§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA,
in rising to call the attention of the House to the unequal incidence of Imperial Taxation, and to the fact that the gross revenue raised by taxation of Great Britain is equal only to six times and a-half her Income Tax, whilst the gross revenue raised by taxation of Ireland exceeds thirteen times her Income Tax, struck on similar Sechedules and on a like poundage scale to that of Great Britain; and to move—That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report whether there is, as alleged, some and what disparity in the incidence of Imperial Taxation as it affects the several Countries of which the United Kingdom is composed; and whether, in the opinion of the Committee, the circumstances call for any and what changes in the fiscal legislation for England, Scotland, and Ireland respectively,said, he proposed to show within what period, and by what means, the state of things described in his Resolution had been brought about. He attributed none of the circumstances of which he complained to the malice prepense, so to speak, of the Ministers concerned, nor to any set designs against Ireland. The Ministers of the day had raised the Revenue as they best could, and they were probably ignorant of the terrible proportion in which they were draining the slender means of the poorer people and sparing the richer. He was not about to base any argument against the present system of taxation on the ground that it violated the Articles of Union, for the Union itself was a gigantic and cruel imposture, set up apparently to be violated whenever Parliament found it convenient to do so. But he complained that a system of taxation had been imposed on Ireland within the last 28 or 30 years in comparison with which the ostensible provisions of the Treaty of Union for the time to come would appear equitable and considerate. He would explain how the case stood. 696 The 7th Article of the Treaty of Union provided for the fiscal arrangement between the two Islands. It contemplated three distinct periods of post-Union existence, and it specified the process whereby, after the lapse of 20 years from the Union, the taxation of the two countries should be re-adjusted. The first period was to extend for 20 years, and no longer, from the passing of the Act of Union. The second period was then to commence. Its duration was not pre-arranged. It was to be a period of reviews and revisions, with the object of making adjustments from time to time in the system of taxation, if the circumstances of both countries rendered an adjustment necessary. He would explain presently how it had happened that the second period had never come. The third period contemplated was to date from such time as it appeared to Parliament that there was an actual assimilation of the financial condition of both Islands, so that they might be treated, for purposes of taxation, as if they both constituted one country only. Presumably this third or last period was to be looked forward to as a good time, when England was nearly divested of Debt, and when Ireland, brought up to the level of England by prosperity, could afford to contribute to every Imperial tax on luxuries or necessaries without exception and without abatement. They were now presumably in that condition—that was to say, under an equal and equitable system of taxation; but they knew that such a presumption was a fallacy, for the taxation had been so devised, sparing English predilections and punishing Irish, that whilst the eighth of all assessed British incomes sufficed to pay all Imperial imposts in Great Britain, the fourth of all Irish assessed incomes did not suffice to defray Imperial imposts in Ireland. The provisions made in the Articles of Union for the taxation of Ireland for the first 20 years after that event simply amounted to this—Ireland should be liable to pay two-seventeenths of all Imperial expenses and the interest on the Irish debt of £27,000,000; and, should she not be able to do so, the deficiency should be treated as a debt of Ireland to the English Exchequer. The Article was ingeniously framed; it would appear as if Ireland could be only tied fiscally to the 697 bad bargain, if it were one, for 20 years; for exceedingly plausible provisions had been made that a new adjustment of taxation should take place at the end of 20 years, on bases which even now, wore the appearance of equity. It was provided in the 7th Article that at the end of that period the expenditure of the United Kingdom should be defrayed in such proportions as the Parliament of the United Kingdom might deem just and reasonable on a comparison either of the real value of the exports and imports, or of the value of the quantities consumed of beer, spirits, sugar, wine, tea, tobacco, and malt, or according to the aggregate income resulting from both these considerations combined; or, lastly, on a comparison of the amount of income estimated as accruing in each country from a general tax on the same kind of property. There was a perfectly simple basis of taxation; but the other provisions of that Article were not equally satisfactory. He had referred to these provisions of the Articles of Union in order that they might better understand what had been actually done. Ireland had a National Debt in 1800 of £26,841,219, against a British Debt of £420,305,944. By the end of 1816, in consequence of a debt being run up against her in the Imperial Exchequer—that was to say, before the expiration of the first 20 years from the passing of the Act of Union, and before the time contemplated for a revision of the relative tax-bearing abilities of the two countries, the English Ministers had plunged Ireland sufficiently into debt to enable them to show that a parity of indebtedness had been arrived at which entitled them to apply to Parliament for a consolidation of the two Exchequers. The contemplated period of review and re-assessment provided for by the Articles of Union was thus completely overleaped, and Ireland, without any readjustment, was plunged into the abyss of a joint indebtedness without any of those extraordinary resources which enabled England to bear her burden with ease. Ireland would, however, have been able to pay her way without such actual impoverishment as they now witnessed, if the taxes since levied on the United Kingdom had been equitably framed and made to fall on the respective countries after the fashion contemplated by the Articles of Union, and 698 which, notwithstanding the consolidation of the Exchequers, might be said to have practically prevailed up to 1852; but it remained for Ministers in those latter days, since 1852, to devise a system of taxation such as had never been contemplated, or, at any rate, had never been expressed by the Ministers who carried the Union, or by those who consolidated the Exchequers of the two countries in 1817. He would explain what had come to pass, by showing how it operated at this moment. The gross annual value of property and profits assessed to the Income Tax under all Schedules, for England and Wales for the year ended 5th April, 1872, was £413,223,690; for Scotland, £42,541,920; together, £455,765,610. The gross annual value under the like Schedules for Ireland amounted to £26,572,707. He did not wish to be omitted from their consideration this fact, that the incomes derived from landed property in Ireland were somewhat under-estimated as compared with the stricter mode of assessment adopted in England, where the valuation for fiscal purposes more nearly approached the rack rent than did the Irish valuation. He desired to leave nothing which could affect the case out of consideration, and he at once admitted that a valuation of the land of Ireland, on the principle applied to the English valuations, would increase somewhat the amount assessable for Income Tax; and if there were no "sot off" to this, such as he would mention, it would alter the proportion of the income of Great Britain to that of Ireland, from 17 to 1, to 15 to 1. But there were, on the other hand, considerations which far outweighed the possible correction he had adverted to. The income under the head of funded property of the United Kingdom was returned under one head as £38,646,360 (Schedule G). He did not, in the figures he had already given, attribute this sum to either Great Britain or Ireland; but had he the means of dissecting it, it would be seen that the sum attributable to British income under that head would be more than 20 times the amount which appertained to Irish, and this alone would, go far to counterpoise any sum which had to be allowed for in respect to an under-valuation of laud in Ireland, as compared with the valuation of land in Great Britain. Another consideration to be taken into 699 account was that while in Great Britain there was an immense and generally prosperous wage-earning class, with vast tax-bearing capabilities, there was no corresponding class to represent factory labour in Ireland. In March, 1875, he brought the case of Ireland in respect to Imperial taxation in a somewhat different form before the House, and on that occasion he had to contend against the assumption, propagated under the influence of Dublin Castle, that Ireland was in a prosperous condition. He ventured to say then that there was merely an appearance of prosperity, for the most part illusory, and that one thing only was certain—namely, that Ireland was immensely overtaxed as compared with England. There was no need now to prove that Ireland was in a bad condition. The wretchedness and insolvency of Ireland were household words in India, Australia, Canada, and the United States; in fact in every land in which the English language was spoken. Was not that the state of things at which Ireland had arrived under the direction of an English Government? The immense disparity of wealth was visible wherever a comparison was made. The amount of interest on the Funded Debt payable in London in 1879 was £20,249,979, and that receivable in Ireland was £1,013,173. In 1875 he had compared the Returns of taxation and population for the years 1841, 1851, 1861, and 1871. They had not yet completed the decade which brought about a fresh numbering of the population. He would, therefore, have again to refer to the comparative Returns furnished, showing the taxation of the Islands respectively for 1841, 1851, 1861, and 1871. He made his case now, as he had made it in 1875, on the basis of the Treasury Return of 7th August, 1874—Parliamentary Paper, No. 407, of that year. No change in the system had been since made. And what did that Return show? It showed that between 1841 and 1871 the population had sunk from 8,175,000 to 5,412,000—that was to say, by upwards of 2,700,000 souls, and that the British Ministers and British Parliament had nevertheless raised the taxation of Ireland from £3,907,238 in 1841 to £7,086,593 in 1871; which meant, in fact, raising 75 per cent additional taxation from a population diminished by 30 per cent; whilst for the 700 same period the gross Revenue raised by taxation in Great Britain had not kept pace with the increase of population. He had said the taxation of Great Britain had not grown or kept pace with the increase of the population; but he would put the case much stronger. Between 1841 and 1871 the taxation of Great Britain had diminished 5s. 1d. in respect to each head of the population, and the taxation of Ireland was raised within these same dates—in annual pressure, bear in mind—16s. 7d. for every head of the population of Ireland. He admitted that Her Majesty's present Ministers were not chiefly accountable; but whatever Ministers held power were responsible for whatever injustice might be done, whether by themselves or their Predecessors, if, when pointed out, it was not redressed or redress put in motion. How had this injustice been done? The taxation of alcohol, and alcoholic or intoxicating beverages, was the most fruitful source of revenue in the United Kingdom; and he admitted very properly so. Alcohol was taxed in every form of intoxicating beverage—cider alone excepted—an exception of very little importance, and which he referred to now merely for sake of accuracy. Up to 1852 the duties on those beverages—spirits, wines, and malt drinks—had been respectively struck so that the incidence of the duties had been fairly distributed amongst the three peoples of which the United Kingdom was composed. It was due to his Scotch Friends to admit that, save for the fact that the Scottish people had more of the goods of this life, and were for the present better able to withstand the injustice, the case of Scotland, as against England, was, in the matter of the duties on alcohol, precisely similar to that of Ireland. He would illustrate how the changes had been carried out. In 1852 the duty paid in Ireland on proof spirits, home made, was at the rate of 2s. 8d. per gallon. The duty on wine was 5s. 9d. a-gallon. The wines of Prance—for instance, claret or champagne—paid that duty of 5s. 9d. a gallon. Since then the duty on home made spirits, that was on Irish whisky, had been raised from 2s. 8d. a gallon to 10s.; and the duty on clarets and champagnes had been reduced from 5s. 9d. a-gallon to 1s. That, however, explained only a small portion of the wrong done. The gigantic injustice was that which 701 had been done in relation to the popular native beverages of the two countries. The popular alcoholic beverage of England had always been, since the days of Caesar's invasion, beer—that was to say, ale—and all brewed liquors made from malt. When the duty on whisky was 2s. 8d. a-gallon in Ireland the duty on malt was 2s. 8½d. per bushel. The quantity of proof spirit contained in the liquor brewed from a bushel of malt was 1½ gallon; but, as there had been until very lately a duty of 2d. a-pound also paid on the hops used in brewing, there was some approximation to equality in the taxation applied to the respective beverages of the two countries. The English ale drinker had, however, even then, much the best of it, for he consumed his alcohol at a lower rate of taxation than 2s. for every gallon of proof spirits which it contained, whilst the consumer of whisky, whether diluted or not, paid 2s. 8d. duty on every gallon. The disparity had, however—since 1852—been enormously increased. In 1853 the duty was raised on whisky from 2s. 8d. to 3s. 4d. per gallon, in 1854 from 3s. 4d. to 4s., in 1855 from 4s. to 6s. 2d., in 1858 from 6s. 2d. to 8s., in 1860 from 8s. to 10s., at which it had remained ever since. All that time there was no corresponding, nor any increase, of the duty which affected the English popular beverage. On what principle of justice, he might ask, were the tastes of the English to be consulted and legislated for, and the predilections of the Irish and Scotch to be marked out for taxation almost immeasurably in excess of the scale applied to the alcoholic stimulants in which the English indulged? If alcoholic stimulants might be lawfully consumed at all, or were proper to be consumed, there must be some forms more suitable to one country than to another. Whisky was the form in which alcohol was found most suitable to the Irish and Scotch. It no doubt had a great deal to do with climate. Arthur Young wrote thus of Ireland more than 100 years ago—The worst circumstances of the climate is a moisture without rain. Wet a piece of leather and lay it in a room where there is neither sun nor Are; and it will not, in summer even, he dry for a month. I have known gentlemen in Ireland deny their climate being moister than England; but if they have eyes let them open them, and see the verdure that clothes their rocks, and compare it with ours in England 702 where rocky soils are of a russet brown, however sweet the food for sheep. Does not their island lie more exposed to the great Atlantic? and does not the west wind blow three-fourths of the year?It could not, however, with truth be said that the Irish were greater lovers of alcohol than the English, and therefore desired to take it in its more concentrated form; for, notwithstanding the strength of whisky as compared to beer, the English consumed more alcohol than either the Scotch or Irish. The consumption in all forms was, for each head of the population in England and Wales, 4 gallons 72 hundredths; for each in Scotland, 3 gallons 64 hundredths; for each in Ireland, 2 gallons 49 hundredths. But owing to the English running more on beer and wine than the Irish or Scotch, they consumed the equivalent of a gallon of proof spirits on payment of an average duty of 3s. 10d., whereas the Scotch paid an average duty of 7s. 1¾d., and the Irish an average duty of 6s. 7¼d. per gallon. He (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) would now come to his final proofs. In 1871 the gross amount raised by taxation in Great Britain was £57,534,683, whereof £8,789,485 was Income Tax, showing that the gross taxation barely exceeded six times and a-half the Income Tax; whilst the gross taxation of Ireland was £7,086,593, whereof only £538,617 was Income Tax, showing that there was a gross Imperial taxation levied off Great Britain equal to only six times and a-half her Income Tax whilst there was a gross Imperial taxation levied off Ireland equal to more than 13 times her Income Tax. He ventured to say that if the income of the wage-earning taxpayers could be added to the incomes of Great Britain, and the like done in respect to the wage-earning class in Ireland, the actual disparity would appear still greater than it did on a comparison of the assessed incomes only. He might add, in conclusion, that he had endeavoured not to treat the question as a Home Rule question; but what greater argument could be adduced in favour of Home Rule than a belief on the part of the Irish people that the present system of taxation was irreversible? He hoped Her Majesty's Government would consent to granting him the Committee for which he now moved.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
seconded the Motion. He had long regretted that 703 this branch of the Irish question had not received more attention from Parliament and the bulk of Irish Representatives themselves. The last days of an expiring Parliament, however, did not, perhaps, furnish the best opportunity of discussing a question of this magnitude. Still, he trusted they would succeed in attracting the attention of the electors of both Great Britain and Ireland to the subject, and that when candidates claimed the suffrages that the electors would put questions to them with respect to the present unequal taxation. The unequal incidence of Imperial taxation in Ireland had always seemed to him a great misfortune. His hon. Friend had shown that one of the evil results flowing from the Legislative Union of England with Ireland was that the latter country, which was notoriously poor, had been forced into financial partnership with England, which was notoriously a rich country. By the amalgamation of the National Debts of Ireland and Great Britain, Ireland was not only made responsible for the Debt incurred by England in prosecuting war upon the Continent, but made responsible for pre-Union Debts, and the country had suffered considerably in consequence. No wonder that his hon. Friend, had been able to show that the first 17 years of the Union swelled the Irish Debt from £28,000,0000 sterling to £112,000,000. The Irish Members contended that the alcohol in beer and spirits should be taxed alike; and they, therefore, called upon their Scotch fellow-citizens to join them in a united crusade against the maintenance by the English Representatives—England being the largest and most powerful of the three countries—of an injustice which pressed alike on Scotland and Ireland. He should be very glad if Her Majesty's Government were able to announce their readiness to grant the Select Committee of Inquiry that had been asked for in the Motion of his hon. Friend.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report whether there is, as alleged, some and what disparity in the incidence of Imperial Taxation as it affects the several Countries of which the United Kingdom is composed; and whether, in the opinion of the Committee, the circumstances call for any and what changes in the fiscal legislation for England, Scotland, and Ireland respectively."—(Sir Joseph M'Kenna.)
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, the matter as regarded spirits had been gone into so very carefully and elaborately by his hon. Friend who moved this Motion, that he would say very little about it, although it was a question he had studied with great attention. Referring to the Revenue accounts for the last year, he said that the duties on British spirits consumed in England amounted to £8,250,000, the duties on spirits consumed in Scotland were £3,204,000, and in Ireland £3,000,000. The result was, that Scotland and Ireland paid between them £6,200,000 for their 9,000,000 of people, while England paid £8,200,000 for about 24,000,000 of people. Scotland and Ireland, therefore, paid nearly three times as much per head as was paid by England. He thought nothing could be more unjust than that. As to the idea of beer being a more sober drink than spirits, he did not believe it was anything of the kind. He knew that some of the first physicians of the present day advocated that aged people should take half a glass of spirits in water, in place of a couple of glasses of wine, stating it would be better for their health. It was an undeniable fact that there was a very much larger amount of alcohol consumed per head in England than in Ireland or Scotland, yet England paid much less for the amount of alcohol contained in its drink. It got alcohol mixed with more water, and with some colouring matter, and called by another name than whisky—beer—upon which a less duty was paid than if that alcohol had been contained in whisky. But he had yet to learn that the beer drinkers, compared with the whisky drinkers in Scotland, were more sober. In fact, the drunkenness produced by beer seemed to assume a more savage form than anything he had ever heard of in Scotland or Ireland. He held, therefore, that there was nothing whatever in the moral aspect of the question that should make them favour beer drinking rather than whisky drinking. His hon. Friend's statement had made the question appear to the disadvantage of Scotland in one particular. He omitted to make an allowance for the great amount of smuggling that took place in Ireland—no duty, of course, being paid on the smuggled liquor—with the comparatively small amount of smuggling that took place in Scotland. The disparity was 705 proved by the offences within the last few years, for the number of Excise prosecutions for smuggling had been about 700 a-year in Ireland, while the number was less than 10 in Scotland. Altogether, it appeared to him (Mr. M'Laren) that a case had been made out for a full and fair inquiry. A rough-and-ready way of stating the matter was, that for every Is. paid for the alchohol contained in malt liquors, 5s. 6d. was paid for the same quantity of alcohol contained in whisky. It came to this, that the liquor upon which 1s. of duty was paid in Scotland or Ireland might intoxicate one man, whereas the liquor upon which Is. of duty was paid in England, if that liquor was in the shape of beer, would intoxicate five and a-half men, because there were five and a-half times the quantity of alcohol in the beer on which Is. duty would be paid that there was in the whisky on which an equal duty would be paid. While he supported the inquiry that was proposed, he was not able to agree to the fundamental principle of the Resolution, which took the amount of Income Tax as the standard of proportion for other taxation. It might do if the Income Tax was levied exactly in the same way in all the countries; but it had been admitted by his hon. Friend that it was not levied in the same way. In England, the Income and Property Tax was levied very nearly on the rack-rental. In Ireland there was a considerable modification. The hon. Member did not say anything about how it was levied in Scotland; but the fact was, that in Scotland the Income and Property Tax was levied on the full rack-rent, and the valuation was so stringent that not only was the tenant bound to return his rack-rent annually under a penalty of £20, but the landlord got a schedule, and was also bound to make a return thus to check the tenant. The effect of that was, that year by year the taxation of Scotland in reference to income and property grew to a very large extent; but he was informed that in Ireland property in Dublin and Belfast, and other towns, was valued at an amount greatly below the real value or the rent that was paid. There had been produced that day a Return at his (Mr. M'Laren's) instance, showing the amount of the Income Tax in every county and every borough in the United Kingdom; and in looking over some of the statements 706 contained in it, he could not help being struck with the extraordinary discrepancies which existed. For example, Ireland, with a population of 5,500,000, was so valued that its Income Tax for the last year amounted to £117,000. Scotland, with a population of 3,500,000, paid an Income Tax amounting to £323,000. The House would remember that he was not speaking of the nominal tax, but of the actual amount raised. Scotland, like England, also paid the House Duty, whereas Ireland paid none. The House Duty of Scotland last year was £65,000. That might also be considered Income Tax, because as men's incomes increased they removed to better houses. Therefore, they might take the two together, and say that Scotland last year paid £389,000 of Income Tax, whereas Ireland only paid £117,000. It might, perhaps, give the House a more vivid idea of the disproportion than by merely naming large sums, if he mentioned that the total Income Tax of Dublin last year was £57,200; Belfast, one of the most thriving towns in the three Kingdoms, paid £25,000; Cork, £10,900; and Limerick, £3,700. The aggregate amount was £97,000. But look how unjustly Edinburgh, which he had the honour to represent, was taxed compared with these towns. It paid last year £73,693, and £24,000 for House Duty, while for the latter in Dublin and Belfast nothing was paid. The population of Edinburgh at last Census was 196,000, while Dublin had a population of 267,000. The House must remember that Dublin was a wealthy city, and swarmed with office-holders paid by the Government out of the national taxation of England and Scotland. He thoroughly agreed with the demand made by the hon. Member, that the taxation of spirits and other things should be put on the same footing in the Three Kingdoms. He would say no more than to remark that England had had the advantage not only of squeezing Ireland to a degree that was unjust, but that it had done the same thing to Scotland, and had even violated the Treaty and Act of Union in a very flagrant way. At the Union, it was agreed that Scotland should only pay £48,000 of Land Tax to the £2,000,000 of Land Tax paid by England, and that that proportion should continue to the end of time to regulate all direct taxes. Thus Scot- 707 land was to pay £1 for every £41 paid by England, but England had now made Scotland pay in the proportion of 1 to 9, instead of 1 to 41. So, that while England had certainly oppressed the smaller country of Ireland in the manner complained of, she had still further oppressed the still smaller country of Scotland.
§ MR. W. HOLMS
said, that he had ventured to call the attention of the House to this subject two years ago, and had pointed out that the Revenue during the past 20 years had been derived to a much larger amount from indirect taxation and to a smaller amount from direct taxation. The working classes now paid a larger proportion than the wealthy classes, and the wealthy classes a smaller proportion than they did 20 years ago. The hon. Member for Youghal, (Sir Joseph M'Kenna), had made a very able speech, and had, no doubt, made out his case; but he (Mr. W. Holms) considered that Scotland had a similar complaint to mate to that which was made for Ireland. Scotland, with a population of 3,352,000, paid £3,279,000 on spirits; while Ireland, with a population of 5,363,000, paid £3,050,000. If the position of Ireland and Scotland combined were contrasted with that of England, it would be found that England ought to pay one-third more than it did at present, or something like £8,000,000 more. In dealing with this question, it was necessary to see not only how it affected one particular class of taxation, but to look at the incidence of taxation, from whatever source that taxation might be derived; if it was shown that Ireland paid a smaller proportion than England and Scotland on one particular class of article, then the hon. Member for Youghal was bound to show how he would make up for the loss arising from adjusting that particular article of taxation. He (Mr. W. Holms) found, from the Returns issued last year, that England contributed to the Revenue 42s. per head, Scotland 43s. 4d., and Ireland 24s. Not only did Ireland produce a much smaller amount per head, but the total amount paid by Ireland was considerably less than that paid by Scotland. Scotland, having a population two-thirds less than that of Ireland, contributed £7,844,000, while Ireland only contributed £6,499,000. It appeared to him that taxation and repre- 708 sentation should go together. It was a question how far Ireland was represented in proportion to its taxation, and how far Scotland was represented in proportion to her taxation. If they looked at the amount contributed by Scotland, they would find that Scotland ought to have 78 Members in the House, and Ireland, according to the amount paid, should have 64 Members. Under the present condition of things, however, Ireland had 105 Members and Scotland only 60. He was willing that a Committee should be appointed to inquire into the question of the incidence of taxation; and he would be still better pleased to have an inquiry instituted as to how far taxation was represented in the House of Commons.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, the subject to which the attention of the House had been called was not now brought forward for the first time, the hon. Member for Youghal (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) having himself called attention to it on a previous occasion. On this occasion, however, he (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) did not see that the hon. Member had been able to produce any new arguments in support of his position. The hon. Member complained, as the complaint always had been, that the incidence of taxation was unequal, and that Ireland was placed at a disadvantage as compared with the other parts of the United Kingdom, being taxed more heavily than they were in proportion to her population and resources. Going into the history of the arrangements which had taken place as between Ireland and other parts of the United Kingdom, the hon. Member had pointed out that in the old times there was a separate system of Exchequer and Accounts for Great Britain and Ireland. That system was done away with, and a general system of taxation was initiated. The liabilities contracted by Ireland under the Act of Union would, practically, have crushed her; but, as the hon. Member was aware, in the year 1815–16, the Irish Debt, resulting from the transaction, was swept away, and the Irish Exchequer merged into that of England; so that the taxation of the two countries became common. Now, that being so, it was hardly fair on the part of Irishmen to allege that they were unduly oppressed. Rather, they stood at an advantage, for England 709 paid into the Imperial Exchequer taxes which did not fall in the same way upon Ireland—namely, the Railway Duty, the Licence Tax, the House Duty, the Land Tax, Medical Stamps, and the Dog Tax. He was not prepared to say that if a particular class of the community could show that there was a case of unjust or oppressive taxation, it was not a subject for consideration; but he could not see how it was possible to get away from the principle which had been laid down, that the taxation should, with the exceptions to which he had referred, be universal for the whole of the United Kingdom. It had not been shown that the taxation of individuals was excessive in Ireland as compared with England and Scotland. Every tax applied equally to Englishmen and Scotchmen as to Irishmen, only that in the case of Ireland there were exemptions which were unknown to England and Scotland. Beyond that, whilst the proportion of Revenue contributed by Ireland was about one-twelfth of the total, it should not be forgotten, as another item of the account, that in regard to local reliefs, which formed a large branch of the subject, Ireland enjoyed a very considerable advantage over the other parts of the United Kingdom. In fact, those reliefs, in the case of Ireland, amounted to something like 33 per cent. The whole matter came to this—that there was no tax imposed upon Ireland the burden of which was not shared by Englishmen and Scotchmen, while there were some taxes imposed upon England and Scotland which were not borne by the Irish people. If a different system of taxation were to be adopted, in accordance with the principle of the hon. Member for Youghal's Resolution, the result would be that, on the same principle, different parts, not only of the United Kingdom, but of the same country, would demand exceptional treatment in exceptional circumstances. Ireland would not be alone in asking that she should be treated exceptionally, and they would have similar demands from the poorer districts of England and Scotland. Once they departed from the principle that each individual should pay the same amount of taxation, wherever he resided, they would have other claims than those of Ireland, equally sound on the principle of exemption advocated by the hon. Member for Youghal. The inconvenience, there- 710 fore, of departing from the sound principle that the same system of taxation must be applied to every individual would be manifest. Then it had been urged that, owing to the national beverage, Ireland was much more heavily taxed than beer-drinking England was. It must, however, be remembered that, although a large quantity of whisky might be made in Ireland, the bulk of it was consumed elsewhere, and that the incidence of the tax upon the beverage fell not on the manufacturer, but on the consumer.
§ MR. M'LAREN
pointed out, that the figures which he quoted appeared in the Inland Revenue Returns just issued relating to the quantity of whisky consumed, and not merely to the quantity manufactured in Ireland and Scotland.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, he was referring to the figures which appeared in another Return which had been presented in the course of the present Session, and which related to the quantity of whisky manufactured. The Motion of the hon. Member for Youghal asserted that the gross Revenue raised in Great Britain was only equal to six-and-a-half times its Income Tax, whereas that of Ireland was equal to 13 times her Income Tax. It must be remembered, however, that nothing could be more fallacious than arguments based upon the amount of the Income Tax of a particular locality. Thus, for instance, Income Tax was paid upon enormous sums in the City of London, in which the dividends of the Bank of England and the interest on Foreign Stocks were paid, although the money was actually spent elsewhere. It was, therefore, a mistake to assume that because the Income Tax of Ireland was levied upon an apparently small amount of income, the actual income of her population was equally limited. Another fact worthy of observation was, that the assessment for the Income Tax was lower in Ireland than it was in England and Scotland. On the ground, therefore, that it was essential that they should have one system of taxation applicable equally to every member of the community, he felt it to be his duty to resist this Motion.
§ MR. SYNAN
admitted, that if the Committee asked for were appointed, it would have difficulties to contend with; but it was because of the difficulties that surrounded this question that he felt 711 that a Committee should be appointed to inquire into them. He considered that the hon. Baronet was historically and financially wrong in his estimate of the causes which had led to the present state of things. The amount which was settled by the Act of Union as the proportion which Ireland ought to pay of the Debt of the United Kingdom was admitted by the Committee of 1866 to be an unjust and unfair proportion. The consequence was that Ireland was unable to pay it, and in 1816 the country became bankrupt, and the Exchequer was consolidated with that of England, which was just what Ireland did not want. Coming to the question immediately before the House, he (Mr. Synan) said that the argument of the hon. Baronet, as he understood it, was that so far as individuals in Ireland were concerned they had nothing more to complain of than individuals in England or Scotland; that the taxation was either the same as in those countries, or was something in their favour. Well, but that showed a total misconception of the whole thing. What was the source of taxation? It was not in relation to individuals, but to the resources of the land and the commodities and commerce of the country. He argued that, from whatever point of view the Motion was regarded, the argument was conclusive in favour of a Committee. But, then, it had been hinted by the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) and the hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. W. Holms), that the result of the Committee, should it be appointed, might be injurious to Ireland financially, and that taxes might be imposed upon that country to which it was not at present subject. His hon. Friend the Member for Youghal (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) was quite prepared to accept that risk. There would be no difficulty in reducing the tax upon whisky in Ireland to the level of the tax upon malt in England. It was not a differential duty; it was a positive tax, and it might be equalized over the three countries. Surely Scotland and Ireland were entitled to the same protection in respect of that manufacture as England received in regard to malt. The foundation of the present grievance was that in Ireland a tax was imposed upon a particular kind of property, which it was not imposed upon in England, and that was an injustice. Again, the taxation imposed upon Ireland was greater in pro- 712 portion to her ability to pay than that imposed upon England. How was it that whisky in Ireland was taxed at the rate of 10s. per gallon, while beer in England was taxed at 2s. per gallon? Was not that a fair subject of inquiry? Then, as to the relative wealth of the two countries, the taxation of Ireland was 13 times as great as that of England. It was idle to say that Ireland received local aids. She had local aids only for Imperial purposes. Then it was urged that Assessed Taxes were not imposed upon Ireland. Why were they not? Because they would yield nothing, and would not even pay the cost of collection. It was true that the Income Tax was imposed in Ireland upon a valuation of the land; but there was not a shadow of difference now between the valuation and the rent of property in Ireland, although he admitted that a few years ago there was a difference of about 20 per cent. But these were all matters for inquiry, and he hoped, therefore, the House would agree to the appointment of the Committee moved for.
§ MR. STORER
said, he did not think a case had been made out either for Ireland or Scotland, for Ireland certainly was far less heavily taxed than England and Scotland. In England the people paid £2 5s. per head in taxation, and the Scotch people a little over £2 per head; while the Irish people paid only about £1 per head. The Irish Members were always asking for equality in the matter of the franchise, and also in other concerns; but he never found them asking for equality in taxation. They always found it convenient to forget what the Returns proved, that they paid no House Tax, no Assessed Taxes, no Railway Tax, &c.; also, that under Schedule B the farmers of Scotland and Ireland paid only three farthings where the English occupier paid one penny. Why that should be the case he was at a loss to conceive. The hon. Member who had just spoken objected to any reference being made to the grants in aid to Ireland; but he must be told of it. The grants in aid made from the Imperial Exchequer were a very important item, and they were increasing every year, and a reference to the Estimates would show that the great increase was in grants made to Ireland, for which, he must say, the Irish Members exhibited little gratitude either to the national taxpayers or 713 to the Government. He thought that hon. Members opposite had better let the matter sleep, for it was possible that, if the Committee were granted, they would have to pay more taxation than at present.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
maintained that Scotland was much more highly taxed than England, as would be shown by a reference to the statistics of the population. Proportionally, the people of Scotland paid more into the Exchequer than did the people of England; and the only apparent exception was the single case of Schedule B of the Income Tax. That, however, was not because the taxation was less; but because of different circumstances, and in no respect was Scotland favoured. He agreed that there was no ground for distinction in levying a tax on beer, as compared to that on whisky. In Scotland, no doubt, a great deal of whisky was drunk, but beer was as injurious as whisky. A working man in Scotland might get drunk once or twice a-year on whisky. In England, many a man got muddled every day on beer; and where could they find a reason in these facts for taxing one higher than the other? The truth was, that there was the large brewery interest in England, which owned the public-houses. His complaint was not that whisky was taxed too much, but that beer was taxed too little. He admitted that such an injurious drink as whisky should be taxed in a higher degree. The system of raising Revenue by this mode of taxation was eminently successful, and there was no reason why an additional tax should not be raised from beer, except that Parliament dared not impose such a tax. They did not dare to tax those monopolies that he had referred to. If Parliament only took courage, they might raise such a tax on beer as would enable them to remit the taxes on the innocent luxuries of the people which still remained taxed, such as tea and coffee and plum-pudding. In doing this, they would be acting justly to England, and would be removing an injustice from Scotland and Ireland.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA,
in reply, contended that the Irish and Scotch were constitutionally, or by circumstances of climate and dietary, indisposed or incapacitated to drink their alcohol in the form of beer instead of spirit. The 714 English consumed more alcohol than the Irish or Scotch. There was no morality in getting drunk on beer as compared with getting drunk on spirit; one was as bad as the other. The hon. Baronet the Secretary to the Treasury appeared to have overlooked the fact that this was not a question about any special exemption of Ireland from certain taxes. If the position of Ireland, as compared with that of England was such as he (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) had described it, although the former was exempt from certain taxes paid by Great Britain, then so much the worse—the incidence of the taxes which she did pay were only so much the more unfair, for the grievance did not hinge on any particular tax, but on the total of all the taxes. In 1841 each member of the population of Ireland paid in taxation something over 9s., and by 1851, owing to deaths and emigration, as the result of the Famine years, that amouut was raised to 12s. 2d. upon those who remained. He was at a loss to know what had occurred to Ireland since 1841 which should enable each member of her population to pay more taxes than he did in that year. Nobody was found in 1841 to assert that Ireland paid much less than she could afford to pay. But the monster injustice was done to Ireland between 1851 and 1871, when new taxes were laid on and an additional levy of 16s. 7d. a-year per head raised from her during the same period when the gross taxation was actually reduced 5s. 7d. for each head of the population of Great Britain. If a man was a strong man, he could allow a leech to remain on him for a time without sustaining any injury, but the question was how many days he could bear it. It was a question how much taxation poor Ireland could bear without reducing her to starvation. The difference of taxation in 1851 and 1871 imposed on Ireland had been, in proportion, a greater burden than the contribution which France had to pay Germany at the end of the late war. He was disappointed in being compelled to go to a division, having trusted that the Government would promise inquiry if they continued in Office, as they probably would, after the General Election.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 36; Noes 58: Majority 22.—(Div. List, No. 38.)