HC Deb 14 March 1884 vol 285 cc1632-4

SUPPLY—considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

(1.) £500,000, Afghan War (Grant in Aid).


I think it is right I should give to the Committee some explanation with respect to this Vote. The contribution towards the expenses of the Afghan War is, altogether, £5,000,000 sterling; £2,000,000 of that consists in the remission of the repayment of £2,000,000, lent without interest, by the late Government, I think, in 1879, and the other £3,000,000 was to be paid in six annual instalments of £500,000 each. Now, Sir, the proposal in this Vote is that the instalment which would naturally be paid after the end of this financial year—which might be paid in the first week of April—should be paid in the last month of the present financial year. It is, therefore, not a postponement, but an anticipation of the charge. I will state to the Committee why we make this proposal. The next financial year—1884–5—will be a very remarkable one in respect to the Revenue. There will be no windfall of any kind during that year; but, on the other hand, the year 1884–5 will be, with respect to the Revenue, worse than the present year or the year following. In the present year we have the advantage of the remnant of 1½d. Income Tax; and we also have the advantage of the remnant of the Railway Duty, the repeal of half of which only took effect from the 1st of last October. Those remnants will probably amount to £800,000 or £900,000; but, of course, we cannot tell exactly until the accounts are made up Therefore, this year is better than next year by about that amount. The year after next will be better than next year, because the £800,000, the additional sum charged annually upon the Consolidated Fund for the debt on account of the Russian scare and the South African War, comes to an end, so that in the following year the Revenue will be £800,000 better. Under these circumstances, we have thought it wise to propose to Parliament to charge this fifth instalment rather upon the present year than upon the next year. Whether we should charge next year with half the remaining instalment or not is a matter which it is not necessary I should consider until we finally frame the Budget; but we propose to make this charge, at any rate, during the present year. There is nothing in the arrangements made in 1880 to interfere with this course; but, on the contrary, in the course of the debates in 1881 and 1882 as to the contributions towards the expenses incurred by India in regard to the Afghan War, there was more than one suggestion made that some course of this kind might be adopted, and that the repayment might be made a little more rapidly than by an equal sum each year if the Revenue admitted of it. The noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) made the proposal in a very practical form. I find that the noble Lord said, on the 14th August, 1882— The method adopted was to give to India a sum of £5,000,000, by remitting India a loan of £2,000,000 due from India to England, and to pay the remainder—the sum of £3,000,000—in six equal amounts spread over six financial years … He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lyon Playfair) was aware that it had been necessary to raise an additional sum by taxation in the United Kingdom every year in order to pay the contribution of £500,000 to India. He would suggest that the realized surplus, if any, at the end of the financial year should not be voted for the reduction of the Debt, but for the payment to India of the amount which was due under that head, until the whole was liquidated."—(3 Hansard, [273] 1749–50.) I am in a position to inform the Committee that, in every probability, there will be a sufficient surplus on the present year, which is now within a fort- Night of its close, out of which to pay this additional sum of £500,000. As I have shown to the Committee that it will be for the convenience of Parliament and the taxpayer that this charge should be borne this year, the surplus in which will be sufficient to meet it, I trust hon. Members will agree to the Vote.


The right hon. Gentleman kept for the close the important part of his statement—namely, that we may take it there is a surplus upon the financial transactions of the year which enables him to make this payment of £500,000 this year instead of next. That really being so, I do not know that anyone has anything to say, except that they are sorry so much should have been withheld from the reduction of the National Debt.

Vote agreed to.