§ Resolutions [April 7] reported.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Resolutions be now read a second time."
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON,
in rising to move—That, in the opinion of this House, the Brewers' Licence Duty is unfair and oppressive in its operation, and should have been considered by the Government in the remission of Taxation,said, that he doubted whether the proposals of the Government were regarded with as much satisfaction at the present moment as before the Recess; for himself, he should prefer that the Government should have met the payment of the Alabama Claims in the present year. In a time of great financial prosperity it was hardly satisfactory to seem to be unable to meet a payment of this amount, and it was not upon the future that a debt of that kind should be thrown. It was difficult to say a word against the reduction of the income tax, in regard to which impost so much discontent existed throughout the country. It was not felt to be so oppressive by persons of large means, as by those who had only small and precarious incomes. Instead of making a difference between Schedule D and the general taxpayers, as some recommended, he should like to see an attempt made to raise the amount of exemption either to £150 or £200. In the year 1869, the persons paying on incomes between £100 and £200 were 260,445, and the amount paid by them was £391,400. That sum would represent the loss of a remission of taxation on incomes of that amount. If the exemption went up to £400, and if upon incomes of that amount £200 were remitted, the loss would be 152,250, making a total of £543,650. A remission of that kind would have gone far to remove the complaints which at present existed. With respect to the remission of a part of the sugar duties, he regarded it with some surprise, remembering that on the remission of the duties in 1870, the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that the duty collected amounted to £5,507,000, with a consumption of 11,796,000 cwt. of sugar. The Chancellor of the Exchequer then said—I do not think it would be an advisable course to dally and trifle with such a consump- 906 tion as this. The trade would suffer from such treatment, as it has suffered in past years from anticipations of change….. I think the best plan is to make a good sweeping change once for all, and let sugar have rest."—[3 Hansard, cc. 1642.]The right hon. Gentleman went on to say—The change I propose to make is to reduce the duty on sugar one-half….. I wish it to be clearly understood that, in making this proposal, I am not preparing the way for either further reduction or for abolition, but that I have gone as far as I intend, and snake this declaration in order to give stability to the trade, and free it from periodical annoyance, owing to apprehensions of change."—[Ibid.]If it were thought that the reduction now proposed were final, something might be said for it; but would it not be argued the first time there was a surplus that the expense of collecting the remaining duty was so great that it was not worth while to go on levying it? In that case the House might look upon the reduction of half the sugar duties as practically involving the loss of £3,500,000 of revenue. The Chancellor of the Exchequer justified the reduction by stating that it would largely benefit the consumer—but he (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) believed it would not benefit the consumer in the least. Every trader whom he had consulted told him that it would be impossible to make any reduction in the retail price, and that the trade looked forward to recouping themselves for the losses they had sustained on this article in the past. If the reduction would not benefit the consumer, the ground was cut from under the Government, who were endangering the prospects of our financial future to no end. If the Government had proposed to meet the whole of the Alabama Claims out of the surplus of the year, he should have hesitated to propose his Amendment, or to put any impediment whatever in their way. What was the origin of the Brewers' Licence? In 1862 a great demand was made to get rid of the hop duty, which was described by the right hon. Gentleman the present Prime Minister as the darling child of protection and monopoly. The right hon. Gentleman was not then in the happy position of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, because, as he said, his surplus was a nominal one. In the debate which occurred on the 3rd of April, 1862, the right hon. Gentleman said that taken at the outside the surplus amounted to 907 not more than £150,000—that the hop duty at most produced £300,000—that year £260,000, and that he could not then, having regard to the slenderness of the surplus, propose its repeal. But, added the right hon. Gentleman—The question arises how far it may be possible to substitute, with equity to all parties, some other form of impost, by way of commutation, which would secure to the revenue the greater part of what it now gets,"—[3 Hansard, clxvi. 478.]and the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman was to re-adjust the scale of brewers' licences and impose a duty on private brewers, so as to secure an equivalent for the hop duty. In other words, what was proposed was to secure a revenue of £300,000 at the outside. They all knew, it was seen, that from a variety of causes it would be almost impossible to collect the tax on private brewers, and that part of the scheme was abandoned. Consequently, the right hon. Gentleman could not have contemplated imposing on the trade a tax greater in its aggregate amount than the £260,000 yielded by the hop duty. Now what was the result? Why, that the last Return showed the tax to produce not £260,000, but £435,000, or nearly double the amount contemplated by the right hon. Gentleman. The trade complained, and bitterly, of this exceptional tax, for, with the exception of the tobacco duty, no trade was hampered with such a tax. It was, in fact, a second income tax, with this difference—that the income tax dealt with profits, while this tax was levied before any profit had been or could be earned. What with notices and other hindrances, the trade was hampered in every possible way. It had been pointed out by Mr. Thompson, in the deputation to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, that the tax was an incentive to fraud, as a man might be tempted to put in a greater amount of malt than the amount named in the certificate, and take his chance of the fact being found out. Such an incentive ought not to be allowed to exist. If such a tax were imposed upon one trade, there was no valid reason why it should not be imposed on another. When the wine duty was reduced from 5s. 6d. to 1s. no equivalent duty was placed on the wine merchant. A wine merchant who desired to import or sell a cask of wine 908 paid 10 guineas, and he paid no more whatever number of casks he sold or imported. A distiller, who was more akin to the brewer, paid a double duty—namely, 10 guineas for his licence and 10 guineas for the privilege of rectifying. That was a fixed tax, and enabled him to deal with any quantity. But look at the operation of the tax on those brewers who were doing a small trade. With them it was mainly a question of dealing with credit. If they received a £20 order they had to pay away £4 of the amount to the Excise, and they ran the risk at the same time of not getting the £20. It was not because tie brewers were not agitators that the question should not be considered on its merits. When the hop duty was removed, one of the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, the present Prime Minister, was that its removal would, by cheapening the article, benefit the brewing trade; and, if he remembered aright, his hon. Friend the senior Member for Derby (Mr. M. T. Bass) was one of those who encouraged that idea. He thought he might appeal to his hon. Friend, and ask him whether his experience was not that in 10 years the price of hops had risen 22 per cent—[Mr. M. T. BASS: Hear, hear]—and consequently that he had gained no benefit from the reduction of the duty, while he had to bear his share of the duty imposed as an equivalent. In 1862 the Prime Minister said that the malt duty was an additional cost of 20 per cent to that article. But, practically, the payer of the malt duty was the brewer, as he had to pay the farmer before he could commence his business. The brewers had another grievance, for, in 1840, in a time of depression, 5 per cent was added to all Excise customs. In a few years when prosperity returned, that duty was taken off everything but malt, so that it would appear that Government thought they could place on the shoulders of the trade almost any tax they pleased. An idea, he understood, found favour in high quarters to the effect that the recommendations of the Committee of 1868 should be carried out, and a boon given to the agricultural interest by again dealing with the licence duty. The drawbacks on the exportation of beer under the present malt duty showed that such a plan would be unworkable, for the drawbacks were based 909 on the specific gravity, which was determined by a somewhat complex process. The Exciseman would thus have to take a sample from every brewery of every kind of beer made there in order to be subjected to this process, and the expense of collecting such a tax would render it absolutely unworkable. He desired a reduction of the malt duty, but an attempt to commute it into a beer tax or its entire repeal would not benefit agriculturists so largely as they anticipated. It was supposed that because the repeal of the hop duty was followed by a rise in the price of the article, the remission of the malt tax would have a similar effect on barley; but the farmer would have mainly to look to the brewer for the sale of his barley, and the present restrictive duty on sugar, designed to preclude its unfair competition with malt, obviously could not then be retained; the consequence would be that, with barley at an average price of 40s. per quarter, sugar would be used in preference to malt for an immense amount of beer intended for home consumption, though for beer brewed for exportation malt would still have to be relied on. He, therefore, advocated a reduction in the malt tax conjointly with an alteration in the sugar duty, in order that, by the removal of restrictions on the trade, the public might obtain a better and purer article. He had not taken up this matter as a partizan of any particular trade, but from a feeling that the brewers' licence was an indefensible impost, and, judging from past experience, he believed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not refuse to re-consider a question of this kind. Indeed, if rumour were to be relied on, the right hon. Gentleman had at almost the last moment re-cast his present Financial Scheme. The hon. Baronet concluded by moving his Resolution.
To leave out from the word. "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, the Brewers' Licence Duty is unfair and oppressive in its operation, and should have been considered by the Government in the remission of Taxation," —(Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."910
said, he did not know whether the House wished to enter into a discussion of the Amendment, for he did not see much interest displayed in it, and the hon. Baronet himself had not very strongly advocated it, having said more on the malt tax than on the brewers' licence duty. It would be the duty of the Government to vote for the Main Question, and to set aside this Motion as far as their votes were concerned, and he hoped the House would agree with them in that view. It appeared to him as if the hon. Baronet was a little afraid of his own Motion, for he had been so very shy of the proper subject of his speech that it seemed as if he thought the ground dangerous, and as if he was afraid of bringing forward a good argument lest he should carry the House with him, and induce them to frustrate the proposition of the Government for remitting a penny of the income tax. It was only on that ground he could account for the hon. Baronet having so carefully avoided the specific discussion of the case of the brewers. He would himself say but a few words on that case, because a deputation from that very influential and respectable body had recently waited upon the Government to urge their claims upon them, and he wished to repeat in the House what was said by the Government on the occasion of that interview. His hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. M. T. Bass), who, he believed, had a most just claim to be the guardian of that class, and who had not yet entered into that discussion, was fairly entitled to expect that the Government should not give a silent vote on a question of this kind. He took upon himself to say these few words simply from the fact that he was practically the author of the suggestion adopted by the House in 1862, when the hop duty was repealed and the brewers' licence substituted. The proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was a distinct indication that he had no complaints to make in respect of the brewers' licence; because it was the duty of the Government on these occasions, and upon every other occasion when there was a surplus available for the remission of taxes, to examine with the utmost care in their power the respective claims which could be justly made to that surplus. They had to ask themselves how they could best employ the money which it 911 was in the power of the House to give away, in the manner that would confer the maximum of public benefit. They had to look out, therefore, not for claims which could make a fair case in their own support, but for the very best claim. It was not enough that a case should be good, provided there was some case that was better; and having an available sum large enough to enable them to remit a penny of the income tax, his right hon. Friend (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had felt—and the Government had felt with him—that it would be far better to apply that sum in its integrity for the purpose of reducing the income tax to a lower point than it had ever yet touched rather than to break up that sum in small remissions, a variety of which might have been easily discovered, and which would all, no doubt, have been acceptable to somebody or other, but which would have been far less satisfactory to the public at large. He did not, however, wish it to be understood on the part of the Government that they held the brewers' licence to be distinguished for ever from all other parts of our taxation as irreformable. It could not be regarded as immutable. The claims of those who recommended its repeal were entitled to be heard from time to time, and compared with those which could be made in favour of other remissions; but he felt convinced the House would not be of opinion that the Government would be right in allowing an important plan like the Chancellor of the Exchequer's in respect of the income tax to be put on one side by employing the fund available for this purpose in any other way. The peculiar hardship alleged against the brewer's licence, it was said, was that it placed that trade under conditions such as were imposed on no other trade or calling. Now he admitted that there was no case exactly analogous to that of the brewers' licence; but then they must consider for what state of things the brewers' licence was substituted. It was substituted for the hop duty. In the long and animated discussions, of which the hop duty was the subject, in that House, the advocates of its repeal always strongly urged that the effect of the duty was to aggravate immensely the evil attaching to the very nature of the cultivation of the hop—namely, the extreme fluctuation of the crop and the almost more than corres- 912 ponding fluctuation in prices; and they used eagerly to contend that the abolition of the duty, although it might not produce perfect steadiness of price, yet would greatly mitigate the evil of its extreme fluctuation. That argument had, he believed, been borne out in fact, and that since the duty had been repealed, the hop trade had been more steady than it was before. Although the price of hops was still uneven, yet there was not that immense variation which formerly existed. But that immense variation was a great evil to the brewer as well as to the public. It deranged his operations exceedingly. He remembered a friend of his, on a certain occasion when there was a very bad hop season, saying to him that the failure of of the crop would make a difference to him of £120,000 that year. That was to say, there would be that amount to the debit side of his account in the price of the materials for producing beer. Surely that was a great and serious inconvenience, because an increase of price at that time, in one of the particular constituents of an article like beer, did not admit of a corresponding adaptation in the price of the manufactured article. If that were so, though there might be something peculiar in the position of the brewer at the present moment, there had been something peculiar in his position before. He did not deny that the brewer might be inconvenienced by a tax of that description; but the House would have to consider whether it was not a great mitigation of the evil which had formerly existed, and whether the steadiness now attending his operations under the system of free trade had not been in the nature of a compensation, and a very considerable compensation, to the brewers. At any rate, it could not be said that under the operation of that burden the brewing trade of this country bad dwindled or was dwindling. If their grievance was a heavy and a serious one, by some strange inversion of the laws of nature the brewers were a body who appeared to thrive under it. The computation was, if he remembered aright, that £260,000 would be yielded by the brewers' licences as a commutation for the hop duty; and it was part of the case of those who asked for the repeal of the brewers' licences that the duty being dependent on the quantity of hops used, they produced not £260,000, 913 but £435,000. He did not mention that as a reason why the duty should not be removed; but it perhaps showed there was not that extreme urgency in the case, that strength of appeal ad misericordiam, that power of touching the feelings of the House, which there might be if under the operation of that legislation the brewers were really ground down to the dust. It was a perfectly fair case to be considered in future years, when other Finance Ministers or Governments, or when the House might think this claim should be preferred to other claims. He did not wish it to be supposed that this was a claim that should be passed by because it appeared to affect the interest of a particular class. He hoped that class would always get full justice at the hands of the House, and that there would be no disposition to thrust them out of Court simply on the ground that the proposed recipients of the boon were not very numerous; for, in fact, they were considerable in numbers, and of very great importance. The ground upon which the Government stood—and he had a strong suspicion that the hon. Baronet himself, notwithstanding his Resolution, had a strong sympathy with them—was that the proposition they made in respect to the income tax was a right proposal, and that the claim of the payers of the income tax for the remission of this penny which they had happily now the opportunity of offering was a better claim than any which could be made in respect to the brewers' licence; and therefore the Government had done its duty, as he believed the House would do theirs, by preferring the best claim to some other claim inferior in strength to that which the House was asked to adopt as the basis of an important part of their financial scheme.
§ MR. F. S. POWELL,
in supporting the Amendment of the hon. Baronet, said, he could not admit that it was a sound reason for the retention of that tax that the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. M. T. Bass) was a rich man. Many rich people paid income tax; but that had not prevented the Government from proposing its reduction. He thought the arguments put forward by the hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) were strong, although the Prime Minister might regard them as being weak. He hoped he should not be guilty of any discourtesy in saying that the right hon. 914 Gentleman himself appeared to have somewhat economized his argumentative force on that occasion, and to have adduced but feeble grounds for the course he took. One objection to this tax was that it formed part of a special and peculiar system of taxation. It was a tax on the capital employed by the brewer in his trade, which must, therefore, be conducted under the continual superintendence and vexatious visits of the Exciseman. It also exposed the honest man to the constant danger of incurring penalties. There was, therefore, great force in the arguments which the hon. Baronet had urged for the repeal of the duty. He (Mr. Powell) hoped that the time was not far distant when the Government would consider the propriety as well as the justice of abolishing or modifying this tax.
§ MR. CRAWFORD
said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government was hardly just in his criticism of the hon. Baronet's speech. The hon. Baronet had stated sufficient reasons to convince him of the peculiar hardship under which brewers suffered by having their trade selected to bear exceptional legislation. He had adduced good grounds for his statement that this tax was "unfair and oppressive in its operation," and he (Mr. Crawford) hoped he would derive some comfort from the right hon. Gentleman's reply that the tax was not to be considered "unreformable." Bat if the hon. Baronet carried his Motion to a division he certainly could not vote for it. He could not concur in the last part of the Resolution—that the case should have been considered by the Government in the remission of taxation; for he had already expressed his opinion that the Government had dealt with their surplus in a fair and equitable manner towards all classes of the community. With regard to the proposed reduction of the sugar duty, the hon. Baronet seemed to think that the consumer would not derive any advantage from it; but he ventured entirely to differ from him on that point. On this subject a very interesting statement had appeared in one of the public journals, The Pall Mall Gazette, two days ago, headed "Sugar and Revenue," which showed in a very remarkable manner the effect of the last reduction of duty. In 1869, the last year of the old duty, the consumption of sugar 915 amounted to 11,739,000 cwt. In 1870, when the reduction took effect, the consumption rose to 13,148,000 cwt; in 1871, it was 13,167,000 cwt; and last year it amounted to 14,308,000 cwt. The consumption per head of the population rose from 41 1b. to 47 1b. in 1871, and to 50½ lb. in 1872. He ventured to anticipate that the effect of the proposed reduction of duty would not be less remarkable. This was one of the very largest and most important industries that could be dealt with. The total annual production of sugar was calculated at 3,500,000 tons, and if they considered the capital engaged in its production, the shipping it employed, and the industries engaged in this country in preparing the article for consumption, he thought there was no commodity subject to taxation on the consumption of which a reduction of duty was likely to have a more appreciable effect than the article of sugar.
§ MR. R. N. FOWLER
said, he could not vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson), because he would be no party to any further remission of taxation. As he had stated when the right hon. Gentleman brought in his Budget, he would have been much better pleased if the Government had proposed to pay the whole of the Alabama Claims this year. He did not think it right to throw over any part of that payment until next year. The last year was one of exceptional prosperity; but it was not very likely that the next year would prove equally prosperous. As long as the present enormous price of coals continued, it could not be expected that the revenue would be maintained at the same figures next year. As to the income tax, although it was a very varying tax, there was, he considered, little hope of our ever getting wholly rid of it. If, however, the brewers' licence duty were once remitted it could never be re-imposed. Under the circumstances of the country, the Government ought to hesitate before sacrificing so large an amount of our revenue.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
said, he did not wish to prolong the debate after what had fallen from the Prime Minister. He desired, however, simply, and he hoped temperately, too, to place, in a few words, before the House what the brewing interest looked upon as the grievance 916 of this licence. It was called a "licence," but it was nothing of the sort; it was a direct tax upon what the brewers produced. It was said to be a duty of 3d. a barrel on beer, but it was really a duty of 1s. a quarter on malt—for the Chancellor of the Exchequer charged it upon a portion of malt which he estimated to produce four barrels of beer, or, in other words, upon one quarter of malt; but if the quarter did not produce four barrels—which it did not—the Chancellor of the Exchequer charged the duty all the same. That was a part of the grievance. This tax, which in the aggregate was a heavy one, must fall either on the producer or the consumer, or both. If it fell on the producer, his contention was that the brewers' was the only trade taxed in that manner, and they asked the House to consider whether it was just or wise or politic to single out one particular trade and tax it in that exclusive way. It did not matter that some brewers were rich; that was no reason for taxing them exclusively. If that doctrine were good for anything, let it be applied to bankers, cotton-spinners, and others; but let not brewers be singled out specially for exceptional taxation. That was their strong point, and he hoped some sense of the justice of their claim would be produced in the minds of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had contended that the duty fell upon the consumer. Well, if it fell on the consumer, how did it affect him? It was too small in itself seriously to alter the price of beer; but it might alter the quality. Therefore, if it fell on the consumer, it fell in such a way that he got a worse article, and if the tax were taken away the consumer would by the operation of the same law get in better beer the benefit of the abolition; but if the duty fell on the consumers, it fell on one class only of them; it did not touch the private brewer. And who was the private brewer? Not the million who lived closely packed in towns, for they had no means of brewing for themselves. Private brewers must be men who owned large premises—country gentlemen, for instance, and large farmers, who paid some of the wages of their labourers in beer. That class did not pay an extra shilling a quarter upon their 917 malt, as the trade did. He invited the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider this aspect of the case, and if he did he would find that the effect of this duty was to tax the beer of the million while that of the few was allowed to go scot-free. He felt it hopeless to run the case of the brewers against the reduction of the income tax this year. They had waited patiently hitherto, and all those claims which stood in front of them had been dealt with. Having stated their grievance temperately, he thought it was time their case should be taken into consideration. He did not see any other claim which stood before. Lastly, if this tax fell, as it might probably do, partly on the producer and partly on the consumer, it would be doing an act of justice to the former to take away an exceptional impost and conferring a great benefit on the latter by improving the quality of his beer.
§ MR. CORRANCE
admitted that this impost took the nature of a malt tax, and that the agricultural interest would be considerably benefited by its removal. Under ordinary circumstances, therefore, he should be disposed to give the Motion of his hon. Friend (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) his unqualified support. But he could not support it on this occasion, because whenever the question of the malt tax was debated, he always found the brewers putting in their plea—he would not say an antagonistic one, but it appeared to take that form from the manner in which it was advanced.
§ MR. W. FOWLER
said, he knew no trade which was treated in the same way as the brewing interest in this matter, and he could only account for it on the supposition that brewers were considered fair game because they were rich, or that there was something evil in the trade. But if they were taxed exceptionally because they were rich, why was not Lombard Street specially taxed on the same grounds? When the hop duty was taken off, the present duty was put on under the idea that the brewers would be greatly benefited by the removal of the hop duty. But the price of hops had become higher ever since the abatement of the duty. The Prime Minister was not quite correct in stating that there were no great fluctuations in the price of hops, because he happened to know that a great brewer had stated that the increased price of 918 hops had, on one occasion, made a difference to him of something like £100,000 a-year. If this was a bad trade, that ought to be discouraged by taxation, they must go further and put a tax on distilleries, or put the trade down altogether. The brewers had great cause of complaint in the fact that the private brewers paid no tax. He believed that the Colleges of Oxford and Cambridge were exempted from taxation for the large amount of beer they brewed. The tax was unfair and oppressive; but he would be no party to any Motion that would tend to increase excessive drinking. The only effect of taking this tax off would be that it would give the consumer something better for his money. A very good case had been made out; he hoped, however, the House would not divide, but would rest content with the assurance that the matter would receive the careful consideration of the Government.
§ MR. LOCKE
said, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister would be satisfactory to the brewers, for, instead of saying anything in favour of the tax, he had given the House to understand that it was by an omission of the Government rather than anything else that the tax was allowed to continue. It was inconvenient to have a question of this kind left in an unsatisfactory position, and he would appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give some intimation when the tax would be dealt with by the Government, and save the House from going to a division upon the question. It appeared to him that the hon. Member for London (Mr. Crawford), who wished for a reduction of the sugar duty, never read Punch, or he could not have failed to notice the improbability of the reduction of the duties benefiting the consumer. That was the opinion of Punch, because when a lady goes to purchase her sugar, and expects a reduction in the price, the editor of Punch makes the grocer say—"Yes, but I have not raised the price yet." It was often the case that a reduction of taxation did not put anything into the pockets of the consumers. The best settlement of the question would be to trust to the assurance of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that, being much impressed with the justice of the de- 919 mand, he would accede to it as early as possible.
§ SIR GEORGE JENKINSON
said, he could not trust to the assurances of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, since he had reduced the sugar duties notwithstanding his pledge of three years ago that he would never again touch them. He should protest against any further reduction of those duties until some reduction had been made in the duty on malt.
§ MR. MACFIE
objected to this interpretation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement, and expressed a conviction that the consumer would ultimately get the advantage of the reduction. Possibly the fact of the refiners having stopped the supply would send up the price for a short time, but the consumer would ultimately benefit. He did not think, however, the consumer of beer had any chance of benefiting by the repeal of the brewers' licence. It would be unwise to reduce the duty on intoxicating drinks, as that would necessarily lead to increased intemperance.
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, he did not look with any favour upon the financial proposals for the present year, inasmuch as he objected, under existing circumstances, to an abandonment of revenue which could not be replaced. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had offered to sacrifice half the sugar duties, and now a further proposal was made which, if agreed to, would lead to an additional loss of £500,000 of revenue. The House was aware that Parliament was bound by the Resolution which was come to last Session on the subject of local taxation; and therefore it was unreasonable to expect that the financial proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer could be agreed to until the intentions of the Government with regard to that very important subject were known. It was true that the Government were not bound by the Resolution to which he had referred, because they had opposed it; but they were pledged—and the pledge had been renewed quite recently —to the adoption of a principle which involved the abandonment of Imperial revenue for local purposes, but with the extent to which they were prepared to carry that principle the House was unacquainted. Under these circumstances, the House ought to decline to sanction the proposal for abandoning such a large 920 amount of revenue derived from indirect taxation until they were informed what the views of the Government with regard to local taxation were. And he ventured to remind them again that such revenue once parted with was not easily replaced. He should vote against the Motion.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, that after the expression of opinion that had been elicited from the Prime Minister, the best course he could adopt was to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
thought that the most convenient course that he could adopt would be to move that the Resolutions with regard to the income tax, the tea duties, and the Exchequer Bonds should be agreed to, while those relating to the sugar duties should be omitted with the view of their being recommitted to the Committee of Ways and Means, in order that the necessary alterations might be made in them with respect to dates.
§ First Resolution (Income and Property Tax) agreed to.
§ Second, Third, and Fourth Resolutions, read a second time, and re-committed to the Committee of Ways and Means.
§ Fifth Resolution (Tea Duty) and Sixth Resolution (£1,600,000 Exchequer Bonds) agreed to.
§ Seventh Resolution (Payment of Exchequer Bonds) read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ MR. HERMON
said, he wished to know, if the Resolution was formally passed, what opportunity there would be of discussing it afterwards? They were about to do, by the creation of Exchequer Bonds, what no commercial man would think of doing—namely, borrow with one hand what they intended to pay with the other. He would much rather there should have been no remission of taxation than that the country should be obliged to borrow to pay the sum required to meet the balance on the Alabama Claims. Objecting as he did to the proposals of the right hon.
§ Gentleman, he begged to move the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned." —(Mr. Hermon.)
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would consent to the adjournment of the debate, pecause it was impossible that the subject of the issuing of these Exchequer Bonds could be fairly considered until the House knew what the Government intended to do with regard to the sugar duties.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the adjournment of the debate would only lead to delay. There would be another opportunity of discussing the matter, when the Bill was introduced for giving final effect to the Resolutions.
§ MR. HERMON
said, his hon. Friend the Member for West Sussex (Colonel Barttelot) intended to oppose the remission of the sugar duties, and therefore both subjects were before the House.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Eighth Resolution (Interest of Exchequer Bonds) agreed to.