§ Earl WINTERTON
I desire to raise a point in connection with the Income Tax. In the course of the discussion on the Second Reading of the Bill the Government abandoned their first line of defence in regard to the collection of this tax, and now we do not hear so much about the difficulty of collecting the tax without bringing in the whole Budget. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer devoted a considerable portion of his speech to proving that if our contention on this side of the House was that the Government had plenty of time in which to bring in the Resolution, the fact was they only had three weeks. I think the right hon. Gentleman did well not to rely on the original arguments, for it has been clearly pointed out on this side that it would have been perfectly easy for the Government to have brought in the Resolutions embodied in the first part of the 1909 Budget, and thus have authorised the collection of Income Tax. I do not want to repeat the arguments for the collection of the tax which have been put forward with such force by my hon. and Noble Friends on this side of the House. I merely want to raise this point at this time, because I think it is desirable that before this House adjourns we should have an opportunity of knowing on which horse the Government declares to win. If they say they have not had time in which to authorise the collection of the Income Tax I would point out that they have a very excellent opportunity of obtaining that time to-morrow. No one's religious susceptibilities will be offended by working to-morrow or by the Government asking the House to sit on Thursday, 24th March, and then they could perfectly well pass a Resolution authorising the collection of the Income Tax. There is no reason why they should not do so.
1067 This is a new House of Commons. It has only been sitting a few weeks, it is only likely to have a very short life, and it is well to make as much as possible in the way of work out of that life. I am sure hon. Members opposite who cheer that sentiment want to have as large an opportunity of discussing the affairs of the nation while they are in the House of Commons as possible. I think, moreover, that anyone who followed the Debates in the last Parliament generally and on the Budget will agree with me that the Government at that time were only too anxious to work this House by sitting at all times, and that they did not in those days consider the convenience or even the health of hon. Members. We were asked to sit at all times, whether night or day, and oftentimes with the result that grave inconvenience was caused to hon. Members. No inconvenience would be caused by sitting to-morrow, and therefore I appeal to the Government and to the right hon. Gentleman, if they wish to avoid the financial chaos, which is getting worse every day, and for which hon. Members on that side of the House are entirely responsible—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh ! "] I do not think it is denied that that is so. At any rate, will hon. Members opposite who challenge my point against them read the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer two days ago. He devoted two-thirds of his speech to proving, or trying to prove, that if anyone was to blame for the delay it was the House of Lords, and then he went on to say that the Government had only had three weeks in which to deal with the situation, and those three weeks had to be given to Supply. My point is that you have to-morrow, which is not going to be given to Supply, and if you are bonâ fide in this matter, and genuinely anxious to pass this Resolution, you can perfectly well sit to-morrow without any inconvenience to anyone, and show your supporters that you are anxious to forward the Budget.
That is the appeal I make to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I do not wish to support that appeal by using any of the arguments which have been used from this side of the House. They are, as I think, unanswerable, and show the danger to the country of this continued chaos which is going on. I only desire to call attention to the fact that in the last few days throughout Europe the principal organs of the Press have given considerable atten- 1068 tion to this matter, and they all of them look upon the present condition of affairs as a financial scandal of the first water. I will go further, and say that papers of Liberal tendencies on the Continent that have formerly sympathised with hon. Members opposite now cannot understand why they are refusing to do the simplest thing in the world and authorise the collection of the Income Tax. [An HON. MEMBER: "They have not got a House of Lords."] An hon. Member says they have not got a House of Lords, but they have far stronger Second Chambers than the House of Lords, and they are quite as well able to recognise the difficulties and the dangers of the situation as the hon. Gentleman who made that observation. I say that the party opposite have lost all the support they had in the Press of Europe and all countries by their continued refusal to collect Income Tax, and that by so doing they are delivering a shattering blow to British credit and that of her Colonies.
§ Mr. J. G. BUTCHER
The refusal of the Government to collect Income Tax appears to me to be not merely a grave dereliction of their public duties, but it is a direct violation of the pledge which they gave, not once, but many times, in this House and in the country. In his speech delivered on 2nd December, the last which he delivered in the last Parliament, the Prime Minister gave a clear and deliberate pledge to the House of Commons that the duty of the new House of Commons would be to pass the Budget unaltered, and to pass, too, the necessary Resolutions to collect the taxes. That was the pledge, or one of the pledges, on which the General Election was held, and that was one of the pledges by which the people were deceived into voting—such of them as did vote—for His Majesty's Government. There were also other pledges which deceived them. The hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) told us that he was deceived, and he advised his Irish friends in the country to vote for the Government upon a complete misconception of one of the Prime Minister's pledges, and there again the Irish electors in this country were deceived. I say that that pledge was that the first act of the new Parliament would be to impose these new duties and collect them, and that has been deliberately violated for the purpose, I suppose, of some party manœuvre, or for the purpose of some concession or some desirable surrender, after a base intrigue, to the hon. Member for Waterford. It was not the 1069 wish of the electors that the finances of the country should be postponed and thrown into confusion. No, the Government would have been beaten on that point at the election. Had they desired to carry out their pledges they would have collected these taxes. But it does not rest upon the pledge given by the Prime Minister on 2nd December, because in this House he referred to that pledge and said it ought to have been of a more comprehensive character. What is that more comprehensive character? It was that the first act of the new House of Commons would be to deal with the financial exigencies of the situation. I am glad hon. Members approve of that pledge and let me ask whether anyone will get up and tell me that the collection of the Income Tax is not one of the financial exigencies of the country? [HON. MEMBERS: "All the taxes."] All of them, and this is one of them; and when the Prime Minister promised that he was going to deal with all of them he did not tell us that he was going to omit one, and that one of the most important. Therefore I say after that pledge, repeated as it has been to this House and in the face of the country I fail for my part to understand why the Income Tax has not been collected and a Bill brought in for that purpose. But we are told that it would be improper to bring in a Bill. Why? Is it beneath the dignity of the Government or of Gentlemen sitting on those benches to bring in a Bill? Is it difficult for them to bring in their Budget—this people's Budget which the people have condemned? Why, it is not beneath the dignity apparently of His Majesty's Government to indulge in intrigue, in party manœuvres, to go hand in hand to the hon. Member for Waterford and ask for his assistance, possibly for his dictation; it is not beneath their dignity to bring forward policies, modify them under threats and abandon them under dictation, but it is beneath their dignity to take the necessary measures to see that the finances of this country are placed upon a proper footing, and to carry out the business of this country in a proper manner.
But then we are told we cannot break up the people's Budget. The people's Budget must be submitted to the House in its entirety, or not at all. We have not the smallest objection to the people's Budget being submitted. Our complaint is that it has not been submitted already. As the Government have decided, for some reason best known to themselves, to post- 1070 pone the submission of the Budget there was every reason why they should have brought in an interim Bill, which would have been passed in this House and elsewhere in the course of a day or two, legalising the collection of the Income Tax, and let that be in operation until the people's Budget was produced in its entirety. Had the Government taken that course the collection of Income Tax would have been legalised, and the country would not have lost large sums of money owing to borrowing. I suppose the real object of the Government is to produce as much chaos, as much confusion, as much disturbance of the public convenience, and as much loss to the public Exchequer as they can, of course, with the object, no one doubts it, of being able to go to the simple electors who, I suppose, will believe them, and saying it is all the House of Lords. But the electors are not fools enough to believe that. I cannot help thinking that even the most easily led Undersecretary sitting on those benches does not believe such a pretence as that, and you will have to justify your action by some other reasons. The truth is that the Government have neglected to appreciate what is the cardinal fact of the situation, that the people's Budget has been condemned by the people themselves. Will anyone tell me that the Budget would have passed in this House had it been brought forward some three weeks ago before these negotiations with the Members from Ireland were in progress? Of course it would not. Hon. Members from Ireland were challenged to name a single constituency in favour of the Budget, and they failed to respond to the challenge. Had the Government realised that fact they would have gone forward with a straightforward and honest policy, they would have passed those portions of the Budget which the people have not condemned, and put the affairs of the country on a businesslike footing, and they would have avoided that verdict which will come upon all politicians who prefer the interests of party to the service of the nation.
§ Mr. BOTTOMLEY
I should like to say one or two words on the position in which we find ourselves from the point of view of the finance of the country. I do so from the point of view of a Member who in most things endeavours to act according to his own independent ideas, and who has studiously, since this Parliament met, refrained from recording a vote or taking 1071 any steps which could by any act of imagination be construed as being hostile to the Prime Minister or calculated to embarrass him in a position which I have, from the outset, recognised as one of peculiar difficulty and one calling for the sympathy and loyal support of every Member of the House in his endeavour to grapple with a situation unprecedented in the history of the country and demanding the greatest elements of statesmanship that any national situation could call for. I cannot help feeling that if the Prime Minister had proceeded on the lines originally laid down by him and accepted by him and by his Government there would have been a very much better state of things from the point of view of the reputation and the credit of the Government, as well as the credit of the country, than that which exists to-day. It is perfectly true that the Prime Minister said in December last that the first act of the Government, if it retained power, would be "to provide both retrospectively and prospectively for the needs of the current financial year," but there was a literary and subtle qualification which I am in the habit of looking for in the declarations of the Prime Minister. He probably knew more of the inherent difficulties with which he would have to deal than we could. He said:—I trust the new House of Commons will assemble at such time as to make it possible to provide retrospectively and prospectively for the requirements of the current year.One wonders why in that state of things we were kept nearly a month after the close of the polls before we assembled, during which period no one will deny that we might have passed the old Budget if it had been submitted to us, or rejected it, as the case might be, as far as this House is concerned. The Prime Minister was very emphatic. He said:—If we are fortunate enough to enjoy the confidence of the House, our first act will he to reimpose. as from this week, all taxes and duties which were embodied in the Finance Bill, and to validate nil past collections and deductions.That was the first declaration. It was in that state of things that I went to my Constituents and said that whatever views we entertained on the constitutional point of view, if this party came back to power we should at once proceed to put the country back into the position as it was before the General Election, and get on with the Budget. What was the next declaration? The new Parliament met, and 1072 we had a Speech from the Throne, to which too little reference has been made in these Debates. His Majesty, then speaking the words suggested by the Government, after dealing with the usual references to foreign affairs, told us the order of business for the new Parliament:First of all Estimates for the service of the ensuing year will be laid before you in due course.They have not been laid yet. The last instalment of the ordinary Civil Service Estimates was only circulated this morning. The Revenue Estimates have not been circulated at all yet, and there has been no opportunity of considering the Civil Service Estimates of the year, and the hon. Member (Mr. Gibson Bowles) pointed out how unfair it is to the House to take a Vote on Account of Estimates which are not on the Paper, because by giving a Vote on Account you theoretically and actually approve of the whole principle of the Estimates in regard to which you give the Vote. That was to be the first thing:—You will also be asked to complete the provision which was made in the last Session of Parliament fur the year about to expire, but to which effect has not yet been given.I refer to that as corroborating the pledge of the Prime Minister that the re-imposition of the Budget taxes was to be taken in hand immediately after the Estimates had been considered. Then there came this extraordinary, in view of what has happened, pledge of the Government through the lips of His Majesty:—The expenditure authorised by the last Parliament being duly incurred, whereas the revenue required has not been provided by the imposition o£ taxation, recourse has been had to Parliamentary sanction for temporary borrowing. Arrangements have been made at the earliest possible moment to deal with the financial situation thus created.How have we dealt with it? We have proceeded to give the Government further borrowing powers. Instead of leaving the situation thus created, the first thing we did was to pass another Borrowing Bill and make an enormous raid upon the Sinking Fund. I refer to these historical events as leading up to the point I want, to make that the Prime Minister has been led astray by evil counsels from a statesmanlike and constitutional course. Here is the third point. There are the pledges of the Government to which I have referred, the pledge given when the Budget was rejected, the pledge, in the words of His Majesty's Speech, and the pledge given when the Prime Minister came to speak on the Address in this House. In 1073 that speech, speaking of the Budget and the Lords Resolutions, he said:—We regard both of them as integral parts of our policy, and, so far as we are concerned as a Government, we stake all our credit on carrying them through this House.That was said with respect to the Budget and the Constitutional Resolutions. Then the Prime Minister used these words in the concluding sentences, and they are very interesting:—Speaking for myself and my colleagues. I can say with a clear conscience we have, in this matter, only two objects in view. The first is, as far as we are responsible for it, to carry on the King's Government with credit and efficiency.[MINISTERIAL Cheers.] Hon. Gentlemen who cheer seem to read into that statement some sinister meaning which the words do not express. I shall continue the quotation in order to show how the right hon. Gentleman differentiated between the credit and efficiency of the Government and the constitutional crisis:—and on the other hand to put an end at the earliest possible moment by the wisest and most adequate methods we can devise to the constitutional condition which enables a non-representative and irresponsible authority to thwart the purposes and mutilate the handiwork of the chosen exponents of the people's will.In the first place the Prime Minister -put credit and efficiency, and on the other hand the constitutional question. That was the condition of things in which this Parliament met. I am myself prepared to make allowances for the difficulties of the Parliamentary situation when you find that a section of Members, normally supporters, are opposed to you on some particular matter. I am prepared to make allowances for negotiations behind the Chair, and for the continuation of the party system—the process of negotiation being one of the guarantees for its continuation. I would press this question upon the Chancellor of Exchequer: What was the difficulty in the way pending the result of these negotiations, and pending the introduction of the Budget, to "validate," to use a phrase of the Prime Minister, the collection of Income Tax, which is our principal source of ready money income, instead of borrowing from the people who owe the tax? It is admitted that a Resolution has for all practical purposes the effect of law, always on the assumption that it will be embodied in a Bill. The Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer j asked, What Bill? They made that appeal to the Opposition. Surely that is a matter entirely for the Government. Surely, 1074 whatever the Budget is, you must have a Resolution for the Income Tax passed in Committee, and when the Prime Minister reintroduees the Budget one of the things we shall do is to consider a Resolution in Committee to impose that tax quite independently of what the other provisions of the Budget may be. I do not know why we have not had that done, and I cannot help thinking that the Noble Lord (Earl Winterton) makes a good point from the statesmanlike point of view when he says, with regard to your answer that you required the three weeks, the period up to the ecclesiastical Easter, for Supply, you have a day to spare to-morrow. We met to-day at noon for the purpose of getting away earlier for our holidays, and we have been going home at seven and eight o'clock in the evening. There was also the period of a month between the close of the election and the meeting of Parliament, and therefore from every point of view there has been ample time.
I do hope—and I wish to press this upon the Government—that in the interest of the credit of the Government and of the country the Budget, in some form or other, is to be passed before Parliament is dissolved. If they cannot do it in the original form, let them at the last moment do what they should have done at first, namely, take such action as will secure the support of the wings of the party, and give the other place an opportunity for swallowing the Finance Bill, which, we understand, the other place is now gaping to swallow if it only had the opportunity. If you do not pass the Budget at all, what will be the position? We will have to go to the country, however unconstitutional the Lords were when they threw out the Bill from the Parliamentary point of view, making it appear that they were right in rejecting the Budget. If that is so, how can we make the purely abstract constitutional question part of the election appeal, when the pivot on which it turns is certain action by the House of Lords, which the House of Commons has itself endorsed?
Now I have to say, and I do so without any offensive meaning, that the question of strategy with respect to the Budget should be dealt with in this way. I was present at a great meeting shortly before the late Prime Minister assumed office. I sat near him, and I was impressed by certain observations he made in criticising the policy of the then Government, the Opposition of to-day. He said that:—Last and worst of all, they are losing confidence in themselves, and we are told—told emphatically and 1075 abundantly—that the method of their going will be a masterpiece of tactical skill. Tactics,said Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, repeating the word,'' ladies and gentlemen—the country is tired of tactics. It would have been better for them if they had had less tactics and more reality. But they have lived for years on tactics, and now they have died of tactics.It is because I do not wish that fate to overtake the present Government that I have intervened for a few minutes in this Debate.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I rise to sum up in a few words what has been the course of these discussions so often repeated. They have been repeated because the defence of the Government has always been inadequate and shown to be inadequate, and we shall continue to draw public attention to the matter until the wrong complained of is remedied and until the public mind is fully enlightened on the matter. There is no dispute that serious mischief has arisen. The Government admit that. That is common ground. We pointed out that the serious mischief might have been avoided by the adoption of any one of three ways. It might have been avoided by a temporary Bill passed through last Parliament or through this Parliament. It might have been avoided by their bringing in their Budget, as they were pledged to do, as the first business in the new House of Commons. It might also have been avoided—and this is the point raised by my Noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton)—by taking some of the preliminary Resolutions necessary for the Budget at an early stage, or, if you please, to-morrow. What are the defences which the Government make? The first defence is that they have not had time. That defence must now be abandoned, for it is manifestly inadequate. They spent a great deal of time on the Temporary Borrowing Bill. They had a great deal of surplus time when the Supplementary Estimates were considered, and they are going to spend three days in the month of March upon the Veto Resolutions next week. That time would have been ample to pass the Income Tax Resolution or to pass a temporary Bill. Secondly, the Government have recourse to the defence of what may be called "the landlady's cat." It is well known that dishonest or incompetent landladies are apt to blame the cat. The Government uses the House of Lords in the same way.
1076 They say it is the cat has done it whenever any of the property has got broken. In fact, and in truth, the action of the House of Lords has had no bearing whatever on their proceedings. No adequate defence of their action or inaction of the House of Lords has had no the present Parliament is concerned, the House of Lords is perfectly willing to pass the Budget if this House sends it up. They have said so. They wished last year to submit the Finance Bill to the judgment of the country. The House of Lords is quite prepared now to accept the verdict of this House of Commons on the point whether the country is for or against the Budget. There is no constitutional deadlock now existing. It is perfectly easy to settle the financial situation in any way this House wishes, either by the whole or part of the Budget, or by Resolutions which are to lead up to the Budget. There is no difficulty. To say that it is the fault of the House of Lords is to impose on the credulity of ignorant people. As far as the present Parliament is concerned the House of Lords has nothing whatever to do with the crisis that has arisen.
Finally, there is the doctrine of the dignity of the Government and of the House of Commons. It is impossible to show that the Government's dignity will not be outraged by any particular course, because no one knows what their own sensibility is except themselves. But I would certainly observe, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, that their dignity is very elastic in some directions. They make declarations only to abandon them in a few days. They conduct all sorts of serious business without apparently any sense of the gravity of the matter involved. On the first day of the Session they promised to bring all the Army Votes and the Navy Votes in the ordinary way, and apparently this change did not occur to them until just before the Vote on Account was taken. Conceive a serious Government suddenly thinking that they might withhold Supply and deciding on it in a few days or a few hours. I question whether levity or recklessness was ever carried to a more critical point. But while their dignity presents all these strange tergiversations and strange changes of mind, yet their dignity does not allow them to bring in either the whole of their proposals or part of their proposals. Because the House of Lords once disagreed with them on a financial matter it is not 1077 consistent with their dignity to do what they themselves want, or what they apparently suggest, or part of what they want, or to take the preliminary steps towards doing what they want. So great an authority as Lord St. Aldwyn in another place has pointed out that the Resolutions on which the Budget is founded operate later in point of time by weeks and even months. So it would have been perfectly possible to begin their proceedings on this Budget by carrying first the Resolutions and then adjourning the matter and doing the rest at their convenience in the ordinary stages. But everything is being sacrificed to making out a case against the House of Lords which is not a real case, and which is fundamentally an insincere case.
I am quite sure that that is not how great measures are carried. I am quite sure that whether the country decides for the House of Lords or against it it will not think better of the Government for making up a case which has no reality. The right hon. Gentleman asked us why we made this protest, and why it has been renewed, and allusion has been made to the Budget. I am quite content to leave the Budget to the Irish Members and their constituents. The right hon. Gentleman by his confident manner seems to think he has squared the Irish Members. But we still have some hope that even Members from Ireland will vote according to their conviction and the convictions of their constituents. It is, of course, possible by holding out hopes of Home Rule and other matters that they may be induced to vote on the particular issue in a way which is contrary to their convictions, and that will be sufficient to deal with the Budget. Our concern is that the Government should not use a financial crisis for which they themselves are responsible, the discredit of which only belongs to them, for the purpose of raking up a case against the House of Lords when no real case has been made. The Government in every part of this argument is unreal. Fox example, they make a great fuss about creating a new financial precedent, and yet they are going to propose to take away the financial powers of the House of Lords altogether. What matters a financial precedent if that is done 1 Of course, the whole thing is unreal. It is a pretence from beginning to end. The effort is to rake up dirt to throw at the House of Lords, and so, if possible, to deceive the electorate on a great constitutional question. 1078 It is against these methods that we protest, and we shall continue to protest in every way we can to bring home this matter to the conscience of the country.
§ Mr. STEEL-MAITLAND
I wish to say in a few words the great sympathy which I have with the anxious solicitude of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the First Lord of the Admiralty to get in the money after Easter. Those of us who have got this sympathy with their solicitude may venture to suggest that there is one way in which it might now be done, and that is the way suggested by my Noble Friend the Member for Horsham, that they should ask the House to pass this Resolution on Thursday next. I confess, as a humble Presbyterian, that I do not know what ecclesiastical difficulties there may be in regard to the holidays at Easter, but it does seem that the conflict between those difficulties and that of avoiding great financial confusion might be allowed to issue in the passing of that Resolution on Thursday, when there is ample time to do so. A great part of the contention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Debate on the Second Reading was that there has not been time enough to pass it up to now. We adjourned many evenings at an early hour. Then there is the whole of this day which could be used for the purpose, and also to-morrow if need be. We were told there was a pledge of the Prime Minister, and it was repeated by the hon. Member for South Hackney, to carry on the Government with credit and efficiency. It seems to have been a mistake by the Official Reporter. The method by which the Prime Minister seems to have carried it on was by credit but without efficiency. Hon. Members opposite on the Labour Benches have cheered when any mention of the financial confusion has been made. It is a strange matter that the financial confusion has apparently been minimised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his speech the other day, whereas such stress is laid on it by the hon. Members on the Labour Benches.
It would be interesting perhaps to know whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer has received in the matter of the collection of the Income Tax any advice from the-same financial advisers who have previously advised him with regard to the Finance Bill, and, if so, whether those same financial advisers in the City or in the public offices have approved of the course that has been taken over the administration of the Income Tax or whether 1079 they have disapproved. It was remarked to me in the City the other day that the Chancellor did not so often go near the City nowadays, and perhaps one is inclined to ask whether in his misgivings he seemed to think when he was going to that Garden of Eden there were swords pointed at him in every direction, on which were inscribed, "No thoroughfare: Nathaniel Rothschild." But I think perhaps if he had stationed himself in any disguise, in the disguise perhaps of a constable, outside the Bank or in Lombard Street, even from the casual passerby he might have heard sufficient to enable him to guess the extent of the very real disagreement with the way in which the finances have been carried on. What are the reasons that were urged only just the other day? Perhaps the First Lord of the Admiralty in the quiet times since he spoke the other day has been able to understand the many misconceptions which were present in his mind when he made his speech. I would like for a moment to explain one or two of them. The First Lord of the Admiralty on that occasion distinguished between Resolutions which have no force with regard to Income Tax, and Resolutions which would be the foundation of an Act of Parliament. Is there any conceivable foundation for such a contention in regard to the Resolution being the basis of an Act of Parliament? If a Resolution with regard to the Income Tax was passed now, would not that be the foundation for an Act of Parliament, or, if it is not going to be the foundation of an Act of Parliament, what comes of a statement like that of the Home Secretary when he said that the Budget would be passed without the alteration of a line or a syllable or even a comma? Of course, a Resolution, as anyone who has inquired into the matter knows, is as legal and just as binding as any ordinary Resolution passed for any Finance Bill previously. Or, again, the First Lord of the Admiralty objected that the Inland Revenue might be breaking the law upon the subject. He never attempted to deny for one instant that the Inland Revenue, or the servants of the Inland Revenue, are already breaking the law with regard to the Land Tax, if not the House Duty. In the circular to bankers, in which they told them to proceed in the usual way, before the Resolution was passed, they have strained the law much more than they would do by collecting the Income Tax after passing the Resolution.
1080 The passing of the Resolution would enable the Income Tax to be collected. But the circular to the bankers, before the Resolution on which the Finance Bill is founded has been passed, is a greater straining of the law than any collection on an Income Tax Resolution would be. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to imagine that the local Commissioners could not be asked to proceed with the Income Tax because they would have to do so by distraint. He apparently was not aware of the fact that the local Commissioners asked to be allowed to proceed with the collection of the Income Tax in the form of a request, and not a demand note, to say that it was intended, as formerly, to collect the tax. It was absurd to imagine that the people would not have paid the Income Tax, and that they would have made a distinction between the payment of that tax and the spirit, tobacco, or any other duty. If the people had been unwilling to pay the Income Tax, then why did they not object equally to payment by deduction instead of on the demand note?
There is only one more point which I should like to emphasise on this question. The contention is that the whole Budget must be brought forward before any money is collected. Right hon. Gentlemen seem to have a very convenient control of their memory, as a fashionable lady has over her eyes when she does not wish to see inconvenient acquaintances. They seem to forget that the provisions of the Sinking Fund were already passed on the Budget of last year. But that is not the whole case. The Resolution is only a temporary measure, and, like all the other Resolutions, it could be gathered up again into one whole Finance Bill, which it is necessary to pass in toto or not at all. Hon. Members on these benches have been taunted with having sought to treat this matter merely as a party question. If it were done in a campaign against another place, and if the Resolution was from the point of view of manœuvring with that object, there might be some ground for the contention. But when it is urged upon the Government that they might have collected this tax by administrative methods, or might have collected a very large portion of it by administrative methods, there is no question of party tactics whatever. The whole question is whether confusion could be avoided by administrative methods, even if not by a Resolution or a temporary Bill. There is no doubt that anyone conversant with the details would support the contention that 1081 the Government should not go on with this perpetual credit, this perpetual muddle, this system of borrowing, which is a loss to the taxpayer, but that they should be content to—Take the cash, and let the credit go,Nor heed the rumbling of the Irish drum.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd-George)
This is not the first time this question has been discussed in this House during the course of the last three weeks. I do not complain of that, but I must take note of the fact that no new argument has been advanced, least of all by the hon. Member who has just sat down—not even the two or three rather cheap and tawdry jokes which have already passed muster, and, indeed, have become commonplaces on many platforms on his side. These are not new. The attempt to be offensive to Ministers is certainly not new, and we are quite accustomed to it. What has been said by the Noble Lord is not new. With his usual dialectical skill, with the great vocabulary which he has always at command, and with his resource in metaphor and epigram, we really had the same arguments which he has addressed to us before, and the only thing new that he introduced was to compare the House of Lords to a cat. He said we blamed the House of Lords in the same way as the landlady blamed the cat. The only thing the Government do is to decline to hand over the control of the larder to the cat. That is the only dispute between us. We do not set the cat to watch the cream. No; we keep the cat in its proper place. But in this case it certainly is responsible. Was it not the cat that upset the jug of cream? Certainly she threw out the Budget, which has led to this confusion. That is the whole matter. I have said that we have heard nothing new on the financial question. The only thing new in what has been said this afternoon is the disagreeableness of tone and phrase introduced by the hon. Member for York (Mr. Butcher). He has spoken of a discreditable intrigue. How does he know? Is he in the habit of bringing charges against people without knowing whether they are true or false?
§ Mr. J. G. BUTCHER
Certainly not. But I can form my own inferences and opinions as well as any man, and I am fully justified in what I said.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
Very well. I am very glad to have the standard on which 1082 hon. Members form their conclusions when they bring serious charges against their political opponents. The charge is that of a discreditable intrigue. That is a very serious charge to bring against not merely Ministers, but against another party in this House. It is a discreditable intrigue purely because he infers it, and because we happened to meet and discuss with some hon. Members what is the position. He knows nothing of what was said, nothing of what was concluded, but he says it was a discreditable intrigue. Why? Not because he has any evidence of it, but he simply chooses to bring the charge, and that is cheered by hon. Members on that side of the House. We will know in future that it is not necessary to have any evidence when these charges are brought. It is enough to bring the charge against political opponents.
It is enough that the charge should be brought. To say a man is guilty of a discreditable thing there is only one question he asks, Is he a Liberal, is he a Nationalist, and that is quite enough evidence. Those are the bases upon which hon. Members opposite attack Ministers, and attack hon. Members from Ireland. Three weeks hence they will make the same charges, and it will make no difference whether there are any new facts. They come to a conclusion before they know anything. Therefore, I think it is very useful that the hon. and learned Gentleman should have revealed not only his own temper and mind in this matter, his own attitude, his own sense of British fair play for opponents, but that he has also revealed the temper and attitude of his colleagues sitting on that side of the House. Is it a discreditable thing to go what ho calls "hand-in-hand" with the hon. and learned Member for Waterford—that is the charge?
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
If the hon. and learned Gentleman says that is what he meant I am quite willing to accept it. I am perfectly certain what he did say was "going hand-in-hand."
§ Mr. J. G. BUTCHER
It is really of very little importance. I meant to have said "cap-in-hand," but I have not the slightest objection to the other phrase.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
He accepts the phrase. Then it is discreditable. Let me tell the hon. Member, who has been in. 1083 this House before, that the hon. and learned Member for Waterford is an honoured Member of the House, and I think I can say, and I do not think anyone here will challenge me, a much more distinguished Member of this House than the hon. and learned Gentleman. And it has not been regarded as a matter of detriment or dishonour not merely to men sitting on these benches now, but men belonging to the party opposite, his own leaders, to go hand-in-hand—not cap-in-hand—hand-in-hand with the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, to walk into the same Lobby, and make arrangements with him in matters which affect not merely Ireland, but Great Britain as well. Arrangements of that kind have been entered into by Conservative leaders before now, while the hon. and learned Member thinks it is discreditable to go hand-in-hand with a distinguished Member of this House purely and simply, because he is a countryman of his own who ventures to disagree with him. This is the only new matter, and the cat illustration of the Noble Lord, and this very offensive attack upon distinguished and hon. Members of this House by the hon. and learned Member for York. With regard to the rest the Conservative party found a new ally in the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Bottomley), who presented his case with his usual skill, and with great skill. I cannot complain of the fairness with which he has put it. He has been perfectly fair in his statements of the difficulties of the case, and he has put a point of view which I agree he is perfectly entitled to put, and which he has put with thorough fairness as far as Ministers are concerned, and consequently with greater effect. Let me say this. The Noble Lord referred to the dignity and susceptibilties of his Majesty's Ministers. We have never used that phrase; we have never put it on the ground of the dignity even of the House of Commons, let alone that of His Majesty's Ministers. It is not a question of dignity, or of anyone's susceptibilities; it is a question of surrendering privileges which are matters of real substance and controversy.
The Noble Lord says we do not realise the magnitude of certain movements which we have taken. If he will allow me to say so, it is he who does not quite realise the magnitude of the sacrifice which he is inviting the House of Commons to make. It is not a question of dignity. He is inviting us to abandon the position which the 1084 House of Commons has held for fifty years in finance. He cannot possibly realise the gravamen of the difference between the two Houses. We certainly do. We know perfectly well it is one of the greatest questions of his life time, or of mine, and probably the greatest issue raised during the last two or three hundred years. Therefore, everything that depends on this controversy must be a matter of the deepest consideration. If the House of Lords takes a certain view, and their friends, and if the House of Commons takes another view I do not think either House could surrender points in this great conflict without at the same time surrendering their principles, and the nation, in my judgment, has decided, and, therefore, we are bound to carry out the instructions which we regard the nation as having given to us, and to set this matter right at the first possible opportunity. Certainly we are not in a position to surrender anything which we won in the past. It is not, therefore, any question of susceptibilities.
It is a question of the rights of the Commons of England. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Hackney, who sympathises with the general position taken up by right hon. Gentlemen in regard to the Veto, says why do you not pass the Income Tax Resolution? I can assure him it is not merely a matter of pedantry on the part of the Government, but it is because we feel the reality of the contention that you cannot split up the Budget into Resolutions. The Noble Lord quoted an authority for whom no one has greater respect than I have, that is, Lord St. Aldwyn, who is one of the most distinguished financiers who ever had charge of the Exchequer, and a man of great judgment. I am very glad to see that Lord St. Aldwyn made a speech full of sagacious and prudent counsel. I venture with great diffidence to differ from him because he, on the whole, has been extraordinarily impartial in his action towards this controversy. It is not his fault that the Budget was thrown out. It was against his considered advice. He is one of the staunchest Conservatives in the country, as the Noble Lord knows. He is a Conservative of rigid conservative principles, and he would have been the last man to have broken away from his party on a great constitutional issue of this kind unless he were convinced that it was a mistake. He warned them in the most solemn way as to the mistake they were making. He ostentatiously held aloof from them. The Noble Lord has 1085 quoted his remarks for one purpose, but he has not quoted them for a purpose which is much more germane, and that is that in throwing out the Bill altogether he foresaw what would happen.
It is all very well to say that this is a purely political question, but the Lords ought to have foreseen the possible political complications that might have resulted from a General Election. Is not that one of the things they ought to have foreseen? Let us assume that everything the Noble Lord says about the Irish Members is correct. As a matter of fact it is not, and in the late Parliament they constantly supported the Land Taxes, and supported them most enthusiastically, while, with hon. Members sitting on this side, making it quite clear that agriculture should not be charged, on which hon. Members on this side were just as keen as they were; but as far as the taxation of urban values, they were enthusiastic supporters of the principle of those taxes, which, undoubtedly, as the Noble Lord will admit, were responsible for the rejection of the Bill by the House of Lords. Let us assume that his view is the correct one, and that the delay is due to the Irish Members. Is not that one of the very things the House of Lords ought to have foreseen? They cannot now wash their hands of the whole business and say, "We have no responsibility for it." They certainly ought to have foreseen it, and it does not minimise their responsibility, because, as I pointed out the other day, if this Budget were rejected, that would not minimise the financial confusion, it would aggravate it. All the patience which the Government may display with a view to smoothing the difficulties is really in the interests of clearing up the financial confusion, and will not aggravate it. The Noble Lord must know that perfectly well.
The hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Bottomley) asked why we did not bring in an Income Tax Resolution, and said that if we had done that the borrowing and the extension of the Sinking Fund would not have been necessary. That is not the case. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire, who has had experience in these matters, would admit that the Borrowing Bill would have been absolutely necessary, even if we had passed the Income Tax Resolution on the very first available day.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
Not for the same amount, but exactly the same Borrowing Bill, and the suspension of the Sinking Fund would have been necessary. March 1st was the first clear day we had. Assume for the moment that we could have taken that day and passed an Income Tax Resolution. You could not have collected the Income Tax in a month. The first thing to do would be to send out the assessments. We should have probably got the money which the banks have retained, but that is about all. Individuals would not have paid, and we should have collected comparatively little before 31st March. The difficulty was that we could not have borrowed beyond 31st March without a Bill. A Borrowing Bill and the suspension of the Sinking Fund would have been equally necessary, even if we had passed an Income Tax Resolution on the very first available day.
§ Mr. BOTTOMLEY
I did not say that the passing of an Income Tax Resolution would have obviated the necessity for borrowing. We were told in the King's Speech that one of our first duties would be to rectify the financial confusion. My point was that if we had introduced the Budget, as we pledged ourselves to do, we should have had full borrowing powers by 31st March.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
The hon. Gentleman is perfectly wrong there. It would have been necessary to borrow in any event. The Bills are only up to 31st March. We had to extend the period, and there was no power except by special Act of Parliament.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
Under the old Appropriation Bill. Therefore we should have had to get a Borrowing Bill for that specific purpose, in order to renew the bills. The Appropriation Bill has not been passed yet, and we could not have had an Appropriation Bill under any conditions before to-day. We had to make arrangements for renewing our bills before today, otherwise there would have been vastly worse financial confusion than there is at present.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Surely the right hon. Gentleman did not mean to say that the Appropriation Bill was not passed? It was passed in the last Session of Parliament.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
Yes; that was a verbal slip. The Appropriation Bill only enabled us to borrow up to 31st March of this year. Therefore we had to get special powers for that purpose. The Noble Lord (Earl Winterton) says, "Why do you not take to-morrow?" I do not know whether the Noble Lord can speak for his party, but I would ask him, as their temporary leader, whether he would undertake on behalf of his party to say that they would give us the whole of the Budget to-morrow?
§ Earl WINTERTON
That is a quite irrelevant reference to my speech. I said that the right hon. Gentleman, in a previous speech, put forward as his principal line of defence the fact that the Government had not had time to pass a Resolution, and I stated that there was to-morrow. I have no right to speak for Members on this side, but I believe they would be perfectly willing to sit to-morrow to pass a Resolution.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
The Noble Lord is wrong. We have never said that we had not time to pass a Resolution. On the contrary, the line we have taken is that you have to take the Budget as a whole. After all, our financial scheme is just like the financial scheme of any other Government. You cannot take an individual tax by itself. The taxes are so adjusted, according to the views of the Government, as to distribute the burden fairly between all classes. The Noble Lord may say that we have not done so, but that is our view. It is bound to be the view of every Government and of every Chancellor of the Exchequer. You cannot pick and choose, and say, "We will take the taxes which fall upon the middle classes and leave outside the Land Taxes and the Licence Duties; we will only pass the taxes of which the Opposition approve." Every Government presents its financial scheme as a whole. For that reason we could not undertake to bring in in a Resolution merely for the Income Tax.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
You will have to bring in a Resolution relating to the Income Tax sooner or later.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
The Noble Lord knows perfectly well the way in which the 1088 finance of the year is dealt with. There is first the statement of the whole position and plan of the Government.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
No; I do not know what on earth the Noble Lord is thinking of. I repeatedly said yesterday, in reply to hon. Members from Ireland, that I could not answer their questions because they would have to wait until the financial statement was made. Certainly there must be a financial statement in order to show what the position of the revenue is.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
There is really some ambiguity. I understood the Prime Minister to say that the Budget of 1909 was to be passed before the Spring Recess, and that there would be no financial statement of the whole financial business of 1909–10 until a later period of the Session.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
The Noble Lord is now referring purely to the finance of next year. I am talking about the financial statement—the Budget of this year. I certainly do not propose at the present time merely to get up and say, "Mr. Speaker, I move." There must be some explanation. As the Prime Minister has. already pointed out, there will have to be certain alterations in the Bill itself, and they will have to be explained. You cannot possibly get up and simply say, "I move the Income Tax Resolution." You cannot do it. It has got to be done as part and parcel of the whole scheme of finance for the year. I have not yet heard from anyone authorised to speak on behalf of the Opposition—the Noble Lord has not told us—whether or not the Income Tax includes the Super-tax.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
The Noble Lord has no objection! The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) has yet to speak. He was not here when I put the question before. I think it is rather important, when we are pressed in this matter by the Noble Lord, to note that he has not yet explained whether he includes the Super-tax.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I am ready to include the Super-tax. But I am not the Leader of the Opposition, any more than 1089 the right hon. Gentleman is Leader of the party opposite.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
The difference is the Noble Lord pretends to be, and I do not pretend to be. Really, it is quite impossible that we should deal with the matter piecemeal in the fashion suggested. I have already explained that so often that I apologise to the House for explaining it again. I am doing it out of courtesy to hon. Gentlemen opposite. I have tried to fellow their arguments one after the other. That is really the reason. We will do our very best, and at the earliest possible moment, to deal with the financial difficulty. Quotations, I know, have been made from the speech of the Prime Minister. The Noble Lord said that the Prime Minister had stated, "The first act of this new Parliament will be to reimpose the old taxes." I think that is going to be so. I do not think the Noble Lord said that the Prime Minister had broken his pledge by passing the Consolidated Fund Bill. I do not think he takes that view. The Leader of the Opposition did not. The view of the Leader of the Opposition was, and I think that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire took the same view the other day, that it was the primary duty of the Government to set up Supply—to pass Supply. "Therefore the first act of the new House of Commons will be to reaffirm, and to pass the Budget." I think that is so. I think it will be the first Act.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
Really, I do not think that the Noble Lord imagines that he would put the Budget through before making the necessary arrangements for Supplies?
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
I think that is rather a pedantic interpretation of the words of the Prime Minister, to say that he meant that he would put the Budget through before Supply, before temporary borrowing, and before even the most urgent business that can possibly come before the country. If that is his view, all I can say is that he is straining the language of pledges to a point which he is not justified in doing. He is certainly not justified in making a charge of breach of faith upon such flimsy evidence as that.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
The meaning of the words, "first act"? They have only one meaning. They mean the first Act of Parliament that is passed in the Session. That, in my judgment, will be the first great Act of Parliament passed this Session, the moment we get through our Consolidated Fund Bill. It is true that we are putting forward Resolutions with regard to the Lords. The Prime Minister said at the Albert Hall, in a most distinct fashion:—It is our first duty (in referring to what he called the "invasion of the privileges' by the Lords), to make a recurrence impossible.That was said before this Parliament was elected. It was said before the General Election. That is equally an emphatic pledge. Some hon. Members have complained that to that extent it means breaking our pledge by not putting the Veto Bill through all its stages before ever we come to the Budget. The Noble Lord is not the only Member of the House on his side, and, after all, hon: Members who sit on this side of the House are entitled to their views just as much as hon. Members on the other side of the House. I do not think the Government is doing at all what the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for York (Mr. J. G. Butcher) calls discreditable when it is taking in account the views of its own supporters. The Government really are going out of their way to clear up the financial mess, as it is called, at the earliest possible moment. There is no harm being done—except the harm that has already been done. The first time we could have taken the matter would have been next Tuesday. But it is a matter of small moment to the three or four months that have been thrown away by the action of the House of Lords. I do not think the Noble Lord can fairly complain that we are putting it off for another three weeks when it is in order to put on record our feeling, and to make it absolutely clear that in future the House of Lords is to be deprived of its power to create another mess in the finances of this country.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has complained that in the course of this discussion my hon. Friends on this side of the House have advanced no new argument. I think it would necessarily be, when we discussed one particular point several times 1091 without getting any sort of an answer that appears to us to have any substance of force in it, that we should repeat the same arguments to get that answer. The right hon. Gentleman himself, by the necessities of the situation, has also not contributed any fresh arguments. He is now suggesting an interpretation of the Prime Minister's statement, "That the first act of the new House of Commons would be to validate all the duties and taxes proposed to be imposed by the late Budget," which, I think, that statement will not bear. He treats the word "act" in that passage as if it referred to an Act of Parliament. I think undoubtedly, to anybody who reads it—and I should be content to appeal to the Prime Minister himself on the subject that what he meant when he spoke in that way was that the first "work," not the first "Act of Parliament"—not the first Bill which may technically pass through all its stages and receive the Royal Assent—but the first work that this Parliament should set its hand to. I do not think the Chancellor of the Exchequer was very successful in his gloss of that "phrase. But he did succeed in showing one thing. I must give them credit for this, that if the Prime Minister had made a definite statement in this House, that that would have been the first act of the new House of Commons—the first work of the new House of Commons—if his colleagues and he possessed the confidence of the new House as he thought they would. He made an equally definite and contrary statement at the Albert Hall, in which he said their first work would be something else. It is not my duty to reconcile the inconsistencies of the Prime Minister as pointed out by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself did not undertake the task. Let me sum up in the fewest possible sentences what is our complaint against the Government, and what we conceive to be the reasonable complaint of the country against the Government.
The Government are anxious to throw the whole blame for all this disturbance which has occurred upon the House of Lords. They appear to us to be anxious, in order the more to blacken the character of the House of Lords, to make that disturbance as great as possible and to continue it as long as possible. We say that had the Government chosen, pending the carrying of the great appeal between the 1092 two Houses to the country, to take the steps which were open to them they could have saved any confusion whatever from arising. They might have regularised the great revenue-bearing taxes of the country before the last Parliament was prorogued. If that was done they might have carried out their original intention, as expressed by the Prime Minister in the last speech he made to the last House of Commons, as validating these taxes as the first work of the House, and if they could not have afforded, owing to the pressure of financial business, to validate them all they might at least have obtained the Resolutions which would have validated the collection of the Income Tax, through the non-collection of which the great disturbances and loss to the revenue has incurred, is incurring, and will be permanently felt. Why do they not do these things? Why did they alter their intention? The Chancellor of the Exchequer was angry at the language used by the hon. Member for York. The gravamen of the charge made by the hon. Member for York was that the Government proposals contained in the. Prime Minister's speech were modified under a threat and were abandoned under dictation.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
That is not what I objected to. What I objected to was that he characterised that as a discreditable intrigue.
§ Mr. J. G. BUTCHER
What I referred to as a discreditable Parliamentary intrigue was to try and get the hon. Members from Ireland to vote against their convictions, and the convictions of their constituents, for the Budget for the purpose of some further advantage.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has often, availed himself of a small point to cover up his unwillingness or his inability to meet the real charge brought against him. If the Government followed out the intention originally expressed by the Prime Minister, we should have no complaint. They would have brought their Budget on at the earliest possible moment; they would have proposed in the time between the meeting of Parliament and now to validate those taxes which are most urgently required, and to the non-collection of which the major portion of the Chancellor's difficulties are due. The Land Taxes contribute practically nothing to the revenue of this year. After the Chancellor of the Exchequer had agreed 1093 to share his plunder with the local authorities lie only anticipated he would get little more than £50,000, and a Budget of £160,000,000 is not upset for a Land Tax of £50,000. It is the non-collection of the Income Tax that has caused the difficulty, and the Government might have validated that in the second week that Parliament met. Why was it not done? The House adjourned in order that Ministers might dine, and the country borrows for the same reason. What were the Chancellor of the Exchequer's objections? They are twofold. First, he says it would not have prevented him from still having to borrow. That is perfectly true. But it would have limited enormously the amount of his borrowing. The Chancellor said he would have got very little. He would have got the whole of the money in the banks, the whole of the money from the joint-stock companies, a vast number of the biggest payments by individual taxpayers, and—I will not undertake to give a figure—but I will undertake to say that if he will consult his officials at the Treasury and Inland Revenue they will tell him that in the circumstances of this year he might have got a very large proportion of the money of which he is now deficient owing to there being no authority to ask for the taxes at all. The right hon. Gentleman says that in that case you are asking us to deal with the Budget piecemeal. No, you need not have let it go piecemeal from this House. You might have proceeded with other Resolution as time offered, and then have let the Budget leave the House as a whole. I do not know whether it would leave the House or not. The Chancellor has admitted to-day, what we all know, that the real reason for the delay is to try and smooth the difficulties in the path of the Government.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
"A little patience that may have the effect of smoothing the difficulties now in our path." I am not going to attack the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond), and least of all in his absence. I do not know what his attitude to the Budget is, but I rather gather from his earlier speeches that he thought the Budget was an excellent Budget for us, but not a good one for Ireland; and as long as you took Ireland out of it he was quite ready to vote for it for Englishmen and Scotsmen. I am not quite sure if he still holds that view. At the beginning of the Session we know 1094 he offered his support to the Government at a price. These are his own words:—We offer our support at a price, and we will not give it for nothing.And the reason for the delay is the Government is trying to beat down the hon. Member's price and to get it at a lower price than he is willing to accept. Is that creditable? Is that the kind of Parliamentary arrangement which the Chancellor of the Exchequer would like? The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Foreign Affairs does not very often favour us with his presence in this House, but he has found time to make one or two speeches elsewhere. He was talking the other day of the log-rolling that might be anticipated from Tariff Reform. Yet here is his own Government engaged in logrolling operations for four months at the expense of the commerce and revenues of the country.
That is our complaint. There would have been no confusion worth talking about if you had taken the earliest opportunity of validating the collection of the taxes as the Prime Minister said you would. You have chosen not in the interests of the country, not for any great constitutional purpose, but in order to smooth the way through Parliamentary difficulties, in order to placate a Parliamentary Opposition, to sacrifice the interests of the country to a Parliamentary and party intrigue and, as the natural result of that, the commerce and the trade of the country is kept in uncertainty, the revenue of the country is in arrear, the expenditure of the country has increased by the interest you have to pay upon the money which you will not collect, but will borrow, and the credit of the nation is depressed. Every week those proceedings go on the credit of the country is further injured, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer well knows after his experience with the issue of Exchequer Bonds the other day.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read the third time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill passed.