HC Deb 09 July 1867 vol 188 cc1292-314

rose to call the attention of the House to the great and disproportionate increase of Irish taxation since 1841, as compared with the increase of the taxation in Great Britain during the same period, and to certain impediments to the material prosperity of Ireland which deserve the attention of Parliament; and to move a Resolution on the subject. The hon. Gentleman said—I will endeavour to treat this subject without the least admixture of party spirit, and certainly without the least recourse to exaggeration. I will endeavour to make plain the case of Ireland, and to submit that case to the House in such form that it may be judged according to the rules of true political economy. I say true political economy, because there are several economic maxims current which, when enunciated, sound to unpractised ears like the rules of political economy, but which are nevertheless simply the propositions of a narrow and spurious philosophy. There are some subjects in connection with Ireland on which one can scarcely touch before it is sought to stifle discussion by the mere phrase of "Interference with Free Trade." There are other topics on which discussion is sought to be precluded by such an utterly untenable dogma as this, "That the State is bound never to interfere with the progress and development of private enterprize." I make these few preliminary remarks, because I desire at starting to be understood by the House to have complete faith in political economy as a science, and in Free Trade as a development of political economy, but I deny that the true principles of political economy have been applied to Ireland, or that the advantages of Free Trade can exist for her until the Legislature has taken some steps to make up to Ireland for her backward condition, which few will deny is largely if not wholly due to centuries of mis-legislation. I do not accuse the present generation of politicians and statesmen of intentional injustice to Ireland. I do not endorse—on the contrary, I repudiate—the charges of tyranny which have been so freely made against England for her treatment of Ireland; but I state this to the House in, I hope, a good and loyal spirit — that the financial policy pursued towards Ireland within the last fourteen years has been seriously oppressive. I will now ask the attention of the House to two Returns obtained this Session on my Motion, setting forth respectively the taxation and population of Great Britain and Ireland for the Census years of 1841, 1851, and 1861, and the proportion of taxes raised in these years respectively for each head of the population. These Returns contain nothing absolutely new, but they nevertheless exhibit results which are nearly incredible. I do not need to demonstrate to the House what statesmen on both sides, with equal candour, admit—that the legislation for Ireland in past centuries has been unjust and is indefensible. I do not need to recapitulate the various Acts of Parliament which had been passed since the accession of William III. to crush Irish commerce and manufacture. I freely admit not only that these laws have been repealed, but that the spirit of adverse legislation has been succeeded and is re placed by positive good intentions on the part of England towards Ireland; but I refer to the unfortunate past of Ireland to account for the fact which is evident from these Returns—that in 1841 Ireland contributed only the sum of £4,158,000 to the Imperial Exchequer, as against £47,800,000, the quota of Great Britain; and whilst the pressure of taxes fell at the rate of £2 11s. per head per annum on the population of Great Britain, the total contribution of Ireland was at the rate of 10s. 1d. per head per annum. I will now pass from the Returns of 1841 to those of 1851. How far do these latter Returns show any improvement? We all remember that between 1841 and 1851 the memorable and disastrous famine fell upon Ireland—that between 1841 and 1851 the Corn Laws were repealed, and the great principles of Free Trade were irresistibly established in this Empire. Let me refer to these Returns in my hand and examine how the revenue and population of 1851 in Great Britain contrasted with the revenue and population of Ireland, and how both contrasted with the Returns of 1841. Between 1841 and 1851 the revenue of Great Britain increased from £47,800,000 to £51,800,000, an increase of £4,000,000, whilst the revenue of Ireland simply advanced from £4,158,000 in 1841 to £4,324,000 in 1851, an increase of £166,000; nevertheless the increased taxation of Great Britain, when compared with population, showed a decrease of 1s. 9d. for each head of the population; whilst the taxation of Ireland, almost stationary in total amount, showed, when compared with population, an increase of 3s. 2d. for each head. Do I complain of this? Is this the grievance to which I draw the attention of the House? By no means. That which all admit was partly due to a visitation of Providence, I will assume was wholly due to that visitation. I refer to the period between 1841 and 1851, with no desire to charge the results of the famine years on the Government or Legislature of the period, but I desire to bring back the consideration of the House to the ordeal through which Ireland passed. I wish to compare Ireland, populous and by comparison prosperous before the famine, with Ireland thrice decimated after it. On the 12th March, 1845—the year before the famine, in reply to Sir William Clay, who said he could not permit the imposition of the income tax on Great Britain without requiring to know why it was not extended to Ireland—the late Sir Robert Peel answered that he wished the hon. Gentleman would say what tax it would be desirable to extend to Ireland; and at any rate he declined to apply the income tax. That Sir Robert Peel was right in his view of the case of Ireland is abundantly proved by the fact that although he declined to apply any new tax to Ireland, the relative pressure of taxation on Ireland increased 3s. 2d. per head, whilst, notwithstanding new imposts, the taxation of Great Britain fell 1s. 9d. a head between 1841 and 1851. I should perhaps here observe that, in addition, on emerging from the famine Ireland found herself burdened with a new charge, being for the repayment of the advances made by the State for the relief of the Irish poor, and for extraordinary public works undertaken to give employment to the people. This charge amounted to about £250,000 per annum. I have nothing to say against this charge. There may be many arguments adduced to show that ab initio it was not the form in which re-payment for the relief expenditure should have been sought; but I refer to its existence because the remission of it in 1853 was made the excuse and the plea for the gravest injustice that was ever inflicted in this House against Ireland—an injustice which is at the root of all the subsequent discontent and disaffection—an injustice to which not all the genius of Liberal statesmen, nor all the platitudes of that spurious political economy to which I have referred, can reconcile any thoughtful Irishman. In 1853 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire introduced his famous Budget, extending to Ireland, or proposing to extend to Ireland, certain taxes not previously imposed upon her by the Imperial Parliament. I do not charge the right hon. Gentleman with intentional injustice towards Ireland; it may have appeared to his mind at the time that the shilling relief he gave with one hand would more than compensate Ireland for the pound of taxes he extracted with the other. But time clears all things up, and now, after the lapse of fourteen years, we see by the light of Returns which cannot deceive us, and by the light of experience which must undeceive the stanchest supporters of the policy of 1853, what the financial results have been for Ireland. The period between 1851 and 1861 was one of vast political importance to Great Britain. Between these years the Russian war had been waged and peace again established. War for political influence had involved the British Minister in the necessity of imposing new taxes or of increasing old, but this necessity arose subsequently to the famous Budget of 1853; so that the pressure of war expenditure was no feature of the unusual policy of that year. Now, let us turn to the Returns of 1861, and let us compare the revenue and population of Great Britain and Ireland with those of 1851. Accidentally the figures for Great Britain are easily remembered—the taxation of Great Britain in 1851 was £51,000,000; in 1861, it had risen to £61,000,000. And this time the taxation had risen in a more rapid ratio than population, and so the taxation per head advanced from £2 9s. 9d. to £2 13s., an increase of 3s. 3d. for each head of the population. Let us now examine the Irish Return. The taxation had increased from £4,324,865 in 1851, to £6,792,606 in 1861; and, spread over the reduced population in Ireland, this shows an increase of 10s. 2d. a head for Ireland, as compared to an increase of 3s. 3d. a head for Great Britain; and comparing back with 1841, the last Census prior to the famine, the Return shows an increase of 13s. 4d. a head for Ireland, as compared with an increase of 1s. 6d. a head for Great Britain, within the same period of twenty years. And now I will ask the House whether there is any necessity to analyze this further? Is there any fallacy latent in these Returns? I am not now trying to make out that this or that tax is more or less just, more or less oppressive than another, I am not objecting to any particular item of taxation. I am adducing what appears to me perfectly unanswerable evidence that since 1851 the total amount of taxation raised in Ireland has been unduly and disproportionately increased. There is only one answer possible to these Returns when adduced as evidence of unjust taxation of Ireland, and that answer would be an untrue one. I will, however, admit, if it could be truly stated, that since 1841, or since 1851, Ireland has progressed in trade, commerce, in manufacture, in agriculture, in some or all of these in a ratio far greater than that of the progress of Great Britain, so that the wealth of Ireland in 1861 was greater than that of Ireland in 1841, so as to have increased in a ratio about three times as great as the ratio of increase of Great Britain. I say, if this counter proposition could be sustained, it would be a valid answer, but the case is so coercive as to admit of no other. But, then, people will ask, how was all this done so lately as 1853? The Irish representatives have something to answer for. Was it not possible to have prevented it? Some of the Irish representatives who now sit on this side of the House, and some who sit on the other, did their best to prevent the injustice being carried out—notably the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire), then Member for Dungarvan, opposed the measures of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In reference to the striking off of the consolidated annuities and the laying on of the new taxes—the income tax and the spirit duties—the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dungarvan said— The right hon. Gentleman, in the course of his speech, which for a Chancellor of the Exchequer to make was, he thought, one of the jauntiest he had ever heard, said that the justice of the tax was generally felt and acknowledged in Ireland. Now, if that were the case, such a feeling ought to have manifested itself in those parts of Ireland where the consolidated annuities were particularly oppressive, and where the income tax would be scarcely felt. But what was the fact? Why, it was from those portions of Ireland in particular where the consolidated annuities pressed heaviest, and the income tax would be felt the lightest, that petitions and remonstrances against the proposed tax were poured into that House. …. The attempt to gull the people of Ireland into an approval of this tax by saying that the present proposition was a good bargain, because they would have to pay £460,000 instead of £260,000, to which they were at present liable, was worse than a financial juggle; it was, it he might say so in Parliamentary language, an Exchequer swindle. The trick was so stale, the juggle so plain, and the real object so unconcealed, he could only express his wonder at any man representing an Irish constituency being gulled by it."—[3 Hansard, cxxvii. 530–1.] Nor was it the Irish Members alone who recognized the injustice of the scheme of taxation of 1853. On the 28th of April, 1853, Sir Francis Baring demonstrated that the relief to be given to Great Britain by the Budget of that year would be £1,443,000, and the taxes imposed, new and peculiar to Great Britain, would be £403,000, making the amount less to be paid by Great Britain £1,040,000. Sir Francis Baring submitted for the fair consideration of his fellow-countrymen whether it was quite fair, when they would be immediately receiving a relief of £1,040,000, to place a new income tax on Ireland, and a whole amount of additional taxation of £413,000. I will not weary the House by recapitulating all that was said by way of promise or by way of prophecy in the debates on the Budget of 1853. I must observe, however, that so far as Ireland is concerned all the adverse anticipations have been more than realized. On the other band, a financial miracle has been accomplished. From an agricultural country whose population were flying because the struggle to live was so keen—from a country relieved at the same time and by the same act, of the charge of £260,000 a year—the residue of the dole of the State to save its poor from actual starvation—an addition of more than £2,000,000 annual taxation has been raised — a far greater sum than either the hon. Member for Dungarvan or Sir Francis Baring had anticipated. Without any very violent figure of speech, one may well call this a miracle. But here the wonder ceases. What has followed is natural enough — discontent, political disaffection, political complications, a smouldering rebellion—all, or nearly all due to the fact that the condition of the people of all classes in Ireland has been seriously impaired by the pressure of new taxes for which no return was made to Ireland—that is to say, for which no compensating duties were performed to the country. I wish the House to understand that I would have objected to no additional taxes which Parliament would have imposed in 1853, if the proceeds of these additional and disproportionately additional taxes were applied to develop the resources of Ireland; for instance, if they were applied as the taxes have been applied in India, to guarantee railway companies' dividends—and to enable them to adopt such a low scale of traffic charges as are found necessary to develope the traffic of a country in a backward state of trade, manufacture, and agriculture. I will now touch upon the second subject referred to in the Notice which stands in my name—I mean the impediments which exist to the material progress of Ireland, impediments which place her at a positive disadvantage. Since free trade with Continental ports was established most of the Continental railways have been formed, not merely under the direct sanction of the State, but if not directly with the monies of the State, either with a subsidy or a guarantee of dividend. The Continental railways which terminate at the great ports of Hamburg, Bremen, Rotterdam, Ostend, and Tonning, carry cattle for exportation to England at rates so much lower than those of the Irish railways, that the distance from which a beast can be carried to the London market, without depriving the producer of all his profits, is something, I estimate, at five to ten times the distance which suffices to prohibit production of cattle in Ireland for English markets. I wish particularly to direct attention to the very remarkable evidence of Mr. Hirschler, given on the 31st May last year before the Select Committee to inquire into the trade of animals by sea and railroad. It proves that the rates of transit which prevail in Hungary, Bohemia, Moravia, and Germany are such as to enable beasts to be sent at a profit from these districts by rail and sea to London largely, viâ Vienna, although the journey from the last-named city occupies seven days. I believe Irish breeders of cattle will tell us that the rates which prevail in Ireland would absorb every penny of their profits were they to raise and forward cattle one-fifth of these distances to the English markets. This evidence of Mr. Hirschler's was obtained by the Committee in the course of their inquiries on subjects connected with the cattle plague, and to my mind it carries also this moral, that it might have been a truer economy for England to have established communication with the West and South of Ireland, even at a loss and cost to the State, rather than to draw her supplies from districts which are frequently stocked from the plague steppes of Russia. I refer to Mr. Hirschler's evidence, however, simply to show that for the purpose of trade with England the plains of Hungary, the valleys of the Danube, the Elbe, and the Theis, are, owing to our wretched railway legislation, more accessible than the plains of Mayo or Leitrim. But now I expect to be met with the dogmas of the spurious political economist; I expect to hear some one say, "All these conditions are governed by the laws of supply and demand. If Ireland can produce cattle in Mayo or Leitrim in sufficient quantity to make it the interest of railway companies to carry a large number at a low rate, rather than a small number at a high rate, the laws of self interest will compel the railway companies to lower their tariff in order to take in the larger traffic;" to all of which I reply, the low fare is requisite to develop the production; and however certain a railway company may be of the truth of the laws of development, they are seldom in a condition to act on their faith. Let me exemplify this. Suppose a railway company which owes a million of money, and pays £50,000 a year interest; at its highest rate of charges, it may realize only £50,000 a year profit after payment of working expenses. Convince the directors or managers of such a company that by reducing their scale of charges 50 per cent they will realize only £30,000 a year over working expenses the first year, £40,000 the second, £50,000 the third, £60,000 the fourth, £70,000 the fifth, and £80,000 the sixth year; and no doubt they would be willing to adopt the reduced scale if they had the power of doing so. But they will tell you surrounding circumstances are too strong for them; they will tell you first, that it is an imperative condition of their existence that they should find at least £50,000 a year for the next three years to pay the interest on their debt, and that if the money be not forthcoming consequences are likely to ensue from the pressure of creditors which would leave it of no advantage to the existing management, and possibly of none to the existing proprietary whether a future improvement took place or not. They will tell you that the maintenance of the present income is the one vital necessity of their existence, and that they have not the power to try even the most hopeful experiment. I see no practical answer that can be made to such, objections, but I know what is the practical remedy for the state of things which exists, and I believe that the remedy would cost the State nothing after the first five years, and would repay its cost within the ten following years. However these are details which it would be out of place to enter upon on the present Motion. I fear I have trespassed too long on the attention of the House. I have endeavoured to place in juxtaposition two subjects, which, although distinct in their nature, have an intimate relation, and to show that the actual ratio of taxation has been enormously and disproportionally increased for Ireland since the Irish famine and the establishment of Free Trade. I have endeavoured to show that it is the duty of the State to lend at least its temporary aid to place Ireland, as a producing country, in as favourable a condition for railway traffic and communication as that of the Continental States which trade with England. I submit to the House that the proportion which Irish revenue bore to that of Great Britain up to 1841 or 1851—say the twelfth, or the eleventh of the whole—should be taken as the fair proportion for Ireland to pay for purposes of the Imperial Government, but that the extraordinary amounts levied since 1853 should be reviewed, and that Parliament should consider whether the whole or a portion of this increased revenue should be applied, as the revenue of India has been applied, to enable the resources of the country to be developed by an adoption of a low scale of traffic charges on railways. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his Resolution.


seconded the Motion. He thought that the hon. Member who had just sat down had not sufficiently taken into consideration the increase of armaments and of expenditure which had taken place since 1853, and which necessarily caused severe pressure upon the poorest portion of the kingdom. If this increase of expenditure had not taken place the income tax could, for instance, have been allowed to expire. The increased duties upon spirits tended, he believed, to effect the ruin of the small manufacturers and to increase more or less the distress produced by the bad harvests in 1862 and 1863. He was certain that the question of Irish railways must sooner or later be dealt with by the Government. The hon. Member for Youghal had in his opinion performed a good service in bringing this subject under the consideration of the House and the Government.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, in the opinion of this House there has been a great and disproportionate increase of Irish Taxation since 1841, as compared with the increase of Taxation in Great Britain during the same period, which deserves the attention of Parliament."—(Mr. M'Kenna.)


said, that political economists when reflecting upon this question must naturally ask why Ireland, which was governed by similar laws to those of England, was so poor whilst England was continually prospering? It was obvious that for the last sixty-one years England had absorbed a large portion of the revenue of the sister country. The taxation of Ireland was wholly out of proportion to her resources. His hon. Friend had shown that that taxation during the last ten years had been raised from 10s. to £1 a head. That he considered perfectly true; but it must be at the same time admitted that to calculate the severity of taxation by what each man paid per head of the population of a country was a fallacious estimate. The true measure of the pressure of taxation was the amount by which it diminished the capital of a country, and it did so the more when withdrawn from it and spent elsewhere. In England if taxation was heavy it was, except about £10,000,000, spent in the country, in Ireland much less was spent in proportion to the taxes raised. He must remind the House that a few years ago Ireland had a population of between 7,000,000 and 8,000,000, whereas in consequence of emigration and other causes the population had now dwindled down to about 5,500,000. The taxation, which, however remained the same, must necessarily be taken from the capital of the country, which had not increased. According to a Return presented at the instance of Sir Edward Grogan, when a Member of that House, every pound sterling of capital in Ireland paid 6s.d. taxation, whereas it only paid in England 4s. 5d., so that Ireland paid more on her capital than England. Besides there never was a true account given by any Chancellor of the Exchequer in which there was a fair statement of the contributions made by Ireland towards the Imperial revenues. The average amount given was £6,000,000 to £7,000,000, whereas, independent of local taxation, above £8,000,000 were raised from Ireland. A large amount of Customs and Excise paid in England, for articles imported into and consumed in Ireland, were credited to the English and not to the Irish revenue, and credit for various miscellaneous receipts were equally withheld. No one could deny this—the amount might be disputed—but that from upwards of £1,000,000 to £2,000,000 were not reckoned to Ireland, was beyond doubt a fact. Another great cause of the poverty of Ireland—which, although not exactly taxation, equally diminished its capital—was the fact of a large proportion of the rents of Ireland being expended out of that country by absentee proprietors. Even Free Trade itself, however advantageous to the Empire at large, had contributed towards impoverishing Ireland, for until that time, as an agricultural country, she had enjoyed a monopoly which was then abolished. If English Members would only examine the figures that bore upon that matter they would find that there was no difficulty in accounting for the poverty of Ireland.


said, so far as he could understand the speech of the hon. Member for Youghal, his object seemed to be to show—first, that the taxation of Ireland was excessive, and secondly, that Free Trade had occasioned much injury to that country. The hon. Member then went on to argue that it was expedient the State should undertake to place £1,000,000 or £1,500,000 to the credit of the Board of Trade for the reduction of the rates of railways in Ireland. Now he (Mr. Monsell) had been principally concerned in the attempt to have the Irish railway system reformed. He maintained that it was not suited to the exigencies of Ireland, and that it had been adopted against the will of the Irish people; but he (Mr. Monsell) declined to rest the reasonableness of the alteration of that system upon anything but the simple merits of the case. He did not desire that the Imperial Treasury should be at a single halfpenny expense in the desired alteration of the Irish railway system, because that alteration could be made without any subsidy, and the people of Ireland were willing to bear nil the risk themselves arising from such a change. He objected to the question being placed upon the shifting basis upon which his hon. Friend had sought to place it. He desired that it should be treated on its own merits, and that by those merits it should stand or fall. His hon. Friend declared that the imposition of the Income tax was one of the gravest acts of injustice ever inflicted on Ireland by Great Britain, and declared that unjust taxation had produced political discontent, disaffection—he even added rebellion. He entirely differed from his hon. Friend; the income tax fell on the rich not the poor. In consideration of its imposition £240,000 a year Consolidated Annuities that fell on the poor in the poorest districts had been remitted. He considered the arrangement under which the income tax was imposed on Ireland a fair and a just one, and he should feel that the ground was cut from under his feet from urging justice to Ireland if he were to refuse to submit to the same tax as was imposed on the rest of his fellow-countrymen. Objection had been taken to the rate of spirit duties. That was not a party question; audit was based by all parties on the simple principle that spirits differed from all other articles in this particular, that it was desirable to obtain the largest amount of money from the smallest amount of consumption, instead of the contrary, as was the case with regard to every other article of consumption. The only limit to the amount of taxation on spirits was the temptation that high duties gave to illicit distillation, and it was not pretended that illicit distillation was increasing in Ireland. He should like to see fines imposed upon those who adulterated spirits, and also power given to the dispensary doctors, when called on by the police, to analyze all spirits sold for public consumption. The effect would be to benefit the people and decrease drunkenness. With regard to the other articles of consumption, such as tea, sugar, and other Customs articles, it was perfectly notorious that, although the revenue of Ireland in that respect had increased, the rates of duty had decreased. Whilst the consumption of tea in England had only doubled within twenty years, it had trebled in amount in Ireland, and that was a matter of congratulation, and not of complaint. He differed from the opinion that had been expressed with regard to the effect of Free Trade on Ireland. The average price of wheat in that country in seven years before 1846 was 30s. 11d. per barrel, and for the seven years previous to 1862 it was 30s. 9d. At Belfast oatmeal sold in 1844, from 10s. to 11s. per cwt. It was now from 15s. to 15s. 6d.: butter was 9d. to 10d. per lb.; it was now 1s. 1d. to 1s. 3d.: pork was 30s. to 35s. per cwt.; it was now 40s. to 45s.: meat was 3¼d. and 4d. per lb.; it was now from 5d. to 10d. and 11d. Therefore he was at a loss to imagine how the produces could have suffered from the operation of Free Trade. It was alleged that land had been thrown out of cultivation; but the number of arable acres had increased from by reclamation 13,451,301 acres in 1841 to 15,400,000 in 1866; and the acres under crops had increased from 5,543,745 in 1849 to 5,519,678 in 1866. He accepted for Ireland equal taxation; he demanded for Ireland equal rights. With equal taxation she must obtain equal rights and liberties. Instead of raising imaginary grievances it would be better if hon. Members would turn their attention to real grievances, because until they were redressed Ireland never would be tranquil. Ireland never would be contented until she was dealt with on the principle that Scotland had been dealt with on the question of religious equality. They might as well expect the Bay of Biscay to be tranquil when a south-wester was blowing as to expect peace in Ireland until religious equality was granted to her people. They had to compete with their fellow-countrymen of all denominations in the private and public arena. Until they had equal educational rights with those with whom they had to compete they never would be satisfied. Inequality of rights and liberties, not inequality of taxation, as the hon. Member had said, were the real causes of discontent and disaffection. Remove those causes and you would remove the real cause of our poverty. Justice would produce peace; peace would be followed by the influx of capital; the removal of those evils would cure also our material sufferings. He was in favour of equal taxation, because it afforded a just ground for demanding equal rights.


was exceedingly sorry that the very important Motion brought forward by his hon. Friend, should have fallen on an evening when his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India, who had taken their respective parts in the Committee on Taxation in 1865, had, owing to commands they could not disobey, been obliged to absent themselves from the House. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Motion, threw out a suggestion that their absence was owing to indifference, and that when the people of Ireland learnt the fact that those who were officially and more immediately concerned in the discussion were not present, they would resent the occurrence. He was therefore anxious it should be known that their absence on this occasion was perfectly unavoidable. He regretted, also, that it had fallen to him, in the absence of his right hon. Friends, to make some observations on the question, because he felt how little qualified he was to take any important share in this discussion; and how little justice he was able to do to the question. His hon. Friend who introduced the subject had challenged anyone to detect any fallacy in his statistics; he ventured to think that the figures he had given to the House would not altogether bear out the conclusions he had deduced from them. He showed that the whole population of Ireland in the twenty years from 1841 to 1861, had decreased from 8,000,000 to 5,700,000, while the amount of gross revenue per head had increased from 10s. 1d. in 1841, to £1 3s. 3d. in 1861. But it did not at all follow because that was the case, that therefore Ireland was oppressed with a greater weight of taxation, relatively to its capability of bearing it in 1861 than in 1841. The amount of taxation which a people could bear was rather an evidence of wealth, than that they were being oppressed. If they looked at the taxation of the people of Great Britain, they would find that in comparison with Ireland it was very heavy in amount, In 1841 it was £2 11s. 6d. per head; in 1861 it was £2 13s. What did he deduce from that? That the population of this country was wealthy and able to bear that weight of taxation. So, in Ireland he thought the increase of taxation was an evidence of the increase of the material prosperity of the country. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke last had referred to the number of acres brought into cultivation as an evidence of increased prosperity; and he had given other statistics bearing out the same inference. With regard to the decrease in population and the increase of taxation per head, it must be obvious that a decrease in population owing to the emigration of the poorer portion of the population, who contributed little to the revenue, must involve an increased rate of charge as affecting those who did contribute. He did not think that increased rate very important; but it was important to see under what head that increase had taken place. He held in his hand a comparison between the gross receipt of Inland Revenue in 1841 and 1866 in Great Britain and Ireland. He found that in Ireland the amount received under the head of Excise in 1841 was £1,274,815, while in 1866 it was £3,533,991. Under what heads did that increase fall? There was an increase of £160,000 on hops, and on spirits of £3,028,000. Therefore, under the Excise, the great increase was due to the spirit duties. [General DUNNE: What is the increase in sugar?] He had not the figures relating to sugar, except as regarded home-made sugar, but he ventured to say that sugar would be a very fallacious test. It was wholly irrelevant, because much of the sugar consumed in Ireland, paid duly in England and Scotland. Under the head of Stamps there was an increase in the twenty years of £120,000. Under that of Income Tax to the amount of £370,000. Taking the whole receipts, the amount in 1841 was £1,736,950, while in 1866 it was £4,489,339. It became important to consider whether, although there had been a large increase of duty raised in Ireland, the relief to each consumer had not been very great within that period of twenty years. He should like to give the House a few figures on that point. He would take articles, not, perhaps, of prime necessity, but next to those—luxuries which were within the reach of almost all. In 1841 the duty on coffee was 6d. per lb., the produce of British possessions, and 9d. per lb., foreign. In 1867, the duty was 3d. per lb. on raw coffee, and 4d. per lb. on kiln dried, wherever it might come from. In regard to sugar, the duty in 1841 averaged 24s. per cwt., and 5 per cent; in 1867, it was about 10s. per cwt. The duty on tea was, in 1841, 2s.d., and in 1867, 6d. per lb.; the duty on tobacco and malt was nearly the same at both periods. Wine, in 1841, paid a duty of 5s. 6d. a gallon, or 11s. a dozen, while by far the larger part of the wines imported at the present time was only 1s. a gallon, or 2s. a dozen. All these alterations in the amount of the duties had been in favour of the Irish consumer, and therefore during the last twenty years the Irish taxpayer had been reaping the benefit of this improved state of taxation. What said the Committee of 1865 with regard to the taxation of Ireland? "It has not been shown that any tax exists in Ireland which materially interferes with her industry, except that on distillation." With the exception of the spirit duty, which was equal throughout the United Kingdom, the Committee said there was not a shadow of cause for saying there was any tax which was oppressive to Ireland. With regard to this latter duty, the House had of late years unanimously agreed that it should be kept at the highest point that could be attained without injury to the revenue, and he saw no reason why Ireland should be favoured in this respect above the rest of the United Kingdom. But the Committee went into another question as regarded Great Britain and Ireland; and they showed that while Great Britain received grants in aid of local taxation to the extent of £2,722,000, Ireland was aided to the extent of £1,297,000, the ratio in proportion to population being in favour of Ireland. Ireland at that time did not share in the grants made for medical officers; but during the last Session, on the Motion of the hon. Member for Meath, the House of Commons assented to this inequality being removed, and some weeks ago he had the honour of moving a Vote in Committee for £65,000 to be applied in grants to the Poor Law medical officers, in consequence of the Committee having pointed out that those persons did not share in the grant for that purpose to England. The Committee also referred to the amount of public money which had been lent on loan to Great Britain and Ireland respectively. The amount so lent between the years 1817 and 1863 was to Great Britain £13,959,125, and to Ireland £26,292,867, or very nearly double that which had been lent to Great Britain. It should also be remembered that Ireland was still exempt from the land tax, the assessed taxes, the horse duty, and railway taxation. Under these circumstances, he did not think that Ireland had much cause for complaint upon the subject either of taxation or of grants. So far from agreeing with the hon. Member that they ought to view the increase per head of the amount of revenue raised in Ireland, he thought that such an increase in the revenue was a sign of material prosperity, and showed that that country was gradually getting on a par with the sister country. He hoped that in the course of a few years confidence would be restored in Ireland, that the unfortunate disaffection which had disturbed that country would wholly disappear, and capital return, so that her resources might be developed and her prosperity go on augmenting. He hoped that the hon. Member would not think it necessary to force the matter to a division.


complimented the Secretary for the Treasury upon the clearness with which he had shown that the taxes of Ireland were, if anything, more favourable than were those of England, and expressed his great surprise that the right hon. Member for Limerick should have referred the recent disturbances in Ireland to religious inequalities in that country. He thought it scarcely worthy of the right hon. Gentleman's position in that House that he should attribute the disaffection in Ireland to the oppression which Ireland had sustained at the hands of the English since the reign of William III. But he wished to refer more particularly to the address of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Limerick. The right hon. Gentleman said that religious inequality was the great grievance of Ireland. Now he (Mr. Whalley) denied the accuracy of that statement. He denied that the people of Ireland wished to interfere with the Established Church, or that they were emigrating in consequence of any hardships they were suffering from this country, and which it was in the power of Parliament to remove. They had the authority of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne that the question of education did not create any opposition among the people, but only among the priests. He would give some facts in proof of that statement. A large district in the West of Ireland had come into the hands of an English proprietor who wished to extend education and establish Protestant schools; and would it be believed that the priest in that district in order to prevent his congregation from sending their children to that school, announced that on a particular day he would turn all the children who might go to it into goats? The greatest alarm was created in the district, the people generally believing that the priest had the power to do so, and that he would exercise his power. A gentleman of high position in London was communicated with, and his advice asked as to what should be done. That gentleman, without expressing any doubt of the priest's power, wrote to inquire on what day the ceremony would be performed, in order that he might make a journey over to Ireland to witness it. He would give another instance—in the South of Ireland the people showed the greatest possible desire to receive an education beyond that given by the parish priests. On one occasion the priest told a man that if he would insist upon sending his child to a Protestant school—["Oh, oh!"]

An hon. MEMBER rose to Order. He would put it to the Speaker whether the observations of the hon. Gentleman had any relation to the subject then under the consideration of the House.


said, that somewhat extraneous topics had been introduced into that discussion; but he thought the hon. Gentleman was rather exceeding the bounds usually accepted upon such occasions.


resumed: He would soon finish what he had to say upon that subject. The priest told one of his congregation that if he sent his child to the Protestant school he would change the child into a rat. The House should bear in mind that this was a matter of importance considered in relation to the enormous advantages which education would confer on Ireland. The poor man was some what intimidated by that announcement, and after consulting with his wife he said that he was resolved on sending the child to the school, but that for fear the priest would do what he threatened they had better kill the cat. ["Question!"] He did not know what hon. Gentlemen wanted, and he would sit down and let them state their objections to the course he was pursuing.


said, that the Secretary to the Treasury had argued that the increase in the taxation of Ireland was in proportion to the increase in her prosperity; but he had failed to give any proof that between the years 1841 and 1861 the prosperity of Ireland had increased in such a ratio to that of England as to justify the increase in the taxation. Whatever might appear to be the case, those who knew the two countries practically were aware that this was not so. The hon. Gentleman had gone on to show that a great part of the increased revenue came from the duty on spirits. But this was really no just cause for complacency. The duty might have increased, but what had become of the distillers? To go no further than the town with which he was connected (Galway), where were the distilleries that formerly were one of its most remarkable features? The complaint in Ireland was, that so high a duty had been imposed upon many of her manufactures as had crippled the energies of the people. It was true that these protective duties had been by degrees swept away, but while the spirit duty had been doubled, Ireland was also called upon to bear her full share of the other imposts placed upon the kingdom. When Sir Robert Peel introduced the income tax, he specially exempted Ireland, on the ground that she was too poor to bear it, and instead of it he raised the spirit duty, and imposed an additional stamp duty. Since then the spirit duty had been doubled, the stamp duty still remained, and they had got the income tax in addition. He was quite aware that this taxation had been imposed by the Liberal side of the House; but as the hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench had supported the policy, it was necessary to call attention to the real facts of the case. He should not recommend his hon. Friend to press the Motion; but it was to be hoped that the Government, when adjusting the financial burdens of the next year, would consider whether there were not some grounds for the complaints made of injustice and Inequality in the taxation of Ireland.


said, that the Report of the Select Committee on Irish Taxation would, if it were examined, disprove some of the statements made in the course of the debate. Mr. Senior had said that he did not believe that Ireland was a poor country because she was overtaxed, but that she was overtaxed because she was poor. The Committee reported— It is not surprising that the large increase which your Committee have noticed in the general taxation between 1852 and 1862, and again in the local taxation since 1845, should have given rise to complaint. Nor is it surprising that louder complaints should have been made by Ireland than by other parts of the United Kingdom. The pressure of taxation will be felt most by the weakest part of the community, and as the average wealth of the Irish taxpayers is less than the average wealth of the English taxpayers, the ability of Ireland to bear heavy taxation is evidently less than the ability of England. It was conclusively proved before the Committee that Ireland enjoyed little exemption from taxation now, and, secondly, that she was far from able to bear equal taxation with England. She enjoyed no exemption now except from assessed taxes and land tax. No policy could be worse than that of equal taxation for Ireland. Every statesman had accepted the principle that it was wiser and better to lighten the burdens of the weaker kingdom, and the experience of the last few years had shown that the principle was sound. Ireland had become much worse to live in than it had been; and as Irish landlords were taunted with non-residence, he would ask what advantage there was to induce them to live in a remote part of the Empire, cut off from the advantages of civilization? In Ireland there was hardly any trade or profession to which landlords could bring up their sons. All the great rewards of the military, naval, and civil services, everything was centred in London; and yet when Irish landlords came to live here they were taunted with a want of patriotism. One circumstance which made equal taxation anything but equal in Ireland was the absence of a large middle class, which in England, in times of misfortune, came like a buffer between the poor and the rich. In Ireland the small farmer and the labourer constituted the only class besides the landlord class, and the landlord might have paid income tax upon the full amount of his income, and next year find it much below that amount. There was less saving of money and less accumulation of capital in Ireland than here. Hon. Members who believed that Ireland was exempt from taxation ought to read the evidence taken by the Committee on the subject. He commended the hon. Member for Youghal for having taken up the subject, which ought to be dealt with independently of party politics. He was glad that the leading question of the day as regarded Ireland—that of Irish railways—was under the calm and deliberate consideration of the Government, free from the outcry that prevailed in Ireland. It would be unwise to deal with this question as one connected with taxation. England owed a great debt to Ireland in respect of the railways, for if the plan of Lord Bentinck had been carried out Government would have done in Ireland what had been done in foreign countries; the island would have been properly surveyed, and the proper lines would have been constructed. The proposal to do that in Ireland having been negatived, this country was under some sort of obligation to deal favourably with Ireland. He believed that the Irish railways ought to be amalgamated for better management and control; and if a loss attended the necessary change, it was undoubtedly to the interest of England that it should be borne by the Imperial Government. He hoped the Government would inquire whether there was any mode of dealing with the railways other than the wholesale one of purchasing every line. If the lines were sold, they would fall into the hands of the great English companies, who would work them for their own advantage. If it was the interest of the country that the Irish railways should be taken up by Government, the cost of the operation ought to be borne by both countries.


, while in favour of a reduction of taxation in Ireland, so as to give that country an equality of taxation proportioned to her ability to meet it, also thought that every landlord and every other person of influence in that country had a duty to discharge towards her by residing and spending his income there. The Secretary to the Treasury attempted to reconcile the theoretical prosperity of Ireland with her practical misery. Like the patient who ought to recover and did not, Ireland, tested by her taxation, instead of being miserable ought to be prosperous. The hon. Gentleman said that the wealth of England was evidence of her capacity to bear taxation; but of Ireland he said her taxation was the evidence of her prosperity. In one case, he argued from the cause to the effect, and in the other from the effect to the cause. A poor nation might bear taxation and be crushed by it; a wealthy one became prosperous notwithstanding it. He quite conceded that capitation was not a true test of disproportionate taxation; the real test was the wealth of two countries; and he was astonished that the Secretary to the Treasury did not see the disproportion between the wealth of England and of Ireland and their equality of taxation. The disproportion was as 19 to 1. The savings banks deposits were as 18½ to 1; the Post Office was as 14 to 1; the receipts of railways were as 19½ to 1; Government Stock was as 19 to 1; and the probate and succession duty was as 16 to 1. Taking the average, the wealth of Ireland was as 19 to 1, when compared with the wealth of England, while the taxation was as to 9 to 1. Ireland therefore was, in proportion to her capacity, taxed twice as much as Great Britain, and here he might remark that the fact of the taxation of Ireland was no proof of the wealth of that country. The hon. Member the Secretary to the Treasury had alluded to the amount of grants given to Ireland as compared to those made to England; but if the hon. Gentleman had investigated the matter more closely, he would have found that three-fourths of the amount granted to Ireland was granted for the maintenance of the constabulary, which was in reality, as recent events had proved, a military and Imperial body, kept up for Imperial purposes. Another argument which had been adduced was that the prosperity of Ireland was not in the least affected by her being taxed more in proportion than England; but he wished to point out that, whether the fact were so or not, it was entirely foreign to the present Resolution, which simply affirmed that there was a disproportion of taxation—and he defied any hon. Member to deny that proposition. With regard to green crops alone, he might mention that between the years 1860 and 1866, there had been a diminution to the extent of 150,000 acres, and other kinds of crops had diminished to a similar extent. To say that prices had increased, while the amount of produce had diminished, was no argument at all, because the one fact was perfectly consistent with the other. Then, again, no one acquainted with the country would set the increase of pasture lands against the diminution of that which was the source of the people's labour and the nation's wealth. As to the emigration, he begged to inform the House that it was taking away the real bone and sinew and the trained skill of Ireland, and was leaving behind it a weak and imbecile population, whose wages, indeed, might increase at certain places and dining particular seasons, though not on an average of twelve months. The pay of the navvies, for instance, which was at one time 1s. 2d. per day, had at one time increased to 1s. 10d., but at the present moment it was nothing at all. In conclusion, he expressed a hope that the Resolution would be con firmed.


believed that he was the only English Member on the Committee referred to, and he must say that he regretted extremely that this subject should have been again brought under the notice of the House. That Committee had endeavoured to form an unbiassed opinion, and it came to the conclusion that the misery and wretchedness of Ireland was not owing to the taxation of that country. He objected to the unfairness of hon. Members in bringing forward Irish questions, as if English Members took no interest in the prosperity of Ireland. He firmly believed that the prosperity of Ireland was bound up in that of England, and that England's well-being was Ireland's also; the statistics which had been collated by the Committee upon which he had sat from time to time during two years bore out that statement, and he was sure that if English Members would trouble themselves to enquire into and discuss Irish questions the common object would be more efficiently secured.


was of opinion that the heavy duties upon spirits and malt in Ireland were matters worthy of the gravest and most careful consideration of the Government. Some small justice might be done to Ireland if these taxes were modified or reduced. The wealthy classes had it, however, perhaps more in their power than any body to improve the condition of that country. Ireland suffered much from "absenteeism," and she would still suffer until that system was abandoned. If those who drew large revenues from the country continued to live in another country and to spend there the wealth acquired in Ireland she would necessarily remain poor; but if they would spend their money where it was earned and reside on their own estates there would be more hope for peace and prosperity being restored.


asked hon. Members how they could reconcile the facts that the taxation of Ireland anterior to the Union was one-fortieth of the entire taxation of the United Kingdom, that it was a twelfth in 1853, and was now a ninth? How had this difference arisen, and was it justifiable? That was the question he propounded for solution; at the same time be was quite prepared to admit the possibility of Ireland's having increased to a greater extent in proportion than England had; his only object was to ascertain the facts of the case, and amend the law in accordance with those facts. He would not press his Motion to a division, as he felt that the discussion which had taken place would in some measure tend to the accomplishment of the object he had had in view.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.