§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Hylton.)
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, I am not going to detain the House with any discussion of the terms of the Finance Bill, or with a review of the general financial condition of the country. It used to be the custom—and I think it was not a bad one—that the Budget for the year, though, of course, never discussed in detail in this House, was moved usually by the Leader of the House, and the Leader of the Opposition, or 166 somebody sitting on this bench specially conversant with financial affairs—my mind reverts particularly to the late Lord Goschen and the late Lord St. Aldwyn—used to review the main features of the finance of the year, without, of course, entering into the details of particular taxes, which do not fall, as such, within the cognisance of this House. That practice has fallen into disuse. We are occasionally favoured with financial debates, conducted, as I am sure noble Lords opposite will agree, with great force and knowledge by members of your Lordships' House who are specially competent to speak, whether on matters of pure finance or upon commercial questions. To-day, it clearly would be out of place to attempt any review of the exceedingly serious financial situation in which the country finds itself.
The noble Lord opposite, following the usual custom, has not made anything in the nature of a Budget speech. Had he done so he would have been obliged to put forward some form of explanation of what appears to be a vast impending deficit in the Budget of the year. In another place these matters were fully discussed, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the Third Reading of the Finance Bill, made the best case that he could in order to prove that the statements made by the various members of the Opposition were exaggerated, and that the financial condition of the country was not such as to give justifiable ground for serious alarm. He seemed to hope that in the course of the autumn trade might so improve that in the remaining quarters of the year the serious fall which has taken place in the Revenue receipts, as compared even with last year, might be to some extent corrected.
We sincerely hope that it may be so, for there is one fact which I do not think any member of His Majesty's Government will be disposed to dispute—namely, that the country has reached, even if it has not passed (and many of us think it has absolutely passed) the limits within which taxation is possible, to say nothing of its being profitable. How it is possible to look forward with anything but gloom to the prospects of the next year or two, I confess I am not able to understand. As I say, I am not going to trouble your Lordships with any detailed examination of the financial situation generally, but 167 I thought it right to intervene, even at the cost of spending several minutes of your Lordships' valuable time, in order to point out that even if the Finance Bill and the financial situation are not discussed, it does not mean that your Lordships generally regard the prospect with anything like satisfaction.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a.
§ LORD HYLTON
My Lords, I am going to ask your Lordships to negative the Committee stage of this Bill. But before doing so, I may be allowed, perhaps, to make this one observation. This, I think, is the seventh occasion on which I have had the honour of moving the different stages of the Finance Bill in this House. Before doing so on the first occasion I was informed that it had not been the practice, at all events for many years, to make a formal speech in introducing the Bill. Had I known that the noble Marquess or any other noble Lord opposite wished to raise any question upon it, I would have endeavoured, to the best of my ability, to answer any question.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Committee negatived.