§ MR. DIXON-HARTLAND
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, If his attention has been called to a speech delivered at Birmingham by the President of the Board of Trade on the 5th January, and in which he is reported in The Times of the 6th to have said— 1171But I ask what ransom will property pay for the security which it enjoys," and "what substitute will it make for the natural rights which hare ceased to he recognized;and, whether these sentiments express the policy of the Cabinet as a body; and, if not, whether the principle that those who hold landed property may be compelled to ransom it, is an open question on which each Minister of the Crown is free to hold his own opinion?
The Question of the hon. Gentleman leads me to state that I had some communication—about 10 days, or I believe more than that—a fortnight ago with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade on the subject of the speech to which the hon. Member refers. My right hon. Friend was kind enough to give me an explanation of his general meaning. The House will forgive me if I read the passage of the letter, although it is longer than I should wish to introduce ordinarily in reply to a Question. My right hon. Friend says in a letter to me, which is dated February 7—Starting with the proposition that the obligations as well as the rights of property must be strictly enforced, I argued that the community, as a whole, owed to its poorer members something more in the way of social legislation than it already had conceded in the Poor Law and the Education Act. I urged that the incidence of taxation still bore unequally on the working classes, and that the burden should be in proportion to the means. I also argued in favour of some practical attempt to multiply small owners and tenants.My right hon. Friend then further illustrates his meaning by reference to a speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen). He says—I find, for instance, Mr. Goschen, at Edinburgh, declaring the greatest happiness of the greatest number to be the peculiar object of Liberal policy, and advocating, in particular, as one of the applications of the general doctrine, the multiplication of small holders. He expresses disapproval of the methods suggested in my speeches; but I note a remarkable passage in which he says, in regard to the proposals of State socialism, he thinks it wiser to extend the functions of local authorities in order to entrust to them the work which cannot be safely performed by the State. This completely covers by main suggestion, that the local authorities should have power to purchase land, and expend money in connection with the creation of occupying ownerships and allotments.I therefore understand that my right hon. Friend considers that the incidence 1172 of taxation is still bearing unequally upon the working Classes, and that the burden ought to be in proportion to the means of the taxpayer. These are opinions which appear to me to be matters for discussion, and which it is totally impossible for me to discuss in making a reply to a Question; but, undoubtedly, if there is anyone in the House in whose case it is unnecessary that such exposition should be given, I am that person; because for the last 30 years it has been my incessant duty—or, at all events, my practice—to inflict upon the House of Commons the most detailed knowledge of all my opinions upon every question of money and finance. But the hon. Gentleman has added another Question, which I have some difficulty in construing. I have said those opinions of my right hon. Friend are matters for discussion; but, in my opinion, they do not express, nor do they purport to express, the policy of the Cabinet as a body. They are his own particular sentiments, and have nothing to do with any matter now under the consideration of the Cabinet. And then the hon. Gentleman asks whether the principle that those who hold landed property may be compelled to ransom it, is an open question on which each Minister of the Crown is free to hold his own opinion? I am not aware that any such principle is announced with regard to landed property. I am bound to say the only serious attack I have ever known made on landed property was an attack made, whether knowingly or not, by the Party opposite, strange as it may seem; for in the year 1852—the right hon. Gentleman who leads the Party opposite is not responsible for it, for he was not then in the House—but in that year it was proposed by the Party opposite, when in power under the Leadership of that distinguished man, Mr. Disraeli, to introduce into the Income Tax the principle of taxing Schedule A, together with Schedule C, at a higher rate than Schedule D and the other Schedules. Undoubtedly that was, in my opinion, a most formidable attack on landed property, which I have on every occasion, for 30 years, done my best to oppose; and if my right hon. Friend leans at all to an opinion of that kind, he certainly will find in me one of his antagonists. But I have communicated with my right hon. Friend, and I find he by no means follows 1173 the Party opposite in this matter. He assures me that what he has said is—not in his fixed conviction, but, as I understand him, he thinks it a fair subject for consideration—that all property should, whether anything in the nature of investments, whether personal or in land, be taxed at a higher rate than precarious incomes. This seems to me to be a matter for fair Parliamentary consideration; and undoubtedly it is impossible for me to quarrel with my right hon. Friend for holding that opinion, though I entirely dissent from it, when I recollect that he stops far short of a doctrine announced as a matter of practical legislation by Gentlemen who sit on the Benches opposite.
§ MR. DIXON-HARTLAND
I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman has not looked at my Question. The Question I asked is, whether he has seen the extracts from the speech which contained the following words:—But I ask what ransom will property pay for the security which it enjoys;and—what substitute will it make for the natural rights which have ceased to be recognised?The right hon. Gentleman simply reads an explanation of other parts of the President of the Board of Trade's speech; but does not answer my Question.
I beg pardon; I began by saying that, having seen and had my attention called to these expressions, I asked my right hon. Friend what he intended to convey by them, and I have read to the House his explanation. There was nothing said, either in these expressions or anywhere else, about landed property, on which the stress of the hon. Gentleman's Question was meant to bear; and I really venture to doubt whether the hon. Gentleman has read his own Question.