felt satisfied that it would not be necessary for him to make any apology to the House, or to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, for interrupting for a moment, by some financial observations, the progress of that measure to which, by a sort of common consent, the largos portion of their time had of late been devoted. 1286 On the contrary, he felt that if apology were due, it was from the Parliament to the country, for having so long omitted to direct its attention to the circumstances and the situation in which the nation then stood with regard to the finances: to direct its attention to that which it was more peculiarly its province to attend to—the state of the public purse; and to require from his Majesty's Government those explanations of the past, and such information with respect to the future, as might, in some degree, calm the apprehension which the present juncture of affairs was so well calculated to excite. The situation in which the country now stood with respect to its finances was one of an almost unprecedented character. We had gone through periods of war and peace—we had met the difficulties of the one, and the embarrassments of the other; but hitherto we had always found, at the termination of the year, that the arrangements of the Government had been such, either by one means or the other, as to have provided a fund adequate to the expenditure of the year. The present was the first occasion on which we had found ourselves with a large deficiency of income as compared with expenditure. The noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer), in the statement he had made, when the supplies were granted predicted a surplus little short of 500,000l.; but now it was ascertained that, instead of a surplus, the noble Lord's arrangements had caused a deficiency of 700,000l. according to the financial accounts of last quarter, so that a change of no less than 1,200,000l. had been effected in the finances of the country within the short period of three months. If they calculated with reference to the brief space in which it had occurred, the deficiency was one which, he was sure, no Member of the House would regard as trifling or unimportant. Yet it was singular chat no direct communication upon the subject had been made to Parliament. No Minister of the Crown had announced the fact to that House, much less had any of the explanations which were necessary been offered. It was only brought under the notice of the House by the presentation of a paper which he (Mr. Goulburn) had taken the liberty of moving for. It was not until the production of that document, anticipating as he had a right to do, a surplus of revenue, that he discovered that there was, in fact, a considerable deficiency. That circumstance very much changed the character of the financial discussions in which the House 1287 might have to engage. Formerly it had discussed the amount of the surplus which, in its opinion, it was necessary for the Minister to maintain, and the manner in which that surplus should be applied. Much difference of opinion had always existed upon the latter point. Some hon. Members were of one opinion—some of another; some were friendly to a sinking fund—others were hostile to it, but men of all parties, of all sentiments, and of all feelings in the country, had agreed upon this—that it was expedient to make such arrangements with respect to the finance of the country as to secure a surplus at the end of the year. But the House would henceforth have to embark upon the subjects of discussions to which he had alluded with a considerable deficiency, instead of a surplus. Such a state of things was calculated to excite great regret, and the more so because, if the resources of the country had been properly managed, he was convinced they would have been found fit for the emergency; and this was the more to be regretted at a period when it was peculiarly necessary that the finances of the country should appear in a healthful state. In October last, the noble Lord, in detailing the financial prospects of the country, stated, that, according to the best calculation he could make, there was every probability there would be a surplus of income over expenditure to the amount of nearly 500,000l. That calculation, however, was manifestly incorrect, as, at the end of the financial year, on the 5th of January, there was, in place of a surplus of 500,000l. a deficiency of 700,000l. When such a remarkable deficiency appeared in so short a time, the country had a right to ask, what caused it, and whether this was the end or the beginning of the deficiency. There had been nothing in the course of public events to cause such a falling off, and he, therefore, felt himself bound by his duty, as a Member of Parliament, to call for some explanation, or some statement which might revive the confidence of the country, and explain the causes of this deficiency; for it was a remarkable circumstance that this extraordinary falling off had taken place without any explanation hitherto on the part of Government. The greater part of the hon. Gentlemen who heard him must be aware, that in 1821, the House of Commons resolved, "that it is essentially necessary to the fulfilment of our duty, as guardians of the public purse, that the estimates should be laid on the Table of this House, with the least possible delay, after 1288 our assembling; that it is, therefore, expedient, that whenever Parliament assembles before Christmas, the army, navy, and other estimates should be presented previous to the 15th of January; and when it meets after Christmas, that the estimates shall be produced within ten days after the motion for going into a Committee of Supply." None of the Estimates, however, had yet been laid on the Table. And yet the necessity of the practice for which the Resolution provided had been advocated by one of the most distinguished Members of the party opposite to him, who had himself been Chancellor of the Exchequer, and who, therefore, had ample means of forming a sound opinion upon the subject. For ten years, under the various administrations which had conducted the affairs of the country, that Resolution had been strictly observed. But now, when in consequence of the deficiency which for the first time appeared in the income of the country, it became peculiarly necessary to know what the estimates of the year were: those estimates were not on the Table of the House; and, in their absence, the noble Lord opposite had not thought it necessary to give any explanation on the subject. But that was not all. On the 12th of December last the House came to a resolution, that the estimates for the year should be laid before the House without delay, yet the House was still without them, and no reason had been assigned for their non-production. He did not think, therefore, that it would be uncandid to attribute this delay to some reluctance, on the part of his Majesty's Government, to take the counsel of Parliament on the subject. The House and the country had a right to complain, and call for explanation. The noble Lord, therefore, could not blame him if he remarked upon such a glaring and improper course of proceeding. The explanation was the more necessary when the comparison of the state of the finances at the close of 1830 and of 1831 formed such a contrast. On the 5th of January, 1831, the surplus of income exceeded the expenditure by 2,900,000l. In stating the amount to be so great, however, it would he necessary to observe that some deductions might be required. He did not wish to keep out of sight those arrangements of the former year, which must necessarily lead to a diminution of that surplus from a million to a million and a half in amount. What was our situation, however, on the 5th of January 1832? That there was a deficiency 1289 of 700,000l.; the expend it lire having exceeded the income by that amount, and having exceeded the calculation made three months before by the noble Lord to the amount of 1,200,000l. Under such circumstances, the country was naturally anxious to know what course was to be pursued. During the last year the noble Lord had made four financial statements, or rather four editions of statements, varying from the edition of other works on this point, which, instead of containing further materials, the materials in one edition after the other were retrenched and corrected. Under each of these arrangements, the noble Lord contemplated a surplus revenue; but he must congratulate the country that the Budget, as originally proposed by the noble Lord, was not persevered in. For the noble Lord and his colleagues, with a rashness and temerity which astonished not only him, but every sober man in the House, had, in the first instance, proposed a Budget, which, if it had been persisted in, would have occasioned a deficiency probably double or treble that which at present existed. If the noble Lord had succeeded in persuading Parliament, as he intimated by his first statement that there might be a reduction of 4,000,000l. with perfect safety, what would have been the consequence if, with a reduction of only 1,600,000l., the deficiency at the end of one year was found to amount to 700,000l.? The noble Lord, as he had already stated, had brought forward our Budgets; by the first, he promised a surplus of 450,000l.; in the second, he made it amount to 600,000l.; in the third, it was reduced to 368,000l.; and in the fourth, it was increased again to 4.90,000l. The noble Lord, however, he trusted, would do him the justice to recollect that when he brought forward his final Budget, in October last, he (Mr. Goulburn) said, that he was persuaded it was founded on a very erroneous calculation, and that he was apprehensive the surplus would be very small, if indeed there was not a deficiency. The noble Lord's answer to that was, as might naturally be expected, satisfactory to the House; the noble Lord said, "I do not calculate like Chancellors of Exchequer in ordinary years, when they make up the Budget for the whole year, and have, consequently to take into account a long period, because I have to calculate for only one quarter, the other three quarters being already known; and on that account it is scarcely possible I can mistake." He was not deceived, however, though thinking it pos- 1290 sible that he might have made some mistake in his calculation, he did not press the matter further. Subsequent circumstances, however, led him more than ever to believe that he was right. The House were probably aware of the view which had been taken of the state of our finances in another place by a noble Duke, who had been First Lord of the Treasury, and who expressed his apprehension that the calculations of his Majesty's present Government were not well founded, and that there would not be any surplus. That noble Duke, who was not more distinguished by foresight in his military character than for his power in civil affairs of anticipating the effect of any measures that came under his notice had, in a still, more marked manner, proved the defects of the calculation, and the risk to which the country was exposed by having such a small surplus. That noble Duke stated, in the other House, that the calculations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer were not well founded, and that, instead of a surplus of 400,000l. there could not be more than 10,000l. But that statement of the noble Duke was met by the First Lord of the Treasury in terms which, if the House permitted him, he would read; taking for granted they were accurately reported; for he was very unwilling to incur the least danger of misrepresentation. The noble Earl's words were, in the report he alluded to * said to be—"The noble Duke has stated what was the amount of the expenses of the last year, and what were the means of meeting it; and he states, that a considerable surplus of revenue remained undisposed of, and has entered into calculations to show, that for the current year, the surplus will amount to no more than 10,000l. Now, my Lords, after making allowance for the loss sustained by the repeal of the Coal Tax, and every other loss peculiar to the year, I find that the surplus will amount to at least 493,000l."Then came a striking paragraph—"The noble Duke finds fault with us, which is nothing more than he has always done. But, my Lords, we are now speaking after three-fourths of the year has elapsed. Well, we can speak with certainty as to the amount of revenue received during those three quarters; and as to the probable receipts during the quarter now running, we can speak with the same degree of certainty, in comparison with the other three quarters, and we know the amount of the services* See also Hansard's Parl. Debates, vol. viii, pp. 844 5,1291 required during the year we are now in." In a subsequent passage the noble Earl repeated this statement in still stronger terms:—"Now, as to the expenditure, judging by the three quarters which have gone by, we are enabled to calculate pretty accurately what it will be for the whole year. The total expenditure for that year (comprehending the interest and management of the National Debt, funded and unfunded, and the expense of the Army, Navy, Ordnance, pensions, and all other charges) we estimate, in round numbers, at 46,756,000l., which will leave a surplus of 493,000l.; so that your Lordships will perceive, that, estimating the receipts of the quarter yet to come, and the expenditure of the quarter yet to come, by the actual receipts and expenditure of the three-quarters already past—which I think is not an unfair mode of forming a judgment—we calculate with confidence that the surplus of revenue above expenditure on the year will amount to 493, 000l., instead of 10,000l., as stated by the noble Duke. The calculations on which this conclusion has been come to, were taken under as unfavourable circumstances as they well could be taken. It might be possible for me to take credit for a much greater sum as surplus revenue, but I trust I have stated enough to convince your Lordships that the financial interests of the country have not been neglected, and that the country is not in a situation in which it ought to be considered as incapable of meeting any expenditure which has occurred, or which is at all likely,"—Again "I hope that I have sufficiently shewn the result, founded on a knowledge of the receipts and expenditure of the three last quarters; that there is a surplus revenue of 493,000l. If I wished I might have stated the result more advantageously to myself, and made the excess appear greater." Now, he begged to ask, what must have been the anticipations of the country from such a speech as that made by the First Lord of the Treasury? Of course, it was expected that the noble Lord had made an accurate calculation, and that the surplus would be such as he had stated. At what period was the noble Earl's speech made? Not like that of the noble Lord opposite, seven days before the quarter day, when the accounts of the year were made up, but on the 17th of October, seven days after the accounts of the income and expenditure of the year had been actually made up at the Treasury. Shortly after the noble Earl's speech, appeared a notice in The Gazelle, 1292 that the Lords commissioners of the Treasury having certified to the Commissioners for the reduction of the National Debt, that the actual expenditure exceeded the surplus by the sum of 25,537l. 18s. 11d., the Commissioners would apply no further sum account of the Sinking Fund. That notification was to him (Mr. Goulburn) a surprise; and surely it must have surprised the First Lord of the Treasury himself, who had declared that he had accurately weighed all the circumstances of the condition of the country, and expected a surplus of 493,000l., to find that from accounts made up a week subsequently to his statement, so far from any surplus, it appeared that there was an actual deficiency of above 20,000l. He by no means charged the noble Earl with any intention to deceive the country, by making an exaggerated statement—he had the highest respect for the noble Earl's moral character, but he was driven, by the facts of the case, to charge the noble Earl with an utter neglect of the duties of his office, and he must recommend him to look into its details before he stated to Parliament, as the result of an examination, circumstances which turned out not to be facts. He was well aware that the noble Earl was in a situation in which he had high and laborious duties to fulfil, but he must also say, that of all those duties, no one was so important as a due attention to the finances of the country. It was true, the noble Earl might have been engaged in assisting the noble Paymaster to frame a new Constitution, or in assisting the noble Secretary for Foreign Affairs in those Conferences in which he bore so distinguished a part, or in the disinterested distribution of patronage to the very numerous relatives and connections and friends of the First Lord of the Treasury; but he could not avoid thinking that the noble Earl would have best consulted his own character as a Statesman, and the interests of the country, if he had condescended to go down to the Treasury, and look a little into the accounts of his own particular department, so as to be able, when he appeared before the other House, to give statements which were not calculated to display a delusive advantage, and terminate in the disappointment and injury of the people. The statement he had alluded to, took place on the 17th of October. It declared a surplus, which it was afterwards necessary to contradict in The Gazette. And he thought the noble Earl had a right to complain of his colleagues in office for not informing 1293 him of the error into which he had been betrayed. Was it possible, that in such a Cabinet, there was no one capable of giving the noble Earl one word of salutary advice? Surely his noble friend (Lord Goderich) who had been bred up in a school wherein it was understood, that if you attempt to administer the finances of the country, you must at least read the accounts; surely he who had been so long himself a Chancellor of the Exchequer, could not possibly, if the accounts had been laid before the Cabinet after the same manner as in all preceding Administrations, he could not have stood by and permitted the noble Earl to fall into that mistake. Even the right hon. Secretary for the Treasury must have felt it his duty to inform the noble Earl that he was in error. But no, this could not be the case; for Parliament met again on the 18th, the 19th, and the 20th. And yet no member of the Administration—no supporter of the Government, ventured to insinuate a doubt of the accuracy of the statement. Again, there was not one word said on the subject in the Speech from the Throne, though Ministers seemed to be sadly puzzled to find topics to allude to. They heard a great deal of the Bankrupt Bill; the Game. Bill was highly lauded, but the only passage relating to the revenue was his, 'The state of Europe has made it necesary to incur, in the various establishments of the public service, an increased expenditure, which it will be my earnest desire to reduce whenever it can be done with safety to the interests of the country. In the meantime I have the satisfaction of reflecting that these demands have been provided for without any material addition to the public burthens.'* He hoped the House would not condemn him for taking the first practical opportunity of calling attention to this subject, and of giving the noble Lord an opportunity of setting right his financial character, and removing those regrets and apprehensions which prevailed amongst the people. It would be extremely gratifying to him if the noble Lord could give a satisfactory explanation of the past; and still more so, if he could give them such information as to the future, as would relieve the apprehensions of the country as to the mode in which the financial affairs of the empire—which were, after all, the most important—were likely to be managed.
§ Lord Althorp
could assure the right hon.* Hansard's Parl. Debates, vol. viii. p. 928.1294 Gentleman, that he felt it would be very absurd, were he to complain of his taking the first practical opportunity of bringing forward the complaint which he had just made. In answer to what had been urged by the right hon. Gentleman, it was his duty to give, in defence of himself and the First Lord of the Treasury, the grounds on which they had made the statements the right hon. Gentleman had alluded to. It would also be, he admitted, his duty to state what he hoped and believed the prospects of the Government were. The right hon. Gentleman had accused them of having deceived Parliament, by stating their expectations of a surplus of about 500,000l., while, in fact, there was a deficiency of 700,000l. He trusted the House remembered that he frequently stated, that, in his opinion, a large surplus revenue, for the purpose of keeping up a Sinking Fund, for the discharge of the debt, was not desirable. At the same time he was always ready to admit, that a deficiency of revenue was a state of things much to be lamented. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, that an actual excess of expenditure over income was a matter of regret, though he could not go so far with him as to say, that the excess had given rise to great public alarm. The right hon. Gentleman had correctly stated what fell from him in the early part of October last, with respect to the advantageous grounds which Ministers occupied in having the receipts and disbursements of three-quarters of the year before them when providing against the exigencies of the other quarter. But he had made this declaration, in answer to the right hon. Gentleman, in order to shew that in calculating on a higher surplus than he was disposed to anticipate, Ministers were proceeding on safe grounds. He merely meant that probable anticipations were less liable to error at that period of the year (October), than those hazarded in the beginning, inasmuch as the chances from time and accident were one-fourth less. The question, however, was, what were the grounds on which he, after deep consideration, and after the best calculation he could bestow upon the transaction, had arrived at the conclusion that we might confidently look forward to a surplus of income over expenditure? Being already in possession of the financial returns for the first three-quarters of the year, he called on all the heads of the several public departments respectively, for the purpose of ascertaining the probable amount of the re- 1295 turns for the remaining quarter, and on the information thus obtained, he stated to the House what he believed was likely to be the surplus revenue on the whole year, These were the grounds on which they proceeded; and in matters on which chance could have any share, they were as safe as any grounds could well be. It was upon these grounds he had stated the surplus of the revenue which he anticipated. He must admit, however, that on one part of these grounds his information had not been correct. In the last quarter of 1830, the beer duties expired, and no mention was made in the returns he received of any sum having been received on that quarter for beer duties. This led him, in making his calculations by the produce of that quarter, into an error as far as 350,000l. He did not wish to deceive the House. If they thought him in error, he was bound to suffer for it; but never would he attempt to deceive them, and certainly, on this occasion, he had been guilty of no deception. Besides, there was another error into which he had been led, but in which he must take the right hon. Gentleman as a particeps criminis—namely, the amount likely to accrue from the increased duty on spirits. The right hon. Gentleman calculated that at 450,000l.; and a large proportion of this was usually paid in during the last quarter. Notwithstanding the anticipations of the right hon. Gentleman, however, the additional duty produced no increase, but, on the contrary, there was a falling off of 100,000l. in the year. He did not blame the right hon. Gentleman; he only mentioned the circumstance to account for what the right hon. Gentleman called his mistakes. Again, if the income had fallen short of his expectations, the expenditure had exceeded them. A large demand, which he had not anticipated, occurred. A Bill had come in from Canada on account of the Rideau Canal, on which they had not at all calculated. The House must further consider, that in the last quarter there was a great stagnation of trade, and difficulty in carrying on business, which of itself was sufficient to account for a large falling-off in the revenue. He had stated the grounds of the calculations on which they had proceeded, and the reasons why these grounds had deceived them. The right hon. Gentleman said, that at the end of 1830, there was 2,900,000l. surplus revenue. This was true; but the arrangements made by the right hon. Gentleman were likely to affect the revenue of 1831, and, therefore, it could not be calculated, 1296 that because the surplus of 1830 had been 2,900,000l. the surplus of the last year should have been so great. He would next advert to the reduction of taxation, and first he would state the case in the way most unfavourable to himself. This was, to take solely into consideration the reductions which had been made by his advice. The amount of taxation taken off last year at his suggestion was 1,500,000l. By additional taxation he derived 100,000l., which left a total reduction of 1,400,000l. With that reduction there was now a deficiency of 700,000l.; therefore, if he had done nothing in the way of reduction, there would still have been a surplus of 700,000l. This was putting the case in the way most unfavourable to himself. He would now take it the other way, and show the effect of the right hon. Gentleman's reduction of taxation in the last year. The amount of taxation reduced by the right hon. Gentleman was
|The loss by the duty on spirits was||100,000|
|The loss by the corn duties||250,000|
|Making a total of||£3,144,000|
|Which being deducted from 50,056,000l., would leave £46,912,000 as revenue|
|But the expenditure being||47,123,000|
|And the revenue only||46,912,000|
|There would have been a deficiency of||£211,000|
|The loss on Candles would be||£400,000|
|On former reduction of Taxation &c.||698,000|
|Making, as a total,||1,173,000|
|On the other side, there was the Drawback on Printed Cottons abolished||£200,000|
|The Linen Bounties abolished||1,55,000|
|The Wine Duties on the Stock in hand.||157,000|
|Taxes beyond what was due last year upon Malt.||300,000|
§ Mr. Attwood
said, his Majesty had confided the charge of the financial concerns of this country to the noble Lord opposite—concerns requiring either great previous knowledge and experience in finance, or, failing in those qualifications, a zealous, earnest, and rigid attention to the duties belonging to them, as, without these, it was impossible but that the public interest must suffer. Of the noble Lord's knowledge and experience in financial matters before his sudden elevation to his present, office, he would say nothing, but the zeal and assiduity with which the noble Lord had applied to other duties than those connected with his office, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, the House had witnessed; and the result of this application to political rather than to financial views, had been what might have been expected—the memorable series of blunders and miscalculations of the past year. The noble Lord must give him leave to say, that when he undertook the management of the finances of the country, the preservation of public credit was that which all men expected. In February last, however, the noble Lord, in developing his financial views, stated, that he considered a surplus revenue of 450,000l. quite sufficient, and upon that contracted basis he was willing to risk the preservation of public credit. The noble Lord, indeed, was so nice in his calculations, that he admitted it might not be safe to risk it upon a surplus of 300,000l. only, but that with an expenditure of 50,000,000l.(half of which went to pay the interest of the debt), he thought a conjectural estimate of income of 50,450,000l. would be sufficient to provide for the discharge of all the engagements of the country. According to the statements of the noble Lord and of the noble Earl (at the head of the Treasury) the surplus of 450,000l. did not, in October last, rest upon conjecture, but was actually received. The expression used was, that the existence of this surplus "was no longer matter of prophecy, but of history. But now—whether it was matter of history or of prophecy in October, 1831—it no longer existed in any shape or form. If ever there was an occasion when, out of respect to their own characters, and to the 1299 interests of the country, Ministers should come forward, without being urged on by their opponents to state the true condition of the finances to Parliament, it existed at the present moment. The noble Lord told the House now, that the statement he made in October, founded upon figures placed in his hand by the officers of the Treasury, was erroneous, and accordingly he put forth another set of figures to falsify those former ones. No doubt there were, in the Government offices, many individuals always ready to supply such figures, facts, and documents, as they thought would be acceptable to their patrons, because they would support their particular views; but if the noble Lord did not receive such documents with a most vigilant suspicion, he must be often led into error. But when the noble Lord discovered that he had been deceived, why did he not come down and state that fact to Parliament? Why did he not fairly state, that he had been mistaken? Why did he not prevent the possibility of its being imputed to him that he had distorted and misrepresented the condition of the revenue to Parliament? He did not mean to charge the noble Lord with having any such intention; but, then, he must come to the conclusion that his Majesty's Ministers, in the discharge of their essential duties, had shewn their own utter and complete inefficiency. He would not derogate from the importance of the other duties in which they had been engaged—nor from that of discussions upon such questions as whether this borough should be put in schedule A, and that in schedule B, or another taken out of schedule B, and replaced in schedule A, but he would tell the noble Lord, that the public interest required him to abandon an office, the duties of which he did not efficiently discharge. Ought it to have been left to the right hon. Gentleman below him to call for information? Ought it to have been left from the 18th of January, for the noble Lord to give the "lame and impotent" explanation they had just heard? Was not other treatment due to the House of Commons—the guardians of the public purse? They had, however, had an explanation, such as it was, of matters which related to the past; but what the noble Lord meant to do for the future they had not heard. Did the noble Lord mean to re-impose the taxes which were last year repealed? That would be the only sound legitimate course open to him. The noble Lord told the House that there was an 1300 actual deficiency of 700,000l. Since he last year forgot one item of revenue which he was to lose, he would find that this year, in his haste, he had forgotten another. There was a deficiency of 500,000l. which would be occasioned by the loss of the candle duty, which had to be added to the 700,000l. Did the noble Lord mean to propose a loan as a means of covering this deficiency? If so, it would amount to saying to the public creditor—we have not the means of paying you your interest, and we are prevented by the necessities of the country from imposing new taxes; but if you will lend us the means, we shall be able to pay you interest with your own money. After a peace of fifteen years, such a course would be most destructive to public credit. There was, however, a third course, which was most likely to be adopted, whilst it was also more dreadful, more dangerous, than either of the other two. He was confirmed in this opinion by what the noble Lord had now said. His Majesty's Ministers would be content again to rely upon their ill-digested calculations—upon some new schemes or experiments—upon some new pamphlet on financial Reform, such as was proposed to the House in the Budget of February last—a Budget founded, in effect, on the little book of the right hon. Baronet behind him (Sir Henry Parnell), who, for the financial knowledge he therein displayed, got made Secretary at War. Had not the House prevented it, the credit of the country and public faith would have been exposed to all the shock of those experiments. The noble Lord said, that the Estimates for the present year would be considerably less than those of the last, and that the great principle on which the Government professed to rest was reduction in every department of the public expenditure. He (Mr. Attwood) knew of no other ground on which their pretensions to the confidence of the country rested. That was always the grand ground of squabble between them and their opponents, when they were out of office. Their continual cry was then, that with a Tory Ministry and an un-reformed House of Commons, the expenditure was enormously extravagant; and that in the correction of that expenditure, and the infusion of their virtue and economy in its administration, would be found great sources of relief to the distress of the country. He would now take the liberty of bringing those assertions to test, by shewing in what degree they had, during the twelve months they had been in 1301 office, reduced that extravagant expenditure, of which they so much complained. Any proposition to reduce the burthens of the country could not have its foundation in a mere previous reduction of taxation; it must be founded on a previous reduction of expenditure; for although temporary popularity might be acquired by a reduction of taxes, on erroneous grounds, no permanent relief could be derived from it. But what reduction of expenditure had his Majesty's Ministers effected? He would compare the last years of the Tory Administration, supported, as that was alleged to be, by vile, boroughmongering, extravagant principles, with the first year of the economical, and always-to-be-reducing Administration of the Whigs. The army, in the last year, of the Tory Government, cost the country 6,990,000l; under the Whig Government of last year it cost 7,200,000l. What, then, became of the continued professions, on the part of the Whigs, of unsparing reduction in the public expenditure? In this one department—in the army alone—there was an increase exceeding 200,000l. He would not undertake to blame them for that specific increase, but he would say this, that their claims to confidence rested upon their continued assertions of the possibility of reducing the public expenditure; and yet now they were falsifying, by their acts, every assertion of their lives. Under the boroughmongering, profligate, Tory administration, the navy cost 5,209,000l. whilst under the pure Whig Administration—the economical Administration—the Administration whose accession to office had caused, the noble Lord said, the day of patronage to go by for ever—under this Administration, the expenses of the navy amounted to 5,680,000l., being an addition to the burdens of the people, under this head, of nearly 480,000l. In the Ordnance department, there certainly was a reduction to the amount of 123,000l.—a feather, indeed, to counterbalance an increase of 700,000l. in other departments. Under the head of Miscellaneous, in 1830, during the corrupt, extravagant, Tory Government, there was an expenditure of only 1,950,000l., whilst under the economical Whig Administration of 1831, it amounted to 2,850,000l.,being an increase of 900,000l. His right hon. friend opposite smiled at this statement; and perhaps he would say, the charges that used to come under other heads were now placed under the head of Miscellaneous. But, under what other 1302 heads came the items forming this vast difference between the miscellaneous expenses of 1830 and of 1831; for under none was there such a reduction as could account for that difference. They were told, at the advent of the Whig Administration to power, that the period had arrived at which there ought to be a reduction of the public burthens; but that the construction of the House of Commons was an obstacle to that reduction, which, if to be obtained, the House of Commons must first be reformed. He would ask those Members who were so earnest for Reform, if they would place confidence in their Reform leaders—when coming into a Reformed Parliament, they would tell them, as tell them they must, that it was not possible, by a reduction of expenditure, to reduce with safety the public burthens—burthens which, if reduced by a Reformed Parliament to any material extent, could be so only at the expense of the public creditor. It was a vain delusion to say to the people that with a Whig or with a Tory Administration, with a Reformed or an Unreformed House of Commons, there remained to the country resources from which those means could be realized, whereby any material reduction of the expenditure of the country could be effected. Indeed, it had been repeatedly avowed, that the great evil of an Unreformed Parliament was not that it did not now discharge its duty; but that there existed in former times—the noble Paymaster of the Forces said, that there had existed for half a century,—a profligate Administration, which engaged in unnecessary wars for boroughmongering objects; and that now the country was placed in a situation that even the patronage-despising Whig Government, as it professed to be, (though the manner in which it had hitherto distributed its patronage among its dependents rather contradicted the profession), that the country, he said, was placed in such a situation that even the Whig Government could not relieve it. They were told, that the war of America, the war of the French Revolution, were all consequences of boroughmongering Government; and that although the effects of them, which the country now felt could not be got rid of by a Whig Government, yet that such wars as should be necessary for the maintenance of the honour and interests of the country, would, by that Whig Government, be prevented in future. In the first year of Whig rule that had been done which had brought the country 1303 to the very verge of a bloody and expensive war. The noble Lord treated that assertion with derision; but unless his foreign policy was founded on more accurate bases than the Chancellor of the Exchequer's domestic calculations, it must lead to the most humiliating results. He did not judge of what had been the probability of war by the protocols which he (Lord Palmerston) had drawn up by the dozen, and which had afforded infinite amusement to all Europe, but by other circumstances which to him, as an Englishman, had been more indicative than those protocols of what was likely to have taken place. When he had seen the British fleet put forth its power—seen a naval armament threaten the towns and ports of the king of Holland, it required no study of protocols to tell him, that Europe had no security of peace for one hour. He could not believe in the insufferable degradation of the right arm of British power having really been put forth merely to bully the king of Holland—he could not believe that the orders given to the fleet were to do what could be done by way of intimidation, but not to strike—he could not believe that his Majesty's Ministers,Willing to wound, but yet afraid to strike,sent the British fleet merely to intimidate the king of Holland. He knew the unconquerable firmness of the monarch of whom he spoke against that which was attempted, when the arts of diplomacy had failed, notwithstanding the skill of the noble Lord in putting them in motion—he knew how little likely it was that any attempt at intimidation would induce that heroic monarch to depart from any one point which he was justly entitled to abide by. It may have been thought, that to France and England united, the conquest of Holland would have been the affair of a few weeks, accomplished by a very small loan, and a very trifling addition of taxation. But did they take into the account the indomitable spirit and resolution with which the Dutch nation and the race of Nassau had always maintained their rights; a firmness to which the liberties of England were indebted in a greater degree than those of Holland? Did any man in this country believe that the spectacle which would have been offered to Europe, of Holland contending against France and England—against the faithless ally and open enemy, assisted by revolted subjects—would not have been one which would have called Austria, Russia, and the 1304 German Powers to her assistance? No man could believe that it would not have been a spectacle of this stirring description; and he was certain that his right hon. friend, the first Lord of the Admiralty, not now in his place, must have made up his mind to the necessary issue of sending an armament to threaten and insult the ports of Holland, or the Dutch fleet in the Scheldt; and must have calculated the probability of lighting up a war in Europe as extensive as any in which its various Powers had ever been engaged, and as likely to increase the debts of the country as any war that was ever entered into for alleged "boroughmongering purposes." He ought, perhaps, to apologise to the House for entering into these topics; but he owed no apology to the noble Lord opposite. All he had done had been to endeavour to dispel the illusions which had gone abroad with respect to the savings it was in the power of any Government to effect with a House of Parliament Reformed or Unreformed. He had tried to urge upon Ministers, as they valued their permanent popularity, and the true interests of the country, boldly to come forward and state, that it was a delusion to expect that any such reduction of our expenditure could at present be made as should give relief to the people. By pursuing such a course they might sacrifice temporary popularity, but they were sure of establishing their permanent reputation, and securing the welfare of the country. The support they now received from the people, on fallacious grounds, must end in that result which all Macchiavelian policy carried with it—popular odium. The idol of popular favour to-day would be its victim to-morrow. Those whose power now rested undeservedly and fallaciously on popular favour, would, in the long run, be the objects of popular hatred, as complete as their own elevation had been unjust.
§ Mr. Poulett Thomson
agreed with the hon. Gentleman only in the concluding part of the speech he had just delivered, namely, that the greater part of that speech was not addressed to the question of finance before the House, but to the foreign politics of the Government and to Reform, with which the question had little, properly speaking, to do. He should not follow that hon. Member in his observations made on the subject of Reform, but with respect to those upon finance he must say, that the hon. Gentleman on this occasion seemed to have forgotten his favourite theory 1305 of not relying upon figures, and to have depended on them mainly for his statements. It must not, however, be supposed, that he was at all displeased with this change in the hon. Gentleman's mode of argument—on the contrary, he had always recommended the hon. Gentleman to have recourse to the aid of figures upon matters of finance, because such matters were usually best discussed by their aid, but then he wished also, that the figures stated should be correct, and correctly quoted, otherwise he must dispute the statement made upon their authority. The hon. Gentleman had a singular mode of comparison to decide on the merits of a Tory and a Whig Administration. When he met with an item in which the present expenditure was greater than under the Tories, he laid great stress upon it; when he came to a case in which the expenditure was less; he made light of it, exclaiming, it must be a set off of some kind or other. The hon. Gentleman had objected to the increase in the expenditure of the army; if that expenditure was not justified, why had not the hon. Member been in his place to oppose the estimates when they were moved? The hon. Gentleman also objected to the increase of the navy; why had he not done that at the proper time? [Mr. Attwood: I made no objections to them]. No, not directly; the hon. Gentleman had only contrasted the expenses of a boroughmongering Tory Administration, and a Reforming Whig Administration, for the purpose of shewing the former in a favourable light. But if the hon. Gentleman did not dislike the increase in the army, why reproach the Minister with having effected it? He should either have resisted the increase, or, if he approved of it, he should not now attack the Ministers. He was not surprised at the hon. Gentleman not liking figures. He said, that the Miscellaneous Estimates had been increased, but he had not gone into them to shew that his assertion was well founded. The hon. Member had never once alluded to the important circumstance, that nearly a half a million of money had been carried from the head of the Civil List to be placed under the head of Miscellaneous Expenditure. That was, in the hon. Member's opinion, a trifling circumstance, which might not improperly be overlooked, as it weighed nothing in argument. The hon. Gentleman carried his love of his own figures and his disregard of his opponents so far, that he listened not to the calculations he undertook to refute. Then the hon. Gentle- 1306 man accused his noble friend of having forgotten the candle duty in his statement. Why, in the statement alluded to, his noble friend had debited himself with 400,000l. on account of the candle duty which had been taken off. The hon. Gentleman threw out of his view any future diminution of expenditure, though his noble friend stated that the estimates would shew a decrease. The estimates, instead of justifying the assertions of the hon. Gentleman, would shew that a large saving had been effected, and that a surplus would be left by means of those savings. But when the hon. Gentleman accused them of want of economy, how did he settle the account with his friends, the right hon. Gentlemen below him? If economy had not been sufficiently practised, whose fault was it? He would not generally go over the state of the country when the late Administration quitted office, nor would he speak of the increase of the military force having been rendered necessary by the conduct of their predecessors, nor would he say what the Government had been obliged to do in consequence of the extravagance and carelessness manifest in the expenditure of the Government that had preceded them. He would not ask, what had been the expenditure they found the Government engaged in with respect to the building of Palaces, which it was yet doubtful whether it would not be better to pull down than complete. He would not advert to the extravagance to which the former Government had become a party in such cases as that of the Rideau Canal; but he had a right to say, that a large proportion, if not the whole of the deficiency, of which so much had been said, would not have existed but for claims of the description to which he had referred. He, therefore, would recommend the hon. Gentleman, the next time he entered into details of figures, not to omit the sums he ought to add, and not to leave out these he ought to substract. By doing that, undoubtedly, a favourable balance might always be obtained, but he must carefully exclude every person from examining his calculations. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had set the hon. Gentleman the example of making these charges against the present Government. That right hon. Gentleman had stated, with an air of absolute horror, that, for the first, time in the history of this country, [Mr. Goulburn dissented]—he wished not to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman; perhaps, he said it was the first time for 1307 several years past—he had observed a deficiency in the public revenue—the first time for years past that he had seen the expenditure exceeding the revenue. The House should soon see whether that assertion was correct. He had at first felt surprised at that assertion, but he afterwards doubted whether he ought to be surprised at anything which fell from the right hon. Gentleman, when he heard him sneer at the noble Earl at the head of the Administration for distributing Government patronage among the members of his family. He had heard an imputation of that kind before, but he treated it with scorn, because the character of his noble friend stood too high to be reached by such attacks; but when the right hon. Gentleman spoke as he had done of the noble Earl at the head of the Government—of that noble Earl's desire to provide his relations with places—when he spoke in that manner, did he forget, that when he was a Member of the last Administration, he endeavoured, but just before that Administration quitted office, to quarter on the Pension List of this country the sons of two Cabinet Ministers? To be sure the attempt was defeated; but the defeat was owing to the House of Commons, not to the forbearance of the right hon. Gentleman. He should now refer to the other charge of the right hon. Gentleman—as to the deficiency of the public revenue. When the right hon. Gentleman spoke in terms of such horror of the deficiency, he must have known that deficiencies of a greater extent had not been unknown in the late and flourishing times of a Tory Administration [cheers]. He did not know whether the cheers of the right hon. Gentleman indicated his assent or dissent, but the proof of the fact was easy. He could take any year from 1823. He would not go further back, but would begin from that year, because it was to be recollected, that the Parliament had then pledged itself, by a distinct Resolution, that there should be an efficient Sinking Fund of 5,000,000.l, which might be considered as a portion of the public expenditure. He should not take it as a portion of the public expenditure, and yet there would be found to be a deficiency. The deficiency in the account of 1823, including the advance for naval purposes, was 2,994,000l.; in 1824, the deficiency was 1,007,000l.; in 1825, it was 2,125,000l.; in 1826, 6,747,000l. To that sum he particularly wished to call the attention of the House, as the amount ex- 1308 ceeded that supposed to be appropriated by the Sinking Fund for the reduction of the Public Debt, In 1827, it was 6,603,000l.; in 1828, it had fallen to 959,000l.; in 1829, it had fallen to 807,000l.; and in 1830, he would do the right hon. Gentleman the justice to say, that there was a balance of 978,000l. the other way. The statement he had just read proved, however, that deficiencies in the public revenue, as compared with the public expenditure, were not quite so new as the right hon. Gentleman had seemed to imagine. But if that statement did not satisfy the right hon. Gentleman, he would quote the words of the right hon. member for Harwich, in his evidence before the Finance Committee. That right hon. Member had said, "The sum pay-able for Life Annuities should be added to the 49,750,000l., before the balance was struck, and that would give a total of 50,368,000l., leaving a deficiency of 127,000l. upon the whole expenditure." What was done with the right hon. Gentleman's indignation in those years, he did not know, but certainly the House never heard of it. He deplored the deficiency in the revenue of this year; but such a deficiency was not unheard of in the history of this country: and the difference between the present and the former state of things was, that there was now no concealment. The accounts were now stated plainly and fairly; there was an end to mystification and humbug: every thing was plainly and fairly put before the public; and the desire of the present Government was, that the people should be acquainted with the real state of the public finances. The present Ministers did not borrow money, that they might use it in appearing to pay off a part of the National Debt; they did not take money, borrowed from the Bank, and secured at a heavy interest, upon what were called Long Annuities, and then put it down in their accounts as part of the income received, and applicable to the discharge of debts and expenses; they did not attempt any mystification; they desired that every thing should be plain and intelligible, and they were willing to abide by the result. But, the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think great credit was due to him for having left so flourishing a Treasury. Was the Exchequer so full? Were the finances so flourishing? If the right hon. Gentleman had had to make a financial statement in February last, how would he have stood? The right hon. Gentleman had admitted, 1309 indeed, what he could not deny, that, not having taken off the taxes on beer, on cider, and on leather, till late in the year 1830, the excess of revenue of that year could not be taken as evidence of what would have been its condition in 1831. But he had touched this point most delicately, and had acted prudently; for what was the fact? Why, as had been shewn by his noble friend, instead of a surplus, he would actually have left a deficiency of 211,000l. It might have been diminished, by the increased productiveness of remaining taxes, but for that his noble friend had an equal claim. But if such was the condition of the finances when the right hon. Gentleman left the Exchequer, upon what grounds was he entitled to pour forth his unmitigated censure on his noble friend's operations? The right hon. Gentleman had talked of the miscalculations of his noble friend. Let him ask the right hon. Gentleman whether miscalculation had not sometimes happened to the right hon Gentleman? In the middle of the year 1830, did not the right hon. Gentleman come down to that House, and say, that he expected 400,000l. from an increase of the consumption of spirits? Had not the right hon. Gentleman made some miscalculation on that point? There had been a deficiency of no less than 100,000l. instead of there being a gain of 400,000l. But if there was a deficiency, which he lamented, though he did not think it a matter of such despondency; how, he would ask, did it arise? Was it from a diminution of our resources, a falling off in the produce of taxation; was it caused by unworthy extravagance, or lavish expenditure? No such thing. If it had been, it might have been a matter of deep regret. It was occasioned neither by unworthy extravagance, nor by diminished resources, but the Government abstaining from demanding so much from the people. It was not money wasted, nor money lost. It remained in the pockets of the people, to be drawn thence if the necessities of the State should require it. Perhaps, however, it would have been more gratifying to the right hon. Gentleman had there been a surplus, even though that surplus had been wrung from the people by a larger and heavier taxation. He was happy to say, that it remained in their pockets, there to fructify by use, to stimulate the efforts of their industry, and to add to the resources of the State. He asked those who smiled at that statement, where would have been the benefit to have 1310 extracted that money from the pockets of the people, with the mere view of making a surplus, instead of allowing a deficiency? Perhaps it might, be said, that public credit had suffered by the deficiency. He was aware of that argument, and he was aware that, generally speaking, it was the duty of the Government to take care that there should be in the Treasury a sufficient sum to meet the public charges. But in this instance he was happy to be able to assert, most positively, that public credit had not suffered in the least degree. There had been no indication in the public funds that, by this deficiency of 600,000l., public credit had suffered. But supposing the noble Lord had had the prescience which the right hon. Gentleman assumed to possess, would he have been justified in refusing to the people the promised benefit of the reduction of the coal duties and of the duties on cotton? He asked those Gentlemen who represented that part of the country, which has received so much benefit from the repeal of the duty on coals—he asked those who represented districts along the coast which paid that tax—whether their constituents would willingly have seen his noble friend re-impose that, tax? He asked the hon. member for Lancashire, whether the manufacturers of printed cottons would willingly have seen the duty re-imposed upon their manufacture when they had found that its repeal operated so admirably, giving their manufacture an impetus which the peculiar state of the north of Europe rendered necessary? Had they been asked those questions, they would have said, "Do not disappoint the hopes of our constituents till you have seen whether, according to your own system, an increase of consumption does not benefit you, and your new duties, and your savings yield you sufficient to enable you to dispense with these burthensome taxes." His noble friend anticipated that answer, and acted accordingly. Then the right hon. Gentleman had talked of the frequent changes made by the present Government in the taxes they had determined to retain or to remove, and he accused them of blunders. What! had the right hon. Gentleman made no blunders? Had the right hon. Gentleman forgotten the year 1830—had he not then changed the duties on spirits no less than three times? Had he not, in like manner, changed the duties on rum and sugar?—had he forgotten that Sugar Bill which was universally, and not inaptly, designated by the appellation of "the 1311 Unintelligible Sugar Bill?" He did not say these things in the way of blame to the right hon. Gentleman, any more than what the right hon. Gentleman had said had been uttered in blame of the noble Lord. The right hon. Gentleman had talked of consistency. What was the conduct of the late Opposition and of the present Opposition upon this question of inconsistency? It had been the duty of the present Ministry to defend, in office, the system of free trade, which they had advocated before they came into office, and they had done so consistently. When the late Ministers had taken the initiative in the introduction of measures of free trade, the late Opposition had supported them in it; but what did he find now—did they receive support from the present Opposition in pursuing those very measures which the present Opposition, when in office, had commenced? Were there no party motives which influenced their conduct? Was there no going away when consistency required that they should stay and support their formerly declared opinions? He alluded to the questions that had lately been brought before them. He did not allude to the timber question, for they had been told that it was possible to wipe off the difficulty with respect to that question by the somewhat nice difference between a financial and a commercial measure. But that was not the case with the glove trade, nor with the silk trade. On those questions, the same principles, if not the same measures, were pursued; at least measures founded on the same principles as those which had before been adopted by the late Ministry, came into discussion, and, strange to say, the authors of those measures—those who had been too happy when his right hon. friend, the late Mr. Huskisson, brought the questions before the House, to unite with, to follow in his train—with himTo share the triumph, and partake the gale,immediately that the present Ministers endeavoured to follow up his plans and support his system, held back and tried to deprive them of the honour and triumph which they had justly earned a right to share. He did not blame the right hon. Gentleman for this. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman had good and weighty reasons for doing so, and likewise for opposing him, when it fell to his duty to introduce the Sugar Bill. There was no change in the principle of the Bill. He repeated it, there was no change in the 1312 principle of the Bill, and he challenged any one to shew that there was any change whatever in it. But if it was insisted that there was any change in one bill, or any measure (which he denied), there could not be a change in all, yet the conduct of the Opposition had been the same with respect to the Sugar Bill—to the Timber question—to the Duty on Gloves—and yet, on all these he had met with exactly the same results, and the same admirable proofs of consistency in the right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Of course he should not impute to them unworthy motives for such conduct; but he should do all that he was permitted to do; he should express his doubts of the consistency of their opinions, and of the value of their authority. A man might change his opinion, from further examination of a great subject, but if he changed it under particular circumstances, he ceased to be an authority on such subjects. He had said so much on this subject, in reply to the observations that had been made on the statement of his noble friend, a statement which would, he was sure, be found quite satisfactory to the country. The public would do justice to the purity of his intentions, and to the manliness and candour of his statements. His predictions would be received in the spirit in which they had been made, and the noble Lord would be able to make up the present deficiency, and yet to preserve himself from the necessity of imposing fresh burthens on the people.
§ Mr. Dawson
spoke to the following effect: I must say, Sir, that I have seldom heard a speech more full of inconsistencies—that more diverged from the subject under consideration, or that was more full of wandering statements, than that which the right hon. Gentleman has just delivered. When I heard the eloquent speech of my right hon. friend (Mr. Goulburn), and heard the answer attempted to be given to it by the noble Lord, however great was the respect I felt for the noble Lord, I could not but pity the figure which the noble Lord made. It was visible to the House that the noble Lord felt he could not answer the eloquent speech (a more eloquent speech I hardly ever heard), and, therefore, he did not make the attempt. He avoided the attack, to which he felt he could give no answer, and contented himself with making an appeal to the House on his motives, and on the honesty of his intentions. The noble Lord frequently makes appeals of this sort, and they seldom fail of producing a consi- 1313 derable effect. But these appeals, from the common sense of the House to his honesty, must at last fail him; and he will find that to be the case, when, perhaps, he least expects it. I do not doubt his honesty, but I doubt his capacity for business; and I think that the proof of that incapacity has been much increased by the noble Lord's statement of this evening. The right hon. Gentleman, however, has taken a different course; for, feeling the impossibility of defending the measures of the noble Lord by argument, he has carried the war into the enemy's camp, and accused us, who sit on this side of the House, of inconsistency; but in taking this course, it seems to me that he quite forgot that many of those who now have seats in the Cabinet were actually Members of the then Cabinet which had the conduct of these very measures. When, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman accuses us of waste with respect to the expenditure of Buckingham Palace, his censure does not fall on my right hon. friend, but on Lord Goderich, who was at that time Chancellor of the Exchequer, and who is now a Member of the Cabinet with which the right hon. Gentleman is connected. But I can, in a great measure, understand the uneasiness which the right hon. Gentleman has shown; I can understand the sympathy which he has expressed for the distress of the noble Lord, I can imagine why he feels hurt by the expressions of ridicule which have been thrown by my right hon. friend on the first and second budgets of the noble Lord; and God knows, that however strong those expressions may be, they fall far short of the real merits of the subject. I say, that if the right hon. Gentleman has felt annoyed by these expressions, I can account for it; for, if report speaks true, he himself was the real parent—the too lately proclaimed father—of those unfortunate budgets. It is, therefore, no matter of surprise to me that the right hon. Gentleman should have shown such a feeling on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman, in expressing that feeling, took occasion to enter upon a tirade against my right hon. friend, and accused him of having dealt in great looseness of figures. Now, I think that I shall be able to show that this attack on my right hon. friend is altogether unfounded. The broad statement on which my right hon. friend went was, that the Estimates of 1831 were greater in amount than the Estimates of 1830. In proof of this statement he went through those Estimates item by item. He 1314 showed that the Navy Estimates were greater, and the Military Estimates were greater; the Ordnance, I believe, were smaller. But the grand effect of the right hon. Gentleman's indignation rested on the Miscellaneous Estimates; and because my right hon. friend did not at the moment happen to recollect the particular circumstances connected with those Estimates, the hon. Gentleman indulged in all the powers of ridicule that he was able to muster on the occasion. The right hon. Gentleman, however, must have known, that, in thus directing his argument, he was resorting to a mere subterfuge, for the purpose of diverting the attention of the House from the real fact, that the Estimates of the present Whig Government were in fact larger than those of the previous Tory Government in 1830. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman cannot deny that this is the case by something between 300,000l. and 4.00,000l. The right hon. Gentleman then went on to load the Members on this side of the House with abuse, for the manner in which they had conducted their patronage when they were in office; and he taunted them with having, as the last act of their Government, proposed the giving retiring pensions to two sons of Cabinet Ministers. But does the right hon. Gentleman forget the attempt that has been made, within the last year, to palm a much grosser scheme of patronage on the public under the pretence of saving and reformation? It was only the other day that a bill was introduced to this House (and which bill is now actually on the table of the House), which purposes to give a salary of 2,000l. a-year to Mr. Abercrombie, as a superannuation allowance for having been a Judge in one of the Courts of Scotland. And for what was this 2,000l. a-year to be given? For having performed eighteen months' duty. After this job was stopped last year by the prorogation of Parliament—after it had been shown that Mr. Abercrombie might be more judiciously provided for by making him Chief Commissioner in the Bankruptcy Court of England, care has actually been taken to fill up that very office, so that now, on the renewal of the bill, the proposition suggested last year can no longer be followed up by this House, which, I have no doubt, would have been the case, had the office remained open. After this, I ask whether the superannuation allowances to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded are to be compared to this job, which has been got up under the 1315 sanction of the present Government? Surely they sink into insignificance when put in comparison with such a job as that which I have just described. Let me also ask in this place, whether the Bankruptcy Court itself is so deserving of the wonderful praise that some would bestow on it? Is there nothing like partiality shown in that Court? However, I will not on this occasion, say more upon this subject, as not many weeks can elapse before the House will have an opportunity of forming its judgment upon it. Neither will I go through all the topics that have been urged by the right hon. Gentleman, believing that I have said enough to show, that, however deserving of reprehension the late Government may have been, they have been most religiously followed in all that they can be accused of having done of evil by the present Government. There is one point, however, in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, on which I must enlarge somewhat more fully. I allude to the statement that he has made with respect to surplus. The right hon. Gentleman, in a most sweeping manner, declared, that there had been no surplus since the year 1823; and made this statement on the strength of some figures that he brought down with him. But I beg to observe, that none of these figures are before the House; they proceed from a mere private calculation of the right hon. Gentleman; and can, therefore, only be taken quantum valeat. But, if a regular return on this subject were called for, I am sure that the calculation of the right hon. Gentleman would prove to be totally unfounded. But as the case stands already, there is a paper on the table of the House, signed "Thomas Spring Rice," and dated on the 15th December, 1831, and from that very document it appears that the right hon. Gentleman's statement is altogether incorrect. Now, of course, I do not undertake to answer for the accuracy of the hon. member for Limerick's statement; but, as we are arguing on the figures of the right hon. Gentleman, I have, at all events, a right to set the one statement against the other. I will state from that paper the whole of the income and the whole of the expenditure of the country, from the year 1827 to the year 1830. In the year 1827, the income was 55,285,626l., and the expenditure 55,734,000l, So far, then, the right hon. Gentleman is right. There is a deficiency in that year. But, then, please to observe, that the Government was in the hands of the late Mr. Canning and of the 1316 noble Lord (Palmerston) opposite; and, therefore, whatever deficiency there may have been that year, the right hon. Gentleman must settle the matter with the noble Foreign Secretary, who sits next him. But I very well remember that Mr. Canning fully explained at the time the deficiency to the House, and, unlike the noble Lord, came down before hand, and told the House that there would be a deficiency. It is, however, to the years 1828, 1829, and 1830, that I shall more particularly allude, because those were the years that my right hon. friend was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that I had the honour of holding an office under him, for which reason I feel a peculiar interest in those years, and really believe that I shall be able to show, that so far from any deficiency, there was a considerable surplus. In the year 1828, the income was 57,485,000l., and the expenditure 54,836,000l., making a surplus of 2,648,000l. In the year 1829, the income was 55,824,000l. and the expenditure 54,348,000l., making a surplus of 1,475,000l. In the year 1830, the income was 54,840,000l. and the expenditure 53,011,000l., giving a surplus of 1,828,000l. After having made these statements, I think that I may very well place this signed paper by the side of the right hon. Gentleman's private calculations, and leave the two to speak for themselves. As the right hon. Gentleman has told the House what has been done since the present Government came into office, I will tell him what was done before that event took place. Between the years, 1828 and 1830, inclusive, a reduction was effected in the Estimates of 2,096,000l.; at the same time a reduction of the interest of the debt was also effected—725,000l. on the Funded Debt, and 128,000l. on the Unfunded; in addition to this, there was a reduction of taxes to the amount of 3,500,000l., including the taxes on beer, leather, and other smaller burdens; and, notwithstanding these reductions in the Estimates, the National Debt, and the taxes, my right hon. friend was lucky enough and skilful enough to leave, according to the paper which I have just quoted, a surplus of 1,800,000l. And now, what is the condition of the year 1831? The Estimates have been increased by three or four millions. Of the taxes, some certainly have been reduced, but then others have been increased; and so unskilfully have the two been blended together, that it is impossible to state whether they are productive or unproductive, As to surplus, I think that 1317 the statement of the noble Lord may teach the House and the country that no such thing is likely to result from his way of managing matters; and, in fact, on the face of that very statement, it appears, that there is no reduction of the debt—that there is no surplus revenue; but that, on the contrary, there is a gross deficiency of 700,000l. And this, in a very few words, is the contrast between the financial operations of the two Governments. But the real question, after all, that is now before the House is not the comparative merits of the two Administrations; the question that we have now to consider is, what is the reason of the defalcation in the revenue, and the total disappointment that has taken place in all the calculations of the noble Lord? My right hon. friend has referred to the speech of the noble Earl at the head of his Majesty's Government; and, in like manner, I could read to the House the speech of the noble Lord on a similar occasion, and which contains language quite as strong as that of the noble Earl. The speech of the noble Lord, which was made after three quarters of the year were over, spoke with the greatest confidence of the calculations he was putting forth. And yet, with all this strong language, all the predictions of the noble Lord were falsified—and all his most sanguine anticipations were disappointed: for which reason I ask those hon. Gentlemen who are so fond of cheering all that falls from the other side of the House, whether we must not pronounce that the noble Lord's confidence was without caution—whether his boldness was not without judgment—and whether his assurances were not without reasonable foundation? To shew how ignorant the noble Lord is of the details of office, it is only necessary to refer to his speech. It is only necessary to recur to that to shew that he was wrong in his calculations of both income and expenditure. According to the statement which he put forth on the 3rd of October, he set the amount of Customs at 16,750,000l., which, in the end, only produced 16,568,000l., being a deficiency of 233,700l. The Excise was stated at 16,800,000l., but its produce was only 16,303,000l., being a deficiency of 496,000l., In the Stamps, for a wonder, the noble Lord was right, he having set the amount at 6,850,000l, and the produce being 6,947,000l giving an overplus of 97,830l., in favour of the noble Lord. In the Post-office he was also right, the amount being stated at 1,500.000l., and producing 1,530,000l., 1318 leaving 30,000l. overplus. But in the Assessed Taxes, again, he was wrong, for he placed the amount at 5,000,000l., while the produce was only 4,864,000l., giving a balance of 135,000l. against the noble Lord. The miscellaneous sources of income were equally incorrect, for they were placed at 350,000l., and produced only 262,000l., giving a result of 87,000l. contra. The total result of all which was, that while the noble Lord anticipated a revenue of 47,250,000l., the actual produce only amounted to 46,434,000l., from which it, appeared, that although the noble Lord had the advantage of making his calculations as late as October, the balance was 825,000l. less than he had anticipated. Nor had the noble Lord any right to allege the variation of contingencies as an excuse; for, having had the advantage of consulting all the officers of the Treasury on the subject, the result proved either gross incapacity or gross neglect in the formation of the calculations. But having thus shown how the noble Lord erred in his anticipation of the revenue, I now come to point out the blunders in his calculation of the expenditure. The noble Lord set the amount of the expenditure at 46,756,000l., but it afterwards turned out that the actual expenditure was 47,123,000l.; so that here again there was a mistake of 367,000l.; and by putting the two errors together—that in the revenue, and that in the expenditure—there was no less a mistake than 1,200,000l. in the calculations of the noble Lord for that year. Again, I say, the noble Lord must not shift the blame of this from his own shoulders to those of the Excise and Custom Offices.
§ Mr. Dawson
The noble Lord says, that he does not blame others; and I say that I think the blame rests on him; and I further say, that these are the real points that call for answer, and to which the right hon. Gentleman has attempted to give no answer whatever. It is no answer for us to sit and hear the right hon. Gentleman declaim against my right hon. friend on the subject of the sugar duties. The result of the endeavours of my right hon. friend was to put the finances of the country in a flourishing condition; but the result of the endeavours of the noble Lord has been to put them in a most deplorable state, to which may be added his futile attempt to mystify them at the same time. I say that there has been an attempt at mystification, because he has endeavoured to call away the attention of the House from the defi- 1319 ciency of 750,000l. this year, by talking of his anticipation of a surplus revenue for the next year. But thus early, I beg to enter my caveat against the calculations of the noble Lord. The gist of those calculations seems to be, that he has an expectancy of 1,300,000l. as a set-off against the present losses; but unless the House can make up its mind to have a very good opinion of the noble Lord's financial skill, I think that it will be much safer for it to come at once to the conclusion, that the expectancy thus set forth is worth nothing at all. Another point to which there has been no answer given, is the charge, that this subject had never been properly brought before the House of Commons until it was forced forward by the Gentlemen who sit on this side of the House. But it is observable, that whenever the Government wishes to get rid of any unpleasant responsibility (in illustration of which, I may particularly cite the case of the Committee on the Civil List), they always cloak their dread of the danger under the pretence of coming to the House for advice. But, in my opinion, the duty of a Government is to come down to this House with their own plan. So, likewise, in the case of the salaries of civil officers, and in that of the tithes of Ireland, the same unwillingness of responsibility has been evinced; and the same call for assistance has been made upon this House. But while this line of conduct has been pursued in these instances, they have been ready enough in others to act for themselves: witness the little reluctance they displayed in saddling on the people of this country the payment of five millions and a half when it was to serve as a bribe to a foreign prince to accede to the object that they had in view. The House has now been sitting for three weeks, and not one word had it, previously to this evening, heard respecting the state of the finances of the country; and it is only in consequence of their having been forced by my right hon. friend to enter into the subject, that we now have it before the House; from which I think it appears that these Whig Ministers, who make a pretence of applying to Parliament on every subject, are in fact the most unconstitutional Ministers that ever held the reins of Government in this country. When they have a popular vote to catch, or a little show to make or boast of, they find it convenient to come to Parliament; but when the matter is a real subject of difficulty, they keep away altogether. They are 1320 afraid to meet the discussions of this House; and the proceedings of this evening form one of those instances in which the Government has shrunk from the fair and proper responsibility of debate.
§ Mr. Spring Rice
said, that he would not have obtruded himself on the attention of the House if it had not been for some observations which fell from his right hon. friend who had last addressed it. He should endeavour to reply to those observations with as much brevity as possible, and he therefore hoped for all the indulgence which might fairly be expected for an individual so little calculated to command attention. He should not permit any of those little conciliatory words, which his right hon. friend knew so well how to embody in a parenthesis, to seduce him to indulge in personal observation, unsuited to the gravity and importance of the subject. He was well aware of the kindness of his right hon. friend's disposition; but it did so happen that, to his right hon. friend the description was peculiarly applicable of being "the best-natured man, with the worst-natured muse." He should not be seduced, however, by what had fallen from his right hon. friend, to follow his example. At the close of his speech, his right hon. friend had been guilty of the most marvellous inconsistency. He had charged the present Government with shrinking from the responsibility which belonged to a Government, and throwing that responsibility on Parliament; and, at the same moment, and in the same breath, he charged the Government with an undue apprehension of discussions in that House. All he asked, on the part of the present Government, was, to compare their acts with those of former Governments, and from that comparison, to judge whether there had been a greater disposition on their parts to shrink from responsibility. His right hon. friend had alluded to the course taken by Government with respect to the salaries of the officers of the Crown. Now, he put it to the House, whether that was not a peculiar case? The Ministers of the Crown were ready to take upon themselves the responsibility of recommending reductions in other instances, but, with respect to themselves, and their own salaries, they referred the matter to the Representatives of the people, and, having granted that committee of inquiry long sought for in vain under former Administrations, they pledged themselves to carry into effect whatever reductions that Committee recommended. 1321 The fact was, that the Treasury had carried into effect every economical recommendation with respect to the salaries of the officers of the Crown. As to the Civil List, the Ministers stood pledged to institute an inquiry, and yet it was now made a charge against them that they had submitted the Civil List to an inquiry up stairs. If they had declined doing so, he was satisfied that his right hon. friend would have been one of the first to say, "When you were out of office, you asked for a Committee on the Civil List, and now you are in, you refuse to grant it." In such a case his right hon. friend might justly have brought forward a charge of inconsistency and abandonment of principle against his Majesty's Ministers. His right hon. friend, the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, had been charged with making a desultory speech; but he begged to remind the House, that his right hon. friend's speech was a reply to the speech of the hon. member for Borough bridge, whose desultory remarks he was obliged to follow. It was not his right hon. friend (the Vice-President of the Board of Trade) who introduced the question of foreign politics into the discussion, though, when it was introduced, he was driven to the necessity of replying. Neither had his noble friend (Lord Althorp), introduced the subject, but, when it was brought forward and commented on by those at the other side, it necessarily compelled the Ministers to meet the charges that were advanced. The Protocols of the Conference of London, were first alluded to by the hon. member for Borough bridge (Mr. Attwood), and that was the only issue of paper that he ever knew the hon. Gentleman to object to. What said the hon. Gentleman?—"You inconsistent Whigs, look to the Estimates. Do they not show that you have abandoned all your economical principles?" The amount of the Estimates had been objected to, not because it was wrong in itself, but because it was wrong in the parties who proposed it. It was the argumentum ad homines; for it went to prove, that, even if the Estimates were good themselves, they were wrong when proposed by the present Ministry. The Estimates of 1831were larger than those of the preceding year, he admitted; but would any one say, that the condition of the country had been the same in 1831, and when the Estimates for the former year were framed? If the altered condition of the country was sufficient to justify the increase, no imputation of in- 1322 consistency could be justly founded on that increase. In the months of November and December, in the year1830, every one knew that, night after night, the Members of that House asked and obtained leave of absence from their parliamentary duties, in consequence of the disturbed state of the country. At that time an hon. friend of his considered the state of the country so distressing and so urgent that he had observed "the country may still be saved—but, if an effort be not promptly made, I tremble for the result, and great will be the responsibility of Ministers." It appeared from the Journals of the House that, at that period, no fewer than forty-two Members applied for, and obtained, leave of absence from that House, in consequence of the disturbed state of their neighbourhoods; and he begged to ask whether there was any example in our times of a similar description? In such a case, no man would say, that the Government ought not to have provided for such an emergency, even at the expense of a considerable increase of the Estimates. He also put it to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, whether the foreign relations of the country were placed on such a footing, during the last year, that the Government could have done otherwise than had been done with respect to the army and navy. The Estimates for the military and naval service had been augmented, not, he contended, for the purpose of "bullying" foreign powers. He had regretted to hear this word, and others equally objectionable, from Members on the other side. The House had heard it said, that the Government of England was disposed to "bully" other Governments; and that a foreign Government had consented to be "bribed" by Great Britain; and he must be allowed to say, that, in his opinion, those words were not decorous, whether applied to a foreign Government or to our own. It would have been inconsistent with the dignity and honour of this country not to have maintained the establishments which had been maintained, which, he considered, a complete justification of his Majesty's Government on that point. He would now apply himself to what had been said on the subject of the Miscellaneous Estimates, which was a branch of the expenditure with which he (Mr. Rice) was more particularly acquainted, and on which he thought he might add something to the explanation given by his right hon. friend (Mr. P. Thomson). He could very soon give the House the real clue to 1323 the apparent increase in this branch of the public expenditure. When the present Government came into office, wherever they found a debt, the amount of which had been ascertained, instead of leaving the debt to be paid off hereafter, they had come forward, stated the whole case, and called upon the House to pay off the entire debt. He felt bound to state this, and to go a little into detail, when the present Government was charged with having increased the debt on the miscellaneous estimates to the amount of 600,000l. In the first place, he begged to remind the House, that the present Government had paid 336,750l. for the Rideau Canal; and, without taking upon himself to say whether the expense was right or wrong, it certainly was not an expense which originated with the present Government. The sum of l62,000l. was also expended for the repairs and improvement of Windsor Castle and Buckingham House, and the sum of 438,000l. was paid for the charges of the Civil Government. The next item in the list was the expense of the Coronation; and on this he wished to offer a few words in explanation. The House had confided 50,000l. to Ministers for defraying the expenses of the Coronation, being only one-fifth of the sum expended on a former occasion. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite were afraid that the smallness of the sum voted for the expenses of the Coronation might lead to the performance of the ceremonial in a manner unbecoming the dignity of the country, and unworthy of the illustrious personages who were more particularly engaged in it. Other hon. Members, who were professedly and sincerely economists considered the sum proposed by Ministers would be wholly insufficient, and that it would have been more expedient, in the first instance, to propose a vote of credit for a larger amount. Those who attended the Coronation, however, were aware that the ceremonial was, in all respects, worthy of the Sovereign, and the dignity of the country, and in no respect unbecoming to either. He had the pleasure, however, to add, that, upon the sum voted, there had been a saving of 7,000l., the whole expenditure of the Coronation not having exceeded 43,000l. He had stated all this by way of parenthesis, but he hoped the House would not feel that it had been improperly introduced, inasmuch as the expense of the Coronation was one of the items in the Miscellaneous Estimates of the last year. In addition to the items he had already stated, there was a payment 1324 for arrears of law charges in Ireland, amounting to 27,000l., and a sum of 16,000l. paid as compensation to Messrs. Lecesne and Escoffery, which could not take place again. From this plain statement it fully appeared that whilst the Government was accused of increasing the Miscellaneous Estimates by a sum of 600,000l., that 1,030,000l. was charged on those estimates which did not properly belong to the ordinary expenditure, and with the greater part of which the present Government had nothing to do. The extravagance with which the present Government was charged was for the payment of debts contracted, not by Ministers, but by former Governments. All the items he had enumerated were new or extraordinary charges, and, to make a fair comparison between the Miscellaneous Estimates of the present and of the last Government, this sum of 1,030,000l. ought to be deducted, which would show, instead of an excess of 600,000l. a diminution of 430,000l. on the Estimates of the present year. When Ministers were charged with abandoning the principles of economy, it was only just that they should lay before the House an exact statement of what had been done in support of those principles since they took office. Ministers owed this explanation to the country and to those who supported them. It was only right that those who had constituents, when they returned to those constituents, should be able to answer the question, whether Ministers had been faithful to their pledges of economy. On this point, as on every other point involving the character of the present Ministry, he must request hon. Members not to take the character of the Government from the statements of his right hon. friend (Mr. Dawson). His right hon. friend, he was confident, would not willingly misrepresent any thing; but there was a kind of prismatic mind which shed a variety of colours; and his right hon. friend saw the acts of the present Ministry in every colour but the true one. When he begged hon. Members not to be led away by the statement of his right hon. friend, he did not arrogate to himself any power of swaying their opinions. All he asked of hon. Members was, that they would use their own eyes and ears, and judge for themselves. His right hon. friend had represented the present Ministry as mere gleaners in the field of economy, the harvest having been taken off by the Government with which the right hon. Gentleman was connected. 1325 The reductions made by the former Government, certainly made it more difficult for any succeeding Government to make considerable retrenchments, as the field was more limited, but when the amount of reductions made by the present Government was considered, it would not be found so trifling, nor the savings so immaterial, as his right hon. friend seemed to think. Ministers carried retrenchment into a great variety of departments, and had even not spared parliamentary offices. They had reduced four important officers of that character, namely, the Vice-Treasurer of Ireland. The Lieutenant-General of the Ordnance, the Clerk of Deliveries in the Ordnance, and the Postmaster-General of Ireland. The abolition of those offices not only reduced the public expenditure, but it also reduced the influence of the Crown in that House—a principle which the Government was anxious to carry into effect as far as might be done with propriety. The four parliamentary situations, which he had just referred to, were all reduced within a week after the present Ministry took office, so that the gleaners found something to remove. But this did not satisfy them. Ministers, carrying into effect their favourite principle, began with the heads of departments, instead of applying the system of economy exclusively to subordinate offices. He admitted that economy ought not to be circumscribed to the heads of departments; but reductions in the lower offices could be made with a stronger feeling of justice, when they were accompanied with a corresponding reduction in the higher offices. The reduction of subordinate offices to an extent which diminished the effective character of the department, every one admitted, was false economy. Without making any reductions injurious to the public service, the present Ministry had applied the principle of economy in a variety of departments, as the long list of reductions which he held in his hand amply testified. For the satisfaction of those hon. Members who had constituents to whom they must answer, if it did not fatigue the House, he should briefly recapitulate some of the officers reduced by the present ministry. In addition to the reductions he had already named, he had to add the reductions of the Auditor of the Civil List, the Treasurer of the Military College, the Treasurer of the Military Asylum, the President, and sixty other smaller officers in the Post Office department.—the office of King's Stationer 1326 in Ireland, two Commissioner of the Navy Board, two Commissioners of the Victualling Department, the Superintendant of Transports, the Paymaster of Marines, seventy-one clerks, and two commissioners of the dock-yards,—Inspector of Stamps at Manchester,—Inspector of Stamps in Cumberland, the Receiver-General in Scotland, forty-six Receivers in England,—in all 210 places were reduced before the month of January, the Ministry having come into office in the preceding November. The next branch to which he should allude was the salaries of the Ministers and high Officers of the Crown. The salaries of those Officers were referred to a Committee, and out of a sum of 140,000l., the amount of the salaries of the various Officers of the Treasury, the Secretaries of State, and the immediate Officers of the Government, a reduction was made of 21,000l., being one seventh part of the whole. He hoped his right hon. friend would say "Well done gleaners, again." He did not quarrel with the predecessors of the present Ministry for what they had omitted to do, but he asked the House and the country to give the present Ministry credit for what they had done. In the diplomatic charges a considerable reduction had been effected.
|French Embassy, a reduction of||£1,100|
|Embassy to the Netherlands||600|
|Ditto to Portugal||1,800|
|Ditto to Turkey||500|
§ In the diplomatic expenses there was a total reduction of 7,200l., in addition to a saving of 5,000l. in the Consular department. There were many offices with small salaries abolished or reduced. In accordance with the Report of the Committee which had sat on the civil charges, the salaries of the Law Officers of the Crown had been reduced, namely, the salaries of the Masters in Chancery, the Attorney and Solicitor-General. [Sir Charles Wetherell: About 15l. a-year each.] The Government had in this case followed the Report of the Committee. The salary of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland was reduced to the amount of 2,000l. per annum; and seven offices in the household of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland were abolished, and the salaries of several others reduced. There were eight offices abolished in Scotland; two of the Commissioners of Customs, and two of the Commissioners of Excise were abolished; and all the salaries of those officers who remained were reduced to the extent of 200l. per annum. In consequence of a 1327 bill introduced in the last Session of Parliament, the Commissioners of Hackney Coaches were abolished, by which a saving was effected to the amount of 5,475l., and a saving of 6,400l. was effected in the Colonial Office, which none of those hon. Members who appeared as the advocates of the colonial interest would value the less when it was stated that the colonies, rather than the mother country, would obtain the immediate benefit of this reduction. He might add that a saving of 3,000l. had been effected in the salaries of persons employed in the long room of the Custom House, and 3,000l. in the Excise Department in Ireland. A saving of 1,200l. a-year had been effected in the salary of the Clerk of the Council. The Office of the Board of Works was to be consolidated with that of the Woods and Forests, by which a considerable saving would also be effected. Considerable reductions were to be made in the expenditure connected with the Yeomanry in Ireland, and the Brigade-majors in that country had been reduced. One circumstance his hon. friend (the member for Cricklade) would no doubt hear with great exultation—namely, that steps had been taken for doing away with the office of Governor of Dartmouth Castle. There were also large reductions to be made in the department of his right hon. friend the Secretary for Ireland. Both in the Irish Office in London, and in the Chief Secretary's Office in Dublin, it was intended to introduce changes which would have very beneficial effects on the score of economy, while, at the same time, they would not occasion the slightest risk of impairing the efficiency of the public service. The details of these various retrenchments would be found in the Estimates when they came before the House, and then would be the proper time to enter fully into the subject. He trusted that he had now convinced hon. Gentlemen, even at the risk of trying their patience, that the present Government had not shown themselves regardless of their pledges of retrenchment, and that, as something had undoubtedly been left to be done, that something had been done by them. But he did not say that what had been effected was sufficient to satisfy that House or the country, or to justify his noble friends in now ceasing to exert themselves. He acknowledged that, while any thing remained to be done, it was the duty of his Majesty's Government to persevere in their 1328 work of economy, but he said that what they had done furnished a security that more would be done. They were told, however, that various subjects of great importance had not received that consideration which they merited. To that he would answer, that sufficient time had not been allowed to the Government. The Reform Bill had been ten weeks in the Committee last Session, and would any Gentleman say, that the purposes proposed by the hon. Gentlemen opposite could not have been as well accomplished in three weeks. He said that, unless the desire of Gentlemen opposite had been to weary out the patience of the Government, of the House, and of the country, he could not conceive that their objects might not have been answered without occupying so much time. His noble friend was charged with having attempted to mistify the accounts. Of all the accusations that could be made this was the most preposterous, or, at least, he would say, the most singular to proceed from the right hon. Gentleman opposite. It was true his noble friend admitted that the expenditure exceeded the revenue by 700,000l. But his noble friend said, that he hoped, by strict economy, severe retrenchment, and a uniform restriction of expenditure, to be able to supply this deficiency without resorting to any increase of taxation. The deficiency of last year was only 165,000l. greater than that which the right hon. Gentleman opposite claimed in the balance which he struck, and he contended that, to refer to nothing else than the repeal of the duty on tallow candles, the Government would have been justified in the course they took, even had they been aware that such a deficiency would ensue. If it went forth to the country that there was a deficiency, let it also go forth that it was caused by the exertions of Government to relieve the people of England from the pressure of the most indefensible and impolitic description of taxation that one Government ever proposed or another Government succeeded to. Confident of the rectitude of their intentions, and confident that no proper exertions had been spared, the Ministers could fearlessly appeal to the good sense of the country.
thought that the right hon. Gentleman who had read a lecture to the House on the subject of its conduct with respect to the Reform Bill, would do well to move for a Committee to inquire whose amendments, and whose suggestions and alterations had produced the delays of 1329 which he complained, and which had stopped the full career of economy and retrenchment. With respect to the comparative economy of the two Administrations, on which the right hon. Gentleman had dwelt so much, he thought it unnecessary to enter into the question of which was the most economical; but, giving all praise to the present Government, which seemed to have amply fulfilled its duty to the public in that respect, he would merely remind the House, without entering into details, that the Government of the Duke of Wellington had either reduced or abolished above 4,000 offices during the time it remained in power. It must be known to every man acquainted with such matters, that extensive reductions in an expenditure extending through so many branches were not to be carried into effect in a day, and that, therefore, very considerable gleanings were necessarily left to the noble Duke's successors. He would here observe, that as in the case of Reform so in retrenchment, it might be a question whether there was not a danger of its being carried too far. He was not at present aware of any instance of this description, but certainly such must arise if it were expected that every succeeding Government should retrench more closely than that which had preceded it. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to the recommendations of the Committee on civil charges, of which he was Chairman. He would only say, that many of the reductions which had now been carried into effect, were at the recommendation of that Committee, and that if all their suggestions had been attended to, he thought there would not be at the present moment a single Government servant overpaid or unnecessarily retained. He trusted that the Members of the New Reformed Parliament, which would, he hoped, be composed of many of those he saw around him, would have the manliness to do justice to the labours and intentions of their predecessors. While, however, the Government took so much credit for its reductions, it was strange to see it give away 5,000,000l. for the Russian Dutch loan, with scarcely the shadow of a consideration. He was quite sure when the noble Lord at the head of the Treasury came to look calmly and impartially at the unconstitutional nature of the proceedings with respect to that payment, that he would see the propriety of a revision of the whole matter, even although he might be upheld by a still larger majority than any which that House had shown itself 1330 willing to muster for the advancement of the views of the Government. To the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he gave every credit for clearness and candour, and he would not cast any imputation upon him, because of a few blunders necessarily incidental to the course of public business. To the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Board of Trade, he must however object. He had never heard a speech in that House from any Gentleman holding the same situation, in which there was such a deficiency of those facts and figures which one naturally looked for from the head of the Board of Trade. The right hon. Gentleman had made the better part of his speech an attack upon his opponents, instead of confining himself to those matters of business which more particularly formed the subject of discussion; and he must say, that he thought the right hon. Gentleman might as well have left his squibs and his jokes for any body else, in whose mouth they would be better than in that of the Vice President of the Board of Trade on such an occasion. He had, in truth, never heard in that House anything more loose than the business part of the right hon. Gentleman's statement. The noble Lord (Althorp) stated, if he understood him aright, that the total deficiency in the revenue of the year was 700,000l. and judging of 1832 by 1831, there would be a further deficiency next year. There would be a deficit of 400,000l. in the duty on candles, and 70,000l. on coals. Any person might presume to build upon the taxes on wine and cotton wool, and malt, for making up the deficiency. No doubt the noble Lord believed that they would make it up. But he doubted whether the duty on the whole of the cotton wool and sheep's wool imported during the year would, taking both together, amount to 482,000l. The tax on cotton wool was, in his opinion, a most objectionable tax, and he, therefore, did not look with any great satisfaction to the prospect of raising 375,000l. through the medium of its operation. Neither could he feel any satisfaction at the removal of the tax from printed cottons, when it was laid upon the raw material. This tax he considered a most objectionable one, and calculated to be mischievous to our manufactures. The consequence was, that the Americans were rapidly gaining on our manufacture of coarse cloths where printing and pattern were out of the question; and he understood from good authority, that they were 1331 already completed with us in many of the ports of the Mediterranean. He would suggest to the noble Lord the propriety of allowing a drawback, calculated by weight, on the exportation of the manufactured article, if he was determined to retain his duty on the raw material. The tax raised on the home consumption was not felt, and was much the least injurious method of raising the revenue. In addition, however, to other sources of increased revenue, the noble Lord might in a year or two anticipate much advantage, looking at the value of money, by making a bargain with the Bank on the renewal of its Charter. He did not wish to drive a hard bargain, but he thought if the noble Lord was to move for a Committee now, he would be in a better condition to realize his views and fulfil his promises to the country. The purpose, however, for which he rose was, to protest against the manner in which the financial affairs of this country had been conducted since the peace. First, they had a Sinking Fund of 8,000,000l. then it fell to five, to four, to three, and now they had none at all; but, on the contrary, a deficiency of 700,000l. which the hon. member for Middlesex wished might soon be a million; and if things went on as they had done, the hon. Member was likely to see his wish realized. He trusted that some time or other the country would have a Government bold and honest enough to take a manly tone on the subject of the National Debt, with a view of providing some means for the peaceable and effectual redemption of the people from its weight. He hoped to see a Government which would adopt that honest and straightforward course, in preference to the skulking, cowardly, and disgraceful plan, followed by all Governments since the peace, of establishing their reputation on petty reductions and miserable expedients, instead of trying to master the Debt. He entertained not the slightest doubt, that if the Parliament and the people of this country could have imposed upon themselves even a moderate degree of self-restraint, the debt, instead of being of its present enormous amount, would have been in a fair and promising course of reduction. If the Sinking Fund, so judiciously created for the liquidation of the public debt, had only been preserved till the present moment, we might have looked forward at no distant time, to see a considerable portion of the debt reduced, instead of being as they were, in utter despair of any approximation to such a state of things. Had that degree of 1332 self-restraint been exercised which our circumstances called for, the debt would now have been assuming the shape of a terminable annuity; but it was at present nothing less than a perpetual annuity. In making these observations, he begged it to be understood that he meant not to cast any special or individual blame upon the present Administration; for every successive Government but yielded itself too readily to the unreasonable demands which put a stop to the progress of the Sinking Fund. Each party which succeeded to power, but too readily gave the desired answer to the question, "What will you do for the people?" which meant in other words—"What taxes shall we repeal to get rid of their clamour?" No person who came into the Councils of the King seemed able, for a moment, to resist that demand—no Government could withstand it. How gross was such an error! Nothing could be more obvious than that the people were as much interested in an efficient Sinking Fund, which would remove decisively and permanently the weight of taxation, as they could possibly be in the removal of immediate and temporary pressure. The example of the government of the United States ought to be kept before their eyes, which, by a perseverance in the system that we unthinkingly and improvidently rejected, were now in a situation which presented the near prospect of the total removal of debt which a few years before amounted to the sum of 140,000,000l. He was perfectly aware that the sentiments he was expressing were unwelcome in that House, and unpopular out of doors; but, he trusted, the House would recollect that he had ever been consistent; that he had seldom supported the repeal of any tax, for there was scarcely any instance in which he thought the circumstances of the country could at all justify such measures. In his judgment, the first duty of the House and of the Government was, at all hazards, to support the credit of the country; and the most effectual mode of doing that was, to continue the existence of an efficient Sinking Fund.
§ Mr. Duncombe
expressed his amazement at the extraordinary lecture which the hon. member for Thetford had just read to Gentlemen on the Ministerial side of the House, on account of the vote which they had given on a former evening in favour of his Majesty's Ministers. If it were to be supposed that the independent members of that House, in supporting Ministers in the di- 1333 vision on the Russian-Dutch loan, had committed a violence upon common sense and reason—[a loud cheer.] He begged pardon; he did not accuse the hon. Member who was so loud in his cheers, and so silent in his votes, either of reason or of common sense. But if it should get abroad that the independent Members of that House listened to such taunts without reply, it would get abroad that they tacitly admitted that they had betrayed the interests of their constituents, and violated the respect which they owed to their own consciences. Now, he had denied that they had done either the one or the other. The motion of the other night had, been cunningly put forward as a motion of economy. The right hon. member for Harwich had brought it forward with great dexterity. It was a deep-laid plan, whoever had concocted it, and he was sorry to see that many of his hon. friends, who were also friends of Reform, had been entrapped by the astuteness of their adversaries into a vote, of which the object was nothing more or less than to trip up the Government. With regard to economy, he would tell the hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, that though they might now have it on their lips, their past conduct proved that it was far, very far, from their hearts. They came forward with the Russian-Dutch loan in their hands, but it was the dread of schedule A that they had before their eyes. There were various other points on which Gentlemen on his side of the House were prepared to defend the view which they had taken of the proposition of the right hon. member for Harwich. By the vote which they had then given, they had supported the national honour, and had preserved the country in that high situation among the nations of Europe which she had long enjoyed, and which, he trusted, she would long continue to merit. On these grounds, he was ready to justify the vote which he had then given at anytime, or in any place, here or elsewhere, in that House, or before his constituents. There was no vote which he had given in support of the present advisers of the Crown which it was not in his power to look back upon with pleasure. With regard to the discussion then before the House, there was no man who could complain of the honourable manner in which the right hon. Gentleman opposite had brought it forward. He had brought it forward in an honourable feeling—the honourable feeling of party hostility. Of all men in the world, his noble friend, the Chancellor of the Ex- 1334 chequer, had the least cause to complain of it, for it had enabled him to make one of his clear and straight forward statements, which was no less honorable to himself than it would be satisfactory to the country.
§ Mr. Hunt
said, he was one of the persons who had fallen into the trap which the hon. Member had described. He, therefore, just rose to say for himself that he had read the Act of Parliament, and as he did hope that he had some small share of common sense and common honesty, these qualities induced him to vote, as he had done against continuing the payment to Russia. He also rose for the purpose of saying a word or two to the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for the Treasury, who had given them a lecture respecting what hon. Members must say to their constituents (if they have any) when they return to them. He had a few constituents who, when they had the pleasure of seeing him again, would expect that he should say something to them; and suppose he were to tell them all that the right hon. Secretary for the Treasury had said—suppose he were to tell these persons—8,000 in number—who consist of the humblest classes of society, and who work hard from morning to night for 4s. or 5s. a week, of the extraordinary savings of which we have heard to-night, what would be the consequence? Why, after he had gone through the whole history, some honest weaver or other would get up and say—"Ah, ah, Master Hunt, that is all very true; I dare say Ministers have done all this, but just be good enough to explain to us, will you, how it happens, that after all these great savings, innumerable reductions, and vast retrenchments, that the expenditure of the country last year was greater than it was the year before." Then he should be obliged to tell them that there had been a few little things left undone:—in the first place, that the Civil List had not been reduced; and in the next place, that a great deal of money had been paid away to Russia. He should be obliged to give them some such answer, or if he did not, and turn his back upon them, they would turn their backs upon him, and send him packing. The right hon. Secretary to the Treasury told the house, that Government had effected a saving of something like 20,000l. a-year. He should, however, be obliged to tell his constituents, notwithstanding, that the expenditure had increased, and he should not labour under the imputations that the right hon. Gentleman cast upon some hon. 1335 Members, namely, that they did not divide the House upon the Estimates, because he divided upon the proposed increase to the army of 10,000 men. He should be under the necessity of telling his constituents, that there was a new Bankruptcy Court, with new Judges, and new Law Officers, and something like an expense of 30,000l. or 40,000l. a-year. He should, therefore, be much obliged to the hon. Gentleman opposite if he would give him some explanation; because, if he understood the noble Lord, instead of there being any diminution in the expenditure of the country, it had increased very considerably. The hon. member for Thetford said, that we ought to have followed the example of the Americans, and that we should not have been so cowardly as to reduce the taxation of the country. The hon. Member boasted that he had resisted every attempt to reduce it, but he had not told the House how a starving people could be made to pay taxes. Did the hon. Gentleman think, that if large masses of the people of America were living, or rather starving, on 4s. or 5s. a week, that Government would have resisted every attempt to reduce the taxation of the country? There was one cowardly act on the part of Government, certainly: it was cowardly to take off the property-tax, that fell upon the aristocracy, the landed interest, and the general wealth and property of the country. He wished the hon. member for Thetford, or any other hon. Gentleman, would tell him how the country could be relieved without imposing a property-tax. The interest of the debt could not be paid without a gross plunder and robbery of the people, and there must be a property-tax which should fall on the pockets of the rich. With regard to the tax on printed cottons, every one approved of the noble Lord's conduct in taking it off; it was a heavy and oppressive burden, falling most heavily upon those who were compelled to wear coarse cotton—they paying twenty-five per cent, while people who wore fine cottons, paid only two-and a-half per cent. As to falling into a trap the other night, he should be much disposed to fall into another of the same description, not having found the former inconvenient. Indeed, the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, seemed to like it, for he was setting another in the shape of a new arrangement of the Russian-Dutch loan, into which he might enter himself.
§ Mr. Robinson
would trouble the House 1336 with but very few observations; in the first place, he would merely observe, that the right hon. Gentleman who introduced this discussion, had received no explanation whatever from the right hon. Gentleman opposite on the point to which his observations were principally directed. After so many statements of the prosperous condition of the country, it was matter of the deepest regret that, at the end of sixteen years of peace, we had arrived at the condition described by the noble Lord—having now a deficit of 700,000l. below the expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman had entirely overlooked the obvious distinction between a deficit with a Sinking Fund, and a deficit without any Sinking Fund. When those deficiencies had existed, of which he had spoken, there was, in fact, an annual sum appropriated to pay off the debt, and consequently, no real deficit. He was surprised to hear the hon. member for Thetford, who is generally considered a sort of authority on subjects of this nature, declare against the reduction of taxation. The hon. Member also said, that, if we had acted on the principle of the American government, we might have paid off a great portion of our debt, but he forgot that the taxes which had been repealed by successive Governments up to the time of the present Administration, had not been taken off as concessions to popular clamour, but because it was found impossible to raise them any longer. It did not require the slightest argument to show that the two cases were not in the least degree analogous. The right hon. the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, said, that there was this distinction between the plan proposed by the present Administration, and that on which former Governments proceeded, namely, that if there be a deficit in our revenue, the money remained in the pockets of the people, increasing so as to add to the resources of the state. He doubted, however, whether the right hon. Gentleman, or the noble Lord would be able to get any of it out of their pockets, for it would be utterly impossible for any of them to propose any duty whatever, except a property-tax. The House was told, very justly, by the Government, that it had made all the retrenchments possible without impairing the efficiency of the public service. He gave credit to the late Administration for the reductions which it had effected, and also to the present Administration for those which the Secretary for the Treasury had stated. He was afraid, however, that it would be no consolation to 1337 the people to learn that the country was now in a situation in which it could neither raise the required revenue nor decrease the expenditure. It was said, that the policy of the present Government had prevented a ruinous war, which would have increased the amount of our encumbrances. But could we be sure that we were not at that moment actually in danger of a general war in Europe? When he looked to the treaty concluded with Belgium, and reflected that this country was the guarantee for its performance, it certainly appeared to him that the peace of Europe did not depend upon England, but on Austria, Russia, and Prussia. And even if those three Powers consented to the treaty, could we hope that it would be a permanent settlement? What did the king of Belgium—on whose behalf that treaty had been concluded—say? What did his Majesty's Ministers? what did the French government say? When he looked to the opinions which had emanated from these Powers, he had very little hope of that treaty being carried into execution. The discussion of that night, which had ended in a party squabble, would give very little satisfaction to the country at large. The finances of the State were acknowledged to be in a most deplorable condition, and although the noble Lord looked with confidence to the future, he could not participate in those sanguine expectations.
§ Sir Robert Peel and Sir Charles Wetherell rose at the same moment, but
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
was left in possession of the House. He just wished, he said, to interpose a parenthesis between the speech of the hon. member for Worcester and the speech of his right hon. friend, the member for Tamworth. He wished to say a few words in reply to the observations of the hon. member for Hertford—his hon. friend, he hoped he might say, for there was no gentleman for whom he professed a higher esteem. His hon. friend, then, had said that his other hon. friend, the member for Thetford, had read the Gentlemen on the Ministerial side of the House a very strange and unnecessary lecture. Now, he (Sir Charles Wetherell) would not presume to read any man a lecture; but as a lecture had been read to the Gentlemen opposite, he, as a critic who had heard it, would ask permission to say, that a more just and necessary lecture he never heard pronounced in the whole course of his life. Even the noble Lord on the other side had concurred in the propriety of the 1338 censure which had been passed upon the gleaning of votes, the fasciculus of suffrages, by which he had been supported: for the noble Lord had that night told the House, that he would bring in a Bill to legalize the payment of the interest of the Russian Dutch loan. Now, if the payment was legal already, what need was there to introduce such a Bill? And if it was not legal, how would hon. Gentlemen, who had been dragged through the mire in supporting it as legal, look at each other, when they were called upon to legalize that which they had already declared to be legal? No human ingenuity could reconcile the discrepancies in two such opposite votes. Talk of traps laid for the Ministry! Why here was a trap, into which Ministers were knowingly leading their friends, when they called upon them to blow hot and cold on the same question. But, with all deference to the noble Lord, he must put to him one or two interrogatories. Did the noble Lord intend to bring in one Bill or two? Did he intend to bring in a Bill of indemnity to protect him in the payments which he had already made on this loan, and another Bill to legalize the payment which he might make in future? If so, he should look carefully into the Bill of indemnity for an explanation of the grounds on which it rested. Surely the Law Officers of the Crown would never have the face to draw up such Bills, for the very preamble of them would compel them to eat their former opinions. The noble Lord could never mean to treat the Law Officers of the Crown in that manner. The noble Lord's majority had been dragged through the dirt and mire. The noble Lord shook his head; possibly he might not agree with him; but certainly other hon. Gentlemen would agree with him, and possibly the public might agree with him, that the Government had acted disgracefully when, at one time, it had compelled its majority to say that an act of indemnity was not necessary; and, at another time, to vote the contrary way, that an Act of Parliament was necessary. He considered that his right hon. friend (Mr. Goulburn) had made out a clear case, and distinctly proved that Ministers were incapable of conducting the financial concerns of the country.
§ Lord Althorp,
in explanation, stated, that what he had said was, that under the present Treaty of 1815, the country was bound to pay the money to Russia; but in consequence of the separation of Belgium and Holland, when the treaty of separation 1339 was ratified by Russia, it would be desirable and necessary to change the form of the arrangement by a new Convention. He had said nothing about a new Act legalizing the future payment, or providing an indemnity for having made the past.
Sir Robert Peel
said, that in the few observations he proposed to address to the House, he should confine himself to the statement of the noble Lord, and to the present financial prospects of the country, and should not be diverted into extraneous topics by the excursive speeches of the two right hon. Gentlemen opposite—the member for Limerick and the Vice President of the Board of Trade. In the present state of the country, the public would not be satisfied with mere party squabbles and recriminations. The right hon. member for Limerick had done justice to the efforts of the late Government, and, with a degree of moderation highly creditable to him, had justly attributed the inability of the present Government to make further reductions to the retrenchments effected by the last. It was no imputation upon the present Government that the saving of public expenditure was limited in extent, since the work of economy had been almost completed by their predecessors. But such a vindication was a complete answer to all the reiterated and groundless accusations of extravagance and want of sympathy with the sufferings of the people which had been directed against the Government of the Duke of Wellington. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the difficulty of making immediate reductions, and said, "only give us time." He (Sir R. Peel) claimed the same indulgence for the Duke of Wellington's Government, which, though it might talk less about economy, was at least as anxious to save the public money as the present Government. If time had been given to the late Ministers, reductions would have been progressively made; they did not contemplate the possibility of making all reductions at once, because, in the reform of expenditure, as well as in other reforms, their opinion was, that the progress, to be safe, ought to be gradual. It was certainly to be regretted, now that it was admitted that the last Ministry had done so much that their successors could do nothing more, that unjust accusations, founded upon a supposed want of economy and sympathy with public feeling, should have been used to inflame the public mind against a House of Commons which had shown that it was not inattentive to its duties, and not unwilling 1340 to relieve the public burthens. One of the main arguments for re-modelling the Representative system of this country, was founded on the assumption that the House of Commons, as at present constituted, was disposed, from corrupt motives, to favour a lavish expenditure of the public money. The speech, however, of the right hon. Gentleman was a complete answer to all the charges against the House of Commons; for he had shown that the late House of Commons was so watchful over the public expenditure, that he and his friends were unable to make further reduction to any considerable amount, in consequence of so much having previously been done. The right hon. Gentleman was pleased to indulge in some observations relative to the opposition that the present Government had had to contend with; and had alluded to the supposed abandonment of the doctrines of free trade by some hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman referred particularly to the debate on the glove-trade. But that debate, from the division on which he was absent, had nothing whatever to do with the question of free trade. If, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman affirmed that the mere act of not voting on that division implied an abandonment of any opinions on the commercial policy which this country should pursue, he must decidedly deny the justness of such an inference. The Motion was not, brought forward with a view to impede the Government. It was submitted to the House by the hon. member for Worcester, who, on most occasions, supported the Government; it was supported by the hon. member for Middlesex, who went further in his advocacy of the doctrines of free trade than any Member of the House, and who declared, that he supported the motion for inquiry of the hon. member for Worcester because he was an advocate of those doctrines. It was too much, then, for the right hon. Gentleman to stand up in his place, and declare that the subject was brought forward to shake the Government, and to throw reflections on the conduct of Ministers. He did not mean to say, that the appointment of the Committee would have conferred any great benefit on the persons engaged in the glove trade; but he contended that hon. Members might and did support the Motion for the appointment of that Committee, without any other object than to ascertain the truth by inquiry. He never thought 1341 that the hon. Gentleman who brought forward the Motion did it with a view to get the opinion of the House as to our general commercial policy; and he thought nothing could be more absurd than the position—that no inquiry as to the effect of commercial regulations ought to be made, for fear that the inquiry should imply a doubt as to the wisdom of its regulations. In many cases inquiry, by removing erroneous impressions, and by establishing important truths, unknown to the labouring classes, might be the surest, nay, the only method of giving stability to a wise, but unpopular, enactment. But whatever triumph the right hon. Gentleman thought he had gained by his attack on his opponents, he might enjoy the full benefit of it, for no person would, he believed, enter further into the subject. He, at least, would not be led away by a matter altogether alien to the question before the House, but would proceed to make a few observations on the general finances of the country. Leaving such mere matters of party recrimination, he would take for his text the very fair and candid statement of the noble Lord. That noble Lord at once allowed, that, in his former statement, he had made a mistake to the amount of 350,000l. in his calculation, which arose from his neglecting to consider the reduction of the duties on beer. The frankness of the noble Lord completely disarmed hostility, and all that was left to the House was, to hope, with the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, that the accuracy of the present year would, like the revenue, compensate for the deficiency of the last. The noble Lord admitted that, in his precipitate statement in October he was mistaken, both with regard to the past and the future; but the real charge against the noble Lord was, not his casual inaccuracies, but that, having discovered the mistake, the noble Lord had not openly acknowledged it at an earlier period. For the delay the noble Lord had not sufficiently accounted, neither had he given any reason for not having laid upon the Table the estimates for the year, in conformity with a resolution of the House. The noble Lord stated the deficiency in the year 1831 to be nearly 700,000l.; but he, at the same time, expressed a confident belief, that this would not be the case at the approach of the ensuing year. The noble Lord admitted that in October he was mistaken, both as regards the past and the future, and that he had entirely left out of the account that a duty 1342 which he had calculated would produce 360,000l. had been altogether abolished. He wished not to introduce any asperity into the present discussion, but, at the same time, he must express his regret, that sufficient care had not been taken to avoid such very palpable mistakes. The noble Lord said, that he fell into this mistake in consequence of erroneous information received from official quarters. Every one who knew anything of human, nature would give credit to the noble Lord for the candour of his admission; but he must repeat, that it would have been more consistent with candour if the noble Lord had not postponed the admission until the document moved for by his right hon. friend, which first exposed the error, had been laid upon the Table. To him it was a matter of surprise, that there was no allusion whatever in the King's Speech to this deficiency in the revenue, and that the attention of this House was not directed by the Ministers of the Crown to the financial affairs of the country. The noble Lord had not shown why the statement relative to the finances of the country for the ensuing year had not been laid on the Table of the House; and, considering that there was such a deficiency in the revenue, it was of the highest importance that this statement should be laid before the House with the least possible delay. It was perfectly clear that there was a deficiency last year of 698,000l.; and it was equally clear, that if this continued to exist, the finances of the country must be in a most lamentable condition. The noble Lord, however, calculated that there were several charges on the revenue of the last year which would not be chargeable for the future. He would go over the items of the noble Lord's calculation, and, as he must review them from memory, if he made any error, the noble Lord would correct him. The noble Lord said, that there was a charge of 200,000l. as the drawback upon printed cottons, and 155,000l. for bounties on linen manufacture—charges in the present year which would not be made for the future. Again, there is 157,000l. as the wine-duty on the stock on hand to be received. The noble Lord calculated that, from the alteration in the malt-duty, 300,000l. would be obtained; and that this year there would be a gain of 375,000l. from the tax on cotton wool, calculating the amount of the importation to be the same as in the last year. To these sources we must add the estimate of 150,000l. as 1343 the increase of duty on foreign wines; the aggregate of all these sums would be 1,337,000l. That will be the increase the noble Lord calculated on the receipts of this year. The noble Lord, however, had to deduct from this increase 698,000l., being the amount of the deficiency. The noble Lord then assumed that the loss from the repeal of the duties on candles would amount to 400,000l. though the noble Lord would have been nearer the mark had he taken this loss at 500,000l. instead of 400,000l. The noble Lord added to this 75,000l. in respect of the duties on coals. Thus there was 1,173,000l. to be deducted from the 1,337,000l., leaving the sum of 164,000l. for a surplus revenue. That was the financial prospect for the year. The noble Lord, by his mode of calculation, made out that at the commencement of the next year we should have a surplus revenue of l64,000l. which was certainly more satisfactory than that there should be a deficiency of revenue to the amount of 700,000l. But to have a surplus revenue of only 164,000l. considering the present state of Europe—considering the situation of some parts of this country, which might compel increased military expenditure, to have a surplus revenue of only 164,000l. appeared to him most melancholy, even supposing all the anticipations of the noble Lord to be realized. The noble Lord might regard these prospects with complacency, but he could only look upon them with alarm; and that alarm had not been diminished by the principles laid down by two right hon. Gentlemen opposite, on the subject of the deficiency of revenue. Indeed, the principles were more alarming than even the deficiency itself. If he thought that those principles were upheld by the noble Lord at the head of the office to which one of those right hon. Gentlemen belonged, he should be filled, and almost every thinking man in the country would be filled, with the greatest apprehension. The noble Lord said, that he regretted the deficiency in the revenue, and that he should be most anxious that such deficiency did not occur at the end of the present year. But immediately after the noble Lord had expressed this regret and anxiety, the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for the Treasury, declared that even if he could have foreseen this deficiency, he should have felt satisfied that a reduction of taxes ought to have been made. His doctrine would not only apply to the present case, but to every tax that could be repealed; and was the right hon. 1344 Gentleman ready to assert, that whatever deficiency might occur in the revenue, taxes ought to be repealed? Was the regard due to the public faith to be forgotten? Was the House to forget the public creditor and its bond, that the interest of the debt should be duly paid? The doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman—that a tax ought to be repealed because it would be a relief to the people without reference to the obligations for the fulfilment of which that tax was a security—was a most dangerous doctrine for a Government to act upon or avow. The strongest apprehension that he had entertained from the infusion of democratic power into the House of Commons by the measure of Reform, was, that the House would hereafter find it very difficult to resist proposals for immediate relief at the expense of good faith, and of the true permanent interests of the country. What tax could be maintained if the principle laid down by the right hon. Gentleman was a just one? What tax was not a burthen to some class or other? If he could repeal taxes consistently with honour and good faith, there was no tax from which he would not relieve the people, but at present the best mode of honestly diminishing the public burthens was, to preserve inviolate the public faith—to give confidence to the public creditor—and, by means of that confidence, reduce the interest on the public debt. In this, as in other similar cases, honesty will be more profitable than fraud—even if profit were its chief recommendation. The doctrine he had been opposing certainly appeared to him a very extraordinary one; but if he was surprised by the right hon. Gentleman maintaining it, he was still more astonished at what fell from the Vice-President of the Board of Trade. That right hon. Gentleman had a theory perfectly novel. He said, that we ought to regard with something like satisfaction the deficiency of 698,000l. in the revenue, because it was not in fact money lost, but was in the pockets of the people ready to be extracted on any occasion that might require it. This speculation in finance the right hon. Gentleman designated by a name which would not soon be forgotten; which would, he hoped, ever continue to belong to the right hon. Gentleman, without a rival claimant. He called it the "fructifying principle." Thus, should the Government not have the money to pay the interest of the national debt, the creditor would have no right to complain of his 1345 loss, because the money was "fructifying" in the pockets of the people. If the right hon. Gentleman could but establish this, principle generally, he would stand a chance of being the most popular man in the three kingdoms among that numerous class of the King's subjects, the debtors of the country. Every debtor would then only have to tell his too pressing creditor, "Do not give yourself any trouble about your principal or interest. For you to say, that you are losing money, is mere delusion: it is in my pocket, increasing upon the fructifying principle, ready to be extracted upon any future occasion." According to this fructifying principle, in what an enviable condition were the creditors of Chili and Colombia! Strange that their bonds should be at a discount after the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman, that they ought to be actually increasing in value on the "fructifying principle." The creditors of Colombia and Chili, ought not to be dissatisfied that the interest on their loans was not paid. True, it was withheld, but then it was, of course, "fructifying in the pockets" of the people of Chili and Colombia, and was ready to be extracted on a future occasion. The Columbians might say, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman—"It is very true that we have not paid your dividends for some time, nor do we intend to do so for a period to come; but then do not think that the money is lost. We are keeping it for your benefit, and it is 'fructifying in our possession.'" There was another debt to which the attention of the noble Lord, the Foreign Secretary, had recently been directed; and he feared the "fructifying principle" would be applied in the case of that debt. We had recently become security for that part of the debt of the Netherlands which the new kingdom of Belgium was to take upon itself. He forgot the distinctions taken by the noble Lord—we were guarantees for the debt, not security, and we were to have a claim upon Belgium for the re-payment of any advances we might make. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer for Belgium, enlightened by the doctrines of the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, would, no doubt, laugh at our demands for re-payment, and congratulate us on the advantage we should possess in remaining unpaid—the money due to us being retained on the true "fructifying principle." But, to be serious, these doctrines were as fallacious and extravagant as they were dangerous, and he lamented that two right hon. Gentle- 1346 men, holding high offices in his Majesty's Government, in explaining their views of the financial situation of the country, should have advanced speculations ten times more formidable, if acted upon by his Majesty's Government, than any deficiency that might occur in the finances of the year. He protested against the introduction of such doctrines, as he was sure that nothing but the worst consequence could result from them. He was sure that it was a great mistake to suppose, that we could remove existing taxes, and replace them by others, without occasioning great mischief. And he deprecated that overwhelming desire to catch the applause of those out of doors, which seemed the basis of the conduct of the Government. He would tell the noble Lord, that popularity so earned was sure to be fallacious. Circumstances might occur with regard to the machinery of a tax, that might render it occasionally advisable to substitute one that did not press so severely on the industry of the country. But, as a rule, he doubted the policy of repealing imposts that had long been in existence, for the purpose of introducing other taxes which, in theory, appeared less oppressive. He might say, from experience, that the old system was less burdensome than the new and plausible schemes which had been lately introduced, and he thought it would be more desirable to retain the duties we had at present, than run the risk of a great defalcation in our revenue, by the substitution of new taxes. The commutation of taxes, was not likely to relieve the people of the burdens which at present press upon them. He must, therefore, caution the noble Lord against the adoption of untried and plausible experiments in taxation, for it was the noble Lord's duty to recollect that the faith to the public creditor ought, on no consideration whatever, to be shaken. He rose principally for the purpose of saying, that even if the statement of the noble Lord, with regard to our financial prospects, was correct, still it was far from satisfactory; but his apprehension on this head would be far greater, his confidence in the future prospects of the country much shaken, if he thought that the noble Lord could approach this subject in a similar spirit to that which had characterised the speeches of the two right hon. Gentlemen. He should regret, indeed, if he thought the noble Lord could, with the right hon. Secretary for the Treasury, regard with indifference the deficiency in our revenue; and still more should he feel alarmed, if 1347 he thought the noble Lord could maintain the monstrous doctrines of the Vice-President of the Board of Trade—that this deficiency was not merely a matter of indifference, but rather a subject for congratulation. He was sure the noble Lord would find it best to adhere to those measures by which the national faith could be supported. He trusted that those in whose hands our financial affairs were placed, would consider well the situation of the country, and the events passing in other countries, before they attempted extensive financial changes, and would not suffer a desire for momentary popularity to divert them from the high and important duty of maintaining the public credit. His hon. friend, the member for Thetford, said, that it would have been easy for former Governments to have kept up taxes to such an amount as to form an efficient sinking fund to the amount of 7,000,000l. He differed entirely from his hon. friend; for there would have been such a combination of parties against any Government which attempted to maintain a surplus revenue to that extent as would have compelled a reduction of taxation. At the same time, he firmly believed that it was essentially necessary that a surplus revenue to a certain amount should be maintained for the support of the public credit. The safety and honour of the country, as well as the prospect of a reduction of our burthens hereafter, was involved in the steady payment of the public creditor; and he entreated the noble Lord not to sanction any measure, nor to undertake any great change, connected with our finances, calculated in the least degree to excite alarm as to a possible violation of the public faith of this country.
§ Mr. Poulett Thomson
begged to be permitted to deny the assertion made by the right hon. Baronet, that he treated the subject with levity, or congratulated the House or the country on the deficiency of the revenue: on the contrary, he lamented it. What he mentioned was, that his noble friend had reduced taxes at once, and had imposed others, which would not come into operation until a later period; and, therefore, that a deficiency in future years was not to be assumed, because there had been a deficiency in the past. Under those circumstances he did not see reason to lament the deficiency in the revenue this year, which would be hereafter made up.
in reference to the economy for which the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert 1348 Peel) took credit for the late Government, said, he had only to remark that the present Government asked merely 50,000l. for a Coronation, and did not even expend so much on it, while the estimate of the late Government for a similar purpose amounted to 100,000l., and their expenditure did not, fall short of 200,000l.
§ Mr. Kearsley
remarked, in allusion to the assertion of the hon. member for Hertford, that the late motion with regard to the Russian Dutch loan had been brought forward for the purpose of "tripping up" the Government—that any Government that could be "tripped up" by such a motion must be a very rotten one indeed, and could not have a leg to stand upon.
said, as the hon. member for Thetford had a few nights since made the same assertion as he had repeated in the course of the debate—that the Americans were competing with us in the manufacture of coarse cottons, he had, in the mean time, made some inquiries into the subject, and he understood the manufacturers entertained no such apprehension from the tax on raw cotton. At Liverpool the whole American tonnage was actually engaged in exporting manufactured goods, and the produce of the potteries; and the Americans themselves protected their infant factories by a duty of from forty to sixty per cent against our intrusion.
§ The Report of the Committee of Supply brought up: the Resolutions were—
§ 1. That a sum not exceeding 3,000,000l. be granted to his Majesty, to discharge the like amount of supplies granted for the year 1831, or of any preceding year.
§ 2. That a sum not exceeding 25,6l6,400l. be granted to his Majesty, to pay off and discharge Exchequer-bills, and that the same be paid and applied towards paying off and discharging any Exchequer-bills charged in the aids or supplies of the years 1831 or 1832, now remaining unpaid and unprovided for.
§ 3. That a sum not exceeding 280.000l. be granted to his Majesty, to pay off and discharge Exchequer-bills issued pursuant to several Acts, for carrying on Public Works and Fisheries and for building additional Churches, outstanding and unprovided for.
§ Lord Althorp,
on moving that the Resolutions be agreed to, had a few observations to offer to the House in the way of explanation, especially in reference to what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet opposite. The right hon. Baronet had very clearly, 1349 and with exceeding accuracy, recapitulated the grounds of his (Lord Althorp's) statement, but there was one part of it that he appeared to misunderstand—that which related to the 300,000l. due on malt. He (Lord Althorp) stated, that there was at present a larger sum due on it this year, as far as we had gone, than there was last year; and, in fact, that there had been a great increase in the sum due on it, there being 300,000l. due on it now, in addition to the 600,000l. increase during the last year, and he expected that the total increase in the malt duty would amount to 900,000l. From that statement, he thought he was fully borne out in saying that this would not be a temporary increase. He had not calculated on such an increase in the amount in his Estimate of the revenue and expenditure last year, and, therefore, what had accrued beyond his Estimate was to be taken as an additional surplus. The hon. member for Thetford had doubted the expectations which he (Lord Althorp) entertained with regard to the duty on cotton, and the grounds also on which he founded his statement with regard to that article. Now he would just read the House a tabular statement of the importations of cotton wool during the last three years. There were imported into this country, of cotton wool, in the year 1829, 204,797,656lb.; 1830, 269,634,779lb.; 1831, 283,745,660lb. The increase, therefore, in those three years, was from 204,000,000lb., and upwards, to 283,000,000lb., and upwards, shewing a regular tendency to increase in each of those three years. The calculation which he (Lord Althorp) had made was upon the amount imported last year, observing, at the same time, that it might be possible that the duty which had been imposed upon it would act in some degree as a check upon importation this year. From all the information, however, which he had received on the subject, he was led to believe that the increase in the amount of importation, would be as great this year as it had been last year. He thought that, under such circumstances, the amount which he calculated upon as likely to be derived from the duty on this article was a very fair and moderate one. He had been asked by hon. Members opposite, why the Estimates had not been laid on the Table of the House before this time. He begged, in reply, to say, that the Estimates for the three services would be laid on the Table of the House that evening. He was aware that such a 1350 course was not in accordance with a Resolution of the House, but it should be recollected that this was as early a period as the Estimates had been usually placed on the Table of the House in any previous Session of Parliament. He wished to add an observation in reference to a statement, which had been often made for several years by hon. Members who took an interest in the finances of the country, namely, that it would be desirable that we should commence them at an earlier period of the year than we do, and for this reason—that, according to the present practice we were in the habit of voting estimates after the money had been spent. His right hon. friend at the head of the Admiralty had, with that view, last year, in calculating the Estimates for the navy, so arranged them as to carry them to the commencement of the ensuing April. He (Lord Althorp) had now to state that it was the intention of his Majesty's Government that the financial year should for the future commence at the beginning of April. The Estimates, therefore, for the present year had been prepared in two divisions; the first for the present quarter, so as to bring them up to the 1st of April, and the other for the four quarters of the year then ensuing. The whole Navy Estimates for the year would be laid before the House this evening; the Army and Ordnance Estimates for the quarter up to the 1st of April, and the remaining Estimates for those services would be laid before the House with the least possible delay.
§ Sir George Clerk
observed, that the time which the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) had fixed for the commencement of the financial year would not answer the purpose which he had in view, and that it would render it more difficult hereafter to institute a comparison with the expenditure of former years.
said, that the plan would be a good one, if the estimates could be produced early in January, but that if they should be put off till February or March, it would only place them in a worse situation than their present one.
wished to know, whether the noble Lord was able to state the amount of revenue and expenditure since the period when the accounts had been made up; and if so, whether there had been an increase, or the reverse?
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the period alluded to was so short, that he could not give a precise answer to the question. 1351 He believed that the revenue derivable from the Customs was not so good up to the present time as it had been last year, but then it was to be recollected that it was extraordinarily large last year.
§ Resolutions agreed to, and a Bill founded thereon ordered to be brought in.