impossible to call attention too frequently and prominently to the question of national expenditure. Of late years it had been frequently said, and it had also been stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that that House had abdicated its functions of checking the expenditure of the Government, and had itself, on the contrary, initiated great schemes involving the expenditure of enormous sums, which the Ministers did not seem to think necessary. He hoped the new House would not follow the pernicious example of its predecessors, but would carefully examine every item of the Estimates. He entirely concurred in the remark of the hon. Member for Brighton that it was impossible to sit in that House night after night, and go over the thousand and one Votes submitted to them, to do any substantial good. They would very rarely succeed in getting any item knocked off, and if they did, it would be something quite immaterial. The matter should be looked at as a whole, and the issue raised on the gross sum required by Government. He agreed with the hon. Member for Brighton that the present expenditure of the country was excessive. How stood the case? He believed he was not wrong in stating that the British people and statesmen on both sides of the House had made up their minds not to meddle in 1111 the miserable dynastic squabbles of the Continent, or questions of successions and boundaries. They had concluded a treaty of commerce with France, which was drawing the two nations together more closely and rendering war less and less possible. They had adopted the same course with respect to Austria, and he supposed that no one now believed that Russia was likely again to disturb the peace of Europe, at least not in this generation. Besides this, recent debates had proved that it was beyond the power of vituperative politicians on this or the other side of the Atlantic to produce any serious misunderstanding between Great Britain and the United States. With things in this state, what were we doing? We were all the time adding to our dockyards, and fortifying them, and indulging in huge expenses in fortifications abroad, expending twenty-five millions for armaments when fifteen were found to be ample before the year 1851. This was a most unsatisfactory state of things—especially when we remembered that we now had in England upwards of 100,000 Volunteers, who were as efficient for defensive purposes as any regiments in the service. He was sorry to say the Government showed a want of moral courage in dealing with any substantial reduction of the expenditure. He believed the Chancellor of the Exchequer was anxious for a reduction of the expenditure, but he required to be backed by the House. When his hon. Friend the Member for Brighton had adduced the fact of the Chancellor of the Exchequer having moved a Resolution to the effect that Government should take back their Estimates some years ago—[The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: That is a mistake.] He might be mistaken. But it was in his opinion a more constitutional course to require the Government to take back their Estimates than to discuss the details in Committee. The Ministers were somewhat afraid of the Services themselves, but those Services, instead of being ashamed of getting so much, were, like the horse-leech, perpetually crying, "Give, give!" He was afraid a body of the country Gentlemen opposite took a sort of pleasure in anticipating danger from the other side of the Channel, which was wholly chimerical. For his own part, he saw no reason for so large an armament as the country maintained at home and abroad, and he held it to be most unwise to stretch the resources of the nation in time of peace, when our policy was one of concord 1112 with all nations. Perhaps the fault lay not so much with the Parliament and the Government as with the people themselves. But it was the duty of the Ministry to lead public opinion, and he was disappointed when he saw that they did not propose any really substantial reduction of the expenditure. As one who was well acquainted with the working classes, he knew they were greatly discontented with these enormous armaments. Hon. Gentlemen opposite clamoured for the repeal of the malt tax. He was himself as much opposed to that tax as any one; but how, in the name of common sense, could they hope to get rid of the malt tax while they kept up the present enormous warlike expenditure? He could not for the life of him understand, when he read the speeches of hon. Members opposite against the malt tax, how they could make those speeches and never say one word against the enormous military expenditure of the country. It was worse than idle, and only inspired false hopes, to talk about the repeal of the malt tax, or any other great impost, so long as the great warlike expenditure of this country was kept up. He made these remarks because he thought Government was not taking a right course in keeping up the military expenditure at a figure so large that it could only be justified by war being imminent.
§ MR. MARSH
said, that having himself on a former occasion brought forward the subject of the Civil Service Estimates, he hoped he should be permitted to make a few remarks. The hon. Member for Brighton said the amount raised from the people by taxation was £70,000,000; but it was considerably more, because the consumers were charged with profits on the amount of the tax. For instance, if there was a duty of 3s. a pound on tobacco, the consumer paid not only the duty, but the shopkeeper's profit on the duty. He regarded the malt tax as peculiarly objectionable, since the effect was to raise the price of beer by two profits—the profit on the original cost of the malt, and the profit on the amount of the tax levied on it. It would be much better to raise it in its last stage just as it was made into beer, and thus not hamper the manufacture of malt. He certainly thought there was great room for economy, looking at the present state of the public establishments. As to the expenditure for the navy, he feared there must always be some extravagance and waste in the dockyards. It was to be 1113 hoped that the hon. Member for Portsmouth would not try to make that extravagance greater by bringing on a Motion to pay the dockyard men more. With regard to the army, no one would grudge anything that could add to its efficiency, or promote the health and comfort of the soldier. To do so would be very false economy. He had, however, some statistics taken from one of the Statistical Society's books, with respect to the English and French armies, which were worthy of some attention. True, they related to a comparison made some five years ago, but the proportions had not materially varied since then. It was generally supposed that the colonies made the cost of the British army greater than that of France, but that was not so, as France had nearly as many, if not quite as many, men in her colonies as we had. In 1860–1 the British army consisted of 146,044 men and 8,262 horses, and the estimated expenditure upon it was £14,606,000; whereas in the same year the French army included 400,000 men and 85,705 horses, and the amount of the budget was £20,129,000, making the proportionate cost of the British army to be more than double that paid by France. Probably some explanation could be afforded as to that state of things, and doubtless when the noble Lord the Secretary of State for War returned to the House he would probably furnish that explanation with his usual ability and clearness. Turning to the Civil Service Estimates, it was astonishing how they kept on increasing every year. That ought not to be the case, seeing that many items formerly included in those Estimates—such as pensions to refugees and many sums for the colonies—were not paid now. Simplicity of accounts was one of the first maxims of sound finance, but at present there was such confusion in these Estimates that it was most difficult to find out what anything cost. The charge for the Military School was put down in the Civil Service Estimates, whereas, of course, it should appear in those for the army. Again, coming to the expenses of that House, they found the charge for fuel put down in one place, and that for warming in another. Another principle of good finance was to have a correct debtor and creditor account, with the receipts on the one side and the disbursements on the other. Formerly the net revenue was paid into the Exchequer, and the expenses of collection were 1114 deducted; but now the practice was to pay the whole gross produce of the taxes into the Exchequer, and to leave the expenses of collection to be voted. That rule, however, did not seem to be always strictly followed; for the whole expense of Kingston Harbour was not given, but only the amount minus the shipping dues received there, and there were a great many instances of this sort of thing. That was a clumsy mode of doing business. He was not quite sure as to the stamps, but he believed the expense of collecting these duties was deducted before they were paid into the Exchequer, whereas he maintained that the gross sum ought to be paid in and the salaries of officers afterwards paid out, as in the case of the Customs. He was glad that Government should have adopted the rule of resisting proposals to place increased charges on the Consolidated Fund, since there was a continual tendency in these charges to increase. One man should never have the spending of another man's money. That principle was violated in the item for prosecutions, Some years ago one-half of the charge for prosecutions was put on the Consolidated Fund, and the consequence was that the expense had increased from £40,000 a year to something like £200,000 a year; and an hon. Member had a Bill before the House which, if it were allowed to pass, would make the expense still greater. Then there were other charges which ought to be local. There was a Vote this year of £7,525 for Westminster Bridge; £1,200 for county roads in Wales; £7,000 for the Chapter House at Westminster; and other things of that kind which were local charges, and ought to be raised by local rates. Why should not Westminster and Surrey pay for their bridges as other counties did? He agreed with the hon. Member that it was Parliament that was in fault. He was astonished at the yearly increase of the Civil Service expenditure, and at the introduction into that Estimate of charges for military schools and for the Mermaid powder-ship which ought to be put down in the Army and Navy Estimates. He further complained of the enormous sum paid for stationery. Then there was the Divorce Court, where there were always two people to blame and generally three, and there were the County Courts, which ought to pay their own expenses. The Courts of Law should be self-supporting. The expenditure for 1115 our criminals, which was enormous, would be much reduced if we made our prisons less comfortable. The education grants were often bestowed too freely where they were least required, and most sparingly where the need was greatest. There were Votes in the Civil Service Estimates for abolished offices, which might be saved by transferring the recipients of certain pensions to other employments. Hon. Gentlemen were much to blame for forcing an increased expenditure upon the Government. It was not competent for an individual Member to move a new Vote in Supply, but hon. Gentlemen frequently brought forward Motions which forced the Government afterwards to move such Votes. That appeared to be as unconstitutional a proceeding as if those hon. Members moved the Votes in Supply themselves. If hon. Gentlemen would only refrain from taking that course, and would also endeavour in Committee of Supply to curtail expenditure, the Estimates might be considerably reduced.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, it was incumbent on some one on the Opposition side of the House to Bay a few words, lest it should be supposed that Members sitting there allowed judgment to go by default on the accusation, thrown out by one or two hon. Gentlemen, that they encouraged all the extravagant expenditure complained of, and that all the economy came from the Benches opposite. It was natural that some one on that (the Opposition) side should rise and protest against such a doctrine. He did not say that there had never been an occasion on which hon. Members on that side had pressed upon Government an expenditure that was undesirable and unnecessary, or that hon. Gentlemen on the other side had not done anything to promote economy. That section of the House to which the hon. Member for Brighton adhered was no doubt deemed to be the most economically disposed section. He, nevertheless, could point out several Members on his own side who had uniformly taken part in discussions in Supply, and who had frequently—and sometimes not unsuccessfully—urged on the Government measures for the reduction of the expenditure. He could say that on that side there was a real hearty disposition—as far as was consistent with what they believed to be important for the service of the country—to curtail expenditure. But who was to blame for this extravagant 1116 expenditure? In some discussions there the subject was treated as a football, which was being continually kicked from one side to the other. The Government threw the blame on the House, and the House threw the blame back upon the Government. This might be very well as a means of producing animated discussions; but if Members wanted to come to practical conclusions they must look at the matter in a somewhat different spirit. Expenditure might be excessive in two distinct ways. In the first place, it might be excessive because it was more than was required for the purposes for which it was professed to be incurred, such purposes being in themselves proper and necessary; in the second place, it might be excessive because they undertook it for unnecessary or improper objects. In the one case it was waste, and in the other it was extravagance. The House ought very carefully to distinguish between the two cases. Very different principles ought to guide them in dealing with what he might call waste, and what, for want of a better word, he would designate extravagance. Waste must always be unjustifiable. If the country had spent more money than ought to have been spent upon the attainment of objects which were professedly desirable or necessary, if the Government were wasting any of that money, whether spending seventy millions, or sixty, or fifty, or only ten millions, they were equally to be blamed for that waste. Without reference to the amount they were drawing by taxation from the people, it was at all times the bounden duty both of the Government and of the House to resist anything in the nature of waste. Now, it sometimes happened that Motions bearing the appearance of Motions for an increase of expenditure were really Motions for the prevention of waste. An hon. Member conversant with the details of a particular service, perhaps discovered that the Government were not procuring the advantages which they ought to obtain by their expenditure, and very naturally brought the subject forward, and pointed out how by certain means the object might be attained with a very slight increase in the expenditure. If Government met such a Motion by saying that it meant an addition to expenditure they did not reason fairly. The Government ought to be strong enough to resist propositions connected with the expenditure, that were not justified by the circumstances, but it was the duty of Members to discuss questions of this 1117 kind, more especially if they could point out how the public expenditure might be made more available. It was very difficult, of course, to say what was and what was not necessary; that was a matter to which the Government ought to pay the greatest attention, and upon which the House ought to feel itself bound to assist the Government. So much for waste; as regards what he had called extravagance, a very nice and careful discrimination was needed. There could be no doubt that, whereas it was absolutely necessary for the House to incur just so much expenditure as was necessary for carrying on the Government, and for the national defences, it was not absolutely necessary for them to expend money on education, or for the improvement of the condition of the people, and on many other objects of that kind; but, on the other hand, that money was well spent, and it was worth while, for such judicious expenditure to tax the people, provided they did not tax them beyond their ability, or beyond the value of the services rendered them in return. Here he agreed with the hon. Member for Brighton, that the question how much they should take out of the pockets of the people and how much was returned presented itself. It was the duty of those who represented the country to bring forward and discuss questions of that kind. If Members, knowing the feelings and wishes of their constituents, urged that certain advantages desired by them should be given to them, those Members ought not to be taunted for so doing. The Government ought to consider the question as a whole, and the House as a body ought to have the conscience to support the Government in deciding upon propositions of this nature. He agreed with the proposition of the hon. Member for Brighton, quoted from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that a large part of the expenditure was supported by taxation drawn from the earnings of the people. They were so wealthy as a nation, and so liberal in large expenditure, that the wealthy classes did not sufficiently recollect that what was nothing to a great capitalist might be very serious indeed to men of limited means and to the body of the people, who, nevertheless, if the House wished to maintain a proper system of taxation, must be taxed in the same proportion as other members of society. Therefore, as taxation fell very heavily upon the poor, it was the bounden duty of the House to consider most mi- 1118 nutely all proposals for expenditure; and when the Government did its duty in resisting the proposals which might be deemed to be beneficial, but which the nation could not afford, the House ought, as a rule, to stand by the Government. This was a matter which engaged the attention of all the Members of the House, but he would put it to the hon. Member for Brighton whether he saw any advantage in going to a division upon such a question, or in placing upon record Resolutions of that nature, He, himself, did not see that such a course would advance matters very far. The discussion of the subject might have done good. Before entering upon the question of the Estimates, and the consideration of Votes of large sums of money, it might be salutary for such discussions to take place. He, however, was rather afraid that if the House were to pass such a Resolution as that in the first instance, and then follow it by doing nothing, it would he justly liable to the accusation the hon. Member for Brighton brought, not without some plausibility, against the Chancellor of the Exchequer, of denouncing expenditure and satisfying themselves by condemning in, words what they did nothing to stop by their deeds.
§ MR. LAING
Sir, regret that the hon. Member for Brighton should have so worded his Resolution as to make it impossible for me to go into the same lobby with him. Nothing is to be gained by vague and exaggerated statements, or by mixing up political with financial questions. Such statements tend to throw discredit upon those who advocate real economy, and to confound in the public mind two totally different characters—-the practical reformer and the professional agitator. An attempt is here made to import subjects of political agitation into questions which, properly speaking, lie in the domain of economy. The Resolution, as it stands, contains the gravest charges which it is possible to bring against the Government of the country, and against the political system by which that Government is supported. It states that the expenditure of the country has not only been excessive and extravagant, but that the political system which encourages this extravagant expenditure throws the burden of it so unfairly upon the unrepresented classes as not only to deprive them in a great measure of the comforts, but even to stint them of the barest necessities of life. Were that statement true, it would be the best apology for Fenianism, 1119 and the strongest possible argument for universal suffrage. A system under which such a state of things existed ought not to be tolerated for a single day. I have to complain that the Motion of the hon. Gentleman puts those who advocate real economy to the unfair alternative of seeming to vote against economy or coinciding with the statements contained in the Resolution. [Mr. WHITE: They were the Chancellor of the Exchequer's own words.] Yes; but the meaning of words depends almost entirely upon the context. Words used in a speech may have borne an entirely different meaning from what would attach to them when singled out and appended to a Resolution bringing grave charges against the Government of the country. To understand the facts correctly it is necessary to see how far expenditure has been excessive or extravagant, making allowance for those causes which have swelled the outlay not alone in this, but in foreign countries. I will not go further back than the period immediately preceding the outbreak of the Crimean War. Our expenditure has, no doubt, increased considerably within the ten years from 1851 to 1861; but it should be recollected that in the former years the charges for the collection of the revenue were taken out of that revenue before it was paid into the Exchequer. Those charges amounted, in round numbers, to £4,500,000. Deducting, therefore, those charges from the revenue of the year ending March, 1852, just before the Crimean War, we obtain in round numbers the sum of £51,000,000 as the gross expenditure. We find that our expenditure for the year ending March, 1861, amounted to £61,000,000, showing an increase of £10,000,000, of which £9,000,000 belonged to the Army and Navy Estimates. But in estimating the reasons for this increase we ought to consider the causes in operation, and to inquire whether they were such as to make that increased expenditure inevitable. What, then, were the causes of that large increase? The Russian War dispelled the feeling of security which Europe had enjoyed for forty years, and introduced a new era of alarm and political tension, from which we are only now again beginning happily to escape. Who could have anticipated that in the short interval elapsing since the Great Exhibition of 1851, opened with such bright promise of inaugurating a new era of peaceful progress, the Russian, Italian, and 1120 American wars, three of the greatest that the world ever saw, besides the Indian Mutiny, should all have taken place? In the selfsame period, through the course of scientific improvement, the entire reconstruction of our armaments, both by sea and land, became necessary. We could not help that reconstruction any more than we could help the substitution of guns for bows and arrows, or cannons for catapults. Guns, forts, arsenals, dockyards, ships—every single item of our land and naval armaments had to be reconstructed at an immense cost. It was like the substitution of the spinning jenny for the old spinning wheel; but, unfortunately, we had no Arkwright at the Admiralty. We had to grope our way to very partial results through very expensive experiments. To the causes of increased expenditure I have already enumerated must be added the gold discoveries in California and Australia, which gave a great impulse to commerce everywhere, and a consequent rise in the amount of wages. The raw material of our army and navy being provided through voluntary enlistment, and not by conscription, as in foreign services, had to be procured at a higher cost. In addition to this, the attention of the public was roused to many defects in the naval and military administration. Feelings most humane and proper in themselves, but which were somewhat expensive in their consequences, led to a great many sanitary and other improvements in the condition of the soldier and sailor. No one, I believe, at this time would wish to see us retrace our steps with regard to pay or allowances granted. Nevertheless, they must be taken into account when inquiring into the reasons for increased expenditure. But in order still further to test the nature of this increased expenditure, let us look to other countries. Prance was engaged equally with us in the Crimean War, and she has since maintained for a few months a great war in Italy, but war has never menaced her own frontier, and she has never engaged in one which was not of her own seeking. Yet how does she stand by comparison with England? While our total expenditure increased by £10,000,000, or at the rate of 20 per cent, France, during the same period, increased her expenditure £30,000,000, or at the rate of 50 per cent. [An hon. MEMBER: But what about the railways?] The money advanced by Government for the railways was given at an earlier date, and was not included in 1121 the period covered by the figures which I have just quoted. In England the National Debt, measured by the annual charge upon the people, has positively decreased, while France has increased her debt by no less than £150,000,000 sterling. It may be said that the case of France is exceptional, Well, take two smaller neutral States that have not engaged in any war, and have been governed with prudence and economy—Belgium and Holland. Comparing their total expenditure for the same period, it will be found that the Budget of Belgium has risen from £4,800,000 to £5,760,000, or at the rate of 20 per cent increase. The Budget of Holland, in the same time, has risen from 70,000,000 of florins to 86,000,000 of florins, or at the rate of 23 per cent increase. So that the percentage of the increase of English expenditure during that period has been actually less than the average increase of neutral States which have not been involved in any hostilities. Although, therefore, I think it unfair to say that the increase has been extravagant and excessive, yet still no doubt it has been very large; and the question arises, how far the Government can fairly be held responsible for any portion of it? The Government I believe to be partly responsible for this expenditure. Injudicious interference with Foreign Affairs, particularly the Polish and Danish questions, and the unfortunate propensity of our Foreign Office to lecture and scold where it does not mean to fight, tended to prolong that state of political tension in Europe which is the cause of increased armaments. At the same time, having made that admission, I am bound to say that in the main this country is not responsible for the larger part of that expenditure. After the close of the Russian war this country was disposed to have reverted bond fide to a peace establishment if other countries would have done the same. On that point I can speak feelingly, having given my humble co-operation to the present Chancellor of the Exchequer in urging upon Lord Palmerston's Government larger reductions of the Estimates than Lord Palmerston at the time thought desirable. To a great extent we succeeded in that pressure, and the Army and Navy Estimates were in the year 1858 brought down to £22,500,000, or about £6,000,000 above the figure at which they stood previous to the war. But did other nations follow this example? On the contrary, France proceeded with the reconstruction of her navy, and kept both navy 1122 and army in a state of the most complete and formidable efficiency, ready for war at a moment's notice. I do not mean to imply that the Emperor of the French acted with any hostile design towards this country. It would be unreasonable to expect that the able and energetic ruler of a great and military nation like the French, himself no mean authority on the scientific branches of the profession, should have abstained from adopting modern improvements and from putting his army and navy upon the most efficient footing, solely because it happened to be inconvenient to a neighbouring country to follow his example. As far as we were concerned, however, the effect was the same as if those measures had been taken with an unfriendly motive. In a short time we found ourselves in a position of such relative inferiority as necessarily excited a periodical panic in the minds of people in this country, and gave rise on our part to feelings of irritability and suspicion tending to a very great extent to endanger that cordial alliance between England and France which formed the keystone of European civilization, and the best security for a lasting peace. The result shows, I think, that reduction is not always economy, for in two years from that time the Army and Navy Estimates had again gone up to £31,000,000. I frankly admit that I believe Lord Palmerston was right in the view which he took upon that occasion, and that if I and those who concurred with me had not been so precipitate in urging a large diminution of expenditure in 1858, our Estimates would not in 1860 have been so enormously increased. All danger, however, has been happily averted by the reconstruction of J our navy to a sufficient point of efficiency, but above all by that noble and patriotic Volunteer movement by means of which our establishments were placed upon a footing essential to the maintenance of peace in Europe. Europe, too, itself, has at length been brought face to face with the financial embarrassments occasioned by a condition of armed peace, and begins to retrace its steps and to reduce its expenditure. The Emperor of the French especially, who sets the fashion in those matters, and whose influence is so great that it would always dictate the policy of other nations with regard to the keeping up of warlike establishments, is, in my opinion, so thoroughly alive to the great current of opinion in his own and other countries, that he has made up his mind to 1123 act upon his own maxim that his "empire is peace." I trust, therefore, the time has arrived when those extravagant armaments may be reduced which weigh on the energies not so much of England as on those of the other States of Europe. With respect to the question of real economy in the Estimates, it depends very much on three points, in reference to each of which this House was in a position to effect a great deal. The first great subject is that of our foreign policy, to which I have just referred. If the House of Commons will, as I hope it will, enforce the principle of non-intervention it will soon be discovered that that is the real and cardinal foundation of economy. In mentioning non-intervention I would not be understood as speaking in an abstract and inflexible sense, but simply as laying down the broad rule that we should trust to our own strength and forbearance for our security rather than to perplexing and entangling alliances. That we should not interfere unnecessarily in the internal affairs of other nations. Above all that we should never resort to war, except in the last emergency, to defend our interest and honour. Next to our foreign policy comes the important question of the policy pursued by us in relation to our colonies. A great portion of our expenditure under the head of the Army and Navy Estimates has been occasioned by the forces which we have deemed it expedient to keep up in New Zealand and the Cape of Good Hope. It has been the humane policy of this country to station large armies in those colonies, to carry on a systematic warfare in order to prevent the colonists from dealing with the native inhabitants after their own fashion. I think, however, that policy has completely collapsed, that it has, indeed, been reduced to a complete reductio ad, absurdum in New Zealand, where 10,000 British troops have been stationed with scarcely any other result than to prove how directly I those in authority there may paralyze the undoubted gallantry of our officers and soldiers. Such a state of things brings discredit on our administration. Beyond the questions of our foreign and colonial policy, the enforcement of economy depends on the administrative ability and experience of those in office—in the finding of efficient men, placing them in situations of defined responsibility, and exacting from them a rigorous account of the work done. The point is one, however, which it is useless to discuss at any length, because it involves a question of 1124 persons, and not of principle. The hon. Member for Brighton will find, if it should ever be his lot, as it has been mine, to grapple with actual Estimates, that they turn entirely on matters of detail, each of which must be judged upon its own merits, before any reduction can fairly be effected. They are composed of a thousand items, each of which involves questions difficult of solution. Upon this view of the case I should be sorry to pronounce any positive opinion in the present instance, because I have had no opportunity of examining the facts. I ay, perhaps, at the same time, assume that some of our great public Departments, especially the Admiralty, are not placed upon such a footing as to guarantee the greatest possible economy. I have always found in public and private establishments that the best guarantee for such economy is to be found in the fact that there is a clear chain of responsibility running from a single person through a series of individuals from the top to the bottom. What is required in the case of the navy, for instance, is one responsible Member sitting in this House to whom should be delegated the whole authority, and upon whose shoulders the whole responsibility would properly rest. In any effort to bring about such a result, I should be most happy to co-operate with the friends of economy. I cannot concur with the hon. Member for Brighton in charging the Government with having thrown the burden of taxation so unfairly on the unrepresented classes as to deprive them of the comforts and to stint them in the necessaries of life. Such a charge I regard almost as a libel on the free trade legislation of the last twenty years, and as unjust to the memory of that greatest of modern statesmen, Sir Robert Peel, by whom that legislation was inaugurated. When the hon. Member spoke of the food of the humbler classes, I would ask him whether he has never heard of such an event as the repeal of the Corn Laws? Is it not true that, with the exception of a duty of one shilling a quarter on foreign wheat, the provisions of the working man of every description—bread, meat, salt, butter, cheese, eggs—are absolutely and totally untaxed? Can the same be said of any other country? If the hon. Gentleman goes across the Channel to Paris, and many other places in France, he will find that burdens which are here defrayed by means of direct taxation are there met by an octroi or tax on those very articles of food of the labouring classes. Take, too, the ar- 1125 ticle of clothing. Is there any country in the world but this in which every article of clothing, from the raw material to the manufactured article, is as free from taxation to the working classes as the very air they breathe? Where is the country in which the cost of these articles is not enhanced by taxation either for revenue or protection? At this moment in the United States the working man is obliged to pay a tax for his own clothing as well as for his wife's gown and bonnet. He is there burdened with taxation at the rate of 50 per cent for articles for which in England he is not subjected to the charge of a single farthing. As to shelter, by which I suppose my hon. Friend means house accommodation, I would ask whether he has never heard of the duties on bricks, on timber, on glass, which have now all disappeared, with the exception of a small remaining duty on timber, which also will, I hope, shortly be abolished. Then comes the article of fuel. Was there not formerly a tax upon seaborne coals, upon oil, and other articles of artificial light and heat? Are not all these articles now admitted perfectly free from taxation? I should also like to know, I is it not quite as prime a necessity that commerce should be free as that provisions should be cheap? and has not that object also been effectually accomplished by the abolition of all the duties on the raw material of manufacture, so that all those obstacles are removed which tended to cramp and limit the expansion of commerce throughout the kingdom? That expansion had been enormous. The export trade of this country has arisen, within a period of ten years, from £250,000,000 to £500,000,000 sterling, during which time the increase in the population has not been above 10 per cent. But to come to the taxes on comforts, is it not the fact that in this case, too, there has been a considerable reduction? In addition to the reductions which I have enumerated, has not Parliament repealed entirely the duties on soap and on paper? Has not the rate of postage been brought down to a penny? Have not the duties on tea, sugar, coffee, cocoa, currants, wine, hops, in addition to those on many minor articles, been either abolished or greatly diminished? Have not, in short, the duties on all articles of general consumption been either repealed or reduced, with the exception of those on spirits, beer, and tobacco? The test of figures might have been easily applied to the subject. Taking the 1126 three articles, tea, sugar, and tobacco, I find that during the ten years ending in 1865 the consumption of tea increased from about 50,000,000lb. to over 100,000,000lb.; the consumption of sugar increased from 6,000,000 cwt. to upwards of nine and a half millions, more than 50 per cent; and the consumption of tobacco increased upwards of 40 per cent. All this occurred during a period when, if the rate of increase had been measured by population, the consumption should only have increased 15 per cent. So that it is as demonstrable as figures can make it that after fifteen years of alleged misgovernment the "oppressed people" are actually in a position to consume nearly twice as much per head of those comforts of life I have named as they were formerly. Many other facts could be stated to show how greatly the condition of the working classes has improved during the period I have referred to. For instance, the number of children attending schools visited by Government inspectors has increased from 460,000 to upwards of 1,000.000, and the deposits in savings hanks have increased in amount from £34,000,000 to £44,000,000. But it has been said that although the position of the people has improved, and although the taxes have been more productive, yet they are unfairly levied. The upper and middle classes have been charged with having misused the political power vested in them by relieving themselves of a fair share of the burden of taxation, and thrusting this burden upon the shoulders of the working classes. But what are the facts? Where has the money come from which made financially possible the consideration of the well-being of the working classes and the freeing of industry by numerous revisions of taxation? Why, those very upper and middle classes, in whom political power has been vested, voluntarily submitted to a large share of taxation, in order to give the working classes the benefit of the reductions I have enumerated. The income tax was imposed, the succession duty was increased; and taxes were imposed in the nature of stamps upon transfers of property. An analysis of the Budgets of the last few years shows that £22,000,000, or 30 per cent of the whole amount of the Budget, is the amount of direct taxation paid on account of State purposes alone. But if local taxation be included—and it should be included, for it is a necessary part of the national expenditure—it will be found that upwards 1127 of £30,000,000, or about 40 per cent of the whole expenditure of the country, is levied by direct taxation. Then what of the remainder? £26,000,000 is raised by the taxation of various stimulants, such as spirits, tobacco, malt, and wines. It may, perhaps, be a question whether wine and beer should be classed with those comforts the consumption of which it is desirable to cultivate by moderate taxation, or whether they should be placed with those nervous stimulants upon which it is desirable to raise the largest-revenue possible without inducing smuggling. There can, however, be no doubt about spirits and tobacco, and upon these alone £19,000,000 has been raised out of the £26,000,000. But upon such legitimate comforts of the people as sugar, tea, coffee, currants, raisins, and other minor articles, the duties have been so far reduced that not more than £12,000,000 has been raised by them altogether. The facts I have mentioned are so important, and speak so powerfully for themselves, that I will recapitulate them. Leaving out of the calculation, for the sake of simplicity, such miscellaneous items as the Post Office, the Crown lands, and the charges on account of India, both on one side of the account and the other, the expenditure of the country may be broadly set down at £70,000,000, of which £10,000,000 has been raised for local and £60,000,000 for State purposes. Of that £70,000,000, I find that £30,000,000 has been raised by direct taxation, £26,000,000 by duties upon nervous stimulants, and £12,000,000 only by taxes upon those articles of consumption which form the comforts, not of the working classes only, but of all classes of the community. I ask confidently of any one who understands such questions whether that is not on the whole a fair and equitable system of taxation, and whether it can be said with truth that the working classes are unduly burdened with taxation. I would especially appeal on this head to the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), whom I am sorry to find absent. Indeed, I regret that the hon. Gentleman so seldom confers upon the House the benefit of his assistance when financial and economical questions are being discussed. I have another reason for believing in the soundness of the English system of taxation. The House of Representatives in America, having to raise a revenue about as large as England, with which to meet the late war expenditure, 1128 had to consider what was the best system to adopt. They delegated the subject to a committee, which has, after reviewing the various fiscal systems throughout Europe, reported that England affords the best precedent to follow as the means for raising seventy millions of taxation with the greatest ease and fairness to the people. I have been led to make the remarks I have, because it is possible attempts will be made to revive political agitation by holding out for the consideration of the working classes vague statements which I believe to be absolutely untrue. In no country have the interests of the working class ever been more faithfully and honestly and more successfully considered than by the reformed Parliaments of England since 1832. Shall I be told that the working man is unrepresented when that great Minister to whom I have referred—Sir Robert Peel—made the sacrifice he did of his high official position in order that he might cheapen the poor man's loaf, and put him in a position to get a fair day's wage for a fair day's work? Will it be said that the same interest has not been well represented in the House by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, although he so long sat as the representative, not of a working man's constituency, but of the dons and graduates of the University of Oxford? I contend that the working man is fairly dealt with by Parliament, and I trust that political agitators will not endeavour to make capital and curry favour with the working classes by raising the cry of "oppressive taxation." We have the question of Reform looming somewhat dimly through the mist of the Treasury Bench, and when it comes before us let it be treated fairly upon its own merits, but do not try to make political capital out of financial questions. On social and political grounds I shall be ready to give it my fullest consideration when I see it before me, if I ever do. But on financial and economical grounds, whatever the working man might gain by having a vote, whether the proposed measure of Reform shall pass or be rejected, he will find that it will make no difference in the disposition on the part of the House and the Government to enforce every practicable economy, and make his wages as high and his taxes as low as the unalterable principles of political economy will admit.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, he wished for a few moments to call the attention of the House to some of the very extraordinary 1129 statements which had been made in the course of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. That right hon. Gentleman wished them to believe that the present system of taxation was most equitable as regarded the poorer classes of society; that they paid a comparatively small ratio of taxation; that the English system was a model for other countries to follow, and that, in fact, other countries were about to follow it. He (Mr. M'Laren) would beg leave to say that, having very recently looked into this question, he had been quite appalled by the magnitude of the taxation raised from the working classes, as compared with the amount which was paid by those above them. The question was, how much did the working classes pay, and how much did the other classes contribute? It was not the duty of this House to lay down a code of morality, and say what things were good for the working classes and what were not. But it was an important subject to inquire how much the working classes did consume of taxed articles; to know how much they really did pay; and what would be the state of the national exchequer if they consumed and paid less. The taxes which the working classes largely participated in were these—spirits, which, including the Excise and Customs duties, amounted to over £13,250,000; and tobacco, which came to over £6,000,000. The duty on malt was over £6,000,000; that on tea over £5,000,000 (tea, including coffee, chicory, and cocoa, and those other beverages which usually went with it). The duty on sugar was over £5,000,000; but besides taxing the articles themselves, they indirectly taxed them over again by requiring parties to pay for licenses to make and sell them. These license duties on the articles which he had enumerated, for the sale or manufacture of them, amounted to no less than £1,750,000. Then there was the duty on corn, amounting last year to over £500,000—while some years before it was a considerably larger sum. He had quoted these figures in round numbers from memory, but he knew that they were correct. If any hon. Gentleman would take the finance accounts for last year and add up the items of the articles which he had enumerated, he would find that the sum amounted to £38,500,000, Well, if £38,500,000 were raised by taxing these six articles, how much remained raised by other taxed articles, and all the other sources of taxation paid by the higher 1130 classes? There was only £30,500,000 raised from all other sources, while £38,500,000 was raised upon six articles alone. Who went to the gin palaces, the whisky shops, and the beer houses, and paid that £20,000,000 on spirits and malt? Why, the working classes, Taking them family by family, the poor paid more than the rich for these two articles. Then as to tobacco, no one would say that the working classes did not pay as much per head as the other classes. As to tea and sugar, he admitted that these were more favourable for the richer classes, but they amounted only to £10,000,000 out of the £38,500,000. Taking the whole of this £38,500,000, therefore, and allowing for the surplus of the tea and sugar duties paid by those in superior circumstances, he maintained that it would be a fair calculation to assume that every family in the kingdom, rich and poor, paid an equal amount of these taxes. In the Highlands of Scotland, and many of the rural districts of England and Ireland, there must be many who could not afford any of these taxed articles. They might deduct 500,000 families on that score. There were only 6,000,000 families in the kingdom, making a population of 30,000,000. If 5,500,000 of these families had £38,500,000 of taxes pretty equally divided amongst them it came to this—that every family, rich and poor, paid £7 in taxes on these six articles. The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down seemed to think that this was an equitable arrangement as regarded the poor. He (Mr. M'Laren) thought it a most inequitable system that a man who earned perhaps £50 or £60 a year should be called upon to pay £7 a year to the tax-gatherer—and it would not be far wrong to assume that besides paying this £38,500,000, they paid at least £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 more in the shape of profit to the middlemen and retailers of these articles; and this should be considered as part of the burden which they had to bear. The right hon. Gentleman assumed that there were no other taxes of which the working classes paid any part. What became, then, of the Post Office revenue, the duty on railway passengers, on stage coaches, cabs, and small conveyances, stamps on railway shares, the stamps on the title deeds of the cottages built and owned by the working classes, and the duty on every legacy exceeding £20? All these sums must be added to the taxation of the working classes, and if a fair analysis were made of the whole by hon. Gentlemen 1131 who had not considered the question they would be appalled by the magnitude of the taxation which fell upon the working classes, and would he delighted to assist in framing a more equitable system of taxation.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton has, I think, been the means of giving rise to a discussion of great interest, and I trust I may assume that it is not his intention to divide the House. Although my hon. Friend has done me the honour to embody a portion of a speech of mine in his Motion, I think he will himself feel that the language in which his Motion is couched is too warmly coloured to make it suitable to convey the deliberate judgment of this House. We oftentimes speak of the system of expenditure in this country, and of early and large reductions, in a manner which if we were to employ such language to convey the deliberate views of this House would give rise to serious misapprehensions, and excite expectations which could only meet with early and, perhaps, angry disappointment. I should like, however, to make two or three remarks, because my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton has, I think, misapprehended, doubtless through my fault, the meaning which I intended to attach to any remarks of mine upon the respective responsibilities of the Government and the Parliament in relation to public expenditure. If I have ever said anything which has led my hon. Friend to suppose, as he evidently does suppose, that I think when an Estimate is proposed by a Ministry to Parliament, and is debated by Parliament, the principal responsibility of that Estimate rests with Parliament, and not with the Ministry who proposed it, I can only express my regret at having been accessory to the spreading of a most mischievous opinion. A Government is responsible for all the expenditure it proposes. Parliament, no doubt, is responsible as towards the people in its own measure and degree; but the principal responsibility rests entirely with the advisers of the Crown. If there is a fundamental difference of view between the advisers of the Crown and the House of Commons in relation to expenditure, the only course open to those advisers is to tender their resignations, for the difference is irremediable. The right hon. Baronet (Sir Stafford Northcote) has also shared in this misapprehension; because, in the course of his intelligent speech, which 1132 was couched in an excellent spirit, he said there was a certain bandying of this responsibility to and fro between the Administration and the House of Commons. But, as far as proposals by the Government are concerned, there can be no such bandying by them. The Government accepts the responsibility which belongs to it, and cannot throw off any portion of it on the Parliament. I would, however, refer to an entirely different subject—not to proposals made by the Government, but to Motions which emanate from private Members, a practice which has so much grown that I can assure my hon. Friend if returns could be made of all the Motions, questions, and divisions having the avowed object of promoting an increased expenditure, the number would, economically considered, form a serious fact; and a still more serious consideration if regarded constitutionally. It is not merely that to a certain extent Members of Parliament may take out of the hands of the Government the initiative which, as my hon. Friend said, properly belongs to the Government, but it is this—the House of Commons cannot possibly unite the two functions. If the House of Commons by its votes, or in the persons of large numbers of its Members, tolerates and encourages the practice of each man recommending his favourite topic of expenditure, recommending generally some increase of expenditure especially advantageous to his own constituency, it cannot unite the double function of initiating and checking the expenditure: it becomes totally unable to check the Government, and by a reflex effect is prevented from exercising that control over all expenditure which is one of its chief duties. I can well understand my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), when he says that he is disappointed at the figures in the Estimates laid upon the table. At the same time my hon. Friend will, I am sure, perceive that of late years a sensible and a satisfactory reduction has been made in the amount of charge and the amount of force in the figures connected with the army. There is a fallacy in the comparison between the figures of the present and recent years, as for the last few years more than a million of money has appeared on both sides of charge and receipt, arising out of the expenditure connected with the East India Company, which did not previously enter into the accounts. In the Army Estimates for this year there is a sensible reduction of 4,000 or 5,000 men, 1133 and a reduction in the amount of charge, which is not to be despised. But the question of the army charge is, as has been said by my hon. Friend behind mo, eminently a question connected with others that are collateral if not intrinsic, particularly with that of the colonial policy of this country. I believe I am not over-stating the case when I say, taking every circumstance, such as the transport of the regiments, into consideration, that New Zealand finds employment for from one- twelfth to one-tenth of our force. The result is essentially and immediately owing to the system which it has pleased this country to adopt with regard to our colonies. Do not let the hon. Member suppose that a mere sudden determination on the part of the Government or a single decision in this House can in a moment alter that which is the result of long traditions, of habits, of practice, and of policy existing throughout several generations. In the same way with regard to the Navy Estimates, which are certainly equal to those of last year, if the hon. Member will investigate the Votes he will find a reduction of £350,000 connected with the service, but the whole of that saving is neutralized and counterbalanced by an increase in the Vote for works. And to what source is that increase due? Why, to the recommendations of a Committee of this House—not that I mean to say that these recommendations have not met with the approval of the Government. Then as to another point upon which I differ from the hon. Member. He asks, in a tone of exultation, where the battle of retrenchment is to be fought, and says, "Certainly not in Committee of Supply." In answer to that question I quote the words of the hon. Member behind me, who said, with truth, that the whole question of public expenditure is a question of detail. The hon. Member said that on former occasions I have denounced the public extravagance; but I say no credit is due to such denunciations unless they are carried patiently and laboriously into every minute detail of public expenditure. For my own part, I am afraid I have sometimes gone to the verge of giving great offence, urged not by a lack of zeal but by over zeal in resistance to particular Motions for increased expenditure. I do not mean to deny that when some grave question is brought before the House great good may not sometimes be done by a discussion on the general principles of expenditure. But it is in detail you must 1134 look for economy; and to one occasion within the last few years this observation particularly applies. How was it that Mr. Hume created for himself the position he occupied in this House? It was by his great zeal, by his patient, untiring, most arduous and most ill-appreciated services. It was by devoting himself night after night, month after month, and Session after Session, to diligent and careful inquiry. It was by giving the very pith and labour of his life to the work of making himself master of the particulars of public expenditure, so as to meet every man in office with a perfect knowledge of every detail connected with his Department, that he won for himself the high position he deservedly occupied in the estimation of the House. I know no instance in this or in any other country that can supply us with an example so remarkable as that furnished by the patience, the honesty, the courage, and, I will add, the intelligence with which Mr. Hume investigated the details connected with every public Department, and which enabled him to produce those effects upon the expenditure of the country that are recorded in his history. Yet I feel satisfied that, had Mr. Hume been alive, he would not have taken the side of the hon. Member in this discussion. This House will never be thoroughly equipped with regard to its stewardship of the public expenditure unless there are in it a race of self-sacrificing men who, standing in the position of independent Members, will do us the immeasurable service of devoting their time, energy, and labour to the wearying, irksome, and self-denying work of making themselves thoroughly acquainted with a vast mass of details, by following from point to point every item of public expenditure, and bringing to bear upon it the force of independent judgment and the light of public opinion. Having touched briefly upon these points, I think that, this evening being one usually devoted to public business, and which the House always allots to the statement on the Navy Estimates, to which it listens with the greatest interest, I should be acting unwisely in further occupying your time. I trust, therefore, that you will in future most jealously watch every proposal of the Government, and the hon. Gentleman will never find us indisposed to the freest, the most open, and the most searching discussion upon the subject of the discharge of public duties. I hope, however, that the hon. Member will not think it necessary to 1135 divide the House upon the matter, and will withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.