§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ *(4.45.) MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
We on this side suffer under two disappointments in regard to the Budget Statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. One is that he has done nothing to carry out the pledge of the Government with regard to assisted education; and the other is that he has neglected to do anything to reform the Death Duties by equalising the burdens on personalty and realty. We are glad to believe, from what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has since said, that he is absolutely pledged to providing for free schools next Session; and it is probable, from the under estimate he has made of the revenue for the year and the way he has provided for certain items of expenditure which will not recur, that he will have a surplus which will enable him to carry out his pledge. The right hon. Gentleman is also understood to have practically pledged himself to turn his attention to the reform of the Death Duties, combined with a reform of the Income Tax. If he does this without fear and favour, as a strong Chancellor of 158 the Exchequer ought to do, he will have warm supporters on the Opposition side of the House. I am by no means sure, however, that that proposal, combined, as we hope it will be combined, with assisted education, will endear itself to the hearts of country Gentlemen opposite, if they have to pay for the reform with an increased duty on realty. Then some of us—though we did not expect much— thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have done something in a small way in the form of restitution to the Sinking Fund, which he had so shamelessly plundered. The right hon. Gentleman has boasted of the reductions of Debt he has made, hut I should like to point out that the power to reduce the Debt has arisen to a very large extent from casual and unexpected surpluses and windfalls; and while paying off Debt the right hon. Gentleman has been borrowing money for coaling stations, for Imperial defence, for naval extension and other matters; and it really makes no practical difference whether the money is taken out of the balances or is raised by loan. The Budget has been praised as a great Budget, a popular Budget, and one that vies with the famous Budget of old. I admit that the Budget is intended to be a popular one, but I deny that it is a great Budget. From a fiscal point of view it aims at too much, and it does not attempt to do anything thoroughly. It does not show any financial reform or fiscal improvements, such as has marked the Budgets to which it has been compared. It is not the kind of Budget the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian would have proposed if he had had the opportunity. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, to my mind, has frittered away a great opportunity for the sake of a passing popularity. He has attempted to do too many things, and the result is that he has done them all badly. By the surplus of Revenue over Expenditure and the imposition of taxation the right hon. Gentleman had a surplus of £4,750,000—a surplus which has been only twice approached and only once exceeded during the last 30 or 40 years. I do not object in principle to the increase in the Beer and Spirit Duties. The Spirit Duty has not been raised for the past 30 years; and it is a financial axiom of this country that while as to harmless articles of general consumption 159 you ought to get as large a revenue as you can spread over the largest area of consumption, while as far as the Spirit Duties are concerned, the principle has always been acted on to get the largest Revenue you can from the smallest area of consumption; and that you are only to by stayed by the fear of causing a reduction in consumption, so as to prejudicially affect the Revenue, by a fear of causing smuggling or greatly encouraging adulteration. It is doubtful, however, whether it is wise in a year of peace and surplus to increase the taxes on beer and spirits; because those taxes and the Income Tax are the great sources from which we can obtain an increase of Revenue when war or other serious emergency arises. It is curious to note that the policy of the Government is the exact reverse of their attitude in 1885. They now propose to increase the Beer and Spirit Duties and to decrease the Tea Duty; but, in 1885, when the Liberal Government, under stress of war expenditure, proposed to increase the Beer and Spirit Duties, they opposed the scheme, and as a counter proposal suggested that the duty upon tea should be increased. Well, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has a surplus of £4,750,000. I will not detain the House by discussing what I may call the minor proposals of the Budget as to barracks, volunteers, postage, and so on, which may practically reduce the surplus to a little over £4,000,000. I do not desire in my remarks to attempt an alternative Budget. But I think the Money at his disposal might have been better dealt with fiscally if he had included a smaller number of articles and had given them thorough relief. Everyone in this House, I think, is in favour of a reduction of the duties on tea and on currants and of the House Duty; and we hail with satisfaction the further step the Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken to introduce, in reference to the last duty, the principle of graduated taxation. But I think it would have been better to have entirely abolished the Currant Duty, so as to have saved the cost of collection and prevented the great disturbance to trade which is always involved in the collection of the Customs Duty, both of which will now be out of all proportion to the revenue received. It would have been better also to have reduced 160 the Tea Duty by one-half instead of by the 2d. now proposed. It is a fiscal axiom that the larger the reduction the greater is the proportionate recovery of the revenue. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has adopted a half-hearted measure in regard to the Tea Duty, and it is to be feared that the reduction he has made will go, not to the consumer, but to the middleman. The right hon. Gentleman the other night congratulated himself on the fact that while he had too largely relieved direct taxation during his former term of office he had on this occasion purged his sin by giving a large relief to indirect taxation. But has he made the accounts at all equal? It is admitted that as regards the Income Tax and direct taxation generally there has been a reduction of some £3,000,000 on balance. The reduction made in indirect taxation this year, together with the former reduction of the Tobacco Duty, which he said would not affect the consumer, amounts to about £2,250,000.
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
I never said anything of the kind.
§ *MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
The right hon. Gentleman in reducing the tax on tobacco said it was purely a fiscal measure and would not affect the price, but was merely a question of water.
§ *MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
In his Supplementary Budget this year the right hon. Gentleman added £1,300,000 to indirect taxation; and thus we find that while he has reduced direct taxation by £3,000,000 a year, he has reduced indirect taxation by less than £1,000,000 a year. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he was '? talking shop "among his friends in the City the other day, intimated that there would be a further reduction of the Income Tax later on. I do, in advance, enter a protest against any further reduction of direct taxation unaccompanied by reductions in indirect taxation. One last point. I think the principle which has been adopted, and greatly extended this year, of allocating certain portions of certain Imperial taxes to local purposes is very objectionable, and I do not think the ratepayers are justified in calling on us to pay the very large sum which the Chancellor of the 161 Exchequer proposes to hand over to them. The deficiency still existing' amounted practically to the Horse Duty which was proposed and abandoned. Why the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not proceed with his Horse Duty when he came a cropper over his Van and Wheel Tax I never could understand, because I do not think there was any objection to that tax such as was legitimately taken to the other. That tax was dropped, however, and £540,000 was needed to make up the deficiency. The Chancellor of the Exchequer now pro-poses to hand over to the Local Authorities not £540,000, but no less than £860,000, besides a further sum of £169,000 for compensation for the slaughter of animals suffering from pleuro-punumonia. I object to this payment on the ground that until we have a thorough reform of our local and Imperial finances in respect of the incidence of taxation on realty and personalty, we ought not as taxpayers to be called on to vote larger sums for what is practically the relief of realty, which already, during the last two or three years has received enormous relief from its local burdens. I object also to this principle of mixing up Imperial and local finance by voting certain proportions of our Imperial taxes for local purposes. The object of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1887–8–9 was entirely to cut adrift local from Imperial finances. And for that purpose he handed over nearly all the Licence Duties, he caused personalty to pay something to the local rate, by giving half the Probate Duty. Now, he is carrying this principle still further, and in an objectionable way, by allocating the 6d. Spirit Duty and the 3d. Beer Duty for a special local purpose; and the result will be that instead of the local revenues being fixed they will fluctuate, and it is probable also that instead of leading to thrift the proposal will lead to extravagance. As far as we are concerned as taxpayers, it will make it very difficult for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to deal with these Spirit Duties or with these Probate Duties with a free hand. If he reforms the Probate Duty, as we hope he will, it will probably be by combining the Legacy and Probate Duty in one; and under these circumstances the Local Authorities will probably obtain very much more than they are entitled 162 to. If we are to carry on the system of giving further aids to local funds, I think, for Imperial purposes, it would be much better to hand over the whole proceeds of a particular tax instead of only a very small proportion of each. The House Tax might very well be handed over in lieu of these small proportions, and it would enable the Imperial and local accounts to be kept separately and simply. It seems to me that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has neglected a very great opportunity of carrying out real financial reforms, and that he has endeavoured to carry out a popular Budget instead of carrying out a great Budget. He looked to the elections, and not to fiscal and financial considerations.
§ (5.18.) MR. H. S. KING (Hull, Central)
Though no one has more admiration than myself for the Chancellor of the Exchequer's abilities, I must this night raise my voice in opposition to the chorus of praise with which this year's Budget has been received by hon. Member on this side of the House. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I do so with very great timidity; and before I decided to take this step the idea often occurred to me that it was my own intelligence that was in fault, and not the skill of the giant of finance, with whom I am audacious enough to cross swords on this occasion. Certainly, my first impression was one of admiration. I was carried away at the outset by the glamour, the ingenuity, and the mastery of detail shown in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, whose eloquence for the moment cast a spell over my intellectual faculties; but when I began to reflect quietly and dispassionately, it seemed to me that, after all, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has frittered away a magnificent surplus upon a number of small reforms from which no one can get any sensible relief. I have fought against the feeling as a warm supporter of the right hon. Gentleman and of the Government as long as I can, and it is only with the utmost reluctance that I venture at length to offer any criticism on the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Indeed. I would be heartily glad to be convinced that I am in error and in ignorance. My objections to the Budget fall under three heads. It aims at too much; it does too little, and it is 163 grossly inconsiderate, if not unjust, to the claims of two important sections of the community—the payers of Income Tax and the licensed victuallers. The Budget is one of small things—of two-pences and twopence half-pennies—and at the end of the year no one will be a bit the richer for it, while many people will be distinctly the poorer. What are its leading features? What first strikes the eye with regard to it? There are the revision of the Tea Duty, the imposition of a fresh duty on spirits in face of an enormous surplus, and a multitude of peddling tips to taxpayers. My right hon. Friend reminds me of a man who, having inherited a fair estate, wake,3 up some morning to find it gone, though he cannot lay his hand on any one great extravagance, all having disappeared in a multitude of petty excesses. At the outset I am met by this difficulty, that I must either suggest some alternative scheme, and thus run the risk of exposing myself to the cheap ridicule of posing as an embryo Chancellor of the Exchequer, or else I must offer such criticism as I have to make without indicating any course which might, with advantage, have been pursued. As the latter step would deprive my criticism of half its force I prefer to risk the cheap ridicule. In the first place, I will touch on that portion of the Budget scheme which deals with local finance and the imposition of 6d. per gallon on spirits. I will not, however, discuss the wisdom or policy of Imperial Grants in aid of local finance, since that is a large question on which financial experts hold varying opinions. Personally, I view those grants in aid, if not with actual hostility, at all events with jealoussuspicion. Myattitude, indeed, may be described as one of malevolent neutrality; but I would like to ask my right hon. Friend why, even supposing that a grant is desirable, so large a grant should be given, why it should come out of the pockets of one particular class—the publicans—and why it is desirable to raise at the present time the whole thorny licensing question? I think the right hon. Gentleman will find it difficult to justify the imposition of a new tax at the present time. He has the largest surplus any Chancellor of the Exchequer has had for many years, and he has consequently plenty of material 164 for what he proposes to do without making another inroad upon the pocket of the already menaced and harassed publicans. I am well aware that many hon. Gentlemen opposite regard the word "publican" as synonymous with "sinner," and consider that his pocket is to be bled as much as possible; but the methods of Dr. Sangrado are no longer approved by the medical faculty, and I would rather have been a Jew in the days of King John than I would be a publican at the present time. The calculations as to the Budget surplus are largely based upon a belief in the continuance of the recent abnormal increase in drinking. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has better means than I can have of forming an opinion on that point; but I would suggest that even the Treasury officials are not always infallible. The tendency of Budgets in recent years has been to show that the revenue from drinking has been, if not waning, at least stationary. The population has grown, but the revenue from the Excise has not increased with it, and I would like to ask whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer is fully convinced that there is no risk of the country returning to its previous more sober habits? What will become of the right hon. Gentleman's surplus if the rush to the wine bottle and the spirit decanter and the beer barrel, of which he has spoken almost with triumph, should cease? All that, however, I only wish to sound as a note of warning; and I pass to the consideration of the uncalled-for tax of 6d. on spirits. The distillers and brewers can protect themselves, but the retail dealer has no protection. It is true that if unscrupulous he can water or deteriorate his spirits, but if he be honest the tax must come out of the publican's own pocket. I am told that there are 64 glasses in a gallon of spirits; and although I have no special knowledge on the subject, I would ask my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is equal to the financial feat of dividing 6d. by 64? Rum, which is the sheet anchor of the right hon. Gentleman's finance, is sold at most of the public houses at 2½d. a glass, and as in the case of other spirits I am informed that there are of these 64 glasses in a gallon, which would make the 165 receipt of one gallon 13s. 4d., while the cost of the ram being 3s., and the duty 7s. 6d., the profit left on the serving of 64 customers is just 2s. 10d., from which small sum the right hon. Gentleman proposes to take 6d. I put it to my right hon. Friend, does he think that this is fair? I do not see any method in which the landlord can distribute the burden among his customers unless he resorts to the base and unscrupulous method of adulteration. I am told that the trade would greatly have preferred to have had even 2s. put on spirits to this arrangement.
§ MR. KING
I cannot promise my right hon. Friend that they will petition in favour of that suggestion; but I have been told they would have preferred it. No doubt my right hon. Friend comforts himself by the thought that, after all, he is benefiting the trade, and that in him they are entertaining an angel unawares; but, on the other hand, that does not appear to me to be a reason why spirits should be made to compensate beer, for, whereas 95 per cent. of the public houses are owned by the brewers, and one-half of the goods sold is beer, the result will be that, under the right hon. Gentleman's proposal, three-fourths of the compensation will come out of spirits; so that the bulk of the compensation will go into the pockets of the rich brewers, and the poor dispossessed publican will go out of his holding without a shilling in his pocket, unless care be taken by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board that he shall receive some compensation for disturbance. On this subject I would refer my right hon. Friend to a vigorous article which appeared in the Economist of last Saturday. I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will think I am wry ungrateful, and that he bases his chief claim to our affectionate regard on the reduction he proposes in the Tea Duty. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that "Blessed is he that expects nothing." He has reduced the Tea Duty by 2d. per lb., but I am afraid that although the right hon. Gentleman expressed great concern for the the poor consumer, and virtuously repudiated the middleman, the same 166 original sin lurks in this proposal as in the case of the Spirit Duty. The purchaser of half or a quarter of a pound of tea may derive some good from the reduction; but it is a fleeting and microscopic reduction, inasmuch as the purchaser of a whole chest would only receive 3s. 4d., whereas those in whose interest the reduction is supposed to be made -the poorer classes—who buy their tea by the ounce or half ounce, cannot receive anything unless my right hon. Friend can show some way in which 2d. can be divided by 16. I must here say that I view the proposed remission of the Tea Duty with great concern, because, in the first place, I think that no Chancellor of the Exchequer will ever have the courage to re-impose that duty; and when revenue is sought for in vain from that source the Income Tax collector will once more be called in to make up the amount that may be needed. In the second place, I regard the remission with concern because of the effect it is likely to have on tea planting in India. On this subject I can speak with some knowledge, owing to my connection with that country, and I say that the remission will do no good to the tea planters of India, who are prosecuting an industry in which millions of British capital are invested. It will be no compensation to them if that industry is jeopardised to be told that India will profit by the removal of the duty on silver plate, which I admit is called for by public opinion in India; but I warn my right hon. Friend that it is more than probable that the remission of the Tea Duty will seriously cripple one of the greatest industries of India by enabling the cheap and worthless teas of China to compete with Indian tea in this market in a manner it has hitherto been unable to do. I now come to the proposed reduction of the Inhabited House Duty, of which I most heartily approve. It is said that my right hon. Friend has introduced the principle of graduated taxation, and, for my part, I am not in the least afraid of that principle. On the contrary, I should like to see it extended on behalf of the class who wear the "rusty black coat;" and that brings me to a suggestion which I make with great deference to the authority of my right hon. Friend. It is based on a regard for those whose interests he has specially at 167 heart. I mean those earning incomes of from £150 to £400 a year. What, I ask, do they gain under the scheme of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Let us assume that a man with an income of £400 a year is a married man with a family, and consumes a chest of tea in the course of a year; that he also consumes 1½ cwts. of currants, which probably would be in excess of his requirements. Let us also assume that his rent is £50 a year, and that he takes one glass of whisky a night, with an extra allowance of 19 glasses for festive occasions. The result would be that he would find he had saved 13s. 4d. on his tea and 7s. 6d. on his currants, £1 0s. 10d. on his House Duty, making a total of £2 1s. 8d. If from that we deduct 3s. for the whisky he has consumed to the extent of six gallons his total gain would have been £1 18s. 8d. My right hon. Friend started with a surplus of £3,500,000. He has proposed to allocate £300,000 of this for barracks, £100,000 for the Volunteers, £210,000 on currants, £80,000 on postage, and £300,000 on the police, making together a total of £990,000, leaving him with a balance of £2,510,000. Even after the most careful consideration of the right hon. Gentleman's apologetic utterances at the Mansion House as indicative of an unquiet conscience which induced him to think that some relief should be given to the Income Tax payer, especially to the class whose incomes are between £150 and £400, it will be seen that people of that class pay something like £4,700,000 a year, or more than one-third of the whole £12,200,000. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER dissented.] I am afraid I have misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman, and my argument is, therefore, somewhat thrown out. My proposal would be that he should reduce the tax on such incomes by 2d. or 3d., which would still have made possible the reduction on the Inhabited House Duty and left over the sum of £320,000 to be applied either in repealing the Plate Duty or in subsidising the County Councils. I have to apologise to the House for the length at which I have spoken; but I have felt so deeply the immense claims of the classes for whom I have pleaded for consideration, and against the injustice that is being done to one of them by my right hon. Friend's 168 proposals, that I have ventured to trespass somewhat longer than I ought to have done on the indulgence of the House.
§ (5.28.) SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
I think that the hon. Member, has accurately described the Budget as one which aims at too much and does too little. The Chancellor of the Exchequer frequently took credit for the large sums which had been liquidated during his period; but, like one of the characters in Moliere, the right hon. Gentleman paid off debt malgré lui. He has deliberately reduced the annual fund for the payment of debt by £3,000,000, and if there have been surpluses they are surpluses which he has not expected or provided for, but which have depended upon windfalls, upon the profits from silver, or the large increase in the consumption of rum and other intoxicants, and were no part of the provision for the payment of debt. But that is not all. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has left out of sight, and kept out of the sight of the country, the fact that he has been making debt at the same time. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has practically created a debt of £5,000,000, which remains to be liquidated in the future, and instead of having made immense reductions of the National Debt, the fact is that he has destroyed the permanence and regularity of the liquidation of the Debt—a very different state of things to that which he has presented before us. With reference to the relief of taxation, I protest against the notion of treating the increase of the Spirit Duty as anything else than Imperial taxation, for there never was a more audacious fallacy than to say that the tax upon spirits is a tax levied upon the publican, and is to be disposed of for the benefit of the publican. A more unfounded suggestion was never made. We might just as well say that the Tea Duty is a tax levied upon the grocer, and that the produce should be disposed of for the benefit of the grocer, and similarly with the Tobacco Duty and the tobacconist. The suggestion is fundamentally false in finance. The duty upon spirits is a duty under which the publican has, no more right to expect special advantage than under any other tax; it is, absolutely indistinguishable from any 169 other tax. In some form or other it will be ultimately paid by the consumer, and therefore it should be regarded, like any other tax, as a consumer's tax. If the tax is agreed to by this House it must be regarded like every other tax, as belonging to the general public; it must be devoted to the general convenience of the country, and not to any particular class of the community or of property. My hon. Friend behind me, speaking of the reduction of the Tea Duty, Said this proposal of the Budget was a half-hearted measure. That, I think, was a rather too complimentary term to apply to it, for it is, in my opinion, a third-hearted measure, and a very inferior one at that. I confess that I am glad that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has dealt with the Tea Duty, but I wish the right hon. Gentleman had taken off half the duty instead of one-third. I refuse to distinguish between the Spirit Duty, which he has appropriated to local purposes, and duties which are levied for other purposes under this Bill. They are all Imperial Duties, and must be regarded as such. Therefore, I hold that the right hon. Gentleman had, in point of fact, a sum of £4,000,000 to deal with, and I say that he would have produced a much much more simple Budget, as well as one of sounder finance, and one giving much greater relief, if he had taken off half of the Tea Duty and the whole of the Inhabited House Duty. I know that these are not the views of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; he likes to keep the skeleton of a tax even when he is obliged to take the flesh off. I prefer the corpse of the tax, and to see it well buried, as we have buried many a tax in former days. In the time of Sir Robert Peel and of my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian there have been taxes on hundreds of commodities taken off, and I confess that I prefer the financial doctrines and financial practice of Sir Robert Peel and of my right hon. Friend —those great masters of former Budgets— to the doctrines laid down by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-day. I have a few figures which I should like to lay before the House dealing with the subject of the Inhabited House Duty. I quite approve of the proposal to deal with that duty; and I agree with the hon. Member who last spoke that it would 170 have been better if a clean sweep had been made of it, because it falls unequally and with undue severity on the lower part of the scale, while its exemptions in favour of the higher classes are extremely unjust. The man who just comes within the ranks of those who wear black coats pays a much larger proportion than the more wealthy man, and the reason is this, that he pays a larger share of his annual income for rent. I am happy to think that in later times men have been more willing to do this for the benefit of their families than they were in former days. A man with an income of £600 a year will pay as much as £100 a year for his house. If you take a sixpence off his Income Tax you relieve him to the extent of six hundred pence; but if you altogether abolish the House Duty yon relieve him of a charge of nine hundred pence: and he belongs to the class who most want relief. But take the case of a man with an income of £10,000 a year, or from £10,000 to £20,000. I venture to say that the houses occupied by such men are seldom assessed at more than £500 a year, and I know many men of great fortune whose houses are assessed at from £300 to £500, and who therefore contribute infinitely less to the Inhabited House Duty than they do to the Income Tax.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
The gallant Admiral may have three; indeed, I do not know how many flags he flies. I am taking the case of men of more moderate means, of men who have only one house. The figures on this subject are interesting. The Inhabited House Duty yields £2,000,000, and of that sum £1,250,000 a year is paid by houses of £100 a year and under. Now, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had done nothing else, he might have struck off that portion of the tax at least. When we get to higher rates the yield is much smaller. Houses and shops of £100 to £150 a year yield only £200,000; houses of £300 to £500 yield £95,000: those from £500 to £1,000 a year yield £58,000; and when we reach houses of £1,000 a year and upwards the duty yields only £60,000 a year. It is quite clear that this is a tax of which the whole weight falls practically 171 upon men of moderate means, and by sweeping it away, therefore, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have removed a burden which it is plain does not press equally on rich and poor. I shall not oppose the Second Beading of this Bill; but I confess that these seem to me to be very fair criticisms of general principles. I do not complain of the right hon. Gentleman for having dealt with the Tea Duty and the Inhabited House Tax; on the contrary, I approve of his having done so; all I wish is that he had reduced the Tea Duty by one-half, and taken away the whole of the Inhabited House Duty, as he might have done with the funds at his disposal. An hon. Gentleman opposite has compared the publican to the Jew of the Middle Ages, and said that he was in a still worse position. I never heard, however, that the Government of King John introduced a Bill to give compensation to the Jew for the extraction of his teeth. Therefore, I think the hon. Gentleman was a little hasty in taking a view of the publican that used not to be taken of the Jew, and he is a little ungrateful to the Government for what they are doing. Now, Sir, I come to the question of the hypothecation of particular duties to local purposes. If you are going to carry out the principle of hypothecating the duties for local purposes it is obvious that you will place upon yourselves great restraint and difficulty with regard to the increase or the reduction of those duties. If the localities are entitled to a certain proportion of the duties they may say it will be very unfair to them if the duties are reduced. On the other hand, it may be extremely unfair to the State if a large portion of the taxes are carried off for local purposes. By their proposed appropriation of the Spirit' Duties the Government are placing themselves in a position of want of freedom and of restraint in dealing with the great pillars, of Imperial finance. I do consider that this is a most important principle, and one which we ought to consider most carefully before we allow ourselves to be committed to it. My hon. Friend remarked that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was frequently taking credit to himself for giving relief to indirect taxation as compared with his dealings with direct taxation, I am bound to say that when he went to the 172 City of London the right hon. Gentleman principally enlarged upon the remissions he had made in direct taxation, and gloried in what he had done for the Income Tax. To other audiences, however, the right hon. Gentleman played on the other string of his fiddle, and enlarged upon what he had done in the way of remissions of indirect taxation. For my own part, I do not object to the right hon. Gentleman's running the horse which he thinks is most likely to win. But the comparison made by my hon. Friend behind mo is, in my opinion, a fair one; and, if so, it cannot be denied that even taking the Budget of this year, which is supposed to redress the balance, that balance stands in favour of the remission of direct taxation. At all events, the relief, taking all things into consideration, that the right hon. Gentleman has given to direct taxation is more than double the relief which has been given to indirect taxation. I confess that I am not myself a convert to the new doctrine of appropriating the taxes in respect of the people who pay them. I have said already that I do not regard the Spirit Duty as being the special property of the publicans; and when the Chancellor of the Exchequer says that because his increase of income is due to the greater consumption of spirits, therefore relief should be given to those who contribute to this source of income, I reply that that is a new financial doctrine, and one which may lead to great difficulties hereafter. My opinion is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should regard his surplus as an Imperial fund, and that he should distribute it for the benefit of the community to the best of his judgment. The new standard which he sets up is perfectly unsound. It is a novel doctrine of finance. I claim to be a Conservative on financial doctrines, and I say it is a new doctrine to deal with the origin of surpluses on speculations of this kind. I have ventured to make these remarks upon the general framework of the Budget. I am extremely glad that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has had so large a surplus, and that it has been mainly derived from the increased prosperity of the country; for, after all, although it comes directly from the increased consumption of intoxicating liquors, that increased consumption arises from in- 173 creased wages, which, of course, results from increased employment. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not think I have behaved at all unfairly in the spirit in which I have addressed myself to the consideration of his Budget. There are some things in it which I should have desired to see otherwise, and in the disposal of this large surplus I wish the right hon. Gentleman had dealt with it upon one large topic, rather than upon several smaller heads. That is no reason, however, why we should oppose the Second Reading of the Bill, although some of the clauses will require careful consideration when we come to consider, in Committee, the duties upon particular articles.
§ *(5.55.) MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
I take a view somewhat different from that adopted by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Hull. It seems to me that this Budget affords immense relief to the smaller paying part of the community, which I have always held pays too large a proportion of the Imperial taxation. I regard the Budget, therefore, as a step in the right direction. My hon. Friend has described it as a Budget of petty items. That may be quite true from the view of opulent Members opposite who have derived great fortunes from breweries, and to whom these reductions are unimportant; but to the great mass of the people the reductions are of the utmost importance, for they will greatly benefit the hard-working classes. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby spoke of a man with £500 or £600 a year as just coming within the ranks of those who wear a black coat. That shows that he knows very little of the habits of the less well-to-do classes of the community. Men who have £G00 a year do not pay £100 a year as rent.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I was only arguing to show that a reduction of the Inhabited House Duty would give greater relief than a redaction of the Income tax.
§ *MR. BARTLEY
And my point is, that by reducing the Tea Duty, the Currant Duty, and the Inhabited House Duty, the less well-to-do classes are mostly benefited. No man can eat more than a certain number of currants, and it is the poor who will reap the advantage of the reduced duty on 174 currants, which form an attractive article of food. The man with a small income spends a larger proportion of that income on currants than the man with a large income. Therefore, I say the Budget is a step in the direction of reducing the inequalities of the incidence of taxation. I do not agree with the right hon. Member when he said the reduction of the Tea Duty should have been 3d. instead of 2d and for this reason, that 2d. is divisible by four, and we want to get the poorer classes to buy their tea by the quarter of a pound. They are not likely to buy it by the half pound, and 3d is not divisible into four. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer has shown his wisdom in this matter. It is true many of the poorer people buy tea in small quantities, but we want to induce them to buy it in larger quantities, in which case they will get much better tea. Reference has been made to the Income Tax. All of us would be glad to see the tax reduced, and I hope when the Chancellor of the Exchequer considers the matter, as he may do in another year, he will consider whether there should not be a different rate of Income Tax for accumulated savings as compared with the savings of the current labour of the day. Personally, I think the Budget will give general satisfaction to most of the poorer classes. It is said it is an electioneering Budget. I do not know whether it is or not, but I am sure of this, that if our Friends opposite were in office they would certainly introduce electioneering Budgets. I notice that hon. Members opposite always criticise what is done by their opponents, but when in office never take the steps they have advocated. This Budget tends to equalise taxation, and I hail it, therefore, with great satisfaction. I trust that another year the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be able to go further in this direction.
§ *(6.3.) MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
Before dealing with the second part of the Bill, to which I wish particularly to address myself, I should like to refer to the surplus which the Chancellor of the Exchequer finds at his disposal. As I understand him, he attributes the great increase in the consumption of spirits to increased prosperity. As far as the consumption of rum is concerned, the information which reaches me is that the 175 increased consumption is to be attributed chiefly if not entirely to the influenza epidemic. Of course the Chancellor of the Exchequer has better means than I have of knowing in what part of the year the chief rise was, but it is curious that while in 1848 duty was paid on 2,430,583 gallons of brandy, in 1849— the cholera year—duty was paid on 4,479,549 gallons of brandy. It may not be uninteresting to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider whether the recent influenza epidemic had any relation to his surplus. It is not, however, in the sense of criticism that I have risen. The hon. Member for Hull (Mr. King) sneered somewhat at the remission of the Plate Duty, and at the reduction of the Tea Duty. I quite agree with the wish expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, that the reduction of the Tea Duty had been larger, but I fail to comprehend the argument of the hon. Member for Hull, that the reduction of the Tea Duty can be a mischief to the Indian tea trade. I suppose there is some reason in his mind which he did not communicate to the House, but unless there is some reserve on the part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, of which I am ignorant, I understand that the reduction affects equally the tea coming from India and the tea coming from China. I do not quite understand, therefore, how it can be to the injury of the tea merchants or tea cultivators and those they employ, that the duty should be reduced. It is, however, specially with regard to the remission of the Plate Duty, that I rise to say a word, and, apart from the communication made to me, it would have been impossible for me to remain silent when the hon. Member for Hull stated that the public opinion expressed in India for the remission of this Plate Duty had been chiefly bi-metallic opinion. I was present at one meeting, attended by delegates from all parts of India, which did not express the slightest opinion in favour of bimetallism, which did not discuss it, which I don't think cared much about it, but which certainly made a very strong appeal to the English Government to remove the duty on silver plate, and I put a Motion upon the Paper not merely at the request of those very persons, but also on behalf of a large English Association which is in no sense whatever connected with 176 bi-metallism, but which has for years been agitating for the repeal of the Silver Plate Duty. I do not know that I ought to say anything upon the subject of hall-marking. The Chancellor of the Exchequer will, I suppose, say that another Bill will be introduced to deal specially with the matter of hallmarking. Unless that is so, my thanks-to him for repealing the Plate Duty will have to be expressed with some caution. The whole of the silver plate made in India is made of rupee silver, which is of a less standard than the ordinary English silver. I understand from the-Chancellor of the Exchequer that that is a point he has considered, and that he-intends to make a legislative proposition to the House enabling the Indian silver to be hall-marked with a standard of its-own. If so, that standard would have to be the standard of rupee silver, less the necessary reduction in the standard which arises from reducing it in the working-up into the very fine native work which we too seldom see in England. I do not know whether I have any right to infuse my own feeling into the matter, brought home as it was when the Chancellor of the Exchequer laid violent hands on some silver with which I had been temporarily entrusted. There is another point in connection with the hall-marking, which, unless the-Chancellor of the Exchequer considers, he will not earn the gratitude of the Indian native population to the extent he otherwise might. The Indian silver work is very fine work, and very easily damaged unless the hall-marking is very carefully applied. I am sure the trade represented by the hon. and gallant Member opposite (Mr. Howard Vincent) will not do anything to injure their Indian competitors. Still, I should like it to be impossible that anything of the kind can happen. Considering the very great and influential pressure which has been put on the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I wonder the right hon. Gentleman really did repeal the duty. His action only shows that some of the old views of the Chancellor of the Exchequer still exist in his mind and make him do justice in a matter of this kind. The Budget has been attacked as a twopenny halfpenny Budget. I do not know whether that is a proper conclusion, but I am bound to say that a 177 few twopenny halfpennies are sometimes of serious importance to those who get the benefit of remissions. The remission of the Plate Duty, even if it be a twopenny halfpenny duty, the hon. Member for Hull urges, is a remission which enables a possible development of an artisan trade which is not practised in this country, and which is of such a character that it cannot in any way compete with the trade of this country. While one is not astonished to hear from those Benches some of the old Protectionist doctrines occasionally trotted out, as they are likely to be presently by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Sheffield, I avow I was rather shocked to hear the hon. Member for Hull urge that injury will be done to the Indian tea trade by the reduction of the Tea Duty by 2d.
§ *(6.12.) SIR E. BIRKBECK (Norfolk, E.)
While expressing general approval of the Budget, I must express some surprise at the treatment both the barley growers and the brewers have received at the hands of my right hon. Friend. He did them justice at first, by withdrawing the extra 3d. a barrel, which, last year, he placed on beer, but 20 minutes afterwards he re-imposed it. Last year I placed on the Paper an Amendment to the Customs and Inland Revenue Bill, limiting the duty to one year, and I only withdrew it on the understanding that my right hon. Friend would take the 3d. a barrel off this year if there was a surplus and if there was a general remission of taxation. Last year the right hon. Gentleman said the duty was to make up a deficiency of £300,000, and this year he asks for £386,000. To my mind the effect of this increased Beer Duty will certainly be in the direction of brewers watering their beer, less barley being-used. What the tenant farmers, certainly in the corn growing counties, wished for originally was a total repeal of the malt tax. They never bargained for, and never asked for, a transfer of the tax from malt to beer. The repeal of the Malt Tax was considered a very important question in the prosperous days of agriculture, but surely it is still more important in these days of agricultural depression. In 1880, when the question of an increased Beer Tax was brought forward by the Government of the right 178 hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, the present President of the Board of Trade (Sir M. Hicks Beach), in speaking from the opposite Bench, said—In my opinion the price of barley will continue to fall and this will be the last nail in the coffin of the representatives of the most depressed industry in the country, namely, the corn growing industry.And on that occasion no less than 25 Members of the present Government voted against the proposal. I must confess I am astonished that the present Government should not have thought of the barley growers in this matter, and have relieved them of this tax. I renew my protest. and express the hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will consider this matter whenever he has another surplus.
§ *(6.15.) DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)
I rise to protest against the Bill on a question of principle. Whether I should move the rejection of the Bill is a, matter which has somewhat puzzled me. I had thought of moving—That this House regards as unjust a proposal to impose fresh unequal taxation on alcohol in the form in which it is chiefly consumed in England, Ireland, and Scotland respectively, with the object of raising a fund to he equally divided amongst the three kingdoms.That embodies my objection to the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has refused to give us any information as to the taxation which is at present levied per gallon of proof spirit of alcohol in the form of beer and in the form of spirits. In Scotland the duty on alcohol is levied at the rate of 10s. per gallon proof spirit, while in England the duty on the proof spirit in beer only amounts to 1s. 6d. or is. 8d. per gallon. I do not ask the right hon. Gentleman to remedy what has passed, but here the Chancellor of the Exchequer is taking an entirely new departure on very questionable lines when he gives aids to Local Taxation, not directly from the Exchequer, but in the form of a share in a general tax. Last year the right hon. Gentleman told us that he was obliged to divide the Probate Duty to suit the exigencies of the case. I do not approve of any system which involves unfairness, but having started the system with regard to the Probate Duty 179 he now proposes to amend it in regard to this duty on alcohol. As a matter of fact, there is a larger annual consumption of alcohol in England per head of the population than in Scotland or Ireland. In England the annual consumption per head of the population is 6¾ gallons of proof spirit; in Scotland it is 4½, and in Ireland only-3, and yet in England the amount of duty paid per head on this alcohol is l1s. 8d., in Ireland 13s. 10d., and in Scotland 18s. 10d. The right hon. Gentleman now proposes to increase the duty on whisky by 6d. per gallon of proof spirit, and on beer by 3d. per barrel of 36 gallons. There cannot be less on an average in beer than 10 per cent. of proof Spirit, and that will give you 1d. per gallon of proof spirit on the beer as against the 6d. on the whisky. The right hon. Gentleman proposed to bring the proceeds altogether and divide the aggregate equally amongst the three countries. Was there ever a more monstrous suggestion? I have no sympathy with the publican, and do not mind how much you increase the duty as long as you do not produce smuggling, but I say this is a grossly unfair proposal, and if I do not divide against it, it is only because it is mixed up with other proposals. I think that, under the circumstances, perhaps, the best course to pursue would be to single out this tax and to move an instruction on going into Committee stating that the new duty on alcoholic drink should be equalised on per gallon of proof spirit, whether the proof spirit be in the shape of spirits or beer. I hope hon. Gentlemen who take an interest in the question will come down to the House early to-morrow so as to make as good a fight on the subject as it is in our power to make.
§ *(6.25.) MR. J. M. MACLEAN (Oldham)
I do not think there is much in the chief objection to the Budget. That objection is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has tried to remove too many grievances and to conciliate too many interests. It is much better sometimes for a Chancellor of the Exchequer to do a little for a great many interests than to use his surplus in relieving one particular interest. This discussion has wandered over a very wide range of subjects. I should like to say a word about the removal of the duty on silver plate, 180 referred to by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh). I am entirely in sympathy with the hon. Member in his remarks on the desirability of doing away with that duty. No doubt the imposition of the duty was looked upon in India as a real grievance. I am somewhat sceptical myself as to the results that will follow its repeal. The principal silver manufactures of India are very delicate works of art, and not useful objects likely to meet any large or general consumption. The great proportion of them are casksts for enclosing addresses for presentation to hon. Members who go out there to court the favour of the natives, and then there are card cases and so forth. It is extremely improbable that work of this kind will ever be largely consumed in this country, so that I do not think the clients of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Howard Vincent) need be much alarmed about the repeal of the duty. Something was said about the reduction of the Tea Duty being likely to prejudice Indian planters, and to benefit rather the tea of China. It must be obvious to the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh), who said he could not understand the complaint, that the reduction of the duty will be much larger proportionately on the coarser teas of China than on the finer teas of India. On the other hand, of course, the cheaper teas are still placed at a disadvantage by a duty which is not levied ad valorem, but is a fixed sum for each pound of whatever quality, so-that this argument cuts both ways. I wish to take an objection to the way in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has dealt with the surplus he has obtained from the beer and spirit drinkers in this country. The principle laid down by the right hon. Gentleman was that those who produced the surplus were entitled to the remission of taxation.
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
I am afraid I must have used some incautious words. I said it should not be given back to them, but that alcohol should pay for tea. I did not intend to lay down a principle.
§ *MR. J. M. MACLEAN
I think I am correct in saying that the right hon. Gentleman said that what had been given to him by indirect taxation should go to the relief of indirect taxation. Well, I object to a 181 particular application of this doctrine. He owes a great deal of his surplus to the increased consumption of alcoholic liquors, and he says he will make the tippler pay for the tea-drinker. I look on that as a very immoral doctrine for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to use in effecting a transfer of taxation. What right has the right hon. Gentleman, in his position as Chancellor of the Exchequer, to brand a large body of his fellow countrymen as tipplers? He had previously told us that all classes of society had consumed large quantities of strong drink, and so ho had a surplus to offer us. But, why then did he go on to outrage the sensibilities of these consumers by denouncing them as tipplers? I know he may be said to have used the phrase humourously, and that he did not mean seriously to denounce everybody who takes a glass of beer or wine as a "tippler," but is there not at the same time some practical unfairness, some injury to these men, that you take their money and use it for the benefit of the tea drinkers? What satisfaction has the right hon. Gentleman obtained by this? The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Picton) is not pleased. The hon. Member has one ruling idea, of his Parliamentary life, and that is to compel other people to pay his taxes for him. He is not satisfied at all with the concession of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He never will be satisfied until the whole of the Tea Duty is abolished. Now, speaking seriously, I think it is a matter for the House to consider whether it is a just doctrine that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should annually raise money whenever he needs it by increasing the duty on beer and spirits. It seems to me that beer is quite as wholesome an article for anybody to drink as tea, and no doubt it always will be drunk. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer poses, as Chancellors of the Exchequer are apt to pose, as the champion of morality, while all the time they are jingling the money of the publican in their pocket. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer thinks that a heavy tax ought to be imposed on beer and spirits to check alcoholic consumption, then he is bound to show that the increased consumption during the last year has had a distinctly demoralising 182 effect. 1s he able to do that? Can he show us there has been any increase in pauperism or in crime commensurate with the great increase in the consumption of alcoholic liquors during the last 12 months? If he cannot do this then, what moral ground is there for the doctrine he adopts, and the distinction he makes between beer drinkers and tea drinkers? I certainly agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt) that the hon. Member for Hull made a mistake in speaking against this new duty on beer and spirits as an impost upon publicans. No doubt, ultimately, the money will be paid by the consumer in one form or other—either he will have to pay a higher price or he will get an inferior article. It is a change which affects not the publican class alone—it affects the great body of the people of England, and the working classes particularly. We have seen the result of an increased duty on one class of alcoholic liquor imposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Everybody knows that since the new duty was put upon champagne we have had to pay a price much higher than the proportionate increase in the duty, and this is the inevitable tendency of taxation of this kind. Therefore, we ought to remember, when we think how cheap and easy a thing it is to increase the duty on beer and spirits, that we are actually levying a considerable tax in the country. I have heard it said that this is an electioneering Budget. Well, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer framed it with that intention, I think he has made a great mistake. A Budget of this kind will not increase the number of friends of the Conservative Government in the country, and I am strongly convinced myself that the line the right hon. Gentleman has taken of levying increased duty on beer and spirits will alienate a great many of the best friends of the Government. It certainly will not propitiate our fanatical friends opposite, who are invariably Radicals first and teetotallers afterwards.
§ *(6.35.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
I do not propose to enter into the general question, but I desire to say a few words upon a point with which the Chancellor of the Exchequer dealt in one of the most eloquent 183 passages In his Budget speech. I mean the growing expenditure of the Army and Navy. The right hon. Gentleman said that no apology was needed for this expenditure, considering the purposes to which it was applied, and most hon. Members, from this passage in the speech, would have thought that the right hon. Gentleman was intending to meet this expenditure by taxation within the year. But I will show that a very great proportion of the extra expenditure on these Services is paid out of borrowed money. Roughly speaking, it may be said that during the last three years the Chancellor of the Exchequer has increased the Army and Navy expenditure by the sum of £2,000.000 a year; and further, during the same period he has entered into obligations for extraordinary expenditure to the amount of £18,000,000, the whole of which will he raised by borrowing or by postponing payment to future years. I have found it extremely difficult to ascertain exactly the amount of the expenditure upon the Army and Navy which is to be met within the current year. There are no means of obtaining this information from the accounts put before the House, without an immense amount of trouble, and I very much doubt if the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or the -Secretary to the Treasury, could say exactly the amount to be expended in the current year on the two Services. But by dint of questions to the heads of the two Departments, upon different items, and at different times, I am in a position now to say what the expenditure in the present financial year will be, and I think the House will be surprised to hear the total to be expended on these two Services. The amount is £38,163,000, or £7,000,000 more than was ever spent before in any year in time of peace. Of this amount, £31,497,000 appear on the Estimates, and may be called the ordinary or normal expenditure on the Services, and the remainder is for the following purposes:—£5,236,000 for new ships and their armaments, under the Naval Defence Act of last year; £180,000 is devoted to the building of ships for the Australian Squadron; £400,000 for fortifications under the Imperial Defence Act; £450,000 for the armament of these fortifications; £300,000 for new barracks, out of the 184 Budget and surplus; and £100,000 for the equipment of Volunteers from the same source. Thus we have £6,666,000 for extraordinary expenditure upon the two Services, and the House will be surprised to hear the various shifts and devices by which this money is provided. £1,400,000 falls upon the Consolidated Fund for the year, under the Naval Defence Act of last year; then there is an item of £128,000, which, under a new and dangerous process, is paid out of unexpended balances of last year on Army account; then comes £64,000 under the Imperial Defence Act, charged by way of annuities in the Estimates in regard to the Australian Squadron; then £400,000 is provided out of the surplus, and deducting these amounts from the £5,666,000 there remains a sum of £4,774,000 unprovided for in the Budget of the year, and which is borrowed or the payment of which is postponed over future years. The payment of £3,800,000 is spread over seven years, the payment not beginning until 1892, £116,000 is spread over 12 years, and £712,000 will be paid out of the dividends from the Suez Canal shares after 1894. These are the various operations, methods, shifts, and devices by which provision for expenditure within the year is avoided. Roughly speaking, it may be said that of the extraordinary expenditure upon the Services of, say, £6,500,000, we pay £2,000,000 within the current year, and spread £4,700,000 over future years. I need hardly remind the House that, under the Sinking Fund established by the late Lord Iddesleigh and my right hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh, the amount which ought to be paid for repayment of debt within the year would be £5,000,000, and I presume we shall repay debt by that amount; but then, on the other hand, we borrow to the extent of £4,674,000, so that practically the operation of what the Chancellor of the Exchequer is doing' this year in respect to extra expenditure is really to suspend the Sinking Fund for the year for the amount which ought to go in reduction of debt, and which I suppose will, in a certain sense, be paid, will, on the other hand, be withdrawn by borrowing or suspending payment. That does not seem to me to be wise finance, and seems to me to present a 185 dangerous precedent for the future. I need hardly point out that the only real check within the Government itself is the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Treasury. The two great spending Departments are always desirous of increasing expenditure, and this tendency is kept in check by the wish of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to avoid increase of taxation, and to obtain credit for the reduction of taxation, but if it is laid down as a precedent for the future that by spreading payments of money expended over future years the Chancellor of the Exchequer can obtain credit for his finance, while still borrowing or incurring debt, then it seems to me a dangerous liberty is given to Admiralty and War Office Expenditure. For this I must hold the present Chancellor of the Exchequer largely responsible. It was my fortune to serve under the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he was at the Admiralty in the years 1871–73. and I should like to call attention to a comparison between the expenditure of the two great spending Departments, the Admiralty and War Office, then, and the expenditure of the present year. In 1871 the Army and Navy expenditure was £22,735,000, of which the Navy absorbed £9,770,000. For the present year the normal expenditure is £31,500,000, and, including extraordinary expenditure, £38,360,000, so that the increase in normal expenditure has been 44 percent. in the interval, or, including the extraordinary expenditure, the in crease has been 70 per cent. Looking back at the year I have mentioned, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, then First Lord of the Admiralty, was controlled by two great economists at the Treasury, Mr. Lowe, the present Lord Sherbrooke, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian. But for that control, I have no doubt, those responsible for the Navy, as well as those responsible for the Army, would have launched out into all kinds of expenditure, and the Chancellor of the Exechequer was then quite ready to be responsible for the Naval Service and the security of the country at an extremely modest expenditure as compared with the present. For my part. I see no justification for this enormous increase of naval and military expenditure. I believe it is not required, and that if the Treasury 186 had kept a firm hand of recent years over these Departments the expenditure would not have been found necessary. But if the Chancellor of the Exchequer joins the ranks of the professional alarmists, and if, at the same time, he can claim credit for reducing taxation by postponing payment. all checks will be got rid of, and there will be no limit to the demands that may be made in the future. For one part of the Budget I have nothing but praise: I refer to the reduction on Indian and Colonial postage. The high rate of postage has been in the past a perfect scandal, and it was quite time a portion of the surplus should be devoted to its reduction. I must congratulate the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Henniker Heaton) on the success of his efforts in this direction, and I must say I was somewhat surprised at the tone of the Postmaster General's remarks at Bradford in reference to the hon. Member in which he spoke of the hon. Member as the "Fly on the Wheel," whose buzzing had become offensive. I should hardly have expected such language towards a supporter of the Government, and I think the right hon. Gentleman would have been wiser to have acknowledged the assistance of the hon Member for Canterbury in his efforts to induce the Treasury to give way on this point. Many other Post Office reforms are urgently needed. For my part, I think that for the past four or five years the present Treasury has starved the post Office, and many important reforms have been postponed in order that the Chancellor of the Exchequer might realise the surplus Post Office Revenue. The Secretary to the Treasury seems to dissent to that, but he will not deny that there has been a growing surplus derived from this source in the past three years.
§ *MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
In the net surplus in the last three years. Within four years it has increased £760,000, or at the rate of £190,000 a year. In 1860, after deducting the cost of the Packet Service, there was a surplus Revenue of £440,000; in 1870 of £1,173,000; in 1880 of £2,225,000; in 1890 of £3,500,000. Of course there have been 187 some ups and downs in the intervals, but, looking broadly over the period, that is the rate of progress, and at the present time there is a larger surplus than before. On the Post Office Vote I shall attempt to show the effect of the Treasury screw on necessary and urgent Post Office reforms, but I should hardly be justified in doing that now, for the moment I congratulate the Government on giving up £80,000 for Indian and Colonial postage, and I think they might well have devoted more of their surplus to Post Office reforms. I hope the hon. Member for Canterbury will not be discouraged by the somewhat contemptuous terms in which he was referred to by the Postmaster General from urging still further those reforms in the Post Office which are urgently required. There is no Department of the Public Service where expenditure is more valuable than in the Post Office; it gives immediate facilities to the public, and in the long run is almost certain to result in an increased revenue. All the money expended in this direction yields a good return, and the Post Office stands in quite a different category to all other Services. In reference to the Indian and Colonial postage, I should like to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he has any information to give us as to the disposition of the Indian and Colonial Governments—are they prepared to assist in the new arrangements; will they contribute towards bringing the reduction into effect very shortly?
§ (6.55.) SIR RICHARD PAGET (Somerset, Wells)
I will not follow the right hon. Gentleman into his calculations and details; but I may say I cannot attach any material importance to the charges he makes against the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because we all know that the expenditure upon our defensive forces was, after full discussion, adopted by this House and universally approved by the country, which was not content to go on in an unhappy state of unpreparedness, subject to constant panics and fits of hurried expenditure, but has approved the policy that is placing our Army and Navy on a footing the magnitude of our interests requires. Passing from this, I wish to express my gratitude to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the fulfilment of his promise in a certain direction I desire to indicate. I am 188 one of those who considered that there was still an account remaining unsettled between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Local Authorities when the Horse and Wheel Tax was withdrawn; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer, by his proposals in regard to the surtax on spirits and the Beer Duty, has, in a bold and novel manner, largely reinforced the local finance and done what he could to make up for the deficiency caused by the abandonment of the Van and Wheel Tax. There is one other point to which I wish to draw attention. For the first time in the history of finance a contribution in aid of local finance has been raised from indirect taxation. Hitherto all the sums that have been devoted to the purpose of aiding the burdens of the local taxpayers have been by way of subvention or contribution arising out of direct taxation. Now, for the first time, indirect taxation is applied to the purpose. That is a new departure, which gives us hope that further aid will be granted from Imperial sources to local rates. Exception has been taken to the allocation of the Beer Duty to local purposes. Now, there is no class which received more benefit from local taxation, while paying small contributions, than brewers. The abolition of the turnpikes was a great gain to the brewers, who, while the turnpikes existed, paid their fair share to the maintenance of the roads. With the disappearance of turnpikes their contributions ceased. Taking the Budget as a, whole, it appears to me to deserve to be popular in the country. Taking it as a whole, it is a Budget that gives relief to those classes who are most entitled to ask it. I believe that the reduction of the House Duty will be widely appreciated, and that the more the provisions of the Budget generally are studied the more they will be approved by the country. I therefore give it my most hearty support.
§ *(7.5.) MR. PROVAND (Glasgow, Blackfriars)
I rise to enter my protest against the unfair way in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has levied further duties on wine, beer, and spirits. Spirits already pay six times the duty on beer, reckoned by alcoholic strength, and spirits pay half as much again as wine, reckoned in the same way. No doubt, the Chancellor of the Exche- 189 quer will reply that the duty is levied on the various articles in a different way, and that in the case of beer it is levied not on alcoholic strength, but on specific gravity; but my contention is that there ought to he a uniform way of levying the duty on intoxicants, so that there may he a fair incidence of duty on the drink consumed in different parts of the country. Taking it per head of the population of England, Scotland, and Ireland, the duties on intoxicants are now paid by the peoples of the three countries in almost the following proportions per head:—England, 12s.; Ireland, 14s.; and Scotland, 19s. This is in consequence of the want of uniformity in the mode of assessing the duty on alcoholic drink. But the unfairness of the incidence of the duties is no greater than the unfairness with which the Chancellor of the Exchequer intends to allocate these duties for local purposes. He told us in his Budget speech that he intended to give them to the three countries in the same proportion as the Probate Duties are now given, which is 80 per cent. to England, 11 per cent. to Scotland, and 9 per cent. to Ireland. As the new duties are something like £700,000, this division will tax Ireland and Scotland for the benefit of England. The precise figures it is not easy to ascertain at present; but it is clear that Scotland and Ireland will not have returned to them for local purposes so much as they will be called upon to pay, by a sum exceeding £10,000 per annum, and such a state of things will be condemned generally by hon. Members from both of those countries. With respect to the duties on dried fruits, I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer might have swept away the whole of them. As it is, he only proposes to deal with currants. From the duties still to be imposed he will only receive £:S00,000 or £400,000, and, therefore, I think he might have abolished the lot. I hold it is self-evident that no Minister in these days would ever venture, no matter what the necessity might be to put a tax on food, and a sufficient portion of the magnificent surplus might have been applied, with benefit to the poorer classes of this country, in the complete abolition of the Dried Fruit Duties.
§ *(7.12.) MR. JACKSON
Perhaps I may be allowed to endeavour to 190 answer some of the questions which have been raised in this discussion. I think that, so far as the criticism of the Budget has gone, we have no reason to complain of any of the speeches made. There seems to have been a general expression of opinion that, upon the whole, it- is a satisfactory Budget, especially so far as the constituencies are concerned. The hon. Member for the Poplar Division, however, thought that my right hon. Friend has rather missed a great opportunity, and that he would have done better to make some great alteration than various small remissions. Yet, in the course of his speech, the hon. Member avowed himself in favour of those remissions which my right hon. Friend has made. Taking the general feeling of the House with regard to the four or five small remissions, it seems to be that they are wise in themselves and beneficial to the country. A complaint has been made that since my right hon. Friend has been at the Treasury he has given greater relief to direct than to indirect taxation. That is not so. When my right hon. Friend remitted 2d. from the Income Tax it was because he felt it his duty to take it off. It was put on for a special purpose, and that purpose having been served he felt himself bound to take it off. Excluding that 2d., in regard to which I maintain my right hon. Friend had no discretion,? submit that he has granted more relief to indirect than to direct taxation. The hon. Member for the Poplar Division appears to think that the amount of money being handed over to the Local Authorities is too large. There are probably not very many Members who will agree with him in that view. The hon. Member must himself recollect the Resolutions which in the past were carried against the Government, compelling them to give additional financial relief to the Local Authorities.
§ *MR. JACKSON
The hon. Member says it is more than was promised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1888; but that is because, upon the basis then laid down, the sums turned out to be larger than had been estimated. The hon. Member has also alleged that this pro- 191 vision is in relief of realty. But does the hon. Member consider that all the local rates are paid by realty? If so, realty must contribute £20,000,000 a year in the form of local rates, and the reduction by £1,000,000 would not be much relief viewed from that standpoint. The hon. Member for Hull and the hon. Member for Oldham both referred to the Tea Duties, the former expressing a doubt as to whether the pocket of the consumer would be in the least benefited, and the latter doubting whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer would get many thanks for what he has done. As a matter of fact, however, I can assure the hon. Member for Oldham that evidence is accumulating every day at the Treasury that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has secured a great deal of thanks for what he has done in this direction. With regard to the point of the hon. Member for Hull as to the effect on China tea, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there is no reason to doubt that Indian teas will be able to hold their own, notwithstanding this reduction of duty. As to the Beer Tax it has been asserted that both the public and the farmers will suffer—the former because brewers will water their beer, and the farmers because they will get less for their barley. These arguments, however, were urged last year, when the tax was originally imposed, and experience has not shown that it has led to any depreciation in the quality of the beer or to any fall in the price of barley. I am not sure that the Central Chamber of Agriculture, of which my hon. Friend is a member, has not refused to consider this question, or to endorse the opinion that the interests of barley growers will be seriously interfered with. Two hon. Gentlemen who represent different divisions of Glasgow have referred to a question of great importance, namely, as to the proportions in which these sums have been allocated to the Local Authorities of the three Kingdoms. I think I shall be able to show that this apportionment has been based on fair and just principles, and in accordance with the sources from which the total Revenue is raised, and that this apportionment is in fact slightly against England, and slightly in favour of Ireland and Scotland. Taking the Tax Revenue at £75,764,000, it is found 192 by means of the most accurate calculation it is possible to make that £61,224,802: is paid by England, or 80.8 per cent.; £8,027,158, on10.6 per cent., by Scotland; and £6,512,040, or 8.6 per cent., by Ireland.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
Will the hon. Gentleman state on what authority he gives these figures? I am not aware that they are to be found in any public document.
§ *MR. JACKSON
The figures have been obtained by the Department. and I believe that they are as accurate as it is possible for figures to be made.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
Will the hon. Gentleman state the proportion which the taxation bears to the production of Excisable articles such as spirits?
§ *MR. JACKSON
Yes, presently. I may repeat that the figures have been made up with the greatest care. They may be accepted as being as accurate as it is possible for such figures to be made. In these figures the Post Office revenue is not included. Taking the surplus from the Post Office at £3,500,000, and distributing it between the three countries in the proportion of the number of letters calculated to be delivered in each country, the percentages will be found to be slightly different, namely, 81 per cent. contributed by England, I0.5 per cent. by Scotland, and 8.5 per cent. by Ireland.
§ MR. O'HANLON (Cavan, E.)
Has the hon. Gentleman made allowance for articles cleared in England but consumed in Ireland?
§ *MR. JACKSON
Yes; there has been some allowance made. It is quite true that there are cross items between the two countries, and also between England and Scotland. It is true, for instance, that beer comes from Ireland to England, and also from England to Ireland, and that tobacco is sent from Ireland to England, and I am not aware of tobacco being sent from England to Ireland. Allowance is made for these facts, and the figures work out as I have said, 81 per cent for England, 10.5 per cent. for Scotland, and 8.5 per cent. for Ireland. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in making the apportionment of the Probate Duty allocated 80 per cent. to England, 11 per cent. to Scotland, and 9 per cent. to Ireland, so that England receives I 193 per cent. less than its due, and Scotland and Ireland a half per cent. more than their due.
§ *MR. PROVAND
May I ask if allowance is made for Income Tax collected in London, but in respect of Scotch and Irish incomes, from sources such as shares in public companies?
§ *MR. JACKSON
I have already said that we have made all the allowances which we consider ought to be made in arriving at these figures, and upon being checked they will be found to be accurate. I will state to the House a few figures which will show the House how the taxation is apportioned and how it is allocated among the three Kingdoms. Out of a total of £3.704,000, £3,059,218 is paid by England, £388,594 by Scotland, and £256,188 by Ireland. The percentage of contributions, therefore, are 82.6 per cent. paid by England, 10.5 paid by Scotland, and 6.9 paid by Ireland. The distribution gives to England £2,963,200, to Scotland £407,440, and to Ireland £330,000. Therefore England receives £96,018 less than she pays, Scotland receives £18,846 more than she pays, and Ireland receives £57,000 more than she pays. I think that it will be seen that my right hon. Friend has given a distinct advantage to Scotland and Ireland as compared with England. The comparative figures showing the proportion of the Probate Duty paid by each country are these— England, 88 per cent., Scotland, 8 per cent., and Ireland 4 per cent. But according to the more recent figures there would come to hand for the last nine months an actual contribution of 90 per cent. from England, 6 5 from Scotland, and 3.5 from Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman, I believe, intends when he has got the figures into something like shape to lay them before the House in a clear form, in the event of hon. Members deeming them to be of sufficient interest for that course to be adopted. I think, therefore, that I have shown that the charge of unfairness which has been made with reference to the allocation of this local taxation is without foundation. The only injustice that has been done in the matter is that too much has been taken from England and too little returned to her.
§ *DR. CAMERON
I do not allege unfairness as regards Scotland in the dis- 194 tribution of the Probate Duty, but in the distribution of the new Spirit and Beer Duty.
§ *MR. JACKSON
It would not be fair to single out the Spirit Duty without taking into consideration the whole case, which shows that Scotland and Ireland have been unduly favoured at the expense of England. The right hon. Member for Bradford has made some rather good-natured remarks with regard to the action of the Treasury in dealing with the Post Office; but I can say most conscientiously that since I have been at the Treasury not only have the Post Office and other Departments not been stinted in any justifiable expenditure, but every application for extension of buildings and acquisition of sites has been met by the Treasury in a most reasonable spirit. I do not mean to say that they have yielded to every application, because I am sure that the Treasury have made the Post Office and every other Department show that the money they asked for was really needed in justice to the Service. The hon. Member for Northampton has rather warned my right hon. Friend that he had almost come to the conclusion that the surplus of last year was due to the epidemic of influenza; but I am glad to be able to inform the hon. Member that although the influenza has left us the buoyancy of the revenue continues. I hope that hon. Members will now allow the Bill to be read a second time.
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
The hon. Member has declared that the Budget is a most popular one in the country. I ask what country he refers to? That is certainly not the case as regards Ireland, because it throws a most unfair burden upon an article of large consumption in that country. I object to the hon. Member laying mere results of calculations before the House instead of the figures upon which those calculations were based. Three years ago Mr. Giffen showed that Ireland contributes more than double what she ought to do to the Imperial Revenue. We are kept in the dark; we have no materials to go upon. A bland Minister rises at the Table whenever a financial debate occurs, and gives us some meagre fare in the shape of what he calls the results of calculations. I say with regard to the estimates of the relative proportions paid by the three 195 countries, we have every reason to doubt them. In our view the proportion paid by Ireland is nearly double what it ought to be. The hon. Gentleman has said that. this new Spirit Tax will be in proportion to the yield from it, as in the ease of the Probate Duty. What has the Probate Duty to do with it?
§ MR. SEXTON
The basis of the relative contribution from the three countries is no argument for the distribution of what is derived from the tax on alcohol. There is no possible relation between the two subjects.
§ MR. JACKSON
I think the hon. Member perhaps misunderstood what I said. I did not say that the allocation is made on the proportions of Probate Duty contributed. If the distribution were on the basis of the Probate Duty contributed, Ireland would get one-half what she is to get.
§ MR. JACKSON
I only mentioned it to show that at the time the Probate Duty was allocated, my right hon. Friend fixed the proportions which local taxation should receive in the three countries.
§ MR. SEXTON
The only meaning of the reference to the Probate Duty was that the proportions correspond to the taxes received in the three countries. I say Ireland is at present unfairly taxed. It is very difficult to arrive at a conclusion so long as the Government act upon the policy of refusing us the materials on which they arrive at their own conclusions. May I remind the Government what happened five years ago when a similar attempt was made by a Liberal Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had no surplus, but a deficiency to make good? His position, remember, was a much more justifiable one than that of the present Chancellor in imposing new taxation, because he had to meet a deficiency. Ho made a proposal of the very kind which we are now protesting against. He proposed an increased duty on alcohol, and he was met with this Reosolution—That increased tax on beer and spirits was inequitable in the absence of corresponding addition to the duties on wine196 The Party opposite—whose chief object appears to be to show in 1890 how far they are willing to proceed in the adoption of more than one article of the financial policy which they denounced in 1885— with the help of the Irish Members defeated the Liberal Government on that very point, and drove them out of Office. If it was inequitable then, it is inequitable now. The duty on wine has not been materially altered. The duty on beer has been altered by .d. or 1d. per gallon, which is about the increase made by the extra duty of 3d. per barrel. You propose to put 6d. a gallon on spirits—a proportion which you described as inequitable in 1885, when a Liberal Chancellor of the Exchequer was struggling with a deficiency, but which you now adopt with a surplus of £3,500,000. Therefore, in regard to justification of the tax, you are in a worse position than was the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1885. With his £3,500,000 surplus, the Chancellor of the Exchequer deals with it to the extent of £500,000 of expenditure and £3,000,000 in remissions. In the expenditure Ireland has no substantial interest; and in the remissions, she will only benefit to a small extent for the remissions on tea and currants, altogether, perhaps, to the amount of £150,000 or £200,000, a proportion very much less than her fair share in the way of remission. In the Memorial of the Irish distillers to the Chancellor of the Exchequer there are three statements. The first is as to the inequitable dealing between the three countries with regard to the tax on alcohol, and also as between the classes. The present tax on foreign wines is 3s. 10d. per gallon; on beer, 1s. 8¾d.; on alcohol, 10s. per gallon. The tax on alcohol is six times as heavy as that on beer, and three times that on wine. Alcohol is the drink of the people; wine the drink of the wealthier classes. That is unjust as between the classes. It is also unjust as between the countries. Beer is the national beverage of England; whisky, for climatic reasons, is the national beverage of Scotland and Ireland. The tax on alcohol in Ireland is three times as great as it is in England. That fact cannot be disposed of by general arguments as to the proportions for the three countries to the whole Imperial Revenue. What is the relative 197 consumption in the three countries? Taking the consumption of alcohol in all its forms, the consumption in England over the year is 6¾ gallons per head, in Scotland 4½ gallons, and in Ireland 3 gallons. That is to say, that England consumes one and a half times as much as Scotland, and twice as much as Ireland per head. What is the taxation per head? In England it is l1s. 8d.
§ MR. SEXTON
It is the Memorial addressed to the right hon. Gentleman by the Distillery Trade and Wholesale Spirit Merchants of Ireland. In Ireland the taxation per head is 13s. 10d.; and in Scotland 18s. 10d. From the figures I have given, the just standard of taxation in England ought to be 31s. per head, in Ireland about 7s., and in Scotland only about half what it at present pays. Taking these three elements of calculation together it does appear that you have managed to make the taxes in Ireland about three times what they ought to be, and in Scotland about double. There is one point on which I wished to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer a question. In what proportion is this £1,300,000 to be raised to be contributed by England, Ireland, and Scotland? He was unable to give us a reply. But surely hon Gentlemen must see that the reply to that is only relevant to the present Debate. We have the fact before us that alcohol in Ireland is taxed six times as much as it is in England. Yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes to add 6d. a gallon to the article manufactured and consumed in Ireland, and to raise the duty per head in the country by about 2s. How does he propose to raise the money? He proposes to raise one-third of the amount on the English beverages and two-thirds upon the Irish and Scottish drink. And how is the money to be applied? I say that if you are raising a new tax of this kind for local purposes, so much of the tax as Ireland contributes ought to go back to the local uses of Ireland, and so much as Scotland contributes ought to go back to the local uses of Scotland. You only raise £386,000 on the English beverage, and you propose that England shall get £1,000,000 of the whole sum; and though 198 you raise £700,000 on the Scotch and Irish beverage, you propose that Scotland and Ireland shall only have £250,000. I venture to lay down the principle that the fresh taxation from England, Ireland, and Scotland in this case ought to be proportionate to the amount to be given to each of the three countries for their local uses, and I fail to discover what right you have to levy two-thirds of your £1.000,000 on Irish and Scotch manufactures, in order that you shall pay the money over for the purpose of superannuating English policemen, for extinguishing English licences, and for the general purposes of the English County Councils. Of the infinitesimal proportion of the whole million—only £100,000 —that you give to Ireland, you propose to lock up £40,000 for the purposes of of your precious Land Purchase Bill, and the remainder is to be distributed by a Department over which the Irish people have not the least control. So far from this being a defensible charge, it is a most audacious proposal Having proposed to make more oppressive the inequality in the incidence of taxation, and having proposed to tax still further an article of Irish manufacture and consumption, you propose to spend the bulk of the special levy on the local uses of England. For my part, I shall ask my Party to divide against the Second Reading of the Bill because I regard this proposal as extremely oppressive to our country, and I shall feel it my duty to oppose the measure in its further stages. The Irish people were told at the time of the Union—it was one of the main arguments of Mr. Pitt in advancing the project of the Union—that Ireland would benefit by the connection with England, that the wealth of the richer country would fructify to the benefit of the poorer. Well, we have had 90 years' experience since the date of the Union to the present day. We have never benefited by the wealth of England, but the effect of the Union has been to cast on us an unfair share of the burden of the Imperial Service, and an unfair contribution to the Imperial Revenue. I rather think that the idea of Dr. Johnson was accurate, when he said, with regard to the Union with Scotland, that you would have robbed the Scotch if they had had anything of which yon could have robbed 199 them. If he had lived in our day he would have said, "You have found an opportunity of robbing the Scotch." As to Ireland, the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is of a most oppressive character, as it taxes the last industry that is left to us. That industry being already oppressively taxed, the right hon. Gentleman proposes to add to that taxation for a purpose I declare to be indefensible. He is subsidising local purposes of England at the expense of the Imperial Revenue drawn from Scotland and Ireland.
(8.35.) Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ *(8.37.) COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
I am anxious to take the opportunity of saying a few words upon the Bill not so much in criticism of the general principles of the Budget, but on one or two subjects in which I feel particular interest. In passing, I need not say I have any sympathy with the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Buxton), who began the Debate in which nay hon. Friend the Member for Central Hull (Mr. King) Spoke in a sense opposed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I hope the Secretary to the Treasury, who at present represents the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will not think me ungracious or ungrateful, if, while I thank the Treasury for the considerable assistance they have given to local rates, I say I feel a very strong objection to what is really only another form of subvention towards the existence of local finance. I do not want to argue the matter upon the grounds of orthodox economy, but the point that has forced itself upon my mind is that so long as assistance to the rates is given, substantially by way of subvention, we cannot expect to get quite the same interest taken in the proceedings of the County Councils by the gentlemen who form those important bodies that we should if they were responsible for raising the money. This will become more evident to the Secretary to the Treasury if he remembers that the subventions that are given to the County Councils are, in most cases—in one or two cases I know they are—very much larger than the rates the counties themselves have to levy. 200 While a sum of money so large is in the hands of the County Councils, and the Councils have no direct responsibility in the raising of it, it can hardly be expected the Members will take the same interest in its ultimate allocation as they would if the money was the result of a tax more or less elastic in its character, and which they could levy. Local finance will never be upon a really satisfactory and sound basis until some equitable tax is found for what I call subventions. The present system of rating is so obviously unjust that people are naturally ready to cry out for assistance towards the rates. I am not now speaking of the taxing of realty and personalty, but the taxing as between land and other real property. What is wanted is some tax by which all the people in the country can be, more or less, taxed in the same degree 'for the object in which they are all interested. Of course, it is clear to the Secretary to the Treasury, as well as to the hon. Member for Essex, that whether men are farmers or landlords in the matter of rating they are subjected to the grossest inequality. It is that gross inequality which makes the County Council so anxious to have some means of increasing their resources without committing a great injustice upon a considerable portion of the community which they represent. I repeat that while I gladly acknowledge the assistance the Chancellor of the Exchequer has given to local rates, I think local finance cannot be placed on a sound basis until the County Council themselves have some tax made over to them in lieu of these subventions, the incidence of which tax will bear equally on all who live in the country—a tax which may be raised or lowered without considerable injustice being done. There is one other matter to which I desire to direct attention. It seems to me the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) did not quite catch the explanation of the Secretary to the Treasury as to the allocation of the Revenue from spirits. It may not be fair to make Ireland and Scotland con-tribute through the Revenue to the local resources of England, but the hon. Gentleman appears to have overlooked the fact that England contributes to the local resources of Ireland and Scotland by handing over to those countries a greater 201 share of the Probate Duty than they have a right to receive. But it is one thing to say that the hon. Gentleman declines to recognise that view of the question, and another thing to say that one agrees altogether with the particular principle that the Treasury have adopted in the allocation of these grants. It is very difficult to say that we ought to take money from me country and hand it over to another for local purposes. At any rate there is something very unsatisfactory about it. I believe it is true that the incidence of the new taxation on spirits will be much greater in the case of Ireland and Scotland than in the case of England. Whether it may be, in the abstract, just or not it does not seem satisfactory to use money raised in Ireland or Scotland for local purposes in England. [Home Rule Cheers.] Yes; but on the other hand, it is no less satisfactory that English resources in the shape of Probate Duty should be used for local purposes in Ireland and Scotland. Another point to which I wish to draw attention is that which the hon. Member for Poplar and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby seemed anxious to fix upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the idea that there should be a system of graduated taxation. It is one thing to have graduated taxation for the purpose of taxing wealth as such, and a totally different thing to relieve the pressure of taxation by means of a graduated system upon individuals whose incomes are of a somewhat restricted character; and persons with limited incomes have had the pressure of taxation removed from them. Then it seems to me that my hon. Friends the Members for Central Hull and Poplar were not quite just to the Chancellor of the Exchequer when they said that the effect of the small diminution in the Tea Duty will not be felt by the classes whom it is supposed most to benefit. If the diminution of the tax is small, and if its effect may not be felt immediately, I imagine that in the long run the remission will make a considerable difference to the people. As small increases in the duty on articles of consumption are felt by the consumers, so in the converse way small decreases of duty must be felt by the consumers. I feel that our taxation should rest upon 202 a broader and less contracted basis than that on which it at present rests, but, subject to my views about the disposition of the money which is to be applied to local purposes, and to which I may possibly endeavour to give effect in Committee, I shall certainly support the Budget proposals as embodied in the Bill.
(8.54.) MR. PICKERSGTLL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
It seems to me that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should either have abolished the whole of the Tea Duty or let it entirely alone, for no possible advantage will accrue to the masses from the nibbling policy he has pursued. I rose mainly, however, for the purpose of correcting a statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer respecting the profits of the tea dealers in the East End of London, and on which he founded an argument. On Friday last the right hon. Gentleman amended that statement, but not sufficiently. The blunder in calculation made by the right hon. Gentleman was an extraordinary one, and it was the more inexcusable because, contrary to the usual practice, he made his statement first and sought for evidence to justify it afterwards. The mistake he fell into was only the natural consequence of his course of action.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL
The day after the right hon. Gentleman made his statement, on April 21, he sent a Custom House officer to the East End of London post haste to purchase some packets of tea, and the inquiries were conducted with such haste that halfpenny packets of tea were mistaken for penny packets.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL
Then I and other Members and a large number of people in the country have misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman's statement. I understood the facts to be that after the Chancellor of the Exchequer made his statement on April 21, a Custom House officer was sent to the East End to obtain 24 halfpenny packets of tea, and we were told that in this part of London shopkeepers were selling tea at the rate of 5s. per pound. The right hon. Gentleman will have the opportunity of further correcting his state- 203 ment, which he now seems anxious to disavow. The statement, however, showed a complete failure to appreciate the conditions of retail trade, if not a strong animus against the small traders themselves. I am very sorry that the poor of the East End are obliged to buy their tea in halfpenny packets, but this is inevitable as long as the large part of the population remains on the verge of starvation, and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer will try to so improve their condition that they will be no longer compelled to make such small purchases, his efforts will be welcomed. In the meantime, I protest against the unfounded and cowardly attacks that are being made upon a body of citizens who, though poor, are as respectable as the right hon. Gentleman himself, and are not only useful but, I believe, necessary members of society. Is it reasonable to expect that a trader who sells his goods in almost infinitesimal parcels should get only the same price as the trader who sells in large quantities? The right hon. Gentleman has ignored the radical distinction between the two classes of trade, and equally has he ignored the conditions under which the trader at the East End of London carries on his business—the grinding rent and the intolerable burden of rates, which in the East End is double that imposed on those in the West End, in such districts as St. George's, Hanover Square, which the right hon. Gentleman represents. The right hon. Gentleman produced an impression that the small traders in the East End of London are making enormous profits, but I, speaking with knowledge on the subject, can say that this class have the greatest difficulty in keeping their heads above water, and few sections of the community are more entitled to public sympathy. In a sense, no doubt, these traders are middle-men, but I do not know that it lies in the mouth of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to level taunts against middle-men. The middle-man who deals in tea is at least as respectable a man as the middleman who deals in money, and it is hardly fair that men who acquire colossal fortunes by means of one class of operations should be ready to fling stones at those who scrape tog-ether a humble livelihood by another class of middle-man operations. The 204 right hon. Gentleman may say he knew nothing of the conditions of the trade;. then he had been more prudent had he said nothing about it. Now, I propose to correct the right hon. Gentleman's corrected statement about the profits on the retail sale of tea. In this box I have 24 halfpenny packets of tea, which are open to the inspection of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen. These packets were bought over the counter in the ordinary way of trade in Bethnal Green and the neighbourhood, and I may say they were bought soon after the; right hon. Gentleman's original statement, to which I was prepared to offer a contradiction long before he made his correction on Friday. I did not buy these parcels myself, or suggest their purchase. I have a constituent practically interested in the subject, who some years ago was a general trader in the East of London, and his esprit de corps seems to have been wounded by the remarks of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he, therefore, procured from 24 shops a sample of tea for a halfpenny, sending his little son, 10' years of age, into shops after nine at night, while he, his father, remained outside, so that it is a perfectly bond fide transaction, and I can vouch: for the integrity of my correspondent. I have had each of these parcels weighed by a practical man, a counterman accustomed to the use of scales, under my immediate supervision, and of these 24 packets 11 weighed, at least, ½ oz. each without the paper; that is, the tea was sold at 1s. 4d. per lb; 11 other parcels weighed 6 drachms each net, and the price, therefore, was 1s. 10d. per lb.; one weighed a little over 5 drachams, equal to 2s. 2d. per lb.; and one weighed¼ oz, being at the rate of 2s. 8d. per lb. Finally, I had the pickets weighed together, and the net weight of the tea was 10¾ oz., so that this is the quantity of tea that is sold in the East End of London in small parcels. In other words, the average price in halfpenny packets is 1s. 6d. per lb. This, I think, contrasts very favourably with the second statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. As regards the quality of the tea, I have taken the opinion of an expert, and while, in two or three cases, it is true the-parcels contained merely tea dust, and 205 was very bad, in the majority of cases the tea was full leafed and of fair average quality. Now I have discharged the duty I took upon myself. I have no doubt there are general dealers at the East of London who get exorbitant profits out of the poor, and sell adulterated goods, and I should be glad to join with the right hon. Gentleman, or anyone else, in exposing and, if possible, punishing these exceptionally dishonest traders, but, as regards the general body of small traders, I come to the conclusion. after careful observation and inquiry, that there is little reason for complaint. I hope these remarks which I have ventured to make in the House to-night, may be the means of removing, at all events to some extent, the cloud of suspicion and distrust raised around these humble traders by the unfounded—and I am afraid I must say cowardly—attack upon them by a Minister of the Crown.
§ *(9.10.) BARON DIMSDALE (Herts., Hitchin)
In a few words, I wish to treat the Budget from an agricultural point of view. There are points in which justice has been done to agricultural interests, but others where much is left to be desired. In the first place, as one who joined last year in the protest against the unfair way in which local finance was treated. I have to express my thanks to the right hon. Gentleman for what he has done tin's year in this regard by the allocation of £.'593,000 to the reinforcement of local revenue. But the point upon which I would dwell for a few moments is the injury that is inflicted upon barley growers and beer drinkers, an injury which falls specially on the agricultural interest. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in introducing the Budget, explained that he should be unable to reduce the Income Tax because he owed something to the classes who had procured for him a large amount of the surplus. I thought there was some force in that argument, but then, as the right hon. Gentleman proceeded, he arrived at what, I think, is a very illogical conclusion. No less than £1,800,000 of the surplus is the result of the increased consumption of alcoholic drinks, and yet the right hon. Gentleman places extra taxation on the barley-growing and beer industry of the country, while he gives relief by a reduction of the duty on tea, 206 upon the consumption of which article there was a considerable reduction in 1889. That seems to me to be a most illogical proceeding, after expressing the intention to give relief to those who provided the surplus. He offers them no relief, but burdens them with increased taxation, and reserves his special favours to the tea drinkers, who are entitled to no relief on the principle he has himself laid down I do not complain of the Tea Duty, though I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer has pursued but a half-hearted policy in the right direction. He should have made the reduction more considerable, if at all, to have made it a real benefit. I would not have the Tea Duty abolished altogether; that would be a mistake. Cutting off from time to time indirect taxation means an extra penny added to the Income Tax. If the right hon. Gentleman had not reduced the Tea Duty at all I should not have grieved very much. Now, last year we had considerable discussion upon the Beer Tax, and a strong feeling was evinced against the tax, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not give way on the question, and many of us withdrew the opposition we entertained when the right hon. gentleman was careful to point out that in putting this extra tax upon beer he did not intend it to be a lasting tax, and he intimated that it would be taken off when the Revenue should be in a satisfactory state. The Chancellor of the Exchequer intimated that it was only imposed to meet the increased war expenditure. Well, the Revenue is in a satisfactory state this year. The right hon Member for Mid Lothian, acting as the representative of the Aberdeen Government for the Brewing and Barley Growing Interest, during the Crimean War, put an extra tax of 10 per cent. upon malt, but he said it would be taken off again because it was imposed for a temporary purpose. Lord Palmerston,. who succeeded Lord Aberdeen, when the temporary purpose was served, took off the tax, for ho always kept his word. But now we are placed in a worse position than before, because if it continued' to be an Imperial tax, we should have a considerable party opposed to its continuance, but now that it is given over to the County 207 Council the practical effect of that ingenious operation is to separate the interests of the owners and the occupiers of the land. Another peculiarity of this arrangement is the ear-marking of this Beer Duty to be applied to the special purpose of compensation for the closing of public houses, and in this, I think, a want of confidence is exhibited towards County Councils in supposing that they would not carry out the principle of compensation unless a particular tax was ear-marked for the purpose. This, too, is at variance with the declaration made by the Prime Minister in 1885, just before the General Election, when he said, in giving the control of public houses to Local Representative Bodies there would be ample guarantee that too many houses would not be unnecessarily or recklessly closed, because the funds under local control. But now you are withholding that control, and the money is to be devoted to a special purpose. The tax, having been imposed for a temporary purpose, ought to pass away when that purpose is served. And now a word as to the tax on beer and spirits. The fact is it was upon this question that the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian was turned out of office in 1885, and I think we owe some explanation to those who united with us then in turning out the Government of that day, when we are now pursuing the same policy then pursued by our opponents. Depend upon it it is a great mistake to act upon one set of principles in office and another in opposition. I can entirely acquit the Chancellor of the Exchequer of any share in that, for I believe he supported the Budget of 1885 by his independent vote and speech, and now introduces to the Parliament of 1890 proposals based upon the same lines, and the same principles as were embodied in the condemned Liberal Budget of 1885.
§ (9.22.) MR. BUCHANAN (Edinburgh, W.)
I desire, in a few words, to call attention to that branch of the subject which deals with the allocation of funds derived from Imperial sources to Scotland and Ireland. The Secretary to the Treasury very rightly said the subject is of very considerable importance. It is of considerable and growing importance on political grounds, to which I will not now allude, and because of the line the 208 Chancellor of the Exchequer has adopted in dealing with the transfer of Imperial funds for local purposes. The Secretary to the Treasury, during his speech, was asked several questions as to the foundation upon which he based the figures he gave us, and I think Scotch and Irish Members were justified in their interpolations, and we have reason for making a searching inquiry. The subject has, from time to time, been before the consideration of Parliament during the past five or six years, and various opinions have been given by financial authorities, but we are still in a state of considerable ignorance as to the exact state of the contributions from Scotland and Ireland and the Imperial Exchequer, and what the proper proportion should be of the sums which are to be allotted to purely Scottish and Irish purposes. In 1883 this subject was raised in the House by the hon. and gallant Member for Galway and the late Member for the Partick Division, and a Return was furnished in 1884. I have not had the time, nor do I possess the knowledge, to make a comparison of the figures in this Return with those given by the Secretary to the Treasury, but on the face of them there appears to be discrepancy. I observe that the Return has an addendum to the effect that the Treasury are not responsible for the accuracy of the Return, and I think we are justified if we evince a considerable amount of—I will not say mistrust—but of curiosity, and a desire for information as to the basis of these figures given by the Secretary to the Treasury. There are three methods by which it has been proposed to help local taxation out of Imperial Funds. There is the method of absolutely assigning over to the Local Authorities a tax which they collect and spend. There is the old system, in operation two years ago, of grants in aid given in proportion to the sums spent on the particular object by the Local Authorities. Lastly, there is the method proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1888, and which has been in operation from that time until now— that of assigning these sums from the Probate Duty to Local Authorities. These are to be given to the Scotch and Irish authorities in proportion to the general contributions of Scotland and Ireland to the Imperial Exchequer. The Secretary 209 to the Treasury has given figures to the House to-night with the object of showing that the principle of distribution stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1888 is a fair one to Scotland and Ireland, and the proportion which the right hon. Gentleman then laid down as a guide was that Scotland should get 11 per cent., Ireland 9 per cent., and England 80 per cent. The hon. Gentleman then went on to describe the proportion in which the grants are to be allocated, and, commenting on the sums already given to Local Authorities out of the Imperial Funds since 1888. stated that they consisted of two large sums, the grant from the Probate Duty and this proposed grant from the increased Spirit Duty. He showed us what the proportion would be from the Probate Duty, but he was not able to show what the precise allocation would be from the increased Spirit Duty alone. I do not think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will deny that the contributions from Scotland and Ireland will be considerably in excess of what they will obtain in the shape of grants from the Imperial Exchequer. It is not fair to retort that those two countries have received more than their share out of the Probate Duty; the fact remains they will get considerably less than their share from the Spirit Duty. I submit to the Chancellor of the Exchequer this consideration, that, undoubtedly, the smaller and poorer nationalities of Scotland and Ireland expect to be treated with some consideration in regard to this question. They have reason to complain of the unfairness of the proposals made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I should like to have from the right hon. Gentleman some further information as to the basis on which the figures quoted by the Secretary to the Treasury are calculated, in order that the House may be able, before the Committee stage, to form a definite judgment on the equity of the proposals as they affect Scotland and Ireland. As the matter at present stands I think the impression conveyed is that the method by which the Chancellor of the Exchequer endeavours to aid local expenditure will, in the long run, press most heavily on the smaller nationalities.
§ *(9.35.) MR. R. G. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, East)
I propose only to speak on one special point, to which my atten- 210 tion has been drawn by several of my constituents. In Clause 3 of Section 1 I find a proposal to abolish the duty on currants from the first day of this month, and I am informed by my constituents that, as a matter of fact, the trade in currants is done chiefly in August and September. It would, therefore, be of great convenience to that special trade if the reduction of the duty were postponed till some date in the autumn. I cannot help congratulating the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the fact that while removing the duty on currants he has been able to obtain some equivalent from Greece. I think it is satisfactory that our exports have been encouraged by the removal of these duties, and I hope that this principle, which has now been established, will be acted upon more frequently in the future, and that we take care to receive some equivalent advantage in our turn when we take duties off commodities imported from other countries. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer was wise in taking the duty off silver plate, because these goods come mainly from India, where they are manufactured in large quantities. The duties charged on the importation of our chief manufacturing commodities into India is, comparatively speaking, a light one, and I think, therefore, we owe some return to India for the policy the Government there have pursued. The remission of this duty will not only be a gain to India, but it will encourage the industry of the manufacture of silver goods generally, and probably be the means of making the relationship between the value of gold and silver less marked than at the present time.
§ 9.38.) MR. JAMES ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)
I propose to confine my remarks to the second portion of the Bill. I think we have some cause for satisfaction with regard to the abolition of the Gold and Silver Plate Duties in knowing that at last the fatal step has been taken. For a large number of years the trade has been interfered with during the month or two preceding the Annual Budget Statement, because those employed in the industry have not known what course the Chancellor of the Exchequer would take. This state of uncertainty has now been put an end 211 to by the action of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has been subjected to a good deal of pressure from those connected with the trade, a great many of whom are in favour of the retention of the duty. The right hon. Gentleman has allowed a drawback with regard to silver plate, but he has refused it in regard to gold plate, and from my experience of the trade I can tell him that a large number of small manufacturers and small shopkeepers have been very hard hit by the sudden action which he has taken. The effect of the abolition of the Gold Plate Duty is especially marked in the case of wedding rings, and I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman whether he cannot re-consider his decision and allow a drawback in the case of wedding rings. From the estimates which have been made I believe it would only cost him some £5,000, and while that is an infinitesimal sum to him, it represents a very large sum to the dozen or so of manufacturers doing business mainly in London and Birmingham, upon whom the loss will fall. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether something cannot be done for the wedding ring makers, if for no other class of persons employed in the gold plate trade.
§ *(9.45.) MR. AINSLIE (Lancashire, N, Lonsdale)
As one of those who took action in the matter, I should like to say how grateful I am to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for having listened to the representations made to him on behalf of the lodging-house keepers, who will experience some relief under the provisions of the Bill. Several of the speakers to-night have made reference to the abolition of the duty on silver plate. I may remark, with reference to that, that instances may arise in which hallmarking is not altogether an advantage. I desire to see some relief given in the direction of the import of silver articles from India. I am one of the few Members of the House who really represent India, as I was born there, and I think I can speak on behalf of that country quite as much as some Members can speak on behalf of their particular constituencies. I have but one other point to refer to. I am somewhat disappointed that the Income Tax has not been reduced, because it seems to me that a reduction of that tax is to the 212 benefit of the working classes. Many men, whether rightly or wrongly, live up to their incomes, and immediately the Income Tax rises they meet it by reducing their staff of domestic servants, while, when it falls, the staff is increased. I do hope, therefore, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will take the next opportunity of reducing the tax, and thus find employment for some of the many idle hands throughout the country.
§ (9.47.) MR. DILLON
When I read the Budget speech I felt great disappointment at the treatment to which Ireland was proposed to be subjected. I recollect that only about two years ago, in the course of a Debate which took place in this House, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in reply to some observations from myself, assured mo that he felt there was a great deal of force in the complaints which were made by Irish Members of the unjust incidence of taxation on the Irish people, and he added—I suppose by way of comforting Irish Members after the rejection of the Home Rule Bill—that it would undoubtedly be the duty of Finance Ministers in the future to give the most serious attention to the facts placed before them with regard to the financial relations between Great Britain and Ireland. What has been the history of this matter of the unequal incidence of taxation as between Great Britain and Ireland? It has been a very sitimple one—that all the remissions of taxation which have been the boast of successive Chancellors of the Exchequer for the past 50 years have been of such a character as to bring more relief to Great Britain than to Ireland. We have heard in the course of this Debate of the hundreds of taxes that have been swept away during the last half century; but all these taxes so remitted were of such a character that the relief was more felt in England than in Ireland. On the other hand, the taxes which have been increased during these years, almost without exception, have weighed more heavily upon the Irish people. When I come to examine the incidence of taxation as between the two countries what do I find—that especially on tobacco and whisky have the taxes been increased, and the Finance Ministers of this country have by that means been enabled to 213 compel the poorer population in Ireland to pay at least two or three times their just share of the contribution to the Imperial Exchequer The people of Ireland, I may say, since the time of the Union, have been engaged in making unavailing complaints against the gross injustice. So long ago as 1864 a Committee of the House sat and reported very fully on the subject, and from that Report a good deal of useful information can be obtained. The question was again discussed in the House in 1886, when Mr. Giffen, who is allowed to be the greatest authority on statistics in the country, turned his attention to the financial relations between Great Britain and Ireland, and what was his verdict? It was that the people of Ireland are paying more than double their just proportion into the Imperial Exchequer. That undue and unfair proportion of taxation, which has been the one cause of the terrible poverty of the Irish people, has been brought about by the taxes on tobacco and whisky. It is not for me now to enter into the question as to whether or not the Irish people drink too much whisky, or ought to drink something else. I wish the Irish people would drink no whisky at all. But that is not the point. The question is, have the Government a right, because they think the Irish people consume one particular form of drink, to throw the burden of taxation on that article? If the Chancellor of the Exchequer had any intention of acting in the spirit of the declaration to which I have alluded, the last thing he would have thought of doing when he required additional money would have been to increase the very tax which has been the cause and the root of the injustice to which I have referred. The Chancellor of the Exchequer found that the Wheel and Van Tax was defeated— a tax which would have fallen with infinitely greater heaviness on the people of England than of Ireland—in fact, so far as my constituents are concerned I believe it would not touch them at all, for they generally remove their goods on donkey carts. He then had recourse, on the principle of least resistance, to the old and well worn resource of British financiers —namely, the article of Irish whisky. He accordingly proposes under this Bill to put an extra duty of 6d. 214 in the gallon upon an already over-taxed article; while with regard to the alcohol contained in beer he taxes it only in proportion of one-sixth, as compared with Irish whisky. In fact, he proposes to tax the people of Ireland six times as heavily on their national drink as he proposes to tax the people of England on theirs; whereas, even if he made the tax even in each case it would be still grossly unfair and unjust to Ireland. When the hon. Member for West Belfast put forward our objections against this scheme, how was he met? The Secretary to the Treasury stood up and referred him to the distribution of the Probate Duty. But that is not the question before the House—it is a question of an extra tax of 11d. on Irish whisky. When we come to inquire, as well as we can inquire, having regard to the very small amount of information at our disposal from the Government, into the distribution which is to be made of the taxes, we find that the grievance of which I complain is increased twenty-fold. I believe I am right in saying that England will get back four-fifths of the entire sum contributed, whereas in all probability she has not contributed more than half. [No, no!] Hon. Gentlemen opposite cry "no;" but if my calculation is not an accurate one why did not the Chancellor of the Exchequer tell us the true figures, and why has he refused to do so? I protest against any tax on Irish whisky or tobacco. By increasing the tax on those articles you are doing a grievous injustice to Ireland, and one which the Irish Members will insist on bringing forward in this House in season and out of season. Again, in the remissions which have been made the Irish people are unfairly treated. You say you are striving to maintain the Union. Is that the way to do it? I say that for, no purpose have you a right, having regard to the financial arrangements of the two countries, to lay this extra tax upon those articles, and least of all have you a right to place a tax upon those articles and then distribute the proceeds in the way in which you propose to distribute them, a method of distribution which will not benefit the Irish people. In the matter of remissions, it is undoubtedly true that the Irish people are unfairly treated. What is the one chief remission you have made? 215 It is just the old, old story of Budgets in the past, remitting taxes to the sole relief of the people of Great Britain, and imposing taxes on Irish whisky or tobacco. I say you have no right to impose this tax and then to distribute the proceeds of that tax in the unfair way you do. The object of this tax is to buy out and extinguish licences in England. The House has not yet consented at all to that principle of buying out licences. I think it monstrous and outrageous to levy a tax on an Irish article of consumption to carry out an object which this House has not sanctioned at all. I protest against this doctrine. We know perfectly well that 6d. a gallon on whisky will come largely out of the pockets of the poor in Ireland. Is that the message of statesmanship to Ireland? Have the poor peasantry of Ireland to pay compensation to the publicans in England? The business of the publican in England may be a very bad thing, but you find plenty of men to take it up. It is nothing short of an outrage to drag out of the pockets of the poor peasantry of Ireland the funds by which these English publicans are to be compensated, if the proposal is ever to pass. Then a large part of it is to be used for the superannuation of the English police. Can anything be more outrageous or unjust than to take the money of the people of Ireland for that purpose? Surely the people of England ought to provide for their own police. The Secretary to the Treasury has refused to give us the only information we asked for, and which the Government ought undoubtedly to have had in their hands when they proposed this to the House. I hold in my hand a Return which was made in 1883, when the present Chairman of Committees was Secretary to the Treasury, on this very subject. He puts the amount of revenue collected in Ireland at £8,194,978. But we are informed by the present Secretary to the Treasury that Ireland only contributes a little over £6,000,000.
§ MR. JACKSON
The figures which I gave are as far as can be ascertained the amount paid by the consumers.
§ MR. DILLON
I know that; but in a note to this Return it states that owing to the way the accounts are kept it is impossible to get an accurate Return of what Ireland contributes. All we know 216 is that over £8,000,000 is collected in Ireland for the Revenue. I am not prepared to say that it does not fall below that amount, but Mr. Robert Giffen and other high authorities have placed the contribution of Ireland at a very much higher figure than that given by the Secretary to the Treasury. But the Secretary to the Treasury adopts a practice which is inadmissible in debate; he produces a set of results supplied to him by various officers, and which we have no means of checking. Nobody in the House has greater respect than I have for the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury; we on these Benches all recognise his kindness and courtesy; but the inconvenience of a method of statement of that kind is obvious. But I put against the authority of the Secretary to the Treasury the authority of Mr. Robert Giffen, and from these contradictory authorities emerges the fact that nobody knows what Ireland contributes to the Imperial Revenue; and you have no right to found any arguments on any statements of this kind. It is absolutely essential, for the guidance and information of this House, that you should be in a position to lay on the Table a Return showing and proving how much Ireland contributes to the Imperial Revenues of this country. I contend that it is outrageous to levy this extra tax upon Ireland, and to proceed to distribute it, leaving Irish Members and Ireland absolutely in the dark as to the contribution of Ireland to the Imperial Revenues. The Secretary to the Treasury went on to say that Ireland in reality only contributed 4 per cent. to the Probate Duty. That may or may not be the case, but it strikes me that it is most extraordinary that when this subject is broached from one side everything diminishes and dwindles away, and' when it is approached from another side. [Dr. TANNER: It is like agrarian crime.] Yes; my hon. Friend reminds me, it is-like agrarian crime, which, when a Coercion Bill is wanted, swells up like a balloon; and when it is desired to show the salutary effect of coercion, the country is then a perfect model of peace and order. The Secretary to the Treasury says Ireland contributes only 4 per cent. to the Probate-Duty; but I find that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, 217 when arguing against us in the debate of 1886 on this very question of the relative contributions of the three countries, undertook to show that Ireland was only contributing a just proportion. He took the Returns of property on which Probate and Legacy Duties were paid for three years, and he brought out this result—that property in England was 13 times the value of the property of Ireland. According to the Secretary to the Treasury it is as one to 25. So, when we make out that we are paying much more than our proportion, we find the Legacy Duty and Probate is as one to 13; but when we try to get back our money from England the Legacy and Probate Duty dwindles away to one to 25. Before you move a single inch in this matter of the distribution of grants for local purposes between Great Britain and Ireland, you are bound to give us a fair, full, proper, and conclusive Return of the relative contributions of the three countries to the gross Revenue of the United Kingdom, so that we may be able to know how much the 6d. a gallon on spirits will bring from each country. How unreasonable the position of the Government is. We all know how much a 1d. Income Tax brings in. I contend that it is outrageous to proceed to levy this tax for local purposes without ascertaining the details of the tax. If the tax be passed, as I hope it will not, it will constitute another Irish grievance. [Laughter] Certainly. I do not quarrel with this Session of Parliament, because it seems to me that the Ministers are devoted to the well-known manufacture of Irish grievances. They say—"They are our chief stock-in-trade, and we are doing a flourishing business in them." We have no objection to the manufacture from one point of view. That tax is expected to bring in £1,250,000.
§ MR. DILLON
Then, I have made a mistake in my figures, but, at any rate, you are to get back £118,000as Ireland's share of this tax, and I say that, in addition to the grievances attaching to the way the tax has to be raised, you are proposing an unjust distribution of the money, which materially increases our grievance. First of all £40,000 of Ireland's share is to be tied up from use until a Local Government Board is constituted in Ire- 218 land, and the whole of the £118,000 is to be used without our consent as a guarantee of the Government for the Land Purchase Bill, so that we absolutely get nothing at all. The £40.000 is to be tied up until the proposed Local Government Board is constituted and has power to deal with licences, but when will that be? We have no knowledge as to when we shall get those Local Bodies, and the House ought to remember what our experience in regard to Local Bodies has hitherto been. We were told three years ago we were to have local government, but now we seem even further away from it than we wore then, and, in point of fact, our prospect is something like that of a man who when climbing a mountain sees an eminence before him which he thinks is the top, but as soon as he has climbed it he finds that the real mountain top is almost as far away as ever. As it is, the money is to be tied up for an indefinite time, until the Government see fit to declare that Ireland is in a normal condition—a condition in which it never has been in the memory of man During all this time we are to submit to this unjust tax. Is this fair and even treatment as compared with the case of the English and Scottish people, who get their shares at once. With regard to the £7,000 which is to be given ultimately towards primary education, that also is to be tied up as a contingent guarantee. We go upon the principle that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and therefore protest against being called on to vote this tax while we have no security that we shall ever get half of the money, and therefore, Sir, I side with my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast in calling on our friends on these Benches to divide against this Bill, and to offer it at every stage all the opposition we can give. If you insist on imposing this extra tax of 6d. on Irish whisky, you may depend upon it you will not have heard the last of it when this Bill is carried. You will find that yon have laid up a store of trouble that will manifest itself for years to come Before sitting down I would appeal to our Scotch friends to aid us in resisting this Bill, because while it is one that will inflict cruel injustice to the people of Ireland, it will undoubtedly inflict injustice on the people of Scotland, less perhaps in the case of Scotland, because the Scottish people have deeper pockets, 219 and a Scotchman would less feel a robbery of £1 than an Irishman would feel a robbery of half-a-crown. The tax is one which, if passed, will plunder both the Scotch and Irish people for the benefit of the English, and therefore it is an outrageous proposal which every Scotchman and Irishman is bound to repudiate.
§ *(10.25.) MR. GOSCHEN
I entirely admit that the strongest attacks which have been made upon the Budget have come from the Scotch and Irish Members, and it is to that part of the Opposition that it will be my duty mainly to online the few remarks I have to make. Otherwise I am bound to say that it strikes me that to a great extent everybody who has taken part in this Debate has been answering everybody else. One hon. Member contended that the additional Spirit Duty would be paid by the publicans; another immediately replied it was absolutely certain that it would be paid by the consumer, while a third hon. Member was as certain that the real loss would fall, not upon the publican or the consumer, but upon the barley-grower. For my part, I am not prepared to decide between these great authorities as to who will ultimately have to bear the burden of the tax, but I am inclined to agree with the right hon. Member for Derby that ultimately this tax will be borne by the consumer. It is possible that for a certain time the publican may suffer, but I do not think for one moment that the barley-grower will be permanently affected by the tax. Then as regards the Tea Duty, some hon. Members say that the remission will only benefit the middlemen, but this suggestion was promptly replied to by other hon. Members, who said that the consumer will benefit, and as far as I can judge, it is certain that a large portion of the benefit consequent on the reduction of the Tea Duty will go to the consumer. Then as regards the assistance given to the County Councils, some hon. Members were of opinion that it was wrong for the Government to give any such assistance. On that point, however, I am bound to say that the requisitions made upon the Government to come to the assistance of the County Councils have proceeded as much from County Councils in which Liberal opinions prevail as from those in which Conservative opinions preponderate. The next general charge made against the Budget, and which found 220 considerable favour against hon. Members opposite, and approval from some hon. Members who sit on the Ministerial Benches, is that the surplus has been frittered away. But I noticed that scarcely any single hon. Member has pointed out the direction in which I ought to have frittered. A certain number of duties have been inherited by me. There is the Volunteer Grant, for instance. Hon. Members opposite have so convinced themselves, since the present Government have been in power, that it is necessary to assist the Volunteers that they lent a hand with great readiness to hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial side in defeating the Government on this question, and it certainly does not lie with those hon. Members to complain of these proposals with regard to the Volunteers after the vote of the House. Then I presume that that is a point upon which we have not frittered? Then I come to the £300,000 given towards the cost of barrack accommodation. Having an ample surplus, I thought it right and orthodox that we should pay that sum out of the Revenue for the year. I have noticed that hon. Members from Ireland, who are extremely and properly anxious with regard to barrack accommodation in that country, have treated that as one of the points in which Ireland has great interest. There, again, is an item with regard to which I do not think any reproach can fall upon me. I now come to another small item, namely, the colonial postage. There is only one Member of the House who has raised any objection on that; and there, again, is a matter on which I do not think any reproach can rest on me. [Interruption from the Irish Members.] I am referring to the propriety of having dealt with these particular points, and answering an objection which I think I am bound in courtesy to take notice of. In the smaller concessions I have made I have been doing that which I think the public and this House have demanded should be done. Now I come to the Silver Plate Duties. There has been not an absolutely unanimous, but a fairly unanimous feeling that remission was the proper course to take, and, again, the hon. Member acquits me of having frittered in this direction. Well, I am getting on. I say that as to the Silver Plate Duties I had very little choice in the matter. 221 Previous declarations on the part of other Chancellors of the Exchequer, and the recommendations of Select Committees and Commissions, imposed this upon me as a step which ought to be taken. I come to another comparatively small remission, with regard to which I have not heard a single word of remonstrance—the diminution of the Currant Duty. That, I think was absolutely justified, looking at the great service we have been able to render to Greece, and the compensation to our manufacturers we were able to secure from that country. While, in the abstract, hon. Members complain of small remissions, this is a small remission to which no exception has been taken. There remain only the Tea Duty and the House Duty as the two large concessions that have been made; and whatever magnificent notions hon. Members may have as to the preparation of Budgets. I think that a remission of £1,500,000 on one particular article is not a small remission. An hon. Member has said we had better have reduced the duty by one-half, as it would then have been easier to have abolished it altogether; but the Government are not prepared to pave the way for the abolition of the Tea Duty. There remained about £600,000, and I do not think any Member of the House has contended that that balance was not properly bestowed in relieving the house occupiers between £20 or £60.
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
I am glad, at any rate, to think that the Irish participate to the full in the reduction of the Tea Duty and the duty on currants; and it has been recognised that the classes occupying these houses are entitled to relief. Ireland has no share in the House Duty, and therefore in this respect the Irish are a happy community.
Houses above the value of £20 are free from the obligation of paying the duty which unfortunately has to be paid in England and Scotland. But, at the same time, I quite admit that Ireland would not gain by the abolition of the duty. But I must go on with my general argument, and I will approach the Irish and Scotch 222 question by itself. I have endeavoured to prove that the remissions I hay made have been remissions that were apart from the great controversy as to whether I ought to have taken a penny off the Income Tax, and that they have been such as have recommended themselves to public opinion, and I do not believe that any large portion of that remission will fail to teach the quarter which it is intended to benefit. The hon. Member for Finsbury spoke of the grievance under which wedding-ring manufacturers suffer through receiving no drawback. Well, it is impossible to reduce duties without involving hardship in some quarters. Those who have laid in a considerable stock of currants, for instance, will lose; also those who have laid in a large stock of tea. I have been asked not to allow the proposal with respect to currants to come into operation before the 1st of October; but the result of inquiries in both the wholesale and retail dried fruit trade has convinced me that more harm than good will come from the concession, and I cannot, therefore, agree to postponing the operation of the Bill until that date. In the same way as in the currant trade the manufacturers of wedding rings will have a certain loss. The case is certainly hard on them, because I understand their profits are extremely small, and the duty is heavy as compared with their profits; but without opening the whole question of drawback, we were unable to make the concession which the hon. Member demands. If such a concession were made to the manufacturers, it would immediately be claimed by the retailers, and I have had communications from pawnbrokers also on the subject. It is difficult to find out what is a new wedding ring. Old ones are burnished up, I understand, so as to appear new; and on looking at the matter broadly, though anxious to find some means of meeting the grievance complained of by the hon. Member, I have been unable to find such means. Then the hon. Member for Bethnal Green made what his constituents will characterise as a "savage attack on the Chancellor of the Exchequer" with regard to the unfortunate mistake as to the question of tea, for which I expressed my regret in the House. I think he exaggerated the matter extremely when he wished to 223 represent me as anxious to make a cowardly attack on the grocers. Why such an attack should he "cowardly" I do not know, because they are an extremely formidable body for any single person to attack. I do not wish to bring forward any evidence to modify the statement of regret I then made, and I shall not attempt to deal with the views of the hon. Member. I can only say, as I am bound to say, that when I spoke of the prices paid for tea in many villages I spoke with actual knowledge, which has since been confirmed, and which hon. Members have told me is borne out by their own experience. But I wish hon. Members to dismiss from their minds any idea that I wanted to make an attack upon grocers, nor did I wish to attack any middlemen in particular. I was anxious that the 2d. should not be lost to the consumer, and I believe it is the case that he is already in many parts of the country deriving advantage from the reduction. More than that, I believe that in many cases what will happen has been to some extent already anticipated, namely, that the reduction in price has been greater than the reduction of duty. The trade, seeing' that confidence has been restored, have found it is possible to make a larger reduction than 2d. in the pound. An hon. Friend of mine, who is not now in his place, spoke against the Bill from the point of view of the publicans, and said he hoped I should not be hard upon them in reply, as he thought I had been after he had reflected upon my Budget speech. I should not be surprised if, in the interval between its delivery and the formation of that opinion, he had had some communication from an Organisation representing the trade. As to the psychological effect of that upon his mind I will not too curiously inquire. I acknowledge the courteous tones in which the hon. Member for Derby has spoken, but do not accept the points he made. He added to the surplus the tax which is to be added to beer and spirits, bringing it up to £4,750,000, but the surplus is usually calculated before taxes are imposed or taken off. Following the lead of one of our friends, the hon. Member for Poplar laid down some of the first principles of finance without having studied the details on which they are founded; he added to my surplus the tax which is being imposed upon spirits 224 and beer, and he treated my surplus as something like £4,750,000. I thought that, according to financial practice, a surplus was taken at the time when you have settled your expenditure for the year, and estimated your surplus for the year, and before you began to impose fresh taxes or to take any off. But to treat a surplus of which I had disposed by adding a tax which is to be put on for a particular period seemed to me to be an unusual method of argument. The hon. Member objected to the principle of assigning any of this Imperial Revenue to local purposes, and said, not without some force, that we might be hampered as regards Imperial finance if we deprived ourselves of freedom of action by giving Local Authorities a share of these taxes. I think this system is an improvement upon the old one of making subventions, which depended to a great extent upon the extravagance of the Local Authorities, for the more they spent the more they gained from the State. To that we have put an end, and now certain revenues are assigned to them if they act with prudence, moderation, and economy. If they squander them it will be their loss, but it will not be the loss of the State, as it used to be. It is said that we should find local revenues; but is it possible to find local revenues which would not cause the greatest sense of inequality? These local revenues would have to take the place of the amounts which used to be received by the Local Authorities. The result of any local levy would be that the poorest counties would come off very badly, and an intolerable sense of grievance would arise. In the Highlands of Scotland or the West of Ireland the amounts raised would not be at all proportionate to the amounts that had been contributed by the nation at large. The poorer counties would not be helped much by the Horse Tax or by the Van and Wheel Tax. That which is the dream of taxation reformers—a Local Income Tax—would be most detrimental to the poorer districts where the rich do not reside. With all the imperfections of the present system, I do not see that the mode of giving local assistance by hypothecating certain Imperial Revenues can be improved by any system of Local Taxation. If any one can discover an excellent Local Tax which will be equitable and acceptable he will render a ser- 225 vice, but I have not heard of such a tax being suggested. There is really no difference between the right hon. Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) and myself on the point of diminishing the number of sources of revenue. In the past there was reason to abolish an enormous number of small taxes; but we have arrived at a point where our taxation rests upon as few articles as I think it is right it should rest upon. I am not prepared to diminish the number of these articles any further, and for that reason, although I admit much is to be said in favour of the abolition of the House Tax, it is a tax which in emergency might be utilised, and which, I believe, we would be almost sorry to part with. Acting upon that principle, I am reluctant to give up any source of future taxation. It had passed through my mind whether the House Tax should be abolished; but I came to the conclusion that it would not be wise to part with it. If I had abolished it, I am certain it would be said that the benefit of the remission would go into the pockets of the landlords, as it has been argued erroneously that the contribution to the rates had benefited the landlords. It was said I had deprived the Sinking Fund of £3,000,000 that properly belonged to it; but that statement does scant justice to the policy I have pursued, for of the £3,000,000, £1,000,000 represents the reduction on the charge for the Debt through the operation of conversion. That was £1,000,000 which was never anticipated, and to say that I have robbed the Sinking Fund of it is to push rhetoric beyond its proper limits. Having been able to reduce the Debt by £23,000,000, that reduction saves a charge of 2¾ per cent. upon that £23,000,000, by which we have saved a further sum of £500.000, which will be applied to the Sinking Fund instead of to the interest on the Debt. When the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) speaks of our joining the professional alarmists, and refers to the better finance which prevailed when I presided at the Admiralty in 1873, and had the advantage of his advice and assistance, I must remind him that great changes have occurred since then; that every gun costs infinitely more now than it did then; that every ship costs infinitely more on account of its machinery; 226 that all the Powers have made further progress in their armaments; that torpedoes are more necessary and have developed enormously; and that everything costs, I will not say double, but much more than it did when we were at the Admiralty together. I think it is right that the country should know the circumstances when this comparison is drawn. I think I have now dealt with most of the topics which have been introduced, except the very important topic of the contributions of Scotland and Ireland, and the effect which this Bill will have upon Scotch and Irish finances. The hon. Member who spoke last discussed not only the finances of the Bill, not only the tax which has been imposed, but also the objects to which the new tax was to be devoted. In discussing the objects of the Bill, or rather the purposes to which the new tax should be devoted, the hon. Member (Mr. Dillon) was extremely indignant that, among other things, it should be devoted to the superannuation of the English police. But I think the hon. Member forgot that the whole superannuation of the Irish police is paid out of Imperial funds. It is not a question of contribution, or that Ireland should pay less, but that while some small contribution is made towards English and Scotch police the whole of the Irish superannuation is borne by the State.
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
I think the hon. Member is mistaken, and that such an act would add another to the list of Irish grievances. Those Irish police are Irishmen, belonging to Irish families, coming from all parts of Ireland, and a breach of faith with regard to their superannuation would be considered an outrage in many parts of Ireland and in many circles in which hon. Members opposite themselves move. There are many charges which are brought against the English Government; but the charge of paying Irishmen too much, even when they do not belong to the Party of hon. Members opposite, is not often brought against the Imperial Government.
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
Yes; when they think of abolishing a Judgeship it is said the Judges are paid too much. If the 227 hon. Member speaks for the whole of his Party on some subjects, there are some on which I think he cannot speak with so much authority. Again, to my surprise, the hon. Member objected to the method in which we are dealing with the position of the National teachers in Ireland. I thought that if there was one object which commended itself to hon. Members opposite it would be that the position of the National teachers in Ireland should be improved. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), in fact, stated on one occasion that so long as we continued to govern Ireland we must improve the position of the National teachers. I thought that was a matter of very great importance, and I took special note of it at the time, as showing that there was not that indifference to English financial aid on the part of the hon. Member for Cork that there was to the general connection between the two countries. But be that as it may, we thought that if there was one manner in which all Ireland would like this money to be spent it would be in the direction of assisting the National teachers. When the hon. Member says that the money is not distributed through the proper authority, that is a matter of detail; but, in fact, it is distributed on principles very analogous to those on which it is distributed in Scotland. In Scotland it is distributed mainly under schemes proposed by the Secretary of State for Scotland. That, however, as I say, is comparatively a detail, and we shall be glad if by the operation of our Bill we should improve the position of the National teachers in Ireland. Now, I will deal as shortly as I can with the point raised by the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) and the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) and by some Scotch Members with regard to the injustice of putting this tax upon whisky. Let me point out that a writer in the Economist puts the case against us in this way, that England gets £125,000 too much, Scotland £77,000 too little, and Ireland £52,000 too little. That is the case which is put against us by a writer who is endeavouring to show that we are wrong in this matter, and I take this as showing what is considered to be the extreme limit of our wickedness in this matter.
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
Yes; but if you take foreign spirits and beer you diminish the force of these figures. Foreign spirits are not consumed in the same proportion in Scotland and Ireland as they are in England. They are too patriotic to consume any large portion of foreign spirits, and they have too much good taste. I have examined into the matter, and while, no doubt, as regards British spirits, Ireland and Scotland consume much more than England, on the other hand England consumes more foreign spirits and more beer, and the consequence is that those figures are less favourable to Scotland and Ireland when balanced, as they ought to be, by the increased consumption of beer in England and the increased consumption of foreign spirits. You must take the whole sum together in its three component parts, England consumes more beer and foreign spirits; Ireland and Scotland consume more British spirits; and in this way these figures are modified. Many hon. Members argued as if the whole of the ease depended only on British and home spirits, but the case is very much modified if you take them together. Now, I come to the point on which the hon. Member for East Mayo and other hon. Members have spoken, namely, the imposition of a tax according to pure alcohol. I do not think that is the correct way, nor has it been considered by previous Chancellors of the Exchequer or Governments that a tax should be levied on whisky, wine, and beer simply according to pure alcohol. I remind the House also that the tax on wine was increased by 10 per cent. two years ago. It is a heavier increase, looking at the total yield of that tax, than is imposed either on spirits or beer. Are we bound to accept the calculation that you should judge simply by pure alcohol? That has never been admitted as a proper test. Alcohol represents a simple intoxicant; whisky and brandy represent pure intoxicants. But in beer there is a nutritious substance. [An hon. MEMBER: "Oh, oh"!] I think that if the hon. Member will apply the test he will find that he will get fat on beer. I believe that people have been sustained by beer,, and that the beer of the working man is nutritious and strengthening. But, as regards whisky, I am bound to say that I have not heard the same attribute ascribed to it. Our friends from Scotland 229 may have a different tale to tell. [Cries of "No, no!"] I am glad to hear they have not; but there is distinctly, joking apart, certainly more nutritious power in beer, and it is a different substance altogether from whisky, brandy, and gin. At all events, hon. Members even from Ireland will not think of asking us to re-cast the whole of our fiscal system because whisky is drunk so largely in Ireland. I will not eater into the comparison of the amount of liquor consumed in the three countries, nor on the other point that, supposing any country drinks harder than the others, we are therefore to refrain from placing a tax upon that article of consumption, though it may be consumed in very large quantities in the other parts of the United Kingdom. According to the doctrines laid down by hon. Members, the more the Scotch and the Irish drink whisky the more we ought to go on reducing the duty an whisky.
I see no flaw in my argument. What is laid down is this, that if yon tax whisky you are taxing Ireland and Scotland too much. Suppose they drink more and the aggregate revenue from whisky becomes larger.
§ MR. SEXTON
In England the consumption of alcohol amounts to 6 J gallons per head; in Scotland, 4½ gallons; and in Ireland, 3 gallons.
I admit that in Scotland and Ireland the consumption of pure alcohod beats the English consumption hollow. [Mr. DILLON: We do not put water in it.] Supposing that we measure the contribution which Scotland and Ireland ought to pay to the Imperial Revenue by the amount of whisky which they consume? If we take their share towards the Imperial Revenue, and proceed on the assumption that they consume one-third more, Ireland will be shown to be contributing more to the Imperial Revenue; and then hon. Members will have an argument to this effect: "Now Ireland is contributing so much more to the Revenue, you ought to make Ireland a present in respect of that additional sum contributed to the Revenue." That is an argument to which I demur. I do not accept the principle of paying simply according to the intoxicant. In the next place, I do not accept the principle that because certain parts of the country take in an 230 increasing measure to the consumption of any particular articles which is taxed, this state of things should be immediately remedied by some measure of taxation which will give relief to that particular country. I do not know in what confusion we should thus be landed. I now come to the proportion which hon. Members say will be paid by Scotland and Ireland as compared with England through the increase in the Spirit Duty. I thought that my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury had made our case clear. What hon. Members now wish to say is that this increase in the Spirit Duty should be distributed according to the country which yields it? [Hon. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Yes; hon. Members accept that. Will they equally accept that the Probate Duty passed over to the Local Authorities should be distributed according to the country which yields it?
§ *M.R. GOSCHEN
That is a perfectly in-tellig ibleargument, and one which deserves respect. But this particular argument has been raised: that in the contributions made by the State to the Local Authorities Scotland and Ireland are damnified, because this Spirit Duty is not distributed according to the proportions in which the various parts of the Kingdom use it. If they wish the contributions, amounting to £3,700,000, which will be made in the present financial year to Scotland, England, and Ireland through half of the Probate Duty and the increased Spirit and Beer Duty, to be distributed according to the country which yields it, I will defer to their wishes and distribute the Probate Duty and the Spirit Duty accordingly. But I do not think they would like it, because they would lose more on the Probate Duty than they would gain on the consumption of home spirits. Is it not fair and just, apart from the question raised by the hon. Member for East Mayo as to whether the original contribution is right, that if we give contributions from the Imperial Exchequer to local taxation we ought either to accept one principle or the other—either accept the principle of general contribution calculated according to the amount given to the Revenue, or else calculated according as those special duties are 231 yielded by the particular countries? I can only say the way I have selected of putting them ail together and dividing them again is more fair than the other principle of giving the duties just as they are yielded. Hon. Members from Ireland will scarcely contend that we ought to treat the Spirit Duty in the way they desire, and at the same time hand over the Probate Duty as at present. I hope I have shown there is a principle in the course I have taken, though hon. Members may not agree with it. Of the whole contribution we have made from Imperial sources to local revenue, England has contributed in round figures 82.6 per cent., and receives back 80 per cent.; Scotland pays 10.5 per cent., and receives back 11 per cent.; and Ireland pays 6.9 per cent., and receives back 9 per cent. In the result these transfers to local taxation are therefore in themselves favourable to Scotland and Ireland. I think I ought to add that since the time when I made that proposal the Probate Duty has been creeping up, and therefore the alliance between the poorer and the richer countries is redounding to the advantage of the poorer countries in an increased proportion. I am sorry that hon. Members should think that I have purposely or negligently, and negligently would be almost, as bad as purposely in a matter of this kind, done injustice to Ireland. It has been said that Ireland does not benefit by the reduction in the House Duty. No, but nothing was imposed on Ireland when the Estate Duty was imposed last year, because of that duty which yields £1,000,000, Ireland only pays 2 per cent. According to the contention of the hon. Member for East Mayo, Ireland and Scotland, as compared with England, pay very little of the Beer Duty. Again, when the Income Tax has been increased, England has been much harder hit than Scotland and Ireland. I can only say I have intended to be just in this matter. We may not have readied entire accuracy, but it is not the system of bookkeeping which raises any difficulty, it is rather that the statistical resources are not at hand to enable us to fix how much is credited to one country and the other. I have, however, ascertained that there is a considerable amount of beer exported from Ireland to England on which Ireland gets the benefit of the whole of the duty. I shall, if possible, 232 lay further figures on the Table of the House, and show how we arrive at our results. If Ireland thinks she contributes more than her share, does not she receive more than her share back again? [Cries of "No!"] Take education. There the payments made by the Imperial Exchequer are, I believe, larger than her share. Take the contributions we are making to light railways in Ireland. [An hon. MEMBER: "We do not want them."] The cost of one light railway is more than the difference as regards Ireland.
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
I am sorry my remarks have caused so controversial a tone to be taken—a tone I am quite prepared to adopt when it is necessary, but which I had hoped might have been excluded from the present discussion. I think that certainly in what we have done in the way of public works in Ireland we have not been chary of British money, and indeed hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway opposite have found fault with us for being too liberal. I hope that as we proceed we shall be able to satisfy the House generally that in what we have done we have been animated by every consideration of justice.
§ *(11.30.) MR. H. H. FOWLER, (Wolverhampton, E.)
I do not propose to intervene in the very thorny controversy upon the proportion of Imperial taxation paid by Scotland and Ireland as contrasted with England. I know it is a difficult question upon which high authorities entertain very different opinions; but I would point out to the Chancellor that in estimating the amount of Probate Duty paid in Ireland it is impossible to exclude the amount of the duty assessed on Irish property that is paid in England. A large proportion of the wealth of Ireland is brought to England; it is invested in England, and the Probate Duty, when the owners die, though levied in England, practically belongs to Ireland. Then in regard to the tax upon alcoholic liquor consumed in the three countries, it is rather hard to say to two of them that because they consume stronger liquor, as far as alcohol is concerned, they are to pay more than the country that consumes less alcohol, namely, the country that consumes most beer. 233 But the main point I wish to call attention to is the new tax. The whole Budget, so far as last year is concerned, and so far as the reduction of taxation is concerned, has been fully discussed tonight, and I will not go over the ground again; but I will say a word or two on the new tax. The Chancellor of the Exchequer hardly seems to see the force of his own argument with reference to the proportion of taxation to the three countries by whom it is paid. This is a new tax altogether; it is a tax expressly levied for local purposes. The Chancellor of the Exchequer does not admit it is an Imperial tax at all; he says it is to be for local purposes; and if it is to be levied for local purposes, surely it is not an un just demand that Scotland and Ireland shall have what they contribute to local taxation returned in the shape of relief to local taxation. We cannot admit the opinion of a Liberal nobleman, however distinguished, who happens to be Chairman of a County Council and who has expressed an opinion that County Councils have not had a sufficient subsidy to influence our opinion in this matter. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us he had handed over £2,750,000 of Imperial taxation to Local Authorities, and he also told us that an increase in the Probate Duties bad already wiped out any possible deficit that might have arisen in consequence of the withdrawal of the Wheel and Van Tax. That he did not proceed with the Horse Tax is a question between himself and the Local Authorities; but he told the Local Authorities at the time, through their supporters in this House, that the controversy with regard to aid to local taxation was closed and that he had done his utmost, but he is now going to impose new taxes producing £1,250,000 in order to grant a subvention to local purposes. The subvention has all the vices and none of the virtues of the old principle; it mixes up Imperial and local taxation, fetters the action of Parliament with respect to the Revenue—and it confines unnecessarily local action in more than one direction. The right hon. Gentleman proposes to interfere with Local Authorities in reference to the superannuation of the police. A great many boroughs and counties have established for years a perfectly solvent Police Superannuation Fund. Such is the case with the county in which I live and the 234 borough I represent. The attention of the right hon. Gentleman was directed to this on the Budget night, and he replied that these counties and boroughs would not be placed at a disadvantage. But there is not a word of this in the Bill.
§ *MR. H. H. FOWLER
From the principle of distribution adopted before I know that the boroughs will be placed at a disadvantage, and a great part of the fund levied in large towns will be handed over to the Exchequer of the counties. If you want to create a Police Superannuation Fund why not proceed to do it as other Governments have tried to do it? We have tried to do it, and you have tried it. We brought in a Bill, and the House did not reject it; but owing to the Parliamentary obstruction which prevailed in the years 1880 and 1885 we were prevented from carrying the Bill through, and the House never gave a positive decision. Let such a proposal stand or fall upon its merits. True, superannuation ought to be deferred pay, and we make provision for a deduction of 2½ per cent from the pay. Why step in with a subsidy? But not only does the right hon. Gentleman interfere with the police; there is also the great question into which I will not enter now, though the Government will hear much of it within the next few weeks—the expenditure of the tax for compensation to licence holders. This is the real crux of the position—the centre of the new tax. Then we have a very small sum left for general county purposes. The time now is not favourable to going into details; but this I will say, that I shall join with many hon. Members in offering the strongest opposition to this proposal whenever we can contest it in Bills for Imperial or local purposes. And now a word or two on the position of the National Debt. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has had a little duel across the Table with my right hon. Friend in reference to the amount he has applied to the reduction of the Debt, and I am not going to discuss the point whether the right hon. Gentleman has or has not accomplished a very great reduction of Debt during his term of office. I think he has paid off a very large amount of National Debt, and I think we are 235 indebted very much to the automatic principle of reduction introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers). But I would point out, notwithstanding what has been said on this point, how little we are really doing towards the payment of the Debt. I will trouble the House with a few figures on this matter, and will take periods of 10 years in Her Majesty's reign which will cover 50 years. In 1839 the annual expenditure charged on the Consolidated Fund on account of interest and Sinking' Fund was £29,300,000. In 1849it w.s£28,700,000; in 1859, £28,500,000; in 1869, £26,500,000; in 1879, £27,400,000; and in 1889, the wealthiest of all those years, £25,800,000. We were therefore paying £3,500,000 less than we paid 50 years ago. Consider also the fact that when Sir Robert Peel imposed a penny on the Income Tax it yielded £800,000, and now it produces £2,000,000. Considering these figures, we have no right to congratulate ourselves in the matter of the National Debt. We are now in a time of prosperity and place, but I am sorry to say we are indulging in extravagant expenditure on the Naval and Military Services. I will not argue the point, hut I think the House and the country should bear these figures in mind. If the House is satisfied that we can safely, with regard to future contingencies, depart from the policy of reducing the Debt, the Government may be right, only let it be understood that it is a reversal of the policy upheld by some of our greatest financiers, a policy rigidly adhered to during a long succession of years. I am not satisfied with the Budget so far as the expenditure is concerned, but I should be out of order in discussing the expenditure in Committee of Ways and Means. I regret that the House devotes such a large portion of its time in considering what taxes should be added or remitted. If the House would bring its unprofessional view to bear on our enormous annual expenditure, I think we might solve a great many problems that perplex us now with much greater facility. The amount of our Naval and Military Expenditure for the coming year will be £33,250,000,exclusiveofthe£20,000,000 paid in respect of India. That is a larger sum than any other country devoted to Military and Naval pur- 236 poses. If the House would forego Party strife upon minor matters and spend the time that would be saved in examining into the National Expenditure we should, I feel confident, find means of reducing it. Without including the cost of wars, it will be found that in the last 10 years the expenditure on the Military and Naval Services has increased by £8,000,000. Conservative and Liberal Governments share the blame for this. It is not a necessary expenditure, and I believe the time is coming—and I hope soon—when the country will insist on a very large reduction.
§ (11.45.) MR. T. M. HEALY
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has thrown out a challenge, but will he be good enough to remember that we have been denied every species of intelligence in the shape of Returns upon which we might inform our minds, and that, since the famous Budget of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian in 1852, you have increased taxation in Ireland by £250,000,000, or more than victorious Germany wrung from France in her time of misery and despair? Your Union Treaty with us in regard to taxation has been broken, as all your Treaties with Ireland have been, and out of the juggle of figures we cannot make this clear. I do not pretend to be competent to discuss a great financial subject, but I ask the right hon. Gentleman to explain why he made choice of the Probate Duty for division? Why did he not divide the Spirit Duty? Let the Chancellor of the Exchequer agree to the appointment of a Select Committee, so that we may ascertain what is the incidence of taxation in Ireland at the present moment, what the Irish pay exactly, and what they receive in return, and what was the original bargain made with Ireland at the time of the Union. The right hon. Gentleman must have been bankrupt in argument when he treated us to the suggestion that there is something nutritious in beer as a ground for robbing Ireland. He first- suggested that the Irishman was a more drunken animal than the Englishman. ["No, no!"] He did not say so, he had not the courage, but he hinted that those "sections of the country where people drink hardest should not therefore be more lightly taxed," but the contrary is the case, because the Englishman 237 drinks twice as much alcohol as the Irishman, the latter drinking three gallons, and the former six and three-quarters. The reason given by the right hon. Gentleman for not taxing beer as heavily as whisky is that beer is more nutritious. Would the right hon. Gentleman reduce the duty on whisky if the consumers should be willing to mix with it a little of Liebig's extract? I have no doubt that thus J could produce a fattening compound. It is a falhicy to say that beer is any good to anybody. You tell us that beer fattens, so does whisky if you take too much of it; it arrests certain functions of the body, and sets up fat. But why in the world, because it fattens, should the Englishman have the advantage? I think I am not far wrong when I say this is a bankrupt argument. I prophecy that one result of putting the increased duty on whisky will be that the distillers will put out newer whisky, which will stand more water than old spirit. Therefore, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will introduce into his Bill the principle that whisky should lie in bond for at least 12 months. You need not poison us as well as overtax us. This principle was contended for year after year from these Benches, by Mr. W. H. O'Sullivan, now gone, poor fellow, as someone said, to the "spirits in bond." Year after year he tried to induce successive Chancellors of the Exchequer to accept his "Spirits in Bond" Bill. The right hon. Gentleman takes credit to himself for the assistance proposed to National Teachers, but we object that it is handed over to the Irish Secretary and, indirectly, will reach the Irish landlords. I think we have cause to complain of our treatment in being left out of the advantage derived from the remission of House Duty, and as to the Tea Duty I am strongly inclined to agree with the pithy note of the right hon. Gentleman; anonymous correspondent. If there had been a graduated tax imposed there would have been some justice, but the tea at 3d. pays the same rate as the rich man's tea at 3s. I do not wish to say more now, except that it is a remarkable thing that the entire Tory Party, which turned out their opponents on the "Whisky Tax in 1885, should now be proposing to raise the tax. It is one among the string of broken pledges. They opposed the buy- 238 ing out of the landlords, and they now propose a plan for the purpose. They promised us Local Government, but now we are not to have the local power to suspend licences because there is no machinery for the purpose. I trust we shall have more time in Committee to consider the various points in which we are interested.
§ *(11.55.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH,) Strand, Westminster
I hope the hon. Gentleman will not persist in his Motion for the adjournment. The Government cannot possibly accede to it, and it was distinctly understood that the Debate should be concluded to-night.
§ *(11.56.) MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
Before we go further, there are two questions I should like to put to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. During his speech he quoted certain figures from the Economist, unfavourable to the Government. He said—A writer in the Economist puts the case against us in this way, that England gets £125,000 too much, Scotland £77,000 too little, and Ireland £52,000 too little.Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that this calculation left out of view the amount paid in this country upon foreign spirits and beer. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman if he can give us the figures which he said should modify this calculation. Further, I would refer to the question raised by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), the amount of the debt paid off, and the amount raised by loan in the year. My right hon. Friend said that practically the amount to be paid through the Sinking Fund was not much greater than the amount which would have to be borrowed under the Naval Defence and other Acts, about £5,000,000 on each side of the-account. Will the right hon. Gentleman give us the exact figures in either case, and explain the net amount of debt 239 which will actually be paid off in the current year?
§ *(12.0.) MR. GOSCHEN
I doubt very much if the sum is as stated by the right hon. Gentleman. No one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman that these Estimates can never be made with any degree of certainty. I hope presently to be able to pay off more debt. I have not with me the percentages which the right hon. Gentleman suggests, but I hope to-morrow to be able to get the correct figures.
§ (12.3.) DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
I wish to draw attention to one point, and that is the proposed increase in the tax on anŒsthetics. If the right hon. Gentleman is satisfied that these anŒsthetics are used for the benefit of suffering fellow creatures, I am sure he will be one of the first to try and assist by every means in his power to alleviate suffering. Well, if he will only look into this matter he will find that he is imposing an additional tax on chloroform and ether, which are so largely used to prevent persons from suffering pain when undergoing operations. I hope, therefore, that in the interests of suffering humanity, he will give his attention to this question, and exclude those articles from the additional taxation.
§ (12.5.) MR. P. M'DONALD
The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that hon. Gentlemen near me would have an opportunity of replying, and several of my hon. Friends, relying on that promise, declined to speak. I hope the First Lord of the Treasury will give us the opportunity which the Chancellor of the Exchequer promised, seeing that so much interest is felt on this question in Ireland.
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
I wish to remind hon. Gentlemen that on the clauses of the Bill there will be abundant opportunity for discussion, and I must, therefore, resist the appeal.
§ (12.9.) MR. FLYNN
I desire to add my appeal to that of my Colleagues who 240 have spoken, that the Irish Members should be given an opportunity for discussing this important matter. We have been in attendance all the evening, and I am sure it was impossible in the short time at our disposal to compress all that ought to have been advanced in support of our objection. I hope the leader of the House will accede to our very reasonable request.
§ (12.10.) MR. P. M'DONALD
I beg to remind you, Mr. Speaker, that I have moved the adjournment of the Debate.
§ *(12.12.) MR. WILLIAM HENRY SMITH
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ (12.20.) The House divided:— Ayes 201; Noes 114.—(Div. List, No. 70.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ (12.30.) The House divided:—Ayes 197; Noes 115.—(Div. List, No. 71.)
§ Bill read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House will to-morrow resolve itself into the said Committee."—(Mr. W. H. Smith.)
(12.40.) MR. J. MORLEY (Newcastle)
I protest against the Motion, and I deny that any engagement has been made that the Committee stage should be taken this day. The First Lord of the Treasury said that if the Debate on the Second Reading came to an end this evening he hoped to take the Committee on Tuesday. It is true that it has come to a conclusion, but it has come to a conclusion under circumstances altogether unprecedented. It is not right that the financial arrangements of the country for a year should be terminated against the wishes of a large number of Gentlemen in the House after one evening's Debate. 241 The Chancellor of the Exchequer made a speech, of the length of which I must not at all be understood as complaining, but he did not conclude until 25 minutes to 12 o'clock. His speech raised many questions on which hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway and from Scotland desired to speak. I must be allowed to remind the House further that there is a rule that money Debates may be taken after 12 o'clock; yet, at a few minutes after 12 o'clock the discussion by the application of the Closure is made to come to an end. Under the circumstances I must emphatically protest against the Committee stage being taken to-morrow.
§ *(12.43.) MR. W. H. SMITH
The right hon Gentleman has spoken warmly, though he is usually exceedingly courteous in the representations he makes to the House. I wish to remind the House of the circumstances under which we are acting. When I was asked last week what course the Government would take, I distinctly stated that the Budget Bill would be taken de die in diem, and no objection was made. I was asked again the same evening when the Committee would be taken, and I replied on Tuesday if the Debate ceased. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer waited until the hon. Member for East Mayo and the hon. Member for Belfast had spoken, and then rose, at a quarter past ten o'clock, to answer the various objections made in the course of the Debate. The Secretary to the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer having spoken, it is only reasonable to assume that the Debate was virtually closed. When a Minister rises to reply to the speeches that have been made, a Debate is usually closed, and in this case it is not possible either for the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Secretary to the Treasury to speak again. In the course I have taken I am only acting in accordance with a distinct understanding, and I should be wanting in my duty to the House if I refrained from acting on the engagement of which I have given notice.
§ (12.45.) MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
Sir, I am bound to say I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle was right in the protest which he made. I confess I was amazed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer rose so early, a good many 242 Members not having returned from dinner. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House leave the case in the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. On this side of the House it is expected from us that we should speak on behalf of the people we represent. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in his reply certainly dealt with small [joints, but he did not give us any light or leading on the main points. The leader of the House can scarcely say that he is acting within the spirit of the undertaking that the Bill would be proceeded with de die in diem when he takes the first opportunity of stifling Debate. He could have afforded the melancholy satisfaction to those who wished to speak of doing so after 12 o'clock. At this moment the leader of the House will see that there is no opportunity of putting down Amendments, and we are really getting into such a slipshod way of doing business that I personally protest against such a proceeding by a Government which calls itself Constitutional and Conservative.
§ (12.47.) MR. T. M. HEALY
In this part of the House we are extremely indebted to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle for vindicating such poor liberties as are allowed to remain to us. Supposing this had been a Liberal Budget for the taxation of ground rents, and the Debate had been closured on the first night, would the Tory Party consider themselves well treated? Here you are taxing the one commodity our country produces. [Laughter.] It does not seem to be entirely eschewed by Gentlemen who laugh. Only two Irish Members, being the Members for West Belfast and East Mayo, have spoken, and then the Closure is applied. Now, Mr. Speaker, I am not going to complain of your ruling. The hon. Member for Tyrone only asked, "When will the Committee be taken?" and for that, Sir, you ruled he had spoken. No answer whatever was given by the Government to that question, and we on this side of the House, whether intentionally or not, were deceived by the statement of the First Lord of the Treasury when he said that hon. Members would have ample opportunity of discussing this matter to-morrow. I sat down before 12 o'clock, forgetting for the moment that it was a money Bill, 243 and under the idea that the Government intended to proceed to-morrow. I am surprised at the silence of hon. Members for Ireland opposite. When this question was raised we know the influence which the issue of a circular by Dun-ville's, of Belfast, protesting against the imposition of a tax upon whisky, had upon their opinions. Why are they to be silent because a Tory Government makes this proposal? We have got no answer from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the reasonable proposal that we should have a Select Committee to inquire into questions of finance. There has been no attempt to answer our objections but by the Closure. The only argument of the right hon. Gentleman is that of the Closure, and it is a weapon which he wields more effectually than any other in his armament. He now asks that the Committee on this Bill shall be taken at 2 o'clock to-morrow. What opportunity will that give us of putting down Amendments as to important questions embodied in the Bill? I remember that the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) made on one occasion the remark that Bngland never wiped the tears out of Ireland's eyes, but she made her pay for the pocket handkerchief. I think that on this occasion the statement of the hon and gallant Gentleman has been most thoroughly borne out by the proposals before us, and we demand time for their discussion. We do not assent to the imposition of this Whisky Duty, not merely because it is placed on Irish whisky, but because you propose to make us pay 18s. for an article for which you only pay l1s. We are entitled to know from the Government whether they will assent to the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the proportionate relations of these taxes as they affect the three kingdoms, and we will not assent to going on with the Bill until some such information is before us. On no previous occasion has a Debate on a Bill of this kind ever been closured at a quarter past 12. You who sit on the Ministerial side will find yourselves on these Benches before very long, and then you—that is those who are not left outside—may find occasion to regret the step you have taken.
§ (12.50.) MR. DILLON
I must confess to feeling the utmost astonishment at the 244 manner in which this Debate has been brought to a close. I would remind the House that in 1885 a discussion arose upon a tax of a precisely similar character without any attempt being made to stop the opposition then offered. The result was that the attempt then made to impose that taxation was the cause of the overthrow of Her Majesty's Government. The First Lord of the Treasury, in defending his action in applying the Closure to-night, stated that the Secretary to the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had replied to all the objections made to the Budget proposals, but he did not refer to the fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer deliberately abstained from answering the questions I put to him, and the main objections I offered to the Whisky Tax. I could not go into those objections without transgressing the Rules of Order, but they will be borne in mind by hon. Members who heard them. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer attempted to reply to some of the minor points then urged, but to the main objection I offered to the Whisky Tax he made no reply whatever. Are we to be told that because it suited the convenience of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to rise at half-past 10 to speak at great length the Irish Members are to have no opportunity of taking their legitimate share in the Debate? The fact is that the persons mainly aggrieved by those proposals are the Representatives of the Irish and Scotch people. The main criticisms of the Bill come from those Members, and I maintain that no fair opportunity has been given to support their objection. We contend that the Bill does a cruel injustice to our country, but as soon as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made his speech, the First Lord of the Treasury thinks it is time to close the Debate, and he therefore prevents our taking further part in it. It is unfair that the Members of the Government should select, as they always do, their own time to speak, and that private Members should have no chance. During the whole time the First Lord of the Treasury has been the leader of this House no case of improper Closure more extraordinary that the present has ever occurred, and I think the time will come when hon. Members opposite will regret the course they have taken. Under 245 these circumstances I protest strongly against the Committee stage of this Bill being put down for to-day, and would advise my hon. Friend to divide against the proposal.
§ (12.53.) MR. M. J. KENNY
In consequence of the manner in which this Debate has been stopped, I beg to move to omit the word "Tuesday," and to insert the word "Thursday."
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "this day, at Two of the clock," and insert the words "upon Thursday,"—(Mr. Matthew Kenny,)— instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'this day, at Two of the clock,' stand part of the Question."
§ (12.54.) MR. SEXTON
In reference to the Motion of my hon. Friend. I would remind the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he practically admitted in the course of his speech that the Irish Members have grievous cause of complaint whether in regard to the method of imposing the tax or the mode of distributing it. He has admitted that he has not sufficient information to enable him to furnish the particulars for which we have asked as to the relative taxation of the three kingdoms. I now ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, under all the circumstances, the debate having, as the First Lord of the Treasury says, ceased through being brought to a, violent end by superior force and the application of the Closure, he proposes to force us into Committee this day (Tuesday), or whether he will first bring down to the House and lay before us all the information for which we have asked? In that ease we might proceed with the Bill at two o'clock; but if not, we shall not consent to proceed, and will do all we can to sustain the objection made with so much force and spirit by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for New castle (Mr. Morley), namely, that the pressing forward of this measure, under such circumstances, will not tend to facilitate the progress of business in this House.
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
I cannot undertake to supply all the details connected with the information asked for, but I will undertake to put before the House such 246 information on the subject as we are able to furnish.
§ *(12.56.) MR. H. H. FOWLER
I put it to Her Majesty's Government—Do they think they are saving time by attempting to force this Bill upon the House under these circumstances? I assure them there is a very strong feeling on this side of the House as to the unfair manner in which Her Majesty's Government have acted in closuring, for the first time, a Debate on the financial measures of the year, and saying to the House that, notwithstanding its right to vote or criticise the taxation imposed on the country, this measure shall not be discussed. They do not seem to reflect that we on this side of the House shall not forget their action when the matter is again before us, nor do they seem to realise that, under the circumstances, there is little probability of their making that progress with the Bill in Committee that would otherwise be made if the arrangement had the general consent of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the leader of the House seems to think that when he has made a statement as to the decision arrived at by Her Majesty's Government with regard to any course they propose; to take, that at once becomes an engagement or understanding on the part of the House. It is true that, in answer to the question put both by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby and myself as to whether Her Majesty's Government proposed to proceed de die in diem not only with this Bill, but with their most contentious Bill for compensation to the publicans, the First Lord of the Treasury told us that that was his intention. But we by no means assented to that view, and the right hon. Member for Derby made a sotto voce remark across the Table in dicating what was his view of the matter; therefore, I appeal to the leader of the House as to whether he would not be more likely to make progress with the Bill by giving us the opportunity of putting down Amendments for Thursday next. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has promised that he will give us such information as he can to-morrow, and that will enable Amendments to be put down before the Committee stage is taken.
§ *(12.58.) MR. W. H. SMITH
The right hon. Gentleman demurs to the view I expressed as to the engagement come to regarding the business of the House. I can only state my view of what then happened, and as to what generally happens in these cases. The leader of the House is asked what course the Government propose to take on particular questions, and when that is stated it is the practice of the Opposition to object, if the proposed arrangement is unsatisfactory, but in this case no objection whatever was made to the course suggested. I think, therefore, I am entitled to say that the Opposition ought to be bound by what then took place. I may add, however, that I am not anxious unduly to force on this measure. My only desire is to facilitate the progress of public business, and if right hon. Gentlemen opposite and their friends will undertake that the Committee on this Bill shall be dealt with in a businesslike spirit, and that we shall make reasonable progress with the measure on Thursday, I shall be disposed to take other business to-day in the hope that we may arrive at some satisfactory result regarding this Bill on Thursday next. If this offer be accepted, and hon, and right hon. Gentlemen will endeavour to make progress with the Bill, it will not be placed on the Paper for to-day.
(1.0.) MR. J. MORLEY
Of course we shall do what we always do—what is fair. But we can enter into no engagement. We all desire that this business shall be got through with as much dispatch as possible. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us what business he will take to-day?
§ SIR W. LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
The right hon. Gentleman says we are to carry on the Debate on the Budget in a business-like spirit. I accept his invitation. It will certainly be carried on in a business-like spirit by me, for so long as it contains the compensation clauses, I will oppose it at every stage to the best of my ability.
§ Question put, and negatived.248
§ Words "upon Thursday," inserted.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Resolved, That this House will, upon Thursday, resolve itself into the said Committee.