§ Order for Committee read.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
Sir, in the first words I venture to address to the House, I would beg to call the attention of hon. Members to the terms of the Motion of which I have given notice. They are—That, whereas the embodiment of the principal financial proposals of the Government in one Bill unduly increases the power of the Government over the taxation of this country, and the interests thereby affected, limits inconveniently the 69 action of this House, and would annul the well-ascertained function and privilege of the House of Lords, it be an instruction to the Committee to divide the Customs and Inland Revenue Bill, so that each of the taxes to which it relates may be separately treated.I gave notice of that Resolution, I trust, in no spirit of presumption. It would be ridiculous on my part to attempt to dictate on a constitutional question to the House; but I had no opportunity of giving notice of the Motion till the last day before the recess; and I felt that my position as a humble but independent Member of the House required that I should in this notice give a clear expression to the objections which moved me as an independent Member of the House to take the course I do. It is not, however, my intention to submit to the consideration and decision of the House, either of the abstract propositions which are contained in this notice; although I firmly believe that each of these propositions is true—that the form of this Supply Bill tends to confer upon those who represent the power of the Crown in this House an undue control over the taxation of the country; and an undue influence over the interests thereby affected. Although I hold also that the form of the Bill limits inconveniently the action of this House; and although I further hold that if adopted this form of Supply Bill will annul the well ascertained function and privilege of the House of Lords—a function and privilege the exercise of which was admitted to be rightful by a Committee of this House which was appointed last Session to consider this subject—I will now only submit for the decision of the House the operative part of the notice which stands in my name. I, therefore, now move—That it be an instruction to the Committee to divide the Customs and Inland Revenue Bill, so that each of the taxes to which it relates may be separately treated.Sir, I am told that an impression has gone abroad that I am unduly intruding on the time of the House, and that the object of my Motion is unnecessarily to obstruct the progress of the Government business. I most emphatically disclaim the truth both of the one and the other of these imputations; because the House will recollect that, although an attempt was made to discuss upon the second reading of this Bill the form in which as a Supply Bill it has been proposed by the Government; although an attempt was made to discuss the effect of that form upon the free and 70 legitimate action of this House, and upon the privileges of the House of Lords, that attempt was found to be utterly futile. For, as we proceeded, we were crossed in debate upon the constitutional question involved in the form of the Bill by discussions on the several substantive proposals contained in the Bill; and, as each substantive proposal was different from the other, such was the confusion of the debate that no issue could be taken on the second reading of the Bill but a question of confidence in the Government who proposed it. This, then, is the first occasion on which the questions arising out of the form of the Bill can, according to the rules and orders of the House, be distinctly submitted for our decision; and I most sincerely lament that, owing to the circumstances in which the different parties in this House are placed, the subject has fallen into my hands, for I should not have undertaken so grave a task had it not appeared to me that it had fallen to my lot and to have become my duty to beg the House to consider the gravity of the questions which are involved in the form of the Bill proposed by the Government. Now, I think that what occurred on the second reading must have satisfied every hon. Member that, on that stage of a measure of this sort, including, in the present instance, as I hold unduly and improperly the imposition of the income tax, the repeal of the paper duty, and the imposition of the Customs duties upon tea and sugar, no distinct issue could have been taken on either of these matters of finance separately, but merely a vote of confidence or a vote of want of confidence in the Government, who are responsible for the form of the Bill. To raise that issue is not my object, and it ought not to be the object of the House to raise it; because the function and the privilege of the House of Commons has hitherto been to discuss and decide independently upon the different items of taxation which the representatives of the Crown may submit to it for alteration, revision or imposition; and to do this apart from any consideration of confidence in the Government, who, although they are the representatives of the power of the Crown still in matters of taxation stand, after the proposal on the part of the Crown has once been made, simply in the position of Members of this Assembly, to which in this free country is delegated the high privilege, the great 71 power and the duty of deciding what taxes shall be levied upon the people. Sir, I know that I may be met by the allegation that, owing to the fact that no tax can be imposed except it be submitted to this House in a preliminary Committee of the whole House, and that in that Committee we hare sufficient opportunity to discuss separately the items of taxation which are brought before us by the representatives of the Crown, and that the Resolutions to which we come after such discussions in that Committee ought to satisfy the people of this country that we have paid due attention to their interests. But there is one fact which utterly disproves that allegation, and that fact is this: that so little are the decisions which are taken in the preliminary Committee regarded as final, conclusive, or satisfactory by those who framed the Orders of this House, that when it is primarily decided that any duty is to be lessened or diminished by a Resolution of the House, and this decision is communicated to the heads of the department, who are entrusted with the administration of the tax, upon the Resolution being reported a bond is taken from every importing merchant or other person dealing in the article so taxed, which, in case Parliament should not adhere to its first determination, binds those who avail themselves of the remission of duty to pay the difference on the final adjustment of the law. Now, I think that that one fact is sufficient to prove, that, according to the practice of the Constitution, the House of Commons ought not to be satisfied with a single opportunity of deciding what shall be the taxation for the year. Well, Sir, how stands the matter? According to the usual practice of the House for many years up to this year, the substance of this Bill—the proposals made on the part of the Crown in this Bill—would have been divided into three bills instead of being consolidated into one. And what is the difference which that makes in the treatment of these matters by the House. "Why, that according to the form of this Supply Bill we have only one first reading, one second reading, one Committee, one consideration on Report, and one third reading of one Bill, whereas we ought to have three Bills, three first readings, three second readings, three Committees on the Bill, three considerations on Report—if there were any Amendment in Committee—and further, three opportunities for discussion on three 72 third readings. Now, if these various opportunities for discussion and decision are to be held as useless; if any Member of the House is bold enough to assert that the forms of this House, which have been declared by the highest constitutional authorities to be the means by which we are chiefly able to guard the freedom of the subject, are no. longer of any value, then he may consistently declare that the form of this Bill is what it ought to be, and that the more and the sooner we get rid of those useless forms the better. But where, I ask, is the bold man who will tell me that the forms of proceeding adopted by this House and by Parliament, as the necessary safeguards of the liberties of the people of this country, as the means by which we are able to bring our deliberations to such an issue as shall best secure their welfare; where, I ask, is the bold man who will tell me that these forms are useless, or that it is either right or safe practically to abolish so many of them in the manner now proposed? Sir, I believe that no person will be bold enough to make such an assertion; and I say this fearlessly, although I am aware that, upon this subject, I am opposed to the opinion which is entertained by my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge. I lament that I differ from him, but I must say that it was with astonishment I learnt that the right hon. Gentleman who represents the "University of Cambridge, and who stands high amongst the constitutional authorities of this House, was the author of two recommendations, neither of which were adopted by the Committee on Tax Bills over which he presided; one of these proposals recommended a departure from the form which our taxation has assumed owing to the burthen of the debt, and the constant and enlarged requirements of the public establishments, and would have suddenly rendered a great portion of our taxation annual, and therefore precarious. And, then, how did the right hon. Gentleman propose that we should consider the questions involved in the annual repeal or continuance of this vast mass of taxation? Why, by means of a Supply Bill, to be framed upon the model of the present; which would debar us enormously from the opportunities of free discussion, by limiting the time that we should have allotted to us for deliberation. By this system the Government of the day gain all the power that the 73 House lose by the curtailment of its opportunities not only for deliberation but for decision upon the questions involved in this consolidated financial scheme. I do not know whether the House is yet conscious of the enormous power which we are granting to the Crown by this Bill. It may seem a bold assertion, but it is the fact, and I beg the House to consider it, that you not only by this Bill abandon four stages at least upon which you might consider the propositions included in this Bill, but you render the decision that might be taken on the first reading, on the second reading, and on the third reading of the consolidated Bill, a decision not with respect to any one particular item of the taxation with which it deals, but a decision with respect to the confidence which the House may repose in the Government of the day. Clearly, Sir, that enables the Government of the day to appeal to every supporter, to appeal to the whole House for support, not merely upon the matters contained in the Bill, but upon the general issue; whether, not only in this respect, but in other respects the Government are worthy of the confidence of the House and the country. This form of Supply Bill goes far towards defeating the power of the House to deal practically and independently with the subject of taxation, That, Sir, is the fact. When the Bill has once been introduced we are limited to one single opportunity—if no Amendment is made in Committee on the Bill—the opportunity in Committee, of considering in detail subject matter which, according to the usual practice of this House up to the present year would have been divided into three Bills, instead of being included in one. Sir, I regard this as a most mischievous infringement upon the freedom and upon the power of this House. We may, indeed, be told, as we have been told already, that it will be for the convenience of trade, for the convenience of the interests affected, that the several financial proposals of the Government should be consolidated in one Bill. And how does the matter stand? Are all those interests the same? Are all to be affected alike by these different proposals, some for the imposition, some for reduction, and some for the repeal of taxes? Why, it is obvious that the interests affected, are affected, not only differently by the mode in which you propose to deal with the taxation to which they are subjected; but, being different in their cir- 74 cumstances, they require, some of them, for their convenience the immediate confirmation by law of the proposed changes. While with regard to others it is essential that there should he postponement until those concerned have had an opportunity of considering the matter and instructing their representatives what changes they conceive will be for their advantage; what form of imposition will be the least onerous, and what period will be the most convenient for the proposed changes to take effect. Why, only last year it was made sufficiently obvious upon the Stamp Duties Bill that, if you would consult the interests of trade by the manner in which you deal with taxation, you should treat every tax separately according to its merits and the effect which the change of it is likely to have upon the particular interests concerned; and I say that if you are to consider the interests of trade, as it has been the practice of the House of Commons to do, and as I hope it will continue to be the practice of the House, I say if you are to consult the interests of trade you will by sanctioning the proposal which I now submit to the House be enabled to consider severally, as we did last year, the various interests which are affected by the different matters of taxation included in this Bill, otherwise you can scarcely do so. Sir, I feel that as this question is not taken up by the leaders of the Opposition in this House, it is a question that ought to be raised by the independent Members on the other side of the House. I have been a Member of this House for some time, and in former years I have known no hon. Members so averse to any undue increase of the power of the Crown over taxation, no hon. Members so careful that taxation should be considered with due reference to the various interests affected thereby, as hon. Members, who hold advanced liberal opinions. But on the present occasion we know that there is one question involved in this Consolidation Bill which so entirely absorbs the attention of the leaders of that party, and that the reins of party organization on the other side of the House below the gangway have been drawn so tight, and that their new discipline is so severe, that, whatever their private opinions may be upon the merits of the grave question now at issue, we can scarcely hope for more than their silent votes, even if the subject attracts their notice sufficiently to induce them to vote at all. The authority and 75 practice of Mr. Pitt have been adduced in support of consolidating the financial proposals of the Government in one Bill. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle has adverted to the precedents afforded by the great measure of 1787, and by the financial dispositions made under the Act of Union in the year 1800; and I admit that the financial arrangements of those years were so remarkable that they may well be cited as marking peculiar epochs in the financial history of this country. What were the circumstances of 1787? I have, Sir, by me here an account of the discussions which took place in that memorable debate given by Bishop Tomline in his Life of Pitt; and, with the permission of the House, I will read a short extract from it. It states that "Mr. Pitt further proposed that," instead of keeping separate and distinct funds as at present—(this was 1787)—The produce of all taxation whatever should form one general fund, to be called the Consolidated Fund, out of which the public creditors of every description were to be paid, and the surplus of which was to be applicable, under the direction of Parliament, to the service of the current year.Why, Sir, any one who refers to history will find that previous to that year the different taxes were held separately by a vast variety of independent functionaries; were collected separately, and were charged separately, with the debt of this country, under its then various denominations; that nothing could exceed the minute division and attendant confusion of that system, and that when Mr. Pitt undertook to introduce the great measure of that year, not only did he propose to deal with the whole taxation of the country, but he proposed to deal with the whole manner of appropriating the produce of the taxation, and in the same measure he included the provisions necessary, so far as the action of this House was concerned, for the ratification of a treaty with France. That was, indeed, a financial Resolution. It was a vast operation in finance; and its vastness may be proved by this one fact, that in order to carry into effect the proposals which he then made, Mr. Pitt was obliged to submit to the consideration of, and to carry through, this House not three Resolutions such as those upon which the present Bill is founded, but 3,000 Resolutions; and I put it to the common sense of the House whether it was practicable for any Minister to carry through Parliament in one Session 3,000 Bills. To cite 76 that precedent, then, in justification of the form of the present Bill, is perfectly absurd. The action of the House at that time was by the universal consent of Mr. Burke, of Mr. Fox, of Mr. Sheridan; of the Opposition, and of the independent Members, that the House virtually suspended the standing orders in order to effect a vast financial revolution fraught with the most happy consequences, involving changes unparalleled in the financial history of the country. I repeat, that it is ridiculous to cite such a precedent as that for the action year by year of this House in dealing annually with the taxation of the country. Sir, every Chancellor of the Exchequer is not a Mr. Pitt; and, until we are secure of an annual succession of Mr. Pitts, I protest against our attempting annually to copy the form of procedure adopted on the occasion to which I have referred in order to effect that vast financial revolution; were the House annually to follow that precedent we should be inflicting upon the country the uncertainty which is entailed by the adoption of revolutionary principles in finance. Well, Sir, what is the other precedent afforded by the practice of Mr. Pitt, which the right hon. Gentleman has cited? The operation of 1787 included a treaty with a foreign Power; and so far as that goes I would observe that if the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer were really a disciple of Mr. Pitt, he ought last year, not this year, to have adopted the precedent of 1787. But, Sir, I was about to advert to the circumstances of the year 1800, and the Act of Union. That involved not only a financial but a political revolution. Are we annually to act upon the precedent afforded by the measures which were necessary to consolidate the Parliaments of two nations, which had, theretofore, governed independently two distinct nations combined in allegiance under one Sovereign? Are we to avoid our usual practice and adopt the. system which was necessary in the year 1800 to consolidate the finances which had previously been under the control of two independent Parliaments? On the contrary, I hold that no precedent established by Mr. Pitt shows that he approved of any such invasion of the general custom of Parliament and of the Orders of the House of Commons as would be involved by our annually following as a precedent the exceptional action which he found necessary first in 1787, and again in 1800, 77 I shall not go further into precedents. I will now address myself, humbly address myself, to the common sense and common knowledge of the House; for I believe that, in the financial history of this House and of this country, you may find a precedent for almost anything. At times this House has been fawningly subservient to the Crown. At times this House has restricted the action of the Crown through the financial operations which were always its peculiar privilege. At times this House has been obsequious to the House of Lords. At other times, finding that the power of the Crown was unduly combined with the power of the House of Lords to inflict an oppression through taxation upon the people of the country, as in the time of the Stuarts, this House, has resisted the power of the House of Lords, but in resisting the power of the House of Lords it duly limited the power of the Crown in matters of taxation which by the present Bill you are vastly extending to the prejudice, I say, not only of the privileges of this House but to the prejudice of the freedom of the people. It is common to say, and common to think, that because the power of the Crown is exercised by Ministers in this House that, therefore, the powers of the Crown and the powers of the House of Commons are identical. Sir, that is not the fact. Although the power of the Crown in matters of taxation has been separated almost entirely from the personal will of the Sovereign, the power of the Crown is still very great and totally distinct from the powers of this House. No taxation can be originated except it be suggested by the representatives of the Crown. No tax can become law but by the assent of the Crown. Therefore, at the beginning and at the end of each, financial operation, the power of the Crown comes in. True, the Ministers who exercise this power now sit in this House. But are they only financial Ministers? Are they not invested with vast and increasing patronage which day by day by an increase corresponding to the increase of the public expenditure is extending its ramifications, not amongst the aristocracy, as has been held by the hon. Member for Birmingham, but into the middle classes, reaching the administration of our local affairs, controlling the free system of self-government which has been our boast, and year by year encroaching upon the liberties which our forefathers won, and which we have inherited. And, 78 are we, the representatives of the people of England, in these days of struggle for constitutional freedom against despotism, which is raging throughout the world, when the cause of constitutional freedom is further imperilled by the present disturbances in America—are we about to make over to the representatives of the Crown each year a share of power over the taxation of the people, which no House of Commons has ever habitually entrusted to the representatives of the Crown, whether they sat within these walls or elsewhere? That, Sir, is what we are asked to do by this Bill; and, it is my strong feeling that not only is it wrong to do this now, but that we are likely to establish a precedent which may be used hereafter to control this House, to damage and to lessen the freedom of the people, and to impair our power of resistance against aggression, to an extent which I am happy to say, has not for centuries been suffered by the free people of this country. Hon. Members opposite may hope that, on the present occasion, having what they deem to be a popular, but a very minor object to accomplish, they will be able to cloak before the face of the public the true nature of the action they are now taking. But, I warn them that it ill becomes the advanced liberal party of this country to invest the Crown, not the Ministers of the day only, but by establishing this precedent, the Ministers of the Crown, whoever they may be hereafter, with a control over the taxation of the country, which it is the especial function of this House to guard and to regulate. I confidently assert, taking all the circumstances into consideration, that there is no precedent in the annals of this House for the last century and a half, which can fairly be adduced to justify the course we are now invited to adopt. It is because I entertain this feeling strongly, and because I feel that the exceptional practice of Mr. Pitt has been cited without due warrant and without just application, that I as a very humble but independent Member of this House venture to suggest, not in a party sense, for I am afraid that party organization on this side of the House will be used against me, that this is a matter on which the House should not lightly give its decision, at all events, not without some assurance and security that the form of the Supply Bill, which we are now asked to consider, shall not be held the type of future Supply Bills, and that we snail not hereafter 79 be asked to grant to the representatives of the Crown a power which the House of Commons has never habitually conceded. The circumstances of the present day upon the Continent of Europe are such, as I should think must direct the attention of the House to this subject. Austria has opened her Parliament, and of what does Hungary complain? She says, "You have given us a Parliament, but you have not given the representatives of our nation power over taxation;" and nothing can be abler than the mode in which that fact, and the consequences, to be apprehended from it, have been brought before the Hungarian Parliament in the statesmanlike speech of M. Deäk. Then, what is the history of Poland? That was formerly an elective monarchy, to the action, and to the failings, and to the dangers of which form of government you are assimilating the Constitution of this country. Vast patronage, and great power were collected in the hands of the Sovereign of Poland who was elected. "What has been the history? what the real cause of the loss of freedom by Poland? Why, that organized agitation stimulated faction, stimulated a struggle between the various elements of the State, each striving to obtain the ascendancy. It was not originally foreign invasion, but these internal struggles which invited foreign intervention and thus eventually proved fatal to the freedom and independence of Poland. Again, what is the history of Venice? In the hands of the Doge, an elective Sovereign, was reposed vast power. What did that lead to? To perpetual struggles of faction for possession of the supreme power of the State until at last the liberties of Venice were virtually lost. And what do we see this very day in the United States of America? We have seen a gradual increase of power by patronage collected into the hands of the President. And what is the condition of the United States? Why it is avowed that corruption has spread widely throughout the Republic; and that the removal from office of vast bodies of officials at the sole will of the changing—the ever-changing executive power has shaken its institutions, until at last we see them unable to control the several parties, the differing elements of the State, until we see a division and a separation of the great republic. If you adopt this system, and in addition to the increased patronage which has been allotted to the Crown you impart to it 80 increased power over taxation also; you will give a stimulus to the struggles of party, an incitement to ambitious men to grasp this power, and an inducement to subordinates to assist them in their object, that will drive to utter insanity the party struggles of this House, and centre them upon—what? Why, upon questions of finance. Are we, then, to countenance a system of annual financial revolution? Are we to enter upon a vast and an unlimited game of "Beggar my neighbour?" Are we to merge all considerations in the choice of Ministers in this one point. Who is to be trusted; who is to be feared in matters affecting the private property of individuals; what Chancellor of the Exchequer will be least dangerous in the administration of this vast power which we shall have granted to him, as the representative of the Crown, over the taxation of the country and the interests thereby affected? Sir, it appears to me that, if we have had reason to lament the exacerbation of party struggles hitherto; if we have had reason to lament the short duration of Ministries, by this system we are incurring the danger of still further exacerbation of party struggle, and are entailing upon this country the probability of still more frequent changes of Government; I do hope that the House will consider it unbecoming for the reasons I have ventured to state, thus to abandon, in favour of the representatives of the Crown, an amount of power over the taxation of this country, which has never hitherto been habitually conceded by Parliament. Sir, I am unwilling longer to detain the House. Nothing but a strong sense of duty would have induced me to bring this question under its notice. What I ask the House to do is this, not to imperil its own dignity, not to limit its own freedom, not to abandon its peculiar duties by sanctioning this form of Supply Bill for an object, which I hold to be totally inconsistent with the dignity of this House. For that object is simply this, by an unworthy stratagem, to cripple the House of Lords in the exercise of a function and a privilege—their exercise of which, their right to which, and their occasional use of which, we only last Session sanctioned by the solemn resolutions of this House. Now, I have no right, and I have no wish to become the feeble advocate of the House of Lords. They have their privileges, and I think they will show this House that they can guard them; for if this House 81 should resort to stratagem in order to oust them of their rights, they have means by the use of which, whilst avoiding the extreme issue, that you wish to thrust upon them, they will be able effectually to guard the freedom, which is as dear to them as is the freedom of this House to ourselves. The object of this statagem, of the measure now before us, is to compel the House of Lords, who cannot alter but may reject, to accept the Bill, knowing that it might be dangerous for them to reject the whole of the financial propositions of the year; and by this stratagem it is hoped that the free exercise of the judgment of the House of Lords upon one item of taxation, will be so crippled and so cramped that they may, not out of consideration for, or from good will towards this House, but on compulsion, slip through a financial change, of which it is possible they may disapprove. I ask whether the circumstances of the present time, whether the position of the House of Lords, whether anything in the conduct of the House of Lords can justify our attacking them, not openly by passing a Bill for the repeal of the paper duty, as a separate measure, and telling them that that is the will of the House of Commons, but by such an unworthy stratagem? Is there, I say, anything in their conduct which can justify such a proceeding? By Resolutions of this House we have, I maintain, sanctioned the action of the House of Lords last year in rejecting the Bill for the repeal of the paper duty. And we know another thing. "We know that their decision was thoroughly in accordance with public opinion. And in this House we know yet another thing. We know that it was in accordance with the opinion of the majority of the independent Members, who voted on the third reading of that Bill; for the majority which, carried that Bill to the House of Lords was only nine, and we know that the Government can command forty votes in this House. I contend, therefore, that it is a misrepresentation to say that the House of Lords rejected a Money Bill which was passed by the independent majority of this House. The truth is this: the House of Lords differed from the Financial Minister of the day upon the propriety of abandoning about a million of taxation when there was a deficiency. And, Sir, I believe that if the Members of this House could even now be polled by their consciences, it would be found that the vast majority of them re- 82 joiced to see the House of Lords extend a safeguard over the credit of this country, which the independent Members of this House had been overborne in seeking to extend over it by the power of the Government on the last division of this House with respect to the paper duty. That, Sir, is my firm belief; and I, for one, would humbly beseech the House to retain its power; at all events to assert its rights, and not to suffer itself to be crippled by this form of Supply Bill; but to assert, I hope, finally, that it will not be betrayed into attacking the House of Lords by an unworthy stratagem, when we have no reason to believe, but, on the contrary, have every reason not to believe, that the House of Lords would, in defiance of our decision, summarily reject a Bill for the repeal of the paper duty, if that Bill passed through this House in accordance with our usual and long-tried practice, and were thus formally submitted for their free and independent judgment. I beg to move—That it be an instruction to the Committee to divide the Customs and Inland Revenue Bill, so that each of the taxes to which it relates may be separately treated.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, I think that the few moments of silence which have passed since the hon. Member (Mr. Newdegate) sat down may fairly be construed as an indication that the House conceives that this subject had already been thoroughly discussed. Not, indeed, from any disrespect to the hon. Gentleman—for the manner in which he has stated his argument is worthy of all attention—but simply from the respect which I am bound to pay to the time and convenience of the House, I do not propose to repeat in any extended statement the considerations that have been laid before the House on prior occasions, in which the importance of the subject justified our entering upon it to almost any degree. Sir, I do not think that the hon. Member has succeeded—nor did I think that any one could have succeeded—in presenting what is at once new and material, in the view of this question, from the point at which he himself regards it. However, I observe that he has treated it in a great degree with reference to the injury which he thinks the present form of proceeding is likely to inflict upon the powers of this House in the discussion of a financial measure. "Well, Sir, I admit that we have not heard so 83 much said upon that aspect of the case in former debates as upon its other aspects; but I must say that I think the reason why we have not had so much said of it is, that that department of the question is, in the sense in which the hon. Member regards it, entirely hopeless and incapable of yielding any useful result. When the Government introduces its financial measures in separate Bills, it has the power of separating them by any interval of time whatever. It may ask the House to dispose of one Bill before it gives the House the opportunity of passing any vote upon another. Surely the hon. Member will not maintain that that arrangement is favourable to the power and freedom of this House. Well, Sir, in introducing the measure now before the House, one of the points on which we relied was this—that experimentally and practically, in the course of the debates of last year, Gentlemen opposite found themselves, I may say, compelled, by considerations of practical convenience, to combine together in one Motion what were not comprised at that period in one Bill—namely, the two rival propositions, as they then were, with respect to the paper duty and the income tax. And surely there cannot be a clearer practical proof of the convenience to the House in the combination of these proposals in one Bill than the fact that when they were not combined in one Bill it was only found necessary, by a proceeding which was, perhaps, somewhat irregular in strict Parliamentary usage, though it was commended by good sense and convenience, to present them in combination to the notice and discussion of this House? The hon. Member says that the House has but one opportunity, in consequence of this mode of proceeding, of considering these several questions. Sir, I never heard a statement that appeared to me to be more erroneous. The House has in the first place an opportunity of considering—
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
rose for the purpose apparently of explaining; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer proceeding with his address without giving way; and Mr. NEWDEGAXE nevertheless attempting to gain a hearing, and cries of "Order" arising—
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that it was the rule of the debate that the Member addressing the House was in possession of the House, and need not give way unless it was his pleasure to do so. Any hon. Member desiring to make an explanation would be allowed the opportunity of doing 84 so after the Member who was speaking had resumed his seat.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
If I had been stating anything that was in the slightest degree a matter of feeling or reproach to the hon. Member, I would willingly have given way; but I was pointing out how entirely erroneous his statement was, and what are the opportunities, according to the present form of debate, that are enjoyed by the House of considering the financial measures of the Government. The first effect of our proceedings is, that, whereas, in the ordinary course of things, we should have had no preliminary Committee whatever on the Paper Duties Bill—and the Motion for leave to introduce the Bill would only have given the House the limited opportunities of speaking which are accorded when the House sits as a House—we had the opportunity of discussing in Committee the Resolution for the repeal of the paper duties. The next opportunity of discussing the whole of these subjects separately and individually was upon the Report of the Resolutions, when again each of them was separately and distinctly brought before the House. The first reading of the Bill I will not mention, because that is the stage when, with the fewest exceptions, no Motion is made. We then come to the second reading; and I believe that by the practice of the House in recent years it would have been perfectly competent to any Gentleman on the second reading of the Bill—if he objected to the measure as a whole—to have opposed it as a whole, or to have opposed such a particular feature of the Bill as he might have thought open to reprehension. Then we come to the Committee on the Bill; and there is another occasion in which the fullest and largest liberty is afforded to any one of discussing every proposition separately. We then have the Report from the Committee when, likewise, a similar opportunity, as far as it can be enjoyed by the House, is enjoyed of dealing separately with each portion of the Bill. And if the hon. Member thinks that these five stages are insufficient for the discussion five times over of any point contained in the Bill, it is then open to him, consistently with the forms of the House, to move the recommitment of the Bill, for the purpose of satisfying what still remains unsatisfied of his appetite for discussion; and that Motion for the re-commitment of the Bill may, I believe, be repeated and accepted 85 by the House as often as Members may deem fit. So then, I think, the hon. Gentleman, if I gather his argument aright, has entirely failed in showing that there is any abridgment of the real privileges and powers of the House in the form of proceeding that the Government has adopted. I affirm with confidence, on the other hand, that there is a great extension of that power and liberty of discussion; because, in fact, the repeal of the duty is presented to them in the form of preliminary Resolutions, and in immediate connection with all those other propositions to which, upon this occasion, it has a natural relation. The hon. Gentleman says, indeed, "There was the case of Mr. Pitt. Mr. Pitt combined various matters in one Bill, but then that was a different affair, for he had three thousand Resolutions instead of three." The hon. Member places himself in this predicament, that he objects to our joining together three Resolutions in a Bill; but if we brought forward three thousand Resolutions then he would have no objection. Then, he contends, we should be completely sheltered by the example of Mr. Pitt, to whom, however, he to-night accorded the very questionable praise that he proposed a measure of revolutionary finance. The hon. Gentleman has referred also to the aspect of this measure as a defence of the privileges of this House, and as a vindication of the sole and exclusive right of the House to deal with matters of Supply, and to adjust the revenue and charges of the year. I do not know on what account the hon. Gentleman calls this an "unworthy stratagem." It is a proceeding perfectly consistent with precedent, and a proceeding entirely conformable to the principles of the Constitution as they bear upon the powers of this House—it is a proceeding with regard to which there has been no suppression or concealment practised. We have desired to do that which should indicate the joint purpose with which the proposal was made, and at the same time we have desired to avoid doing that which would give an offensive aspect to the proposal. If that proposal be made to carry an offensive aspect, I must say it appears to me it is a great deal more owing to the hon. Member and to others who have treated it as a measure aimed at the privileges of the House of Lords than to anything said or done by the Government. (The hon. Member has again fallen into an error which I 86 hoped would have been avoided after the discussions we have had. He said that the House of Lords may not alter a Money Bill, but may reject it. I should like to know where it is that the hon. Member has learned that the House of Lords are possessed of a power of rejecting in any sense in which they are not possessed of a power of alteration. No doubt you may quote the dicta of important persons in the House of Lords; but the dictum of a Member of the House of Lords does not bind the House of Lords; and by no proceeding has that House ever surrendered, as far as I know, the right of altering a Bill, even though it touch a matter of finance. If I might say for my own part, though anxious to vindicate the privileges of this House against the House of Lords where need may arise, yet I think that the House of Lords is right and wise in avoiding any formal surrender of the power even of amendment in cases where it might think it justifiable even to amend a Bill relating to finance. The privileges of the two Houses of Parliament, from their nature, are best maintained by the good sense and wisdom of the two Houses in putting them into action from time to time, and I do not think that any advantage would be gained by a surrender which, at any rate, the hon. Member is entirely in error in supposing has been made. I shall not enter further into a discussion of this proposal, except to observe that nothing could, be more inconsistent—indeed I might say ludicrous—than the adoption of the Motion the hon. Member has proposed, in order to prevent what he calls—in a phrase which I should like to challenge were I before the Civil Service Commission instead of in the House of Commons—"the embodiment of the principal financial proposals of the Government in one Bill." The effect of this proposal would be that we should have five Bills at least—perhaps a good many more—one for the income tax, one for tea, one for sugar, one for chicory, and one for paper. In point of fact, the hon. Member would lead us to a mode of proceeding which is as entirely without precedent in the financial proceedings of the House, as it is, I think, without foundation in reason, or in the convenience of the House, or in the principles of the Constitution and the practice of Parliament.
§ MR. SPOONER
said, he thought his right hon. Friend—if he would permit him to call him so—was mistaken in the 87 manner in which he accounted for the' momentary silence which followed the speech of his hon. Colleague. At the conclusion of that address the House naturally remained silent, expecting that the right hon. Gentleman would get up to answer a speech which it fell peculiarly to him to answer. But no real answer had, as he believed, been given to it by the right hon. Gentleman. It was true as the right hon. Gentleman said that the House of Lords had the power of altering a money Bill. That was so no doubt; but at the same time they all knew that the House of Commons always rejected money Bills which had been so altered; and the limitation of the powers of the House of Lords in that case was as effective as if it had been laid down in express words. He would not upon that occasion enter into a consideration of the general question at issue. He only rose for the purpose of calling the attention of the House to one very peculiar circumstance in the course which had been adopted by the Government. Could the right hon. Gentleman cite any case in which a Supply Bill, thrown out by the House of Lords in one Session, had been brought in during the following Session, not by itself, but coupled with another most important measure, which would prevent the Lords from fully and freely exercising one of their undoubted privileges? The proposal to repeal the paper duty was at present accompanied by another most important measure; and under those circumstances, much as the House of Lords might object to that proposal, they might feel it inexpedient to insist on its rejection. He believed that the right hon. Gentleman would have acted far better if he had followed the precedent of last year, and sent up to the House of Lords the same Bill which had been sent up to them upon that occasion. That was the view which he took of the question which had been raised by the Motion of his hon. Colleague; and he earnestly hoped that the House would not be misled by the stratagem of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but would insist that the proposal for the repeal of the paper duty should be left to be decided by the House of Lords upon its own special merits. It could not be said hereafter that the measure, as it stood, had been passed "with the consent of the House of Lords," for it might fairly be supposed that it had received the sanction of that House solely in consequence of the 88 disinclination of its Members to throw into a state of confusion the finances of the country. No doubt, the House of Commons had the sole right to originate taxes; but when a tax was once imposed its maintenance or remission affected the credit of the country, of which the House of Lords was bound to take care as much as was the House of Commons. For these reasons he should support the Motion of his hon. Colleague.
§ MR. HORSMAN
regretted that he found himself compelled to vote against the Motion of his hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Newdegate), because there was much in his speech and still more in the meaning of his Motion as a condemnation of the form in which this Bill was presented to the House with which he agreed. But he must say that he concurred with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that after the discussions which had taken place upon this, subject this Motion was inconvenient in form, and would affirm a principle which was most inaccurate. If the hon. Gentleman desired to take any issue upon this subject he ought to have taken it upon the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Sligo (Mr. Macdonogh). Upon that Motion there were two nights' discussions without a division; and it was too late now to raise this technical difficulty. When he saw the Amendment upon the paper he thought that it would occasion much embarrassment to many Members who agreed with the hon. Member for Warwickshire, and that embarrassment would be increased by the change which had since been made in its terms. It was always inconvenient to raise a question by an abstract Resolution; but they were now to vote upon the last two lines of the Motion only. But they could not separate those lines from the preamble which had been withdrawn. Although they were merely to say that it should be an Instruction to the Committee to divide the Bill, they could not separate that Instruction from the reasons which had been given for its adoption. Those reasons affirmed a much larger principle than the House was at that moment ready to entertain. He himself objected to the form of this Bill, because it was an undeserved rebuke to the proceedings of the House of Lords last year; because it was a "tack" to a Bill of this year of one which had been rejected by the other House last Session, and because it combined two Bills which, although they both came under the gene- 89 ral description of Money Bills, were, in reality, measures of totally opposite characters. The Amendment passed by all these objections, and, as originally drawn, asked the House to make a declaration which would have been applicable to all future years, even though no circumstances such as those of last year existed to render it desirable that it should be acted upon. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer had proposed to declare by the preamble of his Bill that it was desirable that in all future years all financial proposals should be included in a single Bill, many of those who would support the Bill would have objected to such a declaration; and he thought that it would be equally unwise to declare that in future years it was inexpedient that all measures of finance should be included in one Bill. They all agreed that the relations of the two Houses of Parliament with each other, and their rights and privileges, could not be defined by any strict rule of law, but must be left to the discretion of the Houses. All questions as to disputed rights and privileges had hitherto been settled by compromises. His objection to the Amendment was that it would afford a fallacious indication of the opinion of the House, as many who agreed with the view entertained by the hon. Member would be unable to vote for his Amendment. As the subject had already been so largely debated, it would not only be more convenient to the House, but would, he thought, tend more directly to attain the object which the hon. Member had in view, if he refrained from passing his Amendment.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE,
in explanation, said, the complaint which he made was not, as stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that there had not been sufficient opportunities of discussion, but that there had not been sufficient opportunities of dealing with the several heads of taxation included in this Bill. The object not only of his speech but of his Amendment was that this House should retain the power, not of discussing only, but of voting on the several parts of the financial scheme of the Government, which this proceeding practically abrogated. Had the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) been present at the commencement of his observations, he would have known that he absolutely withdrew the abstract proposals contained in his Amendment, and that he invited the House to retain the power of 90 dealing with the financial proposals of the Government in the same manner in which they were treated last year.
§ MR. KNIGHTLEY
said, he wished to state the reasons why he could not vote for the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire. For the reasons stated by the hon. Member for Stroud, he did not think it expedient at the present moment to bring forward any Motion. He thought that if his hon. Friend wished to raise a discussion on the particular merits of the proposal for the repeal of the paper duty he ought to allow the Bill to go into Committee, when he could have brought forward a Motion directed to that particular subject; and if his hon. Friend did not approve the form in which the Bill came out of Committee, he could have moved its recommitment. In the main principle embodied in the Motion, however, he thoroughly agreed, and the junior Member for North Warwickshire—if he might employ the term—had taken the strong ground of argument when he said that in the whole course of Parliamentary history there had been no precedent for a measure rejected by the House of Lords in one year being reintroduced in a Bill of Supply in another year. This was an important fact, and at the proper moment he should give his vote against the object contemplated by the Government, which was unquestionably to insult the House of Lords, and to coerce them to pass a measure which, if considered solely on its own merits, they would not have acceded to. The fact that the House of Lords had three courses open to them must be very gratifying to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They might reject the entire Budget; they might divide—as he presumed they would do—the Budget into three Bills; or they might pass it in its entirety. But, unfortunately, to all these courses there were grave and weighty objections. By rejecting the Budget the finances of the country would be placed in a state of hopeless and inextricable confusion; if they threw back in the face of the House of Commons what he could not help thinking a most unnecessary and uncalled-for insult to the Upper House, a misunderstanding between the branches of the Legislature would probably be occasioned; while if they admitted the principle that the House of Commons had a right to send up in a single measure any number of Money Bills, however dissimilar in character and tendency, from that mo- 91 ment their duty would be simply to register the Acts of the House of Commons, and their functions as an independent branch of the Legislature would cease. If this were not a case of "tacking," he confessed he was at a loss to understand the proper meaning of the word. As in the course of the debate on the second reading the fifth volume of Macaulay's History had been freely used, he would take occasion to quote one short passage having reference to the year 1698. A Bill was introduced for conferring a charter on the East India Company; there were various grave objections to the measure, and it was certain that, considered on its own merits, the House of Lords never would have sanctioned the proposal. But Montague, the leader of the House of Commons, adopted the same course which had been taken in the present Session with the precious production of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he amalgamated the Bill with a complicated financial proposal for raising a loan of £2,000,000. It was sent up in that shape to the House of Lords, and Lord Macaulay—no hostile critic of the Whig party, and no inconsiderable authority on constitutional questions—had thus stigmatized the course which was adopted—Some Peers declared that, in their opinion, the subject of the proposed loan, far from amounting to the two millions which the Chancellor of the Exchequer expected, would fall far short of one million. Others, with much reason, complained that a loan of such great importance should have been sent up to them in such a shape that they must either take the whole or throw out the whole. The privilege of the Commons with respect to Money Bills had been of late grossly abused. The Bank was created by one Money Bill; this general society was to be created by another Money Bill. The Lords could not amend; they might, indeed, reject it; but to reject it was to shake the the foundations of public credit and to leave the kingdom defenceless. Thus, one branch of the Legislature was systematically put under duress by another, and seemed likely to be reduced to utter insignificance. It was better that the Government should be at once pinched for money than the House of Peers cease to be part of the constitution.That was the language in which Lord Macaulay spoke of a policy which was substantially the same as that which Her Majesty's Government were adopting. He believed, however, that the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire was inexpedient in point of time; and he hoped his hon. Friend would not press it to a division.
Motion made, and Question put,
That it be an Instruction to the Committee, that they have power to divide the Bill so that each of the Taxes to which it relates may be separately treated.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 34; Noes 195: Majority 161.
§ House in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2 (Providing that the provisions of the former Act should apply),
SIR WILLIAM JOLLIFEE
said, it was not his intention to propose any alteration in this clause on the present occasion; but on a future stage of the Bill, if no more qualified Member should think fit to do so, he should call attention to the inconvenience caused to those charged with income tax by the Excise regulations under which it had been collected within the last twelve months. During that period it had been got in under a different system, both as regarded the mode and the times of collection, to that which had been before adopted. The new system of collection, by which the tax was collected quarterly instead of half yearly, had rendered the impost itself still more objectionable, and he hoped to be able to show the House on a future stage of the Bill that they ought not to consent to a reimposition of the tax without they received a pledge that the new plan of collection would not be persevered in.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that he heard with great regret of the course that the right hon. Gentleman proposed to take, which appeared to him to be one of considerable irregularity and of very great inconvenience. He could hardly suppose that the right hon. Gentleman was serious in what he said. If he understood the right hon. Gentleman rightly, he proposed to object to the system of quarterly collection, and to revert to a state of things which would only permit them to obtain, during the year, one half instead of three quarters of the 9d. income tax which they were now exacting. That would raise a question of £2,500,000 of revenue for the purposes of the present year. He did not know in what way the right hon. Gentleman would propose that they should part with a sum of money out of the surplus of £400,000 which they proposed to keep in hand. He thought the right hon. Gentleman would do much better if he would state his case now when in Committee on the Bill, for this was ex- 93 actly the time to raise that question. There was at present a Select Committee of the House sitting on the subject, which met under a reference which would enable it to enter into the whole of the question with regard to the principle of quarterly collection. It was a very important question, and one extremely fit for the cognizance not only of the House itself, but still more of a Committee, which would have the power of hearing the parties, and learning from the mouths of the parties themselves whether it would be more for their convenience to pay half yearly or quarterly. The right hon. Gentleman should understand that that was the question as it at present stood. The question of the transition last year from half yearly to quarterly payments involved, in point of fact, the raising within the year of a large amount of money which would not otherwise have been raised within the year at all; so that for last year it was very nearly equivalent to a considerable addition to the tax upon the last part of the year. The first quarterly tax levied last year was 2½d. in the pound. A 10d. income tax, if only collected half yearly, would have given them 5d., but by taking the quarterly collection they got 71/2d more. The inconvenience of that transition, the main feature of which was that it brought a great deal of taxation to be exigible within the particular current year, had now been altogether surmounted; and the question now remaining was not one of bringing any additional tax within the current year, but of surrendering a portion of the taxation which the country expected to pay. What the House now understood was, that it was granting an income tax of 9d., the payments to be quarterly. The effect of that would be, that they should have three quarters at 9d. in the pound, together with the single quarter, now in the course of collection, at 10d. in the pound. What now remained, therefore, was a very important practical question of administration. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir William Jolliffe) was entirely mistaken when he said that this was a matter of Excise regulation. On the contrary, it was the law of the land; and the Excise authorities had no power to raise money except it as was directed by the law of the land. It was the law of the land before last year, but in order that there might be no mistake about the matter, an enactment was then made by which the duty was imposed upon the collectors 94 of accounting for their collections quarterly. If the hon. Gentleman entered into the question at the present time, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) should have to point out the many advantages which attended the system of quarterly collection, and how much more effective and manageable it made the tax; and it would be the duty of those who held that the system was inconvenient to point out in what manner it was inconvenient. It had been said that the determination to collect the tax quarterly instead of half yearly was an aggravation of the impost. But he was bound to say that it was the opinion of those charged with the collection of the tax that it was more agreeable to the taxpayer to pay certain fixed amounts at four times than in two sums. He really thought this was the time when the question might be most conveniently discussed.
§ SIR WILLIAM JOLLIFFE
did not think he was mistaken. He believed the collection of the income tax quarterly was an Excise regulation. When the time came he should be able to show that a great injustice had been done by the newly adopted method of collection.
§ MR. CONINGHAM
begged to call the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the fact that by past legislation on this subject railway companies had suffered very considerable inconvenience. They had been selected from all other companies to collect the income tax from their servants who were in receipt of weekly wages. If the law was applied to the rest of the community the railway companies would not have any cause of complaint; but they were singled out to perform this obnoxious duty.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
thought the hon. Gentleman was not quite correct in stating that the railway companies were singled out to collect the income tax on the salaries of their servants.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that weekly wages did not enter very largely into the case of any companies except railway companies. He might state that no complaint had been made to him on the subject by the railway companies. It was right, however, that the operation of an enactment of such a nature should be inquired into.
§ MR. CONINGHAM
could assure the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the rail- 95 way companies did feel the subject he had mentioned as a grievance. The secretary of the railway company with which lie (Mr. Coningham) was connected had been in communication with other companies on the subject. At present if a skilled workman was in the employment of a railway company at wages over £100 a year, the company was called on to pay his income tax, while he might pass over the wall to private employ, and escape the payment of the tax so long as he remained there.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
asked whether, in respect of the income tax under this Act, the assessment would be made as last year—on the returns of 1859, and not on an average of three years as previously?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he was not aware that such a course had been pursued. He had not had the subject brought before him. Perhaps his hon. Friend referred to Schedule D. [Sir STAFFORD NORTHCOTE: Yes!] As regarded the arrangements for the present year, there will be an assessment altogether new. It will be taken on the average of three years to April, 1861.
§ MR. J. L. RICARDO
understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that he thought the system of causing railway companies to collect income tax from their servants worthy of reconsideration. If the right hon. Gentleman agreed to do so, it would give great satisfaction to a very important interest in the country.
§ MR. BRISCOE
said, that people whose income was only £100 a year suffered great inconvenience by having to appeal against being charged the full amount of the tax as if their income was £150 a year. He knew a case in which a railway station-master whose income was only £100, and which was a matter about which no difficulty should have arisen, had to appeal against being charged 10d. in the pound. Taxpayers in such cases ought not to be put to the trouble and expense of going to Somerset House to make their appeals.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that in the course of this conversation questions had been mixed up together which were entirely distinct in their character. One question was, whether it was expedient that the tax payable by servants of railway companies should be paid by the railway companies out of salaries. Another question was, whether those having an income 96 between £100 and £150 should have the reduction made in the first instance, or whether they should be left to apply for a partial remission afterwards? A third question, raised by the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ricardo) was, whether the servants of railway companies of a certain class, receiving weekly wages to the amount of more than £100 a year, would be liable to the tax.
§ MR. J. L. RICARDO
said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had misunderstood his statement. He had said it would be unfair that railway companies should be compelled to pay the tax for their servants.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the Government had not heard complaints on this head from the representatives of any of the railway companies; but if they had it would have been his duty to have considered the claims arising out of any exceptional case. With regard to the observations of the hon. Member for Surrey (Mr. Briscoe), he might state that the plan adopted was to assess a person liable to income tax at the higher rate, and it then rested with him to prove that his income was less than £150. Whether in such a case the assessment ought to be made at the higher or lower rate was a matter of convenience and of administrative detail upon which he did not entertain a very confident opinion. He might, however, point out that, although it seemed the most convenient course to assess a railway clerk in the receipt of £120 at the lower rate, yet, that he might have an income from other sources that would bring his salary up to £150. All that was required by the Revenue Board was reasonable evidence of the amount of tax payable; and it was the practice of the Department, he believed, when the exemption was once proved to assume that the person ought to be assessed at the lower rate, which was very liberal, and was, no doubt, occasionally a source of loss to the Revenue.
§ MR. THOMSON HANKEY
thought that the mode of assessment of Schedule D required alteration and reconstruction in the interest of the Revenue.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, it might be correct that the privilege of falling back on the assessment of the previous three years enjoyed under Schedule D operated sometimes injuriously on the Revenue. He was not prepared, however, to disturb the general basis on which this schedule was assessed.
inquired whether it was intended to have a new assessment return under Schedules A and B?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that with respect to the practical question when the new tax would be collected, that would depend very much when the Bill got through that Committee and would receive the Royal Assent; but as regarded the legal liability, that did not depend in any way upon the new assessment.
said, that what he wanted to know was this. They were now late in the month of May, and if he understood the matter, under this new-fashioned mode of taxing income, a quarter of this new tax would have to be paid somewhere about midsummer. When did the right hon. Gentleman expect to get the first payment under the new assessment? The way in which the payments of this tax had chopped about within the last eighteen months had made this tax more unpopular than ever. He looked with a great deal of anxiety for some assurance from the Government that a proper time would be allowed for making the assessment, and that people would not be hurried in making their returns.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the Government had no power of unduly hurrying the persons liable to the tax. They who had charge of the collection were not servants of the Government. The notices given by those officers were quite as much dictated by their own judgment and that of their superiors as by the Government. The Government had no power of giving notice to taxpayers to prepare for payment. It was the duty of Government to make all the preparations that they could before the law was passed; but they had no power after it was once passed.
said, all he wanted was that there should be no undue pressure upon persons in making the Returns. He feared that for the present quarter a great deal of undue pressure would be put on by the Inland Revenue Office.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
could not say what the right hon. Gentleman meant by undue pressure. The 98 persons who were to judge were the Board of Inland Revenue; it was their business to levy the tax. But he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would undertake to say, on behalf of those gentlemen, that they would not require the work to be done in a shorter time than that in which it could be reasonably expected to be performed.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 3 was also agreed to.
§ Clause 4 (Enacting the repeal, from the 1st of October, of the Excise Duties, Allowances, and Drawbacks on Paper),
§ MR. KER SEYMER
said, that many hon. Members had enjoyed the opportunity during the last few days of seeing their constituents, and he held that these were occasions of which hon. Members ought to be glad to avail themselves. He was one of those who had lately had such an occasion presented to him, and not only had he found among his constituents a greater amount of opposition to this clause than he had anticipated, but he had found that feeling existing among gentlemen who professed Liberal opinions, as well as among those who were his own political supporters. Just as last year, in "an other place," many noble Lords of Liberal opinions swelled the majority against the Paper Duty Repeal Bill, so many Liberal gentlemen throughout the country had a strong feeling of opposition to the adoption of this clause. He had that day presented a petition from Lyme Regis on the subject, signed, he was informed, by many of the political supporters of the Liberal Member for that borough, who, if he voted against the present clause, would meet with the approbation of a considerable portion of his constituents. The fact was that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer brought forward his Budget, the people in the country, not being behind the scenes, were so much prepared to expect an increase of taxation that they were agreeably surprised to find a diminution proposed instead; and they were not disposed to look too nicely at the mode by which the surplus was arrived at, or the manner in which it was to be distributed in relief of taxation. But subsequent reflection had led to considerable misgivings as to the surplus. The sad and melancholy accounts of events in the United States, which must materially affect the interests of this country, and the remonstrances of the China merchants, who certainly took a different view of their rights with respect to the Chinese indemnity from that enter- 99 tained by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had caused many doubts and inspirings whether the surplus would be realized; so that with respect to the repeal of the paper duty, the feeling was almost unanimous among his constituents that the present was not the moment that ought to be chosen for its repeal. Persons down in the country were not in the habit of going deeply into constitutional questions—they generally left such subjects to be discussed in that House by learned and constitutional lawyers; but a very large number of them had come to the conclusion he had just stated on the practical question. They thought the House of Commons had been led astray last year by the eloquence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but, notwithstanding the right hon. Gentleman's vehemence and the exertions of a portion of the press, a decided majority of the country now felt that last year the House of Commons had done wrong, and that the House of Lords had done right in refusing assent to a portion of their legislation. This year they had had discussions in that House on a similar subject, but no great public interest had attached to them. The country did not take a great interest in this question, as it was one the consideration of which went far beyond their habits of thought, and they were content to leave it to the decision of the House. But what, he would ask, were the objections urged against the tax on paper? Why, that it was an Excise duty, and all duties which came under that category were, no doubt, very naturally looked upon with disfavour. Entertaining that opinion, he himself had, on a former occasion, voted for the repeal of the paper duty as well as of the malt tax; but he had subsequently, a year and a half ago, in addressing a large assemblage of agricultural constituents, told them that they must not expect him to repeat those votes in the existing position of the finances of the country—a declaration which, however the matter might be mystified in that House, his constituents could well understand as being justified by the altered circumstances of the case. If, he might add, taxes ought to be repealed on the score that they were Excise duties, the hop duty stood out with irresistible claims for the consideration of Parliament. He could not understand how the Chancellor of the Exchequer could have steeled his heart against the irresistible arguments in favour of the remission of the hop duty, so 100 ably urged by hon. Gentlemen representing the counties of Kent and Sussex in that House. Contrast the claims of those two interests. What were the special grounds for the repeal in preference of the duty on paper? Did the manufacturers of that article come before the right hon. Gentleman in formâ, and ask him to take the course which he was now pursuing? No. What they complained of was the peculiar position in which they were placed by the operation of the French Treaty, and the difficulty in obtaining the raw material of their manufacture which that instrument threw in their way. So strong, indeed, was their case in that particular that the free trade Member for Manchester had deemed it to be his duty to vote against his party on the question, because he considered that in the teeth of the difficulties in the way of procuring the raw material, it was a case in which a departure from the strict principles of free trade was justifiable. It was, indeed, contended that a great increase in the consumption of paper would be the result of the repeal of the duty; but he feared it was in the consumption of foreign paper that that increase would take place, and the prospects of the English manufacturers, under the circumstances, were such that many of them thought of taking their capital abroad; so that the stimulus to trade afforded by the remission of the tax and the consequent replacement of revenue-which were spoken of were likely to turn out a mere delusion. There was, he maintained, no analogy between the Excise duty on paper and that on brick, glass, and soap; because in the case of all the last-mentioned commodities no scarcity of the raw material prevailed; while the peculiarity of the paper trade was that it was almost impossible to procure the raw material for the finest paper, owing to the artificial obstacles which were thrown in the way. His main objection, however, to the repeal of the tax on paper was that by taking that course a permanent source of revenue was abandoned in the face of enormous taxation, and that which amounted in reality to a war expenditure. It appeared to him to be an extraordinary case of non sequitur on the part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say, "You will spend £70,000,000, and I will take off the paper duty," when he ought rather, under the circumstances, to have said, "I will retain a source of revenue which already exists, and which 101 is increasing." A retention of revenue, not a sacrifice of it, might have been expected under such circumstances. That source of revenue he, for his own part, believed could be well maintained with the present Excise regulations, while it was one which in its incidence did not press very severely on the great body of the people. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer wished to enforce economy by rendering taxation odious he would find his scheme turn out to be fallacious and his projects to end in increased expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman had already hinted at the adoption of such a course; but he could, notwithstanding, hardly believe that such was really his intention, for if it were so the proper seat for him would be below the gangway instead of on the Treasury bench. Could the right hon. Gentleman hope materially to reduce our present rate of expenditure? He should answer that question by saying that he had during the recent short vacation had an opportunity of seeing the enormous works which were being carried on on the coast of Dorsetshire, where we were constructing quite a Gibraltar. When those works at Portland were completed we should have to maintain there stores and cannon and a very large additional force of Artillery. Similar works were being carried on on the Medway, at Portsmouth, and at Plymouth: and it was scarcely, he thought, under those circumstances, to be expected that any material reduction of expenditure could immediately take place. The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton clearly contemplated no such reduction. He knew well that the country expected him to put our defences in a position adequate to defend our shores from hostile invasion from whatever quarter it might come; and the cause of his popularity was that the community at large believed they might safely trust to his keeping the honour and safety of the nation, and that he had on many occasions manfully stood up in opposition to the views on the subject of hon. Members below the gangway, especially the hon. Member for Birmingham. If, he might add, there was any distrust of the Chancellor of the Exchequer entertained out of doors—and that such was the case, despite the high character and splendid abilities of the right hon. Gentleman, there could be no doubt—it arose from the circumstance that he was supposed to incline too much towards the financial and economical 102 doctrines of those who sat below the gang way. What he (Mr. Ker Seymer) and his friends contended was that if we could at the present moment afford to repeal any taxes, the duties selected ought to be those which pressed on what might be termed almost necessaries of life, such as the duties on tea and sugar. There was one advantage attendant on the remission of burdens of that nature which did not exist in the case of the tax on paper—that the Government might hope to recover, by means of increased consumption, a large portion of the duty taken off; while, by the augmented importation of articles coming from a distance, a great impulse to the trade and navigation of the country would be given. He wished also incidentally to say a word in favour of the West Indies, with which he was connected, and whose claims he would not shrink from urging from any fear of the imputation of interested motives, and whose interests he thought had been most unfairly dealt with by the House and by the country. Sir Robert Peel himself thought that the principles of free trade had been applied to that interest in a manner that partook of injustice. The steps which we then took he, of course, did not mean to ask the House to retrace, but he thought it would not be unfair if, on behalf of the West India interests, he were to maintain that we ought, at all events, to take off the war duties on sugar, in order, if possible, that the estates in that quarter might be cultivated by means of an increased demand for their staple produce. He called upon the Committee, ere they proceeded to vote away a permanent revenue, to consider what they were about. In opposing the repeal of the paper duty he was not, he might add, actuated by any feeling of hostility to the penny newspapers, which he believed were well conducted and were conferring benefits on the public. He had regard simply to the present position of the country, to our increasing expenditure, and to the expediency of making, if it could be done, arrangements for the remission of the war duties on tea and sugar and the reduction of the income tax to a level more in accordance with the feelings and wishes of the community than that at which it at present stood. Having thus stated briefly the objections which, he entertained to the surrender of £1,500,000 of permanent revenue, he trusted he should have the support of a majority of the House in voting against the clause under discussion.
§ MR. MONCKTON MILNES
Sir, after the vote which I deemed it my duty to give on the Budget of last year I cannot present myself to the House as an enthusiastic admirer of the financial propositions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but, at the same time, it seems to me that one does not require that extreme passion for the repeal of the paper duty which has been displayed by many hon. Gentlemen to support generally the Budget now before us. I have always been of opinion that the paper duty was an objectionable tax, and should be got rid of whenever we had an opportunity of so doing. Last year I thought we were not in circumstances to dispose of so large an amount of revenue, and, therefore, I gave my vote against the repeal of that duty. Of course, I am not one of those who are inclined to find fault with the action taken by the House of Lords in the matter. While I should regard anything like dissension between the two branches of the Legislature with feelings of the deepest regret, I must say that I see in the course pursued last year by the House of Lords not that aggression, that violence, that departure from constitutional usage which some hon. Gentlemen recognize in it, but a proof of the indirect manner in which the other House, to a certain extent, represents the opinions and sentiments of the country. I am certain, at all events, that the Lords would never have taken the step they did if there had not been a strong feeling in the country that it would be impolitic to repeal the paper duty. Taking that view of the case, I can bring to the consideration of the present Budget a clear and Candid mind; and I do say that it would have been very difficult for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with what he tells us is a surplus, to have passed over the repeal of the paper duty consistently with his own Convictions, and consistently, above a11, with that permanence of opinion and that directness of purpose which we must always esteem in our leading statesmen. The question of the paper duty is not a Sew one; on the contrary, it has for several years been agitated in one form or another, and occasionally, I am bound to say, with some exaggeration. The paper duty was connected in the minds of many persons with what are called "taxes on knowledge," and it assumed almost a moral and intellectual character. Certain abstract Resolutions passed by this House on the subject were sufficient to place the large 104 amount of capital invested in the paper trade in a most uncertain and precarious position. Depend upon it, you cannot go on year after year condemning a tax, and yet not repealing it, without doing an immense amount of injury to individuals; and I hold that the mischief which has been done in the case of the paper duty has not been confined to the paper trade alone, but has been, extended to other relative branches of commerce. I feel, therefore, that if we have the means, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer tells us we have, of remitting the paper duty without inflicting injury upon any class of the community, it would be impolitic to keep so large an interest any longer in a state of uncertainty, and that the Government have not done wrong in asking us to abolish the tax altogether. The repeal of any tax must give rise to considerable discussion; but I think there is always a great and manifest advantage in abolishing a tax which bears directly upon the home industry of the country. You cannot remit such a tax without stimulating industries of various kinds, as well as the trade more particularly concerned; and I really do not think it would have been possible to hit upon a tax the repeal of which would have been beneficial in so many different directions as the abolition of the paper duty. It is a mistake to suppose that the papersellers will derive all the benefit. Every milliner who uses a bandbox, every tradesman who makes up a package, will be relieved to a certain extent. The general trade of the country will feel the change, and I believe that a large portion of the revenue which is thus sacrificed will return to the Exchequer through other channels. At the same time, I was much struck with that passage in the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in which he seemed to indicate that he had come to the end of his tether in the matter of direct taxation. I have watched with great interest the effect of direct taxation in this country, and remembering the cheer which Sir Robert Peel gave me when I said several years ago that I thought a Certain portion of direct taxation had been finally accepted by the people, I am not so sanguine as to believe that we shall ever get rid of the income tax altogether. It has always appeared to me that a moderate income tax, fairly adjusted, must form a portion of our permanent taxation; but the country is fully aware of the fatal facility with 105 which such a tax may be increased, and whatever may be the estimation in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer maybe held by the country for his great ability, I am sure he will be held in still higher estimation; if he can succeed in carrying out the original pledge and his vote—that the, income tax shall not become a permanent impost.
said, the hon. Member who had just sat down admitted that the relief from the paper duty would be of a very indefinite character; and while he (Mr. Lygon) admitted that tradesmen and others would derive some benefit, he must beg. to point out that as the amount of the tax would have to be supplied from some other source the actual relief would be very small, indeed. Much had been said as to the numerous uses to which paper could be applied; but he believed the benefit was very much exaggerated. The hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Monckton Milnes) following the example, of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had spoken of the great injury to the trade that arose from the continual agitation. But if that were so it was the fault of those who raised and kept up the agitation. He should not quote the Chancellor of the Exchequer against himself on the question of repealing the duty. He preferred to wait for that explanation which the right hon. Gentleman had promised to the House, and in which he intended to reconcile all his various opinions and harmonize them into one ingenious whole. They were told that important public business had been postponed to and was impeded by the discussion of the Budget. He did not see what important business was so postponed. The Electoral Law Amendment Bill, and the Appropriation pf Seats Bill were almost the only. Government measures before the House; and, considering the importance of the principles involved in the Budget, the country would not complain of the discussion of the Budget having preceded them. Judging from the advantages that accrued from full discussion of the financial proposals of last year, he saw no reason to regret it. Early in last Session the proposal to repeal the paper duty was carried by a large majority; but it gradually fell—to one not even in its teens—a majority of nine. That was the result of the protracted discussion. Similar was the case of Parliamentary Reform. For three years there was a clamour for reform. In 1859 it 106 was discussed; in 1860 it was discussed again. By that discussion the mind of the country was satisfied and calmed down. It was convinced, by the arguments on both sides of the House, that the evils complained of had very little foundation in fact, and a feeling of general contentment with the institutions of the country grew up with, the discussion. As far as experience went, they had reason to congratulate themselves that they had the opportunity of fully discussing the financial proposals of the Government. The duty of the House of Commons was not merely to accept and register the proposals of the Government, but to criticise and examine them. Here was a clause totally repealing the paper duty. Now, for the last year and a half, every one had been asking—who wants it? If the opinion of the public was fairly examined they could not find any class who required it. When the people were really excited on any question there could be no mistake about it, as in the Reform agitation of 1832, and that of the Corn Law Repeal, when a civil war was almost produced. Having this experience of the way in which the feeling of the people expressed itself, no one would venture to say that any strong or real feeling existed now in favour of the repeal of the paper duty, or against the course of the House of Lords last year. If there was this apathy on the part of the people, he wished to know for whom was the repeal of the paper duty required? How had the agitation made such progress? They could suppose a tax being obnoxious to a small class of uneasy agitators, who tried to persuade the people that their particular grievance was a grievance of the country at large; if they had possession of part of the public press, they might easily give the question a factitious importance; and if parties were nicely balanced, a few votes might become of great consequence to the Government. Thus had the paper duty been made a question pf importance; and being supported by the splendid eloquence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, people had been carried away from a fair consideration of the merits of the question; and though, his financial plan was repugnant to sound arguments, they had been led to suppose that measures for which so much could be said must be wise and beneficial. Then, it being impossible to find any one who was anxious for the repeal, what were the main objections to it? Of course every 107 tax was, to a certain extent, objectionable; but, as Dr. Johnson had said, of two contending theories, one must be right and one wrong, and, although much might be said on either side, the greatest weight should be given to that in favour of which the balance of argument was found to exist. Well, first, he had shown that there were no substantial reasons in favour of the repeal of the paper duty. Then it was impossible to say that its retention could be injurious to the trade. A return lately laid on the table of the House showed the enormous development of the trade since 1835, when the produce of the duty was £796,000 only, it being now £1,300,000. But it was said to be a tax on knowledge. Yet what said Mr. Bohn on the question?—So far from books being cheaper in consequence of that reduction, copyright books are much dearer. Nobody would have ventured in those days to publish a popular 8vo. volume without plates, at 18s., as in the case of Macaulay. Twelve shillings used formerly to be thought an extreme price. As for the benefits that the abolition of the paper duty will confer in promoting cheap Bibles and the publications of the Religious Tract Society, I can only say, with as much certainty as I could predicate anything, that none will be felt. The Bible, as officially published under authority of the Crown, does not pay any duty whatever on paper, and is printed with scarcely any profit, so that it may be bought for less than a shilling, which surely is cheap enough; and the Religious Tract Society may be said to get both their paper and duty for nothing, inasmuch as the whole establishment, though trading for profit, and often conflicting with the trade without advantage to the public, is supported by large voluntary contributions, The literature of this country, and with it its congener the paper trade, has been progressing with great rapidity for some years past, chiefly on account of the spread of education, the increase of wealth and population, the facilities of locomotion, the liberality of our postal arrangements, and the mercantile progress of America, Australia, and our own country; and if left alone it will still progress. But if its course is to be interrupted by the meddling hand of a band of reckless theorists, it is not unlikely to retrograde.The diffusion of sound and useful knowledge among all classes of the community was an object which Gentlemen on the Conservative benches were as anxious to promote as any other Member of this House, and he trusted that this would never become a party question, much as they might differ as to the means. Judging from experience, however, it might be said that the paper duties in their present form had interposed no material bar to the diffusion of useful knowledge. Well, then, was the tax injurious to the 108 consumer? The Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated that the import duty on tea did not affect the consumer; and if that were so, how could the Excise duty on paper have any such influence? He believed that the benefit to the consumer from the repeal of that duty would be of a most infinitesimal description. Of course certain classes of trades men might derive advantage, but he could not see that they were the victims of any injustice from their present contributions to the national exchequer. All objections to the retention of the paper duty being thus disposed of, what were the advantages gained by it? There were exactly 1,300,000 advantages, that being the amount sterling it annually produced, and this he thought a sufficiently substantial reason in favour, in the absence of any objection to the retention of the paper duty. That was a sum that the country could not afford to squander away. Then it was argued that the trade would receive a stimulus from the repeal. The hon. Member for Gloucestershire had, however, shown the fallacy of this argument, and that it was the foreigner, and not the Englishman, who would be benefited by it. The £1,300,000 produced by the duty was even more than the whole of the charges, excepting those of the law department, upon the Consolidated Fund; and this was another forcible reason against the proposal of the Government. It was said that the House of Commons was precluded by its former decisions from raising this question again; but he contended that the forms of the House were devised for the very purpose of enabling Members to raise such questions on different stages of a Bill, and they were hot called upon to abandon their just privileges for the mere convenience of the Government. What was it they were contending for in opposing the repeal of this duty? They were contending that the basis of taxation ought not to be changed, and against any diminution of the sources from which our revenue was drawn. It was prudent to have as many sources of taxation as possible, in order that a disaster falling upon one source of revenue might not seriously affect the finances of the year. They were told that an Excise tax was in itself odious; but not much more than 100 years ago there was a statesman who maintained that there could be no better basis for taxation than Excise; but the House of Commons rejected Sir Robert 109 Walpole's proposals, and it was mainly from the circumstances of that time that the name of Excise became odious to the people. Writers, however, who had examined the question of taxation maintained that an Excise, if wisely administered, was the fairest source of revenue. The tendency of modern legislation had been in the opposite direction, and Sir Robert Peel had wisely relieved the industry of the country from a large amount of taxation. But there must come a time when we must stop in that course of policy, unless the country were prepared to follow the recommendation of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), and raise all the revenue of the country by a direct tax of 8s. on every £100 of property. All the credit of these remissions of taxation did not properly belong to Sir Robert Peel; for while, from 1832 to 1842, the burden of taxes removed did not amount to more than £4,500,000, and in the succeeding ten years to £7,000,000, from 1822 to 1832 the remission of taxation amounted to £18,000,000. Of course, in the earlier period, the heavy war taxation and the reviving industry of the country in consequence of the cessation of the war, accounted in some part for the taxes repealed; but it must be borne in mind that the policy was not inaugurated by Sir Robert Peel, for he merely followed the path which his predecessors had so wisely struck out. Admitting that this policy had been wisely followed from 1822 up to the present time, we ought not to be deterred by the successful results of what had taken place from looking fairly at the proposal now before the House on its own merits. The objection which he had to the proposals of the Government was that they placed the finances of the country on an insecure foundation; that they were too much in the spirit of the eminent financier who hadRun in debt by disputation,And paid by ratiocination.He objected to the form of the Bill on the ground that it was inspired by the motive of paying off a score which it was said had been contracted by the Commons against the Lords. If the privileges of the Commons, which had been so long the palladium of English liberty, were seriously attacked, no doubt every hon. Member in the House would rise up in their defence; but it was only because they had been wisely used to further the best interests of the people that these privileges were so dear 110 to the country; and if they were degraded from their legitimate use to promote the interests of a noisy clique of agitators, the Commons would do much to imperil their own position as a branch of the Legislature. They were told that they had been affronted by the Lords, and that they ought to vindicate the privileges of the House, but this must have reference to the question upon which that of privilege was raised. Mr. Burke, in reference to taxing the Americans, in addressing the House, said—This dignity of yours is a terrible incumbrance to yon, for it has of late been ever at war with your interests, your equity, and every idea of policy. Show the thing you contend for to be reason; show it to be common sense; show it to be the means of attaining some useful end, and then I am content to allow you what dignity you please. But what dignity is derived from perseverance in absurdity? Every hour you continue on this ground your difficulties thicken on you.The right hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham) told the House that if the country were appealed to with the hustings cry of "Paper v. Tea," "Commons v. Lords," he did not think that Gentlemen on the Liberal side of the House would have much to fear. On the eve of a great political struggle there could not be a better man than the right hon. Baronet to tell the country "the reason why" of it; but in this case he had placed himself greatly at variance with a close observer of political events, Lord Macaulay, who, in one of his Essays, said—The privileges of the House of Commons, those privileges which, in 1642, all London rose in arms to defend, which the people considered as synonymous with their own liberties, and in comparison of which they took no account of the most precious and sacred principles of English jurisprudence, have now become nearly as odious as the rigours of martial lawIf the Commons were to suffer the Lords to amend Money Bills, we do not believe that the people would care one straw about the matter. If they were to suffer the Lords even to originate money Bills we doubt whether such a surrender of their constitutional rights would excite half so much dissatisfaction as the exclusion of strangers from a single important discussion.When the time came he should join heartily in negativing the clause now under discussion, because he was convinced that the proposal was most objectionable as to the "matter, manner, measure, and time." As to the matter, because he conceived that they were, by the course proposed, placing the finances upon an insecure and unsatisfactory foundation; and, as to manner, because they were attempt- 111 ing to inflict a slight on the other branch of the Legislature in reference to that matter to which they were obliged humbly to submit last year. As to measure the scheme seemed to him to be objectionable, because the circumstances of the present year did not warrant them in supposing that the financial position of the country would be such next year as to enable them to remit this £1,300,000; and he objected to it above all because it seemed to him, from what had taken and was taking place in that and the other House and in the world generally, that this was not a time for dealing in the manner proposed with the taxation of the country. Upon these four grounds he trusted that the Committee would negative the clause now under consideration.
§ MR. POLLARD-URQUHART
said, that after three repulses the hon. Gentlemen opposite were making a fourth attack, and lie feared that between tea and paper the result would be that John Bull would find himself in the position of the ass between two bundles of hay, the end of which tantalizing predicament was said to be starvation. They heard from The Times, from the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire), and from various quarters that great distress prevailed among the paper manufacturers oil account of the uncertainty as to the duty, and whatever the abstract merits of the question might be, they were doing great injury by prolonging that state of uncertainty. He trusted that when they had swept it away hon. Members on the Government side of the House would be ready to assist in the reduction of the duties on tea, sugar, and hops. The abolition of the paper duty must cause a great expansion of trade and increase the Revenue from other articles of Excise by reason of their increased consumption. If there had been more paper mills in the neighbourhood of Coventry they would not have heard of so much distress among the riband makers. It was said that there was no great cry against the paper duty; but were they to wait until an association like the Anti-Corn Law League was established for the removal of restrictions on British Manufacturers? Were they, to use the words of the; right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire in "Coningsby to yield nothing to reason and everything to agitation?" The same objections which were made to this measure were raised against the remission of the duty on bricks and on other 112 Excise remissions; but as in those cases they had had no reason to regret the step taken, in like manner let them repeal the duty on paper, and he believed that they would never have occasion to repent it.
§ MR. HENNESSY
said, that before entering into the discussion he wished to call the attention of the Chairman to the clause as now amended. The clause included a Resolution passed in Committee of Ways and Means, and he wished to ask whether it was not an unusual course for a Minister of the Crown to ask them to pass a clause totally repealing a duty, and which had not been brought forward in a Customs' Act? The clause, before it was amended by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, referred solely to Excise; and the Bill, before it was amended, had a preamble which excluded all mention—so far as legislative power was concerned—of the House of Lords. The preamble was, that "Her Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom give and grant;" and he was not aware that any such preamble had ever before been applied to a Bill repealing a Customs' duty. The usual form was, "Be it enacted by the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons in Parliament assembled." The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in putting in his Bill a clause, introduced, not in a Committee upon the Customs' Act, but in a Committee of Ways and Means, had been able to avoid that preamble which had been in uniform use in repealing the Customs' Acts. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on a, former occasion, submitted his Bill, he adopted the usual course, and had a Committee to, consider the repeal of Customs' duties. He wished to know whether the course pursued was not an unusual one?
§ MR. MASSEY
said, that a Resolution affecting Customs was a Resolution affecting trade, and it was, therefore, necessary that it should originate in a Committee of the Whole House. The Resolution formed part of the financial arrangement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the year and if he thought fit to move it in a Committee of Ways and Means—which was; a Committee of the Whole House—he did not think there was any objection. Though it was usual that a Resolution affecting trade should be moved in; a Committee specifically appointed for that purpose, yet he could not say that there was any irregularity in moving such a Resolution in a Committee of Ways and Means.
§ MR. HENNESSY
said, that he had not heard any hon. Member except the one who commenced this discussion make any reference to his constituents. How he himself had been favoured with communications from his constituents. He held in his hand a letter from a gentleman who was Chairman of the Town Commissioners of one of the most important towns in the county which he had then the honour to represent. This gentleman, who like himself was in favour of the repeal of the paper duty, said—"I am confident that no greater boon can be conferred on the people of Ireland than a repeal of the war duty on tea," and in so saying he was expressing the almost universal wish of the country, If this question were argued on its merits there would be an overwhelming majority in favour of the repeal of the duty on tea in preference to that upon paper; but the political considerations were dwelt upon by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and every Member who had spoken on the Government side said that those considerations must decide the question. It was said that the time was come to repeal the paper duty, because it was desirable to terminate the collision with the House of Lords as speedily as possible. The Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to have forgotten the argument which he used last Session, when he said, that the House of Lords in dealing with a Bill such as was now before the Committee could amend it without coming into collision with the Commons. The Chancellor of the Exchequer on that occasion said, "It appears to me that the Amendment of a Money Bill is a light thing compared with the claim to prevent a repeal of taxes." He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) now said, on the contrary, there was so rule to prevent the House of Lords from amending a' Money Bill, but that the Amendment of such Bills was more frequent than their, rejection in the other House. If that was correct, there was no necessity whatever for introducing the clause in the manner now proposed. The hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Collier) also supported the view taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and said the House of Lords never given up its right to amend Money Bills. What, then, was the position of this question? Last year they were, told o that the Lords, had a right to amend, and not to reject a Money Bill; and they were now asked to sanction this measure in globo, in order, to prevent the 114 Lords criticising it, on the ground that this being a Money Bill they would have no right to amend it.
In a discussion which took place in. this matter on a former occasion he vestured to criticise some statements made by the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire). He then stated that the increase in the manufacture of paper last year was little more than the average increase during the last twenty years. He made that statement on the figures furnished the House by the hon. Member for Dungarvan, which turned out not to be quite accurate, as shown by the returns on the subject recently laid on the table of the House. The hon. Member for Dungarvan stated that the increase in the manufacture of paper last year was only 6,000,000 lbs., while in the previous year the increase had been 13,000, 000 lbs. A return had lately been presented to the House which showed the real increase in the quantity of manufactured paper, and it appeared that the increase last year was no less than 16,000,000 lbs., while in the previous year the increase was only 14,000,000 lbs. The increase in the year before, instead of being 25,000,000 lbs., was 14,000,000 lbs. Therefore, not only was the increase last year above the average, but 2,000,000 lbs. more than in the preceding year.
On one or two occasions allusions had been made to the advantages that had accrued to Ireland through the financial arrangements of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he thought that Irish Members might fairly inquire how far Ireland received any advantage from the last Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. When the repeal of the duty on foreign butter was carried, a letter from a gentleman in Ireland, who had been for more than a quarter of a century engaged in the butter trade, assured him that the Irish butter had been seriously injured by the reduction of the duty on foreign butter, and: that the importation into London had diminished one half, and that there had also been a great falling off at Liverpool, That statement was borne out by a reference to figures. In 1861, up to the 29th of April, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer's scheme was in full operation, the foreign butter imported into England was 537,000 casks, the Irish butter 156,000 firkins; in last year, when the scheme was in partial operation, the foreign butter imported up to the 29th 115 of April was 470,000 casks, and the Irish 242,000 firkins. In the previous year, and before the Chancellor of the Exchequer interfered with this trade, the foreign butter imported was 347,000 casks, and the Irish 339,000 firkins. Ireland was an agricultural country, and, therefore, the change, however it might benefit the English consumer and foreign producer, had inflicted great injury upon the Irish farmer.
But one of the reasons assigned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for giving up the £1,300,000 of paper duties was, that all that amount, and more, would go into the pockets of the people. Facts and figures had been quoted by the hon. Members for Birmingham and Leeds, supporters of the right hon. Gentleman, which seemed to throw much doubt upon the accuracy of his statement. The hon. Members to whom he referred had told the House that the penny newspapers would benefit enormously by the remission of the tax. The hon. Member for Birmingham said that the Manchester Examiner paid £6,000 a year for the duty upon paper, and another paper paid as much as £9,000 a year; the average amount paid by the London penny papers being £6,000 a year. He (Mr. Hennessy) had ascertained the number of penny papers throughout the country, and, taking the statement of the hon. Gentleman and striking a fair average, he found that of the £1,300,000 something like £1,200,000 would go into the pockets of the proprietors of the penny newspapers, while only about £50,000 or £100,000 would be left for the public to divide among them. This must be a manifest absurdity, but even if the figures of the hon. Gentleman were correct, and if the cheap newspapers would gain so largely, he (Mr. Hennessy) did not object to the penny papers receiving that benefit, but he mentioned these facts to show that the statements made on the other side of the House required to be looked at somewhat carefully.
Another statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was, that he gave this impost up because he had a surplus that fully enabled him to do so; and amongst the items making his surplus was the money he expected to get from China. About the safety of his anticipations on this head being realized during the present year there was room for considerable doubt; and he would call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman and 116 the House to what an equally celebrated and able Chancellor of the Exchequer once did under corresponding circumstances. Mr. Pitt had to deal with a Budget in 1795 which in many respects resembled the present one. He required £27,000,000, and he proposed Ways and Means including £500,000 owing by the East India Company—a much more reliable source than the Chinese Government. The question arose how far Mr. Pitt was justified in repealing duties in expectancy of getting this £500,000; and Mr. Pitt said he felt bound to prepare for the event of its not being paid at the proper time, and he made provision for it as part of the general deficiency. This was a similar case, but an opposite course was now pursued. For these reasons he should feel it his duty at the present moment, mainly in behalf of Irish interests which he was there to represent, but also on Imperial grounds, to oppose the adoption of the proposed course, which was not based on established precedents but on a novel scheme of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's own creating, and one which he hoped the House would not be disposed to sanction.
§ MR. NORRIS
ventured to think that the House would be taken somewhat by surprise by the proposition of the hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Ker Seymer). He thought during the last six weeks the House had settled the question now raised, and that after the Motion of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) had been disposed of, the Bill giving effect to the Resolutions previously adopted by the House would have been allowed to pass without further hostility. But if he was surprised at the opposition now raised he was still more surprised to hear the hon. Members for Dorsetshire (Mr. Ker Seymer), for Tewkesbury (Mr. Lygon), and for the King's County (Mr. Hennessy), each in succession warning the House against this proceeding, pointing to an exhausted Exchequer, to wars and rumours of wars, to assumed deficiencies of income, and enormously increased expenditure, as grave reasons why the House should not part with Excise duty on paper, when only a few nights since those hon. Gentlemen passed into the lobby, to repeal this year, not £660,000, but £980,000; and in the coming year a sum amounting to about £1,800,000 of taxation. They then cast aside, with the utmost calmness, their nervous fears as to the state of trade, and concurred in endeavouring to get rid of a 117 very large amount of taxation. He (Mr. Ferris) could not admit that they had shown tenable ground or substantial reasons why the House should not repeal the paper duty, and he could not believe that the reasons assigned were the true reasons. He was still more astonished to hear the hon. Member for the King's County declare how opposed the people were in the part of the country from whence he came to the repeal of the paper duty, when he recollected to have seen among the list of names of gentlemen of great public usefulness in Ireland, forming an association for the repeal of the paper duties, and meeting at the Royal Exchange in Dublin, the name of the hon. Member himself. It did not seem to be recollected by the hon. Gentleman that paper was most extensively used by the manufacturers of Sheffield and Birmingham and Manchester, and similar places. The briskness of trade in those places would frequently account for the increased consumption. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hennessy) seemed to think that the proprietors of the penny newspapers would receive all the benefit of the remission of the duty within some £40,000 or £50,000. He (Mr. Norris) did not wish to use language disrespectful to the House, but he could find no other term to characterize this proposition than to say that it was perfectly ridiculous. Any one conversant with the subject knew that the largest portion of the paper duty was paid by the manufacturers in the towns he had named. They were told on a previous night by the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Mellor) how oppressively the tax operated on his constituents in respect to the paper boxes in which they packed their manufactures. The hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Mr. Lygon) had said something about how the agitation in respect of this paper tax had been got up. He would remind that hon. Gentleman that it had always been an unpopular tax, that it had continued to increase in unpopularity, and in 1836 it was condemned by a vote of the House of Commons; and a distinguished Gentleman who then held the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Spring Rice, now Lord Monteagle, said on that occasion—If I find a tax uncertain in its collection, unequal in its operation, occasioning doubt and difficulty in the minds of the officers by whom it is collected, and continued embarrassment on the part of those by whom it is paid, then I say at once, repeal it in preference to any other course. There is a tax which, after the most anxious and 118 careful consideration, offers itself to my mind in such a point of view, and I hesitate not to say it answers every one of the objections I have made—that is, the paper duty.Science had manipulated a vast number of substances into articles which, if not paper, it would be difficult to call by any other name; and the result of this was that in no less than seven of the trades using these articles was the duty remitted by the Excise. In fact, one strong reason for abolishing the paper duties was the great difficulty, approximating to an impossibility, of the officers saying what was and what was not paper. In 1858, when the right hon. the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Milner Gibson) brought forward a Motion pledging the House to a reduction of the duty, the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, then a Minister of the Crown, said the paper duty could not be defended. Last year the same high authority said he would be willing to repeal the paper duties when there was a surplus. The same authority this year indicated that there was no surplus, and that, therefore, no taxes could be repealed, and yet on another day he admitted he voted to take off £1,700,000 or £1,800,000 of tea and sugar duties, or a greater amount than would be given up by passing this clause. This showed that his mind had been directed to the subject, and that he was convinced there was a surplus, and it was too late for the right hon. Gentleman and his friends to oppose the abolition of the paper duties on the ground that the Exchequer could not spare the money. Again some Gentlemen set themselves up in that House as the defenders of the other branch of the Legislature. Now, it seemed to him, from what he had read of the other House, and from what he knew of some of its Members, that they were entirely capable of taking care of themselves, and that the gratuitous imputation that they were unable to take care of themselves was not gratifying to them, but offensive. When the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) defended so forcibly the privileges of the House of Lords, he was reminded of some verses written by the noble Lord.—Let wealth and commerce, laws and learning die, But leave us still our old nobility.Well, he thought the "old nobility" could take care of themselves, and, therefore, he would not venture on any refutation of what had been said in their defence on that occasion. A short time since a Re- 119 turn had been made to the House of Commons of the number of paper mills in existence in the United Kingdom from the year 1838 to the year 1858; from which it appeared that in 1838 there were 416 mills in England, 49 in Scotland, and 60 in Ireland. The decrease crease in England between 1838 and 1848 had been 63, and between '48 and '58 it had been 47, which, was a decrease of 26 per cent between 1838 and 1858. In Ireland, where papermaking at one time was successfully pursued, the number decreased from 60 in 1838 to 27 in 1858 or 55 per cent. He took it that the operation and inequality of the Excise had had a little to do with that lamentable result. The papermaker wanted two capitals—one for his business the other for the Excise. But if he sold paper to a customer who deceived him and did not pay, he not only lost the cost price of the material, the expense of manufacture, and his profit, but he lost the whole of the Excise duty into the bargain. There were a thousand ways in which the Excise upon paper was oppressive and cruel, and, notwithstanding Mr. Bonn's assertion, seriously impeded the production of cheap literature. Mr. Bohn was a publisher to a large extent of valuable standard works; he exported very large quantities to America; he had a stock in hand which he did not expect to sell for. fifteen years, and he knew that if the duty were remitted other publishers would bring out the same works, and he would no longer receive the £300 or £400 a year drawback which he now received. That was his answer to Mr. Bohn. There was one other remarkable instance of the prejudicial operation of the Excise upon the paper trade. Whenever they saw a printing machine at work, they must have perceived that the paper was wet when it received the impression. The manufacturer produced the paper in the exact condition in which the printer desired to use it; but the papermaker was compelled to dry it in the process of its manufacture, in order that it might not pay higher duty, and it was only at considerable cost of trouble and expense that the dampness necessary for printing was afterwards produced. If the printers were allowed to receive the paper in its damp state from the makers from £4 to £6 or £7 per ton saving would be effected. Finally, the duty had been repeatedly condemned in that House; its repeal had been assented to in 1858 by all parties, and it was only that night that 120 any one had stood up to say that it ought not to be repealed. Last year the Bill for its remission passed upon three divisions! this Session it had been discussed for tea nights, and he trusted on that the eleventh night, the House would affirm its repeal by a large majority.
§ SIR JOHN WALSH
said that, although such a thing would hardly be guessed from the state of the benches, he believed that that evening was to be rather an important crisis in. the history of the Session of 1861. During a somewhat long Parliamentary career he had been a spectator of or an actor in many crises, and air though this one could not, vie in the probable importance of its results, or in the magnitude of the interests involved, with many which he could recall, yet it was the most irritating, the most annoying, and the most troublesome crisis which he had had the ill-fortune to have: witnessed. But it should be borne in mind that this question, which seemed by hon. Gentlemen opposite to be considered somewhat of a party contest, had really been forced upon the Opposition, who were reluctantly obliged to come forward and defend their own principles and those large interests of which the voice of the country seemed to think that they were: the natural champions. He had heard it whispered, that something, like a spirit of faction, or a desire to displace Her Majesty's Ministers, was the primum mobile of hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House. As far as his observations and knowledge went he would venture to say that since the beginning of this Session the predominant feeling on that side of the House had been a desire, not to disturb Ministers—not by any combination of parties or by any ruse to oust them from their seats. Quite the reverse—the desire on his side the House had been to support, as far as they could consistently with their principles, the noble Lord who presided over Her Majesty's Councils. He did not pretend that in entertaining this desire they were actuated by any peculiar disinterestedness. They felt a very sincere personal respect for the noble Lord at the head of the Government, They had a great admiration for his inimitable dexterity and skill, his knowledge of the House, his long and extensive experience of public affairs and, he would add, the Conservative party gave him credit for having at the bottom of his heart a very sound attachment to the leading principles of the. British Con- 121 stitution. They believed that he had the head of a statesman and the heart of an Englishman. Therefore, there was no feeling of hostility—on the contrary, there was much regard, and he might say partiality—felt on that side of the House towards the noble Lord. And although they felt the deepest gratitude to lord Derby for the chivalrous manner in which on a former occasion, in the face of an acknowledged majority in that House, and under circumstances of the greatest difficulty, he undertook—he was sure all would acquit him of any personal motives; he was sure all would admit that he entered on his duties, on public grounds and for public spirited motives—for the chivalrous manner, in which he undertook and successfully carried on the administration of the affairs; of this country; and they acknowledged that the Conservative party derived great benefit from that short tenure of office, particularly from its revealing to the House, to the country, and to themselves that there were within their ranks many Gentlemen who were quite capable of carrying on the affairs of the State, who required no long apprenticeship to official life, but who, whether in office or in debate, in the conduct of affairs or the management of Parliamentary business, could meet hon. Gentlemen opposite upon at least equal terms-acknowledging all this they at the same time felt that the experiment of carrying on the affairs of this kingdom by a party which was in a minority in Parliament was not one which they would wish to see repeated. The position of a Ministry so situated was so painful, and so many sacrifices were involved, that they did not wish to be called upon to repeat them. They felt there was something humiliating and unconstitutional in being places in such a position, and except milder circumstances of the greatest and most overbearing necessity, they did not wish to see such a course again entered upon. A third reason existed, and it would show that the Opposition were not purely disinterested. They believed that Conservative principles were gaining ground—that every day, every week, every year they were advancing; and, though not now in the position to which they aspired, they confidently hoped they would soon see the great leaders of their party take office with that support with which alone they could wish to see them attempt to take the reins of Government. Not wanting to pluck the pear before it was 122 ripe, they had every desire, under present circumstances, to postpone a change of Government—nay, for himself he believed, that in the present circumstances of the country a change of Government would be undesirable for the interests of the country. But on this occasion they had no choice whatever. They were compelled to oppose Ministers, and they could not avoid doing so without loss of character and of party honour—without sacrificing those party interests which the nation had in a certain degree intrusted to them, and without throwing away the political capital which they held in the concern. He cordially concurred with the observations made by the hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Ker Seymer) at the commencement of the debate, that any Member who during the recent holidays had visited the country must have seen that not only the ordinary supporters of the Conservative party, who were supposed on all occasions to embrace their opinions, but a large proportion of those who generally ranked as their foes, looked to them as the persons who were to fight the battle on their behalf against the Ministerial scheme of taxation. Those very lukewarm friends, who were only friends perhaps on that occasion, would naturally exclaim, "What is the use of a Conservative party? What are they good for, if, with their own large minority, nearly balancing all the divisions arid Sections opposed to them, and backed by so strong a feeling in the country, where public sentiment is entirely with them, they have not courage enough to come forward and maintain their own principles?" Why, these persons would naturally say, "The Conservatives are such an utterly craven party that they do not deserve support; we can place no confidence in them; they are so pusillanimous that they will not fight even When they have all the advantages in their favour." The Conservation party were not prepared to sacrifice all these real substantial motives to opposition because the mere customary taunt of a party Wove was thrown out. It was peculiarly irritating to feel that the question was forced on a majority of the Members of that House, and on a majority of persons in the country by the curious combination of parties by which certain hon. Gentlemen sitting below the gangway were enabled to apply a sort of screw to the Government, and that, with the opinions of every person, except those of the particular section to 123 which he had referred, in favour of the course advocated by the Opposition, it was possible, though by no means certain, that the scale might be turned against them. A charge had been preferred, if not in that House, certainly in what were called "the organs of public opinion," that the Opposition, in the hostility which they had shown to this measure, were imitating the tactics pursued with reference to the Reform Bill of last year, and were endeavouring to defeat the scheme of taxation by opposing to it a never-ending discussion. Any such intention he begged for his own part to repudiate. Moreover, the tactics of last year, if such they could be called, were carried on with equal ability, equal vigour, equal determination, and equal perseverance from the Ministerial as from the Opposition side of the House. The question really came to this. Had the Opposition, in their conduct with reference to a measure which they conceived to be fraught with most mischievous consequences, exceeded the limits of fair Parliamentary usage? If, in their opinion, this measure was fraught with mischief, surely it could not be objected to them that they had taken steps by fair and open discussion to expose those mischiefs and to endeavour to remove them. They had only taken one division against the Bill—a very narrow division indeed. Last year there were two or three divisions on the same subject, and though the second reading of the Bill passed by a large majority, the third reading had a hair's breadth escape. Was it, then, so very factious—such utterly unjustifiable conduct—after the narrow majority by which the Resolution was passed, again to take the sense of the House in Committee? At the root of all this opposition to the repeal of the paper duties lay the state of our financial prospects and the calls which would probably arise at no very distant period. The country was not now in the same condition as when, during the later years of the Tory Administration, £17,000,000 of taxation were taken off in the course of a comparatively short period, without the imposition of any new tax; or, as in the time of Sir Robert Peel, when large remissions of taxation were made. Were the situation and the prospects of the country such as to warrant progressive reductions of taxation, though he might believe the paper duty to be one of the last which ought to be repealed, and though its claims should, in his opinion, be post- 124 poned to those of the payers of tea duty and income tax, no opposition would be offered by him to such a measure as the present. But the whole aspect of political affairs forbade rational or prudent men to believe in the probability of prospective and progressive remission of taxation. With regard to the particular merits of the tax now under discussion—the objections to the repeal of this paper duty had been so often and so ably urged that it was not necessary for him to do more than touch upon them. The common sense of the country had without difficulty arrived at the conclusion that it would benefit the community in only an infinitesimal degree. No one could mix with any class of society without observing how strong that impression was on the public mind. There was a great deal of theoretical fanaticism in respect to the supposed benefits of the measure; but there was a very important objection to the repeal of the impost. He supposed hon. Gentlemen opposite might be inclined to cheer when he stated that it was very generally admitted that this duty could not be renewed. By repealing the duty they were finally parting with £1,300,000 a year for, whatever might be the exigencies of the State at any future period, they would find great difficulty in reimposing it. Would it not be more prudent to remit a tax which could easily be reimposed, more especially when such was the state of affairs generally that within a year or two we might want a very large increase of taxation to meet the requirements of the country? Now, let the Committee consider what was involved in the giving up of this sum. Hon. Gentlemen opposite were advocates for throwing all increase of taxation on the property of the country; but it must be remembered that direct taxation was, after all, a finite system. They could not go beyond a certain point in the imposition of direct taxation, and when they relinquished taxation which they could not re-impose, they disbanded so many soldiers, they gave up building so many iron-plated frigates, they deprived themselves of the means of erecting so many fortifications. They diminished the strength of the nation in case of emergency to an extent proportionate to the amount of the tax which they surrendered, if it was a tax they could never re-impose, whatever might be the emergency to which the State was exposed. The remission of £1,300,000 would not signify so much if it took place at a time when everything 125 was calm, and when there were no indications of danger, but the case was widely different now, when on so many other points the nation was preparing for a storm. The noble Lord at the head of the Government came forward last year and asked for a very large Vote for fortifications, and the general arming on the part of the Volunteers showed what the sentiment of the nation was on the subject of danger from abroad. The hon. Member for Birmingham might, perhaps, say that that was owing to the aristocracy; but, if them was one thing more clear than another it was that this movement was entirely owing to the middle classes, and it was, perhaps, the most significant symptom of modern times that, without any call from the Government, without being invited by the aristocracy, the middle classes had acted in this matter from their own instinctive sense of danger. Yet the abolition of this tax, involving a loss of £1,300,000, was directly flying in the face of that instinctive apprehension; it had the appearance of a sideling and insidious mode of counteracting the public sentiment of the country, and of paralysing the resources of the country, at a moment when they moat especially required to be invigorated and strengthened. Again, he really thought that one of the most vexatious matters connected with the repeal of the paper duty was the strong opinion entertained by the Conservative side of the House, and he believed by the House generally, that, in point of fact, they were in this matter all placed under the dictation of a small section of that branch of the Legislature, and of a most unpopular minority. He would not wish to say anything personally offensive to hon. Gentlemen on the other side, many of whose talents they must all admire, but the reduction of our war establishments to such a point as must place us at the mercy of our neighbours, and the substitution of direct for all indirect taxation—both of which measures appeared to be cardinal points with the hon. Gentlemen to whom he alluded—were in the highest degree distasteful to the great majority of the people of this country. He thought he might assert that the country had given proof of that fact. In his opinion the repeal of the paper duty was a sacrifice to the hon. Gentlemen the Members for Birmingham and Rochdale, in consequence of the indirect influence which those hon. Gentlemen possessed in the present con- 126 fused state of parties in that House. He believed, also, that it was the bounden and paramount duty of those who sat on that (the Opposition) side of the House, to offer to this measure, fraught with so many mischievous consequences, their strenuous and determined opposition, and, therefore, he should cordially record his vote against it.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, he had no intention to repel the imputations which had been cast on Gentlemen on his side of the House by the hon. Baronet and other Members who had spoken against the measure of the Government. The hon. Baronet, indeed, had answered himself. The hon. Baronet charged the popular party with compelling the Government to introduce this measure. ("No, no!") He said the Gentlemen who sat below the gangway were the popular party ("No, no!"), and then he said they were an unpopular party in the country. He charged them with being popular agitators out of the House, and with having impelled the Government to introduce this measure; while at the same time he said the measure itself was one of the most unpopular ever framed, [Sir JOHN WALSH: I said you were political fanatics.] The word "fanatics" was a very ambiguous one, but at any rate it might mean that those hon. Members who sat near him were sincere in the opinions they expressed in that House, while the hon. Baronet and his Friends expressed opinions that they did not quite feel. He wished to know for what purpose they had been discussing this question night after night from Easter to Whitsuntide? If he might judge from the speeches they had heard on the other side it could only be for the purpose of delay, in the hope that something would occur which might seem to justify the opposition of Gentlemen opposite. In the course of the discussion these hon. Gentlemen had carried the House all over the world in search of difficulties—to China, to India, to America, and to the Continent of Europe. But the treaty with China was working well, and our trade with that Empire was likely to flourish. India had been tranquillized, and there, too, our trade was likely to increase. They could not show that Europe was less tranquil than before; and all their expectations seemed to be doomed to disappointments, when suddenly there had come a messenger from Galway, and he had announced a difficulty which offered to serve the purpose of Gentlemen oppo- 127 site. Whether trouble came from this or the other side of the Atlantic, it was the only one that had served to suggest the continuance of this dispute and the renewal of opposition to the Budget. But they had made no progress in the discussion, and he asked whether they were now to go back to the question whether there was a surplus, or accept the deliberate judgment of the party opposite, who had declared that there was not merely a surplus, but one favourable to a large remission of taxation? The question before them was whether the paper duty was or was not of all taxes a most obnoxious tax, and, therefore, the one that ought to be selected for remission? The Commissioners of Excise found themselves unable to answer the objections raised against the tax. There was this difficulty about it, that it was not an Excise upon a specific thing that could be easily identified in nature and described, but a tax on something that did not exist in nature and could not be defined—for any plastic fibrous substance could be converted into paper. Alcohol could be defined but paper could not. When the duty was first imposed there was a definite idea of what constituted a sheet of paper, and there was no difficulty in collecting the duty. But a change had ever since been going on in the manufacture, until paper had assumed an infinite variety of forms, Matters had, indeed, come to such a pitch that, if the right hon. Gentleman had not last year proposed to repeal the duty it was the intention, he believed, of certain parties to show the absurdity of the law and render it impossible to collect the duty. For instance, by law paper boxes made inside the paper mill were not chargeable with the duty, but if the paper was taken out of the mill to be made into boxes, it had to pay the duty—a monstrous absurdity. Then arose the question of vegetable and animal fibres. Paper could no longer be defined as fibrous vegetable matter, because animal matter could be manufactured into paper—yet paper made of vegetable fibre was held to be liable to the duty, and that made of animal matter was not. Another anomaly and difficulty in reference to this article was this—there was no authority in the Crown to make exemptions from an Excise duty imposed by Parliament, yet successive Governments had taken upon themselves the responsibility of declaring that certain classes of traders should be exempt from the operation of the paper 128 duty. The practice was most improper and unconstitutional, and ought to be put an end to. If hon. Gentlemen opposite would show any other tax subject to the same difficulties of interpretation they would be entitled to put such a tax in competition with the present for remission. The mere amount was enough to startle the House. The duty on paper amounted to £14 14s. per ton on a commodity which could be made from a raw material costing not more than £4 4.s. a ton. Was not that a monstrous and repressive tax? Monstrous as this was he believed it was small compared with the difficulties arising from the interference of the Excise. The manufacture was carried on under all sorts of restrictions and penalties. The manufacturer had first to go to the Excise, to register himself, and to pay a tax. He then came under the surveillance of the Excise, and was exposed to the most vexatious regulations and penalties, the latter ranging from £50 to £200. A paper-maker was, therefore, placed in a situation of jeopardy and restriction most unfavourable to the prosecution of his industry. The result was that those who took to the paper manufacture were limited in number; and there was, in fact, no competition between the general public and the persons who had established themselves in that business. Lord Monteagle, who at one period entertained different views on the subject of the paper duty from those he had lately expressed, was, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, so impressed with the injurious effects of that tax, that, though his Budget would not allow him to remit the whole, he took off a part, and entirely removed the Excise duty on stained paper, which amounted to five farthings a yard. The yard, which was manufactured for 1½d., was sold with the duty for 4d.; but, when the duty was taken off, such an impulse was given to the development of that branch of industry, that the same stained paper sold for no more than 1d. a yard. Such was the history of a manufacture freed from the iron discipline of statutory regulations, and a similar result was now sought to be obtained in reference to the general manufacture of paper. There was positively no material existing in this country which was capable of being applied to so many useful purposes as fibre manufactured in the plastic form. It was well known that England with all its intelligence and mechanical skill could not bear comparison 129 with Japan in reference to the manufacture of paper. In that country a waterproof coat made of paper might be purchased for a few pence, and almost every domestic article in Japan was made out of paper. These were facts which illustrated the condition of the manufacture when it was perfectly free, and proved that the paper duty was a most obnoxious duty, and should be the first selected for repeal. He needed not to repeat that all parties had assented to the abolition of the duty, and the proposal for its remission was as much due to the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire as to the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman was the first to give it the stamp of a practical measure, after it had been long mooted in that House, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had taken it up at the point where it had been left by his predecessor—the repeal, therefore, as such could not be looked upon as a party measure. It was, however, in regard to the time and mode in which' it Tras presented to the House that the matter became a party question; but he maintained that as the consideration of the Customs' duty on paper could not be separated from the Excise duties, it was right in dealing with those two matters also to introduce into one Bill all the proposed regulations relating to the Customs and Excise of the year. It had been represented that the Bill had been brought in not simply on its own merits, but as an insult to the House of Lords. He had just as sincere a respect for the House of Lords as the hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House, but he came to a different conclusion from theirs. Last year the Lords rejected the measure for the abolition of the Excise duty on paper, because they were not satisfied with the financial condition of the country, and because on the very day when the second reading came on a telegraphic message arrived in England representing that the China war must go on. Consequently, a considerable expenditure was necessitated beyond what had been provided for, and the noble Lord at the head of the Government fairly stated that the other House had only rejected the Bill to allow the House of Commons in the altered state of circumstances an opportunity of reconsidering the question. If that were a correct statement of the ease, how could it be an affront to tae House of Lords that the Commons had deliberately reconsidered the question, and 130 had inserted a clause for the repeal of the paper duty in a Bill which imposed other taxation amply sufficient for the service of the year? It was contended that if the whole of the financial scheme were comprised in one Bill, the other House of Parliament would not be in a position duly to exercise their functions with respect to the proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but they had the same right to strike out the clause relating to the paper duty that they had to reject the Bill of last Session, and would, in doing so, be incurring precisely the same responsibility. In either event it was in the power of the House of Commons to take the course which it might deem proper for the vindication of its privileges; and if irreconcilable differences of opinion should, in dealing with the question, spring up between the two Houses, the Sovereign might dissolve Parliament and appeal to the country to settle the differences. To such a proceeding it was maintained on the part of the hon. Gentleman opposite that they would have no objection, inasmuch as the view which they took on the point at issue was the popular view, and one which therefore, they would expect to find ratified at every hustings throughout the country. That being so, he could not understand why it was that they objected so strongly to a constitutional procedure which was susceptible of a constitutional solution. For his own part, he would look with no alarm to the result, for the people out of doors, he was satisfied, understood the question in dispute, notwithstanding the description which had been given of his constituents by the hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Ker Seymer); and if hon. Gentlemen opposite wished to retain for themselves that reputation with the people which they seemed anxious to acquire when they argued in favour of the repeal of the duty on tea—if they were desirous of reviving that popularity in the country which they once enjoyed under a great Conservative statesman in our time, and a still greater statesman in a former generation—he would advise them to apply themselves earnestly to a duty which, they might perform, but which, he regretted to perceive, they were not disposed to discharge, and that was, to endeavour to induce the Government to cut down the expenditure of the country, and by so doing truly and properly alleviate the burdens which pressed on the shoulders of the community.
§ SIR JOHN RAMSDEN
said, that if he understood aright the argument which had been addressed to the Committee by the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, it amounted to maintaining that the chief reason to be advanced in support of the repeal of the paper duty was, that it was a burden which nobody felt. He could, he should confess, attach no other meaning to the statement of the hon. Gentleman that the test of a perfect tax was that it should not be withdrawn from popular knowledge. But, be that as it might, there was one remark made by the hon. Gentleman—that in which he announced it to be his intention to vote on the question at issue simply on its merits—in which he entirely concurred. In that respect he should he prepared to follow the hon. Gentleman's example. He last year voted against the repeal of the paper duty for two reasons—first, because in the position in which the revenue of the country then stood, he was of opinion that the tax could not be spared; and, secondly, because if any tax was at the time to be remitted, he thought the addition, to the income tax and the war duties which pressed on the comforts of the poor were burdens which ought, in preference to the paper duty, to be removed. The opinion on which he acted last year he this year retained; and he was prepared to follow the same course. But in the present case a new issue—the expediency of repealing the war duties on tea—was raised, and for the purpose of that issue the denial of the existence of a surplus, if not expressly withdrawn by the leaders of the Opposition was at all events waived; and on that new issue the House had been called upon to vote. They were now told that every one who voted for the reduction of the tea duties had admitted the existence of such a surplus as would justify the abandonment of the revenue that was derived from paper. He, however, disputed both these propositions. He maintained that, in the form in which that issue was raised, and only the choice of two alternatives forced upon them, it was quite open to any man to vote for a reduction of the tea duty, which was not a final and irrevocable abandonment of revenue; and which, according to Sir Robert Peel's principle, by increasing consumption, might increase the revenue and even turn a deficit into a surplus, and yet oppose the repeal of the excise on paper, which would be an entire and irrevocable loss to the 132 Exchequer. The revenue derived from tea was almost stationary, notwithstanding the increase of population—the consumption was checked by the high duty—moreover, it was a war duty, to the repeal of which that House was pledged; and the benefit of that repeal would be felt by every one of the operative class, and the advantage to them would react' in a corresponding gain to the Exchequer. On the other hand, the revenue we derived from the Excise on paper was flourishing and increasing. That it was easily collected and that it was in-oppressive had been frequently proved by an admission made in the course of these debates, that the papermakers, who were the persons most annoyed by the Excise, were not the persons who were the most anxious for its repeal. On these grounds he justified his vote for the reduction of the tea duty. He did not think there was, or could be, the surplus estimated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. For how, let him ask the House, was that surplus obtained? We had this year a new definition of a surplus such as he had never heard before. Heretofore a surplus had been money in hand, actually touched or seen, safe in actual receipts, in the pocket, or in the bank, or in some other form equally tangible and secure. He ventured to say that it was unprecedented in the financial history of this country for a Chancellor of the Exchequer to close the year with a deficit of more than £2,500,000, and then proceed to make arrangements to remit taxes on the faith of a surplus which was not even on paper—verified by facts or by accounts—but which was a surplus purely built on speculation, on new calculations, and hopes, and conjectures, every one of which was as liable to prove fallacious as the schemes of any speculator on the Stock Exchange. The process by which this surplus was obtained was very arbitrary, and he was afraid it might turn out to be very illusory. There were six great branches of revenue which in the last year had produced a certain sum. On each of these the Chancellor of the Exchequer calculated there would be in the coming year a certain increase. Take, for instance, the revenue derived from Customs. In the past year the Customs yielded £23,305,000; in the coming year they were estimated to produce £23,585,000, showing an estimated increase of £280,000. So with the other five items. The total amount of estimated increase on these six branches 133 of revenue, after deducting one item of decrease under the head of Miscellaneous Receipts, amounted to more than £750,000. But on what assumption was this calculation based? It could be only on one—namely, that the coming year would be a better year for trade, and that the harvest would be more abundant than the last. Were both these events so certain—were they even now so very probable? Yet these, coupled with the very questionable receipt of the indemnity from China, constituted the surplus which the House was now asked to give away. A merchant might freight a vessel to foreign ports calculating on certain profits, but lie would not spend them before they were realized; or a gentleman might buy railway stock anticipating an increased dividend at the close of the year, but he would not give it away before he had received it. Yet that was precisely what they were now doing. They assumed a speculative surplus, and then proceeded to give it away. Where did this surplus exist? In the visions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If that was what Parliament was hereafter to accept as the definition of a surplus, it was obvious that the financial condition of the country must very much depend on the temperament of the Finance Minister for the time being. If he should be of a sanguine disposition, everything would go well. They would would be sure of a surplus, and might remit taxes. If, on the other hand, he should be of a desponding turn of mind, they must apprehend a deficiency, and proceed to lay on increased taxation. In the course of these debates the House had been more than once invited to observe the great change of circumstances which had taken place since the Budget was introduced—the rapid march of events on the other side of the Atlantic, and the gloom which was thickening every day over our commercial prospects. Our relations with America had become so intimate as to be those of mutual dependence, and it was absolutely impossible for American trade to be paralyzed without the most serious consequences to England. These consequences, he was afraid, were already falling heavily upon us. The prospect of a short supply of cotton was already most alarming. No one could tell what six months hence the state of our manufacturing population might be. But this at least all those who were connected with those districts already knew, and he grieved 134 to say that too much evidence of it had reached him—that the possibility of diminished employment, and consequently of diminished consumption, was already sufficiently apparent and acknowledged to have extinguished the prospect of the small surplus on which they had counted, and to make a prudent Chancellor of the Exchequer reconsider his position. Six weeks ago, when the Budget was introduced, affairs in America were threatening; but then we all hoped for the best. Now those dangers had broken out into calamitous events, and we must prepare for the worst. A Budget that was made for fine weather must necessarily be rent in pieces by the storm; and it was no reproach to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it was so. It would be no humiliation to admit that he had been a second time beaten by events he could not control. And while, if he persisted in his proposals he would be acting in the teeth of the real opinion both of that House and of the country, and exposing himself to the charge not merely of imprudence, but of rash and wilful imprudence; and, unless every probability was falsified, incurring future condemnation and reproach; he could, on the other hand, in the new circumstances which had come upon them, yet retreat with dignity and honour, and among all reasonable men at least gain both popularity and respect by so doing. But that was not the only warning which might be drawn from events passing in America. We were now witnessing the bursting of that great Republican bubble which had been so often held up to us as the model on which to recast our own English Constitution; and the first and great truth which these events ought to impress upon any English Minister or statesman was the duty of observing, of studying, and of strengthening, that which had hitherto constituted the great distinction between the safe and rational, and tempered liberties of England, and the wild and unreflecting excesses of mob-rule which had too often desecrated freedom and out raged humanity in America. The House of Commons, to which they were all proud to belong, and whose privileges it was their duty to uphold, did not derive its strength, its value, or its greatness from any inherent power of its own, but rather from its association in dignity and in functions with those other great authorities of the State with which it was so identified in character, in inte- 135 rests, and in responsibility that nothing could impair the greatness or honour of the one—he it of the Commons—be it of the Peerage—be it of the Crown, without detriment to all the three. Each of these great Estates, therefore, was bound to regard the dignity and integrity of the others, as inseparable from its own.
Into the second question raised—the constitutional question—on which exception had been taken to the form, of the present Bill, he would not then presume to enter, except to say this much, that he was quite ready to admit, for the sake of argument, that it might be a great improvement in their practice in future years to combine the whole of the financial measures for the year in one Bill. He would assume that that had been proved. He would also, for the sake of argument, assume, what of course the Government anticipated, that the repeal of the paper duty would pass the House of Commons. Then would remain the question, how they could best combine the double object of carrying the repeal of the paper duty in the Lords, and embodying future years the whole of the financial scheme of the Commons in one Bill. In his opinion the safest, and certainly the most dignified course, for the House of Commons to pursue would be to confine itself on this occasion to precisely the same course as it adopted last year. They might say to the Lords,—"You rejected our Paper Duty Bill last year; and we cannot deny that the country approved what you did, because, financially, you proved to be right; but that occurrence has convinced us of the necessity of avoiding all danger of future collision—by combining our finance in one Bill. We might do this on the present occasion, but we refrain from making the change this year, because our motives might be misinterpreted. It might seem a discourteous attempt to coerce the Lords into what they refused last year; or it might be attributed to resentment. We would avoid all such unjust and degrading imputations. We prefer, therefore, to send up the Bill to you in its old form this year, reserving to ourselves the right to adopt the new practice next year, when the object can be achieved without our motives being misinterpreted." That would, at any rate, be a smooth and safe course; it would avoid all unpleasant recurrence of the past, and all ungracious distrust as to the future. It could cause no heat, no jealousy, no disturbance; the 136 differences that had divided this House on this subject would be forgotten; and the country—that was in perfect good humour with the House of Lords, and did not desire a quarrel to be stirred up—would view with satisfaction the harmonious co-operation of the two Houses in a measure that had at length met with general acquiescence. That would be, indeed, what an hon. Gentleman in an earlier debate described as an "olive branch" offered to the House of Lords. But what they were now doing might rather be interpreted as a challenge. Was that wise, was it necessary? All resolved itself into a question of time; what they might do safely next year, they were going out of their way to do ungraciously and unsafely now. Many would condemn their conduct as ill-advised, some as a petulant, some as an arrogant proceeding. Public opinion neither supplied the motive, nor acknowledged the necessity. If the Lords submitted it would impose on them humiliation; if they resisted it would provoke a conflict. And he thought that that Minister would be a friend neither to his country nor to the Constitution who went out of his way needlessly and wantonly to compel the House of Peers to choose between two such alternatives. For these reasons, he shall feel it his duty to give his best support to the Amendment—first, because this renewed attempt to repeal the paper duty on the faith of a surplus that events might prove to be as artificial and illusory as that of last year, was most unfair to the country which must soon be called on to make good the deficiency by an increase in the income tax; and, further, he supported the Amendment, because the time chosen to make this change in their form of legislation connected it so unmistakeably with the proceedings of last year a3 to impart to it a petty and resentful character that was alike ill-advised and unworthy of the House of Commons; that must prove embarrassing to the House of Lords; and, could not, he was certain, be agreeable to the country.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
Sir, as this issue has been raised to-night, and though, as the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir John "Walsh) said, I am not aware whether "the pear is ripe" or not; still, considering the question in a fair and honest spirit, and not having given any vote on it this year, I will, with the permission of the House, offer a few observations on it. In considering this question I wish to explain, if 137 I do vote, how I qualify it; or, if I do not vote, to state my reasons for not giving it. I am not at all surprised at this prolonged discussion. An hon. Gentleman who spoke from these benches said that after ten nights of discussion—perhaps more—he thought the House had had enough of it, and the Prime Minister himself said the other night he was really quite surprised that this discussion should be continued, that he understood it was not intended to dispute that part of the Budget connected with the income tax; that it was not intended to revive the subject of the tea duty; and that there was no intention of objecting to a repeal of the paper duty; he said he considered these matters as disposed of and decided, and that on the Resolutions of the House the duties had been levied as matters of course. I am really surprised to see the noble Lord so much deceived as to the state of affairs. I know, and the House knows, that the noble Lord has often availed himself of the kind assistance of the Opposition, to stem and curb the exuberant spirit of his own impolitic partizans; and I hope, under similar circumstances, he will never appeal in vain to the generous sympathies of his political opponents. But I had yet to learn that the Prime Minister had been authorized to make on the part of Her Majesty's Opposition such an unqualified statement as that, and he must have been misled as to the opinion of the House when he tries to check discussion upon this question—a more important one to the interests of all classes could not be brought forward. It is not our fault if, after Whitsuntide, and close on the month of June, we are still discussing this question. We might have had this discussion much earlier if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had desired it. I, therefore, think the noble Lord was accidentally led into an error when he said all discussion had practically closed, for we are now only on the second reading, and then have to come all the Resolutions seriatim in Committee. But I should not, perhaps, have risen to speak on the question to-night had it not been for a statement made on a former night by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, who said—and his words are worthy of being mentioned—he believed this discussion was carried on merely for the purpose of injuring the political reputation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. A more unfounded observation never came from the noble Lord, though we know his habit of making 138 use of these claptraps occasionally, for the purpose of gaining "political capital." I, for one, in discussing the question now, have not the least idea of throwing any slur on the political character of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I wish to discuss the subject like any other independent Member of the House, and I believe the right hon. Gentleman is quite capable of defending himself, his political character and measures, without requiring to be beplastered with the hollow praise of the noble Lord. If I thought the discussion was carried on on the ground the noble Lord supposed; if I thought the poisoned arrow of personal malice was directed against the right hon. Gentleman, I, for one, would forego my right of criticism, and would take my stand by him to the last. Like the hon. Baronet who has just sat down, I do not intend to enter on the constitutional part of the question. Thank God! we have got rid of that, and got to the practical part of the subject—the part that affects the interests of the people and the country. The Constitutional point has been most ably treated by hon. Gentlemen competent to do it; among others by my right hon. Friend, whom I was happy to hear addressing the House with so much vigour—the veteran Conservative of Carlisle. He treated that point in such an able manner that I cannot understand how any one can entertain any doubt on the constitutional part of the subject. He said that, looking carefully and impartially at the precedents, his opinion was decided that the Lords had a constitutional right to take the course they adopted, and that in rejecting the Paper Duty Bill they exercised a right inherent in them and which cannot be denied. I thoroughly concur with, that opinion. And I should say, that any one who does not admit that the Lords were perfectly right in the course they adopted last year must be very hard to satisfy by any force of argument. But we will let all that go by. Allusion has been made to the time of Henry IV. The hon. and learned Member for Plymouth (Mr. Collier) who agreed that this was an important constitutional question even talked about 600 years ago, for he said that with regard to the act complained of, the Commons had not used their right for thirty years, while against the House of Lords the usage of some 600 years might be alleged. I should have thought it impossible to bring forward precedents dating from that early period of 139 history, or, at all events, I should have thought that precedents then were as much in favour of the Lords as against them. But, instead of examining into precedents of so very long ago, let us consider that point as settled, and treat this question as it hears upon the interests of the people in 1861. I know that among some hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House it is an unpopular thing to consider the interests of the middle and the lower together with those of the upper classes. The hon. Member for Birmingham has over and over again said he conceives that the interests of the lower classes are best consulted by raising them up in antagonism to the middle and upper classes. I think, on the contrary, that all classes should be considered, whether financially or politically, as one complete entirety; and that in adjusting our taxation the interests of all classes should be equally considered—that there should be nothing like class legislation in administering the affairs of the country. With the permission of the House it would be perfectly competent for me to enter into a full discussion of the Budget of my right hon. Friend. The noble Lord the Member for London talked about bricks, and soap, and glass, and it would be perfectly fair for me to enter into all those subjects. I will not, however, deal with any of these subjects now, but will merely express, as many others have expressed before me, my admiration at the facility and ability with which my right hon. Friend embellished his financial statement some months ago. We recollect how he glossed over the deficiencies, the ornamentation with which he embossed his surplus, and the hopeful expectation with which he encrusted the future. We know that he had a difficult task to perform. There was, he admits, a deficit last year of £822,000; whereas now, with only a reduction of £1,000,000 in the Army and Navy Estimates, the Chancellor of the Exchequer says there is a surplus for the present financial year of £1,900,000. I confess that I do not see how he disposes of the deficit of £822,000; because, if you deduct that old deficit from the surplus of the present year, instead of £1,900,000, you have only £1,100,000, so that in reducing the income tax and in remitting the paper duty, if you do not get the indemnity from China, you are in a deficit of more than £300,000 instead of having surplus of £410,000. Then the Chancellor of the Exchequer finished by depre- 140 cating unnecessary expenditure and by lauding retrenchment, admitting, at the same time, that in the course of a few years the expenses of the country have increased something like £20,000,000. Nevertheless, the right hon. Gentleman looked hopefully to the future. His opinion on this point was so very clear that he sneered at the hon. Member for Huntingdom (Mr. T. Baring) for venturing to entertain dark forebodings with regard to the state of Europe. The hon. Gentleman below me (Mr. Bright) also expressed his surprise that a man should look with such dread at the aspect of foreign affairs. But I must say I agree with the hon. Baronet who has just sat down (Sir John Ramsden) in thinking that nothing can well be darker or more dangerous than the present state of Europe; and, as this has an important bearing upon the finances of the country, I think the Government and the Chancellor of the Exchequer should have considered the subject in a different spirit from what they have done. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) said that people used very desponding language, and raised upGorgons, hydras, and chimæras dire.I do not know whether he has ever read a play of Shakspeare called Timon of Athens. This Timon, who was a very expensive man, had a Chancellor of the Exchequer, named Flavius, whom he asked to supply the ways and means for his extravagant expenditure. What was the answer of Flavius? He had not the abundant eloquence of the right hon. Gentleman, but he said in plain, simple language—What will this come to?He commands us to provide, and give great gifts, And all out of an empty coffer.Now, I do not know whether the coffers of the State be empty, but I do say that to make the year's surplus dependent upon the receipt of money from China is a state things of which I, for one, cannot entirely approve. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer showed us that there existed a surplus, I admit that, as I had entertertained apprehensions of so different a character, I listened with unqualified satisfaction; but I was surprised to find that other Gentlemen who had considered this subject should have arrived at conclusions differing entirely from those of the right hon. Gentleman. Nevertheless, when he told us that there was an estimated surplus of income over expenditure, and that we might look forward to a considerable ba- 141 lance in hand, together with a reduction of taxes, I was satisfied until the right hon. Gentleman came to the subject of paper. Now, I must say that I was sorry to see this prospect of a renewed contest, because my noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston) had distinctly stated to a deputation which waited upon him a short time ago, that he could hold out no expectations whatever of the remission of the paper duty. Calling to mind, also, the Resolutions passed last year by this House, entirely approving the policy of the Lords, I say it is a slur upon my noble Friend to re-open this subject so soon after last year, and, if handled at all, it certainly requires to be handled with most extreme caution, circumspection, and conciliation. I do not think that has been done here. What are we now discussing? Not whether there is or is not a surplus of revenue over expenditure, but whether it is desirable to remit a tax affecting the interests of a limited industry at the expense of the general public—whether it is desirable to remit the Excise duty on paper and the Customs' duty also levied thereon, and for that purpose to increase the burdens pressing upon the great body of the taxpayers of this country. It is, in fact, almost a question between direct and indirect taxation. The noble Lord made the other night a remarkable statement. In eighteen years, he said, we have increased the indirect taxation of the country from £33,000,000 to £40,000,000; and, he added, "Does that look as though we were destroying all our revenue from indirect taxation?" Now, it has never been urged that you are endeavouring to destroy all your revenue from indirect taxation. What is said is that you are resorting to direct taxation as one of the principal means for raising the revenue of the country, in spite of the strong disinclination of the great bulk of the people to the payment of direct taxes, instead of having adequate recourse to taxes whose burdens fall indirectly upon the people, and the incidents of which are equal and impartial; no doubt direct taxes fall principally on the wealthier classes, but pressed to an inconsiderate increase, they react with injury to the other classes; and, therefore, in the interest of all classes this remission of taxation should be most maturely considered. It may be true that in eighteen years indirect taxation has increased by £7,000,000, but how has the expenditure of the country increased meanwhile? In 1843–4 our 142 estimated expenditure was £49,387,000, but in 1861–2 it is £70,000,000:—so that in these eighteen years the expenditure of the country has increased £20,000,000, whereas the indirect taxation has only increased £7,000,000. It is singular enough that eighteen years ago in 1843 there was an indemnity from China for the ransom of Canton, amounting to £725,000; but the then Chancellor of the Exchequer said, "I will, it is true, accept this indemnity, but I will take care to keep in hand enough to counterbalance that sum if it should not be received." The then Chancellor of the Exchequer estimated the national expenditure at £49,387,000, where as he made the revenue £50,150,000, so that he retained a balance of £763,000 to meet any contingencies which might arise, and he certainly did not make his surplus depend upon the receipt of the Chinese indemnity. Now, if there was one hon. Gentleman in this House whose opinion on such a subject should be entitled to respect, it was a right hon. Gentleman who, sitting on the Treasury bench, might be supposed thoroughly conversant with the actual state of affairs when he gave his opinion in favour of the measure. I allude to the President of the Board of Trade—the Milner Gibson of 1853. He is a man who has always advocated the repeal of what he calls the taxes on knowledge, and a more fallacious mode of describing this tax could not be conceived. He says that it obstructs literature, impedes commerce, injures the revenue, and harasses industry. Will the right hon. Gentleman say that the education of the country has been held back by the Excise and Customs' duties on paper? Will he dare to say that we who oppose this reduction of taxation on the article of paper went to impede the progress of the people in intelligence, in morality or self-Government, or have less at heart that he, their real wants and interests? Within a very short time the grant for education has more than doubled, and so small are the taxes paid by cheap literature, independent of newspapers, that of half a million the Government spends in aid of education not £20,000 is spent in books, and, therefore, the Committee will readily understand the small amount that goes on paper duties. I will admit that there is a hardship on the authors and publishers of books. It is well known that not half of the books published pay the cost of publication; but ask in Paternoster Row whether these 143 "taxes on knowledge" have at all curbed the furor scribendi, or have in any way affected the modesty or the confidence of authors? So much claptrap has been talked about these taxes on know ledge that if the Committee will spare me a few minutes I should like to point out one or two circumstances which show the fallacy of the arguments used. One great argument which has been used to-night is, that you do not know what paper is. And it is a fact that for out of six of the Government Commissioners of Inland Revenue wrote an elaborate report to proclaim their ignorance or stupidity in the matter, and added that if the paper duty is maintained an Act of Parliament must be passed to define what is paper. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets told us that in these days it is impossible to define what paper is. He talked about fibrous—I really cannot recollect exactly what he said—but he went into a series of mechanical descriptions, which, no doubt, were perfectly accurate; but I can only refer to Dr. Johnson, who gives a definition of paper which, until some new dictionary is written, must stand good. "Paper," says Johnson, "is a substance on which men write and print, made by macerating linen rags in water, and then grinding them to pulp, and spreading them in sheets." The duty on paper enters very slightly into the price of a book. It is at present, as hon. Members know, 1½d. per lb., which comes to about 3d. on an 18s. volume. On two volumes of Lord Macaulay's History, which cost 36s., it would be 6d. The paper duty seldom forms more than one twenty-fourth part of the price of the cheapest work, and not one fiftieth of the price of the dearer books. If you repeal the paper duty tonight, a 1s. book will never cost less than 11½d., nor a 20s. book less than 19s. 6d. These are facts, and I should like to hear any one get up and deny them—particularly the President of the Board of Trade, The noble Lord the Member for London talked about the "hobgoblin of the penny press." The penny press, I presume, is as respectable as the press of a higher price; but no one will make me believe that the penny press pays except as a speculation for advertisements. It is sold to the trade for ¾d., and it is quite evident that it never can be made and never will be made to pay at the price, except as a speculation for the purpose of advertisements. In 1853 Milner 144 Gibson, the President of the Board of Trade—I must call him the historic Milner Gibson—brought forward Resolutions for the remission of the paper duty, and he said to the Chancellor of the Exchequer—You are only making use of the stock arguments of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but I will tell you what it is—the man who is debarred of his penny paper is as badly off as the slave in the Southern States of America.He was answered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day—Mr. Gladstone—who said—As steward of the public revenue and guardian of the public credit, upon an impartial consideration, I prefer the claims of all interests to the economy of a particular reduction;And he went on to say—I deprecate the dangerous practice of flattering the passions, as the acute, but mischievous Member for Manchester is now doing, by endeavouring to induce the House to pass these Resolutions for the repeal of the paper duty.But the right hon. Gentleman on this occasion has been supported by the Prime Minister who tells us that, upon the whole, he thinks it would be better to apply the surplus to the remission of the paper duty, but he spoke in such terms of faint praise that I was almost inclined to believe that he half mistrusted himself. Under ordinary circumstances the House would probably be very much inclined to adopt a measure supported by him and backed by the ability of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but we are now deliberating under extraordinary circumstances. Say what we will, there is a feeling of uneasiness abroad, both in military circles and in the public mind generally. I do not speak, like the hon. Member for Birmingham, of "Gorgons, or hydras," or things I never saw, but of what we all know and can perceive. There is a feeling of uneasiness on the Continent of Europe—our national security no longer depends on the character of our councils or our diplomatic prestige. We are not only spending enormous sums on our army and navy, but we are positively impoverishing the country by a vast warlike expenditure at a moment when we are assured by the Government that we are on terms of perfect amity and friendship with all the nations of the world. More than that, we are engaged on a system of fortifications the rough estimate for which is £11,000,000, but which if completed will cost many millions more, and which if not completed thoroughly will be absolutely useless. For these rea- 145 sons I am inclined to question the conclusions arrived at by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I hope the House will not be led away with the idea that this is a question of free trade in the ordinary acceptation of the term. Of course, I never would give a vote which could even by implication contravene that policy which was inaugurated in 1841, carried onward in 1846, and has since been universally adopted. This is not a question of free trade in the ordinary acceptation of the term, but it is a question of whether we are prepared to remit a permanent and imposing income of £1,300,000 in favour of a limited interest without those corresponding advantages which would appear to justify such a sacrifice of revenue. I am ready to admit that if the state of Europe permitted it I should be perfectly ready to consider a remission of taxation in a fair, liberal, and popular spirit; but to put on an 8d. income tax and then add another 1d. to it, making it 9d,. in order to counterbalance a deficiency of income caused by the reduction of taxation in the article of paper is a thing I never could approve. The hon. Baronet who spoke last bade us consider how the different interests of the country are threatened at the present moment. The industry of Lancashire is threatened owing to the aspect of affairs in the Southern Confederacy of North America the prospect of the supply of the raw material of one of our staple industries is disturbed. You have disputes and strikes at Burslem and Wolverhampton; you have suffering in the coal trade, and suffering in the iron trade; and is this a moment to make these reductions of taxation without any corresponding advantage? Look abroad, and wherever you turn your glance the horizon is dark and forbidding, and I ask the House and the country is this a moment to indulge in these speculative arrangements of the finance? Look at France in the occupation of Syria against the wish of England, in the occupation of Rome against the wish of Italy, in the occupation of the southern slopes of the Alps, not only against the wishes of Europe but to the infringement of treaties. Look at Spain—slaveholding bucaneering persecuting Spain—which has just seized hold of a part of the Island of St. Domingo at the instigation of France. Look at Hungary and Poland. Wherever you look you find a state of affairs which should make any Minister pause before he ventures on hazardous 146 speculations in finance. Often has the Chancellor of the Exchequer taunted this House with reckless expenditure; but if we were ever open to that charge surely this is the time when—this is the place where—we should show that we know how to husband our resources and to preserve that immense wealth which Providence has placed within our grasp, in order to be ready to meet the eventualities which may any day imperil the trade and the commercial interests of the country. It has been said that this impost is a diminishing tax, and therefore we may remit it. I maintain the contrary—that in the years 1859, 1860, and 1861 it has been rapidly increasing. In 1859 the net produce was £1,142,000, in 1860 £1,291,000, and in 1861 £1,305,000. If you repeal this productive tax you cannot reimpose it, and I believe that you are repealing a tax which presses less upon the people than almost any other tax which you can mention. It certainly is very little injurious to manufactures. It is easily collected, and it is increasing in amount. These reasons will induce mo to go into the lobby with the Opposition and to vote against this measure. There is one right hon. Friend of mine who spoke last year whose opinions I adopt, and whom I expect to see rise this year to urge the same sentiments. I shall go into the same lobby with him, unless he contravenes the opinions which he then stated, I mean the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Coventry. My right hon. Friend has not spoken on this question this year; but, taking the words which he used last year to represent his present views, he is bound to vote the same way as I do. The right hon. Member for Coventry said last year that he thought it would be better to wait for a more favourable opportunity than to repeal a tax and raise a large deficit which might render it necessary to impose other taxes to meet sudden emergencies and unforeseen expenditure. That was a wise expression of opinion on the part of my right hon. Friend, and until I hear him get up and state reasons which have induced him to change that opinion, I must believe that he will vote on this occasion with the Opposition. An hon. Gentleman opposite in a discursive speech alluded to the Volunteers. I am not going to make myself the apologist for the Volunteers; but we understand they are coming to this House for a Vote of money. What a capital oppor- 147 tunity to keep on the paper duty, in order to gratify them with £2 or £3 a head, for which we should have the money in hand! I regret very much that I am induced by these reasons to take the course which I am about to take, but I think it more honourable and more straightforward than not to vote at all. I am inclined to support the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman, the more so that I think we are unnecessarily dragging this House into a quarrel with the other House—not for the benefit of the country generally, but for the benefit of a set of persons who will reap nearly nine-tenths of the advantage which will be derived from a remission of this taxation. We have heard of all kinds of abuse heaped on the House of Lords. ["Hear!"] I know the House is impatient. At the same time I am anxious to qualify the vote which I am about to give. I say that last year, quite against my wish, the House of Lords were grossly abused for their conduct in this matter. They were told that they were unpatriotic, that they were selfish, that they had not the interest of the public at heart. We must feel, and most of the working classes do feel, that it was said by men who only endeavour to keep up delusions that they themselves may thrive upon the discontent they may scatter abroad. I, for one, would have no part or parcel in that matter. I supported the Resolution of the noble Lord last year. I thought it wise, I thought it judicious. But I think the conduct of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not what I should have desired. I have been several years in this House. I have always given to my noble Friend the Prime Minister a cordial and warm support. Such has been my confidence in his ability justly to interpret the sense of the country and the drift of public opinion that I can safely say that on every occasion, save one, I have given my noble Friend my most cordial and hearty support. Indeed I may go further, and as frequently happens in this House with subordinates towards their chief, and with them bound together by the ties of political allliance, I have entertained the warmest personal respect and affection for the noble Lord, and nothing but a stern sense of duty and a deep-rooted conviction that I was right would ever induce me to give a vote which could be considered in opposition to the sentiments which he advocated, and which he deemed necessary for the interests of the country. Again, 148 I may say with regard to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that no man entertains a higher opinion of his personal character and brilliant political abilities; and it is with extreme caution, with extreme hesitation, and with many doubts that I place my humble judgment in opposition to opinions which he has emphatically advocated. But, as an independent Member, I have no alternative. We are here to serve the public good and the interests of the country to the best of our ability. In great political discussions I place considerations of that character above any other; and, therefore, it is that I am induced, though with great pain and reluctance, nevertheless, from a conviction of the rectitude of the principles which influence me, to decline to give my vote in support of the measure of Her Majesty's Government and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, believing the repeal of the paper duty to be neither wise, expedient, nor politic in a financial point of view, nor just nor equitable to the great body of taxpayers in this country.
§ Loud cries for a Division arising—
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, it appears to me that if ever there was a night this is the night when we might come to a decision. But as far as I am concerned I am unwilling to be an obstacle to free discussion. I trust, however, that if this adjournment is sanctioned by Her Majesty's Government, we shall hear no more reproaches from that quarter of placing obstacles to the progress of public business, or of encouraging discussions when there is really nothing on which discussion is necessary. We have now had the advantage of many nights' previous debate incidentally, and often directly upon this very question. The debate to-night has been conducted in a tone distinguished by its moderation, and it does appear to me that the House could with great convenience at once come to a decision. If the hon. Gentleman who has moved that you, Sir, report Progress wishes to address the House, I think I can answer for his receiving a patient hearing from a silent and admiring audience. If the only object of the adjournment is to hear his observations, we shall be most happy to consider them. It does appear to me that we might come to a decision upon this question to-night, but if the leader of the House has sanctioned or suggested the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, 149 why then I have too much sympathy for free discussion to use any influence which I may possess to induce the House to come now to a decision. I trust, however, that from this moment we shall hear no more those frequent reproaches which have been very unjustly and very injudiciously urged by those who sit on the Treasury benches, when we have requested occasions to offer our opinions upon subjects of very great importance.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I certainly do not object to the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, which I think has been very distinctly suggested by the silence of those Gentlemen who sit on the opposite benches. This, undoubtedly, is a subject of considerable importance, and one upon which there are many Members anxious to speak. The promise of the right hon. Gentleman that they shall be listened to with silent admiration, however encouraging at the moment, might not altogether be made good, if it were tested. I, therefore, cordially agree to the adjournment of the debate. I will not undertake so largely as the right hon. Gentleman wishes to abstain in future from any remarks upon future attempts to procrastinate debates; but, no doubt, the same attempts will not be displayed, and there will be no occasion to make the objection.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again on Thursday.
§ House adjourned at half-after Twelve o'clock.