HC Deb 09 May 1893 vol 12 cc459-62

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether the Treasury has had prepared, and will lay immediately before Parliament, a Paper showing all the successive amounts that will be charged as a first charge on the Irish Consolidated Fund, under the following clauses of the Bill for the Government of Ireland:—(1) under Clauses 14, 15, 16; (2) under the subsections (a), (b), (c) of Clause 26; (3) under Clauses 27 and 28?

MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)

May I ask whether it is not the fact that the charges referred to in the question are chiefly of a prospective, and more particularly of a contingent character?


There is an apparent confusion or misprint in the noble Lord's question—in that part relating to subsections (a), (b), and (c), of Clause 26. What my hon. Friend has intimated is substantially correct—that is to say, that there is no such account at all, as far as I am aware, at the Treasury. The Treasury could give a list of the charges without the amounts if the noble Lord desires it; but the amounts are not yet known.


The question is not printed correctly; Clause 26 should be Clause 28. Would it be possible for the House to inform itself as to the estimated Revenues of Ireland unless it is put in possession of all, or at any rate the greater part, of this information? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the language of the Bill is most precise as to all the charges, and that the Revenue of Ireland cannot be estimated until the amounts of all the charges which are placed as first charges are known?


The amounts depend on certain proceedings to be taken in the course of the Bill. They are Dot at present within the knowledge of the Treasury. If it can be done before we come to the Financial Clauses, I shall be glad to have it done.

MR. GOSCHEN (St. George's, Hanover Square)

Will the right hon. Gentleman at once cause to be put before us a statement of the amounts as far as they have actually been ascertained, and of the amount of debt which would come under the clause where 4 per cent. is to be paid? That is an amount which is known or ascertainable; and it would assist the deliberations of the Committee if we had before us so much of the charges and liabilities on the Irish Exchequer as are actually known, and if we had also, as soon us possible, an estimate of the charges which would come under this Bill.


The right hon. Gentleman had better put that question on the Paper. I can answer it more satisfactorily under those circumstances.

MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether inquiries have recently been undertaken by the Government as to the true proportion of whisky paying duty and Excise in Ireland, and consumed respectively in Ireland and Great Britain; whether this inquiry has shown that the proportion consumed in Great Britain is much larger than was assumed when the financial arrangements of the Bill for the Government of Ireland were settled; and whether this error will alter materially the amount attributed to Excise in the estimate of an Irish Budget presented to the House; if so, whether he will immediately lay upon the Table of the House a new Return showing the correct amount?


It may be remembered that in 1886 the Government were not able to submit an estimate of the division of Irish Excise receipts between Great Britain and Ireland. But in the present year an attempt had been made to do that, and it had been done upon the basis of the actual figures of 1891–2, and the Budget Estimate for 1892–3. We found on examination, however, that those figures were not quite correctly taken, and a very strict examination in the matter is now going on. But that examination is not yet completed, though it will be shortly; and in due time the figures will be sub- mitted to the House, so that everything will be quite clear and well understood before the House is called upon to come to a decision.


Has the inquiry proceeded far enough to enable the right hon. Gentleman to state whether the statement in question is correct, and whether the result of the corrections would be to lessen the amount credited to Excise in the Irish Budget?


I believe that the amount really due to Great Britain from Excise has been underestimated.

MR. BRODRICK (Surrey, Guildford)

May I ask whether the investigation relating to the amounts paid by Ireland in respect of Excise has been extended to the Customs and Stamps and other receipts for the last financial year, and when the result of the investigation will be laid on the Table?


The case of the Customs is entirely and absolutely distinct. Stamps involve no serious question of a transfer of revenue.


The matter is so important that I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I make a further request. Will he undertake to instruct the Treasury to press forward with the corrections of any of the Returns which have been made to us, showing the contributions hitherto made by Ireland and the various percentages? These would vary if it could be shown that the consumption of Irish whisky in England has been larger than has been estimated in past years. That would affect the correctness of the figures hitherto given. Have the Treasury kept their eye on that, so that fresh Returns may be laid upon the Table of the House as soon as possible, showing the real figures in times past?


We shall get the actual state of the facts as soon as we can, and all consequential corrections will be duly made. The House will be placed in possession of the facts in the best form and at the earliest period before it is called upon to discuss the Financial Clauses.


I should like to explain to the right hon. Gentleman that I find, on referring to the Bill, the Sub-sections (a), (b), (c), referred to in my question are in Clause 14, and not Clause 26.

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