§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
In rising to propose the resolution which stands in my name I have first to express my acknowledgments to the Government for setting apart the evening for this purpose, and I think I may claim for myself some credit for not availing myself of the opportunity the discussion on the Budget proposals afforded, an opportunity even more suitable than the 60 present, because those proposals had reference to the whole financial arrangements of the year. I am not to foolish as to imagine that if I had made use of that occasion it would have affected the resolutions arrived at by the House, and I content myself with entertaining a hope that the views that will now be put forward may have some effect on future Budgets. I forwent that opportunity by yielding to the diplomatic persuasions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tiverton, and his representations that such a discussion would, by delaying the passing of the Budget resolutions, involve very substantial loss to the Exchequer, without, of course, any advantage to the purpose to be served. The motion which I have put on the Paper refers to two subjects as ground for claiming some modification of existing fiscal arrangements between the two countries. One is to be found in the economic conditions in Ireland, and the other in the findings of the Financial Relations Commission which reported some years ago. I do not intend to quote many figures, and I will abstain from making long citations from the Report. A number of considerations relating to the economic condition of Ireland have important and direct bearing on fiscal matters. These considerations deal with things perfectly well known and very simple, but many of them do not receive the attention they deserve, and are not allowed the weight due to them in the fiscal arrangements now in operation. First there is the steady and serious diminution in the population of Ireland. I take only figures from the present reign. In 1841 the population of Ireland was 8,175,000. In fifty years, as the census for 1891 showed, the population gradually dwindled to 4,704,000; and during the decade now drawing to its close the diminution has continued, and it may be assumed that the census of 1901 will show a population of less than 4½ millions. Four millions of the population have gone from the island within the lifetime of most of the Members I am addressing. Yet the race is not failing. For every centenarian in England a dozen can be shown in Ireland. The disappearance is due to emigration: the people are going away. The number of emigrants between 1845 and 1851 cannot, I believe, be accurately ascertained, but between 1851 and 1898 official returns show that the 61 number of emigrants from Ireland reached a total of 3,751,000. The stream of late years has not been running less by reason of diminution of the body from which it is drawn. In the decade 1871–1881, 629,130 left the country, while in the ten years from 1881 to 1891 no less than 768,105 people were drained away. When these figures are quoted, not the whole story is by any means told. To present their significance from a national and economical point of view it is necessary to realise how the stream is composed. Of the emigrants, male and female, between 1881 and 1891 no less than 61 per cent. were of ages between twenty and forty-five years, and of 395,000 men emigrated in that decade 220,000 were of ages between eighteen and thirty-five. In the fifty years between 1841 and 1891 1,806,256 men went away, 60 per cent. of whom were of the ages I have mentioned. What does this mean? It means first of all that if, instead of her population being gradually reduced by the unchecked process of emigration, Ireland had been for the whole of that period engaged in war and had lost a complete army corps of 22,000 men in killed every year for fifty years, the country would not be worse off by a single man than it is now. Secondly, it means that of those who have gone away by the million the majority were in the flower of life and precisely those who, from a national and industrial point of view, the country can least afford to lose. With their departure many local industries drooped and died. To take a small illustration from rustic life, the occupation of the blacksmith; these and their assistants in 1841 in Ireland numbered 24,000; now they are but 3,000. In all trades and professions the census returns show a falling off. One class only shows an increase, and this class is enumerated in the census returns under the heading "Government." In 1881 these figured at 5,868; in 1891 they had gone up 20 per cent. to 6,900. What has been the experience of the chief industry of Ireland? Of 20⅓ million acres of which the surface of Ireland consists, crops of every kind, root crops, cereals, clover, meadowing, all taken together do not cover a quarter of the whole. More than half the country is returned as under grass. Much of it was once under crops; most of it has deteriorated; much that was grass some years ago has gone back to bog and waste. 62 I have by me figures which I should like to quote to the House of the total number of acres under crop during the last six years. In 1894 there were 4,930 acres: 1895, 4 880; 1896, 4,843; 1897, 4,745; 1898, 4,704; and in 1899, 4,623 acres. There is an average loss of 60,000 acres under crop per annum during that period. Her Majesty the Queen is about to visit Ireland. I trust that there may be nothing to impair the personal enjoyment of Her Majesty, and that the sunshine of spring may be in harmony with the native courtesy of the people there, and that her visit will result in nothing but pleasure. Her Majesty has been in Ireland before—I believe on two occasions—on one occasion at any rate more than fifty years ago. The circumstances of the present visit as compared with the circumstances of her earlier visit will exhibit what? A population diminished by half, industry languishing, the land going out of cultivation, and for the most part provincial towns and villages in decay. I cannot help thinking of those words in the 14th chapter of Proverbs—In the multitude of people is the King's honour; but in the want of people is the destruction of the prince.These being the facts, what, I would ask, are the causes of so extraordinary a depopulation? Is it that the people are glad and willing to go? There is no people on this earth more attached to their homes or more reluctant to leave the land of their birth. They go because they are obliged to go by stern necessity. They go regretfully, and they go because it is impossible for them to remain. They go for this reason, and for this reason only, that they cannot find in their own country the means of living, and this although oven now there is more raised there for the sustenance of man than is necessary to keep them comfortably, and with such luxuries as would suffice to make them happy. But the reason for this is that so large a proportion of the product of industry is drained away from the country that there is not enough left for the decent maintenance of the producer. The drain is through various channels, some large, some small; but the chief channel is the one through which rent is conveyed elsewhere. I am not concerned now to consider the character of the land laws of Ireland. They may be 63 good or they may be bad, but I am concerned now with the relation between landlord and tenant, and the effect of the existing state of things upon Ireland as a community. But in order to appreciate the significance of the problem before us it is necessary to bear in mind first of all that agriculture is the chief industry in Ireland, and Ireland is an agricultural country. Secondly we find that there is, and always has been in Ireland, a standard of rent which is artificial and exorbitant, and we find that from that exaggerated fund of rent an immense proportion is drained away out of the country altogether, and this has an important bearing upon the fiscal conditions of the country as a whole. I wonder how many English Members practically know anything about how the present situation in Ireland arose. I wonder how many English Members at this moment are aware that the average Irishman was not allowed until the year 1878 even to take a long lease of land. I wonder how many English Members are aware that it was only a very few years before that that a great concession was made to the average Irishman that, instead of tilling the land which he was not allowed to own, he was allowed half an acre of arable land from the landlord on this condition, that he reclaimed fifty acres of bog for the landlord. Even then, all these holdings made legal by the Statutes I have referred to were subject to a pre-existing condition, namely, that he should, in all cases, at least give two-thirds of the full improved annual value to the landlord. What was the result of those Statutes? Why this—that there was established an artificial and exorbitant standard of rend in Ireland such as has never been known in any other country. And as for generations the Irish people remained practically tenants at will, and there came to be established in this way the present institutions of the country, and the right of taking two-thirds of the output of the soil as the landlord's portion. In England the majority of the landlords dealt with the farms as going concerns, and the English tenant when rents were highest paid only one-third of the produce of the land under the name of rent, and that for a farm rented as a going concern. But for generations the people of Ireland have been paying two-thirds of the total output of the land to the owners. When out of this immense 64 fund of rent a large portion has been paid away out of the country, as it has been for 100 years or more, to absentee landlords or to individuals living here or to corporate bodies; when we find that millions have been drawn away from a country with such limited resources, is it any wonder that chat country is impoverished, and has that fact alone not a very important bearing upon the fiscal condition which exists in the country? But there are other channels through which Ireland has been financially wrecked. Some years ago the Church of Ireland was disestablished, and all the ecclesiastical and the lay officials and all those who had any claim upon the funds arising from Irish property were pensioned and received gratuities or allowances; they were allowed to commute, and many did. What happened? Those who commuted, and many of those who are drawing pensions to this day, are no longer living in Ireland, although Irish funds have to furnish the money to meet those pensions. All this furnishes a continuous stream—small compared with the stream of rent—flowing always to this country from Ireland. We have seen of late years a third stream in connection with the purchase of land. There are people who consider this a very good thing, but I am not concerned to discuss it now. But, looking at it from an economical point of view, what is the effect of the arrangement which has been entered into? The landlord sells his land, and he obtains from the Exchequer here in England the amount of the purchase money, or, at any rate, a large portion of it. He takes the money, but he does not remain in the place where his estate is. It may be that the landlord was an absentee before. He takes his money, but he does not invest it in Ireland, for he brings it over here. This establishes a charge upon those who remain in Ireland which will have to be met by a great drain for the next sixty years. Is that not an acknowledged fact which ought to be present in the mind of the Minister who is responsible for the fiscal arrangements of the country? Is it any wonder that Ireland is poor under such conditions? Is it any wonder that the English community should look with a certain amount of complacency upon this state of things, at any rate as far as their own interest is concerned, because what is drawn from Ireland is added to the 65 resources of England, and that which leaves Ireland impoverished and anæmic comes to this country and fertilises and enriches England. In a human body if any part or limb is hurt nature draws upon the whole system, making a compensatory effort to relieve the part injured. But in this body concrete of the United Kingdom is there to be no relief for the suffering limb called Ireland? The Exchequer does not even leave the level of Irish resources as it was, but it makes a further drain on them to the extent of millions a year, rivalling the drain of rent itself. I will not trouble the House with the figures. They can be found in the Report of the Financial Relations Commission, and were furnished by the Treasury. They are figures eloquent of a state of things which is clearly unjust to a country like Ireland. I am bound to confess that I myself should not have placed at quite so high a figure as many of the Commissioners did the amount of the overdraft, but even if I made a reduction it would not be a very substantial reduction, and would not reduce the overdraft much below two and a half millions; and we know that at any rate in one year—1859–60—it amounted to between five and six millions. I recollect when the last Home Rule Bill was introduced I had occasion to study with some care the figures relating to the then proposed Budget for Ireland. I went through all the papers—and they are very valuable and numerous—in the library of the House dealing with the financial relations between Ireland and England, year by year, throughout the century, and according to the most careful calculation I could make, I arrived at the conclusion that from the date of the Union down to the year 1890, there was drawn from Ireland into Great Britain in the shape of over-taxation an amount more than equal to the immense war indemnity paid by France to Germany after the Franco-German war—namely, 200 millions sterling. Hon. Member's are inclined to imagine that there has been a large expenditure of English money in Ireland. There never was a greater delusion. Not one single penny of English money has ever been spent in Ireland. Grants may have been occasionally made, but they were more thimblefuls taken from the stream of Irish money which first of all rolled in your direction. No English 66 money has been spent in Ireland since the date of the Union. Those drains supplement and complete a system of financial hæmorrhage which has brought Ireland to the economic condition in which we now find her. Is it any wonder that her industries are decreasing, that her quarries and other resources remain undeveloped, that her rivers roll their waters idly to the sea, and that her magnificent harbours are devoid of shipping? It is quite what is to be expected in a country where the cost of civil administration is 20s. per head of the population, whereas in Belgium it is only 15s. per head. I will not dwell—though the temptation is somewhat strong—on the many peculiarities and contrasts both with regard to taxation and expenditure between Ireland and this country: how, for instance, you put on whisky, one of the principal products of Ireland, a tax amounting to nearly 500 per cent. of the value of the article. But you do not treat English beer in the same way. Or turn again to the expenditure, and what a contrast we find. You waste the millions you take credit for spending in Ireland on the unproductive salaries of officials who are not wanted. In England you spend tens of millions—it is a matter of congratulation—in developing industry, in encouraging the mechanical arts, and in helping the productive classes. Is not that fact worthy of consideration at the hands of the Treasury? I am afraid I am detaining the House too long, but I cannot sit down without referring to a matter to which I heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer allude some little time ago. He told us that a complete answer—that was the meaning he conveyed—to the spokesmen of Ireland on this matter was contained in an interesting Return relating to revenue and expenditure in the three parts of the United Kingdom which had been issued, but he said that the Irish Members would not consent even to consider it. I take issue with the right hon. Gentleman. We are perfectly willing to consider it. I, at any rate, have considered it very carefully, and whatever store the right hon. Gentleman may sot upon it, I am bound to say, without wishing to be at all discourteous, that the Return seems to me to be simply ridiculous. It is open to two fundamental objections. The first is that it is based on an assumption that a poor and backward country—backward in re- 67 spect of industries and economic resources—like Ireland is to be treated on the same lines and dealt with in the same manner as a country the population and wealth of which are increasing in a phenomenal manner. That, of course, is absurd. Further, it seems to me that this Return if properly looked at furnishes a complete refutation of the very proposition it was put forward to support. The Return is divided into three parts—the first part sets forth the revenue, the second the expenditure, and the third the contributions to Imperial services. The first part purports to show that Ireland contributes to the revenue £6.88 to every £80 contributed by England. The second part purports to show that in respect of expenditure Ireland receives £5.5 for every £27.96 spent in England. Happy Ireland—how generously she is treated! People would be naturally led to suppose that while Ireland pays £6.88 as against £80 paid by England, she receives in contributions £5.5, as against only £27.96 received by England. But what are the facts? This interesting Return, which never emanated from a man worthy of the name of a financier, and which is nothing better than the dislocated elaboration of a pedantic accountant, affects to show how the revenue raised by the three members of the United Kingdom is spent, so much in England, so much in Ireland, and so much in Scotland. But, Sir, the figures do not make up the full hundred. There is a large balance. Where is that spent? It is spent on "Imperial services," which is merely a euphemism for England. It is England under another name, and the money spent on "Imperial services" goes to English dockyards, to Woolwich Arensal, and a half-dozen other places in England, but not to Ireland. What was the object in bringing forward this Return? The original idea was to show that, although a certain amount of money was raised in Ireland, there was a large amount of revenue spent in Ireland which must be dealt with as a set-off. But if this doctrine of set-off applies to revenue spent in Ireland, it must apply equally to revenue expended in England. It is England that has the benefit of the expenditure on these Imperial services to which Ireland has to contribute. According to the last Returns a sum of £1,725,000 is drawn away from Ireland to this country. I do not know how any fairly candid 68 mind can maintain that such a system is just to such a community as Ireland. I know that this is not an auspicious moment to bring forward this matter. We have heard lately resounding acclaim throughout this country in reference to the valour of the Irish soldiers in South Africa—[HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!]—a recognition of that which is quite new, which is quite refreshing. But I ask in what do these brave, honest soldiers at the Cape differ from their countrymen in Ireland? They are brave, of course because they are Irishmen. [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!] Yes,Fortes creantur fortibus: et bonis;Est in juvencis, est in equis patrumVirtus; nec imbellem ferocesProgenerant aquilæ columbam.They are brave, because they are Irishmen. Irishmen are not as Englishmen in war, either as soldiers or as generals. But are they altogether undistinguished? When you want to aid your soldiers and to obtain the most distinguished doctors, whom do you get but Sir William MacCormac? Or, take your own Civil Service in this country: the Accountant General of the Army, Sir R. Knox, is an Irishman; the Accountant General of the Navy, Sir Gerald Fitzgerald, is an Irishman; and your own officer of this House, the Comptroller and Auditor General, Sir Charles Ryan, is an Irishman. Then take your great men in Parliament Grattan, Curran, Sheridan, and Burke, were all Irishmen. Were Cairns, your Lord Chancellor, or the present Lord Russell of Killowen, your Chief Justice, or your greatest diplomatist, Lord Dufferin, Englishmen? You pretend to think, because domestic troubles, or personal troubles of various kinds, or the pinch of hunger, has driven a certain number of recruits into your Army, that they are more than usually favourable specimens of Irishmen. Not at all. No, Sir; treat Irishmen fairly, and you will not have cause to complain. Give Ireland the same opportunity of industrial development as Belgium has had, and we will show the same Ireland advancing in the same road as Belgium. Then, but not till then, will the people of Ireland, to use the words of Mr. Cobbett—Go forward to win those social triumphs which bring no sorrow in their train, and which if less dazzling, are more enduring than the most brilliant achievements and feats of arms.69 Sir, I beg to move the Resolution standing in my name.
§ MR. POWER (Waterford, E.)
I have great pleasure in seconding the motion proposed by my hon. friend. I wish to compliment my hon. friend on the tactics by which he has secured this day for the discussion of his motion—tactics which are well understood, and which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House will recognise as perfectly legitimate. In discussing this motion we must bear in mind that we are instituting a comparison between, perhaps, the richest country in the world and the poorest country in the world, between a country with a teeming and an increasing population, with an enormous and ever-increasing trade, and Ireland, which, on the contrary, has a decreasing population and a languishing trade. If we wished, I think we could prove without much difficulty that that languishing trade is due to a great extent to British interference. I think we all bear in mind that Irish trade was killed by English navigation laws and differential duties. Looking at the condition of the two countries, the most astonishing fact is that, while you have in this great and prosperous country an increasing population, you have decreasing rates to pay—certainly a decreasing poor rate—whereas in Ireland you have a steadily decreasing population and the rates rising steadily. I may be told—I have heard it stated at meetings and elsewhere—that England to some extent recognises the claims of Ireland in this matter; and that the Act which was passed a couple of sessions ago for Local Government in Ireland removed a great part of our financial grievances. This point is to some extent of importance, and I wish to read a question and answer put in the House of Commons a few years ago.* The hon. Member for South Somerset asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant—Whether the Irish Local Government Bill gives greater relief to local taxation in Ireland than the English and Scotch Agricultural Rating Acts give in Great Britain; and, if so, what is the amount of greater relief, and how is it given?And the reply of the Chief Secretary was that—The agricultural grant proposed to be given to Ireland under the Bill is intended to* See The Parliamentary Debates, 3rd March, 1898 [Fourth Series], Vol. liv., page 487.70correspond generally with the grant assigned to England under the Agricultural Rating Act of 1896. It would not be easy to give a more precise answer than this to the question of the hon. Member, because the circumstances of England and Ireland differ in some important particulars, and no absolute measure of comparison is possible.Consequently, the assignment we have got in Ireland to the assistance of our rates has not removed one iota the grievances we complain of; the contrary is the case, because you do not give us in Ireland the assistance which you gave to England two or three years before that. We must acknowledge, therefore, that events have borne out that all the evils which the opponents of the Union foretold would follow the Union have followed it. They predicted that taxation would increase, that prosperity would diminish; whereas the advocates of the Union said that every good would come to Ireland, particularly financial good. It is a remarkable fact that, while the taxation of Ireland sixteen years before the Union was only one and a half millions, sixteen years after the Union it amounted to over four millions. Mr. Pitt said that we would save immensely by the Union, but events have falsified his prediction. The question of the over-taxation of Ireland is no doubt an elaborate one, requiring great thought and study, which few people are in a position to devote to it. The question was raised in the House of Commons in 1815, again in 1820, and on various subsequent occasions, but no redress has yet been given. It is very difficult for private Members to master all the details of this very complicated question, and that being so, we pressed upon the Government to appoint a Commission to investigate the matter. That Commission was appointed, and has reported, and no efforts have been made to throw discredit on its findings. Many people maintained that the Commission had to some extent a political complexion. Some of the gentlemen who sat upon it may have held strong political views, but the question was not political. No one who looks over the names can deny that it was an exceptionally strong Commission, and that amongst its members were men of high distinction. In fact, when it was first appointed many people in Ireland were not satisfied with it, because it was notorious that several gentlemen on it had earned distinction for themselves in 71 the Treasury, and it was imagined that consequently their views would be to some extent biassed against Ireland and in favour of the Department with which they had been honourably connected. Nearly all the evidence placed before the Commission was official evidence from your own officials, and although Sir David Barbour differed in some respects from the other members, the Commission as a whole maintained, and I think they had good ground for maintaining, that from the evidence brought before them it was proved that Ireland was unable to pay more than a twentieth part of the expenditure of this country, although she paid an eleventh. Although that finding was brought in some years ago, nothing whatever has been done to carry it out, and therefore that provides us with a great grievance. You appointed your own Commission, you established your own tribunal, you placed before it the evidence of your own officials, and although two or three gentlemen composing that Commission had some prejudice against the Irish cause, you now, forsooth, finding the verdict of your own jury against you, come whining to this House and to the country and complain of the jury you yourselves appointed. It does not surprise us in Ireland very much, for we are used to that sort of thing. I believe that your action here, as in many other respects, has been in keeping with your previous conduct, and that it is unjust, illegal, and unspeakably mean. What would have been the case if the findings had been the other way, and the Commissioners had found that Ireland had not paid a proper proportion of the taxation, and we had raised a protest against it? Why, the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury would have said, "That is Ireland all over. The jury have brought in a verdict against her, and now she finds fault with the decision." It is you who find fault with the decision of your own Commission. The Commission has reported now some years, and every day our condition becomes worse and our debt becomes greater and our poverty becomes more crushing. It is only three years ago that the Chief Secretary had to introduce a large measure of public works in Ireland, so great was the poverty, and although the lowest wage given on those works was 3s. and the highest only 6s. a week, he 72 was able to obtain an enormous number of able-bodied men to work for such pitiful wages, and who were willing to walk many miles a day to and from their work, and if that is not a test of poverty I do not know what is. The large amount of expenditure involved by the conduct of a war which we consider to be unjust falls very heavily upon us, and will increase very largely the burden we have to bear. I am not particularly sanguine of any good arising from this debate, and my experience of public life is that Ireland can obtain no redress in this House of any kind, unless there is a very vigorous agitation in Ireland at the same time. At the same time, this discussion may impress upon our people the necessity of organisation, and doing something to bring pressure upon this House. The lesson is burnt in on the minds of the Irish people that, no matter how just their claims may be, so long as they remain quiet nothing will be done to alleviate their sufferings. Those Mr. Speaker, are my views, and in conclusion I beg to second the motion of my hon. friend the Member for East Donegal.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed "That in the economic circumstances of Ireland the disproportion between the taxation of Ireland and its taxable capacity, disclosed by the findings of the Royal Commission, demands the serious attention of the Government, with a view to a remedy."—(Mr. Arthur O'Connor.)
MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanarkshire, Partick)
The hon. and learned Gentleman who introduced this motion, and who spoke in a very different tone to that of the hon. Gentleman who seconded his motion, called upon us to deal fairly with Ireland, and in his peroration used an argument which will go home to us. He said in view of the action of Irish soldiers at the front, and the way that that action has brought us together we ought to be ready to deal with Ireland fairly and justly. I certainly think we should be ready to deal not only fairly but also with liberality to Ireland in every way. The hon. and learned Gentleman called upon us to use the resources of the country to develop the industries of Ireland. He pointed out that the funds paid in Ireland were used for the payment of unnecessary salaries, and that the 73 funds spent in this country were used to develop the industrial undertakings of the country. I do not think the hon. and learned Gentleman is quite right in his facts. I think a great deal of money has been spent lately in developing the resources of Ireland, though, no doubt, more ought to be done in that way. But I do ask the hon. and learned Gentleman and other Irish Members how far they have assisted any Government which has endeavoured to reduce useless salaries for the purpose of using the money in a more beneficial manner.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
We did indeed, the very moment we got the promise to spend the money in other ways, and I myself moved to reduce the salaries of some of the judges.
MR. PARKER SMITH
The hon. and learned Gentleman also said that no English money had been spent in Ireland since the date of the Union. I think there that he is entirely mistaken, and that he is going back on an old historical fallacy in connection with which I shall say a few words. I do not think this is a real grievance—this financial grievance which is now being made use of in Ireland. It appears to me to be an arithmetical grievance which could easily be reduced to absurdity by an arithmetical reply. So far as the £2,000,000 of over-taxation is concerned, that could be met by removing the income tax and the death duties from Ireland, which would undoubtedly remove the grievance, but would not have the effect desired by hon. Members opposite. At the same time I believe Ireland deserves assistance in order that her people may be able to enjoy the prosperity that the years since the Union have brought to Great Britain. Irish Home Rulers have put a construction upon the Act of Union with which I do not agree. They insist upon that technicality with a vigour that surprises mo when I remember the storm which arose a few years ago when someone not in this House suggested that it was necessary to convince the predominant partner before anything could be done in regard to the alteration of the Act of Union. What was the position of Mr. Pitt when dealing with the Union? He expressed himself very 74 clearly in his great speech of the 31st of January, 1799.* He said—What I should hope would be found practicable is that the system of internal taxation in each country might gradually be so equalised and assimilated on the leading articles as to make all rules of specific proportion unnecessary, and to secure that Ireland shall never be taxed but in proportion as we tax ourselves.And Lord Castlereagh's view was equally distinct. He said†—It were to be wished that there was not an unsurmountable bar to a common system, and a common treasury, and that we might become like countries of the same kingdom, subject to the same system of finances. Were our entire expenditure common (which would happen if neither country 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 the great objects of taxation in both countries. Such, however, is the disproportion of debts of the two kingdoms to each other at the present that a common system for the present is impossible.On those principles was the Act of Union introduced. The proportion of the payments of each country was fixed by the Act of Union for twenty years, and it was then to be renewed at intervals—Unless previous to any such period the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall have declared that the expenditure of the United Kingdom shall be defrayed indiscriminately by equal taxes imposed on the like articles in both countries.The whole object of the Act of Union and the whole declaration of the framers of that Act was indiscriminate expenditure and indiscriminate taxation. The only obstacle to an immediate junction was the debt of each country, and in regard to that the provision of Article 7 was as follows—I am reading the essential words and leaving out all the redundant verbiage with which Acts at that date were clothed—If at any future day the value of the respective debts of each country shall be to each other in the same proportion with the respective contributions of each country, it shall be competent for the Parliament of the United Kingdom to declare that all future expense thenceforth to be incurred with the interest and charges of all joint debts contracted* See The Parliamentary History, Vol. xxxiv., page 289.† Speech of Lord Castlereagh in the Irish House of Commons, February 5th, 1800. (Quoted in First Appendix to Report of Royal Commission on Financial Relations between Great Britain and Ireland (1895), page 326.)75previously to such declaration shall be so defrayed indiscriminately by equal taxes imposed on the same articles in each country, subject only to such particular exemptions or abatements in Ireland and in that part of Great Britain called Scotland, as circumstances may appear from time to time to demand.Ireland and Scotland were placed in this matter on exactly the same footing, not of keeping up the proportion, but of receiving the consideration from the richer portion of the country. At the time of the Act of Union, Scotland was smaller and poorer than Ireland, and it has only got richer since that time mainly owing to the discovery of iron and coal, which has not yet been discovered in Ireland in any quantity. That the proportion fixed by statute at the time of the Union was excessive has been admitted by statesmen for a large number of years. Two to fifteen was more than Ireland could afford, but that was not known at the time. That ratio was fixed on a peace basis, but the war came on and enormously increased the expenditure, and the proportion of two to fifteen became impossible. Grattan said in relation to this—The truth is, the necessary and inevitable expenses of the war were beyond all possibility of calculation or foresight, and Ireland was not able to follow you."*Of course it is a more conjecture what Ireland would have done if there had been no Union, but in Great Britain a supreme effort was made and the revenue was more than trebled. The people of Ireland felt themselves at that time concerned over the struggle and they would have assisted as they had done before the Union. The strain of the war and the endeavour to contribute what they could was too great and nearly involved bankruptcy. That could only be done by borrowing at an enormous rate. The revenue of Ireland during the year following the Union was only half the expenditure and the debt increased enormously. The Irish Debt in 1800 was only £32,000,000 and by 1816 it had increased to £112,500,000. Having reached that point and the bankruptcy of Ireland being imminent, the British Exchequer took over both the pre-Union debt and the debt incurred subsequent to the Act of Union. This put Ireland into the* 21st April, 1818; from Grattan's Speeches' 1822 Edition, Vol. iv., page 411. See also The Parliamentary Debates [First Series], Vol. xxxviii., page 260.76 same position as that which she would have occupied if the ratio at the time of the Union had been taken at one to fifteen instead of two to fifteen, and Ireland had continued to pay that. If the share of one to fifteen had been fixed by the Union, it is obvious from the observations of Pitt that the Treasuries would have been united at the time of the Union. It is admitted that the mode of dealing with Ireland adopted in 1817 was the most favourable that could be formed for Ireland, and that was the opinion of Mr. Chisholm in 1869, and it is hardly necessary to quote Mr. Plunket, who was one of the opponents of the passing of the Act of Union, and who said in 1822*—I had been afraid that the interests of Ireland on the abolition of her separate constitution would come to be discussed in a hostile Parliament. But I can now state, and I wish when I speak I could be heard by the whole of Ireland, that during the time I have sat in the united Parliament, I have found every question that related to the interests or security of that country entertained with indulgence and treated with the most deliberate regard.In the Union Debate an amendment was moved in the Irish House of Commons to the effect that the proportion should be two-twentieths. Supposing that had been so, the Irish debt would have increased almost as rapidly, and the same result would have come about, and at the same time suppose the ratio had been fixed at 1 to 18, as the Irish peers (according to Mr. Sexton) desired. Then there would have been a joint Treasury from the first. How does the matter stand? The Act of Union looked to temporary fiscal separation but permanent union—All future expense, together with the charges of all joint debts, shall be defrayed indiscriminately by equal taxes on the same articles subject only to exemptions.That is the principle laid down by British statesmen at the Union, and carried into effect in 1817 without objection, and what has happened to change that position? The old proposition is gone altogether, and if you go back, which is impossible, you go back on new ground, and must discriminate in the expenditure as well as revenue charges. If taken thus the contribution of Ireland to Imperial services, or to expenditure beyond her own* April 22nd, 1822. See The Parliamentary Debates [Second Series], Vol. vi., page 1548.77 bounds, is insignificant, and the result would be that Ireland would be found to be entitled to nothing further. But there are the Home Rule Bills of 1886 and 1892, and those who adhere to them are no doubt pledged to a different opinion. When the hon. Gentleman who seconded the Resolution speaks of the Financial Relations Commission as our jury it is nothing of the kind. The hon. Gentlemen opposite who appointed the Commission are to blame, and we are not to be bound by the findings of the Commission. But they very carefully guard themselves, so that any gentleman who signed the Report can say, "I was limited by my reference." [An HON. MEMBER: I would ask the hon. Member if those who appointed the Commission were Englishmen.] Those who appointed the Commission were Mr. Gladstone's Government of the day, but, as the general election which took place not long afterwards proved, they did not represent the opinions of Englishmen. How far are we bound to this principle? We are not bound at all. We neither accepted the jury nor the terms of reference, which we consider misleading. The only ground alleged for tying us down to this principle is Mr. Goschen's Committee of 1890. Too much is built upon that. What happened was that there were very large local grants to England, and naturally you had to arrive at some idea—seeing that you had to spend the money on a different class of objects—as to what equivalent you should give to other countries. But it was not intended in any way to deal with the matter as hon. Members from Ireland suggest. That specific point was raised by Mr. Sexton, who then took a leading part in the discussion of finance in these debates. Mr. Sexton suggested an Amendment* that it should have a retrospective effect, but Mr. Goschen said it should purely deal with questions of the present and the future. The object was to see what relief or what advantage should be given to Scotland or Ireland corresponding to what was being done in England. The pledge given was that there should be equal taxes on the same articles, subject only to such exemption as circumstances might from time to time demand. That was the pledge we gave in 1817, and that is the pledge we* See The Parliamentary Debates [Third Series], Vol. cccxlviii., page 926.78 acknowledge now. I am not concerned to argue that all through the century Ireland has always received all the financial assistance which we think she ought to have had. There is no doubt that the taxation of the middle of the century pressed upon Ireland. Free Trade did her comparatively little good, and the great financial reforms of Mr. Gladstone made themselves felt in Ireland in a way he did not anticipate. Mr. Gladstone thought he was relieving Ireland of something like an equivalent of the taxation imposed on her, and had the intention of doing what was fair and just to Ireland, although he put upon Irishmen by his financial reforms more than he intended. But he argued most strongly that taxation was to be regarded as a personal matter altogether, and not to be treated on geographical principles. That is the position taken up by all statesmen. It was taken up by the Committee of 1864 and by Sir Stafford Northcote and Mr. Lowe in 1875. That being so, I feel that the historical financial grievance has no basis, and that it is a mistake for hon. Members to come forward with a claim to a debt swollen to an enormous amount. Hon. Members complain of our ignorance. For my part I think there are mistaken directions in which we spend money in Ireland. I wish they would come to help us, as they have on some occasions done. I wish they would explain where the expenditure is useless, and that they would advise us with some sense of responsibility in the matter. I admit that when they have done that they have not always received full encouragement. When a Bill was introduced by the hon. Member for Louth with respect to the utilisation of water power I felt that was exactly the sort of measure which we should have done our best to encourage. I always felt regret at the premature failure of that Bill. On the other hand, the Government have not received the help they are entitled to in their desire to cut down useless expenditure. A deputation with regard to transport waited upon the Board of Agriculture, amongst the members being men of all parties. It included the Member for the St. Patrick's Division of Dublin, who has worked much on questions of this kind, and is much interested in Irish railways. There is a 79 vast deal to be said for making the Irish railways State railways. The problem is a totally different one from the one that exists in England. It is more like the problem that exists in Hungary, or in India, and it is well worth considering whether anything can be done to make an enormous saving to the producer in Ireland, with the assistance and capital of the British Government. There is one thing perfectly obvious in regard to a question of this sort. The Irish Members can certainly make it impossible if they do not choose to assist. There are many other schemes that this Parliament is fully prepared to consider if the Irish Members will give us the help of their local knowledge. We are not committed to any class in Ireland, but we want to see fairness and justice to all classes, and we want to develop the resources of the country in every way we can. But as long as we have the suspicion in our minds that the Irish Members, while desiring to gain an advantage for friends also wish to damage opponents, it is difficult to support them. The hon. Member opposite has said that this is a critical time. We hear of the horrors of war. Long after these are forgotten, deeper effects will come from this war. We have been brought closer together, and we have worked more with one another under the pressure of this war, than in the comfortable times of peace. An enormous difference has been brought about in our relations with the colonies, and far-reaching constitutional changes in the government of the Empire may follow. Is Ireland the only place where this is to have no effect at all? Are we to stop at cheering the Irish soldiers or wearing the shamrock? I hope the closeness of our feeling will not be forgotten. It has had one effect in this House. During past weeks we have listened with much patience to language from hon. Members opposite which we should have found it hard to tolerate. It makes us desire to show our brotherhood more practically and more prominently. If hon. Gentlemen who represent Ireland come to us with stories of ancient untold millions, and claim payment of a debt, we say No. If they ask for political changes which we believe would be ruinous to the Empire at large we can only say, as we have said before, No. If they come to us and ask us to assist in remedying the troubles of Ire- 80 land, which they attribute to the British Government, but are, I think, in the order of nature and beyond the control of the Government, they will find from the Members on this side of the House neither an unfriendly nor an unwilling answer.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
We ask for justice, we ask for our own in matters of finance, and we ask you to stand by the pledges of your forefathers as embodied in the Act of Union. The hon. Member for Partick, who has emerged out of the quietude shown since his opposition to the Home Rule Bill, gives a lot of advice how the Irish Members ought to conduct the Irish case and how we ought to behave. We do not desire or require the hon. Member's advice, we certainly shall not take his instructions, and above all we strenuously disavow his very paltry patronage. The question is not what the hon. Member for Partick thinks with regard to Free Trade. He admits himself that although Free Trade has been of enormous advantage to Great Britain generally, it has been economically a great disadvantage to Ireland. That is a portion of our case. By the system of taxation, no doubt wisely devised for the benefit of Great Britain—the system by which taxation on a large number of articles has been changed, and taxation placed on a few articles—Ireland as a purely agricultural country is at a disadvantage as compared with Great Britain. It is an economical problem that need only be stated to be understood. A Royal Commission was appointed a few years ago to inquire into this question, and, speaking with all respect, I contend that no declaration from the front bench, or from any Chancellor of the Exchequer or financier yet discovered, can over-throw or overturn the finding of that Royal Commission until you have something to substitute for it. It will be said that the Royal Commission was the creation of a Home Rule Government. Well, granted; but it was entitled to all the more authority for this reason, it was not a committee of politicians. It was a Royal Commission consisting mainly of experts. I do not now speak from a Home Rule or Nationalist point of view. It was a Commission appointed to inquire into the bookkeeping and accounts between the predominant partner and Ireland, and until you have some- 81 thing in its place of equal or superior authority you are bound to respect their findings. But it is not true to say that this inquiry was initiated by a Home Rule Government. It was the present First Lord of the Admiralty, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, who in 1890; appointed a Committee. The Committee was appointed to inquire into the equity of the financial relations between England, Scotland, and Ireland. If the contention of the Government be true that indiscriminate taxation can press with no injustice on any of these countries, why, in the name of Heaven, was this Commission ever suggested? This Royal Commission was a more competent and a more impartial tribunal than perhaps the Committee the First Lord of the Admiralty proposed. It was not composed of political partisans. Their conclusions were not arrived at in a hasty manner. They sat for many months taking evidence from acknowledged Treasury experts, including such men as Sir Robert Giffen, Sir Robert Hamilton, and men, generally speaking, far above the ordinary commonplace individual. The men who gave evidence were men who had been authorities in economic science, and for the hon. Member to get up and controvert evidence of that kind is a species of audacity which is only possible in the House of Commons. What were the findings i First of all, that Ireland must, for the purposes of the inquiry, be considered a separate entity. I consider it a species of Parliamentary audacity for anyone to say that it is not a separate entity. It was proved to the hilt that the basis of taxation was entirely a miscalculation as regards the resources of Ireland, and that the increase of taxation since 1853 was not justified by the then existing circumstances. It was proved distinctly and beyond controversy that when, in 1853, Mr. Gladstone imposed the income tax, he imposed it for a limited time. The income tax has continued ever since in Ireland—not that I think the income tax more unjust in Ireland than in England or Scotland, because I think the rich should be made to pay their share of taxation in each of the three countries, but it is a tax which presses most heavily upon Ireland. That grievance has been emphasised and accentuated by this year's Budget. I think, with all respect, this lies at the root of the whole controversy 82 —that identity in the rate of taxation does not involve equality of burden. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that England conquered France or that France conquered England, and suppose that the Chancellor of the Exchequer were to impose a duty on coffee. Well, that might be supposed to be an equal burden; but obviously on the Frenchman it would be a heavier burden, because in France coffee is more generally used. If a French Chancellor of the Exchequer were to levy a duty on tea, in England it would be an unequal burden, for that duty would press much more heavily on the English household than upon the French, tea being more consumed in this country. That illustrates the fallacy that underlies the statement that Ireland is not overburdened because taxation is the same on the individual as in England and Scotland. Overlooking the historical argument altogether, we are entitled to allege that you free a large number of commodities from taxation, and that you put indirect taxes on a few, and these few commodities are those which are most generally consumed in Ireland—tea, tobacco, and spirits. Of course, ordinary temperance reformers say it is a good thing to have a heavy duty on spirits. They say it has a tendency to encourage temperance. You have steadily raised the tax on whisky, and you are this year raising it by another 6d. per gallon. Why do you do it? To draw from the country where the whisky is consumed so much extra money. The same with tea and tobacco, but to a more limited extent. It must be obvious to the meanest intelligence that you are imposing this taxation on the working classes. It is all very well to say that if they did not drink whisky or smoke tobacco they would not have to pay the tax. True, but that is not the basis of finance. The whole question turns upon the seventh Article of the Act of Union. No matter from what point of view you approach the matter, you are face to face with the fact that if an ordinary legislative Union was intended between Croat Britain and Ireland, and there was no thought of a financial settlement, there would have been no necessity for that seventh Article. If the Parliament of Ireland was merely to be abolished and the two legislatures brought together, that Article would have been unnecessary. But financial considerations were present to the minds of 83 those who contrived, and, as far as Ireland is concerned, brought about that Union, and therefore that Article becomes of enormous importance. It cannot be, and, in fairness, it ought not to be, forgotten that this was not the absorption of one legislature by another. It was a fair treaty and contract between two legislatures, and being a treaty it should be observed—that is, if at this hour of the day there remains in the average English mind any respect for treaties and contracts. That treaty was referred to by Lord Castlereagh in terms something to this effect—By there being a provision for revision Ireland has the utmost possible security that she cannot be taxed beyond the measure of her comparative ability, and that the ratio of her contribution must ever correspond with her relative wealth and prosperity.I contend that those words must mean either something serious or nothing at all. According to the present Chancellor of the Exchequer and those who support him they mean nothing, and they need not have been inserted in the Act of Union or put into the Treaty. I contend that that seventh Article proves beyond all controversy the existence of two separate entities, and that is the basis on which this motion is made. I will not weary the House with many figures; I will only point out that the relative taxable capacity in 1800 was put at the proportion of two to fifteen; but it must be remembered that the population of Great Britain at that time was little more than double that of Ireland, while now it is nearly eight times as great. Surely, when you have a country with an enormously diminishing population and dwindling resources tied to a country with an enormously increasing population and growing resources, you are bound to consider the claim for separate treatment and for the exemptions and abatements provided for in the Act of Union. This House, the Government, and the country have power to repudiate the Act of Union; they have power as the predominant partner to tear it in pieces. But is it honourable so to do? Time after time I have heard this doctrine of indiscriminate taxation raised by Chancellors of the Exchequer, but I have never yet heard a single argument to controvert the findings of the Royal Commission. It is not fair controversy or political discussion to say 84 that that Commission was appointed by a Home Rule Government. All Governments, whether called Unionist, Tory, or Liberal, are alike to us. That Commission of incomparable experts, after hearing the evidence of men who had been trained in finance from their youth, has given its verdict, and it is not creditable that its findings should be repudiated. Therefore, I say that Parliament ought to accept this motion in accordance with the findings of that Commission.
§ MR. PURVIS (Peterborough)
There are two ways of dealing with this subject which are very common, but which I do not well see can rightly inform our minds in coming to a conclusion on the motion now before the House. One way enters into elaborate and complicated, ingenious and conjectural elements of the question in which the understanding is soon smothered by the weed and tangle of detail, and we cannot see the wood for the trees. The other way of talking, that one of the taxable capacity of the separate entity, is a kind of pedantry, if I may say so, in which the arguments follow each other all duly in a row, each holding on by the skirts of the other, but have their beginning in an exploded fiscal system, and having too little to do with the actual features of the case for us to judge by in making up our minds. This last error I shall certainly avoid, and for the other I will do what I can not to get entangled in the labyrinth of complicated detail. On the threshold there is this notable circumstance. The facts and figures of the Royal Commission may be, and I daresay are generally accepted without reserve by those like myself in search of light and leading; but it is otherwise with the Commissioners' deductions and inferences from these facts and figures. And this because by some fault or misfortune the Reports wear on the face of them a partisan look. Naturally enough, not a single Home Ruler was able to report that Ireland had no financial grievance; but, on the other hand, I know not how, not a single Unionist who was not also an Irishman was able to report that Ireland had any financial grievance. But from their facts and figures which, so far as I am aware, we do accept, this much we know and must allow, that the financial arrangement under the Act of Union turned out to be an unfair arrangement to Ireland. Time showed that the 85 proportion of two to fifteen fixed on Ireland by the seventh Article of the Act of Union on the unhappy separate entity system was an unfair burden on Ireland from 1800 to 1817. Still, when all was said and done, she did not in point of fact pay two to fifteen, but only two to twenty-four. The unpaid balance was added to the then existing separate debt of Ireland on the same mistaken separate entity system, and in 1817 that debt was amalgamated with the debt of Great Britain—merged in the general debt of the United Kingdom, and so in the end the taxpayers of the whole United Kingdom had to bear the burden. Thus in the year 1817 the knell of the separate entity system of national taxable capacity was sounded and was succeeded by the present system of individual personal liability. The system which thus was doomed in 1817 had been moribund even in 1800, for that same seventh Article of the Act of Union in fixing the proportion of two to fifteen expressly contemplated that at a future date the whole United Kingdom should contribute "by equal taxes on the same articles in each." The national capacity separate entity system was then being found unworkable owing to the movements of duty-paid goods between the two kingdoms. The tobacco duty collected in England was paid partly in Ireland by the Irishman who smoked part of the tobacco; and the duty on Irish whisky levied in Ireland was partly paid in England by the Englishman who drank part of the whisky. The changing shares between the two countries, as separate national entities, could not be defined any more than the changing colours on a pigeon's neck. It is true that the Act of Union, in referring to future equality of taxation, qualified this. It stipulated that such equality was to be subject to "such exemptions and abatements in Ireland and Scotland as circumstances might demand," and accordingly at this day Ireland is exempt from certain duties and taxes such as house duty, railway duty, and dog tax. Yet for all that, after the debt of the two countries had been consolidated in 1817, and supply to the various services amalgamated, step by step such taxes as were levied in both countries were assimilated until in 1859 the process was complete, and now for more than a generation Great Britain and Ireland have been treated alike in rate of 86 taxation laid on individuals or on commodities in both countries. The motion before the House seeks to disarrange this equality, and it is said that in the process I have just described, while taxes have been taken off England, Ireland has had taxes laid upon her; but this is one of those literal truths which are untruths in substance. Down to 1859 Great Britain bore more taxes than did Ireland, and bore higher rates than did Ireland of taxes which were common to both. It was meet, therefore, that some should be taken off in Great Britain and others put on or increased in Ireland. And this being under the new system according to the taxable capacity of individuals was a measure of the growing prosperity of Irishmen such as it was—not a mark of the oppression of their country at large. As far as the whole sister country is concerned as distinguished from individuals, Ireland has become the lesser partner in a greater business, and if her expenses are more, still more are her profits. She is not worse off, but better off. It is true that Great Britain has profited still more than Ireland by reason of the Union. Ireland lags behind England. The Irish are poor as a people—the more is the pity—and all poor people pay more in taxation out of every pound of their income than do rich people, because the poor consume more dutiable articles in proportion to their income than do the rich. For instance, a rich man does not drink more tea in proportion to his income, even with his servants into the bargain. I allow all this in favour of Ireland's plea of poverty, but it is no reason for putting the clock back in general fiscal policy. It may be and is a good reason for wise liberality on the part of the Government for helping profitable objects and undertakings in Ireland. It is no reason for Ireland to say to Great Britain, "Stand and deliver." As in the case of Home Rule she was crying for the moon, so here she is quarrelling with her bread and butter.
§ SERJEANT HEMPHILL (Tyrone, N.)
As an Irish Member I feel bound to state to the House the grounds upon which I think this motion should be carried. I listened with great interest to the speeches of the hon. Member for Partick, and the last speaker, but both appeared to me to lose sight altogether of the real question involved in this important 87 motion. I concede at once, that if you were to treat everyone living in Ireland in the same way as you would if they were living in Yorkshire or Somersetshire, it would be impossible to differentiate between the taxation each individual would have to bear. But that is not the question at present under discussion. We could never leave out of sight the fact that the connection between England and Ireland was the result of a solemn act of treaty—a treaty entered into by two countries wholly independent of each other at the time. The English Members of this House must recollect that Ireland up to the time of the Union had a separate Legislature and was wholly independent of England except that she was ruled by the same Sovereign; and that the two countries met at arm's length. I am not going into the history of the unfortunate Act of Union; I am not going to weary the House with a recapitulation of the fraud and corruption by which the people were defrauded of their birthright. I am assuming that it was a contract entered into deliberately, and binding so far as it went. The very form of the Act shows that it was a treaty between two Powers. To prevent any misconception, I have here the Act of Parliament itself. It is not in the ordinary shape of an Act of Parliament; it is a treaty—a treaty divided into certain articles like any other convention—like the Convention of 1884, or those Conventions which are so often entered into, and, alas, so frequently broken. That treaty was confirmed by an Act not only of the Irish Parliament, but of the British Parliament also. That is the Act which I have here before me. Under the Seventh article it is expressly provided that there should be a difference made in taxation for the two countries for a certain time, at all events; and it was based upon the principle that the taxable capacity of Ireland was as two parts out of seventeen, the taxable capacity of England being fifteen parts. That was the basis of the whole thing, and that was the origin of the evil which the Irish Members are now protesting against, and to which we may trace the misery and degradation and poverty of that portion of the United Kingdom as compared with her great and flourishing sister, England. That proportion of two to fifteen was altogether wrong. Distinguished Members speaking 88 in the Irish House of Commons all foretold that that was an undue proportion, and that the result would be to involve Ireland in debt. The protest of the House of Lords, headed by the Duke of Leinster of the day, put on record the opinion that the proportion should be one to eighteen, and, by a strange gift of prophecy, it was predicted that the effect of that miscalculation would be to leave Ireland in a short time involved in debt and overtaxed to the extent of £2,500,000 or £2,750,000—the very result arrived at by the Royal Commission appointed by this House three or four years ago. That was the foundation of our trouble. What happened? It was provided by this Article that the only separate charge—I am speaking now of charges upon Ireland—should be the interest on the then existing Debt of the two countries respectively. What was the Debt of Ireland at the time of the Union? £28,000,000. From 1782 to about 1794 she had carried on her affairs prosperously, almost without any debt. She was only obliged to contribute 15,000 men to the Imperial force. She managed her own affairs; she imposed her own taxes; she levied her own dues. It was in the last two or three years before the Union, during the time of the Rebellion, when Ireland was flooded with troops from this country, that even that small debt of £28,000,000 was incurred. At that time the Debt of Great Britain, I believe, was £446,000,000. There was the Irish House of Commons, consisting of 300 gentlemen, who were supposed to represent the constituency of Ireland, and they were entering into a treaty on behalf of a country with a separate debt of £28,000,000, while the debt of Great Britain was £446,000,000. What right would the Irish House of Commons have to do otherwise than what they did? They were surrendering the sole right to tax the Irish, giving up about 200 representatives. They assumed that the proportion was correct, but they were deceived and imposed upon by the statesmen of that day. They were deceived by Mr. Pitt and by Lord Castlereagh. Perhaps those statesmen acted in ignorance, but they placed themselves in the hands of interested experts, they took their advice, and they put the proportion at 1 to 7½. The Act of Union provided that all Ireland would have to pay would be the charge on the separate debt of £28,000,000, and it fixed her contribution 89 at two parts out of seventeen. The country was hardly tried, and Ireland began to feel very soon afterwards that she was overtaxed, and that it was impossible to keep pace with her partner. After the Act of Union England embarked in war, sending her legions to every part of the world. Poor Ireland—a poor relation in every sense—followed in her train, and was obliged to contribute in that tremendous disproportion of two parts out of seventeen, the consequence being that in a few years Ireland's debt was swelled from £28,000,000 to something like £116,000,000 or thereabouts. From the very first Ireland was overtaxed, and she was put in such a position that she could not get out of her toils. The Earl of Liverpool and other statesmen fastened upon a particular stipulation in the Articles of Union, and said, "Now that the Irish debt has come to the same proportion as the English debt we may consolidate the revenue," and that is what the Act of 1816 does. It consolidated the Exchequer of the two countries; it did not alter the taxation, but carried out what was provided for by the Seventh Article of the Act of Union and retroacted on that Act. As a matter of fact the taxation was not equalised by that Act, and it never contemplated that the taxation should necessarily be equalised. The taxation was not equalised for many years after, and up to the year 1858 the taxes were still different. It is a fallacy, therefore, to rely on this Act of 1816 as warranting and justifying the mischief that ensued to Ireland. I am not going to trouble the House with many figures, but there are one or two which are so striking as to the effect of this Act that I feel I must call attention to them. Now let us see how this Act operated on the unfortunate people of Ireland. The average income of the people of Great Britain is about £40 a year per head of the population; but at the very highest the average income of the people of Ireland is only about £12 a year. Where is the justice of saying that a man who has £12 a year to subsist upon should pay the same taxes as a man who has £40 a year? Those figures are unquestionable, and year after year the effect of this arrangement was to raise the taxation per head upon the people of Ireland, and at the time of the Union the taxation in England was about £3 per head, and in 90 Ireland it was about 10s. or 11s. At the period when the Royal Commission made their Report the taxation of Ireland had I risen to £1 5s. 11d. as against £2 5s. 4d. in England. The effect of this unfortunate arrangement was to submerge Ireland in debt. I am now speaking of the position of things as resulting from the Act of Union. The result was to keep Ireland with a millstone round her neck, and she was just like an individual who begins life with a small debt, whose income never overtakes his indebtedness, and he struggles on until he ends in bankruptcy. Ireland shared the fate of all bankrupts, and the lot of every unfortunate person who has to struggle with adversity. The population of Ireland in the year 1800 was 5,000,000, and the population of England was 10,000,000. Things went on for some years after the Act of 1816, and even then the taxation was not equal. The Corn Laws had not been repealed, and the industries of Ireland throve to a certain extent, and throughout every part of the country there were corn mills, distilleries, and other means of industry. Then came the repeal of the Corn Laws, which, while it enhanced the prosperity of England, operated to an unparalleled degree against the prosperity of Ireland, and operated injuriously from a financial point of view. Although I admit that the repeal of the Corn Laws was necessary, their repeal was most unfortunate and most ill-timed in Ireland, though I admit it was necessary that after the famine something should be done to prevent the people actually dying, as many of them did, from starvation. What has been the practical effect of the system of taxation maintained by this country? The population of England is now 35,000,000, while the population of Ireland is only about 4,500,000. The population of Ireland has fallen off by nearly one-half since the year 1850 or 1846; but the population of England during that period has more than trebled, very nearly quadrupled itself. Surely there must be something rotten in a system which leads to such a result. Where does the burden of this war Budget press? Not upon the professional class, or upon those with fixed incomes, but it presses upon the very poor. My sympathy is with the man who, when he gets up in the morning, hardly knows how he can provide the daily meal for himself and 91 his family. My sympathy is with the struggling labourer in every department of work, and I do not complain of the imposition of the income tax, which was imposed for the first time in 1853 as a temporary measure upon Ireland by Mr. Gladstone. I do not complain of that, because it may be said that £700 or £800 income in Ireland ought to be as good as £700 or £800 income in England. What I complain of is that the man who has to support himself and his family on a miserable pittance—and who has to do it on a sum four times less than that of his English brother—should have to pay for the necessaries of life the same amount of taxation. When Mr. Gladstone imposed the income tax and raised the duty on spirits he expected that it would only continue for seven years. He admitted himself that he was doing an injustice to Ireland for which he afterwards made ample reparation in his legislation and attempts at legislation. He felt that because as a compensation he gave up £4,000,000 of terminable annuities as an equivalent for the imposition of the income tax in 1853 those annuities which had been created as an Irish debt because of advances made for relief works during the time of the famine. Why should this system be still continued? Why in the present Budget should this wrong be perpetuated? I can tell the House from experience in every part of Ireland from the north to the south that tea is an absolute necessary of life not only with the better classes but with the poor struggling artisans, labourers, and peasants all over the country. Tea in every poor home is the main support, and the imposition of 2d. a pound on tea is a serious and formidable matter for these poor people to deal with. It suits some persons to allege in different places that Ireland is now prosperous and that she is not poorer than other parts of the country. But those who know Ireland must feel what a mockery and delusion it is to allege any such thing. Let any hon. Member traverse some of the outlying parts of England and also the outlying parts of Ireland, and then I am sure he will honestly and fairly admit that in Ireland the mode of life is far lower among the poor than among the poor in England. Why then should they be taxed on the same basis? I am not a smoker myself except in the very smallest degree, and therefore I can speak 92 disinterestedly; but by putting an extra tax upon tobacco the poor fellow who has to go for hours without a meal will suffer a very serious loss. The labourer in the field and the peasant in the barn would rather go without their allowance of about a pound of Indian meal a day than go without their pipe of tobacco. But why place a tax on tobacco, and why not select some other article? Whisky is one of the principal manufactures of Ireland, but it must not be imagined from that statement that Ireland is more drunken than England, for that is quite a mistake. The figures in the Report of this Commission show that there is less whisky drunk per head of the population by the Irish than is drunk by the English or the Scotch. It is a popular fallacy to say that the Irish are the greatest whisky drinkers. They do occasionally "indulge" at fairs and markets and get a little excited either from the ardour of their nature or from the emptiness of their stomachs, but that is the greatest crime that can be alleged against them. But a top dressing of whisky on an empty stomach is very apt to reach the head. At one time whisky used to be one of the main products of Ireland. But now I could mention distillery after distillery which have had to be closed.
§ SERJEANT HEMPHILL
The hon. Member says "thank goodness," and he is a temperance advocate. I do not yield to him in my admiration of temperance, but it is a mistake to suppose that the shutting up of those distilleries and the consequent throwing of a number of people out of employment in any way discourages intemperance, for it has no such effect. The intemperance increases afterwards, and the only difference is that instead of getting sound wholesome spirits they often get adulterated spirits mixed with sulphuric acid which is sold in some of the shebeens and inferior public-houses, and this drives those who consume it in moments of weakness and temptation to madness and desperation. But this is no argument for imposing this extra taxation on Ireland. The effect of imposing too high a tax on spirits is to lead to adulteration, which aggravates the evil of intemperance. It may not be possible 93 to have a different system of taxation for Ireland and England, but it is possible to take into consideration the taxable capacity of the two countries. Some authorities have measured this capacity as one to twenty, but I think one to twenty-three is nearer the mark, and some authorities have put it at one to thirty. At the present moment Ireland is taxed upon the proportion of one to eleven. That is distinctly wrong, and it ought to be altered so as to make the result agree with the principle of right and justice. There can be no difficulty in doing so, and why should you select for taxation articles which press most severely upon our already overtaxed people? Why select tea, whisky, and tobacco as the means for swelling up this inordinate revenue, for a war which by no means redounds to the happiness or to the glory of the British Empire? We had a voluminous statement the other day from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which showed that the expenditure of Great Britain had doubled since 1850—I think his figures were that in 1850 the income was about £50,000,000, and now it is considerably over £100,000,000. We know also that the expenditure is now going up by leaps and bounds. I am old enough to recollect what has happened for a great number of years back, and perhaps I may claim to speak with some authority. But I can put my hand on my heart and say that I see very little symptom of any material progress or prosperity in Ireland, a result which mainly arises from this inequality of taxation and this imposition of burdens that have been demonstrated to be most unfair and unjust to the people of Ireland.
§ SIR T. G. ESMONDE (Kerry, W.)
Personally, I feel indebted to the hon. Member for Peterborough for his intervention in this debate. Though we have had a number of speeches upon this question, it is very seldom that hon. Members opposite favour us by recording their reasons for objecting to the claim of Ireland to financial redress. I cannot say that the hon. Member has converted me to his point of view. He holds his own views to his own satisfaction, and that is an extremely agreeable frame of mind to be in. I do not know whether I shall be able to change his opinions by introducing to his mind any doubt upon the subject. One remark which the hon. Member made 94 was that he generally felt rather confused about these Irish questions. I may say that the hon. Member is not the first English Member who has been confused upon Irish questions, and who has voted upon them without a full understanding of their bearings. I am afraid that the arguments of the hon. Member were, to my inferior mind, also somewhat confusing. He spoke about the Commission which made the Report upon Irish finance, and he told us that while he thoroughly agreed with the facts he disagreed with the findings of that Commission. Now I agree both with the facts and the findings of that Commission, which brought a good deal of light to my mind, and I have no fault to find with them. I wish the hon. Member had given us some solid reasons for his disagreement with the findings of that Commission. He went back to the Act of Union and to the Act of 1816, and he told us that after the consolidation of the two Exchequers Ireland did not pay the tax she was entitled to pay under the Act of Union. If the hon. Member would do me the favour of consulting me I could show him certain papers in the Library of this House which deal with that period of 1816, and I think I could convince him that Ireland has overpaid her proportion by many millions sterling.
§ MR. PURVIS
I was only alluding to what the Royal Commission found as facts, and I agree with their findings.
§ SIR T. G. ESMONDE
Then the hon. Member agrees that Ireland is overtaxed. If that is his view I hope he will vote with us.
§ SIR T. G. ESMONDE
Then the hon. Member is in agreement with the findings of the Royal Commission. There is another important element to be considered in regard to the period of 1816. In the treaty there was a provision for the periodical revision of the financial relations between Great Britain and Ireland, and that revision has never been carried out. Upon that clause in the Act which consolidated the two Exchequers the claim of Ireland to a large 95 extent rests. Objection has been taken on the ground that we ask that Irishmen should be taxed less than Englishmen, but that is precisely the agreement contained not only in the Act of Union, but also in the Act consolidating the two Exchequers, and that is the ground upon which Irish Members agreed to the consolidation. I would like to draw the attention of the House to some figures issued in two recent Returns which have been laid before Parliament. One of them is Paper 317 for 1899, which has been quoted by my hon. friend who initiated this debate. According to that Paper, last year Ireland paid in Imperial taxation about £8,250,000. By another Return I find that last year Ireland also paid in local taxation about £4,250,000. And so we come to this most significant figure, that last year between Imperial and local taxation Ireland paid a total of something like £12,500,000. Hon. Members opposite, perhaps, do not grasp fully what these figures really mean, but by us who know Ireland, and who are acquainted with the extreme difficulty of conducting local administration, and who know how heavily the incidence of taxation falls upon the ratepayers in Ireland, it is readily understood. It means that in Ireland, beween Imperial and local taxation, the average per head of the population last year was something like £3. Such a situation is unquestionably alarming, for the country is at this moment taxed as heavily as it can possibly stand, and it is now taxed much higher than, according to the principles of justice and the ideas of the proper conduct of business, the people should be called upon to pay. The difficult point is that, between your Imperial taxation and our own local taxation, Ireland is unquestionably overtaxed, and unless something is done by this House either to remodel the incidence of Imperial taxation or to cheapen the cost of local administration in Ireland I am afraid that local government cannot possibly be carried out. Our population is diminishing, our towns are falling into greater and greater di lapidation, our local industries have practically died out, and there is absolutely no employment for the people in the country. The result is that, year after year, thousands and thousands of young people who are able to work and to contribute to the wealth of the country are 96 leaving Ireland for other countries, whore their industry and energy will be devoted to increasing the national wealth. It seems to me that this country has a direct Imperial interest in improving the condition of Ireland. If you continue to allow the young people to go out of the country, and if you do not do something to afford employment, you will wake up one day to find that you have made an absolutely irreparable mistake. What the House should endeavour to do is to so arrange the taxation of the country that at all events local industries may be stimulated in Ireland and the people given a chance of finding employment at home. A great deal has been said about the Report of the Financial Relations Commission. Some Unionists agree with it, but I am sorry to say that their number is not sufficient to enable us to achieve any practical result at present. An hon. Member dismissed the Report of the Commission by saying that it was merely a will-o'-the-wisp. Well, if it is a will-o'-the-wisp, it has not yet been extinguished, and hon. Members who object to the Report should find some better objection to advance against it than by describing it as a will-o'-the-wisp. We do not desire that England should be treated unjustly in this matter. Our only claim is that Ireland should receive justice, and we are perfectly satisfied, if it be found that Ireland is not paying too much, to allow things to go on as they are; but as we are absolutely convinced that Ireland is paying more than she ought to pay we should be failing in our duty if we did not endeavour to emphasise that view in this House. There is one fact which has been lost sight of, and which shows that Ireland is suffering from over-taxation. At the present moment, according to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, you are not making as much out of Ireland as you used to; your taxes in Ireland are not so productive as they were. That seems to me to be unanswerable evidence that Ireland is overtaxed. We are told that certain taxes are not paid in Ireland which are paid in England. I have given a great deal of study to the history of the financial question, and I find that the reason why certain taxes were removed in Ireland was that they were no longer paying taxes, and I imagine that the day will come when a number of other impositions will 97 also be found to be non-productive. There are one or two small matters to which I would wish to direct the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or perhaps, in his absence, the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture in Ireland will take an intelligent interest in them. The first refers to the redemption of quit rents in Ireland. I have repeatedly asked for information on this subject, but no information has been given. Year by year under the operation of the Land Purchase Act certain quit rents are redeemed in Ireland, and the money is, so far as we can ascertain, devoted to the redemption of charges on Crown property in England. That is the conclusion which I have drawn from the small amount of information vouchsafed to us on the subject. I should now like to learn from the Chancellor of the Exchequer or some other right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench what has been done with the money received from the redemption of quit rents in Ireland, and how much money has been received from that source. I am certain I shall have the sympathy of the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture in Ireland when I say that that money is Irish money, and should be applied to Ireland, and that all amounts derived from that source in future should be devoted to Irish purposes. There are many directions in Ireland in which it can be usefully employed. I may suggest one way in which it might be applied to remedy a very pressing grievance—namely, in the relief of taxation in towns in Ireland. Under the Local Government Act the Irish towns have received no benefit whatever and, taking them all round, their taxation has been increased under the Act, in some cases to an enormous extent. I think, therefore, that this money, which is Irish money, ought to be well employed in reducing taxation in towns in Ireland. We are asking no favour, we simply claim the restoration of what we regard as our own money. There is another matter winch presses very hardly on poor people in Ireland. The Chancellor of the Exchequer expresses his anxiety to be kind and generous to poor people in Ireland, and he might easily avail himself of this opportunity to help them. I allude to the question of law costs in Ireland, in connection with small agreements, small contracts, and the taking out of administration orders. Though 98 the charges are not very large, they yet press very hardly on the poor, and I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer might consider the question of relief in this direction. Suppose the occupier of a labourer's cottage or a small farm dies, his successor has to take out letters of administration, at a time when the family can perhaps ill afford to spend money. This is a small matter, and would only have a trifling effect on the receipts of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I hope the right hon. Gentle-will consider it. We claim in Ireland that we get nothing like our proper share of Imperial expenditure. That point has been already raised by my hon. friend the Member for North Donegal, and the figures he quoted will be in the recollection of the House, but I will take one or two concrete cases. Two years ago, under the Public Offices (Acquisition of Sites) Act, and the Public Buildings Expenses Act, you spent 3½ millions of public money on public buildings in London. I would like to know how much was spent in Dublin on public buildings in that year. So far as I can gather no money at all was spent. This is a matter which some of us feel very strongly. We have in Dublin a picture gallery and a museum, hut because neither of these buildings is large enough to hold the collections which ought to be placed in them, a number of interesting objects of antiquarian interest are not able to be housed. If you spend three mid a half millions on public buildings in London I think you ought to contribute a small amount for public buildings in Dublin. In addition to its endowment the British Museum gets £160,000 of public money every year, whereas the Dublin Museum only gets £1,600. That is not a fair proportion, and if, on the question of Imperial expenditure, reliance is to be placed on the argument as to a set-off. I think the attention of the Government ought to be directed to this matter of public buildings. I had intended to deal with the question of the new duties to be imposed on spirits and beer in Ireland; but I will content myself with saying that the taxation of spirits has been increasing for the last forty-five years in Ireland, and now stands at as high a figure as it ever stood before. I do not speak in this matter either from a temperance or an anti-temperance point of view. I look upon it as an industrial matter, and the danger is that by your 99 taxation you may injure what is after all the only important industry remaining in Ireland. The taxation of whisky has now reached such a point that distillers in Ireland are taking very serious alarm. At an important meeting held in Dublin a few days ago an able statement of the case was made by Mr. Nagle. The distillers are certainly very seriously concerned at the possible results of the Budget.
§ MR. WILLIAM JOHNSTON
The hon. Baronet speaks of only one industry in Ireland. Are there not other industries in Belfast?
§ SIR T. G. ESMONDE
I am very glad that Belfast is an exception, and I am only sorry we have not a few more in Ireland. What I would press on the Government is that in view of the danger of serious interference with a most important industry it ought to be taken into consideration whether the tax on whisky should not be imposed for one year only, and that we should have a guarantee that it will not be repeated next year. A large amount of employment is given by this industry in Ireland. It is the only important industry outside Belfast, and the Belfast industries are not taxed. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will give us some assurance that the taxation he now proposes to put on this industry will not remain on it longer than one year.
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
With much that has been said on the subject of the condition of Ireland no doubt many of us agree, and are sorry to agree. I am sure that everybody wishes in every way to do their utmost to develop all the industries of Ireland that can possibly be fostered. But we must remember in discussing this subject that what is especially wanted is an increase of capital in Ireland. I think no one can shut his eyes to the fact that the tendency has been to drive capital from Ireland of late years; and although there is an immense quantity of capital available from every part of the world, it is extremely difficult for any company to be got up, at least very few, to develop industries in Ireland. That goes to the root of the difficulty. If the political agitation and difficulties in Ireland were got over, there is no doubt whatever that there would be an enormous quantity of capital available for the development of industries in Ireland, which would tend 100 to improve the condition of that country. The real question raised in this debate seems to me to be whether there should be a differential rate of taxation between Ireland and England. Now, I have studied with considerable care the Report of the Royal Commission, the statistics in which are of great interest, especially those relating to the social condition of Ireland and England. It must be acknowledged that there is not only an Irish side to this question but an English side, and those of us who are interested in England maintain that justice to England is as desirable as justice to Ireland, and that it is important that, while granting justice to Ireland, an injustice to England should not be inflicted. The real question is, "Is any Irishman taxed more severely than any Englishman in the same position of life?" That is after all the practical point. Reference has been made to the Act of Union, but it seems to me that if the Act of Union is kept to absolutely, Ireland would pay a great deal more than now. When the fiscal system was rearranged in 1816, it was then thought that a fair arrangement had been come to. Although it is quite true that the present arrangement does in some way affect Ireland more hardly than we could wish, still the alterations made then were for the benefit of Ireland. The Report speaks of the great question of the separate entities of England, Ireland, and Scotland. I want to know why it should be taken for granted that England, Ireland, and Scotland should be taken as separate entities for the purpose of considering this question.
§ MR. BARTLEY
But if the whole scheme of the Act of Union were carried out it would be to the detriment of Ireland. If we are to make separate entities of England, Ireland, and Scotland, we might as well make separate entities of every district in the country, and the result would be an absolute absurdity. At page 18 of the Report it is said that the income tax is a gauge of the relative wealth of countries. Income tax statistics form immensely useful data for an inquiry into the general wealth of a nation, but they do not in any way constitute an index of the capacity of individuals to bear taxation. The amount of assessment in Ireland can in 101 no way affect the individual payments. The Report says that the assessment of Ireland is very much smaller than that of England, and therefore the fact that Ireland is assessed at a smaller ratio than England is a plea for a smaller payment of the income tax. You might as well use the same argument in regard to the Isle of Wight.
§ MR. BARTLEY
I was referring to assessments. The assessment of Ireland is relatively very much smaller than that of England, but it in no way affects the capacity of the people of that country to pay taxes. There are elaborate calculations in the Report which show the difference between the actual receipts from income tax and the net assessment, and that again is used all through the Report as an argument why there should be reduction. It shows that there would be considerable benefit by reducing the taxation simply because the great bulk of the people have small incomes, but so far from that being a reason why a greater reduction should be made, it is quite the other way; and therefore I say Parliament in its wisdom has done all it can to do away with these hardships. A great deal is said in the Report of the Commissioners as to the calculations per head, but such calculations are most fallacious. It is quite true that if two countries are the same in every respect, the calculation per head is a test of the capacity to pay taxes, but that calculation is quite upset when of two countries com- 102 pared one is increasing in population and the other decreasing. Take the case of a family of five, each earning so much; when another comes into the family the average per head is less, but the burden is greater, so that the calculation per head is one that may lead us into considerable difficulties. According to the Report Ireland paid £1 18s. 3d. per head as against £2 11s. 10d. paid in England; but it is a fallacy to draw from that any conclusion as to the taxable capacity of the two countries as a whole. We might as well take a small village in England with a gross income of £2,500. If the inhabitants all smoked and drank in reason their taxation would not exceed 10s. per head. No one would dream of that as a reason for altering the taxation of that district, or for treating it as a separate entity. The statement that identity of taxation does not necessarily involve identity of burden is true not only of Ireland, but of every part of the United Kingdom. It is harder for a man with £1 a week to pay 1d. than it would be for a man with £2 a week to pay 2d. It is often said that the reason why Ireland is over-taxed is that it is the habit of the people there to drink whisky and the habit of the people in England to drink beer. That statement is hardly correct, because I find it stated in the Report that the consumption of spirits per head in Ireland is very much less than in Great Britain, although that of beer is only about half as much. That, no doubt, is very satisfactory to Ireland from the temperance standpoint, but it does not bear out the argument that that is the reason why they are over-taxed. Another reason why the taxation of Ireland should be reduced is said to be that the average income out of which the Irishman can purchase is smaller than the Englishman's. If that argument is to prevail, taxation must be reduced in every poor district, and I should require that my constituency should receive consideration. [An HON. MEMBER: Islington is not Ireland.] The argument really comes to this—that there ought to be a sliding scale of duties according to the consumption or poverty of a district. As long as alcohol is consumed and treated as a taxable commodity there is no possibility of strict theoretical justice in taxation.
§ MR. LECKY (Dublin University)
I think every Irish Unionist, whatever may 103 be his opinions on other points, must desire that the question of the financial relations of England and Ireland should be kept clear of the question of the obligation of Ireland to assist England in an Imperial contest. If the Union is accepted at all it must imply that in all such contests Ireland must go heartily with England, not only—as she is now splendidly doing—by the services of her soldiers, but also by her financial support. From an Imperial point of view, the strongest argument against Home Rule is that it would place the resources of Ireland in the hands of men who would be hostile to the interests of the Empire, and no reasonable man can deny that if a separate Parliament had existed in Ireland during the last few months, and if it had consisted mainly of men like the hon. Members opposite, its whole influence would have been employed in thwarting and injuring England in the present war. Looking, however, at this question on its own merits, I have always maintained that Ireland, according to the Act of Union, and according to the uniform precedents of Irish legislation, has a right to be treated in matters of finance (as she is treated on nearly every other subject) as a distinct unit; and that if it can be shown that common taxation presses upon her with disproportionate force—if the ratio of her contribution to Imperial taxation does not at least roughly correspond with her relative wealth as compared with the other portions of the Empire, that is a matter demanding legislative inquiry and redress. The root of this whole controversy is that a financial commission established on high English financial authority that such a disparity existed. It is quite certain that many things have been acting against Ireland. The main exemptions from taxation which she once enjoyed were nearly all abolished when indirect taxation was mainly concentrated on a very few articles of general consumption. Her population has rapidly diminished, while the population of England and Scotland has enormously increased, and this has naturally affected the proportion of taxation per head in the two countries. Great Britain is a great manufacturing country, and has been advancing in wealth with gigantic strides. Ireland, except perhaps in one province, has made no such progress. Both the level of material prosperity and the rate of material progress are wholly different on the two sides of the Channel, and this 104 necessarily implies a great difference in the pressure of taxation. Then there is the fact that while hardly more than one-half of the taxation of Great Britain is indirect taxation, in Ireland the proportion is about 70 per cent., and that by far the larger part of this is the whisky tax. Ireland, unfortunately, is a whisky drinking, not a beer drinking, country, and whisky for very good reasons is much more heavily taxed than beer. Then there are causes of another kind that have tended to keep her poor. A much lower level of industry; political agitation, which has steadily driven capital out of the country, and turned the people from the paths of industry; land legislation, which has directly impoverished the owners of the soil, withdrawn the whole rental of the country from its improvement, broken down all sense of the obligation of contract, which is the first condition of real industrial prosperity, and done more than any single thing to promote the emigration of Irish capital and to prevent English capital coming over to Ireland—all these things have established a great difference between the two countries, and whatever controversey there may be about their relative taxation at present, there is very little difference about the fact that, in the sixties at least, it was grossly unfair, when Ireland appears to have paid about an eighth of the taxation of the Empire, and when out of a revenue of a little more than seven millions nearly five millions were taken for Imperial purposes. The First Lord of the Treasury has used language about indirect taxation which seems to me full of fallacy. He speaks as if in comparing the taxation of the two countries it ought to be altogether omitted. I fully grant that there are great difficulties in tracing its incidence, but after all indirect taxation is taxation—a sum taken from private persons just as really as taxation, and it cannot be omitted from any calculation of the comparative payments made by the two countries, and if the same indirect taxation falls on an article which is proportionately much more consumed in one country than the other, this may act most unfairly upon the country that chiefly uses it. In his speech in 1898 the First Lord brought forward an argument intended to be a reductio ad absurdum of the Irish claim. He says—It is stated that Ireland under the present system of indirect taxation pays two and a half millions in excess of what she ought 105 to pay. Suppose the duty on tea, tobacco, and spirits were raised to amounts that would make it impossible for any of the poorer classes in Ireland to enjoy any of these three articles of consumption. On this supposition the Irish grievance would disappear. Ireland would pay nothing because it consumed nothing, and because it paid nothing it would have no ground for financial complaint. Tax it sufficiently and you will remedy all its wrongs.This argument appears to me to be pure sophistry. It assumes that there can be only one kind of financial grievance. Undoubtedly if by increasing duties or in any other way you greatly diminish the actual taxation of Ireland, you will take away the grievance of her being over-taxed. But if you did this by preventing her enjoying the chief luxuries of a poor man's life you would be committing an act of tyranny of the grossest kind, and establishing a new grievance much greater than that you remove. But is this a proof that the original grievance was not a real one? Is there anything unnatural or paradoxical in this—any reductio ad absurdum of the Irish case? Is it not one of the most familiar truths in politics and in other things that it is often possible to remove an undoubted evil or injustice by some measure which would create a greater one; to cure one disease by a remedy which would produce another? At the same time, in my opinion the situation of late years has been very materially modified in favour of Ireland. When the Financial Commission reported on the proportion of Irish taxation to the general taxation of the Empire it was estimated at between one-eleventh and one-twelfth. It is now, according to the Treasury Returns, not more than one-fifteenth. The proportion of Irish taxation devoted to purely Irish purposes has steadily and greatly increased, and that devoted to Imperial purposes correspondingly diminished. The system of graduated taxation which has come into fashion tells in favour of the poorer country against the richer one. A vast amount of taxation is now drawn from death duties on very large properties. Such properties, though numerous in Great Britain, are extremely rare in Ireland. The income tax is now graduated up to £700 a year, and this is plainly to the advantage of a country in which small properties bear a much larger proportion to large ones than in Great Britain. Imperial credit also in the form of loans has been given to Ireland in a much larger proportion than to Great 106 Britain. It appears in a memorandum of Sir E. Hamilton that up to March, 1893, out of about £120,000,000 advanced by the State as loans for local purposes about fifty-two millions had gone to Ireland. The rate of interest on various old loans has been within the last two or three years reduced, and under the Purchase Acts eighteen millions have been lent with the object of creating peasant proprietors. It is quite true that these loans, except in cases where they have been remitted, are not a loss to England, as they are paid for by interest, but they are unquestionably a gain to Ireland, as they place the best credit in the world at her disposal—a credit certainly much better than she could have obtained for herself. And in addition to this many grants have been of late years made to Ireland from Imperial sources. There has been some controversy about whether the £700,000 granted to Ireland in relief of agricultural rates two years ago should be regarded as an offset. Taken as a whole, in my opinion, it certainly should not. The grant was made equally to Great Britain and to Ireland on the ground of agricultural depression, and as Ireland is a poorer and a more purely agricultural country than England she would have had a full right to it if the financial question had never arisen. But though I cannot admit that a common grant given to the two countries on the same ground was a special favour to one of them, it is no doubt true, as the First Lord of the Treasury has contended, that Ireland, being more largely agricultural than England, has benefited in a greater proportion by the grant, though it is also true that she only obtained it two years later than England. But last session a good deal more was done. When I last addressed the House on this question in 1898 I urged that the best way of dealing with it was by some special grants developing the resources of Ireland, and I instanced the Congested Districts Board, which was doing so much to improve the poorer parts of Ireland, and agricultural and technical education, which was so sorely needed. In both of these my wishes have been largely fulfilled. £20,000 a year from Imperial funds has been added to the previous £40,000 a year granted to the Congested Districts Board, and although the new Agricultural and Technical Education Department has not been endowed altogether as I desired 107 out of Imperial funds it has at least received a very substantial grant of £78,000 a year. All these things have very materially modified the situation. I do not think that it would be possible to ascertain exactly how the accounts between the two nations now stand, but I believe the Irish grievance is a dwindling and is not now a very serious one.
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)
The right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House reminds me always of the cow that kicks over the bucket. He scarcely ever makes a speech on this subject in which one part does not answer the other. On this occasion I am afraid, from some remarks he has now made, that he and all those who oppose the motion before the House will find their answer in the Act of Union. I desire to say a few words with reference to the passages at the commencement of his speech which seemed to me to be quite irrelevant to the question before the House. He strove in a couple of sentences to make an argument against Home Rule by referring to what he called the disloyal utterances of certain Irish politicians in regard to the present war. I am not here to apologise for anything said on the Irish side, nor will I ever do so in this House or out of it. Will you allow me to put to the right hon. Gentleman the case of Canada? Canada was in rebellion against the Crown—
§ MR. CLANCY
I bow to your ruling and I won't pursue the topic. I will leave the right hon. Gentleman at the same time. I desire before I enter upon the question to make a few remarks on the speech delivered by a Scotch Member who spoke early in the evening. I have always regarded it as one of the most curious and surprising things to find that during all this agitation on the financial relations of Ireland and Great Britain the Scotch Members have taken the side against Ireland. I am surprised for two reasons, first because in the past undoubtedly the Scotch have themselves been robbed by England, and I am not sure that they are not being treated so still. We all remember that Dr. Johnson once said to an Irish politician on the subject of the Union, "We shall rob you just as we would have 108 robbed the Scotch if they had had anything to lose." I am surprised for another reason, and that is that I think Ireland during all the time that has elapsed since the union of Ireland has considerably helped Scotland in every effort to achieve reform, and I consider it an extremely bad instance of ingratitude on the part of any Scotchman to take sides now against Ireland in its effort to achieve redress for herself in this very serious matter. Every man to his own taste, however; all I can say is that I do not admire the taste of Scotchmen. The answer to the Scotch gentleman to whom I have alluded, and, indeed, to all the speakers against the case of Ireland in this matter is to be found in the Act of Union. I desire to state for my own part, and I believe I am stating the opinion of the Irish Members generally, that we take our stand in this matter on the Act of Union. I would make this admission. I think, myself, if we abandoned the Act of Union we should have abandoned the main Irish position, because in that case I frankly admit the argument of the hon. Member who said that if a poor district was to be relieved in Ireland a poor district should be relieved in England also. We take our stand on the Act of Union. We say that the Act of Union provides in the most distinct language that Ireland is to be regarded as a separate fiscal entity. It is the fashion nowadays for the opponents of our case to speak slightingly, whenever this question is under discussion, of the Act of Union. It seems to me you are disposed to keep such parts of the Act of Union and observe them as suit you, and to break all the rest that don't suit you. Well, of course, I cannot control you, I can only point out your inconsistency. But suppose for a moment that you are not guilty of this, suppose you say, "We are desirous of observing the Act of Union in its entirety," then I want the Chancellor of the Exchequer to answer the question whether the Act of Union does not expressly provide that Ireland was to be treated separate entity. I cannot get the quotation at present, but it was read by the hon. Gentleman who opened the debate, in which it was stated by Lord Castlereagh that Ireland would never be taxed, except according to the measure of her relative ability. The right hon. Gentleman cannot deny 109 that. Will the right hon. Gentleman get up in the face of the House to say that it does not mean what I say? Will he deny that it is Ireland that is meant and nothing else? It is very easy to contradict a person and say no, but there is no use telling me in the face of the words in the Act of Union that it does not point out Ireland as entitled to be regarded as a separate fiscal entity. That is the first point. The next is the Act of 1816 or 1817, which also regards Ireland as a separate fiscal entity. It says that Ireland, according as circumstances may permit and demand, was to be granted certain exemptions and abatements. Does that mean that Ireland is not to be treated as a separate fiscal entity? I say distinctly and I defy contradiction, that it was contemplated, even by the Act of 1817, that Ireland should be regarded as a separate fiscal entity. If I have established that, have not I established everything? I do not know how our case can be answered once that fundamental position is conceded. The first point I make is that the verdict of the Commission must be accepted. The verdict of the Commission stated that Ireland was taxed between £2,500,000 to £3,000,000 a year beyond its taxable capacity. That is not denied. I know that the Royal Commission is rather sneered at, although it consisted of some of the most eminent financial experts in the United Kingdom. I was rather surprised to find the First Lord of the Treasury sneering at it as an intelligent Commission. Does the right hon. Gentleman and those who sneer at the Commission mean that they fabricated figures? Does he mean that they told lies in their Report? Does he mean that they put on paper calculations and statements which any financial expert could discover to be false if they were false? The thing, of course, is absurd, and therefore I take the verdict of the Commission for granted, especially as I believe the right hon. Gentleman admits it to be true on the supposition that Ireland is to be treated as a separate entity. Next let me take the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury as the principal exponent of all the most specious points made against us. Here I must say that much as I have read about and tried to master this question, I was fairly carried off my legs, one or two years ago, listening to the right hon. Gentleman, and I really 110 wish we had someone on our side who could perform a similar feat. I have recovered myself, however, and I find that his speech on that occasion is really a series of the most brilliant sophistries ever spoken in this House. Take the first of them. He says in the first place that everyone is taxed alike in the three kingdoms. But that is exactly our grievance. If Ireland is entitled to separate treatment, as it is declared to be by the Act of Union and by the Act of 1817, why should every person in Ireland be taxed in the same way and on the same level as the people in England? We are entitled to be taxed less, and to tax us the same is to do us injustice. Of course you may say, "Oh, the Treaty of Union is old, it is broken up." If you say that, my reply is that it is not the first time you have spoken that way about treaties. It is not a reputable way to regard treaties, and it recalls to our minds recollections of Limerick and other places which forbid us putting the utmost confidence in any British Minister, including the right hon. Gentleman. He said, again, it was only the individual that was taxed. It was not nations at all that were taxed. Here, again, the Act of Union came in with the answer that Ireland was entitled to be treated not as a collection of individuals, but as a nation. The next thing argued is that there is really no Irish grievance at all, because you have got taxes mostly on commodities, and you need not use these commodities. Don't use tea, and you won't pay the tax on tea. Don't use coffee, and you won't pay the tax on coffee. Don't drink whisky, and you will pay no tax on whisky. Don't drink beer, and you will pay no tax on beer. I remarked before that the reply to that was that it would cut the ground from the doctrine of Free Trade. Why should you pay a tax on anything except commodities if it does no harm to tax commodities? If, for instance, the President of the Local Government Board—I believe he is a Protectionist—came down to-morrow and proposed to tax corn, or the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet proposed to renew the corn duties, he might answer any opponent by saying, "It is really no tax upon you; you need not eat bread." Then if they take to eating oatmeal like the Scotch, and if you put a tax on oatmeal, it is no harm, they need not eat oatmeal; or if you make bread out of rye, and you put a tax on rye, they need not eat rye bread. You can 111 eat turnips, and probably you might be told to live upon shamrocks. I have a strong suspicion myself, however, that if we ceased to use whisky or porter, you would soon find something else to tax. Therefore, I do not find much comfort in the argument, no matter how eloquently stated. It seems to me to be absurd. The right hon. Gentleman next asked in the speech, how are existing Irish industries injuriously affected by the taxation of Ireland? I can give two answers to that. The first is that the question is entirely irrelevant. If it were true that existing Irish industries were not injuriously affected it would not serve your case one bit, if we were able to show still that we were overtaxed. The Act of Union does not say anything about Irish industries being injuriously affected by taxation. It provides simply that we are not to be overtaxed. But who will have the audacity to say that not one of the Irish industries is injuriously affected? You cannot take money out of England without injuring your industries. Still more is it true that you cannot deplete Ireland of its capital without injuring, not one, but all the industries she has, or had, for I am afraid that they are nearly all extinct. But now I come to the question of the set off. With reference to this matter I was for a time; completely nonplussed by what I heard from the right hon. Gentleman. I imagined that we were really contributing £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 at least in excess of what we received, but I found to my astonishment that we were a dead loss to the Exchequer of £360,000 a year. It took me some time to recover, I but I am glad to say that I have recovered. Allow me to say in the first place to the right hon. Gentleman that I hope he will not consider me offensive, for I don't mean to be so, when I state that I consider this argument of the set off the most ridiculous that has ever been palmed off in an assembly of thinking men. If this argument of the set off is to remain, I ask can there be anything like over-taxation in any country under the sun? I believe a general complaint is made that Italy is overtaxed and of the peasantry being ground to the dust by taxes on this, that, and the other thing. I think I have read the same thing of France, and certainly of Turkey. How can there be over-taxation in these countries on the principle 112 of the right hon. Gentleman? All the money raised in Italy is spent in Italy. There are fifty millions of money raised in Turkey, and every penny is kept by the Sultan—or the Grand Assassin, as he used to be called—in Turkey. How can Turkey be overtaxed? The Sultan benefits his people. He raises a large revenue and he taxes this, that, and the other things. He wrings it out of them by knouts and other instruments of that kind. But he spends it all at home, and, consequently, Turkey cannot be overtaxed. I do not see how there can be anything like over-taxation at all, and all the books on political economy that I have ever read are a series of absurdities, and really the right hon. Gentleman cannot do better, if he is right, than edit some of these publications—the works of men like Mill, Hume, Adam Smith, and all those distinguished writers whose doctrines have been accepted by all Englishmen, I believe, and especially by all Scotchmen. I would suggest to him most respectfully to edit these books and put notes to them. Wherever he meets the word over-taxation he should say "Fallacy." He might also add that there is no taxation at all, because every person willingly bears it, and he need not pay it if he likes to abstain from consuming commodities. But, until he takes this course and goes to the logical conclusion from his own premises, I must continue to believe that this matter of the set off is essentially ridiculous. Let me give another answer to the right hon. Gentleman. I am sorry, but I am sure it was not intentional on his part, that in the appendix to his very clever speech, which was printed by his authority and circulated broadcast throughout this country, there should be a series of misleading calculations. I have used an adjective which is moderate in comparison with what I feel, but when I find the right hon. Gentleman acting in this way I really become a bit angry. He tots up all the money spent in Ireland, and gives a magnificent total which he debits to Ireland. Does he do that when he comes to England? I invite his attention to this fact. There are nineteen millions of money expended on ordnance stores and other such Imperial services, every penny of which is spent in England, and by what right does the right hon. Gentleman credit that to the Imperial account instead of to the English 113 account, if he sticks to his principle of accounting? I say, in the name of Heaven, take one principle or the other. Either count Irish everything spent in Ireland, English everything spent in England, and Scotch everything spent in Scotland. Let him do that and I defy him to bring out a Budget such as he produced two years ago. Or, let him account as local expenditure only that which is strictly local in the three countries respectively, and the same result will follow. But I do not think it is fair to adopt one principle when it suits you for Ireland, and to adopt another principle when it suits you for England. Having dealt with the right hon. Gentleman, I am afraid most ineffectively, I address myself to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. May I ask him one question arising out of the present Budget? I observe that he has added to the taxes on tea, tobacco, whisky, I and porter, for a certain period. Is he going to make these additions permanent?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir M. HICKS BEACH,) Bristol, W.
All those duties are temporary, and are intended to be temporary; but I cannot pledge myself as to what will happen next year.
§ MR. CLANCY
All I can say is that the answer is just what I have expected. Once you put a tax on you never take it off.
§ MR. CLANCY
That reminds me that the example set on that occasion may be followed by the right hon. Gentleman now. In a previous speech the Chancellor of the Exchequer asked what taxes pinched in Ireland, and what was our remedy. My answer to his question is that every tax pinches, because my theory is that you are over-taxing Ireland, and therefore by adding anything to the taxation of Ireland, whether on tea, tobacco, whisky, porter, or anything else, you are doing an injustice to Ireland. He says, "What remedy do you propose?" Almost the first speech I heard in this House was one delivered by the late Mr. Gladstone, and I was greatly impressed by one statement he made. He was challenged by the Conservative Government, then in office, to propose his scheme of Home Rule. He said, and I remember his words: "There lies the power, and there 114 lies also the responsibility." We have not the power to carry out our theories, and whatever remedy we propose would, I am sure, be rejected. It is your business to propose remedies. It is you who have the power, and you who have the responsibility. I will, however, say one thing—we want no alms from you. It won't do to give us leave to wear the shamrock. It won't do to send the Queen over to Ireland, even though her visit be followed by servile addresses. It won't do to offer us gewgaws when we want real and substantial justice. We want justice; it is a very simple thing. We should be content with justice, but for anyone to tell the House now or hereafter that the Irish people will ever be content with anything less than justice will be the off-spring either of ignorance or hypocrisy.
§ SIR M. HICKS BEACH
This debate has been a remarkable one. In the first place it is in singular contrast with the debate which took place on the same subject on the motion of the hon. Member for Longford, three years ago. Then there was an amount of interest in the Report of the Financial Relations Commission, and an amount of belief in their opinions and in what was supposed to result from those opinions, which has long ago faded. But, perhaps, the more remarkable feature of this debate was the manner in which it was opened by the hon. Member for East Donegal. The motion before the House is very nearly identical with that which was moved by the hon. Member for Longford three years ago. The hon. Member for East Donegal, with that financial knowledge of which we are all aware, and with that ability with which we are all acquainted, laid before the House an interesting dissertation upon the economic condition of Ireland in the past and in the present. But not a word did he say, as far as I remember, about the Report of the Royal Commission on which this motion is based, and very little indeed upon the question of over-taxation, with which it is principally concerned. The hon. Member told us a good deal about the depopulation of Ireland, about the excessive emigration from Ireland, and about the drain out of Ireland of funds which should maintain the people; but he attributed that drain rather to absentee landlords, or to the interest on advances made by the State for tenants' purchases in Ireland, or matters 115 of that kind, than to over-taxation. I was astonished that so keen an observer as the hon. Member should consider that the interest on advances made by the Exchequer to enable Irish tenants to become owners of their holdings, and, therefore, to improve the economic and social condition of Ireland, ought to be objected to as a drain upon the economic resources of Ireland. I am bound to say that if anything could make one hopeless of doing anything which could do good to Ireland in the future it would be such an opinion as that expressed by the hon. Member.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
I stated that was one of the principal economic facts which have an important bearing on the fiscal question, and ought to be borne in mind in any fiscal arrangements. I never complained of the payment of interest on advances. I pointed out that the money issued from the Exchequer to landlords who were selling to their tenants left charges on the laud of Ireland, which would have to be met by a continuous drain from Ireland to this country for sixty years.
§ SIR M. HICKS BEACH
It may be an economic fact, but I fail to see what it has to do with the motion before us. If I come to the views of the hon. Member upon the general subject I would demur altogether to his picture of the economic condition of Ireland at the present time. No one will deny—I am the last to deny—that Ireland is a poor country compared with England. Ireland has not advanced and is not advancing at the same rate as the industrial parts of England—it is obvious to anyone. But I ventured to state the other day in the House, and I repeat that statement, that Ireland being mainly an agricultural country is more prosperous as an agricultural country than the agricultural parts, at any rate of the south, of England. There are industrial parts of Ireland, such as Belfast and its neighbourhood, which are quite as prosperous as any industrial parts of England. Taken as a whole Ireland is poorer than England, but it is not so poor as the hon. Member suggests, and it is becoming richer. Take, for example, the question of population. We know, unfortunately—and no one is more sorry for it than I am—that for many years past the population of Ireland has been decreasing. 116 Taking the years between 1888 and 1898, I believe the population of Ireland has decreased by 5.47 per cent.; but in the last five years of those ten years the population of Ireland has decreased only by 1.5 per cent. I think in these figures we may have good ground for hoping that, as soon as the next census, which is now coming on, is complete, we may find a check to the depopulation of Ireland. The hon. Member spoke of emigration. In 1888 the emigration from Ireland amounted to 79,000 persons. In 1898 it only amounted to 32,000. I suspect that if anybody would compare the decrease of population in the rural parts of Ireland at the present time with the decrease of population in the rural parts of the south of England, the comparison would be in favour of Ireland. Then, what is the position of the farmers in the two countries? I am best acquainted with the south of England. I know this very well—that in the south of England it is by no means easy to get a tenant for a vacant farm. There are thousands of acres of land, which in former years grew corn, which now practically grow nothing worth having. In the case of Ireland, land in cultivation has increased rather than decreased—I do not say in arable cultivation.
§ SIR M. HICKS BEACH
Oh, yes, it is. Pasture is a most valuable kind of cultivation. It has increased rather than decreased in Ireland in the last ten years. And what is the case with regard to letting farms in Ireland? Does not any one know what enormous sums are paid by way of tenant right? Take another point. There are many symptoms, I do not say of prosperity as compared with the industrial prosperity of England, but of improvement in Ireland. Take the receipts from railway traffic, a very fair test. They have increased 23 per cent. in Ireland in the last ten years. Take the number of joint stock companies doing business in Ireland. They have nearly doubled in the same time; their capital has more than doubled. Take the value of the foreign imports into Ireland. That, again, has doubled; and yet I remember that in the Reports of the Royal Commission there was a good deal said about the impossibility, owing to their poverty, of Irishmen consuming even their own produce. Then, 117 again, take the deposits in the banks. The deposits in the Irish joint stock banks have increased by 27 per cent. in ten years. The deposits in the Post Office Savings Bank in Ireland have increased from £5,250,000 in 1888 to £9,500,000 in 1898; and I can say from my own knowledge that only the other day, when we were asking for subscriptions for the War Loan, no small amount of subscriptions and no small number of subscribers came to the Bank of England from Ireland. I do not say for a moment that Ireland is not a poor country; but I do say that the condition of Ireland is distinctly improving, and that the suggestions which were made by the hon. Member for East Donegal, and which have been frequently repeated in this House, as to the terrible economic conditions of Ireland in the present day are exaggerated to a degree which I think is to be regretted by anyone who is anxious, as I am, for the prosperity of Ireland. That was the pith of the argument of the hon. Member for East Donegal in moving this Amendment, but, of course, since then it has been supported on other grounds. It has been supported on the old and well-known ground of the Report of the Royal Commission, and the main part of the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down was devoted to an argument of that kind. I do not want to question the ability of the Royal Commission—I have never done so—or the fairness with which they endeavoured to investigate the case submitted to them, but no one can deny that they did a very small part of the work entrusted to them. When this particular statement of opinion—That, whilst the actual tax revenue of Ireland is about one-eleventh of that of Great Britain, the relative taxable capacity of Ireland is not more than one-twentieth,is put forward as not merely the opinion of the majority of the Royal Commission, but practically the result of the whole inquiry which they were directed to undertake, I can only say such a representation is most unjustifiable. The Royal Commissioners simply recorded that opinion. They did not state that the fact, which they considered proved, was in their opinion a grievance to Ireland. They did not state that it required a remedy. They could not have done so, because three of the most distinguished men who signed that Report agreed in the opinion that the set off, as it has been 118 described, ought to be considered in dealing with this matter. But their opinion, assuming it to have been accurate at the time it was made, is no longer accurate at the present time. As my right hon. friend the Member for the University of Dublin has stated to-night, circumstances have changed since then. On the figures of 1893–94 the Royal Commissioners considered that the actual tax revenue of Ireland was about 1–11th of that of Great Britain. In the last year for which we have figures the actual tax revenue of Great Britain was £108,837,000 and that of Ireland £8,202,000, so that in that year the tax revenue of Ireland was hardly more than 1–15th instead of 1–11th as compared with that of Great Britain. And when I am accused, as I have been accused by the hon. Member for North Dublin and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Tyrone, of adding to the inequality by the Budget of the present year, I would venture to deny it. I have taken care, in considering the additional taxation which I propose to impose this year on account of the war, to lay a very large part of the burden upon direct taxation—in other words, upon the income tax. Out of a little over £14,000,000 no less than nearly £8,500,000 will be derived from the income tax. [An HON. MEMBER: Too much.] An hon. friend behind me says that is too much; but I have considered in this matter the position of the indirect taxpayers throughout the country at large, not merely in Ireland, but in the whole of the United Kingdom. [Mr. LOUGH dissented.] The hon. Member forgets. I do not think he was in the House when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Tyrone addressed the House.
§ SIR M. HICKS BEACH
Well, he could not have heard the right hon. Gentleman, who is an Irish representative, which he is not, stating very plainly and very straightforwardly that in his opinion the income tax is perfectly fair as between Irishmen and Englishmen.
§ SIR M. HICKS BEACH
That may be. But the hon. Member for North Tyrone stated what I think no one can deny—that in the matter of direct taxation Irishmen had no grievance whatever.
§ SIR M. HICKS BEACH
It is a very strange thing for him to do, because the leader of the party of which the hon. Member for North Dublin is a member has openly, and I think frequently, stated that in his opinion the Treaty of Union has no validity at all. [Cries of "Abolish it, then."] I welcome the adhesion of the hon. Member for North Dublin as a supporter of the Act of Union. I am very glad to meet him on that ground, and I will endeavour, as well as I can, being a Unionist and believing in the Act of Union, to argue the case upon that ground. Now, I challenge the accuracy of the observation of the hon. Member for North Dublin that the Act of Union provided that Ireland should be considered as a separate fiscal entity. I will explain what I mean. Of course, everything on this subject is contained in the 7th Article of the Act of Union. There is no doubt whatever that in the first seven paragraphs of the 7th Article Ireland is treated as a separate fiscal entity. But these paragraphs merely relate to the system of separate taxation for the purpose of producing a proportionate revenue from each of the two countries—first of all on the basis of two parts from Ireland and fifteen from Great Britain, and afterwards, if necessary, on other alternative data which were suggested. But the whole matter is changed now. In the original system I entirely admit the countries were separate fiscal entities. The question of taxable capacity on the part of Ireland and on the part of Great Britain was the basis of that system—
§ SIR M. HICKS BEACH
The hon. Member must wait till the end. He is a little premature. When the authors of the Act of Union framed that Article they did not contemplate that that system should endure. They intended that it should 120 cease. What they did was to provide in the eighth and ninth paragraphs that—From the period of the declaration by the Parliament of the United Kingdom that all future expenditure which is incurred shall be defrayed indiscriminately by equal taxes imposed on the same articles in each country, it shall no longer be necessary to regulate the contributions of the two countries towards the future expenditure of the United Kingdom according to any specific proportions or according to any of the rules hereinbefore prescribed.
§ MR. CLANCY
That was not to take place until the circumstances of the two countries became similar. That is laid down by the Article.
§ SIR M. HICKS BEACH
Very well. When in the opinion of the Parliament of the United Kingdom the circumstances had become similar and permitted it, all idea of proportionate contribution and of the taxable capacity of the two countries vanished into thin air.
§ SIR M. HICKS BEACH
I am going to. If the hon. Member will not be so impatient I will endeavour to argue the question. In 1817 the Parliament of the United Kingdom came to the conclusion that the time had arrived when the Exchequers should be amalgamated, and the provision which I have read put in force.
§ SIR M. HICKS BEACH
With all respect to the hon. Member, that is nonsense. The provision was in the Act of Union itself. The provision was adopted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom with the ready and willing assent of the Irish representatives of that day. [AN IRISH MEMBER: No.] Oh, yes, it was.
§ SIR M. HICKS BEACH
And when the subject was inquired into in 1864 by a Committee of the House of Commons, upon which there was a majority of Irish Members, when the Catholics were included, what was the Report? Why, that the Parliament of 1816 was justified in 121 the course they had taken. And now I come to the words that the hon. Member for North Donegal desires me to read—The expenditure shall be defrayed indiscriminately by equal taxes imposed on the same articles in each country, subject to such particular exemptions or abatements in Ireland and in that part of Great Britain called Scotland, as circumstances may appear from time to time to demand.What does that mean? The hon. Member for North Dublin attributed—and I was very glad to hear it—great importance to the opinion of Lord Castlereagh. I should not have expected it, but still he did. I will quote the words of Lord Castlereagh. When Lord Castlereagh was asked to explain what those words meant, he said that "abatements might be made on articles where a high duty was unproductive or pressed heavily on the poor." That was the explanation of those words by the man who was the author of the Act of Union. And it is a justifiable explanation, because these words were taken from the original Act of Union between England and Scotland.
§ SIR M. HICKS BEACH
And throughout 100 years between the date of that Act and the date of the Union between Great Britain and Ireland, and ever since, they have never been interpreted otherwise than in this way, that the smaller kingdom should not suffer by the imposition of taxes which injure individuals or industries more in the smaller kingdom than in the greater. That is all those words mean. [An HON. MEMBER: And quite enough, too.] The hon. Member says that it is quite enough, too. I want to ask whether, taking Lord Castlereagh's interpretation of those words—and surely they have some authority—there are any taxes at the present time which are either unproductive in Ireland or press heavily on the poor in Ireland as compared with other parts of the United Kingdom? I do not think I need dwell upon direct taxation. Whatever the hon. Member for West Islington, who is not an Irish Member, may say, whatever the hon. Member for North Dublin has said, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Tyrone has given that case away. He has admitted that there is no reason whatever why a man having £700 or £800 in Ireland should not pay the same income 122 tax as the man in Great Britain of the same income. And I might add that such a man has certainly other advantages which are denied to a person in a similar position in Great Britain. The class of income tax payers and the class of death duty payers in Ireland are the persons who benefit by the existing exemptions in Irish taxation as compared with British taxation. There is no house duty in Ireland. There is no land tax in Ireland. There are no assessed taxes in Ireland, and the class of income tax payers and death duty payers in that country benefit by those exemptions, and therefore they are not only as well off but better off than persons in similar position in Great Britain. I turn to indirect taxation. Of course, that is the crux of the argument. Our indirect taxation is certainly not unproductive in Ireland. The complaint is, that Irishmen pay too much of it. Does it press more hardly on industries or individuals in Ireland than in Great Britain? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Tyrone, who has been disowned by the Member for North Dublin, was very severe upon me with regard to indirect taxation. He did not mention beer, I was glad to observe, and I suppose he does not think that Irishmen drink beer. [An Irish MEMBER: Yes; they do.] I am sure they brew a good deal of it in the shape of porter. He said I was wrong in proposing to impose an additional tax upon spirits, tobacco and tea. But I want to know what is there in the taxation I propose, or which existed last year, upon spirits, or tobacco, or tea, which is harder on Ireland or the poor in Ireland than it is on Great Britain or the poor in Great Britain? It is impossible for any one to show, and no one has ever attempted in show, that that is the case. On the contrary, I think there is something to be said on the other side. I know that the poor in Ireland—the labouring class—on the average probably possess smaller incomes than the same class in Great Britain. I believe that is true. [An HON. MEMBER: That is the question.] But I am afraid that in proportion to those incomes they spend a good deal more upon dutiable articles than the similar class in Great Britain. I am not going to charge Irish labourers or the Irish nation with being more improvident or more drunken than the similar class in England or Scotland; I should not think of it. But I do feel this—and I speak not of my own knowledge, 123 but of the opinions of many men of great weight and authority in Ireland—that drink is a greater curse to Ireland even than it is to Great Britain; that the temptations to drink in Ireland, the nature of the drink, and the various circumstances of the case lead to greater suffering and evil from drink in Ireland than they do in Great Britain. I remember a time when the taxes on spirits in Ireland were lower than the taxes on spirits in Great Britain, and in those days what happened? Why, the Government and Parliament of this country used to be abused for tempting the people of Ireland to their ruin by allowing them cheap whisky; and whatever views hon. Members from Ireland may entertain upon the subject of the taxation of Ireland, however anxious they may be that something—I do not know what, for no suggestion has been really made—should be done in order to diminish the taxation of Ireland as compared with the taxation of Great Britain, I cannot believe that anyone who really desires the prosperity and the welfare of the Irish people would desire to curse them with cheap whisky. Then I come to another article, a much more harmless article than whisky, and that is tea. Now, there is something very remarkable about the supposed consumption of tea in Ireland. When the returns which are annually presented relating to the financial relations between the two kingdoms were originally framed, an endeavour was made to ascertain the amount of tea used in Ireland as compared with the amount of tea used in Great Britain. Returns were obtained for a period of four months, I think, from the different railway and shipping companies, and other sources of information were tapped, with a view of ascertaining how much tea was consumed in Ireland, and the result was that it was considered that there was a much larger consumption of tea in Ireland per head than there was either in England or in Scotland. I confess I myself have some doubt as to the accuracy of that statement; I doubt whether the time for which the returns were taken was sufficiently long. But I assume them to be correct, and the result is this—that, whereas in England 5¼lb. of tea, then producing a taxation to the State of 1s. 9d., was consumed each year per head of the population, and 5lb. in Scotland, pro- 124 during a taxation of 1s. 8d., in Ireland 6½lb. as consumed per head of the population, producing a taxation of 2s. 2[...] I will not dwell on the question of whether that extra consumption of tea is or is not of advantage to the Irish people. I have heard authorities in this House doubt it; I think I have heard the hon. Member for East Mayo himself say that, in his opinion, a good deal of harm is done by over-consumption of tea.
§ SIR M. HICKS BEACH
I believe by the way in which it is made and by the amount drunk, a good deal of harm is done in Ireland by the over-consumption of tea. But I do not press that opinion at the present moment at all; I only refer to the fact that the Irish people do consume, according to these returns, and according to the general evidence, more tea per head than the people in England or in Scotland. Well, but surely that is no argument for saying that the taxation on tea presses hardly or unfairly on Ireland. I should think, on the other hand, it is a clear proof, if it is the fact, as undoubtedly it is, that with regard to these articles of beer, spirits, tobacco, and tea, the consumption has been increasing in Ireland, although the population has been diminishing and although on two of the articles the duty has been increased—surely it is a proof, not of the poverty of the people of Ireland, not of the evil effect upon them of our present system of taxation, but of their capacity for spending money in this way, and of the fact that the tax does not press as hardly upon them as is alleged by hon. Members from Ireland. I will conclude by admitting, as I began by admitting, that Ireland is a poorer country than England; but I do hope the House and the country will pay some regard to what was said this evening by a very impartial witness, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin, upon this matter. We have not been neglectful as a Government, this House of Commons has not been neglectful, of the poverty of Ireland. Hardly a year has passed since this Parliament began in which we have not done something more for Ireland than has been done for Great Britain. Whether by way of increased grants for light railways, whether by way of grants for the foundation of an Agricultural Department, for 125 technical education, or the Congested Districts Board, or larger contributions to pensions to national teachers than have been given in Great Britain, whether by way of a grant towards the payment of the rate upon agricultural land, which, though based on the same principle as the English grant, yet gave to Irish ratepayers, in proportion to the amount of local taxation in Ireland, a far larger amount than was given to the ratepayers of England, whether by the remission of loans, or by grants where there has been distress in Ireland; in all ways of that kind, the present Government and the present Parliament have endeavoured to consult the good of the population of Ireland. Well, it may be that we have not done enough, but we shall certainly persevere in the same path, and I am sure the House of Commons will readily support us in doing so. And if there be any local purpose in Ireland to which money is now devoted that might be better voted to another purpose, and we can obtain useful advice from the Irish Members—[A NATIONALIST MEMBER: From the Irish landlords.] Have hon. Members below the gangway never heard of the Report of the Recess Committee, in which their Leader took so prominent a part, and have we done nothing to carry out that Report? I say we shall endeavour to do what we can in this matter, but the demand made upon us to-night is a very different thing. The demand made upon us to-night is not to reduce indirect taxation generally for the benefit of the poorer classes throughout the United Kingdom. I can imagine many hon. Members on that side of the House considering that the balance between direct and indirect taxation at present is unfair, that the poor pay too much, and that the balance might be remedied in their favour. But that is not the request which hon. Members from Ireland make to us to-night. What is the request? It is put fairly and frankly by the hon. Member for North Dublin. He told us in so many words that he did not want equality between the poor taxpayer in Great Britain and the poor taxpayer in Ireland. He will never be satisfied unless the rich and the poor taxpayer in Ireland are put on a better footing than the rich and the poor taxpayer in Great Britain. 126 That is a position which we will never accept. That is a demand on the part of Ireland and Irishmen to occupy the position and exercise the power of a governing part of this great Empire, and not to bear an equal share of its burdens. That is a demand which strikes at the root of our fiscal system of equal taxation on the same articles, which, in my belief, is as essential to good finance in the United Kingdom as the Union is essential to our political welfare. I decline to accept such a proposition, because, in my belief, under the mistaken name of justice to Ireland, it will impose a gross injustice upon the people of the rest of the United Kingdom.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
The right hon. Gentleman began his speech by statements which had certainly some evidence of sympathy in them, because he contrasted the interest taken in this subject three years ago with the interest that was taken in it this evening. If in any court the same case was tried two, three, four, or twenty times, is it any wonder that the litigant who has been vainly attempting to secure justice and is unable to secure it should find that he is not able to get as good an audience at the end of half-a-dozen years as he might have done when his case was first put forward? In other words, the right hon. Gentleman presents us with the spectacle of the tired Englishman. We know very well that weariness of any Irish subject is the great ally of English Ministers. The Irish Members have only the same set of arguments to offer again and again. My hon. friend the Member for North Donegal has even been taunted because he has said something new. The right hon. Gentleman said the hon. Member did not once mention the Act of Union or the Report of the Royal Commission, and, because he sought by tapping fresh sources of debate to infuse into this subject some new interest, he was taunted with no longer relying upon the Report of the Royal Commission or the Act of Union. It is quite true that Irish topics do not interest the House so much as, for instance, the London Water Bill. That is the misfortune of the Irish Members, and we do not suppose they expect us to be as much interested in London Water Bills as Englishmen are themselves. But having been commissioned to voice the opinions of the Irish people I see no other alternative as 127 long as the Act of Union exists, except to put our complaints before this House. The right hon. Gentleman gave away his case when he declared that there was to be a set-off for Ireland. If the taxation were fair throughout the three kingdoms, why should Ireland get any set-off? Then the right hon. Gentleman said that Ireland was poor—that the taxation was fair, but, Ireland being poor, an endeavour would be made by means of the Congested Districts Board, the light railways system, and in other ways to relieve the inequality. Where is the inequality? Is not the system perfect, is it not like the rain from Heaven falling alike upon the just and the unjust? Why is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, above all, to blaspheme the British system by declaring that Ireland must be differently treated from any other portion of the United Kingdom? I would contrast with that position what happened in this House when the right hon. Gentleman, in consequence of the little clamour—minute in volume—which arose from a few interested traders in this country, surrendered a great principle of this Budget in giving up the shilling contract tax. Touch an England interest, scratch an Englishman anywhere, and his complaint will receive more attention than if there were a million people starving in Ireland. The match tax was abolished because there was a procession on the Embankment, but you might have a procession of one million strong in Ireland and nobody would notice it except the police, who would beat them down with their batons. If you want an object lesson as to the way in which England and Ireland are governed you have it in the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to which I have alluded, for when the contract tax was objected to by a very small portion of the English community the right hon. Gentleman at once surrendered. Why is no such treatment given to us? Have the commercial classes of Liverpool, Manchester, and other large trade centres any treaty with the British Government which the contract tax infringes, or have they any argument beyond the fact that they do not like the tax? With one single tax on whisky in Ireland you abolished some seventy distilleries which were wiped out in Ireland. You weighed down other industries in Ireland by increasing the tea and tobacco 128 taxes; yet, when a few Exchanges sent up a protest against the shilling contract note, the right hon. Gentleman trembled in his boots and withdrew it. I tell him that that is an additional injustice to Ireland. [Laughter.] Was it not such an injustice? Would not that shilling have been chiefly paid by Englishmen? Is not the commerce of the country mostly done in England? Have you not relieved Englishmen of this tax, and pro tanto increased the taxation in Ireland? I have never suggested for a moment that the right hon. Gentleman had not some sympathy with Ireland. I have said that to him before now. I have observed from the tone and demeanour of the right hon. Gentleman that he has some desire, if he could, to display some honourable amenity towards our country. We have founded our claim in Ireland on statute; but who made you the interpreters of that statute? Have we ever said to the Government of Great Britain, "Be you the interpreters of that statute?" Has Ireland ever had any chance of putting her views—except in course of argument—before an impartial tribunal, and having them debated and decided upon by such tribunal? The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer makes himself judge in his own cause. Who made him the sole interpreter of the Treaty of Union? Is it because he is a member of the dominant nation, and the conquering country? Have we not as good a right to interpret the statute of Union as the right hon. Gentleman? Are our opinions to be set aside as naught, and are we to leave the matter to be decided by the gentlemen interested in shilling contract notes? And yet you boast of your great anxiety to keep faith with us! It appears that we would disgrace a Dublin Parliament. We are not wanted here, according to the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich. But what would it be in an Irish Parliament? You boast of your anxiety before Europe to keep faith with the nations, but here, in the simple matter of the exposition of a statute, there is no appeal to any legal decision. Is this great treaty between two great countries the only statute which is to have no legal interpretation? I can hale any man before the High Court of Justice in England or Ireland to recover sixpence; but where am I to apply for justice in the interpretation of the Treaty of Union? Is it to 129 the British Chancellor of the Exchequer? Is he likely to interpret it in the favour of his own country or of Ireland? Suppose Ireland had entrusted itself as a trustee to England; I could take him before the Court of Chancery and ask whether his trust had been properly carried out. But when this question affects eight million pounds a year, and affects the property of five millions of people, apparently his view of British justice is that this treaty should find its sole interpretation with the Treasury in Downing-street. First, you throw dirt on the statute, and then the British Government appoints a Royal Commission of eminent Englishmen, or men in eminent relations of life, whom you fall down and worship. These gentlemen come to a conclusion; but, no, you will not have their verdict. Where, then, are we to get justice? I would put it to any jury outside, or to any person who has studied international law, whether in a solemn matter affecting two nations, one of the parties to that treaty, and that party alone, should have its entire interpretation. The right hon. Gentleman said that Ireland was prosperous. If we are prosperous, what have we to thank you for? The only monuments of English government in Ireland are gaols and workhouses. You boast of having given us light railways. Somebody said in Russia that when you are expelled from India you would leave nothing behind but railways and empty soda-bottles. I do not suppose that the total capitalised value of the grants for light railways under the Act of 1893 exceeds a single year's taxation. And yet the right hon. Gentleman thinks that because he has furnished these light railways, he has discharged the whole duty of Englishmen towards our country. Then he went on to give a wonderful list of what he calls proofs of our great prosperity. First he talked about tenant right, and the large prices given in Ireland for tenant right. No prices are given in Ireland for tenant right. People buy the houses on the farms, which have been put up at a cost of £200 or £300, and that is what the price is paid for. It is not for the right of digging the land that they pay these exorbitant prices. Of course people must live in houses, and houses will always fetch their price. The next great instance of prosperity was the increasing 130 income of the railways. I think the right hon. Gentleman would have done well not to have mentioned that. It is, unfortunately, the truth. But it is one of the great scandals of the country that you have permitted the railway companies to exact from the people of Ireland their large dividends through the high rates of carriage of Biddy's cow and straw. And yet you throw that into our teeth as a proof of our prosperity, instead of as a proof of the entire want of supervision of Irish railways. What is the other great instance of our prosperity? The increase in bank deposits. It is quite true, and I assume it must be so. Before banking became known to the people of Ireland, within the last fifty years, the British Government were not able to steal all our money—the small hoards of the people were kept in stockings; but when the knowledge of banking became popular, no doubt the people took their savings to the banks, and hence arose the increase in the deposits. But in my judgment, instead of that being a good sign, I think it is a very bad one. [HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!] I think the very worst place for any man to have his money in is a bank. I can understand a man borrowing from a bank; but I can hardly imagine any sensible person being prepared to put his money in a bank at 1 per cent. when he can find more profitable investments; and it is because there is an absence of profitable investments in Ireland that the people put the money in the banks, and that these deposits have increased. Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that there is a set-off in the exemptions and abatements in Ireland which make up to us the value of what the Act of Union supposed we should get. What are the exemptions we get? There is no tax in Ireland on armorial bearings. Well, there are eighty Irish Nationalist Members in this House, and I do not suppose there is an armorial bearing amongst them. I should like to know, therefore, what you would get by taxing our armorial bearings. Certainly there is no tax on body or men servants. Whom would that tax hit if you put it on? Just two or three—a few dukes and landlords. What I invite you to do is to put the tax on, and see what you will get from it. I know very well it would not pay I the cost of collection. If it would pay the cost of collection it would be instantly 131 clapped on. I come to the income tax. Do Englishmen know that the mode of imposing income tax in Ireland is entirely different from that in England? In England a man's income tax is assessed by his neighbours, and each one of them knows that his neighbours in his own district will not be severe upon him. Who puts on the income tax in Ireland? A number of Englishmen are sent over from Downing Street, and by means of a direct Government inquisition the tax is imposed. Why don't you abolish in England what is practically the jury system in regard to the system of taxation? It is because you dare not do it. And yet, although it is admitted that Ireland did not pay that tax at all before the Union, when you did levy it you did the best you could to impose it direct by means of a Treasury clerk. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman's case is that he is really not a tax-gatherer at all, but a philanthropist. Whisky injures the coats of our stomachs; tea gives us indigestion; and coffee leads to sleepless nights in thinking about the British Government. But if the right hon. Gentleman is to be allowed to pose in this fashion as a philanthropist, why does he not take the true remedy and prevent the introduction of tea and coffee, the manufacture of whisky in the country, and the importation and manufacture of beer? Then I could understand the right hon. Gentleman as a philanthropist. Is his position, "We do not want to levy any taxes on the Irish people. They fight very well at times; they provide us with soldiers and generals of some mark, and for the sake of making Ireland a preserve of soldiers and generals we shall keep out of the country these noxious compounds"? We know very well that if we do not drink whisky, or beer, or tea, you would tax potatoes and salt. Is it not perfectly idle to raise, at this time of day, these sophistical pretensions? Then, we are asked to make suggestions. How often have our suggestions been taken? I say taxation on iron; we do not produce any iron. That was not adopted. Put a tax on coals; we scarcely raise any coal, but if there is little of that fuel in the country you can fall back on peat. It would be equally fair. It makes no difference whatever, once it has passed into the Statute Book. The right hon. Gentleman, I suppose, will pretend that we have no grievances. Well, Sir, really what is the 132 true state of the case? The right hon. Gentleman says he is delighted to see us founding ourselves on the Act of Union. We are obliged to do so; if the Act of Union did not exist, we would not be here. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be equally delighted when he comes to consider the question of Irish representation in this House. Not that I myself set any great value on the representation of Ireland in this House. I sometimes think that most of us would be almost as effective in a lunatic asylum. We are like the poor man married to a spendthrift wife. You lead this great Empire into adventures, now with Russia, now with France, now in India, now in South Africa, and drag us in your wake. We do not want to join in these adventures. We find them very costly, not only in money but in men. And yet we are asked what our grievance is. We say it is that small, poor Ireland is associated in the same fiscal system with great and powerful England. Why does the right hon. Gentleman consider it a surprising thing that we poor people believe we have a historic grievance as well as a fiscal grievance, and that we should come to this House demanding justice? That is the position we accept. I would invite him to read something about our country. Ireland has a past, although the right hon. Gentleman does not seem to think that it has a past. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, on occasions of this kind, to give us some forbearance, and to arrest for a moment even the discussion of a Water Bill. The conviction has been forced on me by considerable experience that to the English mind the smallest and minutest English grievance is a vital matter; but it is a nuisance for Irish wild men of the woods, or rapparees, to come here and ventilate their grievances, when you want to be talking about China or Pretoria. It seems to me that on these occasions Ireland is regarded as some clamorous beggar knocking at a rich man's door, and that he gets more kicks than halfpence. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer tells us that we have no grievance, that we are all wrong, that our country is all wrong, that he will make no concession, that the fiscal system of England is perfect, and whether we like it or not we have got to stifle our hopes for the future. That is the position. I am glad to say, however, 133 that I see at times some hon. Gentlemen on these benches have some faint glimmerings of reason in dealing with us. They ponder over the time when there may be some necessity of welding together the various parts of the Empire, and I strongly urge upon them to give more time, attention, and care to the wants of Ireland.
§ MR. LOUGH
The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that out of the fourteen millions of the new taxation proposed in his Budget, eight millions would be income tax, or 60 per cent. The inference of the right hon. Gentleman was that Ireland was not aggrieved, because 60 per cent. of the new taxation would be direct taxation. I want to challenge the truth of that suggestion. The imposition of the tea duty alone in Ireland will raise as much revenue as the additional income tax; and in addition to that there are the tobacco, beer, and spirit duties. If we work it out, not more than 30 per cent. of the new taxation in Ireland would be raised by direct taxation, as against 60 per cent. in England. The Chancellor of the Exchequer always tries to juggle Irishmen with figures taken from Great Britain. I maintain that direct taxation in Ireland is just as grievous a burden on Ireland as indirect taxation. Income tax is one of the three great direct taxes, the others being the death duties and the stamp duties. Now, these are taxes on wealth, which were imposed in this country in connection with Free Trade legislation, and were admirably suited to a commercial country. They are, however, totally unsuited to an agricultural country, and none of them existed in Great Britain when this country depended on agriculture. These taxes, therefore, are not suited to Ireland, because Ireland is an agricultural and not a commercial country. I remember when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire spoke on this question he made a speech as inadequate to the occasion as the position taken up by the First Lord of the Treasury. He said he accepted the findings of the Royal Commission, but how did he propose to carry them out? By reducing indirect taxation, which would bring no relief whatever to Ireland. No responsible Government acquainted with the conditions would impose such taxa- 134 tion on a country where wealth was diminishing, where capital was scarce and where rich men were few. All these conditions exist in Ireland. It may not appear to be my place to defend the rich class in Ireland, but I believe that Ireland is suffering to-day quite as much from the cruel way in which the rich have been stamped out throughout the country as it is suffering from the hard conditions under which the poor live. I was talking the other day to an hon. Member who lives in Ireland about the approaching visit to the Queen. He has a house in the south of Ireland, and I asked him whether he thought the Queen was likely to go south during her visit. He replied that he thought not, because there was no house south of Dublin in which the Sovereign could be suitably entertained. There was once a time when in every county in Ireland there were a dozen houses in which the Sovereign could be entertained. Why are they not there now? Because the rich have been stamped out and treated just as cruelly in Ireland as the poor. The rich would give employment, and I say your fiscal system has done very bad work in Ireland by the injustice it has inflicted on the rich just as it has pressed hardly on the poor. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says that the bulk of the indirect taxation in Ireland is on drink, and he asked was there any hon. Member who would suggest that the drink tax, "especially the tax on whisky" should be reduced. I suggest it. The greatest calamity has fallen on Ireland in regard to the consumption of intoxicating liquor since these high taxes have been imposed. They have not developed the moral welfare of the people; on the contrary. What are the facts? Take the tax on spirits. In 1853 it was 2s. 8d. per gallon; seven years afterwards it was 10s. What happened with regard to drunkenness in Ireland during the period of these high taxes? I will just give the House the figure. In 1842 the population of Ireland was 8,200,000, and there were 13,000 public-houses; to-day there is only a population of four and a half millions, but there are 18,000 public-houses. The population has fallen about 45 per cent., and the number of houses has increased by 45 per cent. That proves that your high duties have not diminished drunkenness. I believe they have stimulated it. I expressed that opinion once 135 before in this House, and was chaffed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin, who alluded to my speech as advocating the saving grace of cheap whisky. We had cheap whisky in Ireland, and in that period we had Father Matthew, the greatest temperance reformer Ireland has ever seen, and who worked the greatest revolution that the country has ever experienced. At that period, when the tax was only 2s. 8d., it was he who stamped out distilleries, reduced the breweries, and decreased the number of public-houses by 50 per cent. In the county in which I stay when in Ireland the population in 1880 was 120,000 and the number of public-houses was 330; to-day the population has fallen to 100,000 and the number of public-houses has increased to 380, and the Report of the Licensing Commission stated that these houses are the worst drinking houses in any civilised country, and it recommended that their licences should be withdrawn in five years. The Report also says that the quality of the liquor is the worst supplied to human beings in any country. You allow that liquor to be sold, and you get 10s. a gallon on whisky which is only one year old. You are interested in maintaining this infamous traffic.
§ MR. SPEAKER
It is not in order to say that hon. Members are interested in an infamous traffic. Moreover, the hon. Member should address himself to the Chair.
§ MR. LOUGH
Forgive me, Sir, if I have been carried away. Nothing is further from my thoughts than to make any personal reflection. My point was that when the tax is high the Government are interested in maintaining the traffic. These high duties will not diminish drunkenness. I was greatly interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Partick, the second sympathetic speech he has delivered in this House with regard to Ireland. He said that he would like to see railways nationalised and industries developed in Ireland. I would thoroughly welcome any scheme in that direction, though I am not as hopeful as the hon. Gentleman. One point in his argument goes to the root of this whole question between Ireland and Great Britain. He was stating the views of Pitt with regard to the proportion of taxation Ireland should pay, and he quoted from a speech in which Pitt said 136 that the moment the debt of Ireland was brought to a certain proportion to the debt of Great Britain equal taxation should be established. That was not the opinion of Pitt. He said that when the finances of both countries were in a certain proportion with regard to first the debt, secondly the different stages of civilisation and commerce, and thirdly the difference in wealth of the two nations, equal taxation would be rendered possible. These were the fundamental words used by Pitt, and his argument was that when these three conditions were brought into a certain proportion equal taxation might be established. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I think also the First Lord of the Treasury, refer to the clause in the Act of Union, they always pass lightly over the point that it was fixed that Ireland should pay two seventeenths of the whole amount paid by the United Kingdom. That meant that Ireland should pay £1 per head for every £3 10s. per head paid by the inhabitants of Great Britain. That was the arrangement made by Pitt in the Act of Union, and it was to remain until the commerce and wealth of the two nations came into a certain proportion. What has taken place since then? In 1860, instead of the proportion of £1 to £3 10s. per head we had £1 to £2, and now Ireland pays £1 for every £1 6s. paid per head in Great Britain, the effort of the Treasury being to make Ireland and Great Britain pay alike. Instead of the tendency of affairs being in the direction laid down in Pitt's conditions, matters are far worse than they were. When Pitt stated these opinions the population of Ireland as regards England was as one to two, now it is as one to eight; the capital of Ireland then stood to the capital of Great Britain as one to three; now it is as one to thirty, and instead of these facts justifying equal taxation they suggest that there should be even a greater difference made now than was made in 1800, when Pitt arranged the Union. Irish members are struggling for the recognition of the fact that Ireland cannot pay per head as much as Great Britain. Under the Act of Union the conditions laid down by Pitt as precedent to any claim for equal taxation have never been realised. I regret that interest in this question has fallen away; this is not the first time that Englishmen have been slow to accept arguments brought forward in respect to 137 Ireland, but the decrease of population and the increase of pauperism in Ireland are grave facts. I noticed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not again refer to the question of the growth of pauperism; it is a most serious element in the case. I believe we are drifting towards another famine, and that the condition of affairs in Ireland is much worse than Englishmen imagine. I think it is a great pity that the First Lord of the Treasury has not been able to give a little more thought to this matter. I know he has a sincere interest in Ireland, but these continual impositions of new burdens, considering the decrease of wealth and population, form one of the most formidable evils which have existed in any country, and, so far as I am concerned, I will heartily support the motion.
MR. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick)
I have no intention of inflicting a speech on the House or of reiterating the arguments which have been already used, but as a member of the executive of the Financial Reform League, it appears to me that the Leader of the House and the Chancellor of the Exchequer altogether misinterpret the extent of the volume of public opinion in Ireland against this taxation. Some of the leading aristocrats in Ireland and some of the leading Unionists, although they may differ politically, are united with us in this demand against the increase of taxation, and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer thinks there is only a languid desire on the part of the Irish people with respect to this question he is entirely mistaken. I may tell him that unless this question is grappled with in a fair spirit, steps may be taken by some of the leading members of the Irish Financial Reform League to bring matters to a crisis by a combination to endeavour to stop the payment of taxes. I myself have advocated that course, and if there was a general strike against the payment of taxes in Ireland it would be a very serious thing for the British Government. I am not prepared to say that that is the opinion of the majority of the members of the League, but I am prepared to say that if things are not remedied, it is quite possible that such a course may be taken by a certain number of men who have the courage to take that course and test public opinion on this subject. We are often taunted with having one opinion on the hillsides in Ireland and another opinion in this House, but I have 138 the courage of my convictions, and I would say nothing stronger in Ireland than I would be prepared to say in this House. What are the facts with regard to this question? I find that when the Queen came to the throne the total amount of the taxation of Ireland was £5,175,000, the number of inhabitants was 8,024,000, and the taxation per head was 12s. 11d.; in 1897 the taxation had increased to £8,148,000, the number of inhabitants had decreased to 4,475,000 and the taxation per head was £1 15s. 10d. I hold that the first duty of a Government is the safety of the people, and it apparently is the rule of the British Government in Ireland that as the population decreases the taxation is increased; but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that this subject will not be allowed to rest until the taxation of Ireland is readjusted. An Irish poet once wrote,Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.I think we may now say that our country is one where wealth diminishes and men decay. Our population is decreasing, our capital is decreasing, our commerce is decreasing, and yet notwithstanding all that, when we come to the British House of Commons with a plea for justice founded on the Act of Union, Unionists from England refuse to co-operate with Unionists from Ireland for the readjustment of our taxation. I doubt if the claim of Ireland will receive much consideration from the First Lord of the Treasury or from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But undoubtedly the policy which I am advocating will be followed out in Ireland unless we are met in a spirit of justice and fair play.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided. Before the result was announced—
§ MR. LOWE (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
May I explain that by a mistake I voted in the wrong lobby? I intended to vote in the "No" lobby, and by mistake I voted in the "Aye" lobby.
§ MR. MIDDLEMORE (Birmingham, N.)
I should like to say that I was in a similar unfortunate position.
§ The numbers were:—Ayes, 102; Noes, 220. (Division List No. 76).141
|Abraham William (Cork, N. E.)||Field, William (Dublin)||Molloy, Bernard C.|
|Allan, Wm. (Gateshead)||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Moore, A. (Londonderry)|
|Ambrose, Robert||Flynn, James Christopher||Morris, Samuel|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Fox, Dr. Joseph Francis||Murnaghan, George|
|Austin, M. (Limerick, W.)||Gibney, James||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)|
|Barlow, John Emmott||Gilhooly, James||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Goddard, Daniel Ford||O'Connor, Arthur (Donegal)|
|Billson, Alfred||Griffith, Ellis J.||O'Connor, James(Wicklow, W.|
|Birrell, Augustine||Hammond, John (Carlow)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Blake, Edward||Harrington, Timothy||O'Dowd, John|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Hayden, John Patrick||O'Keeffe, Francis Arthur|
|Burns, John||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale-||O'Kelly, James|
|Burt, Thomas||Healy, Maurice (Cork)||O'Malley, William|
|Caldwell, James||Healy, Timothy M. (N. Louth)||Parnell, John Howard|
|Carew, James Laurence||Hedderwick, Thomas C. H.||Pinkerton, John|
|Carvill, Patrick Geo. Hamilton||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Hogan, James Francis||Reckitt, Harold James|
|Commins, Andrew||Horniman, Frederick John||Redmond, J. E. (Waterford)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Jameson, Major J. Eustace||Redmond, W. (Clare)|
|Crean, Eugene||Jordan, Jeremiah||Rentoul, James Alexander|
|Crilly, Daniel||Kilbride, Denis||Roberts, J. B. (Eifion)|
|Crombie, John William||Lough, Thomas||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Curran, Thomas B. (Donegal)||Lowe, Francis William||Stanhope, Hon. Philip J.|
|Curran, Thomas (Sligo, S.)||Macaleese, Daniel||Steadman, William Charles|
|Daly, James||MacDonnell, Dr. MA (Queen'.C||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Dalziel, James Henry||MacIver, David (Liverpool)||Tanner, Charles Kearns|
|Dewar, Arthur||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Thomas, D. A. (Merthyr)|
|Dillon, John||M'Dermott, Patrick||Ure, Alexander|
|Doogan, P. C.||M'Ghee, Richard||Wanklyn, James Leslie|
|Douglas, Chas. M. (Lanark)||M'Hugh, Patrick A. (Leitrim)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid,)|
|Duckworth, James||M'Laren, Charles Benjamin||Woods, Samuel|
|Emmott, Alfred||Maddison, Fred.||Young, S. (Cavan, East)|
|Engledew, Charles John||Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Farrell, Jas. P. (Cavan, W.)||Middlemore, John T.||Sir Thomas Esmonde and|
|Farrell, Thos. J. (Kerry, S.)||Minch, Matthew||Captain Donelan.|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||Clare, Octavius Leigh||Giles, Charles Tyrrell|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Coghill, Douglas Harry||Gilliat, John Saunders|
|Arnold, Alfred||Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Godson, Sir August us Frederick|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Colomb, Sir John C. Ready||Goldsworthy, Major-General|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole||Gordon, Hon. John Edward|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Cook, Fred. Lucas (Lambeth)||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Eldon|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow||Goulding, Edward Alfred|
|Balcarres, Lord||Cornwallis, Fiennes Stanley W.||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r.||Cross, Herb. Shepherd (Bolton)||Green, Walford D (Wednesbury|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Greene, H. D. (Shrewsbury)|
|Barry, Rt Hn A H Smith- (Hunts||Curzon, Viscount||Gretton, John|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Dalkeith, Earl of||Greville, Hon. Ronald|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol||Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Gull, Sir Cameron|
|Beckett, Ernest William||Davies, Sir Horatio D. (Chath'm||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord George|
|Bemrose, Sir Henry Howe||Davies, M. Vaughan (Cardigan||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm.|
|Bethell, Commander||Denny, Colonel||Hardy, Laurence|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Digby, John K. D. Wingfield||Hare Thomas Leigh|
|Blakiston-Houston, John||Dorington, Sir John Edward||Haslett, Sir James Horner|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Heath, James|
|Bond, Edward||Douglas-Pennant, Hon. E. S.||Helder, Augustus|
|Bonsor, Henry Cosmo Orme||Doxford, Sir William Theodore||Hermon-Hodge, Robert T.|
|Bowles, Capt. H. F. (Middlesex)||Dyke, Rt Hon. Sir William Hart||Hoare, E. Brodie (Hampstead)|
|Brassey, Albert||Faber, George Denison||Hoare, Sir Samuel (Norwich)|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Hobhouse, Henry|
|Bullard, Sir Harry||Fergusson, Rt. Hn Sir J (Manc'r)||Hozier, Hon. James H. Cecil|
|Butcher, John George||Finch, George H.||Hudson, George Bickersteth|
|Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lanes.)||Finlay, Sir Robt. Bannatyne||Hutton, John (Yorks. N.R.)|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.||Firbank, Joseph Thomas||Jebb, Richard Claverhouse|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles William||Fison, Frederick William||Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, East)||Forster, Henry William||Jessel, Capt. Herbert Merton|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Foster, Colonel (Lancaster)||Johnston, William (Belfast)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. (Birm.||Fry, Lewis||Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)|
|Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc'r||Galloway, William Johnson||Kennaway, Rt. Hn. Sir John H.|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Garfit, William||Kenyon, James|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Gedge, Sydney||Kenyon-Slaney, Col. William|
|Charrington, Spencer||Gibbs, Hn A. G. H. (City of Lond.||Keswick, William|
|Chelsea, Viscount||Gibbs, Hon. Vicary (St. Albans)||Kimber, Henry|
|Knowles, Lees||Nicol, Donald Ninian||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Lafone, Alfred||Nussey, Thomas Willans||Strachey, Edward|
|Lawrence, Sir E. Durning- (Corn||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens||Strauss, Arthur|
|Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Parkes, Ebenezer||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.)||Penn, John||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier|
|Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cumb'lnd||Percy, Earl||Talbot, Rt Hn J. G. (Oxf'd Univ.)|
|Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Perks, Robert William||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur||Tollemache, Henry James|
|Loder, Gerald Walter E.||Pierpoint, Robert||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Long, Col. C. W. (Evesham)||Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Liverp'l)||Plunkett, Rt Hn Horace Curzon||Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)|
|Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Ward, Hon. Robert A. (Crewe)|
|Lowles, John||Pretyman, Ernest George||Warr, Augustus Frederick|
|Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Price, Robert John||Webster, Sir Richard E.|
|Lucas-Shadwell, William||Provand, Andrew Dryburgh||Welby, Lt.-Col. A. C. E. (Ta'nt'n|
|Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward||Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon-|
|Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Purvis, Robert||Wharton, Rt. Hon. John Lloyd|
|Macdona, John Gumming||Quilter, Sir Cuthbert||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Rankin, Sir James||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|M'Calmont, Col. J. (Antrim, E.)||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne||Williams, Joseph P.- (Birm.)|
|M'Iver, Sir Lewis (Edinb'gh, W||Ridley, Rt. Hn. Sir Matthew W.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|M'Killop, James||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. C. Thomson||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|Malcolm, Ian||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Maple, Sir John Blundell||Russell, Gen. F. S. (Cheltenham||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh, N.)|
|Martin, Richard Biddulph||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)||Wilson-Todd, W. H. (Yorks.)|
|Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F.||Rutherford, John||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath|
|Mellor, Colonel (Lancashire)||Sandys, Lieut.-Col. T. Myles||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Melville, Beresford Valentine||Seely, Charles Hilton||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M.||Seton-Karr, Henry||Wylie, Alexander|
|Moon, Edward Robert Pacy||Sidebotham, J. W. (Cheshire)||Wyndham, George|
|More, R. Jasper (Shropshire)||Sidebottom, William (Derbysh||Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arcy|
|Morrell, George Herbert||Simeon, Sir Barrington||Young, Commander (Berks, E.)|
|Morrison, Walter||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)||Younger, William|
|Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptfrd||Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch)|
|Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.||Smith, James P. (Lanarks)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute)||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)||Mr. Anstruther and Mr.|
|Newdigate, Francis Alexander||Stanley, Edward J. (Somerset)||Fisher.|
|Nicholson, William Graham||Stewart, Sir M. J. M'Taggart|