§ Resolutions [April 4] reported.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the first of the said Resolutions be now read a Second Time."
§ MR. HERRIES
I rise, Sir, to propose an Amendment to the Resolution which has just been read. I propose, after the words which recite the duties which are to be levied, to insert the Amendment of which I have given notice. In moving this Amendment I may be permitted to say that I have seen with great satisfaction the announcement in the public prints that the revenue of the country, as exhibited in the Returns for the quarter just expired, is even in a more satisfactory condition than that which the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced when he last addressed the House on this subject. I rejoice, Sir, in that announcement, not only as an indication of the prosperity of I the country, as to which I never entertained any doubt or anxiety—I rejoice in that prosperity for the sake of the country—and I also rejoice in it as a consideration that adds force and weight to the proposal which I have to make. It is precisely on account of that prosperity and of the means which that prosperous state of | the revenue will afford to the Government and to the House of accomplishing an act of good faith and of justice, that I now offer the proposition which I have just laid before you. I will endeavour to confine myself, in my observations, to the subject itself. I will endeavour to repay the attention which the House may give me while I unfold the proposition, by confining myself strictly to the arguments which come within the exact scope of my Motion. I will not touch the subjects of free trade or protection—these subjects have, in fact, nothing to do with the question immediately before us. In one sense it is a purely economical question, but it is also a question which involves the good faith, the honesty of Parliament, and, as I think, the principles of sound policy. I will, in pursuance of this intention, Sir, entirely exclude, at least from my share of the discussion, all inquiry into details. I will not involve myself in a controversy of figures with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In order more entirely to set aside any discussion upon these matters of subordinate importance on this particular occasion, I will dispute none of his statements of the actual condition of the revenue, nor of his estimates of its future probable produce. I 1123 am willing to accept them all pro hac vice, as the foundation upon which I make ray proposition to the House; with this reservation, however, arising naturally out of the recent more favourable returns of the public income, that I must venture to assume the surplus of future years somewhat higher than the estimate of the right hon. Gentleman. Instead of 1,890,000l., I shall expect it to be 2,200,000l., or perhaps 2,300,000l. In the outset I think I have a right to assume that the property and income tax which we are now invited to continue—I presume for another three years—is the property and income tax as it has existed from1842 to the present time. I have a right to make that assumption, because I am perfectly sure that if there had been any intention of altering or amending it, the right hon. Gentleman would have announced such alteration as a part of his financial statement to the House. In any other case, I should accuse the right hon. Gentleman of that which was very improbable from him, a want of frankness in dealing with the House. I assume, then, that the property and income tax with which we have to deal, is the property and income tax with which the House has been acquainted since1842. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Hear, hear!] I am glad to hear that cheer from the right hon. Gentleman, that the income tax, with all that is objected to in it, is the tax with which the House has now to deal. Now, in order to make my argument as clear as possible, and to put it in the most compact possible shape, I shall endeavour briefly to state to the House the history of this income and property tax. I wish to show that, in point of fact, this is the first legitimate occasion which the House has had since the imposition of the tax, of really considering the question whether or not they will adopt it as a permanent tax, or whether they will—following out the intention expressed when it was first imposed—avail themselves of this the earliest opportunity for beginning to provide for its reduction? I must remind the House that the imposition of the income tax—the necessity for it.—arose out of the maladministration of our finances during the five or six years which preceded the overthrow of the Whig Administration in 1841. It had no other origin than that. During that period we had an extraordinary picture of financial government exhibited to the country. Almost every year there was a large increase of expen- 1124 diture, and a large reduction of taxes. Although at the end of that period an effort was made to repair these losses by a sweeping addition to all the existing taxes, still the amount of taxes abandoned beyond the provisions made for repairing the breaches thereby created in the revenue, could not be estimated at less than 3,000,000l Along with this reduction of taxation there was, on the other hand, a large progressive augmentation of expenditure; so that at the cessation of the Whig Administration, when the finances were handed over to abler hands, the late Sir R. Peel found himself under the necessity of finding some remedy for the mischief which had thus been done. To meet the defalcation produced by a series of yearly deficiencies which had accumulated to an amount not short of 10,000,000l., that lamented statesman—greatly, I think, to the credit of his sagacity, and fully justified by the ruinous state in which he found the finances—proposed the adoption of the Property and Income Tax. The House had no alternative but to adopt it. The proposal was indeed combined with measures for the general improvement of the revenue, for freeing commerce from many unnecessary restrictions, and for the abolition of duties that weighed down the springs of industry. I do not dispute the wisdom of these measures. They were a continuance of the policy of previous Administrations of which both the right hon. Gentleman and myself formed, a part—a policy which had for its object the removal of obstructions and prohibitions on trade and commerce, but always, in former occasions at least, with a due regard to existing interests. In proposing the Income Tax, Sir R. Peel distinctly declared that he asked for it as a temporary tax, and for a special purpose, and to meet a special emergency, and he took it on the very grounds set forth in my Amendment. He stated that a period of less than five years would not, he believed, answer the purposes he had in view, but he would take the tax for three years, in the hope that that term might perhaps prove sufficient; trusting that if at the end of that shorter period, it should prove necessary to ask for the extended term he had originally intimated, Parliament would not oppose a proposal for the limited continuance of it. In 1845, accordingly Sir R. Peel came down to the House, and, stating that the throe years had not been found sufficient, applied for the extension of time which he had on the former occasion intimated as 1125 possibly to be required for the great object in view. Having satisfied the House that he was justified in this request, the House assented to the proposal, though not without considerable opposition, especially proceeding from the hon. Gentlemen who now sit on the Treasury benches. Thus far there was no breach of faith on the part of the Government either towards the House or the country, as to the duration of the tax. In 1848 there occurred another proposal for the farther continuance of this impost; but 1848 was a year of such peer, liar character, that those who proposed the renewal of the tax, did not attempt-to justify that prolongation, except on account of the very peculiar distress and embarrassment—to the nature and extent of which I need not now refer—which the, unfortunately prevailed, and which created a financial emergency, the pressure of which was universally acknowledged to form a sufficient ground for the proposal. But I cannot refrain from remarking, as an evidence of the levity with which Gentlemen opposite are disposed to deal with this obnoxious impost, that they attempted to persuade the House not merely to continue it, but to augment it from 3 to 5 per cent. The House wisely and peremptorily refused that proposal; and the Government was compelled to discover the means of carrying on the public service without an augmentation of the tax. This brings me to the present year, the last year of the last term of renewal; but before I proceed to state my reasons for asking the House not to consent to the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman, I shall take the liberty of calling the attention of the House to the judgments of persons of great weight and authority on the nature and character of this particular tax. I wish to call the attention of the House to the opinions of those Gentlemen now in office and supporting the Income Tax as Ministers, on the proposed extension of it in1845, when they were in Opposition; and I shall read a few extracts from the speeches of some of those right hon. Gentlemen regarding the nature and character of the tax. I do not use these extracts as argumenta ad homines, hut as being the expressions of true and sound judgments by persons of the highest authority as to the nature of the tax—judgments to which I wish I could hope that those who uttered them will still adhere. It is not necessary for me to quote—because the hon. Members no doubt recollect 1126 —the terms in which Sir R. Peel first proposed the tax, and the renewal of it. On the second occasion, when he asked for the extension of the tax, Sir R. Peel declared that he hoped that within the term to which the tax was to be extended, provision would be made by alteration and augmentation of the revenue, to render any further renewal of the tax unnecessary. On that occasion the proposition made by Sir R. Peel did not receive the unqualified support of the House. Hon. Members opposite, who were at that time in Opposition, expressed very strong opinions, not so much with respect to the continuance of the tax, because that rested on obvious grounds, but as to the character of the tax. They assented to the renewal, but they accompanied their acquiescence with such expressions of opinion as should certainly induce them to hesitate, before, in the present circumstances of the country, they again propose the continuance of it. The persons who bore testimony to the objectionable nature of the tax were Lord Russell, Mr. Labouchere, Lord Howick, Sir F. Baring, and last, but not least, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. C. Wood. The words of the First Minister of the Crown, when speaking on this important question in 1842, well deserve the attention of the House. It is indeed a question of great moment, however lightly some hon. Members opposite seem to treat it. The question is whether we shall now permanently establish such a public impost as that which has been described and stigmatised by those whose judgments I am about to read to you, even when it was proposed as a temporary expedient only, as being of the most odious and objectionable character. The noble Lord now at the head of Her Majesty's Councils, has, on three several occasions, pronounced his deliberate judgment upon it. The noble Lord said, in 1842—The evil of a Tax such as the Income tax was not confined to the sum drawn from the community; the great objection to it was that which was universally felt and stated, and that was a better argument against it than the most refined that could he used in that House—viz., its inquisitorial character."—[3 Hansard, lxi. 899.]And the noble Lord wont on to say—But the strongest objection of all was, that it had always been considered everywhere as a tax to be resorted to only as a last resource.In 1845 the noble Lord's opinion was not at all changed, except that, if anything, it 1127 Was rather stronger. The noble Lord then said—I have always been accustomed to consider the Income Tax as a tax necessary, indeed, in times of great emergency—necessary, for instance, in carrying on a war of an arduous and costly nature—but, at the same time, that it was a tax subject to some of the gravest objections that could be urged against any tax. I have always been of opinion that inequality, vexation, and fraud, were inherent in such a tax."—[3 Hansard, lxxvii. 543.]In 1848 the noble Lord asked for the continuance of that tax on the sole ground of the great distress which had prevailed so extensively throughout the country; and such was the severity of the pressure at that time, that he suggested even an increase of it; observing, with some apparent modesty, that he did not think he was asking too much when he proposed a temporary increase and a continuance of the present direct tax, in the face of circumstances of almost unparalleled difficulty which had occurred in the previous year. [3 Hansard, xcvii. 222.] Such was the only ground the noble Lord then gave for the renewal of that tax—the ground of deep embarrassment and of unparalleled distress; a condition, happily, the very reverse of that which exists at present. Then the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Labouchere), whose judgment in matters of this kind was naturally looked to with great respect, was one of the most strenuous opponents of this tax on account of its character. The right hon. Gentleman said—God forbid that under present circumstances the financial difficulties of the country should appear such as to require that House to adopt such an extreme measure. I would resort to almost all other means before I adopted a scheme of taxation which was alien to the habits of the people of this country, which must be carried into execution in an inquisitorial manner, and therefore which must be attended with vexatious proceedings, infinitely more annoying than the amount taken from their pockets."—[3 Hansard, lxi. 927.]I hope the right hon. Gentleman continues of the same mind; but present circumstances are different indeed to those under which he uttered those sentiments. We are now prosperous—we have a surplus—we are not under the pressure of such difficulties as Sir Robert Peel laboured under, and surely all those arguments will apply with tenfold force at the present time. A noble Lord, now in the other House, Earl Grey, whose opinion must have weight with a Cabinet of which he is so distinguished a member, also took an opportu- 1128 nity, upon two occasions, of expressing his opinion of the character of this tax. In 1842 the then Lord He wick said—I think that upon every principle of justice, and of good policy, we ought to resist the imposition of any new burdens, and more especially that of a tax in its very nature so exceedingly odious as that proposed to us."—[3 Hansard, lxi. 891.]And again he said—We are told taxation ought to be equal; can anything be more monstrously unequal than the tax recommended to us?"—Ibid.That was the same tax they were now called on to continue. In 1845, Lord Howick most strongly protested against the renewal of the tax; 'and contended that it ought to have been accompanied with such measures as might give a fair and reasonable hope of its being repealed. [3 Hansard, xcvii. 622.] But the most consistent and most strenuous opposer of this tax was the right hon. Baronet opposite, the First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir F. T. Baring). Speaking in 1842, he stated "he felt the strongest objections to the tax, and even if he were to stand alone, he would record his dissent from it." [3 Hansard, lxi. 860.] Now, Sir, notwithstanding the change of the right hon. Gentleman's position—knowing, as we all well know, his consistency, honesty, and integrity—I |hope I may safely challenge his vote on this occasion. In 1848, the right hon. Gentleman stated, that he yielded to necessity alone in supporting the continuance of the tax. He added—Though he retained all his objections to the tax, yet, with such a deficiency in the revenue, he was not prepared to throw difficulties in the way of carrying it; for, bad as the tax was, there was one thing still worse—and that was a revenue permanently deficient." [3 Hansard, xcvii. 212.]I shall not read—because I referred to them a few nights ago—the opinions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on thi3 tax. I had occasion to show, not only that the right hon. Gentleman was most strongly opposed to the principle of the tax, but that he differed from Sir R. Peel as to the incidence of the tax. I may differ from the right hon. Gentleman in opinion upon that point; but I am quite prepared to admit that, although the tax does fall in the first instance on property, whether in land or trade, and on professional incomes, it cannot fail to affect, consequentially, the labourer and the artisan. Now, Sir, I ask the noble Lord, and I 1129 trust I shall receive a distinct answer, how he can propose that a tax which he has described as having inherent in it inequality, vexation, and fraud, should be continued at a period when not only is there no great emergency to be grappled with, but when there is a surplus revenue, and a fair prospect of an increasing public income. I ask all of those right hon. Gentlemen whose opinions I have quoted, to state distinctly whether they have changed those opinions—whether they have since discovered that there is less of inequality, vexation, and fraud inherent in this tax than they then believed? and if not, I would ask them, whether they will not, in strict accordance with their own views, and with a due regard to all the conditions on which the tax has been imposed and renewed hitherto, join with me in now opposing the unnecessary and wanton renewal of it? I cannot believe that they have made any new discoveries as to the merits of the tax; and I am very sure that if there has been any change in their opinions, there has been none in the character and operation of the tax itself to justify it. It remains as true as when they expressed these sentiments, that the landlords, who are assessed on more than they really receive, and are allowed no abatement for deductions, feel the tax to be unjust; that the tenant-farmers, who are assessed upon supposed profits, even when they are suffering losses, know it to be oppressive and inequitable; that the merchants and manufacturers, who are subject to a galling inquisition, which does not always elicit the truth, know and feel it to be vexatious; that artists and others engaged in professions depending upon personal industry and ability are not reconciled to the disproportionate pressure of the tax upon them as compared with others enjoying the rents or profits of capital. I assert, therefore, without fear of contradiction, that the prevalent sentiment respecting this tax throughout all the classes who pay it, is, that it ought to be submitted to only as a temporary necessity. It is in accordance with these sentiments that I am now intreating the House to adopt a measure for the termination of it. Sir, the proposal which I submit for this purpose is not inconsistent with the general policy in finance which the Chancellor of the Exchequer proclaimed so loudly on a former night, the foundation of which is a due regard to the maintenance of the public service and the public credit. I concur 1130 with him in that view, although I do not understand how he can so strongly insist on the necessity of keeping up a good surplus in support of it, while he is paring down that which he possesses to the smallest possible dimensions. It will be observed, Sir, that the principle of my Amendment is, "that the tax should he continued only in such proportions as are necessary for the discharge of the public service, and the due maintenance of public credit." I am, Sir, one of those who hold that it is generally wise and politic to maintain some surplus of income after making provision for the annual expenditure of the country, and the discharge of the interest of the national debt. I do not agree with the Member for Montrose in the opinion that every surplus should be immediately applied in the reduction of taxes. But among the various claims for the application of the surplus now existing, I contend that the first and foremost is the gradual extinction of the income tax. If, Sir, I were to treat this subject upon mere general grounds of financial policy, I should advert to topics sometimes insisted upon in defence of this tax, and to the merits of the Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as connected with his commercial policy. I should then contend that the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Budget does not fulfil the principles of free trade. It very sparingly proposes to reduce duties which press upon commerce, or to create cheapness; it principally affects to deal with a direct tax—the window tax; and the right hon. Gentleman has entirely failed to show that, of the direct taxes that are competing for reduction, the window tax has any prior claim over the property tax. It is not merely on the ground of policy, but on the much higher ground of the obligation which the House contracted with the country when it imposed the income tax, that, so soon as it had the power, it would remove that burden, that I have proposed my Amendment. If there be any value in good faith on the part of a Parliament—if there be any importance in securing the respect and confidence of the people to declarations made in Parliament, then, I say, it is highly desirable that we should not allow this opportunity—the first which has occurred—of showing we are prepared to fulfil the conditions on which this property tax was imposed by Parliament, and submitted to by the country. If the resolution of the Chancellor of the Exche- 1131 quer that this tax be now further continued should he adopted, without farther qualification than the implied intention to fix three years for its new term, it must be obvious to all men that it must henceforth assume the character of a permanent impost. I venture to advise the House strongly against this course. I propose that you should avail yourselves of the first opportunity of doing justice to the country, and of; redeeming your own promises. I know I that to modify or recast this tax with a view to its more equitable assessment on j the different classes of the community, j would be, though not impossible, extremely difficult, and I hardly venture to anticipate the success of any attempt of such a change. As a temporary tax, and only as such, it was submitted to with all its imperfections; and I will venture to say, with the certainty of not being contradicted by any friends of the late Sir Robert Peel, that if he had entertained the belief when he proposed the tax, that there was any danger of its being converted into a permanent tax, or that he would not be able to relieve the country from it at a future period, he never would have proposed it in the shape in which it now stands. The only justification that could be offered for it was that it was only temporary that it was only imposed to meet a great emergency, and to enable him to carry out a policy which appeared to him to be in a high degree expedient and beneficial to the country. It was clear, therefore, that Sir Robert Peel and his friends looked upon this tax as a temporary one. I would invite, then, the noble Lord at the head of the Government to consider whether it would not be the honester and better plan to adopt the course which I recommend, and which is quite consistent with his own professions and those of his colleagues. There are parties in this House who have a special interest in this question, in addition to that general interest which all must feel. I would ask those hon. Gentlemen the representatives from Ireland what they would think of the passing of this Act for another period, knowing that the consequence will be to make it a permanent one? In such an event I ask them, do they not themselves see the inevitable consequence and indispensable necessity of extending it to property of the same description in every part of the united kingdom? Now why a permanent tax should not be extended to property of the same 1132 description in Ireland as in Great Britain, is more than any man has yet been able to explain. Sir Robert Peel gave reasons for not extending the tax when first imposed to Ireland, and they were good and sufficient. He looked to the peculiar condition of the country at that time, and on that account he exempted it from the operation of this tax; but, even then, he imposed other duties which were supposed to be equivalent to this burden. The greater portion of those duties were found to be unsuitable to the condition of Ireland, and during the next Session they were repealed; but Ireland still remains free from the income tax. I must here frankly state, that if it were proposed to extend this tax now to Ireland, with all its inequalities, injustice, and imperfections, I would say "No" to that pro position for the same reason that I now contend for its discontinuance in England. It must be altered and amended, and then, if at all, it ought to be applied equally to all parts of the united kingdom. But, surely, the best mode of meeting all these objections and difficulties is to put an end to the tax altogether. I turn to those hon. Friends of mine who were the followers of the late Sir Robert Peel, and though I cannot concur in many of their views, yet I certainly expect from them that in respect to his memory, in consistency with his intentions, in fulfilment of his promises, in the execution of his engagements, they will concur in the Amendment I now propose to the House. I am sore that if that great man were still among us (and I speak not without knowledge having been consulted by him, at one time, on the subject), I should not he the person to make the present Motion; but if any Government had under such circumstances presumed to ask for the renewal of this property tax, with all its inequalities and deficiencies unremoved, Sir R. Peel would not have been the last man in this House to rise and express his opposition to it; but in consistency with his own opinions and policy he would have been among the foremost to support a Motion like that which I now place before you. It appears to me that there is nothing in the arguments nor in the circumstances of the present case which has been or can be urged by hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, to justify a renewal of this tax. In support of my view of the question, there is the general prosperity of the 1133 country. There is, indeed, sonic pressure, which unfortunately is greater, and operates with more severity on those who are the most heavily charged to the tax. I only ask the House to do justice—to fulfil its own declared intentions—to relieve the people of burdens in which there is fraud, vexation, and injustice. I trust, before this debate ends, I shall have the satisfaction of finding this House more attentive to the claims of justice, honor, and sound policy than of any agitation pressed upon the Government out of doors, and that they will fulfil the expectation.; which they held out, and commence the struggle against a tax of which the proper period of its termination has now arrived. What is the effect of the resolution which I propose? When I suggest that no more of the income tax shall be continued than may be requisite, in addition to other existing taxes, to meet the public exigencies, including therein the duo maintenance of the public credit, I suppose I may take the surplus for the present year at about 2,200,000l. [The Chancellor of the EXCHEQUER: No!] The' right hon. Gentleman says "No." lie has himself stated it at1,900,000l., and the actual produce of the year has exceeded his expectations by 200,000l. or 300,000l. However, I will make a compromise, and will take 2,000,000l. as au undoubtedly fair surplus estimate for the next year. Tile property tax at present levied is at the rate of 7d. in the pound upon all income. Now every penny of that produces about 780,000l. of revenue, and I contend that there is room, with the present surplus, and having a due regard to the objects before mentioned for a reduction of at least two-sevenths of the property tax. If this proposition were accepted, therefore, the country would be relieved from property tax to the amount of 1,560,000l. This would still leave a considerable surplus; and the relief afforded would be far more substantial than by the repeal of the window duties—an old established tax—to which the country is accustomed, and not liable to so much objection as the property tax. The Chancellor of the Exchequer's plan of abandoning the window duty would occasion the remission of1,200,000l. of taxation, and my proposal would, even in this year, remit1,560,000l. A great agitation has been raised on sanitary grounds against the window tax, which the Chancellor might have easily met, and removed the abjection altogether by allowing all per- 1134 sons to open what new windows they pleased without being subjected to any additional duty, by a simple plan of composition. If he would accompany such a measure with the reduction of the income tax, the right hon. Gentleman would give more general satisfaction, and raise the Parliament in the eyes of the people. You have thus two proposals before you—the one is on the part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to pursue a course which must inevitably lead to a perpetuation of the property and income tax with all its difficulties and inequalities; and, on the other hand, the Amendment which is submitted to you will secure the ultimate abolition of the income tax, while it will afford more immediate relief to the country than the cessation of the window tax. It is between these two propositions the House has now to choose. If you pass the resolution of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the country is doomed to bear the income tax for an indefinite period: if, on the other hand, you adopt the more just, the more honest, as well as more politic course which I venture to recommend, the income tax will be doomed to speedy extinction. I think I may be permitted to add, that by adopting this plan, which would make the speedy diminution of the tax dependent on the surplus of future years, the House would have established a great incentive to economy in the public expenditure. It will also be the means of affording a valuable assurance to the country at large that the promises made by Governments and by Parliaments, when they lay burthens on the people, are solemn engagements, and intended to be faithfully executed. The country awaits the decision of the House on these questions. In conclusion, I would venture to ask the noble Lord at the head of the Government, whose opinions on this subject I have read to the House, how he will find it possible, with a surplus revenue and with the full means of giving relief in his hands—with no emergency before him, and no danger, internal or intenial, to the peace of the country—with nothing, in fact, to justify the renewal of such a tax—I would ask how he could unsay those opinions which he has formerly uttered—how he can propose the continuance of an impost which has been by himself and all his colleagues, in concurrence with the universal public opinion, so strongly and so justly stigmatised?
To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'it is the opinion of this House, that the respective Duties in Great Britain on profits arising from property, professions, trades, and offices, and the Stamp Duties in Ireland, granted by two Acts passed in the sixth year of Her present Majesty, and which have been continued and amended by several subsequent Acts, were granted for limited periods, and to meet temporary exigencies: That it is highly expedient to adhere to the declared intentions of Parliament when these Duties were granted and continued; and, in order to secure their speediest practicable cessation, to limit the renewal of any portion of them to such an amount as may be sufficient, in the existing state of the Public Revenue, to provide for the expenditure sanctioned by Parliament, and for the due maintenance of public credit,' instead thereof.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he had already, on a former evening, expressed his conviction that the right hon. Gentleman would fairly and candidly bring forward his views on the question he had now brought before the House; and he would now do him the justice to say that his speech that evening had fully answered his expectations. The right hon. Gentleman had on the present as on former occasions, made numerous references to the opinions which had been expressed by him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) and other Members of the Government. Now, he could assure the right hon. Gentleman he did not in the slightest degree deprecate the fullest reference to Hansard, and to his former opinions to be found recorded in that repertory of quotations; all he asked was that that reference should not be made by quoting a single isolated sentence, but by fairly giving the general tenour and scope of his entire remarks. It was perfectly true that in 1842 he did oppose the imposition of the income tax. He had then said it was liable to many objections. To objections he thought it still liable; and could the right hon. Gentleman say less than that of any tax whatever that he might name? All taxes were in some respects unequal and open to fraud. He maintained that there was no single tax that could be imposed of which that might not in some degree and to some extent be said; and, therefore, in order to see if the burden was unequal and unjust, they must take the whole body of taxation, and not a single tax out of the entire catalogue of those imposed on the people of this country. But he had stated distinctly the grounds on which he opposed the imposition of the income tax in 1842; and those grounds were—first, that the estimated amount of revenue 1136 for which it was proposed was not sufficient to counterbalance all the evils incidental to such a tax, and would not, as he thought, justify its imposition. He further stated then, that if that tax was about to be proposed for those purposes which had since been effected—if it were proposed for the purpose of enabling the Government to get rid of the great monopolies of sugar, timber, and corn, he would then have voted for its imposition; and he was not at all aware that any portion of his conduct or his votes since that period had been inconsistent with that declaration. He granted that this tax was in the first instance avowedly imposed to answer a temporary purpose, to meet a deficiency in the revenue. But that temporary purpose was answered in1845; and in proposing the continuance of the income tax in1845, the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Robert Peel) said that the temporary purpose had been answered—that they might now repeal the income tax—that he did not ask the House to renew it to meet the supplies of the year, but he asked for it in order to enable him to make a great experiment in taxation. [Mr. Hermes was understood to dissent.] The right hon. Gentleman seemed to doubt the accuracy of his recollection; he would therefore read a portion of Sir Robert Peel's words in renewing the tax in 1845. He said—Such has been the increase of the revenue from permanent sources of income during the existence of the income tax, that we might have avoided making this experiment; we might have provided for the supplies of the present year without making any application to Parliament in respect to increased taxation; but we propose to continue the income tax for a further period, not for the purpose of providing the supplies for the year, but distinctly for the purpose of enabling us to make this great experiment of reducing other taxes."—[3 Hansard, vol. lxxvii.]Sir Robert Peel then went on to say that it would be impossible to do this unless the tax were continued for a certain period; and he stated his confident belief that at the expiration of three years that would again have occurred which had occurred then, and that it would be competent for Parliament again, as before, to pursue the same course. Well, was that or was it not a confirmation of what he had stated was his impression as to what occurred at the renewal of the income tax in 1845—that it was not then proposed by Sir Robert Peel to make up a deficiency, but for the purpose of making a great experiment in taxation; to make goed the deficiency 1137 created by the repeal of other duties which he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) considered more objectionable than the income tax itself? He stated his objections to the course which in that year was proposed to be taken with respect to the sugar duties but with respect to the income tax he said—We are now told that this tax (the income tax) was imposed to carry through a great experiment of taxation. I do not object to continuing it on those grounds.He knew not, therefore, how he could be accused of inconsistency, for he had stated in the first instance that he was prepared to support the income tax, if imposed for and applied to a given purpose; and had, in 1845, acquiesced in and supported the renewal of the income tax to try a great experiment in the reduction of taxation. In order, if necessary, to justify the conduct of himself and his right hon. Colleagues, and to show their perfect consistency on this subject, he would ask permission to quote what he said (and what he was now prepared to repeat) when he proposed the renewal of the income tax in 1848. He then said, speaking of what took place in 1842—The ground which I then (in 1842) stated of my opposition was, that the income tax was too high a price to pay for the benefits which we were to receive from the change of taxation which was then proposed. But I said, in 1842, in opposing the tax, that if an alteration were made in the duties on corn, on sugar, on timber, and on other great articles of consumption, I should be ready to vote for direct taxation, and even for the income tax. Now, the duties on sugar, corn, and timber have been so altered; the circumstances which I have said would justify the imposition of an income tax have occurred; and, therefore, with perfect consistency with the principles which I advocated in 1842 and 1845, I now support the renewal of that tax."—[3 Hansard, xcvi. 1407.]He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) now proposed its renewal for the same purposes, and on the same principles, which he had pointed out in former years; for he believed that the measures which he had proposed to the House were in perfect consistency and accordance with those proposed from time to time by the right hon. Gentleman who imposed the income tax, in order (as Sir R. Peel stated) to carry out a change of taxation, hoping that, when that change was accomplished, it might be in the power of the House to repeal or reduce the income tax. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Herries) said that this was the first legitimate opportunity that had occurred on which the income 1138 tax could have been repealed; because this was the first time it had come before the, House since its imposition, when there were prosperity and a surplus. But that was precisely the state of things in 1845. The right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) might then have entirely swept away the income tax. Every objection on the ground of fraud, inequality, and injustice applied to a small as much as to a large income tax; and, surely, if it could have been swept away at once, that would have been a more satisfactory way of getting rid of these evils, than the right hon. Gentleman's (Mr. Herries') proposal, to reduce it to the extent of 2d. in the pound. In 1845, Sir R. Peel could have done so; but he preferred, most wisely—and the House of Commons, with a due regard to the interest of the country, supported his proposal—to renew the tax for a time. He believed that we were now reaping the benefit of that determination in the reduction of other taxes, which it had been the means of effecting; and he hoped that three years hence we should have derived equal benefit from the renewal of the tax I which he now proposed. He was accused the other night, by an hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. T. Baring) with having made an at tack upon the national faith and credit, by proposing a reduction to the amount of 1,536,000l. But Lord Stanley had, with; the greatest frankness and openness, pro posed to reduce the income tax by one third; and the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Herries) now proposed to re duce it not quite by a third, but by 2d. in the pound; the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, proposed to reduce taxation by 1,560,000l., while he (the Chancellor of; the Exchequer) proposed to surrender taxes to the amount of 1,536,000. He would ask his hon. Friend (Mr. Baring) what he said to his (the Chancellor of the Exchequer's) want of regard to national credit, and that of the Whig Government, when the great authority of his own party on financial matters, the adviser of Lord Stanley on these subjects, had actually proposed a reduction greater than that which he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) contemplated? The hon. Gentleman must admit that the dishonesty was at least as great on his own side of the House as on that (the Ministerial). He had also been told by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Baring) that he risked the national faith, because he left it to rest upon direct taxation; and this assertion was made when, 1139 out of 1,500,000l. by which he proposed to reduce the taxes,1,100,000l. was to be effected by a reduction in direct taxation. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Herries), again, said that, in the reductions of direct taxation, which the Government proposed, they were not acting in accordance with their principles, because they were not reducing the duties on raw materials, and blamed them for not doing so. Surely there was some difference of opinion between the two hon. Gentlemen, whom, on these subjects, he should consider the best authorities of the "united" party who occupied the opposite side of the House, upon financial and commercial matters; for these hon. Gentlemen had condemned his policy upon utterly inconsistent grounds. Nearly the whole of the argument of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Herries) was founded on the supposition that he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had proposed to the House the permanent reimposition of the income tax. Now, he had never said one syllable to that effect, nor did any proposition that he had made bear that interpretation. He had invariably spoken of the tax as one imposed to cover certain alterations or modifications of duties which he considered more objectionable and oppressive than the income tax; and if the proposals that he had made to the House from time to time had not been pretty generally opposed by Gentlemen on the other side of the House, and if more reductions had not been extorted from him than he thought right, the revenue would now have been in a better condition than it was. He proposed to renew the income tax for the limited period of three years, in its present form; because he was perfectly aware of the difficulty—almost the impossibility—of modifying the schedules; and if, therefore, the tax was to be renewed for a limited period only, he thought it would be unwise and inexpedient to attempt any alteration. He thought, however, that the right hon. Gentleman had somewhat misrepresented the opinions of the late Sir R. Peel; for he remembered that distinguished statesman saying, during one of the debates that took place on tins subject, that he thought it would be a most dangerous precedent to endeavour to modify the rate of taxation under the different schedules. He was not now going into this question; for his right hon. Friend and the House must see how very difficult it was in one speech to dispose of so numerous and such diversified propositions. 1140 The propositions which had been made on this subject were widely different. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Herries) had stated that there was injustice in Schedules A, B, and D; and he believed that his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lincoln (Colonel Sibthorp) had given notice of a Motion, and was prepared to show that there was some injustice in Schedule E. Now, if the tax was complained of as so unjust to all, it might happen not to be so very unjust to any one. If each schedule was to be reduced by a certain amount, the pressure might be left very nearly what it was now. He recommended hon. Gentlemen, before they made up their minds that any one particular schedule was to be reduced, also to make up their minds as to what effect that reduction might have on some other schedule which might have, an equal or a better claim to reduction than the other. He thought it, however, better to postpone the detailed discussion of these points until they came to the consideration of the schedules in Committee. He might say, however, that no one who had ever attempted to deal with this tax had ever found it possible to modify the schedules. That great authority in financial matters who proposed and carried this tax (Mr. Pitt), opposed any modification of the schedules. [An Hon. MEMBER said, that this was during a war.] Yes, but the injustice did not depend on the war. It was not correct, as had been stated, that Mr. Pitt stated that the tax must be adopted in the form in which he proposed it, on account of the necessity of the case. And when Mr. Addington, afterwards, did propose a modification of the schedules, Mr. Pitt came down and opposed him on the ground of justice. Let the right hon. Gentleman refer to the debates of that period, and he would sec that Mr. Pitt did not ground his arguments in support of the tax in its then form upon the necessity of having the amount of the tax, but upon the justice of that manner of assessing it. He thought it most desirable that the tax should be continued for three years as he had proposed. It would be most inexpedient and unsafe that so large an amount of our taxation should depend upon an annual vote of the House; but he did not wish to prevent or obstruct the right hon. Gentleman, if he should happen next year to be Chancellor of the Exchequer, from then proposing to reduce the income tax, if he thought proper. He 1141 did not think it would be fair to the right hon. Gentleman, or to any other person who occupied that place, that he should be fettered in the exercise of his discretion. No doubt it would have been the easier and the more popular course for him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) to have proposed the renewal of the income tax merely for a single year; but he did not think that would have been an honest course for him to have taken. If the present Administration were to be replaced by hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, he would, so far as lay in his power, put them in the same situation in which he would wish himself to be placed—he would do to them as he would be done by. Under all the circumstances of the case, looking at the uncertainty as to what might occur at home or abroad, he thought that if the tax was to. be renewed, it was most unsafe that it should be placed on the footing of an annual vote, or that his right hon. Friend, or any other person, should be necessarily compelled to deal with so large an amount of taxation next year. The right hon. Gentleman said that if the tax was to be renewed for three years, it must necessarily be extended to Ireland. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer), however, said directly the reverse. He was sure that there was no ground for the exemption of Ireland that existed at the time when the tax was imposed, which was half so strong then as it was now. Ireland had not then gone through the period of calamity that had since befallen her. Property in Ireland was not then depreciated to its present extent, nor were the greater part of the proprietors then barely recovered from a pressure unexampled in modern times in any country. Whatever grounds of exemption existed in 1842, existed in a far greater degree now; and therefore he thought that it would be a cruel injustice to attempt to impose this tax upon Ireland at the present moment. But the right hon. Gentleman had said the other night that the income tax was necessarily rendered permanent by taking off the duties on articles of consumption. But he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had not proposed to take off a single duty, but merely to reduce three, all of which were taxes likely to revive. The produce of the taxes on coffee and timber was likely to increase rapidly; and though the amount which he proposed to take off by the repeal of the window duties was, as far as it went, a total loss, the house tax to be imposed instead 1142 would be a continually, and, in our rapidly extending large towns, a quickly-increasing tax, the more so, if by lowering the rate of the tax we promoted the extension of buildings. But when he was charged with sacrificing so much of the revenue by the repeal of duties upon articles of consumption as to render the permanent imposition of the income tax necessary, he entirely denied that there was any such danger from the policy which he had pursued, while he contended that the policy of hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House was tending precisely in that direction. With regard to sugar, for instance, his first proposal to the House was a reduction of the almost prohibitory duty on foreign sugar. In 1845 he objected to the manner in which Sir R. Peel had dealt with. the sugar duties, and pointed out that by reducing the duty on colonial sugar, and leaving a protective duty on foreign sugar, he had sacrificed a large amount of revenue without benefiting the consumer. The exclusion of foreign sugar prevented a reduction of price, consumption was consequently not increased, and thereby the produce of the tax imposed upon the colonial sugar admitted, was diminished to the utmost extent of the duty taken off. He had always thought this a great mistake in the policy of that right hon. Baronet; but by his other measures, Sir R. Peel amply redeemed the temporary error which he had made. Any one who witnessed what had subsequently taken place, must be aware of the infinite difficulties with which that right hon. Baronet must have had to contend; and, looking at the general tenour and purpose of his policy, from 1841 to 1846, it met with the warmest and most cordial approbation of the present Government. The result of the alteration of the protective duty which he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) carried in 1846, was the increase of the revenue from sugar to the extent of 1,100,000l. in a single year; and he had no doubt that if the operation of the Act of 1846 had not been interferred with, the produce of the sugar duties would now have been infinitely larger than it is. The provisions of the Act of 1846 were altered in 1848, and the colonial duties were reduced. Now, that alteration was made in deference to the expressed opinions of a Committee presided over by the late Lord George Bentinck, or, at any rate, in which he took a most prominent part. In deference to their recommendations, and in order to do 1143 what they considered justice to the Colonies, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) introduced a Bill in 1848, by which the duty on colonial sugar was somewhat reduced, and the term of protection somewhat extended. He did not repent of that measure; he believed that it had worked well, for the consumption of sugar had increased 50 per cent during the last six years. But it must be remembered that, financially considered, that alteration necessarily postponed the time at which the revenue would recover itself to its former amount, and that for that alteration hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House were at least as answerable as he was. What happened also in the case of the stamp duties? He proposed a reduction to one-eighth in the lowest amount, and that then the duty should advance on the ad valorem principle; but hon. Gentlemen opposite said, "We approve your principle, but you shall not have your revenue;" and they forced a great reduction in that item of taxation, and again prevented a rise in the revenue. So that, if anybody was answerable for there not being that increase in the revenue which alone would enable Parliament to repeal the income tax, they were the persons who were responsible, and not himself. A proposal had also been made, not for the reduction, but for the total repeal of the paper duty, and one of the warmest supporters of that Motion was the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli). With what consistency, then, could that hon. Gentleman, who supported the repeal of a tax yielding 700,000l. per annum, reproach him for repealing taxes and not reducing them, so that they might rise and restore the revenue? He would now go to a proposal of a much greater amount, that for the absolute repeal of the malt tax—five millions paid by the consumer to be swept away! The hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) told him that he was not justified in proposing the repeal of duties paid by the consumer, and yet the great party opposite voted for the total repeal of the malt tax! Did they think that if that had been carried, it would have been possible to repeal or even to reduce the income tax for years to come? If that were so, he must say that Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House should look carefully to the course they had themselves pursued, before they addressed these reproaches to the Government. His own belief was, that if the taxes on consump- 1144 tion were judiciously reduced, the revenue would rise again, and that, too, rapidly; he believed that if the national credit was to be staked on its present taxation, it was wise to remove from that taxation the more objectionable parts; the more popular the taxes were rendered, or rather the less unpopular, the more certainly would they be able to maintain them. Which was likely to be most permanent, the window tax with all its sins on its head, and open to all the strong objections that might be made against it, or the house tax which he had proposed, and which was based upon principles to which no one had as yet even stated an objection? Was it likely that the duty on coffee would be more productive if it was left at such an amount as to lead to the adulteration which the annual falling off in the consumption of coffee proved to be the result at present? The consumption of foreign coffee had fallen off ten or twelve million pounds during the last few years; did not hon. Gentlemen think that the proposal which he had made would in a short time increase the consumption of foreign coffee? Did they not think that we should obtain an increased importation of Baltic timber, paying a higher duty than colonial, by the reduction of duty which he proposed to make? He felt confident that the course he was taking was in strict accordance with what had been done before—that it tended to improve the revenue, to place national credit on a sound foundation, and to enable those who might come after him to repeal or reduce the income tax. He was sure that none of the taxes to which he had referred could have been maintained without alteration; but he believed that they might be maintained when the objections to them had been removed by the modifications which he proposed. He stated the other night that under the pressure of the income tax the ordinary revenue of the country was now the same as in 1844, though 7,000,000l. of taxes had been repealed in the meantime. Was that not likely to happen again, and had not the right hon. Gentleman, even in his estimate of that night, given them some reason to believe that an increase might take place even to the extent which he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had predicted? He admitted that the revenue of the country was, in this quarter, in a better state than he anticipated—better than any information that he had received from the heads of the va- 1145 rious revenue departments at the beginning of the quarter warranted him in stating to the House that it would be, in every material branch of revenue—thus tending to show that there had been a decided improvement in the condition of the people. To what was that owing? To the wise legislation which had relieved the springs of industry, and removed impediments from its progress. This had happened under the pressure of the income tax, in consequence of other pressure having been taken off; and until other taxes more objectionable than the income tax were removed, he thought that it would be wise to retain that tax. Was not the increase in the consumption of sugar from 4,000,000 cwts. in 1844 to 6,000,000 cwts. last year (50 per cent), a great benefit to a large body of the population? When the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) reduced the duty on foreign spirits, the revenue from it rose in two years to the same amount as before, while the consumption of British and colonial spirits had increased during the same time. Look at the Excise revenue, which was admitted to be the best test of the condition of the people. During the last ten years 1,500,000l. of Excise duties had been reduced, and yet the produce of these duties was greater now than at the beginning of that time. During the year ending April 5 last, the Excise duties had increased about 385,000l. as compared with the previous year; but to that must be added the whole amount of the brick duty which had been repealed, so that the positive increase on the Excise duties in the course of the year was no less than 835,000l. That was pretty convincing proof that under favourable circumstances the revenue would rise. He did not expect it to be quite so high in the present year, because this was, he feared, a bad malting year, whereas last year was a good one; but there was an increase in every other of the Excise duties—a proof, so far, of the improved condition of the people. He quoted these cases as showing the result of what had been done; and was it not likely that the same favourable results would attend what they were now doing? Were not the reductions in the duties on coffee and timber of the same character as the other reductions of duty which had been previously made?—while the alteration in the mode of levying the window duty was calculated to promote the same object as that of all our recent financial legislation— 1146 the improvement of the material and moral condition of the people of this country. He believed there was no tax an alteration of which would produce so widely-extended benefit from one end of the country to the other. Some complaint had been made with respect to his having withheld some boons which had been proposed to what was called the agricultural interest. Hon. Gentlemen seemed to think that he had given up the measure merely because of some sneer at the inadequacy of the amount of the relief proposed to be afforded; but it was forgotten that it had been declared by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire and other Gentlemen, that the reduction of the duty on seeds would be a hardship and not a boon to the agricultural interest. With regard to the other measure he must beg to say that, if it was to be taken in the sense in which the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) took it on Friday—if it was to be taken as the first step to transferring the charge of the poor to the national revenue, he would rather forfeit his right hand than make such a proposition, which he believed would be destructive to the best interests of the country. He contended that country gentlemen would gain much more by the proposed reductions in the window duty, than they could have done by the transference of the charge for pauper lunatics to the Consolidated Fund. If he had withdrawn that which was considered insufficient, he had given them far more. The right hon. Gentleman stated that he proposed entirely to sever the question from that of free trade, and complained that he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had coupled his Motion of to-night with the policy of Lord Stanley; why, it was the first step of that policy. That noble Lord had frankly and fairly stated to the country in his place in Parliament, that if he had succeeded to office, he should apply the surplus arising this year, as far as was consistent with the maintenance of the public faith, to the reduction of the income tax, and that the future surplus would be applied to the same purpose; and he coupled with that the imposition of a duty on corn. Was he to suppose that the noble Lord had determined on and avowed that policy without the concurrence of the right hon. Gentleman? Was the right hon. Gentleman, whom the noble Lord boasted of as the only person of official experience whom he could induce to join his Government, not consulted on the proposed financial policy 1147 of the noble Lord? If, indeed, that were so, he must say that the country had had an escape of which they little knew the value from a Government whose financial policy was determined upon without the advice or knowledge of the person best able to advise on the subject. But unless the right hon. Gentleman told him so, he had no right to believe that that announcement was made without his full concurrence. It was not quite two years since the right hon. Gentleman himself made a distinct Motion in that House for the imposition of a duty upon corn; and only last year, in the course of a debate which took place on a Motion of the hon. Member for Dorsetshire, the right hon. Gentleman avowed that what he looked to was the imposition of an 8s. duty on corn. Had he then a right to suppose that the right hon. Gentleman was not a party to the policy of the noble Lord, and that when that noble Lord came into power he would not have his concurrence? The hon. Gentleman who sat near him, however, might perhaps have formed a more correct estimate of the right hon. Gentleman's intention, when, treating the proposal apparently with some disrespect, he talked of it as a mere financial exercitation. If the right hon. Gentleman was not for a duty on corn, let him be received as the last but not the least important convert, and let it be said that now no person with official experience, financial knowledge, and acquaintance with the affairs of the country, would stand up to propose such a duty. Would it were so! But, whatever his principles might be, the great party headed by Lord Stanley were not prepared to abandon a duty on corn; and it was not to be supposed that they would not bring it forward if, by repealing the income tax, they created a deficiency, and therefore this, which was in reality the first step in the noble Lord's policy, ought to be resisted. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would never be a party to the imposition of a duty on corn. He was sorry that rents should be reduced, and that the agricultural interest should suffer; but he would rather submit to any reduction of rent whatever, than be a party to imposing such a duty. No measure could be so fatal to the country, or to the country gentlemen themselves. The people must not be able to say their bread was taxed to raise the rents of the landlords. Let the gentry of England be, as they always had been, the friends and the leaders, part and parcel of the 1148 people. But he would not now further detain the House. He called upon them not to vote a permanent income tax, but an income tax for a time to be limited. He meant that time to be three years. The Chancellor of the Exchequer of next year would then have it at his option to reduce the tax if he thought fit, but the necessity would not be imposed upon him. It was proposed to reduce taxes more objectionable even than the income tax. Other reductions might be advisable, but were not so necessary; those proposed were of primary importance. If the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Herries) were adopted, they would be impossible. His scheme with regard to the window tax would be open to the objections urged so strenuously against that which he (the Chancellor of the Exchquer) before proposed. Did the right hon. Gentleman think, if parties were discontented when they derived benefit, that they would be better pleased when they derived none? Did he think that his own proposal would give greater satisfaction than that of the Government? He might depend upon it he was mistaken. If the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman were adopted, there was an end to the relief on articles of consumption—there was an end to the relief for improving the dwellings of the working people, either in the country or in town—tbere was an end to that course in which we had proceeded so successfully for some years, and from which we enjoyed, as he thought, that general prosperity which he was happy to hear the right hon. Gentleman admit as prevailing. If the House to-night should decide in favour of the right hon. Gentleman's proposition, the result would be that he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would be debarred from carrying into effect those propositions he had himself made, which he believed to be essential for the benefit of this country, and more particularly essential for the benefit of that portion of the community whom they were especially bound to protect.
Sir, I have listened with great attention to the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as well as to that he delivered on Friday last, and I have carefully read also the financial statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in February, before I had the honour to sit in this House. I have not been able to discover in any of these financial statements reasons 1149 sufficient to satisfy the country a necessity for continuing the income tax in the manner proposed. We are now in the proud position of being master of a large; surplus, and it is in dealing with this that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has found difficulty—such difficulty has contributed mainly to produce the crisis through which we have scarcely yet passed. He has reminded the House that it is now just ten years since another Government with which he was connected, though not in so high a capacity, was brought into similar difficulty—a difficulty that ended in its dissolution, by a deficiency. How does it happen that whether there be a surplus, or whether there be a deficiency, the result is the same? Both equally produce a crisis to the government of the party with which the right hon. Baronet is connected. The reason is evident. Both equally require them to deal with taxation, and having no fixed principle to guide them, no recognised rule of conduct that commands assent, they are like a ship at sea without a compass, sure to be wrecked. In his speech of February the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated the surplus of the past year at 2,500,000l. On Friday last he stated that he had to deal with 1,892,000l. which, but for the explanation elicited through the question of the hon. Member for Montrose, might have puzzled the uninitiated.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
It will perhaps save the hon. Member from blundering on—[Loud cries of "Order, order!" "Oh, oh!" from the Opposition benches.]
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Nothing could be further from his wish than the intention to say one disrespectful word. He thought it would be more courteous to the hon. Member to repeat what he had before stated, which was, that the surplus of this year was 2,500,000l., that for the coming year would be 1,892,000l., of which there would be left for the operations of the year a sum exceeding 900,000l., arising out of arrears of window tax, and the unappropriated portion of that surplus. The offensive word had slipped, out unintentionally, but the House, he was sure, would give him credit for having no desire to wound the feelings of any Member.
If the right hon. Baronet had allowed him to finish his state- 1150 ment, he would have seen that he was no blunderer, but perfectly understood as well the point that had now been re-explained, as the matter he was discussing, which touched a different question—that of the payment of debt. The right hon. Baronet had stated his surplus in February at 2,500,000l. He now stated that for this year at 1,892,000l., which was just one-third less than the surplus of February; the difference equals the precise fourth of the past year's surplus, which, under the existing law, had been made applicable to the discharge of debt. That amount, 60,000l., was the proportion of the surplus of 2,500,000l. which had been so appropriated, or was now in course of appropriation. Now, the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed in February to apply an entire million of the two millions and a half to this object. His present Budget varies from the preceding by exhibiting a debt payment not exceeding the proportion applicable by law to the purpose; and hence it is that he has a larger balance to carry over into the next year than was before exhibited. Now, on the subject of that balance, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has stated it at 924,000l., consisting of 356,000l. of unappropriated surplus, and 568,000l. of arrears of window tax—the sum proposed to be applied to the relief of taxation being 1,536,000 out of 1,892,000. Now the surplus of next year differs from that of the present year only in the amount of the above debt payment; and if that be still realised from taxation, and be not included amongst remitted items, why should it not also remain to swell the available surplus of next year? The Chancellor of the Exchequer requires a surplus balance to meet an unexpected demand for the expenses of the Kaffir war; and he has referred to another item, which he states as having suddenly come upon him, of 400,000l. for adjustment with the East India Company of the accounts of the Chinese war. How this, which is an old unadjusted account, can be represented as a sudden demand, is not very intelligible. It will be found, probably, to have been recalled recently to his recollection under a claim of set-off against some demands made by the Crown upon the East India Company; but this is not the time to discuss that point. Before entering upon the propositions for relief of taxation, he (Mr. Prinsep) said he must crave permission to remark on the payments made of debt out of the surplus of the 1151 expired year. The hon. Member for Montrose objected to such payments, and he (Mr. Prinsep) was inclined to concur in the same view. The payment of debt was made by purchasing 3 per cent Consols at 97, which had for some time been the prevailing price. Now what was that but an investment of money at 3 per cent? If there had been any Government stock or obligation of any kind that could have been' extinguished on better terms than a purchase of 3 per cents, so near par as 97, he should have rejoiced to see not only 630,000l. devoted to such an object, but a full million, or even more; but nothing of that kind had been proposed. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had reminded the House that as much as twenty millions had been added to the principal of the debt within the last twenty years, that is, since the party to which he is attached came into power. It is, no doubt, a lamentable circumstance to reflect upon, that in a time of profound peace with all Europe, nay, he might say with all the great nations of the world—for the Chinese war had paid itself—the debt should have been so largely increased; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer had forgotten to mention that in the same interval—not certainly through any arrangements of his—a large reduction had been made in the charge for interest on the public debt—a reduction much exceeding a million, and therefore more than covering the addition to the nominal principal. Upon the country, therefore, the debt is now a less severe burthen than it was twenty years ago; and was it wise to raise money from the nation by severe taxation, in order to invest it at a rate of only 3 per cent? But this was not all. If he recollected right, the last loan raised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer was by an issue of 3 per cents at 87. Thus was the Irish loan of eight millions raised less than four years ago. Now the Government is purchasing this same 3 per cent stock at 97. An annual payment of 3 upon 87 is equal to a rate for the 100 of near 3½: and if you add to that rate a difference of 10 for the rate of extinction, after less than five years we have a rate for the use of money for this short period, of less than five years, of very near 6 per cent. This surely could not be either good policy or good finance. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that this action upon the debt sustained public credit, and gave him facilities for borrowing, that is to say, 1152 it improved the terms on which he could raise money when wanted for any exigency. He (Mr. Prinsep) doubted this. The purchases by the Commissioners of the Sinking Fund were a forced action, that gave a fictitious price to the public securities while it lasted. Such a thing was, doubtless, popular in the City, and in Capel-court. Everybody liked to know that he was so much richer in consequence. This fictitious action being confined to one particular stock, its rise caused, sales for shifting capital and for exchange of investments and bonds, and promoted those gambling speculations so beneficial to the gentlemen of the Stock Exchange. But long before the Government is reduced to enter the market with a loan, the fictitious action of such purchases will have ceased, and the fluctuations downward will correspond with the forced rise incident to this unnatural cause. This Was probably the reason why in 1846–47 the Government could obtain money for the relief of Ireland on no better terms than 87l. for perpetual annuities of 3l., and it will account also for a great part of the monetary convulsions witnessed periodically in this country. But, to proceed to other parts of the Budget, viz., those especially which deal with taxation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer knows that he has been charged with want of principle in this part of his finance. He adverted to this accusation in his speech of Friday; and how did he meet it? He told the House, "that the principle he had always advocated—that on which he based his commercial and financial measures, was always the same, namely, to do that which appeared to him most beneficial to the labouring man, and to the mass of the population." Now this was an intelligible and an excellent principle. His aim, he says, is, in all things, and at all times, to relieve the industry of the country and the whole community. If the measures he proposed would but bear the test of examination by this principle, no answer could be more complete. But will they do so? He had proposed to convert the window tax into a house tax, assessed upon rents; and he gave, in so doing, a relief of two-thirds of the amount levied. Is there in this, he (Mr. Prinsep) asked, any relief to the working man, or to the mass of the population? The change in the method of assessing the tax was doubtless beneficial; but did the artisan or the day-labourer taste of the benefit of the relief granted from taxation? Again, the 1153 Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to reduce the duty on coffee: he removed altogether the discriminating duty on foreign coffee, and reduced that on colonial coffee by one-half. Whether it was wise or not to remove suddenly this differential duty, was a separate question; but as a relief to the working man or to the mass of the population—were they consumers of coffee? Assuredly not of the genuine unadulterated article assessed with duty. The roasted corn and chicory were their food, and the reduction of duty would make no difference in the price of these. Again, the reduction of the timber duties was a measure of relief that favoured only those engaged in building houses and ships—how could this he called a measure aiming to give relief from taxation to the labouring man and to the mass of the population, whose interests the Chancellor of the Exchequer declared he had exclusively at heart? Thus of the three measures of relief proposed in this Budget, there was not one that would bear examination by the test of the principle so ostentatiously announced; the public, therefore, were still justified in saying that the Government was guided by no principle in its finance. It must be judged by its measures and not by its professions. Would the House bear with him while he endeavoured to explain his view of indirect taxation, before entering on the question whether to give the preference over it to the present much-condemned income tax. All taxes are, of course, what a man contributes to maintain the Government and the social institutions from which he derives extensive benefits. If the whole taxation of a country were indirect, and were so contrived as to be equally distributed over every article purchased for use or consumption, then with a tax besides, at the same rate, laid upon house rent and sevants, it is evident that every individual of the community would pay equally in the exact ratio of his expenditure. This scheme of taxation would tax casual and temporary residents as well as permanent householders, and every one would pay in the same proportion and for the precise term that he enjoyed the benefit of the institutions and of the social condition maintained through the revenues so raised. This would be the perfection of indirect taxation; but it is evidently impossible to tax every article sold in a country for use or consumption; certain special articles, therefore, are selected, of general use and easily accessible to the taxga- 1154 therer, and these are taxed at the rate that will yield a maximum of revenue. We have chosen so to assess spirits, tobacco, tea, sugar, malt, &c. These are all articles that enter into the economy of the poorest labourer, as well as of the rich man, and hence the poor man pays more than his due share: not that the rich man is exempt, for he too pays on those articles so far as he purchases them; but his other purchases are not taxed at the same high rates, and the amount he contributes, therefore, does not bear the same ratio on his entire expenditure. How, then, is the poor man to be compensated for this undue burthen? We raise as much as 35,000,000l. in the United Kingdom by this indirect taxation, and 31,000,000l. of this upon articles of food, and we cannot dispense with the revenue so obtained; the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not propose to give up any part of it. If, therefore, the Chancellor of the Exchequer's principle is to be carried out—that of relieving industry and the masses of working labourers, there is but one way of doing it, viz., by so legislating and so contriving that the classes so unduly suffering shall be able to add the taxation they pay, or some proportion of it, to the price of the articles they produce; and so distributing the burthen over the whole community. The entire producing classes of the population of this country depend on price for their wages and profits. If they cannot add the taxation they so unduly pay, to the price on which they depend for subsistence, that taxation, whether direct or indirect, must fall wholly on wages. Their ease is the case of the producer of an excised article: if he cannot add the excise duty to price, he must cease to produce, or is ruined. Now the policy we advocate is the policy of continuing indirect taxation, because it is a scheme of imposts bearing on expenditure, and proportionate thereto; and we propose so to adjust other taxes, as shall enable the industrious producing classes, who pay an undue proportion of that indirect taxation, to seek their remuneration by adding their taxation to the price of the articles on whose sale they depend for employment and for subsistence. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has declared himself the enemy of indirect taxation. He prefers the income tax and other direct taxes, but he leaves 35,000,000l. to be levied chiefly from the poor, in the price of commodities, and he will not allow the industrious labourer, who pays an undue 1155 share of this, to add what he so pays to the price of the article he produces. He exposes him to the competition of the cheapest producing country in the world, forcing him to work at wages reduced to the scale of that country, and taking still this undue share of that indirect taxation out of those reduced wages. The right hon. Baronet has referred to the policy of the party on this side of the House, as if it were based on the single proposition to impose a 5s. duty on corn; but he knows that we ask for no special protecting duty on corn or on any one article. He knows that it is a general duty on foreign imports of all kinds that compete in our own markets with domestic industry—an equal duty, just sufficient to compensate for this indirect taxation, which is the policy and the principle that we advocate. The country knows this to be the true issue between us and the free-trader. We ask for taxation to be added to price, in order to save producers from ruin. He seeks for cheapness at the expense of all home production. This is the question at issue. It is the subject of every hustings speech at the passing elections; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer may depend upon it that, at the next general election, it is the question that will divide the country from one end to the other, and he may rest assured that the real merits of that question are already thoroughly understood. Gentlemen on that side of the House were continually declaring that cheapness was for the good of the entire community—dearness only for the good of the sellers, who were a minority and a class, and that the good of the whole must not be sacrificed for the good of the few. But this was a false principle and a delusive argument. The whole producing classes of the united kingdom lived upon price: their livelihood depended on prices being remunerating, so as to induce the continuance of production. Were they a small minority of the population? All these must sell before they could buy, and would benefit more by the fair price than they would gain by a general cheapness. Why so? Because their whole income depends on that price, and the general cheapness touches only that portion of their income that may be spent on the cheapened articles. The taxed articles, their tea, sugar, beer, spirits, and tobacco, continue just as dear as ever. On the balance of benefits, therefore, they ask for the remunerating price, and not for cheapness. 1156 Now substract all producers who depend on prices, and whom have you left as benefiting from cheapness? None but those in the receipt of fixed incomes, not dependent in any way upon production or on the sale of products; and are not these a small minority? To talk, therefore, of the whole population as interested in cheapness, and to compare producers with that, which was done in Monsieur Barteast's argument, was just the same as to take the result of the division upon the debate of this night, and to compare the majority not with the minority or residue, but with the whole House. But is the Chancellor of the Exchequer sincere and consistent in his opposition to the general duty on imports which we propose? Not a bit of it! He has now upon his Customs code a ten per cent duty on all manufactures excepting only on made up cottons, linens, and woollens; and though he has a large surplus, he devotes no part of it to the removal of any one of the protecting duties so imposed. All we ask is, to make that ten per cent duty general upon all commodities that come from abroad to compete with the products of our heavily-taxed home industry. Such is my idea (said the hon. Gentleman) of our existing indirect taxation. An inroad has been made upon it by removing all import duty on agricultural products. This I wish to see repaired by the imposition of an equal duty upon all things which would place this indirect taxation on its proper footing. I have no desire to see an income tax permanently introduced into our Budget, in substitution for taxation in this indirect form, to which the country has been so long accustomed. My first objection to an income tax is, that it is not proportioned to expenditure, but is laid upon the entire income or annual realised means of each individual. You tax the whole of a landlord's rents—the whole of a merchant's profits—the whole of a professional man's earnings—including in each case what is laid by for accumulation, which is an erroneous principle. Expenditure is evidently the proper ratio of taxation. By confining taxation to that, you ask every man to abridge his comforts, and so to arrange his expenditure as that the maintenance of the Government institutions of the country shall be included in what he provides for; but when you tax profits or casual earnings at a fixed per centage laid on their accidental total amount, you do what the keeper of a Chinese gambling 1157 house does to his customers. Taking ten per cent regularly upon all winnings, he soon gathers the entire stakes into his bank. And why should the State desire to tax accumulations? If you leave them alone and encourage their growth within the country, they lie there even when laid up by the miser as a certain resource for future taxation; when falling to a legatee or an heir at law, they furnish to him an income for profuse expenditure. If, on the other hand, you lay your tax upon these accumulations, you only drive them to countries beyond your influence, and which are exempt from your taxation. They will be sent thither for more profitable and more productive investment, and nothing will be returned under any of your schedules for assessment if the rents and dividends be left in those countries for accumulation. There are objections to all income taxes assessed equally upon the total of realised means; but the present income tax, which we are called upon to continue, is full of other imperfections also, and such as ought to be fatal to its continuance. It has been devised in a spirit of communism. It does not, indeed, say with M. Proudhon, La proprieté ce'st le vol. It does not quite declare and treat property as if it were stolen goods; but it does the next thing to it—it declares property to be the properest object for taxation—it treats it as a general would deal with a city from which he was levying a contribution, and holds it out as a fit object for exchequer pillage. Look again at every one of the schedules of the existing law; they were all equally unfair and iniquitous. The landlord was assessed on the whole of his rents, whether realised in full or not—nay, he even paid tax on the growth of his timber; and though he might deduct the tax from an old mortgagee under a deed in existence at the time when the tax was imposed, he must go into the market to lay a new incumbrance on his estate, and the loss by the imposition of the tax would fall on him. This is, besides, the objection to levying on what the landlord lays by for young children out of an entailed estate. Then see the tenant-farmer, who paid in the ratio of his rent whether he realised a profit or no—was he fairly dealt with? And both those classes who thus paid unduly are now in the position of having been ruined by the very course of fiscal legislation which has created the necessity for continuing this unequal and odious tax. Then see 1158 the fundholder—he too was taxed on his accumulations, and not on his expenditure only: bur his complaint was, that the tax was a reduction of the rate of interest guaranteed to the public creditor. Now this might not much signify; so long as the rate of income taxation was only three per cent, but if the principle of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was carried out, and the tax were extensively substituted for our indirect taxation, reaching to upwards of thirty millions, the present rate would require to be increased to ten and twenty per cent, and what would that be but repudiation? With respect, again, to the oporation of the income tux on those whose income depended on trades and professions, and who were assessed by declaration, the demoralising influence of this method of ascertaining income was worse than the unfairness and inequality of the burden. But the most odious feature of all in this scheme of taxation, was the inquisition necessary to assess it; and, as contrasted with indirect taxation, it threw the entire burden upon the settled householder, and left totally exempt the casual visitor, or any one who had no recognised domicile; yet obviously those also benefited by the maintenance of order, and of the social status of the country, and were equally bound to contribute, as they necessarily did do under a scheme of indirect taxation. On these grounds I object to the continuance of the income tax longer than may be absolutely necessary to meet the exigencies of the country, and I am prepared, in consequence, to record my vote for the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Stamford. With respect, however, to the particular appropriations of surplus made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I must say, that I entirely approve of the abandonment of the method of assessing houses by the number of windows, and of the substitution of an assessment upon rent. A house tax of this kind is a far preferable direct tax to an income tax, being always paid, as remarked by Mr. Mill, in the direct ratios to expenditure. It is the abandonment of two-thirds of the revenue derived from these sources, that I look upon as unwise. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer had adhered in his budget of Friday, to the rate of one shilling in the pound which he proposed in February, and had carrid his levy down to houses of 10l. rent, which is the rate of the franchise, instead of stopping at 20l. rents, he would have realised a sufficiency to have enabled him to re- 1159 duce in the present year his income tax to two per cent, in furtherance of the very principle on which the Motion of the right hon. the Member for Stamford has been framed. With respect again to the discriminating duties on coffee proposed for abandonment, there was in their removal a distinct injustice to all the coffee planters of our colonies, who, under the encouragement of this system, had laid out capital in this particular production. When the discriminating sugar duties were proposed for reduction, the Legislature did not strike off the difference suddenly, and at one fell swoop, but devised a scheme of gradual discrimination, extending over a period of eight years. Why was this principle not adopted for removal of the discriminating duties upon coffee? The conversion of mountain jungle in a tropical climate into a coffee garden, is always a work of large outlay, and the coffee plantation cannot reach its maturity in less than ten years. Well, those who have been invited by our past legislation to expend capital in this particular speculation, have no cause to complain if we deal with them thus summarily. Upon this point, however, (said the hon. Gentleman) another opportunity will be afforded for entering my protest, and I shall defer my observations to that occasion. With respect again to the timber duties, if there were any reason to believe that the result of the reduction of duty would be a lowering of the price of timber, this measure might then be considered advantageous, because carrying with it some compensation to shipbuilders for the disadvantages they have suffered from the repeal of the navigation laws. But timber is not an article that can be produced suddenly to any extent. The supply from Norway and the Baltic cannot be increased until the quarter rents and profits resulting from this reduction of duty shall cause fresh forests to be planted, which in perhaps fifty years may come to maturity. In the meantime the entire difference of duty will go into the pockets of the proprietors of existing forests, the price of Norwegian timber in Great Britain being still regulated as at present by the ratio of supply there to demand. These, Mr. Speaker, are my reasons for thinking the present budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, not calculated to satisfy the country, and for giving my vote against the continuance of the income tax, and in support of the Amendment moved by the right hon. Member for Stamford.
§ MR. F. PEEL
was quite sensible that there were a great many Members in that House whose sentiments upon a question like the present it was of much more importance that the House should be made acquainted with than his own. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stamford stated that they had to make their option between his plan and that of the Government; but as the conclusions to which he (Mr. Peel) had brought his mind, after giving to the subject the best consideration of which he was capable, obliged him to dissent from the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman, while at the same time he was far from being able to express unqualified approval of the financial policy of Her Majesty's Government, he hoped he might be permitted to state very shortly the grounds on which he rested the conclusions to which he had brought himself, and to modify the vote he should give on that occasion. In the first place, under what circumstances had the proposition for a renewal of the income tax been brought before them? The Chancellor of the Exchequer told the House on Friday that he wished to abide by the estimates he had made in his first financial statement; and it would be in the recollection of the House that the right hon. Gentleman estimated the probable income of the then ensuing year, now the current year, namely, that ending on the 5th of April, 1852, speaking in round numbers, and setting aside the income tax, at 46,750,000l., and that he estimated the expenditure for the same period at 50,250,000l., leaving a standing deficit of 3,500,000l. It was true this deficit underwent a considerable diminution in the course of the present year, for the right hon. Gentleman was able to take credit for a half-year's income tax and a half-year's produce of the stamp duties for Ireland, bringing the deficit down to a sum of about 847,000l.; and it was for the purpose of repairing this deficit in the course of the present year, and the deficit of 3,500,000l. in future years, that the right hon. Gentleman asked the House to consent to the reimposition of the income tax for a period of three years. Now he had no hesitation in saying he was favourable to the principle of an income tax, because it combined a system of direct with indirect taxation, which he thought was the best means of making the wealthier classes of this country contribute in a manner proportioned to their means to the revenue of the State. He did not think that the 1161 balance or equilibrium which ought to be maintained between these two systems of direct and indirect taxation was disturbed by the imposition of an income tax. He was aware that property was required to bear very considerable direct impositions in the shape of assessed taxes, and in the shape of local taxes; and, on the other side of the account, no man could be more sensible than he was of the immense advantages which the labouring classes had derived from the recent commutations in our fiscal, financial, and commercial system. No man could be more deeply impressed than he was, or more ready to avow on every occasion, the immense stimulus that had been given to the manufacturing industry and commercial enterprise of this country by the remission of those duties that weighed with undue severity on what were called the springs of industry," and on the sources of employment. What had been the extent and magnitude of these changes? In the course of nine years, from 1842 to 1850, they had removed taxation upon their home manufactures, upon the raw material of their manufactures, and upon the food of the people, to no less an extent than 10,500,000l. Gentlemen might see it for themselves in a return moved for by the hon. Member for Liverpool. Had that great remission of taxation been attended with any corresponding diminution in the produce of the great branches of revenue under which those duties, supposing they had remained, would have been paid? So far from that, the produce of the Customs and Excise was now, in 1851, as large as it was in 1842, before they commenced these great changes. In 1842 the produce of the Customs and Excise was 36,140,000l.; in 1849, 37,271,000l.; and in 1850 (he was speaking of the gross produce of these two heads of the revenue, without deducting the cost of collection and other charges thrown on their produce in its way to the Exchequer) it amounted to 37,365,000l. So that, so far from a reduction to the extent of 10,500,000l., as might have been expected, there had been a positive increase of 1,200,000l. A simple fact of this kind spoke a language more forcible than any that could flow from the most gifted lips in that House. It told them of extended fields of employment and of industry, of an increased amount of wages placed at the disposal of the working classes, and of the increased command which they had acquired over the 1162 comforts, conveniences, and necessaries of life. But there was another test. They were able to ascertain correctly the increased and increasing amount of the industry of the country expended on the production of articles intended for the foreign consumer; and what was the case with the foreign trade? From 1835 to 1842 the foreign trade of this country remained nearly in a stationary condition, the average annual amount of the declared value of our exports being 49,500,000l. In 1842 commenced the great change in our commercial legislation. From that period down to the present there had been a rapid and progressive increase in the declared value of our foreign trade. In 1843 it was 52,250,000l.; in 1847,58,750,000l.; in 1840, 63,500,000l.; while in 1850 it exceeded 71,000,000l. But, while he made all these concessions, the House should bear in mind that we still raised an enormous amount of revenue by means of indirect taxation; and taxation which was indirect, to be productive to the revenue, must be laid on the chief articles of subsistence of the people. The produce of the Customs revenue, for example, was 22,000,000l.; and it was to be remembered, that of that large sum 20,000,000l., or no less a proportion than 10–11ths, was produced by the duties laid on seven articles alone, articles used by the great mass of the people. Take tea, coffee, sugar, spirits (lie meant colonial and foreign spirits), wine, tobacco, corn—for, though the duty on corn was only a nominal one of 1s., yet so great was the demand and consumption of corn, that the nominal duty produced no inappreciable amount of public revenue—those seven articles realised 20,000,000l. out of the 22,000,000l. produced by the Customs. He did not know how many other articles there were in the tariff—some hundreds, perhaps—but they hardly paid the cost of collecting the Customs revenue. And this would always be the case. They might put back into the tariff those 450 articles that were struck out of the tariff by the Act of 1845, but they would find that they would barely pay for the cost of their collection. What was the inference he drew from all this? That if they were not to have direct taxation to the extent of 5,000,000l., as now proposed—if they were to raise all that they required by indirect taxation—then they must impose that indirect taxation on one or more of the articles which formed the chief subsistence of the people. 1163 They must, in fact, reverse the principle of their recent commercial legislation, and revert to that system of protection which for so long a time was permitted to check and retard the growth and development of the resources of the country. But, let the advantages of the income tax be what they might, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stamford would prevent them from taking any such considerations into account. He would stop them at the very threshold of their inquiry, because, as he said, the faith of Parliament was pledged to discontinue the income tax at the expiration of the limited period for which it was granted. The right hon. Gentleman said he was willing to allow them just as much as was sufficient to bring the income to the level of the expenditure; hut this he could not do without doing violence to the principle of his Resolution, which went to the extent that the income tax was granted and renewed for temporary purposes and for a limited period; that Parliament was hound to abide by its declared intentions; and that it could not abide by those intentions unless it abolished the income tax. Now, he (Mr. Peel) begged to put in a preliminary objection against the supposition that Parliament could enter into any compact with the people, fettering the discretion of some future Parliament on the subject of finance or any other subject, and binding it not to entertain a proposition for raising any portion of the public revenue in such a manner as might be in harmony with the condition of the country, and, if necessary, by means of an income tax. A very similar argument was urged in 1842 against the imposition of any income tax. It was then said that an income tax ought to be reserved for the great emergency of war; that it was a proposition never heard of and never entertained in time of peace; and that it should be reserved for those great occasions when our relations with foreign countries might be broken off altogether, or temporarily suspended. The answer made to the argument then, was applicable to the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman now: and it was to this effect: Let each Parliament judge and decide for itself what the exigencies of the public service required, and if it thought that, in order to maintain the credit of the country and the establishments of the country in a proper state of efficiency, it was necessary to impose an income tax, then let not Parliament be deterred from doing its duty by those fal- 1164 lacious and delusive arguments about soma imaginary pledge having been entered into, binding and controlling its freedom of action. Away then with that miserable plea of exception to the power and jurisdiction of the Legislature! But he was not at all prepared to admit the fact involved in the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman; and still more did he dispute the inference which the right hon. Gentleman drew from that fact. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the declared intentions of Parliament, and he quoted extracts from the speeches of individual Members, of which he would only say that they were very indecisive of the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman, and by no means appeared to support the conclusion to which the right hon. Gentleman had somewhat hastily arrived. He (Mr. Peel) certainly expected, when the right hon. Gentleman spoke of the declared intentions of Parliament, that he would have been able to show some act of the Legislature which would have spoken in an authoritative manner the collective sense of the Legislature on the subject. He (Mr. Peel) wondered the right hon. Gentleman did not refer to the proceedings in Parliament in 1816. It would be remembered that in that year a proposition was brought forward by the late Lord Bexley, then Mr. Vansittart, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for the reimposition of the income tax. That proposition met with great opposition, the chief strength of which lay undoubtedly in the fact that it was the common understanding throughout the country that the income tax was not to be renewed at the termination of the war, and after the conclusion of the treaty of peace. The arguments urged by the Opposition were similar to those now used by the right hon. Gentleman, and extracts were quoted from the speeches of individual Members. But it was successfully contended that Parliament was not bound by those unguarded statements of former Ministers; and the Government opposed the acts of those Ministers to their language, and showed that Mr. Pitt, Mr. Addington, Lord Grenville, and successive Ministries, had, in fact, mortgaged the produce of the income tax for several years after the peace for the purpose of repaying the loans which had been advanced on the security of the income tax. But yet the Opposition triumphed: the proposal of Mr. Vansittart was rejected, and the income tax was discontinued. And why? Because the Oppo- 1165 sition was able to appeal to a clause in the Act of 1803 which imposed the tax, which declared that it was to be continued only so long as the war lasted, and that after the war the tax was not to be renewed. That was the decision of Parliament deliberately declared; and from that undoubtedly had arisen the general understanding which then prevailed that the tax was to be discontinued. The right hon. Gentleman had produced nothing at all analogous to that; and he (Mr. Peel) could not take the speeches of any hon. Members in that House as a legislative expression of the intentions of Parliament. But, as he (Mr. Peel) had said, he disputed the inference which the right hon. Gentleman had drawn from the fact of a pledge, assuming that there was one. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of temporary emergencies, referred to the expense of the Chinese war, and dwelt upon the necessity of remedying some financial blunders of the Administration that retired in 1841; but he did not say that these were the grounds upon which the Government rested their application to Parliament for the reimposition of the income tax. But whatever the right hon. Gentleman might or might net say, he (Mr. Peel) would confidently say that the real principle of the financial policy of the Government of 1841, which was shown in their budget of 1842, of 1845, and in all their budgets, was this, that by means of an income tax Parliament should enable the Government to take off taxes infinitely more oppressive, infinitely more burdensome, and infinitely more vexatious, than the income tax which they asked to be imposed. The principle of the financial policy of the Government of 1841 was this, that by means of an income tax Government should be enabled to effect a great reform in the commercial tariff of this country. And what was the object of that reformation? It was, in the first place, to take off the duties imposed on the food of the people; and, in the next place, to abolish the duties on raw materials employed in manufactures; that policy was acted upon with great vigour and amplitude of design, but he could not say that it had as yet been brought to a conclusion. He could not say that the policy which took off the duty from sheep's wool and cotton wool, upon the express ground that these articles formed the raw material of the chief staple manufactures of the country, was completely carried out while there remained a heavy protective differential 1166 duty of nearly 5d. a cubic foot upon foreign timber. He could not say that the policy which took off the import duty on sugar on the ground that it formed one of these articles which entered into the subsistence of the mass of the people was completed, while there remained a duty of 2s. 2½d. per pound upon the importation of tea, a duty of from 200, 300, to 400 per cent upon the low-priced teas, which were consumed by the lowest class of the people. Still less could he say that the policy which took oft' the Excise duty upon glass, on the express ground that it imposed unnecessary restrictions on the manufacture, and impeded the development of that branch of the home trade, was complete, while there remained a duty upon an article characterised by Adam Smith as one of four necessaries of life which in his time were taxed by the British Government—an article which might be made to form a very important commodity of foreign traffic, which entered into a great variety of manufacturing processes in this country, and which, if it were not, ought to be a universal detergent—he meant soap. If these were the temporary exigencies to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, he (Mr. Peel) could not say that such temporary exigencies had as yet passed away, and therefore he could not vote for a Resolution which required him to say that they had. He should, on the contrary, vote for an income tax which would enable the Government to make progress in completing this policy of reform. And this brought him to I consider what were the inducements held out by the Government to obtain the consent of the House to renew the income tax? They were threefold: they wanted to repair a deficit, to retain a surplus, and to remit taxation. As to the first point, of repairing a deficit, there was certainly an advantage in discussing the question now as compared with an earlier part of the Session; because, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer made his first financial statement, they would have been obliged to assume, on the credit of the Government, the correctness of the estimates of the expenditure of the year: and yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer scrupulously avoided entering into any explanation tending to show that it was impossible to bring down the expenses to the level of the income of the country, instead of raising up the income to a level with the expenditure. The House, however, had since been in Committee of Supply; and money votes had 1167 been agreed to which justified the Government in asking for a renewal of the income tax, otherwise there would be a deficit of 847,000l. With respect to the necessity of retaining a surplus, he agreed with the hon. Member for Montrose, that economically there was no gain to the public in continuing to pay a tax on soap or on timber for the purpose of applying it to the reduction of the national debt, because such taxes took out or kept out of the pockets of the public much more money than they brought into the Exchequer, and for that loss the public would receive no compensation whatever. At the same time, so great were the moral advantages resulting from the exhibition of a determined resolution on the part of the House of Commons to redeem at least a portion of the enormous amount of debt which the country owed, that they were sufficient to induce them to make great sacrifices in order to obtain these advantages. Not that he shared in the apprehension felt by these who thought that public opinion would end in repudiating the just obligations of the nation: they had a security against that, he thought, in what was stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other night—that five-sixths of the fundholders were persons who received dividends not exceeding 50l. per annum. The right hon. Gentleman might have stated a fact still more striking than that. It was shown by the statistical papers laid before the British Association at Edinburgh last year, that of the twelve classes into which the fundholders were divided, according to the amount of dividend received by them, a considerable diminution in the number of fundholders had taken place between the year 1831 and the year 1848, in every one of these classes except one; and what class was that? Why, the class of persons who received dividends not exceeding 5l. a year. This was a proof not so much of the fact that the working classes were making accumulations of money, as that they regarded the public debt as a secure fund in which to invest their savings. But no doubt the great point of attraction in the financial scheme of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was the remission of taxes which he proposed. He (Mr. Peel) had nothing to say about the equalisation of duty on foreign and colonial coffee, or about the reduction of half the protective duty on foreign timber. Probably the Chancellor of the Exchequer could not have put his finger upon two more fitting 1168 articles in the whole range of the customs tariff, on which to reduce taxation. But the loss of revenue upon them would be small indeed as compared with the loss which the proposed abolition of the window duty would occasion. And it was with respect to that point of the financial arrangements of the Government that he (Mr. Peel) was able to give them only a qualified and hesitating support. He should have thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer might have been contented with removing every objection to levying a duty upon house property on sanitary and architectural grounds, by raising the tax, not according to the number of windows the house contained, but according to its annual letting value. But the right hon. Gentleman was not contented with making that change; he proposed abandoning a lage amount of the tax, first of all to the extent of 750,000l.; and now to the extent of 1,150,000l. No one could say that that remission of taxation would be directly for the benefit of the working classes. It would benefit only the occupants of the better description of houses, some 400,000 out of 3,500,000 which existed in the country. The right hon. Gentleman quoted in support of his proposition the authority of Mr. John Mill; but what did Mr. Mill say? Why, that the house tax was one of the fairest taxes that could be imposed; for this reason, that it was paid by persons in proportion to their power of expenditure. Well, every one knew that a man's expenditure was a much better test of his pecuniary ability than the amount of income. Many men might have a nominal income far beyond the amount of what they had the power to dispose of. They had heard of the injustice of the mode in which the income tax was at present raised; and he (Mr. Peel) thought that no one would deny that there was an immense difference between a life income and a permanent income—between an income which a man enjoyed as long as he lived, and which then went to his descendants, and an income which depended upon the tenure of his own fleeting life. Still more was there a distinction between a permanent income and an income that depended upon contingencies more precarious than life itself, namely, upon fortune, health, reputation, and employment. It should be remembered that a man who stood in the latter position was bound by every consideration of duty, and by every dictate of prudence and foresight, to lay a portion of 1169 his income, not only to provide for those who were to come after him, but also to make a provision for himself in his old age. And this being so, what was the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Why, he asked them to impose an income tax in an unequal and unjust manner, and which would prevent these provident stops being taken, in order that he might, with the produce of that tax, remit another tax, also a direct tax, the window tax, which was paid by persons, according to the authority of Mr. Mill, in proportion to their expenditure—the very point at which they wanted to arrive by their modification of the income tax, lie could not see the justice of such a proposal, and it was to this point that he wished to advert when he said that lie could not concede his unqualified assent to the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer). At the same time he looked upon the income tax as a great lever for elevating the moral and social condition of the people of this country; and, believing there was open before them a long career of progress in that path of social improvement upon which they had entered, he should be most 10th and most reluctant to abandon that instrument by which so much good had been effectuated. His belief was that, if further good were really to be accomplished, it must be by the retention of the income tax. He allowed that there had been a great pressure upon the Government; but he could not say that they had made the best use of the opportunity for the reimposition of the income tax. Their task was not a difficult one. They had but to follow out upon a larger, a broader, and a more comprehensive scale, the principles of the system, commercial and financial, which was inaugurated in the year 1842. If they did so, they would find that now, as then, they would open up new channels for the industry of the country, new avenues to wealth and prosperity; they would widen the area of our foreign markets, they would bring within the reach of the poor an increased amount of the comforts of life, and diffuse peace and contentment over the country, such as would range the working classes on the side of order and good government, and give increased strength and stability to its institutions, which he (Mr. Peel) valued, not for themselves, but for the advantages and blessings which they enjoyed under them.
§ MR. T. BARING
had listened, as no 1170 doubt the whole House had done, with pleasure to the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just resumed his seat. As the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had made some personal allusions to him, he (Mr. Baring) could not refrain from offering a few observations to the House. The remark he made the other evening was, that he believed the Government, with every desire to keep a sufficient surplus, was compelled, from their weakness, to give way to a pressure from without. When the right hon. Gentleman brought forward his first financial statement, he said that he could not imagine any Chancellor of the Exchequer facing the financial year without having a surplus of a million sterling. He told them that the real sum he bad to deal with would be only 612,000l.—a sum so small that he was ashamed to give it the name of a surplus, but that it had been diminished by the concessions he had been obliged to make to the owners and occupiers of land, amounting to 180,000l. Six weeks afterwards he came with another reformed Budget, sweeping away the 180,000l. he had proposed to give for the relief of agricultural distress. One would suppose that his surplus was increased by such an abandonment; but instead of that it was reduced to about 300,000l., and it must he inferred that the right hon. Gentleman had been compelled from weakness to yield to the pressure from without. He would have passed by the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but when he found from the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman's supporters, that it was not so much the Budget as to which importance was given, as the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and that they were to look to the maintenance of public credit by the extent of the relief given to the people from taxation, he did think he was justified in saying that the Government had made concessions in consequence of the pressure upon them from without, which they would not otherwise have made. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), in his remarks upon his (Mr. T. Baring's) speech, taunted him in a no very courteous manner with having supported Sir R. Peel's Government, which was satisfied with a much smaller surplus. That was true; but Sir R. Peel was content to have a small surplus, because he was confident the House of Commons would make it good, if necessary, in order to prevent any injury to the public credit. He (Mr. T. Baring) had therefore confidence, 1171 not only in the intention but in the ability of Sir R. Peel to make good any deficiency, because that right hon. Gentleman was at the head of a strong Government and of a strong party. He (Mr. T. Baring) had had the same confidence in the intention of the noble Lord; but when he (Mr. T. Baring) heard the sentiments of his supporters, he had not the same confidence in his power. He was one of these who entertained rather the antiquated opinion that it was most important to have a large surplus. He was sorry to hear the hon. Gentleman who spoke last express a somewhat different opinion. He believed it was necessary for the public credit, for the maintenance of their influence abroad, and their position at home. He could not, therefore, he confessed, agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stamford (Mr. Herries) in reducing the amount of the surplus so much as he proposed to do. To his Resolution, however, he assented, without admitting the propriety of the reduction. One right hon. Gentleman was satisfied with a surplus of 380.000l; one wished to take off the window duties, and the other the income tax. He believed that the reduction of the income tax would be better, as affording increased employment to the people, while abolition of the window tax was a partial and a class measure. The right hon. Gentleman said that his great object was to relieve the masses. But how could he support the abolition of the window tax upon that principle? The Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that he objected to the imposition of the income tax originally, on the ground that it was unnecessary to make up the deficiency; but now he thought it quite necessary to impose it for the purpose of enabling the House to reduce other taxes. Now, it was impossible to reconcile the reasons assigned by the right hon. Gentleman for originally objecting to the income tax with his declared opinions in favour of a surplus, because, certainly, nothing was more necessary to the maintenance of public credit than making good a deficiency. The Chancellor of the Exchequer admitted all the objections urged against the unequal operation of the income tax; but he said that its justice consisted in this—that it was unjust to all. Never was such a justification of a tax heard in the House of Commons before. As well might it be said that no one was entitled to complain when all were injured. Was ever such a declaration heard from a Chancellor of the Exchequer? The income tax 1172 was not only unjust, but the cause of much fraud being committed. It was his fortune to belong to the commercial class, and he could not look at the returns made under Schedule D without being convinced that the grossest frauds were committed. It appeared from the returns that since 1846 there had been a diminution in the amount of incomes under Schedule D of 6,000,000l.; and since the year when the tax was first proposed, there had been a diminution of 8,000.000l. This result placed the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this dilemma—either the recent commercial policy had failed to increase the profits of trade, and the incomes derived from professions, or the greatest frauds were practised. If evidence were wanted to condemn any tax, it would be found in the fact that it was paid by the honest man, while the dishonest man evaded it, It was not his intention to trouble the House with many observations on the Budget, but he could not help expressing his conviction that, without a surplus, the country would not be safe. Upon this point he found himself unable to agree with the hon. Member who spoke last—although great authorities might be cited in favour of the "fructifying principle"—that the security to the public creditor would be as good if money were left in the pockets of the people as if it were taken from them to constitute a surplus. The public creditor was desirous to see his debtor willing as well as able to pay. It would not satisfy him (Mr. Baring) to be told that a man who was indebted to him was making a good use of his money, and therefore he ought not to expect to be paid. He wished to see evidence of a desire to meet the engagements to which the national credit was pledged. The example would be beneficial to the morality of the country. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last had ably stated his opinions upon what had passed since 1842, and in much that had fallen from him, he (Mr. Baring) concurred. He also fully admitted that if the property and income tax could be made a just tax, then that it might fairly be resorted to as a means of maintaining the balance between direct and indirect taxation. He was also prepared to admit that the tax was suited to a great emergency; not war alone, but also to such a state of things as it was originally intended to meet; for there could be no more dangerous emergency than a deficiency. It was to supply a deficiency that Sir R. Peel's Government proposed the tax in the first instance. 1173 When the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. F. Peel) spoke of the great increase of exports between 1842 and the present time, he seemed to forget that the former year was a period of great distress. It was not fair to compare one year with another without taking into consideration every important particular connected with each. It was also necessary to observe that increase of exports must not always be taken as proof of prosperity. Be admitted that to a certain degree the former might be taken as evidence of the latter; but we should recollect that we have had great distress existing at a time when we have also had great exports. When the country was in much distress, as in 1847 for instance, great exports were resorted to for the purpose of raising money at an enormous sacrifice. Taking all the circumstances of our financial position, it was to him a matter of regret that the Government had not retained the whole of the surplus, and proposed the continuance of the property and income tax for one year. This would have afforded an opportunity for ascertaining whether it would not be possible to deprive the tax of its unjust bearings, and, if so, it might have been renewed in an amended shape at the end of next year, for the purpose of enabling the Government to reduce taxation generally, or to mitigate the burden of the income tax, or diminish the amount of the national debt. There was a weak point in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's case to which he would briefly advert. If the right hon. Gentleman were really as confident as he professed to be that the great interests of the country, with the exception of agriculture, were in a flourishing state, and that agriculture itself was labouring under only temporary distress, he certainly might rely on a larger future income than he took credit for. If, on the other hand, the Chancellor of the Exchequer founded his anticipations of increased prosperity merely on the approaching Exhibition, or other temporary causes, to be followed by a contrast such as appeared between 1846 and 1847, when the ordinary revenue declined to the extent of 2,000,000l.,—then it behoved the Government not to blink the question, but to pause before they reduced taxation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer the other evening entreated his friends on the benches behind him not to propose the reduction of small taxes, because, he said, their doing so would prevent him from reducing the duties on articles of 1174 consumption, such as tea, for instance. Did the right hon. Gentleman imagine that if he went on giving up the window tax one year, and some other tax the next year, he would ever be able to reduce the duty on tea? He agreed with the hon. Gentleman that it might perhaps he worth while to keep up the income tax if it would enable us to reduce the duty upon tea to 1s. on the pound; but the revenue derived from the article of tea being about 5,000,000l., we should be prepared by such a reduction in the duty for a deficiency of about 1,500,000l. at first. He, however, believed that there would he such a gradual increase in the consumption of the article, that ultimately the revenue would be placed in the same position in which it originally stood. That then would be, perhaps, a wise step to take, and it would be one which would he in perfect harmony with the opinions expressed by the right hon. Gentleman himself. But he (Mr. Baring) did not say that he took such a course if he persisted in his determination to abolish the window tax. Whether we have a surplus or no surplus, these Gentlemen opposite, who ostentatiously call themselves the friends of the people, are never prepared to take off the duty on that great necessary of life—tea. Here was a duty of 300 per cent upon an article that entered into the consumption of all classes, from the palace to the hovel. And why was it not reduced by the present Government? Because they say, forsooth, that it was not a protective duty, as the right hon. Gentleman told the House the other night. Her Majesty's Ministers will not reduce the duty on tea, because it was not a protective duty, and yet it was an article that entered into the consumption of every person. The "ploughboy who treads the heavy clay soil" would drink it if he could get it. The "shepherd on the barren hill" was fond of it. Even the "soldier who returned to England from abroad" would have his cup of tea if the duty did not prevent him. Gentlemen, and right hon. Gentlemen too, could indulge in affected and exaggerated sympathy for the people for a special party purpose, and employ language which might be supposed capable of intimidating political opponents, but they avoided calling for a repeal of the tea duty, and he could tell "the reason why." It was because the reduction of the duty upon tea would be a benefit to all, and no injury to any class—because it would depreciate no British property—be- 1175 cause it would sacrifice no British capital—hecause it would not reduce the wages of any British labourer; that was the reason that the Government declined to propose any reduction of the duty on tea, but advocated the utter abolition of the tax upon windows. With these views, he felt it impossible to support the policy of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He saw in it nothing comprehensive or large in its application. He saw no justice in it for the only suffering class, whose distress was admitted by the Government themselves. Believing as he did that the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman was of a most partial character, and not one for popular purposes, nor for the benefit of the country, he would vote for the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stamford, being of opinion that it would he much better for the people generally that the income tax should be reduced, than that the window duties should be abolished.
§ MR. J. WILSON
said, he could quite understand the hon. Member (Mr. Baring) not supporting the plan of the Government, but could not comprehend the hon. Member supporting that of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Herries), for the reasons which the hon. Member had given for rejecting the Government plan told equally against the Amendment. The hon. Member had said, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had, in 1842, declared that he opposed the income tax because it had been proposed to make up a deficiency in the revenue, but that he would have supported it if it had been proposed in order to reduce more objectionable taxes. What his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated was, that although he had an objection to an income tax, yet he would have been willing to vote for the tax if it had been to repeal the monopolies in sugar, timber, and corn. The hon. Gentleman had also said, the reduction of the duty on tea was resisted, because it was not a protective duty. It was so; and he (Mr. Wilson) thought justly so; for this reason, that in the case of tea, or any other duty not protective, all that the public paid went into the Exchequer; whereas in a protective duty a portion only found its way there, the rest finding its way into the pockets of persons for whom it was not intended. Notwithstanding the caution of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Herries) to prevent the question from being considered one of protection, subsequent speeches had 1176 shown that it was so considered. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon had rightly said, on a former occasion, that the object of a similar Motion was to reverse a policy which the House had pursued for ten years; and he (Mr. Wilson) was justified in saying so of the present Motion likewise, because the question, if put before the House practically, was, whether there should be a direct tax on income, or whether there should be a return to import duties. No one could deny that, during the last ten years, the policy had been to repeal first protective duties, then excessive duties on imports, and then duties on raw materials. For this purpose the Government of 1842 professedly asked the House to adopt the income tax; and on these grounds he asked the House to consider the question. It was a struggle between the two great principles; on the one side there were a large and important party trying to maintain protective duties, and reimpose import duties which had been repealed; and on the other hand, there was a party desirous of farther following out the policy which had been for ten years pursued with so much success. A great deal had been said on the subject of direct and indirect taxation. It had been said, it was dangerous to rely too much on direct taxation. But hon. Members who spoke thus could not be aware of the proportion which direct taxation bore to indirect in other countries. There might be danger in depending entirely, or even mainly, on direct taxation; a large portion of the people, the working classes, it would be impossible to reach by any direct tax, while they ought to contribute to the revenue in return for the protection they enjoyed in their persons and their labour; and he also admitted that there were many articles on which an indirect tax might properly be levied, provided it was not of a protective character, nor excessive. But while in this country the proportion of direct to indirect taxation was only 10,000,000l. out of 50,000,000l., or only 20 per cent; in France it was 35 per cent; in Belgium 37 per cent; in Holland 35 percent; in Prussia 37 per cent. That is to say, in this country, out of 50,000,000l. of revenue, 10,000,000l. were raised from direct taxation, and the remainder, 40,000,000l., from indirect taxation, or duties of customs, stamps, or excise. He did not think this at all a dangerous proportion. For the last twenty-five years there had been several experiments in taxa- 1177 tion. In the few observations which he intended to make to the House, he should endeavour to call their attention to the experience of the country for some years past, for the purpose of coming to some satisfactory conclusion as to the description of taxation which was best suited for the interest and advantage of this country. For the last twenty-five years we had had various experiments in the way of taxation. We began with Mr. Huskisson, who commenced his career of experiments in 1823. From 1823 to 1830, Mr. Huskisson for the first time adopted that policy (which had been since followed by the late Sir Robert Peel) of reducing taxes upon raw materials of manufacture, and upon the chief necessaries of life, to an extent of no less than 11,000,000l. In 1823 the net income was 52,755,000l. In 1829,itwas50,786,000l.; so that it had then recovered the loss be sustained by that reduction of taxation within about 1,900,000l. From 1830 to 1841 the same system had been pursued, and taxes had been reduced to the extent of 8,437,793. There was, however, a deficiency in 1841 of 2,080,000l.; so that the gain was only about 6,000,000l. He was bound to admit, indeed, that the system pursued during that period, from 1831 till 1841, was not beneficial to the trade or the finances of the country; for during that period the exports and imports were nearly stationary, tire increase not being greater than arose from the natural increase of population. He would take the official value, as being, though not the best criterion of real value, the host test of comparative quantities, and the only measure in which they can be reduced into a common quantity. The official value of imports was—
Being at the rate of 39 per cent on the twelve years, or 3¼ per cent per annum, or double the increase of the population. The declared or real value of exports was—
In 1830 £46,200,000 In 1842 64,200,000 Increase in twelve years £18,000,000
Being at the rate of 23 per cent on the twelve years, or 2 per cent per annum, or little more than the natural increase of the population. It would be seen how unsatisfactory were the results of the financial and commercial policy pursued during that 1178 period, when he stated that in the last five years of it, ending in 1842, the debt had been increased by 7,778,000l.; the balances in the Exchequer reduced from 5,993,000l. at the commencement in 1830 to 3,653,000l. at the conclusion in 1841; the deficiency at the J close of the period being 2,340,000l. He found that from 1837 to 1842 there was an annual deficiency of revenue amounting in the whole period to no less than 8,709,121l., the deficiency in the year 1842–3 alone being estimated at 2,500,000l. He begged the attention of the House to the fact, that of the 8,437,793l. of taxes remitted from 1830 to 1841, only 750,673l. were reductions of Customs duties. Very remarkable was the contrast to all this presented in the results of the course pursued during the years from 1842 to 1850, during which period the object of the policy pursued was to reduce import duties, and especially on raw materials and articles of general consumption. Taxes had been during that period reduced to the extent of 10,251,294l., of which the Customs duties amounted to no less than 8,218,958l.; Excise duties, 1,434,280l.; and Stamps, 598,056l. In 1841—and he took that year instead of 1842, because the latter was a year of depression—the result had been that—
In 1830 £38,250,000 In 1841 47,000,000 Increase in twelve years £8,7,30,000
While the reduction of Customs duties effected in that period amounted to 8,218,958l.
In 1841 the Customs duties produced £21,898,000 In 1850 20,412,000 Decrease £1,456,000
Notwithstanding the reduction of Excise duties amounted to 1,434,280l.
In 1841, Excise duties produced £13,678,300 In 1850 14,316,000 Increase £638,000
If from this increase be deducted the income tax receipts—-amounting to 5,500,000l.—a net loss would be exhibited of only 774,000l., while the reduction of taxes amounted, as he had shown, to 10,251,294l. The financial results of the policy were not less striking. Not only had the national debt been reduced, but the balances in the Exchequer had increased, as the following details which he would read would show:— 1179
In 1841, total revenue £48,084,000 In 1850, total revenue 52,810,000 Increase £4,726,000
These results were striking, but the following were yet more so:—
Taxes reduced £10,251,294 Reduction in debt 4,221,000 Balances in Exch. 1841 £1,390,000 Balances in Exch.1850 9,245,000 Increase £7,855,000 Deficiency Bills, 1841 £6,606,000 Balance in hand, 1850 1,012,000 Difference in favour of 1850 £5,594,000
In other words, an increase of 64 per cent in the seven years, or 9 per cent per annum, or about six times the rate of the increase of the population.
Official value of imports, 1842 £64,300,000 Official value of imports 1849 105,800,000 Increase £41,500,000
That was to say, 50 per cent in the eight years, or 6¼ per cent per annum, or at four times the rate of the increase of the population. He wished to direct particular attention, however, to the increase which had taken place in the shipping during that period.
The real value of exports, 1842 £47,000,000 The real value of exports, 1850 70,000,000 Increase £23,000,000
Let the House now contrast the results of the different lines of policy pursued in the two periods he had adverted to, between 1830 and 1841, and between 1841 and 1850:—
In 1842, total tonnage(inward and outward) 7,347,000 tons. In 1850 12,020,000 tons. Increase 4,673,000 tons, or 63 per cent.
Notwithstanding the 10,000,000l. added in consequence of the Irish famine.
Taxes repealed, first period £8,437,000 Taxes repealed, second period 10,251,000 Recovered in the first period £6,437,000 Recovered in the second period 9,477,000 Increase of national debt, first period 7,778,000 Decrease of debt, second period 4,221,000
Being at the rate of 39 per cent during 1180 the first period, and 64 per cent during the second; or 3¼ per cent during the first period, and 9 per cent during the second; or double the rate of population in the first period, and six times in the second. During the first period the exports increased 8,750,000l.,during the second 23,000,000l. the increase in the first period being 23 per cent, and in the second 50 per cent, or at the rate of 2 per cent per annum in the first period, and 6 ¼ per cent on the second, or little more than the population rate in the first period, and four times in the second. In the first period the shipping cleared inwards and outwards amounted to 7,347,000 tons; in the second to 12,020,000 tons, being an increase of 63 per cent. One of the great means relied on by the right hon. Gentleman who had first introduced the present system was the repeal of the duties on raw materials. Well, by reference to papers before the House, it would be found that the whole amount of cotton imported in 1842 was 4,200,000 cwts.; in 1850, 5,934,000; wool, in 1842, 45,000,000 cwts.; in 1850, 74,000,000 cwts.; raw silk, in 1842, 3,365,000 lbs.; in 1850, 4,942,040lbs.; hemp, in 1842, 585,000 cwts.; in 1850, 1,048,000 cwts.; flax, in 1842,1,130,000 cwts.; in 1850,1,821,000 cwts. The cotton had increased 41 per cent, and the population 12 per cent; the wool 64 per cent; silk, 46 per cent; hemp, 80 per cent; flax, 61 per cent. The amount of duties reduced on raw material was 2,500,000l. In the same period, the consumption of tobacco had increased 25 per cent; wine, 38 per cent; tea, 38 per cent; spirits, 53 per cent, and sugar, 60 per cent. He also begged the attention of the House to the tranquil state of the country within the last few years, compared with the outbreaks which occurred at Monmouth, Sheffield, and other places just prior to 1842. It could not be said that there had been peculiar causes connected with the political and social condition of the country during the last ten years to account for the success of the free-trade policy to which he had referred; for, during that period we had had a railway mania, which had produced a commercial panic such as had never been known, perhaps, in this country; we had had a famine ill Ireland unparalleled in the present century—we had had revolutions all over Europe—all of which causes had interfered materially with the progress of the commerce and trade of the country. He might refer, as another test of the success 1181 of the policy to which he alluded, so far as the condition of the working classes was concerned, to the rapid diminution of pauperism. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) had taunted his (Mr. Wilson's) right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer with his frequent allusions to the poor-houses and pauperism; but he might be allowed to say to the hon. Member, that if he should succeed to power, and could, after occupying the Treasury bench for a few years, point to a considerable diminution of pauperism, and a consequent decrease in the burden of the poor-rate—if he could show that large numbers of the able bodied poor, who had previously been dependent upon the rates, were fully employed at good wages, as the result of the policy of the Government with which he might be connected, he would have no slight cause for satisfaction. With regard to the income tax, it had been common in the debate on the subject, to refer to it as a war tax; but he could not regard any tax as being peculiarly allotted for any particular emergency, and for that only. It was, he thought, the duty of the House, when they were satisfied that a tax was necessary, to say what tax would host answer the purpose of raising the amount of revenue required. There were other objects of taxation as important as war. It was essential that the inconvenience of oven an income tax should be suffered for the purpose of securing the triumphs of peace, surely a more satisfactory object than the carrying on an extravagant war; and he believed that no individuals more than these who now complained of the inequalities of the tax, would, when they came to see the results, be satisfied with the sacrifices they were making. The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire and his friends seemed never to be satisfied with any reduction of taxation unless such reduction was made exclusively for their own interest—altogether forgetting that they were members of a great community, and that the farmers and farm labourers—the small landowners who formed the great bulk of the agricultural community—were as deeply interested in the remissions which had taken place, and were now proposed, as the manufacturers or any other class. They forgot that the articles of general consumption with the rest of the community enter into their consumption also. The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire asked, "Was nothing to be done for the 1182 agricultural classes, while they were doing so much for others?" And the hon. Gentleman seemed to think that nothing was done for them unless it was done for them exclusively. He (Mr. Wilson) maintained that, as a body, no class had benefited more from the policy of the last ten years than the agricultural community. No class had benefited more from the remission of duties than the agriculturists. [Cries of "Question!" and "Divide!"] Why, hon. Gentlemen would not venture to deny that the agricultural community had benefited by the reduction of the duty on sugar, on spirits, and other articles of consumption? and while hon. Gentlemen were so indignant at the large amount of revenue expended in substituting a house duty for the tax upon windows, he believed no class of persons would be more benefited by the change than the fanners and the agricultural body. He admitted that the aggregate amount of the relief would be greater in the large towns than in the country; but he contended that the farmers, and especially the small farmers, would be relieved more, perhaps, than any other single class. For it was clear that that largo body of farmers who rented farms under 300l. a year each, and whose houses were not rated at 20l., would be relieved altogether; whereas, were the reduction in the income tax, as now proposed, carried out, they would receive but very trifling benefit. Taking, too, the higher class of farmers—those who rent farms up to 500l. a year—the saving they would effect by the substitution of the house duty for the window duty would, in the majority of cases, be equal to nearly two-thirds of what they paid to the income tax. He by no means undervalued the agricultural body, nor did he wish to say anything depreciatory of the numerical importance of that interest; But hon. Gentlemen opposite must be aware that each recurring census showed a smaller and a smaller number engaged in agricultural pursuits, and that the greater part of the natural increase in the population of the agricultural districts found its way into the large manufacturing towns. In the year 1811, the agricultural population was 34 per cent of the whole; in 1831 it had fallen to 27 per cent; and in 1841 it had decreased to 24 per cent. From 1831 to 1841, not only had the relative proportion of the agricultural population, as compared with the other classes of the community, decreased, but of able bodied labourers there 1183 were 25,000 persons fewer employed in agriculture in the latter than in the former year. ["No, no!"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite said "No;" he (Mr. Wilson) spoke from the census returns in that House, and if they were disputed, he knew not what test they could employ in arguing any of these questions. If it were as he had said—if they had a constantly diminishing proportion of the population dependent on land—if we were mainly dependent for the employment of the great hulk of our working population on manufactures, commerce, mining, and such like pursuits, was it not for the interest of the country that we should pursue a policy which was best calculated to remove all impediments from these fields of industry in which there was the demand for their labour? The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire had frequently referred to the great territorial principle which ought, he said, to regulate the policy of that House; but, however much that might have been the case in past years, now, when it was found that the population was increasing at a rate far beyond the capabilities of the surface of the land to find employment for it—and that they were compelled to fall back on the mine, the loom, the manufactures, and the commerce of the country, for the means of subsistence, it behaved the House to take care that they placed no impediment in the way of the extension of these pursuits, in which only employment for the massess could be found. But they had been told by an hon. Gentleman opposite that one of the great objects he had in voting for the Amendment was to place import duties on articles of consumption which paid a considerable part of the taxation. If they were to deal with the income tax, and lay a 5s. duty on the import of foreign corn, as had been suggested, to make good any deficiency in the revenue which might arise in future years, let him ask hon. Gentlemen who advocated that course to consider on how unstable and unsatisfactory a basis they were about to place the financial system of the country. If they placed a 5s. duty on the import of wheat, let them consider for a moment at what cost it would be to the country. He knew that hon. Gentlemen opposite denied that such a duty would increase the price to the consumer to that amount—but they could not deny that it would do so under some circumstances. And if it did under any, the result would be that 1184 they would raise the price of the 80,000,000 quarters imported by 20,000,000l. a year to the consumer for the purpose of raising a revenue of 2,500,000l. on 10,000,000 quarters of imported corn. But suppose the rise in the price to be only half the amount of the duty, in that case they would be placing a tax on the consumers, the working classes of the country, of 10,000,000l. in order to raise 2,500,000l. of revenue. But he asked the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Herries) who had suggested this plan, to consider what he would do—relying, as he would, for his 2,500,000l. from this fixed duty—what he would do in years of scarcity? Did the right hon. Gentleman suppose he would be able to raise his revenue from that source in such a year as 1847; and, if he was obliged to suspend his import duty, bow would he make up the amount? But did the right hon. Gentleman believe that, with an import duty on corn, he could rely on the same amount of imports as now took place? Let him call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact, that in the twenty-one years from 1828 to 1849, the whole amount of duty collected on wheat was only 12,000,000l., or about 572,000l. a year, while the duty during the last two years derived from the nominal duty of one shilling a quarter had been 500,000l. a year, being less only by 72,000l. a year than during the period of the high protective duty. He was aware he should be told that the duties on the import of corn under the old corn laws were not duties imposed for revenue but for protection, but they were high duties nevertheless, and produced a considerable revenue. Seeing the extent to which the condition of the working classes had been elevated by the policy of the last ten years, he could scarcely believe hon. Gentlemen opposite were sincere when they proposed to reverse it, and so to deprive the great mass of the working population of these countries of the benefits of cheap food, ample employment, and good wages; and about to place the financial system of the he, therefore, confidently anticipated that the House would affirm the proposition of the Government.
Balances in Exchequer, end of first period £2,340,000 Balances in Exchequer, end of second period 9,807,000 Deficiency of Income over Expenditure at end of first period 2,500,000 Surplus at end of second period 2,500,000 Increase of imports, first period 18,000,000 Ditto ditto second period 41,500,000
§ MR. BOOKER
would not attempt to follow the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House through the long labyrinth of statistics which he had quoted; but would endeavour to bring back the debate to its legitimate object by confining his observations to the subject of the Amendment. He should treat the ques- 1185 tion strictly as a domestic one, excluding from it, as far as be could with propriety, all reference to its bearings on our foreign policy; and he hoped he should be able to impress on that House the deep responsibility they would incur by putting into the bands of the Government the means of pursuing that policy which be believed to be totally suicidal, and during its progress to the present period to have been fraught with danger and difficulty, and which must end in the ruin of every interest in the State. As the representative of an agricultural constituency, he protested against the re-imposition of this inquisitorial and specially unjust tax, as being perfectly iniquitous, and unequal in its pressure. Gould they tell his suffering constituents there was any policy or justice in requiring them to pay on losses instead of profits? And when at this crisis of the country's fate they were attempting to legislate for class interests, setting country against town, and town against country, he would ask them whether they bad read the returns moved for by Gentlemen on their own side of the House? Did not these returns teach them a lesson, or would they not deign to learn it when they were constantly—he would not say intentionally-—endeavouring to cast dust into the eyes of these who were ultimately to decide tins question? He referred to the constituencies, and not to hon. Members. He wished to tell the inhabitants of large towns, these who depended for their bread on their daily exertions, they had great cause to complain equally with his agricultural constituents of the most unjust bearing of this tax. He held in his hand a return moved for by an hon. Member opposite (Mr. Moffatt), giving the enumeration of classes taxed under Schedule D, or Trades and Professions, the income on which the duty was charged, and the number of persons by whom it was paid in each class. Did it show the benevolent intentions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the imposts of the country should be borne by these whoso wealth would best enable them to bear it? No; it showed that the tax pressed with peculiar severity on the middle classes of society. The number of persons taxed under the Schedule D, relating to trades and professions, was 144,620; the number of persons in that class whose incomes were under 500l. a year, was 124,733. Upon that number fell the pressure of this burden, leaving only 19,893 to bear the rest of it. The amount con- 1186 tributed by the whole 144,620 persons was 1,570,000l.; and of that amount the 124,733 whose incomes were under 500l. a year contributed no less than 601,000l. He hoped the constituents of large towns and the inhabitants of thriving streets would understand that; and, if they were to go to the country, that the country would know that that was the question upon which bon. Members were to appear before them. He disdained the paltry claptrap that the distress of the country was occasioned by rent, or that the landed gentry were to be taunted that they had not reduced their rents. It was notorious that rents had been reduced from 20 to 25 per cent. And would they tell him such reductions were a safe philosophy? There was a philosopher equal to any of the hon. Gentlemen opposite, and as competent to grasp this question, and he was of a different opinion. The great John Locke said it was an infallible sign of national decay when rents fell, and the raising of them would be worth a nation's care, for it was in that, and not in the falling of rents, that the true advantage of the public lay. And Locke went on to speculate as to the causes of that falling of rent; it might, said he, be from the exhaustion of the productive power of the soil, or from the disuse of the produce. If, then, they encouraged importation, and set off the exports against the imports, saying that the exports were the result of human labour, he denied the assertion. For, while labourers by millions were leaving our shores for want of employment, the productive power of machinery was increasing to an untold degree. He implored the noble Lord, who, he believed, was interested for the welfare of the country, to look to that great fact, that emigration was going on year after year to an immense extent of the most able sot of men, these who had been truly called the very "back bone" of England: concurrently with this, while our productions were increasing as they were, we ought not to put that down to the productive increase of human labour, but rather to the enormous increase which had taken place in our mechanical power—a power which neither ate, nor drank, nor wore. He hoped, therefore, that the policy Her Majesty's Government were recommending, would he scouted from the vocabulary of England. When the agriculturists were taunted with being monopolists, let it be recollected that the object of the free- 1187 traders was to become the monopolists of the trade of the world. Their doctrine of cheapness was a doctrine they intended to enforce with the view of beating down the commerce and manufactures of their rivals. They had already by their policy lent themselves to a system which, if fully carried out, would hardly leave the world worth living in, because stimulated and uncontrolled competition would be the hand of England and of the world. However, his great object in rising was to protest against the doctrine that the greatness of England was solely dependent on her trade and commerce. His own personal fortunes were enlisted on the side of trade and commerce; and if they could convince him that the welfare of England could he promoted by solely regarding her commerce, and leaving her agriculture to take care of itself, or rather to thrust it into full and unrestricted competition with the rest of the world, he might indeed be convinced, hut he should be grieved at the results they would bring about. He would conclude by referring to the words of one whose loss they already deplored, and whose words were always regarded as the words of wisdom. The late Sir Robert Peel, in 1842, in the very zenith of his power and his fame, said—If you could appeal to us with all the authority of undivided councils; if you could show us it would he for the advantage of England that she should he the workshop of the world—if you could prove to us it would be for her advantage that her country should be intersected with railroads, and that manufacturing and commercial towns should take possession of those fields that hitherto have been the sources of our industry and our wealth, we should deeply regret it. We should still have many happy remembrancers that it was under the system of protection cultivation was carried to the hilltop, and all the blessings we had enjoyed under it had not been antagonistic to, hut concurrent with, the development of commerce and manufactures.The course they had entered on had been falsified; it had utterly failed to bring about these results that had been promised, and, unless cheeked, he believed it would end in the utter ruin and downfall of this once happy country.
§ MR. SLANEY
said, that he bad derived, both by birth and habit, all he possessed from agriculture, and that he would hesitate before he adopted any line of conduct which, in his opinion, would have the effect of injuring that great interest. He admitted that the change recently made in our commercial policy had been effected too hastily, and that the 1188 agricultural interest ought to have been afforded more time to conform to it; but the question now was, whether they would reverse a policy which he firmly believed had upon the whole worked beneficially for the great masses of the people within this realm? Allusion had been made in the course of the Debate to the necessity of having security for the payment of the national revenue; but he thought that increased security for that was afforded by the diminished weight of taxation now borne by the people. Since the peace there had been a diminution of 42,000,000l. in the taxation of the country; and this amount had not been taken off the shoulders of the opulent, the noble, and the rich. Almost every tax taken off had been removed either from raw material, or from these articles which entered largely into the consumption of the masses—such, for instance, as salt, wine, tobacco, rum, coffee, hemp, candles, fruits, and spirits. And what had been the consequence of these reductions? Why, that from 1815 down to the present time—a period of thirty-five years—the property of the middle classes had increased from 53,000,000l. to 94,000,000l. a year, the land alone having increased from 34,000,000l. to 42,000,000l. From 1815 the increase of population had been 50 per cent; that in the rural districts being nearly 32 per cent, and that in the great towns 96 per cent. The legacy duties showed an increase from 24,000,000l. in 1815, to 45,000,000l. in 1845; fire insurances from 387,000,000l. to 722,000,000. And, according to a calculation made by Mr. Porter (than whom no statistician was better able to arrive at the truth), it appeared that the value of the personal property of the country had in the same thirty-five years increased from 1,200,000,000l. in 1815 to 2,400,000,000l. at the present time. The inference he drew from these facts then were, that the policy begun by Sir Robert Peel, and carried out by his successors, was a highly beneficial policy; for whilst the taxation had been diminished 42,000,000l. in thirty-five years, and the amount of taxation remaining more justly apportioned, the weight of that taxation had been lightened by its being paid upon this immense increase of property. The best assistance the Legislature could give either to land lands or tenants was, to carry out these measures which were calculated to benefit the mass of the population, and make them more extensive consumers of 1189 agricultural produce. He spoke this as one deeply interested in the question. He had been obliged to reduce his own rents, and he should be glad to see any mode by which he might raise them again without injuring his tenantry; but the only mode by which they could be raised and the condition of their tenantry improved, was, he believed, to improve the condition of the great body of the consumers of the country. In proportion as the people were enabled to consume more, would they give the farmer a better market for his produce, improve the rental of the landlord, and diminish the amount of poor-rates.
§ MR. SPOONER
would not follow the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Wilson) through his speech, full of figures as it was, and upon the whole but little to the purpose. Neither would he attempt to follow his hon. Friend (Mr. Slaney) through all the subjects to which he had adverted. He rose rather to bring back the attention of the House to that which was the real question before it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had a surplus to dispose of; and the right hon. Gentleman proposed one way of dealing with it, and his right hon. Friend (Mr. Herries) proposed another. What the House had to do was to chose between the two—which they preferred. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Herries) said he objected to the plan proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon two grounds especially: the one was, that it put aside from the consideration of the House the object which Parliament had in view when it granted the property tax for an emergency, and he called upon the House to act upon the principle that the tax should be got rid of as speedily as possible. His right hon. Friend objected to it also upon the grounds adduced by the noble Lord the First Lord of the Treasury, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and he called upon the noble Lord to answer this question, which had not yet been answered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—upon what principle he justified the renewal of a tax which he himself, when out of office, denounced as full of inequality, vexation, and fraud? Now, he (Mr. Spooner) asked the noble Lord—was the nature of the tax changed, or were the opinions of the noble Lord changed? He did hope, then, that the noble Lord would give the House very shortly an explanation upon that subject. Was the tax unjust, vexatious, and full of 1190 fraud, only because it was proposed when the noble Lord sat on the cold benches of opposition? And had the inequality, vexation, and fraud vanished immediately that the noble Lord took possession of the Treasury benches? The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that he had not opposed the tax on these grounds, but on merely fiscal considerations; and he proposed to continue it now because his financial plan was one which was to benefit the masses. But what said the right hon. Gentleman in 1845? Why that, "with regard to the general argument against the income tax, its inequality, its injustice, and vexation, no answer whatever had been given." Surely this was a complete adoption of the words used by the noble Lord, The right hon. Gentleman called upon the House in 1845 to give an answer to the general argument against the tax; and now he (Mr. Spooner) called upon the noble Lord to do that which in 1845 the right hon. Gentleman declared had not been done, and to show that the inequality, the vexation, and the fraud had ceased to exist. The right hon. Gentleman stated that his present plan was intended for the benefit of the masses; he (Mr. Spooner) concluded, therefore, that he proposed to continue the property tax because its removal would not benefit the masses. What said the right hon. Gentleman in 1845 upon this head? "So far," said he, "from its being a tax upon the rich, he believed that it pressed upon the labouring population by diminishing the means of giving them employment." He hoped, therefore, the noble Lord would answer the question of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Herries), and tell the House why that which was unequal, vexatious, and fraudulent in 1845, had altered its character, and become worthy of recommendation to the House in 1851?
§ MR. REYNOLDS
said, that he had voted for the income tax in 1848, but he now intended to vote for the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Herries). ["Oh!"] He would show the reason. The proposal was, to renew the income tax for three years. The right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated, that it was not his intention to extend the tax to Ireland at present. "At present!" [THE CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Not at all] He inferred the translation of these words, "at present," to be, that, at some future period, the right hon. Gentle- 1191 man, or some one else upon whom his mantle might fall, would feel it their duty to extend it to Ireland. Taking that view of the question, it occurred to him that, as none of the 105 representatives of Ireland—and they were not all present on the present occasion—had obtruded themselves upon the attention of the House, he thought himself justified in occupying their attention for a moment or two. He remembered that, in the speech of that right right hon. Gentleman, whose death none deplored more than himself, upon the introduction of the income tax in 1842, he accounted for the non-extension of that impost to Ireland upon two grounds: the first, that Ireland was unable to bear the pressure; and the second, that there was no machinery in Ireland to manage and collect it. But his winding-up, like the postscript to a lady's letter, contained the important point; and he said, "I shall not extend this tax to Ireland, but I shall assimilate the stamp duties of the two countries." And he did assimilate them; and he (Mr. Reynolds) held in his hands an extract from the returns of stamps and taxes, which he would read, and by which the House would perceive that Ireland, poor as she might be, had been compelled to pay a certain annual sum towards this income tax. In 1840, the stamps and taxes in Ireland amounted to 463,000l.; but they went on thus: In 1842, they became 531,000l.; in 1843, 587,000l.; in 1844, 583,000l.; in 1845, 598,000; in 1846, 613,000l.: in 1847, 608,000l.; in 1848, 571,000l. For the years 1849 and 1850, no returns had yet been laid upon the table; but he would take it for granted that they were about the same as the antecedent years, and, if he was right, he found that his embarrassed country had, during nine years, paid an increase on stamps of 1,000,000l. sterling. He found that, in Scotland, the amount of stamps in 1841 was 560,000l., and, varying in the intervening years, was only 531,000l. in 1848; so that, while they had extracted 1,000,000l. from Ireland, they had not extracted one penny extra from Scotland. [Mr. BROTHERTON: Scotland pays the income tax.] The right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer told the House that he should not extend the tax to Ireland. The income tax to Ireland! To Ireland, a country that, in four years, in consequence of the destruction of her crops, had, at the least and lowest calculation, 1192 lost 100,000,000l.—a country that had been cooped under the high pressure of an enormous poor-rate—a country with 3,000,000 of people at one time chartered upon the rates, and a country from which they had extracted in one year nearly 2,000,000l. sterling for the support of the poor, and for the construction of workhouses, and the maintenance of these human slaughter-houses, like these of Kilrush and Ennistymon, where adults were fed on ll¼d. a week, and clothed for 2d. ["Divide!"] He understood the meaning of that interruption. It meant to say, that in this country they would not feed a dog on 11¼d. a week—they would not clothe a dog, if a dog needed clothing, on 2d. The deaths in these places averaged 70 per week. But the hon. Gentleman, who was a Secretary of the India Board, had talked of the poor. He wanted to know what the poor had to do with the Budget? He saw no relief in it for the poor; none for the professional man—none for the shopkeepers—none for any man who earned his bread by the sweat of his brow, or by his mental qualifications. He, for his own part, was a convert to the doctrine laid down by the noble Lord, in his speech on the 8th April, 1842, which would be found in vol. lxii. of Hansard, as follows:—Another objection which I have to the tax is the admitted inequality of its operation. This inequality of its operation is not denied by any one; and, indeed, it would be impossible to deny it. It is obvious that if you take three or four persons having each 300l. a year, the pressure of the tax may be most unequal. The first may derive his income from some permanent property; a second may be in the receipt of a terminable annuity; while the third may be a person engaged in some dangerous or unhealthy profession—say, for instance, a surgeon in country practice, who lays by a small part of his income as a future provision for his family. In the case of such a man, you are taxing capital as well as income. Another man may be engaged in a trade in which his profits are very uncertain; his gains may be inconsiderable one year, less in the next, and in another year he may even be liable to losses greater than his gains, making it impossible for him to lay anything by for his family. Must not the tax, in such cases, operate with very great inequality?—[3 Hansard, lxii. 89.]And the noble Lord proceeded to ask, if it must not appear—"very hard to take from a trader so circumstanced the same proportion of his trading profits as yon take from one whose income is permanent and secure?But there was in his hands another extract 1193 from the speech of the noble Lord, who afterwards went on to say—There is one proposition that has been made—a proposition, too, which has been mooted in this House—a tax which it is not, perhaps, desirable to adopt if there is no absolute necessity, but a proposition which appears to me to be based upon sounder arguments, and a tax which appears to me to be fairer, better, and more just than that put forward by the Government—I mean the proposition that has been mooted of submitting the succession of real property—the succession, I say, of real property to the same probate and legacy duty which attaches itself to the succession of personal estate.Now, he was in favour of the latter proposition—he was for saddling real property with the same burdens which attached to personal property. But his principal object in rising was, to complain of the sins of omission in the Budget. He wanted to know why the right hon. Gentleman had omitted all mention of the paper duties? He was himself an advocate for the abolition of the window duties; but he asked if their abolition would employ a single individual more than those now employed, whether in England or Ireland? whereas, if the duty was taken off paper, he believed that double the amount of employment would be given; or if he had taken the duty off soap, as was suggested in a speech so eloquent and so able by an hon. Gentleman who bore an immortal name, that too would have increased the employment of the people. As an Irish representative, he complained that the Budget offered no relief to his country. They had not touched the duty on tea, which was taxed 300 per cent. They had, in fact, given no relief to the working classes, either by increasing employment, or by cheapening the necessaries of life. It was true that hon. Gentlemen on his (the Opposition) side of the House proposed nothing that he was aware of; and he had often told them that they ought not to content themselves with fault-finding, but that they ought to propose something as a substitute. But he objected to the income tax—not that he objected to the principle—but he objected to the details, and he desired to see it made more equitable. Having, as he trusted, satisfactorily accounted for his intention to vote for the Amendment, he wished to ask Irish liberal Members what there was in the Budget which ought to ensure their support? In his judgment, the Amendment deserved their support, for it referred to the pressure of the stamp duties on Ireland, and it held out the hope of some modification of a tax which all 1194 admitted to be susceptible of improvement.
§ LORD CLAUDE HAMILTON
would call the attention of the House to the fact that the greater part of the time of the House had been occupied with discussions quite irrelevant to the proposition before the House. What was the subject before the House? It had no reference to any proposition for a retrograde movement from free trade. The right hon. Gentleman had proposed nothing of the sort. He would ask the now full attendance of hon. Members whether they had well weighed and considered the question on which they were about to vote? He would ask hon. Members who intended to vote for the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say whether they believed they were to vote for this tax for three years only, or to make it permanent. That was the real question at issue, and that was the question hon. Members ought to ask themselves before they went into the lobby. It must be recollected this was the fourth time the House had been called upon to vote for a three years' continuance of the tax. The proposition of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stamford embodied this principle: which was right, with a surplus, to apply a portion of that surplus to the reduction of a temporary tax, or to the abolition of a previously imposed permanent tax? He advocated fairness and openness—he was not willing to vote for a tax ostensibly for three years only, when, in reality, the tax was to be made permanent. He rejoiced that the window tax was to be abolished; but then there was a higher economical principle at stake, which he had referred to, and which hon. Members ought carefully to keep in view. If the Government spoke out manfully, and said the tax must be permanent, and if the House sanctioned this principle, let the House at least first begin by abolishing its inequalities. Let them not be deceived by party appeals, let them not look upon the question as if it were a vote for or against the masses of the people; the question they had to consider was this, were they or were they not voting to make this tax a permanent one? Were they prepared to rivet this impost on the country as a permanent burden to the property of the empire? If they intended to make it permanent, let them do in political as they would do in private life, let them do it openly, fairly, and professedly. He did not believe that any Gentleman who in- 1195 tended to vote with the Chancellor of the Exchequer expected that the vote would be a temporary one. He called upon them, then, if the tax was to be permanent, to make it equitable. A temporary emergency might excuse the injustice of the tax which was imposed to meet it; but now that they were asked to impose this tax for the fourth time, it would be mockery to their constituents—it would be trifling with the interests of these whose income depended upon their health and skill, to excuse themselves from remedying its glaring defects by the pretext that it was a temporary measure. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said it was to be a temporary measure; but he said he must have it for three years, and that he must have it with all its imperfections and enormities. He called upon hon. Gentlemen not to be blinded by these representations, but to insist upon its Amendment or its reduction. He called upon them especially not to be led away by the arguments of the hon. Member for Westbury, who seemed bent upon answering by anticipation the undelivered speech of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire. Perhaps it would be as well that the hon. Member should wait till the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire spoke; and when he answered him, he hoped he would do it at less unreasonable lengths than he had indulged in to-night, and that he would not require the hint of that mysterious slip of paper which was handed to him by his own friends—and which produced so sudden a termination to his speech.
§ MR. S. CRAWFORD
wished to explain his reasons for the vote he was about to give. The real question was, whether he would vote for this tax to be continued for three years more, with all its imperfections and oppressiveness. Now he did not feel justified in continuing such a tax, for he knew that his constituents felt it to be a grievous oppression. He was friendly to a property tax—to a tax upon income derived from real property; but he was not friendly to a tax upon the incomes of professional men. He knew, abundantly well, that if they gave any Government free license to raise taxes, they never would have retrenchment. There might be retrenchment sufficient to dispense with the income tax, if his views on retrenchment were adopted, and, therefore, he felt compelled to vote against the imposition of this tax, and in favour of the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Stamford.
§ SIR R. H. INGLIS
agreed with the noble (Lord C. Hamilton) that the discussion had not been confined to the two propositions before the House, which he had correctly defined as a proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to continue the income tax for three years, and a proposition of the right hon. Member for Stamford to impose so much as might be considered sufficient to meet the necessities of the public service, and to maintain public credit. He (Sir R. H. Inglis) considered that if the income tax was inquisitorial, unequal, and unjust, it was equally inquisitorial, unequal, and unjust, whether they took 3¼ or 2¼ per cent, or 3d., or 2d., or any other conceivable amount, in the pound. The question was whether the public credit did or did not require the unmitigated amount of income tax which the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to raise. Any one who had done him (Sir R. H. Inglis) the honour to attend to what he had said in the House, would recollect how often he had objected to the giving relief with respect to burdens to one particular class, and, above all, how often he had insisted on that great point, as he ventured to think it still, whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought not, instead of beginning with charging on 150l., to take that as the unit, and charge all income above that sum? Regarding the constitutional and legal objection to the giving relief to one particular class, he could not concur in the proposal of the right hon. Member for Stamford, because it would relieve the shopkeeper class throughout England, and certainly not the agricultural community. Having had more difficulty in making up his mind on the two propositions than he had ever experienced, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would hardly thank him for coming to a decision very reluctantly in favour of the Resolution.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 278; Noes 230: Majority 48.
|List of the AYES.|
|Abdy, Sir T. N.||Bailey, J.|
|Adair, H. E.||Baines, rt. hon. M. T.|
|Adair, R. A. S.||Baring, rt. hon. Sir F.T.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Barnard, E. G.|
|Alcock, T.||Bass, M. T.|
|Anderson, A.||Beckett, W.|
|Anson, hon. Col.||Bell, J.|
|Anson, Visct.||Bellew, R. M.|
|Anstey, T. C.||Berkeley, Adm.|
|Armstrong, Sir A,||Berkeley, hon. H. F.|
|Ashley, Lord||Berkeley, C. L. G.|
|Bagshaw, J.||Bernal, R.|
|Birch, Sir T. B.||Freestun, Col.|
|Blaekstone, W. S.||French, F.|
|Blewitt, R. J.||Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.|
|Bowles, Adm.||Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E|
|Boyle, hon. Col.||Glyn, G. C.|
|Bright, J.||Goulburn, rt. hon. H.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Brockman, E. D.||Greene, T.|
|Brotherton, J.||Grenfell, C. P.|
|Brown, W.||Grenfell, C. W.|
|Bunbury, E. H.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Burke, Sir T. J.||Grey, R. W.|
|Buxton, Sir E. N.||Grosvenor, Lord R.|
|Campbell, hon. W. F.||Guest, Sir J.|
|Cardwell, E.||Hall, Sir B.|
|Carter, J. B.||Halliburton, Ford J. F.|
|Caulfield, J. M.||Hanmer, Sir J.|
|Cavendish, hon. C. C.||Harcourt, G. G.|
|Cavendish, hon. G. H.||Hardcastle, J. A.|
|Cavendish, W. G.||Harris, R.|
|Charteris, hon. F.||Hastie, A.|
|Childers, J. W.||Hastie, A.|
|Christy, S.||Hatchell, rt. hon. J.|
|Clay, J.||Hawes, B.|
|Clay, Sir W.||Headlam, T. E.|
|Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.||Heald, J.|
|Clifford, H. M.||Heathcoat, J.|
|Cobden, R.||Heneage, G. H. W.|
|Coke, hon. E. K.||Henry, A.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Herbert, rt. hon. S.|
|Collins, W.||Hervey, Lord A.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H. L.||Heywood, J.|
|Cowan, C.||Heyworth, L.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Hindley, C.|
|Craig, Sir W. G.||Hobhouse, T. B.|
|Crowder, R. B.||Hodges, T. L.|
|Cubitt, W.||Hodges, T. T.|
|Currie, R.||Hogg, Sir J. W.|
|Dalrymple, Capt.||Hollond, R.|
|Dashwood, Sir G. H.||Hope, A.|
|Dawson, hon. T. V.||Horsman, E.|
|Denison, E.||Howard, hon. C. W. G.|
|Denison, J. E.||Howard, hon. E. G. G.|
|D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C. T.||Howard, P. H.|
|Divett, E.||Hume, J.|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Humphery, Ald.|
|Douro, Marq. of||Hutchins, E. J.|
|Duke, Sir J.||Hutt, W.|
|Duncan, Visct.||Inglis, Sir R. H|
|Duncan, G.||Jackson, W.|
|Duncuft, J.||Jermyn, Earl|
|Dundas, Adm.||Johnstone, Sir J.|
|Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D.||Ker, R.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Kershaw, J.|
|Ellice, rt. hon. E.||Kildare, Marq. of|
|Ellice, E.||King, hon. P. J, L.|
|Ellis, J.||Labouchere, rt. hon. H.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Langston, J. H.|
|Estcourt, J. B. B.||Legh, G. C.|
|Euston, Earl of||Lewis, rt. hon. Sir T. F.|
|Evans, Sir De L.||Lewis, G. C.|
|Evans, W.||Littleton, hon. E. R.|
|Ewart, W.||Locke, J.|
|Ferguson, Col.||Lockhart, A. E.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Loveden, P.|
|Fitzpatrick, rt. hon. J. W.||Mackinnon, W. A.|
|Fitzroy, hon. H.||M'Gregor, J.|
|Fitzwilliam, hon. G, W,||M'Taggart, Sir J.|
|Foley, J. H. H.||Mahon, Visct.|
|Fordyce, A. D.||Mangles, R. D.|
|Forster, M.||Marshall, J, G.|
|Fortescue, C.||Marshall, W.|
|Fox, W. J.||Martin, C. W.|
|Masterman, J.||Simeon, J.|
|Matheson, A.||Slaney, R. A.|
|Matheson, Sir J.||Smith, rt. hon. R. V.|
|Matheson, Col.||Smith, J. A.|
|Maule, rt. hon. F.||Smith, M. T.|
|Melgund, Visct.||Smith, J. B.|
|Milner, W. M. E.||Somers, J. P.|
|Milnes, R. M.||Somerville, rt. hon. Sir W.|
|Milton, Visct.||Spearman, H. J.|
|Mitchell. T. A.||Stanley, hon. W. O.|
|Moffatt, G.||Stanton, W. H.|
|Morison, Sir W.||Strickland, Sir G.|
|Morris, D.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.||Stuart, H.|
|Mowatt, F.||Sutton, J. H. M.|
|Margrave, Earl of||Tancred, H. W.|
|Mure, Col.||Tenison, E. K.|
|Norreys, Lord||Thicknesse, R. A.|
|Norreys, Sir D. J.||Thompson, Col.|
|O'Connell, M. J.||Thornely, T.|
|Ogle, S. C. H.||Tollemache, hon. F. J.|
|Ord, W.||Towneley, J.|
|Oswald, A.||Townley, R. G.|
|Owen, Sir J.||Townshend, Capt.|
|Paget, Lord A.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Palmer, R.||Trevor, hon. T.|
|Palmerston, Visct.||Tufnell, rt. hon. H.|
|Parker, J.||Tynte, Col. C. J. K.|
|Patten, J. W.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Pechell, Sir G. B.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Feel, F.||Villiers, Visct.|
|Peto, S. M,||Villiers, hon. C.|
|Pilkington, J.||Vivian, J. H.|
|Pinney, W.||Wakley, T.|
|Plowden, W. H. C.||Wall, C. B.|
|Ponsonby, hon. C. F. A.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Power, N.||Walter, J.|
|Price, Sir R.||Watkins, Col. L.|
|Rawdon, Col.||Wegg-Prosser, F. R.|
|Ricardo, O.||Wellesley, Lord C.|
|Rice, E. R.||Westhead, J. P. B.|
|Rich, H.||Willcox, B. M.|
|Robartes, T, J. A.||Williams, J.|
|Romilly, Col.||Williams, W.|
|Romilly, Sir J.||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Russell, Lord J.||Wilson, J.|
|Russell, hon. E. S.||Wilson, M.|
|Russell, F. C. H||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Salwey, Col.||Wood, W. P.|
|Sandars, J.||Wortley, rt. hon. J. S.|
|Scholefield, W.||Wyvill, M.|
|Scrope, G. P.||Young, Sir J.|
|Seymour, H. D.|
|Shafto, R. D.||Hayter, W. G.|
|Sheridan, R. B.||Hill, Lord M.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Bennett, P.|
|Arbuthnott, hon. H.||Bentinck, Lord H.|
|Arkwright, G.||Bernard, Visct.|
|Bagge, W.||Blake, M. J.|
|Bagot, hon. W.||Blakemore, R.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Blandford, Marq. of|
|Baird, J.||Boldero, H. G.|
|Baldock, E. H.||Booker, T. W.|
|Baldwin, C. B.||Brainston, T. W.|
|Bankes, G.||Bremridge, R.|
|Baring, T.||Brisco, M.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Broadley, H.|
|Barron, Sir H. W.||Broadwood, H.|
|Barrow, W. H.||Brooke, Sir A. B.|
|Bateson, T.||Bruce, C. L. C.|
|Bruen, Col.||Hamilton, J. H.|
|Buck, L. W.||Hamilton, Lord C.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Harris, hon. Capt.|
|Bunbury, W. M.||Hayes, Sir E.|
|Burleigh, Lord||Henley, J. W.|
|Burroughes, H. N.||Herbert, H. A.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||Herries, rt. hon. J. C.|
|Chandos, Marq. of||Higgins, G. G. O.|
|Chatterton, Col.||Hildyard, R. C.|
|Chichester, Lord J. L.||Hildyard, T. B. T.|
|Christopher, R. A.||Hill, Lord E.|
|Clive, hon. R. H.||Hodgson, W. N.|
|Olive, H. B.||Hope, H. T.|
|Cobbold, J. C.||Hornby, J.|
|Cochrane, A. D. R. W. B.||Hotham, Lord|
|Cocks, T. S.||Hudson, G.|
|Codrington, Sir W.||Jocelyn, Visct.|
|Coles, H. B.||Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.|
|Colvile, C. R.||Jones, Capt.|
|Compton, H. C.||Keating, R.|
|Corbally, M. E.||Keogh, W.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Kerrison, Sir E.|
|Darner, hon. Col.||Knight, F. W.|
|Davies, D. A. S.||Knightley, Sir C.|
|Deedes, W.||Knox, Col.|
|Devereux, J. T.||Knox, hon. W. S.|
|Dick, Q,||Lawless, hon. C.|
|Disraeli, B.||Lonnard, T. B.|
|Dod, J. W.||Lennox, Lord A. G.|
|Dodd, G.||Lennox, Lord H. G.|
|Drax, J. S. W. S. E.||Lewisham, Visct.|
|Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.||Lindsay, hon. Col.|
|Duncombe, hon. A.||Lockhart, W.|
|Duncombe, hon. O.||Long, W.|
|Dundas, G.||Lopes, Sir R.|
|Dunne, Col.||Lowther, hon. Col.|
|Du Pre, C. G.||Lowther, H.|
|Edwards, H.||Lygon, hon. Gen.|
|Egerton, Sir P.||Mackie, J.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Macnaghten, Sir E.|
|Emlyn, Visct.||M'Cullagh, W. T.|
|Evelyn, W. J.||Magan, W. H.|
|Fagan, W.||Maher, N. V.|
|Farnham, E. B.||Meagher, T.|
|Farrer, J.||Mandeville, Visct.|
|Fellowes, E.||Manners, Lord G.|
|Floyer, J.,||Manners, Lord J.|
|Forbes, W.||March, Earl of|
|Forester, hon. G. C. W.||Maunsell, T. P.|
|Fox, S. W. L.||Meux, Sir H.|
|Frewen, C. H.||Miles, P. W. S.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Miles, W.|
|Gallwey, Sir W. P.||Monsell, W.|
|Galwey, Visct.||Moody, C. A.|
|Gaskell, J. M.||Moore, G. H.|
|Gilpin, Col.||Morgan, O.|
|Goddard, A. L.||Mullings, J. R.|
|Gooch, E. S.||Mundy, W.|
|Goold, W.||Muntz, G. F.|
|Gordon, Adm.||Naas, Lord|
|Gore, W. R. O.||Napier, J.|
|Grace, O. D. J.||Neeld, J.|
|Grattan, H.||Neeld, J.|
|Greenall, G.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Greene, J.||Newport, Visct.|
|Grogan, E.||Noel, hon. G. J.|
|Guernsey, Lord||Nugent, Sir P.|
|Gwyn, H.||O'Brien, J.|
|Hale, R. B.||O'Brien, Sir L.|
|Halford, Sir H.||O'Brien, Sir T.|
|Hall, Col.||O'Connell, J.|
|Halsey, T. P.||O'Flaherty, A.|
|Hamilton, G. A.||Ossulston, Lord|
|Packe C. W.||Stanley, E.|
|Palmer, R.||Stanley, hon. E. H.|
|Pennant, hon. Col.||Stuart, J.|
|Pigott, F.||Sturt, H. G.|
|Plumptre, J. P.||Sullivan, M.|
|Portal, M.||Taylor, T. E.|
|Power, Dr.||Thesiger, Sir F.|
|Prinsep, H. T.||Thompson, Ald.|
|Pugh, D.||Tollemache, J.|
|Reid, Col.||Trevor, hon. G. R.|
|Rendlesham, Lord||Tyler, Sir G.|
|Renton, J. C.||Tyrell, Sir J. T.|
|Repton, G. W. J.||Verner, Sir W.|
|Reynolds, J.||Vesey, hon. T.|
|Richards, R.||Vyse, R. H. R. H.|
|Rufford, F.||Waddington, D.|
|Rushout, Capt.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Sadleir, J.||Walpole, S. H.|
|Scott, hon. F.||Welby, G. E.|
|Scully, F.||Williams, T. P.|
|Seymer, H. K.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Sibthorp, Col.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Sidney, Ald.||Worcester, Marq. of|
|Smyth, J. G.||Wynn, H. W. W.|
|Somerset, Capt.||Yorke, hon. E. T.|
|Sotheron, T. H. S.|
|Stafford, A.||Beresford, W.|
|Stanford, J. F.||Mackenzie, W. F.|
§ Main Question put and agreed to.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, he had given notice of an Amendment upon the question now before the House, and he wished to know from the right hon. Gentleman opposite, whether it would not be more convenient to him to take the debate and division on his Amendment at a future stage of the proceedings rather than at present, probably on Friday next? Assuming that the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed on that day to go into Committee on the window tax, he thought it might be more agreeable to the right hon. Gentleman to take his (Mr. Disraeli's) Amendment on that day than go on with it now.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, the course proposed would be convenient. He understood the hon. Gentleman to agree that the Report on the Resolution then before the House should be received, provided his right hon. Friend assented to the debate and division on the hon. Gentleman's Motion being taken on Friday, which would be a convenient course.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, he did this on the distinct understanding that the Government would bring forward their Resolution on Friday.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the course he proposed was this—that the Resolution should be reported now, to enable the Government to bring in a Bill founded upon it; and in its future stages many discussions would, no doubt, arise. On Friday they proposed taking 1201 the Committee on the House and Window Duties. They would take that the first thing on Friday. [Mr. DISRAELI: Take what?] The Committee on the Window and House Tax. It would he more convenient to the House that the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire should move his Resolution as an Amendment on the Motion, that the Speaker leave the Chair, in order to go into that Committee. The Government were ready to afford a full and fair opportunity to discuss the measure which the hon. Gentleman proposed to bring in, to supersede the proposition of the Government.
§ MR. DISRAELI
repeated that he understood he was to proceed with his Amendment on Friday next; and now, with the permission of the House, he would state the precise terms of that proposition, which were as follows:—That, in any relief to be granted by the remission or adjustment of taxation, due regard should be paid to the distressed condition of the owners and occupiers of land in the United Kingdom.
§ MR. GOULBURN
Did the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer intend to move his proposition in a Committee of Ways and Means, or did he mean to propose a Committee of the whole House to consider a repeal of the window tax?
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that what was called a window tax was a house tax levied on inhabited houses, according to the number of windows or lights that they contained. The Resolution which he intended to propose to the House was, that the tax, instead of being levied according to the number of lights, should be levied according to the annual value of the House.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
said, that it was not his intention to abandon his Motion, of which he had given notice, of the exemption of tenant-farmers and officers of the Army and Navy from the income tax, hut to persist in it, although the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire had subsequently introduced a Motion of almost similar character.
§ MR. HERRIES
wished the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer to state whether he intended to bring forward the Bill for the continuance of the income and property tax before Easter. He would suggest to the hon. and gallant Member for Lincoln, that when the House was in Committee on that Bill, he would have the best 1202 opportunity of proposing any Amendment he might think necessary or desirable to make.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would likewise have the goodness to place on the Votes the terms of the Resolution he would propose on Friday. What he had stated was perfectly clear; but if the terms of the Resolution were placed on the Votes, it would be perfectly understood.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
thought, that at some future stage of the Bill the hon. and gallant Member for Lincoln would have a more convenient opportunity to raise the question which he proposed. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was afraid that it would be impossible to bring in the Bill for the continuance of the income and property tax before Easter. There were only a few days before Easter over which the Government had command for business of that kind. He proposed to take the house and window tax on Friday, on which the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Disraeli) would raise a Debate. He hoped that Debate would be concluded on Friday, but he could not promise any measure until he knew when that Debate would conclude. He thought it convenient for the House, and he was quite prepared to give notice of the precise nature of the Resolution he should propose.
§ MR. HUME
said, that the House having now resolved to renew the income tax for a time to be limited, he should, in Committee on the Bill, propose that the limitation should be for one year, with a view of having a Committee appointed to inquire whether it was not possible to remove some of the grounds of complaint now felt with regard to it.
§ MR. COBDEN
said, that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose had stated his intention to move the limitation of the income tax to one year, to afford an opportunity of revising it and levying it more equally. The hon. Member was not opposed to direct taxation; he wished the income tax to be so framed that it could be made a permanent tax. That, he believed, was the hon. Gentleman's view. [Mr. HUME assented.] Now he (Mr. Cobden) was well aware that a large portion of Members were opposed to the income tax, and would vote with the hon. Gentleman to limit it to one year, from very different motives. He took it for granted that his 1203 hon. Friend would like to test the opinion of the House on the propriety of levying the income tax in a more equitable manner, and with greater satisfaction to the country, and thereby to preserve that amount of direct taxation; and he would suggest that, before taking this vote of limiting the tax to one year, his hon. Friend should give the opportunity to the House to express its opinion on the levying or assessing it in a more equitable manner. Three years ago the hon. Member for Cockermouth brought forward that Motion, the terms of which were very good, but the speech accompanying it was not so good—it was encumbered with a plan of his own, to which every one could not give his adhesion. He (Mr. Cobden) suggested to his hon. Friend whether he would not be consulting his own views if he gave the opportunity of dividing on that proposition before bringing forward the other portion of his Motion, on which many Members would vote with him who could not agree with his views.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
would not object to an arrangement for the greater convenience of the House, but wished it to go forth to the public that he did not shrink from bringing forward the Motion of which he had given notice.
§ Resolution read a second time, and agreed to; other Resolutions agreed to.
§ Bill or Bills ordered to be brought in by Mr. Bernal, The Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Lord John Russell.