said, the Excise-office was one which affected the trade of the country at large, and in that department there was received as much as 2,000,000l. annually, and upwards, which was not accounted for to Parliament. The question of Excise had been most ably discussed in a report then before the House, and if he had been led to expect that the Treasury would take it up and deal with it in a comprehensive and practical manner, he should have had great pleasure in abstaining from pressing the present motion. But he had no reason to expect that the Treasury would do so, although if they were to do so in a proper spirit, no less a sum than from 1,500,000l. to 2,000,000l. might be annually saved to the country. The number of persons employed at present in the Excise department was the same as in the year 1797, although at that period there were no less than twenty-seven different heads of taxation. There were no less than 5,038 persons receiving salaries in this depart- 1450 ment—an outlay which called for immediate investigation. They paid all their own servants, too—a circumstance which, connected, with the fact that all the Commissioners had equal power, rendered the office of Excise an irresponsible, while it should be a responsible one. The laws upon this subject amounted to upwards of 600; the number of traders whose interests were thereby affected was no less than 500,000 or 600,000; and, notwithstanding, he found the extraordinary system adopted in this department of not giving replies to parties preferring complaints, but referring them to inferior officers throughout the country—a system contrary to that pursued in the Navy, War, and other offices, in which complaints were immediately recognised as being entitled to reply. The hon. Gentleman referred to the salaries paid to persons in the Secretaries'-office, the entire expenses of which, he said, amounted to 7,000l., and yet it appeared that they had not time to answer letters of complaint. Then there was the absurd additional office, called the "Correspondents' office," which ought to be struck off altogether. It was an office entirely unknown in any other public department, and although it purported to be a branch of the Secretaries'-office, it was quite distinct from it. He found, also, that the salaries attached to this branch formed rather a considerable item of expenditure for so useless a purpose. The number of "correspondents" throughout the English department was thirty, whose salaries amounted to 6,020l. Then there was the solicitor, who was paid 2,500l. a-year; assistant-solicitor 1,000l., and several clerks 300l. or 400l. each; besides special solicitors for Scotland and Ireland. The accountant's-office furnished a most extraordinary nomenclature. It began with one general accountant; then came another, and so on until he found no less than six accountants in the office in London. The first of these received 1,500l. and the next 500l., a-year, while the fees were now nearly double what they were in 1793. The auditors, controllers, and store-keepers' offices, gave similar proofs of extravagance. Connected with the last of these was a printing establishment, which, although it had been disapproved of by the Committee, was still persevered in by the Commissioners of Excise. For the purpose of showing the old-fashioned way in which this department carried on its business, he would just instance one case from the Report, respecting the riding duties through- 1451 out the country, from which it appeared that the mode of collection was so complicated, that an account must pass through eight different hands before they could collect the tax upon a single horse. One of the recommendations in the Report of the Commissioners was, that Excise Commissioners should cease to act as judges upon excise trials, or carry on the business of distillers, or printers; and another that the first Commissioner should be invested with the chief power. He recommended that the department) like others, should only be intrusted with the receipt, and not the disbursement, of its finances, and that the charges for collection, &c., should be included in the regular way in the Parliamentary estimates. He held returns to prove that there were not less than 7,000,000l. expended every year in the revenue department without the sanction of that House. The hon. member concluded by moving, that the Report of the Committee of the Commissioners of the Board of Excise, on the twentieth Report of the Commissioners of Excise Inquiry, be referred to the late Commissioners, Sir Henry Parnell, and Mr. Henry Berens, to examine the same, and report their opinion thereon to the House.
Mr. F. Baring
begged to state, in reply to the hon. Member for Middlesex, that a good deal had been done towards carrying into effect the recommendations contained in the Reports which had been presented to them, considering the short time which the Government had had for doing so. There was not one of those Reports upon which some steps had not been taken; a considerable reduction in the expenditure had been effected, and in every other respect he could assure hon. Members there was no disinclination on the part of Government to attend to the recommendations of the Commissioners.
§ House counted out.