§ As amended, further considered.
§ MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)
said the clause he had placed upon the Paper was a clause to repeal Section 2 of the Finance Act of 1901; the clause which first imposed the sugar duty and the clause under which the sugar duty was imposed in the present Bill. He had 1128 a clause standing in his name to limit the sugar duty to a certain portion of the coming year, but he had found that that provision had been moved by the hon. Member for Carnarvon in Committee, and his justification for introducing it now in another form was that no report had appeared with regard to the sugar debate owing to the unconscionable hour at which the question was dealt with. He now asked the House to consider seriously the total repeal of this sugar duty. He based his clause not only on the ground common to all indirect taxes, especially those which had been imposed in recent years, that they extorted an unfair contribution from the poorer classes and inflicted upon them an economic injustice, but also upon two grounds 1129 which were peculiar to the sugar tax. In the first place, he objected to this tax and asked for its repeal because it was a tax upon the raw material of most important industries which had a great future before them, and to which it was doing the most deadly injury, and his other ground was that since this tax was imposed in 1901 its incidence had been made more oppressive by the injurious effect of the Sugar Convention. They had to look on the sugar duty not merely as a duty on an article of general consumption, like tea, which, except as regarded the duty, had free access to the country, but as a duty which had been aggravated and intensified in its injurious effects by the Sugar Convention; they had to look at it not as a temporary tax imposed for the purposes of the war, but as one of those permanent taxes which it had become the fashion to impose one after another for the purposes of revenue. The Chancellor of the Exchequer regarded it as one of his great functions to find some new pockets to draw from or to dip still deeper into the old one. The reason why the right hon. Gentleman had spared sugar on this occasion must have been because it was present to the minds of the Ministry that sugar had suffered exceptionally owing to the complication and further loss induced by the Sugar Convention.
He did not wish to enter fully into the merits of the Sugar Convention, and perhaps would not be in order in doing so. He only touched upon it because the result of the Convention had been to prejudice the interest of these great industries and had caused this tax to fall more heavily on the consumers. There had been gloomy forecasts that prices would go up and trade would go down. Those forecasts had been repudiated by the President and the Secretary to the Board of Trade. The latter had said that he did not believe for a moment that the price of sugar would be raised by anything like a halfpenny by the abolition of the bounties.
§ MR. SPEAKER
It will not be in order to discuss the rise of prices or other effects of the Convention.
§ MR. CHANNING
That ruling would prevent him from using the full force of 1130 the argument from the facts, but he would contend that, whether the Convention had aggravated it or not, the duty alone had had a most prejudicial effect upon these industries, which had hitherto been rapidly growing. There had been an enormous rise in prices. Whatever its cause, there had been a continuous rise in the price of standard 88 per cent. sugar, free on board at Hamburg. The price on 3rd July, 1902, was 5s. 10d., and now it was 9s. 7¼d. In other words, the price of sugar hail risen by 63 per cent. There had also been a steady diminution in the consumption of sugar in this country. Before 1901 the normal increase had been 30,000 to 40,000 tons a year. But in the past three years there had been 1,730,868 tons in 1901, 1,567,184 tons in 1902, and 1,327,118 tons in 1903. There had been a drop during the past two years of 200,000 tons, or 26 per cent. The injury done to those trades which used sugar as a raw material was manifest by the Board of Trade Returns, which upon consultation would show that the export of jams and confectionery had gone down year by year, as had also the exports of biscuits and cakes, pickles and condiments. There had also been a marked diminution in one branch of the sugar industry in this country, to which great importance had been attached in the great city of Birmingham, the manufacture of cocoa and chocolate, the exports of which had diminished in a remarkable degree, from £206,781 in 1900 to £129,431 in 1902, whilst in those countries where sugar as a raw material was free the exports had greatly increased. Switzerland now sending us £350,000 worth of milk chocolates. The effect on these great industries had been most disastrous. They had been told that the different refiners in this country were to be benefited, but it so happened that those engaged in the sugar industries stood in regard to the sugar refiners in the ratio of 50 to 1. They had also been told that this policy was directed to the benefit of the West Indies, but so far the result had been an enormous increase in the last two years of the manufacture of beet sugar in Germany and France and that in those countries it was being consumed in vastly greater quantities than hitherto. At the time of the imposition 1131 of this duty the Government gave a definite pledge that if they found that these industries were seriously prejudiced they would endeavour to find a means of meeting the injury and mitigating it. What was urged now by these industries was that that pledge could only be made good at the present time by the diminution or abolition of this duty, which pressed so hardly upon them. Mr. Boyd, President of the Manufacturing Confectioners' Association, wrote to him—The results of the Convention are proving even more disastrous than we anticipated. Our trade, consequently feels the duty on sugar even 'more acutely.' The confectionery and similar trades have never been so bad as in the past year. Many failures have occurred and nearly every house in the trade is experiencing a diminished demand for sugar products.Turning to the effect upon the workers in these sugar industries, the hon. Gentleman pointed out that two years ago he had information placed in his hands by representatives of the workers in these industries which showed that at that time there had been a loss of £750,000 in wages and a diminution of 20,000 hands in the various factories. He could not vouch for those figures, but he submitted that the facts related to him at the time constituted a legitimate claim on the part of the workers that the Government should insist upon inquiring into the facts with the view of meeting this grievance if possible. The sugar duty had been assumed to be 40 per cent. on the value of the article itself, but that was on the value of the sugar "free on board" at Hamburg, which was the standard measure of the sugar trade, but everybody knew that the result was far greater than that to the consumer. The consumer had also to meet all the intermediate charges for freight, profits, etc., which were not tangible and were therefore difficult to exactly estimate. He dwelt upon these additions in order to show how moderate was their contention in using the figure of the duty alone in calculating the incidence of this tax upon the individual consumer. He had always attacked the sugar tax very strongly because it had seemed to him that its imposition was a part of the definite and persistent policy of the right hon. 1132 Member for West Bristol since 1895 of steadily increasing the indirect taxation of the country and extending the area of taxation. He objected to expanding indirect taxation on the same ground that he thought it a pernicious policy to meet the cost of wars or other great emergencies by loans. It concealed from the taxpayer the growth of expenditure and the methods by which their resources were being stealthily transferred to purposes they had not considered. It was absolutely necessary that there should be an adequate and scientific inquiry into the real incidence of taxation.
He felt some disappointment at the cynical indifference of the Prime Minister when the right hon. Gentleman, in answer to a Question he put across the floor of the House inviting him to consent to some form of inquiry into the incidence of all these taxes direct as well as indirect on the various classes of individuals in order to adjust the taxes to the taxable capacity of the individual taxed, said that he did not feel justified in instituting an inquiry because all the facts were to be found in the various manuals which everyone could consult, and from which everybody could form their own opinion. General principles, it was true, were laid down in the manuals, but the facts were not, and what we had to depend upon for arriving at the true consumption and the true incidence of this taxation was the efforts of individuals like Booth, Rowntree, and others. He had always regarded this House as a temple of justice and purity and honour in regard to these matters, and he believed if they had an inquiry into the incidence of taxation there was not a Member of that Assembly who would not do ample justice to this matter. He wished hon. Members to really consider what the incidence of this tax was on the various classes of the community. He would not again lay before the House the results from the large number of family budgets he had obtained and used last year. But he had obtained, partly from the Fiscal Inquiry Blue-book, and from family expenditures supplied to him by friends, an exact calculation of the incidence of this tax upon a series of incomes of various classes. If they took the amount of sugar consumed and calculated the duty on 1133 that and then interpreted the duty in the form of income-tax at so many pence in the £, taking the labourers first and the artisans next, the labourers as stated in the Blue-book by that able public servant Mr. Wilson Fox with an average wage of 18s. 6d. a week and the artisans with an average of 30s. a week, also from the Blue-book, they would see that on this sugar tax a labourer earning 18s. 6d. a week paid an income-tax of 2.63d. in the £ and the artisan earning 30s. a week paid 2.166d. in the £. What was the contribution of the comparatively rich man towards the sugar tax? The man with £1,500 a year paid an income-tax on the sugar tax of .2d.; the man with £3,500 a year .157d.; and the very rich man with £20,000 a year paid on the sugar duty an income-tax of only .0328d. in the .. In other words, the labourer was paying thirteen times as much as the man with £1,500 a year; twenty times as much as the man with £3,500 a year; and nearly eighty times as much as the man with £20,000 a year. He thought that these figures, which were not irrelevant to the discussion before the House, constituted a very strong ground for a full inquiry into the whole incidence of taxation which was raised by this Budget. If the tea duty and the sugar duty were added together, it would be found, on inquiry, that equally astonishing results would be arrived at. He had laid before the House in past years figures based on the calculations of Mr. Chamberlain in 1885, calculations which Mr. Chamberlain had never attempted to withdraw from—and had shown that with the war taxes the general contributions of the average working man ran up to an income-tax of 2s. 6d. in the £ and this year this enormous burden was increased by the additional tea duty. He thought he had made out a substantial case that this sugar duty pressed unduly on industry and imposed on the working classes of the country a greater burden than the richer classes were called upon to bear. He begged to move.
A clause [Abolition of sugar duty]—Section 2 of The Finance Act, 1901, is hereby repealed."—(Mr. Channing.)Brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the clause be read a second time."
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said he derived a certain satisfaction from the reflection that in this matter he was not proposing any new departure or any departure of a heretical or suspicious character, from the practice of his predecessors. In the course of the discussion, which had lasted over fourteen days, there was hardly a tax carried or continued by his predecessors which hon. Gentlemen had not proposed to abolish or reduce. They did not stop to inquire how the revenue was to be raised or the service of the country to be carried on. They demanded that debt should be reduced more rapidly, but they attacked every individual tax in turn. The proposal which the hon. Gentleman made was, in a year in which the country was in need of all the financial resources it could command, to abolish a revenue of £6,000,000. If the hon. Gentleman's Party were in office they would not dare to make such a sacrifice in present circumstances. It was impossible and would be ruinous to the financial credit of the country to forego so large a portion of the revenue at a time when the needs were so great. So far from the present distribution as between direct and indirect taxation being unfair, while he did not attach importance to a mathematical division, he maintained that the proportion was more favourable to the indirect taxpayer than at any time when the hon. Gentleman's Party was in power, and that in the estimates in the present year direct and indirect taxation were divided in exactly the same proportions as in the year before the war. He thought the hon. Gentleman's argument was a little enfeebled by the fact that it was based in large part in his own mind on considerations which were not in order in this discussion. He was surprised that any hon. Gentleman on that side should appear to think it necessary or desirable that the industries of this country should be bolstered up by a system of artificial cheapness in regard to their raw material. The sugar duty, so far from depressing industries, was one of the duties which had responded to the anticipations of his predecessor. In looking over the Customs returns of last year under this class of 1135 articles he noticed that there was a considerable proportion of increase due almost entirely to an increased importation of cocoa. That hardly bore out that the cocoa industry had suffered from the tax. He lived very near one of the centres of the cocoa industry, and he had received no information that led him to suppose that the industry was not in a prosperous condition. For these and other reasons he declined to accept the Motion.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
said he would give the right hon. Gentleman two good reasons why the Opposition were opposed to the taxes which had been imposed by the Government during the last few years. In the first place they believed that the expenditure of the country was far too great and the only way to reduce that expenditure was by reducing the revenue at the disposal of the Government. In the second place, they believed, as election after election showed, that the Government did not possess the confidence of the country, and therefore they were not disposed to vote these enormous supplies to the Government to keep them in office. The right hon. Gentleman said that he and his predecessor had brought back the equilibrium between direct and indirect taxation which had obtained before the war. He did not believe that at all. During each of the war years there was a very slight addition to the direct taxation, and even if the indirect taxation was increased in the same proportion, yet, when it came to a question of remissions after the war, there was no policy at all in regard to these. Direct taxation was remitted to the extent of £10,500,000 while indirect taxation was relieved only to the extent of £2,500,000 or a balance of £8,000,000 in favour of direct taxation. If this Government remained in office he feared there would not be any opportunity of reducing expenditure. Only that morning a circular had been issued with the Votes pointing out what would be the additional cost of various matter in connection with the Army. They had always understood that in connection with Army reform they were going to have great economies, but now they found that it was proposed during the coming two years to increase the expenditure on the Army by no less a 1136 sum than £3,000,000 a year. It was no good for the right hon. Gentleman to say that indirect taxation had had relief in the same proportion as direct taxation. On the contrary the annual amount of indirect taxation imposed on the consumer had been increased by £4,500,000. Every year it was increasing, and would increase as long as the present Government remained in office. It was therefore the duty of the Opposition to oppose every taxation proposal of the present Government on the grounds he had already stated.
§ * MR. EMMOTT (Oldham)
said that the right hon. Gentleman stated that they on that side opposed every tax. He would remind the right hon. Gentlemen that it would be out of order for them to propose new taxation; and, therefore, it was only open to them to attack taxation as it was brought forward. That was the only way to bring home to the country how hardly this taxation pressed on various classes of the community. The right hon. Gentleman also said that if they on that side were responsible for the Government of the country they would not propose a reduction in taxation. He agreed that there was a great deal of reason in that; but if they had a Government they could trust they should know that it proposed taxation only because it was necessary; that it was pledged to economy; and that it desired, as far as possible, to lessen the indirect taxation which was put on at the time of the war. They could not, however, trust right hon. Gentlemen opposite. If suggestions were wanted he would say that if they had a Government they could trust, there would be no such Licensing Bill as had been brought forward this session; and something more would probably be got out of licences. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said he did not attach much importance to the question of direct as against indirect taxation. He did not know in what sense the right hon. Gentleman used that phrase. The right hon. Gentleman, however, agreed with his right hon. relative, who wanted to increase indirect taxation. He said so in a very remarkable speech only on Saturday last. He did not understand the right hon. Gentleman's position. He did not understand why the right hon Gentleman was where he was. He did 1137 not understand why the right hon. Gentleman was not out of the Cabinet backing up his right hon. friend; but that was a question for himself. The right hon. Gentleman said that Members of the Opposition, did not thank the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Croydon for striking off the corn tax. The reason why the Budget of last year was not more bitterly opposed was undoubtedly because the corn duty was got rid of; and, although they objected very strongly to the large amount of direct taxation which was struck off in comparison with the small amount of indirect taxation, still, they were so thankful to have got rid of the corn tax that they did not oppose the Budget as they might have opposed it under other circumstances.
As to the question whether the sugar duty combined with the Convention, had seriously interfered with the consumption of sugar in this country, he fully admitted that the figures up to the present were not such as could be relied on with any great confidence. It was very difficult to draw conclusions from them. If hon. Members, however, would look at the figures from 1888 in triennial periods up to the present they would find that in the period 1888–1890 the consumption per head was 73.8 lbs., and that it gradually increased until it was 86–7 lbs. in the period 1900–2. In 1903 the consumption was only 74 lbs., which was smaller than in any one year since 1890, when it was 73–2 lbs. It was perfectly certain that the steady progress in the consumption of sugar had stopped; and it was now abundantly proved that sugar in this country was dearer than it was; while it was cheaper than it had been before in other countries. That was a great relative disadvantage to the poorest of the poor in this country. But sugar was not only food; it was also a great raw material. They had heard a great deal of lamentation in the autumn about the enormous injury which was done to the working classes because fewer people were engaged in the refining industry; but if all the sugar consumed in the country were refined in the country, it would only mean employment for 6,000 people; whereas, the great trades which depended on sugar for their raw material did employ at least 120,000. 1138 Therefore, not only were the poorest of the poor hard hit by the sugar duty but many new industries were also hard hit by it. He spoke on this question rather strongly, because, as a so-called fanatical free trader, he did not care for the system under which sugar came into this country artificially cheap. But when he looked at the results which followed from the duty and the Convention—
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The Motion simply refers to the effect of the tax on sugar, not to the effect of the Convention.
§ * MR. EMMOTT
apologised and said it was almost impossible to separate one cause from the other. He would conclude by pointing out that the price of sugar had risen materially as a result of this duty; and, although he fully admitted that in the present state of the finances of the country it was necessary to raise this money, still he maintained that they were perfectly right in calling attention to the great harm which the tax would inflict on the poorer classes, and on many industries in the country.
§ DR. MACNAMARA (Camberwell, N.)
said it was a curious spectacle to see the present Chancellor of the Exchequer defending the sugar tax. The right hon. Gentleman was the political product of the free breakfast table; he was steeped in democratic finance at the beginning of his political career; and he should have thought that he would have favoured the doctrine of taking ransom from the rich and of keeping the unholy hand of the tax-gatherer off the necessaries of life. Yet, to-night the right hon. Gentleman was defending the tax on sugar. He should like to know the private opinion of the right hon. Gentleman on the matter. He did not think that the right hon Gentleman would support, as a private individual, what he was bound to support as Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol justified the tax on the ground that it was in the true interests of peace and economy that the labouring classes, as well as other classes, should bear the burden of the cost of the war and the preparation for the war. Were they now 1139 bearing the burden of war or of preparation for war? All the reasons given as a justification for the tax by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol had disappeared; and they were entitled to ask that it should be removed. He objected to the reasons given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol. He did not believe that the poorer people of the country declared war. Parliament was not sitting when war was declared; and the poorer people were necessarily ignorant of what went on, and could not give a vote on the issue. He should certainly vote with the greatest possible pleasure with his hon. friend.
§ MR. WHITLEY
said he wished to say a few words from the point of view of the trade. He had in his constituency the most progressive and flourishing industry among the new industries of the district and it depended for its raw material on cheap sugar. This tax,together with the increase brought about by the Sugar Convention, had had a most serious effect upon that industry. They were told that the policy of the Government did not include a tax on raw material and yet here was a tax which was distinctly a tax on raw material. He thought they were justified from that point of view alone in calling attention to the matter. When members of the Government talked about increasing employment it was their duty to show that the Government were decreasing employment in existing trades. He hoped other Members whose constituencies were affected in the same Way would continue to point out how the policy of the sugar tax and the Sugar Convention had not only made dearer the raw material at home but cheapened the raw material abroad. It was an unique example of the effect of endeavouring to introduce scientific taxation.
§ MR. HARWOOD
said he found himself in a difficulty in trying to follow the logic of the right hon. Gentleman. He said that they were not sufficiently grateful to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol for removing the corn tax, because they criticised his Budget. Surely, it was unreasonable to suggest that because there was one good thing in a Budget 1140 they should keep their mouths closed about the bad things in it. Then, the right hon.Gentleman said that as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol put on the sugar tax, and as he was a free-trader and a favourite of theirs, therefore they ought not to criticise the sugar tax. Really because the late Chancellor happened to be a free-trader it did not follow that he never made a mistake and that therefore they were to swallow everything that he proposed and never criticise his proposals. They would surely be in a most ridiculous position if they did. There was another point. While they were justified in fighting every point, some severe criticism had been passed as to the position of the Opposition in prolonging the discussion. The general point was this, that the Opposition said the Government was spending too much; that expenditure had increased, was increasing, and must be diminished, and the only means of showing that was when each tax arose to apply the case and show how hardly the tax pressed upon the people. It was not an answer to say that the Chancellor of the Exchequer required £6,000,000. His hon. friend the Member for Halifax had referred to the trade point of view of the sugar tax. He knew they were not allowed on the clause to discuss the Sugar Convention, but it was acknowledged in the discussion on the Convention that products made from sugar, if they came from a country which had joined the Convention, were admitted duty-free even though they were made from bounty-fed sugar. That was to say that their own manufacturers were handicapped compared with the manufacturers of other countries. He mentioned this to show how the case was aggravated by the sugar tax. The Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke of the garden city near his home built on the profits of past years and he supposed that was intended to be an argument that trade was going on swimmingly. The fact remained that in the cocoa trade the increase had been stopped. The first sign of injury showed by a business was not that it diminished, but that it ceased to increase, and that was the phenomenon they had to face in that case. Year by year the trade was increasing in a certain ratio, but the Government took certain 1141 steps with the result that that increase had disappeared.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Member in saying "the Government took certain steps" is apparently referring to the Convention, and that is not before the House.
§ MR. HARWOOD
said he was referring to this particular tax, and showing that it operated as a burden upon a particular trade to such an extent that all increase had been stopped. It was really hard that when the Government required more money they should go to the two articles—tea and sugar—which were the most necessary to the poor. It was possible to pay too much for one's whistle, and the whistle of Empire might be bought at too dear a price. If the Government could not bear the expense except by placing these burdens upon the poor, he recommended them to try another policy and see whether they could not retrench and manage matters more economically.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said that, were it not for coming into conflict with the Chair, it would be perfectly possible to suggest alternatives. As it was once said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, it was not for the physician to prescribe until he had been called in, and the Opposition were not bound to disclose their remedies until they were in a position to diagnose the complaint. The patient was suffering not from too little taxation, but from too much expenditure, and the cure was to cut down expenditure, and that was the point that would have to be considered when the time came. But each tax had to be considered upon its merits. It was only by resisting the imposition of new taxes that the House of Commons could exercise any real control over expenditure. The only way in which Governments could be forced to face the alternative of reducing expenditure was by the House of Commons declaring that an undue burden was being placed upon the people, and demanding that the expenditure should 1142 be cut down. That was really the position the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to take up, and if he did not the House of Commons would have to do it for him. When the Estimates of the year were presented to him by the different Departments, Lord Randolph Churchill, instead of looking round for new taxes, took the rational but more difficult course of turning to the spending Departments and saying that they and not the taxpayers would have to find the remedy. The House of Commons could never cut down Estimates in Committee of Supply. In other countries there were Budget Committees, by whom the Estimates were examined, but since such a Committee did not exist here, all the House of Commons could do was to say, "We will not impose additional burdens upon the people, the necessities of the Empire do not justify them, therefore, you must find some other remedy by getting the heads of the spending Departments to cut down their estimates." Chancellors of the Exchequer were, after all, very human. They simply took the line of least resistance. They had to face, on the one hand, insistent colleagues, each clamoring for additional expenditure, and on the other hand, the House of Commons, Where they had their majority, who would vote for any mortal thing the Whips told them to. The only thing such Members cared about was to stave off a dissolution; they feared their constituents more than the taxation; hence the Chancellor of the Exchequer knew he would get his proposals through the House of Commons without much difficulty. The old tradition of Chancellors of the Exchequer was to reduce taxation; the line of new Chancellors of the Exchequer was to say, "Look at my term of office! My predecessor put on £5,000,000; I will put on £15,000,000. My little finger shall be thicker than his loin!" That was their claim to immortality.
During the last three or four years indirect taxation had been increased by £15,000,000. Why had there been these increases in the burdens of the people? Because, instead of bona fide discussions on the Budget such as there used to be, there had been only perfunctory debates, and even they had been discouraged by the majority Discussion should be encouraged so as to 1143 make it difficult for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to impose new taxation without thoroughly sifting the matter. The right hon. Gentleman probably did not really wrestle with his colleagues on the question of expenditure before deciding to continue this tax. It was necessary to take the Chancellor of the Exchequer —in a Parliamentary sense —by the throat, and, by refusing to continue these burdens, to force him to reduce expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol justified the imposition solely on the ground of "adequate public necessity," and purely as a war tax. The war was over; where then was the "adequate public necessity" for keeping on the tax? It was simply the extravagance of the Government. Estimates were supervised in the most reckless fashion; in fact, they were not supervised at all. The Government had no time to look after their proper business; it took them all their time to keep together, and as long as that went on there would be no proper management of the business of the country. What was the good of the Government talking about the Empire unless they could manage its finances? Taxation of this kind was most insidious in its character, The people did not realise that they were paying it. The average consumption of sugar per family of the population was about 8 lbs. per week, so that the tax meant about 4d. per week. What was
§ 4d. per week? When it was a question of school fees, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham declared that 3d. per week was a great deal for a working man to pay; that it meant 3d. from the necessaries of life, and that he would rather cut off his right arm than be a party to imposing such a burden. But here was the right hon. Gentleman's relative, not merely not cutting off his right arm to prevent taxation, but using both arms to keep it on. Fourpence a week was a serious item to a man with a small wage and a large family. The primary functions of the House of Commons were to examine the finances of the country and to redress grievances, but those were the last two duties the House was under present circumstances permitted to discharge. It was time the House of Commons reasserted its prerogative, and carefully scrutinised all these burdens upon the people of the land.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
quoted from a speech by Mr. Disraeli, in which he said that sugar was an article of colonial produce which had been embarrassing to many Governments and had sometimes caused political disaster.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 124; Noes, 201. (Division List No. 274.)1147
|Abraham, William (Cork, N.E.)||Delany, William||Harcourt, Lewis V.(Rossendale|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Devlin, Chas. Ramsay (Galway||Hardie, J.Keir(MerthyrTydvil)|
|Barlow, John Emmott||Devlin, Joseph (Kilkenny, N.)||Harwood, George|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Donelan, Captain A.||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Bell, Richard||Doogan, P. C.||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.|
|Benn, John Williams||Duncan, J. Hastings||Hobhouse, C. E. H. (Bristol,E.)|
|Boland, John||Dunn, Sir William||Holland, Sir William Henry|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Edwards, Frank||Horniman, Frederick John|
|Brigg, John||Elibank, Master of||Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley)|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Ellice, Capt.E.C(SAndrw'sBghs||Jacoby, James Alfred|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Ellis, John Edward (Notts.)||Johnson, John (Gateshead)|
|Burke, E. Haviland||Emmott, Alfred||Joicey, Sir James|
|Burt, Thomas||Evans, Sir Fran. H. (Maidstone||Jones, D. Brynmor (Swansea)|
|Buxton, Sydney Charles||Eve, Harry Trelawney||Joyce, Michael|
|Caldwell, James||Farrell, James Patrick||Kearley, Hudson E.|
|Cameron, Robert||Fenwick, Charles||Kennedy,Vincent P.(Cavan,W.|
|Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond||Kilbride, Denis|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Flynn, James Christopher||Lambert, George|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)||Langley, Batty|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Freeman-Thomas, Captain F.||Law, Hugh Alex. (Donegal,W.)|
|Cremer, William Randal||Fuller, J. M. F.||Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall)|
|Cullinan, J.||Goddard, Daniel Ford||Layland-Barratt, Francis|
|Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen)||Griffith, Ellis J.||Levy, Maurice|
|Davies, M. Vaughan (Cardigan)||Hammond, John||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Lloyd-George, David||Power, Patrick Joseph||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Lough, Thomas||Priestley, Arthur||Sullivan, Donal|
|Lyell, Charles Henry||Rea, Russell||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Rickett, J. Compton||Thomas, D. Alfred (Merthyr)|
|MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)||Thompson,Dr.E C(Monagh'n,N|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)||Tomkinson, James|
|M'Kean, John||Robson, William Snowdon||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Mansfield, Horace Rendall||Roe, Sir Thomas||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Moulton, John Fletcher||Runciman, Walter||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)|
|Murphy, John||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Nannetti, Joseph P.||Samuel. S. M. (Whitechapel)||Whiteley, H.(Ashton und.Lyne|
|Nussey, Thomas Willans||Seely, Maj. J.E.B.(Isleof Wight||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Shackleton, David James||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|O'Malley, William||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)|
|O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Partington, Oswald||Sheehy, David||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr.|
|Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden)||Slack, John Bamford||Herbert Gladstone and Mr.|
|Perks, Robert William||Soames, Arthur Wellesley||William N'Arthur.|
|Pixie, Duncan V.||Stanhope, Hon. Philip James|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph||Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Duke, Henry Edward||Lawson, J. Grant (Yorks., N.R.|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||Lee, A. H. (Hants., Fareham)|
|Arnold-Forster,Rt.Hn.Hugh O||Dyke, Rt.Hn.Sir William Hart||Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Fergusson, Rt.Hn.SirJ.(Manc'r||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage|
|Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt.Hn.Sir H.||Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Leveson-Gower, Frederick N.S.|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Llewellyn, Evan Henry|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Fison, Frederick William||Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R.|
|Baird, John George Alexander||FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose||Long, Col.CharlesW.(Evesham)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Fitzroy, Hn. Edward Algernon||Long, Rt.Hn.Walter(Bristol,S.)|
|Balfour, Rt.Hon. A.J.(Manch'r||Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Lonsdale, John Brownlee|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. G. W.(Leeds||Forster, Henry William||Lowe, Francis William|
|Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch.||Foster, P. S. (Warwick, S.W.)||Loyd, Archie Kirkman|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Galloway, William Johnson||Lucas, Reginald J.(Portsmouth|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin||Gardner, Ernest||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Gibbs, Hon. A. G. H.||Macdona, John Cumming|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Gore, Hon. S. F. Ormsby||M'Iver,Sir Lewis(Edinburgh,W|
|Bigwood, James||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Majendie, James A. H.|
|Bingham, Lord||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Melville, Beresford Valentine|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Greene,Sir E.W(B'rySEdm'nds||Mitchell, Edw.(Fernianagh,N.)|
|Bowles, Lt.-Col.H.F(Middlesex||Greene, Henry D.(Shrewsbury)||Molesworth, Sir Lewis|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Greene, W. Raymond (Cambs.)||Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)|
|Brotherton, Edward Allen||Gretton, John||Moore, William|
|Brown, Sir Alex. H.(Shropsh.)||Hain, Edward||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Bull, William James||Hardy, L. (Kent, Ashford)||Morrell, George Herbert|
|Butcher, John George||Harris, Dr. Fredk. R.(Dulwich)||Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer|
|Campbell, J.H.M.(DublinUniv.||Hatch, Ernest Frederick Geo.||Mount, William Arthur|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Heath, Arthur Howard(Hanley||Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Heath, James (Staffords., N.W.||Muntz, Sir Philip A.|
|Cavendish, V.C.W. (Derbyshire||Heaton, John Henniker||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Helder, Augustus||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)|
|Chamberlain,Rt Hn.J.A(Worc.||Henderson, Sir A.(Stafford,W.)||Newdegate, Francis A. N.|
|Charrington, Spencer||Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T.||Nicholson, William Graham|
|Clare, Octavius Leigh||Hickman, Sir Alfred||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens|
|Coates, Edward Feetham||Hope, J.F.(Sheffield,Brightside||Palmer, Sir Walter (Salisbury)|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Hoult, Joseph||Parker, Sir Gilbert|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Howard, Jn.(Kent, Faversham||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole||Hozier, Hn. James Henry Cecil||Pease,Herbert Pike(Darlington|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Hudson, George Bickersteth||Peel, Hn.Wm.Robert Wellesley|
|Craig, Charles Curtis(Antrim,S.||Hunt, Rowland||Pemberton, John S. G.|
|Cripps, Charles Alfred||Jameson, Major J. Eustace||Percy, Earl|
|Cross, Herb. Shepherd (Bolton)||Jeffreys, Rt. Hon. Arthur Fred.||Pierpoint, Robert|
|Crossley, Rt. Hon. Sir Savile||Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Kennaway, Rt.Hn.Sir John H.||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Kenyon, Hon.Geo. T.(Denbigh)||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward|
|Davenport, William Bromley||Kerr, John||Pym, C. Guy|
|Davies, Sir HoratioD.(Chatham||Keswick, William||Rankin, Sir James|
|Denny, Colonel||King, Sir Henry Seymour||Ratcliff, R. F.|
|Dickinson, Robert Edmond||Knowles, Sir Lees||Reid, James (Greenock)|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Laurie, Lieut.-General||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Renshaw, Sir Charles Bine||Sloan, Thomas Henry||Warde, Colonel C. E.|
|Renwick, George||Smith, Abel H.(Hertford,East)||Webb, Colonel William George|
|Ridley, Hon. M.W.(Stalybridge||Smith,RtHn J.Parker(Lanarks||Wharton, Rt. Hon. John Lloyd|
|Ridley, S.Forde(Bethnal Green||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)||Whiteley, H.(Ashton und.Lyne|
|Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)||Stanley, EdwardJas.(Somerset)||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Lancs.||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|Rolleston, Sir John F. L.||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Round, Rt. Hon. James||Stone, Sir Benjamin||Wilson, A.Stanley (York, E.R.)|
|Royds, Clement Molyneux||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart|
|Rutherford, John (Lancashire)||Thornton, Percy M.||Wrightson, Sir Thomas|
|Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)||Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M.||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford||Tritton, Charles Ernest||Wyndham-Quin, Col. W. H.|
|Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander||Tuff, Charles|
|Sandys, Lieut.-Col.Thos. Myles||Valentia, Viscount||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir|
|Saunderson, Rt.Hn.Col.Edw.J.||Vincent,Col.Sir C.E.H(Sheffield||Alexander Acland-Hood and|
|Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln)||Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)||Mr. Ailwyn Fellowes.|
|Sharpe, William Edward T.||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Simeon, Sir Barrington||Wanklyn, James Leslie|
§ MR. J. H. LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)
said the Amendment he had to submit proposed to restore the duty on tea to the figure at which it stood in the Finance Bill of last year, namely, 6d. per lb. This was one of the most important questions that could be discussed on the Finance Bill. They could not too carefully scrutinise the expenditure of the country, and a better example could not be given of the extravagance of expenditure and the hardship inflicted by that extravagance than the particular tax which was the subject of this Amendment. It was very hard upon the consumers of tea that in a time of peace an article of universal consumption which was already taxed to the extent of 100 per cent. should have that tax increased by another 25 per cent. Such an increase was absolutely unjustifiable. This extra taxation fell heavily upon the working classes, who were the greatest consumers of tea. The late Mr. Bright once said that "The nation lives in the cottage," and he was sure that any hon. Member who had performed the disagreeable duty of canvassing a constituency would have a good idea of how and where the people lived and what were the kind of taxes which pressed upon them with the greatest severity. If they would only recall those experiences they would come to the conclusion that a tax of this nature was a grievous burden upon the poorest people in this country. In the case of tea and sugar this Government had imposed £10,000,000 a year of additional taxation. Reference had been made to the advisability of having a Budget Committee, and when he made that suggestion in 1895 the First Lord of the Treasury loudly applauded it. He only wished 1148 that they could have a Committee to inquire into the incidence of taxation on the various classes of the inhabitants of this country. The enormous amount of revenue levied by way of Customs and Excise, amounting to between £60,000,000 and £70,000,000 a year, were paid almost entirely by the working classes of this country, and now they were placing the duty on tea at a higher figure than it had ever reached in the course of the last fourteen years. They were constantly told to think Imperially. He wished to know why they should leave out of account those great dependencies of India and Ceylon. India was the poorest country in the world, and the average income of its inhabitants had been computed at a sum between three farthings and a penny farthing per head. If there was any country which ought to benefit from an Imperial tariff scheme it was India. In India and Ceylon £30,000,000 were invested in the tea industry, and yet by this addition to the tea tax we were dealing a heavy blow at that industry. A blow was also being dealt at the working classes of the United Kingdom by the imposition of this enormous tax on tea—a tax which was enough to make fiscal reformers of the past turn in their graves. Why had the Chancellor of the Exchequer selected tea for the whole of this additional taxation? Why had he not apportioned the amount he proposed to raise from tea in such a way as to let coffee and cocoa bear part of the taxation. These were commodities imported from foreign countries. He moved the Amendment in order to give the House an opportunity of expressing an opinion as to whether the tax should be retained at 6d. as at present.
§ Amendment proposed to the Bill—
"In page 1, line 16, to leave out the words 'in lieu of.'"—(Mr. J. H. Lewis.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
, rising after a short pause, expressed the hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not going to treat the House with contempt on this matter. The tea duty was one which pressed very heavily on the working people of this country. It meant 130 per cent. on a commodity of universal consumption by every class of the community. He ventured to say that in the very worst days of high tariffs there was nothing so bad as this, and it was a Government that desired to give trade advantages to our Colonies that maintained this heavy impost on an article of colonial produce. Up to the time the increase in taxation was imposed on tea there had been an annual increase in the consumption, but the moment the tax was increased there was an arrest in the consumption as far as the colonial product was concerned, but the consumption of the foreign product increased. That was a peculiar result in the case of a Government whose policy it was to protect the colonial as against the foreign producer. If there was any part of His Majesty's dominions that deserved indulgent treatment it was India and Ceylon. In Ceylon they had had exactly the same state of things as in the West Indies. It was all very well for the hon. Member for Sheffield to sneer.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said he did not know that was the hon. Member's method of cheering arguments for preferential trade. He appealed to him to give more articulate expression to his opinions. The hon. Member was never tired of talking about the Colonies, and he ought to encourage Members of this House who were putting in a word for them.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said that was better. That was a word of encouragement to one who was pleading his gospel. The hon. Member had always held out against his own Party in regard to this doctrine. Now, was his chance. Let him say a word for the Colonies, who were hard hit by this increased taxation in favour of the foreign producer. There was a gathering in the City the other day of gentlemen interested in India and Ceylon, and it was there stated that this increase in the tax would hit the tea industry in India and Ceylon very hard. When the West Indian planters found that sugar did not pay they came whining and asked for £400,000 a year, but the Indian planters, when coffee failed, set to work to produce tea and gained a position of prosperity. What was their reward? The Chancellor of the Exchequer, the protector of the Colonies, actually put a tax of 130 per cent. on their produce. Surely that was a very curious way of encouraging the Colonies. This tea tax hit not only the colonial producer, but our own people. What happened with regard to Lancashire? Lancashire had a great trade with Ceylon and India in cotton goods. These goods were not paid for in silver and gold. They were paid for mostly in tea. Did the Chancellor of the Exchequer mean to say that if he increased the duty on the pound of tea it would not discourage colonial tea, and did he mean to say that it would not affect the cotton trade in Lancashire? The duty had materially injured the cotton business of Lancashire, and if they were going to put on an extra 2d. it would be still harder hit. This was a tax which had not been imposed for forty years. It was in 1865 that the tea duty was at the figure to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer now proposed to raise it. It had actually been as low as 4d., and this Imperial Government increased it to 6d., and now to 8d. That was the way they were going to help the Colonies, and especially Ceylon. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to be the last man to discourage the people of Ceylon, who during the late war did all 1151 they could to assist the Imperial Government. They did not complain of the additional 2d. as their contribution towards the conducting of the war, but they naturally expected that they would share in the reduction of taxation the moment warlike expenditure came to an end. Their reward was to have another 2d. added to the tea duty.
He was not so sure that this had not something to do with an ulterior purpose. What was it? Why should the Chancellor of the Exchequer select tea in order to increase the duty? It was perfectly obvious that it was part of a scheme by which at some future time the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be able to go to the country and say, "The tax on tea is 8d.; take it off in order to put it on corn." The scheme had been advocated in the country. There had never been any concealment about it. He ventured to say that this was playing into the hands of that scheme. It was not a bona fide effort to meet by taxation the current expenditure of the year. It was part and parcel of a political intrigue. He would be very much surprised if hon. Memberssitting on the Government Benches could repudiate it. He must say that they had always been very frank. They had not been working underground. He ventured to say there was not a speech they had made in the country in which they had not pointed out the possibility of reducing the taxation on tea with the view of imposing it on something else. The House ought not to play into the hands of that conspiracy. Hon. Members knew perfectly well that there were some men in every intrigue who were indiscreet enough to reveal the secrets of the rest, and that was why they had get it out. There were many things going on in connection with the Treasury which were underground. It was just part and parcel of a scheme, to put this enormously increased portion of the taxes on the food of the people, and seeing that at the present moment there was no great demand or prime necessity for so doing it was an outrage to propose it. His special objection to this tax was that it called upon the poorest classes of the community to bear an unfair share of the burden. The income-tax was borne in proportion to a man's income; the greater the income, the greater was the contribu- 1152 tion a man was called upon to make, but the better was he able to bear it. That, however, was not the case with the tea tax. The average income of a working man with a family, ranged from £75 to £90 a year, and taking a family man with an income of twenty times that amount, it would be found that not more than four times the amount of tea would be consumed than in the former case. That put an unfair burden on the poorest classes of the community. The same objection applied in the case of the sugar tax, and it was because of this method of unfair taxation between high and low, and rich and poor, that he supported the Amendment.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said that as many of the objections which had been urged against the tax had been submitted at recent sittings the replies he then gave would be a sufficient answer, but some fresh objections had been raised. The hon. Member for Flint Boroughs had asked why, having increased the tea duty, he had not increased the duty on cocoa and coffee, and thus spread the taxation over those and similar articles. He put the taxation on tea because he thought that from tea the best response could be obtained; hilst coffee and cocoa would only yield a very small sum. He had been taxed with bringing too minute a mind to bear in raising these duties, but if he had accepted the suggestions made with regard to coffee and cocoa he would have laid himself open to further criticisms in that direction. Another objection he had to meet was that this tax pressed unduly upon India and Ceylon. He confessed that he adopted it with reluctance, but he did not anticipate such unfortunate results would follow as had been anticipated by the hon. Gentleman. The tea industry in India and Ceylon, and in Ceylon in particular, was in a better condition at the present time than it was when the last duty was imposed. He feared the tax fell very heavily upon Ceylon, but had the result of the last increase been so disastrous as that imposed in 1902? Everyone interested in the industry in Ceylon had admitted that there had been an over-increase in the production, and that new markets had had to be found for the surplus tea in place of sending it to England at unremunerative 1153 prices. Looking at the decrease in the total imports, and at the amount of tea shipped direct to Australia and other places instead of through this country, he, naturally, would have been glad from our own point of view to see every pound of tea consigned through this country, but he could not shut his eyes to the fact that it was advantageous to consign it as directly as possible. Hon. Members had just divided the House upon the sugar duty, but tea was not open to the same objections and it seemed to him that, having to raise a share of taxation from indirect sources, tea was the article that could best bear the burden put upon it.
§ * MR. HERBERT SAMUEL (Yorkshire, Cleveland)
said each tax had its special objection. In sugar it took the form of objecting to a duty on raw material; in tobacco an unequal burden was imposed, and with respect to tea, they objected on the ground that the tax injured the Indian and Ceylon producers. He denied that there was any inconsistency in objecting to the additional duty on the score of injury to the producer in India and Ceylon. If they had said at one moment that the consumer paid the tax, and the next that the producer paid. it then would be obvious inconsistency, but nobody on that side of the House had said that. What they had said was that the consumer would pay it and would be injured by having to pay more for his tea and that the effect would be to stop the natural increase of consumption, and even possibly to diminish the rate of consumption, and in that way the growers in India and Ceylon would be injured as well as the consumers. But there were certain arguments which were common to all these taxes which led them to object to them all. They considered the expenditure of the country was too high, and wished to reduce taxation as a means of reducing expenditure. They beli eved the present Administration had no claim to the confidence of the country, and used this ancient constitutional means of objecting to their presence on the Treasury Bench. And beyond this, those who had examined the question of the comparative incidence of taxation on the various classes of the population were convinced that the present system was in itself unjust and was 1154 continually becoming more unjust. He wished to see the tax reduced, because it imposed an unfair burden upon the poorest classes of the community. This tax, of course, did not stand alone. The Government had added £6,000,000 a year to the taxation of sugar, £4,000,000 to tea, £2,000,000 to tobacco, and £2,700,000 to beer and spirits—all since 1900. They had added £14,700,000 to those taxes which fell upon the working classes of the country. It was true that the corn-tax had been taken off, and they had been taken to task by the Chancellor of the Exchequer because they gave scant thanks for that fact. He did not see why they ought to thank a Minister who had been compelled largely by the efforts of the Opposition to repeal a tax which his Administration had imposed. These taxes on commodities of general consumption were essentially evil because they were in the nature of poll taxes. A working class family consumed as much tea and sugar as a wealthier family, and probably about as much tobacco and alcohol. There were about 9,000,000 families in the United Kingdom, and these new taxes worked out at an average sum of 32s. 8d per family—practically one week's wages for every working-class family in the community. When hon. Members opposite went to their constituents and told them the many blessings which had been conferred upon them by the Tory Administration he trusted they would make it plain that among those blessings was to be included indirect taxation to the extent of one week's wages for each family in the country. These new taxes, of course, came on the top of a very large number of other burdens. Excluding wine and coal, there were about £65,000,000 a year raised in indirect taxation,or£7 5s. per family, which amounted to an income-tax of 1s. 7d. in the £ on the average wage of a working-class family. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had again and again refused to hold an inquiry into the question of the incidence of taxation on the various classes of the nation. The right hon. Gentleman told them that there was no injustice to complain of, but they pressed for an inquiry because they did not accept his opinion and wished to have it checked by other financial authorities. He felt sure 1155 that critics of this Budget would not cease from protesting against any proposal to increase or even to maintain the present level of indirect taxation until an impartial expert inquiry had proved their arguments to be void of foundation.
§ MR. McKENNA
said he had listened in the hope of being told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer by whom this tax was to be paid. It was disappointing that when the right hon. Gentleman proposed an import duty on tea he could not assure the House that that duty would not be paid by the consumers but by the producers. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer believed that it would be paid by the consumers why did he not inform a deluded electorate that the tax he was proposing to impose would fall upon them. There could not be a shadow of doubt, looking at the tea markets of the last month or two, that this tax would fall upon the British consumer. Had the Chancellor of the Exchequer the courage to tell the House that the effect of this duty would be to tax foreigners. He dared not do it, and he begged the right hon. Gentleman out, of regard to his reputation as a financier and a courageous and consistent politician, not to say outside that House what he would not say inside it. The additional twopence upon this tax would cause an additional twopence to be placed on the price of tea. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that in opposing this tax they wished to eat their cake and keep it, but they contended that it was not their cake at all. It was the right hon. Gentleman's fiscal cake, and as the price was raised the trade in that article would diminish. The right hon. Gentleman not only made the British people pay more for their tea, but put an impediment in the way of the colonial producers. It was a curious thing that the defence of our colonial trade had been undertaken exclusively by free traders. In opposing that tax they recorded their solemn protest against its continuance at the present rate. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer came to frame his Budget next year he would be met with the most strenuous opposition from that side of the House if he continued this impost. They were bound to resist his proposals to the utmost. The tax was unfair in its incidence on the poor, and 1156 holding that view as strongly as he did he should do his utmost to resist it.
MR. HERBERT ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)
said the reply of the Chancellor of the Exchequer showed that he did not sufficiently recognise the direct bearing the duty had upon the commerce of India. He would like to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer a direct question. Had any representation been made to him by the Government of India? Upon the only occasion when they were permitted to discuss Indian matters, upon the Indian Budget, there was a consensus of opinion expressed that it was of the greatest importance to encourage its internal resources, and undoubtedly the tea industry was an important one, one which ought to be further developed, and one which they could not allow to be prejudiced without making a strong protest. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that he was in favour of this proposal because the tax produced the best results, and he went on to defend his action from the standpoint of the Indian planters, by saying that since the last increase in the duty the condition of the Indian tea trade had improved. It seemed a somewhat unfortunate apology to make for the imposition of this tax. The Indian planters had built up their industry by gigantic efforts, and the first step towards that improvement was an additional tax. Not only from the Indian standpoint, but also from the standpoint of policy, he wished to press this home upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The final ground upon which he would oppose the additional tax was this. He was not at all sure that in the long run it would produce the increased revenue expected. There was a limit, after all, to human endurance in the matter of tea-drinking, and he thought it was very unfortunate that it should be necessary to adopt a policy in regard to the taxation of tea which would have the effect of discouraging tea-drinking. They all knew that the problem of drink was receiving the consideration of the country, and he regretted that at this time, and especially under the conditions of the country, it should be necessary to place a barrier in the way of the consumption of tea. He therefore desired to support the Amendment.
§ MR. HARWOOD
said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer told them that the first duty on tea operated hardly on tea growers: that, when another 2d. was put upon it, it hit them very hard: but that, when a further 2d. was put upon it, it did not seem to have done them any harm. He thought the House should notice the peculiar explanation he gave of that. He said they were sending their tea direct; which meant that this House was sanctioning a system of taxation which would divert trade from this country. Was it an advantage to this country that the tea of the Colonies should be sent, not through this country, but, by reason of our system, direct to the foreigner? This was an obvious drawback. The Chancellor of the Exchequer taunted his hon. friends that they had got a newfound zeal for the Colonies; and he said that, because they did not go in for preferential trade, he doubted their zeal. He tried to sneer at that zeal, because they chose to defend the natural trade of the Colonies; but he should like to ask him if he knew any article in which we traded with the foreigner on which we had put a duty of 125 per cent. They were asking not for preferential trade with the Colonies, but for decent, fair treatment. Surely we ought to treat our Colonies as we treated other people; and he asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he could name an article in which we traded with the foreigner on which we put such a duty as we did upon this product of the Colonies. He had talked with a good many of the planters of Ceylon and India, and they told him that it would be exceedingly difficult for them to carry on their business, if the duty were raised 4d. It was obvious that a duty of 4d. on an article worth 6d. was very high indeed. They must take the percentage on the value of that article. They had made it 8d., raising the price from 10d. to 14d., and they had doubled the proportion of duty to that increase of cost. Any Member who was engaged in business and had the article he produced raised 50 per cent., and that 50 per cent. consisted of an added duty, would feel he was extremely badly dealt with. Ceylon was on the point of ruin when a capital of £30,000,000 was put into its tea trade on the moral understanding that the trade should not be 1158 seriously altered. What did they do now? They doubled the duty, and he said they were treating those planters unfairly. He was inclined to think that the Government were either Germans or Frenchmen in disguise from their experiences of that day. They refused to consider a proposal about alcohol, in which we were heavily handicapped; they had made sugar dear to Englishmen and cheap to the foreigner; and now they come with a proposal to damage the one product of our Colonies in which they had been most successful, almost irretrievably.
But there was another point of view, besides that of the cotton industry point of view, he wished to put to the House as one which should not be lost sight of. The Lancashire operators consisted largely of women, to five out of six of whom tea had become the chief article of diet. They depended upon it chiefly for their sustenance, and it had done very well for temperance. This House should, therefore, be very careful before it touched a thing of this kind. They were touching the wages of people who had to depend upon from 12s. to 16s. a week, and they were hitting them very hard. It was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Cambridge University, in justifying the tax that these people supported the war, and they should pay far it. That was a cruel way of putting the question. The people did not begin the war. All they did was to back up their leaders when they found the country at war. It was Tommy Atkins' war not the officers', and now the Government proposed to tax Tommy's brother and sister. In common justice to the poor people and to our Colonies he asked the House not to sanction the placing of additional burdens upon them.
§ * MR. THEODORE TAYLOR
said the last Chancellor of the Exchequer but one told them, in 1900, that the tax was a purely exceptional one, levied for the purposes of the war; and now that the war was over that the tax should be increased was absolutely contradictory of this. In 1902 the Chancellor of the Exchequer declined to increase it because, as he said, it was 1159 already taxing a necessary of life to the extent of 75 per cent. of its value. The Member for Bolton had just reminded them that it was now taxed over 100 per cent. of its value, and, if this tax were imposed at not so much per pound but if it were proposed to make it 120 per cent. ad valorem, nobody would vote for it. It was a strange thing that it should be acceptable in one shape and not in another, and strange, too, that it should be reserved to a Government supported by a Party strongly in favour of binding the Empire together by preferential taxes within the Empire to increase a tax on a commodity, a necessary of life, which came mainly from the poorest part of the Empire. They knew that the people of India were the poorest members of our Empire. If there was any part of the Empire which should be excused from having any further impediment put in the way of its trade, surely it was the country for the government of which this country was responsible and which could make no retaliation. They maintained that any tax whatever on any article, and in any country whatsoever, which increased the cost of an article to the consumer must to some extent restrict the amount consumed, and such a tax must be injurious to the producer as well as to the consumer. In the interests of the Indian people, who were very much apt to be forgotten, and in the interests of our fellow-Britishers, whose capital was invested there, he asked the House to pause before further increasing the tea duty. Twopence ought to be taken off instead of 2d. being put on. Everybody admitted that a tax on tea was practically a tax on a necessary of life to the poorest part of the community, and, if this were so, it was a tax on poverty and a tax on existence to which he strongly objected. They would have to do something in these days of diminishing rate of increase of population to relieve taxes on existence. They could not go so far as it was carried out in Canada, where, in the province of Quebec, families of twelve were exempt from taxation; but this country, along with other countries would have to face a diminishing rate of increase of population, involving a diminution of importance and of power; and therefore they ought to pause, from this point of view, which was really Imperial, 1160 national, and patriotic, before they added to the burdens of existence. He was one of those who absolutely believed in a "free breakfast-table." He believed it was not to the interests of any class of the community to make existence expensive.
It would not pass the wit of man to devise forms of taxation that would not bear heavily upon the poor. For instance, the income-tax limit might be lowered. He had no objection to people with incomes of £100 a year bearing taxation. The one thing he cared for more than anything else was the lot of the poor people who were only just above the Poor Law line, and who with a little more taxation would be depressed below that line. He was sure it would be easy for a Chancellor of the Exchequer to devise the means of taxing, say, four-fifths of the community, leaving out those classes of the population who were quite poor and had a very great struggle for existence. The hon. Member for Bolton had told them that he and his competitors were devising kitchens for tea. In the business of which he (the hon. Member) was the head, they had three places where they made tea for their employees. The industrial population of Lancashire and Yorkshire took tea three times a day—personally, he admitted it was a mistake, and he wished they did not—and this tax fell very heavily upon them. It also fell upon the population of Lancashire in an indirect way, because, if they restricted the exports of India, they restricted the imports of India, and India was Lancashire's best customer. He was quite sure that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer were so minded, he could exempt these poor sections of the community from this class of taxation. He could never forget the speech of the hon. and learned Member for South Donegal as to how the poor people in the West of Ireland would feel this tax. If it came home to hon. Members at the same rate as to these poor peasants, he was sure that hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House would be more alive to the injustice of the tax to the consumers in Ireland and in Lancashire and Yorkshire and to the producers of the tea in India. and Ceylon.
§ MR. GEORGE WHITELEY (Yorkshire, W.R., Pudsey)
said that to increase the tea duty was one of the worst proposals that should have been suggested in the interest of our Colonies, when they were all advocating a closer connection with them. He was astonished that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should, in his first Budget, have made a proposal to strike a very severe blow at two of the British colonies which had no self-government. He joined his views with those of the last two speakers representing Lancashire constituencies in pleading for that particular class of their population who would be hit by this increased duty. They, and the working people of Yorkshire, would be more severely oppressed by this tax than any other section of the community. Tea was almost a constant article of their diet—one of their prime necessaries of life. His hon. friend said that in Lancashire and Yorkshire the workpeople took tea three times a day. He thought that was below the mark, and that the Lancashire workmen, their wives and children, went to the factories with their cans, with their tea and sugar, and these cans were constantly filled up the whole day long. It might be that that practice was injurious to the constitutions of these people, but it was their constant practice. He would like an inquiry into the Budget proposals generally so as to arrive at the high-water mark of taxation. There were two cardinal taxes which were being imposed—the income-tax and the tea duty. The one fell on the rich and the other on the poor; but the increase in the income-tax was only 20 per. cent higher than that before the war, while the increase on the tea tax was from 33 to 40 per cent. more than during the war. He contended that that was an inequitable rate of taxation. He was aware that the Government were in difficulties in regard to their vanishing revenue, and that they were at their wits' end to get a good Budget. But they might have left the tax alone. It was not for the Opposition to say how the Government might have arrived at a different scheme. The Government had dissipated its resources from the moment they crossed the floor of the House. They had been depleting the resources of the working classes of the country in order to benefit other 1162 sections of the community by means of the Agricultural Rating Act and other Acts. He ventured to think that this tea duty was the last straw, and he hoped the people of this country would take to heart the lesson which the present Government was teaching.
§ * MR. SHACKLETON (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
said that it was hardly fair to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he should be left alone on the Treasury Bench to defend this unpopular tax. There seemed to be a conspiracy of silence on the other side of the House, and he thought it would be interesting to have some arguments by which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite could support this tax. He wished to speak on behalf of the cotton operatives in Lancashire, upon whom this additional duty would bear very hardly. The House was very well aware that for nearly twelve months they had been fighting a battle along with their employers against the cotton corners in Liverpool and New York which had caused a serious reduction in their wages. He thought the Prime Minister as a Lancashire Member might have used-his influence with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to have introduced another tax which would not have affected the Lancashire operatives in the way that this tea tax would do. Each family earning 22s. a week would have to pay 35s. a year in taxation from tea alone when the tax was increased to 8d. per lb. There ought to be an increased taxation derived from the land, and taxes on tea and sugar should be only put on as a last resort. It was said that the people who shouted for the war should pay for it; but those who did shout for the war did so out of pure patriotism; and very few knew the rights or the wrongs of the question. There was, therefore, nothing in that argument. He contended that this was a most unfair tax, and would press heavily on poor people and widows with families. He trusted that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had the opportunity of drifting another Budget he would take off the duty on tea and sugar.
§ MR. PIRIE
submitted that even if the Chancellor of the Exchequer's complaint was well founded that the same arguments as had been used on former occasions were being employed again, the Opposition were justified in repeating those arguments now that they had an opportunity of doing so at a reasonable hour. As representing a poor working-class constituency, he maintained that the first duty of the House of Commons should be to protect the weak, but of recent years there had been a growing tendency to use the great strength of the House of Commons to impose additional burdens upon those who were least able to bear them. For that reason he emphatically protested against the tax. Another ground for objecting to the tax was that it dealt a serious blow to the Ceylon tea-planting
§ industry. After unprecedented struggles the planters of Ceylon had succeeded in establishing a prosperous tea industry, and it was very cruel that advantage should be taken of their success to handicap them in this way. There were no less than half a million acres under tea in Ceylon, and he thought the planters were justified in protesting against the tax and in organising a representative body in London, so that when next their interests were attacked they might have somebody in the House to speak on their behalf. The least the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as a member of a Government claiming to represent Imperialist feeling, could have done was to have consulted the Government of Ceylon as to the imposition of this tax. He should strongly support the Amendment.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 191; Noes, 107. (Division List No. 275.)1165
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Cross, Herb, Shepherd (Bolton)||Heaton, John Henniker|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Crossley, Rt. Hon. Sir Savile||Henderson,Sir A. (Stafford,W.|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Cust, Henry John C.||Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T.|
|Arkwirght, John Stanhope||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hope, J. F(Shetheld,Brightside|
|Arnold-Forster, Rt. Hon. H. O.||Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Hoult, Joseph|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Davenport, W. Bromley||Howard,John(Kent Faversham|
|Aubrey-Fletcher,Rt.Hn.Sir H.||Davies, Sir Horatio D(Chatham||Hozier, Hon. James HenryCecil|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Denny, Colonel||Hudson, George Bickersteth|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Dickson, Charles Scott||Hunt, Rowland|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Dimsdale, Rt. Hn. Sir JosephC.||Jameson, Major J. Eustace|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Disraeli, Conningsby, Ralph||Jeffreys, Rt, Hon. Arthur Fred.|
|Balcarres, Lord||Dorington, Rt. Hon. Sir JohnE||Jessel, Captain Herbert Merton|
|Balfour.Rt.A J.(Manch'r||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers||Kenyon, Hon. Geo. T.(Denbigh|
|Balfour.RtHn.Gerald W(Leeds||Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||Kerr, John|
|Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch.||Dyke,Rt. Hn. Sir William Hart||Keswick, William|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin||Faber, Edmund B. (Hants, W.)||King, Sir Henry Seymour|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Fergusson,Rt HnSir J(Manc'r.||Knowles, Sir Lees|
|Bigwood, James||Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Law,Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)|
|Bingham, Lord||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Lawrence,Sir Joseph (Monm'th|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Fisher, William Hayes||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)|
|Bowles.Lt.-Col.H F (Middlesex||FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose||Lawson,John Grant(Yorks N.R|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St John||Fitzroy,Hon. Edward Algernon||Lee,Arthur H(Hants., Fareham|
|Brotherton, Edward Allen||Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)|
|Bull, William James||Forster, Henry William||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage|
|Butcher, John George||Foster, Philip S(Warwick,S.W.||Leveson-Gower,Frederick N.S.|
|Campbell, J H M(Dublin Univ.||Galloway, William Johnson||Llewellyn, Evan Henry|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Gardner, Ernest||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Gibbs, Hon. A. G. H.||Long, Col. Chas. W. (Evesham)|
|Cavendish, V.C.W (Derbyshire||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Long,Rt Hn Walter(Bristol, S.|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Lonsdale, John Brownlee|
|Chamberlain,RtHn J A (Worc.||Greene, SirEW(BryS Edmunds||Lowe, Francis William|
|Charring ton, Spencer||Greene,Henry D. (Shrewsbury)||Lowther, C. (Cumb., Eskdale)|
|Clive, Captain Percy A.||Greene, W. Raymond (Cambs.||Loyd, Archie Kirkman|
|Coates, Edward Feetham||Gretton, John||Lucas,Reginald J.(Portsmouth|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Hardy,Laurence(Kent,Ashford||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred|
|Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole||Harris,Dr. Fredk. R.(Dulwich)||Macdona, John Cumming|
|Compton, Lord Alwyne||Hay, Hon. Claude George||M'Iver,Sir Lewis(EdinburghW|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Heath,Arthur Howard (Hanley||Majendie, James A. H.|
|Craig, Chas. Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Heath,James (Statfords., N.W.||Massey-Mainwaring, Hn.W. F.|
|Melville, Beresford Valentine||Remnant, James Farquharson||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Renwick, George||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Molesworth, Sir Lewis||Ridley,Hon. M. W.(Stalybridge||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)||Ridley,S.Forde (Bethnal Green||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)|
|Moore, William||Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Morgan,David J.(Walthamstow||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)||Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M.|
|Morpeth, Viscount||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.||Tuff, Charles|
|Morrell, George Herbert||Round, Rt. Hon.fames||Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward|
|Mount, William Arthur||Royds, Clement Molyneux||Valentia, Viscount|
|Muntz, Sir Philip A.||Rutherford, John (Lancashire)||Vincent,Col SirC E H(Sheffield|
|Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)||Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)|
|Newdegate, Francis A. N.||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Nicholson, William Graham||Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander||Wanklyn, James Leslie|
|O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens||Sandys, Lt.-Col. Thos. Myles||Warde, Colonel C. E.|
|Palmer, Sir Walter (Salisbury)||Saunderson,Rt Hn ColEdw. J.||Webb, Colonel William George|
|Parkes, Ebenezer||Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln||Whiteley,H. (Ashton und. Lyne|
|Pease,Herbert Pike(Darlington||Seton-Karr, Sir Henry||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Peel,HnWm Robert Wellesley||Sharpe, William Edward T.||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|Percy, Earl||Simeon, Sir Barrington||Wilson,A.Stanley (York, E.R.)|
|Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Skewes-Cox, Thomas||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart|
|Pretyman, Ernest George||Sloan, Thomas Henry||Wrightson, Sir Thomas|
|Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward||Smith, Abel H.(Hertford, East)||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Pym, C. Guy||Smith,RtHn J.Parker (Lanarks|
|Rankin, Sir James||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES— Sir|
|Ratcliff, R. F.||Spear, John Ward||Alexander Acland-Hood|
|Reid, James (Greenock)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Lancs.||and Mr.Ailwyn Fellowes.|
|Abraham, William (Cork, N.E.)||Harcourt,Lewis V.(Rossendale)||Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden)|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Hardie,J Keir(Merthyr Tydvil)||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Harwood, George||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Hayden, John Patrick||Priestley, Arthur|
|Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Hobhouse,C E H (Bristol, E.)||Rea, Russell|
|Bell, Richard||Holland, Sir William Henry||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Benn, John Williams||Horniman, Frederick John||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Boland, John||Johnson, John (Gateshead)||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Brigg, John||Joicey, Sir James||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Burke, E. Haviland||Jones,David Brymnor(Swansea||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Burt, Thomas||Joyce, Michael||Rose Charles Day|
|Buxton, Sydney Charles||Kennedy,Vincent P (Cavan,W.||Runciman, Walter|
|Caldwell, James||Kilbride, Denis||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)|
|Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Labouchere, Henry||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Lambert, George||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Langley, Batty||Sheehy, David|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Law, Hugh Alex.(Donegal, W.)||Slack, John Bamford|
|Cremer, William Randal||Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall)||Stanhope, Hon. Philip James|
|Cullinan, J.||Layland-Barratt, Francis||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen)||Levy, Maurice||Sullivan, Donal|
|Davies, M. Vaughan (Cardigan||Lloyd-George, David||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Delany, William||Lough, Thomas||Tennant, Harold John|
|Devlin, Joseph (Kilkenny, N.)||Lyell, Charles Henry||Thomas,David Alfred (Merthyr|
|Doogan, P. C.||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Thompson,Dr.E.C(Monagh'nN|
|Duncan, J. Hastings||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Tomkinson, James|
|Edwards, Frank||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Elibank, Master of||M'Arthur, William (Cornwall)||Ure, Alexander|
|Ellice,CaptEC(S Andrw'sBghs.||M'Kenna, Reginald||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Ellis, John Edward (Notts).||Mansfield, Horace Rendall||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Fenwick, Charles||Mitchell, Edw. (Fermanagh, N.||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Murphy, John||Whiteley, George (York, W.R.)|
|Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Freeman-Thomas, Captain F.||Norman, Henry||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)|
|Fuller, J. M. F.||O'Brien,Kendal(Tipperary Mid|
|Gladstone,Rt Hn Herbert John||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr.|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||O'Malley, William||Herbert Lewis and Mr.|
|Hammond, John||Partington, Oswald||Shackleton.|
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
said the effect of the Amendment which he wished to move was to exempt Ireland altogether from the tea tax. He would not have 1166 addressed the House at that late hour if he had not felt it to be his absolute and imperative duty to protest in the strongest possible manner against robbing the poor 1167 because they were poor, for that was what he considered to be the gist of this tax. The plea that Ireland should be excluded from this tax was not an unreasonable one. The Irish poor constituted a much larger proportion of the population than was the case in this country. Mr. Bright once said that he would like everyone to agitate for a free breakfast table, by which he meant that the remaining duties upon tea and sugar should be taken off altogether. That was in 1868, and now, after nearly forty years had elapsed since Mr. Bright used those words, instead of the tea duty being sixpence they were discussing a proposal to put on an additional tax of twopence. When Mr. Bright used those words the consumption of tea per head of the population was two-and-a-half pounds, but now it was six pounds per head in this country, and in Ireland it was eight-and-a-half pounds. In Ireland tea was the food of the people as clearly and definitely as bread was the staff of life. He sometimes saw hon. Members shrug their shoulders and ask why Ireland should be treated differently to Yorkshire or Wiltshire. He would remind the hon. Members representing those counties that they had never had a separate Parliament like Ireland had once, and when Ireland was incorporated with this country it was on the condition that she should be taxed according to her relative capacity to pay.
He wished to say a word or two to those English Members sitting on the Opposition side of the House who might be inclined to think that his proposal was an unreasonable one. He would point out to them that this tax, rightly or wrongly, had been passed by a majority of the House of Commons against the wishes of a majority of hon. Members representing Ireland. In regard to this duty a majority of the Irish Members would go into the Division Lobby urging that Ireland should be exempt from this tea tax altogether. A majority of one in an Irish Parliament would have abolished this tea tax altogether. This tax had no moral power whatever in Ireland, and he would say what he had said before, that if Ireland had the opportunity she would be more than morally justified in resisting this tax by armed force. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was 1168 wrong in what he said as to the way in which this tax would affect Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman stated the addition to the tax would affect Ireland to the extent of between £230,000 and £250,000. It was computed by experts on whose calculations he could rely that Ireland would be affected to the tune of £300,000. When the tax on tea was 6d. the amount extracted from Ireland was £900,000, so that, assuming the consumption to remain the same, the amount would now be £1,200,000. When Ireland had a Parliament of her own up to 1798 the whole burden of taxation for the government of the country was only about £1,000,000. it rarely reached £1,500,000; but now the people of the country were to be taxed as much as that on one article which was largely used by the very poorest. Out of the whole population of Ireland there were 2,500,000 belonging to families whose weekly budgets per family were not 35s. as in the case of English operatives, but 6s., 7s., and 8s. He asked the House to consider what 2d. per pound additional on the price of tea meant to these families. Some time ago he examined the annual budget of a well-to-do farmer in Ireland. It amounted to £23, and out of that £5 10s. went for tea. In another case the budget amounted to £12 and out of that £3 went for tea. These people did not drink, but this taxation was making tea dearer to them than whiskey would be. The effect of adding 2d. to the tax meant for the poor who bought in small quantities an addition of 4d. per pound, because tea which they bought at 1d. an ounce would cost 1¼d. Tea would now be the only commodity taxed to the extent of double the cost of its production. This tea tax was a graduated tax on the poor, but it was graduated the wrong way. If there was an ad valorem duty of 100 per cent. it would not be so much felt by the poor. The tax would then fall more on the rich. In 1896, before the additional taxes consequent on the war, Ireland was overtaxed to the extent of £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 a year, according to the Report of the Financial Relations Commission. He would like some of the gentlemen who talked about thinking Imperially to go to some of the southern constituencies of Ireland and speak of the benefits of 1169 Empire, and then go into some of the cottages and see the tea stewed and watered until the whole of the tannin was extracted from it. That was what was got by thinking Imperially, and of the "illimitable veldt." The Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking outside the House, had made a pioneer speech on the fiscal question. The proposal to add to the tea tax was the pioneer of dear food so far as Ireland was concerned. The Budget, and especially the tea tax, bore the impress of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. He might apply to it the words of Dryden—We gaze delighted as we trace The parents' mien in its fair face.Having regard to the infamous rule of the English towards Ireland, and especially to the Irish poor, and having regard to the fact that this Budget was the outcome of corruption from that English rule—
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The observations of the hon. Gentleman have no relevance to the tea duty.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
said he would content himself with pointing out that in the time of the old Irish Parliament, although tea was then a much dearer commodity, the tax upon it was much less than it was under this Budget.
Amendment proposed to the Bill.
In page 1, line 17, to leave out the words or Ireland."'—(Mr. MacNeil:)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said he understood that the only question before the House was why this tea tax having been levied in other portions of the United Kingdom should not be (levied in Ireland. The speech of the hon. Gentleman was not calculated to convince the House of the strength of his arguments as to the merits
§ of the case, because those arguments were equally applicable to the poor of this country as to the poor of Ireland. Tea had become a practical necessity in every household and he could not accept a proposal to exempt any part of the United Kingdom from the tax upon it.
§ MR. LOUGH
pointed out that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had added a penny to the income-tax, which put on £2,250,000 of direct taxation, and the right hon. Gentleman wanted to balance that with indirect taxation upon tea and tobacco. That desire was in accordance with the recognised principles adopted by that House. But why did not the right hon. Gentleman act fairly towards Ireland? There never was a more unfair proposal to Ireland than that then before the House. Then they had a right to complain of the want of accurate statistics of the result of the tax in Ireland. They did not know exactly how the pressure of this taxation was falling upon that country. The pressure obtained there as it did in England, and there was no doubt that it dealt a serious blow to Ireland, which was a country rapidly diminishing in population.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
thought Ireland had a good ground for objecting to being taxed at all under this Budget. When the tax was raised on a former occasion the then Chancellor of the Exchequer justified the imposition by the war expenditure. The mandate to bring the war to a successful issue was given by the English people, but the Irish people almost unanimously declared against the war, and surely they ought not to be taxed in order to meet the expenditure upon it. He would vote with his hon. friend if he went to a division on the Amendment.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: —Ayes, 170; Noes, 75. (Division List No. 276.)1173
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Arnold-Forster,Rt Hn.Hugh O.||Bailey, James (Walworth)|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Bain, Colonel James Robert|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Aubrey-Fletcher,Rt. Hn Sir H.||Baird, John George Alexander|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Balcarres, Lord|
|Balfour,Rt. Hn. A.J. (Manch'r||Greene,SirE W(B'rySEdnfds||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens|
|Balfour,RtHn Gerald W.(Leeds||Greene, Henry D.(Shrewsbury||Palmer, Sir Walter (Salisbury)|
|Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch.||Greene, W. Raymond (Cambs.)||Parkes, Ebenzer|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin||Gretton, John||Pease,Herbert Pike(Darlington|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Hardy,Laurence(Kent,Ashford||Peel,Hn. Wm. Robert Wellesley|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Harris, F Leverton (Tynem'th||Percy, Earl|
|Bigwood, James||Harris Dr Fredk. R. (Dulwich||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Bingham, Lord||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Heath Arthur Howard (Hanley||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward|
|Bowles,Lt.-Col.H.F.(Middlesex||Heath James (Staffords, N.W)||Rankin, Sir James|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T.||Reid, James (Greenock)|
|Brotherton, Edward Allen||Hope.J.F (Sheffield, Brightside||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Bull, William James||Hoult, Joseph||Ridley, Hn. M. W. (Stalybridge|
|Butcher, John George||Hozier,hon James HenryCecil||Ridley,S. Forde (Bethnal Green|
|Campbell,J H M(Dublin Univ.||Hudson, George Bickersteth||Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Hunt, Rowland||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Cavendish,V C W.(Derbyshire||Jeffreys, Rt. Hon Arthur Fred.||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.|
|Cecil, Ford Hugh (Greenwich)||Jessel, Captain Herbert Merton||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Chamberlain,RtHnJ A (Worc.||Kenyon, Hon.Geo.T (Denbigh)||Rutherford, John (Lancashire)|
|Charrington, Spencer||Kerr, John||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)|
|Clive, Captain Percy A.||Keswick, William||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford|
|Coates, Edward Feetham||King, Sir Henry Seymour||Sandys, Lt.-Col. Thos. Myles|
|Cochrane,Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Knowles, Sir Lees||Saunderson,Rt Hn.Col. Edw.J|
|Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole||Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)||Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln)|
|Compton, Lord Alwyne||Lawrence, WM. F. (Liverpool)||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Lawson,John Grant(YorksN.R||Simeon, Sir Barrington|
|Craig, Chas. Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Lee,Arthur H(Hants, Fareham||Skewes-Cox, Thomas|
|Crossley, Rt. Hon. Sir Savile||Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)||Sloan, Thomas Henry|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Smith, Abel H.(Hertford, East)|
|Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Leveson-Gower,Frederick N.S.||Smith,Rt.HnJ.Parker(Lanarks)|
|Davenport, W. Bromley||Lockwood, Lieut,-Col. A. R.||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Davies,Sir HoratioD.(Chatham||Long, Col.Charles W.(Evesham||Spear, John Ward|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Long,Rt Hn Walter (Bristol,S||Stanley,Rt.Hon. Lord (Lancs.)|
|Dimsdale,Rt.Hn. Sir Joseph C.||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph||Lowe, Francis William||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Dorington, Rt. Hon. Sir John E||Lowther, C. (Cumb., Eskdale)||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||Lucas,Reginald J.(Portsmouth)||Tomlinson, Sir Win. Edw. M.|
|Dyke, Rt.Hon.Sir WilliamHart||Lyttelton, Rt. hon. Alfred||Tuff, Charles|
|Faber, Edmund B. (Hants, W.)||Macdona, John Cumming||Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward|
|Fergusson,Rt HnSir J.(Manc'r.||M'Iver,Sir Lewis(Edinburgh,W||Valentia, Viscount|
|Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Majendie, James A. H.||Walker, Col, William Hall|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W F.||Warde, Colonel C. E.|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Melville, Beresford Valentine||Webb, Colonel William George|
|FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose||Mitchell,Edw (Fermanagh, N.)||Whiteley,H. (Ashton und. Lyne|
|Fitzroy,Hon. Edward Algernon||Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Moore, William||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E.R.|
|Forster, Henry William||Morgan, DavidJ.(Walthamstow||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart|
|Foster, Philip S.(Warwick,S.W.||Morpeth, Viscount||Wrightson, Sir Thomas|
|Galloway, William Johnson||Morrell, George Herbert||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. Geogre|
|Gardner, Ernest||Mount, William Arthur|
|Gibbs, Hon. A. G. H.||Murray,Rt HnA. Graham(Bute||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)||Alexander Acland-Hood|
|Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Nicholson, William Graham||and Mr. Ailwyn Fellowes.|
|Abraham,William (Cork, N.E.)||Doogan, P. C.||Law,Hugh Alex.(Donegal, W.)|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Duncan, J. Hastings||Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall)|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Griffith, Ellis J.||Layland-Barratt, Francis|
|Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Hammond, John||Levy, Maurice|
|Benn, John Williams||Harcourt, Lewis V.(Rossendale||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Boland, John||Hardie,J Keir(Merthyr Tydvil)||Lloyd-George David|
|Brigg, John||Harwood, George||Lough, Thomas|
|Burke, E. Haviland||Hayden, John Patrick||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J|
|Caldwell, James||Horniman, Frederick John||MacVeagh, Jeremiah|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Joicey, Sir James||Mansfield, Horace Reynall|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Jones,David Brynmor(Swansea||Murphy, John|
|Cremer, William Randal||Joyce, Michael||Nannetti, Joseph P.|
|Cullinan, J.||Kennedy,Vincent P (Cavan,W.||Norman, Henry|
|Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen)||Kilbride, Denis||O'Brien,Kendal(Tipperary Mid|
|Delany, William||Labouchere, Henry||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Devlin, Joseph (Kilkenny, N.)||Langley, Batty||O'Malley, William|
|O'Shee, James John||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)||Tomkinson, James|
|Pease, J. A. (Saffron, Walden)||Shackleton, David James||Ure, Alexander|
|Pirie, Duncan V.||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Priestley, Arthur||Sheehy, David||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Riekett, J. Compton||Slack, John Bamford||Whiteley, George (York,W.R.)|
|Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)||Stanhope, Hon. Philip James||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)||Sullivan, Donal||Wilson,Henry J.(York, W.R.)|
|Roe, Sir Thomas||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Rose, Charles Day||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr.|
|Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)||Thompson, DrEC(Monagh'n, N.||MacNeill and Mr. Flavin.|
Question put, and agreed to
Amendment proposed to the Bill—
In Clause 2, page 2, lines 11 and 12, to leave out the words 'was on the high seas consigned to a port of the United Kingdom,' and insert the words to have been in an importing vessel consigned to a port in Great Britain or Ireland.'"—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
proposed to leave out of Clause 4, page 2, line 36 "August" and insert "July." He said that in deference to a wish expressed on both sides of the House he had consented to substitute July for August.
Amendment proposed to the Bill—
In Clause 4, page 2, line 36, to leave out the word 'August,' and insert the word 'July.'"—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
§ Amendment agreed to.
Amendment proposed to the Bill—
In Clause 6, page 3, line 16, at end, to insert the words The rate of charge on the delivery of spirits from an Excise warehouse under The Customs and Excise Warehousing Act, 1869, shall be reduced from five shillings to two shillings and six pence.'"—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said he had accepted the suggestion to reduce the warehouse charge on imported goods by one-half, and, having done that, 1174 they must treat the Excise warehouse in the same way, in order to put their own people on the same footing.
Amendment proposed to the Bill—
In Clause 6, page 3, line 16, at end, to insert the words 'The last paragraph but one of the Schedule to The Customs Tariff Act. 1876, beginning 'There shall be charged upon the delivery of the following goods,' and ending with the words 'under bond or not,' is hereby repealed.'"—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ * MR. HERBERT SAMUEL
proposed "to leave out in Clause 7, page 3, line 21 one shilling' and insert 'eleven pence.'" He did so in order to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he could not supply a Return showing the systems of graduated income-tax in force in other countries and in the Colonies. He trusted, if the information were not available at the Treasury, he would get it through the Foreign and Colonial Offices, and give-them the Return as soon as possible.
Amendment proposed to the Bill—
In Clause 7, page 3, line 21, to leave out the words 'one shilling' and insert the words eleven pence.'"—(Mr. Herbert Samuel.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to he left out stand part of the Bill."
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said he was making inquiries to see what in- 1175 formation they had and what Return they could make.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
said he had an Amendment on the Paper to make a difference in the tax on incomes derived from trades and professions and those derived from investments. He asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the Committee on the income-tax would, by the terms of reference, be in a position to consider this question without prejudice.
Amendment proposed to the Bill—
In Clause 7, page 3, line 21, after the word 'shilling' to insert the words 'provided always, that all incomes under Schedule D derived from trades and professions, and not derived from investments, shall be subject to a rebate of four pence per pound.'"—(Dr. Macnamara.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said that the words proposed by the right hon. Gentleman would not come within the reference to the Committee on the income-tax. The hon. Gentleman was doubtless aware that a Committee of this House a great many years ago considered this subject, and reported very fully against it.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
said that in the circumstances he had no alternative but to withdraw his Amendment. He would raise the question in another form.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. LOUGH
said he had an Amendment on the Paper, the object of which was to remove a hardship felt by friendly 1176 societies. He did not see why, on the principle of justice, exemption should not be extended to all limited liability companies and friendly societies, registered or unregistered, whose income did not exceed £160 a year. He begged to move.
Amendment proposed to the Bill—
In Clause 8, page 4, line 6, after the word 'societies,' to insert the words or limited liability companies.'"—(Mr. Lough.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said he could not accept the Amendment. A limited liability company did make profit, or was supposed to make profit, and there was no reason to exempt the shareholders from paying income-tax on the dividends. which they obtained from the company.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill to be read the first time this day, and to be printed. [Bill 281.]