§ MR. RYLANDS,
in rising to move—That, in the opinion of this House, the present amount of the National Expenditure demands the earnest and immediate attention of Her Majesty's Government, with the view of effecting such reductions as may he consistent with the efficiency of the public service,said, he did not wish to go into the relative merits of Liberal and Tory finance. Even if it could be shown, as he dared say it could, that Conservative Governments of late had been more extravagant than Liberal Governments, he should derive no satisfaction from such a comparison. It was no justification to say that there were greater sinners than themselves; and it must be borne in mind that the Conservatives had not made any great professions of economy. If they were extravagant, they were not inconsistent; whereas the Liberal flag had conspicuously borne the motto, "Peace, Retrenchment, and Reform." That banner had been somewhat draggled in the mud in recent years. The question of National Expenditure was too serious to be the subject of Party conflict. They had all been to blame. ["No, no!"] He did not blame his hon. Friends close around him, but the House as a whole. There never was an occasion when such a Motion as he now proposed to make was more justifiable than at the present moment. In 1850 Mr. Cobden made his celebrated speech in favour of economy. At that time the Expenditure was £55,500,000, against the £86,500,000 which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Childers) announced yesterday. In 1862 his right hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) brought forward a similar Motion when the Expenditure was £71,000,000. Ten years later, his right hon. and learned Friend the present Secretary of State for the Home Department denounced the right hon. Gentleman the present 1645 Prime Minister for his extravagance, and expressed, in language of the greatest force, the argument in favour of such Resolutions as the one which he (Mr. Rylands) was about to propose. He would not go over those arguments again, because he felt satisfied that there was a right hon. Gontleman in the Cabinet who would amply justify the course he (Mr. Rylands) was about to take in proposing an abstract Resolution. The Prime Minister himself, too, had set him an example. The right hon. Gentleman, in 1857, had himself proposed an abstract Resolution in favour of national economy, in the following terms:—That, in order to secure to the country that relief from taxation which it justly expects, it is necessary, in the judgment of this House, to revise and further reduce the expenditure of the Army and Navy.On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman dwelt especially on the cost of our Military Services, and pointed out that, whereas, in 1852, the Army and Navy Expenditure was £16,000,000, it had risen, in 1857, to £20,500,000. But, according to his (Mr. Rylands's) right hon. Friend's (Mr. Childers's) Budget just brought forward, the cost of those Services was £26,600,000—an advance of £6,000,000 over the Expenditure of 1857, and £10,600,000 over that of 1852. The success of such Resolutions depended on three conditions—first, out-of-doors pressure and general dissatisfaction in the country; secondly, the sympathy, or want of sympathy, in the House itself; and, thirdly, the disposition of the Government itself. He hoped his Resolution would meet with the favourable consideration of the Government. Experience taught the usefulness of abstract Resolutions on that subject, for Mr. Hume's Motion, in 1848, induced Lord John Russell to diminish the charge for the Military Services by nearly £1,000,000; and, three years later, those charges had been diminished by£3,500,000. In 1855–6 there was an Expenditure, owing to the Crimean War, of £93,000,000. In 1857 it fell to £76,000,000, and on that occasion the present Premier brought forward his Resolution, and was himself shortly afterwards Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Expenditure fell from £76,000,000 in 1857 to £71,250,000 in 1862. Then came the Resolution of his (Mr. Rylands's) right hon. Friend the 1646 Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), and the Expenditure fell from £71,250,000 in 1862 to £66,000,000 in 1866. Thus, between 1857 and 1866, there had been a reduction of £10,000,000 in Expenditure. In those or an average there was a reduction of Expenditure amounting to £10,000,000, or an average reduction of £1,000,000 every year. This proved that there was no justification for the idea that there must necessarily be a progressive increase in our Expenditure. After 1866, however, this progressive economy suddenly stopped, for when the Derby-Disraeli Government came into power the flood-gates of Expenditure were opened, and the Expenditure increased in two years to the extent of £3,000,000. That increase marked an epoch in the recent financial history of the country. There was a General Election in 1868, and the present Prime Minister was a candidate for South-West Lancashire. The right hon. Gentleman issued an address to the electors, in which he brought a powerful indictment against the Tory Government. One serious charge was that they had increased the Expenditure of the country by £3,000,000 in two years, which, in the right hon. Gentleman's judgment, was not necessary in the interests of the Public Service. This £3,000,000, and the claim for national economy, formed the keynote of the right hon. Gentleman's eloquent speeches during that electoral campaign. The right hon. Gentleman did not tolerate for a moment the idea of a progressive increase in the Expenditure, but gave the true reason for the Expenditure in the profligacy of the Government. [Mr. GLADSTONE said, he did not use the word "profligacy."] He would admit that the right hon. Gentleman did not use that word; but he said that the Government had been making use of the Public Funds to make things pleasant all round. If that was not profligate conduct, he (Mr. Rylands) did not know what was. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that the influence of the spending servants of the Crown—a large Army and bureaucracy of increasing power—constantly tended to the increase of Expenditure. Individuals, and knots, and groups, and classes, he said, had a quick, constant, and unsleeping interest in feeding themselves on the product of the public industry. He added— 1647If the public go to sleep, the other power never goes to sleep. On the contrary, it watches for its opportunity.Let them look at their swollen Estimates, and he (Mr. Rylands) would ask whether these groups and classes were not enforcing their opportunity while the Government appeared to he asleep? In 1868 the same excuses were put forward by the Tory Government that were put forward by the Departments now. The First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for War naturally said they must have all this money for the purpose of keeping up the efficiency of our establishments. The right hon. Gentleman met that by saying—If you intend to have any limit put upon the Expenditure of the country, it is high time that you should be upon your guard against efficiency. Efficiency in itself is a very good thing; but in the mouth of a Minister who wants to find excuses for a great increase in the public burdens it is a plea that ought not to be admitted without a great deal of carefulness.We were told in 1868 that we required new guns and new and improved ships, and that all these things were very costly; but the right hon. Gentleman would not allow the electors of South-West Lancashire to be misled by any such language as that—Why," he exclaimed, "for the last 15 years we have been doing nothing but arming and rearming and building and re-building, thinking we had found a better method of building ships, thinking we had found a better method of constructing guns or small arms, rushing with precipitate haste at the wholesale execution of the idea of the moment, and before the idea of the moment had been fully embodied in a vast Public Expenditure, finding that some other fashion and some other pattern were superior, and that the whole thing was to be done over again.It was unnecessary for him (Mr. Rylands) to dwell further on the powerful arguments used by the right hon. Gentleman in 1868 against the extravagant Expenditure of the Tory Government. But the right hon. Gentleman's speeches had an effect on the country at large, and on the result of that General Election. It was then shown, as it had been shown on a more recent occasion in Mid Lothian, that the eloquence of the right hon. Gentleman had the power of many legions. The country listened to the economical instructions of the right hon. I Gentleman; the extravagant Tories were nowhere at the poll; a Liberal majority 1648 was returned to Parliament, and the right hon. Gentleman succeeded to power as Prime Minister. The Government then formed was an economical one, and included several Members who had been leading advocates of national economy. Mr. Lowe was Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Card well Secretary of State for War, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) First Lord of the Admiralty; and other important posts were held by the right hon. Members for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright), Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), and Montrose (Mr. Baxter). For about 18 months they acted manfully in cutting down the Estimates. He well remembered the admirable speeches of the Secretary of State for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty, in moving the Army and Navy Estimates in 1869 and 1870. It was perfectly refreshing to road them now in these degenerate days. Mr. Card well laid down distinct principles of action. His administrative policy included the withdrawal of forces from the Colonies, the concentration of regiments at home, and consequent reduction in the Army. He established greater control and economy in the purchase of stores. He exercised caution and moderation in the manufacture of firearms and munitions of war. And he made reductions in the Army Establishments, retired redundant officers, and exercised careful economies in the general items of Expenditure. These efforts produced most satisfactory results. The Army was reduced by 24,000 men, and the total Expenditure for Army purposes was decreased by the sum of £2,300,000. Exactly the same principles were applied to the Navy by his (Mr. Rylands's) right hon. Friend the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. Foreign squadrons were withdrawn from distant stations and the ships concentrated near our own shores. Great reforms and savings were effected in the purchase of stores. Redundant officials were removed. The number of men employed in the Dockyards was limited to 11,000, and a check was put upon the manufacture of stores by the Government, and greater opportunities afforded for the competition of private shipbuilding yards in the supply of vessels of war. The effect of these wise proposals was to secure a reduction of Navy Expenditure upon that of 1868, of about 1649 £2,250,000. It would, therefore, be seen that the total reduction upon the Army and Navy Services effected in 1869–70 amounted to no less a sum than £4,500,000. He wished to fix the attention of the House upon these Estimates, because they were proposed by practically the same Government as the present. The Prime Minister was responsible for both, and in 1870 considered that reduced Expenditure sufficient for the protection of the country, and for the general cost of the Administration. It was quite true that those Estimates were materially increased during the year 1870, as the result of an unreasoning panic, which occurred in consequence of the Franco-German War. At the very time when the two greatest Military Powers of the Continent were engaged in a deadly struggle, and when certainly there was no danger that British interests would be attacked, the Prime Minister yielded to the clamour from both sides of the House and proposed a Vote of Credit for £2,000,000, for which he (Mr. Rylands) thought at the time, and still believed, there was not a shadow of excuse. He was one of a small minority of 7 who voted against that useless expenditure. However, the Government yielded to the pressure, and the virtue went out of them. They were no longer entitled to the credit of being an economical Government. There was a gradual increase of Expenditure until, in 1873–4, the Budget Estimates, including Supplementary Votes but excluding the Alabama Claims, amounted to £72,500,000, being an increase of £3,000,000 over 1870–1. That was the time, in 1872 and 1873, when his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), whom he regretted not to see present, denounced the Expenditure. That was the time when the Government had so drifted into a large Expenditure, and had become a discredited Administration, to some extent, before the House and the country—it was that inglorious period of their history, in 1873–4, that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his Budget Speech last night, selected as the point of departure in making his comparison between the Expenditure of the Liberal and the Conservative Government. But what he (Mr. Rylands) went back upon was the Estimates of 1650 1870–71, when the Government were fresh from the constituencies, after all the magnificent teachings of the Prime Minister, and were resolved to carry out the principles they had upheld before the country. It was partly owing to the increased Expenditure of 1873–4 that the country had the advantage of seeing what the Conservative Party would do when in Office, and as to the result he could only say—"Bad as our people were, your people were worse." The Expenditure rapidly mounted up under the management of Mr. Disraeli and his subordinates, so that from 1875 to 1880 it jumped up something like £10,000,000 or £12,000,000 a year. ["Oh, oh!"] Yes; it was so. In 1875 the Expenditure was £74,500,000, and in 1880 it was £86,000,000. The present Government at once proceeded to decrease the Expenditure. In 1881 it was brought down to £83,750,000; but last year it rose to £"89,000,000; while this year, according to the Estimate of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it was £86,500,000. He (Mr. Rylands) had taken the gross expenditure, in giving comparisons over long periods, as being more popularly intelligible; but, of course, he was aware that such comparisons must be taken with qualifications. There was the reduction of Debt, which had been somewhat greater during the past three years than in 1870–1. There were also additional grants in aid of local rates, amounting to £3,000,000, and the increased cost of the Post Office and Telegraph Departments of £2,500,000. But, after making all necessary allowances on account of these items, the additional charge upon the public since 1870–1 was simply enormous. The ingenuity of the Chancellor of the Exchequer would almost lead them to think they were now, and for the last few years, in a financial Elysium. It was very easy to take figures here and there and show a decrease in this and the other Departments; but he wished to challenge the attention of the House to the following facts:—In 1870–1 the net Expenditure on the Army was £11,750,000; in 1883–4 the amount was £15,600,000—an increase of £3,850,000. In 1870–1 the Expenditure on the Navy was £8,927,000; and in 1883–4 it was £10,757,000—an increase of £1,830,000. These were the Estimates of the econo- 1651 mical Party. In addition, the Civil Service Estimates, excluding Revenue Charges, had increased £6,970,000—a total increase of over £12,500,000. Those were hard facts, and they showed how they had gone on increasing the Expenditure. He intended to direct the attention of the House to the increase in the Army and Navy Votes, and would leave to his hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) the consideration of the Civil Service Expenditure. Take the case of the Army. As compared with 1870–1, there was an increase of 24,000 men, at an additional cost of nearly £4,000,000. What was the excuse What was the policy of the Government? He presumed it was not "Jingoism;" for, although, in a weak moment, they had followed the policy of Lord Beaconsfield in the Egyptian War, he understood they altogether repudiated and renounced Lord Beaconsfield and all his works. Of course, if they wished to carry out that policy of adventure, they ought to keep up a large Army Establishment. But if there was no policy of adventure, there never was a time when there was loss reason than now for disturbing ourselves in regard to the state of affairs in Europe. He appealed to the authority of leading statesmen that when they were in a state of peace they ought to retrench. That was Sir Robert Peel's policy. It had been advocated by Mr. Disraeli in 1862, and the Prime Minister had again and again urged it. He thought they might withdraw some of the troops in the Colonies. At present the Colonial garrisons amounted to 26,000 men, at a cost to this country of about £3,000,000. He thought, at least, 10,000 men might be withdrawn, and, by a consequent reduction in the Army, a saving effected of over £1,000,000. He would not dwell upon the fancied necessity of defending what had been called the "the Keys" of India. They now held Egypt, and it was to be hoped that military expenditure against Russian aggression in the East might be curtailed. The best security for our Indian Possessions was to be found in the diminution of taxation, the development of the country by the construction of railways, and other public works, and in the general prosperity, happiness, and contentment of the Native Races. The principle of keeping up our Establishments in time of 1652 peace had resulted in largely increasing almost every Vote both for the Regular Forces and for the Reserves. Not that he did not entirely approve of the system of maintaining a large Reserve Force, seeing that the 585,000 men who now composed our Militia, Yeomanry, and Regular Reserve Forces were an admirable reason against largely increasing the charge of the Regular Army. And, with all our expenditure, it could not be said that we had an efficient Army. Many of the men who were sent to Egypt could not, except by accident, hit a haystack with their rifles; and the consequences of this bad shooting might have been most disastrous, if the firing of the enemy had not been inferior even to that of our own men. It seemed to him that what the country most wanted was an efficient, but small, Army, with an adequate Reserve. Then, again, the charge for the Non-Effective Services had been enormously increased by the abolition of Purchase, till it had reached its present total of £3,347,000. Whatever might be the advantages of the abolition of Purchase, its financial excuse was that its ultimate results would be increased economy; and yet it was certain that, as a matter of fact, nothing of the kind had happened. He would not discuss the Navy Estimates in detail; but he was bound to say that, in his opinion, there was no justification for the increased expenditure contemplated by the Government. He had not the slightest wish to reduce the Navy below its proper strength; but the existing 114 sea-going ships ought to suffice, added to the 132 vessels that were employed for Coast defence and other purposes, and to the cruisers of the Merchant Service that would be armed and made available in time of war, according to the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. Another item that might very well be reduced was the Dockyard expenditure, which had risen from £2,120,000 in 1871 to £3,946,000 under the present Government. He could not pretend to be an authority on Naval construction; but it was noticeable that the Admiralty were now building monster vessels at a very great cost; and he might ask, how these very expensive ships, some of them costing as much as £800,000, would behave in the presence of two or three cheap torpedo boats? Considering the sums of money thus spent in the Royal Dock- 1653 yards, and the possible futility of the outlay, it might, perhaps, be urged that the Government would find the country equally well served in reality if it employed fewer men in the Dockyards, and trusted more to the open market and to private builders. For the great cost of the Naval and Military Services of the country the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for War, as Heads of the chief spending Departments, were primarily responsible. No doubt, Parliament was responsible also; but though the House had opportunities of criticism its real power was comparatively small. The Resolution which he was about to move related to the excessive Expenditure; but how was Parliament to deal with the matter practically? The right hon. Gentleman would say that that could be done in Committee of Supply. That was theoretically feasible; but how did it happen that in Committee of Supply the best of causes commanded so few votes? The reason, he feared, was that Government made expenditure a Party question; so that when an item had been discussed in a thin Committee, the great body of Members were summoned by the Division Bell to vote as the Whip told them. He ventured to urge on the right hon. Gentleman, gathering from his Budget Speech of last year that he was considering whether some additional financial control might not be given to the House, that a strong Estimate Committee should be appointed to discuss the cost of the Army, the Navy, and the Civil Service. Or, if that could not be done at present, Committees might be appointed to consider certain specified large items of expenditure. He believed that, at the present moment, in consequence of the state of agriculture and of trade, and in consequence of the still increasing competition of foreign countries, if this country desired to maintain its position in the open markets of the world, it must strive after economy and after the means of producing the articles of agriculture and commerce in the cheapest possible mode. The public took deep interest in the Motion he proposed; and he ventured to tell the Government that, unless they dealt with this question of expenditure with a firm hand, unless they could show some means, before they again went to the country, by which a substantial reduction of ex- 1654 penditure and relief of taxation could be effected, they would be charged with neglecting their professions and principles. Unless a definite policy with regard to the expenditure was set forth by the Government, they would again go to the country, as in 1874, without that clean record of Liberal policy which they ought to possess; and if they could not go to the people with the good old words of the Party, "Peace, Retrenchment, and Reform," they would be met with the assertion that they had been false to their professions. The effect would be disadvantageous to the country and unfortunate for themselves; and the country might find, as it had found before, that while they struck at the Government for their extravagance, they would be only bringing back into power hon. Gentlemen who might be still more extravagant. That, however, the people would not consider; they would judge the Liberal Party by their professions; and he had no hesitation in saying that unless the Government altered their course the country would justly condemn them. He would conclude by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER,
in seconding the Motion, said that in its justification he would quote almost the closing words of the speech of the Prime Minister before he retired from the Office of Chancellor of the Exchequer—words which would remain as the summing-up of his judgment as to what the financial duties of the House and the Government were. On that occasion the Prime Minister said—There are three principles, greater than all others, on which, in my opinion, all good finance should be based. The first of them is that there should always be a certainty that whatever the charge may be, it can be paid. That, I believe, is of vital importance. The second is that, in times of peace and prosperity, the people of the country should reduce their Debt; and the third point is, that they should reduce their Expenditure."—(3 Hansard,  1298.)The able, lucid, and powerful Financial Statement of his (Mr. Fowler's) right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Childers), on the previous night, showed conclusively, apart from all controversial matters, whatever might have been the charge for the past year, or whatever the charge for the coming year might be, that there was adequate provision to meet 1655 it. It also showed that a large amount had been paid in reduction of Debt during the last 10 or 12 years, and indicated still further operations in that direction; but where the speech failed was, that it did not indicate a reduction in the National Expenditure. The proposition which those who supported this Resolution had to make out that evening, therefore, was that the National Expenditure could be reduced. They contended that in time of peace the Expenditure was too high; that the financial resources of the country, although adequate to meet it, were unnecessarily strained; and that a burden was thus imposed on the people of this country which they ought not to be called on to bear. In discussing the National Expenditure, it seemed to him to be necessary to dispel one or two popular delusions which had arisen in many speeches and articles throughout the country, and which resulted from what he would call a misleading mode of keeping our National Accounts. The sums of £80,000,000, £84,000,000, and £89,000,000 had been referred to in connection with the Expenditure; but, so far as the income derived from taxes and its expenditure were concerned, there were no such figures in existence. If a manufacturer, in his balance-sheet at the end of the year, found that he had made large purchases of raw material and had largely increased his disbursements for wages, and if, on the other side of the balance-sheet, he had gross receipts, which not only covered that additional expenditure, but yielded him additional profit, he did not point to that expenditure with regret, or regard it as indicative of loss. So it should be with regard to the accounts of the State. The income and expenditure were swelled by business Departments which the Government carried on for the service and advantage of the community at large. In various directions this was done by the Government; and a large proportion of the increased expenditure, instead of indicating an addition to the burdens of the taxpayer, represented operations which decreased those burdens and extended the public convenience. In 1882 the real Expenditure was £74,000,000, not £86,500,000; and of this £74,000,000 only £70,500,000 were provided by taxation, and £3,500,000 were derived from the business of the 1656 Post Office and the Telegraphs. He would not follow the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) in his remarks concerning the Expenditure on the Army and Navy, further than to say that he fully agreed with him in reference to the necessity for reduction. He also approved of the course the hon. Member had adopted in taking the year 1870–1 for his calculations, which was a sounder period for the purpose than the year 1873–4. The gross Expenditure in that year for the Civil Service—or for items other than the Army and Navy—was £38,750,000, and in 1882 it was £47,750,000; and here was an apparent increase of £9,000,000. But the real increase was about £8,000,000. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer last night made a strong point of the fact that between the two years he mentioned there was an increase in the charge upon taxes of only £8,000,000; but to that the right hon. Gentleman ought to have added the large increase of income or additional profit from the Post Office and the Telegraphs—an increase which was very considerable in the time stated; for the Non-Tax Revenue between 1871 and 1882 had increased by nearly £5,000,000. Now, with the permission of the House, he would look at this Expenditure of £47,750,000, and he would classify it under four heads—(1), the expenditure with reference to the Debt; (2), the statutory charges on the Consolidated Fund; (3), the optional expenditure which Parliament voted annually; and, (4), the cost of collection and of the machinery for the administration of the Post Office and Telegraphs. With reference to our position in connection with the Debt the expenditure upon it had increased something like £1,000,000 during the time the present Government had been in power. He did not think hon. Gentlemen opposite would dispute that that increase had arisen mainly, in fact altogether, from two items—namely, the additional charge of £80,000 created by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) just before he left Office, and the additional Annuities created for the purpose of paying the Indian Loan. The Chancellor of the Exchequer raised a very interesting question last night with reference to our policy on account of the Debt. He (Mr. H. H. 1657 Fowler) thought there was a kind of tendency to take rather panic notions on that matter. At the close of the Great War in l8l7 the Debt was £841,000,000, and the annual charge £32,000,000; and in any Estimate between then and now we had to take into consideration the additional wealth of the country. At the accession of the Queen in 1837 the Debt stood at £787,000,000. At the close of the Crimean War in 1857 it stood at £832,500,000, and to-day it stood at £725,000,000. During the last 25 years we had added nearly£50,000,000 to the Debt for Fortifications, Telegraphs, Suez Canal Shares, and other expenditure. Although there had, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer showed, been a net reduction of the National Debt by £107,000,000, it should be made clear that, in addition to this reduction, we had also provided out of the taxation of the country for the additional Debt which had been created during that period. We had really paid off £133,000,000 in 25 years. Our position with reference to the Debt was somewhat peculiar. In 10 years, between 1870 and 1880, there were only two European Powers which had reduced their Debts—Denmark and Great Britain. Denmark had reduced its Debt to the amount of £3,000,000; but the other nations of Europe during that time had added to their Debt £1,513,000,000, while America had paid off £94,000,000. During the same 10 years there was an increase in our national wealth of something like £650,000,000; our Debt did not represent 8 per cent of the national wealth, nor did it represent more than eight months of the national earnings of the year. Lord Beaconsfield was accurate when he said that our National Debt was a mere flea-bite compared to the national resources, and we were not justified in regarding it as an intolerable burden. We could afford to regard it with no great feeling of dissatisfaction, although, at the same time, there was a general consensus of opinion that we should continue in the course of reducing the Debt. The next item of our Civil Service Expenditure was the statutory charges placed by the country upon the Consolidated Fund. Those charges were placed upon the Consolidated Fund, unfortunately, with very great facility; and, when once there, they could not be removed. They amounted to something 1658 like £1,655,000; and, apart from the Civil List and the Royal Annuities, amounting to £546,000, the bulk of them consisted of pensions, salaries, and allowances. He thought there was room for a very great reduction in almost every one of those items. Military and hereditary pensions represented over £20,000 a-year; judicial pensions, £60,000; diplomatic and other pensions, £15,000; and distinguished services, £22,000. In addition to the judicial salaries, amounting to nearly £470,000, there were the judicial compensations—a most fruitful source of jobbery—which, in this country, amounted to £68,000 a-year; in Ireland, to £7,000; and in Scotland, to £6,000. He thought there was not only room for inquiry, but great reason why the House should look with great care on all new legislation for proposing to abolish existing offices and create new ones. When a man was a servant of the country, and the State thought fit to dispense with his services in the particular position which he had occupied, he should be bound to serve it in some other capacity. Under the judicial expenditure there was found one of those appropriations out of the Consolidated Fund for local purposes, which was most unfair and inequitable. It was a payment of £35,000 a-year for the salaries of the Metropolitan police magistrates. There was no borough or town in England, having stipendiary magistrates, but paid those magistrates out of its own rates. The main item in the Civil Service Expenditure was the Parliamentary or optional, the annual amount voted every year. During the 10 years there had been an increase of something like £6,000,000 on this Expenditure. In 1880 it amounted to £15,250,000, in 1881 to £15,750,000, in 1882 to £16,500,000, and in 1883 to £17,250,000. On that point he approved his hon. Friend's (Mr. Rylands's) suggestion that these Estimates should be submitted to a Standing Finance Committee. In that way, he (Mr. H. H. Fowler) thought that justice would be done both to the Departments and the taxpayers, while the expenditure would, at the same time, be reduced. The main increase on the Civil Service Estimates, no doubt, arose on the Education Vote and Local Taxation. The increase in aid of Local Taxation was £2,750,000 1659 during the last 10 years, and that grant had now reached £5,750,000 sterling. He contended that there was no mode of local expenditure more extravagant than grants in aid of local taxation. There was nothing which required more careful scrutiny and reform than this very question. It was not confined to agricultural districts; it was quite as unfair in urban districts; and, however the farmer might suffer from what he considered unfair taxation, the shopkeeper suffered not less. Under the present system, a grant in aid of local taxation was a subsidy to a taxation of which the upper and middle classes bore about 80 or 85 per cent from a taxation to which they did not contribute more than 60 per cent. Five-sixths of local taxation was defrayed by the upper and middle classes, whereas they only paid about three-fifths of Imperial taxation. To illustrate the calculation, he might say that in a grant from Imperial to local funds the working classes would receive relief to the extent of 3s. 4d. in the pound, derived from a Revenue towards which they contributed 8s. in the pound. He objected to the grant from the Imperial Revenue of £250,000 for the repair of turnpike roads. If any charge ought to be thrown upon the locality it certainly was that appertaining to the repair of local roads. In his opinion, it was a great mistake, when the turnpike tolls were abolished, that some complete and general system had not been adopted. It was unjust; and he could not understand upon what principle it could be maintained that a local charge, as regarded roads, should be put upon the Consolidated Fund, when the same charge, so far as it affected towns and urban districts, was not proposed to be put on the Consolidated Fund. As regarded the increase in the Education Votes, he should, in the absence of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council (Mr. Mundella) refrain from making the observations he had intended to lay before the House, in reference to the small result that had been obtained from so large an expenditure. On looking at the Estimates he found that the Public Works absorbed £1,500,000, Salaries and Expenses £2,500,000, Lawand Justice £6,000,000, Education, Science, and Art £4,250,000, Foreign and Colonial £750,000, and other Charges £1,250,000. Taking the 1660 item of £1,500,000 for public works first, he desired to point out how enormous was the sum of money incurred in the erection of new public buildings. This was not a mere isolated expenditure; but it was one that was continually going on year after year, until million after million was swallowed up. Last year the enormous expense connected with the now Courts of Justice, as well as that incurred for the new Natural History Museum at South Kensington, had come to an end; and yet, nevertheless, the Estimate for the present year showed an increase which, in reality, amounted to £250,000. In the face of this fact, however, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had felt bound to oppose, the other evening, the granting of the boon to all classes of a reduction of the cost of telegraph messages to 6rf. What would have been the feeling of the public had they found that that boon was to be withheld from them, in order that a number of fresh public buildings might be erected? He had received communications with regard to waste and extravagance; and he trusted that, now it was known that the House of Commons was looking into the subject, this source of expenditure would be greatly checked. The cost of collecting and administering the Revenue did not show such a tendency to increase, because, while it was £2,500,000 in 1871, it had only risen to £2,800,000 in 1882. The expenses of the Post Office had risen from £4,000,000 in 1871 to £4,750,000 in 1882; but that was counterbalanced by the increase of profits derived from it. The profit in 1871 was £1,500,000; in 1880, £2,750,000; and in 1882, £3,250,000. The entire charge on the taxes was, in 1857, £63,500,000; and in 1882, £73,500,000. In order to correctly appreciate the true financial position of the country, he must refer to the valuable Return which had been moved for by the right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Hubbard). In 1877 the real Expenditure of the country was £68,000,000; in 1878 it was £71,000,000; in 1879 it was£74,750,000; in 1880 it was £73,000,000; in 1881 it was £71,750,000; and in 1882 it was £74,100,000. It was a mistake, therefore, to imagine that we had yet got into the region of considerable reduction. He did not desire to enter into any controversy as to which political Party was the 1661 more economical; but the people of this country might well say to both the Front Benches—"A plague on both your houses." The National Expenditure did not seem to be greatly affected by either Party being in power, for it continued to rise with a regularity apparently very little regulated or controlled by either of them. But he wanted to say a word or two upon the importance of the question as it affected the masses of the people. When these large sums were voted and expended, the House did not realize the number of homes whoso daily comforts are affected by their taxation. Their payments were not in respect of luxuries or surplus unspent income, but affected their daily consumption of the necessaries of life. He was reminded of a story told in one of his most pathetic and powerful speeches by his right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) of a French lady who applied to the Minister of France for a grant of 1,000 crowns. The lady was indignant at the refusal of a sum so small in comparison with the Revenue. But Necker replied—"Madame, 1,000 crowns represent the taxation of a whole village." The true test of our national life was in the progress of the cottage homes of England. It was said that working men need not pay taxes unless they liked; but, with all respect to his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), the working men of this country would not be content to live on bread and water. Why assume to the toiling class, who needed, if any class did, the physical reliefs which all classes claim, a tone of frigid utilitarianism? There were three articles which he (Mr. H. H. Fowler) looked upon as being principal articles of consumption in the home of the working man—tea, tobacco, and beer—and those three articles were the most heavily taxed of almost all commodities. Suppose 1s. to be spent on any of those articles, how much of it was paid as tax? In the case of tea, the taxation was at least 6d. out of the 1s. Of the 1s. spent in beer, 2d. was paid for tax; and out of Is. spent on tobacco 10d was the tax. That was a most unfair taxation as compared with the taxation of the richer classes. His hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), in a clever burlesque, which, no doubt, most hon. Members had read, had described the imaginary future 1662 of an imaginary Liberal Party; and he (Mr. H. H. Fowler) could not but feel that, whatever there might be of exaggeration or caricature in that article, there was some truth underlying; and that House would have to face, some day, the question whether taxation had been properly adjusted as between capital and labour. The late Lord Beacons-field had said that finance was, after all, a question of policy. He (Mr. H. H. Fowler) would invert the proposition, and say that all policy was a question of finance. They could have no sound national policy, a policy which was affecting the peace, the progress, and the prosperity of the great bulk and masses of the people, unless they had a sound system of national finance. Extravagance in a nation was just the same thing as extravagance in an individual, and would produce, in the long run, precisely the same result. He would urge, with all respect to the House, that it was their duty and their interest—possessing, as they did, the vantage ground of experience and knowledge, and remembering that they did, in the main, in that House represent that section of Her Majesty's subjects who, whilst they contributed least in proportion to the national income, yet derived the most advantage from the National Expenditure—remembering these things, they ought to anticipate and they ought to disarm the impatience—not the ignorant impatience, but the intelligent impatience—which unnecessary taxation invariably arouses, and the feeling which was certain to be excited by the knowledge, sooner or later acquired, that the incidence of that taxation was unfair. Election after election they would have to face a more intelligent constituency, and, depend upon it, a more economical constituency, too. Therefore, on those grounds—not for the purpose of Party recrimination or Party triumph—he asked the House unanimously to affirm that the National Expenditure of this country demanded the earnest and immediate attention of Her Majesty's Government with a view to its early consideration.
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 present amount of the National Expenditure demands the earnest and immediate attention of Her Majesty's Government, with the view of effect-
ing such reductions as may be consistent with I the efficiency of the public service",—(Mr. Rylands,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
I think, Mr. Speaker, that whatever may be the view taken by any hon. Member of this blouse of the Motion which is before us, there will be a general admission that the important task assumed by my hon. Friends the Members for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) and Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler), who have respectively made and seconded it, has been performed by them with great ability; and although I am very far from being prepared to subscribe to all that both or either of them may have said, there is much of it in which I heartily concur, and many things, and many statements and ideas have proceeded from them, which will tend to freshen and invigorate the public mind on this important subject, and to bring into lively and practical operation thoughts which for long periods are apt to lie dormant. I feel, therefore, that it is due alike them and to the House that I should lose no time in stating to the House the estimate that we form of the Motion that has been made, the course which we propose to take, and the nature and extent of the results which we anticipate from it, in case it should be carried. I will make some very brief observations indeed, at the beginning, upon two or three remarks which fell from my hon. Friend who proposed the Resolution, in some of which I was myself personally concerned. My hon. Friend appeared to anticipate that, inasmuch as his Motion, as he considered, fell under the title of an abstract Resolution, and as he had frequently heard objections taken from persons standing at this Box to abstract Resolutions, he must expect that a similar course would be ken to-day. There is, however, a good deal of ambiguity about the use of the phrase "an abstract Resolution." I, for my part, have often objected to abstract Resolutions, but I draw a distinction between them, both according to the circumstances in which they are moved, and according to the subject-matter with which they deal. I should Bay that in general it is objectionable to 1664 move abstract Resolutions in regard to matters which ought to be put forward by legislation, unless they are intended at once to be followed by the submission of practical proposals to the House. But I make this admission at once to my hon. Friend—that, with regard to all questions of finance, my hon. Friend has no course, if he is to proceed at all, but to proceed by an abstract Resolution; and no doubt, Sir, when objection is naturally taken to abstract Resolutions, it is taken upon this ground—that it very often happens that after the declaration of a principle—or a change, as it were, in the air—the House feels that it has done something when it has really done nothing; and allows the subject-matter to go to sleep in such a way that occasionally the ultimate and practical settlement of great questions is not forwarded, but is actually impeded by the very cheap assertion and the very cheap exhibition of public faith and virtue that is sometimes made in an abstract Resolution. But I understand my hon. Friend to make this Motion in the sense of pledging the Government—and I must also say, if I am to interpret his Motion in a favourable manner, in the sense of pledging the House—to something of a practical character, in a real and a close review of the Expenditure of the country, and that with profit. My hon. Friend spoke with great impartiality, in respect of which I have no exception to take to what he said, unless this, that he did not go quite far enough. He said that all the Governments were to blame; that both Parties were to blame; and he generously said that he himself was to blame, and he took more on himself than some of those who sat behind him appeared to be prepared to accept. But, Sir, my hon. Friend, in my opinion, will never have done full justice to the case until he recognizes this fact—that if there has been an indifference to the great question of Public Expenditure in recent times, that is neither exclusively due to Governments, nor to Parties, nor to Parliaments, but to the public of this country also. The nation itself has been far less alive to the subject of economy in the administration of its affairs than used to be the case in former times; and we must not shut our eyes to the fact that this House is an Assembly so essentially representative of public 1665 feeling that, if it has fallen short in this most important and essential particular of its duty, it never could have so fallen short unless there had been in the public mind an inadequate appreciation of the pressing nature of the subject. My hon. Friend referred to what took place in 1870, when, he stated, he resisted a Vote of Credit which was proposed as an additional expenditure by me, and he said that he was one of 7 Gentleman who voted against it. Well, Sir, if he was one of 7 Gentlemen who voted against it, that, in my opinion, is a very clear and sufficient proof, not only that the general sense of the House lay the other way, but that the country did not take his view of the matter. And, Sir, as I have referred to the subject of what took place in 1870, I must demur to the censure bestowed by hon. Friend on the measures of that year. He says that was a time when two great Military Powers were about to exhaust each other in the efforts of a frightful war, and that that was the very time when it would have been perfectly safe for us to have held our hands and kept down our Expenditure. I think my hon. Friend's recollection has not served him quite faithfully on this occasion. It was not from any apprehension on account of that war, or from an idle idea that it was our duty to interfere in every Continental contest, that the measure was then proposed to the House in reference to our Military Establishments. It was because, in the judgment of the Government and of the country, a serious danger had appeared to threaten the prosperity of a small but free neighbour, in whose welfare the people of this country feel the deepest interest. It was to make provision, and, as I believe, an effectual, though a moderate, provision, against danger in that quarter, that the measure was proposed to which my hon. Friend has referred, and which he says he opposed in a minority of only 7 Members. I find in the speech of my hon. Friend that which I admit is almost absolutely incidental to a speech of such a nature. In discussing and bringing to question the augmentation of Public Expenditure, it was hardly possible that my hon. Friend should administer complete justice as between expenditure and the purposes to which it was applied. There was a very great change, which my hon. Friend appears to think was a change of 1666 inclination or of personal views on the part of the Government in 1870 and 1871, and he says with perfect truth that, at that time, a very considerable augmentation was made in the Military Estimates. But, Sir, my hon. Friend ought to admit—and I think he will admit—that while I am by no means prejudging the question whether we have now strict military economy, yet I will call even upon him to admit that, at least as regards a portion of the increase of charge, we have, at all events, had value for our money. My hon. Friend appears to be one of those who do not approve the operations in Egypt last year. But, whether he approves them or not, let him consider the manner in which they were carried into effect. Let him consider the promptitude—and promptitude in war means cheapness—with which the whole of that operation was carried through; and my hon. Friend must know that, if the very same circumstances had occurred 20 or 30 years ago—if we had, say, the Army or the Army Establishments of 1853 instead of those of 1882, it would have been impossible for us, in anything like the same space of time, or with the same decision and success, to put our hand to the execution of a work which we deemed to be imperative in point of principle and policy, and necessary for the security of Eastern Europe, as well as other objects. No doubt, the operation proposed by us in 1871 was an operation of immense responsibility and immense cost—I mean the abolition of Purchase. But that operation was one which gave us the control of a truly National Army. That Army had been, indeed, before full of the highest military qualities, as far as devotion is concerned; but as to the efficiency of the body of officers, and the relation established between the body of officers and the nation at large, a fundamental change was then effected, which I believe the country has recognized as more than worth all the money it cost. My hon. Friend will perhaps allow me to refer to the mention he has made of the case of 1857. He states that at that time a Resolution of this nature was made in the House of Commons, and that it was made by myself. It is quite true. I thought then, as I think now, that there was very good reason why the Motion should be made; and why it should be made by myself. 1667 It was desirable that it should be made, because, undoubtedly, the period immediately succeeding the Crimean War was the turning point in regard to expenditure in this country, and the reason why I felt it incumbent upon me to make the Motion was that, as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1853, I had indicated to the House how, on the scale of expenditure which then prevailed, the Income Tax might be extinguished at an early date. From the scale of expenditure, as it was proposed in 1857, that was impossible, and I felt it to be my duty to endeavour to bring to issue the question, whether the House of Commons desired still to hold out to the country the expectation of extinguishing the Income Tax, or whether it was ready to face, perhaps, in deference to real necessities, a scale of Establishments which would make it impossible, under the circumstances that then existed, to escape from the pressure of the burden. The Income Tax was not then so much rooted, perhaps, in the public habits as it is now; and when it was first proposed by Sir Robert Peel, it was proposed as a tax essentially temporary and special, the proceeds to be applied to the effecting of particular purposes of commercial reform, and the application to be one, as he held out the expectation, of very limited scope indeed. Although I would be very sorry to give to this discussion the slightest tinge of a question between two sides of the House, as my hon. Friend has treated the Government of 1871 as having at that time abandoned the ideas of economy with which it had come into Office, and which, unquestionably, in 1868 I for one had loudly professed before the country; as he said that, I may perhaps point out to him that though the very last Military Estimates which we proposed in 1873–4 were over £22,800,000, they were £1,800,000 lower than the Military Estimates that had been proposed in the year 1868. I beg pardon; my right hon. Friend (Mr. Childers) reminds me that these are the amounts spent, and not the Estimates. Now I came to the Motion of my hon. Friend, and here I at once admit that the check possessed by economically-minded Members of Parliament over the proposals of the Government, through Motions to be made in Committee of Supply, although it is a valuable and an absolutely necessary check, 1668 yet it is an insufficient one. It is the only check which can be brought into constant operation; but it is perfectly right that, from time to time, the House of Commons should rouse itself to efforts of a different character, and, therefore, that Motions of this kind should be made. It is, indeed, most desirable that when a Motion of this kind is made, we should remember that it is a subject not to be trifled with, and that the words of the Motion, if we adopt them, in the shape of a judgment and decision of this House, are words that carry a meaning. It may not be in our power to assure ourselves of very sweeping or very splendid results; but, at any rate, we ought to feel and know that, if a Motion of this kind is adopted, it is a solemn pledge to a serious effort, and that we must not shrink from any labour or anxiety that the endeavour to redeem that pledge may be found to involve. My hon. Friend, in one portion of his speech—I will not use the homely phrase—fell foul of efficiency; but he quoted some cautionary words of mine about efficiency to which I entirely adhere. It is not necessary to enter upon any controversy as to the proper place of the word "efficiency" in a discussion of this kind, because my hon. Friend has placed in his Motion a very just and judicious limitation. He desires to pledge the House to the expression of its opinion—That the present amount of the National Expenditure demands the earnest and immediate attention of her Majesty's Government, with the view of effecting such reductions.What reductions?Such reductions as may be consistent with the efficiency of the public service.It is impossible for the Government to object to a Motion of that kind. For, after what I have said as to the propriety of such Motions on occasion, the only question that can arise in our minds is whether this occasion is proper? Well, Sir, we are not prepared to assert that it is not proper. A considerable interval has passed since the House was invited to make any attempt of this kind. There was an attempt of the sort in 1873; but that so soon came to an end, in consequence of and in connection with the termination of the Government that had sanctioned it, that I consider that as hardly entering into the history of the case. I must go back as far as 1847 before we arrive at a period when the 1669 House made a serious effort on this subject. The Government, therefore, considering that the principle of such a Motion is sound, are prepared to accept the Motion of my hon. Friend. We do that, wishing, at the same time, that the House should perfectly understand what we think it implies. Our acceptance implies that the Government will do its best to make a careful review of the several branches of the Public Expenditure; but we also look upon the Motion and find much of its value in this—that, as we conceive, it pledges the House also to take a certain course. I think it means that the House will assist the Government and will endeavour to strengthen its hands, and will show a general disposition, not to encourage, but rather to discountenance, whatever efforts may be made tending in the opposite direction. All that we expect from the House in the event of the adoption of the Motion. And, Sir, there is one mode in which the House is accustomed to act, so important, although I do not, at the present moment, venture to announce a positive decision of the Government upon it, yet I wish to mention it as a subject that it may be our duty to revise—the interference of the House of Commons, not only in the way of checking the items of expenditure, as they are proposed from year to year, but in the way of general review—as thoroughly Constitutional, and as supported amply by precedent in the traditions of other times; and those times are not exclusively confined to the period of the Reformed Parliament. On the contrary, the two occasions which alone I will quote are anterior to the Reform of 1832. In 1817, there was a step of this kind taken, and it was followed up by a similar Motion in 1819. A Committee was appointed under the Government of Lord Liverpool for the purpose of making a general review of the Public Expenditure. Again, in the year 1828, a similar Committee was appointed, and I cannot refer to that period without saying, what I think justice demands from me—that, although the greatest efforts for economy have been made since the Reform of 1832, yet, undoubtedly, the Government of the Duke of Wellington, I believe, on principle, and from the personal convictions of many of its leading Members, was, and proved itself in intention—conscientious intention—an economical Govern- 1670 ment. That was in 1828; and again, in 1847, Lord Russell assented to the appointment of a Select Committee. I have before me the terms in which those Select Committees were appointed. I need not trouble the House by reading over the formal References that were made. What I say is, that they were large and liberal in their terms, and that they opened up to the full consideration of the House the whole arrangements of the Public Expenditure, and that the only limitation they imposed was that which my hon. Friend has substantially introduced in his stipulation on behalf of efficiency—namely, that they were to consider what measures were to be conducted for the relief of the country from any part of the existing Expenditure by economies which would not be detrimental to the Public Services. I will not, at the present moment, say that we shall make a proposal to the House to appoint one Committee or more than one Committee of this kind; but I shall consider it one of our first duties to consider the matter very seriously; and if we see a prospect of advantage from the appointment of such Committees, and if we find that there is a general concurrence of opinion in that view—for that would be almost essential—then in a short time we would make a proposal of that character. There is one word which I ought to say. If we should ask the House to appoint such Committee or Committees, I need not say that we shall be appointing them at a period when the voting of the Estimates has already begun. Therefore, the Committees would not be appointed to consider the Estimates of the year in particular—though they would not be excluded from their view—but would be Committees upon the Expenditure in general. I am very desirous, however, to give my own view of the case, in order that there may not go abroad any exaggerated ideas upon the subject. My hon. Friends have—and I think very usefully, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his excellent speech last night, with the greatest utility to the public also—entered upon a variety of comparisons. What I wish to do, however, is to go further back. I want to go back into what I call the heart of the economical period of British administration, and I wish to choose for that purpose the year 1671 1840. I do it for several reasons. First, because there can arise here no question between one Party and another, for the year 1840, like 1882, was a year of Liberal administration; and, secondly, because, as I have said, it is a year taken from a period of strict notions of economy professed on both sides of the House; and I think the most rigid economist, if he looks back and examines the proceedings of Parliament between 1830 and 1852, will have very little to desire. The Governments never bore hardly on individuals, and they upheld public faith and honour, yet they never missed an opportunity of providing for the present and prospective reduction of the Charges. Therefore, by taking the period of 1840, I take the period most suitable for comparison, from which we shall be able to judge of the whole deviation we have made in the action and policy at this time, and whether it be owing to a change of disposition or inefficiency on our part, or whether it is owing to an augmentation of public necessities. Further, it is the earliest year embraced in those admirable 15 years' summaries, by means of which every Member of the House has an opportunity of examining in great detail the particulars of Public Revenue and Expenditure. I begin by taking the Expenditure of that year and comparing it with that of 1882–3; but the result which appears to arise will be very considerably modified by necessary deductions. In 1840 the gross Charge to the country was £53,244,000; whereas, in 1882–3, it was £88,906,000, which presents to us the appearance of an enormous increase; but certainly the comparison so stated would be most fallacious, and I will proceed to perform those operations which are necessary, and are of a simple character, in order to make it a safe and trustworthy comparison. I wish to make it safe, so that we may know what the increase of our Expenditure has been, and how the augmentation stands in relation to the population and wealth of the country. The first thing to be done is to give the cost of the collection of the Revenue, because inasmuch as the Post Office, Telegraphs, and Packet Service form a principal part of the cost of collection, and as they are really not properly an expenditure out of taxes, but are the necessary charges for the performance of a Service which has 1672 enormously extended itself, we should take into our view these circumstances. The cost of collecting the Public Revenue in 1840 was £4,115,000, and the deduction of that sum reduces the gross Expenditure to £49,129,000. The cost of collection in 1882 had risen to £8,921,000—or considerably more than double—and the deduction of that sum reduces the gross Expenditure to £79,978,000. Then I think it is also convenient that the special War Charges of 1882 should be deducted, because although they are perfectly real for the particular year, they form no part of our general system of expenditure, and would rather tend to confuse our view. In 1840 there were on account of China and Canada special War Charges amounting to £703,000, and in 1882 the War Charges for Egypt were £3,896,000. Applying this correction, we get the Expenditure of 1840 at £48,427,000, and of 1882 at £76,082,000, so that the enormous gap which seems at first to separate the figures of the two years has gradully become a little narrower. But, then, Sir, it is most important to make one other deduction, if not two. The first is the deduction for the sum paid in the reduction of the Debt. Unfortunately, strictly as the principle of economy was applied in 1840, another principle which I hold to be still more important—namely, the equalization of the Revenue as against Charges—was not so tenaciously upheld in that period, and the consequence was that the operations for reduction of the Debt, without allowing for what was paid in the form of Terminable Annuities, were then conducted on a very small scale. It may surprise the House, perhaps, to know that in the year 1840, out of the Revenue of £48,426,000 only £531,000, went to the reduction of the Debt, and out of the Revenue of £76,082,000 in 1882 the sum that went to the reduction of Debt was £7,100,000. I am one of those who hold with the utmost tenacity to the principle that in all tolerable circumstances of the country, reduction of the Debt ought to be prosecuted as a paramount duty; and whatever authority may be quoted—and I know there are authorities that can be quoted for representing the National Debt as a flea-bite—I will not open my ears to the charms of the charmer, though he charm ever so wisely upon the subject; and I trust 1673 that every Parliament and every Government in this country, whatever its political complexion may be, will never relax its efforts in that direction—efforts which, I believe, ought to be extended, but, at any rate, not contracted. I am not now dealing with a matter of principle; but as a matter of fact it is quite obvious, if we are going to compare the Expenditure of two particular periods, that we must not take into account that portion of the Expenditure which is merely devoted to relief from obligations; and if we act on this very proper principle we shall find that the Expenditure of the year 1840 falls to £47,895,000, and the Expenditure of 1882 falls to £68,982,000. We may call that £48,000,000, and £69,000,000 respectively—that is equal to an increase in the Expenditure of 44 per cent. But then I think there is yet one other deduction that has been named to-night—named by my hon. Friend the Seconder of the Motion (Mr. H. H. Fowler)—which must be taken into view, and that is the enormous grants in aid of local taxation. That is a serious subject, and one which it is impossible to discuss here. On the whole, I was very well satisfied with the manner in which that was discussed by my hon. Friend, for he admitted that the incidence of local taxation was unfair, and required the amending hand of Parliament; while, on the other hand, he pointed out the dangers that beset our path regarding the sources of labour and capital respectively, from which the different funds are derived that are available for local and Imperial taxation; and he referred to the efforts first made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen); and I think it is a great honour to him to have first made the suggestion to Parliament that the proper method to proceed is this—fix in your own mind how much ought to be given to local taxation, and give it in a proper manner; give it by the allocation of taxes; give it in a manner which will leave in operation all the motives for economy in expenditure of money; give it in a manner that will not take the funds from labour and apply it to the relief of property. Whatever be done, let it be a straightforward and above-board proceeding, and then, in my opinion, the effect of that will be, on the one hand, to secure 1674 you against the serious political dangers incident to the present method of making grants in aid; while, on the other hand, the grants themselves will go infinitely further in the relief of the ratepayers than is the case at present. Again, I have only to concern myself with the practical amounts, and the amounts are these. In 1842—I cannot get the amount for 1840 or 1841, but I think 1842 may be considered as substantially the same thing—in 1842 the whole amount for local taxation was £620,000; in fact, the system was then absolutely in its infancy; but, in 1882, I believe the amount expended was fully £6,000,000—that is to say, it was multiplied nearly ten-fold during those 40 years. Deducting these sums again, I reduce the Expenditure of 1840 to £47,275,000, and that of 1882 to £62,955,000. Now, that, I believe, is a fair and trustworthy comparison, and the effect of it is to show that the total increase of Charges within that period of 42 years was £15,680,000, or, as nearly as possible, 34 per cent on the Expenditure as it stood at the earlier period. I am not stating that all that Expenditure is normal, just, or proper; my belief is that some portion of that might have been saved; my hope is that careful and close examination will enable us to save, if not a very large, yet a sensible portion of that money. But while we shall do everything for strict economy, there are extravagances which it is difficult altogether to exclude from it. And in admitting that there is undeniably an increase of about one-third, or 34 per cent, in the Expenditure, it may also be well and consolatory, so far as it goes, to recollect that during that period the population of the country has increased by 65 per cent; and in Great Britain—I cannot take an earlier period in hand, because we have no Income Tax before that time—since 1843 the taxable Revenue of the country has increased from £251,000,000 in 1840 to £540,000,000 in 1882, or by about 115 per cent. That is not in the least degree stated by me in any other view except simply for the purpose of reducing the cost to the exact proportions of truth; and if the figures I have given are in any degree useful for the purpose, I shall meet the approval and sympathy of my hon. Friend. I do not in the least degree imply by these 1675 figures that the question before us is not a very grave one, nor do I mean them to carry any deduction, great or small, from my previous admissions. I thank my hon. Friends for the efforts they have made. I promise them that the Government, in accepting the Motion, will accept it with the fullest intention to do all it can, and to direct its limited resources in furtherance of its purpose; but I would point out to them that, after all, the resources of every Government upon such a subject are limited resources, that the real and principal effect of its best exertions must depend upon the effective support which it hopes to receive from the vast power and authority of the House of Commons.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, that the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had treated this question in a very different manner from the way in which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer treated it in his Budget Speech last night; and he could not but congratulate the hon. Members who had moved and seconded the Resolution upon the brilliant success they had attained. He would only make two remarks on the speech of the right hon. Gentlemen, now that the Government had accepted the Resolution; and would suggest, in the first place, that it would have been better if the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had indicated more clearly the course he intended to take with respect to the proposed Committee of Inquiry. He hoped that some definite announcement would be made on this subject, either in the course of the present debate, if it were prolonged; or if, on the other hand, the debate should not be prolonged, then he trusted those explanations would be given when the adjourned discussion on the Budget was taken. In the next place, it seemed to him that the financial comparison of the right hon. Gentleman might more properly have been made between the years 1871—at which time the last Liberal Government was in the full vigour of its power—and 1882, than between the Expenditure of 40 years ago as compared with the present. That period was far too remote, however interesting it might otherwise be, to be applicable to the circumstances of these days, having regard to the increase in the wealth and population of the country, the increase of 1676 luxury, and the greater appreciation of the comforts of life. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had proved a great deal too much in his optimist speech of the preceding evening, from which no one could possibly have expected that the Government was about to "cave in," if he might use that vulgar expression, to the demand of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands); but the Prime Minister had referred to the impossibility of controlling the growing expense of the Army and Navy, and the Civil Service. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer had had great advantages in that respect from having been previously both at the Admiralty and War Office, for he was thus able to control the expenditure in both those Departments. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded in his speech of last night to the manner in which the Estimates were voted—that was in net, and not in gross. The feeling he (Mr. Sclater-Booth) entertained with regard to that was that the Treasury showed symptoms of weakness by assenting to that change. The object seemed to be to keep the Public Departments down to the amount laid before the House. While believing that that change was indicative of weakness on the part of the Treasury, he did not intend pursuing the subject, because he believed that the control of the Treasury was, after all, the one economical power on which they could rely. The Treasury, he believed, were pure in their desire to keep down expenditure. He agreed with the hon. Member for Burnley that they ought to go back to the year he had named, when, as he had said, the last Liberal Government was in the zenith of its power. The Army Estimates for that year amounted to £11,762,000; whereas those for the year 1881 were £16,109,000; for 1882–3, omitting the Vote for Egypt, £15,458,000; and for 1883–4, £15,606,000. He thought the Government had given no answer which would justify the excess of nearly £4,000,000 over the Army Expenditurre of 1871. So, again, with the Navy. In regard to that branch of the Service, he had very little jealously as to the expenditure. The Navy in 1871 was supposed to be provided for by £8,740,530. In the first year of the present Government, the Vote was £10,600,000; in 1882–3, £10,333,000; and for the pre- 1677 sent year, £10,757,000. So that the cost of the Army had increased £4,000,000, and that of the Navy, £2,000,000. What was there to justify that increase from the point of view of the Government? The hon. Member for Burnley had pointed out that, since 1870, we had withdrawn troops from Canada and other Colonies, made a retrocession of a Province in the North of India, and cleared out from South Africa. The Localization scheme was in working order, the Short-service system in force, and the Purchase system practically at an end. Whether we had received value for our money he could not say; but although the war in Egypt had been carried out in the most satisfactory manner, he had been told that the efficiency of the troops employed was not good, that the shooting was bad, and that the guns used at the bombardment of Alexandria were not so good as they ought to have been. When the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington) introduced the Army Estimates, the hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury stated that they were going to do certain things for some officers who had made themselves very troublesome—namely, that they proposed to give them increased pay and promotion. But the consequence of that would be that increased charges would fall on the Expenditure of subsequent years. That was an indication to him (Mr. Sclater-Booth) that the details of expenditure at the War Office were not subjected to that close supervision on the part of the Department that was desirable, and still loss of the Cabinet as a whole. As to the Civil Services, there were two great causes for the augmentation in expense. The first was the increase in the subventions to local authorities, and the second, that of the Education Department. The latter was generally considered satisfactory by the House. But it occurred to him that such expenses ought to be subjected to the most searching control, and he hoped it would be one of the first subjects submitted to the promised Committee of Inquiry. As to the former, he could only say, from his experience of those subventions, that he believed they were always attended with beneficial results. He believed that if no subventions had been granted, no relief from local rates would have been given during the last 1678 nine years since a Motion on the subject was carried His hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler), and others, had spoken of the taxpayer groaning under the injustice of being called on to pay taxes on spirits; but what was that to the distress of the small taxpayer, who was called upon to pay money out of his pocket in direct taxes, a form of taxation far more painful than indirect taxation? He felt that the interest in the Motion had been very much brought to a close by the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. That was a very important statement. Whether the policy of embarking on a review by the House of Commons of Public Expenditure was a good one, or whether it was practicable, or whether the House had time and knowledge at its disposal for the purpose, he did not pretend to say. All he would say was that the Estimates they were now familiar with were very different from the somewhat flimsy and imperfect Estimates of former days. The explanations on the face of the Estimates were very clearly given, and the House had not much difficulty in dealing with the questions that arose upon them. Whether the Committee would be able to do much more, or whether it would break down under their complexity, he would not pretend to say. The decision at which the Government had arrived was an important one, and he would rather refrain from expressing an opinion upon the subject.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS,
who had the following Amendment on the Paper:—That this House, while recognising the necessity for, and the advantages to the Nation of, an increasing expenditure for the purposes of education, and for the promotion of literature, science, and art, and for other agencies having for their object the social, moral, and intellectual improvement of the people of Great Britain and Ireland, is of opinion that the present amount of expenditure on the Army and Navy, and on certain departments of the Civil Service, calls for the earnest and immediate attention of Her Majesty's Government with a view of effecting reductions in these branches of the Public Service,said, he was not surprised that Her Majesty's Government had accepted the Resolution of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), because that Resolution was couched in so vague a way that it was without any direction to the Government as to the character of the means by which the reduction was to be effected. Moreover, in addition to the 1679 vagueness, his hon. Friend had defined the word "efficiency" in a manner which protected any Government in any expenditure it might adopt. For his part, he would have preferred a Resolution of a more definite character, pointing out to the Government and the House, not only that reduction was necessary, if it were necessary, but in what particular direction it was for the good of the country that it should be effected. As the Resolution now stood, the hon. Member for Burnley and the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) would be able, if the Egyptian or any other war were to arise, to support the war as they did before, and then, a few months later, to cast reflections upon the conduct of the Liberal Party for not carrying out its principles of peace, retrenchment, and reform.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS,
resuming, said, although his hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton gave it as his opinion that the constituencies would be more intelligent when the next General Election took place, and would demand more economic expenditure, it by no means followed that expenditure would be less in amount. The Motion, as he had said, was of the vaguest kind, and it would be quite possible for any Government to carry out this Resolution as it stood by retrenching only in respect of education and matters of a similar character. The question was not as to the amount raised, but how it was raised, and how it was spent. If we were advancing in education and civilization an increase of expenditure was necessary. With regard to the aid given to local expenditure, which had been so much objected to, he was of opinion that that aid would become more and more necessary. Taxpayers did not object to expenditure upon free libraries, museums, and baths, &c., provided that the local taxation was levied in a fair and uniform manner. Until that was the case the demands on the central purse would be larger, because many wealthy people in large towns paid absolutely nothing to the rates, as they had their houses immediately outside the borough bounds. It was the struggling shopkeeper who paid a sum for local taxes altogether out 1680 of proportion to his position. That had a demoralizing effect in our social life. Certain things were absolutely necessary for the welfare of human beings if they were to be educated to higher tastes, and that could be done only by the State, or the State combined with the local authorities. Take the education question for example, A few weeks ago he was standing in a cottage in Dorsetshire, where the head of the family was earning only 12s. a-week, and the children were living on bread and water, because the father was striving to pay arrears of 3s. 3d. education rate. We should want about £1,000,000 to make all the elementary schools free, so as to prevent such cases. But one step in education necessitated another. The Prime Minister the other day ridiculed a statement of his that the expenditure on education would come by-and-bye to equal the expenditure upon the Army. Every step we took made that more possible. The problem we had to solve was how with a more educated nation we were to satisfy the tastes which education developed. A poor man could not have a picture gallery of his own; but in his corporate capacity he could possess picture galleries, as well as museums, libraries, baths, and parks, provided out of the rates and taxes. He was no believer in the theory of the strict economist that everything should be left to the action of supply and demand. The modern democracy were getting out of that idea and insisting upon a certain amount of rest and enjoyment, and that the State should help them in that matter. He challenged the hon. Member for Burnley to go into any public meeting and excite a strong feeling by the statement that we were spending £86,000,000 a-year. But an audience of the working classes would be enthusiastic when he spoke of what was spent on making the life of the people richer and fuller, while they condemned the expenditure upon Royal Parks and Palaces, and upon a "gunpowder and glory" policy. At present, the "man-slaying business" was placed at the top of our civilization, and the enormous expenditure of the country in connection with the Army and Navy served mainly to keep up a military caste. Aid and encouragement must be given to the people in those matters which led to social improvement. This, of course, 1681 meant expense; but there were certain directions in which the National Expenditure could be cut down to meet it. In the expenditure of the Army, Navy, and Civil Service alike there were many opportunities for this reduction, for much of that expenditure was unnecessary and extravagant, and yet, if but a small portion of the increase paid to the Services were requested to supply works of art throughout the country it would certainly be refused. Last year there was an increase of £10,000 in the expenses of the general staff of the Army. The accumulation of charges on account of old wars and the Army and Navy Establishment, of the present day ran away with 8d. or 9d. of every 1s. of our Expenditure. If reductions in certain portions of the Army, Navy, and Civil Service Expenditure were made, it would not be necessary to talk of a reduction in the Education Estimates, as one hon. Gentleman opposite had done. He did not, however, believe in the promises of any Government to make reductions in those matters, for they would not have the power to do so as long as the House was constituted as it was, and until the people insisted on it. It must be borne in mind that although there was a large increase in the aggregate wealth of the country, the poorer classes were still pretty nearly where they were 15 or 20 years ago, relatively speaking; and he repeated that it was in the direction of improving the houses and the homes of those classes that extra money must be spent—sums very much larger than we were spending now—if the money of the nation was really to be spent for the benefit of the majority of the nation.
§ MR. DALRYMPLE
said, that though the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down took exception to the Expenditure that now prevailed, he did not recommend economy, because he proposed another disposal of the money of the country for the improvement of the homes of the poorer classes, among other objects, which, however popular it would be with owners of property, would not be very acceptable to the taxpayers generally. The Government, in his (Mr. Dalrymple's) opinion, had exercised a wise discretion in accepting the Resolution, because it was not impossible that if they had opposed it they might have been defeated. No one could doubt, however, that the speech of the Chan- 1682 cellor of the Exchequer, in introducing the Budget on the previous night, had attempted largely to discount the speech, of the hon. Member for Burnley; and on that account he could not help thinking that the determination of the Government to accept the Resolution was an after-thought. It was understood that the Government were very anxious about the economizing of public time; but he put it to the House whether the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to which he had alluded was likely to promote that object? Was it not likely it would have precisely the opposite effect by leading to more extended discussion? The present discussion had had at least one important result; it had led to the resuscitation of the independent Member who criticized the Expenditure boldly and clearly. The fact was as refreshing as it was wonderful. He remembered when the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) enjoyed the special benediction of the Head of the Government because of the interest he displayed in financial questions; but then the Conservative Government was in power at that time, and anyone observing the demeanour of the Prime Minister to-night must have felt that something else than benediction was likely to fall on the hon. Member for Burnley. The Prime Minister had declared that the responsibility for the growing Expenditure lay not with the Ministry or with Parliament, but with the nation. Such expressions never fell from the right hon. Gentleman when he was attacking his Predecessors, and yet it could hardly be doubted that much of the expenditure for which the late Government was severely blamed was very popular at the time. He (Mr. Dalrymple) had been astonished at hearing the right hon. Gentleman say, in regard to the expenditure in Egypt, that at least we had our money's worth, for in his Budget Speech the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in referring to the Vote for £6,000,000 of a few years ago, had spoken derisively of a Vote for what proved to be no war, and for a sum part of which was not spent. It seemed to him (Mr. Dalrymple) that if ever there was a case where we had our money's worth, it was when a judicious expenditure and preparation had prevented war. The Prime Minister further had accounted for part of the in- 1683 crease of the Expenditure by the growth of the population; he thought he could remember when the right hon. Gentleman derided such a notion. And the right hon. Gentleman on one occasion warned his hearers against being induced to excuse high expenditure because of the increased grant for education, and yet the cost of education was one count of the excuse of the present Government.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I wish to point out to the hon. Member that he is entirely out of Order in referring to statements made in another debate in the course of the present Session.
§ MR. DALRYMPLE
would bow at once to the ruling of the Speaker; but it was a mistake to suppose that he was referring to any speech delivered in debate in the course of the present Session. He had only referred to a speech which the right hon. Gentleman had delivered in Edinburgh at the end of 1879. Though the present Government had been in Office for several years, their Expenditure had been extremely high, and he could not but rejoice that the Resolution had been brought forward by the hon. Member for Burnley, as that showed how great was the necessity for such a Resolution. As it had been accepted by the right hon. Gentleman, it must be assumed that practical means would be taken for giving it effect.
§ MR. BROADHURST
said, it had been his official duty for a great number of years past to be constantly waiting upon different Governments, mainly for the purpose of increasing expenditure. He was secretary of a large body of people outside, on whom, in the main, the welfare and prosperity of this country depended; and what they contended was, that increased inspection of factories and workshops, or, in other words, a stricter enforcement of the law which had for its object the bettering of the health of the people who supplied the labour of the country, was a good, and wise, and just purpose to which public money could be applied. It had also been his duty to ask the Government to increase the expenditure for educational purposes, as machinery was becoming more and more complex, and greater technical training was requisite to extend the system of technical instruction to the children of the artizan classes of this country. In these circumstances, he had 1684 some difficulty in speaking in favour of a general Resolution for reduction of Expenditure all round. With reference to the two fighting branches of the Service—the Army and Navy—in which hon. Gentlemen opposite took so much pride, these, as science advanced, would require greater and greater knowledge and skill from those who joined them. The present Government had inaugurated in Egypt a new method of warfare—the armoured train—which would require technical skill in those who carried it on of a high character. Therefore, the higher the class of men they required the greater would be their expenditure in proportion, and in these two branches of the Government Service, so far as he could see, there was very little hope of any considerable diminution in expenditure for years to come. He believed the people of the country were in favour of economy; but he did not think they were in favour of economy in education, or in the protection of life and limb and health of factory operatives, miners, and other classes of people who were compelled to work together in large numbers. He thought the direction in which they should mainly look for a diminution of Expenditure should be, to a considerable extent, in the foreign policy of Governments. Every time they extended their boundary lines they incurred a permanent source of increased expenditure. Much saving, too, might be effected in the Civil Service if a system of pay for work actually done and for cessation of pay on cessation of work were established, and if the whole system of pensions was abolished. He thought that public servants should be well paid, but that no pensions should be granted to them after they had ceased to do service to the State. There was an enormous army of pensioners, who were pensioned for no adequate services. He thought also it might be shown that in the various Dockyards of the country the work which was done could be produced at far less cost than was now incurred. It was in these directions that we should look to see an effort made to cut down our Annual Expenditure. Economy in our Public Departments would never be obtained by general Motions like the present. A control over the Budget by some authority in that House was the only possible way of bringing about economy. If they could have a 1685 Royal Commission composed of business men belonging to that House, with full and complete powers to overhaul many of their spending Departments, he was certain that they could present a Report to that House that would point out a way, not to lessen efficiency, but to secure equal efficiency, with an enormous decrease in the cost of administration. However, he was glad that the Government had accepted the Motion, and was still more delighted with the statement of the Prime Minister that the Government would, at an early date, endeavour to appoint a Committee that should have the control over, not the present, but the future Expenditure of the country.
§ MR. SALT
said, he did not expect that this Resolution, good as it might be, and generally accepted by the House as it might be, would result in any very large diminution in the Expenditure. He thought, however, it might serve to check the tendency of growing laxity in regard to this matter. If it did that he thought it would accomplish a useful purpose. He believed the country felt that in the present condition of affairs, from various causes, a very large Expenditure was unfortunately necessary; but we ought to avoid, as far as possible, drifting into carelessness in the matter. He found that, in spite of the declarations made formerly in the direction of stringent economy by Gentlemen who were Members of the present Administration, that Administration in their second and third years of Office expended more than the late Administration did in their second and third years of Office. Of course, there were reasons for this, and the conclusion to which he had come was that there was a general Expenditure necessary to the country that could with great difficulty be reduced by economies either in one direction or in another. A good deal had been said about the control of finance by Committees; but, in his opinion, the real control must be exercised by the Committee of the Whole House. In recent times they had not had sufficient opportunity of considering the Estimates in detail. In 1882 there had been Supplementary Estimates in February, Votes on Account in March, and again more than once later in the Session, a Vote of Credit for the War, and Supplementary Estimates towards the end of the Session, and the Navy Supplementary Es- 1686 timates in 1883 before the end of the financial year. He would suggest the observance of three rules—first, that there should be great economy in every detail of expenditure, especially with regard to the Civil Service; secondly, that the Financial Statement should be made once only in each year, and that it should be complete in the first instance; and, thirdly, that when expenditure had to be incurred an Estimate should be made and placed before the House. These were rules founded upon great authority, yet all these rules were grievously violated during the whole of the Session of 1882. Under the present system of putting Estimates before the House it was absolutely futile to throw the responsibility for them upon the House of Commons. In order to secure proper control over the Expenditure of the nation, with a view to enforcing due economy, it was necessary that the Estimates should be placed before the House in such a time and in such manner as to afford discussion upon them both fully and in detail.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
said, he looked forward with great anxiety to the early formation of the Committee of Inquiry into the Expenditure of the country, and particularly to the mode in which the Inquiry was to be instituted, so as to insure the success which he was sure the Prime Minister desired. He took the view that, in sifting the expenditure of the Departments, there should be individual or special inquiry into each, one of the Departments, and that the large Departments should have distinct inquiries into separate portions of the total expenditure. He would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the inquiry of 1828 was of exceedingly great value, but only in a restricted sense. He knew no set of Papers which were more useful to a statesman than those which were the result of that inquiry. Still, that Committee had not recommended any material changes. It mainly collected information in the various divisions of administration, and these documents, though severally of great value, were as a whole of less importance by reason of their confused arrangement. The Committee of 1847 was a very powerful one, from its composition and mode of conducting its inquiry, and he had taken a great interest in that inquiry from his Relative, the late 1687 Mr. Hume, having taken a prominent part in its constitution. But though it extended over three years, and carried on its inquiries in a most effective manner, yet, owing to the vast scope of the duties of the Committee and the long delay in making its final Report, no useful result had in reality been produced. The main reason, he supposed, was that there was no one in the Government qualified to use the information collected at that time for a practical purpose. The inquiry which he himself thought would be advisable was such an inquiry as the Chancellor of the Exchequer presided over in 1873. It was mainly limited to a portion of the Civil Expenditure and to the extent to which the control of the Treasury was efficiently executed; and, having ascertained that this power was not well applied, it reported in the year in which it was formed, and advised the House to re-appoint the Committee in 1874; but owing to the change of Government this was not done. He also thought that several separate inquiries should be instituted into distinct parts of the Expenditure, so that each class might be thoroughly inquired into and reported on in the Session in which inquiry was formed. For instance, a Committee should confine its inquiry to the Civil Expenditure proper, including the Consolidated Fund Charges, which would make the inquiry extend to only about £6,000,000. That sum, he thought, would be sufficient for any Committee to undertake to revise in that close way which could only be the result of an examination of details. He therefore urged the limitation of the usual inquiries to that extent. As to Grants in Aid, these at present amounted to £6,000,000, and ought to be inquired into by another Committee altogether. With regard to Military Expenditure, he maintained that they had not obtained in the Army that economy and degree of Efficiency which he thought they were entitled to have expected from the abolition of Purchase, which, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon, had practically purchased the Army from the officers. He strongly advocated separate Committees for different parts of the Military Expenditure, now in all about £28,000,000. The purely Military Expenditure would supply £6,000,000, the Supply Services about £5,000,000, 1688 the Engineering Department about £1,000,000, and the balance would be in the Military Manufacturing Departments, which much required to be inquired into. Another important point had been raised as to the extent to which economies could be effected in the expenditure on the Army and Navy. No doubt, the proposed inquiry ought to lead to economies in the present Expenditure, with existing establishment of men and ships; but as to any diminution therein, he must confess that he did not know that anyone could say what number of men were required for the Army or what number of ships were required for the Navy; but, at all events, Parliament, by means of these minute inquiries, could pronounce on whether the money expended was well, as well as economically, laid out. There was, however, one great difficulty to be from the first overcome, in finding out what the expenditure was on each class of Charge, owing to the difficulty of collating the figures from the Estimates, and he could only hope that, for the sake of fame of their great Leader, the inquiry now proposed would be an effective one.
§ SIR HENRY HOLLAND
said, he desired to make a few observations, in the first place, upon the speech of the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Broadhurst). It was not necessary for him to defend the character of the servants of the Government against the charge brought against them by that hon. Member. That charge was received with murmurs by those immediately around the hon. Member. He (Sir Henry Holland) would only say that he believed no Government was more loyally served than the Government of this country. [Mr. BROADHURST explained that he was only speaking of Dockyard servants.] Well, he (Sir Henry Holland) would confine his defence to those officers; and he thought that, with respect to them also, the charge was unfounded. As to the hon. Member's attack upon pensions, he would only say that, if pensions were granted for no work done, everyone would agree that they ought not to be given; but it was a very different matter, and, as yet, an open question, whether the country did not gain by a system of pensions coupled with lower pay and salaries than could, but for the pensions, have been given. He 1689 begged, also, to repudiate most absolutely the charge which the hon. Member seemed to bring against the Consertive Party, that they were not interested in the social welfare and improvement of the working classes. He should have thought that the measures passed by the late Government would have been a sufficient answer to such a charge as that. The hon. Member had hardly taken to heart the pregnant words uttered that evening by the Prime Minister, to the effect that expenditure would not be really and effectively checked unless the House set itself resolutely against yielding to applications which tended to increase expenditure. The hon. Member seemed to advocate, as necessary, the increase of salaries of one class of Government servants. Now, it was just in cases of this kind that the House ought to be on its guard. He was not going to argue the question which had been lately raised, whether Civil servants might present Petitions through Members of Parliament for an increase of their salaries; but he was satisfied that the House ought to be on its guard with reference to general applications of this kind. It must be remembered that a Civil servant, when he took a place in a Government Office, knew exactly the conditions as to pension and salary upon which he took it; and it should require some very strong and exceptional case to justify an alteration of those conditions. And the House should not lightly, and without full consideration, support such an application against the Government of the day. Turning now to the question more immediately before the House, he was very glad to find that the Government were prepared to assent to the Resolution moved in such an able speech by the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands). He trusted that Committees would soon be appointed; and he ventured to suggest that there should be at least three Committees—one to deal with the Army Expenditure, another with the Navy Expenditure, and the third with the Civil Service Expenditure. The subject was so important and so wide-spreading that he was satisfied that it would be impossible for one Committee to deal properly with it within reasonable limits of time. He was the more glad that this Resolution had been accepted, as he had for some time entertained a growing opinion 1690 that some kind of inquiry must be made by a Special Committee into the Expenditure of the country. It could not be denied that the present mode of inquiry in a Committee of the Whole House was almost useless, owing, in part, to the lateness of the hour and of the Session at which these Estimates were, as a rule, brought on, and in part to the very hasty study given by Members on the instant to the items. Some curious item as, for instance, a salary to a ratcatcher, attracted attention, and a question was asked upon it; but it was manifest that this practice did not tend, practically, to check expenditure. Then, again, a question was raised upon some Estimate, and the Government of the day undertook to consider it; but, the year following, the same Estimate appeared again, perhaps even in an aggravated form; a question was again asked, and it appeared that the matter had not really received consideration. To take an example of this, he (Sir Henry Holland) had, for three years, ventured to remonstrate against the regular habit of largely under-estimating the amount required for telegrams; but the same course was continued with little or no explanation. This year there did seem to have been some little improvement in criticizing the Estimates, not that the amount of any Estimate was in any case altered, but the points had been more fully discussed. He fully admitted, however, that there might be some danger, if a Standing Committee on the Estimates of each year were appointed, lest the responsibility which properly rested on the Departments might be shifted to the Committee, and lest the heads of the Departments should feel less anxiety in keeping down the Estimates. No danger of that kind, however, could arise from the proposed Committees, who would not be appointed to consider and criticize the Estimates of any particular year, but the general Expenditure of the Departments and of the country. There were two points connected with the Military and Naval Departments into which he hoped the Committees would closely inquire. The first was into the stores and manufacturing branches of those Departments. It was well known to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and to the hon. Member for Burnley and others, that for many years the question 1691 had been discussed whether the Comptroller and Auditor General should be required and empowered to audit these store accounts, and within what limits such power should be exercised. The question was one of great difficulty, and he trusted that the inquiries of the Committees might lead to a decision upon the subject. The second point into which a Committee should inquire was as to the extent to which works of considerable importance and expense, for which Parliament had made a grant, were postponed, so as to allow the sums saved by such postponement to be expended in works—doubtless of emergency, it might be, in many cases—which Parliament, however, had not sanctioned, and which had not, indeed, been brought under the notice of Parliament. He would not detain the House any longer, but only express his belief that some good would arise from the investigations of these Committees, though it might not be so great or so immediate as some Members seemed to anticipate.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I confess, Sir, that I have seldom listened to a more interesting discussion on Finance than has taken place in the present debate, and I should like to include in this remark the most interesting speech of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other night. I think the discussion will tend to remove a great many misconceptions on the part of the public, and to give an insight into the real state of present finance; and I am glad to think, and I hope that I express the opinion of the House generally, that there has been loss exaggeration than usual and a greater effort to look every single circumstance in the face. If we have to contemplate increased Expenditure, at all events the causes of it have been fairly discussed and analyzed as contrasted with the causes existing previously. We had, early in the evening, a speech from the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), and later on speeches from the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler), and the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings), and the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Broadhurst), all of a very interesting character. I think that the opinions of the two latter Gentlemen are particularly suggestive, and must be taken in view when we consider what is likely to be the future of finance. I should wish, in the first place, to say 1692 how much more I agree with the view taken by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton as to the mode in which the Expenditure ought to be presented to the public than I do with the view of the hon. Member for Burnley. The hon. Member for Burnley stated that the totals ought to be presented to the public, because they are the only intelligible figures. I venture to think they are the most fallacious figures. I will illustrate what I mean by supposing that under an Act of Parliament this year, or next, the whole of the £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 now given to local authorities in subvention of rates were removed from our Imperial Expenditure and placed upon local expenditure. The nation would practically pay the same amount; but we should be able to say that we had reduced the total of our Imperial Expenditure by £5,000,000 or £6,000,000, and in a year or two the particular reason for the reduction would be forgotten, and credit would be erroneously taken for a decrease in Imperial Expenditure. I understood from the Prime Minister that we are paying off annually £7,000,000 of the Debt, and we are giving £6,000,000 for local subventions, which make altogether a total of £13,000,000. That £13,000,000 is not expenditure in the ordinary sense of the term. It is not expenditure which justifies the charge of extravagance, although I object to the form of the local subventions entirely, and trust that measures may be taken to remove them from our Imperial Finance. With respect to what the nation spends in the national accounts, the way in which these two items are dealt with is misleading, and gives a false impression when the totals are presented. I think my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer rendered signal service last night in analyzing the different parts of our Expenditure to show how much is raised by taxes, and he was ably followed up today by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton. A statement has been made that a National Expenditure of £86,000,000 would not startle a popular audience, but that what would startle them was the manner in which that amount is distributed and spent; but I believe a great many audiences have been worked upon with regard to that total of £86,000,000, because it seems extrava- 1693 gantry high, and I rejoice that this discussion will have thrown some light on that subject. I was deeply interested in the comparison the Prime Minister made between the Expenditure in 1840 and the Expenditure now, and the way in which he reduced the present Expenditure to £63,000,000, as compared with £48,000,000, spent in the year 1840. But there are questions connected with the comparison which ought to be pressed still further. We ought to inquire whether the country does not now require a number of services to be rendered which were not called for previously, and whether the whole standard of government has not been raised; and, if so, can we be surprised that in the course of the last 33 years the cost of government has increased in the same ratio as the increase of population? I certainly do not wish to discourage economy, which the whole House seems resolved upon. There are three modes, it appears to me, in which expenditure can be increased—namely, when more work is required to be done by the nation; secondly, when its servants are paid higher; or, thirdly, when there are more persons to do the work. With regard to this last point, I am not sure that the Civil Service is not over-manned, and that if the hours were increased and salaries raised, a better result would not be obtained. On the second point, as to rates of salary, there is a vital question on which I desire to say a word or two. Out of the total Estimate of £26,000,000 the House must recollect that £12,000,000 represents the remuneration paid to individuals, excluding the pay of the Army and Navy. How do you propose to remedy any abuses which may exist with regard to the payment of that large amount in wages, salaries, and pensions? In debates like this to-night the House is always willing to advocate some reduction of the Estimates; but when the case of individuals comes before us, the sympathies of the House are almost invariably on the side of an increase of pay. Business men often find fault with the manner in which the Government conduct their affairs; but the position in which they are situated is entirely different. How, I would like to ask, could the business man maintain the discipline of his establishment if some public force stood between him and the men he employed? 1694 We have before us at this moment a case which will illustrate my meaning. Certain members of the Civil Service desire to come before Parliament to present a Petition in favour of an increase of salaries, and the question is, ought they to be allowed to do so? No one would deny to public servants the right of petitioning the House on any general question—in favour, for instance, of marrying a deceased wife's sister, the abolition of vaccination, or the reduction of the general Expenditure of the country, or upon any general question they pleased. But when they endeavour to petition the House on matters relating to their employment by the State, it appears to me that the matter stands upon an entirely different footing, and that it ought not to be allowed. If encouragement is given to such a practice, enormous difficulties will be raised between the State and its employés, and what hope will there be for a decrease in the large sum paid in salaries and pensions? With regard to the question of pensions, the only plan of attempting to deal with it is by applying the remedy to new comers into the Service. The hands of the State are bound as far as the old servants of the State are concerned, for the contract with them is already made. You cannot deprive a man of a pension which has been allotted to him by his contract with the State; and if a public servant has already entered upon his period of service, it is impossible for the State to vary its contract with him. I think it only fair that this consideration should be stated in a debate of this kind, because, otherwise, we may believe that a reduction is possible when it is really impossible. The only way of meeting the question is by introducing new elements into the contracts made with future servants of the State; and with them it may be possible to re-arrange the system on such terms that payments will be made only for services received. But the system of pension is by no moans uncommon. The Railway Companies are now beginning the very same system, a system to which, in my opinion, there is great objection; but I believe the imagination of the public would be moved and disturbed if the public servant of 40 or 50 years' standing were to be discharged without provision. I believe that we should hear 1695 complaints that he had been "turned adrift without any provision," and that a future House of Commons would say that it could not face the poverty of these men, and a system of pensions would again be introduced. The value of the pension is recognized in the Dockyards when the men press to be placed upon the Establishment in order that they may secure it, and this principle of bestowing pensions upon old servants, the House must remember, is not confined to the State servants. We ourselves know that when a servant has been long in a man's employ we cannot bear to see him go without receiving something when he leaves. But I wish also to say a word or two about the increased demands which are made in every Department of the Estimates. You must bear in mind that the public would no longer be satisfied if their servants were not better housed and supplied with a larger number of cubic feet of air than they formerly had. I think it was the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) who called attention to the large sum of money expended on public buildings, and which is included in our Estimates. I have often thought myself that we were extravagant in our public buildings; but I have had the privilege of being at the Local Government Board, and I know what doctors are, and I know how the public would denounce the authorities, and how sensational articles would be written, if it were otherwise. I was much struck by a statement made by the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings), who declared that increased expenditure on a great variety of purposes is, and will be, more and more required. I do not wish to exaggerate one word of it; but I am anxious that that speech of the hon. Member should be understood, because it appears to me to be as full of meaning as it is full of interest. The hon. Member for Ipswich, speaking of Birmingham, said that the inhabitants required baths, museums, libraries, parks, and pure water, and that it was the duty of the local authority, as it was the duty of the State, to provide for such things. The hon. Member will have the sympathy of the House and the country in regard to many of these items; but he must not afterwards complain of the Estimates. Let this be noted that, when in future 1696 years the Estimates are swoollen on account of greater demands for those items, it is not due to the extravagance of this or that side of the House, but rather to the development of public opinion, which demands, as the hon. Member tells you, that a greater portion of the public income should be devoted to promoting the happiness and comfort of the working classes. The argument of the hon. Member is this—we educate the working classes, and give them artistic tastes, and therefore we must satisfy those cravings which a better education and an artistic taste produce. I do not mention these points in a spirit of controversy; but some hon. Members seem to think that it is not possible for us to look forward to much reduction in many of these directions, and they hope for a reduction in expense by reducing the cost of the Army and Navy. But how far that reduction itself would be easy and would be sanctioned by the working classes is not so simple a question as some hon. Members seem to think. So long as a vast portion of our food comes from abroad there must be protection for imports, and there is no class of Her Majesty's subjects who would suffer more from panic of war and war itself than the working class, who must therefore be deeply interested in the foreign policy of the country. Hon. Members who hold these views must acknowledge that I do not overstate the case. They would not wish that the security of the country should be compromised for a single moment, for to do so would cost more than any savings which could be effected. But I am entirely at one with those hon. Members in thinking that the expenditure of the Army and Navy should be carefully criticized, and that, as it is unproductive expenditure, it is peculiarly the duty of the House to watch the expenses for those Services. I only venture to make an humble protest against the view that the working classes are not concerned in the efficiency of the Army and Navy. I have ventured to place these considerations as to the wants of the people before the House, because I believed that, while vitally affecting the whole course of our future Finance, in these discussions we ought not to speak simply of the Civil Service Estimates having increased in consequence of laxity on the part of the Government on the one side or the other, but that it 1697 is in consequence, to a great exent, of a change of public feeling. There can be no doubt, however, seeing that all expenditure which is to be incurred, whether for old or new demands, is to be taken from the pockets of the people, that it will be the bounden duty of the people to watch with anxiety all such demands. I trust that when the Resolution has been passed it will not be found that the House of Commons will shrink from applying its own doctrines of economy to concrete cases, but that it will remember, when it has to deal with demands made for whatever purpose, that it is through the taxation of the people that these demands have to be met.
§ MR. PELL
said, he considered the speech of the right hon. Gentleman an apology for the extravagance of the Government. He had, too, to express the surprise he felt when the Prime Minister told the House that the State paid £6,000,000 in subvention of local taxation. The Estimates for the year pretended to show that the subventions in aid of local taxation amounted to somewhat more than £6,000,000, and for England and Wales alone to over£3,000,000; but the Returns of the Local Government Board, the Department charged with that portion of the public administration, placed the amount of those subventions for England and Wales at something less than £3,000,000. He thought there was one portion of the Prime Minister's speech in reference to this subject that was likely to cause serious misconception, and he desired, therefore, to make a few remarks on it. He would first point out a few of the items of National Expenditure which the right hon. Gentleman had described as subventions in aid of local taxation. One of them was a sum of £214,400 contributed for rates on Government property. Another was £252,000 for Criminal Prosecutions. There was also a large sum—namely, £1,013,700—down for Prisons and Reformatories, and £500,000 was for the Metropolitan Police. There was also a large sum—namely, £398,000—for the Dublin Police. All these charges were treated by the right hon. Gentleman as subventions in aid of local taxation, yet the Government did not dare withhold such contributions, which were absolutely necessary for public security and the conduct of public affairs. With their recent ex- 1698 perience in Whitehall, and that afforded at Bow Street only a few hours since, what Government would withdraw those contributions, which the right hon. Gentleman spoke of as subventions? Out of the sum total of £6,000,000 there was a further sum of£1,442,000 contributed towards the charge of maintaining the Irish Constabulary, and he would ask whether any Government would refuse to contribute that sum and leave the Irish people to defray the entire charge for maintaining that force? He had thus accounted for a total of £3,820,000 out of the £6,000,000. The hon. Member for Midhurst (Sir Henry Holland) had suggested that there should be three Committees to inquire into the expenditure of the three great Departments of the State. He would suggest a fourth Committee to inquire into the expenditure of the Local Government Board, which was constantly urging local authorities to spend more and more money, frequently on the most frivolous objects. Inspectors of all kinds were scattered all over the country suggesting expenditure, and all this money was spent without any form of local government having been established. This central authority was most difficult to reform, and, indirectly, was one of the most uneconomical authorities in the State. He thought some inquiry was necessary into such a mainspring of extravagance in the country.
§ MR. W. FOWLER
said, the conclusion he had drawn from listening to the debate was, that economy was very attractive when they did not look too closely into it. He thought the present discussion had shown the immense difficulty of arriving at economy in the Expenditure of the State. There was everywhere a tendency to indulge in increased expenditure. He agreed that the question of subventions was a very difficult and important one. These subventions had often been abused. He knew of one case in which, in consequence of the subventions for the prisons, the local authorities finding themselves in possession of funds, determined to build a new townhall, justifying it by saying that the ratepayers had become accustomed to a particular scale of taxation, and did not object to pay the rates. And it was the same in the State. He had been looking with some interest into the Civil Service Estimates of 10 1699 years ago. A good deal had been said of the increase that had taken place in these Estimates, but that increase was the natural result of the increased expense of government. This could not be otherwise. In Class II. of the Civil Service Estimates, there was an increased expenditure of £300,000, the Board of Trade getting £75,000 more than in 1873; that was owing to the number of additional duties thrown upon it. The Stationery Department cost £90,000 more than it did 10 years ago. Then, in Class III., the Metropolitan police, the county and borough police, and the English and Scotch prisons showed a large increase. The cost of the Education Department had also increased enormously, and there was a heavy additional charge for lunatics. These several items accounted for the great part of the increase of which the House had heard to-night. The fact was, that it was impossible to carry on government as cheaply as was possible 10 years ago. The result of a Committee of Inquiry would not be so important as hon. Members supposed. The inquiry would only convince them that the expenses of living and carrying on government must naturally increase. Constant applications were being made for increased payment, and in many of the Departments the pay was, as a matter of fact, extremely low. He would only add that he was very glad the Prime Minister had accepted the Motion of his hon. Friend.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Sir, I will detain the House but a very short time while I make some observations on what has passed this evening. The tenour of the debate has been in harmony with the views of the hon. Members who brought forward this Motion, and to whom, I may safely say, the whole House is much indebted for the service they have rendered and for the temperate and able manner in which they stated their views. No one can doubt the extreme importance of the subject. No one, on the other hand, can help feeling that it is one of very great complication, and the openings which it affords at every turn for controversy more or less heated. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) has, however, very dexterously avoided controversial matter, which, no doubt, will arise out of the inquiry in which we are 1700 about to engage. I would not on the present occasion attempt to mar the character of the discussion which has been carried on in such a spirit by introducing remarks which might be discordant with it; but, at the same time, I must put in a caveat, and say that at the proper time it will be necessary for me very strongly to contest some of the facts that have been alleged with a view to showing the action of Conservative Governments, and especially of the late Conservative Government, in matters of economy. I feel with the right hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) that the discussion of last night and to-night will do a great deal of good by diffusing a considerable amount of information with regard to our financial system; but I venture to say that to take the discussions of these two nights only, it would be an incomplete and erroneous impression that would be spread with regard to many important points. I hope, therefore, the time will come when we shall be able to go more fully into the discussion of the Budget when the debate is resumed, as I trust it will be, on Monday. With regard to the proposal which the Government have now made in answer to the Resolution, I must concur, to a certain extent, with those who think, like the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, that the labours of the Committee are not likely to produce any great reduction in the Estimates of the year. Nevertheless, I do not think that the labours of the Committee will be thrown away. I believe they will do a great deal in the way of considering and harmonizing the system of our Expenditure. A great many questions will come before that Committee which have not been raised in any way before any other Committee. We have had Committees in former years which have sat upon the Army, the Navy, and the Civil Service Estimates, and those Committees have done a certain amount of service; generally speaking, they have made recommendations of an unimportant character which have been more or less adopted, but usually set aside. Notwithstanding, those Committees have done a certain amount of good, for they have awakened the attention of Members and of the country to various points that required to be looked into. I wish to say that I think it is particularly desirable that we should fairly and carefully look into our finan- 1701 cial system and Expenditure now that certain new elements have been, and are likely to be, introduced into it. You cannot take a fair and proper view of the Expenditure of this country by taking the Imperial Expenditure alone. If you wish to take a fair and proper view of the Expenditure of this country, you must include the local expenditure, and when you begin to deal with the whole subject of Imperial and Local Expenditure, then you will consider the question of the mode in which that Expenditure is to be met, which involve various modes, not only of shifting the burden, but of easing the pressure of that burden. If we go in for all those different services, such as those indicated by the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Broadhurst) in his interesting speech, and, I believe, by the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings), if we encourage that intervention to a great extent, which those hon. Gentlemen seem to contemplate, we necessarily increase—and very largely increase—the expenditure that must be incurred. You want to consider these questions in both their aspects. We are very much in the habit in the House of one day coming down and speaking for economy, and the next day coming down and speaking in favour of some now service being undertaken, or some consideration being shown to individuals, or some other matter which introduces increased expenditure. In regard to expenditure, it may indeed be said of Members of the House that they are ready to—Compound for sins they are inclined to,By damning those they have no mind to.We cannot help seeing, as has been pointed out, that the tendency of the democratic spirit of this country is to make the sovereign people a very expensive kind of sovereign. When we bear in mind that the greater part of the burdens which will have to be borne in order to fulfil all the desires and to consult all the wishes of that sovereign will be pretty sure to be thrown sooner or later upon property, we who are interested in the preservation of property have at least as good cause to promote economy of expenditure as any other Party. I entirely repudiate the ideas which some Gentlemen seem to entertain, such as those of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), who said that the Tories delight in expendi- 1702 diture and are only too delighted to spend money anyhow. The Tories may have a stronger view of the necessity for expenditure upon a particular Service than their opponents—they may think that particular circumstances render it necessary to spend money upon a certain Service—but the last thing that a well balanced Conservative Party desire is to spend money or willingly to incur any expenditure that can be avoided. There is great danger when one hears one man calling for expenditure in this direction, and someone else for expenditure in another, of their being supposed to help each other in order that each may attain his own object. That process is known in America as "log-rolling." But at the present time it seems to me that there is a sort of anti-log-rolling going on, and that everybody is disposed to say—"I must have more expenditure for my own favourite subjects, and will stop you from getting anything for your favourite department." There have been various points of detail introduced into this discussion, on which, I have no doubt, a well-constituted Committee might throw a considerable amount of light. The question of pensions, for instance, is one deserving of great consideration and attention; but I am strongly of opinion that you will find it impossible to do away with the present system of payment of pensions without introducing much greater evils and probably greater expenditure. At all events, the great difficulty of interfering with the terms upon which men have entered the Service will prevent your performing any great operations. I bear in mind in my own early experience the great and successful pressure brought to bear by the Civil servants to abolish the deductions made from their salaries to pay or partly to pay for their pensions. I feel quite certain that if you put an end to the system of pensions, you will find some future House of Commons, after you had raised the salaries in order to get rid of the pensions, proposing to go back to pensions again. You must act, not only for the present, but for the future, and that in some just and well-considered scheme. Then there are various other questions which have been raised. I have been particularly struck by one practical observation of the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Broadhurst) as to the system of Dockyard management, 1703 and what he called the evils of limited liability management magnified ten-fold. These are questions all deserving of careful revision and examination. Whether the Committee will be able to do all these things, or will not break down entirely by attempting too much, is a matter which I do not desire to go into now. But I cannot help remarking that it is a little curious that this should be the upshot of the two or three years of economical Government, and that when the question of expenditure is brought forward seriously for discussion the recommendation the Government have to make is that they should devolve the subject for examination on a Select Committee. My own opinion is that, after all, the matter must rest not altogether or solely upon the House, but upon the House and the Government together. You may have a Committee, and I think you will do very well to have one, to investigate certain principles, and to lay down some conditions upon which our Expenditure must be made for the future, and to draw the attention of the House to the decisions it must come to when Expenditure is proposed, and to a proper system for its regulation; but when you have got that you must trust mainly to the Government of the day to be firm in applying the resolutions to which it conies, and it is still more important that there should be a clear understanding on the part of the House of Commons that they will support the Government. There are many arguments continually brought forward in small Houses, sometimes without very much warning, which tell a good deal upon the hon. Gentlemen who happen to be present, and which lead to unfortunate results. Once you begin to break in in that way a breach is made, and you go on still further widening it. But you must also rely upon the energy and watchfulness of the Government, and especially of the Treasury and the Departments. I know that it is by no means an easy matter to administer Departments in such a way as to bring about economy. But much more is done in the Departments and outside this House than the public and the House are at all aware of. And when it is said that the Treasury have not exercised any authority, and have not stood up for economy and so forth, the fact is that a great deal is done quietly before the Estimates are put 1704 forward, and the Treasury has to resist many proposals that would otherwise come before the House. You may say with truth in the words of Burns—What's done we partly may compute,But know not what's resisted.The heads of Departments, on their part, have great difficulty in resisting claims made upon them by those who are anxious, and properly anxious, for keeping the highest efficiency possible in their branch of the Service. But if the Treasury and the Departments are to be thrown over by this House, their authority is worth very little. Well, I think that the decision arrived at—though I hardly expected that it was going to be proposed by the Government to give a Committee—is in itself a right one, and that the House will do well to support and assist the Committee in the conduct of this investigation. But let not hon. Gentlemen think that by appointing a Committee they will obtain everything needed and secure economy. I hope that they will go further and set their faces against propositions which have as the necessary consequence an increase of the Public Expenditure.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
Sir, there is much that has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman, especially in the concluding sentences of his speech, which I think will be thoroughly appreciated by the House, as it must be by everybody who either holds or has held public Office. All who have borne an important share in the Government must know that the duty of heads of Departments outside the Treasury consists very much in resisting pressure, and that having exercised what revision and care they can before they bring proposals before the Treasury, it is, after all, the function of the Treasury to consider, discuss, and as far as they can decide upon the recommendations for expenditure which come before them from the other Departments. And if the House of Commons does not support the Treasury it is hopeless to look for continuous economy in the Public Expenditure. I never hear except with great pain—and I am sorry to say I have often heard from all parts of the House—attacks upon the Treasury as if it were some public enemy of the Services of the country. On the contrary, the impartiality, and, at the same time, the knowledge of affairs which exist in 1705 the Treasury and the extreme desire for economical administration which it ought to have, entitle it to the support of the House. If it does not receive that support it is quite impossible for the House to expect that urging economy will have its proper weight. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to what the Prime Minister had said about the use which he hoped the House would allow us to make of a Committee or Committees to deal with the Public Expenditure. What my right hon. Friend said, and what I now repeat, is that if the House wishes that such a Committee or Committees should be appointed, if the matter is not to be made the subject of controversy, the Government are of opinion that that course would be a wise one, and they will then consider whether to recommend the appointment of one Committee or of several Committees. But if the question became a subject of doubt and disputation, and if it were unpalatable to a great part of the House, the benefit would be doubtful. I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman has given his adherence to the appointment of a Committee or Committees. I hope this will induce hon. Members to give support to the proposal, so that with the appointment of a Committee or of Committees agreeable to the House we shall be able to assume that the House would carry out any proposal of the kind we can make, and that the assistance of the House will be given to us readily without any long debate or discussion. I must say one word with reference to what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hampshire (Mr. Sclater-Booth) and the hon. Member for Bute (Mr. Dalrymple) said, suggesting, so far as I was concerned, that the present proposal of the Government to adopt the hon. Gentleman's Motion, and the consequence of that Motion, would be a change of plan. The words that fell from the right hon. Gentleman were, that it was my intention yesterday to snuff out the proposal of my hon. Friend. Now, nothing can be further from the truth than that statement. I have always desired, in the interests of economy and the efficiency of the Service, that my hon. Friend's Resolution should be adopted by the House, and in speaking yesterday, although it was not my duty, and it would have been premature, to state that Her Majesty's Government were going to support the Resolu- 1706 tion, I was very careful to say distinctly that it was the interest of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to obtain all the assistance he could from the House in the control of the Public Expenditure, and in the direction of economy, and that I hoped we should receive that assistance. ["Oh!"] I have a distinct recollection that these wore the words I used. As I have said before, I do not wish to go at length into the debate, except to say that I quite agree with my right hon. Friend opposite that the debate, if it does nothing else, has been most instructive in showing to us distinctly that economy is acceptable to all sections of the House. Economy, it strikes me, is something like Free Trade. We used to hear a great deal about everybody being in favour of Free Trade, but always of Free Trade with an exception. And so it appears to me now, that while we all are in favour of economy, there are a great many Gentlemen in the House who wish to make some special exceptions, and those exceptions might possibly have the effect of neutralizing almost the whole effect of the general economy proposed. I listened with the greatest satisfaction and pleasure to the right hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen). He put his finger on the weak point in the Parliamentary support of economy, and I hope that what he said will be remembered by the House, and that the Government will have its warmest support in resisting the growth of Expenditure. I hope also we shall have its support in the course we now propose to take in inviting the special co-operation of the House in a manner which I am glad to know is approved by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. There was a remark which fell from the right hon. Gentleman about which also I wish to be concise. He spoke of the debate on the Budget—of going into Ways and Means on Monday next. Now, in the first instance, we are pledged on Monday, as the Home Secretary stated in the beginning of the evening, to ask leave to suspend the Standing Orders, and to bring in the Explosives Bill. [Cries of "Oh!"] Ways and Means cannot, under any circumstances, be the First Order on Monday. But, beyond that, we distinctly stated last night that we should not take Ways and Means on Monday. ["Oh, oh!"] I will give the exact words. We said that we should 1707 not take Ways and Means on Monday, except pro formâ, and that on Monday we should name a day on which we should take Ways and Means.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
Those were the words used by the Prime Minister, and were so understood by a great number of Members.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
There is a limit, Sir, to contradiction. The arrangement was made between the Prime Minister and myself before the debate took place, and the words I have given were, I repeat, the precise words used. We cannot violate that distinct statement made to the House; but we shall take Ways and Means on the first day possible after Monday, and that will be on Thursday next, when it will be the First Order of the Day, always subject, however, to the necessity of taking a stage on the Explosives Bill.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I have listened, Sir, with great surprise to the concluding observations of the right hon. Gentleman. I own that prior to the statement which the right hon. Gentleman made, my right hon. Friends and I on this side of the House certainly understood him to mean that the Committee of Ways and Means was to be proceeded with on Monday. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Childers): No!] That was the understanding on this side of the House, and upon that understanding we listened to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. On that understanding we cordially agreed on giving a stage, which was stated to be necessary so far as the Income Tax Resolution was concerned, and then the right hon. Gentleman thought it right to make a statement, which was certainly most aggressive, most controversial, and which was also one of the most extraordinary that had ever been made, in introducing the Budget, within my recollection of Parliament, although certainly it has not been a very long one. And now, what is the position the right hon. Gentleman takes? He says—"I have made my statement. I have got the Income Tax Resolution. I am under no pressure myself; the Government are under no pressure." And now, having made this statement, he says there shall be no 1708 opportunity of reply for a whole week. "Right hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House have as perfect a sense of fairness and justice in Parliamentary discussion as we have." Perfectly so; and I appeal, not only to the right hon. Gentleman himself, but to the Prime Minister, whether it is fair and right in Parliamentary procedure to make statements such as have been made, and then to shut out reply? You, the Government, are in possession of the ground, and can do it if you think fit. I quite admit it; but I at once and deliberately say that no more unfair exercise of Parliamentary or official authority has over been attempted in this House. Now, Sir, I leave that statement to the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman and of his Colleagues. I entertain the view that procedure of this kind is not one which benefits the Party or the Government which makes use of it, and that it tends very much indeed to the disadvantage of the House generally, because, though I do not say it is the intention, it appears as if it was the intention to take advantage of those who ought to have the right of immediate reply to the charges made against them. Reference has been made to the appointment of a Committee. I have had some experience at the Treasury, and I wish to lay the greatest possible emphasis upon this—that the Estimates which are presented to Parliament are the Estimates of the Government of the day, of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Treasury of the day, and that they are responsible for every figure which appears in those Estimates. It is for them to say whether the amount they present to Parliament is a fair and proper demand to make upon the Public Exchequer and upon the taxpayer. It is for them to say whether the Department which is asking for Votes ought to have the Votes which they ask for; and though I cordially support the proposal which has been made for a Committee, I should deprecate it most completely if it were intended to weaken in the slightest degree the responsibility which properly attaches to the Treasury—in the first place, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and next to the Secretary of the Treasury. And I believe I am assisting the Government of the day, whatever Government may be in Office, in insisting upon that responsibility, and in submitting 1709 that they are not justified in responding to or giving way to any pressure exercised either by any Public Department, or by Members of this House, or by public opinion out-of-doors. It is their duty to submit to Parliament the Votes which, upon full information, they deem to be necessary, and they must not allow themselves to be influenced by public opinion in or out of the House. If they do otherwise, and are not strong enough to put these Estimates before the House in the form they wish, they are not fit to occupy the responsible position which they fill.
The House will perhaps permit me to offer a word of explanation. There has been a complete misapprehension on the part of the right hon. Gentleman as to the view taken on this side of the House. Nothing can be more clear than that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are entitled to an early day to make their explanation or reply on this subject if they think fit. The whole question has arisen in this way. We had not the least idea last night that there was an anxiety on the opposite Bench for the appointment of an early day, and in consequence I stated, as far as my recollection goes, and I have taken the opportunity of confirming it since, by reference to the only authority at hand, that we should appoint Monday pro formâ, and on Monday would fix the day. The right hon. Gentleman says he and his Friends understood that Monday was fixed as the day on which the debate should go forward. Well, I believe Gentlemen on this side of the House understood the point as I have already stated it. These, I find, are the words put into my own mouth—Therefore we should wish to appoint nominally the Committee of Ways and Means for Monday, with the intention of considering in the interval, when we find what takes place tomorrow night, what arrangements will be most convenient to the House.We have not the least objection to go forward, as far we are concerned; but, after using those words publicly in the House, are we free to make a change, and say that we will take the Committee on Monday? I am afraid not. The meaning of the words appears to me to be quite clear; and if some hon. Gentleman, having taken up the matter in the opposite sense to that of the right 1710 hon. Gentleman, were to challenge us and say the Order was put down for a particular day only pro formâ, with the view of then fixing a day for the discussion, I should not know what reply to make to him. Nothing occurred last night to induce us to think there was a desire that the discussion should go forward on Monday. There was not the slightest reference made to that point. We shall be perfectly ready and pleased to do that which will meet the views of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, if we are free to do it; but it appears to me that we have lost our freedom.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Perhaps I may be allowed to say a word. My recollection is that we were under the impression that this debate would not finish to-night, and that it would be carried over till Monday. In reference to that, I asked the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister whether, in the event of the debate to-night not being finished, what early day he would give us for continuing the discussion; and I also asked what proceedings would be taken with regard to the Budget proposals. No doubt, the answer of the right hon. Gentleman was to the effect he has stated. Probably there was some misunderstanding on our part. What we understood was that, in the event of this debate being carried over till Monday, we should then have had to settle when the Budget proposals would be proceeded with; but no positive information could be given until it was known whether this debate would be carried over to-night or not. But if this debate, as it appears, is to finish to-night, we are anxious to press for an early resumption of the debate on the Budget. I cannot say more than that, because my right hon. Friend has explained what we feel about it. Things have been said about the finance of the late Government, and have obtained currency in the country, which we think ought to be answered as speedily as possible.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
As far as I am personally concerned, the sooner the debate takes place the better. I am anxious that it should be proceeded with, at the earliest moment; and when I stated just now that it would not be taken on Monday, it was in view of the statement made by my right hon. Friend 1711 last night. I am prepared, therefore, to pay this, that we will put down the resumption of the debate on Ways and Means for Monday. If no objection is taken when the Order is called to its being proceeded with, we shall be only too happy to proceed with it. If there is any objection, then we must adhere to what we said yesterday, because to do otherwise would not be fair.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
I wish to call attention to a totally different subject. A great deal has been said tonight about the question of grants in aid of local taxation, and the sum of £6,000,000 has been quoted as having been granted by the Government in that direction. Now, this question will have to be debated probably at considerable length when it is brought forward; and I wish to ask the Secretary to the Treasury or the President of the Local Government Board by what authority that statement has been placed in the front of the Estimates this year? Hon. Members will see that there is prefixed to the Civil Service Estimates statements showing what are called "Grants in Aid of Local Taxation." Now, I believe that this is a perfectly novel matter in regard to the Estimates, and that it has never been done before the present Government came into Office. I want to know by whose authority the statement has been so put—whether by the Local Government Board or by the Treasury? But, whoever drew it up, I question its correctness from the beginning to the end. I need only quote one or two instances in order to show how very absurd it is that for one moment it should go forth to the public that the sum of £6,000,000 has been given by the State towards local taxation. Let me take the first item in the list—"Rates on Government Property." How is that a grant in aid of local taxation? I should have thought that all buildings, in all cases, would be subject to local rates. I agree that it is taking away an exemption which had been extended to Government buildings, I believe, very unjustly. But in no case can it be regarded as a grant in aid of local taxation. The local authorities intrusted with local taxation ought to have the right of taxing these buildings just the same as any other buildings. I will not go through many items in the list; but I will take the item of "Police—counties 1712 and boroughs." It is quite true that the amount paid for county and borough, police has been very largely increased; but if you go back to the origin of the county and borough police, when Sir Robert Peel first brought in the Police Bill, it cannot be supposed that the charge now made upon the State is in aid of local taxation. Sir Robert Peel brought forward the Police Act as a question of policy. It was necessary, he thought, that we should have this borough and county police force established, and he said, and said truly, that it would be unfair to place the whole of the charges upon the locality, because the police were intended to be used for public purposes. Then, again, let me take another item. How can anyone possibly say that the Constabulary in Ireland is a local question? The Irish Constabulary is practically an army, and no contribution from the State towards its support and maintenance can be looked upon in the light of a grant in aid of local taxation. I want to know by whoso authority this document has been drawn up? And I only mention the matter now for the purpose of giving full Notice that when the question does come forward, I shall certainly challenge the correctness of the statements contained in it. My hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) has already disposed of them to a great extent; but there is a great deal more yet that may be said. In regard to the Committee which the Government offer to appoint, I doubt very much whether it will ever proceed further, and if it does proceed further, then I think it is doubtful whether it will ever present a Report to the House. I cannot help thinking that if it is to act at all, and to effect any reduction of the Public Expenditure, it must go into the question of local as well as Imperial taxation. I believe that local taxation requires much more looking into by a Committee than the general taxation of the country, and I think that if a Committee is appointed, it ought to consider both branches of taxation. I only rose, however, for the purpose of making a remark upon this sum of £6,000,000, in order that it should not go unchallenged altogether; and if we are to have the debate deferred until Monday, I shall then be prepared to challenge the statement. I shall also be prepared to challenge another state- 1713 ment. I am not at all in favour of any system of subvention. I care not whether it is done by banding over a particular tax from a locality, or whether the money is paid to the locality, because both are practically the same thing. But I know that the assertion has been made over and over again, that it is because of the subvention by the State that the police of the country has been increased to a very considerable extent. Now, I know it has always been felt as a difficulty in the Home Office, from the time of Sir George Grey up to the present moment, that we have never been able to bring the local authorities up to the scale which Sir George Grey himself laid down. Everybody wished to see Sir George Grey's scale accomplished. [Mr. GLADSTONE: No.] I can only say that, in my own county, not a single policeman was ever added to the force unless there was a petition in favour of it from the ratepayers of the particular locality, which was sent by them to the Court of Quarter Sessions to be considered. That is the positive rule that has always been observed in my county; but I know that the demand for increased protection has grown on account of the increase of population. I have no wish to delay the House further tonight on this question; but I shall be quite prepared with facts and figures when it comes on for discussion again.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, the right hon. Gentleman had called attention to the matter almost in the same language as that which had been employed by the hon. Member for Leicestershire (Mr. Pell). The right hon. Gentleman wished to know by what authority the statements in reference to the grants in aid of local taxation had been prefixed to the Estimate. He believed it had been the practice for the last two or three years, and he could only say that this year he had followed the exact form adopted last year. The right hon. Gentleman asked why or how it had come about. As to the exact form that was used, he (Mr. Courtney) was not in a position to give an explanation; but with respect to the items themselves, to which the right hon. Gentleman called attention, he thought there was a complete justification for the insertion of every item. The first referred to by the right hon. Gentleman was a contribution to the local rates upon Government pro- 1714 perty. It might be perfectly correct that that contribution should be made; but he remembered perfectly well that when it was first proposed the very point was raised that it should be made in aid of local taxation. The right hon. Gentleman had dwelt upon the question of the county police. Surely the right hon. Gentleman would not deny that a grant in aid of the county police was a grant in aid of local taxation?
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
remarked, that the force was used for Imperial purposes.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, the police might be used for Imperial purposes; but they were, however, required for local protection as well.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, that Sir Robert Peel distinctly stated, when he brought in the Police Bill, that the force was required for public purposes.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, he must contend that the charge was a contribution in aid of local taxation. So also was the item which appeared in the Votes in regard to the Irish Constabulary. He thought, as a general principle, that the duty of maintaining the peace in Ireland was an Irish duty, and that any payment made out of the Imperial resources for the Irish Constabulary was a payment made in aid of local taxation. It was not desirable, at that hour of the night, that he should enter into any lengthened explanation; but he believed, as he had said before, that the insertion of every one of these items was amply justified. Indeed, he saw in the Votes some items which were not included as grants in aid of local taxation, which, when they came to take the question into consideration, might very properly be included under that head. Even in Ireland the charge for the police was primarily a local charge, and ought to be taken up as a contribution in aid of local rates.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he had only one word to say. He did not know whether any hon. Member representing Ireland was in his place on the present occasion; but if he was not, he would recommend the Irish Members to read the papers to-morrow containing the statement of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, that in his view the whole of the military police in Ireland ought to be charged on the local rates of that country. He believed the statement of the hon. Gentleman would 1715 sink deep into the Irish mind; and when the Government came to vindicate in greater detail the accuracy of the extraordinary statements to be found in the Civil Service Estimates, he hoped there might be some expression of Irish opinion on this novel doctrine of the Secretary to the Treasury.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
I wish to point out that the present Government accepted the Estimates of the year 1880 from their Predecessors, and I find that the Civil Service Estimates for that year are signed—"H. Selwin-Ibbetson;" and at page 14 there is an item headed "Sums in aid of Local Taxation transferred to the Imperial Exchequer," and among them is included a grant to the Irish Constabulary. The Government, therefore, of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross) was a Member, appears to be responsible for the insertion of these items.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put.
§ Resolved, That, in the opinion of this House, the present amount of the National Expenditure demands the earnest and immediate attention of Her Majesty's Government, with the view of effecting such reductions as may be consistent with the efficiency of the public service.