§ Mr. G. FRANCE
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
I think I need not explain to the House, though it may be necessary to explain to my Constituents, that I have no wish to reduce the total sum of this Vote, but I understand that I have to take this method to call attention to what is a great difficulty in regard to the education authorities throughout the country at the present moment, namely, the question of the Grant for secondary education which has for its basis what is called the "whisky money." I would like to call the attention of the House to the difficult position in which the education authorities find themselves, and to ask the Government whether they will very carefully consider the matter, and, if possible, put the Grant on a more satisfactory basis in future. I do not think it is necessary to take up the time of the House in showing that the present position is eminently unsatisfactory. For some years a large part of the Grant paid to the local authorities for education purposes has rested upon the consumption of whisky in this country. I do not propose to delay the House in discussing the ethics of whisky drinking. I have no wish to touch upon any controversial topic whatever, but I feel that I will have the support of hon. Members in all parts of the House when I say it is generally admitted that the excessive drinking of spirits is not good for the country. In the second place, the change in the habits of the people towards greater moderation is beneficial to the country. In the third place, the actual reduction that has taken place during the past year, if it has been for the general good, has not been for the good of the revenue. The education authorities are at present in an absurd and painful position, because, if they are to have a satisfactory amount for secondary education, they have to rely on a national orgy of drunkenness. I think nobody can for a moment regard that as a satisfactory basis, because if there is greater moderation in drinking, the funds at the disposal of the authorities for the purposes of secondary education are reduced. Such a position cannot be defended for a moment. It would excite amusement if not derision in that hypothetical visitor from Mars who is supposed 2461 to take a constant and impartial interest in the affairs of man. With regard to what passed in this House a few days ago, I gather, from the answer given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that it is the intention of the Government some time in the near future to make a very considerable change in this respect. Before the Government make any announcement, if there is to be any announcement made on this subject, I ask them to take into consideration the following facts with regard to it. In the first place, I notice that in answer to a supplementary question the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the alteration would take place as regards the year 1910–11. I submit that that is not quite sufficient. There is a very serious deficiency in the financial accounts of all local educational authorities caused by this deficiency in this particular form of grant.
May I review very briefly the financial position of these local authorities? I gather from a written answer which was given by the President of the Local Government Board on 7th April—I speak subject to correction—that the sum short for the last financial year is about £200,000, and that consequently local educational authorities are at the present moment faced with a deficiency the whole of which they had every reason to expect to receive up to 31st of March, paid in the usual instalments. Consequently they are in a very serious financial position. I cannot speak for any authorities except those of which I have some personal knowledge. Speaking for the Northumberland County Educational Authority, of which I am a member, I know as a fact that the deficiency is £2,500 on the year, and I saw in "The Times'' yesterday that the Dorsetshire County Council is £3,000 short on last year's accounts; and though I have no definite figures for the London County Council, yet in view of the fact that their share of this sum has been in the past approaching £200,000, I gather that the deficiency from which they are suffering at the present moment will be one of very serious dimensions indeed. A few days ago a letter was addressed to the President of the Board of Education by Mr. Henry Hobhouse, president of the County Councils Association, and in that he stated that the shortage throughout the country was 30 per cent. of the sum granted to local educational authorities on this account. He put forward a suggestion which I think will commend itself to this House and the 2462 Government, that a sum based on an average between 1903 and 1909 should in future, until there is that increase which we all hope for from the Chancellor of Exchequer for educational purposes, be granted. The payment based on that average would amount to £838,462. He also made the further suggestion, which I very earnestly press on the Government, that the deficiency for 1909–10 should also be included in that increased amount which they will pay on that account. At present the local educational authorities are face to face with two difficulties. Many of them at the present moment are considering, some of them may have passed, their estimates for the coming year. The authority to which I have just referred, the Northumberland County Council, in consequence of this expected deficiency for the coming year, if no change is made, will be obliged to reconsider their estimates altogether, and they will, very sadly for them, and I think very sadly for educational advancement throughout the country, taking that as a specimen of what is going on, have to consider a reduction of work for the coming year. They have decided that the established institutions cannot very well be touched because those Grants are expected and relied on, and consequently they have had to consider, and will have to carry out, if no change is made, alterations with regard to evening classes and evening schools, and to reduce by £1,500 the work that is being done in these departments under the council.
I think, in view of the general feeling in this House, as expressed only two nights ago, that there should be further extensions with regard to evening schools, and further opportunities given for that class of work to be developed, the House will agree that it is a very serious thing at this stage that such a reduction should be made necessary by circumstances over which the local authorities have no control, and which they have not been able to avoid. With regard to the deficiency of the past year, I may just say one word. This deficiency, as I have said, I think amounts to about £200,000. The circumstances of its coming to the notice of the local educational authorities are, I think, particularly hard as far as they are concerned. The first intimation they received officially was a circular dated 31st March from the Local Government Board, which was not received in some cases for a few days afterwards. That was the first intimation given 2463 not only that the share of the Grant due January would not be paid, but, if I may say so, insult was added to injury by their being asked to pay out of the educational fund to the police fund a portion of the money which they had already received. Consequently the position in which they find themselves is a very serious one. As the House is no doubt fully aware, local educational authorities are not allowed to overdraw their accounts in bank in this matter. It is illegal. And consequently at the very last moment this announcement of the shortage placed them in a very serious position. I therefore urge on the very grave consideration of the Government that they should include in the increased sum a sum which will cover the deficiency for the past year, and thus save the local educational authorities from a very embarrassing financial position, and from the discouragement which must come upon them in their endeavours to carry out their work in connection with higher education. I should not like, in urging this upon the Government, to sit down without urging further on them the necessity of greatly increasing the contributions from the national Exchequer towards education—not only higher education, but for the general purposes of education. In my opinion, local rates ought to bear their fair share of this burden; but the recently increased burdens and the increased needs of education in this country ought, in my opinion, to be regarded as a national responsibility, if this country is to keep its place commercially and to advance educationally.
§ Mr. CHARLES BATHURST
I wish to second the Amendment, "although I did not come here prepared to do so. But I feel so strongly upon the matter, as a member of a county educational authority, that I cannot refrain from seconding the Motion. As regards the state of affairs in the county of Gloucester, upon the education committee of which I have served ever since the Act of 1902 came into operation, the amount received by Gloucestershire in respect of whisky money for the year 1909–10 was £9,637, out of which £l,200 had to be paid back, so that the net amount received was only £8,437, which compares with a total of £13,047 received in respect of the previous year 1908–09, thus showing a total loss of £4,610. In the county of Gloucester, owing to reluctance on the part of ratepayers to consent to the levy of a county rate for the 2464 purposes of higher education, it has been found necessary to levy a rate over various higher education areas into which the county is divided, those areas having made a request to the county council to levy a rate which is applicable to them only. Nearly every area in the administrative county of Gloucester has consented to be so rated, but only on the footing that a general rate is not to be levied over the whole county. The position created by the falling off in the whisky money is that it has become necessary, at very short notice, to levy a general rate of 1d. in the £ for higher education, and that the result of that has been to throw the existing arrangements for the provision of higher education into a state of chaos, because those local areas naturally say "We are not prepared, in view of the bargain we have made with the local education authority, to submit to a general rate, having already rated ourselves on the footing that no general rate should be levied." The state of affairs in the county of Gloucester, as also in Wilts, Somerset, and other counties and areas in England, is really one nothing less than chaos. I fully recognise that the assurance given by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that this is a matter which will be dealt with in the Budget of 1910–11, will no doubt be eventually to put the present state of affairs on a more satisfactory basis. But in the meantime I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman what is going to happen in those counties where exist such chaotic conditions as I have described? We have no knowledge at the present time as to when the Budget of 1910–11 is likely to be placed before the House, and still less knowledge as to when that Budget is likely to pass through this House and another place.
In the meantime I do appeal very strongly to the Government that they should take some steps, by loan or otherwise, or even by including some provision at the last moment in the Budget now before the House, to prevent the chaotic conditions found existing in regard to higher education, I believe in every county of England. As one genuinely interested in the development of secondary education I have always held that in view of the enormous sums of money we devote in this country to elementary education we cannot really justify such expenditure unless, after having taught our children in the elementary schools, 2465 we carry those who are deserving of it into the sphere of secondary or higher education. What I want to place before the Government to-day is that, owing to the fact that there is such a comparatively small portion of the whole fund required in this country, not merely for higher education but for elementary education, coming from the Imperial Exchequer, it is having the effect of creating a prejudice, even amongst members of education authorities, against the development and progress of education, and it is making a great many of those who entered upon the work of these local education authorities with enthusiasm some seven years ago advocates of economy—reluctantly in many cases —because they have behind them the pressure of the ratepayers, who strongly object to this steady increase of burdens in order to provide for a service which they very properly say is (and ought to be treated as) a national service. I have had in several capacities to take part in the work of education in my own county for many years past, both in the sphere of higher education and the sphere of elementary education, and I do very strongly appeal to the Government that they will—before there is an increase of this distaste on the part of local education authorities for the work of education because of the pressure of the ratepayers behind them—do something to stop, if possible, this unfortunate prejudice which is arising against education upon those bodies by providing much more largely, if not wholly, from Imperial funds for this national service.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd-George)
I very much regret that I did not hear the whole of my hon. Friend's speech, but from what I did hear he put the case very clearly and very forcibly. I must say at the outset that the Government are in full sympathy with the arguments of the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment to the Motion before the House. I agree with them that it is exceedingly undesirable that the revenue on which local authorities depend for educational purposes should fluctuate according to the consumption of whisky in this country of ours, and, in fact, the less we see people drinking whisky the worse it is for education. That obviously in itself is a most undesirable state of things. We have considered the matter, and we have come to the conclusion that something not merely ought to be done in the 2466 abstract, but something must be done in the course of the present year to put the revenue of the Local Education Authorities from this source on a more dependable basis. The revenue from the consumption of whisky has been, for the time being, very considerably diminished, and I do not think, even if the amount of 3s. 9d. were taken off, that the revenue will be restored. I think that the people have been driven off the consumption of whisky in the quantities which have been consumed previously, and I do not think the consumption will return, even if the amount of 3s. 9d. were taken off. The means of the local education authorities may possibly be less not merely this year, but next year, and even if the amount of 3s. 9d. be taken off, they may probably lose the same, or possibly a great deal more. That is very undesirable. In Wales we built our intermediate schools very largely out of the whisky money. We accumulated it for years until the time came that we were in a position to start building, and most of our schools have been built not merely out of private subscriptions, but also out of subventions which came from this fund. Therefore, I think I may say that if it falls to me to introduce another Budget, it will be my duty to make provision for putting the resources of the local education authorities on a more reliable and stable foundation than they are at the present moment. The hon. Member who seconded the Amendment has raised another question, which has regard to the current year. That is a more difficult, a much more difficult matter. Had the Budget gone through in due course, we should have been in a better position undoubtedly to deal with this matter. But the very fact that there is a good deal of the revenue—which would have been collected had the Budget passed in December—that will never be recovered, does not put us altogether in a position to dispense Grants on such a lavish scale as demanded by my hon. Friend and by others. I do not despair, however, of meeting this difficulty. I understand it is not merely a question of an addition to the rates of the local authorities, but that there is a practical difficulty as well. They have already levied their rates for the year, and they can hardly be expected to levy a supplementary rate, and they have also largely increased expenses, and, therefore, may have overdrawn their accounts. They are not alone in that, and I have overdrawn my account 2467 to the extent of millions; but then, I am in a better position. I have resources which will enable me to wipe out the deficit, and they, on the other hand, have to pass over to next year and levy an additional rate for the purpose. I am not so sure that the Government will not be able to meet it. I am hoping that in respect of the Land Taxes in respect of last year we will get £490,000. Half of that is to be allocated to the local authorities.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
I do not propose to anticipate in the slightest degree as to the best method of allocation. I am only considering now whether as a temporary expedient it might not be desirable that this sum should be devoted to the purpose of wiping out this deficit. I understand that the loss owing to the depression in the whisky revenue is £253,000. That is what my right hon. Friend informs me. The sum which I expect will be collected in respect of the Land Taxes last year is £490,000. Half of that sum—£245,000— would almost wipe out the whole of the deficit. I hope we may be able to make an arrangement of that kind, and thus within nine or ten thousand pounds meet the whole of the case in consequence of the whisky difficulty. I do not suggest that that is the best way of dealing with the matter and allocating the money permanently, and I hope the House will not imagine that that is our suggestion. On the contrary, I think there is a much better way of spending this money locally, and I only suggest this on behalf of the Government purely as a temporary expedient. I think it will have the effect of wiping out the overdraft within about nine or ten thousand pounds. If that meets the views of hon. Gentlemen, I, on behalf of the Government, make these two suggestions— first of all half the Land Taxes should be allocated to this purpose, and in the second place, that the Government should undertake that they make their financial arrangements for the year to put the whole question of the subvention which comes from the Imperial sources now in respect of whisky on a more satisfactory and stable basis. If that meets the views of hon. Members I shall be very happy to make that arrangement on behalf of the Government.
§ Mr. BOLAND
Is the right hon. Gentleman dealing only with English educational matters, or is.he aware that intermediate education in Ireland is also dependent on 2468 whisky money, and are we to understand that in the proposed allocation he is keeping under consideration the Irish question as well?
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
If any money is given to England and Wales, what is called an equivalent will be given to Scotland and Ireland on the usual basis, and that does not generally mean that Scotland and Ireland get less than England.
§ Mr. CHARLES BATHURST
Will this proposal involve a sum being immediately forthcoming in order to alleviate the present position and reduce the chaos that undoubtedly is going on at present?
§ Mr. CHARLES ROBERTS
I think the statement which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made is wholly satisfactory. It is very satisfactory indeed that he is going to dissociate education from dependence upon whisky money. I cannot help thinking that the hon. Member opposite, who has been speaking about chaos is really exaggerating the panic into which the local authorities have fallen, and I hope what I am saying may perhaps encourage the Chancellor of the Exchequer to proceed in the course he is proposing. I cannot but feel that there must be something wrong with his figures, by which it is suggested that the Grants have fallen off from £807,000 last year to £525,000 for this year. That means a drop of £200,000, and that would imply that the total spirits revenue has fallen by 27 per cent. That is quite incredible. It certainly has not done anything of the kind. Consumption may have gone down by 22 per cent., but as the tax has been heavily raised it is simply incredible that the revenue has fallen by 27 per cent. It is quite true in the answer given by the President of the Local Government Board he says that up to 31st March only £525,000 has been distributed. There must be some more coming, I should imagine, probably from the deposits which have been paid in lieu of the tax. There must be some discrepancy there. Therefore I would point out to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he has not really to make up £200,000 to those local authorities. It must be surely some smaller sum, as everybody knows the revenue from spirits has not fallen by 27 per cent. It has remained nearly level if we remember the forestalments of last year, and therefore I hope the Chancellor will proceed along the line he has taken. I 2469 think his task is realty much less than he imagines it to be.
§ Mr. STANIER
Is it not in the memory of the House that last year, during the Budget Debates, the promise was made that half the Land Taxes should go to the reduction of the rates of local authorities? Now, I think, he is proposing that they should go towards helping the taxes of the country.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
But surely this money goes to the local authorities towards the reduction of rates. If the local authorities are short £253,000 they have got to make it up out of local rates, and unless they get this sum of £245,000 out of the Land Taxes, or from some other source, they have got to get it out of the local ratepayer.
I think, if I may so, what happened last year was that various local authorities over and over again asked for a further contribution from the Exchequer in aid of local rates, and it was again and again admitted that that was wanted. Everybody knows that is so. When the Chancellor was charged last year with being unsympathetic towards the local authorities, he said, "Look at the wonderful results you are going to get out of the Land Taxes." The complaint was that the taxes were raised out of the subject-matter of the rates, and that the Chancellor was taking a sovereign out of the local rates and giving back a half-sovereign, and saying that they ought to be extremely grateful for that. He led us to believe that we were going to get a great deal of money in this way, because of the wonderful effect of the Land Taxes in the future. Thus it seems to me that the point of my lion. Friend is a very relevant one. What we have been told is that owing to the reduction in the consumption of whisky in consequence of the increased taxation, there has been a considerable reduction in the amount of money which goes to the local authorities in aid of secondary education. The Chancellor of the Exchequer now says that in order to fill up the gap which would otherwise have to be done out of the rates, he is going to make use of part of the Land Taxes. That is not much consolation to the local authorities, because they were told last year that that half of the Land Taxes was to be something extra, and it now appears that it is not to be something extra at all. The local authorities come 2470 out of it very badly. It is perfectly true that the money would have to come out of the rates, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to fill up the gap from the Land Taxes. It seems to me that there are now two gaps, one of which is to be filled up while the other is left just as vacant and yawning as it was before.
§ Mr. FRANCE
Did I understand the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that in future he will take as the amount to be paid on this account an average sum based upon the years 1903–9—the sum which has been suggested by Mr. Henry Hobhouse—and that it is only a temporary expedient affecting only this particular year? I would ask, further, if he considers that this suggestion or half promise will be sufficient security for local authorities to go to their local banks to borrow?
§ Sir GEORGE WHITE
I am sorry hon. Gentlemen opposite have not received the Chancellor's suggestion with more sympathy. I confess that the right hon. Gentleman's first suggestion that he was prepared to consider the whole question in the new Budget, if he had an opportunity of presenting it to the House, was so far satisfactory as to the future, and I thought that probably that was all we should be able to extract from him on the present occasion; but when he suggested taking half the Land Taxes to meet the present deficiency, I felt that he was going as far as one could expect and adopting an expedient which probably few of us anticipated he would be able to do.
§ Sir GEORGE WHITE
We have a present deficiency to meet, and if it is not met in this way there will probably be no other way in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer can meet it for this year. Therefore, I think we ought to be grateful to him for adopting this expedient. The hon. Gentleman speaks as if this were to be a permanent method of meeting the deficiency. We are assured that it is simply a temporary expedient—that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has a resource which is not yet allocated, and that he proposes to allocate it in this way. I feel sure that the suggestion will give great satisfaction to the local authorities. As to the general question, we all know that it was a mere accident that this money for education should come from the Whisky Tax 2471 The sooner that accidental circumstance is removed, and we have a permanent income from a proper source, the better we shall be satisfied. It is particularly opportune that that step should be taken at the present moment, because many of us have waited upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer from time to time to ask him to deal with the increasing burden of the education rate. On the one hand there is a feeling that something even more extensive than is to be adopted at present should be put forward with regard to technical education. Our lads especially want more attention and more money spent upon them, but the difficulty has been the increasing burden of the rates. Now that we have this burden met in the way promised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, local authorities will have a much freer hand, and we shall get rid of what has been an increasing difficulty. An eminent brewer, to whom I was speaking the other day in regard to the income from whisky, corroborated the opinion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that in all probability those who have left off drinking whisky are not likely in any great numbers to return to it even if the increased tax is taken off; so that the income from this source, considered from the point of view of the increasing temperance of the people, is likely to be less. I hope therefore we shall find in the coming Budget a permanent source of income for technical and secondary education which will be much more satisfactory than the income we have been receiving. I thank the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on behalf of many local authorities, for the promise which he has made to-day.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
I think the hon. Gentleman opposite is very easily satisfied. He thanks the Chancellor of the Exchequer because the right hon. Gentleman is going to do something which he considers is a bad thing, which he hopes will not be made a precedent, and which is only a temporary expedient.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
I was referring not to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but to the hon. Member opposite (Sir G. White). How does he know it is going to be a temporary expedient and that it will not be taken as a precedent?
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I remember the Chancellor of the Exchequer saying last year that this money was to be given to the local authorities. I do not suggest that he is breaking his word, but I think, finding that he cannot carry out what he thought he would be able to do, he has altered his plan. What is to prevent him doing the same thing next year if there is a deficiency? What would the hon. Baronet do then? Would he come down and say, "Notwithstanding that last year I expressed a hope that it would be only a temporary expedient, yet nevertheless I will support it?" The real reason for this proposal is that the revenue has not yielded the amount it was expected to yield. That is a very serious thing. Because the revenue has not yielded the amount expected you are going to take taxes allocated to a particular purpose and use them to make good the deficiency. You are encouraging the present or any other Chancellor of the Exchequer to use what I consider a bad expedient to fill up a gap which he himself has made. The matter ought to be faced boldly. The country should be told that there is a gap, and that they have got to fill it. You have no right to take money which has been practically allocated to other purposes and use it for this purpose. The Financial Secretary will not contradict me when I say that last year the Government originally intended to take the whole of this money themselves. The question was raised as to whether that was right, as the money was supposed to be owing to the exertions of the people living in the locality. The Government then said, "We will give half of it to the local authorities." When that was done we asked under what circumstances this money was to be apportioned, and in what way? The right hon. Gentleman said that he could not give us details at the moment, because he had not actually made up his mind as to the manner in which this sum was to be apportioned. There was considerable debate upon the subject. Hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House told the right hon. Gentleman that it ought to be apportioned in the districts in which it was raised. The right hon. Gentleman rather gave us to understand that under certain circumstances he might consider that the sum raised in a particular district was not owing to the exertions of the 2473 people in that particular district, but owing to the exertions of the people in Wales or elsewhere. We were never for a moment led to suppose that this money would be used to fill up any deficit or gap in the bad finance of the right hon. Gentleman. Now the right hon. Gentleman comes down, and instead of facing the question boldly and saying there is this deficiency which must be filled up—I am not the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Speaker, if I were I do not doubt that I should be able to find some proper and legitimate method of filling up this deficiency—takes the easiest way, the line of least resistance. He says, "I will alter the destination of this money, and devote it to something for which it was never intended." I say, quite irrespective of the fact that it is bad finance, it is an extremely bad precedent to allow Chancellors of the Exchequer to do this sort of thing. For they will never face the disagreeable position of coming down to the House and saying, "There is a deficiency; it must be made up in a proper and business-like manner." I understood the hon. Gentleman the Member for Lincoln to say that he objected to the whisky money being devoted to education. I did not know that his temperance principles led him so far as that.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The hon. Gentleman's prejudice against drink is so great that he says that he would rather that education should depend upon something else. Let me point out from the argument of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it is practically the same thing as to whether certain taxes derived from drink are devoted to education or to other things which the hon. Gentleman supports. The taxes are really one vast sum which goes into one chest, and really I think it is carrying temperance advocacy too far to say, "I do not want to take this particular money because it has been derived from the drink." If we did not use this money we should fast approach a period of finding ourselves in a position that hon. Gentlemen do not, I am sure, desire. I hope we shall have a little more satisfactory explanation from the right hon. Gentleman as to the taking of this money. To say that the money has really been given to the local authorities because, if it had not been, further taxation would have to be raised, is begging the question. It does not at all follow that if 2474 additional Imperial taxation was raised that it would fall upon the local authorities. That argument is one brought forward on the spur of the moment because the right hon. Gentleman had no further argument to use, knowing perfectly well that he was doing something which it would have been better if he had not done.
§ 1.0 P.M.
§ Mr. GIBSON BOWLES
Perhaps the House will pardon me if I venture a few words on the general question of this allocation of taxes to local needs. It is a very mischievous and very dangerous system, both to the revenue and to the local authorities. If the local authorities were left to their own resources, to collect their own taxes, and to take the risks, you would have very much greater guarantees for proper management than you have now. I for one am entirely against these Grants under any circumstances from the Central Fund, from the Exchequer. But if you do decide to make them, whatever amount you may decide to hand over to the local authorities, I would empower local authorities to levy the taxes for themselves, and I believe in many cases they would be much more jealously levied, and produce a far larger amount. I think the system of Grants altogether bad, and it is especially bad when, instead of making an annual Grant of a fixed sum which would enable the local authority to know what it had to count upon, and make its arrangements accordingly, you allocate to the local authority a varying tax. I am not dealing at present with the whisky money. That is a special thing, and only on the fringe of the question of local taxation. But when you allocate to local authorities varying taxes you deprive them of the power of making their budgets in advance; you take them into partnership, as it were, with all the chances and changes to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is exposed. I think that is wrong.
Then there is the system which has hitherto obtained of intercepting this money, and preventing it going into the Exchequer. I am happy to say that the Prime Minister has stopped that in regard to these taxes. May I remind the House that there is the stupendous amount of £10,000,000 a year involved? It is not merely a question of principle. You intercept and prevent this sum from reaching the Exchequer. That has been hitherto kept out of our accounts, though now restored to them. I am dealing with the 2475 whole amount paid to the local authorities by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and intercepted by local authorities on the way to the Exchequer. I am dealing with the larger principle, and I think it is unfortunate. As to the system of appropriating particular taxes for particular purposes, there is something to be said for it. You might, for instance, appropriate the Death Duties, which are a charge upon capital, to the extinction of the National Debt. It it a system that in former times was pursued. Certain taxes, ancient customs, levied by the King, were appropriated to the defence of the narrow seas, and were allocated for the upkeep of the Navy. We abandoned that long ago, and came to the conclusion that the best thing was to set up one universal fiscus, one great bag, one National Exchequer, to be paid into. It is a departure from that principle to make the Grants to the local authorities in this way. It is a departure from sound finance. I hope the House will excuse me for laying down what I think are the true principles of Grants.
§ Mr. FRANCE
In view of what has been said by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I ask leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.