§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin County, N.)
said he regretted they had not the advantage of having before them on that occasion the usual Financial Relations Return, on the basis of which previous discussions on that subject had been carried on. He did not, however, propose to suggest that the Government were to blame in that matter, because he admitted that the Return had on previous occasions been moved for by a private Member, and he did not know that any Member had moved for it up to the present time that session. Therefore, he made no complaint of the fact that the Return had not been issued, nor, indeed, was he inclined to regret that fact. It was extremely doubtful whether that particular Return with which they were annually presented by the author- 308 ities at the Treasury did not do more harm than good. In his experience he had found that the basis on which the Return was made was being continually altered and new principles were being introduced from time to time. Several years ago the Treasury—in the time of Mr. Gladstone—discovered that there were very serious errors in the Return, and, accordingly, it had to be revised and made up on different lines. The latest error had been admitted by the right hon. Gentleman the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, who last year said that a new principle of collating certain items in the Return would have to be adopted. So long as they did not know beforehand the principles on which the Returns were to be based, he for one, objected to allowing the defendant in the case to prepare the evidence on which the verdict was to be given. In the next place he was afraid that the form in which the Return was at present framed, and in which it had been framed in the past, justified the suggestion that it perpetuated misrepresentations and fallacies. The form in which they now received it also seemed to him calculated to perpetuate those evils to which he would allude later on. However that might be, passing from the fact that they had no Return of the usual kind this year before them for the purpose of that debate, it was obvious it was not so necessary now as on previous occasions. For that the reason was clear. It was that the changes made in the Budget of this year were very few and trifling, and, in fact, the only change of any importance which would affect the general Return on the question they were discussing had been the reduction in the duty on tea. He believed that no other material change had been made since last year, and he thought it might be taken for granted that the figures which were available for last year, therefore, were practically sufficient for the purposes of the present debate.
He did not propose to occupy the time of the House for more than a brief period that evening. The Amendment said that the Bill did not contain proposals for effectually remedying their grievance in regard to unjust financial 309 treatment. In that respect the Amendment was literally true, and he would at once put it to the House that, if there were an injustice, it was not corrected in the Budget of this year. The real question was whether an injustice did exist. He did not think there could be any necessity to go into that matter to the extent to which they had done in previous years. To his mind every debate on the subject for several years past had not only been practically one-sided; but the few persons who had spoken against the Irish demand had given no answers to the arguments in favour of that demand. They had merely repeated the usual shallow parrot phrases which time after time had been demonstrated to have not the slightest possible foundation. Last year the light hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer treated them in a rather cavalier manner, considering the great importance of the subject. He contented himself with making two answers, and he did not think he would be misrepresenting the speech of the right hon. Gentleman when he said that those two answers were, broadly speaking, as follows:— In the first place, he asked the familiar question, what remedy did they propose? It was apparently in vain to tell him, as Chancellors of the Exchequer had been told on many occasions, that the Irish Members had not the power themselves to apply a remedy, and therefore the responsibility did not rest with them to discover the proper remedy. It was a very easy thing for the right hon. Gentleman and his predecessors to say, "What remedy have you to propose?" but if they had attempted to put one forward it would have been equally easy for the right hon. Gentleman to criticise and reject it, and there upon he presumed the whole question would have been shelved, at any rate by many of the right hon. Gentleman's supporters. He was even inclined to think that that suggestion was not put forward in a bona fide manner. Did anyone believe that the proposed remedies would be accepted? Did anyone in his senses imagine that any number of Irish Members in that House who had considered the matter carefully and in a moderate spirit, would have their opinion 310 taken into account for five minutes if any Chancellor of the Exchequer chose to disagree with them? He confessed he did not.
Next the right hon. Gentleman gave them an answer with which they were equally familiar, and that was to ask what grievance had they when their proportionate contribution to the Empire was steadily going down. He despaired when he listened to replies of that nature, because it had been pointed out time after time how absurd such a suggestion was. Last year they were able to quote in proof of their contention a statement by the right hon. Gentleman's fellow Minister who had now ceased to hold office, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover, who had entirely taken their view of the case, viz., that when taxation went up all over Great Britain and Ireland as a whole, and when one of these two divisions of the Kingdom decreased in every element of wealth, while the other advanced by leaps and bounds in the opposite direction, the contribution of the weaker, though it absolutely increased, must necessarily get less in proportion. This seemed to be obvious, but in this matter it often happened that the more obvious the truth was the less it was realised by those who had authority, and he presumed that the right ion. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would continue to be blind to that truth even this session.
The real point for them to consider was whether their contribution was actually going up or absolutely going down, and he had some figures to submit to them on that point. For ten years before 1900 it was, on an average, under £2,000,000, it was now going up to £3,000,000. What a contrast was there between the promise and the performance; between the promise made at the time of the Union, and the performance of to-day. At the time of the Union their taxation altogether amounted to £2,500,000 a year, and Lord Castle-reagh in his speeches in the Irish House of Commons recommended the Union to the Irish people on the grounds that there would be no augmentation of the debt, and no increase of taxation 311 But their total contribution had gone up, their actual payments to the Treasury had gone up to £12,000,000 in one hundred years. Let him say, before he went any further, that he, for one, believed that the contributions as set down in the Treasury Return were far short of the figure at which they ought to stand. Some sessions ago the then Chancellor of the Exchequer the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol, when he was making a somewhat similar comment, suggested that he was attacking certain Treasury officials. He was doing nothing of the kind; he was simply attacking their masters, who directed them to make the Return on certain lines. He said now frankly his belief was that this was done with the express purpose of showing that they were not paying as much to the Empire as they actually were contributing. There were in the Return two columns showing the revenue extracted from Ireland, one was headed, "Revenue collected in Ireland," the other "the true revenue." He thought Mr. Gladstone was right when in 1886, in the debate on the Home Rule Bill, he admitted that in justice and fairness the revenue collected in Ireland ought to be entirely attributed to Ireland. He really could not understand why it should not be. What was the revenue of France or of Germany? It was the revenue collected in France or in Germany as the case might be. The revenue collected in the British Empire was the revenue of the British Empire. But in the case of Ireland alone, Ireland which, notwithstanding all they might say to the contrary, was divided from them in such a way that it could never be part of the Empire in the same way as Wiltshire was—in the case of Ireland alone they adopted the device of deducting what was paid by consumers in England, and the invariable result was of course to make out that they paid two millions less than they really did.
Again, the usual Return utterly misrepresented the expenditure account. The object seemed to be to attribute to Ireland all expenses which could by any possibility be regarded as incurred for Ireland, and to take off England every penny spent in England 312 that could by any possibility be said to be collected for Imperial purposes. It was assumed—as if there could be no doubt—that the charge for the Army and Navy was an Imperial one, chargeable to the Empire at large. He could understand the charge for the maintenance of the Army being thus treated, but it was different in the case of the millions upon millions spent upon the construction of ships, guns, and armour-plate. That money was spent in five or six English and Scotch shipbuilding ports and dockyards, it was spent upon English, Scotch, and Welsh workmen, it went into English, Scotch and Welsh pockets, and with it were purchased food and clothing—the necessaries of life—in English, Scotch and Welsh establishments. In what way could that be called Imperial expenditure? It ought to be set down, not to the account of the Empire, but to the account of England, Scotland, and Wales. Look at the way in which the charge for the Constabulary in Ireland was treated. Really it was a strictly Imperial charge, and evidence was given before the Financial Relations Commission to the effect that Mr. Goschen, hard as he was towards Ireland himself, stated that the Constabulary charge amounting to £1,600,000 a year ought to be set down to the account of the Empire, and not to the account of Ireland only. Having regard to these facts the Returns were seriously at fault, and the sooner they were abandoned altogether the better, unless steps were taken by the Government to put them on a proper basis.
It was absolutely plain, nevertheless, that Ireland was paying too much in proportion to the other parts of the United Kingdom. He had no intention to debate this question at great length. It seemed to him to have been settled for ever by the Royal Commission of 1894. That Commission had been assailed on the ground that it was appointed with a view to the Home Rule Bill, and the proposals made by Mr. Gladstone for the settlement of Ireland. But really he did not see how that was an answer at all. The question was—were the figures presented by that Commission correct or not? and not 313 whether they were prepared with the view to this or that scheme of Government policy. The question further was whether from the figures correct deductions were made? It seemed to him on this point that there was no answer at all, and no answer had ever been given. None of the figures given by the Commission had ever been assailed; in fact, he challenged the right hon. Gentleman to get up and point to any single set of figures in the Report of the majority which had been assailed at all.
The old familiar argument had been used that there could not be financial injustice inflicted on Ireland, because under the present system of taxation every man in the three kingdoms was taxed alike. In the first place, he wanted to safeguard himself by stating, as one who took his stand in this matter on the Act of Union—there were too many Unionists on the other side of the House who seemed to think it obsolete and of no account—that this plea was not pertinent. It was like a piece of evidence which might be offered at a trial, which might be true or might be false, but was ruled out by the Judge because it was not relevant to the issue. What was the use of advancing this plea when the principle of separate treatment for Ireland was embodied in the Act of Union as the only principle on which the taxation of Ireland ought to be regulated? It was embodied again in the Act of 1816, which amalgamated the Exchequers of Ireland and Great Britain. The, Act of 1816 declared that the taxation of Ireland and of Scotland was subject to certain exemptions and abatements. That principle was actually recognised for a great part of the first half of last century by successive British Ministers. In 1842, and again in 1845, Sir Robert Peel refused to extend the income-tax to Ireland on the very ground that Ireland was entitled to exemption from this tax; he did so on account of the enactments of 1800 and 1816. It was nonsense to say that this theory of separate treatment was either new-fangled or wrong. It was recognised in 1864 by a Conservative Administration when they appointed a Committee on the subject. It was recognised by the Chairman of that Committee, Sir Stafford Northcote, who made a remarkable Report, in which he 314 said that Ireland was the most heavily taxed and Great Britain the most lightly taxed country in Europe, notwithstanding that both were nominally subject to the same taxation. Sir Stafford North-cote did not repudiate the obligations laid upon British Ministers and British politicians by the Acts of 1800 and 1816, nor did the Government who appointed the Committee. Even so late as 1890 the very work which the Royal Commission was set to do a few years later by Mr. Gladstone, namely, to take account of what way Ireland ought to be separately treated, was entrusted by Mr. Goschen, the Unionist Chancellor of the Exchequer, to a Committee, in the reference framed to aid the Committee which was appointed, but never met, to investigate this question. The answer, therefore, that no injustice was done because everybody was taxed alike was not pertinent to the issue. But more than that, it was not true.
He would take those who urged this argument on their own ground. It was obvious that it could not be true as long as Ireland and Great Britain were dissimilar in circumstances and in resources. He thought he was stating the case as plainly and correctly as possible when he said that a common system of taxation as applied to countries dissimilar in circumstances and resources did not necessarily mean equality of burden. Take the case of rates on property. When a common system was applied to countries dissimilar in circumstances and resources—great properties the rule in the one, small in the other—equal rates on both pressed more heavily on the latter than on the former, because they took away a greater proportion of the surplus income. Surely that was perfectly plain. He would read, for the information of anyone who doubted this, the statement made by Sir Robert Giffen before the Financial Relations Commission—It is not the same thing lo take £2 from the man who has £40 a year, as to take £4 from a man who has £80, or £40 from a man who has £800. The sacrifice is greater upon the man from whom you take £2 out of £40 than it is upon the man from whom you take £40 out of £800, although the proportion is the same.In the case of taxes of dutiable commodities the case was absolutely worse 315 for they acted without any regard at all to disparity in income. If the poor consumed as much as the rich they paid actually as much as the rich; the poorer country gave up a larger part of its income than the richer, because it had less surplus income. Therefore, he contended that this system, so far from equalising taxation, might, and as a matter of fact did, work the greatest possible injustice to Ireland. Under the system of indiscriminate taxation the man living in Mayfair paid, forsooth, the same as the unfortunate Connaught peasant for his tobacco, though the one had £10,000 a year, while the other had to support himself and his family on ten shillings a week. Yet it was said that no injustice was done to the Connaught peasant. In his opinion the unfortunate peasants in the West of Ireland ought not to be taxed at all. Every frank economist admitted that what ought to be taxed was the surplus income, and that the people must be allowed enough to live on before their taxation began; otherwise they would not live and there would be no taxation at all. What a monstrous thing it was that the unfortunate peasants in the West of Ireland, labourers who on an average earned ten shillings a week, should be put on a par in regard to taxation with the millionaires in Park Lane and Mayfair! But that was the necessary result of so-called equal and indiscriminate taxation; and the reason why it hit Ireland more heavily than England was perfectly obvious, namely, that Ireland contained a vastly larger number of poor than England.
Again, if the articles selected for taxation were used only in one, or were used in one more generally than in the other, that one country was hit, and the other escaped, though both were nominally liable to the same taxation. That was exactly what had happened in the case of Ireland as compared with Great Britain. From 1853 down to 1860 what was done? The House of Commons selected whisky, which was the national beverage of Ireland, for taxation, and left out beer, which was the national drink of England. There were the same duties on whisky and beer in both, but would any candid man say that they hit the two countries in the same way? 316 This equal and indiscriminate taxation argument seemed to be infected with the essential vice that so long as the circumstances of the country on which it was imposed were not taken into account, it ever touched the poor and let the rich get off. The result was—and he thought that this fact ought to be really conclusive as to the injustice of the present system of taxation—that, according to the admission of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer in answering a Question put to him on the subject of the taxation raised in England, one-half was borne by indirect taxation and one-half by direct taxation; but in Ireland the figures were 72 per cent. from indirect taxation and 27 from direct taxation.
Well, the general trend of all this was summed up in a passage which he would take the opportunity of reading from the Report of the Financial Relations Commission—he meant the Report signed by the majority of the Commissioners. It was a passage which any candid Englishman ought to be ashamed of. It was as follows—The general effect of the change in fiscal policy has been to abolish nearly all duties on raw material of manufacture and articles of food, and to substitute direct taxation upon income and property, together with duties on a small number of imported articles and on alcoholic drinks. The articles selected for these duties—tobacco, tea, and spirits, are those most largely used by the population of Ireland, while the articles freed from duty were so freed mainly for the benefit of the inhabitants of Great Britain.That passage remained on record, and could not be contradicted; and yet the English Government went on piling taxation on Ireland, relying on the assumption that so long as each man paid the same rate of duty on tea, tobacco, and spirits, there could not be any injustice done, in spite of the fact that the one country presented a totally different set of circumstances from the other. He heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Prime Minister last year declare that, large as was the taxation which this country was called upon to bear in consequence of the South African War, it was better able to bear it than even the taxation of forty years ago. Could anybody pretend that that 317 could be said of Ireland? Its population had been reduced by one-half in fifty years, until now it was less than it was at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and only what it was at the time of the Union. He doubted if, in the dominions of the Turk, there could be found a single country of which that could be said. And the Irish people were still going. A Return appeared a few weeks ago, from which it appeared that the emigration of labourers from Ireland, during the first four months of this year, was 1,000 more per month than in the corresponding four months last year. And why did they go? Surely they would not go if they could earn their bread at home. It was because there was no hope of their attaining to prosperity in their native land. Curiously enough, the fact that Ireland was not improving, but, on the contrary, going back, was proved by the Answer of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to a Question put to him that very day as to the receipts from the income-tax during the past five or six years. He had not had time to examine the figures very carefully, but it was plain that, notwithstanding the increase in the rate of the income-tax, the actual produce of the tax had decreased. That clearly showed that the resources of Ireland were declining. Now, he really thought that treatment of this kind, and under these circumstances, betrayed a hard-heartedness and callousness which could not be too severely condemned. For his part, he had not words in which he could sufficiently condemn it by the use of Parliamentary language.
Before he sat down he wanted to mention a fact which he had discovered from the Inland Revenue Returns of last year. The fact concerned the repayment into the local taxation account from the Imperial Exchequer of the proportion of the Excise license duties. Many years ago Mr. Goschen, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, made a Return showing that the amount given back, proportionate to income, to the three countries, was 80 per cent. to England, 11 per cent. to Scotland, and 9 per cent. to Ireland. He was inclined to think at the time that Ireland was, as usual, being cheated; and he was not 318 yet sure that Ireland was not. But Ireland had been treated worse since. The system of repayment had been changed and the three countries got back the produce of certain Excise duties. England got back at the same rate as before; but it turned out that the licences which were selected for that purpose were most fruitful in England and least fruitful in Ireland. The result was that, whereas Ireland was getting 9 per cent. before of what was paid in, she was now, under the revised system, only getting 4½ per cent. instead of 9 per cent. He would like the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to explain why that should be so.
There were, he warned the right hon. Gentleman, other Questions to be answered; because, if he was rightly informed, England was getting a great deal too much and Scotland a great deal too little even under the law as it stood. What he had been saying was but the latest chapter—not the last, he supposed—of a disgraceful story more than a century old. One hundred and five years ago one of the fraudulent devices by which it was sought to impose the Union project upon the intellect of Ireland was a series of promises that it would be of vast material benefit to Ireland, inasmuch as, amongst other reasons, Ireland would be equitably taxed. It was to be taxed, according to Lord Castlereagh and Mr. Pitt, in the proportion then prevailing. Then the British taxpayers in Great Britain paid annually about £3 per head, the Irish taxpayers only 10s. The British rate had since declined to £2 Is. per head, while that of Ireland had increased from 10s. to all but £2 per head, and this, too, though in the same time the population and resources of Ireland had both declined, while the population of Great Britain had more than trebled, and her wealth, in all its various forms, had far outstripped that advance. No wonder that Ireland's connection with Great Britain by means of the Union had brought Ireland, not the increase of wealth which was to follow in the wake of the Union, but ever increasing poverty. No wonder that Irish industries had been well nigh extinguished. No wonder that 319 its people fled from their own land as from a plague spot. No wonder that the last century witnessed two or three famines and many periods of acute distress. No wonder that many Irishmen, knowing the real causes of those calamities, should think it blasphemy to style them visitations of Providence. No wonder they should be inclined to thinks of some British statesmen as more deserving of such denunciations as those uttered by Cicero of the plunderer of Sicily than was Verres himself. For his own part, he thought less hardly of the direct and brutal suppression of Irish industries 200 years ago than he did of the various indirect, ingenious, underhand, and mean devices by which the same end had been attained in more civilised times. Nor could he view without disgust the expression by British statesmen at the present time of a vicarious repentance for the injustice inflicted by their predecessors who were long since dead, while they seem utterly blind to the equally gross injustice inflicted by themselves.
To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'this House, having regard to the unjust financial treatment to which Ireland has been for many years subjected, with disastrous results to that country, declines to read a second time this Bill, which contains no proposal for effectually remedying that grievance, and does contain provisions which would continue it."—(Mr. Clancy.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. ELLIOT (Durham)
said the mover of the Amendment had denounced the financial relations between Ireland and England. He had talked as if Irishmen were leaving their country as a pest-house, as if everything was failing, the country going down hill; as if there was no prosperity anywhere; as if it were all due to the gross and unjust treatment in financial matters of Ireland by Great Britain. He 320 begged to traverse that statement altogether. Every Return showed that Ireland was advancing. Savings Bank balances were increasing, and although the income-tax did not show the rise that it ought to show that was due to the change from big to small proprietors.
§ MR. CLANCY
retorted that that point was answered last year, when it was argued that the money must be invested, and the income-tax, if not paid out of property, was payable out of dividends.
§ MR. ELLIOT
maintained that his point was a good one, and asked where the moneys were now invested. He admitted that the population of Ireland was less now than it was fifty years ago, and he regretted that should be the case, but if he had to choose between seeing Ireland with a population of 10,000,000 of people, living as they used to live, and a smaller population living in a certain degree of comfort, he should assuredly choose the latter. The hon. Member had fallen into the mistake of regarding the whole question of taxation as one between Irishmen and Englishmen, whereas it was one between the rich and the poor man. It was not a geographical question, but rather one between the occupant of a mansion in Mayfair and an inhabitant of the slums of London. The last Returns of 1903—4 showed that whilst Irishmen paid in taxation into the Imperial Exchequer £2 4s., the Englishman paid £3 12s. Hon. Members ought frankly to face the situation. That proportion had been going on year after year, and yet they were told there was an unfair treatment of Ireland by England. Taxes to the amount of £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 a year were raised in England and Scotland on articles from which Ireland was exempt. For instance, there was house duty. A man living in Dublin came over to Liverpool and had to pay a tax which, he had never paid before. Then there was the railway passenger duty, which with other duties falling on Scotland and England, and not on Ireland, amounted to £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 a year.
§ MR. CLANCY
pointed out that Ireland's proportion of the £4,000,000 or 321 £5,000,000 was so small that it would not pay for costs of collection.
§ MR. ELLIOT
agreed with that view, but repeated that Ireland escaped duties which had to be paid by England and Scotland.
§ MR. ELLIOT
agreed that the duty was paid by the railway companies, but the money was extracted from the pockets of English taxpayers and not from Irish pockets. In all those exempted taxes amounted to £4,000,000 or £5,000,000, and he put that forward as a point to be considered. The hon. Member had astounded him when he talked about the waste of the revenue, and the injustice in Ireland being called upon to contribute to the Imperial Navy.
§ MR. ELLIOT
said the hon. Member could not deny that the Irish taxpayers were interested in the Imperial Navy inasmuch as they received the benefit of the services of that Navy. They doubtless were perfectly loyal citizens of the United Kingdom, and as such enjoyed the benefits of the Navy and the Army. He therefore failed to see why they should not contribute to the maintenance of the Imperial Forces. He could quite conceive that a proportional system fixing the amount of revenue might be a reasonable view if they were going to recur to the old system of making the United Kingdom a federation of States, but the very basis of the Treaty of Union looked forward to putting an end to a system of proportionate contribution as absolutely unsuited to a state of things where men were citizens of the same State and subject to the same Imperial Government and taxing authority. It seemed to him that as between man and man there was no case whatever for the contention of the hon. Gentleman. 322 Let them regard it for a moment from the point of view of the Imperial Exchequer. Was it right that Ireland should contribute to the Imperial Exchequer for anything save Irish expenditure. Surely she ought. She ought to contribute to the Imperial expenditure just as much as England and Scotland had to contribute to it. If the Report of the Royal Commission was carried out and the sum of £2,250,000 or £2,500,000 a year was paid from the Imperial Exchequer to Ireland the result would be that Ireland would contribute nothing to the Imperial Exchequer; but, on the contrary, because at present she only contributed £2,200,000 to the Imperial expenditure outside purely local Irish expenditure. It was of no use to come to an Imperial Assembly like this and suggest that we should subsidise Imperial expenditure in Ireland, because that was what it came to when it was suggested that the Imperial Exchequer should pay a contribution of £2,500,000 to Ireland, which only contributed £2,200,000 to our Imperial expenditure. The most valuable part of the Report of the Royal Commission, which showed great industry and ability on the part of those who framed it, was the recommendations as to what should be done to remedy this state of things. If ever there was a reductio ad absurdum in this world it was those recommendations. One was to take off the taxation of Ireland and put it on to England and Scotland, the second was to alter the duties on the commodities as against the other two countries. If that were done, it would necessitate the revival of the old systam of Custom-houses between Ireland, Scotland, and England, and surround Ireland with a great wall. Did anyone suppose it was possible, even if it was desirable, to go back to such a system?
§ MR. ELLIOT
said his point was it was not possible to revive the system, the hon. Gentleman, at all events, would agree that it was highly undesirable.
§ MR. ELLIOT
said then the hon. Member would find himself in a minority when they came to vote upon the matter.
§ MR. ELLIOT
said he had no desire to argue with the hon. Member. All he said was that, first of all, hon. Members opposite had to make out a case of gross injustice, and that, in his opinion, they had failed to do. Coming to the special remedies, he thought it would be quite impossible to revive the system of Custom-houses between Ireland and England; the more communication there was between the two countries, the better for both. When this question was looked into, item by item, they found that Ireland gained considerably by her financial relations with Great Britain. If they locked up the Returns they would find that the postal and telegraphic system in Ireland was run at a loss, which meant that the penny postage and the sixpenny telegraphic system was only rendered possible in Ireland by her interests being bound up with those of a richer country than herself. What was one of the most valuable gifts which the United Kingdom could make to other parts of the Empire which Were poor, as Ireland was, unfortunately? It was the advantage of her credit. And that Ireland had, and enjoyed the full benefit of, quite as much as, if not more than, any other part of the United Kingdom. The great system of loans to the peasantry was only made possible by the credit of Great Britain, end the fact that there was Only one system of taxation. Ireland might have been unjustly treated in the past, but he did not think her grievances were due to any closeness or niggardliness on the part of Great Britain. He denied that the United Kingdom had ever shown, in her relations with Ireland or Scotland, or her Colonies, anything like stinginess. The principles adopted in Ireland were the only principles that could be adapted between man and man, and it was because he believed that those were the only principles that could be adopted towards Ireland that he said 324 that when they abrogated those principles and dealt instead with the principle of the financial entity of Great Britain and the financial entity of Ireland that they left the straight and solid path which led to good results. The system suggested by the hon. Gentleman opposite might be, and probably was, the best that might be adopted in the case of federated States, but it was quite unsuitable in the case of Ireland and this country. While we remained one people and remained subject to one Imperial taxing authority, and wished to have justice done between man and man, and to base finance on sound financial lines, we must look at the true facts, and must see that Ireland, Scotland, and England, the rich countries and the poor, all got justice. Those were the lines, and the sole lines, upon which we could make any bargain.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
said the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had given the House the usual stereotyped argument which ignored all facts and figures. He had heard that kind of argument over and over again. According to the hon. Member they had to ignore everything, the findings of the Royal Commission, the history of the case, and all the facts of recent history. It seemed almost hopeless to address any argument to an otherwise alert mind like that of the hon. Gentleman when he ignored and befogged everything that had been done. Did the hon. Member or any hon. Member opposite mean to revive the exploded fallacy which was published in the Unionist Press when the findings of the Royal Commission were published; namely, that it was the extravagant expenditure which was the justification for the existing taxation. If that were so, if the argument in favour of quoting a figure as a contribution was a just one, all that they would have to do would be to double the number of Judges in Ireland, to increase the numbers of the Constabulary, to make extravagant increases in salaries and so forth all over the place, and the question was solved. But the hon. Member opposite was not alone in that line of argument, because in the debate of last year the Chancellor of the Exchequer 325 bombarded the House with a set of new figures, drawn from nobody knew where, based upon an absolutely fallacious argument, and from that day to this the right hon. Gentleman had done nothing whatever to substantiate the figures he then put forward. The last Treasury Return was one which the Irish people could not accept, and in regard to which the House ought to be sceptical, inasmuch as there were no means of testing it.
A large portion of the Irish case must depend on the Report of the Royal Commission, which hon. Members opposite desired to discredit because it was appointed in connection with the question of Ireland's contribution in a possible scheme of Home Rule. But the fact that the Commission was appointed ad hoc in reference not to a political issue, but to the financial side of that issue, did not invalidate its testimony or discredit its findings, or, above all, displace the invaluable evidence given by Treasury officials themselves. The figures upon which eleven out of the thirteen Commissioners based their findings were supplied by men of the type of Sir Edward Hamilton and Sir Robert Giffen, and they had never been disproved. The Government did not accept the findings of that Commission, but promised to appoint another body to inquire how the expenditure on Irish local services contrasted with similar expenditure in England and Scotland, and to what exemptions and abatements Ireland might be entitled. Surely that was a recognition of the doctrine of a fiscal entity.
The figures given by the Treasury last July simply brought the sad story up to date, showing a steady and constant increase in the amount drawn from Ireland, but revealing the alarming anomaly that the more Ireland contributed in tax revenue the smaller was her percentage of the total contribution. That, however, was largely due to the enormous and increasing expenditure of Great Britain to which the Irish people had never given their assent. It was unnecessary to discuss whether or not the South African War was justifiable, he thought it was most unjustifiable; the fact remained that it cost between £200,000,000 and, £300,000,000, of which Ireland had had to bear her share. In 326 1893–94 the amount of tax revenue drawn from Great Britain was £75,796,000, and from Ireland £7,568,000, or 7.08 per cent. as compared with Great Britain; six years later the amounts were £117,385,000 and £8,664,000 respectively, or a percentage of 7.38 from Ireland; in 1902–3, Great Britain's contribution was £146,400,000, and Ireland's £10,205,000, or 6.98 per cent., while according to the list published Returns, the amount drawn from Great Britain was £137,184,000 and from Ireland £9,748,000, a percentage of 7.35. Whence, then, did the hon. Member for Durham get his 2.3 per cent?
§ MR. FLYNN
replied that the Irish people could not accept the figures of that Return at all, as they were based on a fallacious doctrine long since exploded. The Commission reported that Ireland was over taxed to the extent of £2,500,000 per annum, and until the Treasury appointed another Commission of financial experts and upset the figures upon which that finding was based, the House was bound to accept it. According to the figures he had just given, Irish taxation in ten years had increased by pound;2,500,000, though the percentage of her contribution had fallen by 1.73. According to the income-tax returns for the last financial year, the amount charged in England was £29,554,000, and in Scotland £3,101,000, a total of £32,655,000, while Ireland was charged £1,207,536, representing only 3.7 per cent. Therefore on the most favourable basis of taxation, the utmost that Ireland ought to be called upon to pay was 3.7 per cent. of the revenue. Under Schedule D, which more accurately reflected the resources of the people than the statement as a whole, England was charged£16,828,000, Scotland £2,078,030, and Ireland only £497,000, or 2.63 per cent. of the whole. If 2.63, which approximately represented Ireland's ability as compared with Great Britain, were contrasted with the 7.35 which was extracted from her, the case for over-taxation was disclosed in overwhelming strength and clearness. He hoped the 327 Chancellor of the Exchequer in his reply, instead of repeating old and exploded fallacies, would give the House something more enlightning and informing than he did last year. Ireland's case was unanswerable, and some serious attempt ought to be made to redress her grievance. He defied hon. Members to name any other country of equal fertility which was losing its population by tens of thousands, whose fields were going out of cultivation, and whose peasantry were flying as from a plague-stricken land. Such a state of things was surely abnormal and alarming; to the Irish people it was sickening and heartbreaking. Over-taxation was one of the causes of the depopulation and impoverishment of Ireland, and steps ought at once to be taken to remedy the financial grievance under which that country laboured.
§ SIR JOHN GORST (Cambridge University)
said it was no use talking about Irish contributions. They had got a United Kingdom, and under that government it was possible to have a system of taxation which would be perfectly fair to the Irish people. He was ready to grant that the existing system of taxation was not fair to the Irish people, but its unfairness was not because they were Irish, but because they were poor, and the same system was equally unfair to poor Scotchmen and Englishmen. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: There is nothing in that.] There was something in it, because it enabled a national grievance to be made out of what was really only a class grievance. Ireland was the poorest part of the United Kingdom, and when they summed up the taxation they found that it was an unreasonable amount. The illustration given by the hon. Member who moved this Amendment, of a poor man in Connaught who smoked his pipe contributing more than his fair share as compared with the rich man in Pall Mall who smoked his cigar, was quite true, but it was equally true of poor Englishmen and Scotchmen. As long as they remained a United Kingdom, the only way in which justice could be done was by so regulating the taxation of the whole of the United Kingdom, that the rich classes should pay their fair proportion and the poor should not 328 pay more than their fair share. Many of the indirect taxes which were imposed upon commodities were imposed in a way which was very unfair to the poor, and therefore it was unfair to Ireland, and that, he understood, was the argument of the hon. Member for Durham.
What they required was that indirect taxation should be fairly distributed throughout the United Kingdom. There was an idea that whisky was taxed more than beer, and if that could be proved he should be willing to see that injustice redressed. He thought all hon. Members agreed that at the present moment indirect taxation formed too great a proportion of the revenue raised in the United Kingdom. Twenty years ago, before all these wars and high expenditure upon the Army and Navy, no man could justly be said to be oppressed by indirect taxation, because then no working man paid indirect taxation unless he drank, or smoked, or indulged in that pernicious fluid tea. If he abstained from all those luxuries then he paid nothing at all, and he did not pay much now except in regard to sugar. What the Irish representatives ought to demand was a reduction of indirect taxation and further relief on those articles which were the subject of food and consumption by the Irish people and the poor Scotch and English people. That could only be done by a great reduction in the general expenditure of the country, and after the speech of the Prime Minister he thought they would all be looking forward with some hope towards a very great reduction in their military expenditure. Then they would be able to take the tax off sugar, reduce the tax on tea, and possibly on whisky, and thus the poor Irishman, as a member of the United Kingdom, would obtain an alleviation of the injustice from which he was now suffering, without any disturbance of the present Constitution under which England, Scotland, and Ireland were bound together.
§ MR. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick)
said that what the Irish Members complained of was that Ireland had been overtaxed since the Union. It was not only a question of the immediate present, but they had also to consider the immense restitution which was due to them from the past. 329 At the time of the Union Ireland was perhaps the most lightly-taxed country in Europe, as she was not concerned in foreign wars. Under the terms of the Union it was definitely stipulated that she should be always recognised as a separate taxable entity, to be taxed only in ratio to her resources, with certain exemptions to be allowed. This fact had been proved by the Financial Relations Commission inquiry, and was also further substantiated by the pamphlets and proceedings of the All Ireland Financial Reform League. Therefore he would not trouble the House with details, as the contract terms could not be denied. Under the Act of Union it was distinctly laid down that the Irish and British. Exchequers were to be kept separate until such time as a certain ratio was reached, when the Exchequers might be amalgamated and another system would more conveniently allow the over taxation of Ireland to any extent desired by the English Chancellors. This increase in what was called the National Debt of Ireland was easily managed by the expert financiers of the British Treasury, so that after the expensive Napoleonic wars it was accomplished.
In order to explain the motives and manipulations which led up to the amalgamation of the Irish and British Exchequers, it was necessary to quote the official figures of the intervening years that elapsed between the Union and amalgamation. On January 5th, 1801, the British debt was £450,504,984, and the annual charge £17,718,134; the Irish debt was £28,545,134, and the annual charge £1,244,463. On January 5th, 1817, after amalgamation, the British debt was £734,527,104, and the annual charge £28,238,416; the Irish debt was then £112,704,514, and the annual charge £4,094,514. This showed whilst the Imperial Government did not double the British debt they quadrupled the Irish debt. By this manipulating amalgamation the Irish debt which in 1801—even after adding the cost of conveying the Union—had been as to the British one to sixteen and a-half, was forced up to bear to the British debt the ratio of one to seven and a-half. It was difficult to understand upon what grounds the Irish people were compelled to share in the liability for this enormous 330 National Debt now amounting to £800,000,000. The Irish people were not consulted, and they derived no advantage from foreign wars to which they were generally opposed, and they did not receive any benefit from naval or military expenditure. All that money was spent outside Ireland, where they had not even a receiving depôt, and all that now was mainly utilised to protect the mercantile marine, which reduced the price and demand for Irish produce, and yet they had to pay more than their share to maintain the Navy and Army. Meantime the colonists, who supplied our markets and took our manufactured goods, contributed scarcely any appreciable amount for their defence. Why not ask them to pay their fair share towards the ever-increasing cost of the Army and Navy, and relieve Ireland to the extent of their contribution? He submitted this practical suggestion to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Colonies had prospered because they controlled their own finances. India, and Ireland had been plundered and pauperised because the power of the purse remained in the British Parliament. Just as in India, the systematic and continuous policy of over-taxing the Irish people and sending the money outside the country obviously created an insurmountable obstacle to progress and prosperity.
Men and money were the twin wheels upon which progression proceeded. Irish money was absorbed by investments, and their men were leaving the land of their birth where God intended they should reside, if permitted by equitable laws and paternal administration. About the period of the Union the population of Ireland to that of Great Britain was as two was to five. Now it was not much over one-ninth. England was jealous of the prosperity of Ireland under a native Parliament even though it was composed of Protestants. But when the amalgamation of the Exchequers was proposed and passed, certain safeguards were inserted, and officials to look after Irish interests were to be appointed. He would quote from Statutes at Large, 56 George III., 1816; Vol. 56, an Act which was passed on July 331 1st. It contained the following provisions—Consolidated Funds of Great Britain and Ireland shall become one Consolidated Fund; offices of Treasurer of Great Britain and Ireland shall be united, and may be executed by Commissioners; Vice-Treasurer for Ireland to have salary of £2,000—with power to appoint deputy; money shall be issued out of the Treasury of Ireland on the warrant of the Lord-Lientenant, signed by the Vice-Treasurer and Auditor-General of His Majesty's Exchequer of Ireland; quarterly accounts of Consolidated Fund in Great Britain and Ireland shall be transmitted from each country to the other and deposited in the several Exchequers; two additional Commissioners of the Treasury to be appointed for Irish business; annual account to be laid before Parliament by the Vice-Treasurer; books and records of Irish Treasury to remain with Vice-Treasurer.Would the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Chief Secretary enlighten the House as to what had been done regarding those provisions. One never heard of anything but the British Treasury. Two short amending Acts were passed in 1817, but none of the main provisions were changed, and, so far as he could learn, the exemptions made under the Act of Union had been disallowed, and the regulations and safeguards provided by the Act of 1816 had been disregarded. Ireland had been involved in the payment of tremendous Imperial taxations far in excess of the proportions laid down by Pitt and Castlereagh, who foretold increased trade and prosperity, but Ireland had not participated in her share of the Imperial expenditure.
Of course they would be told about grants. Let an international account be prepared showing overtaxation and grants. The Union ratio was entirely ignored by Mr. Gladstone in his 1853 Budget. Although there was a surplus he levied income-tax in Ireland, nominally for a short period, to repay an amount lent to meet famine exigencies. He did this in opposition to the opinion of Sir Robert Peel and other eminent English Chancellors, who maintained that Ireland was too poor to pay income-tax. Although the amount lent had been repaid many times over, restitution had not been given by an equivalent reduction. On the contrary, the taxation was still rising. He was not arguing for the remission of income-tax in Ireland, but he did advocate the necessity of introducing a fair 332 system of graduated assessments—and also the need of reform in the existing mode of valuations, assessment, and collection in Ireland, where the income-tax payers, especially business and professional men, were often exorbitantly assessed, and consequently harassed, whilst the owner of land values, who did nothing, practically escaped taxation. Mr. Gladstone enormously increased the burden of taxation in Ireland before the country had recovered from the evil effects of the terrible famine, and just at the time that what was falsely called free trade, but which in reality was a system of free imports, was coming into operation and telling against Ireland. This system not alone reduced the value of Irish agricultural produce generally, but it gradually helped to deteriorate the climate and make it more humid, so that the yield of crops or live stock was not so good as formerly. Some hon. Members might not quite appreciate the connection between wet seasons and free imports. But it was recognised by meteorologists that if a country was not properly drained, was nearly all under grass, especially without a due clothing of wood, such a grassy area induced atmospheric moisture, and often rain, and it must be acknowledged that as a rule a cultivated country enjoyed a drier climate. However, let them get away from atmospheric influence, and come to the figures.
He would briefly put the case from the beginning. The King's revenue, or what was now termed Imperial taxation, was in the fourteenth century £11,000 per annum. This snowball had in the roll of ages increased to an avalanche of nearly £11,000,000. He would briefly trace its growth. In the seventeenth century, mainly by subsidies, £300,000; eighteenth century, mainly by subsidies, £650,000; 1801, beginning of nineteenth century, Union, £1,244,000; 1817, amalgamation, Exchequer, £4,004,514; 1829, amalgamation Exchequer, £4,460,000. In the Victorian era the figures were—1837, taxation, £5,175,000; population, 8,024,000; per head, 12s. l1d.; 1901, taxation, £9,505,000; population, 4,456,546; per head, 43s. In the present King's reign the figures were—1905, taxation, £10,200,000; population, 4,420,000; per 333 head, 44s. Since 1837 the population that was the productive factor of taxation had been reduced by nearly one-half, whilst the taxation per head had been almost quadrupled. Sometimes it was alleged by sophistical surface observers that Ireland was over-populated. Let him compare the density of population per square mile in European countries. England, 505; Scotland, 135; Ireland, 132 (Scotland did not contain anything like the area of arable land that Ireland did); France, 320; Germany, 233; Italy, 260; Switzerland, a mountainous land, 190; Holland, 350; Belgium, 530, more than four times the population per square mile, and in addition Ireland had been depopulated to make room for cattle. Yet Belgium carried three times as many beasts per acre as Ireland, although Ireland had a richer soil. The difference was in the home government.
In Ireland emigration continued, and the result was that the marriage and birth rate had decreased far below those of any other civilised country. The death rate was increasing, and the proportion of the children and aged to population had increased to such an extent that even if emigration were stayed the future of the Irish race was threatened. The ratio of infirm and insane was far greater than that in any other country in the world. The land was going out of tillage, and the number of persons in receipt of pauper relief was growing greater, although the population was diminished. So that the increasing burden of taxation had to be borne by a smaller number of producers, who were also weighted with heavy local rates, which amounted to over £4,000,000 sterling per annum. He submitted that produce was the measure of national wealth, and further, that the wealth of a nation consisted in its natural products, the skill and number of its inhabitants, and the possession of transit facilities. Great Britain, as they were told by geologists, owing to the displacements of the glacial period, had more iron and coal and consequently manufactures than Ireland. England had more skill, as technical education was unknown in Ireland until recently. The population of England had trebled; of Ireland it had been reduced almost one-half. 334 England had ten times more shipping than all the rest of the world, and competitive railways; in Ireland they had neither, yet from the poverty-stricken population of Ireland upon whom indirect taxation fell most heavily the English Government extorted 72 per cent. of indirect taxation, whilst in Great Britain it averaged only about 27 per cent.
Measured by income-tax returns Great Britain, especially England, was rich beyond all proportion as compared with Ireland. As the payment of income-tax was dependent on valuation, let him point out here that in England and Scotland there was a local authority assessment committee co-operating with the Government official. In Ireland there was a Valuation Commissioner appointed by the Crown, altogether beyond the influence of the taxpayer. If Ireland was to be revalued under this authority probably £1,000,000 a year would be added to the overtaxation of Ireland. Although identity of taxation had now proved to be unjust in application, yet identity of method should be followed under what was called Union constitutional Government. It was admitted that Great Britain drew a yearly profit of over £2,000,000 per annum from Ireland. Yet, notwithstanding the verdict of the Financial Resolutions Commission that they were over-taxed by nearly £3,000,000 sterling per annum, still the over-laxation tribute was even more rigorously exacted, and when the complaint was annually brought on for discussion they received only flippant replies and taunts about grants—which were mainly taken from Irish money. Why, everything in Ireland was starved and stunted from the want of a paternal yet economic Government. Money was wasted on soldiers who got their supplies outside Ireland. It was the same with officials, Constabulary, policemen, coercion proceeding from law-officers, and secret service. This House would grant many thousands of pounds for a denominational University for the Soudanese and refuse a necessary grant for the establishment of a University for those who constituted the majority of the Irish people. At the same time arterial drainage and fisheries, re-afforesting, and cheap transit, harbours, canals—all the factors of intellectual and commercial prosperity—were neglected 335 outside the work done by the Congested Districts Board or Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction.
Let it be granted that Ireland was naturally wealthy in agricultural resources, and under fair economic conditions her people would live in plenty and have ample provision during ordinary seasons against any probable diminution of her productive output in unfavourable years. But she was governed and controlled by a Power that financially and industrially absorbed her earnings in an insidious fashion by the financial drainage of overtaxation. It had been said that Ireland was drained of everything except water by England. A simple analogy would explain the situation. Suppose a farm of land which was naturally very fertile, if its produce was continually exported and consumed abroad, with, nothing returning to its soil, in due course of time that farm must become impoverished. Now, the Irish people, as a whole, were almost in the position of such a holding—Ireland had been designated the drain-farm of England. No country could sustain such a steady drain of wealth without becoming impoverished. That was their position. He recognised that high taxation might even in some cases be beneficial, provided it was so levied that it drew contributions from those who would not otherwise assist in sustaining public welfare and expense. The death duties afforded a notable example. But a further special proviso should be maintained that the taxes must be spent within the country from which they were raised and not lavishly expended in paying extravagant salaries to unnecessary officials, or in maintaining unconstitutional rule. Under those conditions taxation expended in the country in which it was levied again returned to the working, distributing, professional, and official classes. But taxes exported from the country in which they were collected must be reckoned as an absolute financial loss to the community which paid the taxes so abstracted. It was recognised by eminent economists that the obligation to make heavy payments abroad had the effect of placing a country at a disadvantage throughout its foreign trade. The present commercial depression of Ireland confirmed that theory. Her 336 foreign trade was insignificant, whilst her enforced enormous contribution to Imperial taxation together with remittances to absentee landlords were stupendous in relation to her commerce and capacity. He would remind the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Chief Secretary that in modern days oppression was mostly financial, and, if it were true that the inveterate enmities which embittered the Irish question were moderating let the Government and this House prove it by adopting measures for the revision of valuation methods, the restitution of past overtaxation and the readjustment of future levies from Ireland. Lord Brougham, an English Lord Chancellor, declared that the true test of good government was the least cost in money and subjection. Ireland cost more to govern than any country of an almost similar size and population in the world. It was subject to a perpetual coercion, and the people were deprived of the use of arms which belonged to every free people. If England was unable to govern Ireland economically constitutionally let her grant Home Rule, and an Irish Parliament would govern a prosperous and progressive people.
MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanarkshire, Partick)
thought a very real and grievous burden as affecting Ireland had been brought forward, and he asserted that the just treatment of that country must depend upon fiscal principles. He was sure that the hon. Member for Durham would agree that the present system of indirect taxation on the necessities of life threw too heavy a burden upon the poorer classes and left more prosperous classes without their fair share. Then it was assumed that a system of taxation which was good for one community was good for another, and it was assumed that the present system of taxation which was adopted as being good for this country—a rich, prosperous and industrial community—was necessarily good for a community where the circumstances were entirely different. That did not at all follow. It might very well be argued that the present system of taxation was so much to the advantage of our manufactories and industries in England that any harm it did to the agricultural and poorer 337 classes was quite overborne by the advantage it conferred by developing the general and larger interests of the community. It did not follow, however, that such would be the case in a country which depended almost entirely upon agriculture. In this respect Ireland had suffered and was now suffering from our commercial policy. We had chosen a commercial policy which, was good for this country, and Ireland had to take its chances of success. That policy was initiated in the seventeenth century; it was carried through the eighteenth century, when we prevented the growth of industry in Ireland for the benefit of this country; and in the nineteenth century, whatever was the effect of free-trade measures in England it certainly was damaging to Ireland. Along with that came the passionate desire for symmetry which marked the Ministers of the last century. There was no attempt to get too large a share from Ireland, but there was the question of the very greatly increased burden resting upon England which marked the years following the famine—when Ireland was unfit and incapable of having fresh burdens put upon her. It was this attempt at simplicity which was Procrustean—which made taxes the same in all countries without consideration of the circumstances of the people, which made the consequences so severely felt in Ireland.
The suffering of Ireland during the last century in the matter of its commercial prosperity was the real foundation of the whole movement in favour of Home Rule. In Scotland the Union when carried through was every bit as unpopular as ever it was in Ireland. It might have led to relations between the two countries as difficult as those existing between England and Ireland, but fortunately the Scottish people discovered the commercial advantages which the Union gave them. It was discovered that the Union opened to them a vista of prosperity in the commerce with the West Indies and other places, and that took away the whole root of bitterness and led to the happier state of feeling which had ever since prevailed. The policy chosen for England was not that which Ireland would have chosen for itself. Had that country been left free it would have 338 developed its own industries, and by following the same path as had been taken by our Colonies it would have developed them to its own advantage.
The present policy of the Treasury of raising enormous sums by heavy taxation of the masses was one which threw upon those classes a burden far heavier than was borne by a protectionist country like Germany, which stood in amazement at our bearing taxation on articles of universal consumption. The question had been raised as to how this hardship was to be removed, and whether it could be removed by reducing the taxation upon those articles which formed the integral parts of food consumed by the poor of Ireland and reducing them to the level of protectionist Germany. At present the taxation on tea, tobacco, sugar, and spirits was too high, but if that taxation were to be reduced to one-half or one-third the grievance of Ireland would be very largely removed. The question was how could such alteration be made. It had been suggested that it could be done by a general reduction of the expenditure of the nation, but he felt not at all sanguine that such a reduction would ever take place, as the tendency was rather to increase than to reduce expenditure. It would be rather by reconsidering the whole system of taxation and ascertaining whether it could not be put on a wider basis; whether we could not raise large sums by indirect taxation on articles which were luxuries of the rich and which were consumed by those classes who could better afford to pay the taxation than could the mass of consumers. It was to that solution that he looked for a possible diminution of the Irish grievance.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
said he was not prepared to address the House, but he felt that he would not be acting justly to his constituents if he omitted to raise his voice against the over taxation of Ireland. He represented a constituency which included the poorest people in a poverty-stricken country. Before entering upon the subject he wished to direct attention to the fact that during the discussion no Ulster Unionist Members had been present. There was an allegation that Ireland was being mercilessly robbed in 339 the matter of taxation, but even the Act of Union had failed to ensure the attendance of the Ulster Unionists. If it had only been the case of Constable Anderson, the level-crossing at Portadown, the medical officership of Ballinasloe, or if they could have had a hit at Sir Antony MacDonnell, they would have been in their places. Those were matters which would have appealed to them, but when it came to matters affecting the very life of the poor and the comfort of all who lived in Ireland, the Ulster loyalists were not present. He had watched these financial relations very carefully, and he recollected perfectly well the sensation produced in June, 1896, by the publication of the Report of the Royal Commission, and how these Gentlemen acted then. They were all to be united to get justice for Ireland. They used almost to tumble over one another to find a place in the debate, and he recollected how all the Resolutions were framed in order that no violence should be done to the opinions of Ulster Unionism. Those Gentlemen, who did not really care anything about the financial relations of Ireland, had by the agitation managed very well to secure benefits in their own financial relations. They had secured by that agitation, by the Act of 1898, £350,000 of the rates being taken off the shoulders of the landlords. Mr. Rentoul was now a Judge, Mr. Dane was made a Judge, and Mr. Horace Plunkett had had justice done to him to the extent of £2,000 a year, and they now had in the empty benches opposite the proof of the interest taken in this matter by the Ulster Unionists. He hoped all this would be seen in Ireland, and that it would teach her a lesson that if they had to agitate a question that agitation should be carried through by those who were prepared to agitate it through thick and thin, and that they should have no dealings with any hon. Gentlemen opposite.
He agreed in the main with everything which the hon. Member who had preceded him had said. The hon. Gentleman's impression of the historic aspect of the question was true and correct. The only person who ought to be satisfied with this debate and with the complaints and the statements of Nationalist Members, 340 which could not be impugned, as to the financial ruin that had been brought about in Ireland by the Union, was the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the Empire. From that right hon. Gentleman's point of view the disclosures they had had were a tremendous success. From the British point of view they were a great success, though the whole question of the financial relations from the Irish point of view might be summed up in the one sentence that they were a vile, cowardly, gigantic, financial swindle. The question they were now discussing was a very large one indeed. These things began in the time of Charles II., when the cattle trade was ruined, and continued all through the eighteenth century, when every industry that Ireland possessed was destroyed. The woollen trade was destroyed, with the result that it went to America, and when the Irish Parliament succeeded in getting freedom of trade, which it had for eighteen years, because they began to get prosperous the British Government determined to destroy that. A great deal had been heard recently of the wonderful revelations in the Mac-Donnell-Wyndham correspondence. He thought there were quite as wonderful revelations in the Castlereagh-Cook correspondence. The Irish Members who carried the Act of Union, with the exception of seven, carried it through metallic bribes given to them by Mr. Cook.
As regards the financial relations, the House must recollect the Union as it was carried in 1800 was not a financial union. Ireland had her own Chancellor of the Exchequer at that time; she had her own Chancellor of the Exchequer until 1816, the reason being that the Irish Parliament in accepting the Union could not and would not saddle their country with English debt. At the time of the Union the English debt was £446,000,000 and the Irish debt was £28,000,000, and no one except a fool would enter into a relationship with a partner who owed so much when he, comparatively, owed so little. But even in 1800 everything was predicted which had since occurred. Sheridan said that the carrying of the Union would cause the emigration of every person of wit and wisdom, of worth, intellect, and ability, 341 and that it would mean the imposition upon Ireland of British taxes without British prosperity and trade; a conclusion almost arrived at. Mr. Gladstone's name had been much referred to in the debate, and they all knew that Mr. Gladstone clearly saw the evil condition of poverty to which Ireland had been reduced by England's commercial policy. Before the Report of the Royal Commission was published, in March, 1888, Mr. Gladstone wrote an article on the commercial relations of England and Ireland, and he concluded that article by saying that Irishmen considered that they were robbed, and that all that he could say for himself was that when Dr. Johnson asked Irishmen not to pass the Act of Union, because if they did Ireland would be robbed by England, that advice was substantially right and true. That had no reference to what took place in the time of the Stuarts.
He was surprised not to see the Chief Secretary in his place, as in his opinion the right hon. Gentleman should be on a question like this affecting the life of the people in Ireland. What did Englishmen really think of this matter? In 1896, to the satisfaction of a Royal Commission on which there was not a single Nationalist leader except that financial genius Mr. Sexton, it was proved that Ireland was overtaxed to the extent of £2,750,000 a year, but from that day to this not the slightest relief had been given. The hon. Member for Partick had spoken of "our" taxation. The taxation was by English Members, and the imposition of burdens in defiance of Irish votes would in itself constitute an admirable cause of war. It was simple and utter plunder. When the income-tax was first imposed seventy-four Irish Members Voted against it, only five or six, who were paid servitors of the Administration, voting in its favour. In an Irish Parliament a majority of one would have destroyed it. The Boer War, against which the Irish people all along protested, had added an extra £1,500,000 to their taxation. They had no power over their finance; the Irish Parliament was destroyed in order that that power might be taken from the Irish people. Viewed in that way, the existing financial relations were the 342 most damning condemnation of the Union. He had not yet made up his mind whether he was a protectionist or a free-trader, but he was certainly a protectionist in the sense that he would protect Ireland with all his strength against the robbery of England. This was a weighty and momentous question. The appearance of the House while matters so vital to the Irish people were being discussed was most disheartening. It proved what a fraud the Union was. The Act was not administered for the benefit of the Irish people. For years everything in the Union favourable to England had been pressed to the utmost, and every thing which told in favour of Ireland had been ignored. The whole proceeding was so contemptible and heartrending that there were very few Irishmen but felt that if the opportunity came it would be their bounden duty to get rid of a system which had been a complete tissue of fraudulent transactions between a strong country and a poor people who had been forced into an abominable and degrading bondage.
§ MR. EMMOTT (Oldham)
said it was very satisfactory to him as an English Member who sympathised in a general way with the Irish view of this case to find how differently it was treated by hon. Members opposite, and what a conflict of opinion there was in regard to it. The Member for Partick advocated a policy of protection for Ireland. With a good deal that he said about the history of the question he was in cordial agreement. He did not propose to follow him in his argument for protection, bat would merely point out that when evenings were set apart for the discussion of the protectionist question it would be just as well that he should be in his place to take part in the debate and show how that question affected Ireland. He was sincerely sorry to hear the tone of the hon. Member for Durham's speech. The substance of his remarks was that individuals were taxed, and, if the same tax was levied on different individuals it must be fair; I that Ireland, as a matter of fact, was I not quite so heavily taxed as England, because in Ireland there were no house duties, and no establishment licences 343 and other taxes, and, so far as could be judged from his argument, he really believed that Ireland ought to be more heavily taxed than it was at the present time. The Member for Cambridge University took a very different and a much wiser line. He said that whilst he agreed it was a question of the taxation of the individual, he believed the present taxation of Ireland was unfair, simply because the individuals in Ireland were poor, aid because, relatively to them, the individuals in this country were rich. He argued that the system of taxation ought to be altered, so that more would fall upon the rich and less upon the poor. He (the speaker) admitted that if more taxation were levied upon the rich and less upon the poor, Ireland would inevitably benefit. But there was the geographical question which the right hon. Gentleman ignored. There was also the question of the enormous increase of taxation in Ireland between 1850 and 1860, and there was further the other side of the account—the question of expenditure. That was really the question affecting Ireland as to which there ought to be a very serious reduction. Relatively there was far more spent in Ireland on government than in England or Scotland. In regard to these matters different opinions were held by Gentlemen opposite, and if this question were more pressing it would prove another bone of contention among the Unionist Party. He considered that was a favourable omen for those who sympathised with the Irish view of the question.
Coming to his own view of the question, he was struck firstly by the enormous weight of financial authority behind the Report of the Commission of 1896. Excluding altogether Irish opinion, whether Unionist or Nationalist, and even Mr. Hunter, the late Member for Aberdeen, a strong advocate of the principle of taxable capacity, there still remained recognised financial authorities such as the late Mr. Childers, the late Lord Farrer, Lord Welby, the late Mr. Bertram Currie, and Sir David Barbour, all of whom agreed that Ireland was overtaxed under the then existing conditions.
§ MR. EMMOTT
I think he agreed that Ireland was overtaxed, but he thought the expenditure was a set-off.
§ MR. EMMOTT
said that was really the set-off argument, but for the moment he was dealing with the one side. The only authority who took the opposite view was Sir Thomas Sutherland, and he was a business man rather than a financial expert. According to every sign by which the prosperity of a nation could be judged, Ireland was either advancing much more slowly than England or, indeed, actually going back. The income-tax returns bore testimony to the slow progress of assessments in Ireland as compared with this country, while in the matter of population there was admittedly an enormous decrease.
§ MR. ELLIOT
said he had never suggested that the progress in Ireland was equal to the progress in England.
§ MR. EMMOTT
suggested that if the hon. Gentleman, who was a good free-trader, would look up his free-trade arguments and apply them to Ireland, he would probably find it much more difficult to sustain his case; he would have to call in another set of arguments altogether. With regard to the set-off argument, England dictated the expenditure of Ireland and, therefore, had no right to throw it in the teeth of Ireland that a great deal more was spent in that country. The expenditure was not only dictated by England, but administered by Dublin Castle, by the forty-one detached and semi-detached boards, and very often in opposition to Irish wishes. As to the depopulation argument, it was no answer to say that in the rural districts of England the population was much less than it used to be. In England there were compensations. The men who left the rural districts often went to the towns, earned better wages, and made a much larger return to the revenue of the country than before. In Ireland they did not go into the towns, but crossed the seas, and ceased to make any contribution to the revenue of the 345 country. In highly-protected France and free-trade Denmark this depopulation had not taken place, and therefore they must look for some other reason.
As there were other speakers desirous of following him, he would not intrude further upon the time of the House, In conclusion, however, he wished to ask what was the Government going to do? The Chancellor of the Exchequer last year said that, if economies could be made in Ireland, he was perfectly willing that the money saved should be devoted to Irish purposes. But how could lavish expenditure be got rid of and such savings be made until they called in the Irish people to take part in the administration of Irish affairs? With regard to the Dunraven scheme, that had been described by the Solicitor-General as a fatuous scheme, but at any rate the kind of opinion which was at the back of that scheme was a healthy sign of the times, and it had the advantage of being an increasing opinion, while the opinion of the Solicitor-General upon this subject was a decreasing one.
§ MR. EMMOTT
said he was speaking of the temperate mind in which that scheme was formed, and the desire to cease useless wrangles and endeavour to do something useful for Ireland in which the Irish people themselves could take a part. In this country they were getting sick of these eternal wrangles. The misgovernment of Ireland was abundantly proved from year to year on the floor of this House, but they would never remedy it until they got rid of the lavish and extravagant expenditure in Ireland, and until they called in Irish opinion and Irish sentiment to help them. He agreed with the mover of this Amendment that it was not for them to propose any specific settlement. The point was: did hon. Gentlemen opposite acknowledge the grievance? Some of them did, and some did not, but if more of them would acknowledge it, then they might be able to put their heads together and endeavour to find some effective remedy.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN,) Worcestershire, E.
said he thought that, without any disrespect to the hon. Member who moved the Amendment, some of the most interesting speeches that had been made upon it had come from English Members He did not think the contribution made by the hon. Member who had just spoken had helped them much; he gathered that the hon. Member was not so much concerned with the financial relations which existed between the different parts of the United Kingdom as with the proposal to return to that separation of political interests which had twice been before that House, but which the majority in this country had never been willing to support.
§ MR. EMMOTT
said he did not deal with the figures as he should have liked, being anxious to compress his remarks.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said he recognised the difficulty under which the hon. Member had been speaking. The hon. Member for Donegal told them that on this occasion he would speak from his heart rather than from his head; that perhaps accounted for some of the views of history which he sketched, but he hoped it did not account for the rather violent language which the hon. Gentleman addressed to other hon. Members who represented the sister isle. The most remarkable feature of the hon. Gentleman's speech was the sympathy he expressed with the very interesting speech of his hon. friend the Member for Partick, and it was a curious and noticeable fact that, as far as he was aware, that was the only speech made by an English Member which had received any approval from the Irish Benches opposite. Other hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen representing English constituencies had contributed to the discussion, but they had not in the solution they had put forward been fortunate enough to win the support of the hon. Gentlemen opposite.
The hon. Member for Dublin, in moving us Amendment, departed somewhat from he course he had usually followed in discussing this question by challenging the whole basis of the Returns known as the Financial Relations Returns. The hon. Gentleman alluded to the fact that they 347 were discussing this question this year too early for the Return to be in the hands of Members, but said that was of the less consequence since, in the first place, the principle on which the Return was constructed had varied from year to year, and had been varied, the hon. Gentleman was inclined to think, by Treasury officials or by Gentlemen sitting on the Treasury Bench, always to the detriment of Ireland and in such a way as to make the case against the United Kingdom less strong or more weak than it would otherwise appear. The hon. Gentleman spoke of there having been a change from the principle on which it was constructed last year; that was an entire misconception. There was a change in the proportions of consumption of certain dutiable articles allocated between the two countries, and a change in the proportions of taxation, but there was no change in the principle on which the Return was made. More accurate information had been obtained than was previously available, and they had modified the proportions between the two countries accordingly. He thought the hon. Gentleman himself would see that, even if the Returns obtained in 1893–4 showed what was the true consumption in Ireland, or the true proportion of direct taxation paid by the people domiciled in Ireland, those proportions would not be likely to remain exactly true for the space of more than ten years, especially with the falling population which had been alluded to. But that was not all. At that time the returns were hurriedly collected, for the information was required in haste, and the observations extended over only a short portion of the year. Accordingly, in taking new returns a couple of years ago the observations were extended over the whole year, and in other ways greater efforts made to secure accuracy, That was the change, and the only change, which had been made in the Return; it was not a change in principle.
Then the hon. Gentleman contended that the true contribution of Ireland to the Exchequer was the amount of revenue collected in Ireland, just as the revenue of France or Germany was the revenue collected in France or Germany. It must be clear, he thought, to every one who considered for a moment, that as 348 long as we were the United Kingdom, with a single fiscal policy, a single Exchequer, and a single system, Customs and every revenue duty which, if we had two separate systems, would be paid by people dwelling in this country might, now be collected in Ireland. There was, for instance, duty paid on tobacco which was manufactured in Ireland, but which was smoked by people living in this country. If the hon. Gentleman were successful in dividing our finances and fiscal system, of course the payment of that due, now collected in Ireland, would be transferred to this country. But there was another side to the account in following the hon. Gentleman's calculation; they would reduce the amount, which was now got as Irish contribution instead of increasing it. It had always been known, for instance, that income-tax was collected in England on certain dividends, interest on certain stocks and securities which were owned in Ireland, and in making this Financial Return on the present basis, which he believed was a fair one, they allocated as far as Ireland's contribution to the Exchequer was concerned a proportion of income-tax which was really paid by Ireland, although actually collected in other portions of the United Kingdom.
Then the hon. Gentleman said that Army and Navy expenditure as an Imperial charge common to every portion of the United Kingdom was unjust and unfair in so far as the money spent on the Army or Navy was spent in England, and he called attention to the amount of money spent in dockyards in this country. If he understood the hon. Gentleman's arguments, he said that money spent in this country, even though spent on the Navy for general purposes of national or Imperial defence, ought to be considered as specially chargeable to England, because English workpeople were employed.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said that every portion of the British Empire got the benefit of the Imperial Navy and Army. But, taking it on its narrowest lines, it seemed to him that it, was absurd to try to weigh the relative 349 contributions, or what should be the relative contributions, between these two portions of the United Kingdom on any such principle as that suggested by the hon. Gentleman, and certainly, whatever sympathy might be felt, from no other quarter of the House had any agreement been expressed with those proposals. He should say, with his hon. friend the Member for Durham and his right hon. friend the Member for the University of Cambridge, that it was a very material fact, though its relevance was denied by hon. Gentlemen opposite, that the taxes paid by any individual citizens in Ireland were in no case in excess of, and in some cases were less than, the taxes paid by similar citizens in this country. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin said the argument was neither pertinent nor true. It was not pertinent because, he said, it was contrary to the spirit and, indeed, to the letter of the Act of Union, which provided for "particular exemptions and abatements" if they should be required by the special circumstances of Ireland. If they had none but those words to guide them, it would be perfectly obvious, he thought, that special exemptions and abatements did not mean such a large and general exemption from taxation as the hon. Gentleman sought to secure. But the same formula was, in the same words if he remembered rightly, repeated in the Act of Union with Scotland—it was certainly repeated as towards Scotland in the Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland. The language in regard to both countries was the same; but there was no such general difference between the taxation of England and Scotland and no such claim as the hon. Gentleman based on these words put forward on behalf of Scotland prior to the Act of Union with Ireland. When hon. Gentlemen opposite quoted the authors of that Act in support of their contentions, he must be permitted to read two short extracts, one from Lord Castlereagh and the other from Mr. Pitt, bearing on this subject. Lord Castlereagh, speaking in the Irish House of Commons on February 5th, 1800, said—Were our expenditure common (which would happen if neither kingdom had any separate debts, or if their debts were in proportion to their ability), by no system whatever could they be made to contribute so strictly according to their means as by being 350 subject to the same taxes equally bearing upon the great objects of taxation in both countries. Such, however, is the disproportion of debts of the two kingdoms to each other at the present time that a common system for the present is impossible.That lent no support to the, suggestion that Lord Castlereagh attached to the phrase, "particular exemptions and abatements," such a meaning as was sought to be affixed to it in Ireland, Here were Mr. Pitt's words. Speaking in the British House of Commons on April 21st, 1800, he said—The object of the financial arrangement is to effect the gradual abolition of all distinction in finance and revenue between the two countries, and to accelerate the time when both countries form but one fund and pay one uniform proportion to taxes throughout each.He thought that was conclusive as to the view taken by the authors of the Act of Union and destructive of the allegation that they intended that these "particular exemptions and abatements," which they contemplated as a possibility, were to result in any such general differentiation in the system of taxation in Ireland from that in the rest of Great Britain as had been suggested that day.
The hon. Gentleman went on to argue that this common system of taxation bore with special harshness upon Irish consumers, because it hit certain articles which were specially articles of Irish consumption. He did not know whether the hon. Gentleman felt that the Irish grievance would really be reduced if they halved the whisky duty. That was an article which he described as of special Irish consumption.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said the consumption of tea per head was practically the same in the two countries. Whisky, he thought, was more largely the national beverage of Irishmen than it was of Englishmen, but the hon. Gentleman knew that the taxation on whisky was imposed not purely on fiscal grounds. There were what they called social and moral reasons which had governed the 351 amount of taxation on that article, which had not been regarded solely from the financial point of view.
The hon. Member suggested that the mere fact that Ireland contributed a much larger proportion of the revenue collected in that country by indirect than by direct taxation was in itself sufficient to show that Ireland had a grievance, and, as he understood, paid too much. That might be an argument as to whether the fiscal system common to the, United Kingdom had been always in the past, or was even now, that which Ireland, if she were left to herself, would choose as her own, or the best which could be conceived by a dispassionate inquirer investigating her situation; but he ventured to say that, whether that was the best system or not, whether the amount contributed by direct taxpayers in Ireland was in due proportion to that contributed by indirect taxpayers or not, it had no bearing on the amount of the contribution that Ireland ought to make to the common expenses of the United Kingdom.
He was bound to say that, on this point, the hon. Gentleman's speech was remarkable for a very curious omission. The hon. Member argued that Ireland paid a great deal too much. He very largely based himself on the Report of the Royal Commission on the financial relations of the two countries; but he gave no hint or indication of what was, in his opinion, the amount she ought to contribute or whether he accepted any of the theories which were put before that Commission. This was a matter of some interest, because they had had a good deal of strong denunciation of the present system and a good deal of declamation about the hardship and wrong which Ireland suffered, but they had not had a statement of what it actually was that Ireland contributed to the general expenditure of the two countries. The taxable capacity of Ireland was estimated by the Royal Commission as being, he thought, one to twenty.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
As not being in greater proportion than one 352 to twenty. What was she actually contributing at the present time to our common Imperial burdens? The actual contribution was one-forty-fifth of that of Great Britain. In 1893–4, when the Royal Commission was inquiring into the subject, it was one-thirtieth, and in the eleven years which had since elapsed it had fallen to one-forty-fifth. Could it be pretended that such a contribution to the common expenses was too much, or, if they looked at the financial question only, if they had regard only to the letter of the Act of Union, could it be contended that the rest of the United Kingdom had not taken upon its shoulders not merely as much of the common expenditure as it was its business to bear, but had no; contributed greatly more than its due proportion? He would endeavour to forestall an objection which the hon. Gentleman foreshadowed in his speech when he said that he was counting as Irish expenditure much that ought not to be charged to Irish account. If, to meet that objection, he deducted from Irish expenditure the salary of the Lord-Lieutenant, half of the present cost of the Constabulary and the Dublin metropolitan police, and a third of the cost of the judiciary, still the contribution which Ireland would make to our common Imperial expenditure would be only one-thirty-fourth. The hon. Member for St. Patrick Division complained last year that his only answer was to give flippant figures. He did not know what the hon. Member meant by flippant figures; but whatever adjective the hon. Member might apply to those figures he thought they were a better test of the actual state of things than much of the language that had been used, and were worthy of the serious consideration of the House.
The hon. Gentleman who spoke last alluded to the fact that last year he expressed his concurrence in the proposal that the then Chief Secretary made to him, following a precedent set in past years, that if further economy could be made in the Irish judiciary, the sum so allocated should be, as it were, re-spent in Ireland on purposes of development or administration which might commend themselves to the Government and to the people of that country. He thought that in more branches than one of the Irish 353 Administration it was probable that, with the goodwill of the Irish Members, considerable economies could be made. But Irish Members were not so anxious to help the Government in the saving of Irish expenditure as they were to secure further grants from the common Exchequer to be employed in that country. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: That is not so.] The hon. Gentleman denied that, but in his short experience as Chancellor of the Exchequer he had had more commands to "stand and deliver" fresh money from the public purse than suggestions from hon. Gentlemen opposite as to the manner in which money might be saved. It would be impossible for any Chancellor of the Exchequer to undertake that the whole benefit of every economy made should always go to Ireland, and that no economy should ever result to the common Exchequer. If that system was adopted in Ireland it must be applied also to Scotland and other parts of the United Kingdom, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer would no longer have power to make any economy at all. He could not make that promise in that unqualified form, although he had promised in regard to the savings in connection with the judiciary contemplated by his right hon. friend the Member for Dover that he would seriously consider with the Chief Secretary proposals, if he was able to put them forward, with a view to interesting the representatives of Ireland in securing those economies by devoting at least a portion of the accruing money to the development of purposes which had their sympathy and support. He thought they might do much practical good if they had the goodwill and support of hon. Gentlemen opposite, irrespective of politics. But to the argument for a system of separate national finance, which was based upon separatist grounds and had its birth in a separatist measure, and which was supported as the first step towards that end, he and those who thought with him could give nothing but the strongest opposition.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said he would not attempt to enter into the historical portion of the subject nor to go into details of the figures which had been submitted. The main argument was a familiar one and could be disposed of 354 briefly. It was that under the present system of taxation in Ireland, every individual paid at the rate of £2 4s., whilst in England the amount was £3 12s. per head. Consequently, the population of Ireland paid less per head than did the population of England. He would like to point out that at the time of the Union England paid close upon £4 per head, whilst Ireland paid only 12s. Since then the wealth per head of the population of England. had enormously increased, and the taxation had decreased, whilst in the case of Ireland the wealth per head had considerably decreased during the same period and the taxation had increased threefold. That was the simple state of affairs, and he asked what was the explanation of it. The truth was that when the Irish nation was tacked on to a great commercial and manufacturing country they were bound to suffer. Whenever in the course of the last century the interests of Great Britain came into collision with those of Ireland, the latter always went to the wall. That was notably the case when Great Britain introduced the system of free trade, and thus laid the axe at the root of the only source of industry and wealth of Ireland. When it suited Great Britain to throw the whole burden of taxation upon subjects affecting Ireland it did so ruthlessly, the result being that whereas the wealth of Great Britain had enormously increased the population of Ireland had decreased and its taxation had trebled. Was it any wonder that the Irish felt aggrieved at the present situation? He thought Scotland had some grievance, but in these matters they had to look on broad national results. The complaints of Scotland became slight because she flourished under the Union, and during the last century her population had increased three-fold and her wealth had increased ten-fold. In the case of Ireland her population had fallen by 50 per cent., and her wealth had fallen also.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer had quoted Pitt. That eminent statesman was no friend to Ireland, but he never contemplated the monstrous injustice from which that country had suffered during the last century. The wealth, population, and commerce of England had since the time 355 of Pitt increased by leaps and bounds, whilst the wealth, population, and commerce of Ireland had absolutely decreased, therefore any idea of a common system of finance and taxation for the two countries was quite impracticable. The hon. Member for Partick had referred to the injustice put upon Ireland in the matter of taxation of the necessaries of life. He could conceive a condition of Parties in this country when they might be tempted to inflict something in the nature of revenge upon Great Britain for all the injuries she had inflicted upon Ireland. An hour might come when Ireland could inflict taxation on the food of England. It would be wiser to deal with Ireland justly before that hour arrived, and not force her to endeavour to close her markets to the world. Ireland had been brought to such a condition that she had nothing to rely upon. It suited England to open its markets to the Argentine, to Siberia, America, Canada, and elsewhere, but that did not suit Ireland, and they might be tempted to do something in the way of tariff e-form. Those were the considerations aroused in his mind by the speech of the hon. Member for Partick. But what was his astonishment to hear the hon. Member for Durham deliberately say that although the progress of Ireland was not so good as the progress of Great Britain, yet everyone must admit that in wealth and prosperity its progress had been considerable. He denied that. He would not ask the House to accept his word or those of his colleagues, who as prophets of evil had been telling these things to the House for many years. He asked hon. Members to get the pamphlet written by Lord Dunraven, an Irish gentleman and landed proprietor, whose word might be accepted as that of an impartial exponent of the facts. Lord Dunraven said—Year by year the country has been sinking deeper and deeper in misfortune, and now it has reached a point at which it must be decided as to whether the downward tendency is to continue to the inevitable and most melancholy end, or whether a supreme effort shall be made to lift the country out of the national bankruptcy in man-power, intelligence, and material prosperity which so imminently threatens it.Those were solemn words to come from a member of the Unionist Party. That 356 was his belief as to the condition of Ireland. Did the hon. Member for Durham think that satisfactory. National bankruptcy was Lord Dunraven's prophecy. Those words were written after all the flummery to which they had listened for the last ten years with regard to agricultural development and all the bogus remedies that had been applied to the deadly disease of Ireland. That was the testimony of an Irish gentleman who had taken no part in politics. The thing which had tempted Lord Dunraven to take the part in politics that he had was the condition of Ireland and the fact that it was travelling headlong to ruin. When he heard hon. Gentlemen opposite speaking of Ireland as they did, he would ask them had there been in the whole history of the civilised world a tragedy comparable with the tragedy of Ireland? In 1801 the population of Ireland was 5,395,000, in 1901 it was 4,458,000. After a century of this system of taxation, during which the population of England and Wales had nearly doubled, the population of Ireland had decreased by 1,000,000. He challenged hon. Members who talked about the advance of progress in Ireland to point to any country in the civilised world with which it could be compared.
It was idle to talk of Ireland's condition being the result of its being an agricultural country. Was not Denmark an agricultural country? What about Sweden and Norway, Wurtemburg and many of the States in the German Federation, and Holland, which was teeming with wealth; not to go to the East of Europe? What about Hungary and Roumania, all increasing rapidly, whilst here, at the very doors of Great Britain, was one of the most fertile lands in Europe wasted as by a war? He recommended hon. Gentlemen opposite to peruse a series of articles which had been appearing in the Daily Mail recently on the subject of Ireland. They were written by a gentleman named Kennedy who had been travelling through Ireland on behalf of that journal, a gentleman who was gifted with the remarkable genius of putting into a sentence the whole history of the country. 357 Mr. Kennedy described the country as he saw it, and used these words—What is the matter with this country? Was there ever created a more lovely country? Why have the people left it?That was the first question which struck everyone who came into Ireland. The people had left it because they were under the harrow of a financial system which was imposed by a treacherous Government to destroy their prosperity. But that was only a small part of the tragedy of Ireland. An anti-emigration league had been formed which he was invited to join. He refused, because, as he said, they might as well try and brush back the Atlantic with a broom as try and stop emigration from Ireland, because the people could not live in Ireland, where the wages were starvation, and where the only industry left was ruined by the Government of this country. Ireland was a ruined country in spite of all. The parties of emigrants which had been leaving the country were ever increasing in number until, as a priest, a friend of his, wrote the other day—Where is this to end? Within the last three months 127 of the flower of my flock have left my parish, and I shall soon be left with only old people and children too young to work.The population was withering away as though struck by a pestilence. The cause was the existing financial system of evil government. The worst feature of the depopulation was that the young and strong and healthy were going away, while the refuse of the population, the idiots, the lunatics, and the diseased, who would not be accepted in America, were being left behind. Thus it came about that while the number of persons returned as lunatics in Ireland in 1851— alter the famine and with a population of over 8,000,000—was one in 637, the number had increased in 1861 to one in 411, in 1871 to one in 328, in 1881 to one in 281, and in 1891 to one in 222. In Minister it was one in 152, and in Connaught one in 184. In other words, the lunatics in Ireland had increased fourfold owing to the enormous outpouring of the youth of the population. There was no greater test of the prosperity of a nation than the marriage and birth rate. The rate in Ireland used to be one of the highest in the world, it was now the lowest, below even 358 that of France. The people who wanted to marry went to America. It was deplorable that the question should be treated in the manner adopted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that no British Minister could be got who would apply his mind to this matter, even from the Unionist point of view, with a large, generous, and sympathetic spirit, and make some rational attempt to remedy the appalling condition of things. Lord Dunraven also stated—The broad fact is that the best in Ireland is flying elsewhere, the worst is drifting in increasing proportions to lunatic asylums, and the balance remains in Ireland of necessity rather than of choice.That was a condition of things which really deserved the attention of Parliament, and it was largely due to unjust taxation and that unsympathetic financial system imposed upon Ireland by this country.
Why was it that Ireland's proportion of contribution to Imperial funds was growing smaller? Because the country was growing proportionately poorer. He could conceive a point at which, under the existing system, Ireland might make no contribution whatever towards Imperial Government expenses, and yet be shamefully overtaxed. The real test was how the country was going on, whether it was improving in population, wealth, trade, and all that went to make national prosperity. In all these respects Ireland was going back, and all that had been done of recent years was the merest absurdity and humbug when considered as really effective remedies.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer had alluded to a pledge given in 1897 by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol, and since embodied in an Act, that all savings effected in the administration of Ireland should be set aside in a special fund, called the Irish development grant, and used for the benefit of Ireland. There seemed to be an inclination on the part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to withdraw somewhat from the pledge. That affected him, personally, much less than some of his colleagues, as he was entirely opposed to this system of finance. It was intrinsically unsound. From the beginning he had felt that the development grant would be set up as a buffer between the Irish people and the 359 Treasury, and that the only result would be that Irish demands, hitherto met from the common Treasury, would be relegated to this purely Irish fund—a practice which might be described as feeding the dog with a bit of his own tail. That was exactly what had occurred, and it was likely to go on in an ever-increasing degree. The system was essentially a vicious one. A pocket of money withdrawn from the general financial system of the country always became the object of jobs and of log-rolling as to who should get the most of it. The experience of centuries showed it to be a bad and vicious system, and it had been applied to Ireland simply in the hope of stopping the mouths of the Irish people by the so-called development grant. The Government had been forced to recognise that they were treating Ireland meanly and ungenerously, and in their effort to devise some means by which they should appear to undo some of the injustice which the present financial system inflicted upon her they had set up this system. As time went on it would be found to be a bad system and a corrupt method of dealing with the finances of
§ the country, and what had happened already? A year ago Ireland had an equivalent grant for education of £185,000, but instead of being applied to education as it ought to have been, it had been thrown into a common pool, and had been used for all kinds of objects, and only some £20,000 had been used for the purpose for which the fund was originally intended. Under the present system of governing Ireland every effort they made to remedy the unhappy condition of things in Ireland would only end in making it worse. As long as they adhered to the principle of the Union and denied to the people of Ireland a voice in the government of the country, it would be the duty of English Ministers, instead of quibbling about figures and endeavouring to prove that Ireland was justly treated, to take a broad and generous view of the real facts of the situation and propose a remedy.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 238; Noes, 155. (Division List No. 158.)363
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Boulnois, Edmund||Dimsdale, Rt. Hn. Sir Joseph C.|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Bowles, Lt.-Col. H. F. (Middlesex||Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fred Dixon|
|Allhusen, Augustus Henry Eden||Bowles, T. Gibson (King's Lynn||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||Brassey, Albert||Duke, Henry Edward|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Brodrick, Rt. Hn. St. John||Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir Wm. Hart|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Brown, Sir Alex. H. (Shropsh.)||Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas|
|Arnold-Forster, Rt. Hn. Hugh O.||Bull, William James||Fellowes, Rt. Hn. Ailwyn Edward|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hn. John||Butcher, John George||Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc'r|
|Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt Hon Sir H.||Campbell, Rt. Hn. J. A (Glasgow||Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline Fitz Roy||Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin Univ.||Finlay, Sir R. B. (Inv'rn'ssB'ghs|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H||Fisher, William Hayes|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Cavendish, V. C. W (Derbyshire||Fison, Frederick William|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Cayzer, Sir Charles William||FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose|
|Balcarres, Lord||Chamberlain, Rt Hn. J. A. (Wore.||Fitzroy, Hn. Edward Algernon|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Flower, Sir Ernest|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r)||Chapman, Edward||Forster, Henry William|
|Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey)||Clive, Captain Percy A.||Galloway, William Johnson|
|Balfour, Rt Hn. Gerald W. (Leeds||Coates, Edward Feetham||Gardner, Ernest|
|Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch.||Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Godson, Sir Augustus Fredrk.|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Colomb, Rt. Hn. Sir John C. R||Gordon. Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nairn)|
|Banner, John S. Harmood-||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Gore, Hon. S. F. Ormsby-|
|Barry, Sir Francis T. (Windsor||Craig, Chas. Curtis (Antrim, S.||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon|
|Bartley, Sir George C. T.||Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)||Goschen, Hon. George Joachim|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir Michael Hicks||Cross, Herb. Shepherd (Bolton)||Graham, Henry Robert|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry C.||Crossley, Rt. Hon. Sir Savile||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Greene, Sir E W (B'ry S. Edm'nds|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Cust, Henry John C.||Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury)|
|Bigwood, James||Dalkeith, Earl of||Gretton, John|
|Bill, Charles||Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Gunter, Sir Robert|
|Bingham, Lord||Davenport, William Bromley||Guthrie, Walter Murray|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Denny, Colonel||Hain, Edward|
|Bond, Edward||Dickinson, Robert Edmond||Halsey, Rt. Hn. Thomas F.|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith||Dickson, Charles Scott||Hambro, Charles Eric|
|Hamilton, Rt Hn Lord G. (Midd'x||Milner, Rt Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Smith, HC (North'mb, Tyneside|
|Hamilton, Marq of (L'nd'nderry||Milvain, Thomas||Smith, Rt Hn J. Parker (Lanarks.|
|Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford||Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Harris, F. Leverton (Tynemouth||Montagu, Hon. J. Scott (Hants.)||Spear, John Ward|
|Haslam, Sir Alfred S.||Morgan, David J. (Walthamstow||Stanley, Edward Jas. (Somerset|
|Heath, Sir James(Staffords. NW||Morrell, George Herbert||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Lanes.|
|Helder, Augustus||Morrison, James Archibald||Stewart, Sir M. J. M'Taggart|
|Henderson, Sir A (Stafford, W.||Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T.||Mount, William Arthur||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Hickman, Sir Alfred||Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Hoare, Sir Samuel||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Hogg, Lindsay||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)||Talbot, Rt Hn. J. G. (Oxf'd Univ.|
|Hope, J. F. (Sheffield, Brightside||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth.|
|Hoult, Joseph||Palmer, Sir Walter (Salisbury)||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Howard, J. (Kent, Faversham||Parker, Sir Gilbert||Tollemache, Henry James|
|Howard, J. (Midd., Tottenham||Peel, Hn. Wm. Robert Wellesley||Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M.|
|Hozier, Hon. James Henry Cecil||Pemberton, John S. G.||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Hudson, George Bickersteth||Percy Earl||Tuff, Charles|
|Hunt, Rowland||Pierpoint, Robert||Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward|
|Jeffreys, Rt. Hon. Arthur Fred.||Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Turnour, Viscount|
|Jessel, Captain Herbert Merton||Plummer, Sir Walter R.||Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)|
|Kenyon, Hon. Geo. T. (Denbigh)||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Kenyon-Slaney. Rt Hon. Col. W.||Pretyman, Ernest George||Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir William H.|
|Keswick, William||Purvis, Robert||Warde, Colonel C. E.|
|Kimber, Sir Henry||Pym, C. Guy||Welby, Lt-Col. A. C. E. (Taunton|
|King, Sir Henry Seymour||Quilter, Sir Cuthbert||Welby, Sir Charles G. E. (Notts.)|
|Laurie, Lieut-General||Randles, John S.||Whiteley, H. (Ashton-und-Lyne)|
|Law, Andrew Bonar(Glasgow)||Rankin, Sir James||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Lawrence, Sir Joseph (Monm'th)||Rasch, Sir Frederic Carne||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool||Reid, James (Greenock)||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.)|
|Lawson, John Grant (Yorks N. R||Renshaw, Sir Charles Bine||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Lee, Arthur H. (Hants, Fareham||Ridley, S. Forde||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. Chas. Thomson||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh. N.)|
|Leveson-Gower, Frederick N. S.||Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)||Wilson-Todd, Sir W. H. (Yorks.)|
|Long, Col. Charles W. (Evesham)||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath)|
|Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S.)||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.||Worsley-Taylor, Henry Wilson|
|Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart|
|Lowe, Francis William||Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert||Wylie, Alexander|
|Lowther, C. (Cumb., Eskdale)||Round, Rt. Hon. James||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Royds, Clement Molyneux||Wyndham-Quin, Col. W. H.|
|Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft)||Rutherford, John (Lancashire)||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford||Younger, William|
|Macdona, John Gumming||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert|
|M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone W.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir|
|Manners, Lord Cecil||Seton-Karr, Sir Henry||Alexander Acland-Hood and|
|Maxwell, Rt Hn. Sir H. E. Wigt'n||Sharps, William Edward T.||Viscount Valentia|
|Maxwell, W. J. H (Dumfriessh're||Shaw-Stewart, Sir H. (Renfrew)|
|Melville, Beresford Valentine||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Abraham, William (Cork N. E.)||Gheetham, John Frederick||Fenwick, Charles|
|Ambrose, Robert||Clancy, John Joseph||Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Cogan, Denis J.||Ffrench, Peter|
|Austin, Sir John||Condon, Thomas Joseph||Field, William|
|Barlow, John Emmott||Grean, Eugene||Findlay, Alexander (Lanark, N E|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Cripps, Charles Alfred||Flavin, Michael Joseph|
|Beaumont, Wentworth, C. B.||Cullinan, J.||Flynn, James Christopher|
|Blake, Edward||Dalziel, James Henry||Furness, Sir Christopher|
|Roland, John||Delany, William||Gilhooly, James|
|Brand, Hon. Arthur G.||Devlin, Charles Ramsay (Galway||Goddard, Daniel Ford|
|Brigg, John||Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.||Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton|
|Brown, George M. (Edinburgh)||Dillon, John||Hammond, John|
|Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson||Doogan, P. C.||Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Burke, E. Haviland||Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Harrington, Timothy|
|Burns, John||Dunn, Sir William||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Burt, Thomas||Edwards, Frank||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.|
|Caldwell, James||Emmott, Alfred||Holland, Sir William Henry|
|Cameron, Robert||Evans, Sir Francis H. (Maidstone||Hutchinson, Dr. Charles Fredk|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan)||Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley)|
|Carvill, Patrick Geo. Hamilton||Eve, Harry Trelawney||Isaacs, Rufus Daniel|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Farrell, James Patrick||Jacoby, James Alfred|
|Johnson, John||Murnaghan, George||Schwann, Charles E.|
|Joicey, Sir James||Murphy, John||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)|
|Jones, Leif (Appleby)||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Jones, William (Garnarvonshire)||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)||Sheehy, David|
|Jordan, Jeremiah||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Joyce, Michael||O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary Mid||Slack, John Bamford|
|Kearley, Hudson E.||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Smith, Samuel (Flint)|
|Kennedy, Vincent P. (Cavan, W.||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N,||Scares, Ernest J.|
|Kilbride, Denis||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W)||Sullivan, Donal|
|Kitson, Sir James||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Lamont, Norman||O'Doherty, William||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E)|
|Langley, Batty||O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr|
|Law, Hugh Alex. (Donegal, W.||O'Dowd, John||Thomson, F. W. (York, W. R.)|
|Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accington||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)||Tully, Jasper|
|Levy, Maurice||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Lewis, John Herbert||O'Malley, William||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Lloyd-George, David||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)|
|Lough, Thomas||Parrott, William||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney|
|Lundon, W.||Partington, Oswald||White, George (Norfolk)|
|Lyell, Charles Henry||Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden)||White, Luke (York E. R.)|
|Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Philipps, John Wynford||Whiteley, George (York. W. B.)|
|MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Power, Patrick Joseph||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Price, Robert John||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|M'Crae, George||Rea, Russell||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)|
|M'Fadden, Edward||Reddy, M.||Wilson John (Durham, Mid.)|
|M'Hugh, Patrick A.||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Woodhouse. Sir J T (Huddersf'd|
|M'Kean, John||Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries||Young, Samuel|
|M'Kenna, Reginald||Rickett, J. Compton||Yoxall, James Henry|
|M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)||Roberts, John H. (Derbighs.)|
|M'Laren, Sir Charles Benjamin||Roche, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir|
|Mooney, John J.||Rose, Charles Day||Thomas Esmonde and Captain Donelan.|
|Morgan, J. Lloyd(Carmarthen)||Runciman, Walter|
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ And, it being after half-past Seven of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned till this Evening's Sitting.