§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [22nd April], "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair.
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
Sir, although I anticipated you by a very few moments only on Monday last, when you were proceeding to put the question from the Chair, I still think there is no Member of this House who, on consideration, will regret that the debate has been adjourned; for, in truth, the House was placed in a peculiar, and, I may say, an extraordinary position. My hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. T. Baring) in a speech distinguished as his speeches generally are, not more by the soundness of its views and the clearness of its expression than by the absence of anything 1065 like asperity or party violence, brought this question under the notice of the House in a way calculated, as I think, to arrest the attention of every hon. Member. He warned us that from one end of Europe to the other we had an unsettled prospect in political affairs; he warned us that there was division and discord in America, famine in India, disturbance in Turkey and in the Levant; he warned us that we might be on the eve of great events; and he told us that in his opinion the Estimates of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer were framed without sufficiently considering the expenditure we may be called on to incur, and upon too sanguine a view of our probable income. He, then, entreated the Government to give such explanations as might satisfy the anxiety which was generally felt by hon. Members upon both sides of the House. He was followed by several speakers, and among them by my hon. Friend the Member for Lincolnshire (Mr. B. Stanhope), who brought the question in all its bearings before the House in a speech which I venture to think was listened to by Members upon both sides of the House with equal pleasure. He was succeeded by my hon. Friend the Member for Stamford (Sir Stafford Northcote), who, with his practical knowledge of these matters, put questions to the Government which not only required but demanded explanation and reply. We were told by my hon. Friend that the right hon. Gentleman had increased the unfunded debt of the country in the past year by a sum exceeding £1,000,000, and that he had diminished the balances in the Exchequer by a sum of more than £1,250,000. And yet, with all the questions which had been put, not one member of the Government ventured to get up and to defend that financial project for which they are collectively responsible, or to give to the House that explanation which we are entitled to demand at their hands. I hope that that will not be the case to-night, but that we shall hear from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade whether it be true, as my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon told us, that instead of a commercial prospect which would lead us to anticipate a large public revenue trade is stagnant, and our exports and imports during the first months of the year have been seriously diminished. I hope, too, to hear from the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, with re- 1066 ferencc to the £750,000 which the right hon. Gentleman says that he is to receive from China, whether we are yet in possession of the accurate state of the case, and whether, with his knowledge of the facts and of the correspondence that has passed between his department and those who represent him in China, he anticipated we are likely to get anything like that amount. I hope we shall receive to-night, at all events, explanations from Her Majesty's Government upon these points. Now, what are the facts of the case? What is the opinion of this Budget not only out of doors, but in this House even of hon. Members who sit behind the Treasury bench, and are the professed supporters of the Government. They tell us, and everybody says the same thing, that this is a Budget framed, not solely on financial considerations, but also on political considerations, and with a view to the state of parties in this House. They say that this is a Budget not framed merely with reference to the expenditure which may be necessary for the year, or the receipts which may come into the hands of the Government, but they say, and none say it more than many of those I see on the benches opposite, that this Budget is forced upon us because there are members of the Cabinet who desire the support of a noisy but not an uninfluential section of this House. They say, further, that with reference to the past year the statement of the right hon. Gentleman has not been full and accurate, and has been calculated to mislead the House. They say that with respect to the future receipts of the present year the right hon. Gentleman has estimated them in a most sanguine spirit, and that some of those sums which he says will be available for the service of the year will never come into his hands. They say, likewise, that this House ought not to sanction a policy which gives up a source of revenue—a tax that, whatever may be our necessities, you cannot reimpose, and that you can only replace by an addition to those burdens which have already become almost intolerable to the country. Now, is it true that this Budget is framed with a reference to political rather than to financial considerations? I do not presume to say more than this, that I believe upon neither side of the House is there one man who, if that question were put to him in private, would not reply that this Budget is framed to conciliate certain Gentlemen in this House. Whether that 1067 be a course creditable to the Government, or likely to strengthen the character of public men, I will leave it to the House to decide. I will on this point do no more than read the opinion expressed by the organ of the hon. Member for Birmingham himself, which said—A Budget is not merely a device to provide Ways and Means for the service of the year with the least possible dissatisfaction among the ruling components of the House of Commons; it is not a cunning combination of financial and political tricks contrived at once to supply the Treasury and appease party interest.Now, I do not believe that you could find any words that would better characterize the objects of the financial proposals before us than those. The next thing which has been said of this Budget is that the right hon. Gentleman has not dealt fairly and candidly with the House in reference to the expenditure of the past year, and I think that this is one of the points on which it is necessary that we should have some further explanation from the right hon. Gentleman. Inasmuch, however, as he is not likely to speak until late in the debate, the least we can expect is that some of the colleagues of the right hon. Gentleman who must be presumed to have made themselves acquainted with the foundation and details of his propositions will at an earlier period of the discussion give us information upon points which at present seem to be rather incomprehensible. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that in the year 1860–61 the expenditure was £72,554,000, and the income £70,283,000; therefore he represented the deficiency on that year to be £2,271,000.
§ MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
But the right hon. Gentleman took off an item of £288,000 from that amount, which reduced the actual expenditure to £72,554,000. My hon. Friend the Member for Stamford, however, who has a practical knowledge of these matters, to which few can pretend, asked the right hon. Gentleman a question as to the unexpended Vote of Credit of last year, and it now turns out that, in addition to that £72,554,000, there is a further sum of three-quarters of a million for bills incurred in 1860–61, but still unpaid, and which will have to be met from some source or other in the course of this year. It is clear that in the statement of the 1068 expenditure and income of last year the right hon. Gentleman did not drop a single word to induce the House of Commons to believe that this £750,000 yet remained unsatisfied. It must certainly belong to one year or the other, and if the House of Commons is to have a fair statement before it as to what were the finances of last year, surely the right hon. Gentleman in the course of his speech ought to have informed us that there was such an amount standing over. There is another point upon which the House is entitled to some explanation from the right hon. Gentleman or one of his colleagues. We want to know what is the exact condition of that sum of £627,000 which went to meet a portion of the deficiency which is styled the repayment of casual advances. My hon. Friend has expressed an opinion that that in effect is equivalent to an addition to the unfunded debt. We wish to know whether it is the fact that, in addition to weakening the balances in the Exchequer to the extent of over £1,250,000, the right hon. Gentleman has added to the permanent debt of the country a sum of more than a million sterling? Well then, Sir, I turn from the consideration of the Estimates of last year to those of the year 1861–62. The revenue, the right hon. Gentleman tells us, is £71,823,000 and the expenditure £69,900,000, leaving a balance of £1,973,000. Now the hon. Member for Huntingdon has given his reasons for believing that, as regards the expenditure, that is not a just estimate, that far larger sums will be required than the right hon. Gentleman has stated, and also as regards the Revenue, that his calculations are much too sanguine to satisfy those who look anxiously at the financial position of the country. The first thing as regards the expenditure to which I wish to call attention is the sum of £1,000,000, which is taken for the expenses of the China war, and although I do not myself profess to have any knowledge of military matters, yet I very much doubt whether that is a sufficient allowance. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that of that sum £450,000 is for extra Indian allowances for Her Majesty's forces serving in China. Is there any hon. Gentleman in this House who is not aware of the fact that heavy demands are made on the Exchequer long after active military operations have ceased? And we who recollect the old China war, the Persian, and the Kaffir war, know very well that long after the conclusion of those 1069 wars their expenses had to be met. And I will ask is there a man in this House who has conversed with those who are practically acquainted with the service, and who understands the condition and circumstances of China, who believes that this sum of a million will be sufficient, or even half sufficient, to defray the charge that will fall upon us on account of this expenditure in the course of next year? Turning next to the receipts of the Revenue the right hon. Gentleman, after making allowance for the decrease of the Miscellaneous Estimates, calculates that there will be a net increase of nearly £800,000. It may be that the right hon. Gentleman, having at his command all those sources of information which are denied to us, is right in his views; but when we see an estimate of this sanguine character put before us, it is at all events necessary to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman has not shown himself too sanguine in former years, and whether in point of fact his statement as to the anticipated receipts from various sources of revenue is likely to be the correct one. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that his calculations were deranged by the failure of the last harvest. Now, without disputing that statement, the House will grievously err if it supposes for one moment that the ill effects of the late bad harvest are yet all exhausted. It is perfectly clear that for many months yet to come you will derive no benefit whatever from the next harvest, even if a good one; and that if it is only an average harvest, you will suffer for a still longer period from the consequences of the deficient crop of the previous year. Therefore, when through a bad harvest or from commercial or political disturbances abroad there has been a great contraction of trade, it is a great mistake to imagine you will find yourselves in your former state of prosperity immediately the disturbing causes have ceased. But, looking at the right hon. Gentleman's anticipations of last year's Revenue, you will find that he expected from his penny charge on packages £300,000, while he had actually received only £130,000.
§ MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
The right hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity of answering me by-and-by. The right hon. Gentleman expected £300,000 from a penny duty on miscellaneous packages; 1070 what did he receive? £130,000; from stamps on brokers' notes he expected £100,000, and he got only £9,000; on dock warrants he expected £100,000, and obtained only £5,000; and the right hon. Gentleman was thus in error with respect to his calculations of last year. I do not want to put it further than this, that the explanation he has made with respect to the deficit is in error so far that it is not to the bad harvest alone that that deficit is to be traced. Well, then, how can we guard against the present Estimates being conceived in a similarly sanguinespir it? because while the right hon. Gentlemen has attributed last year's deficiency to the bad harvest, he has not said one word as to the permanent impression which a bad harvest necessarily makes on the commerce of the country. But, although the right hon. Gentleman may have some reason to justify his anticipations in that respect, there is one part of his Estimates which is not intelligible. I can very well understand when it is uncertain what may be the sources from which revenue is to be drawn a sanguine man may fancy he will get more than turns out to be the case from certain articles; but I am at a loss to understand how, with the right hon. Gentleman's knowledge of the stipulations of the Chinese Convention, he can put down as an asset available for the service of the year, the sum to be received from that country at the amount he has done. It is, in point of fact, utterly impossible, under the stipulations of that Convention, that the sum he calculates upon can ever reach the hands of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman says he is to receive £750,000 from China. The best way to deal with the point is to refer to the provisions of the Convention of Pekin. But before going into the figures I may mention that a tael is equivalent to 6s. 8d.; therefore, if hon. Members will divide the numbers of Chinese taels by three they will have a clear understanding of what the amount will be in pounds sterling. The first article of the Convention is—It is agreed, Arc, that His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of China shall pay the sum of 8,000,000 taels in the following proportions or instalments—namely, at Tientsin, on or before the 30th of March 500,000 taels; at Canton, on the 1st of December, 1860, 333,333 taels less the sum, &c.; and the remainder at the ports open to foreign trade in quarterly payments, which shall consist of one-fifth of the gross revenue from Customs there collected, &c.1071 Now, if we could get at the amount of money which the Customs revenues at those ports produce we should know exactly what would be the sum we are to expect. The House must be aware however, that, although paid by the Chinese, this is not a sum which will come into the hands of the Government, and be available for the purposes of the right hon. Gentleman, because we know that there are prior charges upon it. It will, therefore, be sufficient to state how much will be paid to the British Government, and how much of that will reach the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The amount to be paid is 8,000,000 taels, and as to its application the Convention states—In order to prevent future discussion it is, moreover, declared that of the 8,000,000 taels herein guaranteed, 2,000,000 will be appropriated to the indemnification of the British mercantile community at Canton, &c.,I asked the noble Lord the other day what was the sum to be paid to the British merchants, and I was surprised to find what difficulty I had in getting an accurate statement from him. The noble Lord told me that the sum was £450,000. Now I felt that must be wrong, as the amount claimed was £900,000, and in fact, the British merchants and Lord Elgin had come to the conclusion that it would be a fair compromise to put the amount at £650,000. The noble Lord was equally incorrect in his reply to another question as to the amount that had been actually received by the British Government from the Chinese Government. The noble Lord said £650,000 had been received, and rejected the suggestion that he meant taels instead of pounds; but on the next day he came down to the House and told us that the amount received was only £212,009. After allowing for the expenses of transport and the verification of accounts, you may fairly take it that the sum received by the British authorities in China is about £200,000. The problem, then, is to find out what is the gross Customs' revenue likely to be received at the Chinese ports in the year 1861. It is probable the right hon. Gentleman may attempt to press into his service an early payment to be made in 1862, but considering that the Customs' revenue will have to be verified by Commissioners of the two Governments and remitted from the various ports to Hong Kong, it docs not seem likely that a penny of the sum to be paid in January next year will be 1072 available for the purposes of the present year. I have before me a statement of the gross export and import duties at those ports in China open for our trade in 1859, and of course it is not possible to have any later returns. I have found by the consular returns, the correctness of which will hardly be disputed by the Government, that the gross revenue collected at Shanghai was £877,435; at Canton, £205,994; at Foo-chow-foo, £194,075; at Amoy, £14,350; and at Ningpo, £12,500; making a gross revenue of £1,300,000. Now one-fifth of that will only give us£250,000, and that added to the £200,000 already received, it will require even more than the ingenuity of the right hon. Gentleman to make those sums, subject as they are to the expense of verification and transport, and to the indemnities to the British merchants, amount to £750,000. Under the new treaty it is true that opium, which is now subject to a legal duty, will probably increase. Opium is liable to a duty of £10 a chest, and the importation into China is estimated at 50,000 chests annually; but I am informed that as all that quantity is not introduced in the way of legitimate trade, this duty will probably not actually produce more than £400,000. That, then, will make a total sum of £350,000 in the hands of the British Government, not in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman. Then there is £200,000 already paid, which with the quarterly payment of £250,000 and the proportion of the opium duty, will make a gross total of nearly £550,000. Now, I say that, if the Government are prepared to deal with the British merchants according to the rules of justice, honesty, and the precedents of former years, then it is certain that not one farthing of the money can reach the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is not really a question of receiving a portion, but a question of receiving a single farthing, because the noble Lord the other night rather obscurely hinted the course the Government were inclined to pursue, and he told us he had written to Mr. Bruce to say that the Government thought the money ought to be distributed rateably between the Government and the merchants—three-fourths to the Government and one-fourth to the merchants; but he added that he told Mr. Bruce that if he had already adopted a different course the Government would suspend their judgment until they had his explanation. There is this curious difference between the Chan- 1073 cellor of the Exchequer and his noble Colleague at the head of Foreign Affairs, that while the right hon. Gentleman tells us that he has £750,000 of this money, the noble Lord writes out to the Minister in China saying, that "it is possible you may differ from Government in the mode of disposing of the money." The right hon. Gentleman looks on the receipt of the £750,000 as a positive fact, while the noble Lord admits the probability that not a single shilling would be received. The noble Lord has good reason for doing so. Let the House consider the position of those who are claimants upon that fund. In consequence of military operations undertaken by this country in China the property of British merchants has been destroyed, and this country is responsible for the injury thus inflicted. In some instances the property was destroyed by our own soldiers, and is it just to tell the owners that they shall be be paid in quarterly instalments of 1s. 2d. spread over four years? I have no doubt that when news comes from China it will be found that Mr. Bruce has paid over every farthing due to the British merchants. Why, what did we do in 1843? There were 6,000,000 dollars payable to the British merchants in that year, and every single farthing of that sum was paid before the country received a single pound in payment of war expenses. What has been done in the case of this war by France? The French have received instalments as we have, and they have paid their merchants already in full. What is the case with the American merchants? The American representative has not received sufficient to pay the claim in full, but every American merchant has received 80 per cent of his claim. Is it not clear that the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, knew, and knew very well, that he had not the slightest doubt that when the next despatches should arrive from China it would be found—not, indeed, through direct instructions from the Foreign Office, but notwithstanding—that every farthing has been paid to the British merchants, end that instead of receiving £750,000 the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will not receive a single farthing? I have said that the French Government have paid their merchants in full. Now the noble Lord says he has written a letter to Mr. Bruce as to the payment to the British merchants. I should like to know the date of that letter. I 1074 should think it is not improbable that there is a strong connection between the attempt to filch three-fourths of the money from the British merchants with the Budget of the right hon. Gentleman. The American merchants have received the greater part of their compensation; but the reason is that there is no Chancellor of the Exchequer there looking for every shilling to make out an apparent surplus, and though the French merchants have had their claims satisfied, in the case of France there is no paper duty to be repealed. Well, Sir, I have gone through these statements, and I anxiously invite the President of the Board of Trade, who I see is taking notes of my figures, to give some explanation of this matter, and not to leave it, as it was left on Monday night, without any explanation or remark.
Another fault found with this Budget is that we are asked to repeal a duty which furnishes a permanent source of income which we cannot re-impose, and the deficit caused by which can only be replaced by direct taxation. I ask the House what would have been the position of the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he had succeeded last year in carrying out the repeal of the paper duty? He admits that we have a deficiency of more than £2,250,000—to say nothing of another claim for which he has provided of £750,000. Supposing, then, that another £1,300,000 had been added to that, how could he have met it? He cannot increase the tea and sugar duties, because the consumption of those articles is stationary, or rather falling off. He cannot increase the spirit duties, for he has increased them already. And if he had carried out his plan last year he could only have done one of two things—he must either have added to the permanent debt of the country, or have put another penny in the pound upon the income tax. If you do repeal these paper duties, in case of emergency your only resource will be to add to the already almost intolerable burdens of the people of this country. But we are told we must remove the paper duty, because a pledge has been given. Without being offensive to the right hon. Gentleman I may be permitted to say that for him, of all men in the world, in giving a reason for action, to venture to talk in this House of unredeemed pledges, requires a courage almost beyond belief. If there is any man in this House or in this country who is overburdened with pledges in mat- 1075 ters of taxation—pledges unfulfilled and promises unperformed—that man is the Chancellor of the Exchequer. When we are told that this House is pledged to the repeal of the paper duties I emphatically deny it. My hon. Friend the Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. B. Stanhope) in referring to the Resolution upon the paper duties passed by this House, showed clearly that, so far from being pledged to the repeal of the paper duties, it was a Resolution not to repeal the paper duties unless the circumstances of the country amply and fully justified it. The right hon. Gentleman dwells on the idea that the House passed the repeal of the paper duty last year. Is there a man in the House who can say that if the right hon. Gentleman at the commencement of last Session had put before the House the real state of the finances of the country—if he had told the House that, instead of £1,000,000 being wanted for the purposes of the China war, he would require a further sum of £2,000,000, that this year he should again require £1,000,000, and that this would be further swollen by heavy demands—is there one man on either side of the House—I will ask the hon. Member for Birmingham himself—who in the face of such a statement would have ventured to advocate the repeal of the paper duties? I deny, therefore, that this House, or that the Members of this House individually, are pledged to the repeal of the paper duties. But this I say—that with respect to other matters of taxation, you are one and all deeply and solemnly pledged. Take the case of the income tax. How many men are there in this House who, at the last election, when they were going round in a conciliatory manner asking for votes, were not stopped by some sturdy individual with the question, "Well, sir, but how about the income tax?" and how many men are there who did not hear the income tax adverted to at the hustings, and the opinion expressed that the best thing to do would be to repeal that tax as early as possible. With respect to the tea and sugar duties, are we not equally pledged there? When in a moment of emergency you asked an already over-burdened people to make sacrifices to meet the difficulties and dangers of your position, when you imposed the war duties, do you tell me there was no tacit pledge that, as soon as war was over, and the finances of the country would permit, the additional duty should be repealed? There- 1076 fore I say boldly that we are not pledged as regards the repeal of the paper duties, but we are pledged with respect to the income tax, and still more as regards the tea and sugar duties. With respect to us on this side of the House our position is clear; it has been defined clearly and explicitly by the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. T. Baring). We cannot trust your Estimates. We believe that you underrate you expenditure, and that you overrate your resources. We ask you for explanations, and tell you that this is not a state of finance satisfactory to the House or to the people. We call upon you to reconsider your Estimates. But if, after full consideration, you can give good reasons for proving the correctness of the Estimates you have made out—if, after what we have pointed out to you, you still say there is a surplus, you must be responsible. But, then, the answer is this—if there be a surplus, we say that it ought to be applied otherwise than to the removal of a tax that does not press heavily on the bulk of the people, which you are not pledged to repeal, which, if once abolished, you cannot reimpose, which you can only wholly replace by adding to a tax already too much for an over-burdened people—we tell you, therefore, that you ought to devote any surplus that you may have to the relief of the people by the discontinuance of such imposts as bear most heavily upon them, and which your countrymen have a right to expect to see speedily removed.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
Sir, the financial scheme which has been submitted to the House by her Majesty's Government has undergone much and varied criticism, and I remark that the investigations which hon. Members opposite appear to have undertaken have led them on certain points to very different conclusions. It is not for the Government to complain of the most searching inquiry into such a financial proposal as they think fit on their responsibility to recommend for the adoption of Parliament, and I, for one, should be the last to complain or to ask that the House of Commons should be deterred by any considerations from giving the utmost attention, and applying the most searching investigation to the financial position of the country or the plan of the Government. But there is this remarkable difference, which strikes me at once, that while the hon. Baronet the Member for Stamford (Sir Stafford Northcote) tells us he is satisfied 1077 with the estimates of revenue from Customs and Excise as submitted by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken disputes the estimate of the probable yield of the Customs and Excise, and tells us that the Government are misleading the House into a reckless remission of taxes, founded on an incorrect estimate of the probable yield from the Customs and Excise. I believe that the estimates of the probable yield from the Customs and Excise have been honestly made, after conference with those departments that can alone judge what is likely to be the probable yield from those great sources of revenue. And I will undertake to say that those estimates of the probable revenue from the Customs and Excise would in all likelihood have been the same if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire had been Chancellor of the Exchequer instead of my right hon. Friend. These are not matters respecting which officers of departments can enter into a plot with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in order to cook up an account as it were, to mislead the House of Commons. Nothing of the kind. These, I repeat, are honest Estimates, made by men of experience and judgment to the best of their ability, and I believe they represent, as accurately as can be ascertained, what will be the yield from those sources of revenue for the coming financial year. Sir, I am surprised, I must say, not at the criticism which has been passed on this Budget, but at some of the statements of the hon. Gentlemen opposite. The hon. and learned Member for Mallow (Mr. Longfield) views, I find, the Budget with abhorrence both as to its substance and its details. Really I did not think the subject was itself calculated to give rise to such emotions. I am astonished also at the indications from some hon. Gentlemen opposite of what they would have preferred to this Budget. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. FitzGerald) mentioned the speech of the hon. Member for North Lincolnshire. I had not the honour to hear that speech, but I have been told by an hon. Gentleman that it was a very good speech, and I have heard it very highly spoken of by a friend of the hon. Member for North Lincolnshire. But what did that hon. Member say? He said he would have preferred if the Government had proposed a greater income tax than has been proposed, accompanied with a 1078 reduction of the duties on tea and sugar. I do not believe that is the opinion generally of party with whom the hon. Member acts. I never heard that this year they would have been prepared to agree to an increase of the income tax for the purpose of remitting indirect taxation. They have not certainty thought it right to make a proposal of a larger income tax than 9d.—according to the opinion of the hon. Member for North Lincolnshire he would have submitted to an income tax of 10d. or 11d.—to reduce the duty on tea and sugar. [Mr. BANKS STANHOPE: No.] I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon, but I have the exact words he used.
MR. BANKS STANHOPE
Perhaps I may be allowed to explain what I did say. After stating that I did not wish to apply the unnecessary penny in the way proposed by the Government, I added that I should not object to spend that penny, or even an additional penny, in taking off indirect taxation.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
Then there was the hon. Member for Chippenham, who objected to the Budget of the Government, and wished for a practical Amendment. Anything, he said, for a practical Amendment, in order to condemn the scheme of the Government. Well, I am only sorry there is not a practical Amendment before us. We want to know what is the alternative proposition by which hon. Members would abide as a substitute for the plan of the Government. What we want to know is what is the alternative proposition which hon. Members opposite would make? The hon. Member who opened the discussion said nothing very definite. His was a speech full of negative propositions. He told the Government their responsibility was great—that their first duty was to provide adequately for the public service—and to maintain the public faith—and if remissions were to be proposed to give them in the way that would appear to be most beneficial to the country. Well, Sir, that was good advice. And it is my belief that the Government have acted in a manner consonant with that advice. We have, as we believe, provided adequately for the public service. We are as alive as the hon. Gentleman can be to the necessity of upholding public credit. We believe that by the remissions we propose we are doing what on the whole, at the present time, will prove most beneficial to the general interests of the country. The hon. Gentleman who last spoke begged of me 1079 to give an explanation of one item of the estimated income of the present year which he seemed to think was very doubtful—namely, the amount that will be received from China during the course of the present financial year. The hon. Member has given us his estimate of the probable yield of the Customs duty from the various ports open to our trade in China; but he will permit me to remind him that he gave us his estimate from what was received in 1859, which was a year of war; and he also failed to tell us that, under the treaty, new ports are to be opened. The hon. Member seems to doubt whether the departments in England and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with a full knowledge of the details, and a full sense of their responsibility, are able to give the probable yield of the Customs' of the United Kingdom; but yet he, an independent Member of Parliament, is prepared to give us, from some private sources of information, the exact amount of what is to be the year's yield of the Customs' duty in certain ports in China! With all respect for my hon. Friend—if he will allow me to call him so—I prefer to take the estimate of the Earl of Elgin and Baron Gros, who have told the Government that under the Treaty of Tien-tsin there will be certain sums received amounting to about a million during the present financial year. It is in fact five quarters, or nearly one and a half year's receipts, but the amount will be forthcoming, and we shall be able to carry it to the credit of this country during the present financial year. I am not aware that anything that Mr. Bruce may have done in consequence of any delay in his instructions, or may have done himself, not having received instructions, can make a difference of more than £90,000 or £100,000 in the estimate of my right hon. Friend. The million is to be disposed of rateably between the merchants and the Government. It has appeared to us that, considering this country has expended some millions for, as we are told, the protection of the merchants and trade in China, there should out of this indemnity be, at least, a rateable proportion of payment to the Government on the one hand, and to the merchants on the other; and, basing our opinion upon the information of those who are the only persons fit to guide us in this matter—namely, those who are responsible for the advice they gave, and who have negotiated this treaty—we have arrived at the conclusion, that on 1080 a moderate estimate of the amount, there can be carried to the account of the British Exchequer, during the present financial year, at least £750,000. I should infinitely have prepared to have kept within my more immediate province and have left this matter in the hands of my right hon. Friend, and allowed him to give an explanation respecting the indemnity from China; but as the hon. Gentleman opposite requested me to state something on the subject I have done so. I have to add nothing more to what I have already said, but I am satisfied conscientiously in my own mind that this is not an over-estimate of the amount that will be received from China by the British Exchequer during the financial year that has now commenced. I was asked to make some comment upon the remarks made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Stamford (Sir Stafford Northcote) respecting the gloomy prospects of the country in connection with our imports and exports. We were told by that hon. Member that it was not right to calculate upon a full Exchequer seeing the decline that had taken place in our exports and imports. The hon. Baronet the Member for Stamford stated very correctly the amount of our exports during the first two months of the present year. He said the exports during the first two months of the present year fell short of the exports of 1860 during the same period by £3,370,000, or 16 per cent. But we have now the Returns made up to the close of the month of March, making three months, and we find there is a remarkable recovery during the third month. The value exported during the first three months of this year is now known, and although there is still a decrease as compared with 1860, the comparison is not now so unfavourable. Instead of, as before, a falling off of £3,370,000, or 16 per cent. as in the two months of the year, the diminution for the three months amounts only to £2,612,000, or 9 per cent. The total exports are £27,669,000 in the first three months of 1861, against £30,481,000 during the same period in 1860. There is this satisfactory statement to be made, in addition, that the exports of the month of March of the present year, 1861, as compared with the exports of the month of March, 1860, show an increase in the declared value of those exports amounting to £557,000. No doubt there was not, at the commencement of this year, that 1081 activity in trade we could have wished to see. Various causes have contributed to that result—the severity of the winter prolonged far into this year, the state of affairs in America, the falling off of trade with British India, all contributed to it; but there is a marked recovery in the last month, and it is not fair to assume that the diminution of our exports which the hon. Baronet truly stated took place during the first two months of the year is to be at all a criterion of what the whole of the exports will be during the present year. The hon. Baronet the Member for Stamford (Sir Stafford Northcote) spoke of the falling off of imports as well as exports.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
During the first two months of 1860 there was a larger proportion of imports of those articles than at any former period. In the year 1860 there was 25 per cent of the whole imports in the two first months, whereas in previous years the average of those two months was not more than 19 per cent. So that in comparing the falling off of the imports of the first two months of the present year with the corresponding months in 1860 the hon. Baronet compared this year with a year in which there was a remarkable increase of the imports in the first two months. But when I look at the shipping Returns I do not see anything to give rise to alarm, or to justify the gloomy forebodings of hon. Members. The shipping Returns for the first three months of 1861 show an increase both of British and foreign tonnage as compared with 1860. The total tonnage entered and cleared outwards with cargoes in the first three months of 1861 is 4,299,027 tons as against 3,914,643 tons in the same time in 1860. The British tonnage was 2,533,511 tons for 1861, and 2,450,150 tons for 1860. So that there is an increase this year both of all shipping freighted with cargoes in and out, and of British shipping in particular. These are reasons for not taking a gloomy view of the probable receipts from our various sources of revenue for the coming year. I do not deny that a flourishing state of trade is the general forerunner of a full Exchequer. I quite admit that it is fair not to take too sanguine a view of the probable yield of our various taxes if we see reason for supposing that our great branches of industry may be affected injuriously. But all these considerations 1082 have had their weight with Her Majesty's Government, and with the departments concerned in drawing up the Estimates of the probable yield of the taxes for the present financial year.
Now, Sir, with regard to the various alternatives that have been hinted at there is one which I do not think any hon. Gentleman has proposed, and it is this, that Her Majesty's Government having a charge of £69,900,000 to provide for should ask the House to give them something like £72,000,000 to defray that charge. Why, Sir, what would the House of Commons have said to such a proposal? They would have said you are wanting to tax the country a great deal more than is necessary to meet the expenditure which you tell us would be required. But we honestly state the income of the country, and the monies we are about to receive, at less than we believe them likely to be. But if, to use a vulgar expression, we had "sweated down" the surplus, and so had come here with a lame story that there was no surplus, it would have saved us the trouble of repealing taxes, which, it appears to me, is a more laborious task than to lay them on. The Government would do nothing of the kind, but honestly believing that the present taxes, if all renewed, would give a surplus of revenue over expenditure, they have proposed a Budget on that foundation, embodying such a remission of taxation as they believe would, on the whole, be most beneficial to the country. Why, Sir, if we had come down to the House, and asked for a renewal of the tenpenny income tax, and to keep on the paper duty, and the tea and sugar duties, what would the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire have said? He would have said, "I cannot be a party to trusting a Government in which I have no great confidence with such a surplus." He would have said what he did say when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India (Sir Charles Wood) proposed a Budget which showed something like a million of surplus. What did the right hon. Gentleman say on that occasion? I will read his words. He said—The Government are in possession of a surplus revenue of a million. That is a surplus which no Government ought to ask the House to provide over and above what is necessary to meet the expenditure of the country.And what did that right hon. Gentleman 1083 further say? That we ought to consider whether it was more for the advantage of the country that the excise duty on paper should be repealed, or that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should be left in the possession of a surplus, for the discreet employment of which we had no security. When my right hon. Friend had a surplus of a million, what was the remission which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire said that he ought to make? The tea duty was then 2s. 1d. in the lb., the sugar duties were high; but the right hon. Gentleman thought that a portion of the surplus ought to be applied to the repeal of the tax which he described in terms most eloquent as a tax on knowledge and a tax on trade—and against which, in fact, he adopted all the arguments that have been made use of in support of the repeal. And observe that the Resolution of 1850, which the right hon. Gentleman and many of his friends supported, was not an abstract Resolution, but a Resolution asking the House then to repeal the paper duty, and make use of a surplus, which the Minister ought not to retain, for the purpose of abolishing an obnoxious tax. Well, then, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to assist us on this occasion, and to act in the same spirit in which he acted in 1850, for I can conceive no change of circumstances which would justify a change in his opinion. On the contrary, all the events which have since occurred have strengthened the case for the repeal of this tax, and have supplied no reasons for further delay. And were the Government to come down to the House and propose no remission? I think every hon. Member will candidly admit that we were bound to propose some remission of taxation—that we could not undertake to renew all the taxes. Well, supposing the Government offered a penny less in the income tax, that would have left that very surplus of a million which the right hon. Gentleman thought in 1850 was a sufficient justification for a repeal of the paper duty. Were we, then, to cast over the paper duty, to ignore all the past, to consider that the House of Commons was not in earnest when last year it agreed to the second reading of the Paper Duty Repeal Bill—not in earnest when it agreed to the third reading? Hon. Members tell us that though the House voted so, it did not care much whether the Bill was carried. But were the Government to take a vote of the 1084 House of Commons in that light? Were the Government to assume that the deliberate votes of the House of Commons were to be no guide to their councils? To whom, if not to the House of Commons, is the executive Government responsible, and above all in matters of finance? It would have been astonishing—it would have been impossible—if Her Majesty's Government intended to propose any remission of duty that they should have passed over this paper duty. I think if hon. Gentlemen place themselves in our position they must admit that this was the honourable, the consistent, the right course to pursue, and I believe it is the course that this House will approve and support. What are the arguments against the repeal of the paper duty? The hon. Baronet the Member for Stamford says, "Do not repeal this duty, because, if you do, you cannot put it on again." Why not put it on again? Because the hon. Baronet knows that the benefits of that remission would be so apparent in the country—that the extension of manufacture, the increase in the employment of labour, and the beneficial influence upon the general commerce of the country produced by that repeal will be such that no Minister would think it consistent even with the interests of the public Revenue to put it on again. The hon. Baronet says, "If you take off the paper duty, you take off a permanent source of revenue." But I must remind the hon. Baronet that the House of Commons declared by its vote that it was not to be a permanent source of revenue. That was the very point; and with the greatest respect for the hon. Baronet I cannot help thinking that if the Government had ignored the Resolution on the subject at which the representatives of the people arrived they would have been guilty of disrespect to this House, as well as forgetful of their constitutional functions. I must add that I feel astonished that hon. Members opposite should suppose that we, in recommending the repeal of this tax last Session, did so with so little consideration that we must now admit ourselves to have been entirely in the wrong, and ought to deem it our duty to propose the remission of some other item of the taxation of the country. The hon. Member for Somersetshire (Sir William Miles) I may remind the House last year raised the question whether we were to impose an additional penny in the shape of income tax, or, in preference to repeal 1085 the paper duty, and upon that question the House of Commons, by a majority of fifty-three, came to the deliberate conclusion that it was more expedient that the latter impost should be abolished. When, moreover, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer brought forward the Budget last Session, he stated that he intended to make a remission of indirect taxation to a certain amount, adding that he should recommend the abolition of the paper duties as being the tax, the repeal of which would be likely to prove most beneficial to the public; but that, if the House of Commons preferred the reduction of the tea duties, he should be prepared to give due weight to that opinion. The House of Commons, however, with all the circumstances of the case before them, and all the statements of my right hon. Friend fresh in their minds, did not prefer the reduction of the duty on tea; and the Government, therefore, having a surplus at their disposal, and being, as a consequence, bound by every Parliamentary usage to give a remission of taxation, could not, I contend, have acted otherwise than they have done in reference to this question.
It has been said, indeed, that we ought to have had regard to the payment of debt in laying our financial proposals before you; that there are Exchequer bonds to be provided for, some of which will fall due in May, 1862. There are, however, no Exchequer bonds falling due this year, and I am not aware that it is the practice of Parliament to make, by taxing the country more than is necessary for the requirements of the current year, provision for charges which belong to a period which extends beyond it. I may further observe that the redemption of debt must be regarded as having some reference to the amount of annual taxation which you wish the country to provide. You cannot, when that annual taxation is very considerable in amount, and when you absorb a large portion of the industry of the nation, come to Parliament with any degree of propriety and ask its sanction to an increase of taxation, in order that a certain amount of debt may be reduced. Such a course might, perhaps, be very fairly pursued when your expenditure as well as your taxation does not go beyond moderate bounds; but no Minister would like to add to £70,000,000 of taxes, levied for the purposes of current expenditure, fresh imposts, in order to redeem either a 1086 portion of the National Debt or Exchequer bonds. Did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks, I would ask, take that course? If I recollect rightly, in 1858, when he brought forward his last Budget, he had an expenditure of some £64,000,000 to provide for—the whole taxation being some £63,000,000 or £64,000,000. "Well, but he borrowed some £2,000,000 to pay off his Exchequer bonds—he did not like to ask Parliament to make a provision for their payment by adding to the current expenditure of the year even with that comparatively moderate income which he had to raise. The right hon. Gentleman borrowed money and carried on those Exchequer bonds; and not only did he do that, but at that time, I think, there was the War Sinking Fund, which made altogether an amount of something between three and four millions of money. Well, Sir, that being so, I say it is hardly fair or consistent for hon. Gentlemen to throw out vague allusions as to the necessity of taxing the country to redeem debt, seeing that they, when in office, with a far more moderate expenditure to meet, and therefore a far smaller amount of annual taxation to ask for, thought proper to postpone the payments of these Exchequer bonds. Sir, I must also remark that I always used to think that the repeal of an Excise duty on an article of home manufacture was considered as really a Conservative fiscal reform. I am astonished to find this simple and innocent question of the repeal of the Excise duty upon paper argued and resisted by those who sit on the benches opposite with all that kind of heat and spirit that belongs to a party debate. All the traditions of the Conservative party, so far as I can see, are opposed to the existence of Excise duties. Their cry has always been, "Take off the Excise duties on your home manufactures. Let your native industry develope itself. If you must impose duties levy them on foreign commodities." Now, however, the tables seem to be quite turned, and, notwithstanding that the Earl of Derby and the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire—your leaders—have repeatedly admitted the great evils connected with Excise duties, and the injurious effect which, in the ease of the paper duty especially, they have upon the progress of manufacture, you still seek to retain it, regardless of the deliberately expressed opinion of this House. Now, this, let me tell you, is not merely a commercial ques- 1087 tion, It bears upon agriculture as well as upon manufacturing industry. The products of agriculture enter largely into the manufacture of paper. Extend that manufacture, and you will be giving increased value to a good deal of the refuse agricultural produce for which the British farmer now gets nothing, and which he frequently is obliged to destroy. This question of the repeal of the paper duty is a rural question. It has reference to the employment of labourers and the number of mills which may exist throughout the country. Are there, I would ask, no mills in Buckinghamshire, in Hertfordshire, and in other counties which have been closed owing to the operation of your Excise system? And have not the landlords, as a consequence, been in many instances deprived of that rent which they would otherwise have received? For my own part, I believe I am not overstating the case when I say I look upon the repeal of the paper duty as a question which affects the landed as much as the manufacturing interest. The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. H. Baillie) it is true, told us the remission of the tax could benefit nobody but the proprietors of a few penny newspapers and the publishers of cheap literature. Now, there is no place in which, as a general rule, so much broad and enlightened truth is uttered with respect to the necessity of promoting the diffusion of knowledge as in this House, but in the present instance, when a proposal which is calculated to effect that object is made, penny newspapers and cheap literature are spoken of as if they were things too insignificant to be seriously regarded. I am, however, in a special degree surprised that the hon. Member for Inverness should, in speaking on this subject, express himself in the terms to which I have just adverted. He seems to be of opinion that it is not worth while to remit a tax which stands in the way of the diffusion of cheap literature; but these were not always his sentiments, as is proved by the fact that I had the honour of receiving his support when I moved the following Resolution:—-That, whereas all taxes which directly impede the diffusion of knowledge are highly injurious to the public interests, and are a most impolitic source of revenue, this House is of opinion that such financial arrangements ought to be made as would enable Parliament to repeal the Excise duty on paper.Now, I am sorry to have to quote a Reso- 1088 lution which I myself had the honour of proposing; but hon. Gentlemen opposite so completely astonish me by the change of opinion which many of them seem to have undergone on this subject that I could not refrain from showing the House the nature of the sentiments which they not long ago professed to entertain. In moving my Resolution I took my stand almost exclusively upon the ground that the repeal of the paper duty would confer a benefit upon the literature, and, above all, upon the cheap literature, of the country, and I had the honour of being supported by the vote of the hon. Member for Inverness. Yet, that hon. Gentleman now rises in his place and says he will not vote for the repeal of the paper duty because the only persons such a measure could benefit would be the proprietors of penny newspapers and the publishers of cheap literature.
§ MR. H. BAILLIE
said, he had stated that if there were a bond fide surplus he would have no objection to see the paper duty repealed, but that the question stood upon a different footing when there was no surplus whatever.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
The hon. Gentleman's words were: there were only two modes by which the public would benefit by the repeal of the paper duty, and one of these modes was by cheap newspapers, and he objected to throwing away a tax to benefit so limited a class. However, as the hon. Gentleman's views in the matter hinge upon the circumstance of there being a surplus or not, I am led to hope that, if a division should be taken on the relative claims of paper and tea to a remission of duty, I may calculate upon his vote in favour of the former. Now, Sir, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) likewise complained. He stated that we omitted altogether from our calculations the interest of the particular class with which he is more immediately connected. I will not trouble the House with quotations, but I can assure the hon. Member that upon this subject the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, in a debate within my recollection, gave some very good advice. He said there was nothing so dangerous as to make every question of the remission of taxation a question between town and country, and he added that it was giving an unfair complexion to the general objects of the Conservative party to suppose that they were actuated by no other de- 1089 sire than to repeal those taxes that pressed upon the interests with which they were connected. I think the right hon. Gentleman gave good advice, for I am willing to believe that in this House, in the main, we really do desire to favour those measures of finance that on the whole will be beneficial to the general interests of the country. At all events, though the hon. Member for Norfolk has thought fit to charge this side of the House, I shall not be a party to charge the other side, with being entirely actuated by such narrow and selfish views, and the more especially seeing how repeatedly I have received very great support from that side of the House in my efforts to effect the repeal of this tax upon paper. Sir, I believe that, with regard to the Chinese indemnity, nothing can be said that ought to shake the opinion of this House in the proposal which the Government upon their responsibility have made. It would be an expression of total want of confidence in your diplomatists who have given the advice. With regard to the charge for China, my belief is that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made ample provision for all that he can be called upon to pay in all human probability during the present financial year. That is all he is called upon to do, unless you propose to make prospective Budgets, which is a very bad principle. It is difficult enough to estimate what is going to happen during the year in which you are legislating. If, however, you are to make prospective Budgets, you increase that difficulty. Such has never been the practice of Parliament, and it is contrary to all our usages to do more than to provide for the charges of the present financial year. Each year stands separate from the others, and if you take another year you must bring into account not only those remissions, but the probable diminution of calls on the Exchequer, whether from a reduction in expenditure or from any other cause. I decline to enter into the consideration of prospective Budgets; but I do say that it is wrong to argue that the repeal of an Excise duty entails a permanent loss to the full amount which the duty yields to the Exchequer. All experience shows that the contrary is the fact. In no one case in which you have repealed an Excise duty upon a manufacture have you in the following year lost the full amount that that tax yielded. And it is obvious it cannot be so, because 1090 if you allow a manufacture to extend itself to its natural dimensions, why it must bring into employment a great deal of labour, it must circulate capital in trade, it must increase your commerce in various ways, and in this way it must recoup a part of the revenue that might otherwise appear to be lost by the repeal of the tax. Under all these considerations, and having no practical Amendment before the House, I do ask hon. Members to allow us to go into Committee and to proceed with these Resolutions. They have been well considered. The scheme is one to be taken as a whole, embracing no doubt imposition and remission; but I believe, viewing it as a whole, that it is a proper and an adequate mode of providing for the financial necessities of the year, and for giving remission in that direction which will be most beneficial to the interests of the country.
§ MR. BALL
said, that when the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced his Budget he felt, in common with the whole country, great surprise that, instead of having to appear with lamentations over a deficiency, the right hon. Gentleman could present himself before them with a congratulatory speech on the flourishing state of the Revenue, and with propositions to dispose of a surplus. He participated in the fears of his hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. S. FitzGerald) that the anticipations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer were far too sanguine. He remembered no period in the history of the country when a bad harvest had not caused great depression in the trade of the country, and materially affected Excise duties and revenue derived from the Customs. A deficient harvest cast a gloom on the prospects of the future, and he did not know why this year should be an exception to the rule. He did not say we should have another bad harvest—he hoped that Providence would improve the fertility of the land; but, taking the present aspect of the season, it would be a bold assertion to say that we should have an abundant harvest in August. The speculations of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Milner Gibson) with respect to the Revenue were not founded, he thought, on a sound basis. The right hon. Gentleman said that a deficiency in the revenue from Customs and Excise in the first two months of the present year was no proof that in the months to come there would be any deficiency, 1091 but the right hon. Gentleman contradicted his own argument by saying that, as the third month this year was more productive than the third month last year, it was a fair inference that there would be no deficiency. The right hon. Gentleman next pointed to the shipping interest, and said that, at least, was not in a state of ruin, it was most prosperous. But the fact did not necessarily lead to the conclusion drawn by the right hon. Gentleman. The full employment of our shipping was not necessarily an evidence of national prosperity. On the contrary, he (Mr. Ball) drew a totally opposite inference from the fact of this activity. Our shipping had been found hardly sufficient for bringing to us corn from foreign countries. He did not think it a proof of national prosperity that our shipping had to travel all over the globe to procure us food. He rather regarded it as a sign of sadness, depression, and of want in this country. The right hon. Gentleman further said that the traditions of conservatism were opposed to Excise duties. The right hon. Gentleman was probably recalling the earlier years of his political life, when conservatism had no stronger advocate, no more ardent admirer, and no one more eager to advance its great principles. The right hon. Gentleman asked why should not the duty on paper be taken off? That, no doubt, was the great defect of the Budget. He (Mr. Ball) disputed the affluent prospects and the brilliant anticipations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but even if they were admitted, he contended that in giving a remission of taxation it ought not to be a remission of the tax on paper. The Excise duty on paper was 1½d. per lb. The Customs' duty was 2½d. per lb., thus giving the home manufacturer an advantage. But France could get rags 50 or 60 per cent cheaper than the British manufacturer, and, therefore, the extra 1d. per lb. on foreign paper only placed the British paper-maker on an equality, and enabled the foreign paper-maker to compete with him—often successfully—in the market of this country. The foreigner took care to put a duty of 30 per cent on rags, and, by preventing the importation, to retain the advantage of a cheaper supply of the raw material. When, therefore, the Chancellor of the Exchequer reduced the import duty on paper he ought to have considered the interests of his countrymen, and to have insisted in return on the remission of the French duty on rags. It had been said that the paper- 1092 makers were generally favourable to the repeal of the duty; but when the question was before them last year he learnt, from inquiries which he made, that the trade was decidedly opposed to it. The manufacturers had told him that the repeal of the duty would be materially hurtful to them; nay, that if it were remitted the Irish paper manufacture would be swept away. He could not find the general approval of the Budget which had been referred to. The friends of the right hon. Gentleman rather apologized for the repeal of the paper duty as a measure which he could not avoid than defended it as just and prudent. They said, pressure was laid upon the right hon. Gentleman, which he could not resist; his tenure of office and the stability of the Government depended on his yielding to the wishes of a certain party in the House. But that was not the reason advanced by the right hon. Gentleman for its repeal. If the right hon. Gentleman thought himself justified in remitting any portion of the Revenue there were other items which had stronger claims for remission than the paper duty. No one could doubt that the poorer classes of the community would derive far greater benefit from the reduction of the duty on tea and sugar than on that of paper. Again, the additional penny of income tax which the right hon. Gentleman retained in order to remit the paper duty took more money out of the pocket of a man among the lower and the middle class than he spent in paper in the course of the year. There was no article of general use in this country which was so burdened as malt, and none which was better entitled to relief from duty. Its consumption had been checked by the excessive taxation imposed upon it, and it had remained without increase for many years, notwithstanding the growth of the population. A reduction of the duty on malt, he was satisfied, would produce such an increase of consumption that the Revenue would not suffer in the least. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had resisted all arguments for the repeal of the malt duty, notwithstanding the social considerations bound up in the question and the broad fact which stared him in the face, that if the duty were abolished the poor would then get a pure and wholesome beverage in place of the deleterious drink they now consumed. Take, again, the article of barley. Barley was one of the main sources whence the farmer was enabled to pay his taxes, his 1093 tithe, wages, &c. He was obliged to grow barley, but he was denied the privilege of using it in his own consumption in the manner most profitable. The farmer was obliged to rear a large quantity of cattle, which were at once a source of revenue to him, and tended to restore the fertility of the land. The policy of the Government, it might be supposed, would be to assist the farmer. "No," said the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The farmer asked for the drawback upon the barley consumed by his own animals. "No," said the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Cattle were better fed on malt when ground than on barley, and the farmer wished to be enabled to feed his cattle on malt, by doing which he would confer a benefit on himself and also on the public by being enabled to supply the public with meat at a cheaper rate. Again the Chancellor refused. What would Lancashire and Yorkshire say if they were treated in such a manner? The quiet and pacific character of the agricultural population, and their hatred of all tumult, made them subject to a wrong which more noisy claimants would speedily get rid of. To show how injuriously this restriction operated upon the farmer, he might state that Mr. Hudson, one of our first scientific and experimental agriculturists, had tested the quality of meat fed on malt ground and barley ground, and the result was that, compared with the ordinary method of feeding, every animal produced from the malt ground fetched more than £2 per head additional profit. The stock thus raised was of such excellent quality that it went to the Royal table. For these reasons the House ought to pause before passing the right hon. Gentleman's Budget. It had been stated that our importations of foreign corn within a short period amounted to the large sum of £36,000,000. He did not wish to go into the question of free trade, but it was to be regretted that the country had not been sensible enough to impose a small duty on the importation of corn. We might thus have obtained a considerable addition to the Revenue without any loss accruing to the public inasmuch as this duty would have been born by the foreigner, and then no opposition could have been offered to the abolition of the paper and other objectionable taxes. The hon. Member for the West Riding had argued that no benefit would accrue to agriculturists by a remission of the malt tax, "because it is the public, 1094 and not the farmer, that pays it." Such had been the hon. Member's argument. But did it not injure a manufacturer to tax his production? The same argument would apply to a tax upon cloth, carpets, cotton, or any other manufactured article. Place a tax upon any of these and an immense revenue would result. Why should it not be done, if the argument of the hon. Member—that the public and not the producer paid the tax, and, therefore, it was not objectionable—was correct? A great deal had been said about the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, for whom no one had a greater respect than he (Mr. Ball), notwithstanding the cold shoulder the right hon. Gentleman invariably presented to agriculturists and their interests. But in that remarkable scene, called the courtship scene, there had been a something wanting which would have made it perfect. The manner in which the right hon. Gentleman had represented that scene, the vivid description he had given, showed that he was not a simple amateur, but a perfect master of courtship. But one other attribute of courtship than those the right hon. Gentleman had given was wanting to make the description perfect—the right hon. Gentleman should have exhibited a little more capriciousness; but he had tried one party only. Why had he not come to the only solid class—the agriculturists? He would have found them perhaps not quite so rampant, perhaps not so boisterous; but he would have found them far more sedate, much more faithful, and that they never made their fidelity to him the consequence of granting one point, and only one point, in all his amours. But they unfortunately had been the class most despised, least esteemed, and ever disregarded by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. MARSH
said, he believed that the question before the House was whether they should abolish the paper duty or make a reduction of 3d. in the pound in the duty on tea, and he should confine himself to examining which would be the most beneficial financial arrangement for the British consumer. For his part he did not think there was any great virtue in tea; for he knew that many of our countrywomen, from the washerwoman up to the fine lady, took far more tea than was good for their constitutions. It was certainly not nutritious, and it had the reputation of making people nervous and even scurrilous. Nor did he think that 1095 much pecuniary benefit would be derived by the poor man from the reduction of the duty on tea. Now, he had calculated the effect of a reduction of 3d. a pound on the tea duty. In the colony where he had resided, a great deal of tea was drank. The allowance for each man was four ounces a week, and in the case of a married man he and his wife generally made that enough for the two. With that was allowed two pounds of sugar. The same allowances in this country would cost about 2s. per week, and, consequently, could only be afforded by a well-to-do mechanic. All that it was proposed, then, to save to the poor man in the cost of his tea would be ¾d. out of 2s. And what was ¾d. per week even to a poor man. It would scarcely pay for half a pint of that small beer which was commonly called swipes, and of which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had facilitated the sale this evening. But as a common labourer could not be supposed to spend twice his rent in tea and sugar, it must be assumed that it was only persons very much above that position who would be benefited even to that extent. He must be a very well-to-do mechanic who could spend 2s. a week in tea and sugar, and so be in a position to gain even ¾d. a week by a reduction of 3d., or 1¼d. by a reduction of 5d. Now, let them consider what he would gain by the remission of the paper duty. They had heard lately how strongly a large class of working men had pleaded for one hour of the day reduction of their work on the ground that they wanted to improve their minds, and they had also heard, on very good authority that the working people in the north were much addicted to literature. Now, as to the cheapest kind of literature, as issued by the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, it was stated that one-third of the price of books went to pay the tax, and only two thirds for the cost of the books. That might be an exaggeration. But at all events they had been assured on excellent authority that it could not be less than 20 per cent. or one-fifth. Now, supposing that a working man spent 15d. a month in literature, which was only about one-half the cost of a penny paper (and he had seen reading rooms very well stored, to which working men were admitted for one penny a day), his gain in money by the remission of the paper tax would be more than in the case of a reduction in the duty on tea. The poor bought all commodities in very small quantities, which were usually wrapped 1096 up in paper. A grocer, who kept a small shop in which he could hardly turn round, had told him that the paper duty cost him £50 a year. They surely knew enough of political economy to be well satisfied that the consumer must get the benefit in the end, though, perhaps, he might not at the first start. Again, the hon. Member for Huntingdon had said that a reduction of the tea duty would increase the trade with China. But the fact was our imports from China far exceeded our exports to that country, and anything that tended to increase the import of tea would only aggravate the discrepancy. It was said that the object in every remission of taxation was to do the most good to the taxpayer. But the remission which would do most good to the taxpayer was that which would be least felt by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and by which at the same time the consumer would gain most. For every shilling paid into the Treasury by means of an Excise duty the taxpayer was put to a cost of from 1s. 5d to 1s. 6d., to say nothing of what was lost by a sort of dead robbery by altogether preventing people using some articles. Paper was used in Japan for a variety of purposes to which it could not be applied in this country, owing to the paper duty; and, if paper were free from duty, it would be applied to purposes not even thought of now. In all the cases where Excise duties had been taken off it had been found that the benefit was much more than commensurate with the amount of relief. The first he should mention was not apparently the most favourable to his argument, though he thought he could show that it really was favourable When the duty was taken off leather it was said that boots were no cheaper, and indeed, considering that the duty was only 3d. per pound, it was hardly to be expected that this would at once make much difference in the price of a pair of pumps weighing a few ounces, or of a pair of Hoby's boots, the price of which was two guineas. But since the removal of the duty, the trade had increased beyond conception. A ploughman who then had to pay 18s. for a pair of shoes could now get a better pair of boots for 10s., and if any hon. Member could recollect what he paid for boots thirty-five years ago, and could only look on a pair of those boots if they were in existence, he would be astonished at the difference between them and what he now got 1097 at a much cheaper rate. The next article was printed calico, which once was so dear and costly. Pope spoke ofCharming Chintz and Brussels laceas being the costly decorations of his Belindas and Atossas; but now the chintz at least could be worn by women in every class of society not only in this country but of savage nations. As to glass, everybody was convinced of the great advantage derived by the public from the remission of the duty on that article. Every one remembered the looking-glasses that set our faces awry and made the trees before our windows dance up and down. There were in those days no orchid houses, such as are now common all over the country, and no large plate-glass fronts in the shops, of which the Americans said it took two men to look into them at once. A new art of painting on glass had sprung up, which before the remission was only practised in Bohemia. He could not say that we were much better off for soap than before the duty was taken off that commodity, but that was on account of the dearness of tallow, the principal ingredient, which had risen from 35s. to 55s. the cwt. No doubt if the duty had not been remitted, the price of soap, ruled by that of tallow, must have risen. As to bricks it would be difficult to tell what had been the effect in price of the abolition of the duty, but at all events they could now make a brick of the size and shape they liked, and were not limited to what was called "a Parliament brick." It was always a much greater advantage to take off a tax entirely than merely to reduce it—as the entire remission got rid of the whole expense of collection, whereas the reduction did not even diminish the expense of collection. When the stamp duty on newspapers was 4d. the price of the papers was 7d.; and some of the journals used to state it thus:—"Price of the paper, 3d.; taxes on know ledge, 4d."When the stamp duty was reduced to 1d. the papers still kept their price up to 5d., and one would have inferred, according to Cocker, that when the 1d. was taken off the price of a paper would be 4d. Put what was the real consequence? Why, the moment the duty was wholly removed a cloud of penny papers started into existence all over the country. An hon. Member had talked of the politics of the early days of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was prepared to vindicate the political career of the Chancellor of the Exchequer from the 1098 first Thirty years ago, in the debates in a society at Oxford he had admired the eloquence and wisdom of that right hon. Gentleman; and though, perhaps, for a time, the pupil might have been more advanced than his master in the course of Liberalism, he could testify to the straightforward constancy of the right hon. Gentleman throughout his career, and that his eloquent voice had been always raised in the cause of civil and religious liberty.
§ MR. FARRER
said, he was desirous of making a few observations upon a portion of the Budget which he could not but consider both inexpedient and unwise. At the same time he wished it to be distinctly understood that he had no desire to throw impediments in the way of the noble Lord opposite in carrying on the Government, because he felt bound to admit that, while they had not had the opportunity of introducing many sound or useful measures of their own, they might at least claim credit for having indirectly assisted his side of the House in rejecting some that were objectionable. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, in a jocose and agreeable manner, had said that he really believed that there was greater embarrassment in repealing taxes than in putting them on, and had also expressed his regret and astonishment that there was no practical Amendment before the House. He might venture to suggest a very simple Amendment—that the right hon. Gentleman should be content to retain for the present the duties on paper, the remission of which would only benefit a small class of the community, and attend to the wants and wishes of a much more numerous class which would be largely benefited by the reduction of the war duties on tea. The right hon. Gentleman made an allusion to the fact that the repeal of the paper duty had been supported on the Conservative side of the House in 1853. Upon that he would only say that on that occasion he himself had voted against the repeal of the paper duty, although, in doing so he did not vote with his own party. He had not done that from a wish to keep on an objectionable Excise duty, but because he felt that the time had not arrived when the tax could be removed with safety to the country. He really thought that they were placed in a most awkward and difficult position. The right hon. Gentleman led them to believe that he was giving them something, but was that really the 1099 case? It was said by some that there was really no surplus at all, and if that were so, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was clearly treating them to no relief, and even if there was any surplus it was occasioned by the right hon. Gentleman reimposing the war taxes upon income and upon tea and sugar. He first of all, by an arbitrary proceeding, took from them 9d. in the pound upon income, and then asked them to be pacified with a penny. The right hon. Gentleman was very much in the position of the high-bred, generous highwayman of old time, who having robbed his victim of all his property, said, "In consideration of the inclemency of the weather, I will give you back your great-coat." When he (Mr. Farrer) went among his constituents he was afraid of being asked, "Why have you indirectly supported, by not expressing your opinion against it, a Budget which appears to us to be so very injurious and inconsistent?" And how was he to give a satisfactory reply? Was he to say that the right hon. Gentleman, annoyed at the manner in which a large sum was forced on his acceptance last year by the other House of Parliament, was determined to insist at all hazards on the fulfilment of his desires and wishes? Or was he to say that there was another reason; that, appreciating the talents and honest good sense of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) the repeal of the paper duty was a step towards rewarding his merits by promoting him to a sort of dictatorship in that House? He did not see how either of those replies was likely to be satisfactory, though he did think it would be satisfactory if he said that he would do his utmost to reduce taxation, and that he admitted that it would be proper to remove the paper duty if circumstances should permit them to do so. He honestly, sincerely, and heartily, believed that there was no comparison in the advantage of taking off the duty upon paper and those upon tea and sugar. He did not attach much weight to the objection urged, that the consumption of tea made people nervous; and he would much rather run the risk of permitting the poorer classes to lose their nerves over their tea than enable himself and those who could afford it to indulge their tastes and propensities in foreign wines. He wished it to be understood, therefore, that should a Motion be made to retain the paper duty until a more fitting time, and that the tea and sugar duties instead 1100 should be repealed, he should feel it to be his duty to support that Motion. At the same time he did not see the least reason why the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer should not bow to the real feeling of the country and of the House, and take back his Budget and endeavour to amend it by consulting the general interests of the nation, for by those means the Government would maintain the character for honesty and integrity of purpose to which, as individuals, he believed they were well entitled.
§ MR. BEACH
said, the House having been prepared to hear of a declared deficiency had been delighted with the announcement of a surplus, but he believed that the more the matter was examined, the more clear it would become that there was not a real, substantial, and legitimate surplus. The deficiency of the past year was £2,500,000, this had been partly made up by taking £1,450,000 from the balances in the Exchequer, and by adding £432,000 to the unfunded debt of the country—a plan which the late Sir Robert Peel designated as a miserable device—that of endeavouring to meet by temporary resources the emergencies of the country. Had it not been for the course taken by the House of Lords, which was so much reprobated by the right hon. Gentleman, there would have been a deficiency, of nearly £4,000,000. A very great reduction was made in the Customs' duties last year, and the House had been told that, as far as the importation of foreign wine was concerned, the experiment had been to some extent successful, and that there was a probability of the taste for French wine being revived again in this country; but were there not strong grounds for believing that in former days, when French wine was consumed in England, the climate of this country was far different from its present condition? It would be generally admitted that the proper subjects of taxation were, not the necessaries of life, but those articles of which every man could regulate his consumption according to the pecuniary means he possessed. It was said that the arrangements of the English tariff were made in a liberal spirit, in the hope that they would be met in a corresponding spirit by other countries. Where shall we meet with this reciprocity? Shall we find it in the liberal and enlightened policy which dictated the Morill Tariff or in the French Treaty? Was the liberality of foreign countries to be found 1101 in the duty recently imposed by the Southern States of America on the raw material of one of our most important manufactures? The truth was that they would not find other countries carrying out the generous and liberal policy which they had inaugurated, and he thought that in the present aspect of affairs in Europe it was scarcely prudent to remove a permanent tax, and especially one that pressed so lightly upon the general community as the paper duty. They knew full well that to do so a penny of income tax must be placed in perpetuity upon the country. If the finances would bear any repeal of taxation, he thought that the hop duty should be repealed, and for this reason: hops were an article of no exchangeable value; if the supply were in excess of the consumption there was no market for the remainder of the crop; or that there should be a remission of some of the heavy imposts upon malt, which would be recognized as a boon not only by those interested in the growth of barley, but by the labouring people of this country, and he believed that an increased consumption would, to some extent, repay to the Exchequer the indulgence granted. The articles, however, to which he had referred were grown in this country, and, therefore, they were not likely to be so favourably considered as if they were produced upon the banks of the Seine or the Garonne. His opinion was that, whilst affairs were in a such a threatening condition throughout the world it was necessary to pause before they swept away an amount of taxation which could not be restored. That was the real question at issue, and in his opinion it would be better to repeal some duty which could be easily reimposed if the emergencies of the country should require it. It was not right to trust to fortune to supply the Exchequer, but rather to rely on prudence and foresight.Nullum numen a best, si sit, Prudentia; nos te Nos facimus, Fortuna, deam cœloque locamus.In short he thought that the course proposed to be pursued with regard to the finance of the coming year was neither wise, just, nor prudent.
§ MR. DUTTON
said, he thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer's financial statement was more favourable than they had a right to expect, taking into account the fact that the year just concluded was one of unexampled depression, that the shipping interest had lately suffered more than at any period during the last half 1102 century. Under all the circumstances the right hon. Gentleman had hardly any other course open to him than to propose the repeal of the paper duty. If, however, the remission of any other tax had been preferable, it would have been the remission of part of the duty on malt. Such a remission would be one of great value to the agricultural interest, as it would enable them to feed stock upon much easier terms than was at present the case. It had been said that he was a great friend to the world who made two blades of grass grow where one grew before; but a Chancellor of the Exchequer would merit an equal—if not a higher—degree of praise, who should afford to the agriculturist the means of increasing the quantity of stock which he could keep on his farm. Still it would, in his opinion, be better for the House to pass the Budget as a whole, and trust to the right hon. Gentleman's expressed intentions in respect to a large reduction of the public expenditure. He hoped that the House would not be disappointed in the expectations to which that statement had given rise.
§ VISCOUNT INGESTRE
remarked that the middle class among his constituents would prefer a further reduction of the income tax to the repeal of the paper duty. while the poorer class would rather have a remission of the war taxation on tea and sugar. The right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade, taunted them on that side of the House with the fact that there was no substantive Motion before the House, but he would reply that they were rather indebted to him for informing them that there was really a surplus, and that he was confident that they should get the money from China. If, however, there were a surplus, and perhaps after the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman they were bound to believe that there was one, they would, in his opinion, do better to apply it to the reduction of taxes, than raising again that question, the discussion of which had caused so much sensation last year. By reducing the taxes on tea and sugar they would prove themselves to be much better friends of the working classes than the hon. Member for Birmingham and other Gentlemen who advocated an extension of the franchise and many other high-sounding but illusory changes, while they neglected the opportunity of conferring solid and substantial benefits on the mass of the people. The 1103 rejection of that rash and improvident Budget would not only be advantageous to the financial position of the country, but would enable the noble Lord at the head of the Government to get rid of the President of the Board of Trade and the other most democratic and refractory members of his Cabinet. If it were proposed that instead of the repeal of the paper duty another penny should be taken off the income tax, or that there should be a remission of tea and sugar duties he should give such a proposition his hearty support.
§ MR. PEASE
said, he would not waste the time of the House by wading through a mass of figures, but would express his conviction that the Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was sound, true, and honest, and that it showed the real state of the country with regard to its finances for the year under consideration, and contained just propositions for the current year, to which he hoped the House would assent. The tone of the debate had turned upon the question whether or not the paper duty should be repealed, and it had occasioned him much surprise to observe the manner in which the debate had been conducted. It had been a matter of surprise to him to see the trifling manner in which the fact, that "knowledge is power," had been treated. He entertained the opinion that, if they educated and instructed intelligent men in a proper direction, they would enable them and their industry to compete with the world, for knowledge lay at the true foundation of production and wealth; and to forward that end no tax could be so well repealed as the duty on paper. It was a duty which interfered with the education of the people. The time had passed for discussing that question, for the House of Commons and its Committees had found again and again that the tax interfered with the education of the people, and that it ought to be entirely abolished at the earliest possible period. Under such and other suitable circumstances our artizans ought to be able, and would be able, to compete with the whole world. But so long as our enormous expenditure continued, which must necessarily be accompanied with increased taxation and consequent depression of our industrial and trading interests, so long would our powers of competition with other nations be impaired. If these premises were true, it followed that our past course had been prejudicial to those interests. It had been 1104 the fashion to "pooh, pooh" remonstrances for the reduction of our expenses, but he apprehended that the time had arrived when the expenditure of the country would be carefully watched, which was as necessary for the welfare of the nation as of the individual, and he hoped the finances of the country would be so conducted that upon an emergency there would be a surplus fund to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer could resort. Some hon. Members had thought that a remission of the tea and sugar duties would have been preferable to the repeal of the paper duty. Had they considered whether, in the present disturbed state of China, that country could furnish us with such large supplies of tea that its price would be so lowered as to enable persons to take advantage of any reduction in the duty? It had been said that the working classes preferred to have the duty taken off tea than off paper; but he would mention a fact within his own knowledge upon this point. While in the North of England a short time since he had entered into a discussion with some working men on the subject. He said to them, "Well, if you were in the House you would, I suppose, become Conservatives, and have the duties off tea and sugar instead of paper." They replied, "No, Sir; if you give us knowledge and intelligence, we'll soon find the means to get the slops" That, he believed, was the true feeling of an Englishman. If they gave the people temperance and knowledge, it would increase a hundred-fold their powers of production and competition. The House believed the Budget to be a safe one, and in that view he (Mr. Pease) concurred. He believed the time had come, without reference to the course taken by the other House of Parliament, to repeal the paper duty; and considering all the arguments which had been brought forward on the subject, the Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer had his hearty support.
§ MR. HORSFALL
said, that he was reluctant to take any exception to the financial statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He declined to enter into the question as to whether there would or would not be a surplus. He would leave the responsibility of that with the Government. Assuming, however, that there was a surplus, it was a question for the House to decide how to appropriate that surplus, and in considering that question they must look at the general 1105 taxation of the country. A distinction must be drawn between ordinary and extraordinary taxation. Ordinary taxation he considered to be taxes which had existed for a long time and had been the acknowledged sources of revenue; while extraordinary taxes were those which were imposed to meet extraordinary exigencies of the country. In the first class he could not but place the paper duties; in the second were the income tax and increased duties upon tea and sugar. It was, in his opinion, only just that the extraordinary taxes should be first removed. He had always been an advocate of the repeal of the paper duty, but he desired that to take place only when there was a surplus from the ordinary taxes of the country. There was one part of the Budget which had been hut little commented upon, but upon which he wished to make one remark—upon what the Chancellor of the Exchequer called the minor taxes, but which the commercial community called the most vexatious, annoying taxes that could be devised. It was impossible to conceive the amount of annoyance that had arisen from the penny taxes upon imports. As an instance he might mention that he had received from a constituent of his a large paper of eighteen octavo pages, a return which that gentleman was obliged to make to the Custom House every week, to his very great inconvenience. He agreed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it was his duty to act impartially between direct and indirect taxation; but in discharging that duty he ought to levy those taxes which were least sensibly felt by the people of this country.
§ MR. VANSITTART
said, he confessed that he had listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer with mingled feelings of admiration and regret. It was impossible not to admire the marvellous dexterity with which he had converted a palpable deficit into an imaginary surplus, or the brilliant language in which he had depicted the advantages of drinking cheap sour clarets, and of carrying out still further that cherished object of his soul, the imposition of a penny or a halfpenny stamp on every conceivable document connected with trade. On the other hand, he could not but regret that the right hon. Gentleman should have determined to retain the war duties on tea and sugar, the necessaries of the poor, while at the same time he asked that House to impose an additional penny of 1106 income tax on their constituents, in order to enable him to propitiate the hon. Member for Birmingham by repealing the paper duty. The duty on paper was easily collected. It increased in value every year, and, looking to the unsettled aspect of foreign affairs and our own rising embarrassments at home, it did seem a reckless proceeding to throw away a flourishing branch of permanent revenue, almost unfelt by the public, and to replace it by imposing an additional penny of the odious and oppressive income tax. For his own part, he should not dare to present himself before his constituents if he were to vote to make them pay an additional penny of income tax for the mere purpose of enabling the Chancellor of the Exchequer to ride his paper hobby horse. The borough which he had the honour to represent was mainly dependent upon the industry and businesslike habits of the middle and industrial classes, and the income tax and war duties on tea and sugar pressed with the utmost severity upon them. Thoughtful and prudent men in the City of London and other great commercial emporiums felt a growing distrust of a financial Minister who was constantly resorting to fanciful expedients for raising money—one year by calling in sources of revenue before they fell due, the next year by carrying to the credit of the current year five quarters of the income tax, and then, blending parsimony with reckless extravagance, diminishing by £50,000 the moderate provision granted by the State to the Bank of England for the management of public debt. He was constrained to say that he participated in the feeling of apprehension which prevailed out of doors at the unstable character which our financial system had assumed under the handling of the right hon. Gentleman, and he gave his cordial adhesion to the sound fiscal principles which were enunciated by the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. T. Baring) in his masterly speech on Monday last.
§ MR. BAZLEY
said, he could not agree with the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Horsfall) that the House was bound to remit the extraordinary rather than the ordinary sources of revenue. Its duty was to raise an equitable amount from each respective portion of the community. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a Budget framed with singular happiness and sagacity, had continued to do justice to all classes. The remission of a penny in the income tax was a relief to the wealthy classes, including capitalists and 1107 landed proprietors, and the repeal of the duty on paper would be of great benefit to the industrious classes of the country. The Members of that House did not pay the paper tax, but the great industrial classes of the country paid it, and by relieving them from that burden the right hon. Gentleman was best consulting the interests of the nation. His constituents had held an important public meeting in favour of the Budget, and he had that evening presented a petition from them, praying the House to agree to the financial proposals of the Government with all convenient speed. Nothing was more satisfactory to the great body of the people than the policy enunciated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would carry triumphantly the repeal of the paper duty and the whole of his Budget. He believed the Budget gave great satisfaction to the people at large, and that its adoption would increase their confidence in the Legislature. They had in that House repealed the tax on paper, which at present was exacted by the act of financiers in "another place"—and he hoped the House would not stultify its proceedings, or permit its intentions respecting that tax to be nullified. He had great pleasure in supporting the Budget of the right hon. Gentleman.
said, the hon. Member for Coventry had told them that a large quantity of rags would come from India. He (Major Hamilton) could not understand what sort of rags would come from the dresses the ladies and gentlemen were there. He had a story to tell which in illustration of the feeling in Scotland on the question, if he might use the Scotch dialect in the House of Commons. An hon. Member, whose beaming face he was happy to see opposite, went down to give an account of his stewardship a short time ago, and told his constituents how he had given his support to the Government, and to the gallant Premier who defended the rights of Great Britain so well. The hon. Member was cheered; but in an evil moment he went on to say, "Is there nothing more you want of me? Wouldn't you you like a Reform Bill?" They said, "Nae, nae, we'll hae nae rifarm beel; what gude'll the likes o' that be ta us?" "Well, then," he said, "is there nothing else I can do for you? All the Gentlemen who sit on the benches below me, on my side of the House, agree that nothing 1108 would do you working men so much good as a repeal of the paper duty. Wouldn't you like me to present a petition from you to get the paper duty taken off?" But they cried out, "Nae, sir, nae; we'll just hae naething o' that kind; and gin ye want a peteetion, yersel, frae us for you to present to the House of Commons, we'll just grant ye a peteetion against marrying yer wife's seester. But there's just ae thing in this kintra that puir folks want; and that is to tak' aff the duty on tea and sugar. If ye winna do that, sir, ye needna come down here and wag your pow amang us Edinbro' folks again."
said, he could only assure the House that the story was told him by a friend who lived near the place where the hon. Member's constituents were assembled on that occasion. At any rate he believed it gave a true representation of what the feeling of the people of Scotland was, from the Tweed to John o'Groat's House. The Scotch, including, as he might say, with duo deference to the hon. Member, all the old women in the country, declared that the only tax which affected them was the tax upon tea. He knew of no more popular cry, and there was none with which he should be more delighted to go to a contested election than the reduction of the tea and sugar duties. Now, he had supported the present Government, with the consent of those whom he represented, so far, and he would still have supported them to the end of the Session, but for the speech he had heard that evening from the right hon. President of the Board of Trade. It was clear from that speech the Government had now abandoned the Gentlemen who supported them on that (the Conservative) side of the House, and chose to go along with those who supported them on the other side. He could not, therefore, lend his countenance to such an intrigue and cabal; he had written to his own constituents by that night's post to tell them of the change. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been present at that moment, he would have reminded that right hon. Gentleman of four lines which were put by a very celebrated Irish poet into the mouth of one of the Fallen Angels, and he (Major Hamilton) only trusted that the right hon. Gentleman himself might not find occasion to repeat them a twelvemonth hence, and apply them to his own case:— 1109And I forgot my home, my birth,Profaned my spirit, sunk my brow;And revelled in gross joys of earth,Till I became—what I am now.
§ MR. CAIRD
said, that he could assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had just sat down that the surest way of getting for his constituents a reduction of the tea and sugar duties was to bring about a reduction of expenditure, and he hoped that the hon. Gentleman would join those who laboured to effect that object. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and almost every speaker who had followed him, had given duo weight to the considerations arising out of the deficient harvest; but he wished to point out on omission in all the references made to that subject. No doubt the deficiency in the harvest was very great, but while the loss to the farmers had been severe, it had not pressed with the same severity on the consumers. The price of wheat at that moment was about 16s. a quarter less than in the years 1854, 1855, 1856, and the beginning of 1857, and if they considered that this followed a period of three years of low prices it must have a very favourable influence on any financial arrangements. Compared with the years 1854, 1855, 1856, and 1857, he ventured to say that the expenditure of the country upon bread during the last three years had been upwards of £60,000,000 sterling less than it was during the former period. That must have left the country in a much better state to withstand such unfortunate seasons as they had just witnessed. But taking the very worst view of it—supposing the last harvest to have been one third deficient—so enormous were the imports that the deficiency had already to a great extent been made good. Since the beginning of August they had imported of foreign wheat and flour nearly a million quarters per month; and, therefore, for the next four months they would be able to go on with much smaller imports, having a fair supply and moderate prices. Besides, the English crop, which had hitherto been in bad condition for being thrashed, was undoubtedly now becoming fit for being brought to market, and from that source there would be improved supplies. There was, moreover, a material difference in the crop in the three parts of the kingdom. In Ireland, though there had been a deficiency in the crop of wheat and potatoes, there was a considerable surplus crop of oats. In Scotland there was no reason to complain 1110 of the late harvest. Last year there was a deficiency of £800,000 upon the malt duty, and of £900,000 in the spirit duty, both resulting from the bad crop of barley; but he had no hesitation in saying, from the extent of acreage sown, that they ought to have a large increase in the barley crops this season, and, therefore, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would most likely reap from that branch of the revenue a larger return than he had calculated upon. One word upon the paper duty. With one exception, every description of land in this country had improved in value since the repeal of the corn laws. That exception was the heavy clay lands. If by any means they could increase the demand for one article which these lands produced—he meant straw—they would confer a benefit upon them. Bast year, when the paper duty was under discussion, he received a letter from a very influential papermaker in the north asking if he could point out any district in the country where he could calculate upon a supply of a thousand tons of straw in the year? That of itself showed that the papermakers were turning their attention to that subject without desiring to make too much of this. He maintained that it was impossible to estimate the advantages which would arise to that class of land from the repeal of the paper duty. He must bear his testimony to the great advantages which they had to expect from the financial policy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to which he would give his most hearty support.
§ MAJOR WINDSOR PARKER
said, I very much regret that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not deemed it to be consistent with his duty so to dispose of the surplus revenue at his command as that the benefit should fall on the many, and the relief to those who are most in need of it. Now, Sir, the losses to which the agriculturists have been subjected during the recent bad harvest are admitted by all. This fact, nevertheless, cannot be too strongly impressed upon the minds of those hon. Gentlemen whose constituents carry on their mercantile and manufacturing operations under cover; and, consequently, are not liable to those serious losses which a fortnight's bad weather in harvest time entails upon the agricultural community. What would the supporters of such hon. Gentlemen say if, by reason of a heavy duty, they were prevented converting damaged property to 1111 useful purposes? And yet, such is the effect of the duty now imposed upon malt. In consequence of the badness of the past season thousands upon thousands of quarters of barley are now lying, comparatively speaking, valueless, which might, were it not for this impost, be converted into food for cattle, which would enable the farmers to produce cheaper meat, thereby conferring an immense boon upon the public, and especially upon the poorer classes, who, by reason of its present dearness, rarely taste animal food. I cannot, then, think that hon. Gentlemen are serious, who contend that the repeal of the paper duty will be of such material benefit to the labouring population by cheapening literature, as the repeal of the duty on malt would be—the amount of which, paid by each individual labourer who works through the harvest, being for that period alone no less than 7s. 6d. per head. Three attempts have been made during the present Session to add to the political influence of the humbler classes:—Firstly, by extending the County Franchise. Secondly by extending the Borough Franchise. Thirdly by giving Vote by Ballot. Now, hon. Gentleman must full well know that, had these concessions been made, the first result would have been a demand for a repeal of the duty upon some of the necessaries of life. Why, then, not grant this repeal at once? Some persons might wish for a reduction of the duty upon tea. But tea, after all, is but a poor nervous substitute for that strengthening old English drink—good home-brewed beer. And if you wish to get a fair day's labour for a fair day's pay, you must give untaxed to the labourer that which is necessary to enable him to perform it. I repeat, I do not believe that hon. Gentlemen are serious, when they say that what the people most wish for is cheap literature. Surely, the daily journals are cheap enough, and the poor man has no difficulty in stowing his mind with the useful knowledge they contain. But he pays a heavy tax on his beer; and I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will, even at the eleventh hour, allow bis surplus revenue to go as a first instalment to the abolition of the malt duty.
said, he had heard several suggestions as to the best mode of disposing of the surplus; to-night, the malt duty and the paper duty appeared to be running against each other; but the real question was, did a surplus actually exist? 1112 He had grave doubts on that point; and he knew those doubts were shared by many who were accustomed to look carefully into financial matters. They had learnt not to put implicit faith in estimates or in financial statements, and the experience of the past year alone might well have taught them the necessity and wisdom of trusting to their own judgment. The financial statement of last year was followed by many predictions that the revenue would be infinitely increased by the policy of the right hon. Gentleman; but had these prophecies been verified by the result? He would not allude on the present occasion to the right hon. Gentleman's confession, that he had been wrong to the extent of a million with regard to the succession duties, because it was said during the passing of the measure that the opponents of the right hon. Gentleman had taken the sting out of his Bill and the money out of the Exchequer—an anticipation which had proved singularly correct. He would confine himself to the Estimates of the right hon. Gentleman last year. The right hon. Gentleman had expressed the belief that there would be improvements in the revenue large enough to justify further reductions of taxation. For example, the increased duty of 6d. per cwt. on chicory would, it had been estimated, combined with the increased duty on coffee, bring in an additional revenue of £90,000, whereas the actual increase had been on coffee £14,500 and on chicory £7,500, making together only £22,000. Then there was the penny taxation, which had proved as vexatious and obstructive as it was perfectly unremunerative. The right hon. Gentleman stated the income from the penny charges on imports and exports would be £300,000. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: That is entirely wrong.] If the right hon. Gentleman had not said so of course he would not press the point. Then came the stamp on warrants, which the right hon. Gentleman had computed would produce £100,000. Now, he believed that the whole value of stamps issued—and many of them had not been used—was £12,000, or a difference of about 88 per cent. The stamp on contracts was to produce £100,000, but only brought in about £7,000. With regard to the bonding charges, the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that so great and overwhelming were the calls for increased bonding accommodation in some of our large inland towns that it was impossible to avoid acceding to the 1113 demand; and he, therefore, must impose a certain tax to meet the increased expenditure which would arise on that head. Accordingly, a tax of a quarter per cent was imposed on every transaction in the Custom House and upon every entry there, whether for £2 or £2,000. Now, it appeared that there were upwards of 1,000,000 entries at the Custom House made each year. Consequently there were 1,000,000 calculations to be made on these entries and upon those ever varying amounts, and the House would easily imagine the immensely increased labour, the increased liability to error, the obstruction to commerce, and the vexatious calculations which were necessary in order to collect this small amount. The tax, as he had said, was levied to provide for additional bonding accommodation. Now, he had made inquiries as to the supposed overwhelming demand for bonding accommodation in the inland towns, and instead of Birmingham, Sheffield, and Leeds having immediately taken advantage of the Bill which was passed, only one such store had been established—namely, at Bradford And for the establishment of this one store a tax of a quarter per cent had been laid upon the whole commerce of the country. The estimated produce of the bonding charges was £120,000; they had yielded about £60,000. All these errors in past Estimates furnished the House with reasonable ground for withholding their entire confidence from the right hon. Gentleman's Estimates as regarded the future, unless those Estimates were supported by such facts as would enable the House to judge whether or no they were likely to be realized. The state of things now was much more important and much more critical. They were, in fact, pledging the Revenue of next year; and if they made a false step it would be almost irretrievable without doing that which he regretted to see had been done of late—increasing the national debt. He himself entertained grave doubts as to the Estimates now under discussion. The right hon. Gentleman claimed a surplus of £1,900,000; and, from what had been stated that night, his calculations appeared to be based on the statements of officers of the Executive. As guardians of the public purse, however, the House were bound to ask for something rather more conclusive and definite than the authority of those officers. In the face of the dark and clouded prospects before them at that moment, he denied that 1114 the right hon. Gentleman was entitled to assume the Revenue, which he had taken credit for, but of which a had harvest, or even an average harvest, would certainly deprive him. For if they had a bad harvest there would certainly be no increase in the Revenue, while if they had an average one, the right hon. Gentleman would lose £360,000 in the duty on corn.
There was another point to which, he thought, the House should direct its attention. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Customs duty on paper which he should have to relinquish as a corollary to his repeal of the Excise duty would be about £15,000. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: For this year.] For this year. Now that he (Mr. Moffatt) thought was a very low estimate; for his attention had been directed to a Return moved for by Lord Camperdown in "another place," from which he found that the increase in the customs duty on paper had latterly been very large indeed. In 1858 it was £9,000; in 1860 it had grown to £27,000. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Hear, hear!] It further appeared that in the first quarter of the present year up to March 31, the amount of duty received was £14,057. If that was correct it was at the rate of £56,000 a year. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Hear, hear!] Surely the Chancellor of the Exchequer knew the difference between £15,000 and £56,000. The right hon. Gentleman stated that the loss would be £15,000; and he had shown that the duty was coming in at the rate of £56,000—yet the right hon. Gentleman cheered him derisively. He confessed he could not see why. That item, with the loss of the corn duty, if the harvest was an average one, would make about £400,000. He stated these things merely for the purpose of challenging inquiry, and because he thought it was really due to the House that further information should be given to them before they went into Committee, on the understanding that there was a surplus to the amount stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Then, again, he was at a loss to understand how the estimated increase in the Revenue from income tax was arrived at, because he could tell from his commercial experience that last year was a bad one in respect of imports, and it was notoriously bad for the agricultural interests Under such circumstances, he should rather apprehend a decrease in that source of revenue. There was one other item which seemed to him 1115 to require explanation, and which he was surprised had not been alluded to by any other Gentleman. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that in the remission which he was about to make he was not about to give up more than half a year of the paper duty, as the repeal of the duty would not take effect until the 1st of October. His inquiries led him to a contrary conclusion. He believed that the moment they passed the measure for its repeal the duty would practically cease. It would give itself up. They might say that the repeal should not take effect till the 1st of October, but could they compel the manufacturers of paper to go on making it and paying duty when they knew it was to expire at a given date within the present year? Could the right hon. Gentleman compel them to make up anything beyond the stock which they had in pulp at the present moment? If the paper duty was to be repealed, they must make up their minds to the loss of a whole year's duty in the present year—not to a loss of £600,000, but to one of £1,200,000. He should like to hear something more from the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this subject. It might be that the right hon. Gentleman had ready some nostrum which he was not aware of. He did not think that the right hon. the President of the Board of Trade had answered the objections of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Horsham. The case was this. By the treaty which we had made with China we were to receive an indemnity, amounting to £2,600,000, of which a sum of £320,000 had been paid, and the balance was to be paid in regular instalments extending probably over a period of several years. The right hon. the President of the Board of Trade seemed to express surprise that hon. Gentlemen could get at the concerns of China; but the consular returns which were published annually gave £1,350,000 as the Customs' revenue of that country for '59, excluding duty on opium, which yielded about £400,000 more. Adding that, they had the total Customs' revenue of China at £1,750,000. We were entitled under the treaty to take one-fifth of that amount in payment of the indemnity. According to his calculation, that would give us £350,000, which we had got to receive year by year. We had already received £320,000 at Canton, less some considerable deductions, and for the whole year commencing January, 1861, we might receive £350,000, making the 1116 total received up to the end of that year about £660,000. "What was to take place with regard to that? Under a clear and explicit treaty it was provided that of eight millions of taels, two millions, should be paid to the merchants of Canton as an indemnity for the losses which they had sustained, and that the remainder should go to Her Majesty's Government by way of indemnity for the costs of the Chinese war. Now, on the reading of an ordinary person, it would appear that we were bound to pay two millions of taels to those merchants without any delay. Those two millions of taels were precisely £660,000; so that the whole of this year's surplus must in strict justice go to the payment of the indemnity to the merchants. He would not believe, unless he should hear it from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, that there would be any attempt to step in and deprive those merchants of the money to which they were entitled. Why, some of their property had actually been taken by our forces, for the purpose of offensive operations; and they had already been kept five years out of the recompense which was due to them. He could not think then that Her Majesty's Government would descend to chaffer and haggle with the merchants of Canton. To sum up his objections to the surplus. At present it stood at £1,900,000. Very grave doubt existed as to £300,000 of the customs; and as to the estimated increase of inland revenue, £300,000 of it had not been explained to the House. Then, of the £750,000 China money, he asserted that they could not consistently with justice, receive more than £100,000, and £600,000 of paper duty they could not possibly obtain. It resulted, therefore, that £l,300,000 this surplus they would certainly not get, and the remaining £600,000 was somewhat contingent. He should be glad to find that his calculations were not accurate, for he would rather support the Chancellor of the Exchequer than speak against him; but he thought hon. Members were sent there to protect the national finances rather than to protect any individual; and, if his figures were accurate, it seemed to him that they were debating a very useless question, when they were considering as to whether they should take the duty off tea or paper. Let them first see whether there was really the surplus which the Chancellor of the Exchequer estimated, before they took off any 1117 duty whatever. He remembered hearing the right hon. Gentleman say "that tea was not the rich man's luxury, but the poor man's luxury—and that above all it was the poor woman's luxury." There might be in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman very good reasons for adhering to the opinions which he had stated when introducing his financial measure. His conviction was that we had not at the present time a surplus out of which to remit taxation, and he thought it was the bounden duty of the Government to give them proof of a surplus before they entered into a discussion as to what duties they ought to remit.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
Sir, the discussion which we have heard on this question must induce one to ask, "What is the Budget?" Is it an attempt made on the part of the Government to reconcile the income of the country with its expenditure, or is it a contrivance to tide over the day and postpone the hour of judgment or retribution? The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade told us to-night that the Budget for each year was separate from that of every other year. That is a curious discovery of the right hon. Gentleman. He seems to think that sufficient for the year is the evil thereof; but, with all respect for him, it is impossible in a discussion of such grave importance as the present to avoid all reference to the past and the future, because if the duties which would under other circumstances be paid next year are taken off, and no means be found to supply their place, there must arrive that state of things which seems to delight the present Ministry, namely, a deficit. I quite agree with those who hold that a Budget is in one sense a thing of anticipation. For a reference to the past it is necessary to have a good memory and a clear head, and for a reference to the future it seems that what is most useful to a Chancellor of the Exchequer is to have a lively fancy and a rapid imagination. After what we heard in the debate, and what we recollect to have occurred last Session, one might be disposed to ask this question, and to expect an answer:—What was the real object in the minds of the contrivers of this Budget at the moment when they sat down to concoct it? Was it prepared with a view to the duty which the Government owe to themselves and the nation, and to relieve the people of some of those burdens which oppress them, or 1118 was it framed with a design to accomplish one purpose only—namely, the repeal of the paper duty, and to make every figure, every reference to the past, and every prophecy for the future, obedient to that one object?" It is impossible to consider, not merely the measures which have been propounded by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but the speeches he has made, and to come to any other conclusion. I will do him the justice to acknowledge that, as a private gentleman, he could have done nothing else but what he has done; because the speeches he latterly made, the pledges he gave, and the intimacies he formed, made it necessary for him to undertake the repeal of the paper duty. I only speak of the right hon. Gentleman in his Ministerial capacity when I condemn the course which he has taken in making those propositions which are now under the consideration of the House. I think that a considerable portion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was a censure on his colleagues, a censure on the House of Commons, and a censure on himself. Let me for a few moments consider the Budget of the right hon. Gentleman in a financial point of view, in a political, or, perhaps, I should use the word "Ministerial," point of view, and, lastly, from a constitutional point of view. I quite admit that of these considerations the financial is the most important, because the right hon. Gentleman would, no doubt, agree with me in thinking a political Budget a "gigantic innovation." But if, in addition to its other vices, it should appear to be contrived so as either to evade or to subvert a constitutional authority existing in the State for the revision of taxation, then it is fairly open to the objection that it is an attempt to do indirectly what he failed to do directly. The right hon. Gentleman appears to have had this problem submitted to him:—Given a deficit, with declining trade, doubtful prospects, and a reduction of the permanent revenue—you are to find a surplus." The right hon. Gentleman, with all the boldness of a man of genius, and with the skill of a practised hand, proceeded to find his surplus; and, of all places in the world, where did he find it? In China—a quarter which he must have felt considerable delicacy in approaching, because, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he had been called on to do what must have been very hurtful to his feelings—to find the means of carrying on a war with that country 1119 which in its origin I agree with him—and I shall never depart from that opinion—was a flagitious war. He raised the money for the purposes of that war, and has now to get his surplus from China. Having listened to the several speeches which have been made on both sides of the House, I am only astonished at the courage of the right hon. Gentleman, which could lead him to believe that men of business and men of sense would give up a permanent revenue, which is not only productive but increasing in value year by year, in consideration of a thing which is yet to be realized, which is to be subject to charges still to be paid, and one guinea of which, for all we know, may never reach these shores. There is another point in the Budget of some interest. The right hon. Gentleman made a prophecy last year, and calculated that he would receive a largely increased duty from spirits. He was wrong, as might have been anticipated, by no less a sum than £900,000. It may be in the recollection of the House that about the time when summer set in with its usual severity, on the 16th of July, the right hon. Gentleman brought down a supplementary Budget and made a supplementary speech. For my own part, I must say that the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman are always more agreeable to me than his Budgets. On that occasion I perfectly remember his giving an interesting sketch of Ireland, which instantly alarmed me, as I knew that she was going to be taxed. The right hon. Gentleman stated, with very great truth, that Ireland was an improving country; he mentioned in terms of praise the moral behaviour of the constabulary; he showed how numerous they were, how efficient, and how ready an instrument for collecting increased taxation. He then said that, being encumbered by a war which he particularly disliked, he was short of funds—which he generally is—and he determined, on the 16th of July, to inflict a penalty on Ireland, for which, I can assure him, that country is alive to its obligations. The right hon. Gentleman, when he came to explain what he proposed to do with the spirit duties, drew a distinction between them and duties such as those on tea and sugar. He said—It differs from other commodities in this—that when you deal, for example, with tea or sugar, your object is to promote consumption as much as possible, consistently with obtaining the 1120 money you want; but when you approach the article of spirits the rule is precisely inverted.His argument being that the largest sum possible, consistently with justice should be obtained from the tax upon spirits. The anticipations of the right hon. Gentleman on that occasion, and the proposals which he made, are among his many prophecies that have not been fulfilled, and his promises that have not been realized; but they have been attended with great mischief to a large and important branch of trade in Ireland. His prophecy was that the effect of this proposition would be the enlarging of a most important branch of revenue in a permanent form, available from year to year. By the increase of the duty on British spirits the tax, he said, would produce no less than £2,350,000, without taking into consideration any deductions which ought to be made; and here prudence came to the assistance of the right hon. Gentleman, and he added, making those deductions which prudence required, he had only taken credit for £1,000,000, and thus allowed for a diminution of 10 or 11 per cent. As it was then, however, the 13th of July, the right hon. Gentleman only took credit, of course, for part of the year's return, namely, £650,000. The House, I presume, is aware that on the 31st of December, instead of gaining anything by the change, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has received £200,000 less than the mitigated "prudent" estimate which he laid before the House. The reasoning of the right hon. Gentleman on this point is peculiarly deserving of attention. Where he succeeds—as in the case of wine, where I admit his calculations have met with a partial success—he justly relies on the fact of that success; but where he fails, as he has done in this matter of the spirit duties, he relies confidently on his failure. So that whether success or failure be the result of his projects, he is equally confident as to the future. I will direct attention to the manner in which he shaped his argument to meet the case of failure. He stated accurately, that when my right hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire was Chancellor of the Exchequer he equalized the spirit duties throughout the three kingdoms, this was done with the assent of the trade. I have heard gentlemen say in Ireland they believed that step to have been of a beneficial character, and they consequently offered no opposition to it. Its effects, moreover, were not so conspi- 1121 cuously evidenced by an increase in the Revenue till the second year. But now the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, having confidently predicted a great success, and having experienced a conspicuous failure, argues thus—Because my predecessor did a sensible thing and was rewarded accordingly, I—having gone beyond the point at which, particularly upon this article, taxation to be productive must stop—will now endeavour to persuade the House that next year this failure will be changed into a success. The gentlemen interested in the spirit trade in Ireland have made strong remonstrances, and have requested me to make an appeal to this House—which is never insensible to a just claim—to stand between their trade, which they represent to be on the point of extinction, and the rash projects of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In the petition to which allusion has already been made, they state that they did not object to the equalization of the duties in 1858, though it compelled them to pay a large increase of duty, as they believed uniformity of taxation would be beneficial to their trade, and would, moreover, protect them from the annual interference of Parliament, which was ruinous to their prospects. But they little anticipated the financial experiment to which they were to be subjected in 1860, when by a sudden operation an additional duty of 2s. per gallon was inflicted. In consequence of this high rate of duty illicit distillation has increased. The right right hon. Gentleman said the convictions were few; but he has fallen into the common mistake of confounding offences with convictions. Everybody in Ireland knows that offences may be very common, though but few convictions can be obtained. These gentlemen further stilted that the effect of the duty was to diminish the quantity they produced, and the greater that diminution was the greater was their loss, as whilst the duty decreased the amount they produced, it did not diminish their establishments, which had cost them the expenditure of a very large capital. They also said that the consumption ending the 31st of December, 1860, was 1,083,762 gallons. This loss amounts to £208,528, or 15½ per cent; and though in England there has been a gain of 8 per cent. and in Scotland a gain of 1 per cent. yet the total loss on the three kingdoms is £70,000, instead of the increase of £500,000 which the right hon. Gentleman contemplat- 1122 ed. There are three gentlemen from whom I have communications on this subject. Mr. Roe, the proprietor of one of the largest distilleries in Dublin, has sent me a written communication, in which he states that it will be impossible for him to conduct his business if the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not compelled to return to the old duty, which was a fair duty, and he very fairly asks that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should state to the House any source from which he has got a larger revenue than from the article of spirits. The manager of another eminent distillery, that of Messrs. Jamison, has written to the same effect. He states that the present duty has made it impossible for them to conduct profitably the distillery. They will not produce the article, and, consequently, the revenue anticipated from that article must be a failure. How, then, can a surplus be anticipated which rests upon a calculation such as this? There was a large revenue from Irish spirits before the Chancellor of the Exchequer dealt unwisely with it, and men of business, who have large capital embarked in distilleries, and who spend anxious nights and laborious days in their business, appeal to this House to do them justice, and to save them, as they say, from ruin. It may be said that this being but a provincial interest, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer gets his revenue from the rest of the empire, or from foreign spirits, it does not matter much as to Ireland; but considering that these eminent manufacturers have pledged themselves to these facts, I cannot help thinking that the House will pause before it relies upon the imaginary surplus of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, seeing that his past prophecies have been realized in no way. But suppose for a moment that he had got his surplus, and that we, being taken into his councils as to the disposal of it, had to decide whether we would impose the income tax—for that is the way in which it is to be put—at a particular rate, put a duty on tea at a particular rate, or whether we would remit the duty on paper. It has been said by the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade, that there is an abstract Resolution in favour of this remission. We groan under abstract Resolutions. There is an abstract Resolution in favour of Parliamentary Reform, which has never been realized, nor is it likely to be. There was an abstract Resolution on this subject 1123 some years ago that meant nothing, and now it is brought forward to justify the present Budget. But times have changed since that abstract Resolution was passed. "When that Resolution was carried the income tax was 5d., and the expenditure was about £64,000,000. It was thought inexpedient to deal with the paper duty on those facts; the income tax has been—for we do not know what it will be—at 10d., and the expenditure of the country is between £70,000,000 and £72,000,000; and the logical deduction of the President of the Board of Trade is that in consequence of an abstract Resolution which passed under such circumstances, and has never been acted upon, you are bound at this very moment to carry the remission of the paper duty into practical operation. Suppose you had a surplus—I do not admit it for a moment, nor do I believe that any facts have been laid before us to justify such an anticipation—why should I not take a lesson from the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to its proper use? I have been taught by repeated speeches of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the income tax is an immoral tax. He has often laboured to prove—I remember his very words—that it demoralized the nation. He has taught us that it is a war tax—useful in time of war, but highly dangerous if employed in time of peace. If it has all these characteristic recommendations, and the paper duty has none of them, I cannot understand, if there is a question between income tax and paper duty, why it is incumbent on me to remit the paper duty. I cannot believe that the House will be of opinion that the right hon. Gentleman has satisfactorily established that branch of his argument. But, again, on the subject of tea. I see opposite a body of Gentlemen who have a great many abstract principles which they lay down occasionally—I only desire that they would carry them into practice. They tell us that we are to study the happiness of the greatest number, and that we are to have taxes which will rest most lightly on the mass of the people. That was their great argument on the corn laws; but did anybody ever propose to remit the paper duty in order to retain the corn laws? The right hon. Gentleman opposite has himself maintained that tea is a necessary of life. But supposing, before the corn laws had been repealed, you had gone to a poor man and offered him a loaf with one hand and a penny newspaper 1124 with the other, I am afraid that so blind would he have been to his intellectual improvement that he would have taken the loaf. Again, suppose that he wanted to wash down his crust, and you took him to the Pierian spring and told him to drink, as Dominie Sampson drank, from the principal fountain of the town, but not to exceed in his potations, and on the other hand offered him a cup of tea, I venture to say the sensualist would prefer the tea. I do not wish in the least to be understood as underrating the value of the penny papers. I am agreeably surprised at the merit they possess, and I only wonder, as a mercantile speculation, that they are produced at all. I should be glad to do them a service; but, if it is a question between their proprietors and the nation, acting on the principles of a political economist, I prefer the nation. If I go to the moralist and ask him whether we shall take off the duty on tea or the duty on paper, he will tell me that he has been lecturing on temperance and sobriety for years past; that he has addressed mechanics' institutes and written several articles to the penny papers (which they would not publish) advocating the remission of the tea duty. He would go in decidedly for tea. The light hon. Gentleman himself told us that we must increase the duty on spirits, in order to make people sober. I wonder that it did not occur to his ingenious mind, fertile in expedients as it always is, that the reduction of the duty on tea would accomplish the same purpose in a much more practical manner. The deaf and dumb, the blind, all who cannot read can take a cup of tea; tea makes the husband domestic and makes the wife silent and quiet. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, who addressed us with so much ability to-night, has, I admit, been perfectly consistent on this matter, and his arguments, therefore, are entitled to the utmost consideration; but I will give him an authority, as to the effect of this remission, which he must value, as it is that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Bovill) asked from the generosity of the Chancellor of the Exchequer a drawback on printed books, unbound, in order to save the publishers from the loss which they would otherwise sustain from the repeal of the duty. He got from the right hon. Gentleman the answer which I must say he deserved. The 1125 right hon. Gentleman told him that, as the publisher sold his hooks at a fixed price, he could hardly suffer loss by this change. Would a work, he asked, like Colenso's Arithmetic, which sold for 2s., and on which the duty, according to Mr. Bohn's statement, was ½d., sell for 2s. on the 14th of August; and on the 16th, the day after the duty came off, sell for 1s. 11½d.? Certainly not. This was a measure for the benefit of struggling literature, and yet such, according to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, would be its effect on the price of a 2s. book. The same would be the case if you go down to the sixpenny book, which the poor man would read. In fact, by no possibility could the smallest advantage accrue to the poor man from the measure; and I venture to say if you asked him he would rather have the duty remitted on the tea than on the paper that wraps it up. Both as to tea and as to the income tax the reason of the thing and almost the humanity of the question make it our duty, if we have a surplus, at once to reject the plan of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and adopt one more consistent with justice, with our own pledges, and with the wants and necessities of the people. I said there was a constitutional question involved in this matter which might fairly be touched on at the present moment. As I understand the Chancellor of the Exchequer, all his Resolutions are to be included in one Bill, and amongst them the Resolution for the repeal of the paper duty. What is the object of that change, because last year all the measures were treated separately? The repeal of the paper duty was considered fairly and properly as a separate measure. It was sent up to the other House, and, most fortunately for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in consequence of what took place there, his deficiency was not so large as it was made by his own measures. Why is it that on the present occasion another course is taken? The Government, may contend that, according to old usage, such a thing may be done; but with all due deference, that does not answer the constitutional question. For a series of years our practice has been similar to that which was pursued last year; and, although you may find old precedents to justify the course which you are taking, practice is the best exponent of the principles of the Constitution; and all modern practice, and your own practice last year, prove that the present attempt ought not 1126 to be countenanced. There can be no doubt what is the object of this proceeding. There can be no doubt that the object is that the measures for the general taxation of the country shall have this repealing Bill tacked to them in order that the other House may be disabled from considering this particular question. There are two great authorities upon such questions as this. I believe that the first dispute between the Lords and Commons arose as to the alteration of a Bill such as that which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to send to the other House; and that eminent person who is said to have written an honest book upon the Constitution, Mr. Hallam, gives it as his deliberate opinion that the justice and sense of the matter were with the House of Lords. But a brilliant light has lately been extinguished. Lord Macaulay has left us a legacy in the last volume of his history, in the pages of which a question very similar to the present is discussed by him. The House of Commons, in order to confer a favour upon the noble house of Ormond, to usurp some of the prerogatives of the Crown, and to forgive debts which they were not entitled to forgive, tacked the provisions having these objects to a Bill imposing a land tax of 2s. in the pound, and the historian says "the ruling demagogues of the House of Commons"—the words of the noble historian are that in order to deprive the other House of Parliament of the opportunity of giving any opinion or of altering a word or a letter, the ruling demagogues insisted that that measure should be tacked to a Bill of Supply which was to provide for the defence and the general expenses of the country. And what followed? There was conference after conference, but the Members of the House of Commons were determined to succeed. They hated Dutchmen—that was not unnatural—and one of their objects was to vent their dislike upon the heroic friends and followers of an heroic monarch. They effected their purpose, and one of the Members who spoke upon that occasion said, "They object to our tacking this Resolution to a Bill of Supply; let them take care that to the next Bill of Supply we do not tack a Bill of attainder"—a remark which, as Lord Macaulay observes, was worthy of a Jacobin Club or of the worst days of the Convention. There are instances in which attempts have been made to coerce the other House of Parliament upon occasions 1127 different from this—I do not disguise that the occasions are different, but I submit to the better judgment of those who hear me that it would be more constitutional, more manly, more direct, and more usual for the Government to take up the Bill of last year and propose it again; and, if it was recommended by the deliberate conviction of the House of Commons, I am perfectly satisfied that that conviction would never be treated with disrespect by the other House of Parliament. Nothing but an overwhelming sense of duty would have induced the Members of that House to do what they did last year, but in doing that I believe that they were sustained by the voice of the nation. I am, therefore, of opinion that the constitutional question ought not to be overlooked. As the Budget was originally contrived for the one purpose of getting rid of the paper duty, so I believe that the Bill which is to carry out the proposals of the Budget, has been contrived with the same object. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the close of his very able speech, made what struck me at the time as one of the most extraordinary statements which ever proceeded from a Gentleman in his position. Departing from the particular subject of taxation, and turning to the general condition of the country, he said—If there be any danger I confess that it seems to me to lie in our recent policy, and tendency to unbounded excess in expenditure. Without referring to any particular charges, I think that when we perceive the rate at which we have been advancing for a certain number of years, we must Bee that there has been a tendency to break down all barriers and all limits. Pecuniary waste is a great political and moral evil, and threatens the existence of the nation.Why, Sir, that is a most astounding statement, and I ask myself who made it? The very Minister who has been intrusted with the charge of the expenditure of the country; the very Minister whose duty it was, if this course of mad extravagance was being pursued by Parliament to stand up against it; the very Minister whose duty it was to say to his colleagues, to whom he has given the assistance of his brilliant talents, "The propositions which you make are unjust, unwise, and extravagant; I can be no party to such measures, and I will quit a Ministry which does not carry out a policy of wise and just economy." Does the right hon. Gentleman do so. No; but he intimates that the House of Commons is as a body so in- 1128 sensible to its duty, that it is guilty of indefensible extravagance merely for the pleasure of hastening the progress of the nation to political perdition, and he represents himself as an injured patriot attempting to stem the torrent of corruption. Why, Sir, does he not address his eloquence to the noble Viscount at the head of the Administration; why does he not endeavour to convince his colleagues? What is the use of attacking Parliament or his opponents while those colleagues arc, with his consent, taking Votes for fortifications, for defences, for the navy, and for the army? Why does not the right hon. Gentleman imitate the course taken by the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay) and put his finger upon some particular item with which he can deal instead of uttering general denunciations of the extravagant expenditure of the country? But how is the language of the right hon. Gentleman to be reconciled with that of the noble Viscount at the head of the Government? The right hon. Gentleman pronounced a panegyric upon the French Treaty, and I do not blame him for that, because the treaty is a thing of the past, and it is our duty now to stick to our bargain both in spirit and in letter. But he also pronounced a panegyric upon the Imperial ruler of France, who makes treaties and seizes kingdoms, and perhaps he can induce that powerful Emperor to lessen armaments which add to our expenditure, and to reduce his army of half a million of men who are panting for victory and fame. The noble Viscount on the other hand made, according to his custom, a very genial and characteristic speech the other night. He was laying down principles at a Lord Mayor's feast, than which there could be no better place for discussing the foreign policy of the Empire, and he said that there were at this moment materials for half a dozen wars in Europe. I think that the noble Viscount was perfectly right, and I venture to say that if the right hon. Gentleman were to endeavour to persuade the noble Viscount, who takes large views of policy, to lay aside our defences and to reduce our army and navy at such a moment as this, he would find in him a manly and a decided opponent. When the noble Viscount gives that account of the state of affairs abroad, how absurd does it appear in the Chancellor of the Exchequer, his colleague, to announce to the House that our expenditure—includ- 1129 ing, I suppose, what is spent upon the defence of the country—is extravagant, especially when, according to the noble Lord, that expenditure is necessary to maintain the power and the supremacy of this country, as well as the peace of Europe. If the right hon. Gentleman has any great scheme of commercial policy, why does he not state it? If he has any great measures of economy, why does he not expound them to the House, and not permit his supporter, the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) to inform us, as he did to my infinite astonishment, that we ought to follow the example of America, and of what he was pleased to call—though he did not tell us where they were—the United States? The hon. Gentleman told us what was their population, and what was our population; what were their expenses, and what were our expenses. Now, my short answer to his argument is, that their Government is cheap because it is bad, and our Government is comparatively dear because it is good. They, at a great crisis, have shown that they had no Government whatever, no real authority to save the Empire from disruption, or destruction it may be, though may God avert that catastrophe. I did not think that there was a Gentleman in the House of Commons who, in such a debate as this, would tell us that we ought to imitate the policy and practice of America—with a view, I suppose, to incurring a like disaster. I venture to think that the more this Budget is examined the more apparent will become the truth of the censure pronounced upon it by the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. T. Baring); and that it will be found that it is not an honest Budget—for that, I think, is the right word used in the right place. I trust that that conviction will be acted upon by this House, and I am well convinced that if it be that action will be approved by the country.
§ MR. HALIBURTON
said, that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had trod upon very dangerous ground when, pointing out the inconsistencies of his opponents, he had forgotten those of his colleagues, who might well say, God help them from their friends! He (Mr. Haliburton) had listened with very great attention to the exposition of the financial state of the country by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. At the conclusion of that elaborate and very delusive speech the right hon. Gentleman 1130 indulged in self-congratulations of no ordinary kind. If the subject had not been so grave, it would have been a matter of amusement to hear him talk of the crash of fallacious prophecies, of groundless prognostications, and of a variety of other amplifications of which the vocabulary of the right hon. Gentleman was extremely full. He liked to see a person who had performed what he considered a very great feat satisfied with his performance, but there should be a limit even to vain boasting. The prophecies and prognostications were spectres raised by the right hon. Gentleman's own imagination, conjured up in order to show how, with the skill of the magician's wand, he could lay them. No one else had ever heard of them. So far from the public being surprised, so far from predictions being falsified by the fact, it was the very identical Budget which was expected of him. All knew that the deficit would be concealed under an avalanche of figures; and when it appeared, by a wonderful sleight of hand, it would be exhibited to the House as a surplus. It was well known that the accruing debt for the Chinese war would be thrown into the distance, while the stipulated indemnity was brought into the broad light of the foreground. It was known also that there would be an attempt to use an imaginative surplus for political purposes, and that as the right hon. Gentleman neither forgot nor forgave he would take the opportunity of squaring matters with the other House for the rejection of the Paper Duty Repeal Bill last year. It was well known that the Budget would be lauded to the skies. The very people who would praise it were pointed out—the itinerant politician, the platform orator, the demagogue who sowed broadcast the seeds of discord—he might almost say of sedition—and the man who strove to set the labourers against their employers and the lower classes against the higher classes. Those were the men who saw in the Budget the means of bringing into strong relief the particular object which they had in view—namely, to create a difference between the people and the Legislature. It was known, also, that it would be praised—praised was too feeble a word—it would be extolled to the skies by that mendacious, by that audacious, and by that wicked body of men who, in the most unblushing manner, dared to affirm in that House and on public occasions elsewhere, that the army and navy were not kept up for the defence 1131 of the nation, nor for the maintenance of its position, nor for the protection of our colonies and our commerce, but for the mean, base, and despicable purpose of supporting the younger branches of the aristocracy out of the taxes wrung from the hard earnings of the poor. To those and such like people the Budget was certainly one for congratulation. It was a difficult thing for an honest man to draw any comfort from the dissemination of falsehood and scandal, but he was glad that these scandals had been disseminated, because the Budget with its pretended surplus gave a touchstone to try the sincerity of the Gentlemen on the Opposition benches. If the poor had taxes wrung from them for the vile and contemptible purpose which was alleged, let those Gentlemen come forward and join the Conservative party, who, whatever might be the vainglorious boastings and assumptions of others, were the real Liberals of England. In a country like this, of such wealth, of such vast possessions abroad, of such extended commerce, of such a high state of civilization, there must always be, even in the most prosperous time, and in the time of profound peace, a heavy expenditure. There was a heavy interest to pay for a heavy national debt. The army and navy must be maintained in a state of efficiency equal to any emergency, and there was a large civil expenditure to be defrayed. In time of war there must necessarily be what were commonly called war taxes, and it was the duty, as it had been the pleasure of both parties, Conservatives and Whigs, to apportion those burdens so as to fall on those who were best able to bear them. Every description of property had a proper proportion of taxes imposed, and, although an Englishman was naturally a grumbling person, when he saw it was expedient he cheerfully voted the money required. There were occasions when the loyalty of every man in the country was to be relied on—when they had to call on every man, high or low, rich or poor, to contribute, and thus the burden of the tea and sugar duties, of which they had heard so much to-night, had fallen on the poor man. They had borne it because they derived the same benefit, in the protection of their lives, their little property, their families, and their homes, as the proudest and richest in the country. Notwithstanding the temptations which had been placed before them, the delusions which had been practised on them, and the gross 1132 and wicked calumnies to which he had referred, they had borne it, much to their honour and credit, with unflinching firmness. Now, therefore, was the time to test the sincerity of the self-styled friends of the working classes. And could any man venture to say that the duty on paper and the duty on tea and sugar were at all on the same footing? Could any man imagine that they had the same bearing on the labouring people of the country? To talk about the duty on paper being a "tax on knowledge" was the veriest cant that ever was heard of. Talk of the publications for the million. Everybody who knew anything about those publications knew that rudimentary works and those books which had an immense circulation were to be had at the price of the paper and printing, and nothing more. The tax fell upon the rich, upon the expensive works, upon those high priced books which were purchased by the higher classes, and where there was but a limited circulation, and where the edition was considered a good one if it reached 800 copies. When they could get a newspaper for a penny, with good talent employed upon it, and the contents printed on a good paper; when there were club-rooms and free libraries, it was absurd to talk about the duty on paper being a tax on knowledge. It was all cant. If there was one thing more detestable than another, it was cant, whether political cant, or religious cant. Last Session they heard a great many references—hon. Members were ashamed to make them now—to the United States—that beautiful democracy, that country which had neither the incubus of a King, nor a House of Lords, nor an Established Church, nor a system of entails, nor any of those things that belong to a feudal age. There was the empire of pure reason—a land laid out in squares, like a chessboard, a people with equal rights and equal votes. Such was the beautiful system that was offered to their admiring eye. It astonished him much. It happened that he had lived the whole of his life, with the exception of the last five years, on the other side of the Atlantic; and he had been sometimes astonished at that sort of talk, and sometimes amused—astonished at the ignorance displayed, and amused at well-informed people falling into the error. All this was cant, cant, and nothing else. Cunt had been the cause of the disunion of the United States. He spoke it boldly and plainly; and he de- 1133 clared that all the dissensions in the United States were entirely owing to political cant. The papers told us, and many persons who could not see below the surface of things believed that the disruption had arisen from the anti-slavery feeling, from the dreadful abhorrence which the Americans felt at having property in human beings. That was all very proper, no doubt. He should admire it if it had any existence, but it had not. There was not the slightest truth in it—not the least in the world. It was a mere election cry, a political catch-word. Slavery was an institution, unfortunately—we must blush when we said so—unfortunately a legacy, we left to the United States. But it was an institution known, and recognized, and protected by the Constitution of the United States from its origin. ["Question, question!"] He was not surprised that hon. Members opposite below the gangway did not like this subject. He could easily understand why it was so distasteful to them, and why they seemed so uneasy when he spoke of political cant. To pass, however, to the matter that had led him to rise, the Chancellor of the Exchequer thought proper in his self-glorification the other night to allude to a petition from North America, in reference to the timber duties, in very insolent and scornful terms.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I rise to order, not on personal grounds, but because the language of the hon. Gentleman affects the dignity of the House.
§ MR. HALIBURTON
said, he bowed to the decision of the right hon. Gentleman. He withdrew the words which had been pronounced not Parliamentary, and regretted having used them. But if he had spoken warmly, he felt deeply. ["Hear, hear!"] This petition was presented— [Cries of "Question!"] This was so far connected with the subject under discussion that it was a reduction of certain duties for which credit had been taken. He thought it was within the limit of Parliamentary discussion if he spoke of that. If the House decided that he was not to be heard, he would sit down and submit. But let the House recollect that there were 4,000,000 of unrepresented people across the water; that they were not only not represented in that House 1134 but that they did not ask to be represented. They rarely troubled the House. If any one searched the records he would find that there were very few petitions presented from that part of the world; and from the manner in which this petition had been received there would probably in future be still fewer. He would endeavour to be as brief as possible. A few merchants from that colony last year presented a petition to the House praying that on a certain class of timber—board, battens, and deals—the duty might not be taken off, for want of notice. The petition was not unreasonable. It was expressed in respectful language. The question, however, was decided against them, and they submitted, and there was an end to it. But in alluding to that petition, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said he had heard a doleful wail from Canada (and then he threw his hand back as one would wave away a beggar in the street), and many predictions of ruin; and went on to show that from certain Customs', returns there had been an increase in the timber trade. When the right hon. Gentleman said he had beard predictions of ruin from our North American Colonies, he (Mr. Haliburton) must he allowed to tell him that his ears had grossly deceived him; for such predictions had never been used or insinuated. It was not in the power of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whatever his legislation might be, to ruin that country. Neither was it in the power of the British Parliament. Nothing could ruin that country but the hand of God or their own folly. The country was too young, too vigorous, too full of enterprise and of resources, to be ruined by anything that the right hon. Gentleman or that House could do to them. What right, then, had the right hon. Gentleman to stigmatize as a doleful wail a respectful petition from a colony which, since the disruption of the United States, was now taking the lead as the first nation on the American continent? "A doleful wail" was a thing that had never been heard from America. Since 1620, when the Puritans first landed upon that shore, up to the present moment, "a doleful wail" had never been heard from that part of the world. The right hon. Gentleman's nerves appeared to be strung upon the principle of an Æ olian harp, every breeze against the chords of which produced doleful and melancholy music. He should advise the right hon. Gentleman never to cross the Atlantic, or 1135 he would find that his harp would very soon be rendered mute. Let him rather turn to Coventry, and then, indeed, he would hear a doleful wail. There he would find a population which but a short time ago were a happy, industrious, thriving people, now reduced to a state of beggary and destitution in consequence of his French Treaty. There he would see pallid cheeks and attenuated forms, broken looms and broken hearts—a scene to make the stoutest men shudder and good men weep. There, indeed, he would hear a doleful wail. Or let him turn to Oxford, where, in shady groves and academic retreats, his constituents, the remnants of a past age, occupied themselves with the records of bygone times, and taught the dialects of the dead to living men, and there he would hear lamentations that a tacit contract had been too rudely broken between him and them—the contract that whoever had the high honour to represent that great, learned and venerable body, should be a stanch supporter of the institutions of Church and State, and not a man who gave a cold, reluctant, or a silent support; not one of those who—Damn with faint praise—assail with civil leer,And, without sneering, teach the rest to sneer.("Divide.") What had they to divide upon? They would divide in good time, and, perhaps, hon. Members opposite would be surprised at the result. He had done with that subject. He had, however, felt bound to enter his protest against such a reception as his fellow-countrymen on the other side of the Atlantic had received from the right hon. Gentleman. The inhabitants of Canada were a loyal people. They had given a reception to the heir apparent of this empire in the past season such as no member of the House of Hanover had ever experienced since they sat upon the Throne of this country. They venerated our institutions, and were fond of British connection; and he felt assured that every Member of that House would agree with him when he said that the independence and manliness of that people, their loyalty and affection towards this country, entitled them to our respect; while their lineage, language, and consanguinity entitled them, at all events, to our best attention.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
Sir, it is one of the inconveniences of an adjourned debate, especially of a debate in which no definite issue has been raised, that we are rather puzzled to discover—to use the 1136 language of the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just resumed his seat—not only what it is which we are discussing, but what is the question upon which we are to divide. I must add that I do not think the hon. and learned Gentleman has refreshed the recollection of the House as to what this adjourned debate is about; while he himself—in his own words, "the remnant of a past age"—has touched upon nearly every topic except the issue which is immediately under our consideration. The hon. and learned Gentleman is a man famous for his literary ability, and as the author of works of fiction which are universally read; but I must say that, after the exhibition which he has made tonight, he had, in my opinion, better undertake another edition of The Rambler. He has told us that he has lived so entirely on the other side of the Atlantic that he is, as a matter of course, unaccustomed to debates in the House of Commons, and he accordingly devoted his speech to observations on the colony of Canada and to the loyal reception which the Prince of Wales met in that quarter, as if the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer were not sufficiently acquainted with the subject. Now, I would respectfully ask whether that is the point on which we are about to divide? If not, it would be as well to turn our attention to that which I believe to be the matter really at issue—the financial scheme of the Government. Now, in dealing with that scheme, I may say I am somewhat disposed to think that the hon. and learned Gentleman was one of those who, having prognosticated a large deficit, is somewhat disagreeably disappointed to find a surplus instead. [A laugh.] You may laugh if you please, but you have not been able to contradict the simple statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has better means, I suppose, of ascertaining the real facts of the case than can possibly be possessed by the hon. and learned Gentleman who passed his time on the other side of the Atlantic. But the question arises, what is a surplus? Hon. Gentlemen opposite have had two great assistants in their sanguine gloom. We have been subjected to two great afflictions—a Chinese war and a bad harvest. Yet, despite these calamities, there is a surplus. In discussing the question, hon. Gentlemen must bear in mind that it is necessary the Budget should deal with anticipations; and what, let me ask, was 1137 the position laid down by the Chancellor of the Exchequer? He took his revenue for the year 1861–62 at £71,823,000, his expenditure at £69,900,000, thus leaving a surplus of £1,923,000. Well, the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Seymour FitzGerald) who spoke so ably in the early part of the evening, seems to dispute the justice of his calculations, and referred especially to the question of the Chinese indemnity; but I confidently ask whether the answer of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade did not satisfactorily dispose of the objections which the hon. Gentleman advanced on that head? But, be that as it may, the point is one—relating, as it does, to a sum of only £750,000—which can be satisfactorily discussed in Committee. The question which now arises is, do you believe the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or of those Gentlemen who have not access to the same means of information? If you do believe it, next comes the question whether, in the present condition of the country and of Europe, any remission of taxation ought to be made? That may be a fair question for hon Gentlemen independent of all financial and political considerations to decide in the negative, but, in my opinion, no Chancellor of the Exchequer can wisely come to a similar conclusion. Well, it being admitted that some taxes ought to be remitted, it becomes matter for discussion what those taxes ought to be, and I think hon. Members generally will concur in the opinion that the first burden in which some reduction ought to be made is the income tax. That is a tax which was originally granted—I will not say on false pretences, for we have lately had a lesson in this House against the use of "light and violent" language, but which was to last for a few years only, and which the country was subsequently led to believe would expire in 1860. The income tax has, therefore, I think, the first claim on this House for reduction, not so much for the sake of the great landed proprietors as of those on whom it presses with far greater severity—I mean the class of clerks with incomes of £400 or £500 a year, whose education and position are in an inverse ratio to their means. I am, therefore, of opinion that the Chancellor of the Exchequer most wisely threw us that penny by which the income tax has been reduced. The boon is a trifling one, but it is something, and the granting it 1138 proves that the right hon. Gentleman is well inclined to reduce the tax us much as possible, and would do so if he were permitted by his colleagues. The income tax being disposed of, then comes the question, which is the next tax which ought to be dealt with? Hon. Members are not, I presume, so greedy as to desire that all the remissions made should be on the side of direct taxation. The hon. Member for Stamford (Sir Stafford Northcote) said the Budget must be considered in its political as well as in its fiscal light; and taking it merely in the latter point of view, I would rather see the war duties on tea and sugar than the Excise tax on paper remitted. But we cannot consider the subject in that light alone. We must look upon it from a constitutional point of view. We must pay regard to the position in which the vote of the House has placed it with respect to the paper duty. That position has taught us a lesson as to the danger of abstract Resolutions. I for one have never been in favour of them; but, be that as it may, the House of Commons has pledged itself to a repeal of the duty on paper. An abstract Resolution on the subject, moved by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, was passed, the only real opposition to it having been offered by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) the only consistent man on his own side of the House. I have, therefore, nothing to say to him. He is a fine fossil remain; but what, I would ask, was the nature of the Amendment moved in reference to the paper duty, on the Motion that the House should go into Committee of Supply? The right hon. Gentleman moved an Amendment to the effect—That this House is of opinion that the maintenance of the Excise duty on paper as a permanent source of revenue would be impolitic, and that such financial arrangements ought to be made as will enalle Parliament to dispense with that tax.The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, did not oppose that Resolution; on the contrary, he said that if all the words after "impolitic" were left out, he would agree to it. (Cheers from the Opposition.) Yes, but he said that the tax was not to be permanent. He did more, for in 1858, having reminded us that he had previously spoken and voted for the repeal of the paper duty, he went on to say, "I again take this opportunity 1139 of stating that I look upon this tax upon paper as one of those particular taxes which when a favourable opportunity arrives "—I suppose he meant when there was a surplus. (Cheers from the Opposition) Of course, hon. Gentlemen opposite deny that there is a surplus; if they did not, they would have no case at all. They are forced, however, in the absence of proof of their denial, to make rambling speeches about the state of Europe and America. "When a favourable opportune arrives," said the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks, "I shall be glad to see the paper duty remitted and erased from our fiscal system." Observe, he said, not only remitted, but "erased," from our fiscal system. "As well," continued the right hon. Gentleman—"as well in a commercial as in a moral, a literary, and an educational point of view, I shall be glad to propose a remission of the tax." The hon. and learned Member for Launceston (Mr. Haliburton) has talked about cant. Will he tell me that the leader whom he follows is capable of descending to cant? Yet the right hon. Gentleman expressed his willingness to remit the paper duty in what he called "a moral point of view." Let me address a few words to hon. Gentlemen opposite. There is no doubt that the two great men of your party, whom you have stolen from us—I mean the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks (Mr. Disraeli) who has made you what you are, and whom you could not do without, and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Herts (Sir Bulwer Lytton) whom you should be proud to follow—have both of them condemned the paper duty, and advocated its repeal. What, then, is our present position? We have another Chancellor of the Exchequer, the equal of those two right hon. Gentlemen in every respect, and he has proposed the remission of the duty. I was not one of those who voted for the repeal of the tax last year, but the House chose to pass the Bill which was introduced for that purpose. We know what became of that measure in the House of Lords. Do you think it is not a great calamity to have the two branches of the Legislature at issue upon such a question? I believe it is a great calamity that such a state of things should exist. I am willing and even eager to take the first opportunity when there is a proved surplus to settle the question of the paper duty, and I am surprised that hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are such 1140 great sticklers for constitutional usage, and for keeping the two branches of the Legislature in harmony, should refuse to dispose of it in a satisfactory and effective manner. It is not that "noisy party" to which reference has been made, but it is hon. Gentlemen opposite—it is you, the remnants of a past age, who are endeavouring to keep up this quarrel between the two Houses of Parliament. I am prepared, for one, to support the Government in their proposal to repeal the paper duty. We have got into such a position that we ought to be grateful to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for giving us an opportunity of finally settling the question. But what has been the course pursued by the Opposition? I am at once surprised and puzzled by the tactics of hon. Gentlemen on the other side. I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. T. Baring) on Monday night with the respect due to his great commercial position, and to his acknowledged legislative ability. He examined the Budget in all its aspects, and he spoke of it in somewhat remarkable terms, for he said it was "neither safe, wise, politic, nor even honest to the country." Well, if you agree with the hon. Member in that statement, why are you content to play the rather shabby part in which you are now engaged? Why do you not come boldly forward and meet the Budget with a direct negative? Why are you endeavouring to follow the course which you pursued last year in the case of the Reform Bill? Do you suppose you can defeat the Budget by stalking it out of the House? When the hon. Member for Huntingdon used the strong language I have quoted—when he gave some most excellent and plausible reasons for his opposition to the Budget—why did he not put a direct issue before the House? He moved no Amendment, but—back recoiled, he know not why,Even at the sound himself had made.What took place afterwards? Hon. Gentlemen rose in rapid succession from the benches opposite, and objected to the Budget. The noble Lord the Member for Huntingdonshire (Lord Robert Montagu) was quite shocked at the very idea of the Budget, and denied that there was a surplus; but he proposed no Amendment. The enthusiastic Member for Mallow (Mr. Longfield) was more violent in his language; he called the Budget a "vile' Budget, and told us he "abhorred" it 1141 but he sat down without moving a negative Resolution. To-night we have had the same game played over again. We have been addressed by the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Ball), of whom I may say, continuing my quotation from the Ode on the Passions —With woeful measures, wan despair—Low sullen sounds his grief beguiledA solemn, strange, and mingled air,'Twas sad by fits, by starts 'twas wild.That, in fact, is an epitome of most of the arguments we have heard from the other side. If hon. Gentlemen opposite deny that there is a surplus—if they say, with the hon. Member for Huntingdon, that the Budget is "neither safe, wise, politic, nor honest"—they are not justified in contenting themselves with a mere display of words. Their proper course is to come boldly forward with a Vote of No-confidence. Are they prepared to do that? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks at the close of the discussion on Monday did not seem to have so far made up his mind as to know what to do; and I defy any man to tell, from the speech which we have heard to-night from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Horsham, what course he is going to take. I want to know, in the words of a previous speaker, what we are debating about, and what is the question upon which we are going to divide? There is no question actually before us. We are told that the Budget is not even honest, and yet the hon. Member for Huntingdon is content to resume his seat after simply asking the Chancellor of the Exchequer to take back his Budget. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not take back his Budget. I hope he is prepared, with that firmness of purpose which distinguishes him, and which does honour both to him and to the President of the Board of Trade, to proceed with his Budget, and to divide the House upon it even if it should come to a Vote of No-confidence. The right hon. and learned Member for Dublin University (Mr. Whiteside), who made, as usual, a very able speech, has addressed some 'words to the Chancellor of the Exchequer which are worthy of consideration. With him I say it is not sufficient that the right hen. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer should come down and read lectures to the House upon its extravagance. It strikes me as a most anomalous state o things that while the House is called upon to remit £2,000,000 of taxation it 1142 is also asked to borrow by way of loan £11,000,000 for fortifications. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, from his genius and position, is well qualified to lead the van in the battle of financial reduction, ought not to be satisfied with reading us lectures upon the expediency of reducing expenditure. It is his duty to point out how the expenditure is to be reduced; and I am quite sure, considering his great ability, his acknowledged position, and his undoubted patriotism, that if he only leads the way he will not only have a numerous body of followers in this House, but all the thinking men in the country will be with him. I have no great faith in the financial reformers. The other night a large number of those who signed the famous memorial to the Premier, which showed the necessity for military reform and reduced expenditure, voted in the majority when the question came to a division. [An hon. MEMBER: Not all.] No, not all. Of the sixty-three who signed the paper forty-two happened not to be in their places, and the majority was turned by five who voted. Allow me, in conclusion, to thank the House for the attention it has given to my few observations. Unless the Government, from whichever side of the House it may be taken, is prepared to initiate great measures of reduction in expenditure, the country will not he satisfied with any Budget which may be submitted to Parliament. The Estimates must be reformed, and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not prepared to follow out a wise and wholesome plan of retrenchment, his Budget will be regarded by the public as a delusion and a deceit.
§ MAJOR EDWARDS
said, after the severe castigation which the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Bernal Osborne) lately received from the noble Lord at the head of the Government, he little expected that the hon. Gentleman would have to-night used such terms to a Member of the House so distinguished for his literary attainments, and whose character in the country stood so deservedly high, as to call him, the hon. Member for Launceston (Mr. Haliburton), the "remnant of a past ago." Why, the hon. Gentleman had as much life and brilliancy in him as his assailant would have, for all the presumptuous tone he adopted in the House, if he lived for a century. He did not intend to rise on the present occasion, but when he heard the right hon. President of the Board of Trade sneak in such eloquent terms of 1143 the prosperous state of the manufacturing districts, he thought it was high time for one who was intimately acquainted and intimately connected with the mercantile interests of the country, and who was especially acquainted with the manufacturing interests of the West Riding of Yorkshire, to rise and state what was the present position of our manufactures. He utterly denied that the manufacturing interests of the West Riding and Lancashire were in the condition that was represented by the right hon. President of the Board of Trade. In Leeds, in Bradford, in Huddersfield, and in Halifax, many of the mills were working only two-thirds of their full time, and the prospect before them was so sad that, if you asked the merchants in any of these places, they would say that they did not know what awaited them on the morrow. Almost every market in the world was glutted with manufactures, and there never was a time in the recollection of commercial men when there was a worse look out for them. At this eventful crisis look at China; look at India; look at North and South America, especially the United States, the great cotton emporium of the world, and one of our best customers. Look at Australia, Russia, and the Levant. Why, he was afraid that three-fourths of our manufacturing population would be reduced to a state of starvation if the representations of our leading journals should prove to be true, and he was not sanguine enough to believe they would turn out to be entirely without foundation; and never was there a greater prospect of a general European war. He believed that never was the state of things so lamentable in the country as at the present moment. And was this a time to take off the taxes on paper, especially when it was clearly proved by those Gentlemen who had gone into a rigid calculation of the figures that there was no surplus, but a deficit? If there had been a surplus ought this particular tax to be selected? No. The country looked to those who imposed the income tax to mark it out as the first to be repealed. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had given a solemn pledge to the House to repeal the income tax as soon as the condition of our finances would bear it. Let him now fulfil his pledge so far as he thinks he is able. No one expected any other tax to be repealed until this impost bad either been remitted or materially reduced. Did the paper manufacturers of this country attach much importance to the repeal of 1144 the paper duty? The penny-a-liners did. Look at some of the trash issued day by day. The proprietors of the cheap newspapers desired the repeal of the duty, but the paper manufacturers did not. It would be a god-send to the trade of the country if we were in a position to reduce that tax. But, by the same rule, all reductions were a god-send. The paper duty was not the first to be abolished. It was the duty of Parliament to look to the tea duties in the first instance, and if 5d. per lb. could be struck off, it would be a relief to the poorer classes, to trade, and to the community at large. But was there unanimity on the Treasury Bench on this question? There was not. It was rumoured that only on Monday week were the terms of the Budget settled. The First Minister of the Crown received a deputation on the subject of the paper duty repeal. The noble Lord intimated to that deputation that, under existing circumstances, it would not be repealed, and that such a course would be most inconvenient. The hon. Member for Birmingham, whom be respected for his extraordinary ability, strong political purpose, and unflinching steadfastness, although their political creed was wide as the poles asunder, at this moment occupied a position which might well be envied. Through the influence of the nominees of the hon. Member for Birmingham, the Government bad been enabled to effect that which the Prime Minister could not have accomplished without him. It was well known that only a small section of the present Government were in favour of taking off the duty on paper. But when it came to a question of the existence of the Government on this question—when it came to the issue, "shall the majority succumb to the minority?" the hon. Member for Birmingham carried his point, and the House had the present proposal. He (Major Edwards) had listened with attention to the speeches of the hon. Gentlemen the Member for Huntingdon and of the hon. Member for North Lincolnshire, and, with them, had come to the conclusion that there was a real deficiency of £2,500,000. With such a fact staring them in the face, could they, in common fairness, be called upon to reduce taxation? By reducing 1d. on the income tax a sop was thrown out to the nation, which was thus to be cheated into the abolition of the paper duties.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
Sir, I promise the House that I shall approach the question 1145 now before it in no party spirit, for I am not a party man, and I owe allegiance neither to one side nor to the other—I shall also deal with it in a purely disinterested spirit, and not with the bias of personal feeling. I am, as most Irish Members know, intimately connected with the newspaper press of Ireland; but I can assure the House that if my own personal advantage incline to one side more than another, it is against the proposal of the Government, and in favour of allowing the paper duty to remain as it is; and, indeed, I might add, that if the price of paper were still higher than it now is, or has been for some time since, it would be more to my advantage, and that of the class of newspapers which I might be supposed to represent. Therefore it must be obvious that I approach the question before the House in a disinterested and impartial spirit. The only question before us is this—is this the time for repealing the paper duty, or is it not? I have listened with the greatest attention to this discussion, and I have been present when the subject was discussed on previous occasons; and neither now nor then have I heard one single argument in favour of the continuance of the tax, on the ground either of its morality, its justice, or its expediency. The principle of the tax has been abandoned by all parties, and the only question which remains is one of time and convenience. Even the hon. Gentleman (Major Edwards) who has spoken last, while characterising the question as one in which "penny-a-liners," who published their "trash" to the country, were alone interested—that same hon. Gentleman who most contemptuously characterised some of the ablest newspapers in the country, yet admitted, inconsistently enough, that if the tax would be abolished, it would be a godsend to the country. Every one admits that the tax ought to be taken off; and the only question which we have now to decide is, whether this is the proper time to do so or not. I shall not attempt to enter into the controversy as to the existence or non-existence of a surplus. I am bound to assume there is a surplus to the amount stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; for not only has he stated so on his official responsibility, but I must confess my belief, that, although his statement has been subjected to the ablest criticism, his figures seem to me not to have been shaken in any material point. Hon. Members have spoken of the paper trade 1146 of the country as a small interest, and one of trifling importance; whereas, on the contrary, it is one of the greatest magnitude and importance—and that interest is in jeopardy and danger at the present time. Will the House consider for a moment the history and the consequences of last wear's attempted legislation, and last year's actual legislation? The Government proposed, and the House sanctioned, the repeal of the excise duty on paper; and the proposal was made and adopted very much in consequence of the state of embarrassment to which the pressure and restriction of the tax had brought the trade. It was not the fault of the Government, it was not the fault of this House, that the proposal then made was not finally ratified by being carried into law. The failure was owing to the course pursued in "another place;" by which the just hopes of the trade were miserably disappointed, and their embarrassment was considerably increased. Unfortunately the evil did not stop there; for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, at a later period of the year, and in apparent forget fulness of the crippled condition in which he had described the trade to be placed in the early part of the same year, abolished the penny Customs duty, and thus gave an undue advantage to the foreign manufacturer, at a time, too, when the native manufacturer was in the very worst position to meet such competition. The result has been what I then, on the best authority, asserted it would prove to be—the utmost confusion and embarrassment to the home trade. This being really the state of things as I shall proceed to show, I ask, is not the Government bound to afford redress to the trade which it has helped to embarrass; and is not this House—the most important branch of the constitution—more imperatively bound to redeem its promise to the country? I now state, as a fact, that the foreigner is successfully competing with the home manufacturer, to the injury of native industry, and to the prejudice of home employment. This triumph of the foreigner is a deep injury to the interests of these countries; because, for every mill closed in consequence of his successful rivalry, hundreds of people are deprived of work, and thus of their means of self support. I can give many cases in point; but I shall particularize one only. It is that of a Dublin house. That House was in the habit of supplying an average of six tons of paper per week to the London market, 1147 which paper was used for the purposes of the cheap newspaper press, and also for the printing of cheap literary works. But since the 1st September, 1860, when the foreigner was given an undue advantage, not a single sheet of the paper made by that Dublin firm has been sold in the London market. Taking the value of each ton at £65, the gross annual value of the paper thus sent would amount to £18,000 a year; and this large portion of their trade was altogether lost to that concern in consequence of the competition of the foreigner. Other houses in Dublin, as well as in other parts of Ireland, suffered in more or less degree; and the same could be said of many houses in England and in Scotland. I could mention several eminent houses in this country which have lost 20 per cent and 25 per cent of their trade. There are at this moment from twenty-five to thirty British newspapers printed entirely on Belgian or Prussian paper. Hon. Gentlemen may think lightly of, or even deride, such facts as these; hut they are, nevertheless, both grave and important, and concern, not so much the town populations in which the hon. Member for Birmingham and the "Manchester School" are supposed to be specially interested, hut the rural populations with which Gentlemen on the Opposition side are more intimately concerned. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who preceded me has spoken with unjustifiable severity of the cheap newspapers; but I ask any impartial observer whether extraordinary ability and enterprize have not been displayed in their management? The hon. and gallant Gentleman has also alluded to the cheap papers with contempt; but does he include the Standard, which is one of the organs of his own party, and which has the second largest circulation of the penny papers—in his sweeping calumny against the cheap press? Let me now show to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that this penny or cheap press is not the contemptible and insignificant interest which they assume it to be, and that it exercises an immense influence upon the manufacture of paper. The hon. Member for Invernesshire (Mr. Baillie) said, the other night, "the question of the abolition of the repeal of the paper duty is one that only interests some 100 penny newspapers." I take his statement as correct, for the sake of argument; but, assuming that there are only 100 cheap newspapers interested in the repeal of the duty, look 1148 to the effect which they have upon the employment of the people. Some of these papers, in small cities, may circulate about 2 or 3,000 daily, while in great cities the circulation of the cheap press is known to rise to 50,000 a day. I am, therefore, justified in taking for each an average circulation of 10,000 copies, or 20 reams a day. That will give 60,000 copies, or 120 reams, per week. Now that, multiplied by 52 weeks, gives 6,240 reams a year—which, at 30s. per ream, is, fur each newspaper, no less than £9,360. Multiply this by 100, the number of such newspapers, and it will give you a gross sum of £936,000 per year expended by them in paper alone. Add to this, the cost of machinery, type, and ink, which may be taken at £100,000 more, and you have an annual outlay, which no gentleman, who really considers the importance of increased employment to the people, ought to treat with disdain. Ought not such papers to be rather encouraged than otherwise? I utterly deny the truth of the description given of the cheap press, and I maintain that they have done much to promote the welfare of the people. Do they teach immorality?—do they inculcate anything calculated to debauch, either intellectually or morally, the mind of the country? I repudiate such an assertion, as a calumny and a slander. They have done much to promote a literary taste amongst the humblest classes; and, if they are properly encouraged, they will accomplish more in the same beneficial direction. I pass for a moment to other interests than those connected with the press, or with the literary or educational progress of the people. I desire to show that this tax presses with enormous weight upon a particular branch of paper manufacture—that which is most intimately connected with trade and commerce, and enters most largely into general consumption. I now speak of brown or wrapping paper. Taking the gross amount of the tax at £1,200,000, I assert that £700,000 of that amount is levied off the lowest class of paper. The duty on this description of paper varies from 60 to 105 per cent. I take a ton of paper which is sold by the manufacturer at £28 or £28 14s. per ton. The mill price of that paper is 1½d. per pound, and the duty is also 1½d. per pound, with an addition of 5 per cent. that is, a duty of 105 per cent on an important article of daily consumption. The manufacturer of this description of article has to supply two capitals— 1149 one for the duty, and the other for the manufacture. For this duty the Excise gives him a credit of but one month; while he, according to the custom of the trade, is compelled to give a credit of four months. And suppose the wholesale stationer, whom the manufacturer supplies, fails in business, then he, the manufacturer, loses not only his capital and his profit, but the 105 per cent duty which he has paid to the Government. I am justified in saying that upon this branch of manufacture the Excise presses with a leaden weight; and that were the duty removed, much capital would be liberated which is now unproductive, and an amazing impetus would be given to the employment of the people. It has been erroneously asserted that town populations are alone interested in the repeal of this duty. That is not the case. The very contrary is the fact. The paper mills are, as a rule, situated in rural districts; and while their successful operation confers happiness on the neighbouring village population, the effect of their being closed is ruinous in the extreme. I shall briefly describe both sides of the picture—a people employed, and a people out of employment. Some eight or nine miles from Cork, in a retired and remote rural district, there is now a paper-mill in full operation. I may say it is situate in one of the most charming spots that could well be imagined. Indeed, as a rule, such nulls are always beautifully circumstanced; for you generally see near them pleasant hills, a sheltered valley, and a stream of running water. The owner of that mill is an intelligent and much-respected gentleman, a member, I believe, of the Society of Friends. All the people employed in his concern are Catholics; and a friend of mine who happened, some three or four weeks since, to attend the Catholic Church of the parish in which the mill is situate, assured me that he never beheld in Ireland, and scarcely in any other country, a better dressed or more comfortable-looking congregation than that which filled that humble village church; and that congregation mainly consisted of the workpeople of the Dripsey Paper Mills. Their appearance was a source of pleasure and admiration to the gentleman who then beheld them. Now look at the other side of the picture. Some thirty-five or forty years since, this mill was in other hands, and was affording an immense amount of employment to the surrounding rural population. It was closed about the time I speak of, in conse- 1150 quence of the then proprietor having become entangled in the meshes of the Excise. Two or three hundred of the workpeople of this mill paraded the streets of Cork in melancholy procession—men, women, and children. The foremost man carried a pole, on which was a loaf of bread covered with crape. [A laugh.] Yes, was not this a significant emblem, conveying a fearful meaning? Is it one to deride? Banners were carried too; and on one of the banners were these words—"If our employer be ruined we perish." Is this such a procession as any English gentleman would wish to see pass his own door? Those who remember it passing through the streets of Cork can tell, with truth, that there was not a dry eye in that city as that mournful and melancholy procession paraded its streets. To no part of the United Kingdom would the repeal of the paper duty be of greater advantage than to Ireland, alike from its superabundant water power, and its cheap labour. The duty has crushed many Irish mills into ruin; its repeal would give life to a still greater number; for not only would all restriction and annoyance be at an end hot a much smaller capital than is now indispensable would be sufficient to work them with success. Beautiful streams, which now run idly to the sea, would be turned to account; and many hands, which are now of comparatively little use to their owners, would be usefully and lucratively employed. I stated that the paper trade was greatly disturbed and embarrassed by the alterations and disappointments of last year, and I gave some instances in point. I shall now refer to the Excise Returns of the three last years, and prove, beyond doubt, that the trade has been seriously checked in its natural progress, entirely to the benefit of the foreigner. I shall only take the gross results for the United Kingdom, for the convenience of the House. The years I take are 1858, 1859, and 1860. The total quantity of paper manufactured in the year 1858 was 192,000,000lbs. (I do not give the smaller figures). In 1859 the production increased to 217,000,000lbs., or an increase of 25,000,000lbs. over the previous year. Now observe the year following. In 1860 the quantity was 223,000,000lbs.—or an increase, not of twenty-five, but of 6,000,000lbs. on the previous year—in reality, showing a falling of 19,000,000lbs. The increase in 1859 was the natural and legitimate growth of the trade; the falling off in 1860 was the result of the legisla- 1151 tion, as well as the broken promises, of that year. Now, take a still more striking fact, which will prove that this is a far more serious question than many appear to suppose it to be, and that something must be done if the trade is not to be handed over to other countries. The exportation of home-made paper amounted in 1858 to 16,000,000lbs. In 1859 it rose to 20,000,000lbs. But in 1860, when we crippled trade, and played into the hands of the foreigner, it fell down to 15,000,000lbs. I ask, is it for the foreigner—for the Belgian or the Prussian—we are to legislate, or is it for our own people? And are we to give undue advantages to those who refuse to give anything in return? The foreigner either imposes a duty of £9, or, in some instances, £14 a ton, on the export of his rags, while in some instances he denies us a single pound of them; and yet we, from false notions of free trade, are to throw open our markets to him, to the injury of our manufacturers and the misery of our people. This, Sir, is not my idea of the duty which I owe my country. Mr. Greer, the proprietor of the Dripsey Mills, a gentleman who pays about £11,000 a year in the shape of duty, thus describes the position to which the trade has been reduced by the events of last year—Dripsey House, Cork, 20th April, 1861.MY DEAR SIR.—I have received your letter rather late to-day, to give it that consideration it deserves.During the past year the paper trade has been in a very unsettled and unsatisfactory state, and will, most certainly, continue so, until the duty question is definitively arranged.The free importation of foreign paper, while foreign rags are not procurable by British manufacturers, has been felt most severely, probably by none more than by myself.The foreign maker has besides a very great and gratuitous advantage; he can bond his paper in London, and sell it in bond, leaving the purchaser to remove it at pleasure, and to pay the duty. This enables the foreigner to carry on his trade with a much less capital; while 1, a native manufacturer, am obliged to keep a large and varied stock of duty-paid paper in London, for the convenience of the very same parties whom the foreigner supplies, and, consequently, have to employ a larger capital and incur a greater risk.Last year a large portion of the stock which I held in London when the Budget came out, and upon which no drawback was to be allowed, I had to force into consumption at a considerable loss, in order that none should be on hand upon the 5th of August, after which day the entire duty would have been lost upon all paper remaining in stock, and which had been charged with duty prior to 1st of April. This year the very same thing will occur, while the foreigner will 1152 suffer neither loss, nor inconvenience, nor annoyance of any sort.You are well aware of the unequal pressure of the tax; some high class papers paying a duty of not more than 10 per cent of their intrinsic value, while, as we descend in the scale, the impost increases, until it reaches 75 per cent. and in some cases even more. There are common wrapping papers selling in the market at 3½d. per lb.; their intrinsic or mid-value being only 2d. per lb. The duty (which is 1½d. per lb. and 5 per cent) is, therefore, upwards of 75 per cent on the value of such papers; and the foreigner can sell these in bond, while the native manufacturer must sell it duty paid, thereby nearly doubling his risk.The payment of the duty is evaded to a large extent, and there is no excisable commodity which affords so much facility of evasion as paper. I have been driven out of some localities in consequence of the unfair competition of parties who do not pay duty upon the entire quantity of paper they make.Apologizing for this hurried reply to your note, and trusting that the Budget will be carried in its entirety.—I am, dear Sir, yours most faithfully," ALFRED GREER.John Francis Maguire, Esq., MP., London.Here is a passage from a letter which was published in the Star newspaper of the 9th of this month, in which the writer further explains the injury done to the trade by what Parliament did not do as well as did do last Session—What can be harder than our treatment? Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer writes us, under official autograph, that the duty will be repealed on a certain day. The House confirms his decision; our very douaniers, who stamp and seal our packages, announce their departure. We erect buildings, order machinery, prepare for foreign competition, and like a prisoner who has been told to get ready for leaving his cell, we are preparing for liberty, and find, in the gaol yard that the doors are locked. How many industrious traders, who built upon the authority of the Commons and ancient custom, have succumbed under their losses, will never be known. Others have struggled on, hoping against hope, tottering, but not fallen. And now a depression in the trade, deeper than has been known for years, has come upon us. What publisher will not wait a month or two before he begins to print with the chance of a fall in duty of 30 per cent? What man who uses paper, down to the smallest shopkeeper, will not abstain from buying, and reduce his consumption to the minimum?"It is clear that the home manufacturers cannot compete with the foreigners as matters now stand. The foreigner commands our market by his cheap rags, his cheap labour, and his entire freedom from duty, inasmuch as it is his customer, and not himself, who pays the duty; while the home manufacturer, who is open to foreign competition in the home rag market has to pay higher wages, and is burdened by a heavy load of taxation. Surely, no hon. Gentleman ought to wish to continue 1153 such a state of things. The Government are accountable in some degree for the crippled state in which the home manufacturer is now placed; but the best way to remedy the evil is, in the first place, to liberate the trade from the trammels of the Excise. But, in my opinion, that would not be sufficient. The foreigner is very selfish in respect to the article of rags; and instead of continuing to offer him a bonus to import his paper to our markets, he should be subjected to a small countervailing duty of 5s., or even of 8s. I may be told that this would not be according to the principles of free trade; but free trade ought to be fair trade, and if the foreigner puts a heavy duty on his rags I would place some equivalent duty on his paper. More than one hon. Member has said that the trade do not require the repeal of the duty. Such an assertion savours of the character of fiction. Certainly, from my information, I do not believe it to be correct. A few monopolists, who dread the active competition of men with small capital—the very class of men it ought to be an object to encourage—may be opposed to the repeal of the duty; but I say without fear of contradiction, that out of the three hundred paper manufacturers of the United Kingdom, there are not 5 per cent who do not desire the repeal of the paper duty. The trade are not anxious to see their business daily passing into the hands of foreign rivals; and such is the progress of this dangerous competition, that one of the greatest organs of the newspaper press, of which for its literary ability, any country might be proud, and which, I may remark, is not favourable to the repeal of the Excise duty, is said to have been obliged, in consequence of its enormous circulation, to lately order one thousand tons from Prussia or Belgium. No trade can desire to see its operations paralyzed by uncertainty—and this is the condition of the home trade now, and has been for the last twelve months. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Whiteside) has alluded to another branch of Irish industry which has been unjustly dealt with, and which I certainly desire to see flourish, I mean the distilling trade of Ireland. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has dangerously tampered with that trade, in the hope of obtaining a greater revenue; and it would be a wise policy on his part to reduce the duty, and thus increase the revenue. That question is not now, however, before the House; but when it is—as I hope it will be 1154 in the Budget of next year—I shall gladly vote for the reduction of a duty which is destructive to the trade and not beneficial to the Exchequer. But, Sir, if I were given my choice, I should rather see a flourishing paper mill in an Irish village than a flourishing distillery. The distiller, it is true, affords valuable employment to a number of people, but he turns the wholesome food of man into that which is not at all times for the advantage of the individual, or for the happiness and well being of the community; while the paper manufacturer creates a beautiful and useful article out of the merest refuse, which it would be injurious to the health and comfort of society to accumulate and preserve. It has been asked—are we to provoke another collision between the two Houses and bring the two branches of the Legislature again into conflict? So far from that being the case I believe the repeal of the paper duty by this House will have quite an opposite effect; and that the other House will receive the Bill, which I hope will pass this House by a good majority, as a message of peace and not as a provocation to anger. I believe it to be the best possible mode of putting an end to an unseemly struggle, and of establishing a thorough reconciliation. In conclusion, I say this tax has been condemned formerly as well as frequently by this House; it has been condemned by the department entrusted with the task of its collection; it has been condemned by the voice of public opinion; it has been condemned on various grounds and for various reasons, and no voice has been lifted in favour of its justice, its usefulness, or its expediency. One of the most important trades in the country is grievously embarrassed by its retention, and that embarrassment is increased tenfold by the abortive attempts and the ruinous legislation of the last year. We are bound, then, by the pledged honour of Parliament, as well as by every consideration of justice and equity, to repeal the tax this year, and I, for the reasons I have stated, will give my cordial support to this proposition of the Government.
§ MR. HORSMAN moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, the debate might be adjourned till (Friday), but he understood that the two hon. Gentlemen who had Notices of Motions this day were not willing to recede, and therefore it must be taken on Monday.
§ Debate further adjourned till To-morrow.