§ On the Motion that the House go into Committee,
§ MR. HUME
said, that this was a Bill to create a loan of 2,000,000l., and, in this time of peace, to add permanently to the debt of this country 60,000l. or 70,000l. a year, as well as to borrow money by an extravagant and expensive mode. He intended to take the sense of the House against the principle involved in it of borrowing money at all in time of peace. It would perhaps be recollected that early in the present Session of Parliament, on the 25th of February, he had urged the Government to reduce the expenditure within the revenue—the deficiency in the revenue being then about 2,900,000l., and called the attention of the House to the necessity of limiting the expenditure to the actual income of the year; or, if they could not do that, to the propriety of providing, by taxation, to meet the excess that had to be supplied. On that occasion, however, the numbers, when the division was taken, were 157 for continuing the heavy expenditure, against 59 for his proposition. Foiled in that, on the 13th of March he held that it was absolutely necessary, whilst they were continuing the income-tax, that that tax should be limited to one year, and that, in the mean time, the Government should examine all their estimates, and endeavour to reduce the expenditure within the amount the tax would warrant. The House, however, differed from him, and 363 Members voted against his Motion, showing, he must confess, a most unequivocal determination to continuo the tax, and to oppose the inquiry that was so much required. Again, on the 20th of March, he proposed to reduce the number of men to be voted for the Navy from 43,000 to 36,000, intending, at the proper time, also to propose to reduce the number to be voted for the Army, as well as to 635 propose a general reduction of the whole of the expenditure of the country. The Ministry had again a majority of 347, whilst only 38 Members voted with himself. On the 24th March, again, an hon. Member submitted to the House the propriety of limiting the public expenditure to a considerable extent, by withdrawing the squadron from the coast of Africa, which was not only utterly useless, but was producing incalculable horrors for the unhappy race in whose behalf it was placed there. That Motion, which was for an Address to the Crown on the subject, was resisted by 216 votes, and supported only by 80. He had always objected even to the principle of taxation at a time when their expenditure was capable of reduction; and when the first vote for the Army was proposed, and the number of men to be voted was 113,000, he proposed to limit the number to 100,000; but, on a division, the large number was supported by 293 Members, 39 only supporting the proposed reduction. So far as he was concerned, then, he had held by the principle, and had acted upon it, that no debt should ever be incurred in time of peace, except on some extraordinary occasion, such, for instance, as the late famine in Ireland, which constituted an exception to the general rule. But now Ministers came, with a deficit of nearly 3,000,000l. in reality, and proposed a loan. He looked with great alarm to the fact of the country thus going on, in a time of peace, adding to its permanent debt, particularly when commerce was not flourishing, and when the great increase in poor-rates and decrease of profits were considered. To proceed in this way would lead, in the end, to inevitable disaster. It had been admitted that taxation had been carried to the utmost limit the country could bear. With these facts before them, therefore, was it not important to consider whether the Government ought not to have reduced the general expenditure? A great increase had taken place since 1826. He complained, not only of the great amount of debt that had been incurred, but also of the management of their finances having been against principle. Borrowing was not a provision—it was the act of spendthrifts. Looking at the state of the crops in this country, but more particularly in Ireland, as well as at the general state of trade, he did not think next year's prospect flattering; and the time had arrived when that House must grapple with the great difficulty that presented itself. The scale of 636 the public establishments was beyond what was either necessary or prudent. When he looked at the expense of the African squadron, at the extent of their naval and military establishments—nearly double what they were twenty-five years ago—he must enter his protest against the proceedings of that House. By a paper he held in his hand, he found that the gross amount of the expenditure of the country was ten millions more than it was in 1836. The House ought to be ashamed of itself. He had looked over the items, and he did not find the slightest difficulty in discovering where the reduction might be made, and which—had the House done its duty—would have been made. If the House had supported his Motion respecting the Army and Navy, there would have been no necessity for an increased income-tax or the present Bill, for the reduction would have been large enough to have met the two millions of deficiency, to provide for which they were now called upon to borrow. Large reductions ought also to be made elsewhere. For our forty-four colonies, the charge for military was 2,556,000l.; the civil charges, 541,000l.; and the Navy required by the colonies, excluding the original cost of the vessels, 74,000l.: making a total of 3,171,000l. If the noble Lord at the head of the Government acted on his own principles, as he stated them in his letter to Lord Sydenham, no less a saving at once than 570,000l. could be effected. If the colonies were allowed to exercise the power of governing themselves, and allowed to apply to the expenses of the colonies the Government land, from which not one farthing had ever been obtained by the Government, but the whole had been jobbed away in a most disgraceful manner, he would venture to say that not one farthing for civil expenses would be required, instead of adding, as now, to the charge on the debt year by year. He had heard it hinted by many that the faster these additions to the debt were made, the better, as it would only hasten a dispute with the fundholder. He, however, warned the House that if ever they broke faith with the public creditor the sun of England would be for ever set—her power would for ever cease. He was anxious to reduce the debt; and did they now possess the money which had been paid since the last war for loans they might get rid of the Excise altogether, and give a manifest and coveted facility to commerce, and add infinitely to the enjoyments of 637 social life. As had been well said by the hon. Member for West Surrey (Mr. Drummond) the time was not far distant when this must he looked to; and if those who now had the government of the country did not take that view, their places would soon be taken by those who would make the experiment. While storms were raging around us, it was necessary to put our own house in order. For the purpose of recording his opinion against borrowing in a time of peace, and against the thriftless manner in which the Government had proceeded, and, above all, against the extravagant establishments which this year they had determined to keep up, he moved that the Bill be read a third time that day six months.
§ MR. MUNTZ
seconded the Motion, and complained that the Government not only proposed a loan, but had brought out their budget at an unusually late period. It was the latest budget that ever he had heard of. The Government had led the House and the country to believe that they should be able to do without additional taxes, or the adoption of any extraordinary measures, and having done so, the House had felt comparatively easy on the subject. But the Government seemed to have been waiting until so few Members were left in the House that it could carry whatever it liked. The system of funding was like a man who had spent more than his income, making up the deficiency by borrowing; and, in a nation as in an individual, such a system must load to ruin. It was the resource of all bad Governments when other means failed of making both ends meet. When he first came into the House, he found the Whig Government in the last stage of existence, trying to patch up its own want of management by a measure which never had and never would succeed. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth (Sir F. Baring), in trying to meet the diminution of the revenue, talked—as all Chancellors of the Exchequer talked—a great deal of nonsense about the elasticity of the country, and proposed new taxes. These measures failed, and the great physician was called in and the fees paid. Never had he seen the great physician in such a state of anxiety as he was for many months; and the first thing he resorted to was a property-tax, which he carried, although opposed by the Whig Government, and every man of the Liberal party except himself. They all abused him for supporting 638 the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel); but he did so because the proposition taxed the rich instead of the poor. Well, when it came to be proposed again, the Whigs to a man all voted for the tax. They thought, no doubt, that they would soon be coming into office again, and that it would be a nice penny to have the handling of. The right hon. Baronet boasted of the state of things which followed, and particularly of the increased trade in India. He told the right hon. Baronet at the time that his boastings were premature, for that, as it was a mere consignment trade, its briskness could not last, and that it would, moreover, ruin all parties who were engaged in it. That prediction, he regretted to say, was true, as hon. Members well knew. Then the prevalence of railway speculation followed, by which the state of the country, no doubt, was for a time improved. The prices of food rose above their natural level; and those of manufactures rose above the prices of foreign manufactures. That, of course, checked exportation, and a considerable balance against us was the consequence, taking, as all balances did, a large amount of the precious metals to supply the difference. That brought on the pressure which threw the right hon. Baronet out of office. They had now the Whig Government in power again. He would not say a word as to how they got there—and how they were kept there—but they had placed the country in much the same position as that in which it was when he first entered the House. The revenue had fallen below the expenditure, and was still falling off. Trade was stagnant, the population were badly employed and badly paid, and were in a state of discontent almost approaching insurrection. No men could govern this country with comfort to themselves or its inhabitants, unless honest, industrious people were enabled to get a living. If honest, sober, industrious men could not find employment, the fault was with the Government. Many attempts had been made, but except for short periods, when they had departed from the system, all Governments had failed and broken down; whether it had been that of the right hon. Baronet, who had had a measure of success, or whether it had been that of the Whigs, who had gone on, peddle, peddle, peddle, and done nothing at all. His hon. Friend (Mr. Hume) had talked of the national faith—and he had no objection to keep up the national faith—but it was a 639 national humbug if it were all on one side. If it were kept for the benefit of one class at the expense of all the others, it was a sheer robbery of every other interest. He knew if he said anything about the currency it would be called "Brummagem;" but in the long run the Brummagem doctrine would prove the soundest and the best. What could be more disgraceful than the present state of affairs? So great was the want of confidence throughout Europe in our merchants and bankers, that it was impossible to get a bill cashed. He knew a party who had been travelling in Italy last year, and the most unexceptionable bankers' bills were not negotiable. Was not that disgraceful to this country; and was it not a state of things which afforded a significant comment on the Act of 1844? He never knew things in a good state in this country when six men could be got together to talk politics. No man, however evil his designs, or cunning his inducements, could obtain a meeting on any subject when trade was good. He had in his day assisted in agitations, and he knew how it could be done and how it could not he done. If the Government wished to draw the teeth of the people, let them make the people prosperous. No people in the world were easier governed, provided they received a just remuneration for their labour; but if the Government could not go on without loaning and funding, they would find the government of the country a most difficult task.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
would be the last person to complain of the course pursued by the hon. Member for Montrose with respect to the reduction of expenditure; but whether the reductions proposed by the hon. Gentleman were practicable, consistently with a due regard to the permanent interests of the country, was an entirely different question. If on former occasions he had been obliged to the hon. Gentleman, he was certainly obliged to him to-night for having given the best vindication that could be offered of the course of conduct which Her Majesty's Government had pursued. The hon. Gentleman had stated the various divisions which took place in that House on the different propositions he had made with the view of reducing the establishments of the country; and he very fairly stated, not so much imputing blame to the Government as imputing blame to the House, that an overwhelming majority of that House, when such reductions were proposed, con- 640 curred with the Government in thinking that, with a due regard to the safety of the country, it was impossible to reduce the establishments of the country. Such being the conclusion to which the House had arrived in the early part of the Session, he did not think any person would say anything had occurred since to persuade the House or the Government that their decision was wrong. No one could say, looking to the interests of the country and to the safety of the loyal subjects of Her Majesty, it was possible to dispense with that force which the Government had proposed and the House had voted. He would not at this time enter on the subject of the African squadron; but the report of the Committee on that subject was now before the House. After the hon. Member for Montrose demonstrated to the House that it had throughout supported the Government in maintaining the establishments of the country on the footing which the Government thought necessary, the hon. Member adverted to the subject of taxation. There were only three modes by which it was possible to equalise expenditure and income: first, by increased taxation; secondly, by reduction of establishments, which the House did not think expedient; and, thirdly, by having recourse to some such means as that now before the House, by which, in some way or other, money should be borrowed for the purpose of defraying unforeseen expenses. The hon. Gentleman seemed to be of opinion that the acme of taxation had been reached; and in that view he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) did not need to seek any further justification for the course he had pursued. He did not say he agreed with the hon. Member for Montrose; but if the hon. Gentleman said it was impossible to impose additional taxation, he did not see that he could have adopted any other course than that which, very unwillingly, he had been compelled to adopt. To defray a temporary expenditure, over which no control could be exercised by the Government, such as that of the Caffre war, he thought, if it could not be met out of the income of the country, the second best course was to cover such temporary expenditure in the manner he proposed. He did not think it expedient to have a permanent tax for a temporary expenditure. He could not agree in the opinion that there was any reason for despondency or alarm. What the Government had to keep in view, as of pri- 641 mary importance, was that the expenditure of the country should be reduced as far as possible without endangering the safety and interests of the country. If the Government had reduced the estimates 800,000l. below the amount announced in the early part of the Session, they had been obliged to give up many things which, under other circumstances, it would have been more advantageous to retain; they had been obliged to spread over a number of years the execution of works which, in the long run, it would have been better economy to complete at once. With the possibility of reduced expenditure in future years on the completion of these works, he thought they would not have been justified in proposing increased taxation if they had not tried first whether they could not, by reducing their expenditure, bring it within their income. The hon. Member for Montrose spoke of the increased charge for the national debt; but a paper for which the hon. Member for Liverpool had moved showed that there had been a reduction on that head in seven years to the amount of 1,000,000l. The hon. Member for Birmingham stated, that when he first entered that House he found the finances in a somewhat similar state. But when the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tam-worth applied a remedy by imposing an income-tax, a temporary exigency was provided for by a loan. It was utterly impossible to make reductions in taxation, unless the revenue were supplied by other means. With respect to the depression under which the country had since suffered, the change of circumstances was not owing to the conduct of the present or the former Government. It arose from a great failure of food in this and the sister country; and it was felt necessary to export the precious metals largely to purchase food. Those were circumstances over which the Government had no control. The consequence of the altered state of matters had been a great want of employment, and the pressure of distress accompanied by some discontent. The hon. Member for Birmingham said, that there never would be perfect tranquillity in the country till every person was fully employed; and while he deprecated ridicule of the Birmingham school, he seemed to maintain that it was not by developing industry, not by taxing the rich, not by establishing free trade, that so happy a result was to be attained. All these had been tried in succession; the hon. Member said they had certainly 642 failed, and that something else must be done, which something else seemed to resolve itself into the adoption of the principles of the Birmingham school. He had listened with attention to his hon. Friend; but he confessed he could make nothing-more of his speech than what he had just stated. He would not, however, pursue the subject further, knowing very well that if he did so it might lead to an interminable discussion.
§ MR. H. CURRIE
complained of the present measure being brought forward at so late a period of the Session, and of adding to the debt in a time of profound peace. Had the Chancellor of the Exchequer come down to the House and frankly stated that he had cut down the expenditure to the lowest possible sum, and that there was still a deficiency, the people would have at once submitted to increased taxation rather than to an increase of the debt. He begged to enter his protest, therefore, against the principle of the measure, and to express his regret that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had brought it forward at the eleventh hour, when there was no opportunity of making any alteration in it.
§ MR. HEYWOOD
, considering the peculiar circumstances of the country, thought the measure perfectly justifiable.
§ MR. WODEHOUSE
, as one of the very few survivors of the large host who had resisted the reductions proposed by the hon. Member for Montrose in the earlier period of his life, begged to say that he looked back upon the course which he then took with unmitigated satisfaction. Sir H. Taylor, who was secretary to the Commander-in-Chief at the time, told him that, in consequence of yielding to the hon. Member for Montrose, the 50th and 92nd regiments were sent out from this country at an improper season of the year—they arrived at their destination in one of our colonies at an improper season—they were exposed to a peculiarly unhealthy season, and in the course of a year and a half these two regiments thereby lost 600 men, and between 20 and 30 officers. So much for the hon. Member's proposal with reference to the Army. With regard to the hon. Member's proposal to withdraw the African squadron, he begged to say that the unqualified withdrawal of that squadron—looking to all the circumstances that had taken place on the subject of the slave trade—would be the most ignominious course of conduct this country could pursue.
§ SIR H. WILLOUGHBY
said, that if the hon. Member for Montrose should press his Motion to a division, he would divide with him, because he held that in a time of peace it was the duty of the House to resist the system of borrowing money, and thereby adding to the debt. If, however, the Chancellor must raise the required 2,000,000l. by borrowing, he ought at once to state the precise form in which he was determined to raise it, because the effect of allowing himself the option of one of two ways was to lead to doubt and hesitation with regard to both classes of stock.
§ MR. HENLEY
thought that there had been a great deal of wandering from the real question before the House. That question, he believed to be, whether the two millions were to be borrowed or not. He was surprised that the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not explained the reasons which had induced the Government to change their minds on the subject. The right hon. Baronet had originally asked the House to agree to the continuance of the existing income-tax for three years more, on the understanding that it would be sufficient to enable them to meet the wants of the country, or, as the right hon. Gentleman had termed it, to tide on, for that period. The question to be considered was, had there been any change since to account for that engagement being abandoned? and on that question he was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman had not afforded the House more precise information. When the right hon. Baronet had made that promise, the anticipated deficiency was throe millions; and since then the estimates had been reduced 700,000l., or 800,000l., and the deficiency was now reduced to two millions, and yet they were now told that they should resort to a loan, of which they had heard nothing on the former occasion. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: I stated all the reasons on Friday night.] No person objected more strongly than he did to loans during a time of peace. He thought the practice highly dangerous and mischievous, and that it had the same tendency in public affairs as in private life, of leading to a reckless, needless, and profuse expenditure. But still he confessed that when the right hon. 'Baronet spoke in the spring of the year of meddling with the balances in the Exchequer, in order to tide over the deficiency of the present year, he regarded it as being in effect tan- 644 tamount to a loan. And when he recollected the proceedings that had since taken place in Ireland, and the bad prospects which they had before them with regard to the harvest, he could not but feel that it was better for the Government at once to take the step which they now proposed, than to go on in the from hand-to-mouth system which the right hon. Gentleman had originally proposed. As far as he could judge, there was nothing in the position of the country which enabled him to see that the Government were acting unwisely in the course which they had now taken.
MR. HENRY DRUMMOND
said, that if the question simply involved the recording of au opinion, he would have no hesitation in voting with the hon. Member for Montrose; but, unfortunately, the duty of the House of Commons did not consist in merely recording opinions, but in carrying on the business of the country. He had therefore to consider what would be the effect of carrying this Motion against the Government. Notwithstanding what he had said the other night, he was perfectly certain that no economical reforms could be safely carried out, except by the Government themselves. The thing which the country had yet to understand was the amount of the evil, for people generally had as little idea of the immense amount of 800,000,000l., as they had of the distance of the sun from the earth. He could not forget that there was no instance of a great revolution occurring except from pecuniary pressure. It was well known that the first French Revolution was owing to the extravagance of Louis XIV. A similar cause produced the revolution the other day; and in Rome and Austria it was the same thing. Remembering, however, the threats which were held out against this country on the part of France—remembering the events which had subsequently occurred, both there and elsewhere—he admitted that it would not have been wise in the Government to have attempted a reduction in our armament this year. He begged to notice one observation of a mischievous character, which had been made by the hon. Member for Birmingham—he believed without his intending it—namely, that any Government, no matter whether republican or monarchical, could insure food and clothing to the people. Such a thing was utterly impossible. Believing that it would be prejudicial to the interests of the country to embarrass the Government by carrying the present Motion 645 against them, he would oppose it, although he agreed in its principle.
§ MR. URQUHART
said, that the noble Lord at the head of the Government had distinctly stated at the commencement of the Session that the House would have either to grant the increased property-tax which he had asked for, or to reduce the establishments. With that alternative before them the House refused to grant the tax, and yet the noble Lord left the establishments as they were. As he could not concur in the necessity of the expenditure, he should be prepared to vote in favour of the Amendment.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that the present deficiency was the necessary result of the policy of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, who had given up eight millions of Customs duties, and imposed an income-tax in their place, yielding some five-and-a-half millions. The question which he had to ask himself was, would he refuse the supply, because a vicious legislation had left no means of raising it; and he must say that he was not prepared to do so. He was not prepared to leave the people of Ireland to starve, or to reduce the establishments at a time when Europe was in such a a state of inquietude as she was now in; but this he was prepared to say, that their deficiency was their own act.
§ MR. COBDEN
was at a loss to understand the meaning of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down; he had reiterated the opinion he had just stated at least a dozen times in his own hearing. Now, he wanted to put a plain question to the hon. Member. The hon. Member had said that the revenue had fallen in consequence of the adoption of free-trade measures. Now he (Mr. Cobden) would ask him whether the gross revenue for the last twenty years had ever been so great as it had been this year? [Mr. NEWDEGATE: The revenue is larger, but the necessities of the country are greater.] He wanted to fix the hon. Gentleman to this one point; because if he could by coming to an understanding on it, succeed in putting an end to the reiteration of which they had been the victims during the present dreary Session, he should think he had done a great service to the House when they mot again. It was now admitted that the gross revenue was larger in the present year than it had been for the last twenty years. [Mr. NEWDEGATE: The hon. Member misrepresents me. I ad- 646 mitted no such thing. The revenue for 1845 was larger than the revenue of the present year.] He had read every item in the return which had been furnished with reference to the revenue since 1823, and he believed that that return would bear him out in his statement with hardly the exception of one year. The question was whether they were spending too much money. Almost everybody admitted that there was enough paid. Did the hon. Member think he was advocating the interests of his constituents in Warwickshire when he complained that there was too little revenue paid? When the taxes on coffee, sugar, and other articles of that kind were reduced, did the hon. Member think that his constituents regarded that as an evil? And did he mean to prescribe as a remedy for the distress of the country that they should put on more taxes? He (Mr. Cobden) was perfectly at a loss to understand the drift of his argument. The complaint was that taxation was too great, and the expenditure excessive—upon which the hon. Member came forward and said—"You have taken too many taxes off." He (Mr. Cobden) maintained, on the contrary, that there were too many taxes still, and that they must take off more. He was equally at a loss to understand the speech of the hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley). When he heard the beginning of that hon. Member's speech, he concluded that he would vote against the proposition, and in favour of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Montrose. The hon. Member certainly spoke in favour of the Amendment; his arguments were all that way; but he wound up by declaring that he would vote for the loan. Now, he had to complain that the hon. Gentleman had himself contributed to render the loan necessary, because when he advocated economy, the hon. Member taunted him with taking a pounds, shillings, and pence view of the question. The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire had also taunted him in the same way. Now, if those hon. Gentlemen, the leaders of the country party, would assist those who represented largo constituencies in reducing the expenditure, there would be no necessity for loans. Until the freeholders and farmers who sent the county Members to that House took the matter into their hands, and insisted that their representatives should help the representatives of large constituencies in reducing the expenditure, the Government would go on borrowing money and increase- 647 ing the taxation. He justified his opposition to the proposed loan on the ground of the vote he gave to the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose on the 25th of February last, that it was expedient to reduce the expenditure of the country in order to render an increase of taxation unnecessary. But he admitted that it was not only perfectly consistent but quite right for the hon. Member for Oxfordshire and his Friends, who opposed that Motion, to vote now for raising the money somehow. It was most discreditable on the part of those hon. Members who, after having voted for the expenditure of more money than the Government had at its disposal, had gone to the moors, or to the Continent, leaving the Chancellor of the Exchequer with a House of some 40 or 50 Members to get 2,000,000l. how he could; and, if no other means were left, to borrow it. He objected to the system of borrowing, more than he did to the imposition of a tax. If you depended on a tax, the difficulty of raising money by that means might check expenditure; but if you calculated on borrowing, you might go on expending money for ever; for there would be no end to the system, nor to your extravagance. But he did not blame the Government either for the deficiency, or for asking leave to borrow in order to make it up. They were quite justified by the great majorities which had sanctioned their expenditure; and the House was alone responsible. At the same time he considered that no Government ought to permit themselves to be placed in the position in which the present Government now stood. They ought to say—"If we cannot defray the expenditure of the country by moans of taxation, we will not consent to hold office." That was the language held by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, who declared that he would not remain Minister unless Parliament permitted him to make the revenue equal to the expenditure; and the declaration tended greatly to strengthen his Administration, by inspiring confidence, and leading the country to believe that in those words they possessed a guarantee that there would be a limit at length put to their large expenditure, and a termination to the system of borrowing. But now they had departed from that principle; and, unless it were looked upon by the House as a most imminent and vital question to stop this system of borrowing, he saw no reason why they should not go headlong into that state into 648 which the hon. Member for Surrey had described France and Austria to have been thrown by their financial embarrassments. Those countries were almost gone to ruin; and no doubt England would share the like fate, unless the people or Parliament should at once put an end to the system. It was not merely taxation for imperial purposes which was pressing upon the country; there was the local taxation to be considered; these, together, amounted to not much short of 70,000,000l. sterling. He defied them to continue raising that amount of money. They could not go on with their poor-rates, their county-rates, and their borough-rates, to say nothing of rates raised for religious purposes, in addition to their imperial taxation; which, including the expense of collection, amounted to not less than 70,000,000l. this year. It was a monstrous sum; and it was impossible for them to go on collecting it. He was surprised at the illogical conclusion of the hon. Member for Surrey's speech, for he had given all the benefit of his argument to the Amendment, though he could not give it his vote. The hon. Gentleman had said that it was not possible, at the beginning of the Session, to reduce our armaments, owing to the then state of Europe. But the hon. Gentleman should have borne in mind that those armaments were all settled before any disturbances on the Continent. That should always be borne in mind. It was proposed to add to our expenditure by fortifying our coasts, and raising a militia long before the French revolution was ever thought of. But when, after the revolution, it was argued that the expenditure was too large, then it was urged that by reason of that revolution it was impossible to reduce our armaments. Still, as if it were to show that he and his Friends were right both before and after that period, and that the Government were wrong, what had been done? The militia had been abandoned, and the estimates for the Army, Navy, and Ordnance, had been reduced by a sum of between 700,000l. and 800,000l.—a sum, however, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said was not to be a saving to the country, but to be expended some years hence. But the very fact of withdrawing it this year proved that his and his Friends' argument was right when they said that there was no great danger of the country being invaded. If there were any danger, surely this was the time 649 for raising the militia, and keeping up the military and naval force of the country. But, no—he would assert that the cry which was raised before the meeting of Parliament about the danger of an invasion by a foreign enemy was a wicked cry—it was a delusion practised upon the country—a monstrous delusion got up by professional men with a view to frighten the country, and compel them to submit to increased taxation. He would now address one word to his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham. He quite agreed with the hon. Member for Surrey, that it was a most dangerous doctrine to advance, that it was the duty of Government, under all circumstances, to find employment for all who were able to work, and of good character. [Mr. MUNTZ: No, no!] He was glad such a doctrine was disavowed. He believed there might be circumstances in which the most prudent Government could not insure food or employment for the population. Take, for instance, the Swiss cantons. Nobody would deny that there a cheap Government existed, and yet a large proportion of the population was obliged to emigrate to find food and employment. The same was the case with regard to the New England States of North America. There the Government was a frugal Government, and the people were well educated and of good character; yet many of them were obliged to emigrate to find employment and subsistence in the interior of the country. The same necessity might possibly exist in regard to the people of this country, without the Government being necessarily responsible; but his belief was, that if the country, with its immense accumulation of capital, were properly governed, and there were not an undue amount of taxation, abstracting from the earnings of industry, every able-bodied man of good character and willing to work might be employed. He should vote against this loan and against every penny that was proposed to be raised by borrowing in any shape whatever.
§ MR. J. O'CONNELL
said, the cost of maintaining an army in Ireland was ordinarily 1,000,000l. a year. This year it would amount to 1,500,000l. or 1,600,000l. 650 Now, if Ireland were made contented by having justice done to her, one-half of this expense might be saved. Again, if means were given to Ireland to acquire riches, she would consume taxed articles in a greater proportion than she did now. At present she only paid 3,000,000l. to the revenue on consumable articles; make her rich, and she would pay 9,000,000l.; thus a revenue of 6,000,000l. might be created without imposing a single tax on the country. He believed there was only one measure by which this could be done—a measure which would make the people stay at home and spend their money in that country.
§ MR. SPOONER
would not have risen to take part in the discussion had it not been for the observations of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding. He (Mr. Spooner) denied that the revenue in the present year was equal to that of 1845, as in 1845 the revenue was 54,417,615l., while in the present year it was little more than 52,827,000l., showing a deficiency of 1,764,000l., or very nearly equal to the sum now required to be raised. He warned the Government how they depended upon the income-tax for next year, as he had the best possible means of knowing, the tax would not yield anything like the sum it had produced last year. He regretted to find that such a depression existed in the money market, for he feared that if money was required for war purposes, the Government could not raise 20,000,000l., notwithstanding that during the late war the Government raised the enormous sum of 130,000,000l. in one year. Although the late Lord Ashburton was an advocate of the Bill of 1819, the noble Lord confessed, in a conversation which he had had with him a few weeks before his death, that such was the financial position of the country, that it was his own opinion that—in the event of a war rendering it necessary that 20,000,000l. should be raised by way of loan—the Government of England would find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to raise it. He disapproved of borrowing money during a time of peace; but as a certain liability was to be met, he would not refuse his consent to the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman would not be able to raise the amount of taxation required, in order to balance the receipts and expenditure, if the present commercial and currency system were persisted in; and, therefore, in giving his assent to the proposition, he wished it 651 to be distinctly understood that he in no way had altered his opinion on the subjects he had just referred to.
MR. J. A. SMITH
would vote for the proposition of the Government, because he believed that they had done all that was in their power to avoid the position in which they were placed. They, in the first instance, proposed a tax to meet the deficiency; and it was with regret that he saw them compelled to abandon it. The present peculiar position of affairs justified the course they were now taking. That was the ground upon which his vote would be given. He believed that the present state of Europe, and of the whole world, justified the Government in conceding and yielding to what he understood to have been the deliberately pronounced opinion of the House of Commons, that it was not expedient to increase taxation this year; if so, then there was no other way of making the expenditure and the revenue equal than by a very large reduction of the expenditure. But he was one of those who believed that the state of Europe and the world made it most inexpedient that England should reduce her expenditure more than she had hitherto done. He was not afraid either in that House or elsewhere to avow it to be his belief that even the reduction which had already taken place might not have been wholly prudent. At the same time, he would not lend himself to any party that would raise a cry of war to induce the Government to maintain largo establishments; and he had heard with the most sincere regret the expression of an opinion on the part of the hon. Member for the West Riding, that the necessity of being prepared for war had been propagated by professional men for merely personal and most unworthy objects. He believed that was a sentiment unworthy of those to whom it was attributed, and it was with astonishment that he heard such an imputation proceed from a Gentleman of such general knowledge as that hon. Member. He believed that there was, both out of the House and in it, but one general feeling—namely, that of gratitude to God for the peace and tranquillity which had prevailed in this country during the disturbances which had agitated the rest of Europe; and that they owed that tranquillity to the wise foresight which prevented them from being agitated by discussions necessarily attending great political changes, and to that preparation for resistance, if attacked, which was the 652 greatest safeguard and the greatest surety of peace.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
thought the hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding was the last person, either in or out of the House, who should have charged his opponents or any other persons with having created wicked delusions. The hon. Gentleman had his crotchets. He might think that our expenditure might be reduced 17,000,000l. by one single slash of the knife, but he would find few persons to coincide with him in that opinion; and if it were possible now to diminish the defences of the country with security, he would take leave to say we were in very different circumstances from those in which we were placed at the end of the last and the commencement of the present year. At that time the empire of France was in all its power. Recommendations for the increase of its marine force, to enable France to bridge the Channel and burn the British fleets in the Thames, were suggested by the Prince de Joinville in 1844, and they were carefully carried out; and a great increase in the maritime power of France was created without any justification except some reservation in the minds of its rulers to use them against this country. But when the hon. Member said he would rather lay on a tax than borrow money, would he ask him why he had not kept his word? He had not last night, and he would not to-night, support a measure, not for imposing, but for repealing taxation. We had heard from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-night—and he was glad to hear that sentiment from him—that he was conscious that when the people were out of employment they become disaffected, and that the surest way to secure the attachment and affection of the Queen's subjects was to keep them in full employment; that even those in the higher class of life were apt to be less contented when they were in distressed circumstances. If that was the doctrine of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, how did he justify to himself all those measures which he supported, of which the necessary effect was to throw thousands of the Queen's subjects out of employment? He was one of those who would have refused to come to a vote to add to the property and income-tax; and he was one of those who voted with the hon. Member for Montrose to retain the property and income-tax at its present amount for a single year; but the House, although it was prepared to refuse the 653 Chancellor of the Exchequer an increase or the income-tax, was never asked whether it would refuse to consent to taxes of customs or revenue. Had the noble Lord and the Chancellor of the Exchequer come to the House and asked them to reimpose some of those taxes of customs which had been lately repealed, and to continue others that were soon to fall to the ground, he, for one, should have given the noble Lord and the Chancellor of the Exchequer his hearty support. Now, it had been justly stated by his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, that the taxes that had been reduced would have amounted to the value of all the deficiencies of which the noble Lord had now to complain. The hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire stated, in a tone of great assurance, that notwithstanding this reduction of customs duty, the net revenue of the country could never be so large as it was last year. With the papers before him, he was astonished at the boldness of the asseveration, and, for the moment, was inclined to believe it; but looking at the paper signed by Mr. Parker, and moved for by Mr. Cardwell, he found that in the year 1847 the net income was but 51,451,609l, when in the year before, 1846, before a great part of these customs duties was reduced, the income was 53,626,178l., being 2,174,569l. more than the revenue in the last year. So that we should now have an ample surplus instead of being in a deficiency, if it had not been for the alteration of customs that had taken place in the last two or three years. Then if we were in difficulties, let us look for money in the Exchequer; do not lot us look for loans, but let us look for the treasure where we lost it—let us look at the customs duty—let us do as the united States of America did—not for protection—he cared nothing for the matter, but for the purpose of income—put taxes upon all the produce of foreign industry. The Exchequer had fallen into the old ways of the Whigs—the chronic vice of the Whigs—always getting into a deficiency—always looking out for a casualty. It was the Kaffir war now; but there was always some casualty, and the Whig Chancellor of the Exchequer invariably concluded that that was the last casualty that was to befall us. Soon after the Whigs came into power in 1830, there was a casualty of 1,000,000l., which was paid in arrears of tithes in Ireland. Then came other casualties; there came the emancipation of the negroes, and twenty 654 millions was an extraordinary expenditure, which was never to occur again. Then soon after followed an insurrection in Canada. That was also a casualty. Then followed the Chinese war, and the war in the East Indies, and the reverses of the British troops in Cabul; and so, from year to year, there was always some new casualty occurring; the year before last it was the famine in Ireland, and now it was the Caffre war. It was the very nature of a great empire, with possessions spread in every quarter of the world, that these casualties would be contantly occurring; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who calculated upon such extraordinary good fortune as that there was never to be another casualty—that there was never to be another famine—that there was never to be again disturbances on the Continent that were to chock trade, and by checking trade were diminishing the consumption of excisable articles—was sure to fall into the position in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Whig Government were in, of fast travelling on to a state of insolvency and bankruptcy. He was not one of those who agreed with the hen. Member for Limerick, that Ireland could be made to render six millions of additional income to this country without imposing any tax upon her; neither was he one who concurred with Her Majesty's Ministers, who thought that the way to get out of a difficulty was to give a little more free trade; to take off a few more taxes, to squander away the copper duties, to remit 23,000l. of corn duty, because some Member of the Government had expressed a loose opinion in the course of a debate in the House of Commons. He did not think that was the way to enrich the Exchequer, nor did he think that if they were to get into difficulties, and were to run into debt, that was a very constitutional way of doing it; but he thought this, that there were a great many taxes that might be imposed with very little burden upon the people of this country. He did not think the people of this country ever, as a body, asked that the timber duties should be taken off. He thought they would submit to a reimposition of the duties on foreign timber without any very great reluctance. He thought they did not like, and did not demand, that the duty should be taken off cotton and a great many other articles that made up the sum total of the two and a half millions which you had surrendered; and 655 the two and a half millions which you were now in arrear. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer had come forward and said we gave up the corn duties; they produced us 772,000l. in the year 1846; we want revenue; continue the corn duties for the sake of the revenue for two or throe years more—he did not believe the country would have been against such a measure as that; and he thought so the more because, upon looking at the state of prices, and the effect the corn duties had had upon prices on the one hand, and upon the revenue on the other, he could make it perfectly clear to the meanest understanding—and he might say to the most perverse understanding—that the corn duties had not been paid by the consumer in this country. The average price of wheat in February was 51s. 4d. On the 1st March, the suspension of the Corn-Law Act expired, and the 7s. duty came into operation. According to the doctrine of the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire and his school, the consumer ought immediately to have paid 7s. more for his wheat; but what was the state of the case? No perceptible difference arose in the price of wheat; the difference, such as it was, tended rather to a decline. In the month of March, from 51s. 4d., the price of wheat fell so that it averaged 50s. 6d. Duties came in, and in the month of April, notwithstanding 7s. was being paid in March, the price of wheat fell 3d. more upon the average of that month. Still, as the price fell, the duty rose. In the month of May, the average price of wheat was 48s. 11d., with a sliding-scale. As the price slipped down, the duty went up. The duty in May was, upon an average, about 9s. In June, still the price went down, and we had an average in June of 40s. in price, and of 10s. duty, by which, in the month of June alone, we were able to levy from the foreigner 56,000l. Had he not made it clear to the House, clear to the meanest and most perverse understanding, that, as far as these corn duties were concerned, they came out of the pocket of the foreigner, and they did not come out of the pocket of the English consumer? It was a revenue to the English Exchequer, at no cost whatever to the British consumer. He then said, with this example before us, do not let us have recourse to odious income taxes to fill the Exchequer; do not let us have recourse to this spendthrift mode of meeting present resources by entailing debts upon our posterity in the 656 thirty-third year of peace; but let us look this question again manfully in the face, and let us not be misled by the delusions of those who told us that the repeal of the corn laws would at once make flour 1½d. a pound, and would fill England with prosperity; would cause England to exchange her manufactures for the corn of foreign countries; that it would leave no loom standing still; that it would leave to every operative superfluity, and he would no longer he required to have higher wages, because he was to have cheaper bread, and the superfluity of his wages was to be spared from the purchase of bread to be expended upon tea and sugar; that it was to increase to a boundless extent the export of the British manufacturer. Let us learn the answer from our diminished exports of five millions sterling, in the first six months of 1848, when free trade had come into full operation. Let us not place confidence in these deluders of the public mind; let us have a care how we listen to those who denounce their opponents, and think they are alone the only true prophets; let us beware of the gentleman who decries all those who differ from him, and who thinks himself the only orator, and who exclaims, as Jack Cade did at another time to Lord Say, just before he ordered his head to be cut off, "I am the besom that must sweep the Court clean of such filth as thou art."
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
, after all he had heard, did not come to the conclusion that it was unwise in the Government to propose to increase the income-tax to meet the expenditure of the country. It was the opinion of Lord Ashburton, and one which that noble Lord pertinaciously held, and which deserved some attention, that, instead of keeping the expenditure equal to the income, it would be more prudent to keep 2,000,000l. or 3,000,000l. as a sinking fund, and then the Government would be prepared for any such emergencies as might happen. Now, he thought that a better plan than this was to give the public the benefit of the reduction of taxes; and successive Governments, acting on this principle when they had a surplus, had reduced the taxes to a great extent. He had shown on a former occasion that within the last few years taxes to the amount of 10,000,000l. a year had been taken off from articles of necessity and general consumption. The reduction of taxation had thus been very great; but the consequence was, that if there were an extraordinary 657 deficiency in the revenue, or an extraordinary expenditure, then immediately the expenditure exceeded the income, and the Government were obliged to consider to what sources they could turn to make up the deficiency. The Government had proposed an increased percentage on a tax already in existence; but the country did not concur with the views they took, and the Government did not persist in their measures. Even if they had carried their proposal in that House, it would have been so unpopular in the country that it was far better the Government should take the course which they had adopted, of at once giving up the hope of raising the money by that means. Under these circumstances, he did not think that any course which had been proposed was better than that taken by the Government. The hon. Members for Montrose and the West Riding thought the Government ought to have made very great reductions in their military and naval force. He did not feel justified in proposing any such reductions; and what had appeared in the public papers within the last few days had confirmed him in the propriety of the decision they had come to. It appeared that the Government of February in France had in contemplation an attempt to make a war in Belgium; and a war in Belgium must have led to serious complications in Europe. The Government, therefore, would not have been justifiable in proposing that very large reduction in their military and naval expenditure which the hon. Members for Montrose and the West Riding had recommended. He could not concur in the opinion of the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) that it would be expedient to reimpose the taxes on timber and raw cotton. He was not now going to discuss the question of the policy or impolicy of such duties; but he would remind the noble Lord that, long before the days of Adam Smith, it was thought by Sir R. Walpole and others of that school, that the most wise course was to repeal duties upon the raw articles of manufacture; and it was a great boast of Sir R. Walpole that he had reduced such duties to a very large amount in one year. He was not willing to reimpose the duties upon timber and cotton; and as to the effect of the duty on corn, he did not want to dispute with the noble Lord as to the effect of a duty of 7s. or 8s. on the price of corn. But he very much rejoiced that we had not the sliding-scale which existed in 1845. He found that in 658 nearly the whole of this year, there was no duty above 10s., and that corn merchants could bring in their corn without waiting until the price rose to 70s., which was a great advantage to the consumers, and a great security this year over the years 1841, 1842, and 1843, when the old duty was in existence. He would not enter further into the question, except to express his satisfaction that, by the wisdom of Parliament, they had the state of corn duties which now existed instead of those which existed previously,
The House divided on the question that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question:—Ayes 66; Noes 15: Majority 51.
|List of the AYES.|
|Abdy, T. N.||Morris, D.|
|Adair, R. A. S.||Mullings, J. R.|
|Anstey, T. C.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Baring, rt. hon. Sir F. T.||Norreys, Sir D. J.|
|Bellew, R. M.||O'Connell, J.|
|Berkeley, hon. Capt.||Paget, Lord C.|
|Bernal, R.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Boyle, hon. Col.||Parker, J.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Price, Sir R.|
|Brown, W.||Raphael, A.|
|Buller, C.||Reynolds, J.|
|Campbell, hon. W. F.||Rich, H.|
|Chaplin, W. J.||Romilly, Sir J.|
|Craig, W. G.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Dodd, G.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Drummond, H.||Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.|
|Dundas, Adm.||Shelburne, Earl of|
|Dunne, F. P.||Smith, J. A.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.|
|Grey, R. W.||Spearman, H. J.|
|Hawes, B.||Spooner, R.|
|Hayter, W. G.||Stanton, W. H.|
|Henley, J. W.||Talfourd, Serj.|
|Henry, A.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Herbert, H. A.||Ward, H. G.|
|Heywood, J.||Watkins, Col.|
|Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J.||Willcox, B. M.|
|Hobhouse, T. B.||Wilson, J.|
|Lacy, H. C.||Wilson, M.|
|Lewis, G. C.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Mahon, The O'Gorman||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||TELLERS.|
|Monsell, W.||Hill, Lord M.|
|Morpeth, Visct.||Tufnell, H.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Renton, J. C.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Broadley, H.||Thompson, Col.|
|Cobden, R.||Urquhart, D.|
|Currie, H.||Williams, J.|
|Goring, C.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Keogh, W.||Hume, J.|
|O'Connor, F.||Muntz, G. F.|
§ Bill went through Committee.