Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, the Duties of Customs now chargeable on Tea, shall continue to be levied and charged on and after the first day of August, one thousand eight hundred and ninety-three, until the first day of August, one thousand eight hundred and ninety-four, on the importation thereof into Great Britain or Ireland (that is to say) on—
Tea.. the pound. Fourpence."— (The Chancellor of the Exchequer.")
§ *MR. GOSCHEN (St. George's, Hanover Square)
I do not rise to follow my right hot). Friend in the clear and very able statement which he has put before the Committee, nor do I propose on the present occasion either to criticise the castles in the air which he built for next year, or the very cold, dry facts with which we have to deal in the present financial year. The Prime Minister will remember that he thought it wise last year to recommend the Committee to go back to the old system of discussing the Budget very shortly on the night of its introduction, and then to take the fuller discussion of the Resolutions, when they were proposed on the following day. That seems to me to be a far more convenient course than to deal with the figures, which, although they have been placed before the Committee by the Chancellor of the Exchequer with very great clearness, are not so fixed in our minds as to enable us to deal with them. I, therefore, do not propose to make any speech dealing with the matters raised by the right hon. Gentleman. I acknowledge most frankly that the right hon. Gentleman has spoken in a very conciliatory spirit. At one time I thought he was going to pass over all the ashes of controversy without even striking a spark out of any of them; but towards the conclusion of his speech I thought he saw some possibility of discussions ahead. I frankly say, however, that, the manner in which he has discharged his task is such as commends itself to those on this side of the House, as it must to those on his own side. I cer- 1054 tainly desire to join in the congratulations which the right hon. Gentleman has offered to the permanent officials of the Customs and Inland Revenue, and also of the Post Office and others, for the remarkable degree of accuracy with which they have been able to arrive at precise Estimates. I remember it was generally thought that these Estimates were too sanguine; but it was with very great confidence I submitted them last year, and I rejoice to think they have been so very nearly realised. I must, condole with the right hon. Gentleman on the difficult task of meeting a rising Expenditure with a falling Revenue. He has not got this year the trying task of having to dispose of a surplus, which, I assure him, is almost as difficult and complicated with as many questions as that of meeting a deficit. In fact, I am quite sure, so far as a Chancellor of the Exchequer's personal convenience is concerned, that the struggle to secure a large portion of the surplus is a much more severe one than the struggle to resist the imposition of taxation. I was delighted to hear the right hon. Gentleman put his foot down very strongly with regard to the increase of Expenditure. He has said truly that this is not a Party question. Sometimes the charge of increasing Expenditure has been flung about needlessly from one Party to another. But I entirely agree with him, and, speaking as an ex-chancellor of the Exchequer, I wish to support him in this respect entirely—that the House of Commons itself is mainly responsible for the constantly-increasing Expenditure which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has to meet. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman when he proposes to take the Resolutions again?
§ MR. MARTIN (Worcester, Droitwich)
asked from what, date the additional Income Tax would run? A few years ago very great inconvenience was experienced owing to the additional tax having been ante-dated to the commencement of the financial year, and questions arose in several cases as to who was liable for the tax, for instance, in the case of bonds having changed hands in the interval.
§ SIR E. PAGET (Somerset, Wells)
I congratulated the Chancellor of the Exchequer on his Financial Statement, but he had one regret to express in regard to that Statement. The right hon. Gentleman had endeavoured to show that vast wealth had accumulated throughout the country; but he should like to have heard from the right hon. Gentleman one word in respect of an industry which undoubtedly had no share whatever in that vast and rapid accumulation of wealth upon which he had dwelt with such satisfaction. It was only too clear that the great national industry of farming and everything connected with land was at present suffering under a depression which was not merely of a temporary character, but which had already lasted long enough to be considered as permanent, and in respect to which the most sanguine conceived but a faint hope of any improvement. He thought that while the right hon. Gentleman was giving his views as to the vast prosperity of the nation he might have said something of the one industry which shared none of that prosperity.
§ SIR R. PAGET
said, it was quite true that the right hon. Gentleman had pointed out that under Schedule B what had been £48,000 had fallen to £36,000, a decrease of 25 per cent.; but he should like to have had that statement somewhat expanded, and it would have been gratifying to those interested in agriculture to receive a word of sympathy in respect of so serious and continuous a loss to an industry which was likely to experience worse times than it had already known. That was not the time to enter into any long discussion with regard to the imposition of an additional 1d. on the Income Tax; but he would say that there was no class upon whom the extra Id. would fall with greater severity than the owners of real property. This increase would be levied upon the gross value, and not upon the net value of the land; and so the owners of land, who wore suffering from a most serious depression, would be burdened to a much greater extent than the wealthy classes, of whose growing riches the right hon. Gentleman had so eloquently spoken. He should also have liked to have heard something 1056 from the right hon. Gentleman as to the provision for the superannuation of teachers; for although the right hon. Gentleman had pointed out that the increased Expenditure was due to education, he did not understand that the right hon. Gentleman had made any suggestion as to providing the fund in future.
§ SIR R. PAGET
said, the right hon. Gentleman had given the figures, but had not mentioned the particular subject in his Statement, and he should like to know to what extent he proposed to make a provision for the improvement of the whole body of school teachers?
§ *MR. SAMUEL MONTAGU (Tower Hamlet, Whitechapel)
said, the proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer were, in his opinion, as satisfactory as could be expected under existing circumstances. With a Revenue which had been declining for the past year or two, and which showed no signs of immediate revival, and also considering that the Government had their hands full, it was not reasonable to expect great fiscal changes. But he rose for the purpose of expressing how grateful he felt to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for abolishing the Goschen stamp on bonds and shares. That tax produced little cash and much irritation. In fact, the annoyance felt was out of all proportion to the Revenue. Even its creator, the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, had latterly little to say in its favour, and would have abandoned it if any equivalent had been offered to him. That was hardly a good reason for continuing a bad tax. in these days of keen competition it was most undesirable to handicap British traders to the advantage of foreign rivals. He protested against that Stamp Duty when it was first proposed, and ventured to prophecy that the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer's estimate that it would produce £200,000 was far beyond the probable revenue. It now barely realised a third of that sum, and would, no doubt, decline still further. He wished his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would also revise the other Stamp Duties on International Securities such as bonds and bills of exchange. The stamps on bonds (10s. per £100) were 1057 more than double those which Germany imposed—namely, 4s. per £100; over three times the French stamps, and five times the Dutch and Belgian stamps. They looked well after their traders' interests, whenever possible, when affected by foreign tariffs, and they would protest loudly against differential duties in foreign ports. Why, then, should they handicap their traders with Stamp Duties far greater than their rivals abroad had to pay? The Revenue from stamps on bills of exchange, instead of increasing, had considerably declined during the last 10 years. He believed that was also the case with stamps on bonds. He did not see why they should not have an International agreement or arrangement for identical laws with regard to bills of exchange and bonds. He believed that if these stamps were revised more Revenue would be obtained and trade would be benefited. He noticed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said nothing about the issue of £1 notes against gold, which he had often advocated in the House. He thought they might learn something in that respect from the Irish and Scotch and from their American kinsmen in the United States and Canada. In those countries the £1 note, or its equivalent, five dollars, was preferred to gold. Why should they not obtain the same facility? —why should they be forced to use gold, which many of them did not care to do? The Bank of England should be requested to issue £ I notes in the same way as £5 or £10 notes. He had often advocated in the House that a Municipal Death Duty in reduction of rates should be levied on freehold property in large towns. He was glad to know that his right hon. Friend was in full sympathy with that reform, and he hoped that in the next Budget freehold property in large towns would be compelled to bear its fair share of local taxation from which it had so long escaped.
§ *COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
said, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was in a state of anxiety as to the public mind not being prepared for a deficit of £1,500,000. He would undeceive the right hon. Gentleman in that respect, for past experience had taught the country what to expect from the present occupants of the Treasury Bench. He only regretted that 1058 it had fallen to the lot of the right hon. Gentleman to introduce a Budget the popularity of which he thought was so doubtful. The Budgets of the Liberal Government had always shown decreased Revenue, increased Expenditure, and increased Taxation, and the present one was no exception to the rule. What a contrast this Budget presented to those which had been introduced since 1886 by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen)! The Chancellor of the Exchequer had spoken of the rising Revenue from 1886 to 1890. As the period of Office of the Unionist Government approached its term, the Revenue declined, public confidence diminished, and now, after eight months' tenure of Office by the present Government, the people found Taxation increased, Expenditure increased, no reduction of Income Tax proposed, no Tea Duty diminished, no Currant Duty, Carriage Tax, or other impost reduced. Eight months had been quite sufficient to upset nearly every trade and calling in the country, to destroy all commercial confidence, and to sow suspicion and enmity between all classes of the community. The President of the Board of Trade was not ashamed to declare the other day that the foreign trade had fallen in the six months—September to February last—by over £30,000,000, compared with the same period in 1889–90; that the average number of unemployed in Trades Unions in correspondence with his Department was 23,364, compared with 3,795 under Lord Salisbury; that the exports of British iron and steel were 1,440,000 tons less in 1892 than in 1889; that 41 tinplate mills were closed at the end of February, and 410 cotton mills and sheds, affecting 50,000 operatives, had recently suspended work. In addition to the deplorable state of affairs in the shipping trade, a reduction of wages had just been decided upon by the arbitrator to the Midland Iron and Steel Wages Board; and that would affect workmen in Lancashire, South Yorkshire, Shropshire, Derbyshire, North and South Staffordshire, and East Worcestershire. In addition to that, the Home Rule proposals of the Government had made all investments in Ireland absolutely impossible, while refusal to take any steps to blend the Mother Country and the Colonies 1059 in a Commercial Union had made Colonial investments also difficult. What a moment to choose to increase taxation! Where were all the promises of a free breakfast table? Where was the hon. Member for Leicester and the hon. Member for the Spalding Division of Lincolnshire, with their anti-Unionist zeal for the abolition of the Tea Duty? Why, the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself declared, on April 22, 1890, from that (the Opposition) side of the House—I am sure we must all feel that this Tea Duty cannot remain upon its present footing.What did he feel now? The Unionists reduced the Tea Duty by one-third. The Gladstonians left it alone, and this, although it was not a tax upon a competing import, and therefore paid every farthing of it by the consumers, although it was a tax most unequal in its incidence—200 per cent. ad valorem, on cheap two penny tea-siftings, but only 20 per cent. on the rich man's tea. Again, it was a tax mainly levied on the produce of our own Empire, for the importation of Indian and Ceylon tea was rapidly increasing, while that of China tea was as fast declining. The United Kingdom pretended to be a Free Trade country, because it admitted competing goods free, taxed non-competing goods essential to the people, and not produced in this country, and had duties heaped against it in every part of the world. Never was there such hypocrisy. The £20,000,000 we raised by Import Duties was the largest sum raised by any Custom House in Europe, and in nearly every case the duties were levied on the wrong articles. Why should £3,500,000 be raised from the poor tea-drinkers? Why should raw coffee be taxed 14s. a cwt., chicory 13s. 3d. a cwt., chocolate 2d. a lb., cocoa 1d. a 1b., currants 2s. a cwt., figs, prunes, and raisins for plum puddings and cakes 7s. a cwt., and the Cavendish and negrohead tobacco of the working man 4s. 6d. a lb? Right hon. Gentlemen opposite professed to be great friends of the working man. But the working man had nothing to thank them for, especially in respect of the Budget which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had presented that night. All these taxes on articles essential to the people should be taken off or reduced to a minimum—and the revenue raised there from be derived instead by levying 1060 a toll on those productions of foreign labour, which, admitted free on advantageous and unfair terms, caused British factories and mills to be shut up, British wages to be reduced, and British working men, having wives and children to maintain, to be thrown out of employment. He dared say some hon. Gentlemen opposite thought this meant a tax upon corn. Nothing of the kind, at any rate at first, and until the people saw what every other nation understood, that a moderate tax upon foreign corn enabled derelict laud to be cultivated by home labour to feed the people on it. He thought he had exploded the recent fables of the President of the Board of Trade, who declared that last August he saw Frenchmen paying 80 centimes for a bit of bread no English workhouse pauper would touch, by showing that at that very moment the finest French white bread only cost 7d. for nearly 4½1bs., while there many cheaper sorts in the market. He commended to hon. Gentlemen opposite a study of the Reports just laid upon the Table from the Consuls at Bordeaux and Nantes. The former said—The increased Import Duty had no effect whatever upon the price of wheat, for when on June 1st the new rate of Duty (5 francs per 100 kilo) was put into force, values remained the same as before that date.The Consul at Nantes wrote—Household bread sells now at an average of 5d. per 41b. loaf, which is a little lower than the average of the three years immediately preceding the imposition of the Duty.Why, even the rabid Free Trader at the Consulate at Calais could not contradict this, although, having apparently little to do, he spent much time in writing essays for the Cobden Club. The importation of wheat in grain only amounted last year to £17,000,000 out of a total foreign competing import of about £220,000,000, so it was hardly worth considering. But he submitted, if Her Majesty's Government had the smallest regard for the prosperity of the people and the welfare of British commerce, they would take off the £8,000,000 to £10,000,000 of taxation proposed in this Budget on non-competing products and raise that amount, or even more—so as to reduce the rates and taxes—on the £20,000,000 of foreign dairy produce, on the £12,000,000 of foreign flour, on the 1061 £28,000,000 worth of foreign meat, and, most of all, as a start on the £65,000,000 worth of foreign fully manufactured goods, and the £15,000,000 of partly manufactured goods, which came duty free into Sheffield, Birmingham, London, Liverpool, Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds, and Bradford, and which, aided by false marks frauds, reduced the wages of his constituents, and British artizans, put them on short time, and drove them out of employment into the workhouse and across the seas.
§ *SIR J. LUBBOCK (London University)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the reduction of liabilities which he stated at £6,600,000 was after allowing for the £2,056,000 borrowed; was it, in fact, a net reduction? He would, under other circumstances, have welcomed a reduction of the Tea Duties; but if the Government of Ireland Bill were to become law the only contribution which Ireland would pay would be the Customs, and if, therefore, they were reduced, Great Britain would have to make up the difference. The Expenditure of the country was increasing, and the whole contribution from Ireland was their share of the Customs Duties. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, however, now told them that it-was impossible to increase the Customs Duties. That was also a serious objection to the present proposal. We had permanent and, as the Chancellor foresaw, increasing additions to Imperial Expenditure, and yet it was proposed to meet them by increasing a tax, the Irish contribution to which would, so far as Ireland was concerned, go entirely' to Irish Expenditure. The result was that if the [proposals of the Government were accepted, Ireland would, if the Homo Rule Bill became law, be relieved from any of the burden of this increased Expenditure, and the whole weight would fall on the people of Great Britain. Here in the very first Budget they had an illustration how their freedom in dealing with their finances was destroyed by the Home Rule Bill, in the effect it would have in throwing additional burdens on the people of England and Scotland.
§ *MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said, the first thing that struck him was the matter of the Alcohol Duties. As he understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Gentleman con- 1062 sidered that there would be a very small reduction in the Revenue from alcohol during the past year. Were they to understand, then, that the Local Veto Bill, which was to do so much to reduce the consumption of alcohol in the coutry, which was to shut up so many public-houses, and which was to have such a salutary effect upon the drinking habits of the people—were they to understand that the practical result of the Budget was that the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not believe that the Local Veto Bill would ever pass, or that, if it passed, it would be of any possible use in reducing the amount of alcohol consumed?
Sir; W. HARCOURT
said, he had not calculated that the Local Veto Bill would come into operation this year.
§ *MR. BARTLEY
said, if (he Government believed that the Bill would have any effect they would have taken it into consideration, and therefore they had a sidelight hon. the policy of the Government on this subject—namely, that the Local Veto Bill would never see daylight during the present Session. On the subject of the Death Duties, he wished the Chancellor of the Exchequer had had the boldness of his own convictions and had proposed that form of taxation. He was convinced that large properties did not pay so much in the £1 as small ones, and he was going to move an Amendment on that subject on the Second Reading of the Budget. He agreed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer with reference to the assistance to Local Taxation. A great mistake was made by the aid given to Local Taxation from Imperial Taxation. He was quite sure it led to a large amount of extravagance. Large subventions to Local Taxation were not a benefit to the country, but really injured and retarded it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that there was a very slight decrease in the Revenue—which was a hopeful and healthy sign—but that there was a great increase in the Expenditure, particularly in the Post Office, on Education, and other things. It seemed to him that this House was really the culprit in the matter of the increased Expenditure. They were always in the abstract, being economical; but when it came to absolute practice, few had the courage to do the thing which they knew to be economically 1063 right. They ought to pay their public servants of all grades liberally, but he asserted that this House ought not to be made an agency for continually considering the salaries and allowances of the Civil Service. He had been much struck by the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the latest decrease in the Revenue was in the last quarter of the year. That told a most serious tale of a Budget affected by political considerations. Could anyone doubt that they would continue to affect the Budget in coming years? The fact that the last quarter was so much worse than others showed that the country was waking up to the fact that the change in the Government was not a change for the better. He was glad to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer say that he was not going to reduce the National Debt Sinking Fund, as he had always concurred with those who said that it ought not to have been reduced below £28,000,000. Heavy as our taxation was it was less, perhaps, than that of any other European country; but it was an erroneous notion that an increase in the Income Tax would fall only on the well-to-do classes. It really fell with greatest weight on the people at the bottom of the scale, partly because the development of our prosperity was seen in the increasing number of small incomes and partly because the activity of the Revenue Officers drew in more and more at the bottom of the Income Tax scale. It was here that the Income Tax produced a higher amount every year, and therefore it was that; the increase in the tax would really fall on those with the lowest taxable incomes— those going from £150 to £400. For this reason he had hoped that in proposing an addition to the Income Tax the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have adopted differential rates as between incomes derived from industry and incomes derived from property. Nothing could be more equitable than to recognise the difference between the two classes of income. That recognition was advocated by Lord Brougham when the Income Tax was first imposed; and in Franco the tax was levied not upon industrial incomes, but only upon incomes derived from capital. In proposing an increase the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to take the opportunity of making the differential rates he had referred to. That 1064 was his idea, and he would like to see it adopted.
§ MR. JAMES A. PICTON (Leicester)
said that the hon. and gallant Member for Sheffield would have to do a great deal of work on his own side of the House before he made much progress with his extraordinary and reactionary doctrines. The answer to the question what would the advocates of a free breakfast table say to this Resolution was simply that they would vote for it. They might regard it as a melancholy duty; but it was a duty, nevertheless. He certainly looked for much from the present Government, but he did not expect impossibilities. It was clear that, owing to a series of unsound Budgets in the last few years, there was now an accumulation of difficulties which a very Hercules in finance could not sweep away. They all understood why it was impossible now to find the time that would be required for dealing with the Death Duties; but he looked forward confidently to the Government continuing its good work and making more Radical proposals. For that reason be could "possess his soul in patience." Imperfect as the Income Tax was in its incidence, an additional 1d. would cause less privation and inconvenience than any other increase of taxation. One of the causes of the deficit was the increase in the amount of the grants in aid of local taxation, in themselves an evidence of the unsoundness of our finance. He looked confidently to the time when, by a drastic reform in the Death Duties, nearly enough would be provided to carry out the idea suggested by the late Mr. Bright of a "free breakfast table."
§ *MR. B. L. COHEN (Islington, E.)
said, he was sorry any hon. Members should think it their duty to deal with the Budget on Party lines, as he thought the subject was of far too great importance to be dealt with in that way. It was a subject, he would say, that ought to be dealt with on lines of pure finance. He wished to say, with regard to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the amount he would derive from the Death Duties would not help him to any considerable extent to meet the deficit. The right hon. Gentleman could not revise the Death Duties, he supposed, unless he wanted more money; and if he did want more money, it was no reason 1065 for not taking the money, because it would not be sufficient, or because he would not get it as early as he wanted it. The fact that he would not get much help from the Death Duties might be a reason for postponing the revision for ever. If this rule was to be applied to the Death Duties, the payers of those duties might look to a prolonged period of protection. He would pay his tribute to the manner in which the proposals had been laid before the House, which enabled the House to grasp with precision the proposals submitted. He would like to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he would consider the necessity of making the Stamps applicable to Stock Exchange contracts applicable to all contracts. He did not know how such a proposal would be received, but he would be glad if they could hear what the Chancellor of the Exchequer had to say on the subject. He congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on the conciliatory character, as he regarded it, of the statement which he had submitted.
§ *SIR JOSEPH W. PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)
said, the Budget could scarcely be called a sensational one. What he had to complain of was the Naval and Military Expenditure which, however, had been forced upon successive Governments by hon. Members on both sides of the House by the state of Europe and the enormous armaments of other Powers, and, of course, to some extent by popular panic. He agreed that it was a great mistake to discuss the Budget on Party lines; it should be dealt with on grounds of economics. He would remind the hon. and gallant Member for Sheffield and the Committee generally that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had just stated that the Expenditure had been increased during the last seven years by £10,600,000—Army and Navy, £2,600,000; Education, £3,400,000; Local Grants, £4,200,000; Civil Service, £400,000; total, £10,600,000 —that this had been aided by reduction in Debt charges of £3,000,000, leaving £7,000,000 to be raised, and that the country had been passing through one of the greatest financial periods of stress seen for many years. Firms of European reputation, such as the Barings, had been shaken, and the feeling of insecurity had influenced very materially the quantity of 1066 foreign orders usually received. A lack of confidence had been produced in the City; it had been passed on to the manufacturers, and it had in turn reacted on the working men. That was the state of things which had to be encountered by his right hon. Friend. Looking at all these difficulties, he thought there were special reasons why the Committee should regard the Budget as a matter distinct from and outside Party politics.
§ MR. ARTHUR F. JEFFREYS (Hants,) Basingstoke
said, the wealth accruing from the land had been decreasing since the year 1886, and he would like to know whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer had considered the great hardship which would be caused to agriculturists by the imposition of the extra 1d. on the Income Tax on land? The Income Tax on land was collected on the gross amount and not on the net, and he was anxious to know whether the right hon. Gentleman would give instructions that the Income Tax should be collected on the net instead of the gross? The Land Tax should be taken away from the Imperial Exchequer and given to the local revenues of counties to be applied towards local expenses. They should be allowed to pay and control in the same spirit of fairness that other industries enjoyed.
§ *MR. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
said, that among Radicals generally, and more particularly in the Metropolis, great regret would be felt that the Death Duties could not be dealt with in the present Budget. Time and money, however, were the great limitations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but he and many of his hon. Friends viewed with satisfaction the strong and firm way in which the right hon. Gentleman had signified his approval of a drastic reform on the Death Duties. There was another important matter, and that was as to rates on land. He would direct the attention of hon. Members to a Report which had been recently presented by the head of the Local Government Board, and which showed that the rates on land had diminished to a half of what they were in the earlier part of the century. The assistance rendered to the rates in London was 8¾d., while to agricultural districts it was over 10d. He hoped the Government would pass the measure for the equalisation of rates in 1067 the Metropolis, and thus relieve the pressure of taxation in London, where it was most felt. He expected they would obtain an assurance that that important reform would be pushed forward as a contribution, pending a more thorough-going reform of London Local Taxation.
§ *MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
The hon. Member who has just sat down spoke for the ratepayers of London. I want to say just a word or two for ratepayers in other parts of the country—in the seaport towns. I want to know whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer has considered the desirability of making some provision towards meeting the cost incurred by the Local Authorities of these towns in taking precautions with regard to the prevention of cholera? The Local Authorities had hoped that something would be done to assist them in the anti-cholera expenditure for 1892; but there is no mention of any provision for this year in case there should be recurrent expenditure in these towns. The prevention of cholera is a national concern, and it cannot be effectually undertaken unless through these Local Authorities—the Sanitary Bodies of the seaports. I find, Sir, that the Hull Sanitary Authority spent over £1,150 in the prevention of cholera last year; and the Hull and Goole ports, through their Sanitary Authority, spent over £300 in addition. The total cost of the Humber ports was £2,500. In my own constituency the Sanitary Authorities were put to a great trouble and expense. Now, it is the inland towns that benefit chiefly by this expenditure, and the appeal that I make for some provision to make good the expenditure from the local funds must have the support of hon. Members from Sheffield, Bradford, Lincoln, Nottingham, and even of Derby, Manchester, and Liverpool. Is it fair that the seaports should bear all the expense? In Grimsby we fitted up a steamship as a Cholera Hospital Ship in the Humber, the patients being taken direct, and a medical assistant being on board. The medical officer boarded all ships, and we had the use of several steam-tugs; we supplied all medical wants, and had to pay the cost of the ship, and we are still paying for her. The expense has been exactly £893 11s. 7d. over and 1068 above that of the Infectious Diseases Hospital, which has been costly also. I think the House will acknowledge that it would be a fatal mistake to put the Local Authorities in such a position as to discourage them from taking immediate and effectual steps for the prevention of cholera. I do not wish to say anything just now on the Budget proposals, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us some assurance that these Authorities will be relieved from the position in which they are, so that they may not be deterred from the work in which they are engaged by the fear of what, the ratepayers may say afterwards. These Bodies may reasonably look to the Treasury for a subsidy which will enable them to act even more effectually than they have hitherto done in this important matter.
§ MR. THOMAS USBORNE (Essex, Chelmsford)
said, speaking as a member of a banking firm in the Levant, he would draw attention to the fact that a large amount of Stock Exchange business which formerly came from the Levant to London now went to Paris, in consequence of the tax placed on transactions on the London Stock Exchange. He hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer might see his way to adopt some plan by which foreigners might give orders in London without having to stamp the contract.
§ *MR. JOHN LENG (Dundee)
said, that according to a Petition which had been circulated among members from the Convention of Royal and Parliamentary Burghs of Scotland, a sum of £50,000,000 of unclaimed money was held by the banks in Scotland, though the total amount deposited with these banks was only £93,825,000. A cypher seemed to have been inadvertently added to the first amount. He would suggest that, by appropriating a portion of this money, the Chancellor of the Exchequer might have found an easy means of meeting the deficiency. Unclaimed deposits in banks should not be appropriated by the bankers, but should, after the lapse of a limited period, go into the State Exchequer. It was the custom for the bankers to appropriate such sums; but that was so much taken from the country, and they ought not to allow it to be done. Then there was the drawback on British spirits exported, amounting to £1,000 a day, or £365,000 a year. It 1069 was allowed in distilleries and other establishments where spirits were prepared for export, but it had been demonstrated that, for the expenditure incurred, the distillers and others received a full equivalent in the service of the Excise officers. They would really lose, as they did in some instances, when the Malt Duty was repealed, if the present system were discontinued. He had risen to point this out as a subject worthy of consideration for dealing with on a future occasion; but, in view of all the circumstances, he did not think the Chancellor of the Exchequer could have dealt with the present crisis in a more simple manner than lie had done.
§ MR. WILLOX (Liverpool, Everton)
said, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated that no economical Party now existed. He (Mr. Willox) was afraid that, that was so, judging by the amount of the Budget, and he was also afraid that it was a matter for which all Parties were equally responsible. The right hon. Gentleman also said that financial economy had gone the way of political economy. Now, political economy in this particular instance had to be somewhat discarded, because he took it that as a Customs Duty increased in amount it was desirable that its incidence should be adjusted equitably among those who bore it. That was not the case in reference to the one duty to which he wished to draw the attention of the Committee. He spoke of the Tobacco Duty, where the remarks of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that those who were well-to-do did not contribute their fair share to the Treasury were especially applicable. They had had it explained that the amount of the increase in the yield of the Tobacco Duty during the past year had been £182,000, and for the coming year a further augmentation had been calculated. The total amount of that duty would considerably exceed £10,000,000 for the year, and that sum was more than one-half of the total receipts from the Customs. They had it in the last Report of the Commissioners of Customs that the quantity of tobacco consumed per head of the population last year was 1½61 lb., equal to a duty of 5s. 3d. per head. It was certainly desirable that the incidence of such a tax should be equitably adjusted. He did not think it was so at 1070 present. The great bulk of the tobacco consumed in this country was consumed by the working classes, who usually paid 3d. per ounce for it, and of every 6d. so paid id. went to the Exchequer. How did that compare with the amount paid to the Exchequer by those whom the Chancellor of the Exchequer had described as having considerable means and not paving adequately? A rich man spent 6d. on a Havana cigar, and of that sum less than Id. went to the Exchequer, so that there was a differential rate very much in favour of the well-to-do. To take a familiar case, the duty on spirits raised the price of a nominal shilling's worth to 5s., whereas the duty on tobacco raised the price of that article from 1s. to 6s. 8d. per lb. According to an authority, which would not be treated with disrespect by hon. Gentlemen opposite, the Financial Reform Association, smokers should know that of the 3d. per ounce paid for the common sorts of tobacco, 2½d. went to the Exchequer and ½d. for the tobacco. That was not the proportion in which the tax was borne by the rich, who could well afford to pay, because just as the expense advanced with the high grade article the ratio of contribution to the Exchequer diminished in the same proportion. The commoner the tobacco, the poorer the consumer, the larger the levy that was made on his funds; the richer the man, the higher the price that was paid for the article, the less he paid in proportion to the National Exchequer. The present standard of tobacco taxation was fixed in 1863, but he would take the Committee back a stage further. In was in 1842 that Sir Robert Peel fixed the duty upon tobacco. His standard for foreign cigars was 9s. per lb., so that at that time, under that wise financial administrator, there was some close approximation between the duty and the value. But in 1863 the present Prime Minister, being Chancellor of the Exchequer, an alteration was made in the incidence of the duty, and it was altered very invidiously in both directions. The amount of duty levied on foreign cigars was reduced from 9s. to 5s. per 1b., and the duty on the tobacco which the people consumed was advanced from 3s. to 3s. 2d. It was from that point that the present anomaly began; and it still continued. The immediate effect of that change was to 1071 increase in a very rapid ratio the import of foreign-manufactured tobacco, and that state of things had gone on from then till now. The total duty paid on un manufactured tobacco in 1884 was £8,700,000; in 1890 it was £8,470,000, while in 1892 it was, according to the last Report of the Commissioners of Customs, £9,530,000. That showed progress, but not nearly the same relative progress as was manifested in the value of foreign cigars and imported manufactured tobaccos. in 1884 the amount of duty paid upon foreign cigars, which were consumed entirely by the rich and well-to-do, was £344,283; in 1891 it was £473,000; in 1892 it was £503,000. The importation of foreign-manufactured tobacco had been increasing in a still greater ratio, because in 1884 the duty paid on it was £46,000; in 1890 it was £69,000, in 1892 £82,250, so that at the present time there was paid on foreign cigars and foreign manufactured tobacco the sum of £585,000 per annum. He found that the percentage of increase showed far greater relative progress in the import of manufactured tobacco than in raw leaf. He called attention to these facts, not for the purpose of urging an immediate change of duty, because he knew that that would be impossible; but he wished to point out that, just as the duty on foreign cigars and imported manufactured tobacco increased, the proportion paid by the well-to-do people in this country diminished, and the amount of duty levied on the poorer classes increased. It would be found that, while there had been a great limitation of adulteration in this country, there had also been a very great disproportion of taxation. He called attention to this matter rather in view of the prospective time shadowed forth by the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Picton). When, perhaps, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have an opportunity of framing a new and more suitable Budget, the right hon. Gentleman would bear in mind that the incidence of the Customs Duties on tobacco was exceedingly inequitable, unfavourable to the working classes, and in favour of the well-to-do, and would put on a more just and equitable basis of taxation this important article of commerce.
SIR W. HARCOUHT
I have every reason to thank the Committee for the 1072 extreme kindness with which it has dealt with the matters that it has been my duty to bring before it. Some of the subjects I have dealt with hon. Members have not dealt with, very properly reserving their observations until such time as the items can be more specifically dealt with under the several Resolutions. For the present I will confine myself to a few of the questions and suggestions which have been raised. The right hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Heneage) made an appeal on behalf of the seaport towns. I wish the Committee to observe that it is always the case, when a Budget is proposed, that now demands of an extensive character are immediately made, demands founded on principles which might carry one very far. What is the right hon. Gentleman's demand? It is that Imperial funds shall bear the charge of the Sanitary Duties, which are, I will admit, of an extraordinary character, now falling upon the seaport towns. The right hon. Gentleman does not seem to form a very adequate idea of how many more pennies such a demand, if conceded, would add to the Income Tax. That is a calculation into which I think he ought to enter. He will allow me to say that I myself have yet to be convinced of the soundness and justice of the principle on which his demand is founded. After all, seaport towns depend largely for their prosperity on the fact that they are seaport towns; and when these demands are made, the old legal maxim may fittingly be stated "That he who receives the advantage ought to bear the burden." Having in view the position of inland towns, it is not too much to say that the seaport towns should make provision for the security of their own population. If they wore to abandon the precautions which it is necessary for them to take, what would become of Southampton and Liverpool and Grimsby and Hull? Why, of course, the whole of their populations might be infected with cholera at once. Therefore, it seems to me that before the right hon. Gentleman makes this demand he should establish a principle on which alone it can properly be founded. I have to thank the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. J. Stuart) for the way in which he spoke of the proposals I have made. He expressed some disappointment at my not dealing 1073 with the Death Duties this year. He' referred to a matter on which I am able to give him, I hope, satisfactory assurances—a matter which demands the sympathy and support of the Government—namely, the promotion of the principle of the equalisation of rates in the Metropolis. That seems to me to be an extremely just principle. That was introduced as regards the poor rate, by my right lion, and venerable Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Villiers). He has now asked me that the principle should be extended to other rates that now fall so unequally in different districts in London—namely, the improvement rates; and certainly it is the desire of the Government to give every support to the promotion of a reform of that character. The hon. Members for Hampshire and Somersetshire seem to think that I have not expressed the sympathy I ought to have expressed with the distress in the agricultural industry. I certainly did not go fully into that subject—and sympathy is a quality which does not naturally belong to the Budget Statement. I cannot but express the fullest sympathy of Her Majesty's Government with the losses and sufferings that have been sustained by that portion of the community during recent years. Hon. Members are wrong in assuming that we do not entertain that sympathy for agriculture in its distress that it has a right to demand from all sections of the community. The hon. Member for Hampshire has complained of the distinction between the rating of land and other properties. I, personally, am hostile in principle to any such distinction, and hold that both forms of taxation should be dealt with in the same way; but it is absolutely impossible to deal with the one without the other. I hope it will be possible to deal with the question, and put both duties on the same footing when the Death Duties are considered. That, I am afraid, is all that at this moment I can say. On another point, in reference to the Stamp Duties, an hon. Member opposite suggested a change which actually made my mouth water—namely, that a stamp should be put on all contracts, even in Mincing Lane; but I am afraid it would be almost as much as the life of any Chancellor of the Exchequer is worth to bring forward such a proposal. The 1074 hon. Member for North Islington advocated a distinction being drawn in the Income Tax Assessment between industrial and funded incomes. That is the battle that was fought by the Prime Minister in his great speech in 1853. As often as that question has been brought forward, so often the answer has been given that it is impossible to make the distinction. I should prefer to deal with the Death Duties, because those duties secure the additional taxation on the higher and accumulated wealth which cannot be secured by the Income Tax. As to the question I have been asked in reference to the date when the increased Income Tax will come into operation, whether the tax is increased or decreased, it always commences on the 6th of April. That is the date at which the existing tax expires. On the occasion of the Abyssinian War the tax was imposed in November, still, it harked back, commencing as from the 6th of April. It is calculated from the day on which the previous tax expires. For the convenience of their clients bankers deduct Income Tax according to the rate of the previous year. If the rate is lowered, and they deduct too much, then they make the necessary return afterwards; and if they do not deduct enough, as is the case when the rate is increased, then additional deductions are made. I have endeavoured to reply to the questions which have been asked. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Long) offered me £1,000 a day—I think that is what his drawback would come to—but I inquired into the matter the moment I heard of it and found, I am sorry to say, that there is nothing in it. You cannot refuse the drawback on spirits in bond, for if you did you would suffer considerable loss of duty. I will not ask the Committee to pass the Resolution relating to the Income Tax to-night; hut if there is no objection, according to the usual practice, I will ask leave to take the Tea Duty and Resolution with reference to Stamps.
§ MR. GOSCHEN (St. George's, Hanover Square)
I understand that it has generally been the custom to allow the Tea Resolution to be taken, and for my part I shall offer no objection, on the understanding that we are absolutely free to discuss the whole of the financial policy of the right hon. Gentleman on 1075 Thursday night. As to the Stamp Duty, I see no particular objection to its being passed this evening. Of course, if there are any hon. Members who wish to discuss it, doubtless the right hon. Gentleman will not press it. After all, it will not affect the progress of Business one way or the other.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
said, he wanted to mention one or two grievances that affected his constituents. The Government should take a great interest in the British fanner, and that being so, he thought they might do something to relieve him of some of his burdens of taxation. Why did not the Chancellor of the Exchequer put a duty upon British wines? Foreign wines were very heavily pressed in that respect, and he thought by putting a duty on home wines the Chancellor would have an easy means of raising the money he required. There was another method by which the right hon. Gentleman might win some popularity in the country districts; and that was by taking steps to prevent transfers of shares for a merely nominal consideration. Such transfers were made too often for the purpose of cheating the Revenue. The money raised in the ways he suggested could be applied to the relief of local taxation, which would be a great relief to the agriculturists, and the right hon. Gentleman would be able to come down next year with a more satisfactory outlook than that which he had to face at present.
§ *MR. A. C. MORTON (Peterborough)
said, he had to congratulate the Chancellor of the Exchequer on his bold and plain speech with regard to economy. He could not, however, agree that the right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister were the only two Members of that House who had economical views, for he had not forgotten that when a proposal was made to reduce expenditure in connection with the Expedition to Uganda the Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman voted against that proposal. He wished to protest against the mode of assessing property for the collection of the Property Tax and House Duty. These taxes were paid on the gross value, and not on the net, or rateable, value. That was unfair, and had been acknowledged to be unfair by Parliament. He could hardly expect the 1076 Chancellor of the Exchequer to do anything in the matter during the present Session; but he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give a promise that it should be considered. There was another matter to which he would like to call attention, and that was the question of Grants in Aid. A sum of over £7,000,000 was collected as Imperial Taxes and given to Local Authorities; but it did not appear in the Budget. The Expenditure for the present year, including that £7,000,000, and a loan of about £1,500,000, would be nearly £100,000,000. He did not believe in Grants in Aid. It was a very bad system, and led to a waste of money. This expenditure of £100,000,000 was a great deal more than the people of the country ought to be asked to meet. Ten millions at least ought to be knocked off. In the first place, he thought the Royal Family cost a great deal too much. This country could not afford nearly £1,000,000 for the expenses of one family, and that sum ought to be reduced by at least £500,000. Of course, it would be no good for him to propose such a reduction. It ought to be proposed by a strong Member of the Government; but it was unfortunate that these matters of expenditure always involved a question of confidence in the Government. In his opinion, the House ought to be allowed to consider them on their merits, and no Government ought to be turned out on a question of reduction of Expenditure. The next question to which he would call attention was the Expenditure on the Army and Navy. Under the present Government the cost this year of the Army was £250,000 more than last year. If this extra money were going to the private soldiers he would not object to it; but, so far as he knew, hardly one penny of it was going in that direction. He had been told that there was a waste of nearly £2,000,000 in the Army Expenditure. He had not been able exactly to discover whore that waste took place. It took a deal of trouble for any hon. Member of the House to find out the way money was spent in this country, and where it went to; and it therefore was not surprising that an humble Member like himself was unable to discover this waste of £2,000,000 in the Army Ex88penditure. He should like, however, to compel the Army Authorities to carry out the work for a sum less by £2,000,000 1077 than the present Expenditure. He believed they could easily do it, and as efficiently as at present. There were a great many officers who did nothing, and a great many persons who got pensions to which they were not entitled. Those, for instance, might he got rid of. He did not think there was so much waste in the Navy as in the Army, because the Navy was not so much run after as the Army, and its officers were not so well paid. But still there was a great waste in the Navy. He also thought that Civil Servants were paid too much, and that their pensions should he done away with altogether. The working men had now got votes; but they had nor got pensions, and it would probably come to this— that everybody or nobody should be pensioned, because the man with £1 a week had as good a claim to a pension, and should get it on the same ground, as a man with.£1,000 a year. He did not wish to say anything offensive to the Officers of the House; but there were Officers of the House who were paid £1,000 or £1,500 a year and got pensions, whilst the labourers employed about the House got only £1 or £1 10s. a week, and no pensions, so that when they were old they were driven into the workhouse, or had to depend upon their relatives when they were half-starved. The better way would be to abolish pensions altogether, and let people provide for themselves. When people were certain of pensions, it destroyed their best qualities of self-reliance and thrift, and made them extravagant. He would give pensions to soldiers and sailors and policemen, on account of the danger and nature of their services, but would abolish it in the case of all other servants of the State. Then there were what he would call political pensions. Ex-Ministers got £1,200 or £2,000 a year, to which they were no more entitled than he was. He believed that these ex-Ministers had to make a declaration, that they could not live without this pension. How they made such a declaration he did not know, but there were numbers of Members of the House who could with equal honesty make such a declaration. He hoped the present Government would do away with these pensions, and so save a little for the country. The Chancellor of the Ex- 1078 chequer had told them that the Telegraph Service had never paid its expenses, not to speak of the interest of the money paid for the undertakings. It was an undoubted fact that too much money had been given for the Telegraphs. He would, therefore, impress on hon. Members that they should take care, when purchasing such undertakings, that they did not give too much money for them. The London County Council should take that piece of advice. There was a proposal to buy up the London Water Companies, and the County Council were asked to pay a fabulous sum for the works; but if the County Council did not take care they would be bit as the Government had been bit over the Telegraphs. The late Government had tried to make political capital out of the fact that they had passed what they called the Free Education Act. But it seemed the present Government had to pay for it. The present Government had to provide a large sum of money for Education. He did not complain of that, because the money was being put to a good purpose, and would before long yield good fruit. There was also an increase of £600,000 in the Post Office Expenditure. That Department was well conducted, and he did not object to the expenditure so long as the officials who really did the work got the money. He was sorry the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not deal with the Death Duties this year. The matter was most important, for the Death Duties were unfairly imposed, real property only having to pay one-third the amount paid on personal property. He had never had any explanation of this difference of treatment, except the fact that it had always been the general policy of the Government of the country, so long as it was in the hands of the aristocracy, to take the taxes off themselves and place the burden on the middle and working classes. He did not see why the question of the re-adjustment of these Death Duties should not be dealt with in this Session. He would probably be told that Ireland blocked the way, as it had blocked the way for the last 30 or 40 years, or for 700 years if they liked. When they asked anything for Great Britain they were told there was an Irish Bill before the House, and that, 1079 therefore, there was no time to do anything for England or Scotland and Wales. He did not think there was a stronger argument in favour of Home Rule than the fact that until Home Rule was out of the way there would be no time whatever to deal with The affairs of Great Britain. There was one subject of importance to which he had heard no allusion in the course of the discussion—that was the subject of a graduated Income Tax. The Liberal Party was pledged to a graduated Income Tax. Everyone would agree that it was not right to charge the same tax on precarious incomes as was charged on incomes derived from well-secured investments, or to tax small incomes to the same extent as large incomes. He therefore hoped the Government would do something this Session to carry out their pledges to establish a graduated Income Tax. He knew the difficulties in the way of the Government in trying to cut down the expenses of some of the Departments; but the Government should not complain when those reforms were pressed on their attention by private Members in the interest of the country. So far as he was personally concerned, he was quite prepared to go any length in the way of economy. Instead of a £100,000,000 Budget he should like at least £10,000,000 knocked off. He was quite certain that they could get the work of the country as well done by getting rid of a number of useless persons. He knew it required a good deal of courage to advocate economy in the expenditure of public money in this House or elsewhere. Representatives knew well how to economise with their own private funds, but when they came to deal with other people's money they found it so much easier to spend; but he was sure that when the democracy was more in power than it was at present the expenditure of public money would be better looked after.
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said, the Budget was a great disappointment to many Members. It was a very great disappointment to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer proving to demonstration that he must impose a graduated Death Duty, and then entirely declining to do so, for he could not help thinking that had it been done the Government 1080 would not be in Office another fortnight. But the utter disappointment of the Budget to him lay in the fact of the increased Expenditure under the present Government. During the General Election they were told that the Tory Party was the extravagant Party, and that if the Liberal Party ever came into Office they would carry on the Government of the country much cheaper than any other Party. But instead of that they found that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had to avow that the Expenditure that year exceeded the Expenditure of last year by £505,000. That was a great disappointment to him. When the result of the General Election was announced to be a majority for the Liberal Party, he felt it was extremely disappointing; hut that, fortunately, there was one comfort in the situation—government would be cheaper. But he found that, instead of being cheaper, government was £500,000 dearer. He was surprised that the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not show greater firmness in resisting the demands his various Colleagues had made on him. He thought the First Lord of the Admiralty was entitled to the £14,000,000 he was going to get. He believed they could not curtail the Naval Expenditure, and they might increase it with advantage. But when the First Lord proposed to build these two monster cruisers, which were to roam about the ocean, without making any use of the coaling stations, simply because Russia had some cruisers of the kind, he wondered the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not object. He was also surprised that the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not curb the Secretary for War. That right right hon. Gentleman had said that the time was passed when an English Army would be sent to the Continent or would be used on the Continent for purposes for which Armies were occasionally employed. If that were so, a great deal of money which was now spent on the Army might be saved, and he wondered the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not try to save it. Then, again, the President of the Local Government Board was an expensive Member of the Government, though his Department was one that might with advantage be abolished altogether. The prodigal son of the Government was the President of the Board of Trade, who was going about the 1081 country establishing labour shops and setting up armies of Inspectors. He was surprised the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not curb that right hon. Gentleman also. The simplicity with which the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to deal with the large Expenditure this year over last year was so great that it amounted to brutality. There was no novelty about it. The right hon. Gentleman proposed no new tax which nobody would feel and which nobody would object to pay. He simply proposed to put an additional 1d. on the Income Tax, which was the last resort of feeble minds, and which anybody could do. The Income Tax was unjust to owners of leasehold property, in which numbers of persons had their money invested. These people had to pay the tax not on the net value of the house, but on the gross value, the effect of which was that they had to pay more than they ought to be called upon to pay. He had another grievance against the Income Tax. In the year 1853 the present Prime Minister explained that the tax was only to last for six years, and in 1874, also, the right hon. Gentleman gave the country to understand that, if he were returned to power, there was no reason why arrangements should not be made for the absolute and unconditional abolition of that tax. Yet now, 20 years after that statement had been made, the tax was not only still in existence, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to add 1d. more to it, and rise it to the highest figure it had readied for several years past. The attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been called by the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Heneage) to the fact that an invasion of cholera was feared this year, and that the Authorities of the ports were called upon to bear the whole cost of the measures they had taken to prevent that invasion. The right hon. Gentleman replied that the matter concerned the ports, and was not an Imperial matter at all. He said it was an Imperial affair. In the Government of Ireland Bill quarantine was reserved to the Imperial Parliament. That showed that precautions taken against the importation of disease was an Imperial affair, and that the cost of it was properly charged to Imperial funds. 1082 It was not solely for their own protection that the ports were called upon to take these measures against cholera—it was for the protection of the whole country; and he thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer should dole out the money necessary for these measures, for cholera would probably arrive in this country owing to the continuance of the easterly winds. For all these reasons he was disappointed with the Budget. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer must have another 1d. on the Income Tax, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman, if he should have the extraordinary good fortune of being in Office next year, would try to do his duty to the country by curbing the extravagance of his Colleagues on the Treasury Bench.
§ THE CHAIRMAN (Mr. MELLOR,) York, W.R., Sowerby
This is a matter upon which, at the present moment, I cannot accept the Closure.
§ *MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
said, the hon. Member for Durham (Sir J. Pease) spoke of the want of confidence existing in financial circles, and of the depression there was in all enterprises, attributing this depression mainly to the transactions connected with the Baring failure; but he (Mr. Tomlinson) thought there was even a more potent cause for the depression. If the hon. Member made inquiries in the City into the cause of the depression, he would find that the first cause was the Home Rule Bill that the Government were trying to push forward; that was the most important factor in the continued depression of our industries. It was not in times of depression of this kind that those who had to do with industrial pursuits looked with equanimity upon an increase of 1d. on the Income Tax, but, unfortunately, it was the tax to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had to depend to meet a deficiency. It was, however, all the more intolerable in consequence of the inequalities that remained unredressed or unattempted to be redressed. Several of these inequalities had been referred to, and one which was very deeply felt had come under his own notice. This was, that in estimating the value of property of a perishable kind no allowance was made for depreciation, with the 1083 single exception of machinery in factories, and industries which existed by working out material which became exhausted in the process of working were not permitted to make any deductions for depreciation. Mining property was most unfairly treated. Every owner of a mine or property of that kind, if he wished to carry on his business properly, set apart each year a sum representing the depreciation of the capital laid out in the concern; otherwise, when the mine was exhausted, he would find himself without any means of recouping his capital; but no allowance was made by the Income Tax authorities for that depreciation; the Income Tax was assessed upon the full property without any allowance whatever for depreciation. A year or two ago he was present with an influential deputation which brought this matter before the notice of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman admitted it was a serious grievance, and one that ought to be redressed; but he pointed out this was not the only grievance connected with the Income Tax, and that professional men had also grievances to be redressed. He (Mr. Tomlinson) did not dispute for a moment that, if possible, all grievances should be redressed; but his point was that it was the duty of a Chancellor of the Exchequer, who treated Income Tax as a permanent source of revenue, to endeavour to bring the tax into harmony with fairness and justice, and he hoped to see the time when they would find Chancellors of the Exchequer more ready to consider grievances of this kind. He thought it should be pressed upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whatever Party was in Office, that a tax like the Income Tax should be levied upon fair and equitable principles.
§ *MR. EVERETT (Suffolk, Woodbridge)
said, the hon. Member who had spoken strongly in regard to the Income Tax seemed to have forgotten that when the Prime Minister formerly suggested that the tax might be dispensed with, the country would not accept the suggestion; the Conservatives then came into power, and though they had a large surplus, they did not repeal that Tax. The hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. A. C. Morton), amongst other interesting topics, spoke of the subject of pensions, and expressed an opinion, that 1084 was growing in the country, that we should have to come either to pensioning all or none; and he believed that the country would, before long, come to the opinion that all should be pensioned—that was to say, all who had attained old age. The Chancellor of the Exchequer favoured them with a half-promise in regard to Schedule A, which would be very acceptable to many in this country. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would continue a long time in Office, and that amongst the reforms he introduced would be the charging of Schedule A upon the real income arising from real property, instead of on a sum which as at the present moment was very much larger. The Chancellor of the Exchequer drew a picture of the enormous wealth and continued prosperity of this country, a picture pleasant to look at, but in strange contrast with the state of things that presented itself to the unfortunate people who lived and were interested in the agricultural districts. He spoke only the sober truth when he said the agriculturists were not very far from general bankruptcy. In the Eastern Counties the farmers were almost at their last gasp, the landlords were in the last extremity, the country clergy, who depended on their glebes and on tithes which were yearly falling, were almost beggared, bankers were complaining of the state of things, and did not know how to turn, looking at the dreadful condition of the agricultural world, and mortgagees were now finding that the securities upon which they had lent money had had the very bottom taken out of them, and that the wealth they thought themselves possessed of had largely vanished. In the county from which he came the value of property had decreased nearly £30,000,000 during the past 20 years. If all industries were like that of the agricultural industry, very bad would be the outlook. Notwithstanding the roseate picture of England's prosperity, he regretted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should have had to come down to ask them for an increased tax. He was sure the right hon. Gentleman could not get more out of the agricultural districts, and it would have to come from those parts of the country that were more favoured than they had been in the agricultural districts in prosperity. The right hon. Gentleman said rightly that 1085 larger Expenditure had been the cause of his having to ask for these taxes, and he, for one, most entirely sympathised with the right hon. Gentleman. During the last Parliament the country was subjected to an increase of Expenditure of tens of millions on our Navy and Army. It was a curious thing, but the Conservatives when they came; into Office generally got up these scares, persuaded the country that we were in danger, and the result was that the country allowed them to increase the Military and Naval Expenditure. When the Liberals came into power the bill had to be paid, and then the Liberals were rounded upon, and it was said that directly they came into Office taxation had to be increased, though it, was undoubtedly duo to the policy of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. But not only were the taxes to be raised, but the value of the money the Chancellor of the Exchequer took out, of the pockets of the people was very much greater than it was 10 or 15 years ago. A sovereign now represented a larger amount of the produce of the soil, or of the mine, or of the loom, or of the factory than it did 15 years ago. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a very interesting speech in this House in 1883, called attention to the fact that money was steadily increasing in value. Mr. Giffen, the eminent statistician, read a most interesting paper at. the Society of Arts in 1888 in which he confirmed the fact and illustrated it, and by many clear proofs showed that the value of money had risen 30 per cent. as compared with the 15 previous years, and that this rise continued to go on. At the present time the rise in the value of money, measured by commodities, was no less than 50 per cent.: so that when the nation was called upon to pay a tax of something like £100,000,000, it was equal to a tax of £150,000,000 of the money of 15 or 20 years ago. In an interesting article contributed to The Nineteenth Century of the present month by the late Chairman of Committees (Mr. Courtney) it was pointed out that owing to the rise in the value of money the real weight of our National Debt was increasing by hundreds of millions against the tens of millions that; we wore paving off, so that the Debt got heavier instead of lighter. There was a time 1086 when the present Prime Minister was able to refer to the Revenue of the country as increasing by leaps and bounds, and when, although the Expenditure was annually increasing, the Revenue was increasing still faster. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer would like to see those halcyon days back again he could have them by allowing the free use of that precious metal which had always in the past been allied with gold. The blindness and infatuation of the present generation had led them to exclude the free use of this metal.
§ MR. EVERETT
said, he was only going to urge, in conclusion, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his future treatment of this question, should show a somewhat kinder spirit towards increasing the supply of money by reverting to the old full free use of silver than he had hitherto done.
§ SIR H. S. KING (Hull, Central)
wished to support the views of the right hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Heneage) and to appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on behalf of the home ports. His constituents objected in the strongest way to having the intolerable burden of preventing cholera going inland thrown exclusively upon them. Last year his constituents paid a debt of £150 to preserve the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his constituents from cholera. He, and he believed every Member for a home port, agreed with the right hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Heneage) in considering that the prevention of the spread of cholera was of national importance, and he would strongly urge the Chancellor of the Exchequer to re-consider the question.
§ *SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
feared that this proposal to increase the Income Tax would be received by his constituents with great regret, disappointment, and dissatisfaction. In his constituency there resided a very large number of clerks upon very modest salaries and scanty incomes, and they felt, indeed they had always felt, the Income Tax acutely. During the years recently passed they were very grateful for two successive reductions in this tax conceded to them by his right hon. Friend 1087 the late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen), and now this augmentation would press upon them with unexpected severity. Then he wished, once in a way, to express his concurrence with the hon. Member for the Woodbridge Division of Suffolk—he did not often have the pleasure of agreeing with him —and therefore, he had the greater satisfaction of expressing his agreement. He, and all those who represented agricultural constituencies, would heartily concur with what the hon. Member said with regard to the depressed condition of agriculture. These Imperial burdens were growing and pressing more hardly upon the agricultural classes, and he considered this was about the worst time for imposing upon them any increase of the Income Tax; in fact, the agricultural interest was the very last interest that ought to be subjected to any additional financial burden.
THE MARQUESS OF CARMARTHEN (Lambeth, Brixton)
regretted that the right hon. Gentleman had not proposed to impose a tax upon a certain article much used. The article he should like to see taxed was the revolver. They all knew there was a tax on carrying firearms, and considering the great harm that was done by the indiscriminate carrying of firearms and revolvers, he thought it was a matter that should receive the most careful consideration of Her Majesty's Government. If the right hon. Gentleman would confer with the Home Secretary (Mr. Asquith), he would find that an enormous number of people were killed annually through carrying these arms. He had taken considerable interest in this matter, and he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that, from the reports that reached him from different parts of the country, the number of deaths occurring through carrying revolvers was something hardly credible. If the right hon. Gentleman would not only place a tax upon revolvers, but would introduce a Bill to compel dealers not to sell revolvers to any person who could not produce a licence for carrying arms, he would do a great deal to put a stop to what is becoming a serious evil as well as something that would redound to his credit.
§ MR. J. S. WALLACE (Tower Hamlets, Limehouse)
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question 1088 be now put," but the Chairman withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
From the passing of the Act. There is one thing that I should mention, and which I forgot in the Budget Statement, and that is to do away with the exemption which enables dealers in foreign game not to pay the same licence as dealers in English game are required to pay. I was asked a question about it, and I answered I would remedy it, and I propose to submit a Resolution to correct the anomaly. There is also one other small matter I may as well mention. It appears there is growing up a practice in reference to payment by cheques, to have the receipt upon the cheque, and then the man does not pay the 1d. receipt duty because he manages to get it covered by the 1d. duty on the cheque. That is a clear evasion of the law, and we propose in the Bill to do away with that and to make the 1d. duty payable on the receipt however it is paid, whether by cheque or not.
§ MR. BONSOR
said, it was a very small matter, but at the same time he should like to have it cleared up. It was a very ordinary custom in business to send a letter, "Dear sir, I have received your cheque," and not to put a stamp upon the letter; he therefore wished to know if the right hon. Gentleman proposed to include letters acknowledging the receipt of cheques under the 1d. duty?
Question put, and agreed to.
1. Resolved, That, towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, the Duties of Customs now chargeable on Tea shall continue to be levied and charged on and after the first day of August, one thousand eight hundred and nintey-three, until the first day of August, one thousand eight hundred and ninety-four, on the importation thereof into Great Britain or Ireland (that is to say) on—
Tea … the pound Fourpence.