§ MR. EDWARD BLAKE (Longford, S.)
moved:—That, in the opinion of this House, the Report and Proceedings of the Royal Commission on the Financial Relations of Great Britain and Ireland establish the existence of an undue burden of taxation on Ireland, which constitutes a great grievance to all classes of the Irish community, and makes it the duty of the Government to propose at an early day remedial legislation.The hon. Member gratefully acknowledged that his Motion had received favourable consideration from more than 1578 one influential quarter in the House, but he could not be insensible to the fact that there existed on the part of some hon. Members an indisposition, perhaps an aversion, to the further discussion of Irish grievances, some entertaining the conviction that it was but waste of time, since whatever was said or done Irish people would still remain unreasonably dissatisfied, and others cherishing the belief that Ireland was spoiled and favoured rather than wronged and neglected. He also could not but feel that the argument was devoid of dramatic interest and full of wearisome details; and most of all was he deeply conscious of his own inadequacy for the task imposed upon him. Therefore he earnestly supplicated the kind indulgence of the House while he attempted to sustain the Motion of which he had given notice. [Cheers.] This question differed in some respects from many former Irish questions. In this there was more than in those a united Ireland. [Cheers.] In those the dominating British delegation very often assumed the part of impartial judges, disinterested persons deciding for the good of Ireland between the views of contending Irish factions. In this the views of Irish Members were but lightly regarded, because, it was said, they were parties, and therefore not fit judges in the cause. But who were the other parties? If Irishmen were the plaintiffs, who were the defendants? The British Members; and their position was more powerful and therefore more invidious than that of Irish Members. If they were happily as united on those Benches as in Ireland, they would still not muster more than one-seventh of the magisterial bench. The other parties in the House could netrualise the voices of Ireland, with about 500 judges to spare. ["Hear, hear!"] British Members, then, were the judges, and it was against their adversaries they must plead to give judgment against themselves. Under those conditions on what could Ireland rest? Whence cometh her hope? She could rest only on that security which a British statesman, in the year 1800, enunciated as adequate. When speaking of this very contingency he said:—But it has been said what security can you give Ireland for the performance of the conditions? If I were asked what security were 1579 necessary, without hesitation I would answer—None. The liberality, the justice, the honour of the people of Great Britain have never yet been found deficient.It was for those who spoke for Britain to-day to make good the words of Pitt a century ago. [Cheers.] And, first, he would ask the House to consider the gravity of the issue. For almost a century Britain had ruled Ireland in the House of Commons. Let British Members recall the economic conditions of the two islands, the ruling and ruled. Those considerations should give pause before the dismissal of the plaint. Take population: At the beginning of the century Ireland had five millions against a little over 10 millions for Britain. She had now 4½ millions, less by half a million, or 10 per cent. of a loss. Britain had 34 millions, having increased by 24 millions, or 240 per cent. Had Ireland increased proportionally she would now have over 16 millions; her relative loss was 11½ millions in a century. She had half as many; she had little more than one-eighth of Britain. But even this view was inadequate. Half a century ago Ireland had 8½ millions; she lost two millions directly and indirectly through the famine, and since then so many more that, after eliminating the natural increase, her population has fallen four millions, or by 47 per cent., in half a century, an absolutely unexampled condition. [Cheers.] Britain half a century ago had 20 millions; her increase is 14 millions, or 70 per cent. A proportionate Irish increase would make an Irish population of 14,300,000; her relative loss was nearly 70 per cent.—10 millions in half a century. Take the condition of the people: Of that dreadfully reduced population, large masses there were whose scale of existence was far below that of the corresponding large masses of Great Britain, while Britain's increased numbers enjoyed a steady and a rapid advance in the standard of comfort. In Britain the scale of living and the margin against emergency were such that famine was unknown and impossible. In Ireland the scale was so low and the margin so narrow that even one bad crop tended to famine in important areas and necessitate public aid. There was painful evidence of chronic penury and want in many districts—evidence 1580 and facts which, if they could be reported of a British district, would absolutely appal the Englishmen whom he addressed. [Cheers.] Britain imported from Ireland and abroad vast quantities of the best food for the consumption of her masses in addition to what she raised. Ireland also raised large quantities of the best foods, a very great part of which she exported to Britain, importing in exchange inferior commodities, Indian corn, and American bacon, the best her poverty-stricken masses could afford to use. [Cheers.] Ireland was in proportion to population the fourth meat-producing country in the world; she was the 16th meat consumer. [Cheers.] England was the 16th meat producer; she was the fourth meat consumer. The average Poor Law valuation of Ireland was under £3, about equal to the valuation of the poorest East London union. The paupers of Ireland were per 1,000 in 1864, 52; in Britain 49—nearly equal proportions; in 1895 they were in Ireland 95, being nearly double; in Britain 26, being almost half. [Cheers.] From equality they had become nearly four to one. Emigration had been draining from Ireland those in the prime of life. The very old and the very young remained, and thus the absolute and relative efficiency of the population had been seriously lowered. Inferior conditions had produced other painful results. The proportion of deaf mutes was near one-third larger than in England, of blind two-fifths, of lunatics one third; and the proportion of births over deaths was in Ireland five, in Britain 11. Take manufactures and agriculture: Irish manufactures had largely declined; while between 1841 and 1891 the whole population diminished by 42 per cent., that portion engaged in manufacture diminished by 61 per cent. Now only 27 per cent. of the population was urban. In the same time the Manufactures of Britain had immeasurably increased, and now 71 per cent. of her population was urban. Thus, Ireland had become more and more actually and relatively dependent on the land; 73 per cent. of her people lived in the country and 64 per cent. were dependent on agriculture. It followed that she had suffered enormously, absolutely, and relatively by the fall in the prices of agricultural products, accentuated in her case by the loss of 1581 local town markets; and her gross and net return from agriculture had been largely reduced, thus diminishing her yearly resources. Britain had become more and more independent of agriculture. Under 29 per cent. of her people were rural, and therefore less affected as a country by the fall of agricultural prices, while agriculture had been helped by the widespreading urban districts. Take commerce: Ireland had hardly any foreign Commerce or investments, and a large part of her yearly income was drained by absentee landlords and mortgagees. Though Ireland had a population between one-seventh and one-eighth of Britain, the number of her railway passengers were but 1–37th, her tons of railway freight 1–70th, telegrams 1–18th, postal and money orders 1–19th—all facts showing comparative stagnation. Sir Robert Giffen calculated, taking into account all the circumstances, that the incomes of the wage-earning classes in Ireland were, man for man, little more than half of those of the wage-earning classes in England. The gross income or resources of Ireland were estimated too highly at £70,000,000; those of Britain too low at £1,400,000,000. The capital of Ireland was reckoned in 1820 at £563,000,000; that of Britain was thought to be £1,500,000,000. Ireland was now thought to have £400,000,000, a reduction of nearly one-third, while Britain was thought to have £10,000,000,000, or an increase of sevenfold. Ireland had sunk from being over one third to being 1–25th in capital. These comparisons might be easily enlarged, extended, and multiplied; but the bald statement held that the conditions of the two islands were wholly different and increasingly divergent in the extent and kinds of their resources, in their economic circumstances and interests. They showed that the rule of Britain had advanced this country, but had failed to prosper Ireland. [Cheers.] They proved that her situation demanded that just and generous consideration of rich and powerful rulers towards the poor and weak island whose destinies this country controlled. ["Hear, hear!"] He would add this contrasting fact, that upon which their claim was founded. The one great point upon which Britain exhibited a decline and Ireland an advance was in the scale of taxation. [Cheers.] In 1582 Ireland the taxes on commodities which struck the masses were per head, in 1790, 4s.; in 1820, 11s.; in 1894, 22s. They were thus double. In Britain in 1820 they were 48s.; in 1894, 24s. They were half. [Cheers.] Irish taxes which had been under one-fourth had become almost equal, notwithstanding the relative poverty of the country. ["Hear, hear!"] Dealing next with the relative taxable capacity of the two islands as contrasted with their actual taxation, the hon. Member said that for the purposes of the Debate it was enough to show the maximum estimate of Ireland's relative capacity reached by any one of 12 out of 13 Commissioners, including one who died. The joint Report found that—while the actual tax revenue of Ireland is about one-eleventh of that of Britain the relative taxable capacity of Ireland is very much smaller and is not calculated by any one of us to exceed 1–20th.This conclusion was reached after two years' examination and consideration by eminent experts, financiers, statisticians, and Treasury officials. Because of the imputation a bias he should leave out of account all the Irish Members, although some of them ought to count on this question. He should take British Members only, who might by the same process of reasoning have had to contend against an unconscious bias against Ireland. It was reached substantially by Mr. Childers, the first chairman, an eminent economist, financier, and ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, a man retired from Party politics, who devoted to this service the last years of his life, in the discharge of which he died. It was reached by Lord Welby and Lord Farrer, who had filled the highest posts in the British Treasury and the Board of Trade, and whose public services had been marked by giving to them seats in the Upper Chamber, which had been honoured and strengthened by their accession to its ranks. It was reached by the late Mr. Currie, also eminent in these walks, and who had proved his capacity in other public posts; and by their late colleague, Mr. Hunter, whose ability, brain power, and industry were well known to the House. It was reached substantially by Sir David Barbour, dissentient on other grounds, and of him perhaps it might be said that his distinguished public career abroad permitted 1583 him to be admitted as an impartial judge, though marked by Irish birth. There remained just one Commissioner, a respected colleague of theirs, who proceeded on other lines; and even he, he understood, did not negative the conclusion. It had indeed been said that these British Commissioners were tainted because they were said to be favourers of the political scheme of Home Rule. But that was not now a question, though they might make it one, of Home Rule. Home Rule rested on other and wider grounds, and it was an absurd contention, as had been well pointed out by the hon. Member for Plymouth—[cheers]—whose sympathetic consideration of the Irish case he gratefully acknowledged—[cherry]—to say that these eminent men's views on an economic question were to be regarded less because of their speculations on the political question of Home Rule. Then the House must, as he submitted, give great weight to the conclusions reached by this body of experts, but of like passions with themselves, and subject to the same infirmities, and who, notwithstanding, had given judgment against this country and themselves. It was reached on the evidence of Sir Robert Giffen and Sir Edward Hamilton and other British public servants, the one the able head of the Treasury and the other an economist and statistician of great repute. It was reached after collecting, weighing, and sifting all information suggested from every quarter and applying all tests—population, imports and exports, consumption of duty-paid goods, assessment to Death Duties, assessment to Income Tax, consumption of commodities, other incomes and wages, yearly wealth, aggregate production, capital, comparative progress and capacity, relative effects of fiscal policy, and so on, with statistical facts too numerous to name. It was reached after examination of the principles of taxation and of their application. Some of the Commissioners, however, believed that they saw an Irish surplus over living allowance of perhaps 15 millions, mainly abstracted by taxation, and a British surplus of perhaps 1,100 millions less than tithed by taxation. They saw Irish relative taxable capacity steadily declining, and believed with Sir R. Giffen that a far lower proportion would be the true one, and also that a maximum contribution should be fixed 1584 so as to avoid the proved danger of excessively increased expenditure. He asked the House to remember that what had been suggested was put forward only as a maximum, which Lord Farrer in another place had lately described as too high. It had been proved that there was a great disparity and a substantial grievance, and that a remedy was called for. The contribution of Ireland was between one-eleventh and one-twelfth, or nearly twice her maximum relative taxable capacity, and thus reached a minimum excess of two-and-three-quarter millions. He appealed to the Government for relief to Ireland on the ground of fair play and of the generous consideration due from the strong to the weak. ["Hear, hear!"] But he also based his claim on higher ground—on the ground of treaty and right, justice and equity. [Hear, hear!"] In 1782 Ireland had partly emerged from that condition of servitude as to her trade and manufactures which was described in 1785 in wounding words by Pitt. From 1782 to 1800 Ireland had a measure of independence, and during the first few years there was peace; and manufactures, productions, and exports all expanded. The taxation was about a million, or 4s. a head, all on consumption, and it met the expenditure. Then came the French war, which was followed by the rebellion, and then a large army was planted on the country in anticipation of and during the negotiations for the Union. These calamities had by 1800 raised the taxation to over two millions and a-half, or 10s. a head. At the time of the Union there was no pretence, that Ireland was able to bear the British rate of taxation; her absolute and relative poverty was acknowledged, and calculations were made professing to show the relative resources of the two countries, and to fix the just proportion of contribution for each of them. But the bases of calculation were unsound, narrow, and defective. They included some, unfit Irish elements in the calculation, and excluded some proper British elements. The result was an erroneous estimate of relative taxable capacity of two to 15. The population was as one to two; the quota one to seven and a half. The Irish lords protested, calculating that one to 18 was nearer the truth, and they were justified by the event. It was thought possible that a change might be made later, and 1585 the British professions were all against any increase of Irish burdens. Pitt assured the house that the Union was not sought from a pecuniary motive. He said that the Union must introduce a larger amount of wealth into Ireland and supply her want of industry and capital, that there was no ground for the apprehension that Britain would tax Ireland more heavily or that Ireland would be subjected to an increase of taxation or a load of debt, and that the contributions imposed upon Ireland would not be greater than her existing necessary expenses. Lord Castlereagh said much the same thing. He asserted that the ratio if Ireland's contribution must ever correspond to her relative wealth and prosperity. He also declared that the Union Parliament would always be able to make Abatements in Ireland just as the Parliament of Great Britain had always done in Scotland, and that the local circumstances in Ireland were such that a high duty could not be levied without either making the revenue unproductive or pressing too hardly upon the poorer classes. That statement disposed of the idea that the comparative poverty of the poorer classes in Ireland was to be ignored. The principle of separate entity was in this respect maintained. It was absurd to argue that a country full of contrasts with Great Britain, for which Parliament was legislating separately every day, and whose body of law differed from Britain's many vital points, was to be regarded is absolutely one with this country. These considerations showed that it was intended to secure and maintain a due recognition of the relative inferior capacity of Ireland as a country so long as that inferiority existed, first by the creation and revision of the quota, and, later, if the other plan were adopted, by due consideration in the laying and due exemption and abatement from the taxes laid in Ireland. If, then, it were possible so to read the Act it ought to be so read. [Cheers.] It was not only possible, but inevitable. The seventh section of the Act showed that it was not upon the sole condition of the debts coming into the quota proportion, but also on the determination of Parliament that the circumstances of the two countries would admit if it that the change could take place, and thereafter until this day the principle of regulating the contribution by 1586 national circumstances was maintained again, it was provided that if the change did take effect, yet the imposition of taxes was subject in Ireland, though not in any county in Scotland or England, to abatements and exemptions. It was recognised, therefore, that the plan might not produce the stipulated result, and it was still intended that that result should be produced by a contribution according to ability, and a remedy was provided for all time. He implored them not to minimise that remedy. That safeguard, against national injustice under the indiscriminate system was designed to preserve to Ireland substantially, though not in form, some immunities. Did anyone pretend that it was designed at the time of the Union that, the condition of Ire land should be injuriously changed by a later return to indiscriminate taxation? Could the Act of Union have been carried on any such suggestion? ["Hear, hear!"] Then Ireland was not placed in the position of an English county. An English county had no distinctive position, and besides, it was part of the ruling island. It was quite clear that Ireland had always been entitled to claim that she should be taxed by the United Kingdom substantially in proportion to her relative taxable capacity. It was clear also that, regard being had to that capacity she had been and was being overtaxed by Parliament. [Cheers.] But it was now argued that that was only half the issue, and that there was a question of the application of United Kingdom taxation—that it had to be divided into four sets of estimates, one for England, one for Scotland, and one for Ireland, and one for the United Kingdom; that the contribution of each of the three countries was to be charged first with its own estimate; that the obligation of proportionate contribution applied only and specifically to the newly proposed United Kingdom estimate; and that, therefore it was only in respect of the balance available for this new and separate estimate that any question of over-taxation could arise. It was to the recognition and to the application of this principle that the proposed new Commission was mainly directed, and against that proposal Irish Members protested. [Cheers.] What support did this contention derive 1587 from the Treaty—the only effective quarter? None. The Treaty rightly regarded all expenditure by the Parliament of the United Kingdom as United Kingdom expenditure. Its basis was that all expenditure decided upon by that Parliament was in its view required, wherever, or to whatever end, without regard to the locality in which it was made. Parliament formed one total to be contributed to by each country according to its relative capacity. The United Parliament in which Britain had an overwhelming majority had power to fix the objects and the scale of the expenditure. Ireland could not lay burdens on Britain or vote herself a necessary shilling. Britain could lay burdens on Ireland and could refuse to vote her one unnecessary shilling. The dread of Ireland was that she might be overtaxed and under-supplied, and the Treaty was framed to meet this apprehension. Unionists were now arguing that the expenditure determined by the United Parliament was in effect federal and must be subject to separate accounts. The fact that the Treaty made an exception with regard to debts marked more clearly in reason and in law that in all other matters there were to be no separate accounts. Under the Act there was a specific appropriation of every shilling raised in Ireland, and there was no place whatever for the proposed plan. Provision was made for the application of a possible surplus to local purposes in Ireland. It was not then every expenditure in Ireland that was local. ["Hear, hear!"] The place did not make it local; the purpose must be local too. [Cheers.] The Act also provided for the application to local purposes in Ireland of a sum equal to the average of the grants of the Parliament of Ireland for the preceding six years for the encouragement of agriculture or manufactures, or for certain charitable institutions. It seemed to him too clear for argument that no such principle as was now set up was contemplated or agreed to at the Union under the quota system, and he need not say that no such practice was attempted. But the Act, when providing for a possible change to indiscriminate taxation, only provided a new method for supplying the same expenditure on the 1588 same principle of just contribution. It provided for this change only—if it shall appear to Parliament that the respective circumstances of the two countries will admit of their contributing indiscriminately to the future expenditure of the United Kingdom.It enacted that in that case "all future expense thenceforth to be incurred" should be defrayed accordingly, subject to abatements and exemptions. This was the same expenditure, provided for according to the same principle—namely, relative resources—by another method, and it introduced no further change. Under the proposed suggestion the quota system would be absolutely illusory, and would be no protection at all. Ten of the Commissioners, including three British Commissioners, had reached the same conclusion as he had done, while Lords Farrer and Welby and Mr. Currie wereunable to admit the general principle that local expenditure which is sanctioned by the Imperial Parliament must be regarded as imperial expenditure,though they thought thatthere is both truth and value in the contrary allegations if these be confined to the support of the argument that we cannot, in taking an account between the two countries, justly set-off the whole or the greater part of this expenditure against the over-taxation of Ireland.Thus there was, to a very large extent, unanimity on this head. He asked the House to agree that in the Treaty there was no ground for the general contention that expenditure in Ireland by the United Kingdom Parliament was to be separately borne by Ireland. ["Hear, hear!"] The Union was consummated. The long war followed at enormous cost. Irish taxation was raised from under £3,000,000 in 1800 to £6,000,000 in 1817. The Select Committee of 1817 found that Ireland had advanced in permanent taxation faster than Britain, for, while Britain's permanent taxation had been raised in the proportion of 16½ to 10, and the whole revenue, including war taxes, as 21¼ to 10, Irish taxation had been raised as 23 to 10. The bulk of the Irish increase was on the consumption of the masses, which was taxed to and beyond the highest productive point. ["Hear, hear!"] Yet Ireland could not meet the quota. Her debt was increased 1589 by £84,000,000 as against a British increase of £291,000,000, or as 1 to 3½. The quota was excessive. Some of the Commissioners thought it was because the rate was too high; others because the war was too costly; others for both these reasons combined. But there was practical unanimity in the finding that "the Act of Union imposed on Ireland a burden which, as events showed, she was unable to bear." That finding he asked the House to assent to, and to remember that this was the beginning of the evil. [Cheers.] This first experience demonstrated the truth of the view that there should be some limitation to the call which, under such a union, the richer might make on the poorer nation. A joint expenditure, the proportion of which, though heavy, might be tolerable on a lower scale of joint expense, became intolerable to the poorer nation when the scale was raised while it might be no more than heavy, and quite tolerable still, to the richer nation. ["Hear, hear!"] Another illustration had been given by the results of the very latest statements as between Ireland and Britain, which showed that, while Ireland's contribution was larger than ever, the disproportionate excess contributed by Britain had apparently lessened for the year the Irish grievance. By this road Ireland approached a bankruptcy, due to the unjust quota fixed by the Union Act, and one would have thought it the fairest course to anticipate by three years the stipulated term and to revise the quota at once. [Cheers.] But by this road, though through a reversed process, the debts had come into quota proportion, and this opportunity was used to bring the other plan into force. On July 1, 1816, the Bill consolidating the debts and revenues became law. But in these proceedings twice reappeared the Union Act provision as to abatements and exemptions. The extraordinary declaration that "the circumstances will admit of indiscriminate taxation" was itself made "subject to such particular abatements and exemptions in Ireland and Scotland as circumstances may from time to time appear to demand." The declaration of expediency provided for the imposition of common taxation subject to abatements and exemptions in the same terms. Thus, the Union Act provision had never 1590 lost its force. ["Hear, hear!"] It was long acted on substantially; it was acted on to some extent to-day. What was the course of taxation from 1817 to 1860? There was by 1853 no substantial assimilation. Twenty millions of British taxation was not imposed on Ireland, but though peace had been restored and the expenses of the United Kingdoms enormously lightened, the Irish war taxes, already proved to be excessive, were retained, while large remissions were made in the British war taxes. ["Hear, hear!"] The policy of freeing the burdens on manufactures by abolishing the duties on materials and food supplies, was evolved and prosecuted, and to this new end Peel in 1843, and again in 1845, renewed the British income tax, originally a war tax. But that tax was not extended to Ireland, on the grounds that it bad never existed there, that there was no machinery for its collection, and that, as Britain would derive the far greater advantage from the policy, it was fair that she should bear the tax. ["Hear, hear!"] As a matter of fact, the imposition of five-and-a-half millions of taxation enabled the remission of 12 millions of British taxes. That was good and fair argument, but he asked the House to note the recognition of the separateness and of the diverse conditions, and of the different effects on different countries of a common system which it involved. He wished those sound views had continued to prevail. The general result was to lighten the British burdens directly and indirectly, and to promote enormously her wealth and population, her trade and manufactures—in short, her taxpaying power. The policy as to free food supplies was, of course, precipitated by the Irish famine, when her people died of hunger while large quantities of wholesome food were being exported from her ports to pay rents. [Cheers.] Ireland, whose manufactures had nearly perished and were still declining, derived no such gains as Britain, and she lost the advantage of preference in the British market for her agricultural produce. It was worth remarking that the conditions of foreign production and of transport, and other causes, retarded any disadvantages to the agriculturists for runny years, and it was only within recent years as to grain, and still more recent days as to meat, that the full effect of the change 1591 had been experienced. The economic condition of Ireland was very bad. The great famine inflicted upon her a frightful blow, and thus her relative inferiority was increased. Few of the changes in Irish taxation were very adverse to Ireland, save the tobacco taxes, until 1853, when Mr. Gladstone proposed the extension of the income tax to Ireland as a temporary measure. The right hon. Gentleman acknowledged the greater poverty of the masses, but urged that that did not exempt the wealthy from the discharge of their obligations, an argument perfectly valid in the readjustment as between the classes of the Irish community and the total share of her taxation, but quite fallacious when applied as a reason for increasing that total share. As a set-off, he wiped out the famine fund of four millions, which the Lords' Committee had declared as to two millions should have been more properly a grant than a loan. But the temporary income tax was made permanent, and the burden had enormously outweighed the boon. Mr. Gladstone began the raising of the spirit duties, and the result of that operation was to increase the Irish taxation by over two millions of money, or over 40 per cent. Thus, while the average revenue of Britain was not more than during the war at the beginning of the century, her population and wealth had greatly increased, and so the real burden of taxation was much lightened. But the average revenue of Ireland had been raised over a third, and it was borne by a diminishing population out, of contracting means. The change took place when Ireland was staggering under the blow of the famine, the after effects of which were accentuated by the added burdens. Complete assimilation had not yet been attempted. Much cry had been made about four millions of British taxation not imposed on Ireland. Its imposition would not affect the masses of that community; it was mainly on wealth, and its estimated yield, if imposed on Ireland, would be only £150,000, or in the proportion of 1–27th. The general effect of the British fiscal policy had been to abolish nearly all duties on raw materials and food, substituting direct taxation on income and property, and heavy duties on three or four articles of wide and general consumption. Those were the articles most largely consumed in Ireland; while 1592 the articles freed were so freed Mainly for the benefit of Britain. He did not object to the adoption of free trade, or of any other policy advantageous to the interests of the great bulk of the United Kingdom; but he averred that the relative advantages and disadvantages ensuing to each country, affecting, as they did, the relative taxable power of each, must be considered. It was true, as Senior proved in 1864, that, considering capacity, England was the most lightly, while Ireland was the most heavily, taxed of countries. [Cheers.] The second great purpose to which the proposed new commission was directed was to dispute the possibility of undue burdens through indirect taxation. They were dealing with two countries which the political Union did not physically unite or economically assimilate; two countries so different that, when the treaty was made, provisions were included for continued separate consideration; two countries so different that even in other vital matters their laws remained divergent. In so far as they did not apply an efficient general remedy, they could not expect Ireland—in consequence of her different economic conditions and her narrow resources the taxation pressed more heavily on her—in the exercise of her free right—[cheers]—to accept your answer that there was the same inequality with Britain too. The right to separate treatment was recognised by treaty, and when they held by the treaty, surely Unionists would do the same. [Laughter.] Unhappily the two countries had more and more diverged in the matters relevant to taxation; there was an increasing difference as to their relative taxable capacity and their economic condition. The taxes pressed hardly on a relatively poor country like Ireland where the main burden fell on the poorer classes. It was said that the indirect character of the taxation deprived Ireland of the right to complain or to ask for separate treatment, but at the time of the Union all taxes in Ireland were indirect, and yet the principle was recognized, of separate treatment and revision. The speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was to the effect that the consumption being voluntary that was the best test, of that capacity, and that, therefore, no wrong was done, but the right hon. Gentleman 1593 wanted them to pay before they had the power to consume. Who would justify now the leveling up in 1800, or in 1853, or in 1860? Why were the taxes kept relatively lower fur 40 years? He thought that the consumption of the masses must be taken as a whole, as that which they find it necessary to consume. It was their habit to consume certain articles, and they were unable to forego them. The Chancellor of the Exchequer did not find much anxiety, for well he knew that the settled habits and tastes of the people, their wants, their cravings, their determination to have their tea, their tobacco, and their liquor amounted almost to "must," and it was a mockery to call this taxation voluntary. [Cheers.] The Chancellor of the Exchequer built the whole fabric on the principle that the people must have these things, and therefore must pay for them; but he went gaily on his way until there was this sudden outbreak of free will. There was a serious grievance of inequality which was self-evident. They would see from the evidence that in some parts of Donegal, in looking into the little family budget, that very little but tea and tobacco was consumed. Then it was said that the tax on whisky was a tax on excess, on the drunkard, and the Member for Bodmin said that if too much money were taken from Ireland it was because too much whisky was drunk there. To the whole line of this argument he demurred absolutely. The money came from those who drank tea and smoked tobacco. The vast portion that was consumed was consumed by those who were not drunkards—["hear, hear!"]—and that, made it a general tax on the masses. He denied that more liquor was consumed in Ireland in proportion to her population than in Britain. Ireland, as compared with Britain was a sober colmtry—[cheers]—and in England they were able to get their drink cheap at Irish and Scotch expense. There was here a gross inequality under a nominally equal system. They need not go to tea and coffee drinking countries for examples. Not only was Irish taxation excessive, it was grossly partial in its operations. In 1893 the expenditure on beer in Great Britain was £88,627,000—[cries of "Shame" and laughter]—or £2 13s. per head. In Ireland it was £6,291,000, or £1 7s. 2d. per head, so that the Briton 1594 spent all but twice as much on beer as the Irishman. [Cheers.] But it would be said, "Oh, we all know that the Briton drinks beer and the Irishman whisky! What about whisky?" The expenditure on spirits in Great Britain was £48,571,000, or £1 9s. per head. In Ireland it was £6,144,000, or £1 6s. 6d. per head. [Cheers.] Thus more was spent on spirits in Great Britain than in Ireland, and Great Britain preserved her superiority in both branches of the competition. [Cheers.] While the Briton spent £4 2s. on beer and spirits, the Irishman only spent £2 13s. 8d., and yet sonic British statesman would tell his enthusiastic constituents that Irishmen consumed too much drink. It was not for Great Britain to preach free will and probity to Irishmen or defend injustice on her part by alleging excess on theirs [Cheers.] More than this, the tax on 60 gallons of beer was equal to the tax of one gallon of whisky. Out of the Briton's drink bill of £4 2s., 16s. 1d. went in taxation, while of the Irishman's bill of £2 13s. 8d., 13s. 10½d. represented taxation, so that if the Irishman paid at the same rate as the Briton his tax would b 10s. 6d. Thus his excess was 3s. 4½d., which for Ireland meant £780,000 ["Hear, hear!"] Complaints of excessive taxation had been made for generations from the Irish Benches. In 1864 the matter was referred to a Select Committee, and in later years there were ineffectual Motions and remonstrances; but the question became demonstrably urgent on the occasion of the Home Rule Bill of 1886, when the financial proposals involved the reconsideration of the whole problem, coupled with an attempt, in view of Irish self-government, to divide what had been the United Kingdom expenditure into Imperial and local, based of course, on the respective legislative spheres of the imperial and the proposed local Legislature. In 1890, when a Unionist Government was in power, the present First Lord of the Admiralty, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, granted a Committee for the purpose, as the right hon. Gentleman said, of seeing "whether Scotland or Ireland should be relieved of any portion of the taxation they now pay." This Committee sat but once, when it called for Treasury Returns. The efforts to reappoint it failed because of the demand of the Welsh Members for 1595 similar separate consideration for Wales. This proceeding involved the recognition of the right of Ireland and Scotland as countries to separate consideration. ["Hear, hear!"] There had been also in recent years recognitions of the separate condition of Ireland and Scotland in connection with Imperial grants in aid of local rates. These grants were based, not on the plan of applying the total aid all over the United Kingdom as one taxable entity, but on the theory, though not without exception later as against Ireland, that each of the three divisions was a taxable unit, to which was being returned, for expenditure by the minor local authorities, a portion of the general taxation; and, therefore, that the return should be on the basis of the proportions in which each of the units had contributed to the fund. Last Session, when agricultural distress throughout the United Kingdom was to be aided, this device was most unwarrantably expanded, so as to limit the relief of Ireland by making the grant in form a, relief to local rates in England and thus applying, as he thought erroneously, the proportional system. And so those who opposed the view that Irishmen were entitled to separate treatment as to taxation, themselves insisted in some degree, on separate treatment in expenditure. ["Hear, hear!"] They must hold by the view that the money which that Parliament voted, expended, and controlled for the purpose of carrying on government in Ireland was in reason, and in the sense of the Union Act, Imperial expenditure. This view was their only protection against the injustice which would ensue from Great Britain's being at liberty to fix the scale and direct the mode, while Ireland was obliged to pay. The objection of inequality would be fully met if, for the purpose of ascertaining the grand total to which Ireland should contribute, the analogous amount raised locally in Britain towards these two objects were added to the sum of the Imperial Estimate. Thus, Ireland would bear her proportionate share. The general result would be perhaps so to enlarge the total Imperial Estimate as to reduce the over-taxation by about £300,000, or to about 2½ millions on the minimum Estimate. The adoption of this plan afforded not the least justification for the proposed breaking up of the Imperial expenditure, 1596 which it rather kept intact; still less did it need a new Royal Commission. [Irish, cheers.] If, for argument's sake, the principle of breaking up the Imperial expenditure were admitted, they quarrelled grievously with the details. On these, also, all the data for judgment were before them, and the questions were peculiarly for settlement by Parliament on the initiative of the Government. The speech of the First Lord adopted the classification of the Treasury, and based on it the assertion that Ireland contributed but one-thirty-second to, what he called Imperial expenditure. Glancing at the details of this division, he observed that Ireland was charged with the constabulary, an armed semi-military force, maintained at enormous cost, far beyond any conceivable need for the policing under normal conditions of such a country; a force and scale of expenditure directly due to the Union, and doing almost entirely Imperial work. [Irish cheers.] Ireland was charged with the Imperial expenditure on the great national subject of education, with the collection of the Imperial revenue, the administration of justice, the Post Office, the Civil Service generally, and the vice-regal establishment. All these were obviously Imperial. The scale of expenditure, moreover, was expensive, extravagant, centralised, and on the Imperial scale. Let them look at the salaries and numbers of the. Judges—[Irish cheers]—and the emoluments of Bar and Bench as contrasted with those in this country, and still more in poorer countries. Let them contrast the cost of departments with the cost even here. The whole system was unsuited to the circumstances, and beyond the means of Ireland. ["Hear, yond the means of Ireland. ["Hear, hear!"] It was Great Britain that framed the Estimates and passed the votes. Let them give to Ireland the usual stimulus to, economy—some profit from the saving—[Irish cheers]—before they complained that she did not insist on pruning the present extravagance. It was not only to the Irish part of this divided Estimate that they objected, but to the Imperial part as well. He believed the Act of Union contemplated and provided that Ireland should contribute towards the expenditure of the Imperial Parliament, no matter where that money was spent or how it was applied. But if they 1597 would destroy this system, cut up the accounts, and enter into the question of the separate or relative interest of Britain and of Ireland in the different expenditures, depend upon it they would have to grapple with their Imperial as well as with their local Estimates.["Hear, hear!"] The Irish people rested on the contract; Great Britain proposed a change. Then they must look at the new Imperial Estimates. Let them look at the Navy, the expenditure on which was Britain's insurance premium; the Army, mainly required for the purposes of the Indian and Colonial Empire, and for the security of her commercial interests; and the debt charge contracted for wars waged in the same interests—could they honestly say that Ireland had the same proportionate interest in these expenditures? The proposed inquiry would, if it ever ended, never satisfy, and the only safe ground was to stand on the Union Act provisions. Two Amendments had been put down, but he ventured to submit that it was both a wiser course and a truer interpretation of Irish opinion to adhere to the comprehensive words of his proposal. It was said that the Commissioners failed to discharge their duty by not reporting upon the question of division. But the bulk of the Commissioners held that that portion of the reference had regard to the political conditions then existing as to Home Rule, and had no foundation under the Act of Union. That was the argument they advanced. On the grounds—first, that it was based upon wrong principles; secondly, that it was useless; and thirdly, that it was dilatory, he objected to, and protested against, the proposed Commission. [Irish cheers.] The question of the remedy was not referred to the Commission. It was obviously one for Parliament on the initiative of the Executive to deal with. The Government well knew what the majority of the Irish people thought would embrace a complete and effective remedy. [Nationalist cheers.] That remedy the Government refused to adopt; and, both as the depositories of power and as the special defenders of the existing form of Union, they were doubly bound to find a remedy for this grievous injustice existent under the system they maintained and controlled. [Nationalist cheers.] The Government had declared for the Union as a compact under which 1598 Ireland was secure in all her rights, and protected in all her interests, under which she was assured of just and generous treatment. If they now averred that the Union demanded that Ireland should labour under this injustice they could not but discourage the friends of the Union and place in the hands of its opponents a keen and powerful weapon of attack. [Nationalist cheers.]
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
said he rose for the purpose of seconding the motion, and the House would see in that fact an indication that upon the main issues at stake in the matter there was practical unanimity amongst all Irish men. [Nationalist cheers.] Possibly when the division took place it might be found that all Irish reepresentatives were not voting in the same lobby; and he must candidly express his personal regret that the terms of the Motion were not modified so as to enable all Irish Members to vote in its favour. But the fact remained that Ireland's case for a remedy of this grievance was being put forward on behalf of no class or Party, but on behalf of the whole people, who were united on this question as he believed they were never united before on a great public question for the last 100 years.[Nationalist cheers.] Ireland's complaint was that she was unequally taxed, having regard to her comparative capacity to pay taxation; that the Act of Union placed upon her a burden which it was impossible for her to bear; that it brought her ruin and bankruptcy; that those provisions of the Act of Union which were specially framed for her protection had been systematically violated, and that since the year 1853 in particular, while her population had diminished, and while, in comparison with England, her national wealth had rapidly declined, she had been overtaxed to an extent amounting to between two and three millions per annum. [Nationalist cheers.] Was it not almost incredible that facts of this gravity should have, remained all through those years and down to this moment without having once attracted the serious attention of Parliament? The fault of that certainly did not rest with Irishmen. The protest which was made against the injustice of the Act of Union at the time it was passed had never ceased to be repeated time after time by every generation of 1599 Irishmen who had appeared in the House [Nationalist cheers.] But those Irishmen ever failed to gain the ear of the House, and to induce Parliament to deal with the question in a serious way; and the great and incalculable good done to Ireland by the late Royal Commission on the financial relations was that it was no longer possible to ignore those facts. The constitution of that Commission made it absolutely necessary for the Imperial Parliament to disregard its findings. The work of the Royal Commission might be roughly divided into two parts. First, that portion in which they investigated the history of the financial relations between the two countries; and secondly, that part which concerned itself with the investigation of the relative taxable capacity of the two countries at the present moment. The historical investigations of the Royal Commission had discovered no new facts. They simply reported facts that had been known to every generation of Irishmen, and which indeed had burned themselves into the memory of the Irish people. But the good they had done by their investigations was that they had brought home a knowledge of those facts to the minds of the people of Great Britain, who after all were the masters of this Parliament. He thought he might assert, without in the least being disrespectful to the House, that until the Reports of the Royal Commission were published, not 3 per cent. of the British Members of the House were acquainted with the historical facts of the financial relations between the two countries. Before the Union Ireland was not under legal, though it was said she was under a moral, obligation to contribute towards any expenditure, either civil or military, outside her own shores. When the constitution of 1782 was established, the taxation of Ireland was not more than one million a year, and her National Debt was under two millions. At the time of the Union, 18 years afterwards, her taxation had increased to 2½ millions and her National Debt had increased to 28 millions, which was clue to the expenses of the French war, and also largely to the expenses incurred in suppressing the Insurrection of 1798, which most Irishmen believed was fostered and provoked deliberately as part of British policy in Ireland. [Nationalist cheers.] When in 1800 the Treaty of Union was 1600 carried, it was arranged that Ireland was for a fixed number of years to contribute taxation in the proportion of 2 to 15 as compared with Great Britain; that when the National Debts of the two countries came to the same proportion as the contributions, the Exchequers might be amalgamated and a system of indiscriminate taxation established. But the Treaty of Union provided that under no circumstances was Ireland to be taxed more than her fair proportion, having regard to her taxable capacity, and that she was to have the advantage of exemptions and abatements as her circumstances demanded. It was now admitted that that proportion of 2 to 15 was an unjust proportion. At the time it was established there were protests against it, not only in the Irish. Parliament but in the British Parliament; but Lord Castlereagh and the Irish Government of the day maintained that Great Britain was treating Ireland in an absoultely generous spirit in the matter. There was now, however, the authority of every British Treasury official who had been examined in the matter, from Mr. Smith in 1816 and Mr. Chisholm in 1865 down to Sir Edward Hamilton in 1896, that this proportion was unjust to Ireland, and that it had led to the absolute ruin and bankruptcy of Irish finance. [Nationalist cheers.] What was the state of things in 1817, after 17 years' operation of this proportion. The taxation of Ireland had increased four-fold, the national debt of Ireland had increased four-fold, while in the same period the debt of England had only doubled. Though Ireland's taxation during this period was quadrupled, yet she was never able to pay her proportion of 2 to 15, and her national debt increased until at the end of 16 years it came into the proportion of 2 to 15 in relation to the English debt, and then the Exchequers were amalgamated. But the 7th Article of the Treaty of Union provided that Ireland, if the amalgamation of the Exchequers took place, should be able to claim exemptions and abatements according as her circumstances demanded, so that she should never be called upon to pay more than her fair proportion, according to her relative taxable capacity. The Report of The O'Conor Don, and those members of the Commission who agreed with him, summarised in a few 1601 words the historical position of Ireland up to this point. They said:—(1) That Ireland and Great Britain entered into legislative partnership on the clear understanding that they were still, for the purposes of taxation, to be regarded as separate and distinct financial units; (2) that Ireland was to contribute to Imperial expenditure only in proportion to her resources, as far as the same could be ascertained, and that even in the imposition of indiscriminate taxation, if circumstances permitted its adoption, she might claim special exemptions and abatements; and (3) that the Imperial expenditure to which these respective contributions were to be made included not only the whole civil expenditure of Ireland, but even special grants for Irish purposes, which were to remain in operation for 20 years.That was the position which Ireland now took up—that her constitutional and legal right to special consideration as a distinct part of the United Kingdom had never been extinguished from 1817 to the present day. [Cheers.] From a legal point of view it was impossible to maintain that Ireland bore the same relation to Great Britain as one or two English counties did to England. Ireland asserted the legal and constitutional claim to be taxed only in proportion to her taxable capacity. It was clear that this was the intention of those who framed the Act of Union. In every single speech made by Pitt and Castlereagh at this time the same principle, was again and again affirmed. ["Hear, hear!] This principle being admitted, then the real question which the Committee had to consider and Parliament had now to decide, was whether Ireland now paid more than a fair proportion according to her resources. In 1853, Mr. Gladstone, who was the author of a great deal of the financial injustice which had been done to Ireland—[Ministerial cheers]—extended the income tax to Ireland, and inaugurated the system of "indiscriminate taxation," as it was called in the Union Act, or, as Mr. Gladstone called it, of "identity of imports." The result of that policy was to increase Ireland's taxation between 1853 and 1860 by no less than 2½ millions per annum. The condition of Ireland at this time was absolutely pitiful. ["Hear, hear!"] She was exhausted after one of the most terrible famines in the history of the world. Her population had diminished by millions; and free trade, which had been of great 1602 advantage to manufacturing England, entailed a distinct loss on agricultural Ireland. ["Hear, hear!] As was very well said by Mr. Childers in one paragraph of his Report:—Just as Ireland suffered in the last century from the protective and exclusive commercial policy of Great Britain, so she has been at a disadvantage in this century from the adoption of a policy of free trade.Under the scheme inaugurated by Mr. Gladsome the taxation per head in Ireland was increased from 13s. 11d. to £1 5s. 4d., while in the same period in England, whose prosperity had greatly increased, the taxation per head was only increased 3s. Of course, Mr. Gladstone's proposals were protested against by the Irish Members, and equally, of course, the protests went for naught. ["Hear, hear!"] Mr. Gladstone promised that the income tax should only be imposed temporarily in Ireland. It had remained in existence ever since. Mr. Gladstone announced that Ireland was to be compensated by the proposal to forgive her some four millions in respect of loans arising out of the famine. These loans were repayable by annual instalments over a fixed period of years, and representing an annual charge of £250,000 for repayment of capital and interest for that period. So that Ireland would long ago have paid off that debt, while the very first year's yield of the income tax imposed on her was half-a-million; and since 1853 Ireland had paid in income tax some 23½ millions. [Cheers.] In his speech proposing this arrangement, Mr. Gladstone said:—If we look to the time when Parliament will be in a position to part with the income tax, Ireland will enjoy for a long term of years a much larger remission of consolidated annuities than it will have to bear of additional burdens in the shape of spirit duty.These words read quite comically to-day, so much were they the reverse of what had occurred. Mr. Gladstone laid down the principle that Imperial taxes to be levied in Ireland were to be made as quickly as possible identical with those levied in England—in a word, that the indiscriminate taxation alluded to in the Act of Union should be established. The fatal fallacy underlying the whole financial policy of 1853 was that identical taxation on articles consumed in vastly 1603 different proportions in England and Ireland was equality of taxation. What had happened was the greatest proof of its absurdity. Equal taxes—but high taxes—were put on articles largely consumed in Ireland. Equal taxes—but low taxes—were put on articles largely consumed in England. Therefore, under this scheme of identical taxation, the burdens had increased in one country and decreased in the other. This "identity of imposts" had increased the taxation of Ireland by 2½ millions. And from that day to the present, taxation per head of the population in Ireland had gone on increasing, while in England the taxation per head of the population had gone on diminishing, notwithstanding the enormous strides in wealth and prosperity made by England, and the comparative decline in Ireland. Thus, between 1851 and 1885 the taxation per head in England was reduced 6s. 2d., and the taxation per head in Ireland was increased 19s. And taking the whole period from the Act of Union to the present day, the taxation per head in Great Britain had fallen from £4 13s. 4d. to £2 0s. 10d.; and in Ireland had increased from 14s. 6d. to £1 8s. 10d. [Cheers.] So that in the course of the century, in which England had increased in wealth and prosperity beyond the dreams of man, her taxation per head of the population had diminished by one-half; and during the century, which had meant for Ireland a loss of population and a steady decrease in prosperity, the taxation per head of the population had more than doubled. [Cheers.] An interesting little table, made out some years ago by Sir Joseph M'Kenna, exemplified how, in a special way, taxation in Ireland fell on the poorer classes. Taking 1884–85 he showed that for every £1 paid in income tax by England, she paid in miscellaneous taxes £4 12s. 8d.; Scotland, for every £1 paid in income tax, paid in miscellaneous taxes, £6 10s.; but in Ireland for every £1 so paid, Ireland paid in miscellaneous taxes £12 11s. [Irish cheers.] It might be taken for granted, therefore, that the taxation imposed in 1853 by Mr. Gladstone was unjust and excessive. He knew of no one who controverted that statement. As far as he knew every member of the Royal Commission agreed with it except one hon. Member who signed a separate. 1604 Report, and he did not attempt to controvert it. Ireland to-day was suffering from the unjust taxation then imposed, and the real question for the House was what was the fair proportion Ireland should pay, having regard to her comparative taxable capacity to-day. He took it as established, therefore, that Ireland was entitled legally and constitutionally under the articles of the Treaty of Union to be taxed only in proportion to her resources; and, secondly, that excessive and altogether unjustifiable burdens had been cast on the country. What was the taxable capacity of Ireland compared with Great Britain. Speaking generally, he might say that every witness examined before the Royal Commission admitted that the resources of Ireland bore to the resources of Great Britain a much less proportion than their respective contributions to revenue. Sir E. Hamilton, in his evidence, admitted that in the fullest way. But for the purposes of Ireland it was not enough to ascertain what the relative resources of the two countries were, because it was universally admitted that the pressure of taxation on small incomes was heavier in proportion than on large. The standards and tests adopted by the Royal Commission to investigate what was Ireland's annual wealth were as follows:—Population, comparative imports and exports, the consumption of certain duty-paid articles, relative assessment to Death Duties to income tax, and estimated valuation of commodities of primary use naturally consumed. Opinions might differ as to the value of any one of these tests. But, substantilaly the same result followed from them all, and it was not too much to assert that the result finally arrived at must be substantially sound and correct. The result of the application of all these tests was that it had been held by the Commission that the relative annual wealth of Ireland bore a proportion of not more, at the outside, than 1–18th to the annual wealth of England. But the comparative resources of the two countries did not afford a proper test, because taxation pressed more hardly on the poor than on the rich. In finally reporting, therefore, that the relative taxable capacity of Ireland was not more in relation to the taxable capacity of England than 1 to 20, the Commissioners came to a moderate estimate. His own view was of 1605 little value; but he considered that the estimate of the Commissioners was altogether too low. He was convinced that the relative taxable capacity of Ireland to Great Britain was much less than 1–20th. But it was a great gain to Ireland that it should have been unanimously decided that 1–20th was the proportion, because when this was reduced to figures and compared with what, she paid, she was found to have contributed between two and a half and three millions a year more than her fair share. That substantially, and in a few words, was the Irish case. The answer made was that Ireland received back in the shape of Imperial expenditure within her shores so much more than her share that the balance was redressed. One word upon this question of expenditure from the point of view of the Irish Nationalists. Ireland was probably one of the poorest countries in Europe, and her Government one of the most expensive. Let him ask this Unionist Parliament why was that? The government of any country against the will of the governed would always be wasteful, extravagant, and bad. [Irish cheers.] If Ireland were self-governed, did they imagine that the cost of the civil administration of the country would be, as it was to-day, double per head of the population in Ireland what it was in England; or that Ireland, if self-governed, would find it necessary to spend a million and a half of money a year on maintaining an armed police force about half the size of the regular army of the United States of America? If Ireland were self-governed, did they imagine that it would be considered desirable or necessary to pay the Lord Lieutenant or Governor General of Ireland a salary of £20,000 a year—just double what the President of the United States received? When it was proved that Ireland was paying three millions a year in taxation more than her fair proportion, was it not monstrous to say, "Oh, it is true you are far poorer than we are; that your population is diminishing, your industries are dead or dying, your general prosperity decaying. It is true you pay more taxation than we do, but you have no grievance, because, in return, we maintain against your will a system of government in your country which is ridiculously extravagant, wasteful, and bad."[Irish cheers.] But he wished to be allowed to look at the question not 1606 from the narrow point of view from which he had been, looking at it, but from a wider point of view. If Ireland were really part of the United Kingdom what possible distinction could they make between Imperial and local expenditure? He submitted that they could make none. In the Treaty of Union it was expressly and clearly laid down that all expenditure, including civil government in Ireland as well as the Army and Navy should be common or Imperial. The words in the Treaty of Union were that the revenue so raised should be applied indiscriminately to the services of the United Kingdom. He would not delay the House by emphasising the point made by the Mover of the Resolution that that was the clear intention of the framers of the Act of Union, as well as it was the clear legal interpretation. But he might be permitted to point to one interesting statement, made by Lord Castlereagh on this point. He said:—If the proportion of expenditure shall be rightly fixed and ascertained on just principles for every part of the Empire, it is immaterial to Great Britain where the expenditure takes place. If the internal circumstances of Ireland call for a larger proportion of the Army in that island the expense will be greatest there; if the southern coast of England requires to be strengthened, the expenditure will be directed to that quarter. But can Scotland, or any other part of the Empire which equally contributes but do not require any expensive protection, feel any umbrage or jealousy that their state of security requires a smaller proportion of troops and expenditure than more exposed or convulsed parts of the island?The principle was here clearly laid down by Lord Castlereagh that the expenditure should be regarded as common or Imperial expenditure. In face of these and other facts, what did the Unionist Government of this Unionist Parliament propose to do? As he understood, they proposed to shelve the question for an indefinite time. In his opinion the proposal for a new Commission was a dishonest evasion of the question, and, if he might say so without disrespect, a shameful evasion of their proper responsibility by the Government. The matter concerned Unionists quite as much as Nationalists. Here they had exposed to the world the shameful fact that for 40 years and more poor depopulated Ireland, with her resources undeveloped, her few remaining industries languishing, 1607 her education stunted, and the shadow of famine standing perennially by the cabin door of large masses of her people—for 40 years and more she had been paying three millions sterling a year more than her fair proportion in taxation when compared to this great thriving and prosperous land. The Unionists might appoint a new Commission and pack it if they liked, so that in the result some verdict might be found in opposition to the verdict of the recent Commission. He, at any rate, as a Nationalist, would have this consolation—that by their action they would have torn to shreds the last rag of argument in favour of the maintenance of the Union, and they would have hastened the day when Ireland would find in a national Government of her own, not only political freedom, but her best safeguard against further spoliation. [Cheers.]
§ MR. T. P. WHITTAKER (York, W.R., Spen Valley)
moved, as an Amendment, to leave out from the word "House" to the end of the Question, in order to add instead thereof the words:—so long as the Exchequers of Great Britain and Ireland remain consolidated all portions of the United Kingdom must be regarded as forming one country for fiscal purposes, and if any genuine and tangible grievance does exist, it can only be satisfactorily removed by so adjusting the present fiscal system as to render it just and equitable to all persons in whatever part of the United Kingdom they may resideHe emphasised the fact that, according to the terms of reference, the Commission which had recently reported was appointed to ascertain what Ireland ought to contribute to the Imperial expenditure in case she were given Home Rule, and thereby created a financial entity. It was vitally important to bear that point in mind. [Ministerial cheers.] They must not, however, apply the results arrived at in the course of that inquiry to the conditions which exist to-day, and which must exist until Home Rule be granted. For the purposes of his argument he was not disposed to dispute the conclusions of the Commission or accept them as absolutely accurate. It was possible there were some factors that had been overlooked. He thought, for one, there was no valuation of the tenant right of Ireland, which, in his 1608 judgment, was a most important omission. ["Hear, hear!"] Other figures were largely estimates and guesses. Nevertheless that inquiry was made by extremely competent and able men, and their conclusions on matters of fact must carry the greatest possible weight. But when they came to matters of opinion and policy, based on those facts, they must act upon their own judgment and form their own conclusions. It was on the results of this inquiry that the claim for relief was based, but the conditions would work out similarly in any given part of the United Kingdom. The point of paramount importance was this: under the conditions which now existed must Ireland be considered, could Ireland be regarded and be treated as a separate entity for fiscal purposes? Obviously if she got Home Rule she must be a financial entity; but short of Home Rule should she be so treated? He ventured to think not. He would refer to the Report signed by Lord Farrer, Lord Welby, and Mr. Bertram Currie, in which they quoted some very appropriate arguments used by Sir Stafford Northcote and Mr. Lowe in 1875. Mr. Lowe said—They spoke of the taxation paid by England, by Scotland, and by Ireland, whereas, of course, taxation was not paid by geographical districts but by individuals. To establish a case it must be shown that the individual Irishman was more heavily taxed than the individual Englishman in similar circumstances, and this proof could not be adduced.Commenting upon this statement Lords Farrer and Welby and Mr. Currie said:The point thus raised is of primary importance to our Inquiry. If it be true that Ireland and Great Britain must be regarded as only one country for purposes of taxation and expenditure, the arguments of Sir S. North-cote and Mr. Lowe are unanswerable; all endeavours to determine proportionate charges and proportionate expenditure in the two countries are misplaced and irrelevant; and our labours must resolve themselves, at the outside, into an inquiry whether, bearing in mind the greater proportion of poor to rich in Ireland, our present fiscal system is fair and equitable as between poor and rich in both countries.The Commissioners proceeded to contend that the principle here stated had been given up because both parties arranged to appoint Commissioners to inquire what taxation would be equitable on the entity basis. Surely in the face of the Home 1609 Rule agitation, in face of the passing through the House of Commons of a Home Rule Bill, the fact that both parties in the State thought it desirable to inquire into the relative taxability of two portions of the United Kingdom was no reason why they should give up their established principle of taxation if they did not adopt the Home Rule upon which that Inquiry was really based. The Commissioners considered, and rightly, that it was their duty, in view of their instructions, to regard the whole question from the point of view of a separate entity, and it was on that view their conclusions were based. But that did not make their conclusions applicable until the theory on which they were based was given effect to. The conditions for which the Inquiry was admittedly preparatory, did not exist. Ireland, unfortunately, had not got Home Rule, and pending that solution of this and many other Irish problems, the contention that Ireland must be treated as a separate entity was untenable. If Ireland were to be treated as a financial entity it must be done completely and not partially. Home Rule would, in his judgment, confer many advantages on Ireland. He believed it would confer far more on Great Britain, but he had never believed that among the advantages to be conferred on Ireland by Home Rule would be a saving in its financial expenditure. Whether it would or not, Ireland could not now have the advantages of being an entity without also taking the disadvantages. If she were to be an entity for taxation she must be an entity for expenditure on herself within her own borders out of that taxation. Taxation as an entity, without responsibility for expenditure on and in the entity would be a development of the game of "Heads I win, tails you lose," at which England would decline to play. Taxation by entity involved and required provision by the entity for the expenditure of the entity: and also a contribution to the Imperial Exchequer in proportion to the capacity of the entity. That meant some form of Home Rule, and such a financial arrangement was not possible or desirable without it. If the expenditure in and on Ireland and a reasonable contribution to the Imperial Exchequer had been less than the revenue from it, they should have heard a different story 1610 and argument. But did the Treaty and Act of Union require that Ireland should be treated as an entity? If the Act of Union required that Ireland should be treated as an entity, then, whether it, would be fair, equitable, desirable, or advantageous to Great Britain, was not for their consideration. They would only then be entitled to ask, "Is it a condition of the Union, is it an article of the partnership, and a bond of the contract?" And if it were, he admitted at once they were bound to fulfil it whether it was to their advantage or not. But he contended that the present conditions were strictly in accord with the Act of Union, that they carried out, not only its letter, but its spirit, that they fulfilled the intentions which that Act of Union designed should be arrived at, and that the proposals which were made would practically tear up that portion of the Act of Union. The Act of Union made special provision for that particular consolidation of the revenues of Ireland and Great Britain, which was brought about, and it was one of the conditions of the Act of Union and one of the hopes of its promoters, that that particular consolidation would be sooner or later be brought about. At the very time of the passing of the Act it was admitted it was desirable that there should be indiscriminate taxation, and that the Exchequers should be consolidated; and it was admitted that the only reason why that was not done was because of the inequality of the debts at that time. Lord Castlereagh, speaking in the Irish House of Commons on the 5th February 1800, said:—Were our expenditure common (which would happen if neither kingdom had any separate debts, or if their debts were in proportion to their ability) by no system whatever could they be made to contribute so strictly according to their means, as by being subject to the same taxes equally bearing upon time great objects of taxation in both countries. Such, however, is the disproportion of debts of the two kingdoms to each other at the present time that a common system for the present is impossible.
, speaking in the British House of Commons on April 21st 1800, said:—The object of the financial arrangements was to effect the gradual abolition of all distinction in finance and revenue between the two countries, and to accelerate the time when both countries form but one fund and pay one uniform proportion to taxes throughout each.1611 He submitted, therefore, that this indiscriminate taxation and consolidation of the Exchequers was distinctly contemplated at the time of the passing of the Act of Union. It was also provided that when the time arrived that that condition could be arrived at—it shall no longer be necessary to regulate the contribution of the two countries towards the future expenditure of the United Kingdom according to any of the rules hereinbefore prescribed.That was a distinct statement that when the consolidation was brought about all these arrangements for treating Ireland as a separate entity and for fixing the proportion of contributions were to be done away with, and forthwith they were to have indiscriminate taxation, which did away with the arrangement for revising the ratio of contributions at any time they wanted, varying from seven to 20 years, because there was to be no ratio, and they were to be taxed equally as part of one kingdom. It was now desired to revive them, but he ventured to say they did not and could not apply to the conditions which now existed. There always had been special exemptions and special abatements for Ireland, and all that she was entitled to was—such particular exemptions or abatements as circumstances might appear from time to time to demand.It was said the Act of Union was a partnership. It was true, it was a partnership, but it was a partnership, the distinct object of which was to establish a common financial system, and that the two countries should cease to be financial entities as soon as the proportion of the debts rendered complete amalgamation possible. The system of contribution in a fixed proportion was a temporary arrangement to meet special circumstances, and was intended to be abandoned when those special circumstances had disappeared. It was a makeshift arrangement, adopted because the desired and ideal system of identical taxation was not at the moment practicable. The consolidation of the revenues was carried through Parliament in 1816, and took effect on January 5th, 1817. It was a beneficial arrangement for Ireland, it was a necessary one; it was the distinct object of the Union, and 1612 it had worked advantageously for her. Consolidation became necessary because Ireland was piling up a debt which threatened her with insolvency, and Great Britain shouldered Ireland's debt to save her from bankruptcy. It was contended that the debt was unfairly piled up by charging Ireland with an excessive proportion of the cost of the great French War. ["Hear, hear!"] Unquestionably the great war hit Ireland heavily. It was a prolonged and costly struggle which could not be foreseen, but national misfortunes like war, famine, and pestilence, and times of great trial and distress did hit nations heavily, and must strike the poor most severely. Ireland was a poor country, but she suffered not more than the poor in England. The middle classes and the well-to-do in Ireland suffered less than anybody in the United Kingdom. Their taxation was lighter than that of the same classes in England, for there were heavy war taxes here and not in Ireland. In 1812 the Poor Rate in England was nearly nine millions; in 1810 there were 15,000 beggars in London streets. Wheat was 122s. a quarter, which was a good thing for the wheat growers, both English and Irish. But for the poor consumers it was a terrible time. The 4lb. loaf was frequently at 1s. 4d., and it touched 1s. 10½d. Was the debt unfairly piled up? He said it was not. The increase was not the result of the Union. It began before, and it would have continued if there had been no Union. In 1793 the debt was £1,917,784; in 1801 it was £28,541,157; and in 1817 £112,684,773. The greater part of the joint expenditure with which Ireland was charged in 1801–17 (£83,000,000 out of £99,000,000) was expended for and in Ireland, and would have been so required and expended if there had been no Union. It was doubtful whether Ireland could have raised that money without the Union, and the improvement which it brought about in the credit of Ireland in Ireland was noteworthy. In 1797–98–99, the Irish Government paid 8 per cent. in Ireland, but in 1800, when the Union was almost settled, she paid 5¾ per cent., while in 1802–15, a time of stress and war, she paid an average of 4¾ per cent., and it once fell below 4 per cent. It was argued that it was because Ireland's contribution was 1613 fixed high (1 to 7½) that consolidation became possible. The Mover of this Resolution argued that the debt built up under that ratio of contribution became a lever which was used against the provisions of the Treaty and Acts of Union, to substitute indiscriminate taxation of Ireland for contribution by a quota subject to periodical alteration. But if a lower quota had been fixed the consolidation would have taken place sooner. If the ratio had been 1 to 18 (as suggested) it, would have taken place at once, and Ireland would have paid more throughout the war than she did. If the rate had been 1 to 12 the consolidation would have been in five years, and Ireland would have paid vastly more than she did. The burden of the war was terrible, but Great Britain bore more than her share of it. Whether the proportion of 2 to 15 was fair or not it mattered little, because Ireland never paid it. Great Britain paid vastly more than her share. We had, as a nation, treated Ireland very badly in the past in many matters, but in finance during this century our treatment had been marked by the greatest generosity. After the Union, from 1801 to, 1817, the total expenditure which Ireland was called upon to meet was £159,700,000, but she did not meet, it. The revenue raised by her was £77,800,000, and the balance went to the debt which the United Kingdom shouldered. Thus the controversy as to the proportion of 1 to 7½ was an academic one, because Ireland never paid it. Mr. Childers in his Report said, "The expenditure by Ireland after the Union was to a great extent a nominal or paper transaction." Front 1801 to 1817 of the total revenue raised by taxes in the United Kingdom, England raised an average of 92¼ per cent. annually, and Ireland raised an average of 7¾ per cent., or about 1–13th instead of 2–17ths. Between 1801 and 1816 Great Britain raised £264,700,000 by special war taxes which did not apply to Ireland. Then it was said that the increase of taxation during that time was greater in Ireland than in Great Britain. Yes, because they started from a lower basis of taxation, altogether unequal to the responsibility of the nation. In 1815, when Ireland's taxation was at the highest point, she raised not 2–17ths but 2–25ths. Great Britain increased her taxation twelve times as much as Ireland, though 7½times was the legal requirement. 1614 He suggested that the Reports were full of fallacious contentions of this sort. The increase in Great Britain's taxation was vastly greater than that of Ireland. Another complaint was that after the war was over, and expenditure was decreased by one-half, the taxation of Ireland was not decreased, but increased. ["Hear, hear!"] Well, when Great Britain had been enormously taxing herself, not only for her share of the burden, but also for a substantial portion of Ireland's share, when she had paid 264 millions in taxation which Ireland never paid at all, it was not unreasonable that Great Britain should begin to reduce some of that special war taxation to which Ireland had not contributed. His Irish friends wanted to pick and choose; they wanted to insist upon what was convenient to them, and to ignore what was not convenient; but that was absurd and unjust. It was Ireland's interest to keep debts separate in 1801; it was Ireland's interest to amalgamate the debts in 1817; and now, after a long process by which the burden on Ireland had been reduced, Ireland wanted to go back to the old system, and be an entity again; but we could not change it every time it became disadvantageous to us. He had said something of the generosity of Great Britain, and hon. Members had sneered at that. ["Hear, hear!"] They said that Great Britain had not been generous to Ireland. [An HON. MEMBER: "Certainly not."] He would give a few instances of that generosity. The Treaty of Union provided that when the debts were consolidated, if one portion was larger than the proportion it should be, then the excess should be met by taxes imposed in the country to which it belonged. When the consolidation was made, there was a balance due from Ireland of two millions. Did we ask Ireland to meet that by separate taxation in Ireland? No; we wiped out that debt. From 1806 to 1817 Ireland was seriously in arrears in her contributions to joint expenditure, and these arrears Great Britain made up by her own taxation, or borrowed money at heavy rates of interest at that time. Did we charge Ireland interest on those arrears? No; Ireland was not charged a penny on the money we had to raise to meet her deficiencies. Then, again, the Act of Union provided that when the consolidation of the Exchequers took place, the expenditure of 1615 the United Kingdom should be defrayed indiscriminately by equal taxes imposed on the like articles in both countries. We had never used that power to this day completely, and for 30 years we had never approached using it. When the Exchequers were consolidated, Ireland's liability for the year was reduced one-half at a stroke. The expenditure for the year 816–17 for the United Kingdom was £89,300,000, and of this, according to the Act of Union, Ireland's share was £11,200,000, and that of Great Britain £78,100,000. Did we, this ungenerous country, use our power and compel Ireland to pay £11,200,000, and pay £78,100,000 ourselves? No; instead of paying £78,100,000, we actually paid £83,750,000, and instead of requiring Ireland to pay £11,200,000, we took only £5,560,000. We only took half in the very first year of the consolidation that the article in the Act of Union entitled us to take. ["Hear, hear!"] We never insisted upon our pound of flesh. Mr. Spring Rice, then Secretary to the Treasury, said in 1834 that from 1800 down to that year Great Britain had paid in the aggregate no less a sum than 618 millions in excess of what she would have paid had her taxes been levied at the Irish rates only, and that she had also paid during that time taxes not imposed on Ireland to an aggregate amount of 478 millions. ["Hear, hear!"] Something had been said about liquor taxation, and it should be remembered that the taxes in Ireland on spirits were not equalised to the taxes on spirits in England until 1858. For 41 years Ireland paid less on spirits than England did. For 36 years Ireland paid less than half per gallon what England did, and sometimes less than a third. For 11 years. Ireland was exempted from the income tax, from 1842 to 1853. In the five years from 1817 to 1821 immediately after the consummation of the consolidation of the Exchequers, instead of Ireland being taxed equally with England, there were £107,000,000 raised for the joint Exchequer by taxation in Great Britain, for which there was no taxation in Ireland at all. Even so late as 1845 there was taxation in Great Britain which was not in force in Ireland in that year yielding 14½ millions, and to-day there was not equality, though the difference was not great, and Great Britain paid four millions in taxes that were not levied in 1616 Ireland. Then Irishmen complained of the cost of police, but the whole of it was borne by the Imperial Exchequer, while in England we paid half the cost of our own police. Look at the post and telegraph system. In Ireland it was a loss to the Imperial Exchequer of £40,000 a year, but in Great Britain it yielded a profit of 3½ millions, which profit went to the benefit of Imperial finance, and was practically a taxation of Great Britain to the extent of 3½ millions, from which taxation Ireland was free. He was entitled to say that Great Britain had been generous to Ireland in matters financial, and had spared Ireland taxation, bearing that taxation herself to the extent of hundreds of millions. She nursed Ireland through a time of terrible distress, and it was a time of terrible stress to Great Britain also. The period from 1817 to 1845 was one of the most trying through which this country ever passed. The library would show in the number of Reports of Royal Commissions what a time of stress and strain it was for agriculture, how manufactures suffered, what a time of financial panic it was, and to what straits the working classes of this country were reduced. The stress and strain was enormous, and yet, rather than do an injustice to Ireland, Great Britain burdened herself with hundreds of millions of taxation, which was not levied in Ireland at all. Ireland had grievances enough—genuine grievances—serious enough without fabricating fictitious ones. He was as anxious as any man that these grievances should be remedied, but let justice be done to England and Scotland. ["Hear, hear!"] The consolidation of revenue was a great boon to Ireland. If it had not taken place, Ireland would have been charged with the interest on the debt which she incurred. Taking that portion of the debt alone, which was expended in and on Ireland, and would have been expended if there had been no Union, the interest would have been three millions a year, and if Ireland had not been united to England she would have had to add to that debt; but if she had never borrowed more, that debt would now stand at three millions a year. Then, if she had paid her contribution to Imperial taxation on the basis of this Report, 1–20th of Imperial expenditure, the amount, excluding debt, would have been £1,850,000. If Ireland had been 1617 the entity it was now desired she should be, these amounts, £3,000,000 as interest on debt, and £1,850,000, the contribution to the Imperial Exchequer—making together £4,850,000—would have to be paid before anything would be left for Ireland's home expenditure. Under the Home Rule Bill of 1893, it was estimated that the expenditure of Ireland on her own affairs would be £4,600,000 a year, and Irish Members said it was a low estimate. Add this amount, and the total was £9,450,000 that Ireland would have to pay at the present time if she had charge of her own affairs, and we had not taken over her debt at the time of the consolidation and relieved her of her burden. Irishmen should remember that we took over their debt at the rate of 1 to 7½, and now they wanted to measure their share of it at 1 to 20. If there had been no consolidation, they would have had their portion of the burden to carry, but we took the burden, and now they wanted to share again on the principle favoured by some Socialists who advocated a sharing of all property, and when some exhausted their share would have a redistribution again. We had relieved Ireland of her burden, and could not go back to the principles that obtained before. Many as the advantages of Home Rule would be, financial economy was not one of them. ["Hear, hear!"] The scheme of the Bill of 1893 allowed £4,600,000 for Ireland's internal expenditure, and on the basis of this Report her contribution to Imperial expenditure based on the principle of 1–20th, would be £3,100,000, making, altogether £7,700,000, for the same items for which she now pays,£6,800,000. Consequently, on the basis of this Commission Report, and the Home Rule Bill of 1893, Ireland would have to pay £900,000 a year more than she pays to-day. The suggestion had been made that Ireland was not concerned in our Imperial expenditure and national defences. He could not subscribe to that, and he would point out that Imperial expenditure depended upon policy, and that Ireland had no, reason to complain of the share she had in deciding that policy. ['Hear, hear!"] Her share of Parliamentary representation was far larger than the number of her population or the amount they contributed in taxes warranted. Ireland's taxation to-day was 1–13th of the taxation of the Kingdom, but her 1618 representation was 2–13ths, and her contribution to the Imperial expenditure was only 1–32nd. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER:" What; do you say the representation of Ireland ought to be according to the terms of the Act of Union?"] Hon. Members below the Gangway wished to keep strictly to those portions of the Act of Union which suited them, but to depart from those that did not:['Hear, hear!"] The Report drafted by Mr. Sexton proposed that no contribution should be made by Ireland to Imperial expenditure for a time, and that after that time Ireland should contribute according to the measure of the benefit she derived. That meant that another test was to be added. The contention of the Commissioners was that the ratio of contribution should be according to capacity, but here it was suggested that it should be according to the benefit received. This chopping and changing was not practical, and benefit in itself was not a proper test. Did not English landlords and farmers contribute to the cost of the British Navy, which was used partly to defend the vessels bringing corn to this country; corn, which when landed competed with their own, with the result that the price was lowered? And did not people who had no children contribute largely to the taxation which provided school grants and to School Board rates? It was absurd to say that Ireland had no interest in our Imperial expenditure. Ireland was surely interested in the means taken to defend the populations of our colonies. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: "No!"] Many Irishmen were in the colonies, and their kinsmen at home would not like to see them under the heel of a foreign invader. In case of war Ireland would be very liable to attack, for an enemy would be very eager to land there—[A NATIONALIST MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"]—in order to harass this country. But a conquering foe would not talk about entities and assessable ratios. He would exact a heavy contribution from Ireland. They had been told that Ireland was but little interested in our trade and commerce, and that the Free Trade policy of this country had injured her. He affirmed, on the contrary, that Ireland had a vital interest in the trade and prosperity of the Kingdom. England was her market, and because England had prospered that market had increased. Ireland had prospered marvelously 1619 in comparison with her previous condition. In proof of this he would trouble the House with a few statistics. In 1841, before the adoption of Free Trade, Ireland had 1,800,000 cattle; now she had 4,400,000. She had, in 1841, 2,000,000 sheep; now she had 4,000,000. The corresponding figures for pigs were 1,300,000 and 1,400,000; and for poultry 8,000,000 and 17,000,000. In 1841 the value of cattle, sheep and pigs in Ireland was £14,000,000; in 1871 it was £32,000,000; and in 1896 it was£69,000,000. To-day, therefore, the value was five times as great as it was before Free Trade was instituted. Therefore Ireland had a, great interest in the prosperity of this country, because it had vastly increased the market for her produce. Let them consider the exports of cattle from Ireland to this country. In 1847 the exports were 190,000; in 1895 they were 790,000; in the same years the exports of sheep were 324,000 and 652,000 respectively; and the exports of pigs 157,000 and 547,000. [AN HON. MEMBER: "What is the value of the cattle and sheep?"] As he had said, the value was five times as great in 1896 as it was in 1841. It would be said, doubtless, that the price of corn was lower, but so it would have been had protection continued. What was the condition of the countries abroad that had protection? Had they not suffered from competition just as much as we had? In France and Germany the distress of the agricultural population was greater than it was here. Then it was suggested that the manufactures of Ireland had been killed by the operation of Free Trade. That was not the fact. The home-weaving trade had naturally died, owing to the development of machinery, but the manufactures in the factories and mills of Ireland had increased. In 1850 there were 11 woollen and worsted factories in Ireland, employing 625 persons; but in 1890 there were 83, employing 3,463 persons, or five times as many. In 1850 there were 69 linen factories, employing 21,000 persons; and now there were 162, employing 64,000 persons. Then the prices obtained for agricultural produce were vastly greater now than 50 or 60 years ago. Take, for example, the average price of butter. In 1836 the price per cwt. was 69s.; in 1893 it was 95s. The price of potatoes had risen from 1s. 7d. in 1836 to 2s. 9d. in 1620 1893; beef, from, 33s. to 44s.; mutton, from 34s. 6d. to 53s.; and pork from 25s. 6d. to 40s. 7d. Agricultural labourers' wages had risen three-fold within the memory of Irish Members now in that House. But the best test of all was to take the average value per head of the population of the whole crops and stock in the farms. He found that the average value per head of the population of crops and stock, in the period 1851–55 was £15 16s.; and that in the period 1889–93 it was £19; and in this calculation the value of milk, butter and eggs was not included, and their value had increased materially. The value of Ireland's present exports of cattle, pigs and sheep to Great Britain was greater than the value of her total exports of all kinds of goods and produce at the beginning of the century. The amount of money in the Irish banks was five times as much as it was in 1841–45, before Free Trade was adopted. The income tax returns also showed a wonderful growth—even under Schedule A. In 1854 the items assessed under Schedule A amounted to £11,700,000, and in 1894 the same items were assessed at £15,700,000. The total gross assessment of the profits in Ireland rose from £26,390,000 in 1856 to £38,190,000 in 1895, and the net assessment from £21,334,000 to £27,500,000. Irishmen contributed largely to the revenue in proportion to their capacity, mainly (1) because they spent a larger portion of their means on liquor than Englishmen or Scotchmen did; and (2) because they selected a heavily taxed liquor. With a third of the spending capacity of Englishmen they spent three-fourths as much on liquor and tobacco. Ireland had increased her expenditure on these articles during the last thirty-five years; and if the Irish people only smoked and drank now as much as they did in 1862, she would pay £1,300,000 less in taxes. The taxation of liquor was special and peculiar. It was not merely for revenue purposes, but was also deterrent and preventive, and might also fairly be regarded as some compensation for the cost and the burden which the use of that liquor put upon the community in other directions. The hon. Member for Longford spoke of the expenditure on drink and tobacco as a necessary and not a voluntary expenditure, because it could be steadily relied on year by year. They could equally 1621 rely on the statistics of crime, but the hon. Member would never on that account argue that criminals should go unpunished because crime was a necessity. Intoxicants were at best a luxury—a dangerous and injurious luxury—and it was too late to say they were a necessity. The people of Ireland, foolishly and extravagantly, spent a larger proportion of their income on liquor than the people of Great Britain did; but that was no reason why liquor should be taxed less. They should cut their coat according to their cloth; they should adapt their drinking to their means, and then they would not be taxed in excess of the people of England or Scotland. Further, the liquor trade and the drinking customs were a source of injury and danger and cost to the community, and it had always been recognised as fair and reasonable that there should be special taxation of liquor. It might be thought that on that matter he was somewhat of a prejudiced witness. But they had the evidence of John Stuart Mill, Professor Sidgwick, and Professor Bastable, Professor of Political Economy in Dublin University—not one of them teetotallers—all of whom justified special taxation on luxuries, and they specially mentioned stimulants as articles on which taxation should be levied. Mr. Dudley Baxter was of opinion that taxation on the heavy consumption of liquor should be regarded as a fine rather than a tax; and he noticed the other day that the right hon. Member for Bodmin described the tax on liquor as a penalty. The policy of Irishmen, when they had a Parliament of their own, was to tax articles of consumption which admittedly pressed most heavily on the poor. Henry Grattan advocated a high duty on spirits and a low duty on beer, and in the Irish House of Commons on February 2, 1791, he moved:—That a principal cause of the excessive use of spirituous liquors is the low price thereof. That to remedy said evil it is necessary to impose such duty or duties on spirituous liquors as render the same too dear for the consumption of the lower orders of the people. That in order to give the lower orders of the people a wholesome and nutritious liquor it is necessary to give the breweries of this kingdom decisive advantages. That for this purpose it is necessary that the duties affecting the brewer should be reduced and the restrictions and regulations whereby he is now restrained taken off.1622 The reason why the duty on beer in this country was proportionately lower than on spirits was because it was the opinion 70 years ago that if they provided what they called wholesome, nutritious beer, they would wean the people from spirits; and the duty on beer was now only one-third of what it was at the beginning of the century. The idea, however, was an exploded delusion, and he was not sure that anybody believed in it except the hon. Member for Northampton. If the taxation on spirts were a grievance at all, it was an individual grievance. It pressed on spirit drinkers wherever they were found, and whatever their nationality. If there was an injustice, and a remedy was called for, it must be applied to those who suffered—the whisky drinkers. But no one suggested that the relief should take that form. That was very significant. He did not admit that the heavy tax on liquor was a grievance, but there might be a grievance in not taxing all kinds of intoxicants equally, and he would be the last man to place any obstacle in the way of increasing the taxation on beer. If they doubled the taxation on beer and abolished the taxation on tobacco, the poor people of these countries would not pay a halfpenny more taxation, and Ireland would get relief to the tune of £600,000. He for one would vote for that proposal with pleasure. But if the extra tax limited consumption, glad as he should be personally, he was not sure that they would accomplish what they were aiming at in the way of giving relief to Ireland. Equality between entities would not secure equality between individuals in those entities. Indiscriminate taxation did not secure absolute individual equality, nor was it true that any system of taxation in vogue in any country did bring about absolute, or anything approaching absolute, equality of the taxation of individuals. How was this problem to be grappled with, and what were the suggestions of the Commissioners? After reading through their Reports, he ventured to say that the suggestions they made in the way of remedies were miserably disappointing, Few of the Commissioners dare face the issue, and those who did screw up their courage to face it did not grapple with it successfully. He ventured to say that to 1623 name the suggested remedies of the Commissioners was to reject them and to indicate the flimsy basis on which the grievances which were alleged to exist rested. [Ministerial cheers and Nationalist cries of "Oh!"] That Ireland should be relieved of £2,500,000 a year would not bear examination. It meant that she would not pay a single penny to the National Debt, to the Army or Navy, or even to the defence of Ireland itself; and it meant, in addition, that they should pay a subsidy to her to enable her to carry on her own government within her own borders. [Ministerial cheers.] With all respect, he said that such proposals were preposterous. The doles and subsidy policy illustrated the fallacy of the entity theory. The allegation was that it was the poor who were over-taxed and the well-to-do under-taxed. The policy of doles and subsidy would benefit and relieve those who were under-taxed to day, but what would it do for the poor man who was spending more than he ought to do on whisky? This policy meant that the poor of England and Scotland were to be additionally taxed in order that the well-to-do in Ireland might be relieved. He claimed that no case had been made out for special and separate treatment of Ireland. [Ministerial cheers.] If Ireland was unfairly treated it was only because individual members of the community were unfairly taxed, and they were only taxed precisely the same as men of similar income and similar habits in England, Scotland and Wales were taxed. Therefore, if there was any injustice on that ground in Ireland, there was a similar injustice in England, Scotland and Wales, and it could only be remedied by rectifying and amending the taxation on the mass of the people in each of the three countries. This was not an Irish question, but it was a question for the whole of the United Kingdom. [Ministerial cheers.] It was not a question which concerned melt according to their nationality, but according to their resources and their income and their habits. If Ireland was unjustly taxed she could have that grievance rectified by taxing everybody according to their income and their habits, in whatever part of the United Kingdom they lived. If that was possible and desirable in Ireland, it was possible and desirable throughout the United Kingdom; 1624 and if it was not possible in the one it was not possible in the other. There must be equity in the taxation of the individual, if there was to be real equity. If they rectified the inequalities of individual taxation, wherever it was desirable and possible, the inequalities of national taxation would be by that very process rectified automatically, so to speak. This was not a question of treaty or of Act of Union. [Nationalist laughter.] It was a question of common justice. [Ministerial cheers.] It was not a question of nationalities or of entities, but of persons. It was not a question of abstractions and geographical areas; it was a question of human beings and of adjustment between individuals. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member concluded by moving his Amendment.
On the return of Mr. SPEAKER, after the usual interval,
§ COLONEL WARING (Down, N.)
said his rising to second the Amendment would occasion some surprise among the Irish Members on both sides; but, while there was a great deal in the speech of the hon. Member with which he disagreed, he entirely agreed with the Amendment, with the exception that he would substitute "are now" consolidated instead of "remain." He seconded the Amendment as an Imperialist, in the interests of the Empire at large, and in the interest of what he considered justice and honourable dealing. Another strong reason which induced him to second the Amendment was that this was a very complicated and contentious account, and the study he had given to the matter convinced him that when the book came to be made up the balance would be on the wrong page for Ireland. ["Hear, hear!"]. He did not pose as a very virtuous person, and he did not say that if he could put his hand into John Bull's pocket and pull out a handful of sovereigns, he would have any great scruple in doing so; but he did not care to do that when the probability was that he would not even get a few shillings. He would not wish it to be supposed that he sympathised with all that had fallen from the hon. Member who moved the Amendment, but for the reasons he had stated he would be very unwilling to see an investigation and a 1625 balancing of accounts. It might, perhaps, have sufficed to have voted a simple negative to the proposition of the hon. Member for Longford, but there was something more in the question than the Amendment touched—the most important point of the whole controversy—and that was that all portions of the United Kingdom must be regarded as forming one country for fiscal purposes, and if for fiscal purposes, for all purposes. ["Hear, hear!"] He could not understand the position of any Unionist who could support the principle of regarding Ireland as a separate entity for fiscal purposes, seeing that separation of the Government of Ireland must inevitably follow. ["Hear, hear!"] When the proposition for separate Government for Ireland was made in 1886, it was accompanied by a bribe to the Irish landlords. That bribe they refused to accept. Now they were again offered a paltry bribe, some little contribution for industrial objects, some further squandering of money on useless objects which would do no more good to Ireland than the paper on which the resolution of the hon. Member for Longford was written. Fortunately, in his judgment, Ireland had not got Home Rule, and he held that the Report of this Commission, which had its origin in the Home Rule Bill of 1892, should be committed to oblivion with that Bill. ['Hear, hear!"] It was curiously out of place that hon. Members who had so much abused the Act of Union should now base a large part of their arguments upon its construction. He thought that the proposer of the Amendment had shown that the Act of Union did not justify the conclusions hon. Members opposite had drawn from it. While he he did not accept the proposition of the hon. Member for Longford that Ireland had been so much wronged in the past, he did think there was one matter in which Ireland did not receive that equal treatment to which she was entitled. Last year a very important Bill was passed and a large sum of money was voted to assist local taxation on agricultural incomes. That amounted to 10s. in the pound on agricultural rates in England. In that matter Ireland ought to have been treated as one to England, and ought to have received 10s. in the pound on agricultural rates instead of being put off with 2½., a sum so contemptible that it had to 1626 be put by until someone would be good enough to take it from the Government. ["Hear, hear!"] He contended that the proposer of the Amendment had brought forward weighty and unanswerable reasons for its acceptance, and he agreed that it was the proper way of meeting the proposition of the hon. Member for Longford. With the exception of the grievance he had just mentioned, he did not think that Ireland had at present any substantial grievance to justify this question being raised in the House of Commons. He begged to second the Amendment.
§ SIR THOMAS ESMONDE (Kerry, W.)
confessed that it caused him considerable surprise to see the hon. Member in the position he occupied that night, because he could not understand how any Irishman, and especially an Irish landlord, could set himself in opposition to the claims of the Irish people for the redress of their grievances. The interests of Irish landlords and Irish tenants were identical in this matter. ["Hear, hear!"] The pressure of taxation in Ireland affected the landlords every bit as much as it affected the tenants, but, if he might use a homely phrase, any stick was good enough to beat a dog with, and inasmuch as this Amendment was possibly to some extent in opposition to Home Rule, the hon. and gallant Member saw his way to support it. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment, in a speech of great ability—["hear, hear!"]—brought forward an elaborate array of figures in support of his contention, but the burden of his speech was that the objection to the claim of Ireland was that that claim was based on the supposition that Ireland was a separate entity. He could not understand how anybody could hold that the Irish people were anything but a separate entity. This separate national entity of Ireland had been expressly recognised in almost every Act of financial legislation which had occupied the attention of that House from 1800 to at all events 1860. Every Session of Parliament they had separate legislation for Ireland on every subject imaginable. If they could have separate legislation for Ireland on every subject except finance, Moreover, why could they not also have separate legislation in regard to financial matters? The hon. Member had stated that in recent years the number and 1627 value of live stock had increased in Ireland. It might be true that the number and value of live stock in Ireland had increased, but in the meant time the population had decreased. [Irish cheers.] Since 1841 their population had decreased by four millions. They would rather have more people in Ireland than more pigs, and sheep, and cattle. The hon. Member had told them that since 1853 there was a very great increase in the number of factories in Ireland. That might be, but had the hon. Member ever read of the industrial condition of Ireland before 1800? Did he know the number of industries which existed in Ireland before the destruction of the Irish Parliament, or the number of people who were employed in Ireland then? ["Hear, hear!"] If he would devote his undoubted abilities to an investigation in that direction he would probably realise that on the whole the condition of Ireland had not improved from 1800 to 1896, although possibly the deterioration in Ireland might have been somewhat checked from 1853 to 1896. The hon. Member spoke of the great improvement in Ireland since 1853, and forgot, or had not taken into account, the enormous improvement which had taken place in Great Britain in the same period. Ireland might have improved since 1845, though he doubted it. ["Hear, hear!"] But what had been the improvement in England since then? He believed the wealth of England had increased since 1800 something like a thousand fold, and he was perfectly certain that the wealth of Ireland since that period had decreased. In 1800 the capital of Ireland was estimated at 513 millions, but nobody estimated the capital of Ireland at the present moment at more than 400 millions. In "Thom's Directory" he found it estimated as low as 280 millions. The hon. Member stated that the Irish smoked too much. The people of Ireland now paid to the Exchequer something like £1,100,000 for tobacco, and probably the same amount for tobacco which they employed for manufacturing purposes, whereas in 1820 the Irish people grew their own tobacco and manufactured it free of tax. As to their drinking propensities in Ireland, he found, on looking into the drink bill of 1628 the two countries, that when an Englishman spent 1s. in drink he got 10d. worth of drink and paid 2d. worth of tax, whereas an Irishman got 2d. worth of drink and paid 10d. worth of tax. [Laughter.] That was a homely but an incisive way of putting the matter before the House. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) seemed to be highly amused by that statement. He did not know whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman drank whisky, but if he did he would know in future that for every glass he consumed he paid 5d. to the Exchequer, and only got 1d. value for his money. [Laughter.] Even if all the arguments advanced by the hon. Member who moved the Amendment were well founded, it would not in the least affect the position of the Irish Members, which was that in the matter of taxation Ireland occupied a position relatively to that of England which was neither equitable nor just. The Irish claim had been put forward ably and fully by his hon. Friend the Member for Longford in his extremely powerful speech, and his hon. Friend's arguments were enforced with eloquence by his hon. Friend the Member for Waterford, who also made a valuable contribution to the Debate. But there were one or two matters which had been left unsaid in those speeches of his hon. Friends, and which he would touch upon. They had spoken of the financial condition of Ireland before the, Union. He wanted to draw attention to what followed with reference to Irish taxation subsequent to the Act of Union and previous to the consolidation of the two Exchequers. All the speeches made by Lord Castlereagh, Mr. Pitt, and others who spoke in support of the Act of Union, contained the promise that Ireland would never be taxed more than her relative taxable capacity. But after the Act of Union, it was unfortunately true that the liabilities of Ireland and her taxation increased in an enormous degree, so much so that there was absolutely no comparison between the two countries. At the time of the Union, Ireland's National Debt, funded and unfunded, was £28,000,000, and England's National Debt, funded and unfunded, £440,000,000. After sixteen years of Union finance the Irish debt had risen to £112,000,000, and England's debt to 1629 £700,000,000. According to the statement of accounts between Great Britain and Ireland in the period 1801–17, the Revenue receipts of Great Britain were £900,000,000, and those of Ireland £84,000,000. Those were the Treasury returns published in 1824, and with reference to Treasury returns generally, he must express, in parenthesis, his profound conviction that they were, as far as his experience went, absolutely unreliable. The Treasury returns did not, for instance, give credit to Ireland for her payments in respect of tithe rent, quit rent, or Crown rent, payable in England, or for many other taxes paid by Ireland in England. On an examination of figures he held that Ireland did pay her proportion of contribution according to the Act of Union; not only so, but she overpaid her proper proportion the sum of £6,000,000 during the 16 years to which he had referred. The more one studied the financial position between the years 1800 and 1816 the more one saw the injustice which was done to Ireland. The Irish deficit in 1817, according to the Return (No. 256) of 1824, was £11,700,000. In order to make up that deficit the Irish debt was increased by £80,000,000. This Paper was full of extraordinary revelations as to the treatment of Ireland. On the 15th January 1816, the debts of the two countries appeared distinct for the last time. The debt of Great Britain was put at £688,820,000; and that of Ireland at £107,388,000—a total of £796,000,000. The same Return gave the debt of the two countries in 1817, the following year, as £755,000,000; a diminution of 40 millions, which could not possibly have been effected in one year. But this amount, curiously, was just the amount necessary to bring the Irish deficit up to a level which would allow of the two Exchequers being united. After the Union Mr. Pitt introduced his first Budget. The "Annual Register" of 1801 gave the statistics. Mr. Pitt brought in an elaborate calculation in which every item was divided in the proportions of 15–17ths to Great Britain and 2–17ths to Ireland. In that particular Mr. Pitt acted the part of an honest man. According to Mr. Pitt the total supplies for the year were £35,587,462, and the Irish contribution at 2–17ths was £4,186,760. The permanent charges of the Civil List and other 1630 charges not related to the Public Debt amounted to £1,170,000, and Ireland's share was put at £137,000. Then Mr. Pitt went on to declare that whatever else remained with the exception of the National Debt of Ireland was to be provided by Great Britain. But a few days later the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Corry, brought in his Budget, and charged Ireland with £2,000,000 more than Mr. Pitt had done. He correctly stated Ireland's share of the war expenditure, 2–17ths. But Civil expenses were put at £600,000, as compared with £137,000 charged by Mr. Pitt. Next Ireland was over-charged £500,000 for interest on that Irish debt; £622,000 for the purchase money of Irish boroughs, though that expenditure was covered at the Act of Union by a charge of £1,500,000 on the Irish National Debt;£230,000 was added as compensation for the loyalists in respect of the revolution of 1798, though they had already been compensated to the tune of £1,300,000 charged on the Irish National Debt; £100,000 was added for inland navigation; and £70,000 was charged for the Irish army resident in England, although the English army resident in Ireland was being paid for out of the Irish Exchequer. Altogether £2,000,000 were added to Mr. Pitt's figures. Then Mr. Corry proposed a loan of £2,500,000 to meet his manufactured deficit, and issued stock to the amount of £4,500,000 on this pretext. This showed how the finances of Ireland were brought to the point at which amalgamation with England became possible. Of course, this Amendment would be defeated, and the Government would refuse to listen to the demand of the Irish people for the redress of the national grievances. But he could promise the Government that this would not be the last word said on the question. [Cheers.] Irishmen knew that they had right on their side. This subject had been taken up in Ireland, and there they intended to pursue it. If the House did not deal with the grievances of Ireland there would be an agitation in Ireland which would give the Government more trouble than all the agitations that had gone before, because there were men joined in it who were never in political harmony before. Ireland was over-taxed. In England eleven millions was paid in remission of local rates, but Ireland was 1631 given a beggarly £250,000. In England they passed an Agricultural Rating Bill and refused to extend its benefits to Ireland. All these points would be seized upon by the Irish people.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir MICHAEL HICKS BEACH,) Bristol, W.
Whatever opinions we may hold On this important subject, I am sure that all of us who have listened to the speeches of the hon. Member for Longford and the hon. Member for Spen Valley will agree that we have had able and exhaustive statements of two very different sides of it. I have no intention whatever of attempting to rival those two hon. Members in the length at which they have addressed the House. Not that I blame them for that length. By no means, for it is necessary that this subject should be fully placed before Parliament. But it is unnecessary for me to go again over ground already trodden. But, widely as those two speeches differed, I confess there was something in the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Motion that made me feel even more how difficult it is for those who live on the two sides of St. George's Channel to approach this matter from anything like a common point of view. [Cheers.] The hon. Member for Longford and the hon. Member for Waterford attributed in so many words everything that was wrong in Ireland or had been wrong during the last century to Great Britain. [Nationalist cheers and Ministerial laughter, and Mr. MACNEILL: "Perfectly right."] Great Britain instigated the Irish rebellion of 1798; Great Britain ruined Ireland by the provisions of the Act of Union; Great Britain was responsible for the Irish famine. [Mr. MACNEILL: "It was," and laughter.] Great Britain is responsible for the fact that the population of Ireland now is half-a-million less than it was at the time of the Union. [Nationalist cheers.] Great Britain is responsible for the fact that Ireland has unfortunately no mineral resources. [An IRISH MEMBER: "Your competition closed them up."] Because that is the secret of the vast industrial prosperity of Great Britain as compared with Ireland. Great Britain is responsible, I gather, for the increase of rates in Ireland; Great 1632 Britain is responsible for the Exchequer expenditure for local purposes in Ireland—[An HON. MEMBER: "The east wind," and laughter]—because she fixes the scale and moulds it according to her will. During all this century, Irishmen, of course, have had no representatives in the Imperial Parliament, and those representatives have never by any chance had their way in matters relating to Ireland. [Nationalist cheers.] Now, I think it will be admitted that, that being the view of hon. Members from Ireland who sit on the opposite Benches, it is a mere waste of time for me, an unfortunate person living on this side of St. George's Channel, to argue in the hope of convincing them to the contrary. But this, at any rate, I can say—that it is my sincere desire in the responsible position which I hold, to approach this question of the financial relations between Ireland and Great Britain in the most impartial spirit and to endeavour to do justice to both sides. [Cheers.] I will not follow the hon. Member for Longford in his historical retrospect. I am quite prepared to admit that, as events shaped themselves, the burden imposed upon Ireland by the proportionate contribution which was required of her by the Act of Union, was more than she could bear. I think that if the years that followed the Union had been years of peace instead of war, a very different result might have occurred. But as a matter of fact, as the hon. Member for Spen Valley has pointed out to the House, Ireland never did bear that burden. She was relieved of it by the arrangement of 1817, when the debts and the Exchequers were consolidated, and the whole of the United Kingdom became responsible for the Irish debt. Well, Sir, that arrangement has been objected to by the hon. Member for Longford. All I can say is, that the Bill sanctioning it passed the House of Commons in ten days with 103 Irish representatives sitting in the House, and passed with practical unanimity, because it was known to be a great relief to Ireland. [Cheers.] And, further, when the circumstances of 1816–17 were inquired into by a Committee of this House in 1864, that Committee—composed, as it was, of a majority of Irish Members—reported that the Imperial Parliament was justified in 1633 consolidating the debts and amalgamating the Exchequers of the two countries. At any rate, nobody wants to go back to the provisions that existed before 1817. So far as I can gather, no real complaint has been made of anything that occurred between 1817 and 1853. Complaint has been made, and I dare say with justice, of the increase of Irish taxation between 1853 and 1860. But it is a matter which is now mainly of historical interest to the followers of Mr. Gladstone, who must, I fear, be somewhat shocked by the way in which such devotees as Lord Fairer and Lord Welby have turned against their old political chief. [Laughter.] What we have to deal with to-day is not a matter of historical retrospect—not the many interesting circumstances Which, from very different points of view, have been detailed to the House to-night in regard to the past, but the present position of affairs. Is there now any substantial grievance in financial matters on the side of Ireland as against Great Britain, and, if so, how should that grievance be remedied? The hon. Member for Longford bases his Motion on the opinion of 11 members of the late Royal Commission that, whilst the actual tax revenue of Ireland is about one-eleventh of Great Britain (it has since decreased to one-twelfth), the relative taxable capacity is very much smaller, and is not reckoned by any of them as exceeding one-twentieth. On that statement he asks the House to affirm that there is "an undue burden on Ireland which constitutes a great grievance to all classes of the Irish community," and he carefully explained that, so far as the well-to-do classes were concerned, it was in the nature of a moral and intellectual grievance. [Laughter.] I would just venture to observe in passing that the Royal Commission do not say what the hon. Member asks the House to affirm. They do not say that their statement constitutes a grievance to Ireland. Why? They could not have said so, because out of the Royal Commissioners who signed that statement, three—and these by no means the least important—held that expenditure might, at any rate in some measure, be taken as a set-off against taxation. But that 1634 is the view of the hon. Member, and he asks us for early remedial legislation. What remedial legislation? I have listened to the hon. Member's speech from beginning to end, and I failed to discover. He complained of over-taxation. What over-taxation? Surely some tax must pinch. The whole theory is that unfortunate Britons know nothing of the needs of Ireland. He represents a majority of the representatives of the Irish people. Cannot he tell us what tax constitutes the grievance? Cannot he tell us where he wishes taxation to be reduced or abolished? No; he is dump. [Cheers and A VOICE: "He spoke for two hours!"] Yes, he spoke for two hours, but on this important subject he was absolutely dumb. He cannot say whether he desires this alleged grievance to be remedied by the remission or reduction of taxation, or in any other way. And why? Because the whole burden of his speech was this, that the circumstances of the two countries are so different that they cannot properly be subjected to the same system of taxation or of government, and that in his view and in the view of his colleagues, and of the right hon. Gentlemen On the Front Opposition Bench, the only remedy is Home Rule. [A laugh.] I did not hear a very loud cheer in support of that view from the opposite side of the House, because I think they must have had in their minds the painful picture of the condition of Ireland which was painted by the hon. Member for Long ford. What did he say to us? A more painful picture was never drawn. He spoke of the enormous increase of population in Great Britain, and the decrease of population in Ireland; he told us how, even in agricutural matters, Ireland being an agricultural country, the agricultural produce per head of the population in Britain was double that achieved in Ireland; he told us, I think, that the value of the agricultural produce in Ireland was hardly worth reckoning, at all, that the people were too poor to consume it themselves, and had to send it abroad; told us that the margin of Irish income above the bare necessities of existence did not materially exceed the amount lost by the economic drain and by taxation. The hon. Member for Waterford told us that the shadow of famine was 1635 permanently standing by the door of the cabins of Ireland—[cheers]—and, as Mr. Sexton said in his Report, Ireland was crippled in the struggle for mere existence by the taxation which was imposed on her. Sir, I think I could draw a different picture, gathered perhaps from the reports of increasing deposits in all kinds of banks—[ironical laughter]—of rising wages, of enormous prices for tenant-right—[Ministerial cheers]—of increased exports of Irish manufactures, and other evidences of material prosperity, less, I admit, than the prosperity of Great Britain, but still prosperity. ["Hear, hear!"] But suppose the picture drawn is a true one. What, then? Does it not show conclusively that Home Rule would mean financial ruin to Ireland—[derisive laughter from the Nationalists]—unless, which I hope is impossible, she was reduced to the position of a mere dependency of Great Britain, contributing nothing to the common expenditure or to her own defence, without representation in this House, and without any power of controlling the destinies of the Empire. [Cheers.] I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose will take a very sanguine view of the possibilities of Home Rule as a remedy for this grievance. He told us some little time ago that he did not think much political capital could be made out of this question. ["Hear, hear!" from Mr. J. MORLEY.] He is responsible for the appointment of this Royal Commission. The Royal Commission Was appointed not as previous inquiries have been appointed, to investigate grievances that were alleged in regard to Irish taxation on the basis of our existing financial system. No; but to discover an entirely new financial system which should be part of a scheme of Home Rule.
§ MR. J. MORLEY (Montrose Burghs)
May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that in substance the terms of reference to the Commission appointed by our Government was the same as those of the Committee proposed to be appointed by the right hon. Gentleman beside him?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
As the right hon. Gentleman has questioned my statement, I am afraid I shall have to detain the House while I give the history of the appointment of this Commission. In 1886 Mr. Gladstone proposed, as we all remember, a Home Rule Bill. In that Bill were contained certain provisions with regard to the future contribution of Ireland under Home Rule to the common expenditure of the United Kingdom. Those provisions were characterised by Mr. Gladstone as equitable and even generous. They were not thought so by the Irish representatives of the day, and, as the Bill was rejected on Second Reading, they were never practically discussed in Parliament. In 1893 Mr. Gladstone made other and different proposals for the same object, which had to be withdrawn on account of erroneous statistics. Then came a third set of proposals of a temporary character to last for only six years, and those proposals passed through the House of Commons because of their temporary character. The only condition on which they were allowed to pass either by Irish or Unionist representatives was because the Government undertook to appoint a Committee to inquire into the true revenue of Ireland. The inquiry of that Committee was extended, on the instigation of Mr. Sexton, to the principle and mode of equitably determining the relative capacity of Ireland to contribute to Imperial charges, and how the amount of such annual contributions should be fixed. That is the origin of the reference to the Royal Commission, and not the Committee of my right hon. Friend. [Cheers.] And, Sir, when the matter was discussed in the House of Commons, the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, representing the Government of the day, said that, having regard to the controversy raging round the question of how much the Irish contribution to Imperial expenditure should be,it is fair to both countries that the subject should be investigated independently by a Royal Commission, and this was the justification of the Government for the purely temporary way in which the matter had been dealt with in the Bill.[Cheers.] What is the outcome of this? The question, and a most vital question 1637 to any settlement of Home Rule—what should be the contribution a Ireland to the common expenditure of the United Kingdom?—Which Mr. Gladstone, with all his financial genius, had three times failed to settle, was referred to the late Royal Commission. [Cheers.] The late Royal Commission absolutely declined to report upon the subject. [Cheers.] They deliberately left that question unsolved, and, as they have themselves admitted, the Report, truncated and maimed as it is, obviously deals with but a small part of the inquiry intrusted to them. [Cheers.] What is the result? Here we have a financial question brought before us tonight which, in the opinion of the Home Rule Party and of right hon. Gentlemen on the opposite Bench, can only be satisfactorily settled by Home Rule. [Cheers.] It is admitted that the settlement of part of that financial question, the contribution of Ireland to the common expenditure under the system of Home Rule, on fair terms, acceptable to both sides, is an essential preliminary to any Monte Rule scheme: here we have a Commission specially appointed to settle that very question, and that Commission can arrive at no conclusion whatever with regard to it. [Cheers.] I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman does not congratulate himself from the very bottom of his heart that it is likely to be some years to come before he has to propose a Home Rule Bill to the House of Commons. [Laughter and cheers.] But I would say something further. This Commission has disclosed on this very subject a difference of opinion which may be a fatal obstacle to the policy of the right hon. Gentleman. Hitherto in all the Home Rule Debates it was always admitted that there should be a substantial and real contribution from Ireland under Home Rule to the Common expenditure of the United Kingdom. That was admitted even by Mr. Sexton; it was admitted to the full by the hon. Member for Mayo—whom I do not see in his place to-night—who said in so many words, "Ascertain the fair taxable capacity of Ireland, and fix her contribution to the Imperial expenditure on that taxable capacity." Very well. Now we have a very different state of things. The right hon. Member for Fife, Lord Spencer the other day in the House of Lords, and I fancy alt those who sit on 1638 the opposite Bench, will and must adhere to this principle of a fair contribution front Ireland under a Home Rule Bill to the expenditure of the United Kingdom. That is now repudiated. [Opposition cries of "No!"] It was repudiated tonight by the hon. Member for Longford On behalf of the Party whom he represented. [Cheers.] it was repudiated in the Report which he signed in concert with Mr. Sexton. [Cheers.] It is repudiated by Lord Farrer, who agrees with them in saying that, for an indefinite period Ireland should pay no Imperial contribution at all. Why? Lord Farrer says on the ground of the poverty of Ireland, on the.ground of the past Over-taxation of Ireland. [Nationalist cheers.] That is not the view of the hon. Member for Longford. He told us to-night very plainly what his view was, and I will quote it from the Report which he signed together with Mr. Sexton. His opinion is, and that I take to be the opinion of the section of the Irish Party which he represents, that all this expenditure on the Army, the Navy, and the debt, represents the cost of securing and extending British possessions, trade, and commerce, obtaining British income, and protecting British wealth: and does not represent any corresponding advantage in the case of Ireland, and causes no augmentation of her resources. [Irish Cheers.] And, therefore, Ireland is to retain her share in the Government of the Empire and pay nothing for it. [Ministerial cheers.] I wish the right hon. Gentleman joy in the preparation of his next Home Rule Bill. [Ministerial cheers and laughter.] I have, so far, dealt with the opinion of the hon. Member for Longford—and those who agree with him—that this matter can only be settled by Home Rule. I think I have shown some little difficulty in the way of that settlement. But he appeals to us to-night as a Unionist Government, and he Says;—You will do nothing towards How Rule; in order to keep off Home Rule you are, therefore, bound to meet this demand in some other way.That, I think, is his argument. Well, Sir, I will tell him, as a Unionist, Government, we will do nothing to meet his demand which will tend to a separate 1639 system of finance between Great Britain and Ireland, any more than we will move in the direction of it separate political system for Ireland. [Ministerial cheers.] We believe that the arrangement which has existed since 1817 of a consolidated debt, of a common exchequer, of equal taxes levied on the same articles in both countries, is in principle far more equitable as between individuals, as between classes, aye, and even as between countries, than any system based on taxable capacity which is, as we have seen in this Blue-book, a matter of the wildest speculation—[cheers]—or any system of contribution according to specific proportions which is absolutely negatived for the future, after the consolidation of the Exchequers, by the provisions of the Act of Union, which was tried and failed so disastrously in the early years of this; century, and which, to my mind at any rate, could never be successful, having in view the constantly varying circumstances of the three parts of the United Kingdom. [Cheers.] That is the principle on which we stand. Common taxation is part of the Union—["hear, hear!"]—and I would no more be a party to even such a Measure as that wonderful suggestion of Lord Welby, borrowed from the great example of the Isle of Man, that there should be a fixed contribution from Ireland towards Imperial expenditure, and that the remaining taxation of Ireland should be left to a Committee of this House, composed mainly of Irish Members, to distribute—a proposition which to my mind would be a direct step in the direction of Home Rule—than I would be a party to Home Rule itself. I am convinced, however mischievous, however fatal to the interests of the United Kingdom political Home Rule might be, financial Home Rule would be just as mischievous and as fatal. ["Hear, hear!"] That is the position on which we take our stand—on the arrangements that were sanctioned unanimously by the Imperial Parliament according to the provisions of the Act of Union, and in perfect fairness to Ireland.["No, no!" and cheers.] I entirely admit that with that arrangement was coupled a proviso which has now become celebrated—that indiscriminate contribution should be subject to such particular exemptions and abatements in Ireland and Scotland as circumstances might appear from time to time 1640 to demand. I do not think it is very easy to know precisely what was meant by statesmen nearly 100 years ago when they framed those words. I am quite sure it is very difficult to know how they would have applied them to the circumstances of the present day, and for this reason we propose this matter as one of the subjects of inquiry we contemplate. We wish it to be impartially, I would even say judicially, investigated.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Well, I hope that on the forthcoming. Royal Commission we may obtain the services of some Judges from England, Scotland, and Ireland. [Ironical laughter.] I do not quite understand the object of that interruption. Here is a matter which is surely of difficult interpretation. It is the interpretation of great statutes, of an Act of Union between the three kingdoms, which ought to be interpreted by the most impartial tribunal you can obtain.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
As members of the Royal Commission. I am merely putting forward the view I myself entertain. Nothing is settled yet as to the composition of the Commission, because it has, been postponed at the wish of hon. Members opposite, until the subject had been debated; but I put forward my view as to it matter which should at least be considered in forming the Commission. This proviso is by no means easy of interpretation, and I will endeavour to explain why. The circumstances, both in the matter of Exchequer expenditure and of taxation, have entirely changed since it was enacted. Exchequer expenditure was then mainly confined to the Army, Navy, and National Debt—the cost of civil government was very small as compared with those services. But in our day Exchequer expenditure for civil government has been enormously swelled by charges for education, police, and prisons, for inspection, for poor law; sanitary purpose and for all the multifarious needs of our modern civilisation, which, 100 years ago were hardly included in it at all. Again, with regard to taxation, the whole system is changed. Of course it has been said that we have 1641 all the information we require in the proceedings of the late Royal Commission. That is not so, because the late Royal Commission approached this matter from an entirely different point of view. They were obliged to do so by their order of reference. We approach it from the Unionist point of view. They were directed to approach it from the Home Rule point of view; and, as the hon. Member for Spen Valley has stated, you must consider this subject from those two different points of view in a totally different way. But does the Report of the Royal Commission even express their opinion on this subject? They say in the first place, that "identity of taxation does not necessarily involve equality of burden." That is a very wise axiom; but they do not proceed to show how it is applicable to the circumstances of the present day, or whether it is applicable at all. They say that "the increase of taxation laid on Ireland between 1853 and 1860 was not justified by the then existing circumstances;" but they do not say that increase of taxation ought now to be repealed, any more, than did the hon. Members from Ireland who spoke this evening. They did not deal with anything beyond the narrow scope of this joint Report, signed by different persons holding so many different views. Well, obviously there can be no desire to repeal the taxation proposed in 1853. No witness before the Royal Commission suggested the repeal of the income-tax in Ireland, and no person of authority has suggested its repeal there is no grievance on the subject of direct taxation at all. Why? Because, as some of the Commissioners discovered, while by the taxable capacity of Ireland 1–20th would be her share of direct taxation, the proportion paid is only 1–23rd. ["Hear, hear!"] I can conceive that Great Britain might have something to say on the subject of direct taxation if that is to be considered not as between individuals, in which case it is fair enough as it stands, but as between countries. Now, take our system of death duties. We have a system of death duties heavily graduated against larger properties and under which the smallest properties are entirely exempt. Is it not obvious that under such a system the country in which the largest proportion 1642 of rich men die may, through the system of graduation, pay a great deal more to the death duties in proportion to the total amount of property assessed to the death duties than is paid in the country where there is a small number of rich men? ["Hear. Hear!"] Take Schedule A of the Income tax. You have landed property in Great Britain assessed on the total rental, which in Great Britain belongs to the, landlord, but the total rental in Ireland is divided between the tenant right and the interest of the landlord, and only the part of it which belongs to the landlord can be assessed, because the income of the tenant will nearly always come below the income tax limit. Again, when a large property is bought by a number of tenant purchasers, the, total value of the property remains the same, but while before it was broken up it paid income tax under Schedule A, after it is broken up it will not pay income tax at all. ["Hear, hear!"] Therefore, the total amount assessed to income tax in Great Britain may very likely not fairly represent the real wealth of that country as compared with the total amount assessed for income tax in Great Britain. ["Hear, hear!"] I ought to ask pardon for detaining the House upon these points, but they are points that were not investigated at all by the Royal Commission; and if full consideration is to be given to taxable capacity they are points that ought to be considered. Now I come to that part of taxation in regard to which grievances are alleged; it is, of course, indirect taxation. I wish the, House first to notice how totally different our system of indirect taxation is in these days to anything that existed in the early part of the century. Of course, the proviso with regard to exemptions and abatements must apply primarily to indirect taxation; that is obvious. 1816 what was the system of Customs duties in Great Britain and also in Ireland? There were nearly 500 articles in both countries subject to Customs duties, and there were nearly 1,600 different rates of duty on those articles. Everything was taxed—necessaries of life, luxuries—everything. I think the only articles that were free were, oddly enough, bullion, diamonds, turbots, lobsters, and fish of British and Irish catching. [Laughter.] Ireland had an advantage in lower Customs duties on the important articles salt, wood, and coals. There 1643 were also very large Excise duties in both countries, and Ireland had considerable advantage in those. But the whole system of taxation was a system of levying revenue in every possible way, and on every article that could by any possibility be taxed. Well, compare that with the system of the present day, a system under which indirect taxation is only levied on a very few articles of large consumption producing a very great revenue. What was Lord Castlereagh's intention as to the application of the proviso as to exemptions and abatements? His words have been quoted by the hon. Member for Longford, but I ask no pardon for quoting them again. He said abatements might be made on some out of many articles where a high duty was unproductive or pressed hardly on the poor. Well, nobody can say of the present system of indirect taxation that it is unproductive. Anyone who has studied the returns of revenue for the past few years will see that the revenue has been increasing largely from both direct and indirect taxation. But increases in revenue from direct taxation have been due mainly to an increase in taxes; whereas increases in revenue from indirect taxation have been due, generally speaking, to a greater consumption of the articles taxed. That does not look as if our present system of indirect taxation pressed hardly upon the people. It is elastic, and our system of direct taxation is not. But it is said that this is not the case in Ireland. I have seen a calculation which I fancy is not very far from the truth, that if the, principal articles subject to indirect taxation were not consumed more largely per head in Ireland now than they were 35 years ago the taxation in Ireland would be automatically reduced to the extent of £1,300,000. I do not think it will be, and as Chancellor of the Exchequer I cannot say that I particularly desire that it should be. I merely wish to point out that in this automatic growth of revenue from indirect, taxation Ireland has taken her share. It is argued that the articles on which our indirect taxation is levied are necessaries of life, and the main grievance turns upon that assertion. For the sake of argument I will eliminate for the present from consideration the article of tea. It is pretty well known that our indirect taxation is mainly de- 1644 rived from the duties on tea, alcohol, and tobacco. I eliminate tea because it is more a necessary of life than the others, and also because, if the whole duty on tea were repealed to-morrow Ireland would only benefit by about half a million a year. The main Irish grievance with regard to indirect taxation arises from the taxation upon alcohol and tobacco. Now it is argued that they are necessaries of life. Why are they necessaries of life to the Irishman more than to the Englishman or Scotchman? I have never heard that question answered. [Laughter.] The Highlander, the inhabitant of the Hebrides, has the same Celtic nature; he is surrounded by the same melancholy sea; he lives in the same moist climate as the inhabitant of the west of Ireland. Why does he not want whisky as a necessary of life quite as much as the Irishman? [Laughter and an HON. MEMBER: "He does!"] Why is the inhabitant of the slums of Cork or Dublin more subject to the depressing influence of poverty, more in need of stimulants to counteract it, than the equally unhappy inhabitant of the slums of Whitechapel or Bethnal Green? If alcohol be a necessary of life for the other it is also a necessary of life for the other. ["Hear, hear!"] But is it a necessary of life to either? I will put a case. Mr. Childers occupied an important part of his Report with an argument as to the comparative change in the circumstances of Great Britain and Ireland in the last 50 years. He alluded to the advance of Great Britain in wealth as being much greater than the advance of Ireland. He argued that the policy of free trade had benefited Great Britain as a mainly industrial country, but had rather injured Ireland as a mainly agricultural country, and that view was adopted by the hon. Member for Longford tonight. Mr. Childers went on to suggest that it would benefit Ireland if part of the duties on tea and tobacco were transferred to foreign meat, live stock, and dairy produce. Now, if I were to come down to the House before Easter and propose such a transfer, what would happen in the holidays? [Laughter.] Why, the right hon. Member for Montrose and all his colleagues would go to the country and denounce me as proposing a tax on the food of the people and the necessaries of life. ["Hear, hear!"] He and his colleagues have been for years responsible 1645 in the past, and I dare say will be responsible in the future, for duties on tea and tobacco. Does that not prove that there is some difference at any rate between the position of tea and tobacco on the one side, and meat and dairy, produce on the other, and that the term "necessaries of life" cannot be applied in the same degree to those two classes of commodities? But I press the matter further. The right hon. Gentleman considers alcohol a necessary of life. [Mr. J. MORLEY: "No!"] Oh yes he does. ["No!" and laughter.] Well, I will not put it quite so strongly. He concurred with the right hon. Member for Fife in describing alcohol as much a necessary of life as clothes to a man at the North Pole. [Laughter.] That was the comparison of the right hon. Member for Fife. It was a little ridiculed by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, and, speaking, after my right hon. Friend, of course the right hon. Gentleman supported his colleague. [Laughter.] I hope he may be able to explain it [Laughter.] Because I am puzzled by the recollection that the right hon. Member and all his colleagues in the late Government were promoters of a certain Bill called the Local Veto Bill—[laughter]—the object of which was to allow a majority in a district to prevent a minority of the inhabitants from obtaining the necessaries of life. [Renewed laughter.] I know that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have characterised argument on this subject as pedantic; but we should be very glad if they would explain themselves and show how these articles which successive Chancellors of the Exchequer of all parties have considered fit subjects for high taxation, which Parliament has always considered fit subjects for high taxation, which hon. Members below the Gangway now consider fit subjects for high taxation—are necessaries of life in the ordinary use of the term. No, Sir, what they are is this—they are articles largely and generally consumed by a11 classes in this country, the duty on which necessarily falls more heavily on the poorer classes who consume them than on the richer classes who consume them; and the balance is made up by our system or direct taxation. That is the real position. But now, what is the suggestion which I find on the Notice 1646 Paper, but which has not been moved, as to the course which we might take with regard to this question? The hon. Member for Longford has not suggested, no one has suggested, the abolition or reduction of existing taxes; but a suggestion has been made by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Dublin, that, having regard to the disproportionate tax revenue contributed by Ireland, it is desirable that the Government should propose remedial legislation calculated to develop the resources of Ireland, and to increase the capacity of her people to bear taxation. I believe the suggestion that in lieu of reducing taxation which really is not felt oppressively by anybody—["oh!"]—if it were, you would be able to tell me what tax I should reduce—larger,grants should be made from the common purse either towards local taxation in Ireland, or, as my right hon. Friend suggests, for reproductive purposes in Ireland, has been very favourably entertained by many persons in Ireland. I am not sure that it did not receive the blessing of the hon. Member for Waterford himself. But now let me see what that means. It means the absolute repudiation, to begin with, of the extraordinary doctrine that you are to take Ireland into consideration as a separate entity in matters of taxation, but not in matters of expenditure. It means that it is absurd to argue that the grievance, whatever it be, would be abolished if, for instance, you got rid of the existing duties on spirits and on beer in Ireland, but it would not be touched if you gave 20 millions a year to Ireland for reproductive purposes, or towards the reduction of local taxation. I confess I should prefer, on purely Unionist principles of finance, to consider this matter from the point both of common taxation and common expenditure, with a fair and due regard to the needs and wants of the poorest parts of the United Kingdom. But when Irishmen themselves, led by my right hon. Friend, whose exertions in the cause of self-help in the material interests of Ireland are worthy of all praise, ask us to remedy their grievance by giving them larger grants from the Imperial purse, in justice to the ratepayers of England and Scotland, we must consider how Irish taxation is already 1647 expended? The hon. Member who preceded me in this Debate cast, I am afraid, very grave doubts upon the Treasury Returns, and said some things with regard to the Treasury which were generally so unpleasant that I would rather not refer to them. [Laughter and "Hear, hear!"] I am quite sure that hon. Members opposite from Ireland, and I dare say hon. Members on this side also, will not accept the Treasury calculations as to the division between the common expenditure of the United Kingdom and the expenditure for local purposes in different parts of the United Kingdom as conclusive. Two members of the Commission—Mr. Childers and Sir David Barbour—suggested that the nature of the public expenditure in Ireland, and the possibility of reducing it, would be it very proper subject for a separate inquiry. The O'Conor Don declined to admit, on behalf of himself and his colleagues, the estimate, of Irish local expenditure as set forth in the Treasury returns as correct. He said that a more careful and detailed examination of the figures was necessary. Mr. Sexton and the hon. Member for Longford said that no systematic inquiry had been attempted by the Royal Commission, and that no definite opinion could be offered without detailed inquiry on the calculations of the Treasury as to the adjustment between the revenue collected in Ireland and that contributed by her. I do not profess to put forward this evening anything which I could ask the House to accept, even as my own final conclusions upon this point. But this I will say: The Treasury have done their best, and they estimate, with regard to the year 1895–96, that the total revenue of Ireland for all purposes was £8,034,000, that of that revenue £5,938,000 was expended in Irish local services, and.£2,095,000 only on imperial services. Now, if we are to deal with this, as my right hon. Friend presses me to deal with it, on the lines of separate taxation and separate expenditure, I am obliged to say that the only real burden upon Ireland is, not the total taxation which she pays, but that amount 1648 of it which is devoted to the common expenditure of the country. And, in passing, I would add, when we are charged in this matter with robbery and plunder, and when we are told in the matter of taxation that there is an economic drain from Ireland, that more than the £2,095,500 which I have named was actually expended in Ireland upon the maintenance of the soldiers quartered there, so that, as a matter of fact, in that year the whole Irish taxation was expended in Ireland itself. [Cheers.] This £2,095,000 is but one-thirty-second of the total common expenditure of the United Kingdom as calculated by the Treasury, instead of the one-twentieth which ought to be Ireland's contribution, according to the estimate of her taxable capacity by the Royal Commission. [Cheers.] Between the years 1785 and 1791, years of peace, Ireland contributed one part to 22½ parts contributed by the United Kingdom to Imperial expenditure. In the year 1819–20 she contributed 7'28 per cent. of the total Imperial expenditure, and in 1895–96 she contributed only 3.01 per cent.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I am talking of the contribution. Her taxation was increased, no doubt, between 1853 and 1860; but how has it been spent? In the year 1859–60 70 per cent. of the revenue raised in Ireland was spent for the common purposes of the United Kingdom, and 30 per cent. only for Irish local services. In the year 1895–96, 26 per cent. of the revenue raised in Ireland was spent for Imperial purposes—common expenditure—and 74 per cent. on Irish Local services. Well may Sir David Barbour say in his Report:—If Ireland pays more revenue in proportion to her resources, she receives back the whole of the excess and at least £1,000,000 in addition in expenditure for Irish purposes.As a matter of fact, if we were to give back to Ireland now, from the common purse, the £2,691,000 which hon. Members below the Gangway opposite claim, the result would be that Ireland would contribute nothing whatever to the common expenditure of the United Kingdom, 1649 but would receive a tribute from England and Scotland of £600,000 for her own purposes. [Cheers.]
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Is England running Ireland at a loss? [Nationalist cheers and Ministerial cries of"Order."]
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Of course, the answer to this is that the expenditure from the Exchequer upon Irish local services is too large. No doubt it is very large—[Nationalist cries of "Why?"]—if you compare it either with revenue or population.
§ MR. PATRICK O'BRIEN (Kilkenny)
Then end the partnership.[Nationalist cheers and Ministerial cries of "Order!"]
THE CHANCELLOR THE EXCHEQUER
The Irish revenue from all sources is 7½ per cent. of the revenue of the United Kingdom from all sources. The Exchequer expenditure on local services in Ireland is 15½ per cent. of the total expenditure of the United Kingdom from the Exchequer for local services. In Ireland 26s. per head of the population is spent by the Exchequer on local services, and 18s. 8d. in Great Britain. If you exclude the collection of revenue and the postal service from the definition of local services, 21s. 5d. per head is the expenditure on local services in Ireland, and only 12s. per head in Great Britain. ["What are local services?" and "What about the Secret Service?"] If Irish taxation were reduced according to the estimate of taxable capacity laid down by the Commissioners, Ireland would give absolutely nothing to Imperial expenditure, but there would be a deficit of £500,000 a year for local services alone. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: "Give us back our country!" and cheers.]
§ MR. SPEAKER
I beg that hon. Members will not interrupt the right hon. Gentleman who is in possession of the House.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I think we listened very patiently to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Longford—[cheers]—and I claim to be heard on such a question as this. ["Hear, hear!"] It is said that this local expenditure in Ireland is monstrous and excessive. It has been said by Mr. Sexton that, it is a flagrant evil. It was argued not long ago by a very eminent prelate, Bishop O'Dwyer, of Limerick, that it is forced upon Ire- 1650 land by this Parliament. He contended that the expenditure on the Land Court was due to the Imperial Parliament; as if Land Courts would ever have been instituted at all if the matter had been left to English Members to decide. [A laugh.] He contended that the expenditure for the constabulary was excessive. I do not know why Irishmen should not pay for keeping the peace if they insist on—[An HON. MEMBER: "Breaking it,"and loud laughter.] He described the present system of elementary education as forced upon Ireland by the British Parliament. I can only say that time after time I have known Irish Nationalist representatives press us to increase the expenditure on this system of education. But, of course, we are told that this expenditure would be, decreased, perhaps by three millions a year, by the change which would result from Home Rule in Ireland. I have always doubted that assertion; it is an hypothesis quite incapable of proof on either side. I would just ask the House, before they accept it, to consider for one moment what are the elements of this expenditure. Why is it so large? It is large not so much because Irish local administration costs more as because the Exchequer provides for more of it. ["Hear, hear!"] That is the real truth of the matter. For every pound that is spent in local administration in Ireland the Exchequer pays 13s. 6d., while the rates pay only 6s. 6d. For every pound that is spent on local administration in Great Britain the Exchequer pays 9s. 6d. and the rates pay 10s. 6d. [Cheers.] That is the main secret of this large Irish expenditure. The expenditure from the Exchequer upon Irish local services exceeds by £2,165,000 a year what it would be if it was in the same proportion to the population as it is in England. Now, how is this made up? Port of it, no doubt, is due, in my humble opinion, to excessive cost of, for instance, the Irish legal and judicial establishments—["hear, hear!"]—which I should be very glad to see reduced—[cheers]—and if hon. Gentlemen from Ireland will help us to reduce them, I promise that they shall have back for other purposes every penny they save. But the main part of it—no less than £1,570,000 of the £2,165,000—is due to the cost of services undertaken and provided for by the State in 1651 Ireland, but not in England, and by charges on the Exchequer for Irish local services, a great part of which in England falls on the local rates. For example, the whole cost of police in Ireland, instead of half of it as in. England, falls on the Exchequer; and nearly the whole cost of elementary education, instead of two-thirds of it as in England, is borne by the Exchequer. I do not want to argue to-night whether that is right or wrong—["hear, hear!"]—but I would say that I think the fact I have stated shows the large Exchequer expenditure in Ireland cannot all be set down to extravagance, nor can it be called a necessary incident of a centralised and unpopular government. What has happened is this. Ireland has anticipated the rest of the United Kingdom in obtaining a larger transfer of the burthen of local services from the rates to the Exchequer than England or Scotland. That policy, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, I am sorry to say, is becoming increasingly popular throughout the United Kingdom, and I dare say Ireland will have her full share of it in the future. I have noticed that, while I have been quoting these figures as shortly as I could, hon. Members below the Gangway have been inclined to dispute them altogether. That is precisely my case. I do not quote them as authoritative. I do not ask hon. Members to accept them as true. I have merely quoted them asprimâ facieproof that there is something in this matter which requires further investigation. ["Hear, hear!"] We are asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Dublin, we shall be asked by other hon. Members from Ireland, to meet this grievance by additional grants from the Imperial Exchequer. I have endeavoured to show how the accounts, so far as the Treasury are aware, stand now. The whole account may require rectification. That is my case. I wish for an inquiry into this matter by an impartial tribunal. I want an inquiry into it by persons whose verdict may be accepted as conclusive by hon. Members below the Gangway as well as by ourselves, and I maintain that it cannot be 1652 controverted that this inquiry has formed no part whatever of the work of the late Royal Commission, and that it cannot, as Lord Farrer has suggested, be fairly and properly settled merely by Treasury Returns. We desire in this matter to do full justice to the claim of Ireland, aye, and of Scotland too—["hear, hear!"]—under the proviso as to particular exemptions and abatements in the Act of Union; we desire that the facts as to expenditure shall be also carefully investigated; and when those facts are fully ascertained, when the meaning of that proviso is laid down and its application to our existing circumstances is shown by a tribunal in whose verdict both sides may have confidence, then I can assure the House it will be our desire to endeavour to do full justice in this matter to the poorest parts of the United Kingdom. But under this one condition—we will take no step whatever to depart from that system of common taxation which was established in 1817—["hear, hear!"]—we will do nothing to impair either the financial or the political permanence of the Union between Great Britain and Ireland—[cheers]—least of all will we give any countenance to the monstrous doctrine that any part of the United Kingdom should be relieved from its fair obligation to contribute to the necessities of the National Debt, of the Army and of the Navy, and to the maintenance of our great Empire. [Cheers.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I do not rise, of course, to object to my hon. and learned Friend's Motion. I understand that the Debate is to close on Wednesday evening, and therefore I will not contend for the other ten minutes
§ Debate Adjourned till To-morrow.