§ Lord Althorp
rose, and spoke as follows: Sir, in calling the attention of the Committee to the statements which I have to make of the financial condition of the country, I shall take the liberty, in performing this part of my duty, of first directing the attention of the Committee to those reductions in the various departments of the State which have at various times and on previous occasions been brought under the notice of the House, as an evidence of our endeavours to reduce taxation. In trespassing upon the attention of the Committee with this statement, I think that I act fairly and justly towards the Administration of which I am a Member, because when we entered upon office, we did it with a pledge to apply ourselves to introduce economy to the utmost extent in our power; and on this, the first occasion of bringing any financial statement before a Reformed Parliament, I think it is right that I should state what progress has been made in redeeming that pledge. I shall, therefore, state the number of places and offices which we have successively abolished and the amount of salary which has been reduced, in order to show the House that we have applied ourselves to effect the object we promised and that we have succeeded in reducing to a considerable extent the expenditure of the country. The total number of places abolished by the present Administration is 1,387; and the total amount of salary done away is 231,406l. From this 231,406l., however, there must be deducted 38,000l., the amount of the retired allowances; for the Committee is aware that when we have found an office useless, and something was to be gained by reducing the salary we have not hesitated to abolish it, though the whole amount of salary could not be immediately saved. Deducting the retired allowance, then, the saving will not be 231,000l., but about 192,000l. Among the places abolished there were three offices which were usually accompanied by the possession of seats in Parliament, the salary of which amounted to 21,894l. The diplomatic expenses have been reduced to the extent of 91,735l.; but I think it right to say, that we cannot claim credit for the whole amount of the reduction. The regulations made by the late Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the Earl of Aberdeen, reduced these expenses 34,000l., 327 and my noble friend, the present Secretary, has made a further reduction of 57,000l. There, is, however, in this year a little additional charge on the Consolidated Fund, arising from places of 1,181l. If the Committee looks at what has been done by the present Administration during the last two years, however, it will find that 652 places were abolished in 1831, and 613 in 1832. That, however, is not the whole number, for some were previously got rid of; and the whole number abolished, as I before said, is 1,387 The average income, or salary, of the places abolished is thus 173l. 10s. I state these facts to the Committee to show that we have applied ourselves to reduce places that were useless to the public, and I hope and trust that the Committee will think that we have exerted ourselves to the utmost. I will add, that it is still our intention to abolish places wherever we can, and save all that we possibly can from the expenditure of the country. I must also add, that during these two years 506 persons have been brought from the retired list in the revenue department and placed on active service, by which a saving of the retired allowance has been made of 28,000l. I think I only do what is just towards ourselves in making this statement in reference to the saving we have made. I shall now begin my financial view, by stating the amount of the income and expenditure for the year, between the 5th of April, 1832, and the 5th of April, 1833. The amount of the income for the year was 46,853,000l.; the amount of the expenditure was 45,366,000l., leaving an excess of income over expenditure of 1,487,000l. The Committee will, I have no doubt, recollect that in the Estimates I made last Session, I stated the probable excess of the income over the expenditure below this. I only calculated the excess at 800,000l.; but I am happy to say, that, by the reduction of expenditure, the excess of income over expenditure which is 1,487,000l., will more than enable us to cover the deficiencies of the preceding year. That deficiency the Committee will recollect was 1,240,412l. Taking the two together, the Committee will see that the improvement on the revenue of the present year is not less than 2,728,000l. This, however, I must say; has been brought about—not so much by the increase of the income of the country as the decrease of the expenditure. I will now state what the income of the country was for the two years. For 1832, it was 46,618,000l,; for 1833, it 328 was 46,853,000l.; showing an excess in the latter year of only 235,000l., and proving that the surplus on the year arose from the expenditure being considerably reduced. The expenditure for the year ending April, 1832, was 47,859,000l.; for 1833, 45,366,000l.; the diminution being 2,493,000l. for the last year. It will be seen from this statement that the improvement which has taken place may be expected to be greater in the following year because it does not depend on any accidental increase of revenue, but on the economical management of the public funds, and on the saving thereby effected. I will now state more in detail the income and expenditure of the last year. The income last year from the Customs was 16,769,621l.; from the Excise, 16,529,131l.; from Stamps, 6,857,540l.; from Taxes, 5,003,937l.; from the Post Office, 1,453,900l.; from miscellaneous sources, 238,526l.; making a total of 46,852,650l. I will now state the expenditure. The sum charged for the Debt, including interest on Exchequer Bills—the whole sum charged to the Consolidated Fund for the Debt, was, 28,225,891l.; The other charges on this fund were 1,859,248l.; making the whole charges on the Consolidated Fund 30,085,239l. The expenditure of the Supplies was—for the Army, 7,006,496l.;for the Navy,4,505,000l.; for the Ordnance, 1,634,817l.; for the miscellaneous service, 2,138,953l.; making a total of 45,365,507l—The expenditure for the preceding year was for the Army, 7,551,000l., which last year was reduced to 7,006,498l.; the expenditure for the Navy in the preceding year was 5,842,835l. and in the last year 4,505,000l.; the Ordnance for the preceding year was 1,478,944l., and for last year 1,634,812l.; being an increase of 155,878l.; the Miscellaneous was 2,900,430l. in the preceding year, and in the last year it was 2,133,953l.; showing a diminution of nearly 800,000l. I have already stated, that the probable excess of income over expenditure last year was estimated at 800,000l, whereas it actually amounted to 1,487,000l.; and I will now calculate what is likely to be the estimated balance of the ensuing year, supposing no alteration in the duties, and that the revenue should remain as at present. The whole amount of the revenue for the year will be, according to my estimate, 46,494,128l. In making this calculation it will be observed, that I do not take the revenue at so large a sum as last year. I look for a reduction in the duties of 329 Excise; because the arrears of the Malt-duties, which were due at the close of last year, were much greater than were due at the close of the present year. I calculate the income for the ensuing year at a lower rate than the income for the past year. The charges on the Consolidated Fund for the present year will not he the same as for the past year. I have obtained an estimate of the increased charge, and the expenditure charged on the Consolidated Fund for the year will not be less than 30,300,000l. The Supplies, the estimates of which have been laid on the Table, though they have not yet been all voted, are, for the Army, 6,673,251l.; for the Navy, 4,658,635l.; for the Ordnance, 1,455,223l.; for the miscellaneous services, 1,835,110l. Including the additional charge on the Consolidated Fund, the whole expenditure will be 44,922,219l. If this is deducted from the estimated income for the year, 46,494,128l., it will leave a calculated surplus of 1,571,909l., say 1,572,000l. The Committee is aware of the views which I entertain of a surplus revenue. There are, I know, great differences of opinion on this point; but I hope that Gentlemen, speaking generally, are of my opinion, that it is better, if we have any surplus, rather to diminish taxes, than employ it to pay off the debt. I have always, indeed, believed that it was not safe nor advisable to reduce the surplus too low. Hitherto, I believe, that I have reduced the surplus lower than it ought to have been; more so, I am afraid, than appears justifiable in the eyes of some hon. Members. Nevertheless, taking the situation of the country into consideration, it is, in my opinion, desirable that a reduction of taxes should be made to the extent of the surplus. I have stated the probable surplus of the income at 1,571,909l. With respect to these reductions, the principle on which I have always acted is, to make the reductions as much as possible on those taxes which fall on industry. I am aware that the reduction I have to propose will not be such as I have heard hon. Gentlemen state in the House, and still less will they be such as I have heard has been mentioned out of the House. I am not prepared to reduce the taxes 30,000,000l. nor 20,000,000l. as statements have been made out of doors, because it would be impossible to reduce taxes to that amount, as the Committee must be well aware, without destroying public credit. However, I think the reduction of taxes 330 which I shall propose, will be such, considering the articles to which it applies, as will give considerable relief. Before going any further, I think it is necessary to speak of those taxes, which it has been proposed to reduce, and which, it has been stated, press very much on the industry of the country, and which I am afraid, will continue to press on it for some time, as I do not mean to make any reduction in them on the present occasion. The first tax of the kind I shall notice is the tax on malt. My hon. friend, the member for Lincolnshire, has given notice that he will bring forward a motion to reduce the duty on malt. Sir, the duty on malt last year amounted to 4,825,128l., and the total reduction of the Malt duties at present is therefore, quite inconsistent with the state of the revenue. I will take the opportunity of considering what has been the course of the Malt duties, and I will consider whether the Malt duties press hard on any particular class, and, as a financial question, whether it is one of the taxes which ought to be first reduced. I will state the produce of the Malt duties for the last few years. In 1830 they amounted to 3,813,304l.; in 1831, they amounted to 3,436,271l.; and in 1832, after the duties on beer were taken off they amounted to 4,359,332l.; while, in the year ending January 5th, 1833, they amounted to 4,825,125l. Looking at the question in a financial point of view, is it not apparent that this tax does not press so hard on the article as to reduce the consumption? If the welfare of the producer were concerned, I might be disposed to reduce this duty; but on looking at the price of barley, I am sure that no Gentleman will contend that its price does not bear a proper proportion to the price of other grain. I say then, that looking at the question both as a financial question concerning the amount of the tax, and as the interests of the consumers and producers are concerned, and seeing that there is no unfair depreciation of the price of this species of grain—for these reasons, I say, I cannot consent to the reduction of the duty. I am aware that this doctrine will not be popular; but the duties of the Chancellor of the Exchequer seldom are popular; and though it be unpopular to say so, I must say that the Malt-tax, looking at it under the several points of view I have mentioned is too productive and too little injurious to be now removed. The next tax, on which I own I feel great doubts as to the decision to which I have come, because my own 331 opinion is of that nature concerning the tax as to leave me with a tendency to doubt the propriety of the conclusion to which, after the best consideration, I have been obliged to come—the next tax I shall advert to, is one which some of the hon. Gentlemen opposite are very eager to get removed—the tax I mean is the Stamp duties on Newspapers. With respect to the Stamp-duties on Newspapers I have already frequently stated my opinion—I think it a bad tax. I think it a tax productive of many evils, because the effect of it undoubtedly is, to give great advantage to persons who are bold enough to evade the law; and thus it gives a monopoly of cheap publications into the hands of disreputable persons. On this ground, I most certainly desire to see the tax repealed; but if, on this principle, a part of the tax were reduced, we could not stop till we repealed the whole. If the whole tax gives a premium to evade the law, whatever part of the tax may be left will be a premium to take advantage of the law to that extent The question, then, which I have to consider is, whether, in the present situation of the country—and that situation I admit is one in which there is great distress—distress does prevail to a considerable extent; but the question I have to consider is, whether the taking off this tax, which amounts to 440,000l., is a measure which will give relief to any considerable class of the community. I see my hon. friend opposite the member for the city of Lincoln (Mr. Bulwer) is taking notes; and I admit that the tax being removed would give relief to a certain extent; but the tax on newspapers is not one which presses on the industry of the country, and which would by its removal give a great relief. I know that it is argued that the reduction of this tax may be compensated by another mode of taxation, and that it is not fair, in reducing the tax on newspapers, to calculate the loss to the Revenue at 440,000l. I admit that it would not amount to that, because something would be gained by the increased consumption of paper, and that, in fact, the loss to the revenue would be considerably less. Some Gentlemen have proposed that a postage should be levied on newspapers, and that the revenue obtained from that source would more than counterbalance the loss by reducing the Stamp Duties; but, from the inquiries I have made (and I have examined the subject), I am satisfied that this is a fallacious view of the question. I have inquired, and I mention it, because I wish to show that it was 332 not without consideration that I came to the opinion, that these gentlemen had not made accurate calculations. They thought that by laying, instead of the Stamp Duty on Newspapers, one penny postage on each paper the revenue would not suffer. But I believe that the expectations of what the Government would gain by the postage are much over rated. In carrying Newspapers, the Government would have many rivals; the stage coaches would carry Newspapers, and carry them for a far less sum than one penny each paper. The consequence I believe would be, that no Newspapers would be carried by the mail-coaches, or that, at least, a great diminution would take place in the number now carried by them. The great mass of Newspapers are sent from the metropolis in large bundles, to be distributed in the different towns. They are made up in parcels by the news-venders, and sent to different places, so that the expense of carrying one paper by a coach must be very small. The question, then, which I have to decide is, whether I shall take off the tax upon Newspapers upon speculative grounds, believing, as I do, that those who recommend that will not find their calculation correct, and sacrifice a revenue of 440,000l. less by the increased amount of the duty on paper; or shall I apply that 440,000l. to reduce taxes which press more immediately on the industry of the country? It is with regret, I must own, particularly as regards my own opinion; for I admit that on a former occasion I did hold out an expectation, I cannot say I pledged myself; but I did hold out an expectation—I implied, and such was then my intention—that I would reduce this tax. After much consideration, however, I have altered my opinion, and I have frankly stated to the House my reasons for the alteration. I do not think it necessary for me to apply myself to other taxes which Gentlemen have proposed to repeal, but I will proceed to my own plans. The first tax to which I propose to call the attention of the Committee, because it regularly comes before the Committee as part of the Excise, and will be the first Resolution I shall move—is of a trifling nature. I allude to the tax on tiles, which amounts to 37,000l. When on a former occasion I removed the duty from slates, my attention was called to the pressure of the duty on tiles. I felt, at the time, that the tile manufacturers were exposed to great hardships; but I could not then take off more taxes. I felt that it was desirable, that it 333 was even just that when the tax on slates was removed, the tax on tiles should not be suffered to remain. I believe that the tax on tiles was originally imposed only to counterbalance the duty imposed on slates, and therefore I was convinced that I ought to take the first opportunity of removing it. That opportunity has now arrived, and I propose to take that duty off. The next tax to which I shall call the Committee's attention, is one, the reduction of which will not cause much, indeed I am not sure that it will cause any great loss, and that it will not be immediately replaced—it is a tax respecting newspapers, the tax on advertisements. I believe that the reduction of the tax on advertisements will give great relief to the trading and productive classes. The tax now is 3s. 6d. for every advertisement, and however often the advertisement is repeated the duty is not altered. The consequence is, that the advantages of advertising, which are generally only obtained after two or three insertions, are lost or burthened with a heavy duty, and to reduce this tax will give the trading part of the country great relief. I propose then to reduce the tax on advertisements. At present it is for every insertion 3s. 6d. I propose to reduce the duty for the first insertion to 1s.; for the second to 1s. 6d.; and for the third and every subsequent insertion to 1s. The effect of this will not be, I should think, to cause a loss to the revenue equal to the whole amount of the reduction, because the consequence of the reduction will be to cause the advertisements to be often repeated when the advertisers have not to pay as much for every insertion. Certainly it will enable the proprietors of newspapers to insert repeated advertisements at a cheaper rate than they can insert a single advertisement; for by keeping the type standing they will be saved the expense of composition. Although, therefore, I do not think we need apprehend much loss of revenue by this change, I calculate it will be about half.
§ Lord Althorp
The whole revenue from advertisements now amounts to 150,000l., and I think I am quite safe at calculating the reduction at only 75,000l., or one half. The next tax in which I propose to make an alteration is one in which it is most desirable to make an alteration—I mean the reduction of the duty on Marine Insurance. 334 I think I shall not cause any large sacrifice of revenue by this alteration, and the alteration will be of great advantage to the shipping interests and to trade generally. The present rate of duty is on the coasting trade 1s. 3d percent, when the premium does not exceed 20s., and 2s. 6d. percent when it does exceed 20s. On the foreign trade it is higher; being 2s. 6d. percent when the premium does not exceed 20s., and 5s. percent when it does exceed 20s. The net amount of revenue yielded by this rate of duty is 220,000l. I think it right to state the amount of this tax at different periods, that the Committee may see how different it is from the tax on malt. In 1815 the amount of this duty, though I must observe that it was large in that year, but in 1815 the amount of this duty was 452,000l. and last year it was only 220,000l. That shows that the effect of the tax on policies of marine insurance bus been to drive this branch of trade out of the country. It is, therefore, one of the taxes which I think ought to be reduced. The proposition I have to submit to the Committee on this subject will, I believe, be acceptable to the different interests concerned. I do not propose to alter the tax on policies in the coasting-trade. My proposition is, that on all policies on vessels engaged in foreign trade, in which the premium is under 15s., the duty shall be reduced from 2s. 6d. to 1s. 3d., and on policies where the premium is under 30s. and above 15s., I propose to reduce the duty to 2s. 6d. When the premium exceeds 30s. I propose that the present duty shall continue to be levied. From what I have already heard, I believe that this arrangement will be satisfactory to the interests concerned. Of course they would be better satisfied if the reduction were greater, but the reduction that is made falls on those policies, in which relief is most required. I calculate the reduction of the revenue which may take place from this cause at about one half, or 100,000l. This reduction though small I have great pleasure in proposing, because it will relieve the shipping interest to a certain extent, and bring back a part perhaps of the profitable trade which the high tax had banished. The next branch of taxes to which I will apply myself is the Assessed-taxes. With respect to these taxes, the pressure on the House and on the Government has been for the total repeal of the House and Window-tax. The total repeal of them would make a reduction of 335 2,594,000l. I confess that, however I may wish to accommodate and relieve the industrious population of the towns, I should not be justified in sacrificing all the surplus revenue for that object. I have endeavoured to consider if some mode could not be adopted, by which the productive industry of the town population may be relieved, while this tax might remain upon those who are best able to bear it; I mean, whether an arrangement could not be made, by which the shopkeepers may be relieved from the duty, while houses that are not converted into shops shall remain chargeable as at present. The Committee may probably be aware, that according to the present law regarding the Window-tax, there is an allowance made, by which three windows are struck off from each house to which a shop is attached. I think this is a principle upon which we may proceed. I do not intend to confine the windows for shops to any specific number; but I propose to take the duty off windows in all shops employed as such, or as ware-rooms. In the case of houses which include shops, warehouses, or store-houses, it is intended that the number of windows appropriated to the shop, warehouse, or store-house, shall be deducted from the number of windows in the house; for instance, in a house containing altogether fifteen windows, five of which are appropriated to the shop or warehouse, five windows shall be deducted from the total number reckoned for the house; so that the house will be considered as one having only ten windows; and, that, in this case there would be a reduction of one-third of the whole window duty for that house. Now, with respect to the house-duty, it is intended to proceed upon the same principle; and in a house containing fifteen windows, of which five belongs to the shop, the House-duty will also be reduced in the proportion of one-third of the whole amount hitherto payable for the house. I hope that this will be considered to give a considerable relief to shopkeepers and others engaged in trade; because, with respect to their shops, they will be relieved entirely both from the house and Window-tax; and they will only be liable to pay these taxes for such portion of their houses as is appropriated to different purposes from those of trade. This reduction, I calculate, will produce a diminution of the revenue, arising from the House and Window-taxes, of about 100,000l. With regard to some of the other classes of the Assessed taxes, 336 the house has been made fully aware that great complaints have been brought by the parties interested. This is the case particularly with respect to the duty on taxed carts, the recent measure respecting which, though in some cases it may have operated as a tax, was in reality a reduction of taxation. But as it has not as yet produced much effect, it is my intention to propose that this tax be entirely reduced, and that those carts which have been subject to the duty of 30s. shall now be entirely free from that impost. The remission of this tax will produce a diminution of the revenue to the extent of 30,000l. There is another tax of which great complaints have been made, as bearing heavily upon the trading interest—I allude to the duty for shopmen, warehousemen, store-keepers, and porters. This, also, I intend to take away; and I calculate that it will produce a diminution of 45,000l. There is another class who are connected with the mercantile interest on whose employment a duty is levied—commercial travellers and hawkers. This tax I also propose to repeal. The amount arising from it is trifling—only 4,500l.; but there is a more important class of men, who subject their employers to taxation—I mean book-keepers and clerks, whom it is likewise my intention to relieve from this burthen. I next intend to propose to take off the duty which is now levied on stewards, bailiff's, managers, and overseers, the amount of which is inconsiderable, being only 9,500l. a-year. The whole of these reductions in the Assessed Taxes amount to a sum of 244,000l. The next point to which I am about to address myself is one on which I am, in a certain degree, pledged. When I laid the additional duty on raw cottons in 1831, I said that it was radically wrong in principle, and that, on the first opportunity which arrived, it ought to be reduced. That opportunity has now arrived, and it is, therefore, incumbent on this House to take off the additional duty which was imposed in 1831. The Committee are, no doubt aware of the circumstances under which it was laid on. It was thought both by me and by this House, that it was more desirable that the tax on printed calicoes should be taken off entirely, as being more contrary to principle than the tax upon raw cotton. When I propose to remit this tax, it is not because I think it has had any bad effect; on the contrary the manufactures connected with cotton have flourished under its operation; but we must recollect how dangerous it is 337 to lay taxes upon the raw material, in cases in which we have to compete with foreign manufacturers, though this danger does not always show itself at the moment. It may remain dormant, because there is no immediate competition; but foreign manufacturers gradually establish themselves, and make their way in different markets; and by the time that people begin to perceive the mischief, it has become too late to remedy it. It is, therefore, necessary to be exceedingly careful in imposing any additional burthen on the raw material. At the same time I do not propose to put raw cotton on a bettor footing than it was when the addition to the tax in 1831 was proposed. I propose only to take off that amount of the tax (as nearly as I can calculate it) which was imposed on that occasion. Previous to that period, there was an ad valorem duty upon the pound of raw cotton to an amount which might be equivalent to three-eighths of a penny, to which were then added two-eighths of a penny, making the whole about five-eighths of a penny per lb., the result of that being, that the whole amount of the duty on cotton for the last year had been 626,000l. It has been estimated that the portion of the duty imposed in 1831 might be about 326,000l.; but I do not think its reduction will diminish the revenue more than 300,000l. In most cases where a duty is reduced, we may calculate on the deficiency being partially made up by an increased consumption: but in this case I cannot anticipate such a result, and I expect that the revenue will lose to the full amount of the sum repealed. I am now to speak of a tax of more importance, and one on which I consider a reduction to be most desirable, though the tax produces a considerable amount of revenue—I mean the tax on soap, the annual amount of which at present is 1,186,000l. I propose to reduce that duty by one half, which may, at first sight, appear a great reduction; but I believe that, all things considered, the real diminution will not amount to more than half of the apparent amount, because on this reduction we may fairly reckon that we may save the drawbacks, by which 100,000l. are paid back to the producers: and I think we may also calculate that a great portion of the remaining diminution will be made up by increased consumption. The consequence, also, of putting an end to the illicit manufacture, is deserving of consideration. The duty upon the cwt. at present is 28s. Now the greater expense 338 to the illicit manufacturer than to the fair trader is estimated at 12s. per cwt., as I believe has been proved by some persons at present actually engaged in the manufacture, which leaves the illicit manufacturer, under the present system, a profit of no less than 16s. per cwt. and an advantage to that extent over the fair trader; whereas, when the duty is reduced to half, if he be still subject to the same disadvantage as the manufacturer, he will only have an advantage over the fair trader of 2s. on the cwt. I really hope and trust that the effect will be to destroy nearly, if not entirely, the illicit manufacture. It is impossible not to say that the illicit trade is carried on at present to a very great extent. And I, therefore, do not exaggerate when I say, that the reduction per cwt. of one-half will not produce a decrease of the revenue of more than 300,000l. I have now stated the taxes which I wish to reduce; and in making ray selection, I have endeavoured to do it in such a manner as shall apply the greatest practicable relief to the productive classes. I have also endeavoured to relieve the country of taxes on some articles of very general consumption. Some Gentlemen may wish that I had made a different selection, but altogether I hope the House will be satisfied that these taxes ought to be reduced. I do not think that any Gentleman will pretend to say that the removal of these taxes will not relieve the country. Greater reductions may be called for, but none can deny that these will produce some effect at least. I do not think that any hon. Member will say that every one of these taxes ought not to be repealed.
inquired whether the taxes on advertisements would be equalized in England and Ireland, and whether the drawbacks on soap exported to Ireland were to be taken away.
§ Lord Althorp
I will not at present answer the hon. Member's question; but I do think that there ought not to be a lower duty in Ireland than in England. I will now recapitulate to the House the particulars of the different taxes which I intend to reduce: they are these:—
|1. Tiles—whole duty||37,000|
|2. Marine Insurance.—estimated diminution||100,000|
|3. Advertisements— estimated diminution||75,000|
|4. Assessed Taxes—Reduction of House and Window Duty on Shops||244,000|
|5. Cotton—Reduction of additional Duty imposed in 1831||300,000|
§ The amount of surplus is smaller than it has been usual to calculate upon; but I do think that, in the present state of the country, it is for its advantage to act upon the principle which has guided me, and to carry the reduction to the greatest practicable extent. I have detained the House in explaining all the details of my reductions at considerable length; and as to any general arguments upon such a statement, I do not think that they are very necessary. As to those taxes on which I have not thought it my duty to propose any reductions, I have stated my grounds for not reducing them; and I have also stated the grounds on which I proposed to reduce those of which I have given the particulars. Some hon. Gentlemen, I fear, may object to certain taxes being omitted, and some to others; but I hope, as I before said, that the House altogether will be satisfied. I will only detain the House with one observation more. I hope the House will consider, that whatever they do further for the relief of any particular classes which suffer under the burthens of taxation, they must confine their labours to the substitution of other taxes, and to make further reductions. I hope and trust that they will not be induced to do anything which would be detrimental to the public creditor; that they will not press for the repeal of a greater number of taxes, without substituting others; because the Committee will see, from the state of the revenue which I have laid before them, that it would be impossible to grant it. I do not think it necessary to detain the Committee any longer, but have now merely to propose the Resolution—"That it is the opinion of this Committee that the duty payable on tiles shall henceforth cease and determine."
§ Mr. Hume
could not deny that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as far as he had gone, had done well; but he only regretted that the noble Lord had not gone further. The noble Lord might have proceeded on the principle which had guided him in reducing the duty upon 340 soap, with regard to which he had told them that the revenue would be benefited by the reduction of the duty by one half per cent. He could tell the noble Lord, however, that the country would not be satisfied if he could not bring forward something better than his commutation of tithes and taxes. Great dissatisfaction would arise, as soon as the country was informed of the method to be pursued respecting the House and Window-tax. They were now placed in a position in which it was necessary to incur some risk, in order to grant relief in those taxes which pressed so heavily upon the poor in particular. With regard to his observations on the duty upon malt, the noble Lord was entirely mistaken; for he had shown by a statement that, forty years ago, when the population of the country was only half what it is at present, the consumption of malt was greater; so that the noble Lord might fairly reckon, if the duty were reduced to ten shillings a quarter, there would be double the quantity consumed. Thus the people would gain much, and the revenue would lose but little. He hoped that the noble Lord, or, if the noble Lord would not, that the House, would reduce the duty on malt to ten shillings, when he was sure the revenue would not lose by it. With regard to the Stamp-duty upon newspapers, the noble Lord had looked upon it merely in a financial point of view; but he should have remembered that ignorance was the greatest bane of society. It was, therefore, the duty of the noble Lord to lessen that tax, even at a sacrifice of revenue. He thought that the objections against the loss which would arise to the revenue could be commuted for postage; and he trusted that the House would not allow the subject to sleep, and that the noble Lord would take a better view of the matter. With respect to the next tax on which a reduction was to be made, he candidly concurred as to the amount of the reduction. He objected to the complexity of the details, in the arrangements about the duty on advertisements, which, if made more simple, would be much more beneficial. The noble Lord was mistaken as to the number of advertisements which required to be repeated; as it was, the reduction would only operate in favour of one particular class; and if the duty were reduced to 1s. 6d. on all advertisements, the reduction would be much better received. 341 With regard to marine insurances, it would have been much better to reduce that tax altogether. With regard to the Assessed-taxes, he concurred with the noble Lord, as far as he went; but he was extremely sorry that he had not proposed to grant relief from the House and Window taxes. It was a tax which gave extreme annoyance, and pressed very heavily on the Metropolis in particular. The noble Lord would soon find that a great portion of the houses would be left empty and such a diminution of the value of houses would take place, that he would be at last compelled to grant a reduction of the duty. He approved of the reduction of the Soap Duty, and he concurred in the propriety of reducing duties, in order to prevent smuggling; but why not carry the principle to its full extent? Why leave a premium to the smuggler, even of two shillings? Why not abolish the duty and not leave a single shilling as a premium to the smuggler? He, therefore, hoped, that the noble Lord would yet reconsider that part of the subject. The noble Lord must not suppose that the country would be satisfied unless some method was discovered for introducing a commutation of taxes, so as to throw the burthen off industry, and put it upon property. Unless the noble Lord did this, the people would be entitled to press for a much larger reduction than had yet been announced. He had thus stated what he approved of in the noble Lord's statements, and what he did not approve of; and he would conclude, by expressing his hope, that a reduction would be made at least to the full extent of the surplus of 516,000l.
§ Colonel Davies
would only trouble the Committee with a few observations. He wished, in the first instance, to notice what appeared to him to be an apparent and not a real saving in the military establishment of the country; 120,000l. had been applied last year in the purchase of half-pay annuities, whilst this year only 20,000l. was applied to the same purpose. The difference of 100,000l., however, was only an apparent saving. With respect to the proposed reduction of taxation, he agreed with his hon. friend, the member for Middlesex, that a reduction of the duty on malt would have been most desirable. Such a reduction would have been a great advantage to the morals as well as an increase of comfort to the lower 342 orders. The reduction of the Assessed-taxes was good as far as it went, but it would afford no relief whatever to many classes that now severely felt the pressure of the Assessed-taxes. At present, there was no duty payable on warehouses, and therefore the relief to the mercantile classes would be very small. Nor would the relief to the shopkeeper be so great as it might at first appear. The shopkeeper had only to compete with his neighbour who paid the same taxes as himself. The amount of those taxes, it was true, was very large, but the shopkeeper did not pay them ultimately—they fell on the consumer. But why not reduce the Assessed-taxes, so as to give relief to other classes besides the shopkeepers? Those who kept no shops, and those who lived in lodgings, and paid an increased rent in consequence of the high duty on their houses, were as well entitled to relief as the shopkeepers. If the House-duty had been repealed altogether, it would have afforded substantial relief, which it would not do if the present proposal was adhered to. The reduction of the duty on raw cotton, no doubt, would be hailed with great satisfaction by the Manchester people, who were fortanate in finding so good a friend in the noble Lord. The proposed reductions, however, he predicted, would not satisfy the country. The only mode in which reductions could be effected to any extent was by reducing the public establishments. If a Committee was granted to him, to consider what reductions could be made in the colonial and military establishments, he would forfeit his existence if he did not show that reductions "light be made to the full amount of the Assessed-taxes. He hoped, when he moved for such a Committee, that he should find the noble Lord and his colleagues disposed to listen to a proposal which might lead to so important and beneficial a reduction.
§ Sir Robert Peel
agreed in the remark of the noble Lord that the duties of a Chancellor of the Exchequer were very unpopular, and that it was impossible to satisfy the hopes of all parties who claimed a reduction of taxation. The observation of the noble Lord was perfectly just, and those who filled the situation which the noble Lord now filled had heretofore generally found their opponents more disposed to aggravate the unpopularity by clamour against taxation than, to lessen it by acquiescing 343 in the opinion, that greater reductions were impossible. For his own part, he was not disposed to take that course, for he should have to avow opinions quite as unpopular as those avowed by the noble Lord. He would not say, that the noble Lord had not gone far enough in the reduction of taxation; he was rather disposed to complain of the noble Lord having carried reduction too far. It was dangerous to proceed with reduction to an extent which might affect our ability to keep faith with the public creditor. He thought it bad economy to reduce the surplus so far as to cut off all hope of that honest and legitimate diminution of the public burthens which we might effect by maintaining public credit, and enabling ourselves to reduce the interest of the public funds. The noble Lord proposed a reduction of 1,056,000l.; and this, be it observed, was, on his own showing, not on an increasing, but on a falling revenue. The noble Lord had shown that the revenue of 1832 was 46,618,016l; in 1833, it was 46,852,650l.; but the estimate of 1834 was 46,494,128l.; making a falling off of not less than 356,000l. as compared with that of 1833. The reduction then was of 1,056,000l. on a falling revenue. Suppose the noble Lord should be disappointed as to the amount of expenditure, and circumstances, which it was impossible to guard against, should arise (which God forbid) to render it necessary to increase the expenditure—the danger of extreme reduction would be proportionally increased. He, therefore, thought that the noble Lord had carried his reductions to the fullest possible extent; and though he agreed with the noble Lord that it was difficult at the present time to maintain a large surplus for the purpose of redeeming debt, yet he thought it most unwise not to have a surplus, of a moderate amount, available to meet an unforeseen increase of expenditure; and thus enable the Government to avoid the great evil of creating fresh debt. A surplus of 516,000l. was the very least that should be maintained. In the general view which the noble Lord had taken of the subject he also entirely concurred. He thought the noble Lord had acted wisely in maintaining the system of taxation as it stood at present. All attempts to effect an extensive commutation of taxes, causing, as it necessarily must, in the present artificial 344 state of society, the unsettlement of capital, must be productive of great injury. Another system of taxation might be proved by reason a priori to be better than the present; but the present being established, and the habits and occupations of the people having accommodated themselves to it, it might, though abstractedly less perfect, be, on the whole, preferable to any substitute. He thought likewise that the noble Lord had done well in not proposing an Income or a Property-tax. Nothing but a case of extreme necessity could justify Parliament in subjecting the people of this country, in a time of peace, to the inquisitorial process which must be resorted to in order to render that impost productive; and to have recourse to such a machinery for the purpose of raising two or three per cent would be most unwise. Such a tax was a great resource in time of necessity, and therefore he was unwilling, by establishing the offensive inquisition with which it must be accompanied, to create such an odium against it as might render it almost impracticable to resort to it in time of extreme necessity. The application of the tax to Ireland would be attended with extreme difficulty. He really believed that this circumstance formed the main obstacle to the establishment of the tax. It hardly could be contended, that if a Property-tax were established, Ireland should be exempted from its operation. He wished to see Ireland as much favoured as possible consistently with justice; but to impose a Property-tax upon England and Scotland, and to exempt Ireland from its operation, would, in his opinion, however unpopular that opinion might be, be exceedingly unjust. In England a Property-tax would be applied in the way of commutation of other existing taxes, and might thus afford material relief, but Ireland did not afford the materials of a commutation, and the Property-tax in Ireland would operate as a new and additional impost. The noble Lord had therefore wisely abstained from agitating a question which could not be satisfactorily settled. With respect to a tax upon property, as distinguished from a tax upon income he very much doubted whether it would promote the interests of the labouring classes, because it would diminish the funds at present appropriated to the encouragement 345 of industry and the promotion of labour, and it would ultimately be found that the tax did not affect the person who paid it so ranch as the labourer, by diminishing his means of employment. He approved of the repeal of the tax upon raw cotton, which was imposed in 1831, for, though it might not hitherto have injuriously affected the cotton-manufacture of this country, though there was no evidence of incipient decay, yet irreparable injury might be done by improvident taxes on the raw materials of our great manufactures without our having any previous warning. A very slight premium given to a foreign rival might turn the current in his favour. At the time the additional tax was proposed by the noble Lord, he had expressed his hope that it would speedily be repealed. On a former occasion he had observed, that after the reduction of the duty upon slates, the tax upon tiles should be one of the first taxes repealed by the House, because the former were used principally in the houses of the richer classes, and the latter in cottages and farm-houses. However unpopular it might be to say so, he must confess he thought the noble Lord had done right in not taking off the duty upon newspapers. The reduction of the taxes which had been selected would afford greater relief to the community than the remission of the duty upon newspapers. He saw no proof that newspapers were labouring and panting under the duty. Free discussion was not checked by it. Useful and amusing information was at present supplied to the people by several societies, without, as far as he knew, any violation of the existing law. Besides, the remission of the duty, and the subjection of newspapers to postage, would operate as a bonus to the inhabitants of the metropolis, who, from the circumstance of their residing at the fountain head of knowledge, and being congregated in great masses, were already in advance of the rest of the community, whilst persons who lived in the country, and were further removed from the sources of information, would have to pay a heavy tax upon its conveyance, increasing in proportion to the distance of that conveyance, and, therefore, in proportion probably to the disadvantages under which they at present laboured. If he understood the noble Lord's proposition with respect to the House and Window-duty, it was this, that no duty should be paid upon windows 346 which were used for the purposes of trade, and that the abatement of the Houseduty should follow the scale of the reduction of the duty on windows—that was to say, the greater the number of windows employed for shop purposes, the greater would be the remission, not only of window, but of house duty. He feared that this would operate as a great encouragement to fraud. If the noble Lord could deal with shops as they now stood, and remit the tax upon windows bonâ fide, appropriated to shop purposes, he would have no objection to such a proposition; but he apprehended that advantage would be taken of the proffered indulgence to bring windows not bonâ fide required for shop purposes within the terms of the exemption, and by that means obtain a double remission. He had no doubt that if the noble Lord's proposition should be adopted as he had stated it to the House, it would give rise to much expensive litigation. For instance it was proposed to exempt the windows in show-rooms. But what constituted a show-room? He knew what it was at present, but he feared that it would be impossible to define it accurately when a double pecuniary advantage would result from appropriating rooms to the purposes of exhibition. That, however, was a matter of detail, and he would not longer dwell upon it at that moment. On the whole he was well pleased with the noble Lord's statement. The doubt which chiefly pressed upon his mind was as to whether the noble Lord had not gone too far in the way of reduction. It was better to avow that opinion at once; he cared little whether it was popular or not, but he believed that the interests of the country peculiarly required a frank expression of opinion on subjects which were not popular. If remission were to take place, he was glad that the noble Lord had applied himself to the reduction of the taxes which pressed upon productive industry generally, rather than to those which affected a particular class. From the reduction of the duty on soap he anticipated very beneficial effects, for nothing conduced more to sobriety and to the encouragement of domestic habits among the lower classes than a pride in cleanliness, and the means of commanding it. On the whole the reduction of taxation had been carried, if not too far, at least as far as was possible, consistently with the maintenance of public credit.
§ Sir Samuel Whalley
suggested, that a tax should be imposed on the public funds, and further reductions made in the taxes which pressed upon industry. The reductions, proposed by the noble Lord would not meet the wishes of the country, or afford that relief to the trading portion of the community which the noble Lord and the right hon. member for Tamworth anticipated; and he earnestly entreated the noble Lord, if he wished to give satisfaction to the people, to review that part of his plan which related to the House and Window-duty. He concurred with the right hon. Baronet in thinking that the noble Lord's arrangement upon that point would open the door to fraud; but he had another objection to it, which was, that it would afford no relief to the poor suffering shopkeepers, but would benefit exclusively what he might call the aristocracy of trade. The humble shopkeeper, who had no range of show-rooms, would derive no relief from the proposed remission. If the noble Lord would not totally repeal these duties, it would be much better, rather than adopt the plan which the noble Lord had proposed, to exempt totally from the Window-tax all houses rated below a certain amount—say 20l., 30l., or 40l.—and to reduce the house-duty in proportion. The noble Lord appeared to be ignorant of the extreme pressure upon the lower class of shop-keepers in the metropolis—it was so great that it was utterly impossible the great majority of them could much longer continue to carry on business. He would not deny his approbation of the selection of taxes for reduction as far as it went, but he thought that the reduction ought to have been carried much further.
was not surprised that what had fallen from the right hon. member for Tamworth relative to the property of Ireland should have excited the merriment of the House—[No, no] He maintained that when the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel), alluded to Irish property, and a Property-tax in Ireland, the merriment of the House was excited—[No, no]. It was so, and he was glad to see the House in so merry a humour when his country was mentioned; and, so long as they were proposing no further harsh measures for Ireland, he supposed he ought to be satisfied. At least, he would endeavour to make himself contented, though they taunted Ireland, if they did not further ill treat her. Now, with respect 348 to the reduction of taxation proposed by the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he would observe that, of the forty-seven or forty-eight million of taxes which existed, about 42,000,000l. of them were shared by both countries alike; whereas the 5,000,000l. of taxes on which the proposed reductions were to be made affected England alone. Now, when he complained of this on the part of Ireland, how was he met? He was anxious to fling off more in melancholy than in anger the laugh by which he had been assailed. Did the right hon. member for Tamworth opposite not know that there was already a Property-tax in Ireland? There was a probate tax—there was a legacy duty—all of which fell upon property. He might be mistaken in his opinion, but he would prefer a real Property-tax to any tax which cramped the springs of industry. If a Property-tax were to be imposed in Ireland, it would reach the pockets of absentees, who contributed so much in this country towards paying the Assessed-taxes, for which Ireland got no credit in the calculation of what she contributed towards the support of the State. If her share of the taxes which was paid in England were estimated, it would be found that Ireland was an overtaxed instead of an undertaxed country, as had been erroneously asserted. Since the peace, little or no reduction of taxation had taken place in Ireland; it did not in the whole amount to half a million; while in England the reduction amounted to more than 26,000,000l. This was the relative situation of the two countries since the peace. It had been said that, during the war, Ireland had not been equally taxed with England; but subsequent to the union, and during the war, taxes to the amount of 5,000,000l. had been imposed on Ireland; but what was the consequence? Why, a deficiency of two millions and a half in the revenue. That showed that Ireland had been taxed too much. The only part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's proposed reduction, which directly affected Ireland, was the reduction of the Advertisement duty. Now, up to 1814, the duty on advertisements in Ireland was Is; and at that rate the whole duty amounted (in 1813) to 21,253l. In 1814, a duty of 2s. 6d. was imposed on each advertisement; and the consequence was a decrease in the amount of duty to 14,000l. In 1829, the amount of 349 duty on advertisements was 14,985l. 6s.6d; so that the 2s. 6d. duty caused a fall to the amount of one-third in the whole duty; and so it had since remained. And now, what was proposed? The advertisement duty in England was 3s. 6d. of which the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to take off 1s. 6d.; whereas, in Ireland, the duty was 2s. 6d., of which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to take off 6d., so that England was to have three times as much benefit as Ireland by this reduction. Why not act upon the principle, pro re rata? and give the poor country equal relief to the rich country? Why not take off 1s. 6d. from the Irish as well as the English advertisement? If this were done, he firmly believed it would increase the amount of revenue. The arrangement of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer would favour the interests of those great monopolists of the fourth estate in this country, who sometimes condescended to throw the shield of their protection around Ministers, and sometimes held up the rod. The persons by whom this great engine was conducted were unknown—they shrunk from discovery, and were sorry when they were discovered; and yet they assumed the mighty well. This mighty we of the Press commanded the country to a considerable extent, few having the moral desperation to meet them and set them at defiance. He should be glad to see the period arrive when this great monopoly was put an end to, and the public Press set entirely free. At present, the consequence of the Stamp-duties on Papers was, that the gaols were filled with men who drove the illicit trade of smuggling knowledge, for the people, and like all smuggled goods, it was not often of the best quality. He thought it would be advisable to remove the duly on Papers altogether, if it were only to prevent the gaols of this country being crowded by persons who were tempted to violate the law. In the only part of the reductions which affected Ireland, she was not placed on an equality with this country. The question of equality was not one of pounds, shillings, and pence. If a man possessing 100l. a-year were to be taxed 99l. and a man possessing 10,000l. a-year were to be taxed no more than 99l. the one man would be beggared, while the other would not feel the tax. The only reduction of taxation which would affect Ireland 350 equally with this country was that on soap. But how came it to be introduced? The Chancellor of the Exchequer wished to cheek the progress of smuggling in this article in England, and could only do so by reducing the duty; and Ireland in consequence, came in for the collateral advantage. He did not expect that any thing that could fall from him would prove advantageous to his country, and therefore he would say no more upon this subject.
§ Sir Robert Peel
protested against the unfairness of the hon. and learned Member representing those persons who had occasion to speak of Ireland, as speaking of that country in a tone of derision and insult. It was quite clear that the hon. and learned Gentleman was not speaking for the audience he was addressing, but was directing his observations elsewhere. When he spoke of the introduction of a Property-tax into England, and of the difficulty of enforcing it in Ireland, he appealed to the House whether he had used or insinuated one disrespectful expression towards that country? He ought to be, and certainly would be, the last man in that House to do so. It would be bad taste in any man to taunt Ireland with her poverty or her sufferings; but it was worse taste still to attribute to any hon. Member, because Gentlemen happened to smile in the progress of debate, a desire to (aunt or insult Ireland or Irish feelings. He was glad he had this opportunity of setting himself right on the subject; and he would venture to assure the hon. and learned Member, that such a course of proceeding was altogether unworthy of his talents and acquirements, and ought not to be persevered in. Besides, it was likely he was afraid to be most mischievous to represent to the people of Ireland, that Englishmen were anxious to ridicule and insult them, when nothing could be further from the fact.
said, all he had stated was, that the right hon. Gentleman had spoken of Ireland facetiously. Why, did the House forget the merriment that was created the moment the right hon. member for Tamworth mentioned the Property-tax and Ireland [no, no]. There certainly was a general laugh in the House when Ireland and the Property-tax was mentioned [no no] hon. Members might cry "no, no," if they pleased, but he maintained that such was the fact. He had felt it his 351 duty to allude to that merriment, particularly when he found that they were so ready to coerce Ireland upon every occasion. He would ask, whether the "smile," as it was called, was not a smile of derision? Well, then, if it was only a joke, still it was a joke at Ireland's poverty. Some allusion had been made to his addressing himself to other auditories; it sometimes became his duty, his painful duty, to do so; but it was a duty from which he would not shrink; and if hon. Members laughed at his country—he would repeat, if they were ready to raise the laugh or the shout when his country was mentioned, while they were equally ready to deal harshly towards that country, and particularly in the inequality of reduction of taxation, he should always be ready to resist it.
§ Mr. Robert Palmer
said, that, in common, he had no doubt with many Gentlemen who had heard him, he felt thankful to the noble Lord for the reduction which he proposed in the different taxes of the country; but there was one tax with regard to which he felt a good deal of anxiety, as he had presented several Petitions respecting it, and he was in hopes that some reduction might have been made in its amount; he meant the Malt-duty. The noble Lord said very truly, that it would be impossible to take off a tax amounting to upwards of 4,000,000l., without substituting some other. He agreed with the noble Lord on that point; but at the same time he was disposed to concur with the hon. member for Middlesex and others in thinking, that by reducing a portion of the duty, the revenue would perhaps not be so much diminished as the country would be relieved. He hoped the noble Lord would take the subject into his serious consideration, and would, on a future opportunity, give the public the benefit of some reduction. With regard to the reduction of the duty on tiles, he thought that a very proper measure, and he hoped that the manufacturers of that article would feel grateful for the relief. With regard to the duty of 9,000l. which was to be taken off from bailiffs and overseers, he thought there might be other duties the removal of which would give greater relief. However, on the whole, he felt grateful to the noble Lord for what he proposed.
said, that when the annual exposition of the financial condition of 352 the country was made, the House was generally satisfied with the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and was indisposed to pay attention to any further discussion of the subject; yet, as this was the only occasion upon which he should have an opportunity of making any observations upon the general system of finance of the country, he felt it necessary to trespass for a short time upon the notice of the House, while he made a few observations on that system, and added a few remarks upon some of the articles of taxation in which the noble Lord proposed to make a reduction. It had been his misfortune to differ in opinion from almost every Government since the restoration of peace in this country. On the return of peace there were amongst Statesmen two different views as to the course of financial policy which the Government ought to adopt. The one was that which was the most popular, and consequently the most attractive, to every Government, or rather, indeed, he might say, the most irresistible—namely, that of reducing the taxation of the country to the very utmost, reserving little or no surplus of income over expenditure; the other, the creating such a bonâ fide sinking fund as would enable the Government to effect, within a comparatively short period, such a diminution of the amount of the national debt as would permanently relieve the country. The former being by far the most popular, and indeed irresistible as a means to obtain a seat in Parliament, was, unfortunately, that followed by every administration, including the present, since the peace; the other he had ever held to be recommended by a wise policy—he meant the generating such habits of manly fortitude in the public mind—by pointing out to them the extent of the resources of the country, and the certainty of a permanent good being the result of a temporary inconvenience—as would induce the people to bear such additional pressure of taxation as, without impairing the national energies, would hold out the by no means distant prospect of an effective reduction in, and mastery over, the national debt. If this manly and wise policy had been acted on since the peace, they would now be in a situation that would enable them to reduce what taxes they pleased, while the pressure of the national debt would be as nothing relative to the national resources. 353 But, unfortunately, each administration had continued in the same unwise career, commenced in the peace; and at length the noble Lord following in the steps of his predecessors, had not only left little or no surplus as a sinking fund, but actually last year was in a deficit quoad the year's revenue. He, however, did not blame the noble Lord for pursuing a vicious course, so much in favour with Parliament and the public, though he could not help lamenting its baneful consequences. He would admit, moreover, to the noble Lord, that the surplus which the present system afforded, of a million, or a million and a half, would be of no practical use towards effecting that amount of reduction of the debt which he contended might hare been made had the Legislature acted on a different system. He would also admit that every administration would have experienced great and all but insurmountable obstacles in enforcing a policy so opposed to popular prejudices. Indeed, he was confident that had he put forward his plan as a means to obtain a seat in Parliament, he should have got no constituency from the Land's-end to John O'Groat's that would have chosen him for their Representative. It was still, however, to be lamented that Ministers at the return of peace had not the wisdom and moral courage to oppose themselves to the popular prepossessions when doing so would have conduced to the public welfare. Had they acted upon his principles it was, and long had been, his firm conviction, that by inducing a manly fortitude in the public mind which would encourage the people to bear an additional amount of taxation, care being, of course, taken to regard economy in the public expenditure, they would by this time have mastered the debt, and have been able to look forward to a period not very distant of its complete extinction by terminable annuities. How different was their situation now, he need not say; if a mastery of the debt were pointed at, it was only by a violation of the public faith—a robbery of the national creditor; so that it should seem that there was no means, save a dishonest one, left them of effecting that beneficial reduction, which might easily have been made within the last fifteen or sixteen years by honesty and fortitude. He believed that much of the impolicy of the Legislature of which he was complaining 354 arose from its undue appreciations of the resources of the country, and of the moral patriotism of its people. He was convinced that both might be safely relied upon for those additional burthens, which such an effective sinking fund as he contemplated would necessarily occasion. The war, long and expensive as it was, had not exhausted either our resources or our patriotism, and a wise statesman would have done his duty at the risk of the passing unpopularity. How different was the conduct of Mr. Pitt at the termination of the American war from that of Ministers at the peace of 1815! Never was there a war which ended more disastrously, as it was thought, to the national honour and interests. The spirit of the nation was prostrated; our colonies were severed from us; and it was thought universal ruin must ensue. Never was the country in a situation in which it had less to hope from the future; never were the energies of a great statesman more tasked to point out the remedy for the grievances of which the public complained, and to discharge it of its gloomy forebodings. Fortunately, Mr. Pitt was a great statesman; unlike his successors, he did not make popular prejudice his counsel; he consulted only his own conscience and the public welfare. For ten years, accordingly, after the termination of the American war, Mr. Pitt persisted in levying such additional taxes as would furnish him with a sinking fund sufficient to enable him to master the debt. Would that his wise example had been imitated by Ministers since the peace of 1815; how different would now be the condition of our national resources! Did hon. Members think his plan impracticable? Let them look at that barometer of the national resources the money-market—at this moment, and then let them judge whether a wise Minister might not easily have applied those resources towards getting rid of the national debt. They were aware that, even as it was, a very considerable reduction had been made in the amount of the debt—that the five per cents had been reduced to four, and the four per cents to three and a-half. The noble Lord had not intimated any intention on the part of Ministers to further reduce these reduced four and three and a-half per cents, to three and a-half and three per cents, or to reduce the three per cents reduced to two and a-half percent. And 355 why had he not? Simply because he knew in the present state of the public credit—all owing to the want of an efficient sinking-fund system—that it would not be safe and hardly practicable to make such a reduction. He said, that this was owing to the non-sinking fund policy of late Administrations in not keeping up an effective sinking fund. He was prepared to prove it, and to show, that if a different system had been acted upon, there would be nothing to prevent the noble Lord from reducing the three per cents to two and a half, and to effect such reduction of taxes as he might think would be nationally advantageous. Hon. Members ignorant of the working of the money market might doubt the facility of reducing the three per cents. Facts would undeceive them. Money, as he was told, for he was not acquainted with the fact himself, was at present to be got at two per cent. and Exchequer Bills, the floating debt of the country, which paid an interest of two and a quarter per cent. bore a premium of three per cent; in other words, people were giving three per cent for that which paid an interest of two and a quarter per cent; while, at the same time, the three per cents, the permanent stock, were at a discount of thirteen per cent. Would any man tell him, that there was any other reason for this than the want of confidence in the public as to the power and the disposition of Parliament to master the debt? The value of the permanent stock was, undoubtedly, affected by the apprehension of war, but the apprehension of war acted upon it, because there was no sinking fund to meet the exigency, and to show, that the resources of the country were sufficient. Of course his arguments on the advantages of a sinking fund were based on the supposition that it would be a bonâ fide sinking fund, not less than 5,000,000l. per annum. Had such a fund been properly acted upon since the peace, they would now have reduced the debt one-sixth of its nominal amount, and still more the pressure of it, by being able to avail themselves of the state of the money-market in the reduction of the interest of stocks. With an efficient sinking fund, and money to be had in Lombard-street at two per cent. they might make every wholesome improvement in the public burthens. He did not, he repeated, impute the blame of the bad policy on which he had been commenting to the noble Lord or his colleagues; 356 they merely sailed with the current which had borne their several predecessors before them. He gave the noble Lord and his colleagues full credit for the very efficient reductions which they had made in the several branches of the public expenditure. No man could hear with greater satisfaction than he did of the reductions in the expenditure which the Government had made and contemplated, and particularly those in the naval department under the right hon. Baronet, which were so conspicuous and important. Leaving the general view of the finances, he was ready to state, that he thought the noble Lord had disposed of his surplus as judiciously as he well could. He applied it to those purposes which were most essential to the interests of the country, and in the distribution of it showed as much impartiality as was possible. For the agricultural interests, the only real provision that he found in the noble Lord's statement was the removal of a small sum levied upon taxed carts; but he really thought it was impossible that 30,000l. could be laid out more advantageously than in removing this very vexatious tax. Undoubtedly he should have been glad, had circumstances admitted of it, to have seen some alteration of the Malt-tax. It was clear, however, that without a great change in something else, it would be impossible to effect that object, but he thought that a considerable reduction might be made in the Malt-tax, which would both relieve the manufacturer of the article, and give a great facility of enjoyment to those classes who did not go to the ale-house to drink their beer. He thought this might be done, and he wished the experiment had been tried, because he believed, that of all sources of revenue this was the one which was most likely to spring forth under any diminution of the tax. Indeed, the noble Lord had a proof of this, for he had said himself, that after the repeal of the Beer-duty, the produce of malt rose about 1,400,000l. If the noble Lord had risked some sacrifice in Malt-duty, and if he made inquiries whether the reduction might not have been better partitioned between beer and malt, he thought some plan of that kind might have had a good effect for the country. While he approved of the proposed reduction of the duty on soap, as calculated to promote the morals and comforts of the people, as well as the 357 interests of the manufactures in which the article was used, he still thought, that the noble Lord might have advantageously reduced the whole duty on soap (by which means that mass of fraud in the trade in soap between this country and Ireland would be extinguished), and make up the loss by a duty on foreign tallow imported. With respect to Ireland he would only say, that in common with every English gentleman, he felt towards it as he did towards any particular English county or district, and in this feeling of a common interest—one empire, one great united people, he would assimilate altogether the revenue laws of the two countries, so as to put an end to even fiscal distinctions. No part of the noble Lord's plan had given him more unmixed satisfaction than his proposed reduction of the duty on raw cotton. With the reasoning of the noble Lord in defence of that reduction he entirely concurred. The noble Lord was perfectly correct in saying, that we should anticipate the possibility of foreign competition in the manufactured article, and not defer the repealing the duty on the raw article till the foreigner had insinuated himself into the general market. He had taken the liberty of addressing the House upon that subject year after year, as he considered it the most dangerous tax we could have imposed; and, as the noble Lord said we were never aware of the danger until it was past, he would therefore advise the noble Lord to watch carefully the remaining duty. He would beg to suggest to the noble Lord, whether it might not be possible to give a drawback by weight upon cotton yarns exported, equal to the tax. He was aware, that it would be attended with some difficulty; but if a tax were imposed upon cotton goods consumed in this kingdom, he conceived, that it would be one of the most just taxes that could be imposed, and would be the means of removing the remainder of the duty that existed on the raw material. As the noble Lord proposed that the duty should be a fixed duty on weight, he would suggest the propriety of a drawback on cotton-yarns on the same principle of weight. These reductions, however, he admitted, should be made with great caution. In the present unsettled state of the Bank Charter, and in the face of two great experiments which Ministers contemplated ill the China trade, and in the West-Indian colonies, the noble Lord could not too 358 cautiously guard against impairing the public credit by rash curtailments of the public revenue. With respect to the suggestion of a tax upon the public creditor, he begged leave to offer one or two observations. He was convinced that it was conceived that a tax upon the fund holder was just and honest in principle, and he took it for granted, that it was proposed with a view to taxing the rich instead of the poor. That was the avowed object of the tax. The question was, would it be a tax upon the rich to the exemption of the poor? He was prepared to show, that it would not, and that it would be to all intents and purposes a tax on the middle classes, by which the rich, as a body, would not be in the least affected. A paper had been laid on the table, which furnished him with the means of proving this proposition; it was a list of the number of claimants on the Bank books for dividends on the public stock. He had taken the trouble of making such a division of the list of those claimants as would greatly facilitate their arriving at a proper conclusion; he divided those dividends which were received by corporations or trustees from those which were received by individuals, the former evidently not coming under the head of private or individual property; and he further divided the fund holders according to the amounts of dividends received by them. The House could hardly anticipate the result. There were 279,500 accounts on the Bank public-fund-book. Of these the House would be surprised to hear that not more than seventy-one persons received dividends (half-yearly) of and above 2,000l There were in addition 113 corporate bodies who received dividends also of 2,000l., and upwards—but only seventy-one individuals. What, on the other hand, would the House say, when he told them that not less than 263,000 out of the total of 279,500 persons interested in the National Debt received dividends of which 200l. was the maximum; and if to this number they added the 250,000 holders of property in savings' banks, they would have a total of 540,000 individuals interested in the maintenance of public credit, and dependent upon public faith. A tax on the fund holder, then, would not be a tax on largo fortunes, but a plundering of the middle and poorer classes of society. Now, although he did not say, that there were 359 any Gentlemen in that House who would argue that, because persons possessed large property they might be plundered, yet if any persons were actuated by such a feeling, it was proper they should know how few there were possessing property in the public funds who were so situated. He had only to say, in conclusion, that he never listened to an English budget without feelings of melancholy and disgust at the erroneous principle on which they seemed to him to be founded. He must again repeat, that he meant no imputation upon the present Government. He only wished that the country had better feelings on the subject, and he had no doubt, that would be the case if former Governments had made it their study to rouse them and encourage those exertions, which though of temporary inconvenience would ultimately promote the public welfare.
Mr. Alderman Thompson
was much pleased that a reduction in marine insurances was proposed—a measure the propriety of which he had long pressed on the notice of the noble Lord. At the same time he hoped the principle would be carried much further, which could safely be done without any injury whatever to the revenue. He should take the liberty of forwarding some documents to the noble Lord, which he was sure would satisfy his mind of the truth of what he stated. He thought, too, that the noble Lord should have equalised the Soap duty, and had he done so, he would have prevented a great deal of smuggling, and by the consequent saving he might have altogether removed the taxes upon houses. He wished such a course had been pursued, because he must say, that he was no admirer of partial reductions. The continuance of the House-duty was made the means of much abuse. Only the very day before the election for the borough of Sunderland, there were surcharges made upon all the householders there, who were so much alarmed, that there was great difficulty in getting them to excercise their elective franchise. He should have been glad to see the whole of the House duty repealed, especially with regard to the lower class of householders. There was another tax which he should have been glad to see reduced—he meant the duty upon fire insurances. If that had been reduced by one half, it would be a most extensive advantage to the public. He was glad that the duty upon shopmen 360 and porters, and inferior servants, was reduced—the more so, as he knew those taxes had frequently been made the means of making most improper surcharges. On the whole, he congratulated the country upon the reduction which had taken place, though he should have been pleased to see it extended to other objects.
§ Mr. Robinson
said, it must be exceedingly consolatory to the country to know that the income of the last year had exceeded the expectations of the noble Lord opposite. But one observation arose upon it which he should like to see adopted. The noble Lord said, he had a surplus of above 500,000l. which ought also to be applied in reduction of taxes. That was the principle he should wish to press on the attention of the Government. He was sorry to see, that there was not one instance of a tax being altogether abolished. The machinery, therefore, for collecting all the taxes, would still remain as the taxes were only reduced. If an opposite course had been pursued, the reductions might even have been greater than they were. With regard to the House and Window tax, on which the public entertained a very strong opinion, he agreed with several hon. Gentlemen that his Majesty's Government would have to contend with extreme vexation and difficulty in making the alteration with respect to shops. He could not, certainly, concur in the propriety of continuing that unequal system of taxing houses, which had been the subject of so much just complaint. The houses of the nobility and gentry were, comparatively speaking, not taxed at all. Why did not the noble Lord equalize the system altogether, and impose this tax more fairly according to the value of property? The hon. member for Essex would excuse him if he referred for one moment to an observation of his—for he was considered so great an authority on subjects of this kind, that he was unwilling that the observation to which he was about to allude should pass unnoticed. Instead of congratulating the noble Lord, as he was willing to do, on the reductions he had already effected, the hon. member for Essex rather called upon him to forego any further exertions in this respect. The hon. Member said, that, "at the close of the American war, instead of the Government of the day reducing the taxation of the country; for ten years succeeding 361 that period, Mr. Pitt continued to impose new taxes upon the people." Yes; but the Hon. member for Essex would allow him to say, that, at the close of the American war the whole amount of the public debt was 238,000,000l.; whereas, at the close of the last French war, it amounted to 930,000,000l. He could tell the hon. member for Essex, who seemed to think so sanguinely of the resources of this country, that if ever he should be Chancellor of the Exchequer, it would not be in his power, nor in the power of any Administration with whom he might connect himself, to act upon the principle of levying taxes for the purpose of maintaining a sinking fund. It was absolutely impracticable. The hon. Gentleman taunted all former Governments with having weakly acceded and listened to the complaints of the people on the subject of taxation. But the fact was, that no former Government ever gave up any tax, until it was found to be so oppressive upon the productive industry of the working classes, that it could be no longer maintained. The hon. member for Essex, and every other hon. Gentleman must know that such were the diminished resources of the people—whether connected with trade, agriculture, commerce, or manufacture—that it was quite out of the power of any Government to maintain a sinking fund; and, if any Government could succeed in maintaining the present system of taxation, he believed it could only be done by an improved and more equal distribution. The right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth asked, "Would you impose an inquisitorial income-tax upon the country?" God forbid! that any man should impose an Income-tax, or a Property-tax, on this country—except, indeed, in a case of absolute necessity. But that necessity actually existed; and he told the right hon. Baronet, when he objected to the inquisitorial character of an Income-tax, that when it was put in comparison with the misery of the working classes, occasioned by indirect oppressive taxation, the latter was by far the greater evil, and might be ultimately much greater to those who had property, than an Income-tax. He gave credit to the Government for the reductions which they had made, and which amounted altogether to between 3,000,000l. and 4,000,000l a-year. He thought the reductions might have been better had they been more directed to the 362 relief of the productive industry of the country; and he was afraid that if nothing was done to mend the condition of the labouring classes, from whom all the wealth of the country flowed, there would not result all the advantage that every one must desire to see from the reductions that had been made.
§ Mr. Slaney
hoped that the Government would continue to pursue the same course as that which they had now adopted. If they did this, and if the people saw that there really was a sincere wish to improve their condition, they would wait with patience, and enable the Government, consistently with good faith to the public creditor, to reduce the burthens of the country. There was one subject, with respect to which he wished to make one observation—it was that of the complaints about the inequality of the assessments upon large houses. The statements made on this subject were, he believed, founded in a great mistake. The statement was founded on the amount expended in the building and ornamenting of these houses, and not upon their real value, or the sum for which they could be let. A house in Fleet-street, one fourth of the size of one of these large houses in a distant part of the country, was, in fact, worth much more than such a house, and would probably let for four times as much, although it had not cost near so much in building and ornamenting it. The hon. member for Worcester, whose observations had induced him to make this remark, seemed to assent to the principle he had thus stated, and of its truth he was perfectly convinced. There was one point to which he wished to call the attention of the noble Lord and of the House. The noble Lord had reduced the tax upon porters and shopmen, but he feared that, in the words in which that reduction was effected, working maltsters, or those who superintended the buildings where malt was made, would not be deemed to be included. He thought that the reduction ought to be distinctly extended to them, since not only did the state of the trade demand some relief, but the fact ought to be remembered that they were persons working upon an article that was itself afterwards made the subject of heavy taxation. If this was done, he could assure the noble Lord that the reduction would be received with great gratitude by the maltsters throughout the country. He was happy to be able to 363 say, that the reductions now made met with his approbation, and he hoped they would be received in the same manner by the people at large.
Sir. Thomas Freemantle
could not forbear expressing his wish, that when the noble Lord reduced the duty on marine insurances, he had reduced the duty on fire insurances, especially with respect to agricultural produce. The duty on fire insurances amounted to twice the sum paid for the insurance. The agricultural interest deserved some relief, and this would have been particularly useful, as anybody must be convinced, when it was recollected that agricultural produce, often lying at some distance from the house, was peculiarly open to depredation, and, as the unhappy instances of past years had proved, was often made the subject of depredation. This reduction was the more desirable, since that which had been said to take place with regard to marine insurances equally happened with regard to fire insurances; many policies were now, in consequence of the high rate of the duty here, effected in Paris upon houses in this country, all of which would be effected in this country, but for that circumstance. He should have been glad, too, to see the malt duty reduced, but as a Chancellor of the Exchequer always fully made up his mind before he came down to the House with the Budget, and as an humble individual like himself was not likely to be able to change the decision of the Government, he supposed he must look at the reduction as hopeless in this Session of Parliament. He agreed with the hon. member for Berkshire, in expressing his regret, that while above a million of taxes had been reduced, the agricultural interest had only been allowed the benefit of a paltry 30,000l., for that was, he believed, the amount of the duty on taxed carts. He thought that the statement of the noble Lord afforded the most gratifying prospects, the more especially, as the present improved state of the revenue did not arise from the increase of taxation, but from a reduction of expenditure. He gave every credit to the Government for this reduction. He believed that the people were now satisfied of the wish of that House to relieve them from the burthen of taxation which pressed so heavily upon them. But there was one other matter to which they now wished the House to direct their attention, and that was the 364 subject of local taxation. They complained most bitterly of local taxes, the amount of which was so considerable. A sum of 45,000,0002. was taken from them most unavoidably by the noble Lord, and a sum equal to one-fifth of that amount, or 9,000,000l. a-year, was taken from them by local taxes. The House ought to take this subject into their consideration; and he thought they could not do anything better than begin as speedily as possible, to see how the amount of this local taxation might be reduced, and the abuses connected with it remedied.
§ Mr. Halcomb
was sorry that the Window-tax had not been repealed, because it operated to produce a bad system of building, and injured the health and the comfort of all classes of people. A distinction was now made between the House and Window duty, but in effect they were the same. He thought there ought to be a new calculation of the duty, and that whatever was taken ought to be taken as a duty on houses, and should be calculated on their rental.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that he should not detain the House for any length of time; but he wished to make a few observations in answer to the remarks which had been made by different Gentlemen. The mode in which the statement he had made had been received by the House was most gratifying to him. He was quite aware from the first, that Gentlemen would differ from him on some of the topics which he had introduced; but the general mode in which his statement had been received, was, he repeated, most gratifying. He should begin his observations with an answer to a question put by the hon. Gentleman near him, as to the maltsters, or persons employed in superintending the making of malt. It seemed to him that there could be no doubt that such persons would come within the description of shopmen or other persons, who were now no longer to be made the subject of taxation. The hon. member for Middlesex seemed to think that the arrangement with respect to advertisements was not what it should be; he had said, that the duty ought to have been reduced in the first instance to a fixed sum. He did not think that the difference between them was considerable, and he believed that the arrangement, as it now stood, would be a great relief to advertisers. It had been said, that the reductions 365 he had made were very small. He admitted that the reduction was small (or this year; but in making that observation, they ought to recollect in what a short period of time he had been called on to make this reduction, and on what a small amount of disposable revenue he had to operate. Hon. Gentlemen must recollect how large a portion of the public taxes was required for the payment of the debt; and how small a portion, therefore, was left for reduction. His right hon. predecessor had reduced four millions, and when he came into office he reduced, in the first year, taxes to the amount of 1,800,000l. He now proposed to reduce 1,300,000l., so that he thought he deserved the credit of endeavouring to apply the principle of reduction as far as it was possible to be applied at the present moment. He was quite sure, from the effect of the reductions that had ahead been carried into operation, that the reductions which he now proposed would produce a considerable effect in relieving the country. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had compared this reduction with others, and seemed to consider that it was not of a satisfactory kind, because, as he supposed, it was a reduction made upon a falling revenue. He must deny that it was made upon a falling revenue. The apparent difference, on which the right hon. Gentleman founded his statement, was occasioned by the Candle duty, which had not been wholly taken off last year, and which now being altogether repealed, made the revenue seem less in comparison; but the fact was, that the revenue, so far from being a falling, was an improving revenue. Of all the observations which had been made upon his statement, that which most surprised him was one made by the hon. Alderman opposite, with regard to the duty on insurance; for the plan which he had proposed was actually founded upon a memorial from Lloyd's, in which the name of the hon. Alderman was put; and when he stated, that he believed it would be satisfactory, he alluded to that very memorial. The hon. and learned member for Dublin had complained that, in what he had proposed, he had done nothing to reduce taxes in Ireland. He did not admit that statement. Some of the taxes he had reduced did affect Ireland. The hon. and learned Gentleman himself had admitted that the duty on soap affected Ireland; and, besides 366 this, he intended to do what he could to remedy the defects relating to the drawbacks. Then, again, he had removed a part of the duty on raw cotton; and the hon. and learned Member knew that there was a cotton trade in Ireland which must receive a benefit from the change. Then there was the duty on insurances, which, he admitted, did not affect Ireland much, but still it was an item in the amount of benefit. It was true, that the tax on glass and on paper might have been reduced, but it did appear to him, though the House was perfectly well aware of his desire to reduce the duty on glass, yet, on this occasion, he had thought the relief he should give by other reductions, would be more sensibly and immediately felt. The tax on printed calicoes, which he had taken off in the year 1831, had been a great relief to Ireland. He was sorry he could not do more for Ireland, for he was convinced that this country could not lay out its money to greater advantage than in relieving and improving the industry of that country. He had, however, no great opportunity of making further reductions in the present state of the taxation of the country. A regret had been expressed that he had not reduced the duty on fire insurances, especially with respect to agricultural property. It certainly was a subject well worthy of consideration. But he did not see how it was possible to reduce the taxes on agricultural property generally; and he had not thought it advisable to make that the object of his particular selection. It was now stated, that the duty on fire insurances amounted to 200 per cent. It would have been useless to make any but a large reduction in a duty of that kind [several Members, "reduce it one half!"] Weil, one half. What would be the consequence of that? Why, that persons would be paying 100 per cent more than the risk was worth ["they now pay 200 per cent!"] True; but he mentioned this to show that he should not, even by that reduction, be conferring a great benefit on the people. But, let the House look at it in another point of view. The loss to the revenue would be nearly 400,000l. a-year. Did they think that that sum could be taken from the revenue, in the shape of a reduced duty on fire insurances, with more advantage than in the shape of the reductions he had already effected. With regard to the 367 duty on shop windows, it had been said that the reduction would be open to some dispute as to the mode of ascertaining it. He admitted that there might be some difficulty in the matter, but he hoped that it would not give rise to all the inconvenience that was expected. The hon. Member opposite, the member for Essex, had charged him with being adverse to keeping up the amount of the revenue with a view to an annual surplus for the purpose of reducing the national debt. To such a charge he was perfectly ready to plead guilty, for, whether in office or in opposition, he had always been an enemy to keeping the taxes at a high point for the sake of a surplus revenue. He could by no means agree with those who thought the non-redemption of the public debt was any evidence of the exhaustion of the resources of the country. In the affairs of private life, men entitled and enabled to redeem an annuity seldom did so while they had any possible mode of employing their capital otherwise; and, speaking generally, that which was true of the individual held good with regard to the nation. The hon. member for Essex had also endeavoured to show, that the public debt must have been grossly mismanaged, because the public was now under the necessity of paying three per cent for money, while it was to be had in Lombard-street for two per cent; but the House should remember that money was only to be had at that low rate upon short dates; and the fact that the debt of the State bore the higher rate of interest was no proof of any lack of public credit or confidence. On the subject of surplus revenue, he should only make this remark, that its abuse had not by any means the effect of lowering the funds. He frankly acknowledged he was one of those who did look forward to a very considerable reduction of the public debt by its conversion into terminable annuities; but he could not bring himself to believe that the work of reduction could be advantageously effected by any sacrifice of income in the present condition of the country.
§ Lord Sandon
regretted that some of the present Stamp duties which were found to be highly inconvenient in their operation, and towards certain classes of trades people most unjust and oppressive, had not been removed. He therefore desired to call the attention of the noble Lord the Chancellor 368 of the Exchequer, to the subject, in the hope that some useful modification might be adopted. While he complained on this score he must express his satisfaction at the reduction which the noble Lord proposed in the duty on cotton.
§ Mr. Sinclair
felt persuaded, that if the present system was to be persevered in, his noble friend had carried reductions as far as was practicable, and had also evinced a sound discrimination in the selection of the taxes which he proposed to modify. But he was, nevertheless, persuaded, that the statement of that evening would be received throughout the country with feelings of disappointment and regret. The people expected, and were entitled to a far larger measure of relief than it was now intended to bestow. What would they say if this were to be the only result of that reform which they mainly owed to their own firmness? Of what consequence was it to the working or middling classes whether Gatton and Old Sarum, or Leeds and Manchester, were represented, or whether any places were represented at all, if their sufferings were not alleviated, and their grievances redressed? The feelings of the people could not be trifled with. It was the general opinion throughout the country that the National Debt was the root of all the national sufferings—and it could not be maintained much longer at its present amount. The hon. member for Essex had pointed out how the interest might have been reduced if a different system had been adopted thirty years ago; but the question was, what could be done now? He was persuaded that the only practicable course would be, to impose a tax on every species of property for reducing, in whole or in part, the principal of the Debt, and enabling the Government to take off the taxes, by which the interest of that Debt was defrayed. Unless the rich were prepared to make great sacrifices for the relief of the poor, he anticipated that the general discontent would reach its height, and be productive of convulsion—if not of revolution.
§ Lord Althorp
said, it was perhaps not impossible that some alteration could be effected which would meet the views of the noble Lord opposite, at least so far as the smaller Stamp duties were concerned.
§ Mr. Slaney
said, that in this country the humbler classes laboured under the disadvantage 369 of meeting an almost insurmountable obstacle whenever they sought to acquire property in land, owing to the difficulty of making out titles; and in a variety of instances, where great public improvements might otherwise be effected they were stopped short from the difficulties which presented themselves in the way of making out titles. He trusted, therefore, that the subject would receive the immediate and attentive consideration of his Majesty's Government
§ Mr. Ewart
complained of the duty on Almanacks. The whole produce of that duty did not amount to more than 27,000l. per annum; and for the sake of that comparatively small sum the country was subjected to a most mischievous tax. The effect of the tax was, to create a monopoly in favour of a few great capitalists, and thus, in the absence of proper and beneficial competition, the grossest errors crept into publications, which, to be at all useful, ought to be scrupulously correct. At present one effect of the tax was, the publication of Almanacks in the Isle of Man, where there was no duty chargeable, and their importation into England full of the errors which they might naturally be expected to contain when published under such circumstances.
Mr. Charles Kemyss Tynte
was bound, in duty to his constituents and to the public, to call the attention of the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) to a tax which was felt as most oppressive to the county which he had the honour to represent. He alluded to the Personal Estate Tax. He merely had to state that the county of Somerset paid 445l. 15s. annually to that tax; Devonshire paid 685l.; whilst Essex only paid 1l.—to show the partiality and injustice of this tax. He called upon the hon. member for Norfolk to support him, for that county paid alone 841l. to this tax. He trusted the noble Lord would take the partiality of this tax into consideration, and totally repeal it.
Resolution agreed to; and the House resumed.